While India and Pakistan threaten to annihilate each other with nuclear bombs, both countries are rapidly losing a weather war caused by global warming. Sundeep Waslekar, director of the International Center for Peace Initiatives, says that even if the 2 countries make peace, it will only last a few years until water wars set off a full-scale conflict.
A crisis over water is behind the struggle over the disputed territory of Kashmir and Pakistan has stated that it would be prepared to use nuclear weapons over the issue. Water shortages are already affecting parts of Pakistan, and India’s water table is falling rapidly, says Waslekar. This is leading to pressures on both sides for a renegotiation of the 1960 Indus Water Treaty that sets out India’s right to manage three of the six rivers flowing between the two countries through Kashmir, and stipulates consultation on the other three with Pakistan.
A recent study from Peace Initiatives points out that Pakistan is “fast turning into a water scarce country and runs the risk of a collapse of its agricultural production in the next decade.” Waslekar emphasized that an agreement on water which would solve this problem could help pave the way for a resolution of the broader conflict between the 2 countries.
Kashmir?s hydropower potential could help to transform it “from a valley of death and destruction to a center of excellence in…engineering,” says Waslekar in a recent report. The report states that Kashmir is using only 10 percent of its enormous hydropower potential. This would be a major contribution to economic growth.
Waslekar says there is “intense pressure in India for a ‘surgical strike.'” Following last week’s attack on an Indian garrison, in which more than 30 people were killed, such a strike could be the beginning of a series of mutual retaliations, leading up to nuclear war, since both countries have developed nuclear weapons.
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Meanwhile, global warming is directly killing people in India. More than 1,030 have now died in a heat wave in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Winds from the northern deserts have raised temperatures along the coastal belt of Andhra Pradesh over the past two weeks, pushing the death toll past 1,000, according to D.C. Roshaiah, the state’s relief commissioner.
Early monsoon rains brought a temporary cooling of some regions last week, but the coastal regions continued to suffer. At least 172 deaths are reported from the coastal East Godavari district, where temperatures hovered above 109 degrees F, Roshaiah says. In the port city of Kakinada, 355 miles east of Hyderabad, the state capital, the highest temperature of 110.5 degrees F was recorded.
Similar heat waves struck Andhra Pradesh in 1996 and 1998, but this year has been the worst. Andrha Pradesh is the fifth-largest state in India, with 76 million people.
Officials have set up a scientific committee to establish whether global warming is causing the heat wave. Meteorologists blame hot desert winds from the northwest, saying that heat waves always precede the monsoon rains.
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