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Disputes on river water likely to cause more armed conflicts in region

Fundamental problems relating to water stem from our human action or inaction, Shaikh Nahyan says

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Disputes over water in major rivers in the region are likely to cause more armed conflicts in near future, if a proper political solution is not found, a symposium in the capital was heard on Sunday.

Apart from the existing conflict between Israel and Palestine over Israel diverting Jordan river to its lands, more countries in the region may involve in new conflicts over the claims on water of Tigris, Euphrates and Nile. The on-going political dispute between Turkey and Syria already involves claims over Tigris and Euphrates water also, experts said.

This was discussed at a symposium on “water sustainability for generations to come” as part of the third edition of Emirati-Swiss Friendship Forum which was held at Zayed University.

Water sustainability for future generations has great significance on national, regional and global level, Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan said in his speech on behalf of his father Dr Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, the advisor to the UAE President and honorary co-chairman of the Emirati-Swiss Friendship Forum (ESFF).

He said sustainability is the top priority of the UAE Government in all sectors. “Today with the active involvement of the young students from both countries we look forward to more efforts to develop and diversify initiatives and addressing strategic issues,” Shaikh Zayed said.

“We must all admit that fundamental problems relating to water stem from our human action or inaction, because, for example, We humans have eliminated one half of the world’s wetlands since 1900,” Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, minister of higher education and scientific research, said in his welcome and keynote address.

“We humans are permitting two million tons of sewage and other effluents to drain into the world’s waters every day,” he added.

Developing countries are dumping ninety per cent of industrial waste into waters where they pollute usable water supplies.

“We are apparently content with the fact that at least every seventh person in the world has no access to clean water. And we have not set aside our ubiquitous water bottles and acted to save the lives of the 5,480 people, mostly children, who die daily from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and sanitation, Shaikh Nahyan explained.

Pascal Couchepin, former president of Switzerland and honorary co-chairman of ESFF, said already more than two billion people across the globe do not have access to safe water. The number of expected to increase in 15 years, he said in his speech.

Dr Arnaud Leclercq, Partner, Lombard Odier Capital Partners, said claims over water of Tigres and Euphrates may cause conflicts among Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Turkey controls 90 per cent of water flow of Tigris and 50 per cent of Euphrates. Egypt and Ethiopia already have opposing interests on Nile. Israel, Jordan and Gaza are a critical area of water scarcity and related conflicts on water sharing, he said.

Professor Dr Ibrahim Souss, Executive Director of the Institute for Global Dialogue and World Peace, said Turkey’s massive Ataturk Dam may deplete water resources of Syria and Iraq.