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Blue gold: the coming water wars

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Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis
Brahma Chellaney (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013)

Gordon G. Chang

Yesterday, nations went to war for land. Today, our conflicts involve energy. And tomorrow, Brahma Chellaney writes, the battles will be about water. The award-winning author believes that Mark Twain was right when he said, “Whisky is for drinking, water is for fighting over.”

There is “blue water,” “green water,” even “virtual water.” But however labeled, water is the world’s single most important resource. Life is not possible without it. It will likely determine our future.

And it is becoming scarce. In the twentieth century, the world’s population grew by a factor of 3.8 and water use by nine. Today, with the number of people passing the seven billion mark, it should come as no surprise that more than half of humankind lives in water-stressed areas. That figure could increase to two-thirds during the next decade.

At this time, more than a fifth of the inhabitants of this planet do not have easy access to potable water. Scarcity causes illness, thereby making the lack of this resource “the greatest killer on the globe.” There are, incredibly, more people with a mobile phone than access to water-sanitation services. Already, bottled water at the grocery store is more expensive than crude oil on the spot market.

The Yemeni city of Sanaa, now home to two million, will be the first national capital to run dry in this century, if its groundwater reserves are depleted, which could happen as soon as 2025. Abu Dhabi and Quetta, experts believe, might also turn to dust. The international community should expect “water refugees” in just over a decade, Chellaney warns, and there could be two hundred million of them by the midpoint of this century... MORE

Book Review: Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis by Brahma Chellaney

Paolo Volpato – 19th February 2014

It is hard to find something more important for human existence than water. Readers will find in this book an in-depth overview of the topic, which will raise some alarm-bells. Those who might be drawn to the book by its somewhat misleading title will be disappointed, as this is not a specialist work on (actual or possible) shooting wars caused by a run to water basins, but a book with a much broader range. The author, Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, writes about every possible aspect of the problems and challenges related to water in the 21st Century. The basic argument delineated by Chellaney is that water plays an important, growing, and often overlooked role in most of the major issues currently affecting international relations.

Issues like the sharing of international basins, or the building of dams by upriver states, exacerbate tensions between neighbours. Water shortages and the pollution of rivers and basins contribute to the general degradation in the quality of life in poor regions, and increasingly in the rich Western world. Moreover, water compounds most of the crises that we are familiar with: many forms of energy, for instance, require great amounts of water to be produced; the general rise of food prices that we have witnessed in the past few years is directly linked to water issues.

A point particularly stressed by the author is the lack of international treaties regulating the sharing of transnational water resources. The handful of treaties that do exist are often outdated (no water-sharing treaty has yet been signed in this century) or lacking in details on the harnessing and managing of the common resources.

The author provides many examples to illustrate this vicious cycle between water scarcity and international crises. A region which is constantly in the news is what the author calls ‘the arc of Islam’ (pp.219-225). The issues affecting it are extremely complicated, but a common thread encompassing almost all the countries in this region is water scarcity. Chellaney points out the cases in which water scarcity facilitates the triggering of other crises. Most recently, this happened during the Arab Spring, which was caused in part by rising food prices – a problem directly related to the worsening regional freshwater crisis. Water in this region is extracted at an unsustainable rate, to meet the needs of a growing population, and this will make water shortages even more severe in the future… MORE

Related

Israeli Water, Mideast Peace? (New York Times)

Water And Sovereignty Throughout The Western Hemisphere – Analysis http://goo.gl/fb/M2pNb 

 

El agua en la agenda de seguridad internacional del siglo XXI.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8oDgSuj1nU&sns=tw 

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