Aug. 18, 2014 (TSR) – Water supply sabotage is now the new mode of warfare and has the potential to become the next weapon of mass destruction that could kill millions.
A surprisingly simple way to conquer a country would be to attack its water supply. For too many countries, including some that are large and powerful, water security is shockingly vulnerable believes water activist, Sharon Kleyne.
Water is Earth’s most abundant substance, Kleyne notes, and the single most important substance necessary to sustain life. Terrestrial organisms such as humans depend almost entirely on fresh water. However, only 3 percent of Earth’s water is fresh, most of that is frozen in polar ice caps and most of the rest is polluted. Drinkable fresh water is scarce and unevenly distributed over the globe. Of Earth’s 7 billion humans, 1.6 billion lack reliable access to sufficient water to sustain health, sanitation, food production and commerce.
Many of the world’s most important fresh water sources, Kleyne points out, sustaining hundreds of millions of people, cross international boundaries and could be cut off or sabotaged by a determined enemy. The result could be millions of deaths from thirst, famine and dehydration.
Countries especially vulnerable to water security threats, according to Kleyne, include Saudi Arabia, which has no natural rivers and supports its 20 million inhabitants by importing water from other countries. Cut this water off and Saudi Arabia falls. The same is true of many Middle East and North African nations.
The 200 million citizens of Pakistan, Kleyne adds, depend almost entirely on the Indus River, which begins in China and passes through India. Much of northern India, in turn, depends on the Brahmaputra River, whose headwaters are also in China, which has been threatening for years to dam the Brahmaputra. The Nile that sustains most of Egypt’s 50 million residents has its source in Ethiopia and could be cut off, diverted or poisoned.
The most glaring recent use of water as a weapon of mass destruction, according to Kleyne, was employed by Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 1991, in the uprising following the first Gulf War. The Marsh Arabs had lived in the salt marshes of Iraq’s Tigris-Euphrates delta for thousands of years. Most were Shia Muslims whom Hussein regarded as a threat to his Sunni Muslim regime. The salt marshes had become a major refuge for rebel leaders.
Saddam’s strategy, Kleyne explains, was to drain the marshes by constructing bypass canals from the Tigris/Euphrates into the Persian Gulf. Over 100,000 people fled the marshes and many more were killed by Saddam’s troops in what has been described as genocide. When it was over only about 1,500 Marsh Arabs remained. The marshes are now mostly restored – by the United States – and some of the population has returned.
The recent Iraqi militant siege on Mount Sinjar was also an attempt to conquer and kill by cutting people off from their water supply, Kleyne notes.
Also vulnerable, according Kleyne, are water pumping and filtration plants, dams and reservoirs, pipelines and desalination plants.
To avoid these and other water security scenarios, Kleyne believes, individuals, groups, local and regional governments and nations must find ways to peacefully resolve conflicts and make sure the water supply is sufficient, safe, secure and affordable everywhere and for everyone. Were this objective ever to be accomplished, Kleyne contends, it would be the crowing achievement of humankind of Earth.
The United Nations and other international organizations, Kleyne notes, is aware of the potential for national water supplies to become military sabotage targets and is making a start, however tentative, toward finding a solution. Much more remains to be done, Kleyne concludes, and she urges everyone on the planet to become personally involved.
Kleyne is the founder of Bio Logic Aqua Research, a global research, technology and product development center specializing in fresh water, atmosphere and health.
Sources and Recommended Reading:
Cooper, H, “Militants’ Siege on Mountain in Iraq Is Over, Pentagon Says,” New York Times, August 13, 2014; http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/14/world/middleeast/iraq-yazidi-refugees.html
Leather, T, “The Marsh Arabs of Iraq,” Scribol, May 19, 2010; http://scribol.com/anthropology-and-history/the-marsh-arabs-of-iraq
Pearce, F, “Saudi Arabia Stakes Claim on the Nile,” National Geographic, December 18, 2012. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/12/121217-saudi-arabia-water-grabs-ethiopia/
“Water Trivia Facts,” EPA, October 16, 2013; http://water.epa.gov/learn/kids/drinkingwater/water_trivia_facts.cfm
“What is Water Security?” Global Water Partnership, March, 25, 2010; http://www.gwp.org/The-Challenge/What-is-water-security/