Council of Canadians representative Maude Barlow has listed Botswana among countries that use water as a weapon of war. Barlow said Botswana used water as a weapon against the Kalahari Basarwa in an attempt to force them out of the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve to make way for diamond mining.
In 2002, the government smashed their only major water borehole, a terrible act that was only overturned in court years later, she noted. Balow who also represents Food and Water Watchwas commenting on the report that 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 were listed as the Middle East, Iraq, Egypt, Israel 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 lamented that 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. The privatisation of water in Egypt and its diversion to the wealthy was a major factor in the “Arab Spring” uprising, said Barlow, a former senior advisor on water to the president of the General Assembly back in 2008/2009. Thousands suddenly had no access to clean water and “thirst protests” were partial catalysts for the large uprising.
Also, more than four decades of Israeli occupation have made it impossible to develop or maintain infrastructure for water in Gaza, causing the contamination of drinking water and many deaths, she declared. Barlow also said Botswana used water as a weapon against the Kalahari bushmen in an attempt to force them out of the desert, where diamonds had been discovered.