By Stephanie Brittain.
Reposted from the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS).
Whilst the devastation of war and conflict can be most easily seen through its human casualties or destruction of cities, the environmental impacts are often left unreported. November 6th marks the 14th International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. This day aims to both raise the profile of the environmental impact of war and the growing role that environmental degradation and natural resource shortages have on creating conflict.
Conflict can be exacerbated by factors such as environmental degradation, poverty, or by a weak political governance, incapable of meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. In turn, conflict can lead to the destruction of biodiversity and natural resources. Over the past 60 years, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimate that at least 40% of all internal conflicts have been associated with the exploitation of natural resources. These resources can be high-value products or increasingly scarce resources such as diamonds and oil or water and fertile land respectively.
Resource scarcity drives conflict
Environmental degradation can reduce the availability of natural resources. This often results in premium prices being attached to dwindling resources, leaving the poorest people worst affected. One example of resource scarcity is water. The world’s growing population and consumption patterns mean that demand for water is likely to surge in the next few decades. A new report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) estimates that water shortages will exacerbate existing conflicts in Syria and are considered to have contributed to the violence that erupted in 2011.