Water and the Struggle for Peace and Democracy

by Nicholas Hildyard

first published 2 August 2017

This presentation to a workshop in Baghdad, Iraq, on "Water as a Tool for Peace-building" looks at how pollution, particularly salinisation; reduced water flows in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers; and dam construction upstream are triggering conflicts — and how these conflicts are rooted in the denial of democratic decision-making processes.

The presentation concludes that:

  • water shortages in the region, and the conflicts arising from them, are largely human-made;
  • the problem of salinity and reduced water flows cannot be solved nationally or locally because a basin-wide approach is needed addressing upstream agriculture and dam-building; and
  • the issue of dams cannot be sidelined — every water conflict in the area is ultimately linked to a dam or water engineering scheme somewhere — because of the sheer number of problems that mega-dams create.