“The three water crises – dwindling freshwater supplies, inequitable access to water and the corporate control of water – pose the greatest threat of our time to the planet and to our survival. Together with impending climate change from fossil fuel emissions, the water crises impose some life-or-death decisions on us all. Unless we collectively change our behaviour, we are heading toward a world of deepening conflict and potential wars over the dwindling supplies of freshwater – between nations, between rich and poor, between the public and the private interest, between rural and urban populations, and between the competing needs of the natural world and industrialized humans.”
At the moment, 215 major rivers and 300 groundwater basins and aquifers are shared by two or more countries, creating tensions over ownership and use of the precious waters they contain. Coming across this link I was immediately reminded by Fred Pearce’s piece in last November’s New Statesman
Pearce observes that in the last three decades, the global population has doubled and water consumption has increased threefold. - “largely because, tonne-for-tonne, modern ‘high-yielding’ crop varieties often need more water than the old crops” - sparking a real danger that quarrels over the most necessary of resources could erupt into violence.
Says Pearce: “A typical Westerner consumes, directly and through thirsty products like food, about a hundred times their own weight in water every day. That is why some of the great rivers of the world, such as the
“Many parts of the world, notably the
“Economists call this the ‘virtual water trade’. Many countries would starve without it. But as more and more countries run short of water, the trade will be disrupted. And the threat of wars over water will grow."
Focusing on the crisis in the
A cursory reading of the broadsheets uncovers a constant “constant drip-drip of stories about water riots in
Many a current water-fuelled dispute is the legacy of colonial rule argues Pearce: “The 1947 partitioning of
Meanwhile, ongoing quarrels concern Chinese dams being built on the
Elsewhere the Iraqi and Syrian government are set to contest Turkish dams upstream on the
In a section of her book, Maude Barlow focuses on the how the water problem is becoming a major issue for US foreign policy planners, and which is worth quoting at length:
“Water has recently (and suddenly) become a key strategic security and foreign policy priority for the
“…Water is becoming as important a strategic issue as energy in
“Continuation or inflammation of these conflicts could subject
“The mandate of Global Water Futures is twofold: to affect
“Innovations in policy and technology must be tightly linked, says the report, no doubt music to the ears of the corporations that sponsored it. GWF calls for closer innovation and cooperation between governments and the private sector and “redoubled” efforts to mobilize public-private partnerships in the development of technological solutions. And, in language that will be familiar to critics of the Bush administration who argue that the United States is not in Iraq to promote democracy, but rather to secure oil resources and make huge profits for American companies in the “rebuilding” effort, the report links upholding American values of democracy with the profit to be gained in the process: “Water issues are critical to U.S. national security and integral to upholding American values of humanitarianism and democratic development. Moreover, engagement with international water issues guarantees business opportunity for the
The latter paragraph says much. There’s profits to be had! And note Coca-Cola’s ominous and timely entrance. What is of key importance to the main players here is less that clean and fresh water is available to humanity – they don’t give a fuck for human life, evidenced by US foreign policy since 1945 to say the least – but the amount of bloody profit the trade in water can generate. If they could not make a cent, they’d show no interest at all and sod the millions dying of thirst. If they’re thirsty they can always buy coca-cola.
In an age when we have the scientific and technological know how to enable us to solve almost all our problems, it is indeed an indictment on capitalism that so many humans, living on a planet, seven eighths of which is covered in water, have so little access to it; more, that a tiny minority wish to profit by controlling our access to it.
A sane, moneyless society, in which the artificial constraints of profit have been removed from production, in which the satisfying of human need is paramount, in which people have free access to the benefits of civilisation, humanity would address water shortages with the building of more reservoirs, water channels, water desalination plants, making obsolete all current processes that waste water.