Millions fear death as climate change depletes water resources

By agency reporter
December 11, 2008

Unless major changes are made to water management strategies, climate change will threaten the lives of millions of people as soaring temperatures deplete water supplies, a new report suggests.

'Separate Streams? Adapting water resources management to climate change', published by international aid agency Tearfund, reveals that national plans for managing water are failing to consider the impacts of climate change, resulting in devastating consequences for the world’s poorest people.

Today, around 700 million people face water scarcity, and the number of people living in severely water stressed regions is set to rise to 5 billion by 2050 unless significant changes are made to water management strategies.

The report, which includes research from the semi-arid areas of Niger and north-east Brazil, highlights that climate change adaptation must be integrated within water management policy to benefit the poorest and most vulnerable people.

Speaking at the UN climate talks in Poznan, Paul Cook, Tearfund’s director of advocacy said: "The water sector underpins all other development sectors and must be prioritised for adaptation funding. We call on the international community to earmark at least $50 billion a year of new money to help developing countries adapt to climate change. Failure to secure this funding could lead to unprecedented levels of suffering and deaths."

Climate variability has a real and lasting impact on how poor people manage their water resources. Changing patterns of water availability have knock on effects that reach far beyond water, hitting traditional cultures, agriculture methods and livelihoods.

"In northeast Brazil, local farmers are sharing what little water they have with their cattle, leaving themselves vulnerable to sickness and disease. This is shameful and future planning on water management strategies must factor in the impacts of global warming if such injustices are to be reversed," Cook concluded.

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