Water Supply Is a Growing Source of Global Conflict
Worldwide armed conflict often disrupts water systems, causing the outbreak of disease and humanitarian crises. In addition to war disrupting the operations of water systems, water management itself often sparks conflict due to the scarcity of this resource representing a daily challenge for people around the world.
With water resources being limited and its consumption a source of debate, finding ways to preserve the water supply is essential to protecting communities and elevating the quality of life worldwide.
Conflict Damages Water Supply Infrastructure
In addition to civilians suffering the consequences of armed violence, water supply infrastructure and essential services deteriorate during global conflict situations. A lack of infrastructure maintenance combined with destruction from explosives means more people are suffering due to water shortages and the lack of basic humanitarian needs.
The Effects of Water Scarcity
In recent years, there has been a significant focus on water consumption and scarcity causing conflict or being a driving force behind it. According to the World Economic Forum, in 2017 alone, water was a significant source of conflict in 45 countries.
The burden of climate change and resource scarcity is also contributing to fighting and friction. In the Sahel, for example, elevated temperatures have led to a shortage of water resources and affected access to arable land and grazing pastures, causing much tension and conflict in communities.
Water’s importance as a resource can exacerbate conflict and friction between groups, often leading to water being used as a weapon.
How Water Is Used as a Weapon in Global Conflict
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, some areas see the parties in conflict intentionally restricting water to agricultural sectors and the urban regions as a tactic of war. Destruction of water transport and treatment systems results in many individuals losing access to clean drinking water, which also sparks the outbreak of diseases.
These actions go against international humanitarian law, which states destroying or removing objects that are indispensable to the survival of civilian populations is prohibited and never justified.
Water Access Improves Global Relations
During conflict situations, the natural environment needs to be protected at all times. Humanitarian organizations, international communities, the private sector, and financial institutions must work together to help address water shortages and the adverse effects of climate change in areas where limited water resources lead to or suffer as a result of the conflict.
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