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How greed and politics are slowing the switch to renewable energy

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Wind and solar are now as cheap as the cheapest fossil fuel power, if not cheaper. And these price comparisons typically do not include the costs of climate change, air pollution, and price variability from fossil fuels. Those costs represent an enormous subsidy for fossil fuels and, if you include them, fossil fuels become far more expensive than renewable energy. Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist who studies both the science and politics of climate change, explains how greed and politics are slowing the switch to renewable energy.

 The image above is a Photo by Dan Meyers/Unsplash

January 17, 2022

It is (with apologies to Charles Dickens) the best of times; it is the worst of times.

Thanks to fossil fuels, billions of people in 2022 enjoy lives of wealth, comfort, and material possessions unimaginable before the industrial revolution.

But fossil fuels have their dark side. You might think you understand that, but it’s likely fossil fuels are even worse for the world than you think. Let’s start with climate change. Contrary to what you might hear listening to Fox News, the scientific understanding of climate change is good and it is progressing at exactly the rate predicted decades ago by Exxon.

What you probably don’t realize is how massive these changes may be. In the depths of the last ice age 20,000 years ago, the Earth was only 6 degrees Celsius colder than it is today. That world—with thousands of feet of ice sitting over much of North America, sea level 300 feet lower, and completely different ecosystems—would be unrecognizable to those living on today’s Earth.

This helps us put predictions of future warming into context. The chart below shows predictions for the twenty-first century, but instead of units of temperature, I have plotted units of ice ages, where one ice age unit equals 6 degrees Celsius. Business-as-usual emissions gives us about 3 degrees Celsius of warming in 2100—about half of one ice-age unit. Given how much the Earth has changed since the last ice age, 3 degrees Celsius of warming may well remake the planet, leading to an Earth in 2100 as unrecognizable to us today as the world of the last ice age.

Warming over the historical period (blue line) and future projections under four scenarios. Warming is expressed in ice age units, equal to the amount of warming since the last ice age (one ice age unit equals 6 degrees Celsius). These model simulations are from CMIP6 models and downloaded from https://github.com/swartn/cmip6-gmst-anoms.

The earth is presently about 1.1 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures, so we have already warmed about 17 percent of an ice age, and the impacts are clear. For example, there is widespread agreement in the scientific community that climate change contributed to the unprecedented rainfall during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and that the massive heatwave in the Pacific Northwest last year could not have occurred without global warming.

But fossil fuels cause even more insidious damage. Billions of people today live in air polluted by fossil fuel combustion. This harms people in surprisingly numerous ways. One fact that stands out: One in five deaths worldwide is due to air pollution, amounting to more than 8 million deaths every year.

But fossil fuels are even worse than that. As commodities whose price is set on the world market, international politics can cause the price to whipsaw. Oil price spikes associated with Middle East conflicts, oil embargoes, and other political events have often been followed by painful economic recessions. In 2020, the price of oil dropped significantly because of the coronavirus pandemic combined with a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. This laid waste to the US oil industry, bankrupted oil producers, and increased unemployment.

As a consequence, US foreign policy over the last 70 years has been hyper focused on maintaining stability in the world energy market. This has led the United States, for example, to invade Iraq twice, first in 1990 and then again in 2003, starting wars that cost the United States trillions of dollars; hundreds of thousands of lives of people of many nationalities were lost.

Putting everything together, one conclusion is clear: Fossil fuels are terrible. While many people in 2022 are living much better lives because of fossil fuels, people in 2100 will be much worse off because of them.

The story doesn’t end there. The world needs power. People need it so much, in fact, that as bad as fossil fuels are, people would continue to use them if there were no alternatives. But we do have an alternative: renewable energy. This means primarily wind and solar energy, although other energy sources (e.g., geothermal) will also play a role. Non-renewable energy sources such as nuclear could provide another source of climate-safe energy.

The amount of renewable energy available is almost unfathomable. Human society consumes about 15 terawatts of power. Sunlight falling on the earth provides more than 100,000 terawatts, enough to power 7,000 human civilizations. There are obviously issues with the intermittency of solar and wind. The sun is not always shining everywhere, not at night nor when it is cloudy. Similarly, the wind does not always blow.RELATED:Climate scientist: “It’s already worse than what I imagined”

However, a huge amount of research has gone into how to build a reliable energy system that relies predominantly on intermittent renewable energy. First, wind and solar power tend to be uncorrelated, so a system combining these energy sources will have more consistent power than a system that is solar- or wind-only. Thus, diversifying your energy portfolio solves a lot of the intermittency problems.

Second, we need to be able to transport power. While the sun may not be shining or the wind blowing where you are, the sun is always shining and the wind is always blowing somewhere. By enhancing our electrical grids, power can be shifted regionally from where it’s generated to where it’s needed, further reducing the impact of intermittency of solar and wind power.

Third, intermittency becomes an even smaller problem if part of the energy mix is dispatchable climate-safe energy. This means power sources that are available at any time and can be dispatched at the request of electric grid operators, including always-on energy sources such as hydroelectric, geothermal, nuclear, or natural gas with carbon capture.

Fourth, we need demand response. At times when supply simply cannot keep up with demand, we need to be able to reduce demand. This can be as simple as asking large industrial consumers to reduce their consumption. Or utilities can change consumption patterns by making power cheaper when it’s abundant and more expensive at times when it’s not. Smart appliances in homes can automatically delay running the dishwasher or drying clothes for a few hours until the utility signals that the supply of power is tight; in return for this, consumers get a break on their electricity bill.

Finally, we need energy storage. This could help the grid equalize supply and demand by storing power from wind and solar energy when there is excess supply and releasing it when there is excess demand. The price of batteries has been dropping rapidly and, as discussed below, we already see plans for more storage on the grid. Much research today is focusing on other technologies to store energy, including compressed airhydrogenpumped hydroelectric, and gravity energy.

The upshot of this is that we can largely run our economy on renewable energy. There are some edge cases where decarbonization might be hard (e.g., international airline flights), but this should not stop us from gathering the low-hanging fruit.

This leads me to the other piece of misinformation you’ll often hear: A renewable energy grid will be expensive.

There was a time when that was the case, but today the picture is quite different. Wind and solar are now as cheap as the cheapest fossil fuel power, if not cheaper. And these price comparisons typically do not include the costs of climate change, air pollution, and price variability from fossil fuels. Those costs represent an enormous subsidy for fossil fuels and, if you include them, fossil fuels become far more expensive than renewable energy.

In response to this, the market is decisively moving away from fossil fuels. In Texas, for example, 95 percent of the energy connections to the electrical grid planned for the next four years are for renewable energy (60 percent solar, 16 percent wind, 18 percent battery).

It’s great news that our electricity system is already switching over to renewable energy. But it’s not happening fast enough. On our present trajectory, we will continue to use fossil fuels well into this century, leading to warming of 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures by 2100, well above the target that the world has agreed upon, 1.5-2 degrees Celsius. Given that our present warming of 1.1 degrees Celsius is already causing severe and expensive impacts, 3 degrees Celsius would be a planetary disaster.

The transition has been sluggish because the price of fossil fuels is kept artificially low. Consumers and businesses do not pay the full cost of the climate, health, and other related costs of fossil fuel use. This could be largely solved by making consumers pay the full cost of their energy through a carbon tax or cap and trade system. If society had to pay the full costs of energy, fossil fuels would quickly disappear from the energy market.

The climate problem is therefore quite simple: Fossil fuels are terrible for humanity, and we can switch at relatively low cost to an economy largely powered by renewable energy. So why aren’t we doing that?

The blame, in my view, lies with economists. Not all economists, mind you, but a group of influential thinkers in the mid-20th century who pushed governments towards implementing an extreme view of free markets. They also said that the social responsibility of corporations was to make as much money as possible. One of the most influential of these thinkers, Milton Friedman, called this the Friedman Doctrine. It was immortalized by Oliver Stone in the movie Wall Street, when one of the main characters proudly declares, “Greed is good!”

via GIPHY

Beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, the United States saw government oversight shrink while corporations became laser-focused on profits. This deregulation effort delivered benefits like cheaper airline tickets for consumers. But the lack of government oversight combined with the imperative to make profits as large as possible also resulted in some terrible outcomes. These include climate change and the skyrocketing price of lifesaving drugs like insulin.

The fundamental problem is that free markets can’t solve environmental problems. Most environmental problems are externalities, or costs imposed on people who are not part of the transaction. Climate change is a classic externality—if you consume a gallon of gas or a kilowatt of electricity, the resulting carbon dioxide causes climate change everywhere, thereby imposing costs on everyone in the world. The costs of this climate change are not paid by the consumer, so this is a hidden subsidy of fossil fuels.

To corporations, externalities are terrific! If the goal of a corporation is to make as much money as possible, then it wants to push as many of the costs onto society as possible, which increases corporate profit. Because externalities benefit corporations, solving problems that arise from them, like climate change, requires government regulation. If the government is unwilling to regulate in some fashion, then climate change will never be fixed.

Following the Friedman Doctrine, corporations work hard to ensure that our government is not able to regulate. They funnel enormous quantities of money into the political process. This includes lobbying for preferred legislation and working to elect candidates who, once in office, return the favor by passing laws that support continued use of fossil fuels. For example, dozens of state legislatures have passed laws that criminalize protest around oil and gas infrastructure. In Texas, recent laws have forced the state’s investment funds to divest from institutions that boycott fossil fuels and prohibited Texas cities from exercising local control over drilling regulations, after the city of Denton banned fracking.

Fossil fuel corporations have also tried to stifle regulation by spending millions of dollars over the last few decades casting doubt on the science of climate change, despite their own researchers accurately assessing the risk. This closely paralleled what tobacco corporations did decades earlier. This shows the true problem with our version of free-market, profit-maximizing economics: Today’s economy does not create wealth that makes everyone better off, but rather generates enormous benefits for corporations while generating few benefits or even net harms for everyone else.

In the end, climate change is not a scientific or technical problem. The scientific community understands how fossil fuels cause climate change, and technology to solve the problem exists. Rather, climate change is a political problem. We need to return to the 1970s, a time when Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly passed legislation forming the EPA. We need to understand that a world in which corporations care only about maximizing profits demands that the government protect the interest of the people.

Andrew Dessler

Andrew Dessler is a climate scientist who studies both the science and politics of climate change. He is a Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and… Read More

One Of The World’s Wealthiest Oil Exporters Is Becoming Unlivable

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Trying to catch a bus at the Maliya station in Kuwait City can be unbearable in the summer.
About two-thirds of the city’s buses pass through the hub, and schedules are unreliable. Fumes from bumper-to-bumper traffic fill the air. Small shelters offer refuge to a handful of people, if they squeeze. Dozens end up standing in the sun, sometimes using umbrellas to shield themselves.

Here is the story as told by Fiona MacDonald (Bloomberg) as published by gCaptain on 16 January 2022.

The image above is for illustration and is of State Magazine.

Kuwait, One Of The World’s Wealthiest Oil Exporters Is Becoming Unlivable

“The Al Burqan Oil Field can be seen in this north-looking view. The country of Kuwait possesses about one-fifth of the world’s oil reserves. To the north of the Al Burqan Oil Field, Kuwait City is discernible. New pivot-irrigation fields (dark circular features) developed since the end of the Gulf War are visible to the west (left) of the city. Oil refineries and large tanker facilities are discernible along the Persian Gulf coast.” NASA Photo ID STS080-733-21

Global warming is smashing temperature records all over the world, but Kuwait — one of the hottest countries on the planet — is fast becoming unlivable. In 2016, thermometers hit 54C, the highest reading on Earth in the last 76 years. Last year, for the first time, they breached 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in June, weeks ahead of usual peak weather. Parts of Kuwait could get as much as 4.5C hotter from 2071 to 2100 compared with the historical average, according to the Environment Public Authority, making large areas of the country uninhabitable.

For wildlife, it almost is. Dead birds appear on rooftops in the brutal summer months, unable to find shade or water. Vets are inundated with stray cats, brought in by people who’ve found them near death from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Even wild foxes are abandoning a desert that no longer blooms after the rains for what small patches of green remain in the city, where they’re treated as pests.

“This is why we are seeing less and less wildlife in Kuwait, it’s because most of them aren’t making it through the seasons,” said Tamara Qabazard, a Kuwaiti zoo and wildlife veterinarian. “Last year, we had three to four days at the end of July that were incredibly humid and very hot, and it was hard to even walk outside your house, and there was no wind. A lot of the animals started having respiratory problems.”

Unlike countries from Bangladesh to Brazil  that are struggling to balance environmental challenges with teeming populations and widespread poverty, Kuwait is OPEC’s number 4 oil-exporter. Home to the world’s third-largest sovereign wealth fund and just over 4.5 million people, it’s not a lack of resources that stands in the way of cutting greenhouse gases and adapting to a warmer planet, but rather political inaction.

Even Kuwait’s neighbors, also dependent on crude exports, have pledged to take stronger climate action. Saudi Arabia last year said it would target net-zero emissions by 2060. The United Arab Emirates has set a goal of 2050. Though they remain among the biggest producers of fossil fuels, both say they are working to diversify their economies and investing in renewables and cleaner energy. The next two United Nations climate conferences will take place in Egypt and the UAE, as Middle East governments acknowledge they also stand to lose from rising temperatures and sea levels.

Kuwait, by contrast, pledged at the COP26 summit in November to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 7.4% by 2035, a target that falls far short of the 45% reduction needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s stretch goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C by 2030. The nation’s $700 billion sovereign wealth fund invests with the specific aim of hedging against oil, but has said that returns remain a priority as it shifts to more sustainable investing.

“Compared with the rest of the Middle East, Kuwait lags in its climate action,” said Manal Shehabi, an academic visitor at Oxford University who studies the Gulf nations. In a region that’s far from doing enough to avoid catastrophic global warming, “climate pledges in Kuwait are [still] significantly lower.”

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, head of the EPA, told COP26 that his country was keen to support international initiatives to stabilize the climate. Kuwait also pledged to adopt a “national low carbon strategy” by mid-century, but it hasn’t said what this will involve and there is little evidence of action on the ground.

That prompted one Twitter user to post pictures of wilted palm trees, asking how his government had the nerve to show up.

Jassim Al-Awadhi is part of a younger generation of Kuwaitis increasingly worried about their country’s future. The 32-year-old former banker quit his job to push for a change that experts argue could be Kuwait’s key to addressing global warming: revamping attitudes toward transportation. His goal is to get Kuwaitis to embrace public transport, which today consists only of the buses that are mostly used by migrant workers with low-paying jobs who have no choice but to put up with the heat.

It’s an uphill struggle. Though Kuwait has among the world’s highest carbon-dioxide emissions per capita, the idea of ditching their cars is completely foreign to most residents in a country where petrol is cheaper than Coca Cola and cities are designed for automobiles.

The London School of Economics, which conducted the only comprehensive survey of climate opinions in Kuwait, found older residents remain skeptical of the urgency, with some speaking of a conspiracy to hobble Gulf economies. In a public consultation, everyone over 50-years-old opposed plans to build a metro network like those already operating in Riyadh and Dubai. And the private sector sees climate change as a problem that requires government leadership to solve.

“When I tell companies let’s do something, they say it’s not their business,’’ Al-Awadhi said. “They make me feel I’m the only one who has problems with transport.”

That’s partly because most Kuwaitis and wealthy residents are shielded from the effects of rising temperatures. Homes, shopping malls and cars are air-conditioned, and those who can afford it often spend summers in Europe. Yet, the heavy reliance on cooling systems also increases the use of fossil fuels, leading to ever hotter temperatures.

The situation is much worse for those who can’t escape the heat, mainly laborers from developing countries. Though the government prohibits peak afternoon outdoor work during the hottest summer months, migrant workers are often seen toiling in the sun. A study published in Science Direct last year found that on extremely hot days, the overall number of deaths doubles, but it triples for non-Kuwaiti men, more likely to take on low-paid work.

It’s a cycle that’s all too clear to Saleh Khaled Al-Misbah. Born in 1959, he remembers growing up when homes rarely had air conditioners, yet felt cool and shaded, even in the hottest months. As a child, he played outside through months of cooler weather and slept on the roof in the summers; it’s too hot for that now. Children spend most of the year indoors to protect them from either burning sun or hazardous pollution, something that’s contributed to deficiencies in vitamin D — which humans generate when exposed to the sun — and respiratory ailments.

Temperature changes in the 2040s and 2050s will have an increasingly negative impact on Kuwait’s creditworthiness, according to Fitch Ratings. Yet despite the growing risks, squabbling between the Gulf’s only elected parliament and a government appointed by the ruling family has made it difficult to push through reforms, on climate or anything else.

“The political deadlock in Kuwait just sucks the oxygen out of the air,” said Samia Alduaij, a Kuwaiti environmental consultant who works with the U.K.’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and UNDP. “This is a very rich country, with a very small population, so it could be so much better.”

So far, there’s been little progress on plans to produce 15% of Kuwait’s power from renewable sources by 2030, from a maximum of 1% now. Oil is so abundant that it’s burned to generate electricity, as well as fuel the 2 million cars on the road, contributing to air pollution. Some power plants have switched to gas, another fossil fuel that’s relatively cleaner but can leak methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Consumption of electricity and water, heavily subsidized by the government, is among the world’s highest per capita, and it’s proven politically toxic to even hint at cutting those benefits.

“That obviously leads to a lot of waste,” said Tarek Sultan, vice chairman of Agility Public Warehousing Co. When fossil-fuel powered electricity “is subsidized, solar technologies that can provide viable solutions get priced out of the competition,” he said. 

Even if the world manages to cut emissions quickly enough to stave off catastrophic global warming, countries will have to adapt to more extreme weather. As it stands, experts say Kuwait’s plan is nowhere near enough to keep the country livable.

If it starts now, said Nadim Farajalla, director of the climate change and environment program at University of Beirut, a lot can be done in the coming decades, but that would need to include protection against rising sea levels, making cities greener and buildings less energy intensive. It also needs to focus on transport, a leading cause of CO2 emissions.

Khaled Mahdi, secretary general of Kuwait’s Supreme Council for Planning and Development, said the government’s adaptation plan is aligned with international policies. “We clearly identify roles and responsibilities, and all the challenges in the country,” he said, though he admitted that “implementation is the usual challenging issue.”

If the government is dragging its feet, young Kuwaitis like Al-Awadhi aren’t.

His advocacy group Kuwait Commute is starting small by campaigning for bus stop shelters to protect passengers from the sun. National Bank of Kuwait, the country’s biggest lender, recently sponsored a bus stop designed by three female graduates. Still, like much of the private sector, they remain outside the decision-making process.

“I think I’m finally making progress,” said Al-Awadhi, who hopes that getting more Kuwaitis to ride buses will fuel enough demand to improve the service. But “it has to be driven by the government. It’s the chicken before the egg.”

–With assistance from Akshat Rathi and Hayley Warren.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

The Nile Delta’s Disappearing Farmland

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The Nile Delta’s Disappearing Farmland is a story by Adam Voiland based on NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The above image is for illustration and is of The Nile, Egypt.

During the time of the pharaohs, the fertile soils along the Nile River likely supported a civilization of roughly 3 million people. Now there are 30 times that number of people living in Egypt, with 95 percent of them clustered in towns and cities in the Nile’s floodplain. Much of the growth has come in recent decades, with the Egyptian population soaring from 45 million in the 1980s to more than 100 million now.

July 25, 1984, JPEG
August 16, 2021, JPEG

View Image Comparison

Just 4 percent of Egypt’s land is suitable for agriculture, and that number is shrinking quickly due to a wave of urban and suburban development accompanying the population growth. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that this is a crisis,” said Nasem Badreldin, a digital agronomist at the University of Manitoba. “Satellite data shows us that Egypt is losing about 2 percent of its arable land per decade due to urbanization, and the process is accelerating. If this continues, Egypt will face serious food security problems.”

The pair of Landsat images below shows how much farmland has been lost to development around the city of Alexandria between the 1980s and 2021. Cultivated areas appear green; towns and cities are gray. According to one analysis of Landsat observations, the amount of land near Alexandria devoted to agriculture dropped by 11 percent between 1987 and 2019, while urban areas increased by 11 percent. The images above show urbanization eating into farmland around the cities of Tanta and El Mahalla El Kubra and between the Rosetta and Damietta branches of the Nile.

July 25, 1984 – August 16, 2021

While the conversion of farmland to human settlements here has occurred for decades, multiple researchers observed sharp increases in the practice after the “Arab Spring” roiled the political and economic climate in Egypt starting in 2011. In recent years, Egyptian authorities have vowed to put an end to unlicensed building on farmland, though it remains a difficult practice to stamp out.

Urbanization is not the only process putting pressure on Egypt’s farmland. Sea level rise of 1.6 millimeters per year has contributed to problems with saltwater intrusion and the salinization of farmland in Egypt, particularly in the fringes of the delta southwest of Alexandria. About 15 percent of Egypt’s most fertile farmland has already been damaged by sea level rise and saltwater intrusion, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. While global warming is responsible for about half of the sea level rise affecting the Nile Delta, the sinking of the land (subsidence) is responsible for the other half. Natural compaction, as well as the extraction of groundwater and oil, contribute to subsidence.

One response to the loss of farmland has included efforts to reclaim and green-up parts of the desert. For instance, Farouk El-Baz, Boston University scientist and a member of the Apollo 11 field crew, has long promoted a plan to build an extensive corridor of highways, railways, water pipelines, and power lines to spur development and the establishment of new farmland in deserts west of the delta.

July 25, 1984 – August 16, 2021

While that project has not come to full fruition yet, large swaths of desert have been converted to farmland in recent decades. The pair of images below shows new farmland and the emergence of several new towns along the Cairo Highway. A mixture of center-pivot irrigation and drip irrigation—fed by groundwater pumps—makes farming in this area possible, explained Badreldin. While small-scale sustenance farming is common in the main part of the delta, most of the growers on the desert edge raise grains, fruits, and vegetables for export abroad.

“It is certainly possible to establish new farmland from the desert by tapping groundwater resources, but it’s a difficult, resource-intensive, and expensive process,” said Badreldin. “The poor soils and the intensive resources needed to farm in the western desert are a poor replacement for the richer, more fertile soils in the delta.”

Boston University researchers Curtis Woodcock and Kelsee Bratley have analyzed decades of Landsat observations as part of a Boston University effort to track how the availability of farmland in the delta is changing over time. “We certainly see expansion into the desert, but there’s nuance to this story,” said Woodcock. “After being farmed for a time, we also see a significant amount of that new farmland being decommissioned and reverting to desert.”

NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Story by Adam Voiland.

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Syria reservoir dries up for first time

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Water supply in the Levant like in the whole of the MENA region, is raryfying especially in Syria where a reservoir dries up for the first time.

The above image is that of a rowing boat that lies grounded on the exposed lake bed of Syria’s Duwaysat Dam reservoir after it dried up completely for the first time in its 27-year history Abdulaziz KETAZ AFP.

Duwaysāt (Syria) (AFP) – Low rainfall, structural damage and extraction by struggling farmers have emptied a key reservoir in northwestern Syria, leaving it completely dry for the first time, farmers and officials told AFP.

With man-made climate change increasing the frequency of drought and wildfires worldwide, Syria is experiencing one of its driest and hottest years on record after historically low rainfall last winter.

The reservoir formed by Al-Duwaysat Dam in Idlib province, a key irrigation source for thousands of farmers, has completely dried up for the first time in its 27-year history.

The exposed lakebed is parched to a crisp in many places, a sinister expanse littered with stranded rowing boats, animal skulls and dead trees.

A few shallow pools remain, around which small flocks of sheep graze on new shoots.

According to the World Bank, the reservoir has a capacity of a 3.6 million cubic metres (38.8 million square feet) and is mainly used for irrigation and water supply.

“Because of drought and low rainfall, we can now walk on the floor of the reservoir,” its managing engineer Maher al-Hussein said, recalling that it was full to capacity just two years ago.

Low rainfall last winter left the reservoir half-full and all the water was used for irrigation by farmers trying to save their crops, Hussein said.

Damage to the main pipeline that feeds water from the reservoir to irrigation networks has led to significant leakages, further reducing the volume that reaches the fields, he added.

A shepherd waters his flock from the small pools that are all that is left of the reservoir following successive years of low rainfall Abdulaziz KETAZ AFP

“It is the first time the reservoir has dried out since it was built in 1994,” Hussein said.

He said around 800 families depended on the reservoir to irrigate 150 hectares (370 acres) of farmland.

“For 10 years we have come to this reservoir,” said cattle farmer Abu Joumaa. “If God does not send us good rainfall that could fill the reservoir this year… people won’t be able to grow crops they rely on to make a living.”

© 2021 AFP

‘West of The Nile and Around The Sudd’

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‘West of The Nile and Around The Sudd’ story published on IPS is not an exceptional story. All republics of the MENA region have put up efforts at establishing a stable and representative rule that has proven universally unsuccessful.  Have they become therefore failed states living on borrowed time?

Let us find out in this remarkable article.

The image above is for illustration and is of the UNEP.

‘West of The Nile and Around The Sudd’

By Theodore van der Pluijm

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands, Nov 9 2021 (IPS) – Tensions and hostilities persisted until early 2019 when the regime of Omar al-Bashir – to a large extent symbolized by oppressing minority groups in the Darfurs, Blue Nile state and South Kordofan – finally ended. Meanwhile, many inhabitants of the Nuba Mountains and other parts of South Kordofan, had escaped to South Sudan, which had become independent in 2011. There, they found, however, a country with even more interethnic strains and assaults, resulting, in addition to the innumerable internally displaced persons, the flight of 2.3 million citizens to six countries in the region. An area characterized by perpetual political and ethnic tensions which often resulted in border crossings in opposite ways. The present case of refugees from Ethiopia to the Republic of Sudan is an example of this phenomenon in the IGAD-region. (The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is an eight-country trade bloc in Africa that includes governments from the Horn of Africa, the Nile Valley and the African Great Lakes. Its headquarters is in Djibouti City).

The author on the road between Dilling and Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan in February 1999. Through the ‘Juba Peace Agreement’ of October 2020, internal reconciliation would finally be realized in The Sudan. By this, creating an environment in which sustained rural and agricultural development programs could be implemented without major ideological or inter-ethnic frictions, including in Darfur and in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan.

The Transitional Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok aimed at political and ethnic appeasement in order to foster development initiatives all over the country. However, the military coup led by general Al-Burhan arrested Hamdok and all other civilian members of this interim government. Once again, many people went into the streets to protest. Once more demonstrators were arrested or killed. In addition, during the past two weeks, the pressure from outside has gained momentum. The US and other countries, now even including Saudi Arabia and the UAE have urged Al-Burhan to release all persons and to return to civilian rule with Hamdok as Prime Minister.

The book ‘West of The Nile and Around The Sudd’ – published in May 2021 with 142 pp. containing a large number of pictures taken in the field – is about efforts by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a United Nations specialized agency and financing institution, aimed at designing of and monitoring the implementation of agricultural and rural development projects in the Republic of The Sudan. The country has ample natural resources for achieving food security and adequate income and living standards for the entire population, including the inhabitants of rural areas where there are no armed conflicts.

More specifically, the purpose of this book is to show how local data are collected as indispensable tools for the preparation of new development projects or for the supervision of on-going investment programs. Considering the latter, the book starts with the process of data-gathering during a supervision mission for the World Bank-led Southern Region Agricultural Project (SRAP) in October 1980, about two years after its start. This promising region-wide scheme, however, had to be terminated already in 1984, an effect of the conflict between the central government and forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

The way of assembling information during the formulation mission in early 1999 for the design of the South Kordofan Rural Development Project is reflected in parts Three, Four and Five of the book. During meetings in villages and hamlets, we were impressed both by the willingness of the local authorities to provide maximum information and the friendliness and openness of the inhabitants – families and individuals – in the way they received us and provided their opinions.

This project started its promising operations at the end of the year 2000. However, also in this case, during its implementation, time and time again, project activities have been affected by armed conflicts between government forces – frequently assisted by militias – and insurgents, historically located in the Nuba Mountains and other zones of South Kordofan. However, different from the SRAP, its implementation could continue. Nevertheless, as part Six in the book explains, time-wise and regionally, project activities had frequently to be halted in order to avoid clashes and combats. Moreover, in the final stages of 2012-2013, project activities had to be stopped, when, despite the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CAP), hostilities in South Kordofan expanded significantly.

(On 19 December 2018, a few weeks before starting this book, I visited the ambassador of the Republic of Sudan in The Netherlands. During an informative, frank and pleasant meeting, I stressed that the time had come for President Omar al-Bashir to change his policies radically. Evidently, I was completely unaware that on the very same day in the historic city of Atbara, massive protests took place. These eventually triggered demonstrations and protests all over the country in which women played a major role. Finally, on 11 April 2019 Al Bashir was arrested. A promising era could commence).

The author of the book is a former United Nations IFAD senior official who was Director of the Near East and North Africa Division., in addition to other responsibilities.

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