By Rao Farman Ali
The famous world civilisations ancient and modern which flourished along the banks of rivers are testimony to the rise and fall of hydraulic human cultures, which all the way through history exhibit that the water-wealth is essential for the growth and progress of a strong, independent sovereign state, in view of the larger-than-life the Struggle for Wealth, Power and Empire.
Since, human societies cannot thrive isolated of ecological conditions a changing climate that significantly amends these conditions is expected to have an impact on human life and society. Accepting the convolution of relations between climate stress factors, their human and societal collisions and reactions are crucial to assess the inference for security and conflict. It is now clear that human activities have begun to affect the hydrology of earth. Our presence and our actions and consequences have distorted the very composition of the atmosphere in which precipitation forms and from which rain falls. Human activities are affecting rain and snowfall patterns, how much water flows in rivers, and whether the rivers even make it to the sea is a question.
The serious state of the global fresh water availability surfaced in the 1990s. There has been much debate in academic and the popular media, whether global supply pressures will reach a tipping point that will result in a greater number of wars being fought over regional water security. It has become conventional wisdom in policy circles that the prospect of war over water remains distinctly less likely than it might be for other resources such as oil.
Historically, some 181 huge conflicts over water are reported to have occurred between 3000 B.C to 2007 A.D. Essentially, some, 146 of these conflicts took place in the 5,000 years between 3000 B.C. and the year 2000 A.D; the remaining 35 water conflicts took place in just 17 years of this century. During this brief period, new forms of actual and potential conflicts over water emerged. These include homegrown militant threats to water infrastructure in Afghanistan, Iraq, and a threat issued by Al-Qaida in 2003 against domestic water supply systems in the United States. New Delhi’s concern towards the fact that if China diverts Brahmaputra river, what could be the water position of eastern India, likewise, one small attack on Tulbul navigation project or Wular barrage in Kashmir by militants on April 2012 constitute examples of the trend. Basically, Kashmiris feel that they are getting nothing out of the project, except a plan to serve others, why people will retort, however, inaction of the naïve Kashmiris should never ever be construed that common stock of people are not concerned with Asia’s biggest freshwater lake. Of course, they are!
Although, the Jammu and Kashmir government started implementing the project somewhere around 1984, apparently without taking Pakistan into confidence. When Pakistan came to know about the construction at Ningli, on the mouth of Wular Lake, it raised objections. Later, Pakistan’s water experts visited the site and engineers did whatever they could to conceal the happenings from the visiting officials from Islamabad and in 1987, Jammu and Kashmir was asked to stop executing the project but the government did not discard the project. After the rise of militancy in 1989-90, some unknown people took away everything including the steel that was lying around the site.
World over, 900 million people do not have ready access to safe drinking water—about one in ten- lack access to safe water, 2.4 billion people don’t have admittance to a toilet. Similarly, average water consumption around the world is about 53 litres per head per day. In the situation of ‘water stress’, by the year 2000 A.D, humans had constructed some 45,000 large dams that in combination with the hundreds of thousands of smaller structures, quadrupled water storage for human purposes in only 40 years to meet out water demand. Depending upon the time of the year, three to six times the water that exists at any given time in all the world’s rivers is now stored in giant dams. For all intents and purposes, the magnitudes of the global freshwater crisis and the risks associated with it have been greatly underestimated. Water is critical to the attainment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals whose targets expired in 2015. All this poses a potential challenge to comity of nations.
Conflicts in twenty-first century also involve tension over water privatization and the uncharacterized and unresolved water rights of indigenous peoples. Emerging conflicts, at the nexus of water and energy , as is presently happening in association with oil sands development and unconventional oil and gas activities.
Yes, the undeniable seriousness of the global water situation was first brought to the attention of the international community at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janiero, at what came to be known as the Rio Earth Summit. In response to the Rio Summit, he United Nations General Assembly designated the 22nd of March, 1993 as the first World Water Day. International World Water Day has been held annually thereafter, as a means of focusing attention on the importance of fresh water and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The celebration of an annual World Water Day was followed by the proclamation of the International Year of Fresh Water in 2003, and the declaration in 2005 of the United Nations International Decade of Action ‘Water for Life’, which set clear goals with respect to water supply and sanitation globally to be met by 2015 in tandem with those of the Millennium Development Goals.
—(To be Continued….)