Water wars

More than oil, feedstock, raw material, religion, ideology, nationalism. Wars, gradually, aim at the control of the most precious resource: water.

It’s known that civilizations developed along waterways, needed for basic survival. And even after centuries of technological progress, not everyone was able to invest in expensive systems which desalt seawater – like the Emirates – or purify sewage, solving water shortage.

A technologically innovative country like Israel keeps occupying the Golan Heights because of the sources of the river Jordan. Safety and defense were a good argumentation years and years ago, when a mountain was a privileged point of view. Now the naked eye can do very little against satellites & co., so the heights are useful “only” for water supply.

Water wars go beyond progress or good old fashion conquers for gold and riches. Water is the driving force of current conflicts and those of the last 50 years.

The Iraqi army patrols the dam of Mosul. This is one of the water wars, although oil and ideologies take more media attention

The Middle East, incredibly, is one of the many war scenes. In Iraq, the Mosul dam has a central role for the economy and the reconstruction of the country. All the other interests come after that, whether it’s politics, religions, resistance against the Islamic State. In Syria, drought is a factor that increases tension and endangers any peace treaty. Plus, it forces to find a single representative who can negotiate water supplies with the Turkish neighbors.

Not far from Tigris and Euphrates, the river Nile is in the middle of a controversy. Ethiopia and Egypt argue for constructions like the Grand Renassaince dam, along the Blue Nile. South of there, Kenya complains for the effects of the Gibe III dam, that lowered the level of the lake Turkana and intensified tensions among the local populations.

India and Pakistan never were best friends. In addition to religious rivalry, the two countries compete for Kashmir, not for the fine wool, but for the tributaries of the Indus which flow in the region. India shares 54 more waterways with the other neighbor, Bangladesh. This one, fears to be excluded from the management of the river Teesta, on which the inhabitants rely.

Going to the far east, years after the Vietnam war, the Mekong is involved in frictions. Its water is needed to irrigate the paddy fields, the base of local economies. The fragile balance is endangered by the dams that deflect its flow and the only solution it’s cooperation among the countries sodden by the river.

Those are just some examples, but diplomacy creaks worldwide. There are demonstrations in South America (Chile and Bolivia) against privatizations; commercial interests on Colorado, between United States and Mexico; on Syr Daya, tributary of the Aral lake, in central Asia; on the dams along Danube between Slovakia and Hungary.

Ismail Serageldin, considered a “prophet” of water wars, even if he talked about an already ongoing situation

Another aspect to consider, apparently collateral, is pollution, which impoverish the quality of groundwater and contributes to climate change. We can’t ignore that when we talk about migrations or when so called politicians hide behind trivial slogans and suggest to help them in their countries while they act in the opposite way or endorse other kind of behaviors.

Without disturbing Nostradamus or post-apocalyptic prophecies, back in 1995 Ismail Serageldin, at that time vice president of the World Bank, was able to read an ongoing situation before many others. He said that water would have become the new oil as an excuse to wage wars. It’s not consolatory, but at least is a step forward in the priorities list.


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