Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Water shortages threaten renewed conflict between Pakistan, India

Shahid Husain in AlertNet discusses the growing danger of water-based conflict in south Asia: As population growth and climate change increase competition for water around the world, India and Pakistan may find water a growing source of conflict, analysts say. The two South Asian countries have a long history of tensions over issues as diverse as terrorist attacks and rights to Kashmir. Diplomatic initiatives have helped reduced these tensions in recent years.

But given that India and Pakistan share numerous rivers, some experts think that the issue of water supplies could lead to renewed conflict, making water conservation an even more urgent priority. Water is clearly in increasingly short supply in India and Pakistan. Per capita water availability in Pakistan has fallen by nearly 75 percent over the last 60 years, in part because of rapid population growth. The country is seen as having too few dams and reservoirs to hold water supplies, and agricultural production is threatened by a lack of water.

Nasim A. Khan, an academic and former secretary of Pakistan’s Alternative Energy Development Board, sees the territorial dispute between Pakistan and India over Kashmir as in part a fight for water resources, and is concerned by India’s construction of dams in the part of the territory that it controls.

“The roots of the Jhelum, Chenab and Indus (rivers) are in Kashmir, and any foul play can create tremendous differences,” Khan said, referring to India’s construction of dams on these rivers over the past two decades....

River Jhelum, Srinagar Kashmir, shot by Dr. Basharat Alam Shah, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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