Water, blessing or curse?


From past to the present, water as the blessing of mother nature and strategic natural resource has always remained on the agenda due to its importance for all living organisms, as well as both agriculture and industry.  Unfortunately, the future of this blessing hangs by a thread due to some causes such as overpopulation, waste, consumption, climate change, deforestation and so on. According to researchers, more than 40 per cent of the world population are not able to access clean drinking water.

If the water scarcity problem is not dealt with, it will, without doubt,  be the one of the main cause of future wars This article will examine the water poverty or droughts  on South Asia and national disagreements in the management of water among South Asian countries, especially, between  India and Bangladesh over the Ganges river, India and Pakistan over the Indus river. In addition, measures to prevent this conflict will be proposed.

photo credit: asiafoundation.org

When it contains toxic chemicals the unsafe water can easily lead to hazardous diseases and infections like dysentery, cholera. For UN resolution  64/ 292, to access the fresh water is the basic and universal human right. However, a remarkable proportion of the world population is deprived of this basic right. Researchers have shown that 4 per cent of all deaths are caused by water-related diseases. This ratio is much higher among South Asia countries. For example, more than 140.000 children die each year from water-related diseases in India; 40 per cent of all deaths in Pakistan are due to polluted waters and so on.

Moreover, South Asia as a region is heavily influenced by drought. The economies of the different countries are mainly based on agriculture so aridity easily culminate in food shortage. In 2015, more than 170.000 people were affected by the Thar famine in Pakistan and water shortage has been shown to be among the main causes. Drought influenced almost 300.000 people in India negatively, in 2014-2015. During the same years, the economy of Bangladesh and Nepal have been affected by the water shortage crisis.

photo credit: asiafoundation.org

The sharing of scarce resources have paved a way for disagreements. Water conflicts among the states which it is precious for the progress of the agriculture, industry. There are two aortae for South Asia: Indus and Ganges rivers which nurture the entire region. Indus river flows to the west which includes China, India and Pakistan and Ganges river covers the north and east part of South Asia. Naturally, each country in the region has the right to take advantage of these resources through canals, dams. Furthermore, countries in the region have faced water disputes with each other in previous years. One of the major problems concerned the sharing of the Indus river between India and Pakistan. A water dispute had begun in the 1960s and they signed the Indus River Agreement in 1960 to solve this dispute and share the resources fairly but this agreement could not be consolidated efficiently because of the wars between the two countries. Additionally, relations between two countries have got stretched with the building a barrage by India on the Indus River in 1999; it was finished in 2007. Pakistan argues that it is a violation of 1960 agreement and that it damages Pakistani agriculture. This issue remains unsolved between two countries. Another water dispute has occurred over Gangus river between India and Bangladesh with the construction of Farakke barrage by India.

Although various agreements have been signed between the two countries for water sharing, such as Ganges Water Sharing Treaty in 1996, the Bangladeshi government has argued that the sharing is not equal and that the Farakka barrage dries out Bengal region. This dispute still continues.
Last but not least, when we mention the political and economic conjuncture of South Asia, the religious factor also should be mentioned because religion lies at the root of conflicts in the region.

It can also play a significant role in coping with environmental problems. The region honours plenty of religions like Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism all of which prohibit and condemn the use of violence against nature and see the universe as a sacred reality. For instance, Hinduism gives special place to water which is believed to have spiritual energy, besides satisfying a physical need; they use it in their sacred rituals and ceremonies. Islam and Christianity esteem water very highly as the symbol of purity and it is at the centre of their beliefs. Therefore, religion is an influential reality in the shaping people’s behaviours and should emphasize more the importance of natural resources to draw attention the common environmental issues and to avoid the environmental pollution, mass consumption, waste disposal and natural resource depletion.

photo credit: asiafoundation.org

To conclude, water is crucial for our home and water scarcity effects each citizen globally. We need effective water politics which every person should pull their weight to prevent this threat and also countries, IGOs (intergovernmental organizations, NGOs (Non governmental organizations), MNCs (multinational corporations) have to do some institutional reforms for irrigation management,  adapting to water scarcity at farm level, increasing the number of funds for water infrastructure, sanitary services etc. Besides these, some institutions which are very effective in the steering of people’s actions like mass media and religion have to comment on these issues more to take considerable steps. Finally, we ought to raise awareness, educate our people to avoid waste consumption, misuse, environmental degradationg.

Ismayil  Targuluyev
ELP  fellow