Water may be declared a human right, but such declarations do little for those living in the southern lowlands of Ethiopia where the resource remains preciously limited. Violent episodes break out when rain fails to fall. Instead of precipitation, villagers find their families and livestock fleeing from a storm of bullets.
Recently 70,000 people were displaced from their homes due to a water war over a newly installed borehole, the BBC reports. Conflicts occur near the border between two ethnic states. With an ambiguous and hence contentious border, schemes for water increasingly provoke anger and retaliation.
Local emergency-response officer Mohamed Nur told the BBC the recent violence “affected a huge number of people from both sides. In past conflicts, communities would fight, but they wouldn’t destroy government property, like the drilling rig.”
While the southern part of Ethiopia continues to struggle over water, the northern highlands seldom face such extreme scarcity. “Water conflicts rarely occur where I grew up,” Elyas Gebrehiwot, a human ecologist from the north, told Circle of Blue.
“I am from the highlands and water conflicts are common in the lowlands. Most lowlanders are pastoralists or nomads; because water and grazing land is so scarce in their region, they have to compete for it.”
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