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Water increasingly being used as a weapon in war, says Barlow

Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS
Photo from IPS.

The Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS) reports, “Maude Barlow, who represents both the Council of Canadians and Food and Water Watch, told IPS water is being increasingly and deliberately used a a weapon of war in recent and ongoing conflicts.” Barlow says, “Water as a weapon of war is a strong argument to governments and the U.N. they must make real the human right to water and sanitation, regardless of other conflicts taking place.”

Examples cited in the article include:


– “Barlow told IPS the al-Assad government’s denial of clean water is consistent with its history of using water to punish its enemies and reward its friends. In 2000, the Syrian regime deregulated land use and gave vast quantities of land and water to its wealthy allies, severely diminishing the water table and driving nearly one million small farmers and herders off the land, she added. Ironically and tragically, many of them migrated to Aleppo where they are being targeted again, said Barlow.”


– “More than four decades of Israeli occupation have made it impossible to develop or maintain infrastructure for water in Gaza, causing the contamination of drinking water and many deaths, she declared.”


– “The privatisation of water in Egypt and its diversion to the wealthy was a major factor in the ‘Arab Spring’ uprising, said Barlow, a former senior advisor on water to the president of the General Assembly back in 2008/2009. Thousands suddenly had no access to clean water and “thirst protests” were partial catalysts for the large uprising.”


– “During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the Mesopotamian Marshes were drained, she said. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein drained them further during the 1990s in retribution against Shias who hid there and the Marsh Arabs (Ma’dan) who protected them, she pointed out.”


“Barlow also said Botswana used water as a weapon against the Kalahari bushmen in an attempt to force them out of the desert, where diamonds had been discovered. In 2002, the government smashed their only major water borehole, a terrible act that was only overturned in court years later, she noted.”


– “She also said water has also been deployed as a weapon of ‘class war’ Many thousands of inner city residents unable to pay their water bills have had their water services cut in Detroit, Michigan, in the United States, and more recently, as a result of Europe’s austerity programme, in Spain, Greece and Bulgaria.”

The IPS article by Thalif Deen can be read at U.N. Decries Water as Weapon of War in Military Conflicts.