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It is often said that future wars will be fought over water, not oil. These water wars are predicted to take place over the sharing of international rivers. Recently, the world has witnessed several inter-state river-sharing disputes, but almost all of them have not crossed the critical threshold of becoming violent. Rather, most of these river disputes are being addressed through bilateral riparian cooperative arrangements. These agreements are primarily coming up on the rivers, which have potential for further water exploitation. However, to find a lasting solution and to strengthen the river sharing arrangements, this article argues for the water issue to be addressed comprehensively in the basin, by taking into account both the demand as well as the supply side of the scarce resource.
Futures 33 (2001) 769–781
Water wars: fact or fiction?
Ashok Swain
Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Box 514, SE-751 20 Uppsala,
It is often said that future wars will be fought over water, not oil. These water wars are
predicted to take place over the sharing of international rivers. Recently, the world has wit-
nessed several inter-state river-sharing disputes, but almost all of them have not crossed the
critical threshold of becoming violent. Rather, most of these river disputes are being addressed
through bilateral riparian cooperative arrangements. These agreements are primarily coming
up on the rivers, which have potential for further water exploitation. However, to find a lasting
solution and to strengthen the river sharing arrangements, this article argues for the water
issue to be addressed comprehensively in the basin, by taking into account both the demand as
well as the supply side of the scarce resource. 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Water scarcity and international rivers
Rivers are one of the most important sources of fresh water available for human
consumption. Many countries in arid and semi-arid regions of the world are already
facing serious problems in meeting the rapidly increasing water demands. In this
scarcity situation, river water has increasingly become a source of tension as users
are worried about the present or future availability of the water resource. Even though
such tensions are omnipresent they tend to become more complex and difficult when
they concern international rivers.
According to a recently published World Bank technical paper [1] more than 245
river basins are shared by two or more countries. To find an agreement over sharing
of these fresh water systems is a tricky one. The growing demand for fresh water
has recently induced a number of disputes among the riparian countries [2–8]. In
some of the river basins, there are existing agreements, which regulate water sharing
* Tel.: +46-18-4717653; fax: +46-18-695102.
E-mail address: (A. Swain).
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770 A. Swain / Futures 33 (2001) 769781
among the riparian states. However, some of these established arrangements have
come under serious pressure due to increasing demand for fresh water. The depen-
dence of many countries on external supply of water has forced them to orient their
national security concern in order to protect or preserve the availability.
Egypt is surviving on water sources, of which 97% originate from its own border.
This problem is also similarly acute for Hungary, Mauritania, Botswana, Uzbekistan,
Syria, Sudan and Gambia. The acute scarcity of water combined with regional insta-
bility may lead to the use of force by the conicting riparian states over the sharing
of river water resources. Potential water warsin the Middle East are now regularly
mentioned in the media: Israel vs Jordan and Palestinians, Turkey vs Syria and Iraq,
or Egypt vs Sudan and Ethiopia [9]. World Bank Vice President Ismail Serageldin,
emphasising the water crisis in the Middle East and North Africa, stated at a confer-
ence at Stockholm in 1995 that in the next century wars would be fought over water
and not oil.
This conict scenario has brought the issue of water to the high politics. Poli-
ticians as well as media are of the opinion that the scarcity of water is replacing oil
as the source of conict. Many have started seeing the greatest threats to the worlds
security in the coming century coming from water wars.[10]. Fortunately these
water warsare yet to be translated into reality. As Toset and Gleditsch accept the
possibility of armed conict over water scarcity they nonetheless deny its inevita-
bility [11]. In several cases, the competing riparian countries are moving towards
sharing agreements rather than armed conicts.
In the face of mutual dependence on the same fresh water resource, the withdrawal
or pollution of one riparian state can potentially not only lead to conict but also
bring cooperation in the basin. In this century, water scarcity has caused a few skir-
mishes, but no war has yet been fought. As Yoffe and Wolf point out, 145 water-
related treaties have been signed in this period [12]. Water continues to help integrate
social and political groups. Treaties among the European countries over the Rhine
and Danube Rivers laid the foundation of the present European Union. Water in
general, and rivers in particular, have been seen as the source for nation and state
building in the past. Scarcity of water, need to control water, is an important input
in joint human construction. Dynamic cultures and great civilisations have grown
across river resources, many of which are now the potential hot spots. Thus, water
also brings people together [1316].
In this century, many agreements have been drawn up in the industrialised world
to share the international river basins, but it has not been the same with the
developing countries. At present, there are more than three hundred treaties that
exclusively address the sharing and management issue of international rivers. Peter
Rogers nds two-thirds of the total treaties that are signed between countries on
water issues are in Europe and North America [17]. Europe, for instance, has four
river basins shared by four or more countries, but these are regulated by 175 treaties,
while in Africa 12 river basins are shared by four or more nations with only 34
treaties. In Asia (includes Middle East), ve river basins are shared by four or more
countries but they are regulated by only 31 treaties. Europe leads among other conti-
nents in establishing joint institutional mechanisms to facilitate sharing of inter-
771A. Swain / Futures 33 (2001) 769781
national rivers. The 1978 UN Study Register of International Rivers lists 48 joint
river commissions in Europe, 23 in the Americas, 10 in Africa and 9 in Asia. Lack of
international agreement or institutional arrangement over shared fresh water systems
increases the potential for dispute.
Water availability is highly erratic in different regions of the world. Nearly 80%
of the total global runoff is concentrated in the North, which has a relatively small
population. In the tropical and arid areas, where most of the world population lives,
the water situation is complicated by massive population growth and rapid urbanis-
ation. Socio-economic development is linked to industrialisation and urbanisation,
which increases the water requirements and affects its quality. Uneven distribution,
seasonal availability and greater evaporation exacerbate the water scarcity further in
these regions. In countries like India, the rainfall takes place only for four months
(June to September) in the monsoon period. About 80% of riversannual run-off
passes through these four monsoon months. This rainfall also varies greatly from
the desert areas of Rajasthan to the hills of the North-East. Jaisalmer of Rajasthan
gets a paltry 0.2 meter annual rainfall while Cherapunji in Meghalaya gets not less
than 11 meters [18]. In the arid and semi-arid regions, unlike temperate regions of
the North, the rainfall evaporation is too high. In Southern Africa, an average of
85% of annual rainfall is evaporated. The situation in the Middle East and North
Africa is much worse.
Moreover, the developing countries are primarily agricultural economies. To pro-
vide food to the growing population and also to achieve food security, these countries
use proportionately more water in the agricultural sector than in the industrial sector.
The need of water differs considerably from agricultural production to industrial
production. Much of the water withdrawn for industrial purposes returns to the natu-
ral water systems for the use of other consumers. But this is not the same for water
withdrawal to support the agricultural sector. If we take purely consumptive use of
water into account, then agriculture consumes 86.9%, while the share of the industry
is only 3.8% of the worlds water withdrawal. In the case of industry, the withdrawn
waters come back to their source after cooling the plant, so the cause of the concern
is not about the increasing volume of water withdrawn, but the discharge of heated
and polluted water back into the system. In the industrialised world, where the per
capita water availability is relatively abundant, the water supply is polluted by vari-
ous human activities. Thus in the developed countries, unlike their poorer counter-
parts, the water quality not the quantity is the major issue [19].
Disputes over international river water sharing usually come up among the riparian
states on three grounds: quantity, quality and control. The incompatibility on the last
two issues (quality and control) are relatively easier to address with some nancial
and technical support. The quality issue, which had been the cause of disagreement
among the riparian states in Europes Rhine and North Americas Colorado River
in the past, has resulted in peaceful and cooperative arrangement. The disagreement
over controlling Columbia River and Parana River in the water abundant Americas
has been settled for some time. The dispute between Hungary and Slovakia over the
control of the Danube has been settled recently by the International Court of Justice.
Water is not easily replaced, so the problem of its reduced quantity is more difcult
772 A. Swain / Futures 33 (2001) 769781
to address. The quantity factor in many cases threatens to destroy existing cooperat-
ive arrangements and forces the parties to take conicting positions. The quantity
issue of river water has brought many riparian states into disputes in the arid regions
of Asia and Africa. The riparian disputes over international riversZambezi,
Mekong, Nile, Jordan, EuphratesTigris, and Gangesin these two continents are
primarily on quantity issue. However, these disputes have not yet led to water wars
as envisaged by the experts. The riparian countries of many of these international
rivers, at least for the time being, have opted for water sharing arrangements. In the
1990s, there have been riparian agreements on the Zambezi, Mekong, Jordan and
Ganges rivers. The existing agreements on the sharing of the Nile and Euphrates
Tigris river water have been going through severe stress, but they are still holding
up. Usually, the riparian countries have agreed to settle their dispute over the quantity
issue when there is a hope for further exploitation of the river resource.
2. Agreements in the pursuit of more water
An agreement can be possible among the contending riparian states over the quan-
tity allocation of a river resource, when there is enough unused water left in the
river. Agreement on the Indus River system became a possibility in 1960 between
two traditional rivals, India and Pakistan, because nearly 80% of the river water was
running into Arabian Sea without being used by either of the basin countries. When
the then World Bank President Eugene Black, being backed by his nancial muscles,
got into the negotiator role, India and Pakistan agreed on an important issue for the
rst time. Of course it took nine long years for the World Bank to bring both the
riparian countries into agreement, but it became possible when there was a scope of
exploiting water resource further with the help of new projects.
The approach of the 1960 Agreement was to increase the amount of water avail-
able to the two parties. This future prospect persuaded the two countries to share
the quantity of the ow and agree to this settlement: the partition of Indus Basin
waters by allocating the three Eastern Riversthe Ravi, Beas, and Sutlejto India,
and the three Western Riversthe Indus, Jhelum, and Chenabto Pakistan. Partition
of the rivers was more acceptable to the countries than joint management, and both
countries got into the business of water exploitation of their respective shares with
the help of Indus Basin Development Fundadministered by the World Bank.
In recent years, the water scarcity has increased very much in the Indus basin.
Both India and Pakistan have almost developed the capacity to get the maximum
use of water resources. The water demand is increasing rapidly within their own
territory. The on-going projects in the upstream sections of the rivers on the Indian
side may affect the water ow to Pakistan and that could cause difculties for the
Indus River Agreement.
One year before the Indus Agreement, another agreement on the sharing of the Nile
River was reached between Egypt and Sudan. The 1959 agreement could become a
possibility due to the large amount of run-off which had remained unallocated by
the 1929 Agreement. From the newly calculated runoff of 84 billion m
of water at
773A. Swain / Futures 33 (2001) 769781
Aswan, Egypt got the right to use 55.5 billion m
and 18.5 billion m
was allotted
to Sudan. The remaining 10 billion m
were reserved for mean annual evaporation
and seepage losses from Lake Nasser behind the High Aswan Dam. The agreement
also included some provisions in regulating the lling of the storage created by the
Aswan Dam.
Lake Nasser created by the High Aswan Dam is one of the largest manmade lakes
in the world with the carrying capacity of 164 billion m
of water. More than 55
million people are directly dependent upon the High Aswan Dam for their water
supply. Without the Aswan, Egypt would undoubtedly have been in dire economic
straits. The water reservoir has brought a signicant increase in the welfare of the
country due to the supply of reliable and adequate water for irrigation, municipal
and industrial use. However, with the increasing water demand in the upstream area
and less availability of unused water, the river has already become a source of serious
tension among the major riparian countries. Ethiopia, the upstream nation which
supplies 86% of water to the Nile, now demands its share. This has brought a serious
challenge to the working of the 1959 arrangement [20].
The increasing riparian demand has also raised doubts about the continuation of
the existing water sharing agreements on the EuphratesTigris river system. The
Euphrates and the Tigris are the two largest rivers in the Middle East. Both rivers
originate from the Anatolian highland regions in Turkey and ow through the Meso-
potamian desert plain in Syria and Iraq. Both the rivers unite in Iraq at Qurna to
form the Shatt al-Arab, which runs into the Gulf. Turkey contributes 98% of the
water ow for the Euphrates and 45% for the Tigris.
Turkey and Syria signed a bilateral agreement in 1987 to share the Euphrates
River. According to the 1987 agreement with Turkey, Syria gets 15.75 km
/s) of water per year from the Euphrates. In spite of bilateral tension, the possibility
of future river water exploitation at the national level brought both the riparian coun-
tries to opt for this arrangement. Since the 1960s, Turkey and Syria have plans
for several large-scale water projects over the TigrisEuphrates. However, Turkeys
massive Southeastern Anatolia (GAP) Project on the EuphratesTigris River has
brought serious doubts to the future of river water developments on the Syrian side.
The relationship between Syria and Turkey took a downward turn after the com-
pletion of the Ataturk Dam in 1990, which is a part of the GAPproject and the
ninth largest dam on the globe. The lling up of the lake behind this massive dam
caused a 75% drop in the downstream water supply for an entire month. The GAP
is made up of 13 sub-projects, which aim to construct 22 dams including the massive
Ataturk Dam. Seven of these sub-projects are being undertaken on the Euphrates
River, while the Tigris provides the sites for the other six. Turkey is now building
other dams as part of this huge project. This GAP project has not only strained
relations between Turkey and Syria but also Syrias relations with Iraq.
The April 1990 Agreement between Syria and Iraq at Tunis, regulating allocation
of water at the point where the Euphrates leaves Syria, allots 58% to Iraq and 42%
to Syria. With the decreasing runoff from the Turkish side, Syria may be forced to
reduce the water supply to Iraq. Iraq asks for 700 m
/s of water from the Euphrates
River on the basis of its historical claim. Thus, GAP has become a source of common
774 A. Swain / Futures 33 (2001) 769781
concern for Syria and Iraq, and also a serious future threat to the bilateral water
sharing agreements between Turkey and Syria and also between Syria and Iraq.
The hope for further exploitation has not only brought the agreements on the
Indus, Nile or EuphratesTigris in the past; it has also facilitated agreements in recent
years over some other shared river basins. The 1995 Agreement signed among the
lower Mekong basin countries became a possibility as the slow owing Mekong
River provides a lot of potential for further exploitation (only one dam has been
built in one of the tributaries of the Mekong River in Laos). The Mekong River
consists of six riparian states China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Viet-
nam. However, under the cold war politics, especially under the inuence of the
United States, a combined effort to exploit the river has been promoted since the
1950s for the four lower basin countries, namely Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and
Vietnam. Among them, geographical location puts Thailand in an advantageous pos-
ition compared to the other three lower riparian states of Mekong.
Thailand has an ambition to exploit the river for hydropower and to supply water
for its northeastern part, known as the Korat Plateau water transversion project. These
Thai plans were opposed by the downstream countries especially Vietnam. With the
mediation of the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), a compromise
was nally reached satisfying Thailands requirements. In April 1995, a new statute
was signed by the four lower riparian countries, giving birth to the new Mekong
Commission. However, the non-inclusion of upper riparian statesChina and Myan-
marmay become a spoiler in this cooperative effort to harness the river.
The Zambezi river basin is another example of riparian cooperation due to hope
for further exploitation. The Zambezi passes through eight countries in Southern
Africa before running into the Indian Ocean. Its riparian countries are: Angola, Bots-
wana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Within
these countries a large number of different peoples and sub-groups build much of
their social and economic life around the river. The population of the basin is cur-
rently estimated to be 26.8 million. In several cases, development objectives of differ-
ent riparian countries are based on mutually exclusive claims for water from the
Zambezi basin. Countries like Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and even South Africa
have some plans for large scale withdrawal from the Zambezi.
Zimbabwe withdraws water from Zambezi River for its coal-red Huangwe ther-
mal station despite the fact that Zambia has surplus hydropower. There is also tension
over the Zambezi River resources due to Zimbabwes plan to pipe water from the
Zambezi (the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project) to its drought affected second
city, Bulawayo. Furthermore, the intensication of irrigated agriculture in Zimbabwe
has reduced the water supply to downstream Mozambique. The threat to Mozam-
biques water supply is not only limited to Zambia or Zimbabwes water diversion
from Zambezi. South Africa has a large water diversion plan, the Zambezi Aqueduct,
to meet its water scarcity situation. South Africa intends to withdraw water over
1200 km from the Zambezi River at Kazungula through Botswana to Pretoria.
In spite of all these individual water withdrawal plans, there are also signs of
increasing cooperation among the basin countries to develop Zambezi on a joint
basis. Several projects have recently been undertaken for improved cooperation
775A. Swain / Futures 33 (2001) 769781
among the Zambezi basin countries. A major step towards the better management
of the regional river has been taken up by the South African Development Com-
munity (SADC). In 1995, the SADC (all the Zambezi basin states are the members
of this organisation) signed a protocol establishing basic principles for the sharing
of the regions water resources. The 1995 SADC Protocol on Shared Water Course
Systems declares respect for the principle of equitable utilisation and aims to promote
exchange of information, and to maintain a balance between development and protec-
tion of the environment (Art. 2). Articles 3, 4 and 5 of the Protocol prescribe the
formation of river basin organisations, and Art. 7 bestows the power of dispute
adjudication to the SADC tribunal. In November 1995, a meeting of regional water
ministers was convened by SADC at Pretoria to explore opportunities for greater
cooperation. The Pretoria meeting led to establishment of a Water Sector within
SADC in August 1996, which is based in Lesotho.
Coinciding with the formation of the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), the Zam-
bezi Action Plan (ZACPLAN) was drawn up in 1987 by the Zambezi basin states
with UNEP support. It aims to ensure sustainable utilisation of Zambezi water
resources within a sound and balanced environment. The involvement of large num-
ber of actors in this scheme has posed problems in execution. In spite of the slow
progress, two ZACPLAN projects (ZACPRO 2) are presently being considered.
ZACPRO 2 develops regional legislation and proposes the establishment of a river
basin commission (ZAMCOM). The SADC Protocol of 1995 is the product of ZAC-
PRO 2. ZACPRO 6 is being executed by the ZRA, which works for a joint water
resources management proposal for the whole river basin.
The water scarcity in all these river basins has brought the riparian countries to
come to the negotiation table rather than waging war against each other. The possi-
bility of further extraction of water resources has been the attraction for the nego-
tiated settlement. However, there are very few international rivers left, which can
provide a certain hope for feasible further exploitation. Most of the rivers have been
exploited to a large extent. Few other feasible water projects bear massive economic
and environmental cost. Local politics and environmentalists have also brought dif-
culty to the engineering solution to the water scarcity problem. To overcome this,
South Asia has recently developed a new ingenuity.
3. Manipulation of river runoff data to reach a settlement
When there is not enough water in the river to meet the demands of the contending
riparian states, and almost all the feasible water projects on the river have been
already undertaken, then to reach an agreement over the sharing dispute some may
take the help of manipulating the river runoff data. The agreement reached between
India and Bangladesh in 1996 over the sharing of the Ganges River is one of the
examples of this ingenuity. Since 1975 India and Bangladesh were in disagreement
over the sharing of the Ganges water. The quintessence of the complications lies in
sharing the Ganges water for the ve dry season months (JanuaryMay). During the
rest of the year, there is sufcient water in the river for India and Bangladesh. But,
776 A. Swain / Futures 33 (2001) 769781
in the dry seasons, the average minimum discharge at Farakka Barrage in 1975 was
estimated at only 55,000 ft
/s, whereas India wants to divert 40,000 ft
/s from it for
the Calcutta port [21].
Both countries had devised some working agreements from 1977 to 1988 to share
the water at Farakka. The gradual decrease in the upstream ow hindered further
agreement for 8 years. In December 1996, the Prime Ministers of India and Bangla-
desh signed the Ganges River water sharing agreement again. Instead of their usual
short-term approach to share the dry season ow at Farakka barrage, they went on
this time for 30 yearsarrangement. However, this was basically a political agree-
ment that had disregarded the real hydrological ow of the river. The agreement has
been based on the river ow average of 1949 to 1988, but the real ow at Farakka
in the 1990s is much less than that.
The Bangladeshi experts were very much aware of the amount of ow at Farakka
in the dry seasons. In 1993, when they had complained of receiving only 9000 ft
of supply at Hardinge Bridge, they could have easily calculated the ow at Farakka
to 49,000 ft
/s as the Farakka diversion canals maximum carrying capacity is 40,000
/s. In the following years, Bangladesh gave the gures of water available at Hard-
inge Bridge (just downstream of the Farakka Barrage) as being close to 10,000 ft
The basic arithmetic was overlooked when the political leaders of both countries
decided to sign the agreement on the basis of an ideal minimum gure of 60,000
/s. It was a political compulsion for the Bangladesh Prime Minister to get the
agreement with the Indians. The very rst year (1997 dry season) of the treaty wit-
nessed a very low run-off in the river Ganges. Fortunately, in 1998 the situation
improved thanks to good weather, and the dry season run-off was enough to fulll
the treaty requirement.
This ingenuity has become a South Asian specialty. The manipulation of river
run-off data has also brought some agreements among the states within the Indian
Federation over their shared rivers (Yamuna, Krishna, Cauvery etc.). Following this
method, an agreement on quantity issue can be achieved but it might not last long
in a democratic society where it can come under scrutiny from various independent
quarters. But, the signing of an agreement has several advantages. It puts pressure
on the ruling elites to work for increasing the river ow in order to keep the agree-
ment going. Moreover, the agreement also helps to depoliticise the issue to a certain
extent by pushing the river sharing dispute out of the front pages of the newspapers.
This can help the political leadership of the riparian countries to take new initiatives
in order to augment the river ow.
4. Need for a positive approach
Signing of a sharing agreement might solve the water scarcity problem for a short
period of time, but it does not provide a long-term solution. The recent threats to
the survival of the Indus River Agreement of 1960, the Nile River Agreement of
1959 and the Euphrates River Agreement of 1987 conrm this apprehension. For a
fruitful and long lasting cooperation on international rivers, there is a need for a
comprehensive approach to address the water scarcity issue in the river basin.
777A. Swain / Futures 33 (2001) 769781
The efforts to nd an internationally acceptable formula for sharing international
rivers have not proven to be completely successful yet. However, with some help
from the international institutions, the riparian countries of some of the international
rivers are coming together to get the maximum benet of the common water. These
cooperative approaches of the riparian states need to be translated into a comprehen-
sive and systematic effort. To nd a lasting solution to the quantity question of the
sharing of international rivers, the water issue needs to be addressed from both the
demand side as well as the supply side. Otherwise, in the face of increasing water
scarcity, many of the river water sharing arrangements will face difculty in holding
together for long. And that might pave the way for water wars.
4.1. Managing the supply side of the water scarcity
The development of rivers occurs most optimally on the basin level. The whole
international river basin needs to be regarded as an economic unit irrespective of state
boundaries. Under an integrated water development programme, dam and storage are
to be located at the best possible places and the benets are to be used by the riparian
states in need of those benets. Such effort can bring reciprocal advantages, such
as right to submerge upstream territories in return for sharing hydropower or pro-
vision of water to one state and electricity to another.
Formation of a river basin organisation encourages international collaboration and
assistance for river water development. As constraints on the resource grow, the
opportunity costs for not cooperating are becoming clearer. The increasing scarcity
of available fresh water per capita and lack of nancial strength in the developing
countries may gradually encourage the basin countries to cooperate in order to achi-
eve optimal benet from the river. Basin-based development of irrigation, hydro-
power, water diversion or ood control projects can provide riparian countries greater
net benets than they could have achieved through purely state-centric development.
Incentives for riparian cooperation for basin level development can come from inter-
national nancial institutions and bilateral aid programmes. The lenders and donors
can play a facilitator role in encouraging collaborative efforts among the basin states.
International nancial institutions may even become critical in encouraging and lead-
ing new incentives. These actors have resources that can be incentives for
cooperation even in the face of available weak legal sanctions [22].
Flexibility is central to the successful negotiation of basin-based agreement on
international rivers. To achieve riparian cooperation at the basin level, the riparian
states need to be exible while negotiating with each other. Without that, they will
fail to overcome their vision of narrow state centric development path. Usually, the
ordinary bureaucrats in the foreign ministries handle the international river sharing
issues. Lack of interest and understanding on their part often leads to relatively long
negotiations and unsuccessful resolutions [23]. An understanding of the issue of con-
tention is necessary for the negotiators to nd a way for conict resolution. Water
resource management is a complex and also continuously changing process [24]. For
the regular foreign ministry ofcials, it is not easy to grasp the complexity of the
issue involved. Thus, there is a need to entrust the water negotiation to those who
778 A. Swain / Futures 33 (2001) 769781
can cope with such rapid changes as well as understand conceptual, methodological
and institutional changes. Besides that, the help of hydro-diplomacymay be taken
to clear the path for riparian cooperation.
When political leadership takes an active interest in the outcome of the inter-
national river water issue, there is a greater probability of arriving at a speedy agree-
ment. Political interest may help to overcome the bureaucratic delays in order to nd
a common agreement. Without support from the people, it is difcult to implement
any elite driven river sharing arrangement. For the effective implementation of the
agreement, there is a need to accentuate the use of public involvement and partici-
pation in water resources planning [25].
4.2. Restricting the demand for water
Only through better supply management, can the water scarcity issue be effectively
addressed. There is a need to restrict and regularise the demand for the increasingly
scarce water resource. The common notion that water is free and that the use of
water in a particular economic or social activity could be pursued without concern
is no longer acceptable. To reduce the incompatibility on the water sharing issue,
the help of economic measures is very much needed. The pricing of water will create
quantity restrictions for the competing users. It will force consumers to use water
more efciently than if there was no price tag on it.
In recent years, the construction of water projects has demanded greater invest-
ment. This is partly due to fact that the new sites for dams and storages are increas-
ingly available only at greater economic and environmental cost. It is not only the
construction of the projects, but also the proper management of the water storage
and its distribution that is needed for efcient use of water. The water distribution
systems, particularly in the developing countries, are not self-sustaining, because the
price charged for the water has been kept very low. This huge costbenet difference
has reduced the performance of many irrigation and water distribution systems.
Water disappears from city systems, mainly in the developing countries from theft,
inadequate metering and inaccurate billing. The illegal spaghetti connectionsin
many slum and squatter areas is quite common. Thus, the enactment of pricing the
water is not sufcient in itself. There is a need to make effective institutional arrange-
ments to collect a water tax. In the state of Bihar in India, the government spent
three times more money in collecting water revenue in 1996 than the actual tax
collected from the farmers. The law must be simple but strong enough to compel
the people to pay their tax. Water Courts may be created to facilitate speedy justice
on disagreement over water sharing and also disputes over water taxation. By
strengthening institutions, a single chain of authority is required to carry out pol-
icymaking, planning and management of water issues. Planning needs to be coordi-
nated, making it strategic and holistic [26].
Pricing of water is not a politically sound act for the leaders of the developing
countries. For a politician, political interest is invariably more important than eco-
nomics or environment. Taxing the water might cost the political leaders their major
vote banks. Farmers constitute the most important voting bloc in the South. Thus,
779A. Swain / Futures 33 (2001) 769781
there is a need to distance politics from technical, economic and environmental cri-
teria in decision making. Greater awareness is needed about the water scarcity among
the common people, which can help to depoliticise the water pricing to a large extent.
Moreover, with the price, people should be offered some tangible benets. Reliable
and timely water supply, universal applicability of the rules and regulations under
a democratic and efcient system, and rational allocation of water among various
competing sectors are some of the prerequisites for the smooth implementation of
water pricing.
There is also an urgent need to minimise water use, particularly in the sector that
uses water the mostagriculture. This can be achieved through the intelligent use
of virtual water.Virtual watermeans the agricultural products that have been
produced with large amounts of water.
Stopping the production of water intensive
agricultural products for export purposes and importing water intensive agricultural
products from water abundant regions would decrease water demands in water scarce
countries. Countries in Northern Africa use their scarce water resource for producing
agricultural products like pepper and tomato in order to export to water afuent
regions in Europe. Israel exports oranges to Europe by using its meagre water supply.
Some Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia spend massive resources to produce
wheat in the desert, which they can easily import from water abundant regions at a
much cheaper price.
For many developing countries, achieving self-sufciency in food production is
the most important national agenda. There is nothing wrong in achieving this. It
provides food security as well as strengthens the legitimacy of the state and regime.
But self-sufciency in food production is always an on-going struggle in order to
satisfy the increasing demand of the growing population. Moreover, in most cases,
temporary and limited self-sufciency comes with a high unsustainable use of scarce
water resource. The belief that a particular country must be responsible for its own
food production impedes a rational solution to the problem of real and lasting food
security. As Lundqvist and Gleick argue the goal must be a world that grows suf-
cient food to meet the worlds needs, somewhere, and the institutions and mech-
anisms to deliver that food where it is needed.[27]. With the help of trade and aid,
mechanisms need to be developed to shift poor water-short countries away from
water-intensive agricultural production.
5. Facing the future
Population growth results in a declining supply of fresh water per person. The
Worldwatch Institute estimates that due to population growth alone, the amount per
capita water availability from the hydrological cycle will fall by 73% between 1950
and 2050 [28]. Rapid population growth and striving for economic development has
Professor Tony Allan of School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London has coined the
term virtual water.
780 A. Swain / Futures 33 (2001) 769781
severely stressed natural renewable resources, so much so that fresh water is begin-
ning to have a scarcity value and emotional intensity as exists for the fossil fuel.
Countries have already started to frame the issue of water scarcity in national security
terms. However, framing the issue as a national concern will in most cases make it
impossible to resolve the issue [29]. The sheer size and nature of this problem
demands solutions that go beyond the purview of a particular state or government.
Managing water effectively requires consideration of all the interacting actors.
Multilateral water basins are mostly governed by bilateral arrangements. This has
raised the concern of free riding behaviour. Decisions made by one riparian or some
of the riparians likely will fail to serve the interests of non-participating riparians
due to conicting priorities of nations [30]. Thus, principles for comprehensive basin
based water management and planning must be adopted. In order to face the future,
there is an urgent need for water allocation priorities and mechanisms to derive
optimum benet from the available water resources in the world.
Many regions are using virtually all of the river ow to meet their water demand.
The Colorado River in America, the Yellow River in China and the Nile River in
Africa have very little water left when they reach the sea. Not only surface water,
there is also growing pressure on the groundwater as well. Several major agricultural
regions are extracting groundwater faster than it is recharged by rainfall. Due to this
unsustainable practice, the water source might dry up or become too expensive to
pump. It is not the water quantity alone; the poor quality of fresh water resources
is also increasingly bringing hazards to a large portion of the world population.
To meet the increased water demands, crucial decisions need to be taken about
water and the way it is to be used. Rather than continuing to search for more and
more water to meet anticipated demand, it is time to decide what to do with the
amounts that can be feasibly and sustainably developed. This perceptual change can
help to avoid the water warsand instead develop cooperation over the sharing of
international rivers.
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... Moreover, the lives of more than 40 percent of the world's population depend on international rivers. In Turkmenistan, this is 100 percent, Egypt 97 percent, the Netherlands 89 percent, Pakistan 80 percent, Sudan 77 percent, and Iraq 66 percent (Swain, 2001). Elsewhere in the world, the crisis in the arid and semi-arid region of Western Asia is far more dangerous and serious than elsewhere. ...
... Since water is no substitute for oil, some analysts have predicted that the next century's war will be over water resources, not over oil reserves (Bulloch and Derwish, 1993;Engleman and Leroy, 1995;Kuchukmohammatlou, 2009;Ohlsson, 1995;Seabright, 1997;Swain, 2001;Zeitoun, 2007). For example, Smith (1995) believes that there is no place in the world that, like Central Asia, is prone to conflict over water resources. ...
... For example, Smith (1995) believes that there is no place in the world that, like Central Asia, is prone to conflict over water resources. However, many believe that water has rarely been a major cause of war and violence in the present century (Barnaby, 2009;Kauffmanet et al., 1997;Swain, 2001;Wolf, 1998;Yoff et al., 2003). ...
With the declining availability of available water resources, the number and seriousness of water disputes between countries located in shared watersheds have increased. Some analysts have predicted that the next century will witness a war on water resources. The dramatic increase in water consumption and the scarcity of water resources have led many countries to take advantage of international rivers and shared water resources. It is, therefore, predicted that the water shortage crisis would be a critical factor in future tensions and conflicts in the world. Lack of familiarity with international water laws and different principles in the exploitation of globally shared water resources can significantly increase the tensions and conflicts between cross-border water resources countries. The main challenge of disputes, especially in arid and semi-arid regions, is how to divide the water resources. International rules and regulations on transboundary water resources include Helsinki Rules, European Water Convention, United Nations Water Convention in 1997, and Berlin Water Resources Rules. This article analyzes international documents and information, existing international laws on transboundary waters, as well as existing water treaties between countries.
... Access, demand, usage, and management of trans-boundary water are complex due to multiplicity of political, social, and jurisdictional institutions involved, as well as the existence of various physical, ecological, and biogeochemical scales (Choudhury and Islam 2015;Petersen-Perlman et al. 2017). Swain (2001) argued that reaching successful agreements on trans-boundary water is an elusive task. Giordano and Wolf (2003) reported on the past decade's developments on international trans-boundary water management at the regional and basin scales. ...
... Risk of international conflicts exists between upstream and downstream countries, especially in the Middle East and Africa (Gleditsch et al. 2004). Swain (2001) reported that most trans-boundary water agreements have been reached in developed countries of Europe and North America. On the other hand, developing countries, prominently in Africa, have not enjoyed the same success. ...
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Diplomacy is the art and skill of managing international relations through negotiations between representatives of states or agencies. Water diplomacy is an innovative approach and strategic tool to resolve water issues at local and trans-boundary scales when water conflicts rise in sharing water resources. Complex water supply and sharing issues arise from the existence of multiple stakeholders such as agriculture, industry, urban and domestic users, environmental use, and others competing for scarce water. Water diplomacy may contribute to solving a variety of water conflicts and in this sense is a tool for sustainable water resources management. This paper presents a review of water diplomacy focusing on various themes such as the vitality of water as a resource, virtual water, water conflicts, international water law, and management of trans-boundary waters that are reviewed in this paper in the context of searching for cogent water diplomacy strategies. This work’s findings show that conflicts about trans-boundary waters are more common in developing countries than in developed countries. The latter countries have developed trans-boundary agreements, which may serve as guidelines to developing countries in some cases. Virtual water may prevent future water conflicts by reducing water demand and water stresses and providing suitable conditions for negotiation between countries. Capacity building, training in cooperation, and negotiation are means of averting water conflicts.
... Context, complexity, and contingency are terms that are now in frequent use in addressing TRB issues. There are multiple schools of thought and scholarship (Wolf, 1999;Swain, 2001;Salman, 2007); however, there appears to be a void of actionable ideas on what to do and how. This paper will look at supply-demand mismatch as a key attribute leading to the complexity of TRB management. ...
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The question of how to govern and manage transboundary river basin for competing and often conflicting demands due to limited supplies continues to be an issue of concern, conflict, and cooperation. A key novelty of this paper is the use of the Water Diplomacy Framework (WDF) to address supply-demand mismatch using the notion of collaborative problem-solving and joint fact-finding. It builds on innovative applications of game-theoretic approaches and uses equity and sustainability as guiding principles to address the supply-demand mismatch. Five different bankruptcy methods (net benefit ranges between US$17,462M to US$18,201M) and the Nash Bargaining Solution (net benefit ranges between US$18,132M to US$19,216M) are used to resolve supply-demand mismatch in the Indus basin among four provinces within Pakistan. The maximum total benefit generated from the Nash Bargaining Solution is 5.5% higher compared to the best bankruptcy method. Moving from the non-cooperative and rule-based bankruptcy methods to the Nash Bargaining Solutions provided increased benefit for all stakeholders. Reallocation of these increased benefits among the four provinces is done by applying the Nash Bargaining Solutions for homogenous and heterogeneous weights. These findings suggest that aspects of WDF – cooperative problem-solving approaches involving joint fact-finding and exploring different options – has the potential to simultaneously resolve supply-demand mismatch and generate more benefits for all stakeholders.
... However, scholarly attempts to determine whether water scarcity in transboundary river basins led to war between states demonstrated that, in fact, the converse was true. River disputes were, in the majority of cases, addressed by cooperative agreements (Swain, 2001). Countries have not gone to war over water (Barnaby, 2009), although there is evidence of cross-border skirmishes among smaller groups related to water scarcity. ...
Technical Report
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This report looks at the evidence on the links between violent conflict and climate-related hazards, disasters and natural resources. It explores the relationship between conflict and short-term, extreme weather events (such as tropical storms), and other natural disasters (such as earthquakes) that can trigger humanitarian disasters. It also considers slow-onset and long-term changes in natural resources related to the climate (such as drought and land degradation), their impacts on people and livelihoods, and the incidence of violent conflict. The potential to adapt and apply DFID’s (2016) Building Stability Framework to donor programming in natural resource-scarce environments, including in climate-related projects and programmes, is examined. The framework focuses on fair power structures, effective and legitimate institutions, inclusive economic development and curbing illicit economies, conflict resolution mechanisms and a supportive regional environment. Each of these dimensions is explored in the report through the prism of climate and natural resources.
... Therefore, many hydropolitical tensions and conflicts around the world might arise from water scarcity and water quality. Indeed, with climate change, arid and semi-arid regions of the world already face difficulties to meet the rapidly increasing water demand for more than a decade (Swain, 2001). A recent study (De Stefano et al., 2017) reveals that very high risk of potential hydropolitical tension exists for instance between China and Vietnam (Bei Jiang/Hsi basin), Lesotho and South Africa (Thukela basin), Colombia and Ecuador (Mira basin) and even between countries within the European Union. ...
Wastewater is a significant environmental and public health concern which management is a constant challenge since antiquity. Wastewater research has increased exponentially over the last decades. This paper provides a global overview of the exponentially increasing wastewater research in order to identify current challenges and paradigm shifts. Besides households, hospitals and typical industries, other sources of wastewater appear due to emerging activities like hydraulic fracturing. While the composition of wastewater needs constant reassessment to identify contaminants of interest, the comprehensive chemical and toxicological analysis remains one of the main challenges in wastewater research. Moreover, recent changes in the public perception of wastewater has led to several paradigm shifts: i) water reuse considering wastewater as a water resource rather than a hazardous waste, ii) wastewater-based epidemiology considering wastewater as a source of information regarding the overall health of a population through the analysis of specific biomarkers, iii) circular economy through the implementation of treatment processes aiming at harvesting valuable components such as precious metals or producing valuable goods such as biofuel. However, wastewater research should also address social challenges such as the public acceptance of water reuse or the access to basic sanitation that is not available for nearly a third of the world population.
Accurate assessment of sustainable water resources utilization (SWRU) is one of the basis for alleviating the growing human-water conflict. However, there are some unavoidable defects in previous research, such as poor holistic considerations, subjectivity in judgment process and limited methodological applicability. Therefore, after determining the triple attributes of SWRU (i.e., fairness, efficiency and security), Gini coefficient, data envelopment analysis (DEA) technique and water ecological footprint (WEF) model were used to establish water resources fairness index (WFI), water resources efficiency index (WEI) and water resources ecological security index (WESI). The three indices were then integrated into water resources sustainable utilization index (WSUI) with Euclidean distance, thus forming the SWRU quantification method system, which can effectively overcome the above shortcomings. Finally, the temporal and spatial characteristics of SWRU during 2005-2019 were diagnosed in 31 provinces and cities of China. Results reveal that: (1) Over half of provinces have a mismatch between population and water distribution, especially in the north, where the contradiction of more people and less water is chronic; (2) The decline in water resources efficiency has not attracted sufficient attention for a long time; (3) WESI in the south was below threshold 1 and water resources ecology is safe, while the northern regions are basically at an insecure level; (4) WSUI multi-year average was within [0.44, 0.51] in China, which has been at relatively unsustainable level, and low water resources efficiency is the most prominent factor limiting SWRU. These findings can provide scientific reference for improving the sustainable utilization of regional water resources.
International forecasting and simulation is a study that summarizes research, in a shortened and integrated version. The thematic scope concerns the basic terminology and methodological issues of forecasts and the forecasting process itself, forecasting institutions and the final product, i.e. international forecasts. The main goal is to present and systematize basic knowledge in the field of forecasting in international relations. The book is generally aimed at all those interested in international affairs. However, the author hopes that the publication will also be helpful for researchers and analysts dealing with difficult issues of international forecasting in the field of their scientific research methodologies. The work consists of two parts – theoretical and empirical. The theoretical part includes two chapters. The first chapter begins by discussing the concepts of forecasting and simulation. Next, considerations were made about the place of forecasting in science, pointing out the existing dilemmas in this regard, and also discussed categories, classifications and functions of forecasting and simulation. The second chapter presents the main elements of the forecast and the phases of the forecasting process. Most space was devoted to the presentation of the most important methods of forecasting in international relations, not limiting itself only to discussing them, but also assessing their usefulness for formulating international forecasts. In the third chapter, which is of an empirical nature, the selected forecasting institutions are first discussed according to the division applied into typically research, university, governmental, international and private institutions. This classification is of a contractual nature, but corresponds to the basic functions performed by individual institutions. In the further part of this chapter, the most important – according to the author – ecological, demographic and political forecasts are presented, focusing on discussing the main consequences of their possible implementation for international relations.
Water-related conflict chronology can be grouped around two broad sets of ideas: On the one hand is material-related conflict such as water stress and under-development; while on the other is management-related conflict including state-failure and lack of governance. In line with the latter form of conflict, this paper gives a specific consideration to the three types of causal factors looming with the potential for conflict over the Nile basin: Political tensions among stakeholders, lack of all-inclusive agreement on management of the Nile water, and states' unilateral actions. By identifying these causal factors, this study limits itself to focus on the initial phase of conflict resolutions, that is diagnosing sources to select some aspects of perceived reality and make them more salient in the methodological context. Based on Johan Galtung's theoretical approaches on conflict dynamics, the paper explores two areas that are lacking in current literature. It accounts for the sources of conflict over the Nile basin hinging on three variables, while mapping the nature of the ongoing negotiation process around Ethiopia's "Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam" construction. This process is distributive in form and offers a collaborative (win-win) form of negotiations to cement the latter and to redress current predicaments.
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Management of international water resources has not received adequate attention in the recent past, even though such bodies are often the last major source of water available for development. International organizations have generally tended to shy away from these complex issues because of their political sensitivity. Currently even a reliable picture of the extent and magnitude of the problem is unknown. This ‘softly, softly’ approach has to change. This paper objectively reviews some of the major developments on this increasingly critical issue during the past two decades.
The scarcity and pollution of fresh water resources have already become a source of serious concern in many parts of the world. International rivers, being the major carriers of the fresh water for human consumption, need special attention. The cooperative management of these shared rivers not only leads to better and optimal use of the available fresh water but may also help to avoid the potential water conflicts and to foster regional cooperation. New international legal principles are being developed to address the transboundary river-sharing issues. Although this chapter accepts the need for a universal legal framework, it advocates the promotion of regional management of international rivers. The existing differences in the perception, use and availability of fresh water at the regional level are discussed to support this argument. The regional organizations are needed to address the sharing issues of the common rivers in their respective regions. In the absence of any effective regional organization, the formation of joint river commissions should be encouraged as a prelude to basin-based cooperation.
Effective regimes for cooperation in the management of international water resources are important because water is often scarce, and its efficient provision and use is essential to the development of poor countries. The purpose of this paper is to develop and apply an analytical framework for evaluating the problem of international cooperation in the management of international water resources. Section two presents three case studies, the Columbia River, the Indus and the River Rhine. Section three develops a theory of international cooperation applied to water and section four concludes with some final remarks. -after Author
Many countries that have experienced rapid population growth for several decades are showing signs of demographic fatigue. Overwhelmed by the need to educate children, create jobs, and deal with the environmental effects of population growth, governments faced with a major new threat - such as AIDS or aquifer depletion - often cannot cope. In our demographically divided world, fertility has dropped and population has stabilized or is declining in some countries; but in others where fertility is still high, population is projected to double or even triple before stabilizing. As recent experience with AIDS in Africa shows, some of these high-fertility countries are simply overwhelmed when a new threat appears. While industrial countries have held HIV infection rates among their adult populations to 1% or less, infection rates are as high as 26% of the adult population in some African countries. With their rising mortality trends, more reminiscent of the Dark Ages than the bright millennium so many had hoped for, these countries are falling back to an earlier demographic stage with high death rates and high birth rates, and not growth in population. In examining the stakes involved in potentially adding another 3.3 billion people over the next 50 years, the study calls for immediate expansion of international family planning assistance to the millions of couples who still lack access, and new investment in educating young people, especially women in the Third World to promote a shift to smaller families.
A number of developments have taken place in recent years in the regime of international watercourses at the bilateral, regional and international levels. Those developments prompted the idea of organizing the seminar, with the view of looking at international watercourses as a concept from both an intellectual and operational viewpoint. The structure of this report reflects the organization and design of the seminar that was held on November 3-4, 1997. The first part of the report deals with the regulatory framework for international watercourses. Chapter 1 provides an historical and conceptual context for the regulation and uses of international watercourses. Chapter 2 introduces the UN convention on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses, gives an overview of its provisions and discusses its prospects and pitfalls. Both chapters discuss the controversial areas of the convention, and explain how such controversies and disagreements were addressed. The second part of the report deals with the bank policy for projects on international waterways. Chapter 3 traces the history and evolution of the policy, analyzes its basic concepts and details the inter-relationship between the evolution of the policy and the development of international law in this area. The third part of the report deals with international watercourses and the environment. Chapter 4 presents the strategies adopted recently for protecting the environment of international watercourses in Europe, specially with the challenges posed by the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the resulting expansion of the membershhip of the economic commission for Europe. The chapter reviews and analyzes the recently adopted conventions: the Helsinki convention on the protection and use of transboundary watercourses, and international lakes and the Espoo convention on environmental impact assessment, and highlights the problems and the prospects for those conventions. Chapter 5 traces the environmental problems of the Aral Sea, how they were exacerbated, and discusses the dangers posed by such problems. The chapter discusses the Aral Sea basin program and its objectives, as well as the institutional, legal and financial pre-requisites for implementing the program. Chapter 6 deals with the problems being faced in the management of international water in Africa, with particular emphasis on the Volta Basin, Lake Victoria and the international rivers within SADC. It describes the stresses (water scaricity, drought, watershed and aquatic ecosystems degradation) which have emerged as a result of uncoordinated use of resources, and capacity imbalances within each case, and suggests the lesson that can be learnt from those three case studies. The fourth part of the report deals with conflict resolution of international watercourses. Chapter 7 deals with the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dispute between Hungary and Slovakia over whether or not to build two barrages on the Danube river, and the decision of the International Court of Justice thereon. The chapter describes the considerable extent to which the court has bone towards developing the law in relation to international watercourses and the need to protect the environment. Chapter 8 describes the origins of the dispute between India and Balgladesh over the Ganges river, the previous attempts to resolve the dispute, and the reasons for the failure of such attempts. It reviews and analyzes the provisions of the recently concluded treaty, and discusses the dynamics of implication of the treaty in its first year, and the implications for the future. Chapter 9 traces the roots of the dispute between India and Pakistan over the Indus Basin and describes the role of the World Bank in resolving the dispute and in the conclusion of the Indus Treaty. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the reason for the success of the bank in the Indus Basin. The conclusion underscores the importance of international legal norms, reflected in the UN convention and the various regional and bilateral instruments, in enhancing cooperation and managing conflict over international watercourses. It also argues that these instruments demonstrate a trend towards more comprehensive strategies for managing and protecting international watercourses.
In recent years, significant discussion has focused on the scope and scale of management of international water resources. Some have advocated that since countries’ actions within a basin are interdependent, the management of transboundary water basins should consider the basin as a unit and cooperation should include all riparian countries. However, in practice, multilateral agreements on management of trans-boundary water resources with participation of all riparian countries are rare. This chapter discusses the sources of difficulties in forming international river basin agreements involving all riparian countries. Some countries may prefer a small blocking coalition that does not include all riparian countries. Moreover, coalitions can be formed, dissolved, and re-formed by various groups of countries within a basin. This raises the question of how sensitive the sustainability of agreements is to the size and membership of the coalition? We conclude by looking at past and present experience in the management of international water resources, where cooperation is still limited in scope and scale. The implications of our discussion are that a new concept of cooperative management less ambitious than basin-wide management may be desirable because of practicality considerations.