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11 Jun RESOURCE USE CONFLICTS-WATER

Upstream withdrawal

FalkenMark, (1986) quotes upstream withdrawal as one of the major causes of water resource use conflicts. Under this, we have cases such as the Jordan river case study, Nile river basin and the Ganges river case studies.

Upstream pollution

Wolf (2007) points out that upstream water disposal can degrade the ware entering downstream countries and thereby leading to conflict. Two good examples are given by the Rhine river basin and the Colorado River basin case studies

International borders

Conflicts can develop where rivers forms international borders. Problems might develop owing to natural processes of erosion and sedimentation, whereby river beds and islands can change their locations, for example the border between former USSR and China, according to an 1860 treaty, drawn along the Thalweg or the Ussuri (Wusu-li) river(the line following the lowest part of the valley). Natural processes of fluvial erosion have since that time led to shifts in Thalweg. Chinese forces crossed the original line in March 1966, leading to severe clash with soviet forces (Macadam et al 1969)

Another case is the portion of border between Iran and Iraq which is formed by the Shah-al-Arabs channel ( the confluent downstream portion of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers) on the basis of the 1937 agreement, frustrations by Iraq over this agreement has been suggested in press reports to be a contributing factor to the then Iraq-Iran war.

According to FalkenMark (1981), in many regions where deep soils or fissured rocks underlies international borders ,ground water have occurred which can result into disputes like disputes over ground water have occurred between France and Germany and also between France and Belgium.

Transboundary River basins

Problems of upstream/downstream water competition are by no means a small one. About fifty countries have seventy five percent or more of their total area falling within international river basin (UN, 1978) and a number of these have severe population problems

According to Windstrand, (1980), in 1973 an estimated 35%-40% of the global population lived in multinational river basins. At least 214 river basins are multinationals, whereby out of these 155 are shared between twocountries, 36 among three countries and the remaining twenty three among four to twelve countries (UN 1978). Indeed, evidence shows that in Africa and Europe, most river basins are multinationals.

Conflicts between countries in multinational river basin differ greatly from one river to another among different climatic zones and among different socio-economic levels of development. Countries maybe sequentially aligned in a river basin, so that one river passes from one country to another or they may be placed in parallel, sharing the river as an international border. In humid regions, flow increases along the river and problems are generally related to water pollution or to water projects with adverse downstream effects. Under arid conditions by contrast, river flow generally decreases along the river owing to evaporation. The competition for water is at its most intense and conflicts are high in arid river basins with rapid population increases (Westing, 1986)

Transboundary aquifers

Aquifers are important water resources in arid regions (particularly in Africa and Middle East). Problems will arise where several countries plan to develop the same aquifer. Indeed this appears to be an imminent problem with the Nubian Sandstone aquifer (UN, 1983). This impressive ground water reservoir (500-1000 metres deep) is shared by four African countries-Egypt, Sudan, Chad and Libya. The aquifer is seen as an important resource by Egypt for agricultural development in its New Valley Project (Charnock, 1985). Libya sees it as the cornerstone in providing water for a huge artificial river planned to be the country’s major artery.

Growth in population

According to Westing (1986), another important cause of water resource use conflicts is growth in population. In fact, there is a wide belief that competition for water rises in direct response to population growth. It is clear that many regions depend for their survival and development on the successful sharing of joint water resources. In some regions most of the waters/rivers are indeed international. When the same region is additionally characterized by rapid population growth for example Africa, rapid development of national water resources is called for. The water competition maybe particularly aggravated in regions of water shortage where countries are striving towards self sufficiency in food production and use are therefore dependent on irrigation, a measure which will increasingly reduce the water resources of downstream countries thus conflicts (Westing, 1986)..



Felix Ooko

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