- What if the Middle East had the capacity to solve the global water crisis?
There is a water crisis of global proportions, with 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water world-wide. Six thousand children are dying per day due to that, and 80% of disease can be attributed to a lack of clean water (Water Ambassadors, Canada). At OSU, the Middle East Studies Center, the Mershon Center, International Programs in Agriculture, and the Office of Research in the College of Arts and Sciences, have facilitated conversations between faculty of many different departments focusing on water. We will continue these activities by hosting annual forums on water research with a focus on topics such as transboundary conflict/cooperation.
With over 250 scholars researching water resource issues at OSU, including 4 of our Middle East faculty (Lal, Marquaire, McCorriston, Ranjbar), OSU has the potential to produce knowledge which could make an impact on various local water issues around the world. The cross-sections of social justice movements, environmental activism and water resource management issues make this a particularly salient topic for the Middle East. We have therefore made it a priority to facilitate cross-disciplinary research connections at OSU on this topic, and to curate water research.
We propose activities to draw new faculty from the sciences, technology, engineering and math, to focus on our world area, and partner with faculty from other departments for a multi-disciplinary approach. This is in line with our university’s efforts to develop knowledge relate to broad themes such as sustainability, health, and food, via “Discovery Themes,” the curricular rubric at OSU for promoting multidisciplinary research relevant to global issues. The Office of Research will facilitate a charrette in the first year to gather stakeholder input. We will design subsequent forums based on faculty needs and interests and publish proceedings.
In Sara Mitchell’s talk yesterday, I learned that interstate river conflicts cause violence within the country affected by the water issue more than between the countries in conflict – that is, there is a higher correlation between the two phenomena. One would assume that the conflict occurring due to disagreement over river rights would cause violence between the two countries, but it seems more often the impact of the water issue (either lack of water, diminished water quality, flooding, etc) in the country being affected somehow exacerbates pre-existing tensions, or perhaps causes armed conflict.
She also pointed out that water issues cause countries to continue cooperating regardless of what their political relations look like. For example, Mitchell pointed out that Turkey and Syria continue to cooperate on the Orontes dam, designed to support a hydro-electric plant that will generate power for both countries. The Guneydogu Anadolu Projesi, or GAP project, in Turkey consists of 24 dams situated in and around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Iraq and Syria obtain 85% to nearly 100% of their water supply from those two rivers of the famous “Fertile Crescent” (Mitchell). While her research on this topic is global in scope, it demonstrates why analyzing global water issues tends to bring up so many Middle Eastern conflicts.