Friday, August 25, 2006

Five Million Tonnes Of Grain Lost Due To China Drought

Rice farmer Hu Zizhong shows his drought damaged rice crop and cracks in the rice terrace soil, at Tieshi village, Chongqing Municipality on 20 August 2006. The worst drought in southwest China in half a century has severely impacted local farms, causing a combined loss of five million tonnes of grain, state media said.(AFP/File/Mark Ralston)

CHINA: August 25, 2006

BEIJING - A drought in southwest China, the worst in 50 years, has led to the loss of five million tonnes of grain and damaged more than two million hectares (7,700 sq miles) of farmland, state media said on Thursday.

Sichuan province was helping farmers plant crops like potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams which can be harvested later in the year to make up for the grain shortage, one provincial agricultural official told Reuters.

Most of the damaged crops was rice, officials said. State media has estimated that the drought, which has also hit neighbouring Chongqing, has cost farmers more than US$1 billion. It has not said whether there have been any deaths.

More than half Sichuan's counties were drought-stricken and almost 10 million people had restricted access to drinking water, the newspaper said. It quoted a scientist as saying that a gas leak in March in Chongqing that forced the evacuation of 5,000 people could have intensified the drought, as methane caused a mini-greenhouse effect, raising temperatures. But another scientist said it was purely a weather-related drought and had nothing to do with methane.

This week, an agricultural official told Reuters the drought had helped push up prices for vegetables, poultry and pork, though it had yet to affect grain. The drought has been so severe that the government is helping 100,000 farmers move to the far-western region of Xinjiang to pick cotton after their own fields withered.

And the dry weather is causing water levels in China's largest freshwater lake, the Poyang, in southeastern Jiangxi province, to fall as it is fed by the Yangtze which flows through Sichuan.Grain analysts say the total rice harvest this year is likely to grow from last year's 180 million tonnes because of acreage expansion in the northeast. "Northeast provinces have increased their rice acreage by a big margin, which can offset the losses," said one analyst at the China National Grains and Oils Information Centre. "The weather in the northeast is pretty good."
About Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater lake:
Poyang Lake

But this is what people are having to do more and more in China:

For even though water may at times be abundant, it is too toxic to use.

And from China Daily:
Water Level Of The Yangtzee Continues To Fall

And humans are not the only ones who depend on this lake:
More Bird Species Wintering in Poyang Lake

Thursday, August 24, 2006

How To Avoid War Over Water

How To Avoid War Over Water

This is a must read article. It also mentions the repercussions of fhe Israeli bombing in Lebanon and the hidden motivations we won't see covered on CNN, and the war in Sri Lanka that I also wrote about. And the four broad recommendations were right on. Also, access to water must be declared a global human right to keep corporate hands off of water that doesn't belong to them. Just because your name is Coca Cola that doesn't give you the inherent right to take away water that is needed to sustain life, or to pollute it.

Again, great article. And also, perhaps by speaking up about the potential of all out war over this resource and warning against it, we will foster peaceful negotiations and cooperations in the end. However, the bottomline is that those of us in parts of the world where water is plentiful must think about conserving it for our future and helping those who do not have the potable water they need to meet their needs. War or not that is simply the moral and ethical thing to do.

Excerpt from article:

Published on Wednesday, August 23, 2006 by the International Herald Tribune / Paris, France
How to Avoid War over Water
by Kevin Watkins and Anders Berntell

The facts behind the crisis tell their own story. By 2025, more than two billion people are expected to live in countries that find it difficult or impossible to mobilize the water resources needed to meet the needs of agriculture, industry and households. Population growth, urbanization and the rapid development of manufacturing industries are relentlessly increasing demand for finite water resources.

Symptoms of the resulting water stress are increasingly visible. In northern China, rivers now run dry in their lower reaches for much of the year. In parts of India, groundwater levels are falling so rapidly that from 10 percent to 20 percent of agricultural production is under threat.From the Aral Sea in Central Asia to Lake Chad in sub-Saharan Africa, lakes are shrinking at an unprecedented rate. In effect, a large section of humanity is now living in regions where the limits of sustainable water use have been breached - and where water-based ecological systems are collapsing. The disputes erupting within countries are one consequence of increasing scarcity. But water is the ultimate fugitive resource. Two in every five people in the world live in river and lake basins that span one or more international borders. And it is this hydrological interdependence that has the potential to transmit heightened competition for water across frontiers.

The Tigris and Euphrates river systems figure prominently at World Water Week. No river system better demonstrates the nature of hydrological interdependence. In Turkey, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are seen as an underexploited source of power and irrigation. Viewed from Syria and Iraq, Turkish dams are a threat to hundreds of thousands of livelihoods, with farmers losing access to water. Underpinning the rivalry between states is the idea that sharing water is a zero-sum game: Every drop of water secured by Turkish farmers appears as a loss to Syrian farmers.Consider, too, the huge river-diversion programs under consideration in China and India, which see them as part of a national strategy for transferring water from surplus to deficit areas. Neighboring governments fear a catastrophic loss of water. Bangladesh has warned that any diversion of the Ganges to meet the needs of India's cities could undermine the livelihoods of millions of vulnerable farmers.

Identifying potential flashpoints for conflict does not require a doctorate in hydrology. In the Middle East, the world's most severely water-stressed region, more than 90 percent of usable water crosses international borders. Forget oil: The most precious resource in the region flows in the River Jordan, or resides in the aquifers that link Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The threats posed by competition for water are real enough - but for every threat there is an opportunity. Cooperation tends to attract less news than violent conflict. Perhaps that is why "water wars" get such exaggerated coverage.

The agreement under which Lesotho provides water to the greater Johannesburg area in South Africa in return for watershed management finance does not make front page news. Nor does the Nile Basin Initiative, through which Egypt, Ethiopia and other countries are exchanging the benefits of cooperation on the Nile. And cooperation in West Africa between Senegal, Mali and Mauritania to share the Senegal River is not likely to make prime- time new slots in Europe. Yet cooperation over water is far more widespread than conflict. None of this is to play down the risk of water wars. Like oil and other energy resources, water is a source of life and livelihoods. It follows that water security is every bit as integral to human progress as energy security, with one large caveat: unlike oil, water has no known substitutes. That is why no country can afford to suffer a catastrophic loss of water resources.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Drought Causing Worries For U.S. Farmers

Eighty percent of all fresh water consumed in the United States is used to produce food. And a vast percentage of that water is wasted as run off that runs into lakes and rivers polluting them due to pesticides, fertilizers, and other wastes the run off carries with it. Simply put, irrigation techniques in this country must be refined in order to cut down on wasted water, pollution, and less water intensive crops need to be focused on. And that includes the criminal waste put out by Factory Farms.

Tougher regulation of farm runoff needed

However, it is the more water intensive crops such as corn that carry the biggest price, since corn is also used for the production of ethanol and biofuel. Seems we find ourselves in quite a quandary. And make no mistake about it, it is a moral dilemma. Also, the other side to that equation and part of that moral dilemma is that we must learn to cut down on our consumption and wean ourselves off of our gluttonous ways in this country. We are so used to having bounty and not having to really want for anything, that now after twenty years of being warned about what this would bring us regarding water scarcity, just when we need to do what is necessary to conserve human nature will not allow us to comply.

However, farmers in states like Nebraska will have no choice, and have placed restrictions on digging new wells due to the level of acquifiers and taken farmland out of production in the Platte River Valley. Years of drought, diversion of water to growing cities, and now concerns about the climate crisis are changing the way farmers work. Specifically in harder hit areas like the Great Plains where farmers fear the Plains are now facing their limits as a world producer of wheat, beef, vegetable oils, and other crops due to water shortages. And they will become more pronounced without the rain necesary to replenish ground water supplies. That also has implications around the world as the U.S. feeds many parts of the world. Therefore, the adverse effects on the world economy must also be taken into account in weighing the moral implications to do what we must do to maintain not only our ability to feed the world, but ourselves.

According to the National Weather Service, persistant drought will run through Ocotber from Montana to Minnesota, through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas (which is feeling it severely at this time (and is also involved in a current water dispute with Mexico involving the Colorado River)) which is the main wheat growing area in winter months. And we will then have to see just how the situation is regarding ice pack and snow melt which is the primary source of water in the West.

U.S. Drought Monitor

Without it production will be severely limited, and you know already who will pay for that at the grocery store. And this problem will be a growing one for farmers and those who depend on our harvests around the world in years to come.

World population is estimated to be at about 9 billion people by 2025. That will mean that more non -water irrigiation methods will have to be employed in order to feed the world. This includes drip irrigation, center pivot sprinklers, and conservation. Innovation will be the order of the day, and it will not be a choice but a necessity, while maintaining costs without conflict.

Also see: NOAA/Climate Prediction

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Bush-Coke-Pepsi Triumvirate Under Fire In India

Bush-Coke-Pepsi Triumvirate Under Fire In India

I posted about Coca Cola's alleged human rights abuses in Columbia, and now India regarding the water shortages in the areas their companies are located in. Now Bush is standing up for these polluters at the expense of human health.

I say, BOYCOTT Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola. They are getting too rich off of poisoning people, taking their water, and addicting our children to their products. The millions of gallons of water they use to produce Coca Cola and Pepsi could go towards peoples' real NEEDS.

So what will Bush do now that the local Indian governments are pushing back for human rights and their freedom of choice? Shock and awe them? If India is a Democracy, why can't the people tell Coke and Pepsi to leave their country? Well, that's because the word Democracy is VERY exclusive, and only applies when Bush's cronies make money off of exploiting natural resources.

From World Water Week

Fixing Leaks Will Avert World Water Woes

SWEDEN: August 22, 2006

STOCKHOLM - Fixing leaky pipes in conurbations from Mexico City to New Delhi is a better way to avert water shortages as the world population grows than costly schemes such as dams, a leading expert said on Monday. "There is no shortage of water in the world, but there is a crisis of management of water supplies," Asit Bitwas, head of the Third World Centre for Water Management in Mexico City, told Reuters during a meeting of 1,000 experts on water in Stockholm. "There is enough water, even in the Middle East, if we manage our water properly," Bitwas said, disputing the findings of an new international report that said one in three of the world's people lived in areas where water was in short supply.

He said many developing nations often wrongly put priority on expensive schemes to build dams or divert rivers in a bid to increase supplies. He said that the key was in simpler measures like fixing leaks. "In nearly all the megacities nearly 40 to 60 percent (of water) never reaches the consumer" because of leaks and poor maintenance, he said. "It is cheaper to fix your leaks, improve your maintenance systems which you can do in a couple of years rather than build a dam 200 kilometres away," he said. India, Mexico, China and Brazil were all among countries that could benefit. Bitwas, a Canadian citizen born in India, was to receive the conference's annual US$150,000 prize for his research. He said that many experts wrongly claimed that crises or even wars over water were looming. "It's baloney," he said.

Earlier, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) issued a report saying that a third of the world's population was living in regions with water shortages -- mainly in Africa and Asia. It said that demand for irrigation, which uses three quarters of all water used by humans, would rise because of factors including more demand to produce crops, for food and for biofuels, from a rising population. "The positive message is that we can increase the productivity of water," said Frank Risjerberman, head of the IWMI told Reuters. "We will simply have to make do with less."

Bitwas said that bad planning of water use was at the heart of suffering caused by famines, which often happened because of erosion caused by poor management. Bitwas said that China was likely by 2050 to have surged to become the world's largest economy trailed by the United States, India, Japan and Brazil. "These new economic giants of the future will need a lot of water," he said. Still, he said any problems were likely to be linked to poor water quality rather than water availability. "If there is going to be a crisis the problem will be because of continuing deterioration of water quality," he said.

Story by Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

I wholehearedly agree that fixing leaks and infrastructure will solve a great deal of the problem of water scarcity. Over 70% of water that is wasted is done so through leaks, irrigation, and run off (which also greatly contributes to ground water pollution and pollution of lakes and rivers.) However, in developing countries many villages not only do not have infrastructure, they do not have the funds necessary to build it. That's what organizations such as Water Partners International are doing. And these are also areas that are vulnerable to privatization of water resources, as Coca Cola has proven in India. Bolivia's recent fight against corporatization is well known as well as just one example of corporate influence interfering with our human right to access to potable water.

Mr. Bitwas also left out much regarding the effects of climate change on areas of this world where rivers are literally drying up due to excessive heat, with reservoirs from Spain to the U.S. at less than half of capacity. Also the fact that populations are expected to double in the world in the next twenty years with a finite supply of freshwater resources which will put a strain on infrastructure whether the pipes leak or not.

Therefore, while it is all well and good and right to say we have what we need to solve this crisis, to simply dismiss what is going on regarding corporate influence commoditizing this resource that takes it away from people who need it, governmental interference that takes precedence over the rights of people who live on the land, and other mitigating factors such as overpopulation is simply looking at this with blinders on.

He also says wars over water are baloney... well, he needs to then read the news over the last two decades and also read Dr. Vandani Shiva's book, Water Wars. She knows of what she speaks and as recently as this month there was a war in Sri Lanka over diversion of water. There are many areas of this world as well where war could break out due to excessive damming that diverts water, floods, ruins the environment, and displaces people from their traditional homelands.

It isn't just as easy as a quick fix by putting putty on a leaking pipe. However, it is good to see this issue being given the attention it deserves. Let's just hope those at this conference don't also fall prey to the corporate influences that would like people to believe it is only a leaky pipe causing this crisis. A little more research is definitely in order as there are many facets to this problem, chief among them the lack of moral will to share this resource amicably and declare it a human right, and also gross government incompetence on this issue globally, including right here in the United States.

This issue is too important to simply be dismissed as just a leaky pipe. People and animals are dying because of it. And I don't know about Mr. Bitmas, but I think that having 90% of your rivers severely polluted as China does presents a water scarcity problem as well. Water scarcity doesn't only result from lack of potable water, it comes from polluting our resources beyond the capacity for them to be potable and sustainable for life.

There is much that needs to be done globally regarding this crisis, especially in areas such as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East which are experiencing water scarcity due to climate change, and also privatization of resources. Hopefully, this will be discussed as well rather than dismissing it as just a leaky pipe. Again, were it that simple in this world where greed, incompetence, amorality, and apathy seem to rule the hearts and minds of men.

Monday, August 21, 2006

World Water Week

World Water Week

From their site:

Experts from 140 Countries to Address Water, Environment, Livelihoods and Poverty Reduction in Stockholm

Sharing Benefits from Water, Water for Food, and Disaster Preparedness Issues Highlight Packed Agenda

STOCKHOLM – The 2006 World Water Week in Stockholm continues its important role at the nexus of the water, environment, development and poverty reduction fields when it takes place August 20-26 at the Stockholm City Conference Centre in the Swedish capital. The World Water Week is hosted and organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

The World Water Week will be a venue for the presentation of concrete examples of how problems of poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and gender inequality can in large measure be solved with water and sanitation as the key entry points. The week emphasises capacity-building, partnership-building and follow-up on the implementation of international processes and programmes in water and development. Participants in Stockholm will represent businesses, governments, the water management and science sectors, inter-governmental organisations, NGOs, research and training institutions, United Nations agencies and more.

Over 100 different organisations and programmes are on board as convenors or co-convenors of different activities and more than 1500 participants are expected from 140 countries. The week-long programme is comprised of plenary sessions, panel debates, workshops, seminars, side events, technical tours, social events and prize ceremonies.

In 2006, the overarching World Water Week theme is “Beyond the River – Sharing Benefits and Responsibilities”. This is a paradigm-shifting concept in the water sector, since for example livelihoods around the world are increasingly dependent upon transboundary and transbasin water contexts – shared water, in short – and societies are becoming more urban. How benefits from water are generated, distributed and shared in this context will help determine the overall welfare of both people and the planet in this century.

Further, three related sub-themes will explore the prospects for co-operation over shared waters, how our land use affects our water quality and water quantity, and what can be done to cope with weather- and climate-related disasters.

“’Sharing benefits’ is a future-oriented approach in water and development, because it means looking at water from the perspective of what can be derived from it, for whom and by whom, and not the water per se,” says Mr. Anders Berntell, Executive Director of SIWI. “The World Water Week this year will explore the links between benefits, costs and responsibilities, for instance, in physical planning and infrastructure design, including water and sanitation services and pollution abatement.”

The land is the home to human activities, and what happens there also affects water quality and quantity. “The landscape is the source and the sink for society’s needs and wants, and it mirrors human ingenuity as well as ignorance,” says Professor Jan Lundqvist of SIWI, chair of the week’s Scientific Programme Committee. “Natural resources use and waste disposal are intimately linked to human existence and must be managed more effectively.”
Also, the Stockholm meeting will look at natural disasters and society’s vulnerability to the forces of Nature. For different reasons, the impact of these forces is increasingly severe. While extreme events will come perhaps with greater frequency, it should be possible to plan and cope with emergencies and disaster situations so that suffering, loss of life and damage to property can be avoided on the scales as seen in the Tsunami aftermath, New Orleans and elsewhere.
I will be following news about this all week.

China Is Damned

And that is meant in more ways than one. China is literally the most damned country in the world due to water diversion. An estimated 550 million + people do not have enough water, and four hundred of China's 600 cities live with water shortages. This is due to overpopulation, pollution, and government incompetence. The brunt of the crisis is being felt in Northern China. Rivers are running dry and lakes are parched bowls of earth.

China's lack of water is actually a more serious threat to its economy, environment, and society than flooding. Water scarcity ruins more crops each year, an estimated 66 million tons or 17 percent of China's annual harvest than floods according to China's minister of water resources.

The Yellow River, the cradle of Chinese civilization, was once called "China's sorrow" because of its high waters that caused destruction. However, for the last twenty years it has been running dry every year. Water shortages also have sparked political battles among provinces along the Yellow River that are supposed to share the water.

Since its revolution in 1949, China's population has jumped by 700 million people, with little room to expand since massive desertification and mountain ranges keep people from moving. So most of the people are concentrated on farmland flanking China's rivers from the Yangtze River in the south to the Yellow River in the north. It is no wonder that their rivers are polluted and undrinkable, and now due to excessive heat brought on by climate change, drying up.

It is also estimated that China's population will jump to 1.6 billion in 2030 with per capita water demand rising with the standard of living. Flush toilets, showers, and washing machines are now standard in households which was not the case twenty years ago. Chinese are also eating more meat, whose production requires large amounts of water for crops used to feed livestock. And also, China's consumption of oil is rising due to more cars on the road which contributes to the behavior causing climate change. Again, China is damning themselves in more ways than one and is the clearest example of how NOT to run a government.

China's biggest water users are farmers, and the metric tons of water they use for irrigation are expected to rise to 665 billion by 2030. China's industries will also use five times as much water by 2030 as they do today. That is where the damns come in, and they are controversial.

The Death Of China's Rivers

This is an excellent article about the water problems facing China. The next entry will focus on dams, specifically the Three Gorges Dam.

In China, City of 4 Million, No Water

This article is about the chemical plant explosion that occurred in November of last year that spilled benzene into a local river that people count on for their water supply. This is one the worst problems facing China. There is nowhere for the population to expand, and near rivers is where these plants are as well. Severe pollution caused by these rivers effects public health and the environment, and it is the water these people use to drink and live.
This is an absolute global disgrace.

Another World Water Day Gone

We see another World Water Day pass us by. The theme, Water For All, signifies that though some progress has been made we are woefully behin...