Iraq and Syria have witnessed unprecedented destruction over the past decade, while India and Pakistan have literally been in a state-of-war since 1947. One element that is common amongst all four nations and many other countries around the world is “Water Crisis”.
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Millions of people suffer from limitations in water supplies because of armed conflicts. The most recent examples of this are Fallujah and Mosul Damson in Iraq and the Tishrin and Tabqa Dams in Syria.
Water stress results in severe humanitarian consequences, which often cause population movements and tensions resulting in violent conflict and threats to international peace and security. Experts say water has the power to reorder international relations in the current century.
Powerful Driver of Conflict
The National Interest has best-described water stress as a precursor to conflict. “At the sub-national level, water disputes and instability can trigger violent conflicts, particularly in situations of existing social, political or economic fragility.
Water stress acts as an accelerant, increasing the likelihood of conflict.” This is one of the reasons why the world has keenly been watching The Indus Water Treaty between Pakistan and India.
According to Jeff Nesbit’s latest book ‘Pakistan Faces a Water War on the Horizon’, “compounding the over-use and changes inflicted on the arid region from the Earth’s climate system, actions by India to cut off some of the flow of water feeding the Indus has created potential for serious conflict between the two nations.”
He further stated that “In India, competition for water has a history of provoking conflict between communities. In Pakistan, water shortages have triggered food and energy crises that ignited riots and protests in cities.” Water scarcity-fueled instability can have dangerous security implications for the wider geographic regions.
Since 2013 in Syria, ISIS has viewed water access and control as a primary strategic objective of their campaign and has taken over hydroelectric dams, irrigation canals, reservoirs, pipelines and other water infrastructure to cement territorial gains.
In this matter, Yemen cannot be overlooked as water has also played a major role in this nation’s current crisis. Experts say Yemen’s capital Sana’a may become the first capital in the modern-world to functionally run out of the water, possibly by 2025.
Strong Instrument for Peace
The United Nations believes that water is a shared resource and can be a strong instrument of peace. Transboundary water cooperation is a historically tested tool of confidence-building and peace. According to Fair Observer, water cooperation can be a significant instrument of prevention of violent conflicts.
“The water cooperation system on the River Senegal that binds together Guinea, Senegal, Mali and Mauritania offers an example of sophisticated water cooperation that has helped to overcome occasional tensions among the riparian countries.”
Relations between Senegal and Mauritania have often been heated because of the boundary delimitation of this river. Countries the world over should come up with policies to avert the impending global water war.
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