World's Water Crisis Term Papers Examples
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Today, in the era of high technology, advanced manufacturing, communications and accessible information, natural resources do not play a paramount importance, as it was in the beginning of the last century. Indeed, one can find many examples of resource-rich countries, which remain on the margins of the global economy. Nevertheless, one cannot say with absolute certainty that in the modern world the value of natural resources is reduced, because some of them are the main factors of human development, such as land and water. Fresh water is an indispensable resource necessary for the development of agriculture and industry.
On the one hand, more than half of the Earth's surface holds the oceans and the planet's water is sufficient. However, only 2.5% of its total amount is fresh water that can be used for drinking. Of these 2.5%, the total of 0.3% is fresh water in rivers and lakes, another 30% in groundwater, and the remaining 70% in the glaciers. These data show that the assumption that there is enough water on the planet leads to wrong conclusions. Throughout human history, the lack of water was felt by only a few regions, that is, it had a local character. Today, researchers say publicly about the global water crisis, the development of which is due to several factors.
First, it is a fast and irregular growth of the world population. The highest growth is observed just in regions suffering from water scarcity. First of all, it concerns Asia. According to UN figures, the population of India and Bangladesh will grow by 17% by 2025, while growth in North Africa will reach about 13%. For comparison, the population in North America will increase by 12%, while in Europe it is presumed to be reduced by 1% in 2025. At first glance, the percentages are not very different from each other, but in real terms, the difference between the population of developed and developing countries is enormous.
Population growth would inevitably lead to an increase in demand for water and increased water consumption, which in developing countries will grow by half, while in developed countries, the demand will grow by only 18%. It is known that at the beginning of the XXI century, more than 70% of the world population lived in countries experiencing high and extremely high water stress, according to forecasts, and by 2025 the percentage will already be 80%. It means that 1.8 billion people will be living in regions experiencing a water crisis, and 2/3 of the world's population will suffer from water scarcity. Another cause of the water crisis is the degradation of water resources, provoked by the growth of industry and agriculture.
Other factors include improper use of water resources, urban growth, and the impact of climate change. Many researchers have noted that in the future will increase the number of natural disasters, as well as the usual regular events will take extreme forms. Therefore, arid regions will become even drier and wet - wetter, and these changes will be accompanied by a prolonged drought and severe floods. Rainfall can also change dramatically. Even today, a decrease in precipitation in the Middle East has a negative impact on the amount of available resources, causing an even greater shortage of water resources.
Obviously, the deficit or water crisis is a serious problem that humanity will have to cope with for decades. Many political leaders still do not realize the danger of impending problems. It is important to understand that the water is a scarce and valuable resource, the lack of which triggers the state for aggressive actions.
Causes and Factors of Water Crisis
Taking into account the economic and social value of water on the one hand, and its acute shortage on the other, it is not difficult to assume that over the allocation and use of water resources can arise serious conflicts. This is especially true in countries that have to share resources with each other of the main rivers that affect the development of the state or region. In 145 countries, there are areas adjacent to the international river basins. Full access to water in countries suffering from water crisis, is regarded as one of the priorities in national security. That is why many of them are willing to take drastic measures up to a military conflict to protect their national interests. In international practice, there are many examples where between neighboring countries arose disputes over water issues, and most of them were solved in a peaceful manner: 61.7% of these disputes were resolved through cooperation and collaboration. However, there is the possibility of resuming the old controversy or the appearance of new ones. In other words, today there is a real risk of arising water conflicts.
The definition of this threat and providing any forecasts is a huge challenge for modern researchers. What factors need to be considered in the first place in the identification of this probability: population growth, resource availability, or any other variables? The complexity of this analysis consists precisely in the fact that it is difficult to find the key parameter that would allow with absolute precision to describe further developments in the region. One of the most frequently used indices for assessing the threat of conflict is Falkenmark index, which takes into account the amount of available renewable water resources per capita. This index is calculated very simply, the amount of available water resources for each country is divided by the population living in this country. According to this index, all countries in the world can be divided into the following groups: the states with stable situations, countries suffering from water scarcity, and countries experiencing stress or acute stress in water resources. Drawback of this index is that, given the distribution of resources on a national scale, it does not take into account the possibility of water stress among small groups in certain regions.
M. Falkenmark also determined the level of water scarcity, in which there are significant barriers to economic and social development. It ranges from 1,000 to 2,000 people per million cubic meters per year. In arid regions with high birth rates, this threshold may soon be exceeded. How soon we will overcome the critical point, depends on three factors: 1- the availability of clean drinking water; 2- needs of the population; 3- level of expected development (industrial or agricultural). Another widely used index is the Olsson’s index, which is also referred to as the index of social water stress, which takes into account the ability of a state to adjust and adapt to the lack of water resources.
The indices presented above are not able to show with absolute accuracy the likelihood of water conflict. Much more acceptable indicators are considered by P. Gleick:
1. The level of water scarcity
2. Internationally (the number of states that share the resources of a river basin)
3. The relative power of the neighboring states
4. Access to alternative sources
Taking into account the above parameters, it is possible to select the most "dangerous" areas. Of course, it is Southern, Southeastern and Central Asia, Middle East and Africa. There are also some regions of South America, and the Caucasus. In these regions, the states really face a serious water deficit. However, the main reason for potential conflict lies in the fact that in all the countries in these regions, major rivers cross national borders and their resources do not belong to a single state. In this case, there arises the difficult question of the creation of an international system of efficient water use or water management. Most water conflicts provoked disputes involving infrastructure and the number of incoming resources: 61% relate to the issues of water intake volumes, while 25% of disputes regard infrastructure, i.e. the construction of dams, reservoirs, and so on.
It is not surprising that the international community is keenly interested in the possible causes and factors that threaten the security of international river basins. There are the following main threats to international basins:
• Internationalization of river conflicts with the emergence of new states. Obvious examples are the basins of the Amu Darya, Syr Darya in Central Asia and the Kura-Araks in the Caucasus. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, there collapsed established system of water use. USSR, though not very efficient, but divided water resources between neighbors, acting as an arbitrator in resolving disputes. Once disappeared the highest court, the contradictions between the former Soviet republics became more acute, because there was no institutional framework for the resolution of disputes and building an effective system of water management.
• Accepted unilaterally development plans. This refers to the construction of dams, reservoirs and other infrastructure facilities. An example is the conflict between India and Pakistan over the construction of Farakka Barrage or disputes between Turkey and its neighbors because of the projects on the rivers Euphrates and Tigris.
• General tensions between the neighbors. When the historical contradictions between neighbors, such as India and Pakistan or Israel and Palestine, shape the character of today's relationships, it is likely that disputes over water can become quite acute.
It is difficult to provide a unified sequence of development of a water conflict, because in each case it affects a unique set of factors. However, it is possible to classify the main causes of water conflicts. First, it is a clash of interests of countries above and downstream. The latter tend to get the water of inferior quality, that is soiled, and in an amount insufficient for its agricultural or industrial purposes. An example is the conflict in the basins of the Indus, Amu Darya and others. Disagreements between neighbors can be provoked by secondary factors, such as the construction of hydroelectric plants and floods. It is known that the construction of infrastructure projects such as dams, reservoirs or stations will inevitably affect the interests of neighboring states. For example, the construction of the Aswan High Dam triggered flooding in Sudan and led to the displacement of the local population. In addition, the dam in the river Ganges Farakka significantly deteriorated the quality and reduced the amount of water flowing into Bangladesh. Due to the construction of irrigation facilities in the southern United States, Mexico has received polluted water.
Second, it is possible to specify the reasons for the high level of pollution by individual states. This exactly was the cause of the conflict on the Danube, where emissions of several states were causing irreparable damage to the ecological status of the river.
Third, the potential for conflict can arise due to political differences. As an example it is possible to view the Euphrates River Basin, when the parties could not resolve water conflicts, as Sisera interfered in the internal affairs of Turkey, funding opposition groups in the country. In the analysis of water conflicts and their underlying causes, great attention should be paid to the political regime and the political structure of the warring parties. The struggle becomes acute only if countries cannot reach a consensus. It is obvious that in countries with a democratic system, it is much more likely that the conflict will not be developed, and will be resolved through negotiations without resorting to force. In authoritarian states, it is likely that the scenario will be different. It depends on the degree of legitimacy of power and the level of civil society influence on political decisions. Where this level is high, the possibility of a water war is difficult to imagine. Effectiveness of institutions is also very important. In those states where there is a developed system of institutions’ decision-making and responsibility, conflicts are settled much quicker and more peacefully through mediation or executive program. In developing countries, which are not actively involved in global mechanisms, it is harder to do so, as there simply do not exist levers and tools of influence.
Analysis of Water Conflict in the Basin of the Ganges
One of the most dangerous regions of conflict can rightly be considered South Asia, where there is an unprecedented population growth and increasing demand for water, leading to the appearance of conflicts between neighboring states and threatening regional security. One of the largest river basins is the pool of Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna, which is the main source of water resources in South Asia, as well as the main factor of economic and social development for the region.
The origins of the Ganges and Brahmaputra are located in the Himalayan Mountains, and then, crossing the territory of India and Nepal, get into Bangladesh. An important feature of this basin is that the river is replenished during the summer months, during the melting of glaciers, and may even go out of the banks, which is why Bangladesh often suffers from severe flooding. During the winter months, the water volume drops sharply, which may even lead to drought.
The main international conflict in the pool deals with the distribution of resources between India and Bangladesh, because, as a country situated upstream, India takes too much water, and Bangladesh is not getting enough water for normal functioning.
At the territory of Bangladesh, there are only 7% of the total volume of the river. It is important to note that none of the considered states in the region suffer from the water crisis. The difference between the indicators of total available water resources in India and Bangladesh is relatively small. It seems curious, especially if we take into account the number of people living in these countries.
A particularly serious problem is the high level of pollution. All this leads to the fact that both countries impose a high demand on water, wherein there is no agreement about the distribution of resources between neighbors. For Bangladesh, the Ganges and Brahmaputra are the key factors to improve health and sanitation conditions in the country.
The history of the conflict between India and Bangladesh started in 1951, when India announced its plans to build Farakka Barrage. This resulted in a sharply negative reaction of Pakistan, which feared that the use of dam will greatly reduce the amount of water received from the Ganges. The initiative had three main objectives - to withdraw part of the water in the river Hooghly in order to ensure the normal shipping in the port of Calcutta, as well as to ensure the inflow of fresh water to the city. Dam construction was completed in 1974, when Bangladesh had already gained independence from Pakistan.
A serious problem is that the construction of the project was not approved or agreed with the representatives of Bangladesh. This is a typical example of a water conflict, when a country located upstream, was taking sole actions that had a negative impact on other countries. The exploitation of the dam led to the fact that in Bangladesh increased level of pollution, worsened conditions for navigation, fish catch has declined, the level of salinity raised, etc. In order to solve this problem, India and Bangladesh signed two agreements. The first agreement was signed in 1977, and it defined the proportions that Bangladesh should receive in each of the established periods.
There was also set up a special committee to monitor the ecological situation in the basin. The agreement also defined all the necessary mechanisms for the resolution of any dispute between the neighboring countries, both in the short and long term. The treaty was very effective, but it ceased to operate in 1982, and has not been renewed. In subsequent years, were signed only some short-term agreements that did not provide any guarantees to Bangladesh. The new contract was signed only in 1996. This agreement did not provide any assurance of supply of water for Bangladesh, which is very vulnerable to periods of drought in winter and during the floods in summer. The treaty did not provide any mechanisms for resolving disputes, which is why Bangladesh was forced to "silently" cope with the terrible consequences of droughts and floods. In addition, other states that have the river on its territory belonging to the basin, were not parties to the treaty, and therefore could develop their own projects without receiving any additional approvals. It has a negative impact on the environment in the basin, which already has a very high level of contamination.
It is very difficult for the countries to come to an effective solution if between them there is a big difference in the political and military powers. India is a political and economic giant in the region that has no incentive to take into account the interests of its neighbor – a political dwarf. For the contract between the parties to be in any way effective, other countries have to take part in it, such as China. An important problem is environmental degradation. In addition to the negative consequences faced only by Bangladesh, in India there arise many problems associated with environmental degradation. Due to the operation of Farakka Barrage, became dry Sunderbans forest.
Obviously, this is not the sharpest conflict in existence on the planet, but it can be so in a few years. India is not interested to create a normal agreement, while Bangladesh has no political power to force it to do so. Both countries have already faced the problem of overpopulation, which in future will only get worse. Bangladesh, for example, is in the 8th place in the world in terms of population. Because of the constant flooding and water shortages, many people migrate to the nearest states, which causes their justifiable dissatisfaction. The problem of migrants from Bangladesh has become urgent for Myanmar, Malaysia and other countries. India alone is home to about 20 million illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Therefore, the question of the distribution of water between neighbors is not resolved, then the already precarious security situation in South Asia will be threatened.
Adel, M. M. “Effect on water resources from upstream water diversion in the Ganges basin.” Journal of Environmental Quality 30, no. 2 (2001): 356-368.
Gleick, P. H. and M. Heberger. “Water conflict chronology.” In The world’s water, 173-219. Island Press/Center for Resource Economics, 2014.
Hanjra, M. A. and M. E. Qureshi. “Global water crisis and future food security in an era of climate change.” Food Policy 35, no. 5 (2010): 365-377.
Jury, W. A. and H. J. Vaux. “The emerging global water crisis: managing scarcity and conflict between water users.” Advances in Agronomy 95 (2007): 1-76.
Lawrence, P. R., J. Meigh and C. Sullivan. The water poverty index: an international comparison. Department of Economics, Keele University, 2002.
Olsson, L., L. Eklundh and J. Ardö. “A recent greening of the Sahel—trends, patterns and potential causes.” Journal of Arid Environments 63, no. 3 (2005): 556-566.
Rijsberman, F. R. “Water scarcity: Fact or fiction?” Agricultural water management 80, no. 1 (2006): 5-22.
Rosegrant, M. W., X. M. Cai, S. A. Cline and X. Cai. Global water outlook to 2025: averting an impending crisis. International Water Management Institute, 2002.
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