Archive for the 'desertification' Category

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Expanding Deserts, Falling Water Tables and Toxins Driving People from Homes

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“People do not normally leave their homes, their families, and their communities unless they have no other option. Yet as environmental stresses mount, we can expect to see a growing number of environmental refugees. Rising seas and increasingly devastating storms grab headlines, but expanding deserts, falling water tables, and toxic waste and radiation are also forcing people from their homes.

Advancing deserts are now on the move almost everywhere. The Sahara desert, for example, is expanding in every direction. As it advances northward, it is squeezing the populations of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria against the Mediterranean coast.

The Sahelian region of Africa – the vast swath of savannah that separates the southern Sahara desert from the tropical rainforests of central Africa – is shrinking as the desert moves southward. As the desert invades Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, from the north, farmers and herders are forced southward, squeezed into a shrinking area of productive land.”

Read more: Common Dreams


Drought Just One Example of Africa’s Changing Environment

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“As a prolonged, severe drought puts 10 million people at risk in East Africa, humanitarian agencies are hard-pressed to supply enough food and water. Crops have been destroyed, farmland damaged, seeds consumed as food and livestock sold so families can survive. Thousands of people have migrated to neighboring countries hoping to find relief. They often just find more of the same.

The U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) has issued warnings for years on the affects of potential climate change, deforestation and the loss of grasslands and wetlands.

“This is not a new phenomenon. I mean we seem to be seeing the increasing frequency over recent years these kinds of events,” said Nick Nuttall, chief spokesman for UNEP, which is based Nairobi.

While droughts are not definitive proof of climate change, Nuttall said,” “It certainly is part of environmental change, which is happening in the Horn of Africa, but also happening across Africa in terms of land quality…availability of fresh water, in terms of more frequent drought and floods.”

Read more: VOA News


Oroumieh Lake, Iran’s Largest, Turning To Salt

An abandoned ship is stuck in the solidified salts of the Oroumieh Lake, some 370 miles (600 kilometers) northwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. Retrieved from:

“From a hillside, Kamal Saadat looked forlornly at hundreds of potential customers, knowing he could not take them for trips in his boat to enjoy a spring weekend on picturesque Oroumieh Lake, the third largest saltwater lake on earth.

“Look, the boat is stuck… It cannot move anymore,” said Saadat, gesturing to where it lay encased by solidifying salt and lamenting that he could not understand why the lake was fading away.

The long popular lake, home to migrating flamingos, pelicans and gulls, has shrunken by 60 percent and could disappear entirely in just a few years, experts say – drained by drought, misguided irrigation policies, development and the damming of rivers that feed it.

Until two years ago, Saadat supplemented his income from almond- and grape-growing by taking tourists on boat tours. But as the lake receded and its salinity rose, he found he had to stop the boat every 10 minutes to unfoul the propeller – and finally, he had to give up this second job that he’d used to support a five-member family.

“The visitors were not enjoying such a boring trip,” he said, noting they had to cross hundreds of meters of salty lakebed just to reach the boat from the wharf.”

Read more: Huffington Post


RAIN in the Desert

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“The Tuareg are a nomadic people who follow the sparse rains of the Sahara Desert in the West African country of Niger. The tribe moves constantly in search of pasture for their goats and sheep. Known for their camel caravans, they have relied for centuries on trading their animals for salt and other commodities. Another nomadic people, the Wodaabe, live south of the Tuareg, herding cattle across the Sahel.

The history of these proud desert people reaches back a thousand years. Severe droughts and the desertification of farmland now threaten the culture and traditional homelands of the Toureg and Wodaabe people.  The tribes have been forced to travel farther and farther away from traditional grazing grounds to keep their herds alive.

After visiting Niger as a tourist in January, 2000, Bess Palmisciano, a lawyer by trade, founded the non-profit RAIN for the Sahel and Sahara to address the needs of these people. She is a very hands-on director of the organization and was recently honored as one of New Hampshire’s “Most Remarkable Women of the World 2011” for her work in Niger.

RAIN has developed programs to improve the lives of these nomads through agriculture, education, water security, and income producing activities. The programs teach skills and practices to enable beneficiaries to become more self-sufficient.  RAIN also places special emphasis on a program to mentor girls.

TPRF recently granted $30,000 to help RAIN for the Sahel and Sahara provide three nutritious meals a day for nomadic children and to purchase animal feed for re-sale at cost to tribe members.  This is the fourth grant TPRF has made to help the people of Niger with food, clean water, grain, and emergency aid.”


Water managers brace for more dry times

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“His boots dusty from walking along the banks of the Rio Grande, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor scanned the water’s edge and watched a flush of ducks pass before listening to a detailed explanation of the recent work that went into revitalizing this stretch of river in central New Mexico.

“The ground remained bare where earth was moved to lower the banks to a more natural state. The dry skeletons of cottonwood trees were place in the river to provide cover for endangered fish. And behind Connor, the thinned forest of cottonwoods and willows showed signs of recovery after a few years of not having to compete with invasive nonnative vegetation.

“The restoration work along Sandia Pueblo’s section of the Rio Grande is just the latest effort by tribal, state and federal water managers as they grapple with persistent drought across the West, the uncertainties of climate change, endangered species concerns and growing demand for a limited resource.”

Read more: SF Gate

Pak-India Water War

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“It is rumored that the Indian government is taking seriously a statement made by the Pakistan Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, during his visit to the United States. The assertion is “water is taking the centre stage to an array of disputes between India and Pakistan”. Why to make so much fuss about this, in fact every Pakistani today feels that India is way bent to convert Pakistan into a desert by controlling its rivers and diverting the flow towards Mother India. The Indians are probably perturbed because they think that the issue has now come under the security spotlight.

The water crisis of Pakistan is directly affecting the food security of the agriculture based country. Like Egypt, Pakistan is also a single-river system-based country which is of course, the Indus. The Ganges-loving Indians are after Pakistan’s Indus – a war of geographical deities. Pakistan is a hydraulic society, whose complete economy is agrarian based; even its industry is nothing more than value addition to agricultural produce. Pakistan’s economy is based on informal sectors, therefore is outside the proper evaluation network. 80% of this is based upon agriculture. India has realized the real Achilles heel of this economy and is trying to steal Pakistan’s share of water. The Indians are even having a second thought over the Indus water treaty, rather they have almost redefined the terms and conditions as per their own national interests.

The biggest dispute between Pakistan and India in coming months is going to be the Indus water treaty. It is the declared water aggression which the Indians have perpetrated. The Indus Basin Treaty is based upon four cardinal principles of agreement; one is the division of three eastern rivers to India and three western rivers of the Indus water system to Pakistan. Second was the financial support to assist Pakistan in making dams and canals to make with the loss of eastern rivers.”

Read more: Pakistan Observer

África: La Guerra Por El Agua

La sequías en África golpean a personas y animales por igual. Photo encontrado en:

“El avance de la desertificación se suma al aumento poblacional y a la contaminación de los ríos, lo que produce que el agua potable sea un bien escaso en África. Aunque el continente disponga de un gran caudal hídrico, las privatizaciones sin control, los desvíos de los cursos y las amenazas de guerra entre países que comparten un mismo río vuelven impredecible el futuro del abastecimiento del agua tanto sea para la agricultura, como para la generación de electricidad y hasta para el consumo humano.

Los caudalosos ríos africanos comienzan a perder fuerza por la evaporación provocada por el aumento de la temperatura del planeta. Además, la presencia de tres importantes desiertos -Sahara, Kalahari y Namib-, que se expanden, producen que las zonas fértiles y las reservas de agua potable disminuyan.

La potencia de las usinas hidroeléctricas, la capacidad de riego para las cosechas, la utilización en la ganadería y el uso humano como recurso primario y vital se ven afectados seriamente por la evaporación y además por la contaminación derivada de la actividad industrial.”

Leer más: Observador Global

Amazon Drought May Have Bigger Impact On Global Warming Than U.S. Does In A Year

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“A widespread drought in the Amazon rain forest last year was worse than the “once-in-a-century” dry spell in 2005 and may have a bigger impact on global warming than the United States does in a year, British and Brazilian scientists said on Thursday.

More frequent severe droughts like those in 2005 and 2010 risk turning the world’s largest rain forest from a sponge that absorbs carbon emissions into a source of the gases, accelerating global warming, the report found.

Trees and other vegetation in the world’s forests soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide as they grow, helping cool the planet, but release it when they die and rot.

“If events like this happen more often, the Amazon rain forest would reach a point where it shifts from being a valuable carbon sink slowing climate change to a major source of greenhouse gases that could speed it up,” said lead author Simon Lewis, an ecologist at the University of Leeds.

The study, published in the journal Science, found that last year’s drought caused rainfall shortages over a 1.16 million square-mile (3 million square km) expanse of the forest, compared with 734,000 square miles (1.9 million square km) in the 2005 drought.

It was also more intense, causing higher tree mortality and having three major epicenters, whereas the 2005 drought was mainly focused in the southwestern Amazon.”

Read more: Huffington Post

Aztec, Bloomfield oppose water rights settlement

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“Fearful of losing water rights to the Navajo Nation, Aztec and Bloomfield have joined forces to oppose sections of the San Juan Navajo Water Rights Settlement before it is brought to the 11th District Judicial Court.

“The two cities are expected to be joined in their litigation by thousands of San Juan County residents, all of whom hope to modify the amount of water granted to the Navajo Nation in a settlement which has been battled since the 1960s.

“”Bloomfield and Aztec aren’t opposed to the settlement. They just want to make sure the settlement amount of water proposed is fair,” said Richard B. Cole, attorney for the cities of Aztec, Bloomfield and Farmington.

“The settlement, which was signed in December by former Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr. and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, has been resolved between the state, the United States and the Navajo Nation. It grants approximately 600,000 acre-feet of diversions and 325,670 acre-feet of depletions from the San Juan River to the Navajo Nation. One acre-foot is approximately 43,560 cubic feet.

“The amount of water that Aztec and Bloomfield will contest is undecided, but the goal is to secure the cities’ surplus storage usually used in drought years.”

Read more: The Daily Times

Report details future water needs: SWSI says statewide consumption will double during next 40 years

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“At least 1.8 million people are expected to live in northeast Colorado by 2050, straining drinking water supplies, drying up farmland across the region and forcing authorities to consider building new water storage and pipeline projects, according to a state water supply report issued this week.

“The 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative, or SWSI, report concludes that statewide water consumption will double during the next 40 years and require between 600,000 and 1 million acre-feet of additional water supplies to sate the state’s growing thirst.

“Doing that will mean up to 267,000 acres of today’s irrigated land in northeast Colorado – the entire South Platte River Basin including most of Larimer County but excluding the Denver metro area – will be forced to go dry as water used for crops will be used for city drinking water.

“Without studying the impact of climate change on water availability in Colorado, the report shows that Northern Colorado will be short more than 100,000 acre-feet of water to meet the demand even if Glade Reservoir and all other water storage projects now on the table are eventually built.”

Read more: The Coloradoan