Fifteen years ago, a senior World Bank official predicted that the wars of the 21st century would be fought not over land or oil but over one basic natural resource that many of us take for granted: water.
euronews spoke to Jakob Granit, project director at the Stockholm International Water Institute.
Fighting over water seems somewhat far-fetched for us here in Europe but how realistic do you think this possibility is, faced with the dual threat of an ever-growing world population and climate change?
We haven’t seen water wars over time but what we see of course is a growing competition for water, water scarcity is growing so is also water quality problems. That creates competition in society. That competition we can see at different levels, at the local level, national and transboundary level. And that creates stress which could be a cause for conflict.
What options do governments have to address this problem and how can the private sector play a role?
If you look at this issue from a transboundary perspective, it’s very important for governments to start to share information, to begin to work together in order to address this common challenge because we are dealing here with the region’s public good. And to manage that, most of the governments needs to work together. And if we go back to your question, and the role of the private sector, of course the private sector has a very large role. The clients – if we use that word – we see 2 billion people on this planet don’t have access to good water and sanitation. About 1 billion people have no access to proper water supply. So there is obviously something wrong in our model to deliver those services.
How difficult is it to encourage governments and companies to make that kind of long term investment in efficient water management in this tough economic climate?
Looking at it from a demand perspective, there will always be a demand for clean water, for human needs, for industry and for agriculture. We can also see there will also be a need for managing the water resources we have in the landscape. So, It should be a really safe investment from that point of view. You can also see today that you have large pension funds, for example, moving slowly into the water sector because they know this is a growth area. It does not grow not very fast, the profits are not very large perhaps but over time, it could be a very secure investment. But governments here need to put in place policies that make these kind of investments from the private sector profitable and worthwhile. That is something we really are struggling with today.