Refleksi:  Bukankah air adalah salah satu kebutuhan utama bagi manusia. Orang 
lebih cepat mati kehausan dari pada kelaparan.   Agaknya untuk memperoleh  air 
bersih nan sehat  secukupnya bagi kebutuhan  penduduk tidak begitu mendapat 
perhatian serius dari penguasa NKRI. Benarkah asumsi demikian?  

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/10/05/opinion/ednestle.php

 


Another inconvenient truth 
By Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

Sunday, October 5, 2008 

At last, many of the world's political leaders have begun to realize that 
diverting land and food crops to produce biofuels leads to higher food prices. 
But an equally important consequence of this policy folly is being largely 
ignored in the public and political debate: Producing biofuels will further 
deplete the world's already overtaxed water supply.

This is emblematic of a larger and increasingly dangerous disregard for the 
world's most valuable, irreplaceable and finite natural resource: fresh water.

Seventy percent of all water withdrawal is already used in agriculture, and 
while all such activity requires water, growing enough soy or corn to create 
biofuels is especially water-intensive. For example, to produce just one gallon 
of diesel fuel up to 9,000 gallons of water are required. Up to 4,000 gallons 
are needed to produce enough corn for the same amount of ethanol. By way of 
contrast, producing enough food to meet the caloric needs of one person for one 
day in, for example, Tunisia or Egypt requires about 666 gallons of water, and 
twice as much in California (caloric needs and intakes vary widely from region 
to region due to dietary customs).

If all of the biofuel targets and timelines set by governments across the world 
are met, we can expect water withdrawals for agriculture to increase by up to 
one-third. Making a dent in the world's energy problems with biofuels will 
require much more water than the world can afford to give up. There simply 
isn't enough; water tables are falling throughout the world. While there are 
substitutes for oil, there are none for water.

The world is facing a water crisis and, consequently, a food crisis that in 
terms of severity and potential impact far supersedes the current food crisis 
or the exhaustion of fossil fuels. Either it never occurred to biofuel 
advocates to ask about the amount of water needed for biofuel production, or 
they simply chose to ignore this particular inconvenient truth.

According to a report by the International Water Management Institute, by 2025, 
about one third of the world's population, perhaps as many as 3 billion people, 
will face water shortages. From an agricultural standpoint, we may be looking 
at losses equivalent to the entire grain crops of India and the United States 
by then. According to some estimates, even without biofuels, we will very 
likely reach the upper limit of available fresh water for worldwide 
consumption, more than 2.9 billion cubic miles, by 2050. A growing reliance on 
biofuels would exacerbate an already difficult challenge.

There was a remarkable lack of careful planning in the drive to convert food to 
fuel. In Europe and the United States, a developer trying to open a shopping 
center is subjected to an extensive environmental impact assessment. But when 
politicians decided to promote biofuels, the decisions were not preceded with a 
comparably thorough analysis of environmental sustainability.

Regardless of how it happened, policy makers neglected the dwindling supply of 
a resource essential to life in order to replace fossil fuels and fight global 
warming. This was not a sensible trade-off. There is no question that we have 
to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. But biofuels derived from food crops 
planted exclusively for that use are clearly the wrong solution. While there 
are substitutes for oil, there aren't any for water.

This scandal is instructive because it was caused, in part, by the general 
attitude toward water in both the developed and developing world. Water is 
still treated as a limitless resource in too many communities, and one reason 
is that it is has no price. States heavily subsidize water usage so that it is 
sometimes even free for both farmers and consumers. Because it is not assigned 
a value in the marketplace, there is no incentive for using it efficiently. If 
water were not free or heavily subsidized, would biofuels still be produced? I 
doubt it!

The water problem can be solved. It requires much more careful stewardship of 
water supplies by local and national governments. I, for one, also believe 
reasonable pricing policies would help by encouraging the use and development 
of water efficient crops and smart irrigation systems. But even those who 
disagree with that prescription should be deeply disturbed by the lack of 
attention paid to water by those who rushed headlong to biofuels as the answer 
to the world's energy problems. As the international community grapples with 
how to fight global warming and build a sustainable future, it must stop 
ignoring a priority that is even more pressing.

Failure to address the water problem will result in food scarcity. Water 
scarcity is no longer an environmental issue. It is a national and 
international security issue that can not be ignored.

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe is the chairman and former chief executive of Nestlé.

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