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tv   [untitled]    December 3, 2012 5:30pm-6:00pm EST

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i'm i'm. i'm i'm i'm. just so. you know sometimes you see a story and it seems so you think you understand it and then you glimpse something else and you hear or see some other part of it and realize that everything you thought you knew you don't know i'm tom harvey welcome to the big picture. eve.
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and it comes. into the old. fellow and welcome across all compeer all about dealing with an ever thirsty world's media is fond of the dramatic term water wars when it comes to describing the future management of global water resources i wonder valued is water today and how beer will become as countries around the world go dr. murray. to talk about what some call the possibility of future water wars i'm joined by tony our. and in london he is
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a professor of geography at the school of oriental and african studies and author of the recent book the middle east water question hydro politics and the global economy also in london we have donna mustafa he is a reader in politics and environment at king's college london and in washington we cross to michael guillen he is a south asia associate at the woodrow wilson international center for scholars all right gentlemen crosstalk rules in effect that means you can jump in any time one twenty five go to you first in london do you like the term water wars because it's used a lot in media. it sounds good because it's a literal served want to was but in fact it misleads people into thinking that once you run out of water whatever that means you then automatically reach for a kalashnikov and go to war waters we have seen over the past forty years at least difficult war is that when people are a lot of water that is they haven't got enough water to raise the food that they need at home they're not no longer self-sufficient they then reach for trade because trade is quiet and invisible it doesn't raise any politics
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a country all the twenty countries in the middle east and many other countries in the world and all the countries in europe except france can easily move into dependence on imported food which has huge volumes of good bet it water it without any politics or any anxiety so provided there is enough water in the global system that is not only the water we can see and drink water we can pump and move from the ground will throw from the river or the water in the soil profile which normally people don't count but which is responsible for most of our food production provided there is enough in the global system in the united states in brazil in south american countries more generally in australia in france which is a net food x. water. one hundred sixty countries are the two hundred ten or so worldwide that are net food importers and therefore couldn't go into more of the water because they ran out they didn't and they won't although we do have
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a lot of questions to ask and we've got to ask a lot of society and it's governments to make sure that society chooses to eat sensibly not waste and also get the farmers to be even more productive at the same time i was being good stewards of water down issues what do you think about that i mean just how scarce is water. well again scarcity is a rather problematic concept i mean typically when you see a scarcity that is just like people think of it in terms of physical schizo t. but i think but in terms of water it's a lot more complex if you world. scarcity is typically with relation to what you want to do with it in the arabian desert you want to do camel herding get is most cases to water but if you want to grow by a by napoles or cotton then there is an absolute scarcity of water so the scarcity is very much a relative to what you want to do and at the moment i agree with tony that in fact we are overtaxing the water resources that we have access to ok i'm michael i mean
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scarcely i mean if you live in cypress it's very scarce. yeah absolutely i mean it's it really is a relative term to back up what donnish i mean let's face it look at a country like yemen there's very little water there but then look at a country like say china there's a lot of water in some parts of the country and some of the western portions where you have a lot of agriculture it's very close to scarcity if you use the one thousand cubic meters per capita as the threshold so it's a relative term very much sell ok tony will let me just go ahead please yeah don't that please. think singapore singapore only has five percent of the water that it needs therefore it doesn't have the ten percent it needs for use at home and in jobs and it doesn't have any for the food. so for the half million people living in an area about the size of london or a small island. it is in fact
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a very prosperous country it proves that water in the absence of water and the scarcity of water doesn't determine outcomes poverty and poverty which normally derives from poor governance and organization of economies is the explanation for people's. being unable to gain access to the water they need for all because they need this whole what they need for jobs for what they need for food ok dan if i got to go to you i mean yemen is out of water is it the world's responsibility to make sure the country has water. is it the world's responsibility that that goes into the realm of ethics. that's why i'm asking it and while there's a fair enough but fair enough and while if you ask me yes absolutely it is our responsibility to make sure that people do but even when we're talking about human
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being out of water there's a whole set of things that can be done to make make more of what the recent water resources that yemen does have there are also technologies that are available there are all sorts of government systems in terms of water that are available that we know of that if they had applied sensibly in context like yemen i don't know as much about yemenis situation as perhaps tony does but if they're applied sensibly water of convince efficiencies and prove what is productive efficiencies improve porter's economic efficiency is produce is improved the specter of scarcity if you will becomes more and more distant the problem of water being out of water is a dramatic turn we definitely sells and everybody it feels like there's like a posh desert out there and there's no water to be had i think it's a lot different than that if in yemen you want to have the kind of lifestyles the eating habits the consumption habits that the west has and has been espousing and selling all over the world look at us look at us we're so cool we're so great and you want to be like us now the rest of the world is trying to imitate precisely those sorts of lifestyles and eating habits which are inappropriate for the kind of
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context in which in which those people are living that's the fundamental disconnect that we need to focus on and not just. i would go so far as to forgive me for saying this sort of a banal statement about the about disappearance of water because that's a very specific political interests if you will in the specific political interests oh they're out of water what do we do let's do a multimillion dollar investment in desalination they're out of water what do we do let's build a dam or you know what let's sell this technology and that's the sort of interest that that sort of conversation helps and that's very unfortunate michael in washington jump in go ahead. you know i was just going to say picking up on what donna said there seems to be a tendency that if if you hear a country is running out of water it's going to require some sort of huge incredible thing whether it be some sort of large dam or some huge project or some major endeavor to rescue the country and bring back water generate more water not really in a lot of cases and particularly in
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a case like pakistan which i've looked at quite closely i know donnish as well you know you could take relatively simple measures like paying a relatively small amount of money to patch up leaks in water pipes you know it doesn't mean taking a ten second shower either you know convene investing in your a geisha in technologies that use drip forms of irrigation instead of the flood irrigation which is used more commonly in that country and in other countries across south asia and elsewhere so you know i think it's more sexy and so forth to say oh well you know this country is is increasingly water scarce we need to do something now before basically the country water situation really blows up but really there are some basic realistic solutions you know whether governments are willing to carry them out that's that's another story ok if we could stay with you michael why doesn't the pakistan government do just exactly what you said. well that's a question that many of us who study the country wonder i mean i should be fair it
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is being done under certain extent the pakistani government has come out with some some policies to promote water conservation things like that but i think that it's really a country where the government does not necessarily think about the needs of the people on about issues like water resources management doesn't think about it as much as it should and you know the whole notion of staying with a standard of business standard operating procedure is really the case it's not a country not a government where there's a lot of strategic thought and. you know different types of visions on how to respond to water challenges and there is a tendency to look to the international community to international aid to help improve the water situation in pakistan and international assistance when it comes to water assistance in pakistan it involves building big dams and you know grandiose projects like that that could have a lot of political value for the donors such as you know the u.s. . you know tony if i can go ahead ok i was i was just going to say i think that
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if you don't mind i think michael is quite right in pointing out some of the limitations in there but i think you hinted upon something that needs to be stressed a little more that water it's not just a question of you know these aggregates at the national scale it is also a question of who has access to water and who suffers from it and who has no problem at all i'm sure the elites in yemen are elites and pakistan and everywhere in the world who tend to never experience the water scarcity or even elites in southern california compared to the kinds of water scarcity that farmers are experiencing in the central valley and all in valley is nothing compared to the kind of scarcity that people in the cities are experiencing if you were so the point is that why doesn't the pakistani government investor why doesn't the pakistani government then do it i would disagree i think it is it is a huge priority for the pakistani government or many other governments to try to ensure. sufficient water supply to them it is just that the people who suffer the
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effects of so-called water scarcity who cannot get enough water for themselves also happen to be the weakest of the poorest and with the minimal of the voice and it becomes that sort of political issue that in the dominant climate at the moment the dominant new liberal kind of a climate where the market is going and everything those are the kinds of voices we don't want to hear because that is politically uncomfortable i think technology sexy technology sells national that would aggregate sell you know calling names if you will you know this government but that they've learned is is relatively easy but eventually those governments need to be called to task but the eventual issue is that it is a question of equity it is a question of people having access to water with regard what thou to god for their social power and that's a sort of dynamic that the global system at the moment is not willing to confront gentlemen we're going to go to a short break and after that short break we'll continue our discussion on water security state. and.
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by. the book. if you. please. welcome back to ransack you're about to mind you were talking about the
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politics of water. if you. live. and i go back to tony in london in the literature there's a term the age of easy water is over what does that mean. when the population of the world was a million that was no pressure on resources well it was a billion and about eighteen hundred it also wasn't a really very big pressure on resources although smith was serious but not those with the fools around at the same time did point out that we were doing difficult things to natural resources. and of course he was right but he was also wrong because as it turned out two hundred years later when the population was. six or seven billion the farmers had increased their productivity in parts of the world by
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ten times so that means they were working that was ten times harder so we have it's very hard to. deal with a cold call and such is easy war so when we have so many things changing we've got the water is staying roughly the same although we're mobilizing more of it but if the farmers science and technology and governance get the farmers to produce ten times as much with the same water we clearly are in a constantly changing position and we are at this point in history where seven billion and if you're a pessimist used to talk about nine and a half billion and future if you're an optimist like me you probably say eight and a half to nine billion by lying to twenty fifty and it's all could because one is being an optimist and suggesting that if we are as industrious and clever as well as good stewards of water that's the important part which is hard to get people to
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do if we can be good stewards of water we can in fact get to twenty fifty twenty one hundred. because in a position where we we haven't destroyed the water resources but in order to do that we've got to do a whole lot of things mainly in what i call a what people call the food supply chain we're going to get consumers to be sensible to. to consume sensibly not through food away choose the right foods to be healthy and to keep your environment healthy make sure that the corporations in the middle of that food supply chain are also doing responsible things i'll be wearing out on that really anytime soon don if i go to you and the people you love the term peak oil but there's also the term peak water does not mean anything to you and what should it mean to others. did you say peak oil or people water. i haven't heard the term before could you explain no no no no it's not easy i'm asking you if it means anything to you because i can i can talk about tony go ahead
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jump in yeah which is following on the idea of peak oil there seems if you look at the numbers on oil and gas that we've reached a point where on about an hour in the case of gas a little bit in the future where the next in the amount of gas. is being mobilized after that that the allies will get less and if we've got the demand for those products those energy products which got to this very peak level and if the vein ability is going down then we've got a problem but of course energy is in some ways more complicated much more complicated than water because whereas with water we've got one in the room in the ground in the soil and it's the same sort of energy we've got three or four different fossil fuels and we've got four or five different renewable energies and the situation is quite complex and i don't want to complicate our you know my own
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watching for the cause that we should be looking at water and oil as being the same power as when it comes to scarcity. the question is should we look at water in oil in the same way in terms of how to respond i think the answer is no in this case i mean these are two very i certainly like yours and i certainly hope not especially . and i'm not an oil economist i'm not in a common position to comment along the specificity of that but i think there's a lot more flexibility you know water is something that hypothetically is available domestically and it is indigenously in every country there's a lot more flexibility it's not as politicized this oil is politicized water for sure but there is more easy options and it really is not is fraud and tricky basically as oil is so i think it would be a mistake to try to conflate those two and it is true that you we need to look at the trajectory of these resources in the same way that yes i mean running out of
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oil depending on oil from certain parts of the world except for water you know it's true that we it's a finite resource the state the obvious. and you know it's irreplaceable however it's not i have never heard about the whole notion of looking in and together and away from a policy point of view or from any other point of view i think that would if i go to the debate if i go to donna sure i mean you can make money off of it that's what i'm getting at ok i mean and i'm i'm glad i'm glad to have the ethical response there they should be the same but people do treated the same because you could make money off of it. exactly and that's where that's where that's where part of the tragedy of water happens to be particular in the domestic water supply sector because in many countries particularly in the global laws in the west in the united states the society thought that with the government in the society thought that it was part of the social contract for the government and the state to provide fresh drinking water and drinking water to all of its populous in much of the global south in sub-saharan africa south asia or latin america and so on we have
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relinquished that responsibility even many of the states basically these commodified bottled water if you will which is which is an absolutely. and basically allowing in out for these governments in the states in the societies to essentially renege on their social contract not considering water supply of clean drinking water as a as a as a human right that everybody should have access to if you have the money you can always go out there and buy nestle or if you don't have the money you can always eat out of a little cesspool which is outside your your touch and that is where the part of the tragedy of the water lies that it has been commodified to such an extent that it has been inserted into this global capital mechanism way which is bought and sold and people speculate on it and god forbid there be some day that it will be on the commodity markets and when you do that to a resource then you have the kind of stuff that is have that has happened or you have the kind of. conflicts that we've seen in the context of oil there's nothing inevitable of water is
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a qualitatively different resource and i don't think it should be it should be conflated with something like oil we seem to need presently we didn't need it five hundred years ago we need it now and who knows if we need it another five hundred years from now things might change tony what is what are we will we already have a lot is my point ok so tony do you think it's been politicized water because water wars like you said you start pick up a kalashnikov. well you see there the reason. i invented the term invented virtual water because i had to explain in the middle east the place where countries were running out of water in the fifty's sixty's and seventy's all of them by nine hundred seventy why despite running out there was no conflict i was a scientist trying to understand the water issues in this region and it was only when i looked at the food imports of egypt that i realized that what you did was quietly go into the world markets for food because of the u.s.d.a.
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that's yesterday like the culture ways of running agriculture in the european union way running agriculture staple foods around the world market a half cost so if governments faced this crisis of running out of food because it had run out of water it didn't matter there was no politics or tool all we did was import hard cost foods the health cost food so if you want to problem your food problem and without politics all struggles and economics it's the next stage when you are there actually running out of also for other activities other parts of the economy that the politics get very intense and we could perhaps be facing another phase when they've put the height of politics between the countries will be more intense but we're finding in the middle east which i tend to follow is that because of the water reuse options you can every time you use a cubic meter of water you can in fact get seventy percent of that back by recycling it by treating it and recycling it it costs but nevertheless in volume
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terms you do get the extra seventy percent and these volumes are not enough to educate and grow a lot of food but there do enable you to keep the economy in place in ways which were not foreseen before then because desalination is falling in cost from a knife in the seventy's and eighty's when it was you know two and a half dollars a cubic meter u.s. dollars was about a dollar a quarter by. two thousand. people are making these and they just want to put six fifty six cents or sixty cents or if they say a dollar but no one in this program goes on much they pay for water and certainly that's very interesting the only means we have so we have got me going to mine or in washington shows here's michael i know you want to jump in there go ahead yeah i think it's we should say that to some extent it is appropriate that water is politicized and that's because there really is some potential for a conflict over water at some point not necessarily today but sometime down the
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road take south asia this is a region that i focus on more than any other region very few countries get along and most of the region shares rivers india and pakistan of course share the indus and india china by all of the ash they share rivers and it's very very easy for a country and operate parian country to take some sort of punitive measure such as for example hypothetically cutting our river flows to the country downstream and something could happen that way but i think that what is even more concerning when you want to talk about the potential for water conflict is not country war between countries but really conflict within countries in india and pakistan there are tremendous amount of tensions and disagreements over river sharing allocations punjab and sindh in pakistan and a variety of states in india and you know something else to say that i think it would be inaccurate to say that water could actually trigger
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a war between countries but i think that water issues decreasing quantities of water water insecurity couldn't put in place the conditions that could one day lead to conflict for example and again this is the killer a gentleman thank you for a fascinating discussion on water we have to we have to wrap it up here many thanks my guest today in london and washington thanks to our viewers for watching us here are to see you next time remember i'll talk to. more news today violence has once again flared up. and these are the images cobol
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has been seeing from the streets of canada. china corporations are all day. kelly. offers an air show and an issue museum was a matter you. most of the residents never profit from the performances you'll see them coming all the sinners are there and you look up and there's one. alpha beta gamma he has all the the fun out. there know what's going on. right now. shells become income mortal danger and a piece of art school is exempt. from
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three. bombs and. on our team. you know sometimes you see a story and it seems so you think you understand it and then you glimpse something else you hear or see some other part of it and realize that everything is ok. i'm tom harkin welcome to the big picture.


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