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close this bookFreshwater Resources in Arid Lands (UNU, 1997, 94 p.)
close this folder1: Fresh water - A scarce resource in arid lands
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentInternational efforts
View the documentFresh water - A limited resource
View the documentA personal history
View the documentTraditional wisdom
View the documentProblems of major continental aquifers
View the documentThe Aral crisis - Ecocide in arid lands
View the documentHydropolitics along the Jordan river basin and the Dead Sea
View the documentConclusions
View the documentReferences

A personal history

During over 50 years of field research, my concern has always been water problems in arid lands. The reason is very simple: without solving water problems, no progress has ever been made in arid lands. Starting from field experiences in Mongolia, crossing the steppe and desert areas of Eurasia, and on to Africa and the Americas, I have observed many regional critical issues about freshwater resources.

For example, in 1944 in Manchu-Mongolia, I learned about the scarcity of domestic water, including drinking water. In 1956-1957, I observed in situ traditional systems of water harvesting (dew irrigation, flood irrigation. .. ), unique underground water supply systems (qanat or karez), large irrigation systems (Nile, Tigris, Euphrates), and lack of sufficient infrastructure for potable water and sewage. In 1958, when I was able to participate in the first Tokyo University scientific mission to the Andes, the world of cold deserts gave me a comparative view of another area of water problems. In 1961, when I visited the other side of the Jordan River and the Sahara, observations in these extremely arid lands, especially in oases with qanat or foggara, gave me a still ongoing research target.

After those experiences, I organized three missions for the comparative study of subterranean irrigation systems on the old continent of Eurasia (1977-1980 and 1988-1990), and I am now engaged in another Sahara project to look for the influence of technology transfer on the evolution of oases. Since my affiliation with the UNU (from June 1995), I have been engaged mainly in the hydropolitics of international water basins and related environmental issues.

Through those experiences, I learned much about the wisdom of the inhabitants of arid and semi-arid lands and also found several questions to be answered with ongoing development projects.