A crisis is quickly developing across one of the world’s great river basins, as a result of population pressures coupled with global warming. As water levels become more variable and less predictable, the risk of flooding and droughts will increase dramatically.
According to UN estimates, the population across the Nile river basin is projected to double by 2050, approaching one billion. The region is already under immense pressure from water scarcity.
Scarcity of fresh water resources is already a major concern for people in many parts of the world, with population growth magnifying the issue. This is especially true for countries across the Nile river basin, where many inhabitants live at the sustenance level and depend directly on the river ecosystems.
A newly-published study by academics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) projects that the river’s water levels will become increasingly unpredictable, resulting in either devastating floods or plaguing drought depending on the year. Growing variability in water levels is already taking place in the region. Between 2015 and 2016, many countries in the Nile basin experienced intense drought followed by widespread flooding.
Ethiopia, for instance, experienced one of the most serious climatic shocks in recorded history, with 10 million people facing successive crop failures, widespread livestock deaths, as well as severe water shortages and health risks. Around the same time, flooding in Sudan left thousands of houses destroyed, several villages submerged, and 100 people killed.
Climate change vulnerability
People living in low-lying coastal areas and river basins in developing countries are already recognised to be at great risk from the effects of climate change, including through a predicted rise in sea levels. Growing populations in these areas increase the number of people at risk.
At present, climate change is driven mainly by high carbon emissions from developed world countries.
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