Water scarcity and the lack of access to sources of safe water pose great challenges to two-thirds of the world's population, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in a recent report. It said a worsening of this problem could lead to an increasing number of people leaving their communities.
The report said those who depend on agriculture are the most heavily affected. FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said that some, especially the poorest, may see no alternative to migration.
"But migration should be a choice, and not the only remaining option," he said.
Lack of information
The UN said the report, titled "Water Stress and Human Migration,"
also shows that more information on the problem is needed for India, Central Asia, the Middle East and the Central Sahel. These areas are expected to face above-average surface temperature increases and intensifying water scarcity in the next 30 years.
"While some studies demonstrate a correlation between water stress and higher outmigration, the causal interaction is still not clearly understood," the report said. It highlighted the importance of ensuring that the link between water scarcity and migration "does not become one of mutual aggravation".
FAO said that it is of vital importance to create better adaptation strategies, including those that explain the impact of climate change, to prevent migration becoming a forced choice.
"Analyzing water scarcity trends and engaging in preparedness are particularly valuable, allowing time to intervene to mitigate pressure for forced migration," said Eduardo Mansur, director of FAO's Land and Water Division."Enabling proactive adaptation is a more effective and sustainable strategy than offering a reactive humanitarian response in the face of large-scale distress."
The report said that migrants can contribute in a positive way to water management and development of resources in their communities of origin and host communities, through "good practices, skills and knowledge transfer, and the use of remittances". FAO also called for more attention to the concept of environmental migrants and data-gathering to understand and pre-empt trends in a timely way.