Problematic of the Water Issue in International Relations
March 21, 2021
Dr. Salam Al Rabadi.
Water gap has become one of the most important dialectics that arise in international relations, to the point of believing that the coming wars will be primarily wars and competition over water resources. Consequently, water scarcity poses a serious threat to human security, as there are currently more than 80 countries in which 40% of the world's population are suffering from severe water shortage, an estimated 3.6 billion people (that is, about half of the world's population) live in areas with potentially scarce water , and this number could increase to between 4.8 billion and 5.7 billion by 2050. On this level, the Millennium Development Goals were adopted, which included a pledge to halve the number of people who cannot access safe and affordable water in the year 2015, yet more than a billion people at the end of the water decade still do not have access to that water. Where it appears that there is a new gap that can be called the water gap and it is getting wider.
Based on that, and given the perceptions of future global risks in terms of the ability to affect, water crises were classified as the greatest risk that the world will face in the near future. As it seems that in the future, several problematic will arise in international relations about what is required to be achieved in terms of how to approach the water gap, which are as follows: 1- Are there creative political and diplomatic visions that can deal with water problematic according to a viable scientific approach, governance and accountability? 2- Will the hidden hands in the market play their game in the event that the political approaches fail, so that the approach will be transferred to the economy and that water issues become commodities subject to the logic of buying and selling only? Or will knowledge markets stand as a barrier to that approach? According to these are problematic, methodically, we must focus first on the dilemma of how to understand the complexities of the water system, as it is clear from this that the water gap is a complex system that must be well understood, in order to find a logical approach and sustainable solutions. Hence, when thinking about the crisis of water scarcity, it is imperative that the focus is not limited to the absolute deficiency between the total needs and the available supplies, but also to focus on: - The location of clean, usable water, and the costs of transporting it to population communities. - Water footprint, or what is called: the global standard for water footprint. - The possibility of having large quantities of water sufficient to grow food. Therefore, in order to understand the water crisis, it is necessary to distinguish between two different problems that require various solutions: the first lies in how to obtain affordable drinking water (i.e. the problem of services), and the second lies in how to secure water sources for food cultivation (i.e. the problem of water scarcity). Hence, based on these problems, water challenges can be classified as follows: 1- The crisis of access to water. 2- Water pollution crisis. 3- The crisis of water shortage and scarcity. Thus, the scientific and political communities must recognize the global and local causes of water crises and respond effectively to them. By looking at the mechanism of the interrelationship between those challenges or crises, it is possible to determine the characteristics of the water gap and the factors that can help solve it. As a result, it is imperative to try to understand the political drivers and the rationale for the water and environmental decision-making process at the local or global level, and to focus on a wide range of options, which have to do with understanding the changes in the structure of the global water crisis, and how to predict it. Consequently, this reality requires adopting a vision that is a combination of: a- The shift towards a more holistic view of water management and transfer for higher value uses.b- Adopting technical solutions combining nanotechnology and solid evidence about climate risk management. In this context, although many alternative solutions are known, their application is not easy if taking into account the political and economic costs. In spite of all that, it can be said that the current watery pessimism can be transformed into optimism for the future, if there is a clear strategic political vision. Unfortunately, though, the global repercussions of the water gap have become evident (to some extent), nevertheless, it is rarely thought of as a global political challenge, as there is currently no strategic vision on the level of how to approach the water gap. Note that there was previously (at the start of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change"IPCC") an initial awareness of the political and social dimensions of the importance of water issues, parallel to the awareness that existed for the dimensions of the climate change problematic. But, of course, there are many question marks, if we know that the climate group (IPCC) needed nearly 30 years of work before the world took the climate crisis seriously, and therefore what is the case with the water gap? As for the political strategic aspect, we can suffice here to refer to the review of the US security report (for the American Intelligence Agency "CIA"), on future expectations of global trends or challenges in the year 2030, which directly indicates that the reality of the water crisis will inevitably lead to geopolitical changes, which will be profound, and very rapid, accordingly, the occurrence of conflicts of a water nature between states cannot be excluded. Based on this, many question marks are raised about the attempt to deny warnings about the outbreak of wars and imminent disputes over water (or to consider them as mere false allegations), as it became clear that there are very serious strategic repercussions that are definitely linked to the process of competition between countries for the acquisition of Fresh water. Consequently, it must be recognized that water wars do exist and have become a reality, although this has not been directly recognized yet. Accordingly, the continuation of the logic of absenting the political dimension of water problematic is not justified, especially at the level of international organizations. Where, it must be recognized that the global changes related to the water gap clearly show that the level of security in international relations has changed profoundly. In conclusion, it seems that the impact of climate change on the global political level will make the water gap a hot political issue, and this requires widespread water awareness and the recognition that climate change is real and lasting. Then, most likely, we might perceive the fact that if strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their entirety revolve around energy issues, but all strategies to adapt to climate change will absolutely and inevitable be based revolve and around the water problematic.
Footnotes1- The volume of fresh water is 35 million/km3, which is an average of only 2.5% of the total volume of water on Earth. The total volume of water on Earth is about 1.4 billion / km3, and most of it is salt water found in the seas and oceans. To follow up on the latest water statistics and data, you can review: The World Water Council, also the World Water Forum .2-Water rationing has become in many countries the general rule rather than the exception, due to the inability to provide drinking water on a sustainable basis. Just to name a few, many large Indian cities face severe water shortages. In some Indian states, water reaches homes only for several hours a week. On the water reality in India, can review the WorldBank, which is specialized in Indian affairs . 3-for at least one month per year.4-"Nature-Based Solutions For Water", The UN World Water Report,NY,2018. 5-The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which range from halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 – form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions. 6-The other risks in terms of impact are: 1- The rapid and widespread spread of infectious diseases. 2- Weapons of mass destruction. 3- Conflicts between states. 4- Failure to adapt to climate changes. This is based on the vision of nearly 900 experts who participated in the World Economic Forum 2015 survey on the most prominent scenarios of future global risks, in terms of their likelihood of occurrence and their ability to influence over the next 10 years. 7-The water footprint is: the total volume of fresh water that is used to produce goods and services consumed by the individual, society, institutions and factories. In other words: the water footprint measures the amount of water used to produce each of the goods and services we use. So, the water footprint can help drive strategic action toward sustainable, efficient and equitable water use. Also, they provide powerful insights for businesses to understand their water-related business risk, for governments to understand the role of water in their economy and water dependency, and for consumers to know how much water is hidden in the products they use. 8-Water scarcity not only means there is not enough water for drinking, it also means that there is not enough water to grow food. 9-The UN and NGOs are drawing attention to the fact that more than a billion people do not have access to clean drinking water. As a result, one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals has been to halve the proportion of those who do not have sustainable access to clean drinking water. Despite celebrating these goals as extremely important humanitarian directives, the international community has not progressed much in achieving them so far, which raises the question of the underlying reasons behind the difficulty of achieving these goals? 10-Water scarcity can be considered the main component of the triple water crisis, because it can cause both water shortages and water pollution, or at least exacerbate them. 11-The scientific development in water sciences and nanotechnology looks promising (especially on the problematic level of water scarcity), as it promises to reduce the costs of desalination of sea water and the possibility of finding specialized wastewater purification. 12-(IPCC) was established in 1988 to provide comprehensive assessments of the state of scientific, technical, social and economic understanding of climate change, its causes, potential impacts, and strategies to address this change. 13-For example, the possibility of running out of groundwater in northern India during the coming decades and the resulting collapse of the agricultural sector, is not seen as a global problem. The same applies to the Yellow River, which no longer reaches the sea. Not to mention that walking three hours a day to reach clean drinking water in rural Africa is not seen as a global problem. 14-Report,"Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds",Office of the Director of National Intelligence,National Intelligence Council,U.S.A,2012,p.2. 15-For example: 1- The Punjab wars were in part wars related to water problems, due to the strategies of exploiting rivers' water and distributing it to the population. 2- The internal war in Afghanistan is of a water nature due to drought. 3- The intractable issue of Kashmir, has strategic water calculations by both India and Pakistan. 4- The Arab-Israeli conflict is, in an important aspect, a struggle over water resources. 5- The Sudanese crisis in Darfur, at its core, is a struggle over water. 6- The crises between Turkey, Syria and Iraq related to the sharing of the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. 7- The tense water situation between Egypt, Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia about the waters of the Nile River. 8- The Syrian war (2011-2021) has a dangerous water and climate dimension. 9- The wars of terrorism have become watery (it is sufficient here to just think of ISIS's attempt to blow up the water dams in Syria and Iraq). 16-Despite the positive paradigm shift of the United Nations reports in highlighting the water gap, the issue of how to confront the political dimensions of water crises is being ignored (almost completely).
Share this article