On 29th of July the „Nature Climate Change Journal“ published a study on the glaciar melting and water supply in the Tien Shan (Central Asia) (for instance, Der Tagesanzeiger and the NZZ reported). The Tien Shan is shared by five countries (Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and China). All of them will have to cope with changed water supply during summer and winter due to the prospective delay of glaciar runoff from spring/summer to winter/spring. The glaciars have already been retreating at least 50%. The water supply, which currently relies on snowmelt, will depend on precipitation in the future. Given the changed weather cycles and glaciar melt, people will experience more droughts, famines and low water levels of rivers. Due to irrigation used for watering fields, the adjacent Aral Sea has been drying out for several years already. Additionally, the region around the Tien Shan is facing a rapid population growth and urbanisation.
It is fact that the region will be needing more water in the future! The constructions of dams at the upper reaches of the rivers are supposed to be a solution. It is a solution which could result in the displacement and dislocation of people but also in conflicts and wars between states!
Glaciar melt, droughts, changed weather cycles and dams: They all could contribute to the people’s decision to migrate in order to find better livelihoods somewhere else. But water and glaciars do not belong to only one state – as soon as several countries have to share stream courses, conflicts have to be expected – also in the Tien Shan. One day after the study was published, on 30th of July, the Berliner Morgenpost issued an article on the current and possible consequences of the lack of drinking water worldwide (e.g. in Ethiopia, Israel, Vietnam and the Iraq). Conflicts over the access to water have already begun! Water wars are not around the corner yet, but they are quite close!
The present droughts worldwide, in India, the U.S.A., South Europe and Africa, seem to have risen the consciousness of people to think about, not how we are using water, but how we should deal with climate change:
- Existing plans are discussed, for instance the Odisha Climate Change Action Plan in India
- Best practice examples of cooperative supranational projects, such as dam constructions, are analysed and discussed (see Berliner Morgenpost)
- In the Huffington Post James O’Dea compares the denial respectively disregard of climate change with criminal acts. According to him everyone who takes decisions which ignore climate change or who does not want to take action, although knowing about the possible consequences of climate change, acts in a grossly negligent manner and therefore criminal.
People’s consciounessness on the effects climate change is growing and that could be an advantage for the people from the Tien Shan – given that the government will not only act according to its own interests.
However, larger parts of the population are increasingly aware of possible further consequences of climate change. Catchwords, such as water wars, sustainable use of resources and cooperative supranational solutions, appear more frequently in the media.
Perhaps that is only a short-lived trend.
Perhaps it will let us rethink our use of resources and how we will share these in the future – in a peaceful way.
Perhaps, but there cannot be any certainty.
As long as gatherings, such as Rio +20, only result in vague commitments like „We are aware of …“ but not in concrete instructions, every solution will depend on the individual’s will (see comment on umweltmigration.org). As long as international binding regulations are missing, most decisions will be taken in a way which supports the own (economic) interests best. International treaties might contribute to a peaceful, sustainable solution, but only if it does not just include intentions but also legally enforceable commitments!