Will there be an outbreak of Water Wars?
Interview with Water Policy Expert
Dursun YILDIZ about his latest book “
“Su’dan Savaşlar” (Aqueous Wars)
What are the reasons to deal with WATER WARS in your latest book?
The main reasons to deal with this issue in my latest book are summarized below:
Increased water war scenarios of the last two decades; the dates were even provided for such outbreak of wars; the question about what these scenarios serve for: either for solutions or for deadlocks; water wars are always on the front burner but never completely resolved; possible outbreak of such a war initially in the Middle East and because the dilemmas over the waters of Tigris and Euphrates.
What are the basic objectives of this review and research?
As it is well known, unfair distribution of water and increasing water deficits have made the water a geopolitical source and water have become effective on international power balances. Such a case increased the global, political, strategic and hegemonic plans over the water resources. Therefore, moving from this point, I have tried to analyze and evaluate the actual reasons of possible outbreaks about water resources.
The basic objective of my review is not to present another striking thesis against the strike of present water war thesis. I have taken water war theses, reasons for outbreak of such theses, scale and outcomes of a possible war, policies made over water deficits, current threat perceptions all into consideration and tried to make an initial evaluation. This issue should be considered and evaluated in details in a broad sense.
Why did you prefer to entitle your book as “Aqueous Wars” rather than as “Water Wars”?
This is a review research book. Therefore, I wished to assign an allegoric meaning to water wars and to start the questioning from the cover of the book. Indeed, I think we need to question this issue. Opposite of conflict is collaboration. Beside the barriers in front of water collaboration rather than water war in the world, there also various reasons to create such collaboration. Thus, those reasons should then be investigated and evaluated!
What are the obstacles in front of such collaboration?
In very brief, those obstacles are: Envisage of water right as a national independence issue and to assign water different meanings and values; differences in development and power levels of the countries; global conflict strategies and their implementations.
Are there any reasons to create collaboration on water issues?
Sure, yes there are. There are different and more reasons today than the past. For instance, rapid technological developments are among the most significant ones. Besides, increase in mutual dependence among the countries, water scarcity and deficits, increase in environmental awareness, existing collaborations and their benefits may be the basic reasons for such collaborations on water-related issues.
What are the regions of the world with high potential of conflict on water?
Works have been carried out to determine the regions on the verge of water conflicts by considering the past tensions, conflicts, future projections about the relationships among the countries and by using various methods. However, it is really hard to get concrete outcomes from those analyses because: beside the water conflicts among the countries with water-related problems with each other, there have been several other political problems and conflicts on other issues among them. Therefore, it is hard to mention whether water conflicts are determined factors in armed conflicts or they are constituent factors affecting such conflicts together with the other factors.
Nevertheless in those methods and conflict analyses, Middle Asia Aral Lake Basin, Middle East, Jordan River Basin, The Nile River Basin are coming to forefront with regard to water-related conflicts.
Is a water war absolute in the 21st century?
As it was in the past, there will be various tensions and conflicts about water-related issues in the 21st
century. Such tensions may result in small armed conflicts but it is really hard to envisage an absolute water war. In case of such a foresight, definition of such a war should also be made. It should also be specified that such a war will exist either at a regional scale – global scale or local scale. Beside all these, military target and possible outcomes of such a war should also be explained. As it was specified by those foresights, in case of a water war in the future, the question of “is the water actually the only reason of such a war” should be analyzed.
Indeed, there have been already water wars around the world for years at local scales in sharing the water, at national scales as armed conflicts among the countries, at global level in economic issues!
Are there any efforts spent to annihilate the conditions pronounced to result in a water war?
This issue has been considered in various international platforms and forums and programs have been made on this issue. Agreements have been accepted in UN on this issue. However, all these programs have not yielded sufficient and expected outcomes, yet. While doing all these programs and plans, tensions in some regions have been instigated and foundations have been built for conflicts through excessive armament.
During the last decade of the world, military expenses increased by 45% and peaked in the year 2008 with $1.5 trillion. Such an amount corresponds to 2.4% of world total gross domestic income. Military expenses are way above the budgets allocated to water and sanitation. Such a rate is 8 folds in India, 40 folds in Pakistan, 10 folds in Ethiopia. Military expenses are also at high levels in Yemen, Uganda, Kenya and Mexico. In other words, throughout the world in different countries encompassing about 1.7 billion population, armament expenses are way higher than the expenses made for water and sanitation.
Excessive armament claims on one hand and water war claims on the other hand; in this case, should the concept of Water War be perceived as a rising hegemony?
A vital source, water, is a great argument to be fight for. That paves the way of war scenarists and the ones making intriguing over the water. Advances in communication techniques have increased the illusions in perceptions. We are now accepting various concepts or having the accepted without a little thought over them. Therefore, great care should be taken on such critical issues.
Actually is not an irrefutable opinion that real war and hegemony reasons are tired to be covered up by putting water into forefront as the reason of wars. It is also thought-provoking that water wars were always keep in agendas but sufficient concrete steps were not taken to solve the water-related problems and conflicts. Such a case empowers the opinions that imperial powers have been using this concept as tool to sustain their political and cultural hegemony.
As we look through the academic works on water-related issues, we see that the arguments about outbreak of a water war were not very much proved. This concept is coming into forefront especially in magazines and newspapers. Indeed, to do something on this issue, it is redundant to wait for an outbreak of a water war and then try to end it up or resolve the conflicts. There has been already a tragedy experienced in this issue. According to World Health Organization (WHO), 25 000 people, 4000 of which under the age of 5, are dying every day because of water and water-born diseases. Although it is not a close combat, this tragedy is actually experienced in each day. Now, lest think about the question of “may an aqueous war contribute to such a tragedy”. Sure it may. However, the total number of people to die by water-related problems until the outbreak of such a war is far more tragic than the outcomes of a water war! Therefore, Water War is an easy concept to remember and emerges as a concept shading the other problems experienced in this issue.
Is a water war imperative in Middle East? Is a water war at the door rather than oil war?
Middle East encompasses about 5% of world population but only 1% of fresh water resources. Almost 90% of those water resources are composed of trans-boundary waters. Considering oil reservoirs and other geostrategic superiorities of the region and existence of Israel, it is hard to establish stability in this region. However, the water problems of the Middle East should be considered in two regions. Of them, the countries in which Tigris and Euphrates pass through, Turkey, Syria and Iraq have water but they experience a rational, planned and efficient water use problems.
Scenarios somehow enforce a water war in this region and recent developments seem to be positive. Syria have recently started to respond positively against Turkish peace and collaboration proposals about not to use the water as a weapon. This is a positive development. The only problem of the region is the future of Iraq. However, the region covering Israel, Jordan, Palestine and Southern Lebanon is a potential region for water conflicts. Close combats about water-related issues have already been experienced in this region. Jordan has started to withdraw fossil waters and Israel has started to treat sea water with huge treatment facilities. Those developments may provide a partial relief within the region.
I think it is not true to take global strategies over water and oil similarly. Water is a renewable source but oil is not. Water is also a resource for regional development. Thus segregates from the oil in those fashions.
In brief, what are the outcomes of your review research?
As I was stated earlier, I have made a very initial study in this issue. In this review, it was proved that water war scenarios were not able to present concrete evidences and satisfactory explanations. Besides, it was clearly seen that there might be a water related conflict in the future but water would only be one reason of such conflicts. It was also observed that water war concept was mostly mentioned in popular magazines and not mentioned in reports of academics.
It was also seen that increasing collaborations and opportunities were available beside the tensions and conflicts about water related issues. The approaches indicating the water as the only reason for a war should be evaluated meticulously. I can say that widespread of a water war concept may serve for a hegemonic concept rather than serving for resolutions.
As a final word, would you like add anything else?
Yes, I wish to express my sincere thanks for allowing me to say something about this issue. I wish to express that WAR FORT HE WATER. I think there should be war for water but such a war should be to annihilate the conditions and concepts propounded to result in aqueous wars. September 2, 2011