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Study: Water supplies seen getting more scarce

child drinking from a pipe
Future water shortages could be more acute in Africa and the Middle East  

August 24, 2000
Web posted at: 3:30 PM EDT (1930 GMT)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The number of people living in countries facing severe water shortages will increase more than four-fold over the next 25 years, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The non-profit group Population Action International (PAI) projected that by 2025, between 2.4 billion and 3.2 billion people would face severe or chronic water shortages compared with the 505 million people affected today.

Researchers said water shortages would be particularly acute in the Middle East and in much of Africa.

"While cause for concern, these figures are an improvement over what we thought would happen a decade ago," said PAI president Amy Coen.

  MESSAGE BOARD
 

"This is due to the ever-greater proportion of couples planning their families and the resulting slowing of population growth around the world," she added.

Lead author of the report, Robert Engelman said the trend of slower population growth was a bright spot in an often gloomy picture of increasing scarcity of natural resources.

However, he said hundreds of millions of people, most of them in developing countries, still lacked access to basic health care and family planning.

"We must do more to change this, beginning today -- not in some future decade. People's lives hang in the balance," said Engelman.

Fresh water is one of six natural resources profiled in the report called "People in the Balance: Population and Natural Resources at the Turn of the Millennium."

In other findings, the report said that an estimated 420 million people lived in countries with less that 1.7 acres (0.7 hectares) of cultivated land per person -- considered the bare minimum to supply a vegetarian diet for one person under absolutely ideal growing conditions.

It predicted the number of people living in such critically land-scarce countries would rise to between 557 million and 1.04 billion in 2025.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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