Cross-Border Water Conflicts on the Rise

July 30, 2013

2012 Goldman Prize recipient Ikal Angelei recently shared a link to a stirring video posted on the Yale e360 blog about the struggle between nomadic herdsman in southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya- whose survival depends on access to the Omo River and Lake Turkana.

The two bodies of water are currently being threatened by drought, flooding and rising temperatures, and as different tribes follow the receding waters, they increasingly encroach on rival territory- resulting in violent conflict.

Lake Turkana is not only being threatened by climate change, but also by hydroelectric developments like the Gibe III dam project. If completed, the Gibe III will be the fourth largest dam in the world and is expected to cause the lake’s water level to drop by as much as 23 to 33 feet within the first five years- greatly exacerbating the resource conflicts already gripping the region.

Angelei was awarded the Goldman Prize for launching a sucessful campaign to raise awareness about the Gibe III dam and for convincing major banks, including the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank, to withdraw their financial considerations for the project.

Another Prize winner dealing with cross-border water issues is Azzam Alwash, who was awarded the Prize in 2013 for his leadership and dedication to restoring and protecting Iraq’s Mesopotamian Marshlands.

The marshes were recently recognized as Iraq’s first national park, but their viability remains largely dependent on the waters that feed them. Such waters are being threatened by several upstream dam projects in neighboring Turkey.

Alwash is currently organizing a flotilla demonstration to spotlight the negative impacts the dams will have on the marshes. The flotilla is planned for September-October. Be sure to check back then for updates and photos from the event.