Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pre-empting climate conflicts

One of the most often cited areas where climate induced conflict could occur is the Pakistan/India border where the Himalayan glaciers are melting. At today's Senate Commitee on Environment and Public Works hearing, Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, outlined Egypt as a new scenario where climate change and conflict intersect. Today, talks on creating a framework to govern water sharing on the Nile River collapsed. The UPI directly links the strategic situation of the Nile to climate change stating:

Climate change in recent years has reduced rainfall, leading to lower water flows in the Nile and jeopardizing hydraulic projects in several states.

Egypt and neighboring Sudan are the Nile's largest consumers. Egypt, which lies at the end of the river as it flows into the Mediterranean, does not contribute any water to the Nile system.

But it has the largest population -- 80.24 million -- and the greatest military power among the riparian states and thus the highest demand for water. For Cairo, safeguarding the Nile water is a strategic objective.

While India and Pakistan at least have the Indus Water Treaty that's survived multiple wars, the collapse in talks over any legal agreement among all ten countries in the Nile basin underscores how difficult water negotiating agreements already are. Climate change will make it even more difficult to negotiate water treaties that prevent conflict when river flow decreases.

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