Water lends itself to many uses, and with that come the chal-lenges. Everybody needs it; every nation wants to control it and the resources it bears. In West Africa, contests over right to
water resources pose real and potential crises that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the subregional body, has had to wade into, particularly to forestall future breakdown of order. But the intergovernmental organisation should be ready to do more than adopting conventions and leaving ratification and imple-mentation to the whims of individual member countries and leaders.
As our interview personality from the West Africa programme of the Global Water Partnership avers in this edition, water can –and should–become a source of cooperation among countries in the sub region and not the foundation of division and violent conflicts. If the sub region remains the focus of the member states, the states can cooperate in putting water to its industrial and domestic uses as Nigeria, Niger and some other countries have shown is practicable through collaboration on hydroelectric power generation.
Climate change and desertification pose another challenge to cooperation efforts, nevertheless. Dwindling reservoirs of water and water resources due to over-fishing and receding water levels mean that for example, fishers in Lake Chad, from the countries that share the water body, are more likely than ever to come into open confron-tation. It is left to ECOWAS to work out mobilisation mechanisms to ensure that stakeholders collectively understand the looming water challenge and attempt to mitigate the conflicts.
Celebrating the 2011 World Water Day observed on March 22, the Global Call for Action Against Poverty campaign drew attention to the increasing urbanisation of dwelling patterns and called on governments and nongovernmental institutions “to actively engage in addressing the problems around urban water management and to respond to [the] urban challenges.” It said uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems negatively impact this overwhelming gathering of human beings. In a separate response to the water challenge, the United States government’s, Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and World Bank President, Mr Robert Zoellick, signed a memoran-dum of understanding on World Water Day to help bolster invest-ments in the developing world’s water sector.
The significance of all these is that water is a responsibility of all. Individuals should embrace more responsible use of water and water resources, while state and intergovernmental parties embark on efforts that will avert water-inspired violent conflicts. All this is feasible.
-Odoh Diego Okenyodo