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RESOURCE WARS: THE HEAVY ECOLOGICAL AND POLITICAL FOOTPRINT OF ECONOMIC GLOBALISATION

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NEW DELHI, Jun 1 2006 (IPS) - Oil wars, water wars, land wars, atmospheric wars : this is the real face of economic globalisation, whose appetite for resources is exceeding the limits of sustainability and justice, writes Vandana Shiva, an author and international campaigner for women and the environment. Like oil, water is becoming a source of wars as it is commodified and privatised, dammed and transferred long distances. Every river in India has become a site of major, irresolvable conflicts over water ownership and distribution. The waters of the Tigris and Euphrates, which have sustained agriculture for thousands of years in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, have been the cause of several major clashes among the three countries. Trade liberalisation is allowing corporations to encroach on the ecological space of local communities, thus unleashing conflicts. The problem is not a shortage of natural resources but free trade and globalisation, corporate greed and partnerships between corporations and states to usurp people\’s resources and violate their fundamental rights. If globalisation is pushed relentlessly, these resource wars will grow and globalisation will be slowed to a halt by ecological catastrophes and conflicts over resources — or, the movements for ecological sustainability and social justice will succeed in resisting globalisation\’s ecological overreaching by laying the foundations for an Earth Democracy in which we live lightly on the earth, and share her vital resources equitably.

Oil wars, water wars, land wars, atmospheric wars: this is the real face of economic globalisation, whose appetite for resources is exceeding the limits of sustainability and justice.

Where there is oil, there is conflict. No matter how much the veneer of a culture war is grafted onto the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq (and the threat of an invasion of Iran), the real issue was and is the control of oil. The May 22, 2006, cover story of Time Magazine was ”The Deadly Delta” on the conflicts that oil has triggered in the Niger delta. The May 15, 2006, Newsweek featured articles on oil politics as the ”Black Art”. Oil has become the basis for the strategy of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia to chart a post-globalisation, post-imperialist map of the world.

Like oil, water is becoming a source of wars as it is commodified and privatised, dammed and transferred long distances. Large dams divert water from the natural drainage systems of rivers. Altering a river’s flow also modifies water distribution, especially if interbasin transfers are involved. A change in water allocation most often generates interstate disputes, which rapidly escalate into conflicts between central governments and states.

Every river in India has become a site of major, irresolvable conflicts over water ownership and distribution. Even the kidnapping of the popular Indian film star Rajkumar by the forest bandit Veerappan in 2000 was related to a water conflict, between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over water from the Kaveri River. In the Americas, conflict between the United States and Mexico over Colorado River water has intensified in recent years.

The waters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which have sustained agriculture for thousands of years in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, have been the cause of several major clashes among the three countries. Both rivers originate in Turkey, whose official position is: ”The water is as much ours as Iraq’s oil is Iraq’s.”

The war between Israelis and Palestinians is to a some extent a war over water. The river under contention is the Jordan River, used by Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the West Bank. Israel’s extensive industrial agriculture requires river water as well as the groundwater of the West Bank. Though only 3 percent of the Jordan basin lies in Israel, it provides for 60 percent of its water needs. The 1967 war was in effect on occupation of the freshwater resources from the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and the West Bank. As Middle-Eastern scholar Ewan Anderson, notes, ”The West Bank has become a critical source of water for Israel, and it could be argued that this consideration outweighs other political and strategic factors.”

World Bank/Asian Development Bank (ADB) financing is also unleashing water wars between states and citizens. For example, when a dam was constructed on Banas River in Rajasthan to divert water to the cities of Jaipur and Ajmer, five villagers at a peaceful protest demanding release of water for local use were shot dead by the police, on 26 August, 2005. The giant USD200 billion River-Linking Project will dam and divert every river in India and is sure to create millions of water wars.

Instead of recognising that globalisation’s ecological footprint is crushing land and people, the new culturally and intellectually uprooted elite talk of too many people on the land. They even talk of natural resources as a comparative disadvantage. A recent article by the secretary finance of the government of Kerala was titled, ”When Natural Resources Are A Menace For Nations: Comparative Disadvantage” (Alok Sheel, Financial Express, April 12, 2006). The article states, ”The view that natural resources can contribute to the comparative disadvantage of nations is relatively recent. If the state is unable to maintain public order, economic activities either collapse or migrate. Natural resources, however, cannot migrate and are easy prey for militant groups.”

The author goes on to argue, ”Natural resources have no economic value at source. Therefore, what gives these resources economic value are the ever increasing avenues of plugging into global trade facilitated by lowering of trade barriers.”

However, it is precisely this trade liberalisation that is allowing corporations to encroach on the ecological space of local communities, thus unleashing conflicts. For local people, natural resources like land and water definitely have value. Denying value at source is denying the prior rights and prior uses of land and water. This is how neoliberal economies create an ecological and social blind spot and can redefine natural resources, the very basis of life, as a ”menace” and ”comparative disadvantage”. The problem is not natural resources but free trade and globalisation. The problem is not people but corporate greed and partnerships between corporations and states to usurp people’s resources and violate their fundamental rights.

If globalisation is pushed relentlessly, these resource wars will grow and globalisation will be slowed to a halt by ecological catastrophes and conflicts over resources — or, the movements for ecological sustainability and social justice will succeed in resisting globalisation’s ecological overreaching by laying the foundations for an Earth Democracy, in which we live lightly on the earth and share her vital resources equitably. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

 
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