Skip to main content

Home/ Groups/ MENA Environment
Ed Webb

The Uncounted - The New York Times - 0 views

  • An alarm blares occasional high-temperature alerts, but the buildings themselves are kept so frigid that aviators sometimes wear extra socks as mittens
    • Ed Webb
       
      Ecological vandalism, and bad for humans, too...
  • Most of the civilian deaths acknowledged by the coalition emerge from this internal reporting process. Often, though, watchdogs or journalists bring allegations to the coalition, or officials learn about potential civilian deaths through social media. The coalition ultimately rejects a vast majority of such external reports. It will try to match the incident to a strike in its logs to determine whether it was indeed its aircraft that struck the location in question (the Iraqi Air Force also carries out strikes). If so, it then scours its drone footage, pilot videos, internal records and, when they believe it is warranted, social media and other open-source information for corroborating evidence. Each month, the coalition releases a report listing those allegations deemed credible, dismissing most of them on the grounds that coalition aircraft did not strike in the vicinity or that the reporter failed to provide sufficiently precise information about the time and place of the episode.
  • They speak of every one of the acknowledged deaths as tragic but utterly unavoidable. “We’re not happy with it, and we’re never going to be happy with it,” said Thomas, the Central Command spokesman. “But we’re pretty confident we do the best we can to try to limit these things.”
  • ...12 more annotations...
  • Airwars, a nonprofit based in London that monitors news reports, accounts by nongovernmental organizations, social-media posts and the coalition’s own public statements. Airwars tries to triangulate these sources and grade each allegation from “fair” to “disputed.” As of October, it estimates that up to 3,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in coalition airstrikes — six times as many as the coalition has stated in its public summaries. But Chris Woods, the organization’s director, told us that Airwars itself “may be significantly underreporting deaths in Iraq,” because the local reporting there is weaker than in other countries that Airwars monitors.
  • the coalition, the institution best placed to investigate civilian death claims, does not itself routinely dispatch investigators on the ground, citing access and security concerns, meaning there has not been such a rigorous ground investigation of this air war — or any American-led air campaign — since Human Rights Watch analyzed the civilian toll of the NATO bombing in Kosovo, a conflict that ended in 1999
  • we selected three areas in Nineveh Province, traveling to the location of every airstrike that took place during ISIS control in each — 103 sites in all. These areas encompassed the range of ISIS-controlled settlements in size and population makeup: downtown Shura, a small provincial town that was largely abandoned during periods of heavy fighting; downtown Qaiyara, a suburban municipality; and Aden, a densely packed city neighborhood in eastern Mosul. The sample would arguably provide a conservative estimate of the civilian toll: It did not include western Mosul, which may have suffered the highest number of civilian deaths in the entire war. Nor did it include any strikes conducted after December 2016, when a rule change allowed more ground commanders to call in strikes, possibly contributing to a sharp increase in the death toll.
  • In addition to interviewing hundreds of witnesses, we dug through the debris for bomb fragments, tracked down videos of airstrikes in the area and studied before-and-after satellite imagery. We also obtained and analyzed more than 100 coordinate sets for suspected ISIS sites passed on by intelligence informants. We then mapped each neighborhood door to door, identifying houses where ISIS members were known to have lived and locating ISIS facilities that could be considered legitimate targets. We scoured the wreckage of each strike for materials suggesting an ISIS presence, like weapons, literature and decomposed remains of fighters. We verified every allegation with local administrators, security forces or health officials
  • During the two years that ISIS ruled downtown Qaiyara, an area of about one square mile, there were 40 airstrikes, 13 of which killed 43 civilians — 19 men, eight women and 16 children, ages 14 or younger. In the same period, according to the Iraqi federal police, ISIS executed 18 civilians in downtown Qaiyara
  • in about half of the strikes that killed civilians, we could find no discernible ISIS target nearby
  • By the time the information made its way to the coalition and it decided to act, the mortar had been moved.

    Such intelligence failures suggest that not all civilian casualties are unavoidable tragedies; some deaths could be prevented if the coalition recognizes its past failures and changes its operating assumptions accordingly. But in the course of our investigation, we found that it seldom did either.

  • On the evening of April 20, 2015, aircraft bombed the station, causing a tremendous explosion that engulfed the street. Muthana Ahmed Tuaama, a university student, told us his brother rushed into the blaze to rescue the wounded, when a second blast shook the facility. “I found my brother at the end of the street,” he said. “I carried him.” Body parts littered the alleyway. “You see those puddles of water,” he said. “It was just like that, but full of blood.” We determined that at least 18 civilians died in this one attack and that many more were grievously wounded. News of the strike was picked up by local bloggers, national Iraqi outlets and ISIS propaganda channels and was submitted as an allegation to the coalition by Airwars. Months later, the coalition announced the results of its investigation, stating that there was “insufficient evidence to find that civilians were harmed in this strike.” Yet even a cursory internet search offers significant evidence that civilians were harmed: We found disturbingly graphic videos of the strike’s aftermath on YouTube, showing blood-soaked toddlers and children with their legs ripped off.
  • Human rights organizations have repeatedly found discrepancies between the dates or locations of strikes and those recorded in the logs. In one instance, the coalition deemed an allegation regarding a strike in the Al-Thani neighborhood of Tabqa, Syria, on Dec. 20, 2016, as “not credible,” explaining that the nearest airstrike was more than a kilometer away. After Human Rights Watch dispatched researchers to the ground and discovered evidence to the contrary, the coalition acknowledged the strike as its own
  • The most common justification the coalition gives when denying civilian casualty allegations is that it has no record of carrying out a strike at the time or area in question. If incomplete accounts like these are standard practice, it calls into question the coalition’s ability to determine whether any strike is its own. Still, even using the most conservative rubric and selecting only those 30 airstrikes the Air Force analysts classified as “probable” coalition airstrikes, we found at least 21 civilians had been killed in six strikes. Expanding to the 65 strikes that fell within 600 meters — for example, the strikes on the home of Inas Hamadi in Qaiyara and the electrical substation in Aden — pushed that figure to at least 54 killed in 15 strikes. No matter which threshold we used, though, the results from our sample were consistent: One of every five airstrikes killed a civilian
  • “We deeply regret this unintentional loss of life in an attempt to defeat Da’esh,” Scrocca wrote, using another term for ISIS. “We are prepared to offer you a monetary expression of our sympathy and regret for this unfortunate incident.” He invited Basim to come to Erbil to discuss the matter. Basim was the first person to receive such an offer, in Iraq or Syria, during the entire anti-ISIS war.
  • “This situation of war,” he continued, “big corporations are behind it.” This is where the real power lay, not with individual Americans. He’d come to believe that his family, along with all Iraqis, had been caught in the grinder of grand forces like oil and empire, and that the only refuge lay in something even grander: faith. He had rediscovered his religion. “There was some bond that grew between me and my God. I thanked him for keeping my son alive. I thanked him that my operation was successful. Now I can walk.”
Ed Webb

Peter Schwartzstein | Climate Change and Water Woes Drove ISIS Recruiting in Iraq - 0 views

  • With every flood or bout of extreme heat or cold, the jihadists would reappear, often supplementing their sales pitches with gifts. When a particularly vicious drought struck in 2010, the fifth in seven years, they doled out food baskets. When fierce winds eviscerated hundreds of eggplant fields near Kirkuk in the spring of 2012, they distributed cash. As farming communities limped from one debilitating crisis to another, the recruiters—all members of what soon became the Islamic State—began to see a return on their investment.
  • By the time the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) seized this swath of Iraq—along with most of the country’s west and north—in a brutal summer-long blitzkrieg in 2014, few locals were surprised to see dozens of former fertilizer market regulars among its ranks.

  • Across rural Iraq and Syria, farmers, officials, and village elders tell similar stories of desperate farmhands swapping backhoes for assault rifles. Already battered by decades of shoddy environmental policies, which had hobbled agriculture and impoverished its dependents, these men were in no state to navigate the extra challenges of climate change. And so when ISIS came along, propelled in large part by sectarian grievances and religious fanaticism, many of the most environmentally damaged Sunni Arab villages quickly emerged as some of the deep-pocketed jihadists’ foremost recruiting grounds.
  • ...13 more annotations...
  • ISIS appears to have attracted much more support from water-deprived communities than from their better-resourced peers
  • Hussein torched some of southern Iraq’s most bountiful date plantations for fear that Iranian saboteurs might use them as cover to attack oil facilities around Basra. Where once 12 million palm trees stood, there’s now just miles of dusty scrubland laced with oil spills
  • Some 39 percent of those polled in Salahaddin cited drought as a reason for their displacement. Studies from neighboring Syria, large parts of which enjoy similar conditions to northern and western Iraq, suggest that anthropogenic climate change has tripled the probability of long, debilitating droughts.
  • water was becoming a resource that in some parts of Iraq only wealthier landowners could afford
  • By 2011, much of the Iraqi countryside was in desperate financial straits. Some 39 percent of people in rural areas were living in poverty, according to the World Bank. That’s two and a half times the country’s urban rate. Almost half lacked safe drinking water. The problems were so devastating in 2012-13 that tens of thousands of villagers ditched their fields altogether, preferring to try their luck in the slum districts of nearby cities instead.
  • Years of below average rains in the Kurdish region and Nineveh governorate, the only parts of Iraq where rain-fed agriculture was historically possible, had increased the country’s dependence on the Euphrates and Tigris, the Fertile Crescent’s two great rivers. At the same time, upstream Turkey and Iran were relentlessly damming them and their tributaries. Turkey has built over 600 large dams, including dozens of major ones near the Iraqi and Syrian borders. The Tigris and Euphrates’ combined flow in southern Iraq has subsequently shrunk so much that the Persian Gulf now barrels up to 45 miles upriver at high tide (the rivers used to project freshwater up to 3 miles out to sea).
  • When severe water shortages killed off countless livestock in 2011-12, jihadists descended on the animal markets to size up the frantic farmers, many of whom were trying to sell off their remaining cows and sheep before they too succumbed to drought.

    “They just watched us. We were like food on the table to them,”

  • After several years of energetic groundwater extraction near the oil refining town of Baiji, Samir Saed’s two wells ran dry in early 2014, forcing him to lay off the two young men he employed as farm laborers. Jobless and angry, he suspects they soon joined ISIS
  • the jihadists expertly exploited the desperation in Iraq’s agricultural heartland by rationalizing its inhabitants’ woes. They spread rumors that the Shia-dominated government was delaying crop payments and cutting off water to Sunni farmers. In fact, the lack of rain wasn’t due to climate change, but really a man-made ploy designed to drive Sunni landowners from their rich fertile fields, their emissaries suggested. Broke and unable to deal with their fast changing environment, many farmers ate it up.
  • The jihadists adopted scorched earth tactics as they were beaten back, laying waste to hundreds of thousands of acres of prime farmland. And so for returning farmers, climate change and shoddy governance are now among the least of their worries. ISIS fighters ripped up buried irrigation pipes to mold makeshift mortars. They poisoned wells, blew up water canals, and carted off everything that was of any value, notably generators, tractors, and water pump parts.
  • More or less broke after the oil price crash, the Iraqi state can’t afford to pay farmers for crops they’ve delivered to state silos, let alone cover the multi-billion dollar agricultural clean up bill
  • Turkey has almost finished building the Ilisu Dam, which threatens to further cut the Tigris’ flow when it comes online, probably next year. Hotter temperatures are evaporating more and more surface water—up to six feet worth in Iraq’s lakes every year, according to Nature Iraq, a local NGO. As Baghdad’s relations with the upstream Kurdish region deteriorate, farmers might once more bear the brunt of the dispute. Kurdish authorities have cut off water to mostly Arab areas on several occasions in the past
  • If Iraq can’t get a grip on its crumbling environment, the next war might not be far off.
Ed Webb

'The threats continue​': murder of retired couple chills fellow activists in ... - 0 views

  • Turkey boasts 40% of the world’s marble reserves and nine out of 10 quarries are found in Anatolia. They are a mainstay of the regional economy and the country’s $2bn-a-year natural stone export business. China is currently the biggest customer, but Turkish marble is also found in Disneyland, the White House, the Vatican, Burj Khalifa, the Bundestag and luxury hotels across the world
  • Ali, Aysin and their fellow campaigners launched a successful challenge that shut down two marble companies Bartu Mermer and Bahçeci. Bartu Mermer fought back with a defamation lawsuit against Ali. But he won again in March 2017. The judge not only acquitted him, but also cancelled the company’s operating license.

    Hailing the victory, Ali predicted it would be the first of many. “Before, citizens were scared to sue companies – now the decision will encourage all environmentalists,” he declared.

  • A suspect – Ali Ymaç – was quickly found and arrested. He confessed to carrying out the execution in return, he said, for a promise of 50,000 lire (£10,000) from a quarry owner who he knew only by the alias “Çirkin” (Ugly). Yumaç said he was paid 3,000 lire up front and promised the rest on completion. He was instructed to make the killing look like a robbery.

    That ought to have been where the Turkish justice system cranked into high gear to track down those behind the assassination. Instead, it was the starting point for months of delays, obfuscations and another death that has frightened and frustrated activists and raised wider questions about the country’s slide away from democratic rule of law.

  • ...7 more annotations...
  • Last month, the public prosecutor was finally ready to submit his indictment, which meant the family’s legal team would get their first opportunity to question Yumaç on the record. He had told them he was ready to reveal everything.

    He never got the chance. Days later Yumaç reportedly committed suicide in a high-security prison where he had been moved for his safety. Guards claimed he hung himself in a toilet with elastic from his clothing. Many find this incredible.

  • For Turkey’s environmental campaigners, this is part of a broader alarming trend.
  • The attack on the environment now is the biggest in our country’s history.
  • Erdoğan refutes such claims. He says his pro-business policies are in the national interest and accuses those who try to impede development as traitors and terrorists.

  • Eight people died and thousands were injured in clashes between the riot police. “For what?” a scornful Erdoğan asked afterwards. “For 12 trees!” Since then, he has pushed ahead with several massive infrastructure projects – a third airport, a third bridge over the Bosphorus and a new canal – that environmentalists say has led to the felling of 100 million trees.
  • “To be an activist in Turkey is to be constantly worried. We have to protect ourselves as well as the environment.”
  • With forest conservation now such a sensitive political subject, supporters of Ali and Aysin are in a difficult position. They plan to turn the dead couple’s home into a eco-residency, to establish a memorial park in Antalya, and to continue the campaign against the quarries and to get justice for the killings.

    “This is the first time two people have died trying to protect nature in Turkey. If we win, it will set a precedent that will help others in a similar position,” said one of those close to the campaign. “It would be a big step for Turkey. Ali and Aysin may be dead but they can still help the living.”

Ed Webb

Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt are marketing solar power to Europe while sub Saharan Africa... - 0 views

  • north African nations have been making major progress with power generation. Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco have invested tens of billions of dollars in renewable energy projects—particularly solar power—as a springboard to drive their energy ambitions. By harnessing the power of the Saharan sun, these countries hope to not only bring down the cost of solar technology, but also scale it for larger use, enhance energy security, create cleaner environments, and boost the creation of new business opportunities.
  • the low access, poor reliability and high prices of electricity cost African economies an average of 2.1% of their GDP, according to the World Bank
  • Even though the continent’s power generating capacity has slowly improved over the years, rationing, rolling shortages, and blackouts continue to hamper many countries development—including economic giants like South Africa and Nigeria. These cutoffs stunt economic growth, hindering small and large businesses alike as well as schools and hospitals.
  • ...2 more annotations...
  • a new, intercontinental energy corridor between north Africa and Europe by delivering power to homes in Italy and France
  • “Solar energy is an emerging opportunity that cannot be ignored,” says Zandre Campos, chief executive of ABO Capital, an Angola-based fund which invests in energy, agriculture, and technology. Campos said north African nations were “true innovators” for spearheading these infrastructural projects and for building on the falling price of solar panels and the improved efficiency of light bulbs and appliances
Ed Webb

Texas shale oil has fought Saudi Arabia to a standstill - 0 views

  •  
    Really important for KSA's medium term strategy and prospects.
Ed Webb

Tunisia's olive production could halve by 2030 due to climate change | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • Tunisia's 3,000-year history of olive farming is under threat with warnings that production is at risk of halving by 2030 because of the extremes of climate change, from floods to droughts.
  • In the short term, Tunisia's olive oil sector, which accounts for more than 40 percent of revenues from agricultural exports and five percent of total exports, has cause to celebrate.

    Official figures project a record output of 340,000 tonnes in 2015, with 312,000 tonnes for export, making Tunisia - for the first time - the world's leading exporter of the prized product.

  • before we used to have severe drought one year out of five. Now it's an average of two in five
  • ...1 more annotation...
  • Climate change affects the entire olive oil sector that employs 390,000 of the country's 560,000 agricultural workers and provides a source of revenue for one million Tunisians
Ed Webb

'Deadly' heat waves predicted for Arabian Gulf by 2100 - Al Jazeera English - 0 views

  • Scorching temperatures are already standard for people living in the Arabian Gulf, but by the end of the century parts of the region could become so hot that it will be impossible for humans to spend time outside
  • if climate change continues at the same pace the severe conditions that now happen roughly once every 20 summer days will become a normal occurrence
  • potential danger for the millions of Muslims attending the annual pilgrimage of Hajj
Ed Webb

Syrian war spurs first withdrawal from doomsday Arctic seed vault - Yahoo News - 0 views

  • Syria's civil war has prompted the first withdrawal of crop seeds from a "doomsday" vault built in an Arctic mountainside to safeguard global food supplies, officials said on Monday.

    The seeds, including samples of wheat, barley and grasses suited to dry regions, have been requested by researchers in the Middle East to replace a collection in the Syrian city of Aleppo that has been damaged by the war.

  • Many seeds from the Aleppo collection have traits resistant to drought, which could help breed crops to withstand climate change in dry areas from Australia to Africa.
Ed Webb

Can Solar Desalination Slake the World's Thirst? - Scientific American - 0 views

  • Another large-scale solar desalination project is currently under construction in Saudi Arabia and scheduled for completion in early 2017. The plant is slated to produce 60,000 cubic meters of water per day for Al Khafji City in North Eastern Saudi Arabia, ensuring a constant water supply to the arid region throughout the year. According to Abengoa, the Spanish renewable energy company building the pioneering facility, the incorporation of solar would significantly reduce operating costs, as Saudi Arabia currently burns 1.5 million barrels of oil per day at its desalination plants, which provide 50-70 percent of its drinking water. Total desalination demand in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries is expected to reach 110 million cubic meters a day by 2030.
Ed Webb

Turkey: PKK threatens dam projects in southeast - 0 views

  •  
    Aim off due to this being Turkey's semi-official news agency/propaganda organ
1 - 20 of 234 Next › Last »
Showing 20 items per page