A new report by the Columbia Water Center, produced with Veolia Water and Growing Blue, could help expose the real nature of water risk–even in places that most people think of as having plenty of water.
Eight hundred years ago, relatively small armies of mounted warriors suddenly exploded outward from the cold, arid high-elevation grasslands of Mongolia and reshaped world geography, culture and history in ways that still resound today. How did they do it?
“This is a mess, and it is a mess that we have not attended to yet,” Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs said at a conference on water security held today at Columbia University. “Humanity is the driver, but we don’t have our hands on the steering wheel very much.”
A new two-year climate change initiative, led by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society aims to help farmers in Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Bangladesh reduce their vulnerability to climate risks.
We traveled to the Brahmaputra River, one of the most active on the planet, to continue our fieldwork. We visited two places while working our way downstream and saw the rapid changes in the river bank and chars (islands). At one ghat (dock) the river had eroded a mile of the coast while in the other it added a similar amount. The chars had moved, appeared, disappeared and reemerged. In this changing environment, the resilient Bangladeshi char people shifted and adapted with the land.
So far, tensiometers have been tested in four central districts of Punjab, initially with more than 500 farmers the first year, and then peaking with an additional 4,500 farmers in 2011 before testing was scaled back. Data showed, on average, a 30 percent reduction in the water used in the test plots when compared with the standard practices employed in the control plots.
For the final part of my journey, we will be visiting numerous sites, mainly on the main rivers of Bangladesh. The samples and field data will ground truth and calibrate satellite data improving our analyses. We first stopped at an area that had converted from shrimp farming to rice, then spent two days on the mighty Ganges River.
From warmer temperatures to natural disasters such as flooding and drought, changing patterns of climate are having billion-dollar impacts on our food-growing systems. But scientists are struggling to find ways to measure and predict what may happen in the future—and to translate that into policies to help feed a bulging world population.
Scientists and agronomists are racing to develop seeds that are higher yielding, more nutritious, and both drought and climate resilient to meet the challenge of feeding the world in the future.
Rosario Costa-Cabral and her brothers harvest hundreds of fruits, oils and wood products from the stream-laced forest of the Amazon River delta. But the climate here is changing: Tides rise higher, and seasonal floods are growing worse.