A water crisis could lie ahead for Asian nations, says a report by the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute. The shortage of water could have twin effects: a severe shortfall in rice production and a possible social conflict as competition hots up among industries, urban consumers and farmers in Asia for dwindling supplies ofwater.

New varieties of rice - once hailed as the great new hope of Asia - may not be able to bail out the continent from the crisis. The future seems to lie with the development of techniques that produce more rice with less water. "In the future, conflicting demands will increasingly be felt between the need for safe drinking water, sanitation and industrial activities, particularly in fast-growing urban centres, 11 says the report. Asian coun- tries have tried to find their own answers to such varying demands. The two most populous countries in east Asia - China and Indonesia - are planning measures to slow the conversion of productive agricultural land to industrial and urban use.

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