Global water supplies are under tremendous stress as a result of climate change, and experts have found that the Tibetan Plateau is experiencing a severe water imbalance that might fuel further international conflicts.
The Tibetan Plateau and the nearby Himalayas, sometimes known as “The Third Pole,” contain the greatest worldwide reservoir of frozen water outside of the North and South Polar Regions.
This area, often referred to as the Asian Water Tower (AWT), serves as a sophisticated water delivery system that supplies vital liquid to several nations, including portions of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and China.
However, the region cannot sustainably support the continuous expansion of the emerging nations that rely on it owing to the increased melting of snow and upstream glaciers.
Water imbalance conflict in the Tibetan plateau
(Photo : JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo : JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Lonnie Thompson, distinguished university professor of earth sciences at the Ohio State University and senior research scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Center, said that as the population grows, so does the need for water, as per ScienceDaily.
These issues can, and in the past have, raised the likelihood of international and even intranational conflicts.
The dangerous hydrological situation in the area is well known to Thompson, who has spent over 50 years studying climate change.
Thompson joined the first Western team deployed to study the glaciers in China and Tibet in 1984.
Since then, he and a group of international collaborators have spent years researching climate records collected from ice cores, the fast-melting ice in the region, and its effects.
Thompson is a co-author of the team’s most recent work, which was released in the magazine Nature Reviews Earth and Environment.
Their research showed that the AWT’s average temperature has risen at a pace of around 0.42 degrees Celsius each decade, which is almost double the rate of global warming, using temperature change data from 1980 to 2018 to track regional warming.
According to Thompson, this has significant effects on glaciers, particularly those in the Himalayas.
They are generally losing more water than we are getting off the plateau, by around 50%.
The northern portions of Tibet frequently have a surplus of water resources due to increased precipitation brought on by increasing westerlies, but the southern river basins and water supplies are shrinking as a result of drought and rising temperatures.
The study suggested employing more thorough water monitoring systems in data-limited regions to address this issue, emphasizing that improved atmospheric and hydrologic models are required to assist forecast what would happen to the area’s water supply.
Then, according to Thompson, lawmakers can utilize these findings to create workable regulations for sustainable water management.
These new policies might be utilized to create AWT adaption strategies through cooperation between upstream and downstream nations if politicians choose to heed the advice of the experts.
Water pollution and its imbalance
The sources that feed streams, lakes, and rivers have an impact on the quality of their water.
Unfortunately, when fertilizer, animal and human waste, plastics, and hazardous industrial chemicals reach these sources, water contamination is produced, as per The Balance.
It harms the ecology, fisheries, tourism, public health, and the economy.
By establishing water-quality regulations to limit consumption, governments attempt to contain the harm.
The biological health of many of our rivers is poor.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that water pollution has polluted 46% of U.S. streams, 21% of lakes, 18% of coastal waterways, and 32% of the country’s wetlands.
Bacteria and heavy metals like mercury, phosphate, and nitrogen are the most frequent pollutants.
Farm runoff and pollutants inhaled from the air are the main contributors.
Governmental organizations struggle to regulate polluters. This is because the majority of this pollution is “nonpoint” pollution, or runoff from farms, septic tanks, and roads.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, around 80% of the pollution in the ocean originates from land-based sources that enter water systems directly.
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