The United Nations, which is trying to help resolve the widespread shortage of water in the developing world, is faced with a growing new problem: the use of water as a weapon of war in ongoing conflicts.
The most recent examples are largely in the Middle East and Africa, including Iraq, Egypt, Israel (where supplies to the occupied territories have been shut off) and Botswana.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week expressed concern over reports that water supplies in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo were deliberately cut off by armed groups for eight days, depriving at least 2.5 million people of access to safe water for drinking and sanitation.
“Preventing people’s access to safe water is a denial of a fundamental human right,” he warned, pointing out that “deliberate targeting of civilians and depriving them of essential supplies is a clear breach of international humanitarian and human rights law.”
In the four-year Syrian civil war, water is being used as a weapon by all parties to the conflict, including the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the multiple rebel groups fighting to oust him from power.
The conflict has claimed the lives of over 150,000 people and displaced nearly nine million Syrians.
The violation of international humanitarian law in Syria includes torture and deprivation of food and water.
Maude Barlow, who represents both the Council of Canadians and Food and Water Watch, told IPS water is being increasingly and deliberately used a a weapon of war in recent and ongoing conflicts.
During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the Mesopotamian Marshes were drained, she said.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein drained them further during the 1990s in retribution against Shias who hid there and the Marsh Arabs (Ma’dan) who protected them, she pointed out.
For the complete article, please see Inter Press Service.