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Kalabagh Dam Conflict in Pakistan

Type of conflict sub
Intensity 1
Region
Southern Asia
Time 2004 ‐ 2008
Countries Pakistan
Resources Water
Conflict Summary To mitigate increasing energy demands and the pressures of shrinking water resources, the Kalabagh dam is planned to be constructed in the Indus basin in...
Kalabagh Dam Conflict in Pakistan
To mitigate increasing energy demands and the pressures of shrinking water resources, the Kalabagh dam is planned to be constructed in the Indus basin in Punjab. Fear of the potential effects of the dam on the livelihoods of thousands of people have led to protests and public unrest.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

Controlling floodwaters has also become a priority and a reason in favour of the Kabalagh dam, given that floods during monsoonal rains are becoming increasingly more intense and have devastated large crop areas. Furthermore, climate change has affected water availability during the winter cropping season, contributing to Pakistan’s shrinking water supply.

Intermediary Mechanisms

While the Kabalagh dam is defended as a necessary means of supplying water to agriculturalists, the construction of the dam would inundate large stretches of land and displace about 120,000 people.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

The dam has come to symbolize the uneven distribution of resources between rich and poor regions, particularly between the Sindh and Punjab provinces. As a result, large scale civilian protests and political fractures between regional governments surfaced, ending in the suspension of the project in 2008.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversChanging climate leads to decreased water availability.More frequent/intense extreme weather events lead to decreased water availability.Demographic changes increase pressures on available water resources.Economic developments place additional strains on water resources.Infrastructure development changes the allocation of water.Infrastructure development facilitates land use changes.Freshwater becomes scarce as an essential resource. Changes in land use lead to migration/displacements.Changes in land use reduce available/usable land.Land scarcity hampers agricultural production.Problems related to migration/displacements lead to growing discontent with the state.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources leads to tensions between states.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources provokes discontent with the state.A slow change in climatic conditions, particularly temperature and precipitation.Gradual Change in Temperature and/or PrecipitationAn increase in the scarcity of clean water and/or an increased variability in water supply.Increased Water ScarcityAn increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts.More Frequent / Intense Extreme Weather EventsChange in population density, age structure, or ethnic makeup.Demographic ChangeA broad concept to cover economic growth in general but also specific economic changes or changes of incentives.Economic DevelopmentConstruction of major infrastructure, such as dams, canals or roads.Infrastructure DevelopmentA change in the usage of environmentally relevant land.Land Use ChangeReduced availability of essential natural resources, such as land and water.Change in Access / Availability of Natural Resources(In)voluntary long and short-term movements of people within or across state boundaries.Displacements / MigrationReduced availability of/ access to land.Increased Land ScarcityChallenge to the state's legitimacy, ranging from peaceful protest to violent attempts at overthrowing the government.Anti-State GrievancesTensions between states that may but need not escalate into overt violent conflict.Interstate Tensions
Context Factors
  • Water-stressed Area
Conflict History

Note: Here, interstate tensions are not between nation states but within Pakistani states.

To address the increasing supply-demand gap of water and electricity in Punjab caused by urbanisation, industry, and population growth, the government proposed to build the Kalabagh hydro-electric dam on the Indus River in 1984. The dam has since attracted regular public protests and regional government criticism as the dam would affect water access and water quality for farmers, industry, and urban centres downstream. As a result of large scale civilian protests and political fractures between regions, the project was suspended in 2008. However, the project re-opened in 2012 and currently awaits assessment from a national mitigation body.

Water and energy demands necessitate the dam
The Kalabagh hydro-electric dam has been defended as a necessary means of supplying water to agriculturalists in the context of Pakistan's shrinking water supply (Rizvi, 2006). In 2005, 29% of the agricultural sector could not meet their water requirements and, with current water supply infrastructures, this is estimated to reach 33% by 2025 (Feyyaz, 2011). The Kalabagh dam is also considered a necessary climate-friendly method to provide Pakistan with much needed energy. In 2011, the supply-demand gap in electricity ranged between 1500 and 2500MW per day (Feyyaz, 2011). Controlling floodwaters has also become a priority in the context of climate change and increasingly unpredictable monsoon seasons (Feyyaz, 2011). Monsoonal rains often swell the banks of the Indus River feeding from the Indus basin, causing devastating flooding. This was experienced in 2010 when floods wiped out 1.1 million hectares of crops (Farmer, 2010). Moreover, water availability during the winter cropping season has been continuously dwindling due to the overall climatic change in Pakistan (Feyyaz, 2011).

Social impacts of the dam
However, if the dam were to be built it would inundate 10,200 acres of land and displace about 120,000 people. Citizens of the Mianwali district where the dam is planned to be built, argue that the benefits of the dam will be unevenly distributed amongst the ruling class in Punjab and private investors, and will disadvantage smaller communities. The dam has also become a point of inter-regional ethnic tension, as it has come to symbolise the uneven distribution of resources between rich and poor regions, particularly between Sindh and Punjab.

The current conflict situation
In 2006, the Awami National Party mobilised 20,000 citizens to protest against the dam north of Islamabad, highlighting the politicisation of this dam conflict (Rizvi, 2006). The three provinces to be affected by the dam originally opposed the Kalabagh dam, however, compensation offers and the experience of flooding, in combination with obvious water shortages, has led to three of the four provinces supporting the dam. Today, only the Sindh region opposes the project. The case has been brought before the Council of Common Interest (CCI), which is yet to determine the future of the dam.

Resolution Efforts

Authorities involved in the conflict
Water conflict over the Indus Basin, particularly between the Sindh and Punjab regions, is a reoccurring phenomenon. To mitigate conflict surrounding the distribution of water from the Indus Basin, the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) was established in 1992. This authority monitors usage compliance of Indus waters, as set out in the Water Apportionment Accord of 1991 (Razzaq, 2013). The IRSA investigated provincial concerns over the Kalabagh dam in 2007 and asserted its feasibility. The decision was referred to the constitutional Council of Common Interest (CCI). The CCI also ruled in favour of the federal government's plans for the dam. The topic was then referred to parliament and, as a result of hot politicisation, the Federal Minister for Water and Power declared to postpone construction to 2008 (Razzaq, 2013). The Lahore High Court declared the government legally obliged to build the dam in compliance with the ruling of the CCI in 2008 and plans were subsequently re-released. The issue has been brought again before the CCI for review (Tanveer, 2012).

Weaknesses of the resolution efforts
As a result of destructive flooding and increasing energy demands from both the industrial and private sector, all provinces, excluding Sindh, are now in favour of Kalabagh, thus changing the probable outcome of the CCI decision. However, there are remaining weaknesses in the dispute resolution methods dealing with the Kalabagh dam, which may provide a barrier to conflict resolution. To begin with, there is a distinct lack of centralised leadership, which was displayed when the government disregarded the initial CCI ruling because of protests by Sindh politicians (Imam & Lohani 2012). Furthermore, sustainable water consumption has been ignored. According to research conducted by the American Institute of Peace in 2010, water problems in Pakistan are largely related to poor water management. Sustainable agricultural practices are therefore key in addressing concerns about water shortages expressed by Sindh province and should be integrated into hydro-policy discourse.

Intensities & Influences
conflict intensity scale
Intensities
International / Geopolitical Intensity
Human Suffering

Influences
Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Fatalities
0
Violent Conflict No
Salience within nation National
Mass Displacement Less than 100.000 and less than 10% of the country's population are displaced within the country.
Cross Border Mass Displacement No
Resources
Water
Resolution Success
Reduction in Violence Violence has ceded completely.
Resolve of displacement problems There is some success in accommodating the displaced.
Reduction in geographical scope The geographical scope of the conflict has decreased.
Increased capacity to address grievance in the future The capacity to address grievances in the future has increased.
Grievance Resolution Grievances have been mostly addressed.
Causal Attribution of Decrease in Conflict Intensity Conflict resolution strategies have been clearly responsible for the decrease in conflict intensity.
General opencollapse
Country Data in Comparison
ConflictNoData Created with Sketch.
Fault Lines Defining Conflict Parties
Purely Environmental | Cultural   ♦   Occupational   ♦   Economic   ♦   Urban / Rural   ♦   National / International conflict   ♦   Sub-national political


Actors
Participation Conflict Party     Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Government of Pakistan
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Civilian Protesters
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Indus River System Authority
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Council of Common Interest
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Sindh Province
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
3 Mediation & arbitration The Indus River System Authority (IRSA) was established in order to mitigate the conflict surrounding the distribution of water from The Indus Basin. The IRSA brought the case to the constitutional Council of Common Interest (CCI), which was later referred to the Lahore High Court, both of which ruled in favour of the dam.
0 Environmental restoration & protection The implementation of sustainable water consumption and agricultural practices is crucial to addressing water shortages in Pakistan.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Character of the contested good Common-pool resource: No one can be excluded from use but the good is depleted.
Structure of decision-making power / interdependence Mixed: The abilities of parties to affect the environmental resource is mixed.
Broad conflict characterization Resource Capture is present.
Ecological marginalization is not present.
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse
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Topics

Adaptation & Resilience

All countries will need to adapt to some of the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change that are already unavoidable. Food security, livelihoods, water resource availability and public health are some affected areas. People living in poverty are more vulnerable, having a lower capacity to adapt. Thus, it is essential to promote resilience building. The adaptation and resilience aspects need to be mainstreamed into planning by policy makers and the private sector as well as integrated into development strategies.

Biodiversity & Livelihoods

Nature protection is most sustainable if it essentially contributes to the long-term stability of human needs. Today many regions around the world are confronted with increasing destruction of the natural foundations of life. The consequences of wide-ranging resource destruction are no longer regionally limited, but rather represent a global threat. Those affected are mainly rural populations, who find the sources of their income and the foundations of their way of life swept away. The depletion and destruction of natural resources goes hand in hand with decreasing agricultural yields and increasing poverty, which in turn forces the affected populations to deplete the remaining resources.

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Capacity Building

On the one hand, conflicts are caused by structural factors, such as economic and social inequality or environmental destruction. On the other hand, conflicts are fuelled by a lack of democratic structures, deficient mechanisms of non-violent conflict settlement, inadequate rule of law, the destruction of social and cultural identity and the disregard of human rights. Against this backdrop, development policies have been dedicated to a broad concept of security, which comprises political, economic, ecological and social stability. As a consequence, development cooperation agencies and actors have developed a broad spectrum of approaches for conflict prevention and transformation as well as for sustainable use of natural resources.

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Cities

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Civil Society

Civil society is the first victim of environmental pollution, under-development and conflicts. Economically disadvantaged and politically marginalized population groups are particularly affected by violent conflicts as well as increasing resource degradation. Simultaneously, civil society is a fundamental pillar for implementing sustainable development. It contributes in many ways to strengthening conflict prevention and plays a significant role in the peaceful and democratic development of states. It must be supported to strengthen civil rights, adherence to human rights in general and democratic participation.

Climate Change

Climate change resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases represents one of the vital challenges for international environmental policy. Flooding, droughts, shifting of climate zones and increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events will have serious economic and social consequences for entire regions. The climate problem is also directly linked to the question of future energy generation.

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Climate Diplomacy

To address the challenges posed by climate change, a new profile of climate diplomacy is evolving. This utilises a full range of policies, including development cooperation, conflict prevention efforts, and humanitarian assistance, in addition to more traditional measures of climate change adaptation and mitigation. Moving from a risk analysis of climate-related threats to well-timed preventive action requires a greater commitment to integrating climate change concerns into development, foreign, and security policies. Examples include strengthening diplomatic networks, building new alliances with partners, and raising awareness – not only of potentially negative climate change impacts, but also of opportunities to embark on a sustainable transformation of our societies.

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Co-Benefits

Climate action entails an array of economic, social, political and environmental co-benefits. It provides an opportunity for economic growth and new jobs. Many investments can take into account climate considerations without becoming more costly. Further important co-benefits include: improved energy security, less local air and water pollution, health benefits as well as ecosystem and biodiversity protection.

Conflict Transformation

In order to overcome the structural causes of violent conflicts and thus bring about an improvement in the framework conditions for peaceful and fair development, it is essential to have long term and broadly planned peace development and peace advancement. Various governmental and non-governmental, national and international actors and groups are involved in these processes.

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Development

Climate change and development are inextricably linked. Climate change endangers the development agenda and has the potential to reverse development goals. Furthermore, successful mitigation of climate change heavily depends on development choices around the world. Therefore, development strategies need to be climate-compatible to provide long-term success, and there are viable policy options that support this compatibility. Many mitigation and adaptation activities can present development opportunities to developing countries and avoid the lock-in to environmentally damaging technologies.

Early Warning & Risk Analysis

The reasons for the development and escalation of conflicts and the incidence of risks are multifaceted and complex. Simultaneously, the assessment of the specific causes in the form of risk and conflict analyses can contribute to a better understanding of these processes and make it possible to provide warning of negative developments, or ideally help prevent them. In the context of natural resource use, risks and conflicts have gained increasing attention in the past years. The debate on possible future water wars is merely one example.

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Energy

The well-being of individuals, communities and nations depends on the availability of energy resources. The gap between energy supply and demand appears to be growing, making the world vulnerable to serious economic shocks. At the same time, the burning of fossil fuels causing climate change is one of the vital challenges of international environmental policy. So far, only rudimentary approaches exist for shaping climate and energy security in a sustainable way. The components of a strategy that can contribute to reducing vulnerabilities related to climate change and energy policy include a greater role for renewable energies, the improvement of energy efficiency and a stronger decentralisation of energy supply.

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Environment & Migration

The economic, social and environmental consequences of climate change aggravate the breakdown of eco-system-dependent livelihoods and are likely to become dominant drivers of long-term migration. Natural disasters already cause massive shorter-term displacement and the number of temporarily displaced people is likely to further increase with climate change. For vulnerable populations in vulnerable regions, such as the Sahel zone or the Ganges delta, migration often becomes the sole survival strategy. In order to address climate-related displacement and migration successfully, knowledge of effective adaptation and an improved understanding of how environmental change affects human mobility is essential. 

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Finance

Climate finance, from all sources, plays a key role in supporting and enabling adaptation and mitigation action as well as climate and energy innovation. The Paris Agreement ensured that the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility are at the core of climate finance architecture as entities entrusted with the operation of the Financial Mechanism of the UNFCCC. Increasing climate finance from all relevant public and private sources is crucial. Furthermore, much needs to be done to redirect finance flows to sustainable paths, e.g. reducing fossil fuel subsidies, introducing maritime and air transportation taxes. The conditions for green investment in developing countries should also be improved.

Forests

Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Competition for forest resources triggers, exacerbates, or finances numerous crises and conflicts in tropical developing countries. Illegal logging and timber trade foster instability and sometimes violent conflict by strengthening illegal and armed groups, increasing corruption and exacerbating use and claim conflicts among local communities, the state and the business sector. Forests are a vital resource to poor people but they can also become areas of conflict. Sustainable management of forest resources is therefore key to preventing violent conflict over and within forests.

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Gender

Gender plays an important role as a category of conflict for many reasons. The interlinkages between gender, environment and conflicts are complex and much research is still needed. Existing insights suggest that conflicts may worsen gender inequalities that existed before the outbreak of violence. The unequal distribution of land property rights in many parts of the world serves as an example. Moreover, women (and children) are among those most affected by both violent conflict and natural disasters. At the same time, women carry much of the burden of trying to implement rehabilitation measures after crisis events.

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Land & Food

Increasing water scarcity, desertification and crop failures due to extreme weather events are becoming more and more of a threat to global food production. While the world’s population continues to grow rapidly, food production is unable to keep pace. Due to the global food crisis in 2008, the number of hungry people reached the symbolic one billion threshold for the first time – corresponding to about 16 percent of world population. Food insecurity may be a consequence or cause of conflicts. Violent conflicts often lead to the destruction of agricultural infrastructure and means of production, as well as to the displacement of local communities.

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Minerals & Mining

In the past, the discovery and tapping of valuable or strategic resources like valuable minerals, oil and natural gas, particularly in developing and emerging countries, has often led to large scale environmental contamination and negative development. The "resource curse" of some countries shows that the wealth from resource yields is frequently unfairly distributed; instead of serving development it advanced the formation of corrupt elites and in some cases even led to conflicts and civil wars. Measures in various sectors and at all levels are important in order to use the potential of these natural resources in a manner that is sustainable and prevents conflicts.

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Private Sector

The spread of violent conflict not only affects people but also companies located in such regions. Destruction of investments and infrastructure, collapse of markets and trade partnerships, flight and expulsion of employees are phenomena of conflicts and environment-induced crises that directly affect companies in unstable regions. Almost all branches of the economy thus have a clear interest in a stable and peaceful environment for their activities. Conversely, the business sector plays an important role in the interaction of economic growth, social development and a healthy environment, all of which can advance peace and sustainable development. 

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Security

Environmental issues have a significant security dimension. Access to, and overuse of, natural resources often play a key role in civil wars or other forms of internal domestic conflict. This is compounded by climate change and environmental degradation. Climate change is now widely recognised as a non-traditional, risk-multiplying threat that will have increasing security impacts. Key risks with possible implications for human and national security include water scarcity, food crises, natural disasters, and displacement. More preventive diplomacy and advocacy is needed to address the strategic implications of climate and environmental change.

Sustainable Transformation

Sustainable Transformation allows societies to profit from a growing, environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economy – especially in emerging and developing countries. This requires a higher up-front investment, but the benefits of a sustainable transformation in the medium and long term are significant. For instance, energy cost savings and reducing the impact of price volatility offer major incentives for deploying renewable energies and promoting energy efficiency. Such benefits exist in all key sectors of the economy.

Technology & Innovation

Innovations and technologies are already readily available and affordable but their global diffusion and uptake remains a challenge. Innovation and technology are crucial to achieving ambitious climate change mitigation and adaptation targets. However, research and development often do not receive appropriate public support. Developing countries can leapfrog high-carbon industrialisation phases by adopting, deploying and improving existing innovations and technologies. For this, it is essential to minimise financial, administrative and political barriers.

Water

The availability of freshwater resources in sufficient quantity and quality is essential for the preservation of human health and sound ecosystems. The use of water resources is also vital, however, for economic development: whether for agriculture, industrial production or for electricity generation. The world's freshwater resources are distributed very unevenly in terms of geography and seasons. In addition, water shortage is becoming more prevalent in several regions due to population growth, economic development, urbanisation and increasing environmental pollution. Thus, water resources can hold potential for conflicts between parties who have different interests and needs.

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Regions

Asia

The environment in Asia is already under tremendous pressure as a result of the unsustainable use of land, forests, water and even air in many regions. Climate change will only exacerbate these challenges. Rising sea levels will likely endanger densely populated areas, changes in the monsoon patterns can strongly impact agriculture, melting glaciers will increase long-term water scarcity, and extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and cyclones can pose further hazards.

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Central America & Caribbean

Natural disasters and water scarcity are key challenges for most of Central America and the Caribbean. These challenges will become even more pronounced as the climate changes. Weak resource and disaster risk management and land disputes pose additional security challenges for large parts of the region. Several countries of Central America and the Caribbean have limited adaptive capacities as they face political instability caused by high social inequality, crime, corruption, and intra-state conflicts.

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Europe

As one of the most developed and most densely populated regions in the world, Europe makes heavy use of its resources, resulting in difficult trade-offs and negative consequences for the environment and ecosystems. Land is used for settlements, agriculture and dense infrastructure, creating problems of soil degradation. Water resources are stressed due to unsustainable agricultural practices. Despite nature protection policies, Europe continues to lose biodiversity at an alarming pace. Some of these trends are exacerbated by climate change, which is expected, for instance, to lead to shifts in water availability.

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Global Issues

Resource scarcities, environmental pollution and climate change are not limited by national borders, but often have a transboundary or even global impact. These issues interact with political stability, governance structures and economic performance, and can trigger or worsen disputes and violent conflicts. Exacerbating some of these trends, climate change is likely to lead to the degradation of freshwater resources, declines in food production, increases in storm and flood disasters and environmentally induced migration. All these developments pose potential for conflict.

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Middle East & North Africa

The geopolitical position of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), its fossil fuel resources, high population growth and the political changes spurred by the Arab Spring all make the region one of the most dynamic in the world. Nevertheless, it is also one of the most arid and environmentally stressed. Dwindling water resources, limited arable and grazing land, high pollution from household and industrial waste, remnants of conflicts and increasing desertification are key environmental challenges.

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North America

Climate change has various impacts on the three North American countries of Canada, Mexico and the US. Canada and the US have well-developed adaptive capacities and foster the strengthening of capacities in other regions as well. With high per capita emissions, these two countries also bear a greater responsibility for a changing climate. Mexico has a sound national strategy for climate change adaptation, yet fewer capacities than Canada and the US. The poorer and rural populations of Mexico are especially vulnerable to climate change, due to an increased sensitivity and a lower adaptive capacity.

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Oceania & Pacific

In Oceania, population growth and economic development trends put a strain on oceanic and island ecosystems. Freshwater scarcity, overexploitation of fisheries, loss of land biodiversity, forests and trees, invasive species, soil degradation, increasing levels of settlement, poor management of solid and hazardous waste and disproportionate use of coastal areas are some of the problems. Climate change exacerbates most of these trends, while also raising questions about the future sovereignty of some island states.

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South America

South America has diverse and unique ecosystems and is very rich in biodiversity. Weak natural resource management, land disputes and extreme weather events bring about significant challenges for the region. While South America accounts for relatively few CO2 emissions, the changing climate will alter its ecosystems and greater climate variability will lead to more hurricanes, landslides, and droughts.

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Sub-Saharan Africa

In many African states, environmental security issues rank high on the political agenda. Throughout the continent, countries suffer from water scarcity, food insecurity and energy poverty. These chronic and worsening resource scarcities have severe livelihood implications and are exacerbated by political conflicts over access to and control over these resources. Climate change may seriously threaten political and economic stability in Africa. It may also put a severe strain on the capacities of states and societies to co-ordinate activities, to communicate and to organize.

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