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Resource Security Watch - No. 7

Edited by Chloe Thompson and Andrew Greenman
September 29, 2017

During its summer 2016 retreat from Iraq's Qayyara district, the Islamic State set the region's oil wells ablaze. The terrorist group also laid traps at the wells, killing firefighters who tried to help extinguish them. After fighting the blazes for months, firefighters finally quelled the flames in March of this year. However, the huge clouds of smoke, the tar, and the soot caused lasting health problems for tens of thousands of people living in the area. Health services reported a surge in patients with respiratory problems, asthma, dizziness, and headaches. Environmental scientists and doctors warn that lung disease is foremost among a number of detrimental side-effects from the blazes - a list that also includes heart disease, neurological damage, cancer, and birth defects. The ISIS-made fires rank close to the Kuwait oil fires of the First Gulf War as some of the worst man-made environmental disasters in history, with atmospheric scientists able to pinpoint a jump in atmospheric carbon resulting from the inferno. (Doha
Al-Jazeera, August 19, 2017)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi turned southward for a diplomatic tour in mid-August, looking to bolster relations with African countries and resolve conflicts over the use of the Nile River left unsolved at the Nile Basin Heads of State Summit in June. Two stops on the trip, Tanzania and Rwanda, had opposed Egypt's Nile interests at that summit. Egypt heavily relies on the Nile for water, with most of its agriculture and industrial water coming from the river. As a result, Cairo views planned dams upstream as a security issue, and Sisi emphasized his government's desire to work with upstream countries on alternative means of power generation. But downstream countries, especially Ethiopia, accuse Egypt of trying to monopolize the waterway - resistance that Sisi, via diplomatic outreach, is attempting to lessen. (
Al-Monitor, August 25, 2017)

While the United States looks inward at flooding in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, massive floods have taken their toll on another region of the world as well. In South Asia, unusually heavy monsoons have displaced millions and killed at least 1,000 people across the region. Nepal, hit hard by flooding, faces public health problems as internally displaced citizens from poor rural parts of the country are crowded into temporary camps where sanitation is lacking and disease spreads quickly. Elsewhere, Mumbai television channels reported that more rain had fallen than any year since 2005, when flooding killed over 1,000 in the surrounding parts of India. Neighboring Bangladesh, low-lying and chronically flooded, was about one-third underwater. Hundreds of thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed, and the country now faces the dual crises of housing internally displaced flood refugees and of providing for around 400,000 Rohingya Muslims seeking sanctuary from persecution by the government of Myanmar. (
New York Times, August 29, 2017)

This past spring, Pakistan conducted its first census since 1998, netting some striking results - chief among them the finding that the country's population has grown by over 57 percent over the past 19 years. While only preliminary results of the survey have been released, domestic political jostling over its accuracy has so far distracted from the security implications of the country's exploding population. However, the potential for instability is very real. Activists say that over a quarter of Pakistan's 207 million people live in poverty, and that rising population levels put pressure on the country's already burdened social service providers. Simultaneously, an estimated 79,000 children, mostly from low income families, turned to local madrassas for education and support, in turn creating further opportunities for the growth of extremism. Pakistan also faces a water crisis brought on by decades of poor hydrological management, making drought a serious threat to tens of millions of people. (
Deutsche Welle, August 30, 2017)

As local populations have grown and personal incomes have risen, so too have Asian demands for fish and seafood. The top three fish producing countries globally are China, India, and Vietnam. Rapidly depleting stocks have increasingly forced fishermen out of their territorial waters and into illegal fishing in the territorial waters of other countries, as well as in environmentally protected areas. China also uses illegal fishing as a political tool to reinforce its claim to the South China Sea, backing up huge fishing fleets with a heavily armed Coast Guard. Some countries, such as Indonesia, have responded by sinking foreign fishing vessels to try and protect fragile but profitable fishing grounds and preserve domestic fishing incomes. Data shows that the average catch per fisherman in Asia has fallen dramatically (in the Philippines down to less than a quarter of what it was fifty years ago). The Philippines struggles to control poaching, but has caught Taiwanese, Vietnamese, and Chinese boats encroaching on its waters in recent years. Chinese fishermen, meanwhile, have been arrested as far away as Ecuador, where twenty were recently jailed for illegally fishing off the Galapagos. (Singapore
Straits Times
, August 31, 2017)

Related Categories: Africa; Energy Security; Iran; Southeast Asia; South Asia

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