Warring parties in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have increasingly targeted water and energy infrastructure as tactical weapons, and as forms of collateral damage, with long-term implications for human welfare, ecosystems, and livelihoods, a new study has found.
The study, published in Security Dialogue, compares the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya to better understand how warfare has targeted water, sanitation, waste, and energy infrastructures.
The research, a collaboration between Jeannie L. Sowers, of the University of New Hampshire, Erika Weinthal, of Duke University, and Neda Zawahri, of Cleveland State University, reveals that this is now a prevalent tactic and central aim of warring parties.
By targeting, destroying or controlling such infrastructure through indiscriminate and punitive tactics, warring parties are able to displace and terrorise urban populations, punish civilians perceived as being sympathetic to the enemy, deprive rival warring parties of energy resources and revenues and force the surrender of cities.
Sowers suggests this issue is lightly studied because its implications are so difficult to measure, pointing to the challenges of quantifying daily lives lost from contaminated water, malnutrition and pollution.
Also, she says, fewer humanitarian organisations are working in these conflict zones, as they too have become targets of violence.