control of water
The Taliban regime's announcement of plans for construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Kunar River is escalating tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The 480-kilometer Kunar River originates in the Hindu Kush mountains of central Afghanistan and merges with the Kabul River, which in turn flows into Pakistan where it joins with the Indus. The proposed reservoir and use of the Kunar's waters for irrigation within Afghanistan would mean less water for agriculture in Pakistan, officials protest. One Pakistani provincial minister said that a unilateral decision by the Taliban to build the dam "will be considered a hostile act against Pakistan." Jan Achakzai, information minister for the border province of Balochistan, warned of "severe consequences," including "potential conflict."
In a report issued Dec. 11, Human Rights Watch (HRW) charged that both the Houthis and government forces have violated residents' right to water in the ongoing siege of Taizz, Yemen. For the past eight years, the besieging Houthi forces have cut off the flow from watersheds under their control to the Taizz Local Water & Sanitation Corporation (TLWSC), which manages and maintains the city's water supply and sewage treatment system. These watersheds previously provided 77% of the city's supply. The government troops that control the city have meanwhile sold the public water from wells within the urban area for their own profit. HRW called upon both parties to "allow Taizz's local water agency to access, repair, and operate water infrastructure on the front lines and in Houthi-controlled territory." (Jurist)
For the first time, the UN's annual climate change conference is putting a spotlight on the overlap between conflict and the climate crisis, and on the pressing need to address its neglected humanitarian consequences.
As COP28 begins in Dubai, the urgency for more climate financing to be directed to conflict settings—and the challenges of getting that money into the hands of the people who need it most—are on full display in opposition-held northwest Syria. A years-long drought is compounding the suffering caused by ongoing conflict, earthquakes that struck the region earlier this year, and the longer-term effects of 12-and-a-half years of civil war.
At least 14 people were killed and over 100 are missing after South Lhonak glacial lake in the Indian state of Sikkim burst due to incessant rains Oct. 4, inundating downstream areas. The sudden deluge on the Teesta River destroyed the Chungthang dam and flooded several districts, including Mangan, Gangtok, Pakyong and Namchi. Many residents remain cut off. (Indian Express, The Hindu) Scientists had long warned that South Lhonak lake would burst. A detailed study, Future Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) hazard of the South Lhonak Lake, Sikkim Himalaya, was published in Geomorphology journal in September 2021. It noted that the lake had witnessed a significant increase in size over the past decades due to glacial retreat. India's Central Water Commission had initiated an advisory study to evaluate the condition of the Himalayan lake system in Sikkim. (DownToEarth)
Human Rights Watch released a report July 31 critiquing the Panamanian government's lax efforts to assist coastal indigenous peoples in the country with relocation as their ancestral homelands are destroyed by climate change. The report focuses on the island of Gardi Sugdub and its Guna indigenous inhabitants. The residents of Gardi Sugdub have been planning an evacuation from the island due to rising sea levels since 2017. However, HRW charges that the Panamanian government's promised support for the evacuation has been slow to come. The report finds that little work has been done at the site residents are being relocated to on the mainland, with the location still lacking sewage, water, garbage removal and health services. Additionally, there may not be enough water supply in wells on site to support Gardi Sugdub residents, even if water service is connected.
Mexican authorities confirmed Aug. 3 that they recovered two bodies from the Rio Grande near the border town of Piedras Negras, Coahuila state. Authorities recovered one of the bodies, a Mexican national, from buoys recently floated by Texas in an effort to impede border crossings from Mexico. The second body, that of a Honduran national, was recovered further upstream, away from the buoys. The incidents have renewed attention on the floating barrier, which is now the subject of a lawsuit between the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the state of Texas.
With the return of El Niño, rising temperatures are leading to a surge of life-threatening weather patterns across the globe. While Europe experiences new record temperatures, in Latin America drought is affecting countries in unprecedented ways. In Uruguay, the lack of rain has emptied one of the capital's main reservoirs, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency in Montevideo and to add salty water to public drinking water supplies—provoking protests from citizens angry over the significant decline of water quality. While the country faces its worst drought in the past 74 years, critics accuse the government of prioritizing water use by transnationals and agribusinesses over human consumption. News of a plan to build a Google data center that would require 3.8 million liters of water a day further infuriated Uruguayans. On July 13, UN experts called on the Uruguayan authorities to take action to protect citizens' access to clean drinking water.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague dismissed India's objections concerning its authority to address the ongoing Indus River disputes between India and Pakistan on July 6. The ruling reinstates a case that had been impeded for several years. Pakistan asserts that India's proposed hydroelectric energy projects will substantially diminish the Indus' flow, negatively affecting Pakistani agriculture. Pakistan initiated legal proceedings against India in 2016, seeking arbitration to address the issue. India raised objections regarding the jurisdiction of the PCA.