Over one billion people across the world do not have access to a sufficient water supply. Notably, this has led to 6.3 percent of global death due to inadequate sanitation, unsafe water, and insufficient hygiene. It is noteworthy that approximately half of the developing countries’ populations have diseases or infections related to inadequate or unsafe supply of water and sanitation. Guatemala and Egypt are examples of developing countries that have experienced the effects of water pollution, water shortages, lack of access to clean water and sanitation. Unavailability or inadequate supply of water also influences basic necessities such as education, equality among women and safety. Overall this paper will discuss implications of developing nations’ efforts to control, employ, manipulate, and commodify water, focusing on Guatemala and Egypt.
Water is a basic commodity of human life and was part of the early village mutual benefit that was supported and generated by commodification processes to enhance its productivity efficiency, therefore, played a major role in many social contexts including settlement patters, types of landscape, goods and labor, resources, social identities, as well as ideological and technological innovation. Particularly, water is the most critical amongst all the natural resources in Egypt. As such, misuse and scarcity of freshwater normally pose growing and serious threat to protection of the environment and sustainable development (Abd-El Monsef, Smith, and Darwish 1873). Water availability and water resource management is among the top priorities in Egypt’s economic, political, and social issues. On the other hand, due to the growing number of droughts in Guatemala, the quality of water supply and sanitation has become an increasingly crucial issue in the political and social arena. Specifically, the droughts have led to inadequate water supply, and reduced access to clean water; therefore, resulting to the spread of waterborne diseases and illnesses across the country. Generally, lack of water in the two countries has led to immense food shortages and growing numbers of malnutrition among children.
Guatemala has experienced persisting myriad of challenges over the past decades, but has made significant progress with regards to improving access to drinking water coverage. In particular, Guatemala’s water crisis is due to the increase in production of fossil fuel and hydro energy that has led to destruction of the environment and water catchment areas (Larsen 2). The continuous search for clean energy sources by North America and European countries has led to the growth of industries that produce fossil fuel in Guatemala. Notably, this increase has led to competition for land and water usage in the country. It is noteworthy that hydro and biofuel production are interconnected through more than the use of the same water sources or rivers (Larsen, 2015). Many sugarcane producers who are also suppliers of biofuels have diverted rivers and streams to create dams for private use. Unfortunately, many local residents, who already lack adequate clean water supply have taken issue with the dams.
Since the dawn of history, Egypt has been depending on irrigated agriculture to feed its growing population. As a developing country, the construction of the Aswan High Dam has shown the extent of the consequences of manipulating, controlling and commodifying water over the past 50 years. Most Egyptians depend on businesses that are based on irrigated agriculture along River Nile. Not only does River Nile sustain 40% of the country’s total work force, but also provides Egypt with its natural fiber and food basket. The Aswan High Dam (ADH) was constructed to conserve water that was previously being wasted when discharged into the Mediterranean Sea without any use and to prevent the raging floods from River Nile. The control and management of River Nile as the main source of water in Egypt has allowed for an all-year round irrigation, thus transforming the entire irrigation system to an annual one. The dam has also allowed for the continuous shipping of cargo along River Nile. Before the ADH, ships would often get grounded due to the low–flow of water, especially during summer.
From the above discussion, it is clear that Guatemala and Egypt are experiencing significant challenges in the management and control of their water sources. Due to economic pressure, there has been an increase in competition for limited freshwater sources among industries, households, and agriculture in both countries. Increasing water pollution and poor management of water resources has led to water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis and dracunculiasis. Nevertheless, both Guatemala and Egypt have taken significant steps to improve clean water supply and availability of water to their citizens. Particularly, since 1997 with the initiation of Water for People, Guatemala has minimized the percentage of citizens who lack access to drinking water by 50%. It is important to note that Water for People is an organization that is focused in providing or availing clean water to specific communities that are considered poor. Furthermore, the organization has developed a model that can be replicated by other governments in the developing nations to provide water to every person in impoverished communities. On the other hand, Egypt is working on modalities of reducing the amount of water used in irrigated agriculture while still maintaining high productivity in farms. Egypt uses approximately 80% of its water resources on irrigation while its citizens living below international poverty index do not have water supply in their houses or homes.
- Anonymous. Water Quality in Guatemala: Battling Drought and Disease. November, 2017. Available from https://borgenproject.org/water-quality-in-guatemala/
- Abd-El Monsef, Hesham, Scott E. Smith and Kamal Darwish. (2015). Impacts of the Aswan High Dam after 50 Years. Water Resource Management, 2015, 29:1873–1885. DOI 10.1007/s11269-015-0916-z
- Institute of Medicine (US) Forum on Microbial Threats. Global Issues In Water, Sanitation, And Health: Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US). Workshop Overview. 2009. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK28449/
- Granovsky-Larsen, Simon (2016). Farmers in Guatemala are Destroying Dams to Fight ‘Dirty’ Renewable Energy. Available from https://theconversation.com/farmers-in-guatemala-are-destroying-dams-to-fight-dirty-renewable-energy-100789