Water Wars

updated February 2017

History is replete with water conflict, from squabbles between neighbouring farms to wars decided by cutting off, or poisoning, a water supply.

Fear of water wars pervades the modern era, more so perhaps than is justified by events. The ingredients are certainly there – the mega-dam technology that denies supplies to downstream countries, the location of major rivers in regions already convulsed by conflict, and the relentless shift towards water scarcity on a global scale.

The Middle East and North Africa region is one particular focus of concern. An obvious example is the River Jordan which supplies water to Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Syria.

Management of a transboundary river is a zero sum game; if one country gains in distribution rights, another loses. Bangladesh is almost bound to object to Indian schemes such as the river-linking project, given that 54 out of India’s 56 rivers pass through Bangladesh.

No fewer than eleven countries share the resources of the River Nile and they are currently in dispute. The two major users, Egypt and Sudan, refuse to sign the 2010 Entebbe Agreement, a set of new regulations which attempt to update a fair basis of distribution.

There is nothing new about such disputes and water conflict resolution mechanisms are commonplace around the world, such as the Nile Basin Initiative.

In Southeast Asia, the Mekong River Commission is an inter-governmental agency formed by the governments of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam to further their interests of shared water resources of the Mekong River. Concern over the impact of a sequence of dams under construction in Laos, combined with that country’s refusal to act on the Commission’s reservations, dominates the current agenda. The Commission also maintains dialogue with China whose 21 dams on the upper Mekong are the cause of considerable anxiety.


Water is more valuable than diamonds – an overview of the sensitivity of water in conflict in the Middle East, focusing on Israel and Egypt
from RT

Activist Vandana Shiva argues that the impact of climate change on water resources may provoke violence in India
from Global Oneness Project

more Water Scarcity briefings
Water Cycle
Water Energy Food Nexus
Causes of Water Scarcity
Climate Change and Water Scarcity
Solutions to Water Scarcity
Sustainable Development Goal for Water
Access to Drinking Water
Source material and useful links

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