May 1, 2009
A Central Asia summit meeting this week on how to share dwindling water resources broke down in bitter disagreement.
The United Nations says that by 2050, three out of four people in the world could be affected by water scarcity.
But the region's five leaders, meeting in Kazakhstan, could not find common ground on the contentious issue in one of the world's driest regions.
The Asia Society's Leadership Group on Water Security is warning that Asia could see many more of these disputes in coming years.
The society's social issues director, Suzanne DiMaggio, told Radio Australia the falling-out among the leaders is a "harbinger of what is to come - growing disagreement over how to share water resources".
"When you factor in the growing populations in these countries, combined with growing urbanisation rates and then the impact of climate change, what we are seeing is a perfect storm of factors that are putting greater stress on water," she said.
Ms DiMaggio says there are "simmering tensions at many levels" over water scarcity.
Local tensions, with mass movements and protests at the community level have taken place in China.
Regional tension in Tibet, with plentiful supplies, has been the scene of ethnic tensions as water is diverted to Han Chinese.
Nations including India and Pakistan have also engaged in trans-boundary disputes over the issue.
The Asia Society official says that traditional tools of defence "are clearly not going to solve these matters".
Ms DiMaggio says the international community should link climate change to water issues, since the first has an obvious impact on water quantity and quality.
She says the upcoming UN summit to seek a post-Kyoto agreement should also focus on how to deal with the water issue.
"We have to find a way to get low-tech [methods] to these communities," she said.
She says new technologies, like desalination, are part of the solution however they are out of reach to poorer Asian nations. Back to Archived Reports List
Copyright 1998-2005, Tibet Environmental Watch (TEW)