De strijd om water

NEW YORK – De steeds scherper worden internationale geopolitieke concurrentie om natuurlijke hulpbronnen heeft een paar strategische grondstoffen veranderd in instrumenten van een machtsstrijd. Transnationale waterwegen zijn een zeer vruchtbare bron voor deze concurrentieslag en allerlei conflicten gebleken. Er is een race ontketend op het gebied van het bouwen van dammen, en de oproepen aan het adres van de Verenigde Naties worden steeds luider om water te erkennen als een belangrijke veiligheidskwestie.

Water verschilt van andere natuurlijke hulpbronnen. Allerlei grondstoffen kunnen immers worden vervangen, maar water niet. Landen kunnen fossiele brandstoffen, mineralen en grondstoffen uit de biosfeer zoals vis en hout importeren, maar water niet – dat is in essentie plaatselijk en grootschalig, en op een langere – zij het niet permanente – basis aanwezig. Water is zwaarder dan olie, waardoor het duur is om over grote afstanden te verschepen of te transporteren, zelfs via pijpleidingen (waarvoor grote, energie-intensieve pompen nodig zouden zijn).

De paradox van water is dat het het leven ondersteunt maar ook de dood kan veroorzaken, als het de drager wordt van dodelijke microben of de vorm aanneemt van een tsunami, flash flood (het plotseling buiten hun oevers treden van beken), storm of orkaan. Veel van de grootste natuurrampen uit onze tijd – waaronder bijvoorbeeld de catastrofe van Fukushima in 2011 – hadden met water te maken.

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