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Monday, January 28, 2019

The Coming Water Wars

In the last 100 Years the population on earth has increased (3) three-fold, but the water required has increased (6) six-fold. What used to be adequate water supply is now inadequate.

As we enter the 21st century and World population increases at an astonishing rate never seen before, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that conflicts are going to begin in earnest between countries claiming their “water rights” for the survival of their own population. Already there are countries in conflict, with war hanging over them like a “sword of Damocles” - with disputes arising, all over water – a resource most of us take for granted.

Ground water, wells and Aquifers are under pressure. In China the groundwater has been so depleted that China’s capital city, home to more than 20 million people, could face serious disruptions in its rail systems, roadways, and building foundations, according to an international team of scientists reported earlier this year. Beijing, despite tapping into the gigantic North China Plain Aquifer, is the world’s fifth most water-stressed city and its water problems are likely to get even worse.

Water is being called the “Blue Gold” of the 21st century and thanks to ever-increasing urbanisation and population, with shifting climates and industrial pollution, fresh water is becoming humanity’s most precious resource. We are standing on a precipice. Water will be regarded as the Petroleum for the next century and Water Barons controlling vast amounts of water will surface.  While I was disbelieving at first when investigating the company listed below and its use of water indicated (while I hope it’s all true!) this technology will surely only aggravate the water shortage problem.

Water terrorism:  This will begin in earnest as a manifesto to spread religious and ideological doctrine, by Poisoning or damaging Dam water. The problem, of course, has assumed considerable dimensions, with frequent revelations of risks and terrorist attacks on water distribution systems.

In a “confidential” report of the Turkish secret services, it was argued that Isis was planning to poison water sources in Turkey with the aim of spreading different bacteria including those that cause tularemia, the so-called “rabbit fever”.  In 2012, 140 Afghan students and their teachers were admitted to a local hospital after drinking contaminated water from the their school’s water tank. In the Kashmir region in India, Maoist cadres allegedly poisoned a pond near a field of Central Reserve Police Forces.  A man in Varney, in Mingo County, West Virginia, was accused of having plans to poison the local water system with cyanide, but fortunately police were able to reach him first. In Greve, Denmark, Inspectors discovered strychnine in the water supply of a Danish town during a routine check. In Britain, a staff member of Thames Water discovered that a water tank in Dancers End, just outside Tring in Hertsfordshire, had been sabotaged. A spokesman for al Qaeda has told an Arabic-language news magazine that the terror group will try to use poisons to attack the United States’ water supply. Alarmingly, protecting water supplies will become an industry in itself!

In the high tension area of Pakistan and India, the River Indus, which begins in Tibet and flows through Kashmir and Pakistan, is used extensively by the people of India.  It’s well- spoken adage is that “Water flows or Blood is on the table”. This sort of rhetoric is increasing at an alarming rate by friends and foe alike. South Africa, the Middle East, the Nile, and the Tigress and Euphrates Rivers and their surrounds are getting more arid with the land getting dryer and thus unable to support crops. Something’s gotta give. . .and that something has begun with migration.

Here are some other high tension areas where a conflict is underway or seems imminently poised over water:

1. The Nile: Dispute over water in the Nile Basin features significant conflict over access to and rights to the Nile water resources among its eleven riparian countries. The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), founded by 9 out of 10 riparian countries in 1999, with backing from major donor institutions, has achieved some successes in its attempts to strengthen cooperation. Yet, since 2007, diverging interests between upstream and downstream countries have brought negotiations to a standstill, pitting Egypt (and, to a lesser extent, Sudan) against upstream riparian countries, especially Ethiopia. In 2015, trilateral negotiations between these countries over a major dam under construction in Ethiopia led to a framework agreement that may, in time, prepare the ground for a broader agreement.

2. Yemen: Water shortages and public discontent are a cause and consequence of severe mismanagement, Yemen’s water availability is declining dramatically. The impacts on the people are unequally distributed, and corruption and nepotism are at the core of this imbalance. This has increasingly frustrated the disadvantaged, with water scarcity playing a role in fuelling the political and security crisis in Yemen.

3. Turkey, Syria and Iraq: conflict over the Euphrates-Tigris. The Euphrates-Tigris Basin is shared between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, with Iran comprising parts of the Tigris basin. Since the 1960’s, unilateral irrigation plans altering the flows of the rivers, coupled with political tensions between the countries, have strained relations in the basin. Disputes have prevented the three governments from effectively co-managing the basin’s rivers. Although cooperation efforts were renewed in the 2000’s, these have yet to result in a formal agreement on managing the basin waters largely due to conflict.

4. Afghanistan and Iran: Trans-boundary water disputes between these two countries and Afghanistan’s efforts to harness the waters of the Helmand River and the Harirud River Basin to support post-conflict reconstruction and development, have alarmed Iran. The Iranian government perceives Afghanistan’s agricultural expansion and dam construction activities as threats to water security in its eastern and northeastern provinces. With a largely ineffective water treaty in place, cooperative initiatives have not yet achieved a breakthrough. Afghanistan’s reluctance to engage in water negotiations, coupled with Iran’s alleged “paradoxical” activities of support vs. disruption, have further complicated the resolution of trans-boundary water disputes between the two countries.

5. Mekong River Dam: Projects and disputes in the Mekong River Basin
are generated by an enormous expansion of dam-building for hydro-power generation and crops, especially in China and Laos. This has led to diplomatic tensions as countries downstream of the dams fear the negative impacts they may bring about, from greater flooding to seasonal lack of water. The Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) effectiveness in resolving these tensions has so far been limited due to its lack of enforcement powers and China’s reluctance to join as a full member. Instead of joining the MRC, China is trying to engage with downstream riparian countries by proposing alternative institutional mechanisms and offering assistance for dam construction downstream in the Lower Mekong basin. However, without more formalised cooperation, especially between the lower riparians and China, contemporary dam-building activities might continue to act as a destabilising force in the Mekong River Basin.

6. Cauvery Basin in India: The long-standing conflict over water from the Cauvery River between the Indian states Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has recently resurfaced in the context of drier climate conditions. The implications are not only legal battles, but also violent protests following decisions to alter water distribution between the two states.

7. Somalia: Frequent Droughts, livestock prices and armed conflict in Somalia put significant pressures on pastoral livelihoods. Droughts cause herders to sell more of their livestock than they would under normal conditions, resulting in plummeting livestock prices and deteriorating rural incomes. Widespread poverty and lack of economic alternatives, in turn, provide incentives for illicit activities and for joining armed groups such as Al Shabaab, which offer cash revenues and other benefits to their fighters. Especially the record drought of 2011 is believed to have swelled the ranks of the militant Islamist group.

8. Turkey-Armenia: Water cooperation despite tensions. This Turkish-Armenian case is a prominent example of how two co-riparian countries can put their tensions aside, work together in their mutual interest, and share trans-boundary waters equitably. Lets hope it lasts.

9. EGYPT: Security implications of growing water scarcity as Egypt is currently using more water than its internal renewable resources - mainly based on Nile freshwater inflows - supply. Water stress in Egypt is expected to further increase in the future as a result of rapid population growth, rising temperatures and increasing water consumption. If not properly dealt with, growing freshwater scarcity will put severe strains on Egypt’s economy and make the country more vulnerable to renewed internal strife. Moreover, it risks putting increasing pressure on Egypt’s diplomatic relations with other states along the Nile.
These factual statements are perhaps not well known in First World countries where access to water and plentiful water supplies are taken for granted; the intent here is not in scare-mongering, but making the point that water supply is critical and needs to be considered in every way. Here at WES we believe that individual water supply, such as Air Water Generating machines, could well become the way families live in security of their drinking water.
Walter Ivison is a patent holder, and the CEO of World Environmental Solutions, an Australian based company, specialising in the technology of system machinery capable of extracting Water from the Atmosphere.

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