17.08.2022 Author: Vladimir Odintsov

In Addition to Gas, Drinking Water is Becoming a Strategic Resource

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The sanctions war on Russia, inspired by the Russophobic policies of the United States and its allies, has plunged the world into not only economic and energy crises, but also ecological collapse. To comply with instructions from Washington to reduce Russian gas deliveries, the authorities of the Western states have considered reviving coal power as well as revising the ban on shale gas technology, which, according to Raphael Schmeller – author of an article in the German junge Welt – has become “fateful news” for the climate.

As a result of the West’s refusal to implement climate protection policies, the world is in a climate crisis and literally on fire. In many parts of Europe and America new temperature records are being recorded, and Western politicians committed to Washington are only diligently pouring fuel on the fire. For example, the German Minister for Economic Affairs, Robert Habeck, who is a member of the Green Party (!), is going to take steps to increase the use of coal for electricity generation, amidst the German government’s cuts in gas supplies from Russia. Although it is well known everywhere, including in Germany, that in comparison to gas, much more carbon dioxide, the main cause of anthropogenic climate change, is emitted when using coal to generate electricity.

The use of fracking technology, which the Free Democratic Party of Germany (FDP), part of the governing coalition, strongly advocates, is equally damaging to the climate. Although it is also no secret that fracking is a real “climate killer”, as it can trigger earthquakes and lead to groundwater contamination, increasing global methane emissions, the climate-damaging effects of which have already been demonstrated by this technology popular in the US and the evidence of a large number of scientific studies.

All this leads to devastating consequences for humanity, such as species extinction, unbearable heat, destruction of ecosystems and flooding of cities.  Such effects of climate change are accelerating and will inevitably become painfully apparent in the next 20 years. Already today, simple drinking water has become one of the world’s most precious resources, around which regional or even global wars could break out in the future.

Lakes and rivers in Europe are drying up due to the heat, and Spain, France, Germany, Serbia, the UK and many other EU countries are facing drought, according to Western media reports. Residents of Europe believe that if it does not rain and the authorities do not find some alternative water supply, dark times will come.

According to Britain’s Daily Mail, residents in the southeast of Britain are forced to stand in long queues for water, with some 8,500 homes in the county of Surrey facing a water shortage. Earlier, this publication reported that a total of 20.5 million people may be affected by water restrictions in Britain amid unprecedented heatwave. Amid temperatures reaching over 40 degrees in the kingdom in July, the country’s fire brigade is experiencing its busiest period since World War II due to an increase in fires and other incidents.

After a drought was officially declared in 8 of England’s 14 districts, millions of Britons faced restrictions on their water use, according to The Times. Britain’s largest water company, Thames Water, has already warned consumers of major water supply disruptions, the Daily Mail reports. Experts warn that such extreme weather conditions will inevitably lead to a reduction in the UK’s harvest and a sharp rise in food prices. On top of the record inflation in the last 40 years, the UK is experiencing a cost of living crisis for millions of people in this country, an increase in their dissatisfaction with government policies.

In the unprecedented drought, more than 100 municipalities in France have been left without drinking water and farmers have lost a substantial part of their crops and livestock feed, France 2 TV channel reports. To deal with a crisis that has taken on “historic proportions”, the government has called for tighter restrictions on water use, hoping to avoid a repeat of the 2003 fiasco, when the authorities looked unfortunate in the heatwave that engulfed the country. In this context, authorities in 88 departments in France have already restricted water consumption, with some departments in the Pays de la Loire and New Aquitaine regions having declared the highest – red – alert level, which restricts water use to “any non-priority tasks, including for agricultural purposes”. The use of water is only allowed for “health, safety, drinking water consumption and hygiene purposes”. It is noted, however, that such extensive restrictions are “exceptional for this time of year” and the period of dry and hot weather is predicted to be long.

Spanish public broadcaster TVE reported that water supply restrictions had also been imposed in many Spanish settlements due to the drought. The country’s 317 reservoirs had a storage capacity of 40.4% of their capacity at the end of July, 33% lower than the average for the past decade, authorities said. According to the Spanish weather service Aemet, the current period is already the fourth driest on record.

The western regions of the USA also faced the longest drought in 1200 years, resulting in a water shortage the country is currently experiencing. Water levels in rivers and lakes have dropped to record lows, and cities have begun imposing restrictions on water consumption. The unprecedented drought has caused California’s rivers to turn back, water from the gulf has flowed into them and the rivers have become salty, German broadcaster NTD reported.

A state of emergency has been declared in northern Canada because of water shortages and record low levels in the local Apex River as a result of a lack of rainfall. Although Canada has about 20% of the world’s freshwater supply, indigenous communities across the country have historically faced water shortage.

Water shortage has also become a reality in Central Asian countries. In Kazakhstan alone, for example, there may be a water deficit of 23.2 cubic kilometers, comparable to the total annual abstraction. During the Soviet period, the region’s water and energy needs were regulated by the will of a single center: the upstream republics supplied their downstream neighbors with water in the summer and received hydrocarbons as compensation for the energy deficit in the winter. However, the mechanism that had worked effectively in a planned economy was rendered inoperative by the sprawl into “national flats”, ambition ran high and resources became a tool for asserting young-state sovereignty.

However, the solution to the water problem in Central Asia differs from water initiatives in Europe, where the European Commission has allowed the reuse of water from municipal wastewater treatment plants as a key method of solving the problem of water shortage. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova has already commented on the proposal to use sewage in Europe, saying that

“Drinking what someone else has already drank or poured or watered or drained is a new height for connoisseurs of perversion”.

As for Central Asia, there is the only correct way to solve the problem: a negotiation process, an adjustment of the legal framework in this field, is needed. Past experience and the logic of future transformations lead to the decision that only a strong regional integration structure with significant resources – the Eurasian Economic Council – can best handle the Central Asian water problem.

However, in order to achieve not only a delicate balance but also sustainable development, the Central Asian region needs a major integration format. And it is what Russia has been promoting since 2016 – the Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP), which can be defined as “integration of integrations”. The role of Russia, the backbone country and the largest economy of the union, is undoubtedly even more important in this option of solving Central Asia’s water problems, with the integration potential of the EAEU.

Vladimir Odintsov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 


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