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🗳️ "Could Climate Change Cause More Water Conflicts?"

The Climate Question

Photo by Clay Banks / Unsplash

Hosts: Graihagh Jackson & Neal Razzell
Guests: Samuel Marunga | Editor | BBC Monitoring
Susanne Schmeier | Associate Professor of Water Law and Diplomacy | IHE Delft
Category: 🗳️ Policy

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[2:25] NR: “The World Health Organization says, half the world will live in water stressed areas by 2025.

[3:51] SM: “The big concern with Ethiopia is power. It’s a country of almost 100 million people and it suffers from acute blackouts. And they're thinking around the time when [the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Africa's biggest hydroelectric dam] is complete, it should be able to generate about 6,000 megawatts of power, which is more than enough to supply most of the needs of Ethiopians in urban centers, and also probably export to neighboring countries. […] The other major reason [for building the dam] is a plan by Ethiopia to go into intensive irrigation farming. And that will factor into Ethiopia's food security, and also to help out with neighboring countries, especially Sudan, which has suffered with regular flooding during the rainy season.”

[5:11] SM: “There is a fear in Egypt, there'll be a drastic reduction in its share of the Nile, and so they will not get as much water as they need. […] Egypt relies on the Nile for about 90% of all its freshwater needs.”

[6:28] SM: “There is concern also about rainfall patterns as the climate keeps on changing. So these are fears, especially for Sudan and Egypt, that you cannot guarantee that the Ethiopian Highlands will consistently be able to account for that much water flowing […]. Now, if you put in a dam that is also holding some of that water to generate power, then it just increases that uncertainty. And nobody can conclusively speculate or prospect on how things will pan out in the next few years.”

[9:50] SS: ”I would always like to classify climate change as a threat multiplier. So we do see tensions, disagreements, competition or full fledged conflict even without climate change. So there might be scarcity, there might be competition over water already, because populations have grown, the demand by the economy has been growing, but then climate change comes on top of that. So that just makes planning much more difficult. It leads communities, people and countries to move towards, unfortunately, often a more nationalistic or more self interested way of managing water and that could then be sort of the fuel that's being added to the flames of conflicts that are going on already.”

[10:55] SS: “We actually have quite a developed international regime for water law at both the global level and the specific basin level, which spell out the more general rules of how countries are supposed to use their water resources in order to ensure that they do so in a reasonable manner, as these conventions say. And then these global norms and principles have been translated in many, many basins, into basin specific treaties. However, we also quite often see that either countries are not complying with these treaties, or they are actually in disagreement over how to interpret a certain norm or a certain principle in the treaty, and that itself can trigger disputes.

[13:53] SS: “What's holding countries back from negotiating more, or maybe effectively implementing the ones that they have, is usually more short term interests, such as building a dam will provide more benefits to them, to their constituencies, then taking into consideration the effects on neighboring states. And this typically is a rather short term thinking. Research shows that in the long run, there are a lot of benefits that can be generated from cooperation, be it the multipurpose use of projects, be it coordinated management that also, for example, allows for flood management and things like that. But of course, that's something that requires more long term planning that requires the availability of data and information that's also being shared between the countries. And that combined with nationalist tendencies that we see in quite a few places and dams, especially being symbols often of national development or national pride of a country coming out of poverty and being able to build dams. That I think is what prevents countries from either entering into treaties or actually effectively implementing the ones that they have.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 26 min | 🗓️ 07/04/2021
✅ Time saved: 24 min

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