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Lack of water,energy,could cause wars: Gorbachev

By Roberta Mancuso, AAP News.

A worldwide lack of water and energy supplies could spark wars, warns former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. Delivering the opening address at the Earth Dialogues forum in Brisbane today, Mr Gorbachev said resources such as water had become so scarce that basins of major rivers shared by several countries could one day become sites of military conflict. "Clean drinking water, and water that can be used for irrigation, is in short supply in many countries, even today," Mr Gorbachev said. "In 2001, secretary general of the UN (United Nations), Kofi Annan, said that in the new century we may see wars over water, rather than over oil, and that is not an exaggeration.

"The probable site for military conflicts could be basins of major rivers that are shared by several countries, such as (the) Ganges, Mekong ... Zambesi, the Orange River, Okavango, Senegal and others." Mr Gorbachev said another potential source of conflict was the Husbani River, which begins in southern Lebanon, a country currently experiencing a water shortage, and runs into Israel.

The three-day forum explores issues such as climate change, human development, economic growth and poverty. Mr Gorbachev, who won a Nobel prize in 1990 for his contribution to ending the Cold War, said despite an increasing lack of resources "we are still acting in a very wasteful way". "This is of great concern. It is a problem that basically comes down to the future of mankind," he said. Mr Gorbachev said by 2020 the "water crisis" would spread across half the world, leaving many countries without drinking water and proper sanitation.

"This kind of situation could only result in a global cataclysm," he said. Mr Gorbachev, the head of environmental group Green Cross International, was also critical over the lack of time being spent finding alternative energy resources, saying too much time had been wasted in the development of solar energy. "The position of Green Cross International calls for accelerated use of renewable sources of energy, in particular solar energy," Mr Gorbachev said. "At the same time, we are calling for serious and effective steps to more efficiently use the traditional sources of energy."

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