London : Much of Asia, including India and China, could face serious water shortages by 2050 due to a combination of economic and population growth and the effects of climate change, a new study from the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has said.
The study said there was a high risk of severe water stress in densely populated watersheds by 2050, compared to recent history. "There is strong evidence to suggest that, in the absence of autonomous adaptation or societal response, a much larger portion of the region’s population will live in water-stressed regions in the near future", said the study - “Projections of Water Stress Based on an Ensemble of Socioeconomic Growth and Climate Change Scenarios: A Case Study in Asia" - published recently in journal PLOS One.
MIT researchers started with the Integrated Global Systems Model (IGSM) and linked it to other detailed models of water use for a large portion of Asia, encompassing China, India, and many smaller countries, to generate a full range of future water availability and use scenarios for the region.
The researchers then looked at scenarios based on the effects of growth alone, climate change alone, and both. They said the region that includes China, India and mainland Southeast Asia, covers emerging economies constituting almost half of today’s global population, as well as diverse climates that create varied water resource issues involving both surface and groundwater.
Previous studies in this region have found moderate effects of climate change, some positive and some negative, but raise serious concerns about socioeconomic effects on water-intensive economic sectors, the study said.
The researchers found that median amounts of projected growth and climate change in the next 35 years in Asia would lead to about 1 billion more people becoming “water-stressed” in 2050 compared to today.
In China, industrial growth appeared to have the biggest impact, while in India, population growth was a major factor in future water stress.
“These changes will likely require more aggressive water policies and regulations in areas where water resource decisions have been less tense historically. Without assertive water policies in these regions, water limitations could be harmful to the health and well being of the people in these regions, as well as the environment", the study noted.