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20 Business Spotlight 3/2020 GLOBAL BUSINESS

Foto: srieussec/

for more people. According to the UN, as
many as five billion people could expe-
rience water shortages by 2050. Recent
statistics from the Pacific Institute think
tank in California show that cases of vio-
lence linked to water has more than dou-
bled in the past ten years, compared to the
decades before.
“The machine-learning model is
‘trained’ to identify patterns using his-
torical data on violent conflict and polit-
ical, social, economic, demographic and
water risk,” said Charles Iceland, senior
water expert at the World Resources In-
stitute, part of the WPS partnership. He
said: “It looks at over 80 indicators in all,
going back up to 20 years. It is then able
to use what it has ‘learned’ about the cor-
relations among these variables to predict
conflict or no conflict over the next 12
months, given current conditions.”

Scarcity is putting people at risk
Jessica Hartog, a climate change expert with Inter-
national Alert, a WPS partner, highlighted Iraq and
Mali as two countries at risk. Malian farmers, cattle
herders and fishermen have been arguing over the
reduction of the Niger River’s water levels. Mean-
while, Iraqis — already angry that their basic needs
are not being met — protested last year after more
than 120,000 people were hospitalized after drinking
polluted water.
“Water scarcity has affected both Iraq and Mali,
largely due to economic development projects that
reduce the water levels and flow in rivers — a situ-
ation made worse by climate change and increased
demand due to population growth,” Hartog said. “In
Mali, we are concerned about the plans of the gov-
ernment and neighbouring countries to build dams,
further expand Office du Niger, which oversees
water management projects, and related irrigation
channels, which will further affect the water availa-
bility in the inner Niger Delta. This will affect more
than one million farmers, herders and fishers who are
fully dependent on the inner Niger Delta.”
In Iraq, Hartog said, a failure to address water con-
cerns and improve water services “directly threat-
ens Iraq’s fragile peace”. In Syria, meanwhile, water
scarcity and crop failure have caused many people
to move from rural areas to the cities, worsening the
civil war. In Iran, people living in Khorramshahr and
Abadan protested over polluted drinking water.

Water conflicts are complex
Susanne Schmeier, senior lecturer in water law and
diplomacy at IHE Delft, which is also involved in
the WPS project, said violent clashes over water re-
sources have occurred between local communities
and between provinces within the same countries.
“Violence is then exerted by non-state actors, poten-
tially even illicit groups, or representatives of certain
sectors,” she said. “Such local conflicts are much more
difficult to control and tend to escalate rapidly — a
main difference from the transboundary level, where
relations between states often limit the escalation of
water-related conflicts.”
Schmeier said water problems alone do not create
conflict or war, “but they can become ‘threat multi-
pliers’ when combined with other grievances, such as
poverty and inequality”. She added: “Once conflicts
escalate, they are hard to resolve and can have a neg-
ative impact on water security, creating vicious cycles
of conflict. This is why timely action is critical.”

SAEED KAMALI DEHGHAN is a staff journalist at
The Guardian. © Guardian News & Media 2020

Coming together for peace
The Water, Peace and Security (WPS) tool was developed
by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs in
collaboration with IHE Delft, Deltares, International
Alert, The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, Wetlands
International and the World Resources Institute.

alert [E(l§:t]
, Alarm

Hague : The ~
, Den Haag

, Feuchtgebiet

actor [(ÄktE]
, hier: Akteur(in)
affect sb./sth. [E(fekt]
, sich auf jmdn./etw.
cattle herder
[(kÄt&l )h§:dE]
, Kuhhirte/-hirtin
civil war [)sIv&l (wO:]
, Bürgerkrieg
critical [(krItIk&l]
, von entscheidender
due to [(dju: tu]
, aufgrund
exert sth. [Ig(z§:t]
, etw. ausüben
, instabil
given [(gIv&n]
, vorausgesetzt;
hier: unter
grievance [(gri:v&ns]
, Missstand
illicit [I(lIsIt]
, illegal (agierend)
irrigation channel
[IrI(geIS&n )tSÄn&l]
, Bewässerungskanal
pattern [(pÄt&n]
, Muster, Struktur
, verschmutzt
resolve sth. [ri(zQlv]
, etw. lösen
rural [(rUErEl]
, ländlich
senior [(si:niE]
, leitend
senior lecturer
[)si:niE (lektSErE] UK
, außerordentliche(r)
, Mangel
, grenzübergreifend
vicious cycle
[)vISEs (saIk&l]
, Teufelskreis

Water scarcity in
Mali: a threat
to the livelihood
of farmers
Free download pdf