Australian water activist Mina Guli has undertaken a gruelling physical challenge to draw attention to the growing global water crisis. From November till February she is attempting to run 100 marathons in 100 days.
The United Nations estimates that there will be a 40% shortfall between demand and supply for water globally by 2030. Increasing populations raise demand, and urbanisation and climate change diminish supply. Shortages don’t only affect drinking water, but also agriculture and sanitation. Droughts and associated phenomena such as wildfires are increasingly touching urban areas in California and Australia for example.
Guli started with the New York City marathon on 4 November, but most of her runs won’t be organised marathons. She has visited iconic world cities such as London, Paris and Rome and her travels will take her on to regions effected by drought such as Uzbekistan, her native Australia, and Cape Town — which came close to running out of water earlier this year.
Guli, 48, is used to extreme challenges. A former lawyer and banker, in 2012 she started an NGO called Thirst, dedicated to raising awareness about the water issue. In 2016, she ran 40 marathons across deserts on 7 continents in 7 weeks. Last year, she ran 40 marathons in 40 days beside six rivers.
This year’s challenge has upped the ante. Yet Guli herself says she doesn’t even like running. But it’s a great way to draw attention to her cause, and to meet people as she runs. She uses the publicity from the run to talk about the problems, but also the solutions local people are finding.
This video shows how New York is trying to guarantee its water supply.
The Aral Sea, situated between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, was once the fourth biggest freshwater lake in the world. But over the last thirty years, the fresh water that fed the lake has been diverted for irrigation projects, leaving this desert in the place of a lake, and ghost shipyards with ships marooned in the middle of the dried out lakebed. As Guli ran through Uzbekistan, she met people like Yusup Kamalov, who is fighting with Union for the Defence of the Aral Sea to reverse the irrigation projects and re-develop a healthy lake.
After Uzbekhistan, Guli moved on to India.
If all goes to plan, Mina Guli will compete her 100th marathon back in New York on 11 February.
You can follow her on her website.