Darfur: Water Drying Up But Violence Is Not…

Via WorldChanging, an updated report on the impact that water – or the lack thereof – has upon the tragedy in Darfur where the competition for water and fertile land is considered a driving force behind the violence that has killed more than 300,000 people since 2003,.  As the article notes:

“…Amidst the turmoil in Sudan, add the possibility of drought.

The Sahel, the semi-arid region between the Sahara Desert and southern grasslands, has received above-average rainfall in recent years. But precipitation trends suggest that a period of drought is in the near future, which aid workers warn could spell trouble for ongoing peace efforts inDarfur.

…The expected drier seasons loom over attempts by the international community to revive peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and Darfur’s rebel factions. Water and land disputes are at the core of negotiations, and improved resource management is necessary to avoid further violence, Morton said.

The competition for water and fertile land is considered a driving force behind the violence that has killed more than 300,000 people in Darfur since 2003, according to the United Nations.

…A drought would likely be disastrous in Darfur, where the United Nations is struggling to provide basic human services such as water, food, and health care for an estimated one million people in need. The aid organizations that had provided many of these services were ousted by President Omar Al-Bashir on March 4 in response to an InternationalCriminal Court order for his arrest.

The United Nations is already warning that its resources are limited, announcing last week that it is unlikely to have sufficient funding to fuel its water pumps for more than a month.

In Darfur, previous droughts have led farmers to fence off their land, forcing nomadic herdsmen to look elsewhere to feed their livestock. The drier conditions, coupled with overgrazing and deforestation, expanded desertification and contributed to fierce land competition between ethnic groups.

In the 1980s, desertification and poor land management were blamed for the poor water conditions. Today, climate change is recognized as a contributor to the conflict.

In Northern Darfur, 16 of the 20 driest years on record have occurred since 1972, according to UNEP. The loss of heavy rains throughout Sudanis due in part to natural temperature fluctuations, but climate models have recently found a correlation between the warming of the Indian Ocean and a drying of sub-Saharan Africa.

“Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change,” wroteU.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2007.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its 2007assessment [PDF] that some areas of the Sahel are expected to become drier while others may receive additional precipitation. But a 2007UNEP report focused specifically on Sudans aid regions on the fringe of the Sahara, including parts of Darfur, are expected to rise in temperature between 0.5-1.5 degrees Celsius by 2060. As a result, rainfall levels may decline by 5 percent.

Thiaw, however, said that the Sahel recently received more rainfall than would be expected if climate change were affecting precipitation levels. “Most models point to suppressed rainfall over the Sahel with climate change, but that’s not what we’ve been seeing over the past 10 years,” he said. “But 10 years is still a very short period of time when you’re talking about climate change. Climate change is something that happens over 20-50 years.”

A separate UNEP report[PDF], released earlier this month, warned that the United Nations often carries out post-conflict operations “with little or no prior knowledge of what natural resources exist in the affected country, or of what role they may have played in fueling conflict.”

Over the past 60 years, intrastate conflict resolutions have been twice as likely to deteriorate if the fighting was associated with a natural resources dispute, the report said.

In response to UNEP’s warnings, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Sudanis investing$5 million to reduce water consumption 30 percent and implement other environmental improvements throughout its 25 bases….”

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 at 7:20 pm and is filed under Sudan.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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