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Archived Articles on Water in Conflict


Water in Conflict



Shrinking of Lake Chad: Tale of Human Abuse, Climate Change (December 14, 2006)

This Associated Press article reports on the rising level of violence in Chad as a result of the share of water resources. Because water knows neither boundaries nor politics, frictions arise between sedentary farmers and nomadic populations. Water reserves have become scarce in many African countries, such as Chad, due mainly to global climate change. As lakes shrink, the local population loses its means of survival, sowing the seeds for violence between communities.

Meeting Middle Eastern Challenges (November 29, 2006)

Pointing out that "practically all Middle Eastern countries are living beyond their water means," this article warns that water represents a "latent source of conflicts." Competition for scarce natural resources causes political instability and insecurity in the Middle East, and establishes a relationship of dependence between Arab countries and the rest of the world, the author says. The article suggests that development and production of new technologies would allow the Arab world to better manage its scarce resources.

Africans Are Already Facing Climate Change (November 6, 2006)

As the 2006 United Nations Climate Change Conference commences in Nairobi, the Christian Science Monitor reports on the findings of a September 2006 UN report on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in Africa. The report finds rising sea levels could inundate 30 percent of Africa's coastal infrastructure, while 25-40 percent of the continent's natural habitat could be lost by 2085. According to the article, "climate change is a present reality for many Africans," as a tight link exists between Africa's many violent conflicts – often viewed by the West as stemming from ethnic or religious differences – and the increasing climate-induced scarcity of water resources.

War Climates (October 23, 2006)

In this TomPaine opinion piece Jeffrey Sachs makes a clear connection between climate-induced drought since the 1980s in Darfur, extreme poverty, and the present conflict in the region. Sachs argues that "crises that are fundamentally ecological in nature are managed by outdated strategies of war and diplomacy." Climate change will increasingly pose security threats across the world, as it causes or exacerbates huge ecological challenges, among them the looming worldwide water crisis. Arguing for instance that "Darfur needs a water strategy more than a military strategy," Sachs urges the worlds' governments to focus their resources to such underlying challenges, and suggests that all governments establish ministries of sustainable development.

Breaching Borders: The Role of Water in the Middle East Conflict (September/October 2006)

This piece from Washington Report on Middle East Affairs argues that water constitutes a root of conflict in the Middle East. Going back to Israel's attempt to divert the Jordan River in 1953, the article claims Israel triggered conflicts with its neighbors to secure access to water supplies. "What is certain is that there will be no long-term security for any resident of the Middle East without fair distribution and a just solution to the sharing of water resources," the author concludes.

"Water Wars" Loom? (September 17, 2006)

Does conflict over water lead to war or peaceful cooperation? This article explores the question and leans towards "cooperation" as the answer. But some specialists point out that water world-wide is getting scarcer, and they speculate that future water wars may be a serious possibility if water needs are not met and arrangements for water negotiated. (Reuters)

Armed Forces Are Put On Standby to Tackle Threat of Wars over Water (February 28, 2006)

British Defense Secretary John Reid plans to prepare British forces to handle what he calls "the major long-term threat facing our planet:" water wars. Scientists warn that global warming will bring water supplies to a critical point, spurring violent conflicts such as in Darfur where the lack of water and agricultural land have contributed to the ongoing war. Reid believes world leaders should consider the political consequences of failing to deal with "this dire situation." (Independent)

Water Wars: Climate Change may Spark Conflict (February 28, 2006)

The Independent draws a list of disputed water supplies that may burst into open conflict in the near future. From Israel to India, from Turkey to Bostwana, the growing effects of climate change – flooding, desertification, loss of agricultural land – will put pressure on water supplies. Such changes make the emergence of violent conflicts more likely, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, where water resources are scarce.



Water Could Become Major Catalyst for Conflict (September 16, 2005)

"The US government predicted that by 2015 almost half of the world's population will be ‘stressed' for water." This article underlines the possibility that water, rather than oil, may become the world's next big catalyst for conflict. How international organizations and security experts can resolve such potential conflicts represents a major challenge. In the case of the Middle East, specialists believe that "water agreements will be hard to achieve without solutions to political conflicts." (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

Are Water Wars a Fantasy, or a Future Reality? (August 29, 2005)

The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) warns that growing populations will fight over water resources to secure sufficient food production. However, the director of the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi, Sunita Narain, argues that water wars are not inevitable: "The management of water is critical. Water wars or water peace is in our hands." (Inter Press Service)

Water Can Be a Pathway to Peace, Not War (June 2005)

The authors of this Worldwatch Institute article argue that water can work as a pathway to peace rather than causing conflict in the world's international river basins. Countries build trust and prevent conflict by coming together to jointly manage their shared water resources. Researchers at Oregon State University compiled a dataset of every reported water-related interaction between two or more nations in the last half century. Outside of the Middle East, the researchers found only 5 violent events while countries negotiated and signed 157 treaties.



Diminishing Water Resources Could Fuel Conflict - Experts (November 5, 2004)

Experts at a conference organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the African Union, and the Dutch and Ethiopian governments warned that water scarcity in Africa could lead to conflict, disease and food shortages. "Unsustainable use of water, poor management, pollution, increasing consumption and rapid population growth" cause water shortages, and the UN says that by 2025 one out of two Africans will be living in countries facing water scarcity. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

Middle East Conflict Killing the Holy Water (September 12, 2004)

The badly polluted River Jordan is under threat of drying up. Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine all share the River Jordan. The Jordan is potentially up for a UNESCO World Heritage nomination, but the nomination and the river's health will depend on the ability of these actors to cooperate fully. (Scotsman)

'Water Factory' Aims to Filter Tensions (September 7, 2004)

The Middle East suffers from a water shortage that experts believe could lead to war in the future. Private contractors in Israel are building a "water factory" that converts sea water to high quality drinking water. Some say regional actors will cooperate to use the new technology in solving the "water problem," but with the current "political deadlock" in the region, others are not so optimistic. (BBC)

Countries Sharing Mekong Brace for a 'Water War' (September 6, 2004)

China's plans to construct a series of dams at the head of the Mekong River may lead to future conflicts over water resources in the region. The dams would adversely affect millions downstream. UN official Apichai Sunchindah calls on China to consider international norms and values that should dictate use of a river shared by many nations. (Inter Press Service)

Water Wall (August 19, 2004)

Does water run beneath Israeli construction of the wall in the West Bank? Abdel Rahman Tamimi argues that Israel has long exploited water resources at the expense of Palestinians and points out, "the course of the wall neatly takes in the main basin of the Western Aquifer." An Israeli grip on water resources in the region will weaken the Palestinian agricultural industry and strengthen Israel's hold on the land, including settlements in the occupied territories. (Bitterlemons)

Do ‘Water Wars' Still Loom in Africa? (May 15, 2004)

The problem of water scarcity in Africa—and thus the possibility of "water wars"— is becoming more serious than ever. While the Nile Basin Initiative might serve as a good starting point for determining the distribution of Nile waters among signatories, the limited availability of water resources within many countries due to pollution means that "water wars" will still threaten Africa in the years to come. (Inter Press Service)

African Water Ministers Call for Better Nile River Cooperation (March 18, 2004)

The Nile basin countries have expressed the need "to chart a new path of cooperation by coming up with a new legal framework on managing Nile resources." The Kenyan water minister states that any such work may inevitably include replacing the 1929 Nile Basin Treaty, which currently gives Egypt a clear slate for using the Nile resources. (Voice of America)

Nile States Hold 'Crisis Talks' (March 7, 2004)

Countries sharing the Nile waters are meeting to discuss the reallocation of water resources along the river. Facing the risk of a compromised water supply, the Egyptian government has warned that it will regard "any attempt to alter the Nile status as an act of war" against Egypt. (BBC)

Deadly Thirst (January 13, 2004)

Access and ownership of water lies at the heart of the Middle East crisis and represents the biggest challenge for the peace process. In an effort to secure its water supply, Israel signed an "arms-for-water" deal with Turkey. (Guardian)



Water Wars (December 4, 2003)

Due to increased consumption and pollution, water has become the "blue gold" of the 21st century. Yet instead of ensuring the fundamental human right to access clean water, global trade agreements follow the dominant economic philosophy of the "Washington Consensus." They treat water as a commodity, and award its control to big transnational companies. (Polaris Institute)

Trickling Away ... A Life and Death Commodity (June 5, 2003)

The science editor of the Guardian reports that two billion people rely on underground water supplies. As water tables sink worldwide, experts worry that the most vulnerable population - small farmers in poor rural areas - will suffer the most.

Middle East Water Wars (May 30, 2003)

Nations in the Middle East are increasingly concerned with control over water. Many speculate that future conflicts in the region could center on "blue gold." Water has motivated, in part, various conflicts between Israel and Palestine, but "international law is inadequate in defining and regulating the use of shared water resources. Few agreements have been reached about how water should be shared." (BBC)

Water Tap Often Shut to South Africa's Poor (May 29, 2003)

Water privatization initiatives in South Africa increase misery in impoverished townships. Ginger Thompson reports that "privatization is a new kind of apartheid" separating the rich from the poor. (New York Times)

Making Water Work for Development (May 26, 2003)

Jamal Saghir estimates that half of the world's population - mostly in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia - may face severe water shortages by 2025. Developing countries need improved water management, as well as external financing for water infrastructure projects. (Daily Star)

Stalling the Big Steal (March, 2003)

The World Bank pressures Ghana's government to privatize its water supply while the rural and urban poor struggle to pay for the life-sustaining commodity. The New Internationalist highlights the initiatives of Ghana's National Coalition Against the Privatization of Water.

Water Could Be Source of Future Conflicts (March 24, 2003)

Water will be the source of the world's next big conflict if nations don't take action now. "One flush of a Western toilet uses as much water as the average person in the developing world uses for a whole day for washing, drinking, cleaning and cooking," says a report at the third World Water Forum. (Canoe)

Water Shortages 'Foster Terrorism' (March 18, 2003)

Lack of access to water creates a "non-human environment" which leads to frustration, poverty and finally terrorism. The Middle East has only 1% of the world's fresh water shared between 5% of the world's population. (BBC)

Lawsuit Challenges Bush Factory Farm Rules (March 10, 2003)

"The Bush administration's rule on water pollution violates the Clean Water Act. This new rule is a license for large factory farms to pollute without fear of penalty or accountability, say environmentalists. (Ens News)

World Water Crisis Due to Leadership Inertia (March 5, 2003)

"Attitude and behavior problems" on the part of national leaders lie at the heart of the worldwide water crisis, says a report written by all UN agencies dealing with water. The report documents a total of 507 water conflicts. (Ens News)

Ploughing for Peace (March 4, 2003)

"Since Old Testament times, water supplies have proved a source of conflict," says Radio Netherlands. Israeli forces have destroyed many of the small number of simple wells in Palestine and water management becomes a crucial issue for this country.

Many Arab Countries Face Serious Water Shortage (February 16, 2003)

"Water is becoming a matter of life and death," warn UN sources. Experts say natural resources should be allocated in a fair way through negotiations in order to avoid future conflicts. (Gulf-news)

Water Industry's Cash to Political Campaigns
Helps Fuel Effort to Privatize (February 12, 2003)

The water giants seek to manipulate the system around the world. "Critics fear that these companies will not be held accountable, so jobs will be lost, quality will wane and the poor will lose service." (Hoovers)

Powell Hesitant to Impose Sanctions Against Mexico (February 12, 2003)

Mexico, claiming it has suffered an extraordinary drought, has been unable to meet its obligations under the 1944 water-sharing treaty. The US is analyzing several alternatives to address the conflict. (Brownsville Herald)

UN: War, Drought Devastates Afghanistan (January 29, 2003)

Afghanistan's environment is devastated following 25 years of war, says a recent UN report. The reconstruction of the country should consider water, forests, wildlife and clean air. (Associated Press)

UN Makes Water Point (January 27, 2003)

Russia plans to build a huge Siberia-Central Asia canal of 2,225-km to divert Siberian rivers into Asian deserts. The plan could ease tensions over scarce water resources in the volatile region involving five Central Asian states. (BBC)

Salt In Wounds (January 15, 2003)

Shortage of irrigation water from the Indus River, Pakistan's major source of water for drinking and agriculture, not only damages the economy but may also lead to more border conflicts between India and Pakistan. (Guardian)



Russian Water on Troubled Soils (December 18, 2002)

Russia plans to build a huge Siberia-Central Asia canal of 2,225-km to divert Siberian rivers into Asian deserts. The plan could ease tensions over scarce water resources in the volatile region involving five Central Asian states. (Asian Times)

Lebanon Wants UN to Settle Water Dispute (September 16, 2002)

Lebanon wants the UN to mediate in a dispute with Israel about the use of a shared border river. Israel accuses Lebanon of diverting the course of the river as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says that the dispute might be a cause for war.(United Press International)

Study Warns of "Water War" in Middle East (June 14, 2002)

An Arab study reports that states in the Middle East risk the outbreak of a major conflict unless countries work for "a collective agreement on sharing water resources." (Gulf News)

Central Asia: Water and Conflict (May 30, 2002)

Water shortages and energy issues threaten to further destabilize Central Asia and sharpen conflict, unless states collaborate in the framing of a regional approach. The success of efforts in rebuilding Afghanistan largely rely on the framing of such solution . (International Crisis Group)

Botswana Cuts Bushman Services (January 23, 2002)

The government of Botswana is to cut off water to Bushmen living in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, possibly motivated by the mineral wealth that the Kalahari possesses. The incident is representative of the ongoing conflict between advocates of the indigenous rights of the San people of the Kalahari and the economic interests of Botswana. (BBC News)



In an Empty Cup, a Threat to Peace (August 14, 2001)

Growing water shortages in the Middle East threaten to ignite further conflict, unless states take measures to establish a regional regulatory framework. (New York Times)

Thicker Than Blood: Jordan's Scarce Water Supply (June 12, 2001)

The Jordanian government's abuse and misuse of the country's scarce water supply leave ordinary citizens struggling. (Jordan Times)

Israel Faces Water Crisis (May 23, 2001)

Israel's water supplies are dangerously low, and drastic cuts in consumption will be necessary. But the issue is politically charged and linked to the wider dispute over Palestinian statehood. (BBC)

Pakistan: Water-Shortage Protests Turn Deadly (May 3, 2001)

A series of violent protests incurred by a drought earlier this year illustrate how water scarcity can be a source of conflict and social crisis. (Environment, Development and Conflict News)



Bolivian Water Project (October 26, 2000)

An AP correspondant on Bolivia, Peter McFarren, resigned after charges of the writer's involvement in promoting a project which would privatize and divert water from Bolivia to international mining interests in Chile. Some of the profits from the $78 million project would go to a foundation created and presided over by McFarren. (FAIR)

UN Takes The High Ground, in Protecting Mountains (August 18, 2000)

2002 is the International Year of Mountains. Boring? Not so, says the FAO: mountains are important parts of the natural environment and provide humanity with large amounts of fresh water. (Earth Times News Service)

Nile River Politics: Who Receives Water? (August 10, 2000)

Cairo's decision to redistribute water usage rights of the Nile is motivated by its need for regional stability and economic development. A fresh change where natural resources are diffusing conflict? (

Water Wars Not a Worry for World's Top Dam Expert (August 8, 2000)

Professor Kader Asmal, from the World Commission on Dams, not surprisingly, challenges the assumption that decreasing supplies of fresh water will inevitably lead to water wars. (Environment News Service)

Goal Post Changes Point to Middle East Water Conflict (June 19, 2000)

"People are talking about water being not only the most likely cause of future wars, but quite possibly the only cause," reports the Mideast Mirror. This article explains how water plays a crucial role in Arab-Israeli political relations.

Water Conflict in Middle East (June 2, 2000)

An article in a series by BBC which explores the relationship between the scarcity of water and potential armed conflict. This article argues that water issues could prevent peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

In the Andes, Echoes of Seattle (March 23, 2000)

In February of 2000, mass protests broke out in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in reaction to rising water prices. The sudden spike in prices is a direct result of a botched water privatization scheme initiated by the World Bank.(Resource Center of the Americas)



Africa's Potential Water Wars (November 15, 1999)

Another article in the BBC series linking stressors from low water levels to potential conflict. As grain cultivation uses almost 90% of Africa's water, perhaps grain importation is an option for the continent.



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