control of water
Angry protests have swept through several provinces of Iran over the past two weeks amid an economic crisis exacerbated by subsidy cuts that have seen the price of basic goods soar as much as 300%. According to reports on social media, at least six people have been killed as security forces have been deployed across the country to quell unrest. The protests have turned political in many areas, such as the Isfahan provincial capital of Golpayegan, with crowds calling for an end to the Islamic Republic. The government has cut off the internet to a number of areas hit by protests, including traditionally restive Khuzestan province.
Facing long lines and bread shortages, Lebanon's government has been forced to give private importers $15 million to bring more wheat into the country. But it's a short-term fix for a government that is broke and waiting for the IMF to approve a bailout deal. And nations across the Middle East may be looking for similar solutions as they struggle with the fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine—both countries are key wheat producers, and exports are effectively cut off by the war. Oxfam is warning that wheat reserves could run out within weeks in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Mercy Corps reports that food prices are up in rebel-held northwest Syria, where food security was already a major concern. Last month Egypt put a cap on unsubsidized bread prices before they could get too high. Yemen, which imports the vast majority of its food, is of particular concern as it already has so many hungry people and is heavily dependent on Ukrainian wheat. Last week, UNICEF said that "the number of malnourished children [in the region] is likely to drastically increase."
The government of Poland announced Feb. 4 that it has agreed to pay compensation in a dispute over the Turów open-pit lignite mine that lies close to the border with the Czech Republic. In return, Prague has withdrawn its complaint at the Court of Justice of the European Union. The dispute concerns the complaints of local farmers on the Czech side of the border that their water sources are going dry due to the mine's operations. The Turów Brown Coal Mine, owned by Poland's parastatal power company PGE, must pump water from the pit into the Lusatian Neisse River, draining the local aquifer. The mine has been expanding closer to the border, further enflaming the fears of the Czech farmers. The deal was protested by Greenpeace for failing to provide sufficient guarantees for protection of the watershed. (EuroNews, Jurist, Expats.cz, BBC News, EUReporter)
At least 14 protesters were killed in Chad's Ouaddai province Jan. 28, climaxing several days of mounting violence and unrest. Protests broke out in provincial capital Abéché after the central government suspended the powers of Ouaddai's traditional sultan, Cherif Abdelhadi Mahdi. The appointed prefect of the province is to assume his traditional powers over the ethnic Ouaddai community. The traditional Ouaddai chieftain of the locality of Bani Halba has also had his powers dissolved by decree. The appointed replacements are apparently to be Arabs, exacerbating tensions between the Arab and ethnic Ouaddai communities. Local rights groups say some were killed by security forces in the preceding days' protests as well, and are demanding an investigation. The heretofore autonomous sultanate of Dar Ouaddai is a survival of the Wadai Empire, which ruled much of the region from the 15th century through the consolidation of French colonial rule in 1914. (TchadInfos, AlWihdaInfo, AFP)
Russian warplanes are reported to have carried out an air-raid on the main water pumping station for the city Idlib, capital of the besieged province of that name in Syria's north. Witnesses on the ground said Russian Sukhoi jets dropped bombs on the water plant as well as several towns outside the provincial capital on Jan. 2. UN humanitarian official Mark Cutts acknowledged the air-raid without naming the perpetrators, tweeting: "The country is already facing a water crisis & continued destruction of civilian infrastructure will only cause more suffering of civilians." Abu Hazem Idlibi, an official in the opposition administration of the city, said the plant is now out of operation, charging: "The Russians are focusing on infrastructure and economic assets. This is to add to the suffering of people."
Hondurans last month elected Xiomara Castro of the left-populist LIBRE Party to be the country's first woman president, defeating Nasry Asfura of the conservative National Party. Taking office next month, Castro is to replace the National Party's President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose term has been plagued by scandal and accusations of ties to narco-trafficking. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, the populist president who was removed in a coup in 2009, Castro seems poised to revive his program—and take it much further. "Never again will the power be abused in this country," she declared upon her victory. She has proclaimed herself a "democratic socialist," and pledges to govern through a new model of "participatory democracy," placing a series of reforms before the voters through referenda or "consultas."
The UN Refugee Agency reports that "intercommunal clashes" in Cameroon's Far North region have displaced thousands inside the country and forced more than 30,000 people to flee to neighboring Chad. Since the violence erupted on Dec. 5, at least 22 people have been killed and 30 others seriously injured. The fighting began in the border village of Ouloumsa following a dispute between herders, fishermen and farmers over dwindling water resources. Violence then spread to neighboring villages. Ten villages in total have been burned to the ground. On Dec. 8, the violence reached Kousseri, Cameroon's northern commercial hub, where the cattle market was destroyed. At least 10,000 people have fled Kousseri to Chad's capital N'djamena, across the Chari and Logone Rivers, which mark the border.
In what local media are calling an "environmental uprising," protesters blocked roads and occupied public squares in Belgrade and other towns across Serbia on Nov. 27 to oppose plans for a lithium mine at Loznica, on the Drina River. Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto has been buying up land in the area, in anticipation of final approval of the project. But concerns over a toxic threat to local waters have sparked widespread outrage over the plan.