Water is a basic necessity of life. It is simply something we all need. With out it we die . Many people throughout the world have to make do with very little water or water which is so dirty and contaminated that it will eventually kill those who drink it. How far would you go to guarantee clean water for your family to drink?
We, in the affluent west, take access to clean, safe water for granted, but, according to resent research around one sixth (that is over 1 billion) of the world’s population are without drinking water of a reasonable standard.
Good quality water is a necessity of life, and various groups will fight to gain access to it. This is one of the reasons why the U.N’s Millennium Development Goals have set out to reduce the number of those who are suffering due to a lack of drinking water and basic sanitation by half by 2015.
The lack of safe drinking water leads to a catch 22 for a huge proportion of the world population: drink and get sick and quite probably die a long drawn out death, or don’t drink and defiantly die a long drawn out death. Obviously this leads to rising tensions between various groups, but could this lead to civil war in the more arid regions? Or even full blown international war? Many analysts say that it already has.
A lack of access to clean water has been cited as a large contributing factor to existing conflicts in some of the poorest regions on earth. Competition for access to safe water supplies between rival groups has been blamed for the Darfur Crisis by analysts. Can it be doubted that it will continue to be a driving force of violence into the future?
According a quote attributed to Geologist and director of the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing, Farouk El-Baz: “Much of the unrest in Darfur and the misery is due to water shortages. Access to fresh water is essential for refugee survival, will help the peace process, and provides the necessary resources for the much needed economic development in Darfur.”
This statement holds true for many other places and not just on a local internal level. International tensions may be mounting over shared rivers and reservoirs, though by and large international relations tend towards sharing water supplies amicably.
In India a massive joining of two of the main rivers has been suggested, which would improve the supply of water to drought prone areas in the south but may also greatly affect the water supply to Bangladesh and other neighboring states. It has been suggested that this could destabilize the region farther, forcing some of the world’s poorest people farther into poverty.
There is a direct link between water, poverty, and war. For peace to be possible, poverty needs to be ended. For Poverty to be ended there needs to be significant economic growth. For economic growth there needs to be a sustainable workforce. For a sustainable work force to exist, they need access to the necessities of life like clean water to drink.
But while extreme poverty is partly to blame, there are other factors in the wars caused by water.
In regions such as the Middle East, which is rated as “Lower middle income” on www.mapsoftheworld.com’s economic map of the world, where interstate tensions are already high, water is seen as a ‘strategic’ resource. This means that countries will jealously guard their own supply, and during conflict will attempt to gain control of the enemy’s supply. This is why almost all of the past peace agreements have involved water and its distribution.
A quote attributed to former Secretary General of the UN Boutros Boutros Ghali says: “the next war in the Middle East will be over water”.
There are many charities and organizations committed to helping bring an end to water related strife throughout the world such as water aid and end water poverty. If you feel that the UN’s Millennium Goal of halving the number of people affected by a lack of safe water is worthy then please visit the websites and lend your support. With enough pressure on governments world wide to supply a free, clean source of water to their own people, we can take water out of the war equation.
Will the U.N’s Millennium Goals lead to world peace? No, but they might just help to remove one of the issues that lead to war and take us that one step closer.