Archive for the 'displacement of people' Category

The Price of Thirst: How Millionaires Buy Up Farmland And Hoard All Our Water

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

“Where I grew up, the city of Los Angeles diverted water away from Owens Lake, slowly draining it starting in 1913. It took more than ten years for the lake to dry up and turn into a toxic dust bowl, when naturally occurring heavy metals like aluminum and cadmium that had concentrated in the salt lake over centuries became airborne. This dust has been shown to cause cancer and respiratory failure, among other ailments. I grew up experiencing water inequity in my own body.

So when I saw Sean Hannity on Fox News broadcasting from another California valley allegedly drained of its water, I must admit I became curious. In September 2009, Hannity broadcast from Huron, California, in a weeklong special titled “The Valley Hope Forgot.” He was broadcasting from the poorest congressional district in the nation, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. According to the 2009 U.S. Census, 39 percent of Huron’s close to eight thousand residents live below the poverty line. It is a migrant labor town, a cotton-picker town, and is 98.6 percent Latino/a. Huron has no medical services, no high school, and no voting booth during elections, because most of the residents are undocumented. Some 80 percent of Huron residents have not finished high school, and children who are born there have more birth defects than children anywhere else in the country—most likely due to pesticide exposure.

One resident of Huron said she shut the windows when the wind blew. “What good is the wind?” she asked. “It’s all poison.” The water quality is no better, ranking 490 out of 502 cities in California, with fecal coliform bacteria, E. coli, and nitrates found in dangerous levels. The water system is built and run by Tri-City Engineering and owned by a former manager of Bechtel.

I could certainly see why Hannity would call it “The Valley Hope Forgot.” Ironically, these were not the problems that Hannity had come to discuss. According to Fox News, Huron had only one problem: “environmental extremists” had turned off the water to save a “two-inch fish” in the Bay Area. According to Hannity, both the winter-run Chinook salmon and the delta smelt had been listed as endangered species in 1994, an event that wreaked havoc on local farms. It had been determined that water pumped for farming in the San Joaquin Valley was destroying the fishes’ habitat up north. In an area known simply as “the Delta,” an ecologically unique inland estuary exists between San Francisco and Sacramento. Through this Delta, much of the state’s water supply passes, as do its endangered fish species. It turned out they were all competing for water.”

Read more: AlterNet

 

Preventing crises over shared water resources requires stronger foreign policy engagement

Photo retrieved from: www.trust.org

“Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Gaza. With such crises in the headlines, it is easy to forget about the structural challenges that threaten to become the foreign policy crises of the future. Among these, access to fresh water stands out. It is already contributing to many conflicts around the world, and demand is growing fast while supplies are limited (and, in the case of groundwater, being exhausted at unsustainable rates). Simultaneously, about 60 percent of the volume of global river flow is shared by two or more states.

Many shared basins – among them the Nile, the Indus, the Ganges, the Euphrates-Tigris, the Orontes, the Jordan, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, and the Mekong – overlap with regions characterised by substantial interstate and intrastate tensions. Population and economic growth increase demand for water. Climate change is concurrently leading to changes in regional and seasonal water variability. The resulting scarcity and extreme weather events, both floods and droughts, threaten long-term regional stability.

Yet shared waters do not have to be flashpoints of conflict, and can even build bridges in the midst of conflicts. For example, the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty has survived three wars between India and Pakistan. Water has also served as a crucial means for strengthening cooperation in Southern Africa. And the negotiations over shared waters between Israel and its neighbours have not only come much further than negotiations over other issues, but have also helped to establish informal means of cooperation in an otherwise highly conflictive region.”

Read more: Reuters

 

‘State of the World’s Rivers’ Project Documents Decline in Rivers From Dams

Photo retrieved from: www.internationalrivers.org

“Many of the world’s great river basins have been dammed to the point of serious decline, including the Mississippi, Yangtze, Paraná and Danube.

“The evidence we’ve compiled of planetary-scale impacts from river change is strong enough to warrant a major international focus on understanding the thresholds for ‘river change’ in the world’s major basins, and for the planet as a whole system,” said Jason Rainey, Executive Director of International Rivers.

For example, in the Middle East, decades of dam building in the Tigris-Euphrates basin have made it one of the most fragmented basins in the world. As a result, the basin’s flooded grassland marshes have significantly decreased, leading to the disappearance of salt-tolerant vegetation that helped protect coastal areas, and a reduction in the plankton-rich waters that fertilize surrounding soils. Habitat has decreased for 52 native fish species, migratory bird species, and mammals such as the water buffalo, antelopes and gazelles, and the jerboa.

Meanwhile, some of the lesser-dammed basins, which are still relatively healthy at this point, are being targeted for major damming. For example, the most biodiverse basin in the world, the Amazon, still provides habitat for roughly 14,000 species of mammals, 2,200 fish species, 1,500 bird species, and more than 1,000 amphibian species, like the Amazon River Dolphin, the Amazonian Manatee, and the Giant Otter.

When all dam sizes are counted, an astonishing 412 dams are planned or under construction in the Paraná basin, and 254 in the Amazon basin. In Asia, China plans to continue to dam the Yangtze basin with at least another 94 planned large dams, while an additional 73 are under construction. At least 153 more dams are planned or already being built in the Mekong basin.”

Read more: International Rivers

 

‘Escalating Resistance’ in Detroit as Residents Block Water Shut-Offs

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“Detroit residents on Thursday launched a direct action to halt the city’s mass shut-off of water to thousands of households, physically blocking a private corporation from turning off the tap.

Carrying a banner that read “Stop the Water Shut-offs,” ten city residents nonviolently obstructed the entrance to Homrich Inc.—the private company that was handed a $5.6 million deal from the city to shut off water services to residences that are behind on their bills, according to the protest organizers. They were surrounded during the civil disobedience by a crowd of over 40 supporters chanting “If the water don’t flow, the trucks don’t go.”

The protesters held the entrance for more than an hour and a half before all ten were arrested, Bill Wylie-Kellermann, a Detroit pastor who was among the arrestees, toldCommon Dreams. “We feel that it’s really time to intensify and escalate the resistance to the water shutoffs and emergency management,” Wylie-Kellermann declared.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) announced in June that it is escalating its disconnections of water services to residences that have fallen behind on their bills to 3,000 a month. In a city devastated by unemployment and foreclosure crises, nearly half of all residents are unable to pay, and the city’s continual increase in water rates is not helping. Thousands of people have already had their water turned off, including many who were disconnected long before this June escalation, and tens of thousands more are next.”

Read more: Common Dreams

 

Water supply key to outcome of conflicts in Iraq and Syria

Photo retrieved from: www.grist.org

“Rivers, canals, dams, sewage, and desalination plants are now all military targets in the semi-arid region that regularly experiences extreme water shortages, says Michael Stephen, deputy director of the Royal United Services Institute think tank in Qatar, speaking from Baghdad.

“Control of water supplies gives strategic control over both cities and countryside. We are seeing a battle for control of water. Water is now the major strategic objective of all groups in Iraq. It’s life or death. If you control water in Iraq, you have a grip on Baghdad, and you can cause major problems. Water is essential in this conflict,” he said.

ISIS Islamic rebels now control most of the key upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates, the two great rivers that flow from Turkey in the north to the Gulf in the south and on which all Iraq and much of Syria depends for food, water, and industry.

“Rebel forces are targeting water installations to cut off supplies to the largely Shia south of Iraq,” says Matthew Machowski, a Middle East security researcher at the U.K. houses of parliament and Queen Mary University of London.

In April, ISIS fighters in Fallujah captured the smaller Nuaimiyah Dam on the Euphrates and deliberately diverted its water to “drown” government forces in the surrounding area. Millions of people in the cities of Karbala, Najaf, Babylon, and Nasiriyah had their water cut off but the town of Abu Ghraib was catastrophically flooded along with farms and villages over 200 square miles. According to the U.N., around 12,000 families lost their homes.

Earlier this year, Kurdish forces reportedly diverted water supplies from the Mosul Dam. Equally, Turkey has been accused of reducing flows to the giant Lake Assad, Syria’s largest body of fresh water, to cut off supplies to Aleppo, and ISIS forces have reportedly targeted water supplies in the refugee camps set up for internally displaced people.”

Read more: Grist

 

 

As Violence Grips Iraq, Fears of Pre-Emptive Flooding Arise

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“Regardless of which side might open the floodgates, it is the civilian population who would suffer in such an event, Peter Bosshard, Policy Director of International Rivers, an organization that works to protect rivers and the rights of communities that depend on them,explained to Common Dreams.

“Dams have been used as weapons of mass destruction through the ages,” Bosshard continued. “In the first recorded water war, the army of Umma, a Sumerian city state, drained irrigation canals against their enemies of Lagash in present-day Iraq, not far from Haditha Dam, 4,500 years ago. In the most infamous case, the nationalist army of Chian Kai Shek destroyed the dikes of the Yellow River in 1937 to slow the advancing Japanese army, thereby flooding hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of land and killing at least 800,000 of its own people,” he added.

Khalid Salman, head of the Haditha local council, told the Washington Post that ISIS would want take over the dam not to unleash flooding but to control the power plant powered by it, thus being able to provide a service to the local population.

“Of course they want to control the dam, which is very important, not only for Anbar, but for all of Iraq,” the Post quotes Salman as saying.

Meanwhile, violence continues to erupt in the country. Reuters reports that on Thursday battles were “raging” in the city of Tikrit, where Iraqi forces are launching a counter-attack on Sunni militant forces.”

Read more: Common Dreams

 

Omo River, Lake Turkana at Risk from Dams and Plantations

Photo retrieved from: www.internationalrivers.org

“Dams and irrigated plantations being built in Ethiopia will bring major changes to the flow of the Lower Omo River, which in turn will harm ecosystem functions and local livelihoods all the way to the river’s terminus at Lake Turkana in Kenya. More dams are planned for the basin that would compound the damages.

Here we outline some of the basic changes that can be expected as a result of these developments, and include resources on where to get more information.

Fast Facts

  • The Gibe III reservoir is expected to start filling at the beginning of the next Kiremt rainy season (approximately May 2014); filling the reservoir will take up to three years. During this time, the river’s yearly flow will drop as much as 70%.
  • The Gibe III will provide stable flows year-round that will enable the growth of large commercial agricultural plantations in the Lower Omo. The Kuraz sugar plantation and additional areas identified for cultivation could eventually take almost half of the Omo River inflow to Lake Turkana.
  • These projects will cause a decrease in river flow and the size, length, and number of floods, which will be disastrous for downstream users. This is the first year in which runoff from the Kiremt season, which is vital for flood-recession agriculture, restoration of grazing areas, and fisheries production, will be almost completely blocked.”

Read more: International Rivers


 

River Thames Bursts Banks, Flooding Homes Near London

Photo retrieved from: www.online.wsj.com

“As of late Monday, the Environment Agency had severe flood warnings—meaning there is a danger to life—for 14 areas in the southeast of England and two in the southwest, one of the hardest hit regions. It also warned that flooding was expected and immediate action required for 131 further areas across England and Wales, with the highest risk seen in the Midlands, southeast and southwest of the country, and flooding was also possible in a further 216 areas.

The Thames Barrier, one of the largest movable flood barriers in the world, closed Monday morning and would be closed again later until early hours of Tuesday, the agency said. Since the beginning of January 2014 the barrier, designed to protect 125 square kilometers of central London from flooding caused by tidal surges, has been closed 29 times.

“Extreme weather will continue to threaten communities this week, with further severe flooding expected Monday evening into Tuesday along the Thames in [the counties of] Berkshire and Surrey,” Paul Leinster, the chief executive of the Environment Agency, said in a statement. “River levels are high across southwest, central and southern England and further rain has the potential to cause significant flooding.”

Significant groundwater flooding was also expected in the southeast, including parts of London, the agency said.”

Read more: The Wall Street Journal

 

Glacier Hazards and Risk Mitigation

“Pakistan is located at the junction of the world’s three largest mountain ranges— Karakorum, Himalayas and Hindu Kush. The region has a total coverage area of 3500 sq.km and Pakistan hosts 8 out of 14 highest peaks of the world. A large part of the area remains covered by piles of snow round the year. Scientists and climate advocators call the region the Third Pole outside of the polar region.

An inventory study conducted by International Center for Integrated Mountain Development(ICIMOD) in the five Hindu Kush-Himalayan(HKH) countries of Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, has identified a total of 15,003 glaciers, covering an area of about 33,344 sq.km, and 8,790 glacial lakes, of which 203 have been identified as potentially dangerous

 

Baltoro Glacier, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, retrieved from DeviantArt

In 2005 water Resource Research Institute (WRSI) of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) in collaboration with ICIMOD prepared a glacial inventory, identifying 5218 glaciers with an average coverage area of 15041 sq.km. The study has recorded 2420 glacial lakes of which 52 were identified as potentially dangerous.

Outburst floods of such glacial lakes pose great threat to the downstream low lying areas. The northern and north western parts of Pakistan, mostly Chitral in KPK district and Gilgit Baltistan are hosting these larger glaciers. As climate change intensifies, risk and frequency of Glacial Lakes Outburst Floods (GLOF) is expected to increase in future. Many other research papers have also indicated that the glaciers in Karakorum and Himalayas which also have a regional sharing with central Asian region is susceptible to climate change, and these glacier are going through rapid changes.”

Read more: Dardistan Times

U.S. pushes for outside oversight of World Bank, opposes push toward ‘big hydro’

Photo retrieved from: www.washingtonpost.com

“The United States is demanding stricter oversight of World Bank projects amid concern that the bank has slipped in how closely it guards against violence, forced resettlement and other conflict associated with the works that it funds.

In a blow to plans set by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, the United States recently approved an appropriations bill that orders the bank’s U.S. board member to vote against any major hydroelectric project — a type of development that has been a source of local land conflicts and controversies through­out the bank’s history. The measure also demands that the organization undertake “independent outside evaluations” of all of its lending.

The demand coincides with a spate of disputes between the World Bank, civil society groups and the United States over past bank-funded projects that have been linked to killings of villagers and forcing people from their land. The cases include still-unpaid reparations from a Guatemala dam project from the 1970s in which hundreds of villagers were killed, concern about forced relocations in Ethiopia, and funding for a palm oil and food company whose operations in Honduras in recent years were the scenes of deadly fighting between workers and security guards.”

Read more: The Washington Post