Water Security is National Security

Water resources and how they are managed impact almost all aspects of society and the economy, in particular health, food production and security, domestic water supply and sanitation, energy, industry, and the functioning of ecosystems. Under present climate variability, water stress is already high, particularly in many developing countries, and climate change adds even more urgency for action. Without improved water resources management, the progress towards poverty reduction targets, the Millennium Development Goals, and sustainable development in all its economic, social and environ- mental dimensions, will be jeopardized. UN Water.Org

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Use 'hydro-diplomacy' to avert future water conflict - experts

BANGKOK (AlertNet) - Population growth, urbanisation, industrialisation and climate change are putting pressure on the world’s river basins, and “hydro-diplomacy” is essential if water-related conflicts are to be avoided, experts said on Wednesday.

Cooperation between countries and between different groups within countries, as well as improved political will and the larger participation of societies could help defuse tensions over water and improve governance of water resources, the experts said at a conference in Chiang Rai in Thailand, a nation that shares the waters of the Mekong River with Myanmar and Laos.

“Water is, let us face it, going to be humanity’s crisis number one,” said Ambassador Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a former governor of West Bengal in India, which shares borders and rivers with Bangladesh.

“With global warming, population spikes and water-extraction intensification, river water and ground water are going to come under unprecedented strain,” he added.

Rapid population growth and increased industrial demand mean water withdrawals have tripled over the last 50 years, according to figures from the United Nations.

U.N. studies project that at least 30 nations will be "water scarce" in 2025, up from 20 in 1990. Eighteen of them are in the Middle East and North Africa but parts of India, China and Pakistan are also expected to face water shortages.

A country is judged to be “water scarce” when each person has access to 1,000 or fewer cubic meters of water a year.

“Allocation and sharing of water resources crosses political, spatial, cultural and economic boundaries,” said Aban Marker Kabraji, Asia regional director for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which organised the conference.

Diverse users, from farmers to industry and urban developers, are all competing for a limited resource, she said.

“Many technical water infrastructure solutions of the past are now seen to be unsustainable, and we need new ways to meet the demands of human growth while ensuring a sustainable future,” Kabraji said.


Because water, energy and food needs are increasingly inter-related, increasing transboundary cooperation on water – or the lack of it - will have wide ranging impacts, experts said.

For Torkil J√łnch Clausen, the conference’s keynote speaker, it is increasingly clear that water issues must be tackled from a wider perspective and by a wide range of people, not just water experts.

"Water's a human right. We need 50 litres per day for our basic needs. That is not a political problem. No country does not have that,” said Clausen, a senior advisor to the Global Water Partnership and chair of the scientific programme of World Water Week in Stockholm.

“But every day the food we eat takes 50, 60 times that much water to produce,” he said, and “in many cases in the world, the environment has paid the price for our production of food and energy.”

Agriculture is responsible for two-thirds of global water withdrawals, he said. It takes 1,500 litres of water to produce one kilo of cereals and 10 times that to produce a kilo of meat, a significant problem as demand for meat continues to rise, particularly in developing nations such as China. More


Friday, October 26, 2012

Tibet and the Future of Asia: Strategic Issues for the U.S., Pakistan, India, and the World

Tibet and the Future of Asia: Strategic Issues for the U.S., India, and the World

Published onMay 7, 2012byForeignPolicyI


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As the Obama administration pursues its "Asia pivot," Tibet is taking on increased strategic significance due to its importance as a source of water and minerals, the militarization of the Tibetan plateau and the Sino-Indian border, Chinese influence in Nepal, and Beijing's insistence on deference to its control of Tibet as a "core interest." The series of self-immolations by Tibetans over the past year demonstrates that 60 years of Communist Chinese occupation has not succeeded in destroying Tibetans' identity and desire for freedom. This still unfolding unrest and the democratization of the Tibetan government-in-exile make imperative a review of international policies.

Moving forward, what role will Tibet play in the region's peace and security? Do the U.S. and India have the right policies in place for Tibet? What policies is China pursuing in response to recent events and in anticipation of the future? What are the prospects for achieving the autonomy the Dalai Lama seeks? Can Tibetan Buddhism and democracy provide a bridge between Tibetans and Chinese?

Discussing these vital questions will be Brahma Chellaney of the Centre for Policy Research; Michael J. Green of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Lodi G. Gyari, special envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama; and Ambassador Lalit Mansingh, former Indian Foreign Secretary. FPI Director of Democracy and Human Rights Ellen Bork will moderate the discussion.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Old wisdom still provides succour

Several millenniums ago, ancient Tamils understood the importance of water harvesting and had excellent conservation techniques in place.

Veeranam lake
For example, the Veeranam lake that provides drinking water to Chennai, was built by the Cholas during the 11th Century. Originally named as “Veera Narayanan Yeri” after Rajaraja Chola’s title of “Veera Narayanan”, the lake provides succour to parched throats in Chennai even today.

Similar facilities were created in several places by Rajaraja like the “Cholagan-gam”, (now Ponneri) lake in Gangai Konda Cholapuram. Much earlier, about 1,800 years ago, Karikala Chola built the famed “Kallanai” to dam Cauvery, which is still going strong.

As early as the 3rd Century AD, Kancheepuram district was hailed as ‘Yeriyur Nadu’, (lake country) for its extensive network of lakes and ponds. Rain water was harvested by storage facilities like Yeri, Vaavi, Kulam and Kuttam. In the Sangam age Purananuru lyric “Adupor Sezhiya.....Thalladorey,” Kudapulaviyanar asks the Pandiya king to acquire sky-high reputation by setting up lakes. Kooram copper plates say that a canal (Perumbidugu Kal) was dug up to bring water to ‘Parameswara Thadagam’, a lake that was being newly built to provide water to Parameswara Mangalam, a neighbourhood given as grant to Brahmins circa 699 AD during the times of Parameswara Varma I.

Former epigraphist S Ramachandran says the ancient “Kudi Maramatthu” system of cleaning up clogged water channels, desilting lakes, canals and reservoirs could perhaps have only a few parallels elsewhere in history. More


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Nile Basin at a Turning Point as Political Changes Roil Balance of Power and Competing Demands Proliferate

In 1979, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat famously said that “the only matter that could take Egypt to war again is water.” Sadat’s message was clear: the Nile is a matter of national security for Egypt.

Indeed, Egypt relies on the Nile for 95 percent of its water. But it is not the only state with an interest in the world’s longest river. There are 11 states in the Nile River basin, which stretches from Africa’s Great Lakes region – Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – to the Ethiopian and Eritrean highlands through South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.

Each of these 11 countries has a different plan for the river, from Ethiopia’s hydropower aspirations to Egypt’s cotton farming. And competition for Nile water is not limited to the countries of the basin, as states like India and Saudi Arabia have recently turned to large-scale land and agricultural investments in Ethiopia, South Sudan, and other East African countries to help feed their growing populations. Agriculture requires irrigation, and they will be vying for water rights too.

The situation is further complicated by recent political instability. Two long-time giants in the basin are no longer in power: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned after 30 years in power following protests in 2011, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died August 20, after 17 years in office.

The Arab Spring has made it unclear if Egypt is willing or able to enforce its long-held dominance of the region. Further downstream, the Great Lakes region is notoriously prone to conflict; Sudan and South Sudan are still clashing over a number of issues not settled by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement or the South’s subsequent secession; Ethiopia and Eritrea remain on edge since the formal end of their war in 2000; and Kenya, Burundi, the DRC, and Rwanda have had recent questionable elections and remain volatile.

Despite their differences, the Nile River basin countries have one thing in common: rapid growth, both economically and demographically, which is increasing demand for water across the board and lends urgency to negotiations for a common sharing agreement.

New Challenges to Historic Dominance

At the root of the current dynamic are agreements signed by Egypt with former colonial power Great Britain in 1929, and Sudan in 1959, which gave Egypt the lion’s share of the Nile as well as the power to veto any upstream projects which might threaten its access to water. Egypt claims these treaties give them the legal right to halt construction on projects like the Grand Renaissance Dam, a massive project recently begun in Ethiopia that would provide electricity to Ethiopia and surrounding states but also reduce downstream flow significantly. More