Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

World Peace Requires Access to Safe Water

Insights + Opinion
World Peace Requires Access to Safe Water
Residents stand in a long queue to fill water containers on May 27 in Shimla, India. Deepak Sansta / Hindustan Times / Getty Images

International Peace Day is Sept. 21. Mekela Panditharatne, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, submitted the following op-ed to EcoWatch in commemoration.

In drought-ravaged East Africa, the cracks in the plains echo the fault lines splitting tribes.

Across the globe, the devastation of deadly brawls is being exacerbated by tensions over access to water. Water crises, often worsened by governance failures, can portend warning signs for instability and conflict. This year, the World Resources Institute cautioned that water stress is growing globally, "with 33 countries projected to face extremely high stress in 2040." The effects of such water stress span the gamut from civil unrest to open warfare.


Water alone does not explain why a polity erupts into conflict; other factors often play a role. But water scarcity can provide a tangible marker of the government's failure to deliver basic services, and spur movements of people that overburden cities and exacerbate tensions.

In India, for example, irrigation is causing social unrest and water distribution has become a flashpoint between farmers and the government. In Somalia, communities affected by drought have been exploited by Al-Shabab, a militant group. The recent water restrictions in Cape Town, South Africa, inflamed old racial fault lines in the city. In Niger, Chad and Nigeria water scarcity has fed a dangerous insurgency.

As the Syrian conflict churns towards what is likely to be a brutal climax in Idlib, it's worth remembering that the country's bitter civil war may be linked to climate change-induced drought. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2015 states that an extreme drought that occurred in Syria between 2007 and 2010 was likely contributed to by climate change, and that the drought was a key factor in the violent uprising which erupted there in 2011. The researchers stated that in Syria the drought had a "catalytic effect," prompting crop failures and the mass migration of more than one million people to urban areas, intensifying existing social stressors.

These issues are beginning to touch the U.S. in myriad ways. The lead crisis in Flint, Michigan demonstrated how democracy is implicated by water quality. In Puerto Rico, a lack of access to safe water is intimately tied to a legacy of poverty and a lack of full representation in Congress. In the parched American west, drought has sparked legal and political contests over ownership of water.

Today, vulnerable communities around the world are agitating for a human right to water that has real, practical meaning. Arid, drought-ridden cities will survive only through their ability to create economic, technical and political means to dispense water equitably and safely. Developing such innovations will be one of the most important projects of the 21st century.

A replica of a titanosaur. AIZAR RALDES / AFP via Getty Images

New fossils uncovered in Argentina may belong to one of the largest animals to have walked on Earth.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Trump's Affordable Clean Energy rule eliminated a provision mandating that utilities move away from coal. VisionsofAmerica /Joe Sohm / Getty Images

A federal court on Tuesday struck down the Trump administration's rollback of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A wild mink in Utah was the first wild animal in the U.S. found with COVID-19. Peter Trimming via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

By Jonathan Runstadler and Kaitlin Sawatzki

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have found coronavirus infections in pet cats and dogs and in multiple zoo animals, including big cats and gorillas. These infections have even happened when staff were using personal protective equipment.

Read More Show Less
A mass methane release could begin an irreversible path to full land-ice melt. NurPhoto / Contributor / Getty Images

By Peter Giger

The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.

Read More Show Less
Doug Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden wave as they arrive on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol for the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By John R. Platt

The period of the 45th presidency will go down as dark days for the United States — not just for the violent insurgency and impeachment that capped off Donald Trump's four years in office, but for every regressive action that came before.

Read More Show Less