Posted by: wfpdc | January 29, 2012

Water Stress Has a “Multiplying Effect” on Conflict

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (OOSKAnews Correspondent) — Water is not in itself a cause of international conflict, but it has a “multiplying effect” on other stresses, like government failure, according to panelists at a Water Security Plenary in Washington, DC last week.

“Simplifying” water’s role in international violent conflict down to a “yes-or-no situation is limiting,” said Kent Hughes Butts, professor of Political Military Strategy and director of National Security Issues Group at the U.S. Army War College.

“When we put labels on it (water stress) we may take a silo view and keep certain solutions off the table,” added Sandra Ruckstuhl, senior specialist for sustainable development at Group W Inc., who also spoke at the 12th National Conference on Science, Policy and the Environment: Environment & Security.

However, Butts added, “violent conflict (as a result of water stress) should not be ruled out completely.”

One reason for that is because “stress of water is affecting more and more people in every region” both in terms of lack of access to freshwater and overabundance of water, such as flooding, said Jaehyang So, manager of the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program.

“We haven’t seen conflict (water wars) yet, but we are all working hard to keep it from happening,” So said.

Paul Faeth of CNA Corp., a DC-based research and analysis organization, pointed out that water can also be a “cause of peace for nations.”

Areas where nations have been able to successfully share a water basin and establish treaties and organizations that manage the water have actually eased tensions, he said. Ruckstuhl agreed with Faeth, citing water as an “opportunity to bring people together to find solutions to long-term issues” and an “environmental peace builder.”

However, “conflict over water at the local level is something that has been happening for awhile,” she added.

One reason is water’s cross-sectoral uses, which increase competition, said So. When there is a finite amount of water available for a community, all users must come together to determine how it will be divided in an equitable manner, she said.
Read the rest of this story and other stories on the WASH sector here.


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