Aug 12, 2007

Water Conflict

C7 spech by Kevin Chuu
When I say water is essential and don't take it for granted, you may think I am a Green-Peace, and is going to make a fuss over a trifle again. If I say water can cause conflicts and wars, you might believe I am a scaremonger. Someone will even react like "Come on, man! We are living on a water planet, and 70percent of earth's surface is water." That is correct. But the fact is only 3 percent of it is drinkable, while only 1 percent is easily accessible surface fresh water. So the truth is water has become a scarce and precious resource on this water planet. People are fighting for it, and even go to war. Really?

Let me pick up a horrible example. Darfur, a parched land in the central Sudan, an appalling war is going on there now. Over the past four years, 200,000 people have been killed, and more than 2.5 million people have been displaced from their home. This is the so called the first genocide in the 21st century. The real cause of the civil war in Darfur is water. According to the United Nations Environment Report, the rainfall in Darfur has decreased a third over the past 80 years because of global warming. Lots of lands have become deserts, but the population keeps growing. Different tribes fight for the water and land in order to survive.

The water conflict is a real thing proceeding in Darfur now, and it is not a local event. In the whole world, about one-sixth of the 6.1 billion people lack access to improved source of water, while 40 percent are without access to improved sanitation service. Each year, 3.4 million people, mostly children, die from water-related diseases. Do not think it will not happen in Taiwan. About the water issue in Taiwan, people got a very serious myth:

We got a lot of typhoons, so we have inexhaustible water.

The truth is thank to typhoons, the precipitation we got each year, I mean the rainfall, is 2.6 times the world average, however the fresh water each one can access is much lesser than the world average. We are a country lacking of water, and the situation is being exacerbated by the global warming. Here are the causes of our water problem:

1. Uneven rainfall
We have quite enough rainfall each year, but it does not distribute uniformly. The precipitation ratio of rainy season to dry season is 9 to 1, and most of the rain concentrates in the northern Taiwan. This situation is getting worse year by year because of global warming.

2. Too much population
23 million people crowd on this small island. Every one needs to consume water. Therefore, the fresh water each one can share is only about one-seventh the word average.

3. Too much pollution
It is not hard to understand. Too many people make too much pollution. 39% of our rivers are polluted, and the trend is not likely to slow down.

4. Too many cities, town, roads and other infrastructure
Those man-made buildings and structures, most of which are made of concrete and tar, cover large part of our ground surface. Therefore only very little rainwater can filtrate into our aquifer. Most of the rain water just cause flood, rushing into the ocean within a short time.

5. Too many high-water-consumption industries
For quite a long time, our country has developed too many high-water-consumption industries like steelmaking, papermaking, aqua-farming, petroleum-chemistry, and even high tech factories of TFT-LCD. Those industries consume too much fresh water and even underground water. In Tauyuan, the water level of aquifer has dropped to 46 meters.

Ladies and gentlemen, water resource is not a issue of tomorrow which only environment activist concern. It is a real issue now. Million of people are dying for it out there. It is not a problem we can just leave behind and let our children worry about. It is a reality we, including you and me, are going to face within a decade. We only need the determination and stop ignoring it. Otherwise, in Taiwan, a water conflict, I don't want to say another Darfur, is definitely going to happen in the recent future.

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