Conflicts over water are likely to flare up in Iraq, Mali and India in the coming year, according to the developers of an app launched yesterday which aims to help prevent violence by flagging up potential flashpoints.
They said the “groundbreaking” early warning tool, which has also predicted risks in Iran, Nigeria and Pakistan, could spot the likelihood of conflicts - including water-related violence - up to 12 months in advance.
Climate change, increasing populations, rapid urbanisation, economic growth and expanding agriculture are compounding pressures on the world’s limited water supplies.
UN data shows a quarter of the globe is using water faster than natural sources can be replenished.
The tool will enable governments and others, including development and disaster response experts, to intervene early to defuse conflicts, according to the Water, Peace and Security (WPS) partnership which is behind the app.
It said trials suggested an 86% success rate in identifying conflicts with 10 casualties or more.
“This app is very important given the escalation of water-related conflicts across the world,” said Jessica Hartog, a climate change expert with International Alert, a WPS partner.
“It will save lives, absolutely, if we see politicians acting on the early warning data it will provide,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The WPS Global Early Warning Tool uses machine learning to pinpoint conflict risks on the basis of more than 80 variables going back 20 years.