Category Archives: Conflicts

War Is Hell, Part 941: The Environment

burning oil fields

In case you missed it, the United Nations’ (UN) International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict was Thursday, Nov. 6. Its point is to educate people about the damaging effects of armed conflict on the environment. Natural resources are often military targets — poisoned wells, torched crops and oil reserves, tainted soil —  and often remain ruined long after the battle is over, compromising ecosystems. The UN General Assembly first declared the day on Nov. 5, 2001, and it has remained not-exactly-famous ever since.

“We must use all of the tools at our disposal, from dialogue and mediation to preventive diplomacy, to keep the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources from fueling and financing armed conflict and destabilizing the fragile foundations of peace,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. So true.

Read more:

International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict –

Event Page – United Nations

What’s the Environmental Impact of Modern War? – The Guardian


Leave a comment

Filed under Conflicts, Environment, Europe, Events, Human rights, Industry, United Nations, Water Resources

Mapping the World’s Most Water-Stressed Countries



Playing with maps can be fun — except when it’s totally depressing.

In adding China Water Risk, an interesting information source, to this blog’s Water Resources page, I was reminded of another one I had already added: World Resources Institute (WRI), which provides a home for Aqueduct’s mapping surveys of water-stressed places. China Water Risk provides a version of WRI’s helpful breakdown of the data and list of 36 most water-stressed countries. So, rather than jumping straight into the mapping tool’s various menus to generate visualizations of data, you can get a bit of an overview of how the tool works and some of its findings.

Aqueduct’s mapping tool, the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, uses 12 indicators to value amounts of water stress, and assigns each country a score of up to 5 points, the high end of the scale for potential water stress. Sixteen countries representing a handful of world regions, such as the Caribbean, the Middle East, and parts of Africa and Asia, achieve a perfect(ly dire) score of 5.0. All 36 countries on the list of the most at risk of water stress rank 4.01 or higher, suffering “extremely high risk.” See the list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Conflicts, Middle East, Research, Sustainability, Water Resources, Water Shortage

Water Shortages and the Threats of War and Terror



The prediction that water will outstrip oil — and every other scarce natural resource — as a factor in global conflict has been around for a long time. After all, without water, everybody and everything dies.  There is no substitute for it. Among water-stressed regions, where is conflict likely to strike, and when? In many places, it’s already happening.

Conflict is widespread and ongoing because it can take many forms besides all-out war. In some areas, competition over water may be at the root of tensions between warring factions, though not the only cause. In certain conflicts, water resources may be military or terrorist targets, either to capture or to destroy as a way of hurting the enemy. Elsewhere, protests over water shortages resulting from perceived mismanagement can erupt in violence. The Pacific Institute studies these issues; the conflict chronology at the link below is especially interesting because it shows the whole gamut of water-related struggles.

A useful backgrounder on water-related conflict can be found in Suzanne Goldenberg’s recent piece for The Guardian, also linked below. It identifies six “regions at risk,” due to extreme drought and/or tension over shared resources: California, Brazil, Middle East (Iran, United Arab Emirates, Jordan), North Africa (Egypt and Ethiopia), South Asia (eastern Pakistan, northern India), and China. Stephen Leahy’s IPS article and Giulio Boccaletti’s op-ed for The Nature Conservancy further fill in the picture and scope of global water (in)security.

Read more:

Why global water shortages pose threat of terror and war – The Guardian

In an increasingly unpredictable world, we must secure nature to secure our water – The Nature Conservancy

Water crisis hitting food, energy — and everything else – IPS

Pacific Institute: water and conflict

Pacific Institute: water conflict chronology

Related posts:

Past, Present and Future: California’s Epic Struggle With Water

Water War? Dam Talks Between Egypt and Ethiopia Falter

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Asia, Conflicts, Drought, Middle East, North America, Research, South America, Water Shortage

Past, Present and Future: California’s Epic Struggle With Water

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Alexis C. Madrigal’s new piece in The Atlantic, which he tweeted is his most ambitious yet, is a good read. It has great descriptions of California’s ongoing, larger-than-life efforts to stay hydrated in a place where nature simply won’t cooperate. The article centers on Gov. Jerry Brown’s $25 billion Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which proposes to dig two tunnels under the entire Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. If built, they’ll be longer than the Chunnel connecting England and France under the English Channel.

Read more:

American Aqueduct: The Great California Water Saga
A $25 billion plan, a small town, and a half-century of wrangling over the most important resource in the biggest state
Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic

Recent related posts:

Serious Water Conservation Requires Layered Approach and Emotional Commitment

California’s State-of-the-State Address: Brown’s Drought Plan in Broad Strokes

Civilization Lost? California’s 500-Year Drought Potential

To the Rescue in California? Solar-Powered Desalination

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Conflicts, Conservation, Dams and Hydropower, Drought, Environment, Groundwater, Industry, North America, Rivers and Watersheds, Technology, Water Shortage

Water War? Dam Talks Between Egypt and Ethiopia Falter


Image: NASA

In 1979, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat said if the country ever again went to war, it would be over water. Egypt’s near-total reliance on the Nile River for water has made for tense relations with other Nile Basin countries at times, and Ethiopia’s current construction of the massive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile tributary, upriver from Egypt, has led to speculation that war could erupt. Some experts say it probably won’t, because Ethiopia has a strong military and Egypt is no longer under the hawkish sway of Hosni Mubarak, but sabres have been rattled.

Read more:

Update: Egyptian PM says dam negotiations are ‘not over’ (Ahram Online)

Bloomberg reports on Ethiopia’s rejection of Egypt’s latest proposal asserting its right to most of the water.

Aljazeera provides background on this dispute, as well as previous clashes over the Nile.

Ahram Online quotes Egyptian official calling Ethiopian claims of dam progress a “media show.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Conflicts, Rivers and Watersheds, Water Shortage