Water Crises Drying Seas, ‘Hydro-Diplomacy’ Needed: UNRandall Hackley
Water crises are drying seas and creating a more urgent need for “hydro-diplomacy” to help avert conflict over shared rivers and lakes, the United Nations’ deputy secretary-general said.
“The world today is experiencing a surge of water-related crises,” the UN’s Jan Eliasson said in London. “The eastern basin of the Aral Sea dried up completely in August for the first time in 600 years. California is experiencing an unprecedented three-year drought. Climate change is manifested through more frequent and intense storms, more destructive floods and more devastating droughts.”
The 74-year-old envoy, a former foreign minister of Sweden who helped mediate conflicts in Darfur and between Iran and Iraq, now worries about the “risk of water wars,” he said yesterday in an interview during The Economist World Water Summit.
Egypt’s disagreement with Ethiopia over shared Nile River waters, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute over a fairer distribution of water and Tajikistan’s dam plans upsetting Uzbekistan are examples of growing tensions, Eliasson said.
“Let us remember that 750 million people today do not have access to safe drinking water” and demand is projected to rise by at least 40 percent by 2050, Eliasson said. Citing his experience in Darfur, he said: “We see how the lack of access to water can fuel conflict and even threaten peace and stability.”
The private sector should get more engaged in corporate water stewardship and promote better sanitation practices, he said. “Degraded access to water as a result of climate change, or population pressures, risks creating social tensions, political instability and intensified refugee flows,” he said. “Even more disturbing is when we see this resource used as a weapon of war.”