Top 10 Most Disputed Resources in the World

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Mother Earth has given us abundant gifts which we call natural resources. Natural resources, as the name suggests, are derived from the environment and all human beings and even animals need these resources for survival or to fulfill their wants. Since civilizations have developed across the world, there have been wars and battles to acquire more resources and thus be prosperous. This makes them the most important things to humans. In today’s world, all nations do not have the same resources in type, quality and quantity simply due to geographic differences. As time passes and these resources become scarcer, debates about them are on a rise. We discuss all these resources and the disputes that surround them.

10. FOOD

Food is essential for the survival of all life forms. Food security means not only availability of food, but also people’s access to it. As technology has progressed almost parallel to civilization and population, we have been able to, globally, produce enough grains to fulfill the energy requirements. However, the statistics of undernourished and chronically hungry are increasing each year, at the same time; the number of global obese is on a constant rise. This is associated with the problem of distribution which even after being the focus of various international organizations including the UN has not been cured, and is hence under disputes. Not only there is vast difference between the availability of food to citizens of developed and under-developed nation, but even within countries, equal distribution has not been possible. Governments and NGOs take measure to curb and prevent this, but their effectiveness is in question making food a disputed resources.


As we’ve learned, atmosphere is the layer of gases that envelopes the earth and makes it possible for life to exist by controlling temperatures, absorbing ultraviolet rays and retaining heat. However, human activities have harmed the atmosphere a lot and have also negated the positive side of the greenhouse effect but turned it into a bane. With the excess of CO2, the earth is getting hotter leading to global warming. The pollutants like chlorofluorocarbons have also been depleting the ozone layer which absorbs the UV rays. The debate regarding this not only the blame game among nations, as to who should control their carbon emissions (First world countries blame it on the third world and vice-versa) but also what area out of industries, agriculture, automobile etc should be regulated. Also, even today, there are debates about the seriousness of the problem.


Since the start of civilizations, shiny metals and stones have been precious to humans. They have had not only ornamental value, but have also been a medium of exchange in the economy. Throughout history, kingdoms have been destroyed just for their treasuries and precious ornaments golden thrones and crowns have been passed around. Today, there are many disputes arising worldwide due to these about their original ownership, for example the Kohinoor debate. The world also fights over the right to dig and extract these stones and metals among countries and corporations and if it is correct to do so morally and economically.


A century ago, glaciers were only chunks of frozen water where rivers originated from. Today, however, they are the center of attention of scientist and governments. As we use up our energy resources and fill the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, temperatures have risen and caused global warming. Glaciers are melting, water levels are rising and people are panicking. This has led to various disputes among nations about controlling global warming and also about who owns these glaciers. Various countries face its effects more than others as floods and rising sea water levels due to their geographical positioning. This issue has been on the international discussion forums for years now but has not been decided upon due to varied interests of nations making is highly disputed.


Human labour is essential to make other resources useful. It is human skills that have discovered the uses of various sources and turn them into assets making them the key to progression of civilizations. This importance has also led to disputes coming up around their availability and usage. There have been not only moral debates on human labor like the ones about the rightness of bonded labor or about brain drain but also about estimating the true value of human effort. There is discrimination based on nationality, race, gender, caste, religion etc in both opportunity as well as measure of value. We see more and more labor disputes happening leading to strikes and also various nations encouraging as well as discouraging foreign employees.


Trees are arguably the most important living beings as the existence of others, too, depends on them. Trees, who convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and energy into food also have many other uses to humans and are thus been cut down at an ever increasing pace. There are disputes not only between environmentalist and capitalist but also debates within countries and internationally about forest covers and green belts. As the world loses its trees and no conclusion on protest and disputes it is quite possible that we are moving towards a catastrophe.


Wildlife of a particular area is very important to its ecosystem and is a part of various natural cycles and chains. But due to various human activities, these chains are being disrupted and systems encroached. As human interference increases, wildlife suffers leading to major environmental alterations. As this has come to attention questions have been asked about the correctness of our short term thinking. As we discovered the scientific importance and ornamental usage of fauna, there exploitation has continued and increased. Today many animals stand at the verge of extinction while many others are already declared extinct. There are hot debates and disputes worldwide about the limit of involvement that could be allowed. While certain groups work to protect them, there are others who continue to exploit wildlife.


After oxygen, water is the most necessary resource for survival of any life form. Unlike many other resources which cater to only human wants, scarcity of water can and will lead to perishing of human beings. Even today, 11% of the world’s population does not have access to clean water. This leads to disputes between and within nations. Most of these are related to freshwater which is limited and has constantly increasing uses. There have already been many conflicts between gulf countries for control over water and it has been predicted that these nations may go to war because of water and not oil. South African countries, too, have problems arising due to distribution of Nile water. There are also many conflicts about river water usage within countries like the Kaveri or Krishna river water disputes. Countries sign treaties and agreements to officially document water sharing rules. However, the more important and frequent debate on water in not its control but division among people and its accessibility.

2. OIL

The importance of oil to humanity has increased many folds after as civilizations have progressed and reached a stage of major dependence on crude oil/ petroleum after the invention of internal combustion engine which use it as fuel. Oil has various derivatives which satisfy most of the world’s energy needs today. This has led to countries gaining power because of their oil reserves.  Today many countries have not only their production based on oil but also the whole economy and thus oil has become a part of international politics. Gaining control over oil resources is turning desperately important as it becomes more scarce and valuable. There has not only been international warfare (The Persian Gulf War) but also dynastic struggles in oil producing nations and internal resistances (in parts of Sudan and Iraq) in nations over oil.


If you Google the phrase ‘ Disputed Territory’, you will find a list of more than hundred pieces of land that has multiple countries claiming it while there are even more intra-nationally disputed areas. There is either a border dispute where the division between two or more separate territories is not clearly defined or the particular disputed area is forcefully occupied by one claimant from the other. These disputes have many reasons to arise. Even though mainly, the disputes are because of the resources of the area (Israel- Lebanon dispute of the Mediterranean Sea because of the oil and gas reserves), there are also many cases of the debate being based of religion, ethnicity, culture or nationalism (South Tibet or Arunachal Pradesh dispute between India and China). There are also many internal debates in countries about division of the land like the hot Telangana and Gorkhaland issues in India.

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