Archive for ‘Environmental Refugees’

Drought Hastens Rural Emigration

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

As extreme drought conditions stress agriculture in many areas of Bolivia, rural farming families are having to choose between the prospect of starvation or relocation to urban areas.

According to Simón Pisaya Mamani, a farmer from Ingavi province in the state of La Paz,

“[They] say the drought this year will be stronger than before, which worries us because already we don´t have food. It´s a shame, my sons told me that if we´re going to continue in the same situation they´re going to emigrate to the city.”

Rufino Mamani, a farmer in nearby Tacaca, recalled that last year as a consequence of drought, two of his sons moved to Cochabamba in search of work.

The mayor of Jesús de Machaca, Moisés Quiso (MAS) said,

“We’ve sent information to the municipal experts to calculate exactly what percentage of animals and planted fields are in danger. The dry season has only just begun and we´re worried that all the production will be for nothing.”

In the municipality of Laja, in the Los Andes province, farmers´ wells have run dry and the only reliable water source is the Pallina River which is contaminated by run-off from El Alto.

Many farmers report that their meager potato harvests will only be good enough for making chuño, freeze-dried potatoes. Unfortunately the winter frosts haven´t been very consistent and without the nightly frosts needed to make chuño, farmers fear the potatoes will only be good for feeding pigs. Other parts of Bolivia are also hurting in the dry season, including areas in Santa Cruz and Potosí. The drought is hitting other economic sectors in addition to agriculture. The Laguna Colorada, a major tourist draw near the Salar de Uyuni, has dropped several centimeters this season and lost much of its characteristic red color.

Source: Drought Hastens Rural Emigration - boliviaweekly

Date: 04 July 2010

Climate appeal by Pacific islands

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Pacific island nations have compared global warming to an invading army in a plea for the UN Security Council to break the stalemate in negotiations over a legally binding global climate treaty.

The 11 nations that make up the Pacific Small Island Developing States wrote to members of the UN’s most powerful body to argue that the threat they face from a warmer world and rising sea levels is comparable to armed conflict.

The 15-nation Security Council oversees threats to international peace and security.

“Climate change can devastate a country just as thoroughly as an invading army,” Nauru’s UN Ambassador Marlene Moses said as chair of the island nations’ group.

Ms Moses said the Security Council must step in because the UN-led negotiations for mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases and assistance for the most vulnerable nations is stalled.

“If (the) international community fails to take immediate action, then it will be complicit in the extinction of entire nations,” she said.

The group said climate change is contributing to severe food and water shortages in the Pacific and already making refugees of people in Vanuatu, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands.

The group’s letter, sent by UN ambassadors from the 11 Pacific island nations, was pointedly critical of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that sponsored the last major climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark last December.

A last-minute political agreement fell short on specific steps to cool the planet, but urged deeper cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for warming the globe. It also set up the first significant programme of climate aid to poorer nations and adopted a goal of holding the rise in global temperatures below two degrees Celsius.

A promised 30 billion US dollar (£21bn) fund over the next three years, scaling up to 100 billion US dollars (£69bn) a year by 2020, was a key element.

Source: Climate appeal by Pacific islands – Belfast Telegraph

Date: 21 May 2010

Two Dead After Yemenis Clash Over Water Rights

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Two people died in a southern Yemeni village where the military intervened to end a dispute over water rights, underscoring tensions sparked by a looming water crisis in the Arabian peninsular state.

“This province suffers from a severe water crisis. Our ground (water) wells are almost depleted.”

Some experts say Sanaa could be the world’s first capital city to run dry because of a chronic shortage of ground water.

The country’s 21 ground water wells are already failing to meet demand from its 23 million-strong population, which is expected to double in the next 20 years. The problem is particularly acute in cities like Taiz and Sanaa.

For Yemenis, water scarcity is quickly becoming a source of violent clashes. Some analysts even suggest “water refugees” may someday flee to neighboring Gulf countries and Europe.

Source: Two Dead After Yemenis Clash Over Water Rights – Planet Ark – Reuters

Date: 17 May 2010

Salt killing crops, driving migration in storm-hit southern Bangladesh

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Worsening sea water storm surges and overuse of irrigation have left fields, wells and ponds in parts of southern Bangladesh too salty to grow crops, leading to a growing exodus of farmers from the region.

During Cyclones Sidr and Aila, in 2007 and 2009, sea water was driven into ponds and rivers in Khulna, Bagerhat and Satkhira districts in southern Bangladesh, and some fields remained flooded by sea water long enough to raise levels of salinity in the soil and in underground aquifers used for irrigation.

Now farmers on hundreds of thousands of acres in the region are watching their rice crops wither and die before reaching maturity. In some cases, farmers have sown rice plants several times in a season but seen none survive.

Binoy Singh, a farmer in Surigati village in Bagerhat district, recently lost nearly his entire 10-acre rice crop to salt contamination.

“The pond, the river and the groundwater contain excess salt. Salinity in the land has risen too much. The plants became red and dried up after some days of cultivation,” he said.

“Some two years back we were cultivating rice with water from the river and deep tube wells. But now the salinity of the water from these sources has gone above the permissible level for rice production,” he said.

Last year Singh got a ton of rice from his land. This year he may get less than a tenth of that amount.

“I am very much worried how I will feed my family members this year,” he said.

Worsening storm surges and sea level rise linked to climate change, as well as overuse of irrigation, threaten to make soil salinity a worsening problem across broad areas of southern Bangladesh, a vast and heavily populated river delta region that sits barely above sea level.

In the Tala, Debhata and Kaliganj sub-districts under Satkhira district, salinity in wells 70 to 80 feet deep is now 10 times higher than the tolerable limit for rice cultivation, researchers say.

That poses a grave threat to food security in southern Bangladesh, and is driving displacement as farmers migrate in search of other work to feed their families.

“This is really unfortunate for the people of that area who go hungry many days a year in the absence of food,” said M.A. Rashid, a scientist at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute in Dhaka.

Institute researchers are installing wells in some of the worst hit areas in an attempt to find out whether there is water suitable for irrigation still available deeper underground. In many areas, farmers now have to dig wells at least 500 feet deep to get water that is safe for irrigation. Earlier such water was available at 200 to 250 feet.

Now “water available at 200 to 250 feet deep is risky for irrigation. If rain water or fresh water is not supplied in the fields after cultivation, rice plants will die after a few days,” Rashid said.

Akmal Sheikh, Abdul Khaleq and Abul Kalam, farmers in Bagerhat district, said they are now losing a second season of crops to salt contamination.

“Last season we experienced a similar problem. We could not cultivate rice in all of our lands and got less output. This time, in the case of Boro rice (produced in the January to May season), the situation is disastrous. Almost all the plants died in the early stage,” they said.

The men said they had spent about $350 to cultivate each acre of land. Most of the farmers in the area depend on loans from private sources with a high rate of interest. Normally, they repay the loan after selling their crop. Those who lose their crops, however, usually have no choice but to sell some of their land to repay the loan.

As excessive salinity makes more crops fail, thousands of farmers are becoming landless and migrating elsewhere within or outside of Bangladesh, residents said. Many farmers tell of neighbours who have left for Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, or for neighbouring India over the last six months to a year.

Some have fled rather than face legal prosecution for failing to repay loans, or have spent time in local jails, Singh said.

Iftekhar Alam, an engineer and salinity expert with the Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation, said excessive use of groundwater for irrigation is also driving the worsening salinity problem in the area.

Overuse of well water for irrigation, he said, is reducing the underground pressure that holds back sea water, allowing it to seep into aquifers.

“This movement of saline water into the mainland through the aquifer is increasing alarmingly. That is why the farmers are getting excess salt in the groundwater,” Alam said.

“Within the next few decades, major parts of the southern reaches of the Padma River may experience underground saltwater intrusion,” he warned.

His organization has so far installed 80 test wells across the country to better understand the reasons behind increasing salinity in groundwater.

Over the last 25 years, sea water from the Bay of Bengal has pushed 40 kilometres inland throughout underground aquifers, replacing fresh water, he said.

Source: Salt killing crops, driving migration in storm-hit southern Bangladesh – AlertNet

Date: 13 May 2010

During Cyclones Sidr and Aila, in 2007 and 2009, sea water was driven into ponds and rivers in Khulna, Bagerhat and Satkhira districts in southern Bangladesh, and some fields remained flooded by sea water long enough to raise levels of salinity in the soil and in underground aquifers used for irrigation. Now farmers on hundreds of thousands of acres in the region are watching their rice crops wither and die before reaching maturity. In some cases, farmers have sown rice plants several times in a season but seen none survive. Binoy Singh, a farmer in Surigati village in Bagerhat district, recently lost nearly his entire 10-acre rice crop to salt contamination. “The pond, the river and the groundwater contain excess salt. Salinity in the land has risen too much. The plants became red and dried up after some days of cultivation,” he said. “Some two years back we were cultivating rice with water from the river and deep tube wells. But now the salinity of the water from these sources has gone above the permissible level for rice production,” he said. CROP REDUCED 90 PERCENT Last year Singh got a ton of rice from his land. This year he may get less than a tenth of that amount. “I am very much worried how I will feed my family members this year,” he said. Worsening storm surges and sea level rise linked to climate change, as well as overuse of irrigation, threaten to make soil salinity a worsening problem across broad areas of southern Bangladesh, a vast and heavily populated river delta region that sits barely above sea level. In the Tala, Debhata and Kaliganj sub-districts under Satkhira district, salinity in wells 70 to 80 feet deep is now 10 times higher than the tolerable limit for rice cultivation, researchers say. That poses a grave threat to food security in southern Bangladesh, and is driving displacement as farmers migrate in search of other work to feed their families. “This is really unfortunate for the people of that area who go hungry many days a year in the absence of food,” said M.A. Rashid, a scientist at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute in Dhaka. Institute researchers are installing wells in some of the worst hit areas in an attempt to find out whether there is water suitable for irrigation still available deeper underground. In many areas, farmers now have to dig wells at least 500 feet deep to get water that is safe for irrigation. Earlier such water was available at 200 to 250 feet. Now “water available at 200 to 250 feet deep is risky for irrigation. If rain water or fresh water is not supplied in the fields after cultivation, rice plants will die after a few days,” Rashid said. Akmal Sheikh, Abdul Khaleq and Abul Kalam, farmers in Bagerhat district, said they are now losing a second season of crops to salt contamination. “Last season we experienced a similar problem. We could not cultivate rice in all of our lands and got less output. This time, in the case of Boro rice (produced in the January to May season), the situation is disastrous. Almost all the plants died in the early stage,” they said. The men said they had spent about $350 to cultivate each acre of land. Most of the farmers in the area depend on loans from private sources with a high rate of interest. Normally, they repay the loan after selling their crop. Those who lose their crops, however, usually have no choice but to sell some of their land to repay the loan. MIGRATION GROWING As excessive salinity makes more crops fail, thousands of farmers are becoming landless and migrating elsewhere within or outside of Bangladesh, residents said. Many farmers tell of neighbours who have left for Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, or for neighbouring India over the last six months to a year. Some have fled rather than face legal prosecution for failing to repay loans, or have spent time in local jails, Singh said. Iftekhar Alam, an engineer and salinity expert with the Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation, said excessive use of groundwater for irrigation is also driving the worsening salinity problem in the area. Overuse of well water for irrigation, he said, is reducing the underground pressure that holds back sea water, allowing it to seep into aquifers. “This movement of saline water into the mainland through the aquifer is increasing alarmingly. That is why the farmers are getting excess salt in the groundwater,” Alam said. “Within the next few decades, major parts of the southern reaches of the Padma River may experience underground saltwater intrusion,” he warned. His organization has so far installed 80 test wells across the country to better understand the reasons behind increasing salinity in groundwater. Over the last 25 years, sea water from the Bay of Bengal has pushed 40 kilometres inland throughout underground aquifers, replacing fresh water, he said.

SOMALIA: Thousands displaced by floods, fear of renewed clashes

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Flooding and fear of renewed clashes in Somalia’s south-central region of Hiiraan have displaced thousands of families in and around Beletweyne, the regional capital, sources told IRIN.

Hamud Ali Jiliow, a local elder, said many people had fled their homes after the Shabelle River burst its banks this week and flooded parts of the town, which is 350km northwest of Mogadishu.

“So far, we estimate that 1,500 families [9,000 people] in Hawo Tako district have left their homes due to the floods in the past 48 hours,” said Jiliow.

However, downpours in neighbouring Ethiopia have caused the rivers downstream in Somalia to swell, leading to flooding, according to the Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“[Shabelle] River levels have increased drastically over the last few days; there is therefore a likelihood of high risk of flooding in the lower reaches of Shabelle in the coming week,” SWALIM reported, adding that “this may however be worsened by weak river embankments along the Shabelle River”.

Source: SOMALIA: Thousands displaced by floods, fear of renewed clashes – IRIN

Date: 12 May 2010

Heavy rains kill 70, losses mounting in South China

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Meteorologists warned Monday of continuing heavy downpours in a large swath of southern areas where lashing storms have already claimed at least 70 lives and forced the relocation of about 145,000 people in less than a week.

The China Meteorological Administration said torrential rainfalls, strong enough to cause landslides, are expected in the next three days in the provinces of Guangdong, Jiangxi, Fujian, Hunan and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, as well as Chongqing Municipality, some of which suffered the worst drought in a century earlier this year.

The fresh storms have already triggered flash flooding and mud-rock flows, swollen rivers and burst dikes, as well as threatened reservoirs and damaged highways, bridges and power and telecommunication facilities.

The 145,000 displaced residents have been evacuated since Wednesday, when the torrential rains began flooding southern China, the Office of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said in a statement Monday. The main causes of death were attributed to mud and landslides, as well as housing collapses, according to the headquarters.

Guangdong was one of the worst-hit areas. The latest figures showed that 19 residents were killed, and six were missing. More than 80,000 residents were evacuated, and 10,174 homes were toppled. A 168-millimeter rainfall was recorded Monday in Jiangmen, marking the highest rain total in Guangdong.

Source: Heavy rains kill 70, losses mounting in South China – xinhuanet

Date: 11 May 2010

Press Conference on Vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Overdue commitments made to small island developing States (SIDS) must be fulfilled to enable them to survive climate change and other international crises that were threatening their very existence, officials from three such States said at a UN Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

“We should not allow countries to sink for the progress of others,”

Amjad Abdullah, Director-General of the Ministry of Housing, Transport and Environment of the Maldives told correspondents, in the midpoint of a day in which the particular vulnerabilities of those countries was under discussion in the Commission on Sustainable Development, which began the second week of its two-week annual session today.

Mr. Abdullah was joined at the press conference by Ambassador Collin Beck from the Solomon Islands and Lotoala Metia, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning of Tuvalu.  Discussions during today’s special focus on small island developing States in the Sustainable Development Commission will form a part of the preparations for a high-level meeting planned for this September to review progress made under the 2005 Mauritius Strategy for the Development of the small-island States.

Going forward on climate change, Mr. Beck said it was crucial for a solid outcome to emerge from the talks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of this year, including legally binding agreements to limit carbon emissions.  Small island developing States were already experiencing worsening food security and the need to relocate people to higher ground on a daily basis.

Minister Metia confirmed that climate change had already had a very big impact on the islands of Tuvalu and he had made pleas at a host of international forums for aid to their national action plan.  To date, they had not received any of the pledged assistance, even though they were nearing the end of the five-year cycle.  They had made their case again today in the Commission.  They had little choice:  if the seas rose, they would be submerged.

Asked if the small island developing States had been pressured to sign onto last year’s Copenhagen accord on climate change, Mr. Metia said the accord was a “death certificate” and those countries would stand firm in resisting it, despite any bullying or promises of assistance.  To questions about his preference regarding a new head for the UNFCCC, he said that whoever heads it must be dedicated to ensuring the survival of the most vulnerable.

In response to questions about arrangements for emigration to other countries if the sea levels became untenable, the panellists from Tuvalu and Maldives said resolutely that migration was not on the agendas of their Governments.  “It’s our right to enjoy where we are,” Mr. Abdullah said.

In conclusion, Ambassador Beck warned that the window of opportunity to stop rapid climate change was drawing closed, and the fate of small island developing States would eventually happen to others, even though those countries were on the front line.

Source: Press Conference on Vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States – United Nations

Date: 10 May 2010

Since 1990, annual losses of around $60 billion worldwide due to extreme weather events have been recorded, costing a record $200 billion in 2005. Weather related catastrophes have increased 2% each year since the 1970s, based on insurance industry data

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Since 1990 annual losses of around $60 billion worldwide due to extreme weather events (0.2% of World GDP) have been recorded, costing a record $200 billion in 2005 (0.5% of World GDP). Weather related catastrophes have increased 2% each year since the 1970s, based on insurance industry data.

In late November 1998, the total losses, worldwide, from storms, floods, droughts, and fires for the first eleven months of the unusual year 1998 was a record $89 billion: nearly 50 percent higher than the previous record of $60 billion in 1996. In addition to material losses, these weather-related events had taken an estimated 32,000 lives, while displacing 300 million people from their homes: more than the populations of Canada and the United States combined.

“According to the World Health Organization climate change impacts are already claiming around 160,000 human lives globally every year, through, for example, extreme weather, disease and malnutrition . The WHO and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Diseases predict this number could double by 2020.”

“Global warming could ‘commit to extinction’ between 18% and 35% of animal and plant species by 2050.”

Source: Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change (Chapter 5)

Date: 2006

Source: The Extreme Weather Events of 1997 and 1998 – Consequences Vol. 5, No. 1, 1999

Date: 1999

Source: Indications of climate change – Recent Extreme global weather events (PDF) – United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Date: 1999

Source: A disaster for humanity and nature – Greenpeace

Date: Retrieved 30 March 2010

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the most costly catastrophe, totalling US$125 billion in economic losses (around 1.2% of USA GDP)

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the most costly catastrophe, totaling US$125 billion in economic losses (around 1.2% of USA GDP).

More than 1,300 people died as a result of the hurricane and over one million people were displaced from their homes.

According to the estimation of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the macroeconomic effects of Katrina, the hurricane and flooding could lower the annual growth rate of real (inflation-adjusted) GDP by ½ to 1 percentage point in the second half of the year and reduce employment growth over the rest of the year by about 400,000 jobs.

Source: Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change (Chapter 5) – HM Treasury (PDF)

Date: 2006

Source: Potential Economic Impacts of Hurricane Katrina – Joint Economic Committee Democrats (PDF)

Date: September 2005

After the 2005 hurricanes, the state of Louisiana suffered a 15% loss of income in the post-hurricane months

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

After Hurricane Katrina, 800,000 displaced Louisiana residents requested federal assistance.

The communities of Hackberry, Cameron, and Holly Beach of the Cameron Parish were heavily damaged or entirely destroyed by Hurricane Rita. Lake Charles experienced severe flooding with reports of water rising 6-8 feet in surrounding areas and reaching the second floor of buildings.

After the 2005 hurricanes, the state of Louisiana suffered a 15% loss of income in the post-hurricane months.

Source: Climate Change – the Costs of Inaction : Frank Ackerman and Elizabeth Stanton – Global Development and Environment Institute – Tufts University, MA, USA (PDF)

Date: October 2006

Source: 2005 Louisiana Hurricane Impact Atlas – Louisiana Geographic Information Center (PDF)

Date: Updated May 2006

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