Water Wars   Leave a comment

This past week I had the opportunity to hear Lotika Paintal of Water Centric speak about why water is such a huge issue in development. As a future development and conflict management practitioner, I quickly understood that water is/can be a source of conflict as well.

All living creatures require water in order to survive, this is obvious. The scarcity of water globally is on the rise, either because of climate change, lack of infrastructure, or education. Even if communities have water, it may not be safe to consume. Water shortage is not the main problem to poor hygiene and sanitation, it is the access to clean water. Improperly discarded fecal matter increases the chance of illness over any other cause of sickness. Lack of education, not technology, is the reason for developing countries to be ‘left behind’ in the realm of water and sanitation.

These factors provide enough reason for well-intentioned NGOs (and the like) to install wells or hand-pumps in needy communities. This is all fine until the women at the well queue start to quarrel of who was there first to get water. Disputes of this nature can be escalated via ethnic and religious divisions as well, something I have seen first-hand.

‘Water Wars’, as I’ll call it, are nothing new. A chronological chart, produced by the Pacific Institute’s World’s Water project, illuminates how water and water rights have been fought over for generations. This type of conflict will continue and increase as the need for water increases as access decreases.

What are we doing about it?

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Posted April 4, 2011 by Travis Warrington in Conflict

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