Regions where water disputes are fuelling tensions
India is home to three major river systems – the Ganges, Brahmaputra and the Indus – which support 700 million people. As an upstream nation, it controls water flows to Bangladesh to the east and Pakistan to the west. India and Pakistan are both building hydropower dams in Kashmir.
Central Asia is one of the world’s driest places, where, thanks to 70 years of Soviet planning, growing thirsty crops such as cotton and grain remain the main source of income for most people. Disputes over water use from the Syr Daria and Amu Daria rivers have increased since independence in 1991. Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan need more water for growing populations.
The countries of the Nile basin are Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania. Egypt and Sudan control more than 90 percent of the Nile’s waters, but others in the basin want a bigger share.
Tigris-Euphrates River System
The Tigris-Euphrates basin is mainly shared by Turkey, Syria and Iraq, with many Tigris tributaries originating in Iran. Iraq, struggling with water shortages due to aridity and years of drought, says hydroelectric dams and irrigation in Turkey, Iran and Syria have reduced the water flow in both rivers. Iraq, Syria and Iran want more equitable access and control from Turkey.
Jordan River Basin
The river basin is highly stressed due to aridity in Jordan, Israel and Palestinian Territories. All three discharge untreated or poorly treated sewage. The Mountain Aquifer – a key fresh water source for West Bank Palestinians and major Israeli cities – is threatened by over-exploitation and pollution.
Mekong River Basin
Most Mekong countries, especially China, have been planning and building hydropower dams since the late 1980s. Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam argue that China diverts or stores more than its fair share of water due to dam-building on the Upper Mekong. There is growing concern about serious environmental damage to agriculture, fisheries and food security for some 60 million people due to plans by Laos and Cambodia to build more than 10 dams along the Lower Mekong. Despite cooperation efforts by Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam through the Mekong River Commission, national interests are getting in the way of joint river management.
There seems to be growing tensions between countries fighting for water security as sources of water are running scares.
Much of South Africa’s water is derived from the small mountainous country of Lesotho. From Lesotho the river runs west where it eventually flows out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Lesotho is building several new dams to accommodate its water needs for its growing population. As South Africa is a downstream country this has the potential to cause some concerns especially in the light of climate change.
Acid mine drainage is a concern to the river and the people living downstream of the mining areas around Johannesburg.
With global concerns about water scarcity and tensions raising among countries that share water sources, something must be done to secure and conserve water.