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Thursday, 24 August, 2000, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Thirsty planet predicted
Drought in Namibia (BBC)
Large quantities of water will be needed to irrigate land and grow crops
By BBC News Online's Anne Lavery

Over three billion people could face chronic or severe water shortage by the year 2025, reveals a new report.

This is a four-fold increase over the 505 million people affected today says the US non-profit group behind the report, Population Action International (PAI).

But despite the rise, PAI says this is good news. "While cause for concern, these figures are an improvement over what we thought would happen a decade ago," said Amy Coen, PAI president.

"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.

However Robert Engelman, lead author of the report, told BBC News Online that for hundreds of millions of people, most of them in developing countries, family planning remained non-existent.

"Developed countries need to address this issue because the picture for the world's environment improves as global population decreases. It's for the good of all humanity," he said.

Flood of reports

This latest news comes on the back of a spate of reports this year warning of an imminent global water crisis. These include concerns over water pollution and global warming.

Although the world has abundant supplies of water only 2.5% is fresh water, the majority of which is tied up in the polar ice caps.

PAI looked at population growth trends and compared them with the amount of available water. The amount of fresh water is finite say PAI, but the number of people keeps increasing.

The worst hit areas will be Africa and parts of Asia, leaving people not only thirsty but hungry and in poverty.

"It's clear that a country like Kenya has more arable land than it can cultivate," said Sally Ethelston of PAI, " because there's not enough fresh water to irrigate it."

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See also:

02 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Dawn of a thirsty century
13 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Water arithmetic 'doesn't add up'
22 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Soil loss threatens food prospects
01 May 00 | South Asia
Analysis: A man-made crisis?
18 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Toilet water on tap
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