World water conflicts: The global hot spots
When added to existing conflicts or tense relations, water can be an accelerant. DW looks at six countries grappling with water disputes, worsened by climate change and mismanagement.
Water conflicts worldwide
Water conflicts have more than doubled over the last 10 years compared to previous decades, research shows. Sometimes the essential resource is at the root of these clashes but more often than not, disputes over water alone will not spark violence. Instead, water can act as an accelerant when mixed together with other problems, such as poverty, inequality and hunger.
Iran's multiple water disputes
Population growth, urbanization, poor infrastructure and governance have been driving water tensions in Iran. But the country has also seen discord with Afghanistan over how to share the Helmand River's waters. Iran is concerned about its neighbor's Kamal Khan Dam, which opened in 2021, as it will restrict water flow to one of its provinces. Some fear the dispute could turn violent.
Pakistan's tireless fight over water with India
The Indus river, shared by India and Pakistan, has long been a point of contention. The countries divided up the rights to the river and its tributaries in the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. But tensions have flared recently. Pakistan says India has stopped water flowing into the Islamic Republic and accuses its neighbor of using water as a weapon in the ongoing dispute over Kashmir.
India's water woes
India's water crisis spans from its ongoing conflict over the Indus river with Pakistan to droughts that have repeatedly caused severe water shortages across the country. Delayed monsoon rains have recently added to the crisis, with estimates showing that 40% of India's population may not have access to drinking water by 2030.
Nigeria faces ongoing water challenges
Water-related violence in Nigeria is responsible for more casualties than militant Islamist group Boko Haram. In the country's north, where the group has been waging war since 2010, they're also demanding the government provide clean water. Elsewhere, a lack of rain in their own grazing areas, is causing Muslim Fulani herders to move onto land owned by Christian farmers, leading to clashes.
Violent water tensions in Mali
In Mali, farmers and herders have been fighting over scarce water and land resources, against a backdrop of ethnic tensions, armed groups and population rise. In 2019, a combination of these factors led to mass killings in the Inner Niger Delta, a central Malian wetland. Government plans to build dams that may affect over a million farmers, herders and fishers in the Delta could make things worse.
Iraq's multifaceted water crisis
Iraq's ongoing water crisis is complex. Droughts, decreasing annual rainfall, changing weather patterns and pollution all play a role. The state has faced repeated criticism over its failure to properly manage water resources and further destabilizing the country. In late 2019, Iraq's prime minister resigned amid mass protests, partly over lack of access to electricity and clean water.