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Rich corporations ‘grabbing’ water from poorer countries - Oxfam

Residents arrive to fill their containers with drinking water from a tanker in a neighborhood that is facing severe water scarcity in Bengaluru, India

Residents arrive to fill their containers with drinking water from a tanker in a neighborhood that is facing severe water scarcity in Bengaluru, India

As the United Nations observed World Water Day on Friday, there is a growing risk of conflict over water resources as climate change takes hold, the international body said.

Meanwhile, nongovernmental aid agency Oxfam accused global corporations of "grabbing" water from poorer countries to boost profits.

Declaring this year's theme Water for Peace, the UN warned that "when water is scarce or polluted, or when people have unequal or no access, tensions can rise between communities and countries."

"More than 3 billion people worldwide depend on water that crosses national borders. Yet only 24 countries have cooperation agreements for all their shared water," the UN said.

"As climate change impacts increase and populations grow, there is an urgent need within and between countries to unite around protecting and conserving our most precious resource."

In South Africa's largest city, Johannesburg, the taps have been running dry for several weeks, affecting millions of people. On the outskirts of the city in Soweto, thousands of people have been lining up to collect water in bottles and buckets from tankers that bring in water from outside the city.

"It has been a serious challenge, a very challenging time for my age that I have to be here carrying these 20-litre buckets," Thabisile Mchunu, an older Soweto resident, told The Associated Press. "And the sad thing is that we don't know when our taps are going to be wet again."

Crumbling infrastructure is partly to blame for the water shortages in Johannesburg. But scientists say worsening climate change is causing reservoirs to dry up in South Africa and many other parts of the world. The United Nations estimates that 2.2 billion people live without safely managed drinking water.

Scientists from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say roughly half of the world's population experiences severe water scarcity for at least part of the year, with poorer nations in the Global South the worst affected.

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