Monday, March 17, 2008

Global water wars?

OhMyNews (Korea): There is no consensus among water analysts on whether there will be global wars over water ownership. According to UNESCO, globally there are 262 international river basins: 59 in Africa, 52 in Asia, 73 in Europe, 61 in Latin America and the Caribbean and 17 in North America -- overall, 145 countries have territories that include at least one shared river basin.

UNESCO states that between 1948 and 1999, there have been 1,831 "international interactions" recorded, including 507 conflicts, 96 neutral or non-significant events and, most importantly, 1,228 instances of cooperation around water-related issues.

As a result, some experts argue that the idea of water wars is rather farfetched given the precedent of water cooperation that has been exhibited by many of the countries around the world. "Despite the potential problem, history has demonstrated that cooperation, rather than conflict, is likely in shared basins," says UNESCO.

However, the fact remains that throughout the world water supplies are running dry and the situation is being compounded by inappropriate management of water resources that will likely unravel previous international cooperation around water.

….Already, a third of the global population is said to be short of water, sparking fears of social fallout and violence, especially among the world's poorest and most malnourished people.

…Potential social and political division and unrest over access to water will hit marginalized populations in developing countries hard. As water resources run dry, there will be a reluctance to share the resource in a peaceful and equitable manner.

According to US military analysts, "global-warming water problems will make poor, unstable parts of the world -- the Middle East, Africa and South Asia -- even more prone to wars, terrorism and the need for international intervention."

It is predicted that floods from rising sea levels will potentially destabilize South Asian countries such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam. The Middle East and North Africa is also faced with acute water shortages, a situation that will pit the countries in the region against each other.

"The only matter that could take Egypt to war … is water," the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat said tellingly in 1979. Water security is increasingly becoming a military priority for many of the countries in the Middle East, and the threat of wars between countries is real.

…"Water is connected to everything we care about -- energy, human health, food production and politics," said Peter Glieck, president of the Pacific Institute, a global think tank. "And that fact alone means we better pay more attention to the security connections. Climate will effect all of those things. Water resources are especially vulnerable to climate change," he adds.

Water fountain in a Swiss village, photo by "Juhanson," Wikimedia Commons

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