Category: Global Water Security

China, Israel, and the New Silk Road

In April 2014, the Israeli President and historic figure Shimon Peres led a three days state visit in China, in order to bolster the growing relationship between the two countries (Shannon Tiezzi, “As China Turns Toward Middle East, China and Israel Seek Closer Ties“, The Diplomat, April 09, 2014). It is interesting to note that the discussions were mainly focused on agriculture, natural resources, environmental protection, Israel, Strategic Foresighteducation and healthcare. Since then, other talks have been held about defense cooperation (Mercy A. Kuo and Angelica O. Tang, “The U.S.-China-Israel Defense Dynamic: Strategic Common Ground”, The Diplomat, May 11, 2015). Beijing has even proposed its mediation in the Israel-Palestine conflict (Shannon Tiezzi, “China appoints new special envoy to the Middle east”, The Diplomat, September 05, 2014).

The choice of these fields is not “simply” about the way Israeli expertise meets the interest of the Chinese political and economic authorities (Gregory Noddin Poulin, “Sino-Israeli Ties blossoming”, The Diplomat, December 01, 2014). At a much deeper level, these areas are directly related to the basic needs of nations, which must remain sustainable.

This is especially true currently for China, which is devising the worldwide strategy of the “New Silk Road”, in order to succeed in its national project (Valantin, “China and the New Silk Road: the Pakistani strategy”, The Red Team Analysis, May 18, 2015).

That project, also known as “one belt, one road”, is based on the building of a series of land and sea transport infrastructures. Its different parts constitute segments of “one road”, which deploys itself wherever the Chinese authorities need it, thus defining spaces that are part of a common belt.

191px-Xi_Jinping_Sept._19,_2012These spaces, composed of countries, or regions, are thus defined as part of an international “support system” for the Middle Kingdom (“Belt and Road Nations account for 26 per cent of China’s trade”, The Beijing Review, April 29, 2015). In other words, through the growth of its cooperation with China, Israel is joining the “New Silk Road”, and thus involves itself in the Chinese grand strategy (Tyler Durden, “New silk road could change global economics forever, part 1”, Zero Hedge, 05/23/2015).

This grand strategy needs to be understood for what it is, i.e. a coherent set of ways and means, combined and deployed by China, which seeks to guarantee its own capability to remain a growing and viable country during the twenty-first century.

Water and national futures

The new phase of the Israeli-Chinese cooperation materialises itself through multiple projects. Among them, the “Water city” framework allows Israeli and Chinese municipal officials to explore different kind of innovations across the water sector (Niv Elis, “Israel, China launch joint task Force for expanding ties”, The Jerusalem Post, 03/30/2015).

In effect, Israel is extremely advanced in the field of water treatment and management, and is the leading nation in the field of desalination technology ((William Booth, “Israel knows water technology and it wants to cash in”, The Washington Post, October 25, 2013). It is a huge advantage in an arid region, strongly hammered by climate change, and home to countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, which are under a mounting hydric stress, because of their growing population and water needs, and of the regional effects of the war in Syria and Iraq (Valantin, “Collapse war in the Middle East?The Red Team Analysis, April 7, 2015).

Through water technology, Israel works at being a nation with a future, in the context of the regional situation of hydric stress, climate change and social and political tensions. This makes the “Water city framework” especially interesting for the Chinese, given the rapidly growing hydric needs of Chinese cities.

In effect, China knows a phase of giant urban expansion: according to the OECD, the Chinese urban population counted 200 million people in 1980, and is currently reaching 700 million people, out of a total population of 1, 200 billion. It could count 950 million in 2030. This unprecedented urban growth necessitates the rapid development of efficient and affordable water treatment capabilities (OECD, “Urbanisation and green growth in China”, OECD Regional development working papers, 2013/07).


This is especially true in coastal industrialized cities, such as Shougouang, which is the designed core of the “water city project” and where the possibilities offered by Israeli technology and expertise are explored, before being expanded to other cities (Sharon Udasin, “Chinese officials in Israel to advance Shougouang “water city” project”, The Jerusalem Post, 03/30/2015).

In effect, the rapidly growing Chinese megacities need to be able to attract the kind of technologies developed by Israel. Indeed, Chinese demographic and industrial growth generate the same kind of threat on sustainability, through, for example, air and water pollution (Valantin, “The Arctic, Russia and Chinese energy transition”, The Red Team Analysis, February 2, 2015) and environmental degradation as the combination of aridity, demography and economic growth in the case of Israel (Valantin, “Israel, Natural Gas and Power in the Middle East”, ibid).

The focus on water is particularly telling as far as the strategic importance of the partnerships that China is currently developing with Israel is concerned. Guaranteeing access to water to the immense Chinese urban and rural population, in conditions of growing hydric stress (OECD, ibid), is a key feature of the social and national cohesion the Middle Kingdom must ensure.

In effect, the different ways and means through which China achieves sustainability – i.e. the adequate equilibrium between the organization of society and the production of resources necessary to answer its needs (John King Fairbanks, Merle Goldman, China, a New History, 2006) – is one perspective through which to read and understand China.

Shanghai_haze_Highway_20131206The development of the country, and the legitimacy that is granted to the political authorities in this context, rests upon the material and biological viability of the cities. If this were to be endangered, the relationship between the population and the local and national authorities could be violently questioned (Quynh Delaunay, Naissance de la Chine moderne, L’Empire du Milieu dans la globalisation, 2014).

In order to have a successful national future, China seeks (and finds) the technologies and skills it needs to get the capabilities necessaries for its national grand strategy. This is exemplified, in our case, by the meeting of the “Belt” with Israeli national interest(s).

An alliance of national futures?

In other words, what the Israel – China cooperation reveals is that these two countries understand each other through a shared question: how are they going to maintain the social, political, economic, and environmental conditions that have been accessory to the Chinese project on one hand and to the Israeli project on the other hand over the last sixty years?

Israel needs not anymore a “protector” as much as it needs partners.

In effect, Israel has developed itself upon the idea of a sustainable Jewish state in a politically challenging context, combined with the necessity of accessing water and other basic resources necessary for a modern state and society in such an arid environment (Valantin, “Israel, Natural Gas and Power in the Middle East”, The Red Team Analysis, April 27, 2015). What is at stake, here, is the possibility of a successful national future both for Israel and for China, as both experiment deep transformative dynamics.

As we have seen, China is becoming, in the same time, an urban country and a world power, which needs to attract immense amounts of resources (Giovanni Arrighi, Adam Smith in Beijing, 2007).

Israel knows a transformation of its own international strategic status, by becoming, over the last few years, an energy power, thanks to the discovery and exploitation of giant off shore natural gas deposits (Marin Katusa, The Colder War, 2014). This is quickly changing its status in the Middle East, making it an energy exporter, particularly to Egypt and Jordan (Gismatullin, “Egypt importing gas for the first time as export disappear”Bloomberg Business, December 11, 2012).


This happens when the Israeli historic and strategic “special relationship” with the US is strained. We could wonder if a profound reason for these tensions lies in the new status of Israel, which needs not anymore a “protector” as much as it needs partners. In other words, Israel may well seek a way to support its transformation from “protected power” to “integrated regional power” (Valantin, ibid).

The “New Silk Road” is reaching the Middle East

These new relations between Israel and China are happening in the context of the deployment of the “New Silk Road strategy” in Pakistan and, through this country, in Iran and thus in the Middle East.

320px-Silk_routeFrom a historical and political point of view, it could be said that the “New Silk Road” is revitalizing the medieval Silk Road (“About the Silk Roads“, UNESCO), which closed during the fifteenth century, and which was linking the Mediterranean world to China through the Middle East and Central Asia.

The intensification of the Israeli relations with China may thus appear deeply linked to the Chinese process of international networking launched by China through the “New Silk Road” strategy.

In effect, as we saw, in April 2015, President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif announced a joint deal, worth 46 billion dollars, for the development of transportation and infrastructures, which will link the Pakistani harbour of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea, with the Chinese Xinjiang (Katharine Houreld, “China and Pakistan launch economic corridor plan worth 46 billion dollars”, Reuters, April 20, 2015).

Part of that deal will be devoted to the construction, financed by China, of the Pakistani part of a new gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan, which will be completed as soon as US sanctions on Iran are lifted when the deal on Iran nuclear projects is signed, probably during the summer 2015 (“China, Pakistan sign gas pipeline deal key to Iran imports”, Press TV, April 21, 2015).

The pipeline, dubbed the “Peace pipeline”, is already completed on the Iranian side, and goes from Assaluyeh, Iran’s energy hub, to the Pakistani frontier. Besides other projects, as seen, it will help alleviate the Pakistani need for energy, and could be used to transport natural gas to China.

Through these infrastructural projects, China’s “belt and road” is reaching the Middle East through South Asia, while developing common interests with Israel.

In other words, the “New Silk Road” becomes a system to support Pakistan and Iran as partners of China, in order for them to be able to support China. This means that China, through the renewal of its relations with Iran, through “the belt” in Pakistan, is becoming both a major South Asia and Middle East player.

This could have major impacts for Israel, which so becomes an important actor of the “Middle East segment” of the system of partnerships and network that China develops. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see if the relations between China and Israel, and between the Middle East countries and China, are going to contribute to further transform, or not, the relationships between Israel and the Middle Eastern world as well as with the Mediterranean world.

And we must not forget that these evolutions of the political and strategic status of Israel are entwined with its new energy capabilities and its relations with the Chinese “New silk road” system.

This convergence between China and its Middle Eastern partners could become a powerful transformative force, given a likely future mammoth influence of China, in the Middle East. This could happen through the creation of new regional and international systems of shared interest between these countries and the Middle Kingdom, while allowing China to become a Middle East player.

What now remains to be seen is the way the New Silk Road could, or not, favour the emergence of a very unexpected system of cooperation in the Middle East, and if this system could affect the balance of power and the “war and peace process” in the region, especially in the case of the Islamic State.

To be (soon) continued.

Jean-Michel Valantin, (PhD Paris) leads the Environment and Security Department of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defense sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Featured image: Drops of water falling on the facility description of gray water by Shai Kessel via the PikiWiki – Israel free image collection project – שי קסל [CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Turkey: An Energy and Environmental Power

On 1 December 2014, President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyit Erdogan and President of the Federation of Russia Vladimir Putin agreed on the implementation of a new gas pipeline, linking the Russian Federation to Turkey through the Black Sea ( “Gazprom to build new 63 bcm Black Sea pipeline to Turkey instead of South Stream”, Russia Today, December 1, 2014).

This new project is called “Turkish stream” and replaces the late “South Stream”, which was meant to coRecep_Tayyip_Erdogan_and_Vladimir_Putinnnect Russia to Europe, by crossing southern European countries. The decision of Bulgaria to withdraw from the project, in the context of the tensions regarding Ukraine between the U.S. and the EU, on the one hand, Russia, on the other, led the Kremlin to “kill” South Stream (“Why Putin Pulled the Plug on South Stream”, Russia Today, December 3, 2014).

“Turkish Stream” will run 660 km along the corridor defined for South Stream, and will have the same annual capacity of 63 billion cubic meters, but will stop at a new terminal in Turkey, very close to the border with Greece (Tyler Durden, “Putin Kills “South Stream Pipeline, Will Build New Massive Pipeline Instead”, Zero Hedge, 12/01/2014).

The signature of this deal with Russia is an extremely important driver of the transformation of Turkey into a continental energy and environmental power. In fact, “Turkish Stream” exemplifies one of the ways Turkey works at becoming a Eurasian pole of power, based on the strategic use of the nexus of relations linking geography, water and energy. 

Turkish environmental geopolitics

Turkey is the upstream country of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, which cross downstream Syria and Iraq, and are the main sources of 223px-Bassin_Tigre_Euphratesurface water in a largely water deprived region.

The Turkish political authorities have understood the way environment can be used as a form of political power and influence, especially through the water management of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, in a region where access to water is a vital necessity for entire societies.

Starting from the 1960s, the Turkish political authorities have given themselves a strategic framework for the water management and development of southern Anatolia, known as the Southeast Anatolia Project, or “Guneydogu Anadolu Projesi” (GAP), which was first thought about by Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, during the twenties (“History of the South Eastern Anatolia project”, South Eastern Anatolia Project Administration, March 31, 2006).

This roadmap, central to the political thinking of the successive governments, has led to the construction of Ataturk Dam, water security14 dams on the Euphrates River, and the completed construction of six dams on the Tigris River throughout the years. (Joost Jongerden, “Dams and Politics in Turkey: Utilizing Water, Developing Conflicts, Middle East Policy Council, 2010). A seventh should be completed in 2017 (Ryan Wilson, “Water Shortages Crisis Escalating in the Tigris-Euphrates Basin”, Future Directions International, 2012).

This immense water project is used for the development of electricity production and for agricultural irrigation (South Eastern Anatolia Project Administration, ibid). In the meantime, Turkish use and control of the upstream water has led several times to very high levels of tensions with Syria and Iraq, as well as with the different Kurdish factions: especially in 1975 and 1990, water tensions almost led to open war between the downstream countries and the upstream country, because of the drastic decrease of the Euphrates flow during the building of a dam (Michael Klare, Resource Wars, 2002).

Kurdish-inhabited_area_by_CIA_(1992)Since then, a permanent state of negotiations and tensions about the water flow exists between the three countries (Martin Chulov, “Is Iraq’s Next Crisis Ecological?”, TomDispatch, 2009).

Furthermore, these infrastructures and their control are a tool in the long-standing conflict between Turkey and the Kurdish populations and armed political parties, because they can be used to “weaponize” the rivers through the threat of reducing the flow of water and the economic development of poor areas (Klare, ibid).

The Turkish water management is both a highly political tool of development and  a strategic weapon, because it is also used to develop South Anatolia, a poor area with an important Kurdish population, and thus to expand the legitimacy of Ankara’s rule among the South Anatolian Kurdish population (Ilektra Tsakalidou, “The Great Anatolian Project: Is Water Management Panacea or Crisis Multiplier for Kurdish Turks?”, New Security Beat, August 5, 2013).

In other terms, the Turkish political authorities have accumulated an important capital of experience in using environment and infrastructure as tools of domestic political power and international influence. Since the end of 2014, the Russian gas project opens a new area and new levels for Turkish soft power.

Becoming an energy power?

It is interesting to note that the decision to transform “South Stream” into “Turkish Stream” has triggered a specific political process for the rapid implementation of the project (“Russia and Turkey agree on Turkish Stream onshore route“, Russia Today, February 10, 2015).

In effect, this massive gas project will allow Turkey to have access to the huge amounts of gas, coming from Russia, necessary to RUGasPipesMapits current economic and demographic development, and thus complement the “gas relation” already implemented with Russia through “Blue Stream”, which was the first pipeline linking the two countries (“Putin: Energy is “locomotive” of Russia-Turkey cooperation”, Russia Today, November 28, 2014). However, “Turkish Stream” will not only deliver gas to the Istanbul region, but also a special end-hub is planned at the Greek border. Thus, the western part of Turkey may very well become an energy attractor for European countries and corporations interested in buying gas.

This energy and infrastructural development goes with very profound strategic consequences, both for Russia and Turkey. From the Russian strategic perspective, of which the gas giant corporation Gazprom is the actor (Pol-Henry Dasseler, Gazprom, l’idéalisme européen face au réalisme russe, 2009), “Turkish Stream” heightens the influence and reinforces the international security of Russia in this most strategic country, which stands exactly between the “Russian lake” that the Black sea is, and the Mediterranean Sea, Russia, the Caucasus region, Central Asia, the Middle East and Southern Europe.

On a “civilizational” level, contemporary Turkey is also a pole between the Muslim world, both Sunni and Shiite (especially given the common border with Iran), the Christian Orthodox area that follows the ancient “sphere of influence” of the Byzantium Empire from Greece to Russia, and the rest of the Mediterranean world (Hamit Bozarslan, Histoire de la Turquie, de l’Empire à nos jours, 2013).

gas pipeline RussiaIn other terms, “Turkish Stream” is a way for Russia to exert its influence on this whole “mosaic” by creating what can be called a channel of power between itself and that other Eurasian pole that Turkey is, currently crossed by multiple political, social, economic, ideological, religious and ecological tensions.

“Turkish Stream” must be understood as a very complex strategic entity. In effect, it would be wrong to qualify it simply as a tool of Russian influence in Turkey, on Southern Europe and the Mediterranean world. It is also a way for Turkey to host the channel of political power and influence inherent to such an infrastructure (Rafael Kandiyotti, Pipelines, Flowing Oil and Crude Politics, 2012). As a result Turkey also makes of the political project and decision-making process that allowed for the happenstance of “Turkish Stream” the basis for new levels of energy security and influence.

By welcoming this second Russian pipeline not only on its territory, but also into the very fabric of its development process, Ankara couples this new energy power with its water management power, by literally “sharing” the Russian energy power and linking it with its dam system, when the latter is, as seen above, used to produce electricity and an instrument of agricultural development and foreign policy.

In order to both strengthen and secure its new status as an energy power, and its access to energy for its development, Ankara has also signed a deal with the Russian Giant nuclear corporation Rosatom to build the Akkuyu nuclear power plant (Marin Katusa, The Colder War, How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp, 2015), which could be the first of a series of three (Zulfikar Dogan, “Energy deals may make Turkey irreversibly reliant on Moscow”, Al Monitor, 12 December 2014).

By doing so, Turkey could become part of the “civil nuclear club”, knowing that the development of nuclear energy can be a powerful driver for the whole national educational, training, science and industrial system, and thus “force” the technological development of the country.

Enter China?

This renewal of the Turkish influence through the energy-water nexus could very well connect with another factor: the Chinese quest for the resources it needs for its own national development (Michael Klare, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, 2008). This “global Chinese power of need”  is exerted on the whole world through a variety of means (Valantin, “Arctic China (1) – The Dragon and the Vikings”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, May 26, 2014). Notably, China is devising strategies and means to channel these resources through “win-win” deals, qualified as “the new silk road” (Deng Yaqing, “A Shared Path”, The Beijing Review, July 10, 2014).

The “new silk road” is based on the vast project of developing new systems of roads, railways, pipelines and sea-lanes, which are divided in “belts”. Beijing and Ankara are discussing the sino-turkish “belt” of this “new silk road”, called “One Belt, One road”, or the “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB) (Anna Beth Keim, Sulmaan Khan, “Can China and Turkey Build a New Silk Road?”, Yale Global on Line, 18 January 2013).

This Sino-Turkish cooperation could People's_Republic_of_China_Turkey_Locatorhelp Turkey to attract Chinese financial investment, while allowing China to access markets and resources (Brenda Goh, “China Pays Big to Expand its Clout Along the New Silk Road”, Reuters, Nov 10, 2014).

It must be noted that these talks started in 2010 and that in 2012, the Turkish government asked, and obtained, to have the status of “dialogue partner” among the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an international organization, which purpose is to reinforce economic, especially energy, and security cooperation between its members: Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan (Zachary Keck, “Turkey Renews Plea to Join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization”, The Diplomat, December 1, 2013).

In other terms, Ankara attracts the power of Russia and possibly China, in order to become a Davutoglu, Putinnew kind of continental power, through an active use of the energy-water-geography nexus. In effect, the SREB would allow Turkey to play a significant part in the politics of Central Asia, through the coordination of the different segments of the roads and railways linking it to China (Selcuk Colacoglu, “The Silk Road Project and the Opportunity to Improve Sino-Turkish relations”, The Journal of Turkish Weekly, 30 December 2014).

The very fact that Turkey, a NATO country, could have these discussions with Beijing and the SCO is a strong political indicator of how Ankara works at changing its strategic status through Davutoglu’s “Strategic Depth”, (Marija Mitrovic, “Turkish Foreign Policy Towards the Balkans”, GETma Working Paper Series, 2014) by benefiting from being at the crossroad of the Russian and Chinese influences. It also exemplifies how it transforms these two emerging and powerful influences into its own national power, thus becoming a new political and strategic pole.

It now remains to be seen how this energy-water nexus is going to be used in a region very sensitive to climate change and where immense political and social tensions and change are building up.

To be (soon) continued

Dr Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris) leads the Environment and Security Department of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defense sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Featured image: President Putin With President Erdogan, News conference following state visit to Turkey., the Presidential Press and Information Office, State visit to Turkey, December 1, 2014 Ankara, C.C. 3.0

Egypt and Climate Security

Since 2008, when massive food riots took place, followed by the “Arab spring revolution” in 2011, Egypt has become a land of political, religious and social conflicts (Krista Mahr, “Bread is life: food and protest in Egypt“, Time Magazine, January 31, 2011; Georges Corm, Le Proche-Orient éclaté, 2012), some of them between armed militant and religious factions on the one hand, the police, the military and the secret services, on the other. Meanwhile the civil society strongly emerges.

Beyond spectacular events, the causes of these domestic political and religious conflicts are rooted, among other factors, into international and climate change dynamics.


In effect, Egypt’s society and politics are deeply affected by the entanglement of economic, political, environmental and climate change trends (Werrell and Femia, The Arab Spring and Climate Change, 2013). The current political, religious and security tensions reveal what might be the greatest challenge Egypt, as a country and as a civilization, has ever had to face: the emergence of climate change and the way it could endanger the very fabric of Egyptian society.

Today, Egypt, as all countries and as all the living beings on this planet, is entering a new era, defined by the strengthening of climate change dynamics and their deeply transformative consequences on its national and international security.

The new plagues of Egypt?

The current political life of Egypt seems dominated not by climate change, but by the complex interactions between the military, an emerging civil society (Nicola Brooks, “Egyptians form grassroots movements to tackle urban issues“, Al Arabiya news, 13 April 2014), and religious militants movements and Islamist terrorists (Corm, ibid). In fact, this tense situation is deeply rooted in the dangerous combination of the fragile social, economic, infrastructural realities and the national and international effects of climate change.

The extreme weather events that affected the international cereals market in 2010 and 2011 are a good example of this new global threat, because Egypt is the EGypTarticleLargefirst importer of wheat in the world and suffered economically and politically of the ensuing food rising prices (Valantin, “Sustainability and security: the future of Egypt?” 2014). This combination has powerful political effects, as it puts the poorest people on the verge of hunger, thus feeds political and religious dynamics of radicalization and violence (Klare, The Coming Global Explosion, 2013).

Another climate related emerging threat lies in the way geography determines the repartition of 80% of Nile_River_and_delta_from_orbitthe population, which protects itself from the desert by living in Cairo and in the narrow Nile Delta. The littoral of the Delta is almost at the level of the sea, and only 240 km long. This geo-social reality could become a major trap in the years to come, according to the World Bank and the IPCC, because of the expected rise of the Mediterranean Sea of at least 30 centimetres during the next eighty years (World Bank, The impact of sea level rise on developing countries: A comparative analysis, policy research paper 4136, 2007; IPCC fifth assessment, Climate change, impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, 2014).

This risk of submersion is reinforced by the way the ground of the Nile Delta is literally sinking, the river not bringing enough sediment any more, as it is blocked 700 kilometers upstream by the giant Aswan dam, built in 1973.

The rising sea and the sinking ground are thus transforming the Nile Delta into a “topographic danger zone” (Hélène Lavoix, 2014). For more than forty years, the Delta has known a high demographic growth and urban densification, while remaining the main agricultural region of the country. According to the World Bank (ibid), if the sea rises of one meter between today and 2100, more than 10% of the population, mainly in the Delta, would be impacted, and it would hit 12.5% of the agricultural production, knowing that Egypt must already import half of its food.

In other terms, 8 to 10 million people (the Egyptian population is 80 million strong today, and expected to keep on growing) could become inner climate refugees, Security_was_especially_tight_after_a_series_of_bombings_ripped_through_Cairo_on_24th_January_2014_-_25-Jan-2014in a country where the available living space is already saturated and, even worse, shrinking because of the growing demographic pressure. This is happening in a country where some radicalized faith-based movements are committed to armed violence (The Guardian, “6 Egyptian military police killed as gunmen attack checkpoint“, 15 March 2014).

These dangerous life conditions meet the new power games, as explained in the previous post, centered on the sharing of the Nile water, the quasi-only source of water for Egypt (Franck Galland, Chroniques géopolitiques de l’eau, 2014). All of the upstream riparian countries, Uganda for the Blue Nile and Ethiopia for the White Nile, South Sudan and Sudan, need a larger share of the river, given the growth of their populations and, especially for Ethiopia, their economic development (Galland, ibid).

These new needs create political tensions between the riparian countries and Egypt that may only increase, knowing that, according to the IPCC, the rate of annual rain and thus of available surface water may decrease during the coming decades (IPCC fifth assessment, ibid).

However, in the same time, since 2013, Egypt benefits from a renewed political and strategic solidarity from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. This new solidarity helps the Egyptian government to cover its financial, food and energy needs and is politically motivated by a common strategy of prevention of any further degradation of the economic, social and political conditions of Egypt (Mada Masr, “Saudi aid expected to flow after the elections“, February 5, 2014).

This Saudi-Egyptian cooperation is hoped to prevent the poorest people to join religious radicalized movements, like the Muslim Brotherhood, in reaction to the degradation of the lives of their families. In other words, Saudi Arabia helps the state of Egypt to remain sustainable for strategic reasons, in order to weaken the social support to Islamist movements across the Arab world, movements that both the Saudi and Egyptian governments understand as being dangerous for their legitimacy and their stability (Jason Burke, 9/11 wars, 2011).

The coming politics and strategies of climate change?

These politics and strategies of security and sustainability constitute a first kind of reactions to problems induced by the social-demographic-economic-climate nexus (Fritzsche and Ruettinger, Environment, Climate Change and Security in the Southern Mediterranean, Review report, Adelphi, 2013). In this framework, one must remember that Egypt has built itself on politics and grand strategies elaborated to overcome that very kind of challenge (Jacques Berque, L’Egypte, Impérialisme et Révolution, 1967).


During antiquity, the Pharaonic political system was protecting society from inner struggles, foreign invasion and environmental disasters, such as the yearly Nile floods, turned into the main support for agriculture through vast irrigation works. Thus, the state was ensuring the vital crops that turned Egypt into a “Mediterranean wheat granary” during centuries (Berque, ibid).


Today, climate change and resources depletion pulls the world into a new era of forced adaptation (IPCC, ibid), which, in the case of Egypt, appears to be by now the only alternative to the collapse (Jared Diamond, Collapse, 2005) that could result from the synergy of food, water and sea level rise crises.

A national adaptation to these new and evolving conditions implies to renew the legitimacy relationship between the political authorities and the population, through strategies that are not “simply” of social control, security and defence, but involve the emergence of a common national purpose (Edward Luttwak, Strategy, the logic and war and peace, 2001).

Choosing a future?

As the new Constitution of the Republic of Egypt, approved in 2014, establishes, the state must protect the environment and the natural and economic resources, as well as the infrastructures that the society needs for its sustainability. In order to give Egypt a livable future, the Egyptian government will have to devise what we shall call a “grand strategy of adaptation to climate change”.


The ability or inability of the different political authorities, especially governments (the Mubarak government ousted by the “Arab Spring”, then Morsi’s, ousted by the Tamarod Movement and the military), define the way those political authorities can, or not, protect the population from the vital danger that a pronounced rise in the food and energy prices could bring, and thus, by the same token, these authorities’ very legitimacy. When this legitimacy and authority weaken, the means to protect the population decrease, while the risks of radicalization and violence increase (John Gray, Black Mass, Apocalyptic religion and the death of Utopia, 2007). 

Thus, the present political situation shows the importance for the very survival of the country of the way the Egyptian legitimate authorities will shift, or not, to “grand strategies of adaptation” over the next twenty years.

The current struggle between the government and religious extremist factions, while coping with a giant economic and food crisis (Reuters, “Egypt has less than 2 months imported wheat, says ex-minister”, Al Arabiya, 11 July 2013), and the renewed foreign policy that accompanies it, gives us some indications about the path to the future that is currently chosen, between renewed sustainability and collapse (Diamond, ibid). Even if it is in the midst of great difficulties (Fritzsche and Ruettinger, ibid), Egypt seems to be choosing sustainability.

The option toward sustainability permeates the current axes of the new Egyptian foreign policy. On the one hand, the Egyptian diplomacy develops new economic alliances with Arab countries. It also wages, on the other hand, an international advocacy campaign to keep 55% share of the Nile water for Egypt (Michael Klare, Resource wars, 2002), despite the ongoing building of the “Renaissance dam” of Ethiopia, which is going to lessen the downstream flow of water when the regional climate may become ever more arid (IPCC, ibid).

327px-River_Nile_mapThis international strategy will necessitate strong continuity between domestic and foreign policies, as well as the creation of regional ways and means to manage African and Middle Eastern interdependencies in the context of climate change.

These continuities from domestic national security issues to regional and international politics may produce a grand strategy that strengthens the present and future social cohesion of Egypt against the risk of further radicalization of domestic politics, even though the collective life conditions may increasingly be at risk.

The success, or not (Acemoglu and Robinson, Why nations fail, 2012), of this grand strategy, will be the political basis for the legitimacy of the government, and a very important tool to prevent radicalization and violent social chaos by guaranteeing the material and political basis of social cohesion.

Furthermore, a national grand strategy of adaptation to climate change could also be a way to unite the Egyptian people against the common and collectively experienced threat of climate change, as well as a common political unifying goal. 640px-Giza_pyramid01(js)The vast endeavours that it would imply, such as the creation of a dike system along the Delta littoral against the rising of the sea, could deeply resonate with the tradition of public works and environmental management, from the building of the ancient pyramids 5000 years ago to the great Aswan Dam.

In other words, and against all odds, climate adaptation could be an innovative way, rooted in its history, for the Egyptian civilization to protect and project itself in the future.

Dr Jean-Michel Valantin leads the environment and security division at The Red (Team) Analysis Society.

Security and Sustainability: the Future of Egypt?

The new constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt, approved in January 2014, states, in four articles, the rights and duties of the state and of the citizens about the Suez Canal, the environment and natural resources, and the Nile.

These articles have a political and strategic meaning in the current domestic security situation, dominated by rising tensions between the military, the Muslim Brotherhood, and a catastrophic economic situation, heightened by the environmental and international context of Egypt and of the Nile riparian countries.

318px-EG_guard_Suez-channelTo understand the political and strategic situation of Egypt, today and during the twenty years to come we must consider the context of its current national sustainability crisis (Valantin, Egypt, climate change and the long resource civil warfare, 2014) and of the emergence of new African actors.

Security, sustainability and legitimacy

The new Egyptian constitution clearly links the articles about the Suez Canal and the Nile River, both having to be “protected by the State”. The same principles are applied to the environment and the natural resources, to the point, in the article 46, that:

“The state is committed to taking the necessary measures to preserve it [the environment], avoid harming it, rationally use its natural resources to ensure that sustainable development is achieved, and guarantee the rights of future generations thereto.”

This reveals the state of mind of the Egyptian political and military authorities, which understand that their country has entered a new era. In this era, the legitimacy of the state, and thus the consensus or the resistance it inspires, is defined, following Weber, by the way it protects the basic conditions upon which rests the social and biological life of the population from new global environmental, economic and political risks (Max Weber, The three types of legitimate rule, 1958; James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency, 2005).

Those basic conditions are food, especially bread, water, and energy (Valantin, ibid). These requirements are turning into a strategic challenge for Egypt, because, paradoxically, of the dawning economic development and demographic explosion of the other Nilotic countries.

Egyptian instability as a subsistence crisis

US_Secretary_of_State_Kerry_Meets_With_Egyptian_Military_Leader_General_al-Sisi_in_Cairo_2013-11-03The revolt against Hosni Mubarak took place in 2011, followed in 2012 by the election of Mohamed Morsi as president, who thus brought the Egyptian government under domination of the Muslim Brotherhood (Georges Corm, Le Proche-Orient éclaté, 2013). Rapidly, in July 2013, popular protests spearheaded by the Tamarod movement with support from the military brought about Morsi’s demise.

Actually, this process of deep political instability began in 2008, with violent food riots in Cairo, which started the delegitimization of Hosni Mubarak, President since 1980 (Krista Mahr, “Bread is life: food and protest in Egypt“, Time Magazine, January 31, 2011).

The huge 2008 spike in oil prices triggered these food riots, which affected Africa, Asia and South America (Michael Klare, The Coming Global Explosion, 2013). In 2010 and 2011, wheat and meat prices rose by almost 20%.

640px-Russialsta_tmo_2010208_lrgThen, in 2010, the wheat and paddy rice prices were impacted when the Russian, American, Canadian and Australian crops were deeply affected by extreme weather events (drought, heat waves, wild fires, heavy rains…) (Werrell and Femia, ed., The Arab Spring and Climate Change, 2013). Furthermore, in 2011 a long drought in Western China led Beijing to purchase large stocks of wheat on the international market, which led to a new rise in food prices (Werrell and Femia, ibid).

640px-2007_bread_Cairo_3167762218Knowing that Egypt is the world largest importer of wheat, when 40% of the Egyptian population live mainly on bread and rice, this global situation was especially troublesome in Egypt, because bread is the only staple between the 32 millions of the poorest Egyptian people and individual and collective hunger (David P. Goldman, “Wheat at record is the worst thing that could happen to Egypt“, Gatestone Institute, July 20, 2012).

Food security concerns are a powerful undercurrent for the different political forms of unrest, from protests and riots to bombings and urban, rural and Sinai attacks and combats between the police and military forces and violent armed groups since 2011 (Ilan Berman, “In Egypt, Rethinking the Revolution“, Forbes, 7 February, 2013).

Heavy_security_in_and_around_Tahrir_square_on_the_3rd_anniversary_of_the_2011_revolution_-_25-Jan-2014As a result, insuring food security means, basically, preventing the emergence of collective violence and political instability (Shadia Nasralla and Shamine Saleh, “Egypt food supplies Shake Up sees officials deferred to prosecutor“, Reuters, 24 February 2014).

Sharing the Nile?

640px-Nile_Flood_plain_limits_(2009)Furthermore, the subsistence insecurity is aggravated by new strategic tensions about the Nile River. As the principal source of water for Egypt, the Nile has a fundamental function for the daily biological life of each and every Egyptian, for agriculture, which produces half of the wheat consumed, and for industry.

327px-River_Nile_mapEgypt receives 55 billions of cubic meters from the Nile water, equivalent to two-thirds of its flow (Robert Twigger, Red Nile, 2013). The Egyptian Nile has been regulated since 1970 by the gigantic Aswan Dam and used for hydropower generation.

However, this “life support system” is questioned by South Sudan and Ethiopia and the politics of the Nile Basin: before merging in Khartoum in Sudan, and becoming the Nile River, the Blue Nile takes its source and runs through Ethiopia while a long portion of the White Nile runs through South Sudan (Michael Klare, Resource Wars, 2002).

320px-Meles_Zenawi_-_World_Economic_Forum_on_Africa_2012Ethiopia knows a major demographic growth (65 578 000 in 2000, 82 950 000 in 2010), combined with an impressive economic take off with almost 10% growth per year, as it has become an African “workshop”for the Chinese industry (Franck Galland, Le Grand Jeu, Chroniques géopolitiques de l’eau, 2014).

Ethiopia thus needs to use a larger share of the Nile water for its population, its developing economy and its agriculture. Consequently, it plans to build the “Great Renaissance Dam” and the work started in 2012 (Reuters, Aaron Masho, “Ethiopia Diverts Nile for Huge $ 4.7 billions Hydro Dam“, May 28, 2013). South Sudan faces analogous demographic and agricultural needs (Ayah Aman, “Egypt tries to woo South Sudan in Nile water dispute“, Al Monitor, March 31, 2014).

Hence, Cairo fears an important decrease in the river flow, at a moment of great need for its own agricultural and energy demands (Peter Heinlein, Egypt fears Diversion of Nile Waters for a New Dam, Voice of America, 29 May 2013).

The new international and environmental conditions are now the very substance of the Egyptian domestic politics of national security.

The Egyptian government is now confronted with the prospect of facing the combination of food, water and energy insecurity (Valantin, 2014) in a time of prolonged political unrest and dire financial crisis. In other terms, the new international and environmental conditions are now the very substance of the Egyptian domestic politics of national security.

So, the successful new development of Ethiopia becomes a source of hydro competition with Egypt, which fears for its own development.

A new “axis of inter-dependency”?

In fact, the massive problems of Egypt are turning into a paradoxical political capital. This emerges when, in August-September 2013, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait decided to support the new government after it ousted President Morsi and militarily repressed the Muslim Brotherhood (AFP, Saudi Arabia says Arabs ready to cover cuts in Western aid to Egypt, Al Arabiya, 19 August 2013).

This aid was a diversified package equivalent to 14 billion USD, 4 of them given as oil, and offered a few days after the US threatened to freeze its annual 1,5 billion USD aid to Egypt, (Terry Atlas, Obama has reasons to maintain aid, Bloomberg News, 16 Aug. 2013). The funds helped urgently buy wheat, after months of absence on the international market, which had created a growing tension on the bread market, certainly a major cause of collective anger against the Morsi government (Reuters, Egypt has less than 2 months imported wheat, says ex-minister, Al Arabiya, 11 July 2013).

499px-Persian_Gulf_Arab_States_englishThe aid demonstrates that, to other Middle Eastern countries, the heightening of instability in Egypt further increases its  political importance.

This move from Saudi Arabia did help to restore the short-term sustainability of the Egyptian society. It was motivated by the will of oil-rich Arab countries to prevent the rise of politico-religious extremism, which would have been a strong blow to regional security (Dr Theodore Karasik, Gulf States take a time out from rift, Al Arabiya, 20 April 2014) given the major importance of Egypt in the Arab world.

In the same time, despite the tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt raised by the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and leading the Egyptian authorities to adopt a very martial tone, a related international dialogue was started. It is difficult to see how Egypt could afford to go to war with Ethiopia and South Sudan, while being almost bankrupted (Ben W. Heineman jr, General’s Sissi greatest enemy: The Egyptian Economy, The Atlantic, March 27, 2014).

Furthermore, Russia and China, allies and partners of the Nile River riparian countries, and major players in the Middle East, are involved in the negotiations (Daily News Egypt, China gives Egypt 24.7 million non refundable grant, December 16, 2013; Middle East Briefing, Egypt and Ethiopia, rising tensions, 24 February 2014).

Egypt is looking for an international decision, or will be forced to work with the other regional actors to define a common governance of the Nile Basin (UPI, Battle of the Nile: Egypt, Ethiopia clash over mega-dam, February 7, 2014).

In fact, the complex politico-environmental-strategic situation of Egypt reveals how water, food, climate and energy conditions create a new African-Arab community of interdependency, linking Egypt, the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes region and the Middle East, in the context of the African and Middle Eastern dimensions of the Russia-China relationship.

In other words, the legitimacy of the Egyptian government rests upon its ability to combine security and sustainability at the national level, as is written in the new Constitution, while working with Nilotic and Middle Eastern countries, which are changing and, for some, developing quite quickly, without forgetting the crucial global context.

It now remains to be seen how Egypt is going to adapt, or not, to climate change, the common challenge it will face with Africa and the Middle East, and how that will cause either a rift or a new solidarity for common forms of adaptation and resilience.

To be (soon) continued.

Dr Jean-Michel Valantin leads the environment and security division at The Red (Team) Analysis Society.

Afghanistan at a New Crossroad: Resource Curse or Asian integration?

The first sentence of the 2006 US Quadrennial Defence Review is “The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war”.

Afghanistan, risk analysis

Any civilian, military or factious leader in Afghanistan, could have written almost exactly the same after thirty-five years of war. And this war still goes on, but it now faces a strange strategic, ecological and economic transition, that could be dominated by a new “Afghan resource and climate curse”. Continue reading Afghanistan at a New Crossroad: Resource Curse or Asian integration?

Pakistan and the “Long Storm”

Pakistan_mapPakistan is internationally known for a wide array of geopolitical and domestic problems. It is stuck between India and Afghanistan, China and Iran, and is taken in a very uneasy alliance with the United States.

The multiple violent disputes between factions defined along the mixed lines of region, religion, tribe, economy, family and politics are infinite. Their combination with the US “drone strategy” in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan and its blowback further heightens these tensions (Jason Burke, 9/11 Wars, 2011). Moreover, the country knows the same demographic and urban explosion as the whole of South Asia, while being taken in the complicated political and religious games that affect Muslim and non-Muslim countries in the region, and beyond (Anatol Lieven, Pakistan, A Hard country, 2011). Furthermore, since 1998, it is a nuclear power (e.g. NTI, Pakistan Nuclear Power, July 2013).

Finally, today, one major fact must be understood: this country is on the most advanced front lines of climate change, and we need a new approach to understand what it means for Pakistan and for the world.


The country is organized along the Indus River valley. The river has its sources on the Tibetan plateau and flows through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea.

During the 2010 summer, from 29 July to the early days of September, the Indus floods were historically catastrophic. In one month, 1,781 people died and 2,966 people injured, more than 6 millions people were made homeless, and more than 18 millions of people were affected in a way or another (Reliefweb).


Huge swaths of Punjab and Sindh, the “breadbasket” of Pakistan, were submerged for more than a month.  Water covered more than twenty per cent of the country, and affected more than 7.9 million acres (3.2 million hectares) of land, washing out entire crops and destroying the seeds needed for the next crop season.  Flood waters took weeks to recede, and destroyed 70% of the bridges and the roads in the flooded areas (Environment News Service, September 1, 2010).

The reaction of the Pakistani government proved awfully inadequate, letting the vast majority of the population facing the disaster without their support, while emergency and crisis management matters were left to the NGOs and the US military (Jason Burke, ibid).


This catastrophe was the result of heavy monsoon rains, combined with some intense melting of the Himalayan glaciers. So, the Indus water met top soils already saturated by water that could not be, even partially, absorbed. The whole dynamic was aggravated by the ongoing deforestation of the country.  33% of the forest cover have been lost since 1990 in favour of crop cultivation, which facilitates riverbank erosion and flood expansion, (Michael Kugelman, Pakistan’s Climate Change Challenge, Foreign Policy, May 9, 2012).

A very similar scenario took place one year later, in 2011. A twelve months  drought was followed by record shattering monsoon rains, combined with a strong melting of the Himalayan glaciers. The resulting flood affected 8 millions people, inundated 1.3 millions homes, and killed 350 people, while destroying crops in the Sindh province (Zafar Iqbal, Pakistan: another victim of climate change, Environment news service, September 27, 2011).

Since then, Pakistan has been reported as being at the very top of the list of countries affected by climate change, according to the Global climate risk index (


However, the way Pakistan recovers from these huge disasters demonstrates a strong resilience capacity. This comes most probably from the fact that “Pakistan has a weak state and a strong society” (Lieven, ibid).

There is a huge risk to see this type of scenario becoming the “new normal” during the years and decades to come, in a country with a population that could grow from 180 million today to 256 million in 2030 (Jeff Spross, Climate Progress, July 22, 2013).

The “water curse”


A naturally arid country, Pakistan literally emerges from the gigantic system of irrigation created during the nineteenth century by  British engineers, for the most part in the Sindh region (Fred Pearce, When the Rivers Run Dry, 2005). Thus, only 24% of Pakistan is irrigated and cultivated (Lieven, ibid), the rest being semi-desertic.

Since Pakistan’s creation in 1947, the simultaneous growth of demographics, cities, and food needs went hand in hand with the building of a dam system along the Indus, on the one hand, and, on the other, violent and nationalistic tension with India about Kashmir. (Parenti, ibid).

Today, the Indus is dangerously overexploited and badly managed, while the rate of evaporation increases. Meanwhile, water tables are overused, as is the case in Islamabad and Rawalpindi (Christian Parenti, Tropic of Chaos, 2011).

In July 2013, in Abbotabad, residents threatened the local government of mass demonstrations if a solution was not found to the multiplying water shortages when the weather was very hot (Aziz Nayani, The Atlantic, Pakistan’s New Big Threat Isn’t Terrorism—It’s Water, July 19, 2013).


On top of this, India has constructed the Baglihar dam on the Chenab, one the main tributary of the Indus, despite the fact that the water of the Chenab has been attributed to Pakistan under the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty.

As a result and despite past real diplomatic efforts to ease their historical feuds, exemplified by a cooperation induced by the Indus Waters Treaty,  signed in 1960, renewed tension emerged between India and Pakistan (Parenti, ibid). Indeed, the dam seems to have reduced the flow of water arriving in the Indus valley (Parenti, ibid). 


Political parties, some close to Pakistani Taliban, mix religious, political and water issues in their discourses. In 2010, there have been several demonstrations of farmers, whose slogan was “Water flows, or Blood” (Parenti, ibid). Today, the potential for conflict of the Indus Basin is closely watched by the US intelligence community.

The current annual water availability from the Indus is of 236 billion cubic meters (bcm), while water demand could rise to 338 bcm in 2025 because of the demographic growth. Yet water availability will remain the same as today, if it doesn’t decrease (Woodrow Wilson Center, Kugelman, 2009).

Furthermore, there are also tensions between the Pakistani provinces, especially Punjab and Sindh, because of the regional dams. Sindh is the lower riparian province and particularly sensitive to water sharing issues with Punjab, as irrigation and the prevention of soil salinization are major issues for this agricultural region (Fred Pearce, ibid).

Climate siege

These water tensions are turned into a massive strategic issue by climate change. Nowadays, Pakistan is literally under a “climate siege”. During the coming years and decades, the melting of the glaciers that are feeding the Indus is going to worsen (Joe Romm, Climate Progress, Asia glacier retreat, August 31 2010). Even if there are many debates to know when they will have melted, the basic fact remains: during the decades to come, their decrease could very well threaten the life of 200 to 250 million people (Anatol Lieven, ibid). 80% of the Himalayan glaciers are already melting.

This situation combines itself dangerously with the other impacts of climate change, such as the multiplication of extreme weather events, drought, floods, heat waves, higher average temperatures and sea level rise (The Nation, 22 january 2014).


These new climate conditions will have a rural impact, by reducing crop yields, and degrading the farmers’ conditions of life, thus reinforcing the rural exodus. The giant cities of Pakistan, already saturated, will become increasingly violent and unstable, as they receive vast numbers of people from different provinces, villages, and families. Pakistani people are all knitted together by the very strong ties of kinship (Lieven, ibid). Kinship makes for a very robust and resilient social link. Thus, these new and strongly connected urban migrants will feed the competition for the “jobs, food, water, services” in dysfunctional mega-cities in a specific way organised along kinship lines, and thus, potentially including kinship feuds (The Nation, Developing cities must protect against climate risks: study, November 29, 2012).

This situation will be particularly dangerous for Karachi, as for many coastal mega-cities. Karachi is already an extremely violent city (e.g. Huma Yusuf, Tactical Cities: Negotiating Violence in Karachi, Pakistan), while being the main Pakistani seaport and economic and financial center. Its power of attraction turns it into the epicenter of the political and religious conflicts of the country. At a time, the rise of the sea due to climate change will threaten the city with coastal flooding and will trigger new conflicts because of the destruction of the much-needed urban space that it will entail (Lieven, ibid).

Pakistan, a new world environmental power

If the situation of Pakistan indicates that, according to the works of Jared Diamond, Thomas Homer Dixon or Acemoglu and Robinson, this country is “on the brink” (Ahmed Rashid) of collapse, things could, nevertheless, be much more surprising.


“Around 500 million people in South Asia live on the coastal belt and their livelihoods will be destroyed if the sea levels rise,” said Pakistani Senator Mushahid Hussain, host of a conference on national security and climate change, in Islamabad in January 2013. (The Express Tribune, 22 January 2013). Out of those “500 million”, several million will be Pakistanis in the coastal area (knowing that Karachi in itself counts at least 10 million people).

In other terms, neither the country itself, nor its neighbors, nor, for that matter, other powers “can afford” to see Pakistan collapse. Should this happen, the whole region would be destabilized by flows of “collapse refugees” on an unprecedented scale, while India, China and Iran would be struggling with the same kind of problems (Lieven, ibid). Furthermore, this terrible scenario could be worsened by the religious and political factor that have already triggered massive unrest and slaughters between Muslims and non-Muslims populations in 1947 (Lieven, ibid).

Thus, neither Pakistan nor its neighbours  can allow a global Pakistani disaster to happen.


Furthermore, the weak Pakistani State would be torn apart, while remaining nuclear (Paul Bracken, The Second Nuclear Age, 2012), which would obviously become immediately a global concern.

In fact, a new definition and dimension of international and regional security is emerging in this region, that we shall call “collapse prevention”. These interdependent security issues can become even more complex and sensitive, as they become entangled with other strategic issues, as exemplified by the fact that China has obtained the right, in 2012, to operate the Pakistani strategic port of Gwadar, close to the Iran border and the Strait of Hormuz.

The threat of its own collapse invests fragile Pakistan with a new political capital, turning the country into a new kind of “strongly weak” major regional and international player.

And so, the threat of its own collapse invests fragile Pakistan with a new political capital, turning the country into a new kind of “strongly weak” major regional and international player. The geophysics of climate change transform the status of Pakistan in a radical way: regional powers, Eurasia and the U.S. cannot allow the collapse of a nuclear power having a population of almost 200 million people, or more.

Towards an “extreme future”?

The combination of climate, water, agricultural, and energy problems, with the different forms of factionalism and the explosive urban growth (Anish Alavi, The Rising Cost of Climate Change, Dawn, 2012-01-20) have led the Pakistani government to try implementing adapted policies, such as the National Climate Change Policy, endorsed by the Prime Minister and supported by the Ministry of National disaster management (Kugelman, 2012).

However, the structural weakness of the Federal State condemns any national policy to a very limited level of efficiency.  This means that the new forms of sustainability will need to come from the infra-State level(s), ranging from the provincial level to the regional and local levels of the  “politics of kinship”, which appear to be the main rampart against the violence of climate change.

This means that, as of now, the crucial, delicate and fragile strategic balance in South Asia, is supported by the way Pakistani communities, provinces, cities and the strange “weak and nuclear” Federal State will adapt, or not, to the “long storm” that climate change may very well be for their country in the years to come. Of their success or failure depends the near future of the overcrowded, resource stressed and nuclear South Asia.

Pattern – Higher Global Temperatures, Earlier Impacts and the Shale Fuels Bounty

We most probably need to get ready for a 2C global temperatures’ increase and its harsh impact on the world relatively rapidly, as a temperatures’ rise of 6C – and above – by the end of the century is increasingly probable. Indeed, interests and current challenges and tensions are most likely to favour shale fuels’ production and policies and adversely affect “green efforts”. Other adverse ecological impacts on global security issues such as water and biodiversity may be enhanced and must be monitored. Citizens’ mobilization on those issues may evolve as trade-offs will be done, and as impacts will be felt.


climate change, greenland, melt, World BankOn 18 November, the World Bank published a new report warning about the dire impacts of temperatures rising over 2C or worse over 4C, and admonishes staying below the 2C target.

However, if you remember last week’s news, PricewaterhouseCoopers has published another report that underlines that warming of at least 6C by the end of the century is possible, if the current efforts, or lack thereof, at tackling the problem are not considerably stepped up.

Meanwhile, the IEA has hailed, again last week, what had been discussed for a few months in various energy related fora, a new position for the “United States [that] will overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s top oil producer by 2017″, thanks to tight light oil (shale oil) and shale gas.

Despite controversies on the reality of this forecast, it is almost certain that the U.S., as well as all other countries who could see their oil and gas production boosted by use of shale oil and gas will promote this “new” fossil fuel policy, as pointed out in this article:

U.S. the New Saudi Arabia? Peak Oilers Scoff: The U.S. is set to increase oil production so much that it will overtake Saudi Arabia and become the world’s biggest producer by around 2… (by Peter CoyBusinessweek)

The very tense – and increasingly so – international situation and its effect on energy prices, when energy is crucial in terms of defence, notably for power projection, may only enhance the desire to get hold of black gold. Meanwhile, the sovereign debt, financial and economic crises, the related domestic unrest and ongoing polarisation are likely to surround the possibility of new revenues and reduced energy imports with the aura of a miraculous solution.

Oil rises as Israel-Hamas fight continues – BANGKOK (AP): The price of oil rose to nearly $88 a barrel Monday in Asia as the conflict between Israel and Hamas showed no signs… (SFGate)

If we add the lobbying by oil interests and related industries and the currently very powerful position of a financial establishment looking for growth of profits – one pole of the polarization – then the likelihood to see governments ruling over countries with shale deposits “putting oil subsidies into green infrastructure” is close to zero or even nil… unless a miracle happens.

Put oil subsidies into green infrastructure: World Bank – Times LIVE: The initiative was one of several it promoted in releasing its latest report on global warming, “Turn Down the Heat.” World Bank President…

But then, this means that we do have to get ready for the fateful 6C increase or more by the end of the century. This means that the timeline for the increase in temperature is changing and thus that the 2C and then 4C increase will be reached much earlier. We must thus re-evaluate current and near future impacts of climate change without forgetting other ecosystemic effects, such as, for example, the consequences of fracking on water, when water is another global security concern.

However, citizens also mobilize around those issues, as is not lost on the IEA (see last slide).

Thus, shall we see an increased mobilization and tension, or will citizens, too, have to face the difficult choice of issues and problems prioritization? What will result from the trade-offs? How those trade-offs will then evolve as adverse impacts are felt earlier? How will other players, with other interests alter the chessboard?


The World Bank – Climate Change – Climate Change Report Warns of Dramatically Warmer World This Century

PwC Report States that Global Temperatures will Increase by 6°C by 2100,

U.S. to overtake Saudi as top oil producer: IEA, Reuters, Peg Mackey.

U.S. the New Saudi Arabia? Peak Oilers Scoff by Peter Coy, Businessweek

Put oil subsidies into green infrastructure: World Bank – Times LIVE

Oil rises as Israel-Hamas fight continues – BANGKOK (AP), SFGate

Light Tight Oil and Unconventional Gas: ‘Golden Rules’ to Stay On-track (slides), INTERNATIONAL ENERGY AGENCY

2013 – 2018 EVT – Learning from Water Privatization? (Panglossy)

This post, as many others in the Chronicles of Everstate, can be read both as part of the scenarios on the future of the nation-state, as explained below, or as part of the section on Global Water Security. This shows how all issues are intertwined, and that the multiple existing feedbacks should not be ignored.

Previously: In 2012 EVT, Everstate (the ideal-type corresponding to our very real countries created to foresee the future of governance and of the modern nation-state) knows a rising dissatisfaction of its population. Alarmed by the rising difficulties and widespread discontent, the governing authorities decide to do something when new elections start, which begins the second scenario, Panglossy. The new Everstatan government, dependent upon past thinking, decides that a return to economic efficiency through growth is the key to the crisis. The first years fail to bring back growth; the power of the lenders’ nexus and induced appropriation of public power continue unabated as the regulation of the international financial system does not progress. The initial efforts to fund  Green Growth through infrastructure investments show minimal and disappointing impacts. Worse still, the initial implementation of air commodification under the ISSIGE flagship project by the consortium Novair triggers a nationwide wave of outrage because the beliefs of Everstatans are denied at all levels, while the elite is surprised.   

(The reader can click on each picture to see a larger version in a new tab – a navigating map of posts is available to ease reading)

The Everstatan elite, surprised by the new Air Revolt, continues applying to the situation a superficial analogy with water to estimate the severity of the outrage in the country and its potential evolution. Yet, analogy is not comparison and is often insufficient to inform proper understanding and thus decisions.

Margaret Thatcher with Ronald Reagan at Camp David (Photo credit: Wikipedia) – Public Domain

First, the commodification of water, in its second wave, is still a very recent phenomenon. It started at the end of the 20th century with the privatization of water utilities in the United Kingdom of Margaret Thatcher, and is far from being completed, assuming it is meant to follow an ineluctable path towards completion, which has still to be proven. Everstatan elite cannot thus easily draw any clear conclusion.

Second, some voices exist, even if they are not so numerous and have so far not mobilised masses, that underline the ethical problems linked to the privatization of water (e.g. 2008 Symposium) or criticise the whole commodification endeavour.

Third, the current and future various issues and problems surrounding global water security will most probably keep the matter of water services privatization and water commodification on the agenda, seen in an even larger perspective, where security questions and geopolitics will be underlined.* This is likely to lead to stronger stance taken by all actors, and open the door to any strategy including manipulation and irredentism. As a result, a complete and smooth commodification of water that would not generate rebellions cannot be taken for granted.

Sbocco della Cloaca Massima in Rome, sewer system started in 735 B.C by Ettore Roesler Franz, 1880 via Wikimedia Commons

Fourth, in countries such as Everstate, when water was privatized at the end of the twentieth century, it was done in a way that is very different from the way Novstate-Air intends to monetize air. Then, a public service dealing with water-related issues was handed over or sold from the state to private companies. This was only one episode in the millennia-long struggle of human societies to manage wastewater, sewage and obtain clean water (Jungclaus, 1998). Everstatans never went from free clean water, or free apparently clean water, free sewage, etc. to becoming suddenly aware of the extent and danger of polluted water and having to pay for being able to drink and eat safely.

1865 – New York City Sanitary Commission, via Wikimedia Commons

Furthermore, throughout the millennia old struggle for safe water, they have, at least dimly, become conscious of direct links between living beings concentrations and water pollution, thus of their own responsibility. This long process and history does not exist in the case of air. With water, there was thus no effect of shock, no sudden awareness triggering a feeling of injustice and moral outrage, when there is with air. This implies that the absence of initial reaction in the case of water cannot be used to deduce that Everstate’s air revolt is unimportant and will be short-lived.

Finally, timing matters, twice. The privatisation of water utilities itself is not always done nationally but according to the administrative organisation underlying the public service, most of the time municipalities. This implies that changes happen according to the timing of each town. This stops the creation of any nationwide reaction. The impossibility of such large reaction is strengthened by the diverse situations existing for each administrative division. However, here, had separatists feelings and right conditions existed, water privatization in Everstate would then have strengthened those sentiments (see the last posts of the Mamominarch scenario for an example of such dynamics). Those underlying processes could and should have been considered by Novstate-Air and the Everstatan government, as those lessons were applicable to air. Considering the current conditions in Everstate, Novstate-Air had thus the “choice” between triggering a nationwide protest and sowing the seeds for separatism.

Then, water privatisation has mainly been done before the crisis, before the rise of inequalities and decline of purchasing power became obvious, before the rise of tension, before the legitimacy of governments and actors and of the whole socio-political model started being questioned.

Walker, DEFRA, 2009

In the past, if water prices increased with privatization (Barlow, 2001), the share of the water bill in a household expenses (e.g. averaged to 335$ a year in the U.S. in 2012 by the American Water Works Association, CNN February 28, 2012, 339£ a year in England and Wales in 2009 according to DEFRA, with many local and individual variations) and the added cost were not such that a collective feeling of relative deprivation could be born. The unequal weight of water bills according to household income inequalities must however be noted (Smets, 2002). Then, water privatization has been done while respecting, to a point, and with (large) variations according to countries and actors, the human right not to die of thirst or because of polluted water. For example, the existence of public fountains, access to clean public utilities, etc. has been maintained, while in many OECD countries one scheme or another used to exist or was created to help the poorest face their water bills. There was thus little that could have triggered a nationwide outrage and related escalation.

The commodification of air is happening in completely different circumstances and with no such safeguards as those that were implemented for water. Actually, Everstate’s Air revolt should suggest to the government and concerned actors that they should actively revisit water related policies, be they public, private, or mixed, as circumstances have changed. True enough, the privatization of water has been done and thus it cannot be a trigger for a new rebellion. If matters continue to be handled carefully by all actors involved, if the impacts of the various global and local evolutions are properly foreseen, while adapted and timely preventive measures are implemented, then the risk to see water riots added to the air revolt will be minimized. On the contrary, lack of foresight and of caution, which, considering the overall level of tension and ideological polarization becomes everyday more plausible in Everstate, will most probably mean that water issues will soon be added to the escalating number of grievances.

Alas, neither Novstate-Air nor the Everstatan governing bodies even attempt to move beyond the analogy with a water privatization of the past. They thus decide that the air revolt is nothing more than the passing fit of a population that does not truly understand problems, and that an emphasis on communication and advertisement while local meetings with the population are organised by Novstate-Air and the local authorities will be enough to defuse the anger. Meanwhile Novstate-Air does not change the schedule according to which Air contributions will be collected.

To be continued…. after the Summer.



* For more references, see, notably U.S. Intelligence Community Assessment, Global Water Security, 2 February 2012, and two previous posts as well as their bibliography: Water security: a strategic foresight and warning issue for national security? (1 February 2012) and Building upon the 2012 “Global Water Security” IC Assessment (27 March 2012).

American Water Works Association

Barlow, Maude, “The Water Privateers,” Blue Gold: The global water crisis and the commodification of the world’s water supply (International Forum on Globalization (IFG), 2001).

Ellis, Blake, “Water bills expected to triple in some parts of U.S.,” CNNMoney, February 28, 2012.

Jungclaus, Joyce Everhart, “1998 Congress Recap” published in the APWA Reporter, excerpt republished as “History of sewage management” on Bloomington Minnesota Cityweb.

Smets, Henri, Le Droit à l’Eau, Conseil européen du droit de l’environnement., 2002.

Symposium Proceedings: Common Grounds, Common Waters: Toward a Water Ethic, Panel I: Water Ethics and Commodification of Freshwater Resources, Diamond, Stephen (Moderator), 6 Santa Clara J. Int’l Law 15 (2008).

U.S. Intelligence Community Assessment, Global Water Security, 2 February 2012.

Walker, Anna, CB, Independent Review of Charging for Household Water and Sewerage Services, DEFRA, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (UK), December 2009.

Wikipedia, Criticisms of the commodification of water.

Wikipedia, History of Water Privatization.

Water Security Maps

You will find below a selection of maps related to global water security, which are useful for both analysis and delivery of products.

Maps are both necessary tools for analysis and crucial delivery visuals for our foresight and warning products. They constitute a category of delivery form, which can, furthermore, be combined with other categories to suit at best our needs.

The maps under copyrights that do not allow fair free use (C.C.) are filed at the bottom of the post.

National Intelligence Council (US), ODNI – 2012: Global Water Security Map

Map attached to the 2012 Global Water Security, an Intelligence Community Assessment

Global Water Security Map attached to the 2012 Global Water Security: Intelligence Community Assessment

Aquastat (FAO) maps

AQUASTAT is FAO’s global information system on water and agriculture, developed by the Land and Water Division. The maps section “contains global maps with key data on water and agriculture. They can be consulted in an interactive way or downloaded as a PDF file.” Maps per country, region, river-basins, rivers.

India’s Central Water Commission, Ministry of Water Resources, Non-classified river basins of India  New Delhi, March 2012
Integrated hydrological data book (non-classified river basins) by Central Water Commission, Ministry of Water Resources – 2012

“Compendium of important hydrological information on major basins in India. It provides updated site wise data for 12 non-classified basins that covers aspects such as location, drainage area, population, temperature, average runoff, seasonal water flow, historical water levels, average sediment load, water quality parameters and land use statistics. The statistics of year 2006-07 to 2009-10 are used as the base for the data mentioned in the book.” (India Water Portal, 2012).

MacDonald, et al. “Quantitative maps of groundwater resources in Africa,” 2012
Figure 1 Available information on groundwater resources for Africa used to construct the quantitative continent maps. – from Quantitative maps of groundwater resources in Africa A M MacDonald et al 2012 Environ. Res. Lett. 7 024009 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/7/2/024009

“Quantitative, spatially explicit information on groundwater in Africa is required to characterize this resource in ways that can usefully inform strategies to adapt to growing water demand associated not only with population growth but also climate variability and change. Current continent-wide groundwater maps provide only qualitative information on the likely extent of aquifers (Struckmeier and Richts 2008, Seguin 2008, MacDonald and Calow 2009). As such, key quantitative information outlining the dimensions of the continent’s groundwater resources have, to date, remained unresolved. We address this significant knowledge gap by developing the first quantitative maps of groundwater storage and potential groundwater yields in Africa.” (Introduction).

WorldmapperWater maps
Groundwater Recharge – Creative Commons © Copyright SASI Group (University of Sheffield) and Mark Newman (University of Michigan).

“Worldmapper is a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest.” (Worldmapper)

Twenty maps are filed under the water section. Data files can be downloaded.

World Resource Institute, Water Risk Atlas

Nota (April 2014): WRI now offers a Water Stress by Most Populous River Basins map and Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas

2012: Very useful and beautiful mapping application, with an export function allowing to draw global maps according to various parameters and two river basins, the Yellow river basin and the Orange-Senqu river basin.

World Resource Institute – Water Risk Atlas
World Resource Institute – Water Risk Atlas
Codi Yeager-Kozacek, Interbasin Water Transfers in Iran, Circle of Blue, March 2012

“The map shows Iran’s current water transport projects by volume and location, as well as what the water is being used for.”

Maplecroft’s water stress index map

It is a final product as it displays the ranking of countries according to a water stress index they have created and calculated “by evaluating renewable supplies of water from precipitation, streams and rivers against domestic, industrial and agricultural use. The Water Stress Index also includes an interactive sub-national map, which has been developed to pinpoint areas of extreme water stress that pose significant risks to populations and business operations at a local level right down to 10km² .” (Maplecroft, 2012).


Detailed or further references

Nate Berg, Mapping Global Water Stress, The Atlantic cities, May 21, 2012.

Circle of Blue.

India Water Portal.

A M MacDonald, H C Bonsor, B E ́ O ́ Dochartaigh and R G Taylor, “Quantitative maps of groundwater resources in Africa,” Environ. Res. Lett. 7 (2012) 024009, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/7/2/024009.

Maplecroft, “Unsustainable water use threatens agriculture, business and populations in China, India, Pakistan, South Africa and USA – global study,” 10/05/2012

The Water Sigils

The Water Sigils, focusing on global water security starts The Sigils, a series of daily papers scanning the horizon for weak signals related to various issues relevant to the security of societies, polities, nations and citizens. They use Paper.Li as curation platform.

The Water Sigils can be read by clicking on the image below.

global water security, horizon scanning


Image: Shui (Eau) Sigil by Diderot, GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license via Wikimedia Commons.