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Water Scarcity May Spark Geopolitical Conflicts: Council

Water scarcity may spark geopolitical conflicts in such countries as those around the Tigris-Euphrates and Nile river basins, according to the World Water Council’s president.

“Water and politics, they go hand-in-hand,” Benedito Braga said in a June 20 interview after the conclusion of the Singapore International Water Week. “With rivers that are shared by two or more countries, the severity of climate and the stress in water may lead to political instability.”

There are already signs of transboundary water risks. Egypt opposes Africa’s largest power plant being built by Ethiopia, saying it will reduce the flow of the Nile needed by farmers, while the conflict in Syria has been exacerbated by groundwater depletion, drought and poor water management.

Turkey received little snowfall at the start of the year, meaning it will likely use more water stored in reservoirs to irrigate crops. That may affect supplies downstream along the Tigris-Euphrates, where water quality and pollution are also issues, Braga said. The Tigris-Euphrates river basin is shared by Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran.

The water-stressed region around the Nile, which flows through 10 countries including Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt, is another area of possible conflict, Braga said.

“These are examples of situations in which water resource management and water diplomacy will have to be exercised with care in order to minimize risk of other types of conflicts,” Braga said by phone from Singapore.

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