Will The Next Great War Be Fought Over Water?
The prospect of a war fought over water has loomed on the horizon for decades. But, for most people, a water war still sounds like something that could only happen in the distant future. That may change in a hurry, as we may be on the cusp of the first full-blown water war of the modern era.
Madhya Pradesh, a state in central India, is currently amidst a water shortage so severe that it has led to bloodshed. Climate change has altered rainfall patterns in the region. This, coupled with the fact that water distribution in India is remarkably inequitable (those below the poverty line often have little or no access to municipal sources of clean water), has incited the violence.
Since last year, the amount of rainfall in the region has dropped dramatically. This has caused the levels in natural water sources to plummet at an alarming rate. The result of this is that access to clean drinking water has been shut for many citizens. The poor are the most affected. In some cases, they only have access to municipal water once a week.
This lack of access has forced some people to steal water. This is typically done by illegally tapping into municipal water pipes. These pipes often carry clean water through the slums to richer neighborhoods.
For those who must resort to theft in order to obtain water, the risks are great. The punishment for tampering with municipal pipes is often death. Reports out of India suggest that around a dozen people have been killed this year. Many more have been injured in fights with their neighbors, often over small buckets of water.
Clean Water Facts and Figures
- More than a billion people on earth lack access to safe drinking water
- A child dies every 15 seconds from diseases related to unclean drinking water
- Water consumption rates are growing at more than twice the rate of the human population
- At current rates, more than half the earth's population may not have access to safe water by 2025