1 ‘If we do not act, the reality is that water supplies may become the subject of inter- national conflict in the years ahead,’ said UK Minister for International Development Gareth Thomas in 2008.
2 When the demand for water overtakes supply and several stakeholders wish to use the same resource, there is a potential for conflict.
3 Competing demands for water for irrigation, power generation, domestic use, recreation and conservation can also create tension both between and within countries.
4 Conflict is perhaps more likely where developing countries are involved.
5 Water is vital as they struggle to feed their growing populations and promote industrial
development, and often they have to cope with a legacy of poor water management.
6 Just as oil resources have caused growing international tension over the last 50 years, many people see water resources as the next flashpoint.
7 UN reports suggest there are around 300 potential water
conflicts around the world as rivers, lakes and aquifers struggle
to provide sufficient supplies for neighbouring countries
8 It should be noted that politicians and government map- makers have not always helped these situations, creating
boundaries and borders which do not easily fit with the natural features of river catchments.
9 The middle east water conflicts
9.1 The middle east is already an area of significant
conflict. The fact that it has relatively low
seasonal rainfall and growing population is the
root cause of the tensions over water resources
9.2 In the western part of this region, Israelis, Syrians,
Jordanians, Lebanese and Palestinians are in
dispute over shrinking water supplies.
9.3 Security of water supplies was not the cause of the Arab–Israeli war in 1967, but was a contributory factor.
9.4 Water in this region comes
primarily from two sources: the
River Jordan (and its lakes) and
three important aquifers.
9.5 The division of these water resources between the neighbouring states is an ongoing challenge.
9.6 In the eastern part of the region, Turkey plans to build dams to store and
use water in the headwa- ters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
9.7 This is strongly opposed by Syria and Iraq, where reduced water supplies
threaten to hold back economic development and food production.
10 Tensions between India and Bangladesh
10.1 For much of its 2,500 km length, the Ganges flows through India.
10.2 But the last part of its course takes it through Bangladesh, where it
is known first as the Padma River.
10.3 In 1974 India opened the huge Farakka Barrage, just 11 km
from the Bangladeshi border.
10.4 It is joined later by the Jamuna River, the largest distributary of the Brahmaputra,
and takes on the name Meghna before flowing out into the Bay of Bengal.
10.5 Further upstream, a series of dams divert water into irrigation systems and many of India’s largest cities use the river to carry wastewater from domestic and industrial sources.
10.6 It is being deprived of much-needed water and has to suffer the effects of India’s pollution of the river.
10.7 Although an agreement was signed in 1990 by the two countries about
sharing the waters of the Ganges, India is very much in control of the situation.
10.8 To make matters worse for Bangladesh, India now has plans to make greater use of the Brahmaputra, which also flows through India before reaching Bangladesh
10.9 Bangladeshi grievances include the following:
10.9.1 reduced flow of the river is affecting irrigation and food production
10.9.2 Fish stocks and the
fishing industry are
10.9.3 navigation and water-borne trade are becoming harder because of lower river levels
10.9.4 lower river flows are increasing salinisation
10.9.5 the delta is eroding because less silt is being carried and deposited
10.9.6 seawater incursion is increasing as the delta dries out