Monday, October 15, 2012

Water, water, everywhere…

Water, water, every where/Nor any drop to drink. This is verse from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner seems like a prelude to the water sharing problems dogging the world. The long poem’s reflection, particularly ebbing in the Cauvery issue is now at its peak, like it does every summer.
The Cauvery water sharing dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is one of the many water disputes in India and the world. The other two parties in this dispute are Kerala and Pondicherry. Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka are caught in a triangle over the sharing of Krishna waters.
The same states along with Madhya Pradesh and Orissa dispute over the Godavari waters. The Ravi-Beas dispute is between Punjab and Haryana, two agricultural surplus states that provide large quantities of grains to the rest of India.
Narmada River is the bone of contention between Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Similar water sharing issues bubble at the Mahadayi and Vasandhara rivers too. Dispute settling mechanisms like Acts and Tribunals, methods of resolution including political interference and constitutional provisions applied during negotiations have so far yielded partial or no results in resolving water disputes.
Declaration of water as a national property might settle inter-state water squabbles. What about the same issue of water sharing between countries?
Water systems usually arise in one country and pass through others before reaching the sea or oceans. Rivers and lakes that come off these larger water systems are typically shared by more than one country. The states where these systems originated tend to try and gain the most control over the water, like the Nile and the Jordan River.
Chinese efforts to divert water resources of the Brahmaputra away from India, has worsened situations that have remained tense since the 1962 Indo-China war.
Israel and Palestine have a traditional history of fighting over water — conflicts over the Tigris and Euphrates. Some experts believe the only documented case of a ‘water war’ happened about 4,500 years ago, when the city-states of Lagash and Umma went to war in the Tigris-Euphrates basin.
There is tension between India and Pakistan over hydroelectric projects in Leh and Kargil, which will affect the flow of water from the Indus and Suru rivers.
India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers. Despite setting up a Joint River Commission for water management in 1972, tension between the two countries on how to share resources recently came to a head in a dispute over the Teetsa River.Whether in South Asian countries or between Middle East provinces, water issues hold up peace talks and pose graver conflicts.
In March 2012, a classified US report listed India’s three major river basins — Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra — among the top 10 world water conflict zones in ten years from now. “Beyond 2022, use of water as a weapon of war or a tool of terrorism will become more likely, particularly in South Asia (India), the Middle East and North Africa,” the report based on National Intelligence Estimate on Water Security stated.
A new of genre of water journalists address the delicate issue of corruption in the water sector and sustainable practices for water conservation, particularly in countries like West Africa.
“Water too often is treated as a commodity, as an instrument with which one population group can suppress another,” according to Ignacio Saiz, Centre for Economic and
Social Rights.
Solution to water conflict and ultimate co-operation between warring segments is required as water is projected to become scarce and amicable trans-boundary water distribution will also address issues of global warming and climate change at the higher level.
Otherwise, water will remain a powerful weapon of mass conflict to settle other bubbly episodes, outside the purview of environmental issues and the natural resource will never be considered as the world’s water!
Mark Twain’s quote of “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over,” does not seem to be exaggerated, despite Twain’s biographer debating the authenticity of this scholarly certitude.

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