Day 64 – Q 2.The supply of water has the potential to influence geopolitics, diplomacy and even conflict.
2. The supply of water has the potential to influence geopolitics, diplomacy and even conflict.
पानी की आपूर्ति से भू–राजनीति, कूटनीति और यहां तक कि संघर्ष को प्रभावित करने की क्षमता है।
Water politics, sometimes called hydropolitics, is politics affected by the availability of water and water resources, a necessity for all life forms and human development.
We need water to survive. But it also fuels a country’s commerce, trade, innovation and economic success. This has been the case for time immemorial, from the Nile in Ancient Egypt to the Amazon in the Brazilian rainforest.
While bodies of water typically help form natural borders of countries, several nations tend to share access to rivers or lakes – the Nile runs through nearly a dozen countries alone, for example. Given how conflict-prone humankind is, it’s surprising there haven’t been more dust-ups of a “hydro-political” nature.
The supply of water has the potential to influence geopolitics, diplomacy and even conflict
Experts agree: if there was no access to water, there would be no world peace. That’s why one of the grand challenges of the next few decades could be maintaining this ultra-sensitive stasis of water management.
- In the 21st Century, freshwater supplies are drying up, climate change is raising sea levels and altering borders, explosive population growth is straining world resources, and global hyper-nationalism is testing diplomatic relations. Meanwhile, water demand is expected to go up 55% between 2000 and 2050. In the coming century, in terms of its value as a global resource, it’s been described as “the next oil.”
World peace hinges on hydro-politics: Experts agree: if there was no access to water, there would be no world peace.
- In many areas of the world, bodies of water run through several countries or brush up against many countries’ borders. That’s where something called “riparian water rights” come into play.
- In the case of a river, upstream countries – where the river originates – enjoy inherent power and leverage over the downstream countries. These kinds of riparian hotspots abound. And they’re often in places that are already fraught.
- In the Middle East, the Jordan River basin is the primary water source for many regions, including Jordan, Palestine, and Israel, regions of long-standing political tensions. In Syria, meanwhile, the worst drought in close to a millennium has been partly blamed for the country’s generation-defining civil war and radicalisation that led to the formation of so-called Islamic State.
- Egypt and Ethiopia have sparred over development of water from the River Nile for centuries: the iconic river originates in Ethiopia but ends in Egypt, which sets up an inherently combative relationship. In 2015, Egypt and Ethiopia put enough differences aside to construct the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the river, which is Africa’s largest dam. The countries also signed a deal that strives to ensure fair river access.
- Malaysia has a 99-year deal with Singapore, giving them paid access to fresh water from the Johor River.
- Singapore is arguably one of the most progressive nations on our planet, but without sufficient fresh water resources within its boundaries, all industry, trade, commerce and culture would all stand still.”
- Afghanistan is an upstream country to many nations in the region, and is trying to use that advantage to develop its economy. For a country that’s been subjected to decade upon decade of war and upheaval, the political power of water sources like the Kabul River could be a boon.
- If one includes virtual water in the picture, farmers are managing much of the water in the supply chain. And in countries that are water deficient, that imported embedded water is integral. In Europe alone, 40% of this “virtual water” comes from outside the continent.
- In reality, the water that goes into the country’s food is being brought in from elsewhere. In other words, 160 countries depend on imported food – and the water needed to make it. That’s why hydro-diplomacy is one of the great unsung heroes in maintaining global peace.
In the words of Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, in an address to the
international community:”Fierce national competition over water resources has prompted fears that water issues contain the seeds of violent conflict. If the entire world’s peoples work together, a secure and sustainable water future can be ours.”
However, water, as a resource, it is dependent on sustainability. This means that it entails sound socioeconomic development that safeguards the resource base for future generations. And that the concerns on resource use should transcend beyond short term “on-site” gains, and should necessarily be on an environmentally sensitive use of resources including many possible “off-site” implications.