About the Author

Pabitra Mukhopadhyay
Civil Engineer (Kolkata)

Pabitra is an Honors graduate in Civil Engineering from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He has specialized in the field of River Hydraulics working for more than two decades training rivers, protecting banks and beaches and fighting erosion of the river banks/beds. He has worked with Bio-Engineering models involving mangroves using them as tools for cost effective and natural means of anti-erosion technology.His work is mostly concerning the extremely morpho-dynamic Hugly estuary with Bay of Bengal In course of his work, he got exposed to indegenious people of the Sunderban wetlands, who are fighting a losing battle against agressive Industrialization. Pabitra loves to read and write and he is full of crazy ideas. He believes that he has a tryst with the strange river-country south of Bengal.

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The Holy Grail of Water Security

Published 21st February 2011 - 30 comments - 6607 views -

Water Security is a situation of reliable and secure access to water. When we project this definition on a national perspective things start to get really complex. Reliability of water source is dependent on few factors: 

  • Population growth
  • Food production
  • Climatic change and variability
  • Land use
  • Water quality
  • Water demand
  • Sectoral resources and institutional capacity
  • Poverty and economic policy
  • Legislation and water resource management
  • International waters
  • Sectoral professional capacity
  • Political realities
  • Sociological issues

When the question of security comes to discussion, the first issue that becomes relevant is whether all the sources of freshwater of the country are within the geo-political boundary of the sovereign state. That is the most preferred situation because in that case one country does not have to depend on others. The next task remains only managing the sources.

As I have already pointed out in my posts Can Water dissolve geo-political boundaries Part 1 and 2, when God distributed the freshwater sources, He did not know about Nation States. So most countries share transboundary water sources and in effect depend on each other. This dependency can be determined quantitatively (pardon me for being a little bit mathematical, but I guarantee it’s not beyond junior school level) and expressed as dependency factors:

If Actual Surface Water entering into the country = A,

Actual Ground Water entering into the country = B,

Total Internal Renewable Water resources of the country = C; A,B,C expressed in Km3/year.

Then, Dependency Factor of a Country = 100*[A+B]/[A+B+C]

Note that, A and B are clearly indicative of transboundary source of water.

A calculation like this is actually possible and is done by Aquastat, where you can check your countries Water Balance Sheet position.

A bar chart is given below which shows, in ascending order, the Dependency Factors of some countries. I have tried to choose countries such that all countries of the bloggers in this platform can be seen (except Macedonia, Moldova and Serbia for which I could not find the data).

It is interesting to see that Egypt is 96.87% dependent on transboundary water, Bahrain following closely at 96.55%. It is an interesting question how these countries can ever be water secure with that high degrees of Dependency Factors.

On the other hand, big countries like China, Australia and Spain are zero water dependent. Australia naturally as it is an island continent, but China and Spain sting pretty within neighbors who depend on their water.

The zero water dependent countries are by no means water secure, as there are reliability issues as stated above, but in the current political situation of structured anarchy, these countries yield enormous negotiating power with other countries and such power is expected to increase critically in a progressively water scarce world.

Th!nk about it.

Reference: Len Abrams, The Water Page

[Feature Image Credit: Trends Updates]


Category: Politics | Tags:


Comments

  • Hussam Hussein on 27th February 2011:

    interesting.. concerning water secure for egypt, in 1959 they signed a treaty that gives to egypt more than 60% of the water resources of the Nile (for different reasons: needs, history, population, etc), so hydro-politics through treaties and agreements may be an anser to your question.


  • Hussam Hussein on 27th February 2011:

    In this specific case, the agreement is still valid. The main issue is that, according to Egyptians, who have the best negotiation skill in the basin, they are the country that needs the water resources most because they depends 100% from the Nile river, while the other countries have also other water resources.
    Treaties can be almost imposed, and they are one of the tools used in hydro-politics to impose a certain hydro-hegemony.
    Concerning the status quo of the agreements in the Nile basin, there is the Nile agreement that has been pushed by the East-African countries but that is not in force yet. UNtil today only 5 countries have signed it. This new deal would need at least six signatories to come into force with indications that DR Congo and Burundi will sign it soon (rumours say that Burundi will sign it tomorrow). Strong opposition to this new deal comes from Egypt and Sudan.


  • Hussam Hussein on 27th February 2011:

    have a look to one of my previous posts on the topic you mentioned: http://development.thinkaboutit.eu/think3/post/food_insecurity_lets_buy_some_land_in_africa
    concerning transboundar water as a reason for conflicts, yes, in some cases. however, it may also be a reason for a dialogue and cooperation ( http://www.foeme.org )


  • Hussam Hussein on 28th February 2011:

    well, i’d drive my water and water-related policies (food and industries) through the virtual water theory. Basically, if there isn’t much water in my country, I’d prefer to invest it in the industrial sector (that usually produces more GDP), and import more virtual water (namely food). This should be economically sustainable. However, a social transition should take place (farmers will lose their jobs.. therefore new trainings, create new jobs, etc).


  • Hussam Hussein on 28th February 2011:

    Cool!!! ;) Thanks for the link!


  • Jan Stejskal on 02nd March 2011:

    Interesting debate indeed! Thank you both…


  • Jan Stejskal on 03rd March 2011:

    Yes. The first part of the debate I read earlier.


  • Hussam Hussein on 03rd March 2011:

    Chhers! :)


  • Hussam Hussein on 03rd March 2011:

    Cheers! ;)


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