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“As world food and energy demands grow, nations and some corporations increasingly are looking to acquire quality agricultural land for food production. Some nations are gaining land by buying up property — and accompanying water resources — in other, generally less wealthy countries.
“Sometimes called “land grabbing,” this practice can put strains on land and water resources in impoverished countries where the land, and needed water, has been “grabbed” for commercial-scale agriculture.
“A new study by the University of Virginia and the Polytechnic University of Milan, and currently published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides the first global quantitative assessment of the water-grabbing phenomenon, which has intensified in the last four years largely in response to a 2007-08 increase in world food prices.
“The study shows that foreign land acquisition is a global phenomenon, involving 62 grabbed countries and 41 grabbers and affecting every continent except Antarctica. Africa and Asia account for 47 percent and 33 percent of the global grabbed area, respectively, and about 90 percent of the grabbed area is in 24 countries.
“Countries most affected by the highest rates of water grabbing are Indonesia, the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The highest rates of irrigated water grabbing occur in Tanzania and Sudan.”
Read more: Science daily
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“If you’ve heard any history of the California desert at all, you’ve likely heard of the Owens Valley Water War.
Here’s the canonical version of that War: The Owens Valley is watered by runoff from the immense snowfall from the Sierra Nevada to its west, much of which runs into the Owens River when it melts. The Owens Valley is an endorrheic basin: it has no outflow. The Owens River never reaches the ocean. Instead, it flows into Owens Lake, in the valley’s lowest point at its south end.
Late in the 19th Century a thriving network of agricultural communities was developing due to the river’s water, growing a vibrant local economy along with their crops. Enter the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, led by engineer William Mulholland. DWP quietly bought up water rights throughout the Owens Valley in a series of deceptive land deals, then built a 223-mile aqueduct to bring Owens River water to Los Angeles. The aqueduct was finished in 1913 — 100 years ago this November — and farms started going out of business in the decade after. Owens Valley farmers dynamited parts of the aqueduct in 1924, but the rebellion was short-lived. Owens Lake, which had been a rich habitat for waterfowl, dried up and is now the single largest point source of particulate matter pollution in the U.S.
As canonical histories go, it’s pretty accurate. Or at least more accurate than the version a lot of people have in their heads due to the film Chinatown, which was based on the Owens Valley story. But it’s a woefully incomplete history nonetheless. The history of the Owens Valley didn’t start in the late 19th Century. Before the first European settlers arrived there were people living in the Owens Valley for thousands of years. The Owens Valley Paiute took advantage of the relatively well-watered landscape by gathering seeds, hunting the Valley’s abundant game, and — though this hardly ever gets mentioned in any of the formal histories — diverting the water of the Owens River and its tributaries to irrigate their crops.”
Read more: Pharyngula
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“At risk are the livelihoods of 60 million Lao, Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese villagers who depend on the world’s greatest inland fisheries, which is what the lower Mekong River is today.
At risk is the very viability of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), with its laudable goal of managing the river basin’s resources for the overall benefit of all stakeholders through consensual agreement, based upon the overriding principle of ”no harm”.
At risk is Thailand’s relations with two fellow Asean member states, Cambodia and Vietnam, both of whom are fiercely opposed to the Xayaburi project. In fact, in its April 15, 2011 reply to the MRC’s Prior Consultation process, Vietnam strongly requested ”that the decision on the Xayaburi Hydropower Project as well as all other planned hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream be deferred for at least 10 years”, to allow for more comprehensive and detailed studies.
At risk is the financial viability of this US$3.8 billion project and the international reputation of the Thai banks that have agreed to finance it. Unknown as yet, but probably very significant, are the additional costs of maintaining a permanent dredging operation on the 60-80km-long, in-river reservoir which will be formed upstream from the dam, if it is built, and the amount of lost revenue caused by the probable need for additional, but as yet unplanned, flushing of sediment at the dam site, which will reduce the water available for power generation, quite apart from killing all the fish downstream.”
Read more: Bangkok Post
“China faces a number of challenges, including dependence on exports and weak domestic consumption, but one of the most pressing issues is a risk of severe water shortages.
“A map from research firm Maplecroft shows that four Chinese provinces are at “extreme risk” of lacking enough water. China contains only 7 percent of the world’s potable water but must feed almost 20 percent of the world’s population, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Meanwhile, its people are living longer and eating more, especially more water-intensive food, such as meat and dairy.
“Writing at CNN, Geoff Hiscock points out that the country’s precarious water situation makes it less able to withstand shocks like inflation, droughts or other natural disasters. ”
Read more: Wahington post
Retrieved From: International Rivers
BANGKOK — Ignoring criticism that a huge hydroelectric dam could irreparably damage the ecology of the Mekong River, the government of Laos said on Tuesday that it was pushing ahead with the multibillion-dollar project, the first dam to be built on the lower portion of the iconic river.
“I would say I’m 100 percent sure it’s going ahead,” Daovong Phonekeo, deputy director general of the Laotian Department of Electricity, said by telephone on Tuesday.
Laotian government officials and executives of a Thai construction company that is to build the dam are to officially inaugurate the project at a ceremony on Wednesday in Xayaburi, the remote province in northwestern Laos where the dam is to be situated.
The electricity from the project will be sold to Thailand and will provide billions of dollars of revenue to Laos, one of the poorest countries in Asia. But the project has been criticized by scientists who are concerned that the dam may disturb spawning patterns and lead to the extinction of many species of fish that have for centuries been the main source of protein for millions of people along the river’s banks.
Read More: New York Times
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“Flooded farmers in central India have submerged themselves neck-deep in water – some for as long as 17 days – to protest a state government’s dam project that has inundated their lands.
The concept of demonstration by submersion appears to be spreading in India. Hundreds took to the waters of the Bay of Bengal in Tamil Nadu state on Thursday to protest what they say are the dangers from a nuclear power plant.
About 100 police in central Madhya Pradesh state arrested hundreds of water-logged demonstrators who live along the Narmada River on Wednesday. They were demanding the government adjust levels of a local dam to halt flooding.
The protesters in Harda district – where more than 240 villages have been inundated - had also asked for land and agriculture-loss compensation.
The villagers began underwater demonstrations in late August with a jal satyagraha - as the protest is called. Jalmeans water and satyagrah is a form of nonviolent resistance popularised by Mahatma Gandhi.”
Read more: Aljazeera
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“The Federal Public Prosecutors’ Office (Ministério Público Federal – MPF) filed an appeal today with the Brazilian Supreme Court to stop construction of the Belo Monte Dam until consultations are held with indigenous people affected by the project. Construction was allowed to continue last week due to an injunction issued by Chief Justice Carlos Ayres Britto that suspended an earlier decision of a regional federal court (TRF-1). The appeal requests that Ayres Britto reconsider his decision; if he does not agree, the case will be examined by the plenary of the Supreme Court.
The appeal to the Supreme Court was signed by the two highest authorities of the Federal Public Prosecutors’ Office, Roberto Gurgel and Deborah Duprat. They maintain that, according to the Brazilian Constitution and Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), indigenous people should be consulted by Congress prior to any decision that may affect their survival, as in the case of construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on the Xingu river.”
Read more: International Rivers
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“The Narmada Valley Project, of which the Omkareshwar Dam is part of, is one of the most controversial development projects in the world. The project is plagued with proven claims of adverse environmental impacts to say the least. Allegations of – absence or partially executed and biased government or privately sponsored impact assessment studies – have rendered the actual human, environment and heritage damage caused by the entire project marred with lack of real information. The entire Narmada Valley Project cost with its projected development benefit assessed against the project’s human impact cost is so widely disproportionate, that it does not make monitory or development sense to implement the project. (Narmada Valley project: Development or Destruction?; Ashish Kothari and Rajiv Bhartari, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 19, No. 22/23 (Jun. 2-9, 1984), pp. 907-909+911-920.) Yet the project is at the stage of advanced implementation, of which the Omkareshwar project, is completed.
The Omkareshwar Dam is one of the 30 large dams conceived in the Narmada Valley Project. The Omkareshwar Dam, an intra-state project for generating 520 mega watts of power, which is also projected to irrigate an estimated 147000 hectares of agricultural land, was approved by the Madhya Pradesh State Government, with an assessment that on completion of the project, 30 villages would be submerged at the full reservoir level that is, 196.60 meters.”
Read more: Asian Human Rights Commission
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“Foqaha’s case isn’t unique. Instead, according to human rights groups, it represents a growing inability among Palestinian farmers to engage in sustainable agriculture in the occupied West Bank.
Almost 63 per cent of arable agricultural land in the West Bank is located in Area C, which according to the Oslo Accords agreement is under complete Israeli military control. Israel controls almost all of the West Bank’s water reserves, and severely restricts Palestinian access.
The cost of water is at least three times more expensive for Palestinians than for Israelis living in settlements in the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, according to a report by Israeli human rights group Btselem, titled “Disposession and Exploitation”.
Palestinian farmers are also prohibited from digging new groundwater wells for agricultural purposes, without first obtaining a permit from the Israeli Civil Administration. These permits are rarely, if ever, given and as a result, the Israeli army demolishes new Palestinian cisterns almost immediately. Confiscation of Palestinian water tanks has also been widely reported.
Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley control more than 1.46 million dunams (1,460 square kilometres) of land, or about 90 per cent of the total area. This land is entirely off-limits to Palestinians. In contrast, only about one-eighth of the remaining agricultural lands under Palestinian control (50,000 dunams, or 50 sq km) is cultivated by Palestinians in the area, the Btselem report found.”
Read more: Aljazeera
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“A directive signed Monday by Brazil’s Solicitor-General could hamper the efforts of indigenous tribes to win government recognition of their traditional lands, reports Survival International, a human rights group focused on native peoples.
The directive “opens up all indigenous areas to mineral, dams, roads, military bases and other developments of ‘national interest’ without the need to consult with or address concerns of indigenous peoples”, according to an expert familiar with the directive who asked to remain anonymous. It also restricts demarcation of new indigenous territories.
Survival International called the move “disastrous” citing the plight of the Guarani tribe, some members of which are waiting “in roadside camps or overcrowded reserves” for their ancestral lands to be mapped and allocated.”
Read more: Earth First!