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How prepared are we to face challenges of water wars?

How prepared are we to face challenges of water wars?
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October 2015. I was in Turkey (Ankara) to address the conference organised by the United Nations; the conference was titled as UN’ CCD12 (Conference...

October 2015. I was in Turkey (Ankara) to address the conference organised by the United Nations; the conference was titled as UN’ CCD12 (Conference Combating Desertification). It was attended by ministers from several countries and I was a key-note speaker, as my work in Rajasthan (In India) was mainly to arrest the desertification in the driest part of Rajasthan.

I addressed the conference and soon after my speech, one senior officer from Syria, who was also a participant in the conference, requested me and took me to show the situation of River Euphrates in Turkey. River Euphrates originates from the eastern part of Alps and irrigates three countries namely Turkey, Syria and later Iraq; thereby, it is the lifeline of all these low rainfall countries and the people living there.

We can save the planet in crisis only by adhering to the doctrines of non-violence. The big dams are the greatest violence against nature and humanity. Instead we need to focus more on the traditional community-driven decentralised water management. The system which we implemented in our Alwar district in Rajasthan was a great success; it helped in reviving seven dried and dead rivers

The Syrian officer has shown me the number of dams which was constructed by the Turkish government. The Ataturk dam which is built close to the border of Turkey and Syria is one of the largest dams in the world was completed in 1990 – it is of 169 metres in height and 1,820 metres in length and has a capacity of 48 billion meter3.

The dam has 19 power stations which have a capacity of generating 8,900 GWh of electricity annually. Turkey gives justification that Iraq and Syria in fact benefit from the regulated water by their dams as they protect all three riparian countries from seasonal droughts and floods. But it is observed that Syria and Iraq are suffering from severe water shortage due to the projects and the whole region is turned arid and conditions are worsening day by day. The river downstream is completely dry and almost dead. All the water diverted by constructing the dam was used for irrigation in Turkey.

After visiting the dam site and surveying it with my own eyes, realisation struck me that Syria’s war was not a religious war as projected by the media, but it is actually a war for the water. Turkey has by constructing dams on the river has obstructed the legitimate share of water belonging to Syria and is starving the country of its lifeline i.e., water. The people of Syria, deprived of water, have started distress migration on a large-scale which has been given a religious colour.

Due to the internal turmoil in the country, (the root cause of which is water) the people of Syria are mass migrating to the countries in Europe and in effect these countries to which the Syrian citizens are migrating are also affected. It is creating tensions among the people of the respective countries leading to civil uprising and tensions and further it is affecting the relations among neighboring countries. It is also creating unrest in European nations as they are getting loads of the migrants, which is not at all their responsibility.

Later on, when I visited Germany, the government officials there as well as the common people asked me to suggest the way to reverse the migration from Germany to Syria. I told them that the reverse migration is possible if the legitimate share of water is made available to Syria and other than that, there is no other solution possible. If sufficient water is made available, the people of Syria can go back and get engaged in agricultural activities.

This will bring peace to the country and all other affected countries. The world reveres Mahatma Gandhi for his immortal gift of the powerful weapon of Satyagraha of Humanity. Satyagraha was born on 11th September, 1906 in Johannesburg, South Africa. On this day, a motely crowd of nearly 3,000 people led by a young lawyer M K Gandhi took place to fight all injustice and oppression through nonviolence and form adherence to truth.

Satyagraha completed its hundredth milestone on 11 Sept 2006; elaborate programmes were held in India and across the world to mark the occasion.

This included a special session at the UN headquarters in New York, which was presided over by the Secretary–General Baan ki Moon. The most significant outcome of the celebration was the UN declaration of 2nd October, Mahatma Gandhi birth anniversary, as the International Day of Non Violence. The resolution was mooted by India and was supported by 142 member-states.

Upholding the spirit of the Mahatma, this coming 2ndOctober 2016 the International Day of Non Violence, we propose to organise a peace convention by giving a call to humanity to save life-giving natural resources by planting trees and encouraging community-driven decentralised water management in Syria.

The water conflict can only be resolved by the participation and involvement of all stakeholders. Now is the time to respect the nature by showing it through our actions instead of just paying habitual lip service. We can save the planet in crisis only by adhering to the doctrines of non-violence. The big dams are the greatest violence against nature and humanity.

Still, many countries, particularly the developing countries, are in a great hurry to construct dams for it will give huge money to politicians and bureaucrats by way of corruption. In fact, we do not need big dams at all. Instead we need to focus more on the traditional community-driven decentralised water management. The system which we have adopted and implemented in our Alwar district in Rajasthan with a great success; it helped in reviving seven dried and dead rivers. This is the only way to rejuvenate and safeguard the river

Humanity is in great danger if we don’t respect and protect rivers and nature. We are barely into the second decade of the 21st century but have already reached a stage where we are unsafe with serious challenges of survival caused by the fast degradation of environment and ecology. What is worse is it is mostly man-made.

In the year 2015, we organised the World Water Walk for Peace. During this programme I visited eight countries in Europe like Germany, France, UK, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands and Slovakia and 19 countries of Middle East and Africa. Everywhere I found the impending danger of water war. The solution of the violence and forced migration is a community-driven decentralised water management. Yes we know the climate change and global warming is a global problem but effective solution is always local.

In last 42 years, my experience is when community was doing something positive, that was always nonviolent and benefiting all; whereas when company or contractor does something, he is always thinking about some higher person of the community and the profit he has to share with the higher powerful person which in turn ruins everything. So, all this is what is going on in the name of development. This is not development – this is real disaster. So we want to share our Indian experience with others for the benefit of the Syrian community in a non-violent way.

By: Rajendra Singh

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