Water control is often used as a tool of power. Water, linked to emotional and territorial values, is easily manipulated both in political confrontations and in justifications for war. Such is the case in the Middle East, where control over water forms part of a military strategy that represses the Palestinian people, imposing inhumane living conditions like a water supply of only 107 m3/person/ year compared to 2,300 m3/person/ year for the Israeli population.

In Turkish Kurdistan, the massive displacement of the Kurds to build 22 large dams, as part of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP), is part of a military strategy to weaken the social support on the ground for the guerrillas of the PKK.

The most brutal violation of human rights during water conflicts occurs in the context of undeclared wars. The slaughter of more than four hundred people at the hands of the Guatemalan military, mostly women and children who resisted being moved to build the Chixoy Dam, is one of the most shocking cases. The assassination of leaders of the Embera-Katío, such as Kimy Pernia, who refused to leave their lands in Upper Sinú (Colombia) as a result of the Urrá II dams, is another example. Undeclared wars are used to trample human rights with impunity, and indigenous and peasant communities suffer for the benefit of businesses and landowners.

© Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua 2009