The Water Wars Are Coming

Water scarcity is omnipresent in the developing world. Today, 768 million people lack access to safe drinking water worldwide. And in Central Asia, a growing population and water-hungry resource extraction industries have made the problem even worse. The balance of resources in Central Asia is far from a happy one. The region is divided into water-rich upstream states, and water-poor downstream ones, and the division leads to conflict and tit-for-tat exchanges, in which water is used for leverage. Lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan, for instance, are currently toying with the idea of cutting water flow to semi-arid Uzbekistan, the nation with the region’s largest population and standing army, after Uzbekistan cut gas supplies to the Kyrgyz city of Osh in April — a move that Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov warned could lead to full-blown war.

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