Floods in Belgium and Germany: this is not a natural disaster

Translation in English of his article by Daniel Tanuro

Brussels, 17 July 2021

At the time of writing (17 July), the terrible floods in Belgium, parts of Germany and the Netherlands have killed more than 100 people.Tens of thousands of people have been displaced, have lost everything and will remain traumatised forever. Others were not even that “lucky”, unfortunately, and the large number of missing persons (1300 in Germany) leaves no doubt that the final toll will be much, much higher. The material damage is immense, not to mention the impact in terms of water and soil pollution (by hydrocarbons, heavy metals, PCBs, plastics, sewage, etc.).


The Canals Are Clear Thanks to the Coronavirus, But Venice’s Existential Threat Is Climate Change

Flooding in November has left experts wondering whether the massive retractable gates the city is constructing will ever keep all of the water out.

Living these days inside their homes to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Venetians have discovered a silver lining in an empty city suddenly free of polluting tourist boats. The water in the legendary canals is clear, unlike anything they've seen in decades.

Lidia Feruoch, president of the Venice branch of Italy's largest environmental group, Italia Nostra, rejoiced at watching "cormorants dive into the canals to catch fish because the water in the lagoon has become transparent again," she said in a recent interview. She hopes the end of the pandemic will free Venice from a "tourism monoculture" that brings 27 million visitors a year to this city of 50,000.

Still, Feruoch and Don Roberto Donadoni, parish priest of the Basilica of San Marco, remain mindful of the city's other existential threat, climate change, a preview of which they saw in the dark and churning waters of November, when extreme flooding from heavy rains and high tides swamped Venice and reached a level a few scant centimeters below that of the legendary 1966 flood.


Swiss development aid, Nestlé and the Privatization of Water

Nestlé's Power within the Swiss Government

Last February, the Government of Switzerland announced the creation of a Foundation in Geneva, under the name ‘Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator’ (GSDA). The purpose of this new foundation is to regulate new technologies, from drones and automatic cars to genetic engineering, which are examples mentioned by the Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis at the public launch of this initiative. According to Cassis, new technologies are developing very fast and this Foundation must ‘anticipate’ the consequences of these advances for society and politics. The Foundation will also be a bridge between the scientific and diplomatic communities, hence its strategic placement in Geneva, which houses several international organizations, from the UN to the World Trade Organization.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry will contribute 3 million Swiss francs – just over 3 million dollars – to the Foundation’s initial phase from 2019 to 2022. The city and the Canton of Geneva will each contribute 300,000 Swiss francs for the same period and contributions from the private sector are also expected.

As President of this new Foundation, the former CEO of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe was chosen. The Vice-President is Patrick Aebischer, the former President of the Lausanne Federal Institute of Technology – EPFL is the French acronym. Patrick Aebischer has also been a member of the Nestlé Health Science Steering Committee since 2015, founded in 2011 by Nestlé and located right on the EPFL campus.


Water Must Not be Used as a Weapon of War: Refrain from Civilian and Environmental Harm in Northeast Syria!

Statement by Save the Tigris Campaign, 12 October 2019

On 9 October, Turkey started a military offensive in northeast Syria. A move which will have disastrous consequences for the region. This armed conflict will have a direct impact on populations, ecosystem and post-conflict recovery of the area. Concerns mount of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Water is at risk of being used as a weapon in this conflict: The first reports have appeared of the targeting of water infrastructure: Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reported on 10 October that Bouzra Dam, providing water to the city of Derik, was targeted by Turkish warplanes. Other reports confirmed damages to civilian installations: water supplies to Hasakeh city have been interrupted due to damage of Alok water station, which serves 400,000 people in the area, according to OCHA. The politicization of water in northeast Syria has been ongoing since the start of the Syrian conflict. This was evidenced in the past years by the deliberate disruption of water flows from transboundary rivers originating in Turkey. In past summers water flows to Syria were cut on various occasions, while the opening of Turkish dams caused the flooding of agricultural lands in Girê Spî and other areas as recently as last month. In addition, the GAP project in Southeastern Turkey, which includes Ilisu Dam and other dams to be-constructed on the Tigris River, would curb water flows into Syria and Iraq by as much as half.

The targeting of rivers and destruction of water installations, whether dams, desalinisation plants, sewage or other infrastructure, can cause a humanitarian crisis in health and sanitation across the region. Due to years of conflict, much of the water infrastructure in Syria has been lost or not maintained. If dams are targeted there is a major risk of flooding, as was demonstrated in 2017: Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River was part of a major assault between the SDF and Daesh, which damaged its power station. There was a serious possibility of dam failure, which lead to emigration of populations from the area at risk.

Read more in the website of the Save the Tigris campaign

Run-of-river hydropower: Two years on, the struggle continues

More than two years on, the public and citizens across the Balkans fighting for the right to water and against run-of-river small hydropower plants are not giving up on their struggle. Protests and actions were organized from July 6 to 16 across the region, with a conference titled “Rakita – the rule of law crushed” to be held in Belgrade tomorrow.

In the village of Rakita on Mt. Stara Planina in Serbia, inspectors banned the investor from proceeding with the construction of the Zvonce run-of-river small hydropower plant (SHPP) and ordered the removal of pipes from the riverbed, but the works continue regardless.

The issue will be addressed in Belgrade tomorrow, at a conference titled “Rakita – the rule of law crushed,” with the media and the public to be informed about the latest developments in Rakita and the illegal resumption of works to lay pipes for the Zvonce mini hydropower plant despite the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s decision ordering the removal of pipes from the Rakitska riverbed.

The lack of reaction from the authorities concerning the failure to implement the effective decision can lead to an escalation of conficts, placing the environment and people in jeopardy, according to the organizers – Civic Initiatives, the Defend Rivers of Mt. Stara Planina movement, and Savski Nasip.

“When we say the rule of law, this should mean a state where laws and regulations are observed and their violation sanctioned. In Rakita, however, the investors building the SHPP are obviously allowed to violate the law with impunity, without any of the authorities lifting a finger to resolve the problem. They are playing the ‘Not it’ game,” Teodora Zahirović of Civic Initiatives told Balkan Green Energy News.

The “problem” may be an insufficient word to describe the environmental disaster that the SHPP’s construction can cause, as stated in reports and analyses of the Defend Rivers of Mt. Stara Planina activists, says Zahirović.

“Meanwhile, the residents of Rakita are forced to defend the remnants of the rule of law with their bodies practically, and the rule of law has not only collapsed, it has been almost completely destroyed. The threats and attacks on the locals who have been bravely and resolutely fighting against the SHPP have lately grown to such extents that the residents say they are afraid to walk through the village alone in the evening. The basic freedom of assembly and right to protest have been drastically violated in Rakita. The rule of law means securing these basic freedoms,” Zahirović says.

Read more on the website of Balkan Green Energy News