April 24, 2014 12:00 am JST

Water, water, anywhere?

Serious water shortages are affecting many parts of Asia. While the major factor behind the situation is climate change, which has exacerbated existing conditions such as drought, there are other factors at play.

     Much of Asia's population has traditionally been concentrated in cities and towns, but many areas suffer from inadequate water-supply infrastructure, such as a lack of dams and reservoirs or inefficient irrigation systems. In addition, governments have adopted flawed water policies, and households waste water on a large scale.

     Water shortages have always proven painful for agricultural production and the environment, but their effects are now being felt further afield, including in the fishing and food industries and even in petroleum-related businesses. Another critical hazard is the potential of disputes over water rights to trigger regional conflicts.

     But this simmering crisis is also providing new commercial opportunities, as seen in the growing demand for the construction of seawater desalination plants and newly developed strains of drought-tolerant grain.