Water is life. The precious resource is, quite literally, the source of life and without it, beings would cease to exist. This has been abundantly clear all around the world when countries have picked up arms and ammunition to fight over access to water! Water wars or water conflicts involve disputes about shared water resources and who gets control over what share of these resources. The global water crisis has led to several such water wars. Let us learn about some of the major wars that broke out in the name of the precious resource: water.
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A History of Global Water Crisis
1. The Nile Basin Dispute
The Nile, Africa’s longest river, has been at the focus of a ten-year complex conflict involving numerous countries that rely on its waters, threatening a global water crisis. Ethiopia and Egypt are at the forefront of this conflict, with Sudan being drawn into it as well. The Nile’s influence on North African politics has been so profound that it threatens to trigger an interstate conflict that might destabilize the entire region. The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), which was created in 1999 by nine out of ten riparian countries with support from major donor organizations, has succeeded in improving the Euphrates-Tigris Basin Conflict to some extent.
The Euphrates-Tigris Basin is shared between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, with Iran comprising parts of the Tigris basin. Unilateral irrigation schemes that modify river flows, combined with political conflicts between countries, have strained relations in the basin since the 1960s. The three countries have been unable to properly co-manage the basin’s rivers due to disagreements, posing a global water crisis.
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2. Disputes over Trans-Boundary Water between Afghanistan and Iran
Iran is concerned by Afghanistan’s plans to harness the waters of the Helmand River and the Harirud to aid post-conflict restoration and development. According to the Iranian government, Afghanistan’s agricultural expansion and dam development efforts pose a threat to water security in Iran’s eastern and northeastern provinces, which may result in a global water crisis. Cooperative approaches have yet to succeed in the face of a mostly ineffectual water treaty. Afghanistan’s unwillingness to engaging in water talks, combined with Iran’s disruptive operations, has hindered the resolution of conflicts between the two countries.
3. Water War of Cochabamba
Cochabamba’s privatization of drinking water sparked violent protests in 2000, resulting in the so-called “Water War of Cochabamba.” The city’s water was eventually renationalized, and water access was given new legal protection. As a consequence of the social movements, the pro-privatization Law 2029 was repealed in 2000, and the Drinking Water and Sanitation Services Law were amended (2066). However, declining water supplies resulting from global climate change and global water crisis, excessive usage, and technological shortcomings continue to put pressure on the city.
These water wars, while some of the most prominent, are only a few of innumerous global water crises that have erupted in the past decades. Water, as essential as it is for life, is leading to strife and loss of life in violent conflicts and political disputes. Let us hope that the planet and its beings can survive and make their way out of these times of resource scarcity and war towards stability and sustainability.
Also Read: Benefits of Drinking Water
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