Conflicts of the future. Water Wars: blue gold is worth more than black
Geopolitics

Conflicts of the future. Water Wars: blue gold is worth more than black

Conflicts of the future: In 2018, a World Bank report spoke of 507 conflicts in the world related to water resources control. While the whole world is focused on energy resources analysis as the main factor in wars, little is said about the water. The scarcity of which could change the destinies of future global conflicts. UNESCO, in a report with the emblematic title The United Nations world water development report 2019. Leaving no one behind, estimated that 2.1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe water and 4.5 billion do not have sanitation safe. Refugees are the weakest category and the most exposed to water crises. The report also states that, from 2015 to 2019, 25.3 million people a year, on average, migrate due to natural disasters. It is clear that, as reiterated by many experts, it is not only the global geopolitical situation that causes migration but also the climate change underway.

Researchers from the Water, Peace, and Security Partnership have presented a detailed map to the United Nations Security Council in which it is noted where conflicts over access to water resources are expected to occur, in the period between June 2020 and May 2021. The Middle East and North Africa are the area most at risk. Regions where, in addition to political and security instability, there is a serious shortage of water. Just think of southern Iraq, which for some years has been facing continuous droughts linked to the construction of large dams in Turkey that limit the water regime of the Tigris and Euphrates. The South-eastern Anatolia Project, planned by the Ankara government, includes, in fact, the construction of a system of 22 dams along the two rivers with the aim of improving the local economy in one of the poorest areas of the country. In mid-July, the Iraqi minister for water resources denounced the severe shortage of water in the north of the country, warning of the dangers that this situation could entail for the stability of Iraq itself.

According to the ministry’s data, the flow of water from Turkey decreased by 50% compared to 2019 and the same decrease was recorded in relation to the low annual rainfall. In addition, some scholars also blame Syria’s civil war on many years of drought. In fact, between 2006 and 2010, Syria experienced the worst drought ever recorded. The water shortage has caused the migration of nearly 2 million farmers to the centers of Aleppo and Damascus, perhaps preparing the ground for the political and social unrest of the years to come. 

Today, the attention is on the ongoing crisis between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia for the Nile waters. Since Herodotus’ time, the Nile was considered as a gift for the importance it has for the Egyptian people. Since 2011, Ethiopia has started a hydroelectric energy production project, building a large dam on the Nile River to promote development and meet the population needs. Also, in terms of energy requirements. 

Despite various unsuccessful attempts to reach an agreement between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan, Addis Ababa began filling the African dam on July 15, without agreements with its counterparts. The Blue Nile, on which construction is proceeding, is one of the major Nile River tributaries, from which Cairo draws more than 90% of its water needs. According to Egypt, the dam endangers the lives of more than 150 million people, Egyptians and Sudanese. Al-Sisi wants to make sure that the construction of GERD does not cause damage to the Egyptian supply. And that its filling takes place gradually. From its side, Ethiopia argues that the hydroelectric project is essential to sustain its rapidly growing economy. It believes that it will favor the development of the entire region.

Addis Ababa, in particular, declares that over 60% of the country is made up of dry land, while Egypt, on the other hand, has groundwater and has access to seawater that it could desalinate. For the moment, mainly for geographical and economic reasons, a war between the two countries is a remote hypothesis. If the Nile flow could not cause a shortage of water in Egypt, the path of dialogue should not work. It is reasonable to think that the Cairo air force could hit the dam in the area upstream of the river, thus trying to stem the problem. If a war occurs, it could cause external powers to enter the field.

Egypt spent last year in military 2200.00 USD Million. Ethiopia invested only € 300 million in defense. However, Addis Ababa is looking to other countries. Ethiopia and France concluded their first military cooperation agreement on March 12, 2019. On July 16, the Turkish foreign minister visited the Ethiopian capital. Turkey is the second-largest foreign investor in Ethiopia after China, with over 150 companies in the country and, therefore, has every interest in having the dam built. However, given the tense relations between Egypt and Turkey in other theatres like Libya there could be an interest by Ankara also in an anti-Egyptian key. Some time ago, al-Sisi had declared that the Egyptian army is one of the most powerful in the region, ready to carry out any mission on its borders or, if necessary, outside. Was it a reference to Libya, or maybe there is more?

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