Environmental conflicts: the case of the Nile River basin
Mahlakeng, Mahlakeng Khosi
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By the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, the realm of IR was characterised by resource geopolitics (i.e. the potential of conflict as a result of the scarcity of vital resources that cross political boundaries). There is a growing significant threat posed by environmental conflicts. Disputes and tensions over shared renewable resources such as water have become prominent in the realm of IR. Shared water resources (i.e. basins, rivers and lakes) have become hotspots for conflict. The fact that basins and rivers move across rather than along borders have made conflict inevitable and solutions to water sharing complex. The idea laid by early scholars in explaining the link between the environment and conflict was speculative and imprecise, hence the need for a theory that addresses this linkage. The study borrows extensively from Homer-Dixon’s environmental scarcities theory to address the inevitability of conflict over the Nile waters. The hypothesis behind the environmental scarcity theory is that “resource scarcity, through the three causal forms of scarcity (i.e. demand-induced, supply-induced, and structural-induced scarcity), have the potential to cause conflict.” The study argues that, given the reduced outputs due to population growth, degradation and depletion of the Nile and its uneven distribution, the fierce competition over the already finite water resources increases the potential for an inter-riparian conflict in the Nile basin. Recommendations include the need for institutional support structures for the possible management, sustainability and use of the Nile. The study places emphasis on the AU and the NBI as possible mechanisms to address these issues. Alongside pursuing a sustainable inter-riparian solution to resolve the Nile water dispute, both the AU and the NBI should consider addressing the Nile water agreements in conjunction with rising population growth and the degradation and depletion of the Nile.