Saturday, September 30, 2006

India Digs Deeper/Wells Drying Up

Often Parched, India Struggles To Tap Monsoon
Update dated 10.2.06.

India Digs Deeper/Wells Drying Up

Published: September 30, 2006

TEJA KA BAS, India — Bhanwar Lal Yadav, once a cultivator of cucumber and wheat, has all but given up growing food. No more suffering through drought and the scourge of antelope that would destroy what little would survive on his fields.

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Thirsty Giant

Second of three articles.
Articles in this series examine India’s growing water crisis.

A previous article looked at urban water and sanitation problems.

Sunday: Floods and how to harvest ample rains.

Part 1: Water Woes in India
Part 2: Water Woes in India

Today he has reinvented himself as a vendor of what counts here as the most precious of commodities: the water under his land.

Each year he bores ever deeper. His well now reaches 130 feet down. Four times a day he starts up his electric pumps. The water that gurgles up, he sells to the local government — 13,000 gallons a day. What is left, he sells to thirsty neighbors. He reaps handsomely, and he plans to continue for as long as it lasts.

“However long it runs, it runs,” he said. “We know we will all be ultimately doomed.” Mr. Yadav’s words could well prove prophetic for his country. Efforts like his — multiplied by some 19 million wells nationwide — have helped India deplete its groundwater at an alarming pace over the last few decades.

The country is running through its groundwater so fast that scarcity could threaten whole regions like this one, drive people off the land and ultimately stunt the country’s ability to farm and feed its people.

With the population soaring past one billion and with a driving need to boost agricultural production, Indians are tapping their groundwater faster than nature can replenish it, so fast that they are hitting deposits formed at the time of the dinosaurs.

“What we will do?” wondered Pavan Agarwal, an assistant engineer with the state Public Health and Engineering Department, as he walked across a stretch of dusty fields near Mr. Yadav’s water farm. “We have to deliver water.”

He swept his arms across the field, dotted with government wells. This one, dug 10 years ago, had already gone dry. In that one, the water had sunk down to 130 feet. If it were not for the fact that electricity comes only five hours a day, every farmer in the area, Mr. Agarwal ventured, would be pumping round the clock.

Saving for a Dry Day

If groundwater can be thought of as a nation’s savings account for dry, desperate drought years, then India, which has more than its share of them, is rapidly exhausting its reserve. That situation is true in a growing number of states.

Indian surveyors have divided the country into 5,723 geographic blocks. More than 1,000 are considered either overexploited, meaning more water is drawn on average than is replenished by rain, or critical, meaning they are dangerously close to it. Twenty years ago, according to the Central Groundwater Board, only 250 blocks fell into those categories.

“We have come to the worst already,” was the verdict of A. Sekhar, who until recently was an adviser on water to the Planning Commission of India. At this rate, he projected, the number of areas at risk is most likely to double in the next dozen years. Across India, where most people still live off the land, the chief source of irrigation is groundwater, at least for those who can afford to pump it.

Here in Jaipur District, a normally parched area west of New Delhi known for its regal palaces, farmers depend on groundwater almost exclusively. Across Rajasthan State, where Jaipur is situated, up to 80 percent of the groundwater blocks are in danger of running out.

But even fertile, rain-drenched pockets of the country are not immune.

Consider, for instance, that in Punjab, India’s northern breadbasket state, 79 percent of groundwater blocks are classified as overexploited or critical; in neighboring Haryana, 59 percent; and in southern tropical Tamil Nadu, 46 percent. The crisis has been exacerbated by good intentions gone awry and poor planning by state governments, which are responsible for regulating water.
More at the link.
Overpopulation, waste, mismanagement, and also climate change are all variables involved in the deepening water crisis in India. This proves that climate change is not just an environmental issue. Every area of our lives in affected by climate change which we now know is exacerbated by human activity.

India is also one of 27 countries identified by the United Nations Environment Program where the rising sea levels will submerge densely populated low-lying areas.
According to scientists, there will be a three-degree Celsius change in the global mean temperature by 2100 due to a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that exacerbates water depletion. At India's rate of population growth and wasteful water usage combined with pollution that makes other sources of water unfit for human comsumption, it will never make it.

Climate Change Threatens India's Future

Britain To Talk To India On Climate Change

The above report then seems bizarre in relation to the dams proposed to be built along the Teesta River which also should be of grave concern to environmentalists and all who believe in human rights. Why build these expensive projects in such high numbers at the risk of displacing thousands of people and disrespecting their traditions and their way of life? That risks forever destroying the ecological balance of these pristine areas? That diverts the river water thus causing other areas to suffer as these areas of India are now suffering?

Could it be that governments see that the global water crisis is at a stage where control of the resources by corporate backed state governments is essential in maintaining control over the people? Perhaps if Coca Cola wasn't stealing their groundwater for its bottling plants as well, people would have water. How many more will we see in the coming years as the global water crisis increases, especially in the most underdeveloped but most populated areas of the world? Where is the EDUCATION on this topic as it relates to CONSERVATION, management, and irrigation techniques that will save water, along with a sustainable development plan regarding CO2 emissions?

Where there is also a higher demand with less access we are seeing and WILL see exploitation of people. As with the climate crisis, we face an emergency involving our global water resources and their management, and we are running out of time on both counts unless we also get this truth out to people and work to support a more sustainable world.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Ilisu Dam Controversy

'We Will Lose A Real Treasure

"We Will Lose a Real Treasure"

Designs for Turkey's Ilisu dam were finalized in 1982, but social, historical and environmental concerns have stalled development for decades. But this weekend saw the country's prime minister attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the dam, which is considered one of the world's most-controversial public works projects.

The ancient Turkish city of Hasankeyf is no stranger to conquest by distant powers. Nestled on the banks of the Tigris River, it still bears the mark of its successive rulers -- among them, Romans, Arabs, Mongols and Ottomans.

But now it's those reminders of a settlement that was established several thousand years before Christ's birth that Hasankeyf's 3,800 citizens fear will be lost. The ancient city lies at the heart of plans for a massive dam project that will provide water supplies and electricity to Turkey's southeast.

Photo Gallery: The Treasure Turkey Will Lose

Over the weekend, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the project -- against the backdrop of 4,000 protestors who rallied against the Ilisu dam, which would forever submerge the town's archeological heritage.

"We will lose a real treasure," said Ercan Ayboga of the Initiative to Save Hasankeyf. Zeynep Ahunbay, a prominent activist for the preservation of historical sites in Turkey went even further, saying the ruins should be given UNESCO'S "world cultural heritage" designation.
Turkey says the €1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) Ilisu dam, one of 21 outlined under the broader $32 billion Greater Anatolia Project (GAP), will improve agricultural and social conditions by controlling flooding and improving irrigation.
Much more at the link.
The Ilisu Dam-Environmental Impacts
And this is where Syria and Iraq come into the picture, as well as speculation regarding why this dam that will indeed do environmental damage and submerge a sacred city needs to be built. Especially when it will drive Kurds off their lands. Is this necessary, or simply political retribution?

The Middle East is already a water scarce region. Building billion dollar projects that seek to divert water from the Tigris River that Iraq and Syria also depend on can only cause friction down the line. And should the U.S. actually provide funds for this project that will divert water from Iraq, that would most certainly solidify the reason for being there... and it isn't to be benefactors to the Iraqi or Kurdish people.

Statement Of Hasankeyf Platform

Ilisu Dam: A Human Rights Disaster In The Making

To me, disrespecting something others revere as sacred is abominable. What we are doing to our world in the name of "progress" is killing her. For once you exploit her soul there is nothing left. These government tactics to simply take over sources of water to then control their flow for profit without balance is a human rights abuse that will lead to widescale war in the future if we do not stand up against those who are aligned with it to exploit the poor at the profit of the rich.

Australia's Farms Thirst

Australia's Farms Thirst

USA: September 28, 2006

SYDNEY - Drought is again gripping Australia's farms, threatening to sap economic growth and complicate life for policy makers as they ponder whether to raise interest rates again.

Australia's farm sector is relatively small, accounting for a little less than 3 percent of Australia's annual A$918 billion ($690 billion) in economic output.
But agricultural output, including wheat, barley and sugar, still makes up 16 percent of exports and is prone to violent swings from year to year.

"A severe drought could wipe 0.8 percentage point off Australia's growth rate," estimated Craig James, chief equities economist at Commonwealth Bank.

"Rural exports would slump, farm incomes contract, and food, transport, retail and financial firms would experience sharply lower revenues," he said.

Such a drag would be significant given annual economic growth slowed to just 1.9 percent in the second quarter of this year, the slowest pace in three years. "During the last drought in 2002/03 we were coming from growth levels of 4 to 5 percent, but this time other sectors of the economy just aren't as strong," said Brian Redican, senior economist at Macquarie Bank.

That was an added uncertainty for the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) as it weighs the balance of risks between growth and inflation.

The central bank has judged inflation to be the danger so far, raising interest rates in August to a five-year high of 6.0 percent and warning that more may come.

"But drought could easily take a full percentage point out of growth and that has to be a factor for the RBA when deciding whether to raise rates again," said Macquarie's Redican.


Drought never seems far away here. Australians are the fourth biggest users of water among 30 industrialised nations, despite living on the driest inhabited continent on earth.

Eastern Australia has already experienced five consecutive years of below-normal rainfall, while last month was the driest August on record. Some 92 percent of New South Wales, the most populous state, is considered officially in drought.

Now, meteorologists are reporting strengthening signs of an El Nino event, a warming of temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific often associated with severe droughts in Australia.

More at the link.
Does this or does this not show a complete lack of leadership on the part of the Australian government to secure water resources for their people? FIVE CONSECUTIVE years of below normal rainfall that can be linked to climate change, and nothing. However, don't try to impart any truth to Howard... he's a Bush puppet. What good is their office on water going to do now after FIVE YEARS? Is it because there is an election next year that they feel they have to set up something to look as if they are doing something?

When we see a comprehensive plan to fight the climate crisis that also includes lowering fossil fuel emissions along with water conservation with the required amount of funds being given for a complete overhaul of their water infrastructure, then perhaps they will look serious. Australia needs water NOW, not when it is politicallly advantageous for them to formulate a real plan.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Australia Launches Water Office To Tackle Worsening Drought

Australians don't need another level of bureaucracy, they need WATER NOW. This is what happens when you POLITICIZE this issue. And if you are not going to tackle climate change in conjuction with this you are not tackling the water crisis, especially in regards to water infrastructure and waste as it relates to the effects of climate change...i.e. more severe and sustained droughts from the effects of climate change that will require proper management, infrastructure, and conservation. It is simply smoke and mirrors otherwise, just like this government's stance on the Kyoto Treaty.
Australia Opens Water Office

Tue Sep 26, 1:32 AM ET

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's water resources are drying up much faster than predicted, experts have warned, as the government unveiled an office dedicated to tackling the worsening crisis.

Government scientists said their worst-case scenario for 2050 -- widespread drought, shrinking ski fields and crop failure -- appeared to be happening now and urgent action was needed to sustain water supplies.

"All the models we have been working on suggested the sort of drying we are seeing now wouldn't be here until about 2050, so it appears to be happening much quicker," eminent water scientist Peter Cullen told News Ltd. newspapers.

The dry weather could be caused by a dramatic acceleration of climate change or drought worsening the effects of expected levels of climate change, he said.

With the country in the grip of its third worst drought in history, the government announced Tuesday the creation of an office of water management to take charge of the situation.

"Water is the biggest environmental challenge Australia faces and the federal government is taking a growing role in directing and managing the response to the water challenge around Australia," said Parliamentary Secretary Malcolm Turnbull, the country's newly-anointed water guru.

The development follows the recent visit to Australia of former US vice president Al Gore, now a campaigner for climate change awareness, who said the effects of global warming were clearly visible in the world's driest inhabited continent.

However, Australian Prime Minister John Howard dismissed Gore's contention that climate change had led to a drop in rainfall in Australia's agricultural areas. He also did not meet Gore or see his film, "An Inconvenient Truth".

The so-called "Big Dry" has already cost the rural economy five billion dollars (3.85 billion US) and politicians took the unusual step of asking Australia's churches last month to pray for rain.

But conditions in the country's southeast and northeast coastal areas are expected to become even drier than normal over the next three months, according to the bureau of meteorology.

Government scientific agency CSIRO predicts Australia's average temperatures will rise up to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) by 2030 and six degrees Celsius (10.8 Fahrenheit) by 2070.

Climate modelling also shows snow cover will shrink by almost 40 percent in the next 24 years and up to 85 percent by 2050.

Labor doesn't approve:

Labor Criticizes Water Plan

Throwing money at it now to give the illusion you are doing something doesn't solve it. Especially when it has been going on for so long.

Water Office To Tackle Drought Crisis

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...