Curbing the Abuse
In the plateau between Peru and Bolivia, lies Lake Titicaca. But the lake is dying. We are dependent on the lake, but we have abused it, allowing waste and runoff from mining and farming into the ecosystem. Almost a million people live around the lake, but they are unaware of the damage that they have caused. They warn us not to drink the water or eat the fish anymore and fish is my favourite food!
In the past fifteen years the Bolivian and Peruvian governments have established organizations to curb the abuse. These groups cooperate and work to educate local people about the impacts of their farming. Plans exist to improve waste-disposal facilities, but we face major challenges. Now there are too many people to sustain the traditional ways of farming. The waste from one farm does not cause much damage, but the waste from thousands does. As I walk along the shore by my house it makes me sick to see all the pollution.
Before we can clean up the lake we must clean up our lives. We need better waste management and health services. We need sustainable farming techniques. Lake Titicaca is a tremendous resource, but without care we could destroy it. Thanks to the cooperation between the Peruvian and Bolivian governments, we might not be too late. We can still save the lake. Hopefully I will be able to eat fish again someday!
Gaby Mavila, Peru
Co-operation for Rejuvenation
The Danube River runs through a basin spanning 19 countries in Europe including Germany, my home. For a long time, managing the river was difficult because so many different countries all use it all the time, but in 1998 a commission of representatives from all the bordering countries was formed to work together to protect the river and the surrounding areas.
The major objective was (and still is) to restore the river, bringing it back its former glory, and in doing so, provide a clean and healthy water system for Europe. Since 2001, billions of dollars have been invested in cleaning up the river, its estuaries and surrounding areas I organized a clean up of an estuary near my house. The results of this work are incredibly positive, and are already becoming apparent: the number of different species living in the river has almost doubled since the 1980s, the water is clearer, and people around the river are happier and healthier. My mum used to tell us not to go swimming in the river during in the summer, but now we can!
Although the work has taken significant economic and political investment, the benefits from these improvements reach everyone. Together they proved that nations can come together and solve a mutual problem an example of what could happen in other regions where conflicts exist over shared water systems. From the Danube, we draw both water and hope.
Matthias Schmidt, Germany
Where I live in India, fighting for access to shared water resources is common. Thanks to the government and legal system these disputes are often settled civilly, but because judgements are difficult to pronounce and often take years to resolve, crises are inevitable.
In 1991 my home state of Tamil Nadu experienced a devastating drought when the river Cauvery, which provides all the water for our state and the neighbouring state of Karnataka, went dry. The Cauvery first flows through Karnataka before it reaches Tamil Nadu. There is a dam between our two states that allows a specific amount water from the Cauvery to pass through to the farmers of Tamil Nadu, while retaining a certain amount for the farmers of Karnataka.
Because of this drought, water that should have come to Tamil Nadu, never reached our farmers, and left them without enough water to irrigate their fields. I was only five years old, but I still remember how
angry my father was. I had never seen him like that. For sixteen years the courts and legislature have been unsuccessful in finding an amicable settlement for this crisis, which resurfaces every summer, and for sixteen years people from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have resorted to violence to protect their claim to the Cauvery’s precious water.
Thankfully on February 5th, 2007, India’s Supreme Court finally reached a legal solution that will hopefully resolve the crisis. The verdict established nationally imposed quotas for the amount of water each state receives, and ensures that those quotas are met during the harsh, dry summer months. The government’s plan is a reasonable compromise, and thanks to this national legal intervention, the farmers in my home of Tamil Nadu and the farmers in Karnataka will have enough water each summer. Hopefully now the violence and the quarrelling will stop.
Preetam Alex, India
Fighting over water is a blood war
But water does not have the thick
biases of blood.
Water is everywhere, everyone,
Rivers follow the unifying contours
of the earth,
Not the dividing contours of our
And through our blind wanting
We tend to forget
That the river was here first,
And our lines are only imaginary.
Andrea Davidson, Canada