Monday, September 3, 2012

Water and Conflict

I was reading a recent editorial account of the unforgivable murder of 52 women and children in Kenya over access to water from the Tana River.  The essence of the problem is not at all supply related as most would first suspect - there is water enough for all in the Tana - but that one groups' cattle must traverse another groups' crop lands in order to access that supply.

It's hard to imagine in these day and times, but water seems to be that lightning rod issue that can make grown men insane.  It's especially hard to fathom when the solutions seem so easy - either dedicated and fenced cattle access lanes, or piped water to specified cattle watering areas.  Either of these solutions I think all would agree would have been preferable to the conflict that occurred.  I hope this travesty at the very least results in a workable solution in this rural area where some claim that government has been too slow to respond with too few funds.

It reminded me of several items I've run across of late.  The first is a water conflict site at the Pacific Institute.  If you're interested in water conflicts, this chronology is a wealth of information on documented and referenced water conflicts throughout the world and throughout recorded history.  The site is: Pacific Institute Water Conflict Chronology.  You will note that it goes through 2010, so does not yet include the above incident.

The other item is a more recent State Department Report (reported on in our May/June, 2012 GMD4 Newsletter edition) on the probability of water conflicts in the near future.  There are many high level folks who are getting more worried each year over the possibilities.  

In digesting all this, you will likely find that while water makes some men insane, it makes others remarkably ingenious.  Of course, there always has been a fine line between genius and insanity.  And who among us believes that all the water conflicts have already taken place?  If thirsty monkeys can sacrifice 8 of their own and injure 10 people in a confrontation over delivered water supplies (see number 164 on the list of 225), and 52 people can be killed over the mere access to adequate water, I shudder to think what else is possible as we move into a future with less and less of this vital resource.

Let's hope a constant reminder - represented by the water conflict chronology and all the state department reports - will help us all understand that history is never kind to conflicts of any nature, and to act accordingly.

September 26, 2012 UPDATE:  As often happens, the first reports are the least accurate.  Here is another, later article,  that covers the same incident, and then subsequent clashes.  Unlike the article I cited in my coverage on September 3 (very first link at top), this article cites that lack of water supply is equally at fault.  In either case, these incidents are a sad state of affairs.

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