The Role of Scarce Resources in Bringing About and Sustaining Violent Conflict

The Role of Scarce Resources in Bringing About and Sustaining Violent Conflict

Water and in extent scarce resources have for a long time been asssumed to be the source of various violent conflicts. However, many scholars have gone against this popular belief and stated that instead water has been a source of  cooperation among many countries. According to Chatterjee (2008, pg. 53) shared water and indeed scarce resources do indeed result to tensions, threats and even to some confinedviolence but never to war. He goes on add that these tense “flash points” generally promptthe parties to agree tonegotiations, often ensuingin dialogue and occasionally to especially creative and resilient working arrangements.

This paper will shed light on the popular belief that scarce resources, especially so fresh water play imperative roles in bringing about and sustaining violent conflict between nations. It will illustrate that indeed scarce resources are a source of violent conflict.

One percent of the earths water is accessiblefor human use. However, it is unevenly distributed across the globe.Water unlike otherlimited, consumable resources, is exploitedto driveall facets of society from biologies to economies to aesthetics and religious practice. As water is at the heart of most human activities and is shared between often hostile users and it’s increasingly becoming relatively scarcer year by year, it becomes difficult to come up with alternatives to warfare.

Water is the most essential component for the very existence of life on earth. It is a resource centralto all facetsof a nation’s survival. Its importance is such that it can be the basisfor conflict and war. The scarcity of water especially in an arid and semiarid ecosystemleads to intense and concentratedpolitical pressures often refered to as “water stress” or “water poverty”. According to Chatterjee (2008, pg. 53) the world’s population will face severe shortage of water in the next 25 years because of dwindling supply of fresh water in the worlds rivers, lakes and wells. Thus it is increasingly becoming a source of conflict between nations.

Water poverty has now become a social science concern, much like fuel poverty. According to UNESCO (2006) disputes involving water could become more significant in the future. Water wars could erupt anywhere, given that about 1.1 billion people in the world are without potable water. The pollution of water sources by industrial firms, the shortage of water for commercial use including irrigation and industrial manufacturing processes and waterbased industries can exacerbate disagreements about the ownership and use of water (Dominelli, 2012, pg. 156).

The statement that “the wars of the next century would be fought over water” by Ismail Serageldin, Vice president of the world bank in 1995 given in the last century  is still applicable  to all nations, rich or poor(Priscoli and Wolf, 2009, pg. 10). At present there are around 260 international rivers supplying fresh water to the people worldwide. A good many of them already being involved in conflict with their neighbour on the question of sharing water from the common river source. This is especially the in the middle east  and Asia.

Priscoli and Wolf (2009, pg. 11), point to water not only as a triggerof historic armed conflict but also as the resource that will gather togethercombatants to the battlefield in the twenty-first century. They add on that competition for limited fresh water results to political tensions and even to war, that is, water resources are increasingly being described as military and political goals.

In conclusion, scarce resources have been in the past and will in the future act as sources of violent conflict. The role that fresh water will play in this conflict will be more pronounced as it is more and more becoming a scarce resource. However, it will also depend on what policies policy makers will be willing to implement, negotiate and find the middle ground.



Works Cited

Chatterjee, S N. Water Resources, Conservation And Management. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers & Dist, 2008.

Dominelli, Lena . Green Social Work: From Environmental Crises to Environmental Justice. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012.

Priscoli, Jerome Delli and Aaron T Wolf. Managing and Transforming Water Conflicts. illustrated. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.


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