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Resource Security Watch - No. 3

Edited by Chloe Thompson and Andrew Greenman
November 3, 2017

As Yemen's civil war rages on, the country's population faces a serious cholera outbreak, in large part due to the extreme damage to the Yemeni health system and sanitation services. Over 2,000 people have died, and hundreds of thousands have been infected, from the disease to date. Widespread malnutrition among internally displaced groups also increases the likelihood and dangers of diarrheal diseases. Many Yemenis have no access to potable water, and many health facilities throughout the country are closed. With simple treatment, including rehydration, cholera has a very high survival rate. The disease is a common problem in the developing world, but war and natural disasters exacerbate its impact. Refugee crises and widespread water scarcity could intensify the threat of cholera in other vulnerable areas in the Middle East and Africa as well. (Doha
Al Jazeera, September 5, 2017)

Syrian refugees displaced by that country's ongoing civil war already face significant challenges after leaving their homeland, but one of the most prominent may be the lack of access to drinkable water. Over five million Syrians have fled their native country since the outbreak of conflict in 2011, and many have ended up in neighboring Lebanon or nearby Jordan. Since the Syrian conflict began, Lebanon's demand for water has risen by 28 percent, and Jordan's has risen by 22 percent. In the past, Lebanon's water supplies were among the most robust in the region, but population growth has progressively taxed its resources. The Middle East holds 6.3% of the world's population, but only 1.4% of the world's fresh water. The migrant Syrian population is now putting extreme stress on the water sources of both Jordan and Lebanon, leaving the natives of those countries, and the migrants themselves, at significant risk and exacerbating tensions within Jordanian and Lebanese society. (Doha
Al Jazeera, September 6, 2017)

The United States has made its first ever delivery of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Lithuania. The U.S. only began exporting LNG throughout the world in 2016, but by moving into this market America is already poised to weaken the long-standing stranglehold exerted by Russia's state-owned Gazprom on European gas markets. New technologies, such as fracking, have recently created a surplus in American natural gas. With Gazprom's prices swollen through years without competition, European customers have eagerly welcomed an alternative supplier.

Until recently, Russia's nascent gas monopoly provided Moscow with significant political influence over Lithuania and other states dependent on its energy, even after those nations joined NATO. But this state of affairs is changing. In late 2014, Lithuania completed its first LNG import center and began shifting away from Gazprom with the help of Norwegian LNG imports, leading Gazprom to offer it better pricing. Now, America's entry into the European natural gas market has laid the groundwork for still greater energy independence from Russia for Lithuania and other European nations. (
Foreign Affairs, September 12, 2017)

Recently published research has highlighted a new - and potentially significant - source of energy: evaporating water. Electricity generated by hydrological evaporation has the potential to provide as much as 70% of U.S. energy needs, according to some estimated. Excluding the Great Lakes, open expanses of water could potentially produce 325 gigawatts of power annually - roughly equivalent to 87% of the combined electrical capacity of all the nuclear power plants in the world. The concept is still theoretical, however, and requires extensive further testing before even a prototype system is attained. Nevertheless, it represents a potentially significant source of renewable energy that could help to expand America's green economy. (
Gizmodo, September 26, 2017)

China has been facing rapid desertification for several decades; by 2006, deserts were expanding into fertile land at a rate of almost 1,000 square miles per year (up from 600 square miles in the 1950s). Beijing's response has been the Great Green Wall, launched in 1978, a plan to plant a belt of trees to stop the spread of the Gobi Desert. By 2050, the Chinese government hopes the Wall will be 3,000 miles long and up to 900 miles wide in certain areas. However, there is a significant problem with the program; many of the trees planted as a result are not native to these regions and will die without significant investments of water. As a result, in many cases, the root systems of the trees have depleted groundwater stores and eroded local soil quality, which native species need to survive. Furthermore, thousands of Chinese families have been relocated to accommodate this manmade forest, and many have ended up in poverty. (
Mother Jones
, September/October 2017)

Related Categories: Middle East; Russia; Energy Security; China

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