Dr. David Kilcullen, President and CEO at Cordillera Applications Group, and one of the most important global thinkers, recently took part in the online dialogue Idrica Water Security Day Middle East.
The event, moderated by the communication expert Sarmad Qazi, took place on the 4th of May. Dr. Kilcullen, expert in counterinsurgency, dialogued with Jaime Barba CEO Idrica about water and conflict in the area after the coronavirus crisis.
We share in this article Dr. David Kilcullen’s answers to the participants’ questions. The worldwide military expert discussed about «Water security and technology in a time of Covid-19».
Q. What is the perspective for water in Latin America during the COVID-19 crisis?
Latin America can expect to be one of the most severely affected of all regions by the coronavirus crisis, with the possible exception of India and sub-Saharan Africa. According to current data the most likely countries to suffer a major Covid outbreak in the region are Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil, with the latter showing by far the largest risk at present.
Water distribution, control water purification and reticulation, and data related to water services, are all problems in these countries. In addition, in all three locations, non-state armed groups (cartels, gangs, insurgents and narco-traffickers) have stepped into the role of the state to fill gaps that the government is currently not addressing. So in addition to a worsening water situation, we may see key elements of water supply (along with other critical commodities) coming under the control of criminal groups who contest the presence of the state or seek to corrupt it. We should expect this problem to worsen in LATAM as a result of covid-19, at least until the first wave of infection peaks and subsides.
Q. Given the growing tide of nationalism and the emergence of populist leaders around the world, how big a threat do these movements pose to global water security? How can multilateral organizations mitigate the risk?
Multilateral organizations such as the European Union, African Union, United Nations and ECOWAS can play a key role in mitigating the risk of internal and inter-state conflict over water access. Key flashpoints currently include internal regional conflict in Libya, the Ethiopia/Egypt dispute over the great Ethiopian renaissance dam on the blue Nile, disputes over water supply in the west bank and Gaza, the weaponization of control over water supply for urban areas in Yemen and Syria, and disputes over subterranean water supply in some areas of the Arabian peninsula and North Africa.
Collaborative dialogue, moderated by regional organizations, can assist in moving parties to a dispute away from the potential for conflict, particularly when these are nation-states. For sub-national actors, international organizations such as the UN and others can assist in mediation.
Q. Among the aspects indicated, which could be identified as the primary challenge of the regions (or one in particular) in relation to water, in the presence of this new virus? What aspect can the States begin with?
I would recommend that States begin with understanding the prevalence of the virus through continuous wastewater sampling technology and water data management, as provided by Idrica; and then engage in location monitoring as areas re-open, to identify any resurgence quickly and selectively quarantine areas rather than having to do a complete shutdown once again.
Q. How can we use technology to prevent conflicts and protect the infrastructure? In Mexico, there is vandalism every day affecting to the infrastructure, dams and networks. Nowadays, in the pandemic in Mexico City, the National Guard is protecting the trucks that deliver water to prevent theft.
As the cartels mentioned, regional autodefensas and other groups seek to control water infrastructure as a way of replacing the government and gaining control of the population and key infrastructure to cement their power. Technology such as the venntel mobility tracking tool, a native remote-management tool for local reporting of conditions on the ground, and other tools used by Cordillera, are already working in Mexico and producing valuable real-time security information. Combined with Idrica’s water data services and technology, they can help map the scale of the problem, identify areas that could be fruitful for government intervention, and determine vulnerabilities of key infrastructure to enable better protection.
Q. Which recommendations could you give to governments, to deal with and prevent, if possible, these kinds of problems? In Mexico, we have a latent conflict behind the Treaty of Limits and Water between Mexico and the US. We must deliver water to the US in October 2020 but agriculture users don´t want to open the dams in Mexico. Maybe we cannot deliver on time, because there is a great drought.
I would see this in the context of my previous two comments on Mexico. The combination of drought, Covid, security problems in Mexico and political instability in the United States are likely to make this problem worse before it gets better.
About the event
Idrica Water Security Day Middle East is the second in the series of online dialogues organized by Idrica, a company that offers services and technological solutions for the management of the entire water cycle. The company provides a unique differential value based on its experience and knowledge of the sector. Its technological solution GoAigua, developed over the last 10 years, is used by 400+ water utilities globally to transform utilities into smarter, more proactive and more resilient entities.