Water Conflict

Updated May 12, 2022

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Water Conflict essay

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Brahmaputra River originates in Tibet which is a part of China, and from there it flows into India. China is building many dams on the river in order to control the flow of water from river, and which it can use for its additional gain, and later on to act as hydro hegemony, controlling the major water resources of south Asia. This act of China can lead to a possible water war. Per capita water supply in China is 28% per person which is much less then international standard. Another problem in China is uneven distribution of water, southern part of China consists of 4/5th water resources, whereas requirement of water is more in Northern region as most of industries and agricultural production is carried their. It can be argued that ground water can be used, but 60% of China’s ground water is polluted, so it says the ultimate way to provide water is to use the water of this river.

China in its 12th Five year plan proposed to promote hydropower, in order to expand its renewable source of energy. It wants to triple its hydropower capacity by 2020. The advantage which China holds is that it is an upper riparian state, so it can influence water flow downside and create its domination. In comparison to China, India is middle riparian state and Bangladesh as lower riparian state. In this was China’s water policy will decide whole of Asia’s water security.

Harmon doctrine was in regard to this, which says that a country is absolutely sovereign over the portion of international water course which is within it. Thus the country from which water resource originates is free to divert all of water. But states of lower opposes it will create problems in their country. From China around 42 Trans boundary river flows, and it will occupy total hegemony over these rivers it ultimately will act as hydro hegemon in the region. China is source of Asia’s most important rivers. River Yarlung Tsangpo is the river which enters India after passing from Great band, through Arunachal Pradesh where it is known by name of Siang/Dihang, then in Assam where called Brahmaputra, and to Bangladesh where known as Jamuna.

China made Zangmu dam ( 510 MW capacity ) on upper area of Brahmaputra river in 2010. Three more dams at Daga ( 640 MW) Jiacha ( 320 MW ) and Jiexu are under construction. And by constructing these dams it tries to control water flow.

Problem is China had no official talk with India or any other country which is going to get affected by these dam projects. There is communication gap, and it had led to trust issues, and also suspicious view against each other. This construction can hamper Indian sovereignty as these rivers are major source of water in India; by creating dams on this China will be in upper position. It can later use it as a weapon against India, and can even conquer Indian Territory by using water as a medium. India is much terrified by this because China has already occupied few areas of India in North East so it can predict the Chinese intention to conquer much of India.

Another concern is that of Helsinki rule, which is an international law, which tells about how to share trans boundary water, in this it says that whichever countries have river basin then they have total right to have water from it, which was declared in 1966. But China is not signing this rule, which means it has no legal agreement for compensation and can create hindrance for water flow.

China in its defence says we are doing run of river project, by which natural flow of water won’t be affected. Same amount of water will flow to the countries.

But problem is there is no bilateral treaty between India and China like India and Bangladesh which ensures water sharing, so there can be problem in future. Another reason can be said as release of flood water during monsoon from China dams can bring flood in Assam region. Also the denial of hydrolic data by China can increase the possibility of flood or water affected calamities. These hydrolic plans are very huge, and they in Himalayan region which is a seismic sensitive region can lead to earthquake effecting India. These dams are also polluting the water which reduces the percentage of useable water, further eroding the soil, making food production going down. Also rich geographical environment of the region is also degrading.

Thus this water hegemony and conflict need to be resolved. Water which provides life to people, which is essential for survival, no one should try to create monopoly over it. It should be used for more humanitarian purpose, rather than trying to use it for own benefit or using as a weapon to suppress other nations. China should stop further to act as water hegemon because chances are very high that this control over water surely will lead to a water war between other countries and China. China’s water diplomacy needs to stop to protect this world from another major war which can lead to huge destruction of life and property.

Israel-Arab Water conflict

Water has been a great problem in one of the biggest conflict of the contemporary time that is Israel-Arab conflict. Israel had always had a dream of ‘making desert bloom’. In order to accomplish this dream it tried to gain control of water resources. Six days war in 1967 is considered as one the biggest event in Israel Palestine conflict, and the main cause of it was also related to water. It was because of the water diversion plan of Israel and its neighbourhood Arab countries water plan, which led to the water war from 1964-1967. After put its authority on water carrier by diverting the Jordan River, Arab countries came together and held a meeting to look into its consequences. In 1964 finally a plan was adopted by Arab countries, according to which it was decided that they with work to redirect the flow of water from river’s headwaters to Syria and Jordan. The diversion project started in Syria, Israel government got to know about it and its military started attacking the project continuously during 1965-66. This forced Syria to put hold on the project.

In 1967 war Israel took control of Golan heights from Syria, west bank from Jordan, Gaza strip and Sinai peninsula from Egypt, and these areas had rich water resources and the situation was like now Israel had control over most of the water resources of the region. During the war time Israel air craft completely destroyed the water diversion project which was initiated in Syria. All this shows that water was the major reason for the war. Ariel Sharon who was one of the commander for Israel during the war said, ‘People generally regard June 5, 1967 as the day the six day war began, this is the official date. But, in reality, it started two and half years earlier, on the day Israel decided to act against the diversion of the Jordan’.

Conflict because of water didn’t stopped her, in the year 1969 Israel raid Jordan newly build East Ghor canal because of the concern that they might divert the course of river. In 1978 and 1982 Israel invaded southern Lebanon in order to look at the water diversion of Jordan River basin source. The condition is such that many times Lebanon is used as proxy war place between Israel and Syria. Israel and Syria are regarded in Middle East one of the first countries to hold gunfire in related to issue of water.

Camp David accord which is regarded as one of the first and most influential peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, in this peace settlement Anwar Sadat said it won’t make any war against except in regarding to protection of their water resources. Thus all these cases show that water played a major role in Israel Arab conflict.


Water conflicts are not only international they are intranational as well. Many countries face conflicts regarding sharing water inside the state as well, and it had led to division and differences between the people within a nation. It has created a feeling of hatred of one person towards the person of another state regarding water. In India as well a number of conflicts and disputes are emerging between the states for the sharing of water. Indian government have tried to bring laws and committees to solve these Interstate water conflicts. India Constitution entry 17 of the state list deals with the water supply, irrigation, canal building etc within a state. It says that states are free to create canals and use its water within the state of the rivers flowing through it. Entry 56 under union list deals with regulations and development of river and river valleys in India. Such regulations need to be made by parliament of India, and they need to make such restrictions which are to be expedient in public interest.

Article 262 of our Constitution deals with problems related to water. It talks about how to adjudicate the disputes regarding water; it says Parliament can make laws regarding it also about how to use water in state and outside state.

It has also made two acts regarding water problems.

(1) River board act 1956

(2) Interstate water dispute act 1956

According to Interstate water dispute act, centre should try to resolve and dissolve the conflict between states regarding water with their consideration. They should talk and try to solve out the problem. If problem is not solved by this way that formation of tribunals should be done to solve it. Many conflicts have taken place in India regarding water, and tribunals are made in order to solve it. Still, making tribunals have not made to solve out problems. Many states are fighting and struggling to get proper right and solution to conflict. These conflicts are going from long time back and stretching further. They need to solve out as soon as possible to make proper use of this valuable natural resource. In relation to these Interstate water conflicts, one of the major one is Kaveri river dispute.


Kaveri water dispute is between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. This dispute dates back to 19th century. At that time also dispute was there. Agreement was done between princely state of Mysore and Madras in 1892 and 1924 to regulate the use and flow of water from one state to another. According to agreement 75% of water was to be used by Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, whereas 23% to be used by Karnataka, rest by Kerala. As soon as new states were formed in 1956 state boundaries were decided then problem started to emerge between both these states. Tamil Nadu started opposing the construction of dam by Karnataka in early 1960s as it will affect the farmers and irrigation in the state. In 1974, after the opposition by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka said that the 1924 agreement which allows the flow of water to other states was for 50 years, as the time period is expired it will discontinue the supply of water to Tamil Nadu. This led to rise of conflict between both the states. Karnataka people were of believe that as river originates in their state so it have full right how to use it. Whereas on the other hand Tamil Nadu people said they are totally dependent on this river, it will be very difficult to survive if the water supply is restricted. Then too between 1960s and late 1980s four dams were built on Kaveri River by Karnataka. In 1972 centre appointed a committee to look into this problem, an agreement was also made in 1976 but it wasn’t successful. In response to this state of Tamil Nadu demands the formation of a tribunal under the Interstate water dispute act of 1956. Then it went to supreme court of India and projected about the problem and finally on 2 June 1990 tribunal was formed. In 1991 tribunal put forward an interim order that yes Karnataka will get a fix amount of water. Finally after 16 years, on 5 February 2007 Supreme Court came up with its judgement validating the 1892 and 1924 agreement between Mysore and Madras and fixing the amount of water flow. Out of 740 thousand million cubic feet water, 419 will be used by Tamil Nadu, 270 by Karnataka, 7 by Pondicherry and rest for environmental purposes. Karnataka people were not happy by this judgement, they opposed this and demand for 312TMC water, a number of protests were done all over the state and in parliament as well, the conflict between both the states rise high, people of one state didn’t tolerated the other one, their was fights and few cases of violence were also reported. In happening of all these supreme court on 16 February 2018 came with another landmark judgement. It reduced the allocation or flow of Kaveri water from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu. Earlier in 2007 which was decided as 419tmcft was reduced to 404tmcft. This increased the water share of Karnataka. State of Tamil Nadu is very disappointed with this judgement, and is now demanding for water management board. This conflict is still going on and creating problem in both the states.

In contemporary time some more tribunal are created in order to look into the water conflict going across the country. Including Kaveri some others river disputes are between –

Haryana and Punjab for Ravi and Beas River, tribunal for this was formed in April 1986.

Andhra Pradesh and Odisha for Vansadhara River, tribunal for this formed in February 2010.

Karnataka, Telangana, AP and Maharashtra for Krishna River, tribunal formed in April 2014.

Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra for Mahadayi River, tribunal formed in November 2010.

All these cases and conflicts are still going on. More the conflict will stretch more people will be effected by it. In resolving these conflicts there are some shortcomings of the Interstate water dispute act of 1956, like it don’t provide a certain time limit to tribunals and courts to give judgement about the water conflicts, time bond should be there so that conflicts can be solved as fast as possible and bring fruitful relationship between people.


We are in an entirely unique stage of history. Water which provides us life, which is very important for survival, is now used as a profit making commodity. It is now used to bring profit out of it, now it is like those who have ability to pay is also capable of life, those who don’t have money they need to die. One such case of water privatisation of water took place in Bolivia.

In Bolivia the problem of water was from very early period, the water availability was low, and whatever water was available was not that fresh to drink. In 1999 the contract of water supply was put from the public supplier SEMAPA to an international company ‘Aguas Del Tunari’ (whose most of the share were hold by San Francisco based company Bechtel) and World Bank asked it to do so. This was done in Cochabamba, which is the third largest city of Bolivia in September 1999. Were control of water for drinking and sanitisation given to the company and did privatisation of water. One month later Act No. 2029 came which put further regulations on water, the regulations were so extreme the company was given right to monopoly over rain water as well. People were not allowed to collect rain water. Prize of water were rise high from 30% to 300% in a day, people have to pay most of their earning for water. Many people were dying because of lack to access of water. It became were difficult for people to survive. In response to this people of Bolivia formed ‘Coordinadora de Defensa Del Agua y de la Vida’ (Coalition for the Defense of Water and Life)’. Slowly protest started against the company. It was mild in initial days with only roadblocks and strikes.

Later on the protest erupted and was converted into social conflict in February and April. These were huge fights and conflicts between police and ‘Guerrero’s del agua’ water warriors. The protest and conflict was so big that only cancellation of contract was seen as possible solution. Finally after death of civilian and months of protest government had to cancel the contract, and had to give the contract it local municipality and had to nationalise it. This Bolivia water war or water revolution shows how water is used for profit making by privatisation, and how it can lead to rise conflict between citizens and country.


A study says that 2/3rd of world population may lack access to fresh water by 2025. Water may reach above all problems. ‘A US intelligence assessment publicly released in 2012 warned that the use of water as a weapon will become more common during next ten years, with more powerful upstream nations impeding or cutting off downstream flow’. It can be predicted that terrorist attacks may also occur due to availability and access of water. If we go onto look into it in economic and social progress, we can observe that many of the nations which are regarded as failed state doesn’t have huge water resources. From earlier time only people prefer to stay at places which are close to water, as it contributes to most of the essential components for survival, all these arguments have shown why water is such an essential element. It had tendency to wage wars, so it needs to be used carefully, sustainably, should not be wasted. As it would be conserved countries will have ample amount of water and avoid conflicts. Water is a natural resource god given; no one should try to have monopoly over it, it should be shared, used properly in such a manner to flourish society, and avoid conflict. Water conservation projects needs to be supported more and more, and using it as a tool for domination should be stopped. Water should be used in a manner to bring universal brotherhood, it should be used in a positive manner to spread humanity, love, and help for other people, rather than using it as a tool of dominance. In practical it is considered that Cosmopolitan democracy is not possible, but a serious problem like that of water can bring the whole world together, will able to think globally for this essential need. This can only be accomplished only once people all around the world try to use it in a sharing manner and avoid conflict over it.

Water Conflict essay

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Water Conflict. (2022, May 12). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/water-conflict/


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