Bashi Bazouk

A Collection of Digital Encounters and Occasional Thoughts

Watering Holes

Deniers may attempt to discredit Global Warming as a cause celebre headline for moralizing Hollywood-types, but regardless of what these cynics say human behaviours have an undeniable and measurable impact on local ecosystems. The institution of ecologically harmful practices driven by short-term financial motivations is not sustainable. This has been most obvious with regards to water resource management in developing countries. Witness the evolution of Lake Chad over the last four decades.

This fresh water source has traditionally provided a livelihood to millions of farmers, fishermen and pastoralists in Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. Unfortunately, demographic trends and destructive economic practices have placed vast pressure on the lake’s valuable water, durably changing the region’s geography. Not only does the lake’s disappearance negatively affect local employment and food production, but it has also sparked violent political action. Competition over water resources in the Sahel is a primary driver of heightened tensions between nomadic dromedary herdsmen, fishermen and farmers.

A similar ecological disaster is unfolding in Central Asia on the Kazakho-Uzbeki border, where the Aral Sea has become a form of allegory for the demise of the Soviet Union. There, in the plains of Central Asia, reckless environmental plundering displayed the futility of rape-and-run growth. Once the economic lifeblood of over 60,000 fishermen, the Aral Sea is now one-tenth its original size, and rapidly turning into a toxic salt stew. A World Bank-financed rehabilitation project initiated by the Kazakh government has left room for some hope that at least part of this lake will be saved, but the general political indifference in the face of this unfolding disaster is striking and a bad omen of things to come elsewhere. 

  • 9 September 2012
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