Water shortage coming to Asia by 2050

Scientists say industrial expansion, population growth responsible for water-access problems in Asia

By PTI | 1 April 2016

Scientists say industrial expansion, population growth responsible for water-access problems in Asia.
Scientists say industrial expansion, population growth responsible for water-access problems in Asia. (Credit: Vinoth Chandar / Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Countries in Asia, including India, may face severe water shortage by 2050 due to rising economic activity, growing populations and climate change, MIT scientists have warned.

There is a “high risk of severe water stress” in much of an area that is home to roughly half the world’s population, scientists said.

Having run a large number of simulations of future scenarios, the researchers found that the median amounts of projected growth and climate change in the next 35 years in Asia would lead to about 1 billion more people becoming “water-stressed” compared to today.

While climate change is expected to have serious effects on the water supply in many parts of the world, the study underscores the extent to which industrial expansion and population growth may by themselves exacerbate water-access problems.

“It’s not just a climate change issue,” said Adam Schlosser, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in US.

“We simply cannot ignore that economic and population growth in society can have a very strong influence on our demand for resources and how we manage them. And climate, on top of that, can lead to substantial magnifications to those stresses,” said Schlosser.

To conduct the study, the scientists built upon an existing model developed previously at MIT, the Integrated Global Systems Model (IGSM), which contains probabilistic projections of population growth, economic expansion, climate, and carbon emissions from human activity.

They then linked the IGSM model to detailed models of water use for a large portion of Asia encompassing China, India, and many smaller nations. The scientists then ran an extensive series of repeated projections using varying conditions.

In what they call the “Just Growth” scenario, they held climate conditions constant and evaluated the effects of economic and population growth on the water supply. In an alternate “Just Climate” scenario, scientists held growth constant and evaluated climate-change effects alone.

And in a “Climate and Growth” scenario, they studied the impact of rising economic activity, growing populations, and climate change. Approaching it this way gave the researchers a “unique ability to tease out the human (economic) and environmental” factors leading to water shortages and to assess their relative significance, Schlosser said.

“For China, it looks like industrial growth (has the greatest impact) as people get wealthier. In India, population growth has a huge effect. It varies by region,” said lead author Charles Fant.

The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

Professor Milton Siegel, who for 24 years was the Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization, speaks to Dr. Stephen Mumford in 1992 to reveal that although there was a consensus that overpopulation was a grave public health threat and would be a major cause of preventable death not too far in the future, the Vatican successfully fought off the incorporation of family planning and birth control into official WHO policy. This video is available for public viewing for the first time. Read the full transcript of the interview here.

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  1. In the 21st century, human overpopulation continues to be the most ignored, suppressed and avoided issue of our time. World leaders and religions dodge every discussion pertaining to its onslaught in the face of human struggles at epic levels. With our planet screaming its accelerating anguish via contaminated oceans, poisoned soils and polluted atmosphere—we indifferently add 80 million of ourselves annually and one billion more every 12 years. Our 7.3 billion numbers wreak havoc on the rest of the natural world as we cause extinction rates of other creatures at over 100 daily and hundreds of thousands by mid century. At some point, we face catastrophic climate destabilization, lack of water and arable land to grow food as well as loss of oil energy to drive our civilizations. When the final drivers descend on our species, Mother Nature won’t be kind or forgiving. Frosty Wooldridge, 6 continent world bicycle traveler


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