The Stream, October 27: Ecosystem Shift in Tibet Threatens Asia’s Water

Climate Change
Asia, Pacific

Climate change, population growth and the intensification of industry and agriculture are threatening important ecosystems on the Tibetan plateau, according to a study by the Kunming Institute of Botany, China Dialogue reported. One of the most important functions of these ecosystems—a function that will likely be diminished by the changes— is the storage of water, which feeds Asia’s major rivers and supplies 1.4 billion people.

Sea level rise is not the only factor behind migration in Pacific Island nations, where fresh water scarcity, increasingly intense storms, and development are also causing people to leave their homes, reported, citing a new study from Prague-based Charles University. The multiple reasons influencing decisions to migrate make it difficult, and inaccurate, to define these populations as “climate refugees”, the authors argue.

Water Supply
Middle East, Africa, North America, South America

Despite generous reserves of fresh water in the form of glaciers and lakes, many people living in Kyrgyzstan do not have access to clean water, John C.K. Daly writes for Silk Road Reporters. Water supply and wastewater treatment systems, especially in rural areas, have deteriorated without investment following the fall of the Soviet Union.

Residents and a water utility in Johannesburg are opposing the development of a new coal mine that they fear could contaminate water supplies in South Africa’s largest city, Bloomberg News reported, citing local media. South Africa has struggled with both power and water shortages in recent years, and is also dealing with the toxic legacy of its closed gold mines.

Communities on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona, are being forced to truck in water as their wells dry up, the Arizona Daily Star reported. Aquifers around Tucson are often shallow, and without extra water coming in from the Colorado River—which helps supply the city itself—unincorporated areas are becoming more vulnerable to drought.

Food and water are both being rationed in Venezuela due to political and economic factors, The Wall Street Journal reported. Water is shut off to some areas for as many as 108 hours each week, according to residents.

Water Conflict

A 21-year-old man died Saturday while protesting the Sivens dam project in France, where demonstrations turned violent, RFI reported. The dam is being constructed to supply water for agriculture, but opponents say it will destroy a wetland that is home to 94 protected species.

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