MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Fedyashin) - The Fifth World Water Forum opened in Istanbul on March 16 and will last until March 22.
The event, like other water forums organized by the Marseilles-based World Water Council (WWC), an international consultative UN agency, will always continue to produce a lot of useful statistics.
WWC estimates show that more than 600 million people live in water-stressed or water-deprived countries. The UN predicts that by 2025 this number may increase to 3.2 billion.
It is very expensive to transport water over large distances. Building water channels costs much more than building oil and gas pipelines. What's more, oil and gas may be replaced with hydrogen, bio fuel, coal or nuclear energy, whereas water has no alternative. It is essential for any industrial or agricultural production.
Regional water stress can be a basis for international disputes, which sometimes can be quite serious. The Greater Anatolia Project (GAP), an initiative on building a series of electric power stations and dams on the Euphrates, will give Turkey four times more electric energy than the United States once received from the Hoover Dam, and allow it to irrigate 1.5 million hectares of land. However, these dams will reduce the amount of water in the Euphrates' Syrian part by 40% and in the Iraqi part by 80%; Iraq may altogether lose 20% of its irrigated lands. The same holds true for cross-border rivers in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - Tajikistan has the upper reaches of rivers, and Uzbekistan the lower ones.
Africa has the largest number of cross-border rivers, lakes, and even underground water reservoirs. The Nile crosses 10 countries, the Congo nine, Niger 11, Zambezi eight, Volta six, and Chad five. Most countries located in their basins are water-stressed and hence fraught with conflicts.
Russia is not the world's leader in water resources. It is second to Brazil in the renewable fresh water resources, and is followed by Canada.
Some 70% of the world's surface is covered by water but out of 1.4 billion square km of it - 97.5% is salt water and only 2.5% is fresh. If we could squeeze all the world's water into a five-liter canister, fresh water would not fill in even a teaspoon.
Out of 35 million square km of fresh water, the largest part - 24.4 million square km - is locked in glaciers, ice and permafrost, while 10.7 million square km is located underground. The world's rivers account for 0.002 million square km of fresh water or 0.01% of its reserves in all forms.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.