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Friday
Aug092019

France says it speaks for itself on Iran, reacts to Trump criticism

Oleksii Liskonih/iStock(PARIS) -- The French Foreign Ministry said Friday that it remains committed to de-escalating tensions around the Iran nuclear deal, and that it has the authority to speak on the issue, following a rebuke from President Trump.

The statement followed President Trump's tweets Friday morning that declared Iran "is in serious financial trouble" and criticized France and other nations for "purporting to represent" the United States. He said that French President Emmanuel Macron, among others, are giving Iran "mixed signals."

"I know Emmanuel [Macron] means well, as do all others, but nobody speaks for the United States but the United States itself," Trump tweeted.

France, however, insists that it does not need any authorization to act as they have to de-escalate tensions since the U.S. backed out of the nuclear agreement.

"France is faithful to the Vienna agreement that prevents nuclear proliferation," reads the statement from Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs. "It respects its signature, as do the other parts of the agreement, with the exception of the United States, and it urges Iran to return to compliance."

"Every effort must be made to prevent this conflict situation from turning into a dangerous confrontation," Le Drian added.

Macron has taken the lead in trying to save the 2015 nuclear deal since the United States pulled out. Iran has reacted to the U.S. withdrawal by breaching uranium-enrichment limits put in place in the deal.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug092019

Fishermen rescue passengers on life raft after plane crashes in the Bahamas

Provided(NEW YORK) -- Three people are not only lucky to survive a plane crash on Thursday, they also have a fishing boat to thank for plucking them out of the Atlantic Ocean.

The single-engine plane, with a pilot and two passengers, went down about 20 miles east of Bimini, the westernmost island in the Bahamas, on Thursday while traveling from Great Harbour Cay Airport to Miami Executive Airport.

The passengers inflated a yellow emergency raft and alerted the Coast Guard. But the professionals ended up not being needed.

A group of fishermen out for a day on their boat made the rescue instead.

"We were about 25 miles from Cat Cay on our way to Great Harbour, when we came across the life raft with three guys in it," Tim Hampson, one of the fishermen, told ABC News. "And we pulled up to them, asked what was up, and they were like, 'We just scratched our airplane like an hour ago.'"

"No one was hurt, they were just all in a little bit of shock," he continued. "One gentleman was 80 years old, which gave us some concern, but he was a real trooper -- probably the toughest one of the group, for sure."

The fishermen ended up taking the rescued trio to Cat Cay in the Bahamas.

"It was a gift from God for sure," Hampson said. "And things can go wrong really quickly, and lucky for them that it didn't, for sure."

The Piper PA-34 aircraft can be seen on the shallow bottom of the clear blue-green waters in video released by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The crash is still under investigation.

"We could have been looking the other way for just an instant and we might have not seen them," Hampson told ABC News. "It could have been a little rough, and the waves could have hit 'em. So yeah, it was meant to be, and we're glad we were there to help."

"Just did what anyone else would really do and thankful we were able to help," Hampson added.

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Friday
Aug092019

Experts: Asteroid whizzing by Earth this weekend won't come close to impact

Thanapol sinsrang/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Residents of planet Earth fret not -- a 1,000-foot asteroid whizzing by our planet this weekend won't even come close to making impact.

In fact, while asteroid 2006 QQ23 is considered to be a "potentially hazardous asteroid," its passage will be about 5 million miles away from Earth, "just barely into the zone that we start to keep closer track of these objects," NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson told ABC News.

Johnson added that "there isn't much significant" about the upcoming asteroid. Scientists have been aware of its existence since 2006, Paul Chodas, director of NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies, told ABC News.

"There's nothing really special about this," Johnson said. "We have objects, asteroids of this size that pass within 5 million miles of the earth six, seven times out of the year."

About 25 asteroids are expected to fly within 5 million miles of the earth in the next 60 days, and smaller asteroids pass even closer "all the time," Johnson said.

"The bottom line is this happens all the time, which people don't realize," he said.

A larger object, asteroid 2000 QW7 is expected to pass even closer to the earth -- at about 3.5 million miles away -- on Sept. 14. The largest that asteroid could be is about 1,700 feet across -- about the length of five football fields -- but Johnson said he still considers it "not that large." Asteroids can often be up to "several miles" in size.

Asteroids do not pose any danger to the Earth unless it is on track to hit it directly, Johnson said.

Scientists, using ground-based telescopes, can detect the asteroids as they near the planet, but the distance in which they are able to detect them depends on the size and brightness of the object.

"A large, dark asteroid would have to be a lot closer to us than an asteroid of the same size that is brighter," Johnson said. "A bright one would be found sooner than a dark one."

In addition, it's difficult for astronomers to model an exact track due to forces like solar wind, aviation pressure and the uncertainty of the exact shape of the object, Pete Worden, adviser on space resources to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, told ABC News. Once the asteroid gets closer, the better scientists can track it, he added.

Ground-based telescopes have their limitations, so scientists are hoping to eventually utilize a space-based system to detect asteroids as far in advance as possible. Worden also expects a better telescope system to obtain "much better data from the ground" within two to four years.

Still, "we're not gonna be surprised" by an asteroid, Johnson said. The better technology will simply allow experts to narrow in on all the asteroids that "would potentially hit the earth" and consider the means on how to remove them, Wordon said.

"We'll figure out where they are, and if humanity decides that this is a big enough threat, we'll go move them," he said.

Scientists are currently devising ways to detract any asteroid that could potentially impact the earth.

In the summer of 2021, NASA's DART mission, which stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, will demonstrate a kinetic impactor technique on a double asteroid -- essentially bumping the smaller asteroid -- to see how much they can move it.

"The thing is, if you move something years in advance, you don't have to move it very much," Wordon said. "This is a rock that's the size of a skyscraper. You would then hit it with a spacecraft kind of the size of a small car, and by impacting it, it impacts energy and momentum and will move it slightly off its orbit."

The theory is that an asteroid that was expected to come within 2,000 miles of Earth will eventually miss it by hundreds of thousands of miles just from one bump, Wordon said.

Scientists are also considering essentially spray painting one side of an asteroid, which would cause it to be heated by the sun differently, Wordon said. As it heats, it emits radiation, which, over time, will push it off course a little, Wordon said.

Researchers have also considered building a "giant laser" to slightly push an asteroid out of the way, Wordon said.

Another idea would involve not even touching an asteroid but instead taking a "modest sized spacecraft" to use solar electric repulsion to move it over the course of years, Wordon said. The method involves the asteroid's gravity attracting the spacecraft, situated about a mile or so away, which would hypothetically move it over time.

It's just a matter of time before another asteroid is poised to hit the Earth, "so we need to be vigilant to detect and detract these objects," Johnson said.

"Someday the earth will be impacted again," he said. "The question is when, and we want to be prepared for that."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug092019

US calls China 'thuggish regime' after Beijing protests diplomat's opposition meeting

Oleksii Liskonih/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. accused China of behaving like a "thuggish regime" in a growing spat over the protests in Hong Kong that have seized the territory for weeks now.

China has accused Western countries and the U.S. in particular of orchestrating the movement, which protesters deny. But those allegations were fueled by a meeting between a senior U.S. diplomat and some pro-democracy activists.

A pro-Beijing newspaper published a report on Thursday, including photos and details, about Julie Eadeh, the political unit chief of the U.S. consulate general in Hong Kong, meeting with Joshua Wong, one of the protest movement's leaders, and others. The article also included details about Julie Eadeh's personal life, such as her various postings as a diplomat and her husband, a fellow U.S. diplomat, and their two sons.

After the report was published, the Chinese Foreign Ministry's commissioner for Hong Kong blasted the U.S. for the meeting and called on Washington "to immediately make a clean break from anti-China forces who stir up trouble in Hong Kong," "refrain from meddling with Hong Kong affairs, and avoid going further down the wrong path."

China also issued a formal protest to the U.S. by summoning a senior official, according to the commissioner's office.

The State Department confirmed that its diplomat met with activists, but said that U.S. diplomats regularly meet with government officials, opposition figures, business leaders and more.

"This literally happens in every single country in which an American embassy is present, so our diplomat was doing her job and we commend her for her work," said spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.

Ortagus then turned the tables on Beijing and accused the government of leaking the details and photos of the meeting in order to "harass" Eadeh.

"I don't think that leaking an American diplomat's private information, pictures, names of their children -- I don't think that that is a formal protest. That is what a thuggish regime would do. That's not how a responsible would behave," she said.

Since June, protests have rocked the territory -- which is formally part of China but is governed by a special Beijing-selected council -- over a controversial bill that would have allowed accused criminals to be extradited to mainland China. That sparked concern over potential human rights abuses and unearthed a deep-seated distrust for many in Hong Kong. While Hong Kong authorities eventually suspended the bill, protesters continue to demand an investigation into police abuses during demonstrations, a total withdrawal of the extradition bill and greater democratic rights for Hong Kong's residents.

The early, peaceful protest marches in June, which attracted record numbers of Hong Kongers to the streets, have become smaller. But sizable battles between masked and hard hat-fitted protesters and police continue.

Hong Kong's embattled and deeply unpopular leader, Carrie Lam, appeared in public for the first time in two weeks on Monday, condemning the protesters and saying that they had pushed the territory "to the verge of a very dangerous situation."

Last Friday, on the sidelines of a major Asian summit in Thailand, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who on the subject of Hong Kong, "urged the U.S. side to respect the Chinese side's core interests and major concerns, and be prudent in words and deeds," according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The U.S. readout made no mention of Hong Kong.

But Pompeo has issued strong statements before, calling a senior Chinese official's comments that the West was behind some protests "ludicrous."

"These are the people of Hong Kong asking their government to listen to them, so it's always appropriate for every government to listen to their people," Pompeo told reporters while en route to Thailand.

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Friday
Aug092019

Altering global diets, food systems could help combat climate change: UN

IrenaV/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A United Nations panel says countries around the world need to adapt food systems to limit climate change, including adopting more sustainable agriculture practices and altering diets to eat less red meat.

Agriculture and other uses of land around the world contribute more than 23% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report and warming from climate change could start to make food more expensive as heat, drought or extreme rains make crops less productive.

The report released on Thursday points out that some aspects of global food production are inefficient, including that 25 to 30% of food produced is lost or wasted. As populations grow in developing countries and those populations consume more meat and processed foods the demand for food will also increase and put more stress on resources like water and competition for land.

Representatives from the U.N. panel said they don't tell people what to eat but that more plant-based diets and sustainably-produced meat can have benefits for both the climate and human health around the world.

"Balanced diets, featuring plant-based foods, such as those based on coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-GHG emission systems, present major opportunities for adaptation and mitigation while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health," the report says.

Climate and agriculture in the U.S. say the shift would have multiple benefits, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, improving health and providing new opportunities for farmers.

"The good news is that if you eat a more nutritious diet there's a good likelihood that if you're substituting legumes, and whole grains and vegetables and fruits for meat then you tend to also reap some real environmental benefits," University of Minnesota Professor Jason Hill told ABC News.

Walter Willett, an epidemiology and nutrition professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said the way we use land in the U.S. is detrimental to our health because there's so much emphasis on producing corn and soy for animal feed. He said the U.S. needs to produce massively more fruits, vegetables and nuts instead of crops for animal feed, processed foods and ethanol.

"That big 45 percent that we're feeding to animals and is basically making us sick by too much beef and pork, it's destroying our land and our resources at the same time," Willett said. "We're losing at both ends, we're losing by the destruction of the environment and we're losing by making people sick, so how can it get worse than that?"

Willett and other experts also said the U.S. would have to look at its system for supporting farmers, which heavily subsidizes crops like corn and soybeans, and incentivize sustainable farming practices and producing more healthy foods.

"We need to look at every foot of our land and think about how can we best use this to promote production of healthy food as well as do that in a sustainable way. These really are issues that are a collective responsibility, we can't put it all on the farmer," he said.

Amanda Shapiro, editor of Healthyish, Bon Appétit magazine's wellness site, said they have already seen their readers asking for more vegetarian recipes or recipes that can be easily adapted to be vegetarian or vegan. She said people in the food space are more conscious now that you don't have to label yourself "vegetarian" or "vegan" to reduce your consumption of meat.

"There's really a much more broad idea of what health means and I think more and more the shift toward vegetarianism for climate reasons I think our readers are thinking about health not just in terms of their health but in terms of the health of the planet," she told ABC.

But Shapiro said if people are willing to be creative with flavor and incorporate healthy fats, a plant-focused diet can be just as satisfying as one focused on meat. She said especially with so much seasonal produce this time of year, which has been the focus of the Healthyish "Farmer's Market Challenge," "there's just no excuse not to feel inspired by plant based cooking."

For practical tips, Shapiro said home cooks should think about recipes they already like or are excited to try and experiment with a plant-forward version, like making meatballs from mushrooms instead of pork or using less meat to complement the other ingredients instead of the main element of a meal. She also said playing with different spices and sauces, as well as healthy fats, can keep food interesting and filling without focusing on meat.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug082019

US and Canadian military aircraft intercept 2 Russian bombers north of Alaska coast

U.S. Defense Department(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. and Canadian fighter aircraft intercepted two Russian Tu-95 Bear H bombers over the Beaufort Sea north of the Alaskan and Canadian coast on Thursday, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

The bombers had entered the Alaskan and Canadian Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ), which extends 200 miles off the coast, but they did not cross into U.S. or Canadian sovereign airspace. It's believed to be the fifth Russian intercept by the U.S. this year.

The two U.S. F-22 fighters and two Canadian CF-18 fighters were supported by an American E-3 Sentry, KC-135 refueling aircraft and C-130 tanker.

"NORAD's top priority is defending Canada and the United States. NORAD operators identified and intercepted the Russian aircraft flying near our nations," said NORAD Commander Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy in a statement on Thursday. "Whether responding to violators of restricted airspace domestically or identifying and intercepting foreign military aircraft, NORAD is on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year."

The ADIZ is airspace that stretches 200 miles from the coastline and is monitored in the interest of national security. U.S. territorial airspace begins 12 miles from the coastline.

Last week, two Russian aircraft entered the Alaskan ADIZ but were not intercepted by U.S. aircraft. The last intercepts occurred in May when Russian aircraft were intercepted by U.S. fighter jets two days in a row after they crossed the Alaskan ADIZ.

The May intercepts were the first to occur close to Alaska since January, when Russian bombers entered Canada's ADIZ and were intercepted by both Canadian and U.S. aircraft.

Over the last two years, Russian missions close to Alaska have occurred two to three times a year.

"NORAD employs a layered defense network of radars, satellites, and fighter aircraft to identify aircraft and determine the appropriate response," NORAD said in a statement. "The identification and monitoring of aircraft entering a U.S. or Canadian ADIZ demonstrates how NORAD executes its aerospace warning and aerospace control missions for the United States and Canada."

The U.S. military also flies its aircraft off the Russian coast in international airspace.

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Thursday
Aug082019

New Zealand's new abortion legislation passes first read in Parliament

hidesy/iStock(LONDON) — New legislation that would decriminalize abortion in New Zealand passed its first reading in the Parliament with 94 votes to 23 Thursday.

The legislation, which was announced on Monday by the Justice Minister Andrew Little, is the first update to New Zealand's abortion law in over 40 years.

"The biggest change is taking [abortion regulations] out of the criminal code, which is very positive," Jackie Edmond, the chief executive of Family Planning, a New Zealand non-profit national sexual and reproductive health provider, told ABC News. "Abortion services are still managed through the Ministry of Justice, even though it's a health service."

Under current rules, abortion is only legal in the nation with the approval of two doctors, who must agree that continuing with a pregnancy poses a serious risk to the life or health of the mother, or in cases of incest, "mental sub normality", or fetal abnormality. After 20 weeks of pregnancy, the criteria become stricter.

In the last 10 years, 2,566 women have been told that their request for an abortion was unjustified, according to a report from Stuff Circuit, an investigative reporting group, that obtained data from the country's Abortion Supervisory Committee.

Introducing the new legislation on Monday, Little said, "Abortion is the only medical procedure that is still a crime in New Zealand. It's time for this to change."

Apart from removing abortion from the criminal code, the government's proposal would remove the statutory test under 20 weeks, allowing women access abortion services without the need for approval.

"This Bill will modernise the laws on abortion, by removing it from the Crimes Act and bringing the law into line with many other developed countries," Little said.

"It certainly will make [abortion] less complex and more timely, and easier to access," said Edmond. "And women can self-refer."

There has never been a criminal conviction under current abortion rules in New Zealand – a fact that MPs opposing the changes have brought up. But that is not the point, according to Edmond.

"It's not that people have been prosecuted," she said, "it's about human rights and bodily autonomy."

Now that it has passed its first reading in Parliament -- where the vote was treated as a conscience issue, meaning Members of Parliament were not directed by their party on how to vote -- it will be sent to a parliamentary Select Committee who will review the legislation and conduct consultations. After this, there will likely be a second and possibly third reading in Parliament, and the legislation is expected to be passed into law in about six months.

Decriminalizing abortion was one the Labour leader Jacinda Ardern's campaign promises prior to her election as New Zealand prime minister in 2017. There were some delays in getting the bill to Parliament, but they're working pretty quickly now, Edmond said.

An Ipsos poll published in June this year showed that 51 percent of New Zealanders said that abortion should be permitted whenever a woman said she needed one.

"Attitudes are changing in New Zealand," said Edmond. "There are more women in Parliament, that's had an impact, there are more conversations happening."

Abortion is one of the most commonly performed gynecological procedures in New Zealand according to a January 2018 report from the Abortion Supervisory Committee, and abortion is free for most New Zealand residents.

Speaking from New York, the International Women's Health Coalition told ABC News they strongly supported New Zealand's proposal to decriminalize abortion.

"Access to safe and legal abortion services — including self-managed abortion — should not be criminalized or restricted," said a spokesperson. "IWHC is hopeful that New Zealand will join the more than 30 nations that have liberalized their abortion laws since 2000."

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Thursday
Aug082019

Texas couple drowns in Turks and Caicos, teen daughter survives

mikolajn/iStock(HOUSTON) -- A Texas couple drowned in Turks and Caicos while on vacation with their teen daughter, family and friends said.

Loved ones identified Irma Barrera, 33, and Roy Perez, 38, as two of the three people who died Monday in the waters of Bambarra Beach.

“Yes...they were victims,” Victor Mendieta, a former classmate of Perez's, told ABC News on Thursday.

Family members confirmed to ABC Houston station KTRK that Barrera and Perez died in the drowning incident.

Their 15-year-old daughter was with them at the time but she managed to survive.

The Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force said three people drowned but did not release their identities. Police did say one of the victims was a 33-year-old woman.

It was not immediately clear what led to their deaths, but Police Commissioner Trevor Botting said in a statement they “got into difficulties in the waters.”

All three of their bodies have been recovered. The identity of the third victim was not known.

Two female minors were also rescued at the scene and are currently in the care of Social Welfare, police said. One of the females was related to two of the adults who died, while the other was related to the third adult, police said.

"The Turks and Caicos suffered a very human and terrible tragedy when five tourists from two families got into difficulties in the waters off Middle Caicos," Botting said.

Family members are trying to bring Barrer's and Perez’s daughter back home, they told KTRK.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help fund embalming of the couple’s bodies for a return to the states. As of Thursday morning, it had raised $21,525 out of its $50,000 goal.

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Thursday
Aug082019

UN: 25% of Earth's ice-free land subject to 'human-induced degradation'

krungchingpixs/iStock(NEW YORK) -- About one-quarter of all non-ice land on the planet has been subjected to "human-induced degradation," with soil eroding up to 100 times faster than it forms and many natural resources being exploited at rates never before seen, according to the United Nations.

"Climate change exacerbates land degradation, particularly in low-lying coastal areas, river deltas, drylands and in permafrost areas," according to a summary of a report released Thursday by the International Panel on Climate Change. "Over the period 1961-2013, the annual area of drylands in drought has increased, on average by slightly more than 1% per year."

People in southern and eastern Asia, northern Africa and the Middle East likely will bear the brunt of the effects from continued depletion of vital water and land resources, according to the summary.

The report is part of a series the U.N. plans to produce on climate change in the buildup to a climate summit next month in New York.

Zeke Hausfather, an analyst will the non-profit research group Berkeley Earth, said it's important to look at the impact of climate change on land separately from global averages because that will affect people the most.

"The whole world has warmed by about 1.1 degrees Celsius, 2 degrees Fahrenheit, from the pre-industrial period, but if you look at the land areas they warm about 50% faster," he told ABC News, adding that the difference is partly because oceans have more capacity to absorb heat.

Berkeley Earth's analysis of land-surface temperatures over the last 250 years have found that those temperatures have increased about 1.5 degrees Celsius in the same time period, with about 0.9 degrees of that occurring in the last 50 years.

He said warming in the Arctic or Alaska would be better indicators of the impact of warmer temperatures on land, where, he said, some areas have seen average increases as high as 3 or 4 degrees Celsius. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week said the temperatures in Alaska this July were the highest on record, almost 5.5 degrees hotter than the average summer month.

Hausfather said that while most of the focus in the U.S. tends to be on domestic impacts of climate change, it's the countries that contribute less greenhouse gases that are the most impacted by the warming climate through drought, increased heat stress or flooding from sea-level rise.

"One of the big challenges of climate change is the many ways the people who are least responsible for climate change are the most affected," he said. "You can build a sea wall around Manhattan -- it's a lot harder to build one in Bangladesh."

Previous reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have raised concerns about the world's progress to meet the goal set in the Paris Agreement to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius. A report released by the panel of hundreds of scientists last year has often been cited for warning that greenhouse gas emissions need to be drastically reduced as quickly as possible to limit warming from reaching levels where the effects could become "irreversible."

The last five years have been the warmest in recorded history, according to NOAA.

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Thursday
Aug082019

Seventeen countries facing water crises, organization says

LisaValder/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Seventeen countries -- home to 25% of the global population -- are facing "extremely high" water stress, according to the The World Resources Institute, a research non-profit.

Several drought-stricken places around the world have experienced water crises in recent years, with populated cities like Cape Town, Sao Paolo and Chennai inching toward "Day Zero," the day when taps run dry and water is no longer available.

In the 17 countries facing water risk, from India to the Middle East to North Africa, agriculture, industry and municipalities are sucking up 80% of the available surface and groundwater every year, according to WRI's Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, a tool that ranks water stress, drought risk and riverine flood risk across 189 countries.

This means that even "small dry shocks," which the nonprofit says will likely increase due to climate change, can produce "dire consequences."

"Water stress is the biggest crisis no one is talking about," WRI president and CEO Dr. Andrew Steer said in a statement. "Its consequences are in plain sight in the form of food insecurity, conflict and migration, and financial instability."

The most water-stressed regions on Earth are the Middle East and North Africa, also known as the MENA region, and home to 12 of the 17 at-risk countries. This region could experience the greatest economic losses from climate-related water scarcity, between 6% and 14% of GDP by 2050, the World Bank found.

One possible solution could be to harness the wastewater in this area, 82% of which is not reused to generate a new source of clean water.

India ranks 13th on the Aqueduct list of water-stressed countries, but has more than three times the population of the other 16 countries combined, according to WRI.

While Chennai in southeast India is in danger of its reservoirs drying up, Northern India faces severe groundwater depletion, according to WRI.

"The recent water crisis in Chennai gained global attention, but various areas in India are experiencing chronic water stress as well,” said Shashi Shekhar, former secretary of India’s Ministry of Water Resources and senior fellow of WRI India. "India can manage its water risk with the help of reliable and robust data pertaining to rainfall, surface and groundwater to develop strategies that strengthen resilience."

The Indian government is taking critical steps to alleviate the crisis, including placing all water issues -- including supply, drinking water and sanitation -- under one government umbrella. The WRI said the country can also pursue more efficient irrigation, collect and store rainwater, and conserve and restore lakes, floodplains and groundwater recharge areas.

More than a billion people currently live in water-scarce regions, and as many as 3.5 billion could experience water scarcity by 2025, according to WRI. Smaller pockets of extreme water stress even occur in countries with relatively low water stress overall.

Global water crises are stemming from more than just drought. Increasing populations degrade freshwater and coastal aquatic ecosystems, and WRI found that global water withdrawals have more than doubled since the 1960s due to growing demand -- with no signs of slowing down.

Water stress poses threats to human lives, livelihoods and business stability, and it is "poised to worsen unless countries act," according to WRI.

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