Water & environment - Apr 1
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Blue Gold: Have the Next Resource Wars Begun?
Tara Lohan, The Nation
... The British nonprofit International Alert released a report identifying forty-six countries where water and climate stresses could ignite violent conflict by 2025, prompting the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to affirm, "The consequences for humanity are grave. Water scarcity threatens economic and social gains and is a potent fuel for wars and conflict."
There is no doubt that the world's supply of drinkable fresh water is threatened. An astounding one billion people do not have access to safe drinking water today and that number is likely to reach 2.8 billion in only two decades. Will these challenges result in an all-out "water war"? Likely not, experts say. But conflict is stirring and the battle for control over the world's dwindling freshwater resources has already begun with international giants like the US, Israel and China flexing their muscles.
China's Hands on Asia's Tap
Fifty years since the Dalai Lama fled Tibet and sixty years since the Chinese invaded, thousands have lent their support to the "Free Tibet" movement, but many would be surprised to know that much more than religious and political freedom hang in the balance. The Tibetan plateau is the faucet for much of Asia's drinking water. Major rivers drain from the icy mountains to help quench the farms, homes and factories of China, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Incredibly, the countries affected contain 85 percent of the people in Asia and nearly half the population of the entire globe.
Not only does China hold incredible power with its hand on the tap for so many people, but increasingly the rivers originating in the plateau are threatened by record levels of water pollution from industrial activities including deforestation, mining and manufacturing
(31 March 2009)
India is stealing water of life, says Pakistan
Andrew Buncombe and Omar Waraich, The Independent
Crucial, coveted and increasingly scarce, water has become the latest issue to stoke tensions between India and Pakistan, with farmers in Pakistan's breadbasket accusing Delhi of reducing one of the subcontinent's most important rivers to little more than a trickle.
A group of more than 20 different UN bodies warned earlier this month that the world may be perilously close to its first water war. "Water is linked to the crises of climate change, energy and food supplies and prices, and troubled financial markets," said the report. "Unless their links with water are addressed and water crises around the world are resolved, these other crises may intensify and local water crises may worsen, converging into a global water crisis and leading to political insecurity and conflict at various levels."
The crisis in the agricultural heartland of Pakistan relates to the Chenab, one of a series of waterways that bisect the Punjab, which means 'five rivers'. The Chenab is fed with glacial meltwaters from the Himalayas and for centuries has provided crucial irrigation for the region. But last summer farmers began to notice the levels of both the river and groundwater begin to fall.
(26 March 2009)
Wet America faces growing demand from Dry America
Rolf E. Westgard, Duluth New Tribune (need to set up free account)
Concerns about diminishing oil reserves and wars over that precious resource have eased. The weak economy has slowed demand for oil and its many products.
But demand for an even more precious liquid — fresh water — has not eased.
...An enduring Minnesota nightmare is the vision of a great pipeline that begins in Lake Superior. Like a giant flexible straw, it snakes its way west to irrigate Kansas and Oklahoma, finally ending with branches at parched Arizona golf courses and thousands of Los Angeles swimming pools.