Water Wars

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by HectortheInspector, Oct 21, 2009.

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  1. Mea Culpa. My comment on Baikal was utter bollocks. I don't know what I was thinking of when I wrote it.
    The problem, as @terminal noted, was that the main inflow to Baikal is in the south, through the Selenga Delta, and the Irkutsk hydro power plant is on the Angara that drains from Lake Baikal to the south west.


    Any pipeline from China will cut through Mongolia and the Selenga River catchment that feeds about 50% of the inflow into Baikal, and which the Mongolians are looking to put a hydro electric plant on.
    This will potentially reduce the inflow, (and Baikal had a record low in 2015), and a Selenga tributary, the Orkhon, is also being tapped by the Mongolians to supply mining works in the Gobi desert.

    Any proposed Chinese extraction will take out some more.

    The Selenga is already under stress, but the driving of a major pipeline through the catchment will probably do it no good at all, and that damage would feed through into Baikal.
    Should the water levels in Baikal fall below a certain critical threshold, then the Russian Irkutsk Hydro plant will become unworkable, unless over extraction is authorised, which would damage the local economy and ecology.
     
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  2. Think about the animals and prime Safari lands lost.
     
  3. But think of the improved coarse fishing...
     
  4. The records for Tiger fish , squeekers and Vundu are all from Kariba Lake.
     
  5. According to this source Selenga River Basin Threatened with Dams — Rivers without Boundaries , half the flow of the Selenga River arises in Mongolia. So given that the Selenga accounts for half the inflow to Lake Baikal, that suggests that about a quarter of the inflow to Lake Baikal arises in Mongolia.

    The biggest concern at this time though is that much of the sediment that forms the Selenga Delta in Lake Baikal originates in the part of the river that is in Mongolia. The Selenga Delta is an important part of the ecosystem of Lake Baikal, and as I said previously, the Russians consider the lake to be an ecological treasure (as does the world in general). As as a result, many people in Russia and elsewhere are very concerned about dams which may stop the flow of silt to the delta.

    There are several dams proposed, some to provide hydro electric power, and one to provide water to mining projects. Mining is a very important part of the economy of Mongolia, and mines require water for tailings ponds and processing of the ore or washing coal. As such, water projects to support the mines will be a high priority for them from an economic perspective.

    In my opinion, the chances of Mongolia agreeing to divert water to China (the discussion of which opened the current conversation) are pretty slim. Most of Mongolia is very dry, and the Selenga and its tributaries constitute most of the rivers of any consequence in Mongolia.
     
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  6. In case you misses it ......Nestle former Chairman Brabeck-Letmathe publicly Quotes
    "Access to water should not be a Public Right"
     
  7. New report from a German Foreign office think tank on the use of water and other resources as a recruiting tool for insurgents. Emphasis on climate change, but I suspect that resource scarcity is at least as big an issue.
    Extract quoted from Executive Summary (NSAG=Non State Armed Groups, i.e. -terrorists)

    https://uploads.guim.co.uk/2017/04/20/CD_Report_Insurgency_170419_(1).pdf

    There are two main mechanisms by which climate change facilitates the rise and growth of NSAGs:
    1. Climate change is increasingly contributing to fragility, in the analysed cases mainly by contributing to conflicts surrounding natural resources and livelihood insecurity. NSAGs proliferate and can operate more easily in these fragile and conflict-affected environments where the state has little to no authority (‘ungoverned space’) and is lacking legitimacy. Sometimes, NSAGs also try to fill the gap left by the state by providing basic services in order to gain legitimacy and secure trust and support among the local population.
    2. Climate change is having increasingly negative impacts on livelihoods in many countries and regions, e.g. through food insecurity or water/land scarcities. This makes the affected population groups more vulnerable not only to negative climate impacts but also to recruitment by NSAGs. These groups can offer alternative livelihoods and economic incentives and/or respond to political and socio-economic grievances.
    Another interesting finding is the way NSAGs leverage the fragile environments arising from compound climate-fragility risks:
    3. NSAGs are increasingly using natural resources as a weapon of war. The case studies show that in resource-scarce and fragile environments, NSAGs can use natural resources such as water as a weapon of war or inhibit access to natural resources. This in turn further compounds and exacerbates resource scarcities. This dynamic might be exacerbated as climate change increases the scarcity of natural resources in certain regions of the world: the scarcer resources become, the more power is given to those who control them.
    Looking at the interplay between climate change, fragility and NSAGs, there is a risk that the feedback loops and complex interactions create vicious cycles of increasing climate impacts, vulnerability, violence, conflict and fragility. As the negative impacts of climate change increase and contribute to fragility, this benefits NSAG, which leads to further destabilization and fragility, and increases vulnerability to the negative impacts of climate change. These dynamics can be further exacerbated by using increasingly scarce natural resources as a weapon.
    In general, climate change will increasingly challenge the ability of states to deliver services and provide stability. Extreme climate events, in particular, can strain the social fabric and the relationship between governments and populations. While government responsiveness in the face of disasters can strengthen the social contract, poor and slow responses are likely to weaken it, contributing to further instability and feeding into the downward spiral of fragility, violence and vulnerability.
    However, it is also important to emphasize that climate change is just one among many drivers of fragility and conflict. Climate change acts as a threat multiplier and compounds other risks. Other important drivers of fragility include ineffective responses by state security forces, a lack of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms, a lack of government legitimacy, marginalization, religion, identity, and endemic corruption.
     
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  8. Good overview of the threat to Egypt from the damming of the Nile.
    My bold. This is probably going to be root cause of a lot of East African instability.
    The Vanishing Nile: A Great River Faces a Multitude of Threats

    Though politicians and the press tend to downplay the idea, environmental degradation is often an underlying cause of international crises — from the deforestation, erosion, and reduced agricultural production that set the stage for the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s to the prolonged drought that pushed rural populations into the cities at the start of the current Syrian civil war. Egypt could become the latest example, its 95 million people the likely victims of a slow motion catastrophe brought on by grand-scale environmental mismanagement.

    It’s happening now in the Nile River delta, a low-lying region fanning out from Cairo roughly a hundred miles to the sea. About 45 or 50 million people live in the delta, which represents just 2.5 percent of Egypt’s land area. The rest live in the Nile River valley itself, a ribbon of green winding through hundreds of miles of desert sand, representing another 1 percent of the nation’s total land area. Though the delta and the river together were long the source of Egypt’s wealth and greatness, they now face relentless assault from both land and sea. ...

    ...Meanwhile, “as Egypt slept,” an “extremely competent” government in Ethiopia has rebuilt its economy, deftly worked with both U.S. and Chinese interests, and launched what Verhoeven characterized as “a hydropolitical offensive to re-order the region,” not just in political or theoretical terms, but on the ground, by asserting control over the Nile waters that are the region’s lifeblood. The United States could perhaps serve as an honest broker to negotiate a compromise between Egypt and Ethiopia. It has until recently played an important role working behind the scenes with both Cairo and Addis Ababa (a key ally on conflicts in Somalia and South Sudan). But under President Trump, said Verhoeven, both the National Security Council and the U.S. State Department have demonstrated little interest in Africa.
     
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  9. Really? Where does he say that? And is that really what he meant?

    I found an article in which he says that "while it is a basic human right to have access to subsidised water for hydration and hygiene, why should washing your car, filling a swimming pool or watering a garden be priced in the same way?" (Braebeck-Letmathe, 2010), but that's really not the same thing, is it.

    Even an anti-Brabeck-Letmathe 'clickbait' source manages to place his opinion in context:
    "In his opinion, it is extreme to say that human being has the right to the water. What this means is that everyone should have the basic need of water for drinking and sanitation and anything above this should be controlled and price accordingly. He has given a ratio of 1.5% and 98.5% on the water usage. 1.5% represent the amount of water for all human usage and 98.5% for any other usages. This is indirectly implying the ratio of human rights to the water." (Disclose TV, Undated)

    And, love 'em or hate 'em, Nestlé even carry a clarification piece on their website.

    I am in no sense a Nestlé/Brabeck apologist, but I think a tad more intellectual rigour is called for, especially on Hector's excellent thread.

    Perhaps you could provide us with a link to that statement? Then we could judge for ourselves whether or not he meant it in such an unequivocal way.
     
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  10. I hadn't picked up on the Nestle story, but it touches on (I think) two themes that I have noted previously.
    Firstly, access to water, and the pricing thereof
    Secondly, the gross imbalance between water directly used for humans and that used in agriculture.

    Firstly, access to water is globally improving, BUT, and it is a huge BUT, the amount of underinvestment in water infrastructure in both supply and especially waste water treatment is enormous. A fundamental problem here is that water is seen as a 'free' good (it falls out of the sky!) and that no one expects to pay for it. Even when it is charged for, it is not realistically priced enough to cover the cost of supply and removal. A consequence of this is enormous waste. If water were correctly priced, there would be people clamouring to be metered, and every leaking pipe would be dealt with pronto.

    Secondly, the appreciation of the ridiculous inefficiencies in most of the world around the demands of agriculture. In some places, it is about 98% agriculture, 2% human.
    That isn't a reflection on the 'ratio of human rights to water'-it is a direct reflection on the archaic and inefficient agricultural sectors that mostly use crude irrigation that consumes 98% of the supply, leaving little for the humans. Again, this is a pricing issue. IF water were expensive, you would see a rapid adoption of modern farming practices (probably at the expense of driving small peasants out of business) a reduction in agricultural water, and a corresponding increase in the availability for humans.

    Since big corporations source a lot of goods from the developing world, they are often quite aware of water issues as a supply chain issue, and are quite resilient. Where they often don't do so well is on managing the 'virtual water' embedded in their goods and products.
    So, you have bits of the big corporations with quite switched on sustainable development offices, yet you also have the same companies doing daft things like manufacturing bottled water in drought regions for export.
     
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  11. Hector, you may have read a surprisingly accessible book on Complexity in Public Policy (Geyer & Rehani, 2010) which does a rather good job of highlighting the different ways people and institutions (elements in the complex adaptive system) react to change and uncertainty.

    In your example, complexity theory would suggest that the peasant wouldn't necessarily be driven out of business, but they might be driven to adopt a different way of surviving (e.g. harvesting rainfall, reducing crop yields, collectivisation, theft...you get the picture).

    There's a great thought experiment in the last few pages where you are asked to consider what would happen if the Governors of the Bank of England were replaced by a troop of monkeys who were allowed to play with a switch that controlled the baseline interest rate every couple of months. Some of the answers make you think.
     
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