Published on Financial Times.com, August 21, 2006, by Fiona Harvey, London.
A third of the world’s population is suffering from a shortage of water, raising the prospect of “water crises” in countries such as China, India and the US. Scientists had forecast in 2000 that one in three would face water shortages by 2025, but water experts have been shocked to find that this threshold has already been crossed.
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Shortages of water are already biting in countries such as Egypt, which imports more than half of its food because it lacks enough water to grow more. In Australia, there is a water shortage in the Murray-Darling basin because so much has been diverted for use in agriculture. In the US, there are increasing disputes with Mexico over the sinking levels of water in the Colorado river. Water shortages are compounded by corruption, according to Transparency International. David Nussbaum, chief executive, said between 20 and 40 per cent of total investment in the water sector “does not flow to the people who should be getting the clean water and sanitation”.
He said big water projects, such as the construction of water networks and treatment facilities, were subject to corruption on a grand scale, but that petty corruption was also common, for instance in cases of people paying bribes to have their water bills reduced. The result of both was that it cost poor people more to get access to water, he said. But he pointed to the success of a high-profile water “integrity pact” developed in Karachi in Pakistan since 2002 and completed in May this year, as an example of how water projects could be made more transparent. He said the pact had saved at least $3m that would otherwise have been lost to corruption. (Read the whole article on FT.com).