The Stream, March 27: Study Links Zika To Poor Water, Sanitation In Slums

The Global Rundown

A new study found that outbreaks of Zika virus in Brazil closely mirror poor conditions in urban slums, highlighting how these communities are at chronic risk from diseases associated with inadequate public services such as water and sanitation. Airstrikes near the Tabqa dam in Syria continue to threaten downstream communities, government officials say. Cyclone Debbie could produce a major storm surge along Australia’s Queensland coast this week. Work to clean up two oil spills in the Niger Delta may begin next month after years of delay. Water flows from several major dams in Thailand’s Chao Phraya River Basin will be reduced to conserve water for the dry season. Ireland continues to debate the future of water charges, focusing this week on fines for excessive use.

“Before the latest strikes by the Americans, the dam was working. Two days ago, the dam was functioning normally. God forbid … there could be collapses or big failures that could lead to flooding.” –Nejm Saleh, director of the General Authority of Euphrates Dam in Syria, accusing U.S. coalition airstrikes over the weekend for damaging the Tabqa dam and increasing the risk of floods from high water levels. U.S.-backed forces in Syria are trying to regain control of the dam from Islamic State militants. (Reuters)

By The Numbers

60 percent of capacity Current water storage levels in major dams across Thailand. The country’s Royal Irrigation Department announced that it will cut back water releases from four primary dams in the Chao Phraya River Basin next month in order to conserve supplies for the dry season. Bangkok Post

2 to 4 meters Potential height of a storm surge from Cyclone Debbie as it makes landfall along the Queensland coast this week. The cyclone is expected to become a category 4 storm and could be the most destructive since Cyclone Yasi hit Australia in 2011. Residents are being urged to evacuate to avoid high winds and floods. ABC

Science, Studies, And Reports

The Zika virus is a “disease of the urban poor,” according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. In a study published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, they report that slum conditions such as inadequate water and sanitation, overcrowding, and subpar housing continue to put poor urban communities at risk from Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Zika outbreaks have been linked to birth defects, including microcephaly. Science Daily

In context: Learn why water is a key factor in the spread of Zika.

On The Radar

Contractors for the Royal Dutch Shell oil company could begin cleaning up two oil spills in the Niger Delta next month, according to an official involved in mediating between the company and the local Bodo community. The spills occurred from corroded pipelines in 2008 and a settlement for cleanup was reached in 2015, but disagreements over contractors have waylaid the work. Reuters

Lively political debate continues over public water charges in Ireland, where a government committee is set to release a report on reforms by April 14. The latest point of contention is whether fines for excessive water use would satisfy European Union laws. The Irish Times