Water Crises: A New Wakeup Call

Water Crises: A New Wakeup CallWater Crises: A New Wakeup Call

Water will play a critical role in reshaping economic, political and social development in this century. Experts across the globe have routinely warned of the water crises visiting almost all nations and have appealed for new and effective measures to cut consumption and save this precious resource. Most observers note that not taking urgent action is simply a luxury none can afford, especially in the developing world. Iran’s water crisis has now reached epic proportions, according to both government officials and experts.

National water resources are shrinking and polluted due to rapid increase in population, high and inefficient consumption, the disturbing pattern of immigration from rural to urban areas, industrial activities, global warming and climate change.

As such, the role and significance of surface water and underground tables is of the ascending order. It is predicted that by 2025, more than half of the nations in the world will face freshwater stress or shortages, and by 2050 almost 75 percent of the world’s population could face freshwater scarcity.

A meeting themed ‘Water Crisis: Causes and Political Consequences’ was held at Sharif University of Technology recently as part of a series of meetings of experts  on water, culture and society. The sessions are co-organized by the Iranian Water Planning Research Organization, the Iranian Sociological Association and the Association of Cultural Studies and Communications - all of them civil organizations - in collaboration with the Presidential Center for Strategic Studies to review the multiple facets of Iran’s water crisis.

“Rather than just being a strategic natural resource, water is gradually turning into an important political element in Iran,” Ali Karimi, professor of political science in Mazandaran University, told the gathering, ILNA reported. Given the pattern of decreasing supply and rising demand for water in Iran, as in most parts of the world, he stressed that resource scarcity is the primary cause of “increased dissatisfaction and conflict” among the people.

  Potential for Conflict

Noting that water crisis dramatically increases the potential for cross-border tensions, the expert insisted that to avoid conflict in the near future Iran will have to come up with new strategies in its diplomatic relations.

Hydro-politics is a branch of political geography that studies the role of water availability in political behaviors at different scales. Iran, located as it is in an arid and semi-arid region, faces the risk of regional conflict over water scarcity. “Disputes over water scarcity will play a decisive role in Iran’s diplomatic relations in the coming years and could even threaten national security,” Karimi warned. He also took stock of the “increase in migration from rural to urban areas and its social consequences, emergence of religious and ethnic tensions, and increased poverty” as other consequences of water crisis that could hamper sustainable development in the country of 80 million.

Blaming lack of sufficient knowledge and expertise plus improper decisions by authorities for the ongoing water crisis, Karimi said “it would be naive to expect those actually responsible for the water-related problems to find a way out of it.”

Citing the example of a dam constructed nearly two decades ago in northern Gilan Province with a budget of more than 30 billion rials ($1.1 million), which is without water and has yet not become operational, Karimi noted that decisions to build dams is less based on the peoples’ actual needs and more on “lobbying.” He appealed to the people, civil society and religious organizations to create a “social movement” for addressing the looming water crises through “systematic and organized” activities across the country, with the government bodies acting only as “facilitators” for such initiatives.

“We must strive to achieve a sustainable and systematic understanding of the ongoing water crisis and avoid quick fixes,” the university instructor concluded.