Tuesday 24 July 2012

Regions where water disputes are fuelling tensionsنزاع محتمل بين العراق وسوريا وتركيا وإيران على مصادر دجلة والفرات

Regions where water disputes are fuelling tensions

نزاع محتمل بين العراق وسوريا وتركيا وإيران على مصادر دجلة والفرات

Mon, Jul 23 2012
Disputes over water are common around the world, exacerbated by climate change, growing populations, rapid urbanisation, increased irrigation and a rising demand for alternative energy sources such as hydroelectricity.

ذكرت وكالة رويترز في تقريرها أن هناك احتمال نزاع قائم على المياه في جنوب آسيا عام 2050 بسبب استمرار النمو السكاني وتزايد الضغوط على إمدادات المصادر الطبيعية والتغيرات الحاصلة في المناخ العالمي ولا يقتصر الأمر على جنوب آسيا فقط بل يبدو أن النزاع على المياه سيغدو ظاهرة عالمية .
وأشار التقرير إلى أن" هناك نزاعا سيتصاعد بين العراق وسوريا وتركيا وإيران على مصادر نهري دجلة والفرات كما أن المشكلة أيضا ستتفاقم حول نهر ألأردن المنقسم بين الأردن وإسرائيل وهناك عشر دول افريقية تتقاسم جسد نهر النيل. وكانت وكالة المخابرات المركزية الأمريكية قد حذرت في تقريرها الصادر في شباط الماضي من أن إمدادات المياه العذبة في العالم سوف لا تلبي الطلب عليها بحلول عام 2040 وهو ما يزيد من حالة عدم الاستقرار السياسي وإعاقة نمو الاقتصاد العالمي وتعريض اسواق الغذاء العالمي للخطر
Following are a few of the regions where competition for water from major rivers systems is fuelling tension.

The Tigris-Euphrates basin is mainly shared by Turkey, Syria and Iraq, with many Tigris tributaries originating in Iran.

Iraq, struggling with water shortages due to aridity and years of drought, says hydroelectric dams and irrigation in Turkey, Iran and Syria have reduced the water flow in both rivers.

Increasing desertification, especially in Iraq, is compounding problems. A large amount of Euphrates' waters evaporate due to extreme heat. Contamination from pesticides, discharge of untreated sewage and excess salinity due to low water levels are all common.

Iraq, Syria and Iran want more equitable access and control from Turkey, where almost 98 percent of Euphrates waters originate. Despite some cooperation on common management, a final agreement has yet to be reached.

The countries of the Nile basin are Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Egypt and Sudan control more than 90 percent of the Nile's waters due to colonial-era and other treaties but others in the basin want a bigger share.

Demand for irrigation has risen, with millions of hectares leased for large-scale farming. Dams have complicated access to water.

Water needs are expected to rise as the Nile basin population is projected to reach 654 million by 2030, up from 372 million in 2005, according to UN estimates.

The river basin is highly stressed due to aridity in Jordan, Israel and Palestinian Territories.

All three discharge untreated or poorly treated sewage. The Mountain Aquifer - a key fresh water source for West Bank Palestinians and major Israeli cities - is threatened by decades of over-exploitation and groundwater pollution.

Despite efforts to cooperate, agreements to share water resources are complicated by the long-stalled Middle East peace process. Israel dominates the Palestinian water economy.

Central Asia is one of the world's driest places, where, thanks to 70 years of Soviet planning, growing thirsty crops such as cotton and grain remain the main source of income for most people.

Disputes over water use from the Syr Daria and Amu Daria rivers have increased since independence in 1991. Problems are compounded by rising nationalism and lack of progress on a regional approach to replace Soviet-era systems of water management.

Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan need more water for growing populations and farming, while economically weaker Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan want more control for hydropower and irrigation.

Afghanistan, linked to Central Asia by the Amu Daria, is claiming its own share of the water.

India is home to three major river systems -- the Ganges, Brahmaputra and the Indus -- which support 700 million people. As an upstream nation, it controls water flows to Bangladesh to the east and Pakistan to the west. The Indus supplies some 80 percent of Pakistan's irrigated land.

India and Pakistan are both building hydropower dams in disputed Kashmir along Kishanganga river. Pakistan fears India's dams will disrupt water flows.

India, for its part, is concerned that China is building dams along the Tsangpo river, which runs into India as the Brahmaputra.

Most Mekong countries, especially China, have been planning and building hydropower dams since the late 1980s.

Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam argue that China diverts or stores more than its fair share of water due to dam-building on the Upper Mekong.

There is growing concern about serious environmental damage to agriculture, fisheries and food security for some 60 million people due to plans by Laos and Cambodia to build more than 10 dams along the Lower Mekong.

Despite cooperation efforts by Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam through the Mekong River Commission, national interests are getting in the way of joint river management.

Sources: Reuters, AlertNet, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, Brookings Institute, International Crisis Group, Nile Basin Research Programme, GRAIN, UNDP

Sunday 22 July 2012

Iraq struggles to reform 'inefficient' rationingالعراق يصرف 5 مليارات دولار سنويا على مفردات الحصه الغذائيه

BBC News, 21.7.2012
اكثرية الخضار والفواكه هي الاخرى مستورده
Iraq spends around $5bn (£3.18bn) annually to distribute food to its population.
On the western bank of the Tigris in north Baghdad stands a rare relic of British rule in Iraq - a silo built during World War II to feed British soldiers.
Right next to it stands a taller structure, built in 1962 by the Soviet Union, as Iraq flirted briefly with communism.
Several trucks stacked with bags of rice and wheat drive past to empty their loads, and all around flocks of pigeons chase after fallen grain.
The site belongs to the state-owned Grain Board of Iraq, which imports rice and wheat for distribution to the population.
About 12,000 tonnes of wheat are stored here - a fraction of the quarter of a million tonnes Iraq imports every month.
And the vast majority of Iraqis receive their share almost for free.
For more than two decades, the Iraqi government has administered a massive public distribution system, under which all citizens are entitled to receive essential items for only symbolic payment.
The Iraqi government says it wants to reform the system, but its efforts have run into difficulties.
Fears for future
The system was put in place after the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
More than nine years after the sanctions regime was lifted, Iraq still spends around $5bn (£3.18bn) a year to distribute food to its population.
The items include sugar, cooking oil, and baby milk formula for families with infants. The Grain Board is responsible for rice and wheat, which is then made into flour before being handed out.
"We deal with more than three million tonnes of wheat every year," a press officer at the Grain Board told me proudly.
But some of it seems to be going to waste. Every citizen is entitled to 9kg (20lbs) of wheat a month, and many people are not even claiming their share.
Hasan Ismail, the director general of the Iraqi Grain Board, admitted there was a problem.
"Sometimes the market does get saturated, especially with flour, because in cities people no longer make their own bread. But people in the countryside consume all of their rations, and they need them."
In distribution centres, few complain about waste or abundance.
Daoud is a construction worker in central Baghdad, and he's come to collect his monthly share from the local distribution agent. "It's getting less and less, year by year, and there's no variety. We get cooking oil, sometimes rice, and flour. No tea, no washing powder, and no salt."
Daoud fears that the distribution system is gradually fading away. "The whole thing will be finished soon, and we better get used to it."
Means testing
The government insists it has no plans to end the system, only to introduce gradual reforms.
It says that those with monthly incomes of more than 1.5m Iraqi dinars ($1,200; £764) are not entitled to receive it any more.
But Mr Ismael says the attempt to implement the new measure has already run into trouble. "It's not easy at the moment in Iraq to track people's incomes. The government lacks databases of people's incomes, and we can only track the incomes of those in the public sector."
"There could be some who work in the private sector with incomes of over 10 million Iraqi dinars a month who still receive their share."
Tracking incomes could be the least of the government's difficulties.
Like most subsidy programmes all over the world, the system is politically difficult to reform, and most politicians steer clear of pressing the issue
Despite allegations of corruption and inefficiency, the public distribution system has been credited with achieving food security for a large segment of the Iraqi population during the past two decades.
Today 23% of Iraqis live below the poverty line, and remain in desperate need of government support. The challenge facing the government is to strike the right balance between encouraging productivity and less reliance on the state, while making sure not to jeopardise the food security of those most in need.

Saturday 7 July 2012


الحُمّى القلاعية 

A new strain of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Egypt could aggravate discontent among the rural poor and prolong the country's political turmoil.
As Egypt struggles to make a vaccine, agriculture experts fear a vicious circle has begun: political disarray helps spread animal disease, which deepens poverty and discontent -- and breeds more political disarray. Meanwhile neighbouring countries fear Egypt's virus could soon reach them.
FMD kills young cattle, buffalo, and other ruminants, weakens older
ones and slashes farms' productivity. At a meeting in Bangkok,
Thailand, last week, the member countries of the UN Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched a plan to get FMD under
control worldwide by 2027 [see 20120628.1184291]. Yet the FAO cannot
get money to have vaccine made out of existing stocks of ingredients
for the Egyptian outbreak.
Egypt already harbours 2 strains of the FMD virus [serotypes O and A],
but its livestock have some resistance to them, through either
exposure or vaccination. They have none to the new strain, SAT2.
In February [2012], migrant herders also brought SAT2 to Libya,
although there are slight genetic differences between the viruses in
Libya and Egypt. Political upheaval in both countries means "the
ability to do the right surveillance and control has been quite
diminished," says Juan Lubroth, head of animal health at the FAO in
Rome. He fears what could also happen if the virus turns up in Syria
or Iraq.
That puts the whole region at risk: FMD is the most contagious animal
virus known. European Union officials are said to be preparing
contingency plans. Israel has vaccinated livestock along its southern
border and given vaccine to Palestinian authorities, who have
contained the virus after infected animals came to Gaza through
smuggling tunnels from Egypt.

Sunday 1 July 2012


The rice on the left(رز تجاري) of the picture is commercially sold rice while the rice on the right is PDS(رز الحصه التموينيه) 
The Oil for Food Program that commenced in 1996 and under its offices the  Public Distribution System (PDS) System was set up to distribute rice, oil, milk powder etc and this still continues. The rice in the right of the picture above is a sample of the rice distributed through parastatal outlets(المبايعه)  that charge the recipients 500 ID for receiving the monthly handout for each family member. Initially these food handouts were of great benefit to people as the standard of living was poor however, over the last 7 to 8 years people’s incomes and living standards have markedly improved, even when electricity cuts and poor health standards are taken into account, and both the quantity and the quality of the foods distributed have deteriorated. The food distributed under the program is imported from many places and since 2003 there have been reports of numerous scandals with regard to these imports.

Under the IPD system every Iraqi over 1 year of age is entitled to 3 kg of rice per month but some months they do not receive their rice ration and this is then lost to them. The quality of the rice is so poor that often they will sell it back to the outlet manager at the price of 50 ID per kilo and the money is deducted from the 500  ID /per person charge they must pay the manager for receiving their monthly quota of food under the IPD system .The people  sell this inferior quality rice to street traders or outlet managers (المبايعه)for 50 ID per kilo.

The rice to the left of the picture is a better quality rice, (Ahmed rice), that can be bought in the market place for 2500 ID per kilo, or the cost of 50 kilos of government rice. One can easily see the difference between the two cereals with the rice distributed by the program being of poorer quality and badly threshed as many grains are still in the husk. Over 20 years ago, when I and my family lived in  Moghadishu-Somalia, this poor quality rice was often all that was available to us but there are now some 40 varieties of good quality, basmati rice available on the open market here in Iraq. It is no surprise that these better quality grains are used in preference to the hand out grain but what happens to the rice that is sold back to the outlet managers and street traders? I have been told that it ends up as animal or bird feed or that it may be taken out of the country and is then imported back in to be redistributed through the network.

Whatever the rice is used for the main concern is that in the more affluent society of  today these handouts to every Iraqi are no longer required and the program should be gradually wound down. The logistics and distribution costs of the PDS  could be put to better use now but it will take a strong political force to replace these distributions with something else.