Continuing reports are showing us a growing, deadly trend in human-rights abuse. From Ukraine, to Syria and Iraq, to Egypt, to even Detroit, the denial of our most precious resource—water—can prove either an immediate deadly tool or a time bomb set to ignite conflict.
In late June, Reuters reported that eastern Ukraine conflicts were threatening water supplies to four million citizens, according to monitors for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE):
The OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission in eastern Ukraine quoted local officials as saying a water pumping station and a section of pipeline near the town of Semyonovka, close to the bitterly contested city of Slaviansk, had been damaged in fighting between government forces and separatists.
“This pumping station and pipeline constitute the main water supply for Donetsk city’s population of 1 million, and a further 3 million inhabitants of the region,” it said in a statement following talks with Donetsk mayor Alexander Lukyanchenko.
The OSCE mission quoted the mayor on its Facebook page as saying that the water supply to Donetsk had not been affected yet, but that this was set to change “in a very short while”.
In early June, STRATRISKS, a website dedicated to “Observing the Grand Geopolitical Game of Risk,” observed that the Turkish government had cut off the Euphrates River’s flow, endangering both Syria and Iraq:
Al-Akhbar found out that the water level in Lake Assad has dropped by about six meters, leaving millions of Syrians without drinking water.
Two weeks ago, the Turkish government once again intervened in the Syrian crisis. This time was different from anything it had attempted before and the repercussions of which may bring unprecedented catastrophes onto both Iraq and Syria.
By June 24, Chatham House: The Royal Institute of International Affairs, announced that Syria was facing an imminent food and water crisis:
Syria’s essential services are on the brink of collapse under the burden of continuous assault on critical water infrastructure. The stranglehold of extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), neglect by the regime, and an eighth summer of drought may combine to create a water and food crisis which would escalate fatalities and migration rates in the country’s ongoing three-year conflict…
… The deliberate targeting of water supply networks and related structures is now a daily occurrence in the conflict.
In Egypt, with a military coup in the last few months and potential revolution still simmering, in the background lies lingering hostility between Cairo and Ethiopia over a Nile dam. Inter Press Service reported in March:
Relations between Egypt and Ethiopia have soured since Ethiopia began construction on the 4.2 billion dollar Grand Renaissance Dam in 2011.
Egypt fears the new dam, slated to begin operation in 2017, will reduce the downstream flow of the Nile, which 85 million Egyptians rely on for almost all of their water needs. Officials in the Ministry of Irrigation claim Egypt will lose 20 to 30 percent of its share of Nile water and nearly a third of the electricity generated by its Aswan High Dam.
Ethiopia insists the Grand Renaissance Dam and its 74 billion cubic meter reservoir at the headwaters of the Blue Nile will have no adverse effect on Egypt’s water share. It hopes the 6,000 megawatt hydroelectric project will lead to energy self-sufficiency and catapult the country out of grinding poverty.
Meanwhile, at home in the U.S., a growing battle is taking shape over bankrupt Detroit’s cutting off water to thousands of its citizens. The situation has grown dire enough for activist organizations to appeal to the United Nations. Democracy Now reports:
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department says half of its 323,000 accounts are delinquent and has begun turning off the taps of those who do not pay bills that total above $150 or that are 60 days late. Since March, up to 3,000 account holders have had their water cut off every week. The Detroit water authority carries an estimated $5 billion in debt and has been the subject of privatization talks.
In a submission to the United Nations special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, activists say Detroit is trying to push through a private takeover of its water system at the expense of basic rights.
This effort to privatize water through government bankruptcy appeared earlier this year in Greece. However, in late May, one of Greece’s top courts blocked that planned privatization. Still, privatization efforts appear to be a growing concern to world citizens who consider water to be a human right. As far back as 2012, globalresearch.ca reported that Wall Street’s mega-banks and “elitist billionaires” were ravaging public waters in efforts at privatization:
Familiar mega-banks and investing powerhouses such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Macquarie Bank, Barclays Bank, the Blackstone Group, Allianz, and HSBC Bank, among others, are consolidating their control over water. Wealthy tycoons such as T. Boone Pickens, former President George H.W. Bush and his family, Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing, Philippines’ Manuel V. Pangilinan and other Filipino billionaires, and others are also buying thousands of acres of land with aquifers, lakes, water rights, water utilities, and shares in water engineering and technology companies all over the world…
…In a JP Morgan equity research document, it states clearly that “Wall Street appears well aware of the investment opportunities in water supply infrastructure, wastewater treatment, and demand management technologies.” Indeed, Wall Street is preparing to cash in on the global water grab in the coming decades. For example, Goldman Sachs has amassed more than $10 billion since 2006 for infrastructure investments, which include water.
Also as early as 2012, Peculiar Progressive ranked water as the top vital reality that America’s presidential candidates were avoiding discussing. You can read about the top five vital realities here.
Add to this continuing droughts in major U.S. states like California and Texas, as well as water problems for agriculture in China, expect water to affect food supply and food prices. Also, with a recent report citing most American water utilities wallowing in the red, look for efforts to move in and privatize the public systems.
Bottom line: If you believe water is a human right, not a resource to profit private persons or corporations (which the Supreme Court also considers “persons”)—and if you want to protect this vital resource for you, your children, and future generations—seriously consider getting organized (you can’t do it alone), getting educated, and getting active in protecting your water resources.