Day 38 – Q 2. Examine the distribution of freshwater resources in Asia. How is water distribution shaping the fate of this continent? Analyse. 

  • IASbaba
  • July 23, 2020
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GS 1, TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing, World Geography
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2. Examine the distribution of freshwater resources in Asia. How is water distribution shaping the fate of this continent? Analyse. 

एशिया में जल संसाधनों के वितरण का परीक्षण करें। जल वितरण इस महाद्वीप के भाग्य को कैसे आकार दे रहा है? विश्लेषण करें।

Demand of the question:

It expects to investigate and establish the key facts and issues related to the distribution of freshwater resources in Asia.  It also expects the candidate to break the  issue of ‘Impact of water distribution on the fate of the Asian Continent’  into its constituent parts and explain how these relate to one other and present as one summary.


Most water in the Earth’s atmosphere and crust comes from the world ocean’s saline seawater, while freshwater accounts for nearly 1% of the total. The planet’s fresh water is also very unevenly distributed.


Today most fresh water exists in the form of ice, snow, groundwater and soil moisture, with only 0.3% in liquid form on the surface. Of the liquid surface fresh water, 87% is contained in lakes, 11% in swamps, and only 2% in rivers. Small quantities of water also exist in the atmosphere and in living beings. Of these sources, only river water is generally valuable.

Asia has 47 percent of the global average of fresh water per person, but also has 65 percent of the world’s population.

  • In Asia, water shortages—both in the form of stress and scarcity—are emerging as a major social and economic threat, especially in India and China. 
  • The glaciers in the Himalayan region are the major source of fresh water in the surrounding regions of India, Nepal, Bhutan, China. As the Brahmaputra river originates in eastern Tibet where as the Ganges river’s source is in the West. Both  the rivers are perennial in nature.
  • Many of the lakes such as Dal lake and Wular lake in India, Lake baikal in Siberian region of Russia, Lake Balkhash in Kazakhasthan are the main freshwater resources in the region where freshwater supplied from river is sufficient.
  • The Mekong Delta – Vietnam, Candaba Swamp – Philippines, Hakaluki Hoar – Bangladesh, etc. are the major freshwater supplying swamps. 

As per Asia-Pacific centre for security studies, water scarcity is likely to worsen in Asia in the years ahead. India is experiencing  shortages in accessing freshwater. In 1998, it is predicted that per capita availability of freshwater was declining due to rapid population growth and industrialization.

  • The per capita availability of freshwater in 2025 is expected to be 1,500 cubic meters per year, as compared to 2,200 cubic meters in 1997 and 5,300 cubic meters in 1955.
  • This will have a huge negative impact on food security, as Asian agriculture is already heavily reliant on irrigation, with much of the anticipated increases in food production likely to be dependent on even higher levels of irrigation and irrigation efficiency.
  • The Green Revolution resulted in increased crop yields, but achieved these yields largely through extensive irrigation and with increased reliance on freshwater.  In fact, almost 70% of the world’s freshwater supply is devoted to agriculture, and thus is unavailable for other uses.  In Asia, this reliance is even more significant because an estimated 35 to 40 percent of the region’s cultivated land is irrigated and this area produces over 60 percent of Asia’s total agricultural output.
  • Aside from agriculture, another factor that influences the state of water security in a particular country is its degree of industrialization. Industries account for roughly 25% of the world’s water use and that number is much higher in industrial countries (as high as 50-80%).  In developing countries, the percentage tends to hover around 10-30 percent.
  • Environmental factors (such as pollution or climate change) can also influence water security for a particular nation or region. In many parts of Asia, pollution is a major culprit behind the dwindling availability of freshwater.  In South Korea, for example, more than 300 factories along the Naktong River illegally discharged toxic wastes directly into the river.
  • The specific impact of freshwater on intra-state security is far more complex and less easily ascertained. e.g. Kaveri water issue in between the states of Karnataka and Tamilnadu.
  • Freshwater resources are  likely to spark  conflict international relations. e.g. Tista water sharing issue between India and Bangladesh.

Access to clean, safe, freshwater is recognized universally as one of the most basic and vital needs of humanity.  Yet with the world population projected to increase to nearly 9 billion over the next few decades, bringing with it the associated need for greater food production and industry, it stands to reason that shortages of clean freshwater can potentially have broad and far-reaching security implications. Hence, to conserve fresh water resources following steps needs to be taken:

  • At the individual level the 3R formula of REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE needs to be applied.
  • Also the basic individual level steps such as Check  taps for leaks, Taking shorter showers, Turning off the water while brushing teeth needs to be taken up so that fresh water can be saved.
  • At the government level too minimizing the pollution of the rivers, lakes and time to time precaution by cleaning them will in turn help to add fresh water availability. Such as Namami  Gange programme.
  • At the international level, various water cooperation initiatives will help to conserve freshwater resources.


Clean freshwater is not only essential for human life, but also for economic development and agriculture in the Asian continental region. Emerging water scarcity and water security issues are posing a big challenge to the conservation of freshwater resources. Hence, as the impact of freshwater scarcity varies as per variation in distribution of fresh water resources in Asia the collaborative approach is essential to assure the conservation of freshwater resource.

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