The Stream, January 15: Desalination Plants Cause Environmental Harm, UN-Backed Study Finds

The Global Rundown

Desalination plants are damaging to the environment, a UN-backed study finds. Officials estimate that up to one million fish have died along the banks of Australia’s Murray-Darling River in recent weeks, and more deaths are predicted.  Another round of rain and snow batters Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon. Victims of last year’s flooding in Kerala, India, struggle to recover. The banks of the Mekong River begin to cave in as years of damming and dredging take their toll.

“Our kitchen, our laundry room, our two bedrooms, all gone.” –Ta Thi Kim Anh, a shopkeeper in Ben Tre, Vietnam, whose home abruptly plunged into the Mekong River after a riverbank gave way. The banks of the waterway, which flows from the Tibetan Plateau to Vietnam, are beginning to disintegrate due to upstream dams and riverwide mining. Reuters

In context: One By One Big Hydropower Dams Disrupt Mekong River’s Free Flow.

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By The Numbers

1 million Estimated number of fish that have died in Australia’s Murray-Darling River system in recent weeks. Scientists say the fish kills are likely due to toxic algae blooms caused by low water levels and sweltering temperatures. More hot, dry weather is expected this week.

$3 billion Estimated property losses caused by flooding in Kerala, India, in August 2018. Months after the disaster, many residents are still displaced and hoping to receive government aid. Al Jazeera

In context: Recovery Begins in Kerala, Where Historic Flooding Killed Hundreds.

Science, Studies, And Reports

Desalination plants worldwide are producing more brine than expected, putting the environment at risk, according to a new UN-backed study. The world’s 16,000 desalination plants produce an estimated 142 million cubic meters of brine per day alongside 95 billion cubic meters of freshwater. Most of the brine, including toxins used in the desalination process, is pumped back into the ocean, endangering fish and other marine life. Reuters

In context: In Water-Scarce Regions Desalination Plants Are Risky Investments.

On The Radar

Last week, Storm Norma swept through Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon, swamping tent settlements and washing away belongings. This week, another round of rain and snow is hammering the vulnerable refugee camps. The destruction has drawn criticism towards local governments and their neglect of the refugee camps. Al Jazeera

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