The Stream, August 22: Deforestation Drives Water Scarcity In Malawi

The Global Rundown

As forests are cut down to produce charcoal, water supplies for drinking and hydropower are drying up in Malawi. A prominent ocean scientist believes the Arctic could lose most of its sea ice within the next few years. The outbreak of a deadly fish parasite forced officials to close hundreds of kilometers of the Yellowstone River. Flooding in Louisiana could encourage the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The water contamination that has sickened thousands of people in New Zealand may be linked to a drought.

“We’re in a vicious cycle. Even myself, in my house, I have one or two bags of charcoal because you need it during the blackouts. That’s me. What about somebody who is not conscious of the dangers of charcoal?” –Clement Chilima, Malawi’s director of forestry. The destruction of Malawi’s forests to produce charcoal has exacerbated droughts and led to a lack of water both for drinking and for hydropower. But without the electricity produced by dams, demand for charcoal increases, putting further pressure on the forests and perpetuating the problem. (The New York Times)

By The Numbers

240 kilometers Length of the Yellowstone River closed to fishing, boating, and other recreational activities after an outbreak of a microbial parasite killed thousands of fish. Reuters

4,100 people Number who have now been sickened by contaminated water in New Zealand. While officials still do not know the exact cause of the outbreak, scientists speculate that a drought may have created cracks in the soil that allowed river water to quickly infiltrate the region’s aquifer, bringing contaminants with it. Radio New Zealand

Science, Studies, And Reports

Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at the University of Cambridge, has predicted that so much of the Arctic’s sea ice will disappear in the next few years that it will be possible to “cross over the north pole by ship.” As a result, there will be less ice to reflect heat from the sun, causing the planet to warm further. Eventually, sea levels will rise with potentially devastating effects, he said. Guardian

On The Radar

Officials say severe flooding across Louisiana will likely complicate efforts to control the spread of the Zika virus, which is now being transmitted locally in Florida. Standing water left by the floods provides breeding habitat for the mosquitoes that carry the virus. Reuters