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Water-related conflict unlikely in 10 years: U.S. report

(Xinhua)

09:09, March 23, 2012

WASHINGTON, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Fresh water supplies will not keep up with demand by the global population by 2040, but water- related conflict between countries is unlikely over the next decade, said an assessment report by the U.S. intelligence community which was released on Thursday.

"Water problems will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, posing a risk to global food markets and hobbling economic growth," warned a summary of the report entitled "Global Water Security" which was drafted by the Defense Intelligence Agency and other intelligence outlets.

North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, in particular, will face major challenges in coping with water problems as a result of demographic and economic developments, the report said.

The report regarded it unlikely that conflicts will break out over water between countries in the next 10 years, saying water tensions have led to more water-sharing agreements than violent conflicts historically.

However, water in shared basins will be increasingly used as leverage, and the use of water "as a weapon or to further terrorist objectives" will become more likely beyond 10 years, as water shortages become more acute beyond the next decade, the report said.

And beyond 10 years the risk of a war over water increases, a senior U.S. intelligence official told reporters in a telephone conference call.

During the next 10 years, water problems like shortages, poor water quality or floods, coupled with poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions, will contribute to instability and state failure in states important to U.S. national security interests, the report said.

As to the solutions, the report held improved water management and investment in water-related sectors as the best by 2040.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called on the intelligence community last year to present such a report, echoed by saying the threats cited in the report are "real" and "do raise serious security concerns."

"These difficulties will all increase the risk of instability within and between states," she said at the State Department to mark the World Water Day.

"Within states they could cause some states to fail outright. And between and among states, you could see regional conflicts among states that share water basins be exacerbated and even lead to violence," she said.

On the occasion, she unveiled a new U.S. Water Partnership program in helping cope with the water shortages by pooling public and private resources.

"The Water Partnership has built-in flexibility to address the world's changing water needs and to continue our work to find sustainable solutions," the top U.S. diplomat said.

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