10: Battle for water – the blue gold
The history of water has long contained both conflict and cooperation. The fact that there is a shortage of water in parts of the world contributes to competition and strife over water. We find such battles both
- between states and
- between social and user groups within states – mostly the latter. And as we know: The vast majority of wars today are civil wars.
Competition for the lake offers a potential for conflict , but also for cooperation to make the best of a situation where a vital resource becomes scarcer and scarcer. The UN currently has 300 potential conflicts over water worldwide. In areas with great tension from before, conflict over increasingly scarce water resources can be the drop that causes the cup to overflow – and end in open conflict. Between 1965 and 2005, 37 cases of use of force between states were reported due to water – usually minor episodes. At the same time, more than 200 agreements on water were signed.
Some wars and conflicts have had disputes over water as one – of several – elements. Water is hardly the only cause of a conflict. The conflict between India and Pakistan has been closely linked to the distribution of Lake Indus, especially to tributaries. The disputed area of Kashmir is the water tower for much of the lake in the area. A so far good collaboration on the lake seems to be under pressure with India’s plans to build a power plant on the water resources. The war between Iran and Iraq (1980–1988) started over disagreement over the use of Shatt al-Arab – the common outlet of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.
The conflicts between Syria , Jordan , Lebanon and Israel have disputes over Jordan and Litani waters as an important element. What does it mean for these conflicts that the groundwater Israel is so dependent on, for a large part comes from rain that falls over areas outside Israel?
The upstream country Turkey has for more than 20 years built its large Anatolian project on the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, to which Turkey now sits with a water tap. The aim is to make Turkey a grain and vegetable chamber for the Middle East and to acquire more electric power. Despite agreements on the distribution of the lake, the construction of the many dams has led to much less water for the downstream states of Syria and Iraq . This has created major problems for agriculture there, and not least: great tension between these countries. Does an upstream country have the right, entirely at its own discretion, to manage shared resources as it pleases?
In Yemen , according to shopareview.com, there have been several use of weapons between different tribes and villages over the use of water. Large-scale production of khat (a plant used as an intoxicant) contributed greatly to the shortage of water, a shortage that is becoming more and more threatening. As much as 90 percent of the fresh water goes to agriculture, and of this close to half to produce khat. The capital and city of Sanaa are in fact in danger of running out of water before 2020. The vast majority of conflicts in the country are related to water. Between India and Pakistan , there have been internal disputes between groups over water – and dozens killed.
11: What can be done?
Historically, local and regional shortages of water have given impetus to incredible buildings and magnificent visions both to exploit the lake and to tame it (flood regulation). In the western United States and in China, one has the power to transfer water over large distances from one watercourse to another. In southern China there was 2-4 times more precipitation than in the north. In Libya, the Great Manmade River carries groundwater from the far south of the country to the populous area in the north, by the Mediterranean.
Increasing groundwater abstraction has been another way of tackling water problems. This is known since the first cities arose. However, the depletion of groundwater resources has gained explosive momentum in recent decades. The groundwater level therefore plummeted dangerously strongly in many countries – ie far more than inflow. Thus, people have to drill ever deeper for the lake. Likeeins: In several rivers, the river water never reaches the outlet for long periods because the water is used up further up. The Colorado River, which flows from the United States, through Mexico and into the Gulf of Mexico is one example. Amu Daria and Syr Daria in Central Asia are second.
Many are looking for new water resources. New technology has made it easier to drill deeper and pump up water from groundwater reservoirs. In parts of the western United States, groundwater has soaked several tens of meters in a few decades. Beijing’s future is threatened by the groundwater level in the area sinking dangerously fast – 10 meters only in the last 10 years. Cities will certainly lose their livelihood in just a few decades because they do not have enough water for the population and a functioning urban community. Yes, cities themselves search for a quarter of a year.