China's Tibetan Plateau water reserves at risk

The Tibetan Plateau's vast reserves of glacial freshwater, which supply Asia's most populous regions, are both at risk and are emerging as an issue in the increasingly tense political and cultural strife between China and Tibet, scientists and experts say, according to a new report by Circle of Blue published today. Circle of Blue is the independent journalism and science project reporting on global freshwater issues...

• Pollution and global warming threaten water supplies for up to 2 billion in Asia

TRAVERSE CITY, MI, May 8, 2008 -- The Tibetan Plateau's vast reserves of glacial freshwater, which supply Asia's most populous regions, are both at risk and are emerging as an issue in the increasingly tense political and cultural strife between China and Tibet, scientists and experts say, according to a new report by Circle of Blue published today.

Circle of Blue is the independent journalism and science project reporting on global freshwater issues.

"At least 500 million people in Asia and 250 million people in China are at risk from declining glacial flows on the Tibetan Plateau," said Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, in an interview with Circle of Blue. "This is one of the great concerns -- a staggering number of people will be affected in the near future. There aren't too many researchers who have looked at this water situation and its far-reaching impacts."

Globally, the UN estimates that two-thirds of the world's population will live in areas of water stress within the next 20 years.

Scientists and experts say an environmental catastrophe is brewing in the volatile region due to air and water pollution in China and global climate change -- all of which foretell future water scarcity on an unprecedented scale. With more than a quarter of its land classified as desert, China has long sought Tibet's water resources. The IPCC and others warn that the Himalayan glaciers are receding faster than anywhere in the world and could vanish within three decades.

Said Geoff Dabelko, director of the Environmental Change and Security Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., "Nearly two billion people are in some way dependent on water originating on the Tibetan Plateau. By definition, that makes it high politics and critically important in a politically strategic sense."

Full story and resources: http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews

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