Water: Conflict or Catalyst?

Offering a contrary viewpoint, Circle of Blue recently reported on some experts who believe water can help drive cooperation instead of conflict. While we do not hold such an optimistic outlook, it is certainly fair to present this more hopeful view:

“…Scholars from a variety of disciplines would likely argue the world is entering a level of water stress it has never previously experienced, driven by population growth, increased consumption of goods and resources and climate change. But it is less the absolute scarcity of water and more the rate of change in water availability that should raise concerns about future transboundary water conflict. Water stress alone is unlikely to lead to an international conflict, as all conflicts have multiple origins. Instead, most disputes occur when a unilateral action is taken, such as building a dam or diverting water, and when there is not sufficient institutional support or flexibility for conflict resolution or mitigation. Abrupt climate change or the sudden creation of new countries without developed patterns of water relations could also similarly occur at a rapid rate to which institutions cannot adapt…”

“…While increased scarcity could lead to conflict, this scarcity also provides opportunities to shape a cooperative future. If addressed early on, issues of water scarcity and water use can bring parties together to jointly manage resources for purposes as diverse as water quality and hydroelectricity.”

“…Growing water scarcity and climate change-derived unpredictability may motivate countries to fight over water. Yet the world community would be wise to resist the dramatic headlines of water wars. Conditions are dire, but this disproportionate focus on states fighting over water gets in the way of understanding the complexities of conflict over water. It also obscures the positive opportunities presented by cooperation over water. Academic inquiries, policies and program designs that ignore these differentiations misdiagnose causes of conflicts, skew risk assessments and prescribe inappropriate means to address the problems.”

This entry was posted on Friday, May 23rd, 2008 at 2:49 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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