Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Water -- conflict or cooperation?

Asia Society-Northern California: “To what extent is water a factor in conflict and to what extent can we reduce water being a factor in conflict?” The question, posed by Peter Gleick, Co-Founder and President of the Pacific Institute, helped set the context for a panel discussion at ASNC on June 5 that looked at the potential security implications of water scarcity.

Gleick was joined by Brahma Chellaney of the Center for Policy Research (New Delhi), whose research has focused on water scarcity as a source of regional tensions, particularly in regions where the resource is shared. His 2012 book, Water: Asia’s New Battleground, deals at length with this topic and also won Asia Society’s 2012 Bernard Schwartz Book Award. The event was moderated by Peter Schwartz, a well-known futurist who founded the scenario planning organization Global Business Network. Schwartz is now Senior Vice President for Global Government Relations and Strategic Planning at

“Armies don’t have to march to battle to wage a water war,” argued Chellaney. “Water can be fashioned into a weapon depending on whether the state is located upstream or downstream.” He noted that international rivers create power struggles, such as when upstream countries reengineer water flows or downstream countries withhold data of their water endowments. In short, water can provide tremendous leverage among countries and can be used as a part of a larger strategy to elicit compliance among recipients.

Chellaney has spent his career focusing on emerging security issues that affect the world including climate change and energy, but believes that water scarcity will be the big issue in the coming years. This is especially true in Asia where climate change and other factors such as more demand for meat is intensifying and placing even greater strains on the region’s already finite supply of water. He argues that Asia's policy makers are not giving water the attention it deserves in public discourse. Instead “water policy is often left to hydrologists and engineers and not looked at strategically.” Integrating water in policy and planning will help to secure water over the long-term...

Water drop shot by Fir0002, Wikimedia Commons, under the following Creative Commons license:
Attribution NonCommercial Unported 3.0

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