Food trade drains global water sources at ‘alarming’ rates

The global market for foodstuffs is depleting water sources in many parts of the world quicker than they can naturally be refilled.

The complex trade is increasing pressure on non-renewable groundwater, mainly used for irrigating crops such as rice, wheat and cotton.

Pakistan, the US and India are the countries exporting the most food grown with unsustainable water.

Researchers say that without action, food supplies will be threatened.

Around 43% of the water used to irrigate crops around the world comes from underground aquifers, as opposed to rivers and lakes. Many of these sources are being used up quicker than they can be refilled from rainfall.

Back in 2000, experts believed that non-renewable resources sustained 20% of global irrigation. In the 10 years to 2010, this increased by more than a fifth.

 

 

Many developed countries are aware of issues in the depletion of groundwater and have put measures in place, such as urban water restrictions in California during the recent years of drought. However, in developing nations, the mechanisms to restrict water may not exist.

“Pakistan for instance is quite complex,” said Dr Dalin. “They can make good money out of exporting rice, but the framework is not really there to account for the impact on the environment. It is true that eventually it will affect the production there.”

The researchers argue that while governments need to have greater awareness about the impacts of production on water resources, consumers in richer countries should also think about water when considering the foods that they buy.

“The products that consumers buy at a supermarket may have very different environmental impacts depending on where they are produced and how they are irrigated,” said co-author Yoshihide Wada, from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

“In order to help consumers make more sustainable choices about their food, producers should consider adding water labels that make these impacts clear.”

Source: http://www.bbc.com/

 

Advertisements

Disease and death after Hurricane Matthew

The threat of hurricanes is not just storm surges, floods and the ferocious winds encountered as they made landfall.

Threats from the lack of clean water, decomposing bodies and the lack fo food and medical supplies due to problems with accessibility exacerabates (worsens) the already dire situation – especially in very poor countries like Haiti.

The other threats of conflict – starvation and disease

The paradox: Nigeria is Africa’s 2nd richest nation. However, the Northeastern corner of the country has been marred by conflict and clashes with militants, causing it to be isolated from aid. Information about the crisis is also limited due to the lack of action by the government and  the lack of journalists and aid groups on the ground.

As the conflict continues, the people’s living conditions continue to worsen as food and basic medical supplies remain out of reach.

imrs

Across the northeastern corner of this country, more than 3 million people displaced and isolated by the militants are facing one of the world’s biggest humanitarian disasters. Every day, more children are dying because there isn’t enough food. Curable illnesses are killing others. Even polio has returned.

About a million and a half of the victims have fled the Islamist extremists and are living in makeshift camps, bombed-out buildings and host communities, receiving minimal supplies from international organizations. An additional 2 million people, according to the United Nations, are still inaccessible because of the Boko Haram fighters, who control their villages or patrol the surrounding areas.

“We will see, I think, a famine unlike any we have ever seen anywhere,” unless immediate assistance is provided, said Toby Lanzer, the top U.N. official focused on humanitarian aid for the region.

The staggering hunger crisis created by the insurgents has been largely hidden from view, partly because it has been extremely dangerous for aid groups and journalists to visit the area. But institutional failures have exacerbated the situation: For over a year, the United Nations and humanitarian groups dramatically underestimated the size of the disaster, and the Nigerian government refused to acknowledge the huge number of people going hungry in Africa’s second-richest nation. Thousands of people have already died because of the inaction, aid experts say.

 Source: Washington Post

Rural Cambodian villagers defiant in face of looming hydropower flood

From the government’s perspective: hydropower will aid the country economically and elevate the standard of living of the people. Rural people will also be compensated and relocated to new, better residences with access to school, electricity and a market.

From villager’s perspective: as my old village is flooded to make way for the HEP plant, my old way of life also disappears. Unlike the past where the river can provide for my every need (especially food) for free, I now need to work to have enough money to pay for the basic needs I use to get so easily from the river.

Who’s right?

According to the article, proper negotiation with all parties are very important. While there is likely no way to avoid the building of the dam/HEP plant, the locals affected could have been consulted more to understand their concerns especially with regard to relocation.

Such consultation with locals is equally important with NGOs and disaster relief work.

Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/rural-cambodian-villagers-defiant-in-face-of-looming-hydropower/3293410.html

Multinational corporations vs local farmers

When we think of MNCs, we think of richer, developed countries exploiting the poorer, less developed countries.

This may no longer be the case as MNCs from developed countries are under the scrutiny of the media and their respective governments while MNCs from emerging economies like China, South Africa and Russia may not face the same pressure from their government and the public to ensure human rights are protected in the countries they invest projects in. Sometimes, the governments themselves work with the MNCs at the expense of the needs of their own people.

When you think of the worst abuses in poor countries — land grabs, sweatshops, cash-filled envelopes passed to politicians — you probably think they’re committed by companies based in rich ones: Nike in Indonesia, Shell in Nigeria, Dow in Bhopal, India.

These are the cases you’re most likely to hear about, but they are no longer representative of how these abuses actually take place — or who commits them.These days, the worst multinational corporations have names you’ve never heard. They come from places like China and South Africa and Russia. The countries where they are headquartered are unable to regulate them, and the countries where they operate are unwilling to.

Read the Foreign Policy article to find out more about how land grabs from a Zimbabwean MNC, Green Fuel, has affected the lives of local farmers. This is just one case of many.

Source: foreignpolicy.com

Spratly Islands Dispute – Death of the corals

The Spratly Islands are one of many islands found in the South China Sea that are part of the regional territorial dispute between nearby countries like China, Vietnam, Philippines.

All claim to have claim to various islands within the South China Sea, the largest claim being China’s ‘nine-dash line’:

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Other claims include:

Up to 5 countries are claiming parts or all of the Spratly Islands – China, Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Why are the Islands important?

In terms of national security, these islands are important due to their location in the South China Sea, where many merchant ships pass through to deliver  goods, people, and energy products to Asian-Pacific countries. By controlling these islands, the country in question would be able to ensure the safe passage of their goods.

In terms of energy security, the Spratly Islands are considered indispensable to countries in the region due to the potential sources of natural gas and oil found under the islands’ seabed. Whichever country wins the dispute would have the right to explore and develop these resources for their own domestic consumption. This would help in diversifying a country’s energy portfolio while making them less vulnerable to foreign oil and gas markets. At this time, however, the amount of recoverable oil and gas that these islands contain have not been fully proven.

Beyond this, whichever country gets control of the islands will also have control over activities within the area – including fishing. Economically, the fishing industries of countries in the region can be very severely affected.

Source: http://energyinasiablog.com/2011/10/the-spratly-islands-dispute-defining-sea-lane-security/

Environmental impact so far?

China has been very active within the disputed islands and in recent years have constructed artificial islands within the disputed zones.

Satellite imagery from 30 March, 7 August 2014 and 30 January 2015 shows the extent of Chinese progress in building an island at Gaven Reefs in the Spratly Islands.
Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/28/asia/china-south-china-sea-disputes-explainer/

With the building of such islands on what used to be reefs, comes massive damage to reef systems, as discovered by experts:

Marine biologist John McManus said Chinese poachers had been using the propellers on their boats to destroy coral reefs at disputed islands Spratyls and Pag-asa, referred to as Thitu in China.

According to data, coral bleaching and reef scarring are evidence of systematic crushing through repeated scratching or scraping by Chinese poachers to harvest giant clams.

McManus added that aside from discovering the poaching method, the data also links the destruction of the corals to China’s construction of artificial islands.

“They said their scientists went there. They looked around and they say ‘Oh, this is all dead coral.’ It was! It’s the truth—it had been killed by the Chinese fishers,” he said.

Source: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/582462/scitech/science/chinese-poachers-destroyed-coral-reefs-in-spratly-pag-asa-islands-us-biologist

It doesn’t look like we are anywhere close to any solution to the dispute, those most agree that any solution should only come with negotiations and not military action. Until that happens, it is doubtful the reefs will be left unscathed.