Thursday, November 27, 2008
Water Scarcity In The Sahel
Sitting on the shores of Lake Debo, the vast body of water at the heart of the River Niger's inland delta, the Malian village of Guidio seems well positioned to withstand the effects of drought. Unlike many other villages in the Sahel, the semi-arid region flanking the Sahara, it has an apparently plentiful supply of water on hand to raise crops and a back up if the drinking wells run dry.
Yet for Guidio's inhabitants, water is now becoming a daily concern. "Before we had enough rain and we could grow anything," says Moussa Guindo, a farmer who has lived in Guidio all his life. He gestures to the dusty ground. "When I was a child, where we're sitting was in the river. Now look: it's the middle of the village. Sometimes the rain starts, but then it doesn't last and the places where we used to be able to grow we can't anymore."
Guidio is a microcosm of the problems being felt up and down the Niger. West Africa's great waterway is a lifeline for an estimated 110 million people who rely on its annual floods to cultivate crops and raise cattle. But as the example of Guidio illustrates, the river is also fickle, and there are signs that growing human exploitation and an increasingly volatile climate are putting its future as a sustainable resource under serious threat.
Certainly, recent history suggests a grim future for those who depend on the Niger. Since the 1970s, with a few exceptional years, the region has been in the grip of a drought. Figures collated by conservation body the IUCN suggest rainfall in some parts of the Sahel have decreased by as much as 30% since the early 70s, with dramatic effects on river levels. Separate research by the Niger Basin Authority (NBA), the international body set up to manage the river's resources, shows that at Koulikoro, a town upstream from the Inland Delta, the river's flow over each of the three decades between 1970 and 2000 was on average 25% below the daily norm.
With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting that temperatures in the Sahel could rise by up to 0.5 degrees every decade, it would be easy to conclude that the trends of the past 30 years can only continue. But according to Jamie Skinner, a water expert with the International Institute for Environment and Development, climatologists have yet to predict with any certainty future rainfall patterns in the Sahel.
The only thing anyone can agree on is more variability," Skinner says. "There's a massive effort underway to devise a better model for studying Sahelian weather systems, but the reality is that no one really understands the West African monsoon."
Water And Land In The Sahel
Overuse of water, wasteful practices, overpopulation, and multinational inteference in agriculture have all lent to the drought being experienced in this area of Africa as well as climate change. Have we reached a tipping point in Africa? Can we stop the multi nationals such as Monsanto that seek to force GMOs on Africa to continue to kill biodiversity? This is now happening in too many places throughout the world to simply just be cyclical or coincidence.
Acute water scarcity at wettest place on Earth
Meghalaya India, the wettest place on Earth is now known as a wet desert due to water scarcity. Has climate change also now even reached the most hidden pristine parts of our world?
From the article:
Nothing can be more ironical: despite being the wettest place on earth Cherrapunjee is suffering from acute water scarcity, earning for itself the epithet wet desert. And now the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is assisting the Meghalaya government to go into the causes of the scarcity, especially during the lean period.
The study will include technical assessments on the status of river catchments in Meghalaya and social and institutional analysis of the forces that have led to the shortage of water, says Jevon Harding of TERI. TERI will assist the Rain Water Harvesting Mission, formed by the state government, to combat the shortage of surface water. One of the components of the study will be to come up with a strategy of rainwater harvesting. Cherrapunjee receives about 12000 mm rainfall annually, but the residents face severe crisis of surface water specially during the lean season when rainfall is sometimes nil. Women and children trudging uphill with water-filled clay-pots on their backs from deep gorges is a common sight in Cherrapunjee today. The perennial springs gushing out abundant water are also now on the verge of drying up due to random large-scale destruction of forests.
Environmentalist Naba Bhattacharjee said, It-s a false notion that high rainfall will ensure perennial water supply for infinity. Only 0.0007 per cent of the world-s total water is potable and which is on decline due to change in rainfall pattern and inadequate precipitation due to global warming and climate change. He, however, emphasized on revival of traditional rain water storage systems supplemented by improved modern technology suitable for hilly the terrain. Emphasizing on equitable distribution of water among people, anthropologist Nitish Jha of the TERI said, There is no physical crisis of water in Meghalaya, but there is an economic scarcity of water only in Cherrapunjee (now called Sohra), which receives the highest rainfall in the world.
Jha said that the TERI would venture into an extensive survey over a period of one year to ascertain the cause of water crisis in Shillong and Sohra and subsequently come out with a detailed project report on tackling the situation through effective management and conservation measures. snipJha pointed out that the peculiar land tenure system prevalent in the State coupled with the menace of unscientific coal mining and stone quarrying have depleted water levels in the perennial catchments of the state.
Unscientific Coal Mining Affecting Meghalaya Environment
It is truly heartbreaking to see this happening to one of the last pristine places on Earth. It is totally inhumane. Population will increase while the availability of freshwater declines due to such practices which toxify the land and water. Add to that the effects of climate change in this area as far as erratic rainfall patterns, species extinction, and invasive species as well as the spread of diseases and we are looking at an environmental catatrophe where there should have been none. What is it about so many in the human species who still cannot connect these dots? To think that even there natural biodiversity cannot be respected is dark news indeed. Governments are totally irresponsible in their actions as well. They hurt the very people they are supposed to be helping.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Tibetan Glaciers Melting Rapidly
Glaciers high in the Himalayas are dwindling faster than anyone thought, putting nearly a billion people living in South Asia in peril of losing their water supply.
Throughout India, China, and Nepal, some 15,000 glaciers speckle the Tibetan Plateau. There, perched in thin, frigid air up to 7200 metres above sea level, the ice might seem secluded from the effects of global warming.
But just the opposite is proving true, according to new research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Professor Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University and a team of researchers travelled to central Himalayas in 2006 to study the Naimona'nyi glacier, expecting to find some melting.
Mountain glaciers have been receding all over the world since the 1990s and there was no reason this one, which provides water to the mighty, Indus, and Brahmaputra Rivers, should be any different.
But when the team analysed samples of glacier, what they found stunned them.
Glaciers can be dated by looking for traces of radioactivity buried in the ice. These are the leftovers from US and Soviet atomic bomb testing in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the Naimona'nyi samples, there was no sign of the tests. In fact, the glacier had melted so much that the exposed surface of the glacier dated to 1944.
"We were very surprised not to find the 1962-1963 horizon, and even more surprised not to find the 1951-1952 signal," says Thompson.
In more than twenty years of sampling glaciers all over the world, this was the first time both markers were missing.
He suspects the reason for this is that high-altitude glaciers, despite residing in colder temperatures, are more sensitive to climate change.
As more heat is trapped in the atmosphere, he said, it holds more water vapour. And when the water vapour rises to high altitudes it condenses, releasing the heat into the upper atmosphere, where high mountain landscapes feel the brunt of warming.
"At the highest elevations, we're seeing something like an average of 0.3°C warming per decade," says Thompson. "The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects 3°C of warming by 2100. But that's at the surface; up at the elevations where these glaciers are there could be almost twice as much, almost 6°C."
"I have not seen much as compelling as this to demonstrate how some glaciers are just being decapitated," says Associate Professor Shawn Marshall of the University of Calgary.
The finding has ominous implications for the hundreds of millions of people who depend on the waters of the Naimona'nyi and other glaciers for their livelihoods. Across the region, no one know just how much water the Himalayas have left, but Thompson says it's dwindling fast.
"You can think of glaciers kind of like water towers," he says. "They collect water from the monsoon in the wet season, and release it in the dry season. But how effective they are depends on how much water is in the towers."
In a world where it warms by three degrees, we will see this beginning to happen more rapidly. The world based on current global climate events is now between two and a half and three degrees. The burning of fossil fuels which has now been scientifically linked to the exacerbation of climate change must be drastically cut within the next ten years to avoid a climate catastrophe. It is unimaginable to picture a world where we reach four degrees or above. In such a world the planet we call our home would be unrecognizable and our lives would change forever. War over water will be commonplace, and hundreds of millions of climate refugees would be seeking higher ground from Bangladesh and other low lying areas due to sea rise, which is already making itself known in these areas.
And it is not as if people in this world are not aware of what we are experiencing. Yet, we continue to waste water, mismanage it, and elect people to represent us who do not take the issue of water management and conservation seriously. We will rue the day we acted so cavalierly regarding this most precious resource. The glaciers of the Himalayas are only one of many glacier chains across the world losing mass more rapidly than even the IPCC predicted. We cannot as a species continue to be distracted by diversions while our world melts around us. We are on a collision course with our destiny. It is absolute arrogance to think we are omnipotant over nature and that we have no responsibility for our actions. To tempt fate due to apathy is to tempt our own demise.
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