Where Are the World’s Looming Water Conflicts?

August 6th, 2006 - by admin

Reuters / Environmental News Network – 2006-08-06 09:11:24


(August 02, 2006) — Sri Lankan jets pounded Tamil Tiger positions on Tuesday in a battle to regain control of a rebel-held water source for about 50,000 people.

Here are five flashpoints for potential “water wars” some experts say are looming:

• The six rivers of the Indus basin flow from Tibet into India and Pakistan via Kashmir’s disputed mountains and valleys.

• Recent disputes over new projects have seen Pakistan accuse India of violating the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, which gave India control over three eastern rivers, the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, and Pakistan the three western flows, the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab.

• June 2006 saw fresh talks about the Wullar Barrage, a navigation lock India wants to build on the Jhelum. Pakistan says the dam will let India control waterflow into the Jhelum. India says it needs it to aid river transport.

• The dispute, one of eight issues in the Composite Dialogue Process, has seen 10 rounds of talks since 1988.

• The Brahmaputra, the sacred Hindu river the Ganges, and around 50 other rivers that flow from India to Bangladesh are blamed for regular floods that kill or displace thousands of Bangladeshis.
– Bangladesh says India’s Farakka Barrage, completed by its northern border in 1974, diverted the Ganges without its long-term agreement.

• Bangladesh complains India grants it only a portion of the water flow, with no minimum flow guaranteed, and no provisions for drought years.

• Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan rely on the River Jordan, which is fed by 3 rivers on the Syria-Lebanon border.

• Disputes over diverting the river have spilled over into war in the past. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the 1967 Arab-Israeli war was started by Syrian plans to divert water from Israel. In 2002 he said the issue may start a new war.

• Israel’s control of water supplies to the West Bank and Gaza Strip since its 1967 occupation is another flashpoint.

• Israel says Palestinians steal water from its pipes and have drilled thousands of illegal wells. Palestine accuses Israel of taking its underground water with advanced pumps.

• The Nile, the world’s longest river, is the main source of water for nine countries in the Nile basin: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Congo.

• Eygpt and Sudan’s 1929 Nile Waters Agreement, which divided up water use, is now being challenged.

• Ethiopia, where some 80 percent of the Nile’s waters originate, said last year that it wants to take more water. It accuses Egypt of blocking overseas aid for irrigation projects. Egypt says calls for change amount to a “declaration of war”.

• In July 2006 a Nile Water steering committee met to discuss Ugandan and Tanzanian plans to use Nile waters in massive hydro-electric power stations and irrigation projects.

• The Euphrates is formed by two major tributaries in eastern Turkey, flows southeast into Syria, meets the Euphrates in Iraq, and empties into the Persian Gulf. All three countries have dams on the rivers and dispute each others’ water use.

• Turkey says it contributes over 90 percent of Euphrates water, and should make more use of it.

• Syria says Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project (or GAP) — a string of 22 dams and 19 power plants on the Euphrates — deprive it of its only reliable source of running water.

• Iraq fears water will be used up before reaching it, and has complained about Syria’s 1978 Asad dam on the Euphrates.

• In 1990 Turkey turned off the water flow to Syria and Iraq, saying it needed to test its largest GAP dam. After 3 weeks it let the water flow again, fearing a looming war with a newly united Syria and Iraq.

Sources: Reuters, The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database, BBC