Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty WorldSM
Water Tension In Africa Likely To Boil Over In Next 25 Years

Via Jaluo, details of a recent report predicting that the main conflicts in Africa during the next 25 years will be over the scarcity of water, as countries are likely to wage war against each other for access to the scarce resources.  As the article notes:

“…The United Nations Development Programe (UNDP) says in a study just released at the turn of the century that water wars are likely in areas where rivers and lakes are shared by more than one country.

The inter-play of climate change, indiscriminate destruction of forests, poor agriculture techniques, and runaway population growth has worked against the continent’s once abundant water resources.

Africa has 63 international river basins that collectively cover 64 per cent of its surface area. They contain over 90 per cent of its surface water resources.

Most of these rivers are shared by two to four countries. Some are shared by many more, like the Congo river{1} and the Niger river {10}, Lake Chad and Zambezi River {8}. There are also many smaller shared basins.

The problem is complicated by the fact that trans -boundary river system are endoergic, they do not terminate in the Ocean. Rather, they flow into low-lying inland areas. Endoergic system in drier environment are considered the socio-economic lifeline of communities living in low lying areas.

The United Nations Environmental Program {UNEP} cites the saline or alkaline basins of Lake Chad, Lake Natron, and Lake Turkana ,and the fresh water Okavango-Makgadikadi and Cuvelai basins, as water systems in danger of failing.

At the same time Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya will soon be the scene of a major conflict in the near future, environmentalists, have warned.

Ten years ago, the then Egyptian Foreign Ministe,r Boutros Boutros-Ghali had predicted that the next major world war in Africa would be over the scrambles for water.

Now water diplomacy is starting to take center-stage in African, and globally. Experts are tracing fights over water rights and shortage as the root cause of many civil conflicts on the continent over the past three decades.

The influential weekly, the EASTAFRICAN reported in its latest edition that “As Kenya and Ethiopia enter series of deals on electricity generation and supply, the livelihood of close to 200,000 people is threatened. These people have for centuries depended on a lake that is fed by rivers threatened by a giant hydroelectric power project in Ethiopia.

The Gilgel Gibe 111 hydroelectric dam, which at a cost of USD 1,7 billion, will be one of the largest in Africa, is already causing concern among environmentalists and the local communities living around the Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya.

Opponents of the project says it will destroy the livelihood of thousands of people, especially the nomadic Turkana and Rendile communities, as well as the smallest tribe in Kenya, the El-Molo, that depend entirely on the fish of Lake Turkana.

Situated on the Omo River Valley, the dam is expected to have a mammoth reservoir that will hold thousands of cubic meters of water. The environmentalists and locals believed this will interfere with the livelihood of these tribes.

The other flashpoints across Africa that the UNEP and UNDP have cited include the Nile, Niger, Volta and Zambezi basins.
The UNDP report says population growth and economic development will lead to nearly one in two people in Africa living in countries facing water scarcity, and water stress in 25 years. Water scarcity is defined as less than 1,000 cubic meters of water available per person per year, while water stress means less than 1,500cubic meters per year.

According to UNDP, by the year 2025, 12 more African countries will join the 13 that already suffer from water stress or water scarcity.

“Water disputes in Africa revolve around one or more of three issues; quantity, quality and timing. These play out differently on various scales, whether international, intra-nationality, regionally or indirectly, “says the UNDP funded study report titled “Hydro political Vulnerability and Reliance Along International water in Africa.”

The Nile Basin, which encompasses nine countries –including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, has been mentioned area potential source of conflict because of the high number of people who depend on it.

For example, if the combined population of just three countries –Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan- through which the Nile runs, rises as predicted from 150 million people today to 340 million in 2050, there will be intense pressure, which could easily spill over into war. This is according to the EASTAFRICAN weekly. Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea are among the Nile Basin states that are most vulnerable to climate variation.

The amount of water left when the Nile water has also been drastically declining is also proof that the up take along its course is rising. In case water levels reduces drastically Egypt, being at the lower end of the Nile River will be most affected.”



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