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Measuring the severity of transboundary freshwater conflict: structural vs. behavioural indices in Africa

Brozek, Jason
The International journal of environmental studies 2013 v.70 no.6 pp. 909-918
aquifers, freshwater, lakes, politics, poverty, risk, rivers, violence, water stress, watersheds, Africa
In the global crisis over access to clean, adequate freshwater, Africa is a special case. Not only are many African states under severe water stress, but the continent is one of the most hydrologically interconnected regions on the planet. With 113 rivers, lakes and aquifers that cross an international border, over 60% of Africa’s territory falls into a transboundary watershed. Africa’s hydrology is interdependent, and mass poverty and political volatility heighten the risk of conflict over freshwater resources. This paper compares two approaches to understanding the severity of transboundary freshwater conflict; one based in behavior and the other based on structural factors unique to each water resource and its users. The goal is to identify Africa’s water hot spots, or those areas where violence over water resources is most likely. The broader aim is to better understand how the way we measure severity affects our understanding of freshwater conflict, and how policy-makers might best approach water politics in Africa.