Does anybody own water? Perhaps not, but there are people who control water. Shared rivers can be a source of conflicts between several countries, especially if the countries involved have a serious shortage of water.
Queen Noor of Jordan: “War over water would be an ultimate obscenity. And yet, unfortunately it is conceivable”.
Jimmy Carter: “World bank, IMF, the United Nations and even maybe the Security Council of the United nations – will have to be involved in some form for the allocation of the water supplies”.
This episode of “Water War and Peace” takes a look at the political and environmental consequences of controlling large rivers.
Many rivers throughout the word cross borders. Borders of property lines, of borders of sates, of provinces, and border of nations. Controlling the natural flow of a river, in many cases, means controlling the precious resource of a neighbor of nation. This means people upstream can deny life-giving resource to people downstream. Courts such as El Tribunal de las Aguas in Valencia, Spain, run by the people and for the people, present an effective way to handle water conflicts on a local scale. On an international scale, however, the issues are far more complex, and the methods for resolving them, far more challenging.
Clouds are looming over the access to this truly essential commodity. Salt covered shorelines, long abandoned boats strewn about on sandy waves of endless desert. In an effort to bolster Russia’s textile industry the damming of the Syr Darya river caused a dramatic shrinking and salination of the landlocked Aral Sea, an ecological disaster affecting some 30 million people all across Central Asia: a region now gripped with poverty.
In China, people have been wrestling with a ‘River Dragon” for over 4,000 years. The Yangtze River. Turbid, Tempestuous. Legendary. The father of modern China, Sun Yat-sen, is credited with first proposing the idea of a hydroelectric dam at Three Gorges in 1919. And in the mid-1950s, after devastating floods along the Yangzi, Mao Tse-tung ordered feasibility studies on damming the river. Although the Three Gorges project delivered in 2006 provides huge comprehensive benefits the project has been plagued by corruption, spiraling costs, environmental impacts, human rights violations and resettlement difficulties.
In the Middle East disputes over water are as old as they stony biblical times. Fresh water scarcity has been a particular source of conflict in the Middle East in recent decades. In Israel, water disputes are fought over with the Palestinians, since Israel has many times the water resources of the 2.25 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Most of the countries in the Jordan River Basin are also marked by military conflict over its waters. The Israeli -Jordanian Peace Treaty of October 1994 however triggered a dynamic. In the treaty, Israel made considerable concessions to Jordan showing that water compromises are possible. The results achieved might serve as a model for the resolution of the remaining hydrological disputes in the area.
Themes in this episode: Water Conflicts, Ecological Disaster, Water born Disease, Floods, Dams, Resettlement.
VIPS in this episode: Shimon Peres, Mikhail Gorbasjev, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Queen Noor.
Locations in this episode: China, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Spain, Botswana, Turkey, Israel and The West Bank.
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