November 17, 2016

Global HotSpots H2O

From the Syrian conflict, to protests in Zimbabwe, Tunisia and India, to a deep drought destabilizing South Africa, water is playing a significant role in global civil unrest.

HotSpots H2O from Circle of Blue’s award-winning team of journalists examines regions, populations, and countries that are most at risk from water-related unrest and conflict. It reveals the challenges individuals confront — and the solutions they discover — as they strive to build resilient communities.  

HotSpots H2O Podcast: Water Under President-elect Trump: A Roundtable Discussion

Donald Trump enters the White House at a time of severe ecological and political turbulence. His few campaign statements about the environment were direct and consequential: withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement, close the Environmental Protection Agency, and increase infrastructure spending. What does a Trump administration mean for water? How will he address environmental policy, given the campaign’s other promises for clear air and clean water.

Circle of Blue’s J. Carl Ganter is joined by Keith Schneider, senior editor and chief correspondent; Brett Walton, reporter and author of the Federal Water Tap, a weekly roundup of government water news; and Codi Kozacek, author of The Stream, our daily digest of international water news. Schneider, Walton, and Kozacek report on water issues domestically and internationally. This roundtable discussion is the first of a monthly series and part of Circle of Blue’s HotSpots H2O podcast series.

Subscribe to Circle of Blue’s HotSpots H2O podcast on iTunes.

Severe Food Crisis Unfolds in Syria

Syria’s food crisis has deepened as farmers struggle to find supplies and irrigate crops in the war torn region. High prices and lack of availability, once largely an urban problem, have spread to rural farming communities that are now struggling to feed their families. Nine million Syrians are affected by the food shortages.

Compounding the disaster is the fragmentation of internal markets, as roadways and other infrastructure have been decimated.

“The flows of wheat surpluses from the main producing areas in the north east, and the defect areas in the west…are distributed by the heavy conflict, by military operations,” according to Alessandro Costantino, an economist with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) who recently traveled to the region.

Costantino described what he witnessed as frightful. “We are humanitarian operators and we are some how used to distributing scenes, but what we have witnessed in Syria is something that most of us will never forget in our lives,” he said.

Livestock and grain production have fallen sharply as many farmers have attempted to flee the nation with their herds. Syria now has 60 percent less poultry birds than it did before the crisis. Poultry is traditionally the main lean protein source for most urban and rural Syrians. According to the FAO, most rural farmers are considering abandoning their fields completely, which will only compound the effects of the crisis.

HotSpots H2O Podcast: Salween River Dams Intrude on Contested Land

The great rivers of Southeast Asia — the Mekong, Irrawaddy, Salween, and others — are targets for dozens of major dams that will transform the region’s politics and ecology. The contest over the Mekong River is perhaps the most well-known, but conflict in the Salween basin is no less active. Fighting between the central government and ethnic groups has displaced thousands of people in recent years as national hydropower plans overlap with long-running political disputes.

In a HotSpots H2O interview with Circle of Blue reporter Brett Walton, Dr. Carl Middleton discusses the strain that hydropower development is adding to one of the region’s most politically, culturally, and biologically diverse watersheds. Dr. Middleton, director of the Center for Social Development Studies at Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok, Thailand, also explores alternate futures for the Salween River.

Produced and edited by Cody Pope. Subscribe to Circle of Blue’s HotSpots H2O podcast on iTunes.