US intelligence report warns of global water crisis

New York: Warning that a global water crisis was glooming, a US official report has said that problems with water could de-stabilise countries in South Asia, North Africa and Middle East over the next decade.

Major river basins like the Brahmaputra in South Asia and Tigris and Euphrates in Middle East have been identified as risk areas with high potential for conflict, said an American intelligence report released on Thursday. The report prepared at the request of State Department said that in the coming decades countries could use water for politial and economic leverage over neighbours.

Major facilities like dams and desalination plants could become targets of terrorist attacks and coupled with poverty and other social factors, probelms with water could even contribute to the failure of the weaker nations, the New York Times reported quoting the report.

The public report did not specify countries at greater risk for water related disruption but analysed conditions on major river basins to say that Brahmaputra basin in South Asia was a high risk area. "During the next 10 years many countries important to US will almost certainly experience water problems that will contribute to the risk of instability, state failures and increasing regional tension," the reports said.

The report warned that water shortages would become acute in some regions within the next decade, as demand continued to rise. While disputes over water have historically led to negotiated settlements over access, upstream countries will increasingly use dams and other projects "to obtain regional influence or preserve their water interests" over weaker countries downstream.

This is already happening on the Tigris and Euphrates, where Turkey, Syria and Iran have harnessed the headwaters of the two rivers that flow through Iraq, it said.