centuries war and conflict has been tied to the protection of
water resources. With the risk of water shortages around the
world becoming more and more of an issue, water has become the
fuel of certain conflicts in many regions around the world.
“Water Wars” are becoming inevitable in the world's future as
the misuse of water resources continues among countries that
share the same water source. International law has proven itself
inadequate in defending the equal use of shared water supplies
in some parts of the world (Darwish, Middle East Water Wars).
The rapid population increase has greatly affected the amount
of water readily available to many people.
as a resource is very comparable to oil; it is essential to
all daily human activities. Water is becoming a very valuable
commodity, yet freshwater resources are unevenly distributed
among developing countries. This scarcity in water has triggered
desperation in countries that already have little access to
water, let alone reliable water supplies. This desperation usually
cannot be resolved by negotiations. If governments or rebels
want water badly enough, they resort to force to obtain it.
Water has very rarely been the main ingredient in international
conflicts, but it is often factored into the problem due to
its economic importance. (Peter Gledick, Water Conflict
over water arise form the fact that under conditions of increasing
scarcity, competition levels also increase.” Anthony Turton
has been much speculation over what causes conflicts over water.
The conflicts arise over who has the power to control water
and therefore control the economy and population. By breaking
it down into categories, we can begin to understand the causes.
Conflicts can be caused by water use which includes military,
industrial, agricultural, domestic and political uses. Through
the military and political uses, conflicts can be exacerbated
by the use of water systems as a weapon and as a political goal.
In relation to industrial and agricultural uses conflicts may
arise from the overuse and degradation of water resources, and
the insufficient amount that is left over for communities.
can further be a result of pollution affecting the quality of
the water supply. The military is already most likely the number
one producer of wastes in the world, and the leftover chemical
and weapons used in times of war can have an effect on water
supplies. Wastes from industries and agriculture can contaminate
groundwater resources if not disposed of properly, and cause
frustration for those who must travel to obtain sufficient daily
water supplies. This lack of water quality can cause a conflict
to arise regarding the distribution of water. Not having water
evenly distributed among people and countries creates an imbalance
among those who share supplies, particularly in developing countries
(Cause of Conflicts, Haftendorn).
increase of urbanization has increased the demand for water.
However the supply cannot take care of the demand. With the
problem of uneven water distribution future conflicts can occur.
As societies become more developed they tend to use more resources
such as water (Klare).
regions around the world deal with shortages of water. However,
some areas deal more with conflicts over inadequate water supplies
and disputes over shared water supplies. In regions where countries
compete for access to water, the relations between the countries
are likely to be unstable. In regions where water supply is
scarce, combat sometimes seems to be the only way to resolve
the problem. It is estimated that there are 1,250 square kilometers
of freshwater remaining in the world’s semi-arid and arid regions
and this supply is not evenly distributed among two or more
countries sharing the same water source. Severe water scarcity
is strongest in the Middle East and Northern Africa. The need
for water in these regions is essential for food production
used in irrigation farming (Klare).
systems usually arise in one country and pass through others
before reaching the sea or oceans. The rivers and lakes that
come off these larger water systems are typically shared by
more than one country. The states where these systems originated
tend to try and gain the most control over the water. This is
the case along river systems like the Nile, the Tigris-Euphrates,
and the Jordan River (Klare).
East conflicts are usually tied in the media to religion or
oil, but water has become a major factor in recent disputes.
In prominent watersheds such as the Jordan River Basin and the
Tigris-Euphrates Basin, water supplies can be critical especially
when they are being shared among multiple countries. These rivers
play a very important role in the agriculture and economic development
of these states.
area of the Jordan River Basin, including parts of Lebanon,
Syria, Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank, is primarily an arid
region. The river originates in Lebanon and has a total average
flow of 1,200 million cubic meters per year. This river system
consists of the Jordan and Yarmuk River, which flows from Syria.
With the arid climate and low precipitation in this region,
water has become the most valuable resource (Klare). Most countries
in the Jordan River Basin are among some of the poorest countries
in the region. Groundwater aquifers are the principle source
for water supplies to the states that rely on the Jordan River.
Water use varies throughout the region. Israel uses the greatest
amount of water available in the basin, and next in line is
Jordan. The Israeli-occupied West Bank uses the smallest amount.
The daily amount of water per person in the Jordan River Basin
is the lowest in the world (Water Scarcity in Jordan River
patterns of water use, overuse, and political territorial issues
are resulting in disagreement over water distribution. The increase
in population (both through natural increase and Israeli settlements)
has led to significant challenges in managing limited water
supplies. Without the existence of a legitimate water sharing
agreement, the countries of Syria and Israel have taken over
the water supplies. The construction of reservoirs on the Yarmuk
River has caused the reduction of discharge into the Jordan
Jordan River Basin).
Mountain Aquifer underneath the West Bank is a point of contention
between Israelis and Palestinians. Issues include the domination
of groundwater supplies by the Israeli state and settlers, and
the walling off of Palestinian access to water supplies. Compared
to Israeli settlers Palestinians are charged three times the
cost for water that comes from under the West Bank (Villiers).
and Satellite picture of the Jordan River Basin
of water supplies in the river basin of ancient Mesopotamia has
long fed disagreement among neighboring nations. The Tigris and
Euphrates rivers originate in Turkey, and their watershed covers
a much larger area than the Jordan River basin. The river system
is shared by several countries and ethnic groups who regularly disagree
on water issues. Like the Jordan River Valley, rising population
in these areas is heavily affecting the availability of water. The
Tigris and Euphrates are especially important to Syria and Iraq.
Syria obtains approximately 85 percent of the renewable water supply
while Iraq obtains 100 percent from the combination of both rivers
(and the Kurds who live in southeastern Turkey) are less dependent
on the rivers, yet they still have plans for irrigation schemes
to increase their utilization of both rivers. Along the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers, conflict arises from north to south. The downstream
states of Iraq and Syria depend heavily on these two rivers for
their water supply. Dams along the rivers installed by Turkey have
prevented some of the water from flowing downstream to these warmer,
drier countries.(Haftendorn). All three countries (but mainly Turkey)
have constructed dams on the rivers for purposes of agriculture,
hydroelectric power and industrialization.
and Syria have increased hostilities towards one another over the
use of the Euphrates River. Turkey’s plans to utilize its portion
of the Euphrates have affected the share going to Syria for irrigation
purposes. Hostilities between Syria and Iraq escalated due to the
filling of Lake Assad by Syria, resulting to the reduction of downstream
flow in the 1970’s. Iraqi’s began accusing Syria of holding back
water supplies. Among all three countries, the water supply conflict
is equated with their national security (Tigris
Gulf War brought on water
crisis in Iraq due to the bombing of water treatment facilities
in Iraq by the U.S., triggering water shortages in the country.
Out of the seven major water pumping stations, four were destroyed.
The targeting of sewage and water treatment plants contributed to
the mass contamination of the Trigris River, and triggered many
waterborne diseases. The bombing during the 2003 Iraq invasion agian
targeted civilian infrastructure, and left many southern Iraqis
with little or no access to water in the first weeks of the occupation.
(See Iraq water
women waiting for incoming water supplies while confronted by British
parts of Africa, water shortages are a part of everyday life. Many
countries share one water resource for the use both of their populations.
A large percentage of these countries are very dependant on the
weather to provide proper irrigation to the agricultural industry,
since water resources are so scarce.The major areas being shared
among countries are the Nile
River, Volta River, Zambezi River, and the
Niger Basin. Conflicts rage from the privatization of the
water resources to the many people displaced by dams along the rivers,
and the unequal distribution of water supplies amongst neighboring
countries.With the growing demand for water resources, conflicts
seems almost inevitable, especially with many African governments'
history of poor management of resources and inadequate conflict
Nile River Basin
is the longest river in the world, stretching for 4,130 miles. The
Nile River for centuries has been the source of sustaining human
life in Egypt and Sudan. The Nile’s tributaries, lakes, and rivers
collect and disperse water in nine African countries before it reaches
the Mediterranean Sea. The Egyptians have used military force to
ensure their control over the headwaters of the Nile, because the
country has no other water source. Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda have
constructed various river projects to increase their annual water
withdrawals, affecting Egyptian control over the Nile (Klare).
However, in some cases
national governments have agreed to share water that flows between
their countries. For example, the leaders of Uganda, Sudan and Egypt
signed a pact to share the waters of the Nile River. Such solutions
can potentially prevent water shortage and head off conflict.
children crossing contaminated river source
countries deal with conflict over the sharing of river water supplies
both in downstream and upstream regions. The distribution of water
resources throughout Southeast
and Central Asia is increasingly becoming a political issue,
with the tensions amounting over the control of water supplies (Biliouri).
The idea of shared water supply has not been easily understood by
the nations of this region. The growing populations come with the
increase in demand and could be a catalyst for conflict to arise
out of the ethnic and political disputes (Water and Conflict).
water shortages pose both a social and economic threat. Throughout
India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh, water shortages are increasingly
triggering conflict. Although the freshwater resources are abundant,
they are not well distributed to drier regions in dire need of water.
With the immense amount of pollution being dumped in the freshwater
supply, clean water is becoming scarce to the mass of people and
tensions can easily escalate.
River Basin has been an area of conflict between India and Pakistan.
Spanning 1,800 miles, the river and its tributaries together make
up one of the largest irrigation canals in the world. The basin
provides water to millions of people in northwestern India and Pakistan.
Dams and canals built in order to provide hydropower and irrigation
ha dried up stretches of the Indus River. Water projects have further
caused the displacement of people and have contributed to the destruction
of the ecosystem in the Indus plain.
of the river basin waters have created friction among the countries
of South Asia, and among their states and provinces. Accusations
of overdrawing made by each central region or province has resulted
in the lack of water supplies to coastal regions of Pakistan (Controversy
over Indus River Water). The Ganges River has long been disputed
over by India
and Bangladesh. The two regions share a common river system,
formed by the joining of the Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda.
Supply in Bangladesh
of the Indus River Basin
River possesses strong economic and religious importance. The
Ganges River as a water source has been strongly disputed between
India and Bangladesh. With increasing demands of water in Calcutta
for industrial and domestic use, and irrigation use in the Indian
state of West Bengal, water conflicts between the two countries
have increased. With large amounts of pollution in this river
system, the available water is unsanitary and can increase illness,
as well as trigger mass migration.
River pollution makes it an unsanitary water resource
and Natural Resources
for Water Wars
Emerging Water Wars
Conflict and Cooperation
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