“Water plays an increasingly important role in our diplomatic and national security interests in [Central and South Asia], and we must ensure that our approach is carefully considered and coordinated across the interagency,” begins a new staff briefing, Avoiding Waters Wars: Water Scarcity and Central Asia’s Growing Importance for Stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan, prepared for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
. “As water demand for food production and electricity generation increases, in part as a result of the quickening pace of climate change, so too must our efforts to provide water security,” write the authors.
The report focuses mainly on Afghanistan and Pakistan but also considers “the interests in the shared waters by India and the neighboring five Central Asian countries – Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan.”
ECSP is cited twice in the report, both from “Water Can Be a Pathway to Peace, Not War,” in ECSP Report 13:
The Navigating Peace Initiative’s Water Conflict and Cooperation Working Group correctly summarized the current state of water use by saying, “water use is shifting to less-traditional sources such as deep fossil aquifers and wastewater reclamation. Conflict, too, is becoming less traditional, driven increasingly by internal or local pressures or, more subtly, by poverty and instability. These changes suggest that tomorrow’s water disputes may look very different from today’s.”And again in breaking down the notion of impending water wars:
Given the important role water plays in Central and South Asia as a primary driver of human insecurity, it is important to recognize that for the most part, the looming threat of so-called “water wars” has not yet come to fruition. Instead, many regions threatened by water scarcity have avoided violent clashes through discussion, compromise, and agreements. This is because “[w]ater – being international, indispensable, and emotional – can serve as a cornerstone for confidence building and a potential entry point for peace.”USAID’s “Changing Glaciers and Hydrology in Asia: Addressing Vulnerabilities to Glacier Melt Impacts,” which was launched here at the Wilson Center last fall, also made an appearance:
Central Asia and India face critical challenges in monitoring glaciers and tracking changes, particularly differences from year to year. As USAID’s report “Changing Glaciers and Hydrology in Asia: Addressing Vulnerabilities to Glacier Melt Impacts” noted, “[t]he review of scientific information about glacier melt in High Asia revealed, first and foremost, a lack of data and information, a lack that hampers attempts to project likely impacts and take action to adapt to changed conditions.” The United States should engage in collaborative glacier monitoring programs and those that develop local or sub-national water monitoring capacity.The report concludes that “water scarcity, coupled with how governments address these challenges,” can either exacerbate conflict or promote cooperation in the region. It’s also worth noting that the authors specifically mention the links between increased water use and growing populations in the region, specifically with regard to India and Pakistan:
With a population already exceeding 1.1 billion people and forecasts indicating continued growth to over 1.5 billion by 2035, India’s demand for water is rising at unprecedented rates.The drive to meet energy and development demands from both countries has led to plans for extensive hydrological projects that could spark tensions between the two over the Indus Waters Treaty (which has withstood four Indo-Pakistani wars).
The authors praise the attention given to the matter thus far by the Obama administration, but they also write that “although it is still too early to determine the impacts of our efforts in the broader region, now is the time to begin evaluating water-related trends” at a more systematic level.
Sources: U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.