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Letter: Cross border co-operation will avoid wars over water - Energy And Water Development Corp

Letter: Cross border co-operation will avoid wars over water

Amid heightened geopolitical tensions between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the first production of power from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) (“Ethiopia’s mega-dam starts to generate power”, Report, February 21), it is vital for the international community to enshrine that access to water is an inalienable human right.

While water resource management is often considered to be a sovereign issue, resources are frequently shared across borders. The UN reports that there are 263 so-called transboundary lake and river basins and approximately 300 transboundary aquifers, with 2bn people relying on them for groundwater.

Prudent and inclusive governance is needed. Roughly two-thirds of transboundary rivers lack an adequate co-operative management framework, which should be of pressing concern given the growing vicissitudes created by climate change.

The water, energy and food security nexus remains ever fragile. Geopolitical disputes continue to ebb and flow between riparian countries over the use of water resources for hydroelectric dams, including on the Mekong, Indus, Brahmaputra, Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Water, energy and food security are inextricably linked with geopolitical stability.

Localised issues can ripple through global markets due to spillover effects from trade linkages. For example, Black Sea countries, when facing severe drought in 2010-11, imposed export restrictions on cereal foodstuffs. This put upward pressure on global grain prices which, along with regional water scarcity itself, was a contributing catalyst to the 2011 Arab spring protests.

And while the situation in Ukraine is a multi-faceted conflict that neither lacks flashpoints nor equivocations, the simmering tensions over the North Crimean Canal may well have foreshadowed (but certainly do not justify) Russia’s latest aggression.

Moreover, the current threat of conflict in Ukraine and expected tit-for-tat sanctions on Russia will have broader implications for energy and food security extending beyond Europe’s shores and on to global markets.

As the world retreats from globalisation, embraces protectionism and turns inward in response to a deadly pandemic, it is critical that transboundary governance serves as a backdrop to achieving regional water security.

Mark Eisinger
Rockville, MD, US

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