Environmental politics

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Touzard Camille

M122B final exam

During the XXth century, the demographic explosion, the economic development, the industrialization of a party of the world and the expansion of irrigated agriculture led to great impacts on water cycles. Global common resources have been washed up or polluted leading to dramatic situations on human societies. Indeed, scientific data confirmed theuneven access and distribution of fresh water at the global and local scale. According to the report of the United Nations Development Program of 2006, more than one billion of humans are denied their right of drinkable water and 2.6 billion don’t have sanitary infrastructures. Moreover, more and more illness and deaths are due to the lack or pollution of water.

Water scarcity also illustrates,in a geopolitical perspective, the situation of interdependence that links many countries of the world. Then, the threat of ‘water wars’ is often brought by Medias and politicians as being the new trend of international relations. However, historical evidences showed that conflicts about water have often been the exception and instead, cooperation the norm. Sharing a common resource, riparianstates would naturally negotiate to find solutions for a mutual management of their watershed. But, as the level of water scarcity is unprecedentless, especially in poor regions of the world, is it still possible to avoid conflicts related to water resources? Then, on which basis could international communities build cooperation and water management?

We will first show that the water scarcityissue, if it is caused by population growth and economic development, is actually more complex, as it is interrelated with other environmental problems such as global warming and biodiversity loss. Moreover, if scarcity is considered as the result of water shortage, it has also roots in social issues and can thus be seen as part of an environmental justice. As a result, the lack of water highlythreatens human and state security, leading to a situation of conflicts at different scales.

Then we will see, by adopting a state perspective, in which way states can cooperate to stop the water crisis. The alliance between state and science expertise is, in this concern, necessary in order to find solutions. Water management, based on scientific knowledge and allowed by strong institutionsbecomes thus the way to solve conflicts. We will finally show that this international cooperation can be however confronted to important obstacles. While the formation of an international regime of water would be highly desirable, the nature of water resources and of international law, linked to the true interests of states, make hard and unlikely the formation of a global framework of discussions andpolicy-making.

The global crisis of water scarcity represents a fundamental stake for states. To well understand what kind of interstate cooperation and solutions would be possible to address this issue, it is first necessary to define the problem, its causes and consequences.

Water scarcity, temporary or structural, is the result of both a quantitative and qualitative shortage of thisresource supply in relation to demand, due to a constant and fast increase of global population.

Indeed, for many scholars relying on the Malthusian theory, the principal reason for a global scarcity of water resources is the population growth.[1] Population growth is exponential and geometric but resources growth, as water, is arithmetic. Due to high birth rates, particularly in developingcountries, population grows too fast and increases its consumption of resources. This leads to a situation where population outnumbers resources and, as reserves of water are limited, water distribution is difficult to carry out. Thus when the earth will reach its carrying capacity there will be a global and irrevocable scarcity.

What emphasizes the seriousness of this situation, on an ethical...
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