I am constantly startled by references to “population growth” as a cause of a number of development challenges. Whether it’s urbanization, food security, or water scarcity, all too often “population growth” is cited as a cause for pessimism or even a reason not to strive for progress. I can almost see Thomas Malthus grinning at me from the shadows.
It gets worse. I recently reviewed a paper where higher fertility among minorities was touted as an explanation for their poverty! A few months ago, a respected professional wrote asking why we weren’t doing more on family planning, since fertility in Africa would pretty much stymie any efforts to provide infrastructure-based services! I hear statements to this effect routinely from policy makers in charge of infrastructure ministries and projects (“how can we keep up with the population?” or “nothing we do will be enough unless we control the population”) but am always amazed when I hear them from scientists of different hues.
So I thought I’d try to set the record straight:
This past February, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta officially declared the drought in his country a national disaster. No rain had fallen for months in East Africa, causing a dire living situation.
Tribes migrated to find water and food, and we saw an increase in the amount and severity of conflicts, specifically between herders and owners of large farms.
In the cities, the situation is not much better. Nairobi’s main water supply is a dam which is currently only 20% full. The Nairobi Water Company is rationing water, and many people only have running water once a week.
Agriculture is suffering; the price of milk has risen from 40 to 65 Kenyan Shillings (KES) for half a liter in just six months. Maize meal, a staple food, has gone up nearly 40%, with the state recently announcing a subsidy for maize.
The Joint Secretariat of High Level Panel on Water and Connect4Climate announced today that the winner of the Instagram Photo Competition — #All4TheGreen Photo4Climate Contest Special Blue Prize — for the best photo on water is Probal Rashid, from Bangladesh, with a photo taken in his country showing how water stress is affecting individuals in his community.
The Special Blue Prize was created as part of the #All4TheGreen Photo4Climate Contest and aimed to select the best photo on the value of water: clean water, dirty water, lack of water, how inadequate access to water and sanitation causes poor health and stunting, how too much or too little water contributes to environmental disasters and human suffering, or how water insecurity can lead to fragility and violence. What is the value of water to you?
Rani, 9, collects rainwater for drinking. Rainwater is the main source of drinking water in the village of Shyamnagar, Satkhira, Bangladesh. Due to sea-level rising resulting from climate change, limited sweet water sources of the coastal area have widely been contaminated with saline water.