H2O to Go: Global Water Grabbing

Via Ozy, an interesting look at global water grabs:

Imagine being told you couldn’t fish in a local stream or swim in your favorite watering hole because an international firm had purchased nearby land. That’s happening to people all over the world, and in some cases it’s a matter of life and death, giving a far more sinister edge to the term “water fight.”

The Anuak people in Ethiopia last year were shocked to learn they could no longer use the Alwero River, their fish source, thanks to a land deal by a Saudi development firm. The ethnic group, which has lived near the river for generations, was forced to yield to foreign interests.

Anuak people sitting on the ground

Anuak from Gambella

180 Olympic pools’ worth of water

We’ve all heard of land grabbing, the large-scale land purchases by foreign firms and governments in the developing world. Less obvious, however, are the hidden water grabs involved in the transactions. These involve governments and private interests diverting water away from native communities — who depend on it for their livelihoods — to serve their own interests, and 60 percent of it is taken through land grabs.

What the water elite all have in common is being significantly richer than the countries they make deals with.

An estimated 450 cubic kilometers of the precious liquid is grabbed each year, an amount equal to Brazil’s annual water consumption and enough to fill 180 Olympic pools.

Who’s grabbing the water? According to environmental science researchers in the U.S. and Italy, the top water grabbing countries are China, Egypt, India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

And why? Motivations differ. Saudi Arabia is plagued by chronic water scarcity; Israel and the United Arab Emirates lack arable land. Meanwhile, for the U.K. and China, it might be cheaper to buy land abroad than to transport their own water from its source to domestic agricultural land. What the water elite all have in common is being significantly richer than the countries they make deals with.

Who suffers most? Sixty percent of water is grabbed from Africa — where a third of the population already lives in water-scarce environs. The highest rates are suffered in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Sudan, as well as in the Philippines and Indonesia.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 at 3:38 pm and is filed under News.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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