Climate change has emerged as one of the biggest challenges for the world. It is affecting several aspects of nature and human life. The study indicates that it is linked to the global sea-level rise and depletion in terrestrial water storage (TWS), which is crucial in the determination of water availability.
A study published in Nature climate change journal showed that terrestrial water storage (surface and subsurface water) in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in China is expected to suffer net declines by 2060. The study was conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Texas in Austin, Penn State, and Tsinghua University.
What does the study reveal?
A total of seven river basin systems were analysed and it was found that the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is threatened by climate change-induced water loss. The Plateau may experience a net loss of approximately 230 gigatons of TWS by 2050.
The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau’s glacier is very significant for the region as it supplies a significant amount of water to China and other downstream countries in Asia during the spring season.
According to The Diplomat report, “The Amu Darya basin – which originates in the Pamir Mountains and supplies water to Afghanistan and Central Asia – will see a 119 per cent decline in water-supply capacity. Similarly, the Indus basin – which originates in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and supplies water to northern India and Pakistan – is projected to undergo a 79 per cent reduction in water-supply capacity.”
The water crisis in Asia
According to the United Nations, half of the world is expected to face water shortage by 2025, in which over 1.8 billion people will live in regions with absolute water scarcity and two-thirds of the world population could face water-stressed conditions.
Over 75 % of the global population may be affected by water scarcity by 2050. More than 50 per cent of the global population lives in Asia. The continent has less fresh water than other continents (excluding Antarctica).
The demand for freshwater is rising while the supply is not certain. It is estimated that one out of three people globally have no access to safe drinking water and over 2.2 billion people across the world are facing issues to manage drinking water services.
Why Asia is facing more water shortages?
Asia is facing the crisis due to poor water management, growing population, urbanization, increasing water demands and water body disputes.
By 2050, about two-thirds of the global population growth is occurring in Asia and is projected to grow to 5.26 billion.
Water and conflict
The shortage of water could lead to conflict among the countries sharing water from one source. The country having upstream access would become more powerful to control the water of a particular water body.
The report talks about China, a country that does not have an independent transboundary river policy and has not signed a water-sharing with its neighbours or an international water treaty.
Thus the region in downstream might face the potential for conflict over access and control of shared water resources. However, there are several other countries who have not signed such treaties either.
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