Water Wars

Many conflicts around the world are caused or inflamed by water scarcity. And future water stresses will be widespread, including both rich and poor countries, owing to bulging populations, depletion of groundwater, waste and pollution, and the enormous and increasingly dire effects of manmade climate change.

NEW YORK – Many conflicts are caused or inflamed by water scarcity. The conflicts from Chad to Darfur, Sudan, to the Ogaden Desert in Ethiopia, to Somalia and its pirates, and across to Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, lie in a great arc of arid lands where water scarcity is leading to failed crops, dying livestock, extreme poverty, and desperation.

Extremist groups like the Taliban find ample recruitment possibilities in such impoverished communities. Governments lose their legitimacy when they cannot guarantee their populations’ most basic needs: safe drinking water, staple food crops, and fodder and water for the animal herds on which communities depend for their meager livelihoods.

Politicians, diplomats, and generals in conflict-ridden countries typically treat these crises as they would any other political or military challenge. They mobilize armies, organize political factions, combat warlords, or try to grapple with religious extremism.

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