A JOURNEY IN THE FUTURE OF WATER, by Terje Tvedt (translation by Richard Daly)
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma, Development Analyst and Columnist, New Delhi, India
Water binds together the past and the future and helps explain our evolution as a species.
A Journey in the Future of Water, by Terje Tvedt (translation by Richard Daly), I. B. Tauris, 2013, 262 pp.
Marked by huge amounts of waste and competing demands, the supply of water is presumed to be the precursor to a probable third world war. Situations with respect to water sharing come perilously close to what Mark Twain once said: ‘Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over.’ It seems the universal fluid that will shape humanity’s future could be soaked with blood.
Not deterred by threatening changes in the global climate that may accelerate glacial melting and transform water flows in major river basins, Terje Tvedt portrays an optimistic picture of humanity’s water future after traveling through some of the most amazing locations across five continents. With a professional background in geography, history and political science, the author offers multiple perspectives for the reader to choose from. While Tvedt is forthright in saying that ‘howsoever grandiose attempts to manage water may be, water does not allow itself to be completely controlled’, he is equally candid in concluding that ‘qualified technological optimism is the only optimism that endures.’
He organizes his immensely readable narrative on water into three distinct sections: the impact of ‘water blindness’ across countries; the implications of ‘water control’ in contested river basins; and the power of science and technology to usher in a bright ‘water future’. Tvedt avoids taking an ideological position as to whether the glass is half full or half empty, instead leaving it to the reader to make an objective assessment of impending water crises. However the world responds to these imminent crises, water fundamentally binds together the past and the future and points to the continuity of our evolution as a species.
A Journey in the Future of Water suggests that the new age of uncertainty will have a dramatic impact on water landscapes. Not only are water conflicts likely to escalate, but control over water will be in the hands of those possessing technological and economic power. The temptation to use this power in despotic ways is unlikely to disappear. So, we need binding international laws and regulations backed by resource-endowed international institutions to ensure that human and ecological rights to water are met.
Although this book was originally published in Norwegian in 2007, the English translation by Richard Daly is refreshingly original. More than a travelogue, it is an authoritative treatise on water that makes for compelling reading. It is one book that I intend to keep close at hand. I will use it as a ready reckoner of exotic places should an opportunity arise for me to undertake such interesting travels. If I sound envious of Terje Tvedt, so be it. He has helped me to learn a great deal about water issues.