Wednesday, December 23, 2015

How to control Climate Change? With this building on Sand? With destruction in and around? #Climate Change#Chennai#Man Made Calamities Destruction of Riverine Ecosystem across the borders and the Cemented Jungles on water and Sand!We know all the rivers,lakes,water bodies, forests,valleys and altitudes have been either sold or captured by Mafia and multinational capital and free flow of foreign capital and foreign interest make in Indian economy as as well as ecosystem!We know the even the Everest is not spared and the Brahamaputra source is blasted with big dams in China! Just see :लीजिये,तैयार है आपको जिबह करने के लिए हिंदुस्तानी गिलोटिन! Palash Biswas

How to control Climate Change?

With this building on Sand?

With destruction in and around?

#Climate Change#Chennai#Man Made Calamities

Destruction of Riverine Ecosystem across the borders and the Cemented Jungles on water and Sand!We know all the rivers,lakes,water bodies, forests,valleys and altitudes have been either sold or captured by Mafia and multinational capital and free flow of foreign capital and foreign interest make in Indian economy as as well as ecosystem!We know the even the Everest is not spared and the Brahamaputra source is blasted with big dams in China!

Just see :लीजिये,तैयार है आपको जिबह करने के लिए हिंदुस्तानी गिलोटिन!

Palash Biswas

New Kolkata is based on water and sand.Salt Lake was the greatest water body to sustain climate and weather intact in and around  Kolkata.Now,New Kalkata extended to Rajarhat,New Town and Bahngar and Gopalpur including ever growing suburb towns eating harvesting along with agrarian communities.This building on sand eats entire geography of water  as well as a vital chunk of green.Now Kolkata grows along with NH 2 and NH 6,Delhi and Mumbai road getting all the green merged into cemented jungle in Howrah and Hugli district including the most controversial Singur Zone which expelled Tata Motors from Bengal.

We all know how Mangroves were destroyed in and around Mumbai and we also know which agrarian areas have been sacrificed to grow New Mumbai including Panvel and Wasi!Now it would be six nuclear reactors in Jaitapur to Kill Mumbai and Maharashtra!

We know how the greatest Mangrove forest Sundarbans in the greatest riverine region situated on the Bay of Bengal across the borders in India as well as Bangladesh has been set on fire with development agenda of PPP model luxury hubs,the buildings of on riverine bed and sand.

The latest example of the destruction of Riverine ecosystem remains Chennai wherein promoters and builders created the recent unprecedented floods submerging entire Tamilnadu.

How brutal has been the destruction without any scream lodged as FIR,any hearing whatever,any protest or resistance!

We know all the rivers,lakes,water bodies, forests,valleys and altitudes have been either sold or captured by Mafia and multinational capital and free flow of foreign capital and foreign interest make in Indian economy as as well as ecosystem!We know the even the Everest is not spared and the Brahamaputra source is blasted with big dams in China.

just see:

WWF-India: Sundarbans Future Imperfect - YouTube

Video for destruction of mangrove sundarbans▶ 9:50

Aug 29, 2007 - Uploaded by climatewitness

A WWF Climate Witness film: The Sundarbans Delta in India and Bangladesh will ... Discover The World ...

Mangroves: A barrier against tsunami By Aziz Sanghur ...

Video for destruction of mangrove sundarbans▶ 11:21

Mar 14, 2012 - Uploaded by Aziz Sanghur

Mangroves are the shields of the coast that stop tsunamis. ... commitment by the industries located in the area ...

Sundarbans mangrove forest - YouTube

Feb 9, 2008 - Sundarbans mangrove forest ... Adapting to Climate Change: mangroveforests for coastal ... Destruction of Mangrove forest in Negombo.

Mangrove Forest Destruction by Jayson T. Macapanas ...

Video for destruction of mangrove sundarbans▶ 4:14

Apr 13, 2012 - Uploaded by jaymacize

A slide presentation on mangrove destruction at this time onward. Background music was used. All of those ...

mangrove destruction - YouTube

Video for destruction of mangrove sundarbans▶ 1:45

Oct 24, 2014 - Uploaded by jrliem66

Discussion with local farmer regarding condition after destructionof the ... (HD) Wild Life in Sundarbans ...

mangrove destruction - Video Dailymotion

Video for destruction of mangrove sundarbans▶ 2:07

Aug 13, 2015

Macaque eating a bird in Sundarbans mangrove swamps. by WildFilmsIndia. 80 views. 04:29 ... mangrove ...

Oil Tankers Ply The Sundarbans Again – Peepli

Video for destruction of mangrove sundarbans▶ 0:04

May 23, 2015

Oil tankers, however, were banned from plying thru theSundarbans. ... Oil tankers will once more plough ...

Avoiding mangrove destruction by avoiding carbon dioxide ...

Video for destruction of mangrove sundarbans▶ 4:17

Jan 26, 2013 - Uploaded by Carnegie Global Ecology

Ken Caldeira speaking about Ken Caldeira, Avoiding mangrove destruction by avoiding carbon dioxide ...

Destruction of Mangrove forest in Seri Manjung, Malaysia ...

Video for destruction of mangrove sundarbans

Sep 11, 2015

Destruction of Mangrove forest in Seri Manjung, Malaysia. ... Facebook Tweet · Rare tiger sighting in ...

Mangroves - Guardians of the Coast - YouTube

Video for destruction of mangrove sundarbans▶ 28:32

Jun 8, 2012 - Uploaded by Mangroves4theFuture

Mangroves are among the oldest and most productive wetland forests on our ... Discover The World Biggest ...

Shocking photos of mankind's destruction of the ... - Daily Mail

Video for Destruction of Riverine Ecosystem in India

May 17, 2015

Crammed: Aerial view of New Delhi, India, population 22 million, .... Stench: A shepherd by the Yellow River ...

Destructive Brahmaputra River at its worst in floods ...

Video for Destruction of Riverine Ecosystem in India▶ 1:10

Oct 4, 2012 - Uploaded by spar ta

Destructive Brahmaputra River at its worst.,sweeping off a complete 50 ... World's largest river island ...

The Colorado River Runs Dry | Science | Smithsonian

Video for Destruction of Riverine Ecosystem in India

Climate change will likely decrease the river's flow by 5 to 20 percent in the next 40 ..... lowering water ...

On The Freshwater Trail – Peepli

Video for Destruction of Riverine Ecosystem in India▶ 0:05

On the Freshwater Trail, I follow the changing fortunes of riverine ... existence threatened by habitat destruction ...

The Crying Indian - full commercial - Keep America Beautiful ...

Video for Destruction of Riverine Ecosystem in India▶ 1:01

Apr 30, 2007 - Uploaded by coffeekid99

Earth Day, the annual day of environmental action and awareness, was first held on April 22, 1970. This past ...

Geo-ecological Context and Global Significance - South ...

Video for Destruction of Riverine Ecosystem in India

The mangroves fringing these islands are the largest and most intact in India, and ... A. Threats to the ...

Return of the fish wars: Hatchery pits environmentalists ...

Video for Destruction of Riverine Ecosystem in India

Apr 22, 2015

Can anything wild still exist in a Washington river plugged up for 100 years? ... Elwha River in the early 1900s ...

ABC.Foreign.Correspondent.The.Amazon.of.Asia. Lao dams ...

Video for Destruction of Riverine Ecosystem in India▶ 26:14

Sep 22, 2014 - Uploaded by Louielamson2000 Tran Nguyen

Louielamson2000 Channel :-: Education Societal Networks Lao dams destruction destroying the ecosystem ...

Author Explains Tibet's River Crisis - VOA

Video for Destruction of Riverine Ecosystem in India

Jan 21, 2015

... Buckley describes China's reckless destruction ofecosystems from the ... like Pakistan took the Indus and ...

Mallika Bhanot speaking on "What a river is not?" at India ...

Video for Destruction of Riverine Ecosystem in India▶ 11:45

Jan 3, 2015 - Uploaded by IndiaWater Portal

Bhanot said that "rivers are a living entity and conservation and protection of rivers is inclusive of protection of the ...


Sorry to post these Horrible Photos.Be brave enough to face the Indian reality of Class Caste hegemony role of genocide culure,the BRUTE Apartheid.I am afraid that I have to shock you if you happen to be human enough!However biometric robotic clones have no mind or heart as most of us remain headless chicken as they describe:KABANDH!

Palash Biswas

C.l. Chumber shared Raghbendra Chaudhary's post.

5 hrs · Edited ·

Where are the fundamental rights and constitution of India ? Where are the Gandhian , Ambedkarite , Socialist , Communists of all directions , Akali , Dravidian , Bahujan and Sarvjan political parties to punish those who did cut an alive labourer into pieces when he asked his four days due wages ?

We must slap on the faces of such sociopolitical and religious leaders who talk about the God and Constitution but they keep mum on such murders and other heinous crimes !

Shame on the Indian President , Vice President , P.M. , Indian cabinet and the Bihar state govt. !

Raghbendra Chaudhary added 4 new photos.


जाति व्यवस्था का क्रूर परिणाम है जो मन्नू तांती के साथ घटित हुई है. अपने देश में दलितों की दशा एवं दिशा का यह जीता जागता प्रमाण आपके सामने है.

यह घटना बिहार राज्य के जिला लक्खीसराय गांव खररा की है। स्व. मन्नू तांती के साथ यह घटी है. केवल अपने पिछले चार दिनों की मजदूरी मांगने के कारण मन्नू तांती को गेहूं निकालने वाली थ्रेसर में जिन्दा पीस दिया गया. इस जघन्य हत्या का अंजाम उसके गांव के दबंग लोगों दिया.

लीजिये,तैयार है आपको जिबह करने के लिए हिंदुस्तानी गिलोटिन!

माफ कीजियेगा।हकीकत कोई मुगल गार्डन नहीं होता,जहां आप गुले गुलबहार हो जायें।हकीकत के झटके किसी ज्वालामुखी से बह निकलने वाले लावे से भी भयंकर बहते हुए बिजली के तार हैं या फिर ऐसी सुनामी है,जिसमें तमाम लाशें लौट फिरकर आपकी गोद में जमा हो जाती हैं एकदम ताजा।

हिंदुत्व के नर्क में वापसी पर हमारे आदरणीय मित्र आनंद तेलतुबंड़े ने लिखा है और हम उनसे बेहतर लिख नहीं सकते हैं।समयांतर के ताजा अंक में फिर जाति उन्मूलन के प्रसंग को झूठ के कारोबार शीर्षक से साफ किया है।अंबेडकर आर्ग में बाबासाहेब का यह आलेख भी डिजिटल उन्हींका लगाया हुआ है।अब हकीकत की जमीन प खड़े होकर जाति उन्मूलन का असलियत का जायका भी लें जरा।

पलाश विश्वास

माफ कीजियेगा।हकीकत कोई मुगल गार्डन नहीं होता,जहां आप गुले गुलबहार हो जायें।हकीकत के झटके किसी ज्वालामुखी से बह निकलने वाले लावे से भी भयंकर बहते हुए बिजली के तार हैं या फिर ऐसी सुनामी है,जिसमें तमाम लाशें लौट फिरकर आपकी गोद में जमा हो जाती हैं एकदम ताजा।

हिंदुत्व के नर्क में वापसी पर हमारे आदरणीय मित्र आनंद तेलतुबंड़े ने लिखा है और हम उनसे बेहतर लिख नहीं सकते हैं।समयांतर के ताजा अंक में फिर जाति उन्मूलन के प्रसंग को झूठ के कारोबार शीर्षक से साफ किया है।अंबेडकर आर्ग में बाबासाहेब का यह आलेख भी डिजिटल उन्हींका लगाया हुआ है।अब हकीकत की जमीन प खड़े होकर जाति उन्मूलन का असलियत का जायका भी लें जरा।

पिरभी इस आलेख के साथ नत्थी तस्वीरें देखकर हमारे होश उड़ गये तो आप जितने बी संगदिल हों,इंसानियत का तनिको जज्बा आपके भीतर हों तो जरुर इस पर गौर करें कि आजादी के करीब आठ दशक के बाद जब लोकतंत्र के इस तिलिस्म में सत्ता समीकरण में सबसे अहम डा.भीमराव अंबेडकर सबसे प्रासंगिक हैं और सभी पक्षों की ओर से उन्हें हमारी भावनाओं का उदात्त मर्यादा पुरुषोत्तम चेहरा बनाने में कोई कोताही नहीं हो रही है,तो उनके जाति उन्मूलन के एजंडे का क्या हुआ।

माफ करें,वीभत्स उन तस्वीरों को जिन्हें हमने पहले भी साझा किया है,पता नहीं किस शुभ मुहूर्त पर वे आपके मुखातिब हों और आपकी यात्राभंग हो जाये,लेकिन जिस जात पांत को लेकर सारी राजनीति है और खासतौर पर बिहार के अगले चुनावों में सारा जोर उसी पर है,उसका बीभत्सतम चेहरा बेनकाब करने के अलावा हमारे पास कोई  चारा नहीं है।

हम संघ परिवार के हिंदू राष्ट्र के खिलाफ हैं।विडंबना है कि इन तस्वीरों से सबसे ज्यादा चुनावी फायदा लेकिन संघ परिवार को होना है क्योंकि बिहार में सत्ता अब जिनकी है,वे इस भयावह सामाजिक यथाऱ्थ के सबसे ज्यादा जिम्मेदार हैं।

जो लोग जाति अस्मिता के जरिये विचारधारा की आड़ में बाहुबलि जातियों का राजकाज चला रहे हैं यूपी बिहार में खास तौर पर,जा पांत की पहचान की राजनीति उनकी पूंजी है।

मगर इसे न भूलें कि यह जातपांत उसी हिंदुत्व नरक की लहलहाती फसल है और उसी जांत पांत की अस्मिताओं को खांचे में बांटकर बहुजनों को हिंदुत्व की पैदल सेना बनाकर जो हिंदू राष्ट्र बना है।उसके ही सिबपाहसालार और मनसबदार हैं बाहुबलि जातियों के ये ये मनसबदार।यह यूपी बिहार का जितना सच है,उतना ही तरक्कीपसंद बंगाल,क्रांतिकारी पाश के पंजाब और बाबासाहेब के गृहपरदेश महाराष्ट्र का सच है जो दाक्षिणात्य में पेरियार और नाराय़ण गुरु अय्यंकाली का भी सच है।

भयंकर नस्लभेदी सच है यह सलवा जुड़ुम और आफसा का भी।

यह सच अखंड हिंदू राष्ट्र का वीभत्स नक्शा है.जिसकी सरजमीं पर हम सांसे तो लेते हैं क्लोन रोबोट होने के बावजूद,लेकिन उसका सामना करते नहीं है।उदात्त वैदिकी अवधारणाओं,मिथकों और गाथाओं में सच गायब है।

बिहार के मुंगेर ने मूसलाधार बरसात में मलबे के तरह बह निसले इस सच को हमारे मुखातिब कर दिया है।हम अनंत डूब के बीचों बीच हैं और पानी सर के ऊपर है।या हमारे पांवों तले की जमीन में गढ़े हुए हैं हजारों परमाणु बम जो फटने वाले हैं और कहीं कोई रेड अलर्ट नहीं है जैसे किसी महाभूकंप या सुनामी या बाढ़ या दुष्काल या भुखमरी या मंदी महामंदी के बारे में कोई मौसमवाली भविष्यवाणी नहीं है।

हम किस देश में रह रहे हैं आखिर जिसके लिए नवारुणदा मरने से बहुत पहले लिख गये यह मृत्यु उपत्यका मेरा देश नहीं है और जिसकी फिजां केबारे में पाश का कहना है कि सबसे खतरनाक है ख्वाबों का मर जाना।

कल ही हमने वे तस्वीरें साझा की थीं।तमाम लोग पढ़ते हैं।शेयर तो कुछ लोगों ने किया ही होगा।तमाम महामहिम हमारे सोशल मीडिया मित्र हैं,जिनमें पक्ष विपक्ष के महाबिलि भी कम नहीं है।फिर कश्मीर या मध्यभारत पर लिखते ही जब हमारे ीमेल आईडी और ब्लाग को ब्लाक कर देने का सूचनातंत्र इतना चाकचौबंद है तो हम कैसे मान लें कि राजनीति और सत्ता के गलियारे में ये तस्वीरें न पहुंची हों।

पिरभी अजब गजब सन्नाटा है।जनपक्षधरता जिनका कारोबार है और अंबेडकरी एटीएम पर जिनका कब्जा है,ऐसे लोग भी इसहादसे से आंखें चुरा रहे हैं इसतरह जैसे कि सुहागरात से पहले किसी दुल्हन का मुखड़ा घुंघट के भीतर बेनकाब हो।

हमने छात्र जीवन में कोर्स में चार्ल्स डिकेंस के मशहूर उपन्यास दि टेल आफ टू सिटीज बीए प्रीविएस में अंग्रेजी साहित्य के पाठ्यक्रम के तहत पढ़ा है।सड़कों पर फैले खून के सैलाब के बीच गिलोचिन के जरिये समंतों के कुनबों समेत सफाये की इस क्रांति से हमारे रोंगटे खड़े हो गये तो रौ में विक्टर ह्यूगो के ला मिजराबेल्स के चारों खंड अंग्रेजी अनुवाद भी पढ़ लिये।यह उपन्यास फ्रांसीसी क्रांति का सबसे प्रामाणिक दस्तावेज है।न पढ़ा हो तो तुरंत पढ़ लें।

गिलोटिन के बारे में तबसे लेकर एक धारणा भर थी काव्य बिंब की तरह।क्योंकि इतिहास में फिर मनुष्य के वध के लिए उस नायाब यंत्रे के उपयोग का किस्सा हमने कहीं पढ़ा नहीं है।आपने पढ़ा हो तो बताइये।

बहरहाल बिहार में इसरो की महान उपलब्धियों को लजाते हुए हमारे बिहारी सवर्ण भाइयों ने हिंदुस्तानी गिलोटिन ईजाद करके उसे आजमा भी लिया है।

लीजिये,तैयार है आपको जिबह करने के लिए हिंदुस्तानी गिलोटिन।

जिला लखीसराय के गाँव खर्रा के मनु तांती को उसके गाँव के उच्च जाति के मालिकों ने चार दिन की मजूरी मांगने पर चारा काटने की मशीन में डाल दिया ....

इस पर लखनऊ की मशहूर सामाजिक कार्यकर्ता ने सवाल किये हैंः

क्या इसी भारत को डिजिटल इंडिया बनाना चाहते हैं …?

क्या सचमुच जातिवाद समाप्त हो गया है …?

मेरे पास फिल वक्त इन सवालों के जवाब नहीं हैं।आपके पास हों तो जरुर हमें भी बता दें।

नूतन जी ने लिखा हैः

हममें से जो लोग बार बार ये कह रहे हैं कि जातिवाद का सफाया हो चुका है.. उनके लिए एक बुरी खबर ...

जिला लखीसराय के गाँव खर्रा के मनु तांती को उसके गाँव के उच्च जाति के मालिकों ने चार दिन की मजूरी मांगने पर चारा काटने की मशीन में डाल दिया .... क्या इसी भारत को डिजिटल इंडिया बनाना चाहते हैं ... क्या सचमुच जातिवाद समाप्त हो गया है ... जिस देश में मजदूरी मांगने पर ये हश्र होता है वहां आरक्षण पाने के लिए उस शिक्षा व्यवस्था में घुसना और खुद को बनाये रखना कितना कष्टकारी है इसे समझने के लिए जातिवाद के कीड़े को दिमाग से निकालना होगा ....हम किस समय में रह रहे हैं .... इंसान को आज भी इंसान मानना बहुत मुश्किल है ....वो भी दलित, आदिवासी, महिलाएं और मुसलमान हो तो सच में बहुत मुश्किल है ....

नोट : ये सूचना दोस्त Vinita Sehgal की वाल से ली गई है ....

हमने पहले ही  इस नारकीय हत्याकांड की तस्वीरें अपने ब्लागों में लगा दिये हैं कि आप हिंदुत्व के इस जन्नत के मुखातिब हों। हमने तब टिप्पणी की थीः


Sorry to post these Horrible Photos.Be brave enough to face the Indian reality of Class Caste hegemony role of genocide culure,the BRUTE Apartheid.I am afraid that I have to shock you if you happen to be human enough!However biometric robotic clones have no mind or heart as most of us remain headless chicken as they describe:KABANDH!

C.l. Chumber shared Raghbendra Chaudhary's post.

5 hrs · Edited ·

Where are the fundamental rights and constitution of India ? Where are the Gandhian , Ambedkarite , Socialist , Communists of all directions , Akali , Dravidian , Bahujan and Sarvjan political parties to punish those who did cut an alive labourer into pieces when he asked his four days due wages ?

We must slap on the faces of such sociopolitical and religious leaders who talk about the God and Constitution but they keep mum on such murders and other heinous crimes !

Shame on the Indian President , Vice President , P.M. , Indian cabinet and the Bihar state govt. !

Raghbendra Chaudhary added 4 new photos.


जाति व्यवस्था का क्रूर परिणाम है जो मन्नू तांती के साथ घटित हुई है. अपने देश में दलितों की दशा एवं दिशा का यह जीता जागता प्रमाण आपके सामने है.

यह घटना बिहार राज्य के जिला लक्खीसराय गांव खररा की है। स्व. मन्नू तांती के साथ यह घटी है. केवल अपने पिछले चार दिनों की मजदूरी मांगने के कारण मन्नू तांती को गेहूं निकालने वाली थ्रेसर में जिन्दा पीस दिया गया. इस जघन्य हत्या का अंजाम उसके गांव के दबंग लोगों दिया.

बंगाली जन्मजात होने की वजह से आधा बिहारी भी हूं।पूरे देश को संबोधित करने के लिए अंग्रेजी में भी लिख लेता हूं।दक्षिण भारत से संवाद भी अंग्रेजी में कर लेता हूं।बाकी दुनिया से भी तार इस अंग्रेजी माध्यम से जुड़े हुए हैं।बंगाल में भी बांग्ला में लिखा हमारा बंगाली भद्रलोक पढ़ते नहीं है,वह तो बांग्लादेश के म्लेच्छों और अछूत शरणार्तियों से संवाद का सिलसिला है।

असल में हमारी मातृभाषा जितनी बांग्ला है उतनी ही हिंदी है।जीआईसी नैनीताल में धर दबोचते ही हमारे गुरुजी ताराचंद्र त्रिपाठी ने कह दिया था।गुरुजी का कहा झूठ न हो और वैसे भी जनमा यूपी उत्तराकंड में हूं,कोशिश करता हूं कि हर जरुरी मसले पर हिंदी में संवाद जरुर करुं।

लेकिन शायद ही कम लोगों को मालूम होगा कि कुमांयूनी और गढ़वाली की तरह भोजपुरी और मैथिली से भी हमारा नाता उसीतरह का है जैसे अवधी और ब्रजभाषा से।क्योंकि तमाम लोक हम वहीं से वसूलते हैं।हमारी समूची विरासत वहीं है।

छत्तीसगढ़ी,मालवी और राजस्थानी के बी अपने अपने ठाठ हैं।गुजराती का तड़का अलग है तो मरहट्टी के बिना असली भारत को समझा ही नहीं जा सकता।

शुध हो नहो,जब मजा खूब आता है या मिजाज तनिको रंगीन हो और दिलोदिमाग में भैंसोलाजी की बहार हो तो हमारी उंगलियां अपने आप भोजपुरी बोलने लगती है।

इसकी खास वजह बचपन से अबतक देखी हिंदी फिल्में और खासतौर पर हमारे प्रिय कलाकार दिलीप कुमार हैं।वे पक्का पठान होकर गंगा जमुना में जो धड़ाधड़ भोजपुरी बोले हैं और उनकी जैसी संगत कयामतो बैंजतीमाला तमिलकन्या ने की है,उसके बाद लोकरंग के नजदीक होने का जरिया भोजपुरी के अलावा और क्या हो सकता है,हम जाने न हैं।त्रिलोचन शास्त्री जी ने अवधी का बी समां बांधा है,वह हम साधै न सकै हैं।और कबीर दास तो हम हो ही न सकै हैं।गरीब गुरबो की भोजपुरी हमारी मौज है।

ऐसा भी नहीं है कि यह को कौशल है लिखने का।हम कला कौशल से हजारों मील दूर हैं और अपने तमाम लेखक मित्रों और कलाकारों से एकदम अलहदा है।

बचपन में जो पूरबिये खेत मजदूर जावत रहे तराई,उनसे हमारा भौत दोस्ताना रहा है और तराई के भोजपुर भाषी गांवों में हम उनका अपना बच्चा रहे हैं।

बंगाली मातृभाषा की वजह से हूं और उत्तराखंडी जनम और पढ़ाई लिखाी की वजह से।वैसे मेरा ननिहाल उड़ीसा में है और उड़िया अभीतक लिपि की वजह से सीख नहीं सका हूं।समझ भले लेता हूं।उसीतरह लिपि की वजह से असमिया हमारे लिए अपभ्रंश बांग्ला है जैस मरहट्टी तत्सम हिंदी।

गायपट्टी के लिए प्रगतिशील बिरादरी गरियाये चाहे कितना ही,कि ससुरै बुरबको हैं,हमें शर्म लेकिन आती नहीं है कि हम भी अपने गरीब गुरबे स्वजनों की तरह जिंदगी भर बुरबक ही रहे और अब चालाक बनकर कोई मुनाफा वसूली नहीं करनी है।

कुल किस्सा का मतलब यह कि मध्यभारत और पश्चिम भारत से लेकर समुची हिंदी गायपट्टी का अच्छा बुरा जो है,उन्हीं में हमारी जड़ें है।जात पांत की राजनीति का हमसे मुकाबला फिर वही बचपन से हैं।अंबेडकर को पढ़ने से भी पहले।

हमने अविभाजित बिहार के कोयलांचल के कोयला खानों के हादसों और भूमिगत आग से पत्रकारिता के सबक सीखे हैं तो मध्य बिहार के हलचल से भी जुड़ा रहा हूं उसी तरह से जैसे उत्तराखंड,झारखंड और छत्तीसगढ़ के आंदोलनों से।

बिहार की राजनीति में जांत पांत के ताने बाने से सामाजिक बदलाव के बहुत पहले से हमारा परिचय रहा है और धनबाद से ही जातियों के महाबिलियों से हमारी मुठभेड़ होती रही है जैसे कोयला माफिया से।

अब उनकी बड़ी मेहरबानी रही है कि उनने हमें कभी निशाना नहीं बनाया और न हमारे खिलाफ फतवे जारी किये।

बिहार के अनुभवों के मद्देनजर लखीसराय की यह वारदात मध्यबिहार के नरसंहारों से ज्यादा भयानक हमें लग रही है और श्रमसुधारों के बाद मेहनतकशों के लिए तैयार हिंदुत्व की इन गिलोटिन नरसंहार मशीनों में पिसने वाली इंसानियत को मैं लखीसराय के इस चारा मशीन में पिसते हुए देख रहा हूं।

अस्मिताओं की पूंजी से चल रही कारपोरेट रंग बिरंगी केसरिया राजनीति और फासिज्म के राजकाज में यह भविष्य का खुला दस्तावेज है।

आप भी पढ़ ले तो बेहतर।

बहरहाल, बाबासाहेब भीमराव अंबेडकर के जाति उन्मूलन के एजंडा से खास कोई चीज हमारे लिए नहीं है।आप बी हमारे साथ हों तो भला हो आपका,न भी हों तो हिंदुत्व के नर्क में जितना भला हो सके हैं,उतना भला कमसकम आपका हो जाये।

Dec 24 2015 : The Economic Times (Kolkata)

Building On Sand

The destruction of riverine ecosystems by indiscriminate sand mining is gradually giving way to a lightly regulated industrialscale production of manufactured-sand with support from large corporates. It is lending some respite to city administrators and affected communities, writes Naren Karunakaran

Donald Trump, real-estate mogul and US presidential hopeful, in his typical swagger and bombast, has often derided climate change and environmental campaigns.

Quaintly though, his maiden project in India, the twin Trump Towers, looming over Pune's skyline in luxurious resplendence, is addressing one of the most intractable environmental problems of the building and infrastructure sector in India -the rapacious mining and use of river-sand in construction.

Sand accounts for 35% of the volume of concrete used in the building construction industry and as the country rides a growth trajectory, its demand has ballooned and led to the plunder of river beds. The sandmafia has lain waste scores of riverine ecosystems across the country. The marauders continue with their activity to this day -despite several court interventions and recurring bans -as the overarching view is that there is no alternative to river-sand.

The situation has even triggered the import of huge consignments of river-sand from the Philippines and Cambodia, violating ecology and trade norms even in the countries of origin.The inevitability of riverbed mining for growth and development, however, is a myth. It's not true.

Real-estate developers keen on pushing the environmental agenda have cracked the problem by supporting a whole new industry that is emerging. Manufactured-sand (m-sand) is finding leading-edge takers such as Panchshil Realty, the builders for Donald Trump, Mahindra Lifespace Developers, L&T Realty, and several others.

"We have almost eliminated river-sand in our projects through substitutions and wherever sand has to be used, we have switched to manufactured-sand," says Anita Arjundas, MD, Mahindra LifeSpace Developers. "It not only address' ecological issues but also improves project efficiency significantly."

The Mahindra World City spread over 1500 acres in Chennai, a project of pride for the company, had seen many hiccups in 2013-14 due to the non-availability of sand. With river-sand, developers and builders were often at the mercy of unreliable suppliers and the mafia.

New Takers

Inexplicable price fluctuations, erratic supplies and inconsistent quality, varying with each truck load, were a common occurrence.Wastage is high, as high as 30%, for river-sand has to be sieved before use. Sporadic lifting and imposition of bans by the government on sand mining only added the problem.

Rajesh Shetty, heading Mahindra's Antheia project, spread over 16 acres in Pune, has lately not only developed a clutch of local vendors, big and small, for manufactured-sand but has also crafted an entirely new concrete mix design philosophy using this material. "Reinforcing sustainability means starting from the design stage itself," explains Arjundas.

Already 58,700 MT of m-sand has been utilised at the Antheia work site. "By the end of the project, we expect to use over 100,000 MT," says Shetty. There is a cost saving too, for m-sand is cheaper than river-sand and its advantages are manifold (see How Different Sands... ) Maruti Bhumkar, one of the biggest players in Pune, hawks m-sand at `3,150 a brass (one brass is around 4.6 tonnes) when the prevailing price of river-sand is around `9,000 a brass.Bhumkar, with five captive stone quarries and a fleet of 50 trucks, is also one of the key suppliers to the Trump Towers. "During peak construction of the twin towers, m-sand supplies had reached 25 trucks daily," he reveals.

What is manufactured-sand, or artificial, or engineered-sand, as it is described? M-sand is produced by passing boulders and stones through a series of jaw and cone crushers for size reduction and then fed into vertical shaft impact (VSI) crushers where they are pulverised further to the size of sand. The VSIs crush them to cubical and angular particles. In certain markets, this is flogged off as m-sand; it's a masquerade.

`This process is incomplete," explains Sandesh Mahale, director, MAAD Mines and Minerals, a pioneering m-sand entrepreneur who operates two plants on the outskirts of Mumbai, one of which is the largest in the country at 300 Tonnes Per Day (TPD) capacity. "From the VSI stage, the sand has to further go through a process of elaborate washing to remove dust and flaky particles."

Washing in a hydrocyclone process is apparently critical to the entire sand manufacturing process as it effectively removes excess ultrafines of minus 75 microns from the feed material. Ultrafines can be detrimental to the making of concrete.

Manish Bhartia, MD of CDE Asia, has introduced an array of high-performance crushers and washers in India over the past few years. He says the sand thus washed and dewatered is impurityfree and Ready Mix Concrete (RMC) ready. His manufacturing unit in Kolkata is jointly promoted by CDE Global of the UK and the Bhartia family.

Apparently these machines with washers that also help in dousing dust at production sites are a class apart from the crude equipment used at stone quarries.

That the concept of manufactured-sand is gaining traction can be gauged from the fact that, since 2007, when Bhatia began operations, he has been involved in over 60 crush ing projects. One of his anchor clients is the Bhopal-based Dilip Buildcon which operates a cluster of 15 plants across the region.

Bhartia estimates that the collective output of msand across all plants would be merely 10 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa). "Of this barely 25% of manufactured-sand produced comes into the open market," he says. The rest are consumed in-house by large developers and RMC units. The demand for sand is estimated at 500 Mtpa. The nascent industry is just about scratching the surface.

Welcome Change

Interestingly, even large players are now venturing into m-sand. Ultratech Cement of the Aditya Birla Group has now installed a sand manufacturing plant in Mumbai. Mahale, however, writes off Ultratech as a `follower' when ideally corporates should have been innovating and leading the way.

He is evidently bitter for he has had terrible experiences as a pioneering m-sand entrepreneur. When he was introducing the concept to developers in Mumbai five years ago, structural engineers often fobbed him off with: "Show me a building built with m-sand that has stood for 10 years."

His first plant of 80 TPH was erected with builder friends who partnered him and extended him advances in lieu of m-sand supplies. Bank loans were hard to get for an unknown technology and untried market. His networking ensured he remained afloat. Many of those in m-sand manufacture are politically connected; it helps them secure stone quarry licenses without much ado.

Mahale has had a reasonably good run, barring the present downturn in the realty market. His clients include some of the big names in Mumbai such as L&T, RNA, Rustomjee.The output from his smaller, first plant is entirely consumed by BG Shirke Construction Technology which has had an enduring partnership with the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA).

While m-sand gains traction in the market, the idea of abolishing the stone quarry bit in the system seems quite enticing. This is precisely what IL&FS Environment, a subsidiary of IL&FS, one of India's leading development and finance companies, is doing.

IL&FS is propagating the use of construction and demolition (C&D) waste for production of m-sand and other aggregates. It is operating India's first C&D waste recycling facility in Delhi with a capacity of 2000 TPD.

C&D waste is a huge problem in our metro cities.Delhi alone generates over 5,000 tonnes of C&D waste every day. Where does this waste go? It is surreptitiously dumped along roadsides or in water bodies, and in Mumbai, into stretches of mangroves along the seashore. The recent flooding of Chennai can also be partly attributed to this trend.

"In Navi Mumbai, if construction debris is cleared out from all the stretches it is dumped in, the city can recover land worth `6,000 crore," reveals Bhartia, highlighting the intensity of the disposal challenge.

IL&FS Environment claims that its C&D waste management facility has helped save over 25 acres of land valued at `250 crore. Its plant has processed over 20 lakh tonnes of C&D waste since it started operations and has recoveredrecycled 95% of the incoming waste.Enthused by the results of the pilot C&D recycling plant, several agencies including the PWD, Delhi Metro and municipal bodies have commissioned IL&FS Environment to setup and operate similar plants.

The only impediment to the adoption of recycled-sand (r-sand) has been the absence of clear government guidelines on the usage of recycled products as in the US or the EU. This has been addressed to an extent now: the Delhi government has issued an advisory to all departments to use a minimum of 10% of recycled C&D waste in construction. It's about time to craft national guidelines on C&D waste.

While the transition from river­sand to manufactured­ sand and recycled­sand is a good augury, there are environmental issues that remain to be addressed. "It is essential to ensure that these new genre plants adhere to strict pollution norms. Communities living near or around these plants are already restive," says Sumaira Abdulali of the Mumbai-based Awaaz Foundation that has been campaigning against illegal sand mining for years.

A few plants on the outskirts of Pune have already been forced to shut down by agitating

Threats to rivers are on the rise...

The main threats to river basins (the entire area drained by a river) continue to mount.

Construction of large dams and physical alterations of river flow by straightening and deepening of river courses.

This disrupts the natural flooding cycles, reduces flows, drains wetlands, cuts rivers off from their floodplains, and inundates riparian habitats, resulting in the destruction of species, the intensification of floods and a threat to livelihoods in the long term.

   	© WWF / Michel GUNTHER

© WWF / Michel GUNTHER

Deforestation and loss of natural habitats including wetlands - source of abundant goods and services for society - for urban, industrial or agricultural use. This reduces natural flood control and destroys the habitats used by fish, waterbirds and many other species for breeding, feeding and migrating.

São João  River Basin Management project,  part of one of the WWF Freshwater projects sponsored by ...   	© WWF / Edward PARKER

© WWF / Edward PARKER

Excessive water abstraction for agricultural irrigation, domestic consumption and urban/industrial use.

This may involve pumping too much water from underground supplies, or long distance transfers of water from one basin to a neighbouring river basin. In both cases, the result has often been the same story of dried-up river beds and wetlands irreparable damage to wildlife, and failure to deliver overall economic benefits. Sadly, the ecological and economic value of freshwater systems damaged or destroyed by such 'technical fixes' are seldom taken properly into account.

Irrigating sugar cane fields. Kafue Flats, Zambia    	© WWF / Martin HARVEY

© WWF / Martin HARVEY

Pollution, caused by runoff from agricultural chemicals, poorly-managed and sometimes out-of-date industrial processes, and lack of adequate treatment for sewage and other urban waste. The results may include water that is unfit to drink, massive fish kills, and complete loss of underwater plants. Yet many effects of pollution are more insidious, only becoming clear after toxic substances have been building up in the food chain for many years.

Sewage pipe spewing pollution from a factory directly into a river near Mumbai (Bombay). India.   	© WWF / Mauri RAUTKARI


Long-term changes in rainfall, river flow and underground water supplies due to climate change.

For example, some river basins are expected to experience increased flooding, whilst others may become progressively drier. These changes - often aggravated by short-sighted land-use planning - are affecting all sectors of human society, and will have far-reaching consequences for freshwater biodiversity. Most projections show that the rate and scale of these impacts are only set to grow.

Flooding of river Main  Inundations caused by heavy rain and destruction of floodplain.  Frankfurt ...   	© WWF / Hartmut JUNGIUS

© WWF / Hartmut JUNGIUS

People and environment suffer when rivers are poorly managed

All this is conspiring to unravel the ecological functioning of the world's river basins, in effect destroying the very systems that gather and convey freshwater for life.

Dynamic, living systems

Experts agree that the best approach to conserving the world's freshwater resources is through managing river basins sustainably. This means making wise choices about resource use, based on an understanding of how to maintain dynamic, living systems in the long term.

Knock-on effects

Any activity that takes place in a river basin such as the disposal of waste water or the cutting of forests, has impacts downstream. A vivid example of this was the cyanide spill in the River Tisza (a tributary of the Danube) from a mine in Romania in January 2000. The highly toxic chemical swept downstream through Hungary, devastating aquatic life along the course of the river and contaminating the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of people.

Source of life, food and power

River basins are important from hydrological, economic and ecological points of view. They absorb and channel the run-off from snow-melt and rainfall which, when wisely managed, can provide fresh drinking water as well as access to food, hydropower, building materials (e.g. reeds for thatching), medicines and recreational opportunities.

Critical passages

They also form a critical link between land and sea, providing transportation routes for people, and making it possible for fish to migrate between marine and freshwater systems.

Purifying water

By acting as natural 'filters' and 'sponges', well-managed basins play a vital role in water purification, water retention and regulation of flood peaks. In many parts of the world, seasonal flooding remains the key to maintaining fertility for grazing and agriculture.

Mix of habitats = mix of life

Last but not least, these often very large-scale ecosystems combine both terrestrial and aquatic components, thereby providing a wide diversity of habitats for plants and animals.

Dammed to destruction


says that the onslaught on fresh free-flowing water

by the building of massive dams is the greatest

threat to the world's rivers

dam and water

The accelerating deterioration of the world's river ecosystems has been largely ignored, while other global environmental problems, such as the destruction of the world's forests and the depletion of ocean fisheries, have been the subject of much concern and debate. But the declining health of almost all the world's major river ecosystems is a key factor in many of the most important symptoms of the global environmental crisis, from the collapse of coastal fisheries to the spread of waterborne diseases; from steadily worsening flood disasters to the deterioration in drinking water supply; from eroding shorelines to the loss of wetlands; from the extinction of river dolphins to the pollution of estuaries.

The integrity of our rivers has, indeed, been so neglected that we have little data on the scale and speed of their deterioration. In 1992 the United States National Academy of Sciences' report The Restoration of Aquatic Ecosystems was unable to find any systematic analysis of the extent of the destruction of river systems in the United States. The first coherent survey of the global impact of human intervention was only published in 1994. In a paper in Science that year, authors Dynesius and Nilsson showed that 77 per cent of the large river systems in the northern third of the world had been severely or moderately affected by hydrologic alterations.

The impact of large dams

River ecosystems can be degraded by many human interventions, including pollution, watershed destruction and channelization. But it is the impact of large dams that is now having the most immediate and far reaching effects. They cause huge changes in flows, transforming the character of such major rivers as the Nile or the Indus.

Over the years, scientists have observed the impacts of dams and levees on the ecology of rivers, riverbanks and estuaries. They have learned that major alterations in flows affect most other aspects of the physical system on which both wildlife and humans depend, including river morphology, water quality, nutrient transport and estuarine hydrodynamics. These changes also affect bank erosion, groundwater levels, shoreline erosion, flood peaks, soil salinity and water temperature: the list of known impacts multiplies with every year. Though dam building is an ancient technique, it is only in the last 100 years - primarily in the last 50 - that technology has enabled humanity to create the truly massive structures that have such deadly impacts on our rivers. The first country to embark on big dam building - and the first to experience the resulting problems - was the United States: today it has few rivers left to dam. The most publicized result of the love affair with big dams and associated river works has been the drastic decline in salmon populations. River engineering is also the main cause of destruction of the river ecosystems: changes to the physical habitat, river channels and banks, for example, are implicated in 93 per cent of freshwater fauna declines in North America.

Projects like damming the Columbia, draining the Everglades and embanking the Lower Mississippi were at best simplistic, flawed solutions. Their economic costs, caused by environmental damage, were unforeseen or discounted. Their economic benefits were realized only by a few at the expense of the nation as a whole. Large-scale water projects have lost much of their popular support because of their huge cost and the growing realization of their escalating long-term ecological effects. Correcting past mistakes is now the main activity of those responsible for America's rivers: among current multi-million projects funded by the United States taxpayer are the restoration of the Columbia River's salmon run, the dechannelization of Florida's Kissimee River and the effort to find non-structural ways of managing floods on the Mississippi.

These lessons have not yet been learned elsewhere in the world. Beguiled by a false association between big water projects and economic development, many developing countries continue to import obsolete river engineering technology. The pace of construction of big dam projects proceeds unabated even as the number of suitable sites diminishes. About 1,200 dams higher than 15 metres are started worldwide every year. Current major river engineering projects planned or under construction include:

- A programme to build a staircase of six major hydroelectric dams on the Mekong, a river whose biodiversity is considered second only to the Amazon and whose fishery and floodplains support much of the population of Cambodia.

- A plan to build a 3,400 kilometres shipping channel, the Hidrovia, up the Paraguay and Parana Rivers into the 200,000 square kilometres Pantanal, one of the world's largest tropical wetlands.

- The construction of the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydro project, across the Yangtze River, displacing more than 1.2 million people and irrevocably changing the river system.

These projects, and many others, will have devastating long-term impacts on river ecosystems - impacts with direct economic and social costs - but proponents have ignored them or brushed them aside. An internal survey of recent World Bank hydroelectric dam projects showed that 58 per cent were planned and built without even the most rudimentary consideration of downstream impacts - even when these could be predicted to cause massive coast erosion and pollution. Within a few decades, if policies do not change quickly, every major river system - including the Amur, the Yangtze, the Mekong, the Salween and the Amazon - will be as degraded and impoverished as the Colorado, the Nile, the Columbia, the Indus and the Parana have become in the last 50 years.

Why does this onslaught on fresh, free-flowing water - one of the most important processes supporting the global ecosystem - continue? The answer is due, in large part, to the political dynamics created when unaccountable development institutions promote and fund large infrastructure projects as a sure fire way of achieving rapid economic growth. This has been supported by a powerful international water project construction lobby and has usually benefited economic and political elites at the expense of rural populations. As understanding of the impacts of human interventions on river systems broadens, and realization of the long-term costs grows, the beneficiaries and promoters of large water projects have an increasing interest in ignorance, deception and secrecy. Ending secrecy, providing honest analysis of all future impacts, insisting on open scientific review and making sure that affected communities have a voice in decisions, are the keys to establishing sound decision-making that protects river ecosystems.

People's livelihoods and culture depend, in much of the world, on maintaining a healthy river ecosystem as a common resource. Fortunately many have organized within the last decade to prevent the expropriation of their rivers and the destruction of their way of life by dam projects. People affected by projects in the Narmada Valley in India, in villages along the Pak Mun River in Thailand, in the Mei Nung Valley in Taiwan, along the San Francisco River in Brazil or in the long houses of the Rajang River in Sarawak, have all become part of a coalescing international movement. By stopping dams and water projects, these people are having a greater effect in protecting global river ecosystems than countless expert reports and prestigious United Nations conference resolutions. In challenging the outmoded ideology of river engineering development, the people of the valleys are leading the way for introducing new ideas for managing their rivers that will preserve these ecosystems for future generations.

Dr. Philip B. Williams is President of the International Rivers Network.

Rivers No More: The Environmental Effects of Large Dams


Monday, January 1, 2001

An excerpt from Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams, by Patrick McCully

Flooding for Posterity

"We're going to save all this for posterity. We're going to cover it up with water so that no one can disturb it."

- Comment by Brazilian dam engineer viewing scenic stretch of river to be flooded by Cachoeira Porteira Dam, 1984

Most of the impacts of river engineering are extremely difficult, and in many cases impossible, to predict with certainty. Theories on the ecological dynamics of rivers are mainly based on short-term studies of small temperate watersheds, so there is a limited understanding of the functioning of large rivers in temperate regions — or of rivers of any size in the tropics. Most of the major rivers in Europe and the United States were dyked, straightened, dredged and dammed long before their ecology or hydrology had been seriously studied. In the tropics, where research funds are few, often the only scientific study of a river system has been done to find where best to dam it.

As every river is unique in terms of its flow patterns, the landscapes it flows through and the species it supports, so the design and operating pattern of every dam is unique, as are the effects the dam has on the river and its associated ecosystems. While the great majority of the world's large dams and all of the major dams have been completed within the last six decades, some of the environmental effects of a dam may not be realised for hundreds of years after construction. A dam can thus be regarded as a huge, long-term and largely irreversible environmental experiment without a control.

The two main categories of environmental impacts of dams are those which are inherent to dam construction and those which are due to the specific mode of operation of each dam. The most significant consequence of this myriad of complex and interconnected environmental disruptions is that they tend to fragment the riverine ecosystem, isolating populations of species living up and downstream of the dam and cutting off migrations and other species movements. Because almost all dams reduce normal flooding, they also fragment ecosystems by isolating the river from its floodplain, turning what fish biologists term a 'floodplain river' into a 'reservoir river'. The elimination of the benefits provided by natural flooding may be the single most ecologically damaging impact of a dam. This fragmentation of river ecosystems has undoubtedly resulted in a massive reduction in the number of species in the world's watersheds.

Some of the environmental effects of dams can benefit some species. For example, impounding a reservoir will create habitat for lake fish and warm water released from a reservoir can increase the abundance of species of fish which failed to thrive in the cool river. But because dams alter the conditions to which local ecosystems have adapted, the overall impact of a dam will almost without exception be to reduce species diversity.

No one has yet managed to assess with any accuracy the global extent of the fragmentation of river ecosystems by dams and water diversions. Two Swedish ecologists, however, have estimated the degree of damage to river systems in the US, Canada, Europe and the former USSR. Mats Dynesius and Christer Nilsson of the University of Umeå found that fully 77 per cent of the total water discharge of the 139 largest river systems in these countries is 'strongly or moderately affected by fragmentation of the river channels by dams and by water regulation resulting from reservoir operation, interbasin diversion and irrigation'. 'As a result of habitat destruction and obstruction to organism dispersal,' Dynesius and Nilsson conclude, 'many riverine species may have become extinct over vast areas, whereas populations of others have become fragmented and run the risk of future extinction.'

The permanent inundation of forests, wetlands and wildlife is perhaps the most obvious ecological effect of a dam. Reservoirs have flooded vast areas — at least 400,000 square kilometres have been lost worldwide. Yet it is not only the amount of land lost which is important, but also its quality: river and floodplain habitats are some of the world's most diverse ecosystems. Plants and animals which are closely adapted to valley bottom habitats can often not survive along the edge of a reservoir. Dams also tend to be built in remote areas which are the last refuge for species which have been displaced by development in other regions. No one has any idea how many species of plants and animals are now extinct because their last habitat was flooded by a dam but the number is likely far from negligible. As well as destroying habitat, reservoirs can also cut off migratory routes across the valley and along the river. Because it isolates populations, this ecosystem fragmentation also leads to the risks of inbreeding from a smaller genetic pool.

The five-dam Mahaweli megascheme in Sri Lanka, the main purpose of which is to expand irrigation in previously forested areas, has submerged and turned into agricultural land the habitat of seven endangered and two threatened animal species, the purple-faced langur and the toque macaque, both of which only occur on the island. One of the endangered species is the elephant, 800 of which lived in the project area. An important migratory route for the elephants has been cut off by reservoirs and canals, and the animals have now become a dangerous pest for the farmers who have been brought into the area, reducing the survival chances of the remaining animals.

It is often not just the forests within the reservoir area, around the dam site and transmission lines and in the areas slated to be converted to agriculture which are lost when a dam is built in a forested area. In many cases farmers displaced by a reservoir have had to clear forests further up the sides of the valley to grow their crops and build new homes. The access to previously remote areas allowed by new roads and reservoirs can also accelerate deforestation: every large dam which has been built in a forest area in Thailand has attracted loggers as well as developers who have built golf courses and resorts along the edges of reservoirs.

The number of fish species which thrive in the relatively uniform habitats created by reservoirs is only a tiny fraction of the number which have evolved in the diverse niches provided by rivers. Because few areas have economically valuable fish adapted to the still waters of an artificial lake, fishery departments across the world have introduced into reservoirs a handful of species — mainly types of tilapia and carp in the tropics and trout, bass and catfish in temperate regions — which can be reared in hatcheries and can support reservoir fisheries. These introductions, which compete with those native species which persist in the reservoir, and also spread far upstream and downstream of the dam, have greatly magnified the effects of dams and diversions in hastening the decline and extinction of fish species around the world.

As well as flooding and fragmenting some of the world's best wildlife habitats, reservoirs have also inundated some of the world most beautiful and spectacular river scenery. Probably the greatest loss of the planet's scenic heritage to a reservoir was the inundation of the spectacular Sete Quedas waterfall at Guáira on the Brazilian-Paraguayan border, now just a rock formation at the bottom of Itaipú Reservoir. At Guáira the mighty Paraná suddenly narrowed to a width of just 60 metres — less than a tenth as wide as the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara — and then thundered over 18 separate cataracts each more than 30 metres high. More water surged and boiled through the rocks and whirlpools of Sete Quedas than any other waterfall in the world — about half as much again as over both falls at Niagara combined. 'A more imposing spectacle can scarcely be conceived,' a 19th century French traveller wrote of Sete Quedas.

Read the next section of this chapter, Dams and Geology

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Destruction of the Ecosystem

By Tait Keller

This article examines the First World War's ecological impact and shows that protracted environmental transformations resulted more from expanded industrial modes of production than heavy combat. These developments accelerated 19th-century trends. Although battles marred the earth and pictures of devastated landscapes continue to reinforce standard narratives of environmental destruction, the frontlines recovered relatively quickly. Comparing the ecological damage along the Western Front with timber harvesting around the world, tin mining in Malaysia, oil production in Mexico, and wheat farming in the United States and Canada reveals the Great War's environmental legacy.

Table of Contents


While many contemporaries mourned the fate of blasted lands along the front lines, the natural world often remains a voiceless casualty of war in current scholarship. With ravaged farmlands, charred trees, and muddy quagmires as iconic images of the conflict, we have tended to take for granted the place and role of nature. History books typically regard the environment as the backdrop for battle or as collateral damage, if they consider the natural world at all. Such is the paradox of the environment in times of war: nature is both omnipresent and invisible. Yet only by taking the environment into account can we fully understand the trauma of the Great War and how this conflict shaped the most basic levels of human existence for years afterwards.

Nature bore the brunt of industrialized warfare. Familiar pictures of the Western Front tell the story. Scenes of utter devastation, ruined landscapes pitted and cracked with craters and trenches, quickly became a metaphor for the Great War's waste. Yet we must be careful with how we interpret contemporary descriptions of desolation. The war's impact on the land horrified university-educated soldiers groomed in the romantic appreciation for nature. But how appalling was this environment for those who had labored in mines, emptied brimming cesspools, bathed in polluted rivers, or slept in slums? Was the war's onslaught against nature so different from what industrialization had wrought in the years leading up to 1914? How then should we measure the war's ecological impact and define its "destruction" of the ecosystem? Examining environmental change across the globe shows that while battlegrounds endured the storms of steel, the resulting distortions of nature there were short-lived. Flora quickly recovered and fauna soon returned. Paradoxically, longer-term environmental transformations occurred behind the lines, away from the killing fields. Comparing the fate of the fighting fronts to timber harvesting around the world, tin mining in Malaysia, oil extraction in Mexico, and wheat farming in the United States and Canadareveals a far more complicated picture of the war's environmental legacy than what photographs ofNo Man's Land suggest.


Armies altered ecosystems on every fighting front. Warfare accelerated environmental change that had begun in the previous century. Soldiers in the east dined on European bison, nearly exterminating a keystone species in the great boreal forest of Białowieża. Royal hunting parties from Russia had culled the herds during the late 19th century and by 1914 the number of bison had shrunk to around 400 head. By 1918, starving troops had butchered what animals remained. The most pressing problem for men battling in Mesopotamia was not food, but water. Given the arid environment, this seems obvious. What might surprise us, however, was that soldiers complained not about a lack of water but an overabundance. Marshland and shallow ponds dotted the alluvial plains. During the spring, snowmelt in the Caucasus Mountains and the highlands of Asia Minor swelled the rivers and lakes below, which burst their banks and turned lower Mesopotamia into a morass. To prevent wholesale inundation, local civilians customarily piled heaps of loose dirt along the banks, but furious waters easily breached these earthworks. Combatants further altered the land with better-built trenches and protective dams, changing water flows and redirecting the course of rivers. Meanwhile, the mobilization of armies in the Alps intensified industrialization on the heights with the vast expansion of roads, railways, and trails. Construction took place on an unprecedented scale. To turn the peaks into functioning fortresses, engineers drilled and dug into the rock face to build army bases, set up electric stations, and establish high-altitude observation posts.[1]

Hostilities disrupted ecologies on battlefields everywhere, but nowhere was the concentration of forces so great as on the Western Front. Trenches ran from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier and the ensuing stalemate ensured ecological upheaval. Millions of soldiers and billions of shells transformed fields and forests within the relatively narrow war zone into a wasteland. Military strategy dictated devastation. Belgian troops flooded portions of the lowlands in the hopes of stalling the German advance during the Battle of Yser in 1914. As part of Operation Alberich, the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line (Siegfried Stellung) in 1917, orders called for scorched earth tactics so that "the enemy should find a desert" in the army's wake.[2] But large projectiles did the most damage. In the heat of battle, artillery units fired several hundred rounds an hour. Although their range rarely extended beyond twenty kilometers, the guns obliterated nearly everything within reach. Chemical weapons added to ecological turmoil. Chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gases asphyxiated animals and humans alike. The deformed landscape trapped the deadly vapors in shell holes and the seams of trenches. Burnt earth, rotting corpses, and craters like cauldrons with a horrid brew of mud, gore, and the green-yellow mists of stale gas struck the troops as the very image of hell.[3]

Literate, educated soldiers on both sides depicted the war-torn landscape through a common set of tropes. The French writer Henri Barbusse (1873-1935) and the German novelist Ernst Jünger (1895-1998) fought on the Western Front and witnessed the destruction first-hand. In his dispatches, Barbusse identified battlegrounds as "fields of sterility" where "frightful loads of dead and wounded men alter the shape of the plains" and "everything appears turned over...full of rottenness and smelling of disaster." "Where there are no dead," he observed, "the earth itself is corpselike."[4] Jünger repeatedly used the adjectives "dark," "ravaged," "dreary," "savage," "eerie," "barren," "devastated," and "hideously scarred," to describe his surroundings.[5] Other soldiers believed that the landscape had "lost its nature" and had turned into something artificial.[6]

These were not new sentiments. When Barbusse remarked that the sights and smells of the Western Front reminded him of a factory, he tapped into 19th-century critiques of industrial development.[7] Observers of industrialization's ills had spoken the same language. In his exposé of proletarian life, Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) portrayed working-class neighborhoods in terms that soldiers later applied to the trenches. Writing in the early 1840s, Engels saw squalor and ruin all around. "Filth and horrors" filled the rookeries in London and Manchester. "Disgusting blackish-green slime pools" flooded the alleys and deep mud covered the walkways. "Everything which here arouses horror and indignation is of recent origin," he concluded, "belongs to the industrial epoch."[8] Jünger echoed this point sixty years later when he labeled the war's "wanton destruction" as "something that is unhealthily bound up with the economic thinking of our age."[9] Concerned citizens expressed dismay over the new industrial landscape. Green parks were "rendered hideous by the blackness of everything within them – trees stunted, dying – flowers struggling to bloom, and sometimes their species barely recognizable," complained one Manchester resident in 1888. London's smoke turned the city's trees into "scorched, blackened, and encrusted with soot" skeletons.[10] Years later, soldiers and civilians described the devastated forests on the Western Front in precisely those terms.[11] By borrowing the idioms of previous generations, the war's chroniclers placed the conflict in line with industrial capitalism's environmental costs. Degradation on Western Front represented those developments in their most violent, concentrated form.

Industrialization in the 1800s shaped views of nature that later informed perceptions of environmental destruction during the war. When belching factories made western European countries into economic behemoths, but turned cities dark with soot and grime, social commentators invoked nature as the antithesis of dismal urban spaces. A particular image of an Arcadian landscape circulated among certain classes – a genuine, fecund place as opposed to the bleak metropolis. Propaganda machines later crafted enlistment campaigns around this romantic view of nature.[12] Soldiers transferred that idealization of nature to the Western Front. The historianGeorge Mosse (1918-1999) wrote that the war led to a "heightened awareness of nature."[13] But most soldiers coming down from university already had this appreciation. A more accurate generalization was that the war heightened the awareness of human impacts on the natural world, particularly among those who labored little in it.

In gauging the war as an ecological disaster, upper-class soldiers used the pastoral as their baseline for measuring the conflict's environmental impact.[14] From this standpoint, educated and literate combatants initially confronted the war with its palette of grays and browns, rather than the Arcadian hues of greens and blues. Only later did these soldiers begin using mechanical tropes and images from mines and factories to convey their experiences.[15] Yet pastoral shades still colored how they evaluated the magnitude of environmental destruction. Even so, if they idealized nature as "pristine" then they were mistaken. Forests and fields on the Western Front had been managed and cultivated for generations. The idea of untouched wilderness was a myth in the minds of romantically inclined soldiers.[16] Indeed, part of what made the Arcadian landscape so appealing was its human element.

Enlisted farmers and field hands held a different view of the natural world. Their rural obligations left little room for romantic musings. The pleasantries that university-educated soldiers attached to the natural world equated to toil and hardship for those who worked the land. Although rural soldiers bemoaned environmental devastation, they saw ravaged fields not as a loss of innocence but of livelihood. Ruined agriculture offered a fearful glimpse into what might befall farmlands back home.[17] Whatever meaning soldiers associated with environmental destruction, the common trope of a desolate pastoral left later generations with impressions of utter annihilation. Even recently the photojournalist and battlefield guide Michael St Maur Sheil observed that the trenches "were places where every living thing was killed."[18]

Only they were not. Views from the trenches offered vistas not only of ruin but also of nature's resilience. Writing in 1916, a British company commander saw beauty all around him:

Though the actual lines are stricken and blasted by eighteen months' human madness, yet everywhere else it is lovely, the woods, the fields of richest wheat, sprinkled with cornflower and poppy, scabious and charlock, vetch and clover...the glimpses of the river through the deep woodland green, Oh! Exquisite.[19]

Barbusse rejoiced in the "soft green awakening" that heralded spring. Across No Man's Land, Jünger noted how weeds and wildflowers wrapped themselves around the barbed wire, recognizing the "different type of a flora taking root in the fallow fields. Wild flowers of a sort that generally make only an occasional appearance in grain fields, dominate the scene." He awoke each morning to a choir of partridges and larks that thrived in this new shrub habitat. Most impressive to him was how untroubled the little songbirds were by the shelling. "They sat peaceably over the smoke in their battered boughs," he remembered, "in the short intervals of firing, we could hear them singing happily or ardently to one another, if anything even inspired or encouraged by the dreadful noise on all sides." Other soldiers gleefully (and hungrily) observed flocks of pheasants hiding in the tangled undergrowth, rabbits hopping from one shell hole to the next, or even shy moles making brief appearances. Some recalled eating ripe berries in the early summer, which tasted all the sweeter for the bullets whizzing through the air.[20]

The Western Front's environment exemplified contradiction. The landscape appeared simultaneously gruesome, scarred with splintered trees and churned-up meadows meddled with human gore, but also pleasant, covered in bright green grass and full of colorful flowers and thriving wildlife. For soldiers, the experience could be both jarring and comforting. The same was true for being on leave. In little time, troops found themselves transported away from the strains of battle to a leisurely country idyll. Jünger's time off-duty typified the delightful disconnection that many felt. He "strolled blissfully across the fields," where "nature seemed to be pleasantly intact...its almost excessive blooming was even more radiant and narcotic than usual." Here, his eyes "once more appreciated the beauty of the earth." While traveling back to the front he fixated on the "green, fertile, elevated beet fields and juicy pastures" that lined the road before reaching the "hideously scarred soil of Flanders."[21] Both landscapes felt the human touch. Indeed, agriculture was a much larger agent of environmental change than war. But carefully cultivated fields conformed to peaceful pastoral aesthetics, unlike the distorted nature of industrialized battlegrounds.

Perhaps the most shocking incongruity for soldiers was how quickly devastated lands appeared to recover after the war. In 1920, Corinna Haven Smith (1876-1965), an American humanitarian, toured the former front lines and assessed the damage done mostly to towns and factories, as well as farmland. Smith and her husband had volunteered with the Franco-American Committee for the Protection of Children of the Frontier during the war. They lived in Paris, provided aid to families, and often assisted Red Cross relief efforts; Smith was familiar with privation. At the request of one of her French contacts, she joined a team from the Bureau for the Reconstruction of Industry, visited over 200 factories, and published her findings later that year in Rising above the Ruins of France. She frequently noted how farmers had already begun plowing and planting the fields. Her interviews with locals revealed the rapid return to productivity:

In 1918, with a tremendous effort, 80 hectars were sown, mostly in grain, but, unfortunately, this crop was lost when the Germans retook the region during March. By January, 1919, we had only 4 hectars sown. 496 lay idle, but now, one year later, these figures have been almost reversed, only 50 hectars unsown while 450 have been cultivated.[22]

When driving on the Menin Road to Ypres, a track that the war-artist Paul Nash (1889-1946) had made famous with his surreal paintings of twisted landscapes, Smith remarked with surprise: "Is this the same plain? It does not seem possible. ...Men are working in the fields. ...Grass has grown over the shell holes and sheep and goats are grazing among abandoned tanks. ...Only the trees have kept their record of suffering." The profound transformation led her to conclude that "Nature seeming always to make an effort to cover the scars of battle as soon as possible."[23]

Some veterans found that nature acted too soon. During the 1920s, several veteran organizationscomplained to the French government that dense shrubbery prevented them from touring their former posts.[24] Writing in 1930, the British author and former army nurse, Vera Brittain (1893-1970), worried that "nature herself conspires with time to cheat our recollections; grass has grown over the shell holes at Ypres."[25]

The land's seemingly swift rehabilitation begs the question of just how destructive the war was on the ecosystem. A better approach is to examine the degree to which the Great War transformed the environment. From that perspective, changes along the Western Front were significant, but nature was not permanently damaged. Ecosystems evolve and change on their own. War often makes that change more drastic, sudden, and might direct natural succession in unexpected ways.

Combat on the Western Front altered the makeup of forests and the composition of soil. Immediately following the armistice, foresters took stock of timber reserves and detailed the amount of lumber lost to the war. Some estimates ranged as high as 2.5 billion board feet destroyed or consumed. With funds from German reparations, the French government soon instituted a reforestation program. Prior to 1914, the majority of forests along the Western Front were deciduous, comprising European Beech, European Hornbeam, European Oak, and English Oak. Authorities planted the obliterated sections with Austrian Pine and Scotch Pine seedlings, fast-growing coniferous species that tolerated nutrient-poor soil. Foresters later reintroduced European Beech. Still, what were once diverse forest ecosystems became near monoculture, which made the woods more susceptible to disease and pest. Managers had attempted to increase diversity, but the size and cost of the project stymied efforts.[26] In some areas, however, the foreign trees took over abandoned farmland, reclaiming territory for woodland creatures. Although a changed environment with a different character, forests returned to the war-torn regions.

Less visible were changes to soil composition. Natural events, such as earthquakes and windstorms, are typical sources of major soil disturbance. The advent of industrial warfare made combat a powerful agent of geomorphic change. The geographer Joseph Hupy has conducted extensive research around Verdun and has shown that the battle turned stable soil ecosystems into loose, unconsolidated sediment. The same pattern of upheaval exists all along the Western Front, where countless artillery craters have altered surface hydrology, water table characteristics, and soil development rates.[27]

To analyze the effects of warfare on soil, Hupy introduced the term "bombturbation," the mixing of soil by explosive munitions. He defines bombturbation as a category of pedoturbation, a term synonymous with soil mixing that geologists use. Unlike other forms of pedoturbation (for example: expanding clay, ice crystals, plant roots, badger burrows, or ant colonies), bombturbation penetrates far below the surface, sometimes to the bedrock, and causes soil horizons to be upset or mixed. When the bedrock was broken, organic matter accumulated in the cracks, complicating recovery by introducing humification and microbial activity to the seam. Deep breaches might expose shallow water tables, which indirectly impacted vegetation growth and reforestation. Cratering might also accelerate weathering, leaching, and erosion, particularly at the bottom of the basins. Shells used in the First World War were especially injurious because they detonated upon impact (unlike bombs in World War Two that used proximity timers) and therefore directed most of their blast downward into the ground. Tunneling and the use of mines also jumbled soil horizons. Explosions sent debris flying into the air and buried topsoil underneath layers of gravel ejecta. However, Hupy has found that over the years, industrious earthworms and other agents have assimilated those materials into the soil profile. Even today in sections where ordnance remains embedded in the earth and soils have developed along new pathways, flora and fauna thrive.[28]

Behind the Lines

The drama and destruction on the Western Front dominate the scholarship on the war, and have also shaped our view of the conflict's ecological impact. Combat did transform the natural world, but only within the limits of its reach. As we have seen, ecosystems, albeit altered, quickly regenerated along the front's relatively narrow swath. Today, only a trained eye might spot the spectral traces of trenches and battlements. But the war made itself felt in other ways and places besides artillery barrages in France and Belgium. Fighting forces were both social and biological entities, which depended on a "military ecology" of extraction, production, and supply. To keep armies in action, states commandeered natural resources throughout the biosphere, expanding the war's environmental footprint. The massive shift of natural resources to the war effort changed the land, transformed state infrastructure, and reoriented economies. Demand for raw materials led countries to control natural resources to an unparalleled degree. Government agencies now dictated the supply, price, and distribution of items such as timber, metal ore, fossil fuels, and food. These hybrid institutional frameworks fostered massive collusion between the government and private industry, setting an important precedent for subsequent wars.

The need for timber taxed forest reserves around the world. Armies relied on lumber in countless ways. Timber beams kept trenches from collapsing. Wood planks saved soldiers from wallowing or drowning in mud. Trees provided the basic building material for wharves where soldiers disembarked, warehouses for munitions, barracks, railroad ties, telephone poles, and key airplane parts. Pit timber for coalmines, fuel wood, and pulp for paper supplies also aided the war effort.[29]As a result, deforestation accelerated around the world, but in an uneven fashion. Ottoman forces leveled cedar forests in Lebanon. Before 1914, Britain imported most of its lumber from Scandinavia, Russia, and Canada. But when Germany's unrestricted U-boat campaign sank supply convoys, the British faced an acute timber crisis and cut down nearly half of their productive forests, over 450,000 acres.[30] British authorities also mobilized forest resources across the Empire, especially in India. Indian timber, however, usually served military needs in the Middle East. Attempts to import lumber from colonies in Africa yielded little, due in large part to the British system of indirect rule, but did put in place infrastructure for future extraction. Desperate requests from London, along with major capital investment, expanded logging operations in Western Canada, in spite of German submarines. The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 lowered the costs of imports from Vancouver. Soon British Columbia became Canada's leading timber exporter.[31]

French and German timber stands fared better because of long-standing, institutionalized forestry practices. Nearly 90 percent of France's forests lay outside the war zones. Moreover, with manpower diverted to the army, logging rates in those departments soon fell below pre-war levels. Only with the arrival of American forestry troops, the 10th Engineering and the 20th Engineering Corps, did forests in western France sustain heavy cutting.[32] Germans intensified timber harvesting, but did so in ways that caused little damage to the country's overall forest cover.[33]Instead, German forces chopped down trees in occupied territories, exacting 5 million cubic meters of wood from Lithuania, nearly 5 percent of the Białowieża Forest, for use back home. Troops did receive detailed instructions for obtaining lumber. They were to first use trees that had already fallen or were stripped of bark. The men were to cut areas in a "chessboard-like fashion" and avoid making large clear cuts. To avert erosion, directives warned not to remove trees along the banks of streams. Orders expressly forbade soldiers in the Alps from felling trees along the timberline, which was a protected zone. Since lumber should not be substituted for firewood, officers were expected to familiarize themselves with the trees in their sector and know the appropriate uses for each species. Timber experts traveled to the various "impact points" and provided assistance. Despite their efforts, troops on the frontlines leveled forests anyway to prevent ambush and have unobstructed lines of fires.[34]

Although the United States did not enter the war until 1917, American logging companies responded to rising lumber prices and massive government subsidies much earlier. Timber firms invested heavily in new technologies and equipment to meet European demand. Mechanized labor hastened vast clear cutting efforts that had begun in the 1880s. Forests were so expansive that logging companies showed little concern for protecting timber stands, investing in reforestation programs, or practicing selective cutting. Woodlands in the southeastern United States suffered the most. Sandy soil along the coast and red clay on the interior experienced heavy erosion. Only German submarines saved the landscape from even greater destruction. The high risks of trans-Atlantic shipping caused the total export sales of U.S. lumber products to plummet by over 60 percent during the war. Yet when the Americans did enter the conflict, outfitting and housing the new American Expeditionary Force alone required an estimated 600 million board feet of lumber. Billions of top-grade board feet also went into ship construction. But few vessels sailed across the Atlantic before the war's end.[35]

The war had transformed the global logging industry and established models of high-input, industrial timber extraction that defined the 20th century. Overcutting was also done selectively, targeting particular species for specific military needs. Reforestation programs further reduced biodiversity. Forest ecosystems felt the impacts of these developments well beyond 1918.

Tin was just as important for the war as timber. Machines and militaries used the metal so pervasively that most soldiers took it for granted. Because of its properties, tin was used as an anti-friction metal, Babbitt metal (the bearing material typically used on axles and crankshafts), and in white metal alloys. Its most extensive application, however, was in the manufacture of tinplate. Canning perishable goods for soldiers' meal kits depended on tinplate, 50 percent of which came from the Federated Malay States and the Dutch East Indies. The Malay Peninsula was the world's single largest tin producer. Between 1880 and 1905, export duties on tin alone comprised nearly half of the Federated States' total revenue. Chinese-owned mines produced the vast bulk of Malay's tin. In 1900, European mines contributed only 10 percent of the total tin output. Then during the first decade of the 20th century, tin operations shifted from the labor-intensive Chinese model of opencast mining to the industrialized European method of mining deep deposits.

As with armed combat and timber extraction, the Great War accelerated the industrialization of tin mining, which held severe repercussions for local ecosystems. European mines were the first to employ power-operated water pumps for hydraulic sluicing in 1892. To achieve strong enough water pressure to break down karang, tin-bearing earth, these mines were located on hillsides where streams at higher elevations would be dammed and the water piped to pits below. A second set of pipes suctioned the karang and water mixture up to the surface where the tin would be siphoned off and processed. The topographies of Perak, Selangor, and Negeri Sembilan, the leading tin-producing states, were particularly conducive to hydraulic mining. In 1912, Europeans introduced the dredge, large pontoons or barges that scooped up karang from the bottom of lakes or flooded basins. But the outbreak of war hindered the full deployment of these floating factories because the materials for building them were needed elsewhere, thus intensifying hydraulic mining.

Like other strategic commodities, the value of tin rose sharply during the war. Tin prices on the London market in 1916 were 43 percent higher than in 1911, leading to a massive expansion of Malay tin mining. Having lived in the shadow of Chinese mines for decades and eager to finally turn a profit, European mines expanded their operations. The increase in hydraulic sluicing caused widespread erosion that choked rivers with sand and clay runoff. Not only did extensive tin mining ruin key components of these local ecosystems, it created an artificial bubble in the tin market. Due to difficulty in transporting the metal to Europe, both the Federated Malay States and the Dutch East Indies accumulated large stocks that later caused a collapse of the tin price in the 1920s.[36]Warped economies and wrecked ecosystems ruined Malayan livelihoods and habitats.

A similar pattern of industrialization, ecological desolation, and social upheaval took shape along the Mexican Gulf Coast, home to some of the world's most productive oil fields at that time. The discovery of petroleum in the Huasteca during the early 1900s propelled Mexico to a position of immense strategic importance a decade later. Crude deposits became an issue of national security when navies began converting warships from coal-burning to oil-fired beginning around 1912. The progression of the war accentuated the prime importance of petroleum. Oil became indispensable. It propelled military innovation – tanks, airplanes, and submarines – and provided basic ingredients for TNT. Petroleum's emergence as the principal power source during the war provided the Entente with an energy advantage. Germany was a leading coal producer but eventually its shortage of oil immobilized its forces. The Ottomans lacked the infrastructure to tap into their crude holdings. Russia had been extracting oil around the Caspian Sea for decades, but its rail system proved insufficient and the distances too vast to meet its allies' demands. In 1914, the British governmentbecame a majority shareholder in the fledgling Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which had drilled the Iranian oilfields in the neighborhood of Shustar and piped petroleum over 140 miles to the Abadan Island refinery on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf. But Mexico and the United States still supplied more than 80 percent of the world's petroleum. As the leading oil exporters, they played a crucial role in the Entente's eventual victory.

Oil syndicates subjugated the Huasteca's environment. To drill for crude, companies removed the mangroves, flattened sand dunes, and drained swamps across thousands of acres. Deep pits to hold the petroleum disturbed the soil in ways that mimicked shelling on the Western Front. Oil extraction was messy. Numerous petroleum spills polluted the rainforest, rivers, and beaches with sludge. Ecological factors in Mexico made crude production especially dirty. Veracruz oil contained unusually high levels of hydrogen sulfides and had exceedingly high temperatures. Petroleum coming out of Texas and Louisiana measured around ninety degrees Fahrenheit; in Mexico it reached 150 degrees. Scalding gushers frequently scorched local ecosystems, often through terrifying blasts and uncontrollable conflagrations. The burn marks of one such colossal explosion in 1908 at San Diego de la Mar, known locally as Dos Bocas, are still visible today. A geologist toured the area in 1913 and reported what he saw:

What had been lush monte was now a gaunt specter of dead trees. The air stunk with the smell of rotten eggs. There was no sign or sound of animal, bird, or insect life. Nothing stirred in the breeze. The silence was appalling. It was eerie and frightening. ...It smelled and looked like I imagined hell might look and smell.[37]

He might well have been writing from the Western Front; his portrayal of Dos Bocas anticipated how most soldiers described No Man's Land. In 1929, a journalist from Tampico retraced the geologist's steps. Little had changed:

Everything is charred, ashen in foliage on the trees, no birds in the sky. ...All the trees have been robbed of their greenery, burned, and seem to raise up to the heavens, with anguishing contortions, their bare and gray branches.[38]

Here the differences are telling. By the end of the 1920s, battered lands in the European war zone had largely regenerated. But in the Huasteca, environmental damage lasted for decades, even after Mexico fell from the list of the world's top oil producers. Moreover, ecological degradation upset land tenure systems and intensified labor disputes, which contributed to the Mexican Revolution.

Political conditions north of the Rio Grande River were comparatively peaceful, but the ecological situation was becoming increasingly unstable. As with mechanized clear cutting in the southeastern region of the United States, industrial agriculture on the prairies in the United States and Canada increased soil erosion. On the eve of war, the Russian Empire was the largest producer and exporter of wheat, the mainstay carbohydrate for most Europeans. When the Ottomans joined the war against Russia, they blocked grain supplies from reaching Western Europe. The Entente turned to the United States and Canada as the breadbaskets to prevent starvation. Economic incentives for expanding cultivation were abundant. The U.S. government guaranteed wheat prices of over two dollars a bushel for the duration of the war. By 1919, the price of American wheat was more than twice its 1914 level.[39] Adequate rainfall, soaring wheat prices, and bountiful harvests created bonanza farms in the United States where optimistic farmers borrowed heavily, often through second mortgages, to break sod on marginal lands and reap profits. In 1915, growers harvested wheat from 60 million acres. That number jumped to 74 million acres in 1919, a 38 percent increase over the 1909-1913 period. But those numbers are deceptively conservative. In some counties, wheat acreages expanded by 200 percent, 400 percent, or in some cases 1000 percent.[40]

All belligerent societies attempted to increase agricultural output. Both sides faced dilemmas of feeding troops and civilians, along with countless beasts of burden. Food security was a defining feature of the war. Government agencies in Europe and the United States instituted campaigns of home gardening and conservation on the home front. Desperate to compensate for poor domestic harvests and food imports lost to the British blockade, Germans plowed up churchyards, school grounds, forest glades, and even beloved soccer fields. Officials provided incentives for turning over private property to communal cultivation. On the other side of the Atlantic, Charles Lathrop Pack (1857-1937), president of the National War Garden Commission in the United States, approached food production with a single-minded sense of urgency. To supplement domestic stocks depleted by European demands, he championed the virtues of small-scale farming and home food production. "Let us plant gardens as never before," he declared, "and grow munitions at home to help win the war."[41] His organization published numerous pamphlets with advice and instructions for amateur gardeners that always emphasized gardening as a national necessity. Pack encouraged the cultivation of gardens on "every inch" of tillable land, including backyards, vacant lots, city parks, company land, school grounds, and army camps. By 1917, the Commission reported the cultivation of nearly 3 million gardens, which provided more than 500 million dollars in crop value. When the United States entered the war in 1918, hoeing at home increased. By the end of the war over 25 percent of households had what were popularly called "war gardens." Meanwhile, rather than enforce food rationing like countries in Europe, head U.S. Food Administrator Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) encouraged citizens to eat less with the slogan: "Food Will Win the War." He called upon patriotic Americans to participate in "Meatless Mondays" and "Wheatless Wednesdays," which resulted in a 15 percent reduction in domestic food consumption.[42] Even as the war expanded patterns of exploitation, it also set standards for conservation. Overall, "war gardens" encouraged communal cooperation, consuming local produce, and preserving surplus goods.

Still, the ecological and economic consequences of widespread cultivation were severe. Agrarian policies generally favored the consumers, not the producers, and often resulted in over-exploited soil. Starvation conditions among the Central Powers, especially Germany, led to the systematic uprooting of trees, bushes and hedges for more farms, reducing biodiversity and increasing ecological imbalances.[43] Industrial farming on the semi-arid prairies in North America reaped catastrophe. Wheat farmers plowed close to 6 million hectares across the wide flatlands, which were especially suited for gas-driven tractors, plows, and combines. Eager to turn a profit, farmers employed the one-way disc plow, which could quickly break the soil and uproot weeds. With its spinning blades, the plow pulverized the dirt and left a layer of loose sediment over the ground, inviting wind erosion and dust bowls in the following decades.[44]

After the armistice, Charles Lathrop Pack announced: "America's responsibility for the world's food supply did not stop with the ending of the war. ...In peace, as in conflict," he asserted, "this country must carry the burden of Europe's food problems."[45] But within a few years, Europe's agricultural yields approached their pre-war levels. That the fields recovered much faster than expected distorted agricultural commodities markets. In the United States, grain prices plummeted over 50 percent between 1920 and 1921, creating serious liquidity problems for indebted farmers. Foreclosure rates reached record highs. The combination of drought and the evaporation of European demand for American produce in the 1920s left hundreds of thousands destitute.[46] Even within the context of Europe's ecological rehabilitation, human suffering and environmental degradation elsewhere continued.


In 1917, Kurt Lewin (1890-1947), a German psychologist and artillery officer, penned an article while recovering from his war wounds. Titled, "War Landscape," and later published in the Journal for Applied Psychology, the article discussed the mental topography of armed conflict and analyzed the difference between a "war landscape" and a "peace landscape" in soldiers' minds.[47]Peacetime landscapes appeared boundless, extending out as far as the eye can see. War landscapes, on the other hand, were contained, bordered by violence and danger. Terrain acquired new meanings in theaters of combat. From a psychological standpoint, Lewin's analysis seemed fitting enough, particular given our contemporary understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder, what doctors in the First World War called "shell shock." But from an environmental perspective, his dichotomy is false; the borders between "war landscapes" and "peace landscapes" overlapped or disappeared entirely. An examination of the Great War's ecological legacy reveals that the distinction between modern war and modern industry had, in many ways, faded. Transformations to the natural world occurred in places outside the combat zones. People far from the fighting felt the war in their everyday lives through its long environmental reach.

The select environmental transformations discussed in this article illustrate changes to ecosystems around the world. These local developments indicated broader patterns that defined the 20thcentury. In each instance the war accelerated trends that began with industrialization in the 19thcentury. While the war's concentrated industrial destruction obliterated battlegrounds, natural processes repaired the damaged lands. Far more detrimental to ecosystems and more pervasive than combat was the spread of industrial methods and mentalities of production that hindered natural processes, upset local ecological balances, and increased human exploitation the world over. The conflict's lasting ecological footprint reveals the hidden costs of war, in terms of both ongoing environmental degradation and human trauma. From this we see that the Great War ushered in a century whose magnitude of environmental change matched its terrible violence.

Tait Keller, Rhodes College

Section Editors: Michael Neiberg; Sophie De Schaepdrijver


  1. Schama, Simon: Landscape and Memory, New York 1995, pp. 65f; Moberly, F. J.: The Campaign in Mesopotamia. 1914-1918, volume I, London 1923, p. 14; Keller, Tait: The Mountains Roar. The Alps during the Great War, in: Environmental History 14/2 (2009), pp. 253-74. Altered battlefield environments also created ideal incubators for disease, including: malaria, influenza, cholera, typhus, dysentery, and smallpox, among others. The discussion of disease and war lies outside the scope of this essay but for more on the topic see: Byerly, Carol R.: Fever of War. The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I, New York 2005; Özdemir, Hikmet: The Ottoman Army 1914-1918. Disease and Death on the Battlefield, trans. Saban Kardaş, Salt Lake City 2008.

  2. Geyer, Michael: Rückzug und Zerstörung 1917, in: Hirschfeld, Gerhard/Krumeich, Gerd/Renz, Irina (eds.): Die Deutschen an der Somme 1914-1918. Krieg, Besatzung, Verbrannte Erde, Essen 2006, p. 173.

  3. For an excellent essay on the trench environment see: Brantz, Dorothee: Environments of Death. Trench Warfare and the Western Front, 1914-1918, in: Closmann, Charles E. (ed.): War and the Environment: Military Destruction in the Modern Age, College Station 2009. For more on the development of chemical weapons see: Russell, Edmund: War and Nature. Fighting Humans and Insects with Chemicals from World War I to Silent Spring, New York 2001.

  4. Barbusse, Henri: Under Fire, trans. Robin Buss, New York 2003, pp. 5, 7, 138, 248.

  5. Jünger, Ernst: Storm of Steel, trans. Michael Hofmann, New York 2003.

  6. For an excellent analysis of French soldiers' impressions see: Pearson, Chris: Mobilizing Nature. The Environmental History of War and Militarization in Modern France, New York 2012.

  7. Barbusse, Under Fire 2003, p. 13.

  8. Engels, Friedrich: The Condition of the Working Class in England, New York 1987, pp. 89-93.

  9. Jünger, Storm of Steel 2003, p. 128.

  10. Holland, Robert: Air Pollution as Affecting Plant Life, Manchester 1888; Webster, A. D.: Town Planting and the Trees, Shrubs, Herbaceous and Other Plants that are Best Adapted for Resisting Smoke, London 1910, cited in: Thorsheim, Peter: Inventing Pollution. Coal, Smoke, and Culture in Britain since 1800, Athens 2006, pp. 34f.

  11. Jünger, Storm of Steel 2003, p. 175; Barbusse, Under Fire 2003, p. 135; Smith, Corinna Haven/Hill, Caroline R.: Rising Above the Ruins in France. An Account of the Progress Made Since the Armistice in the Devastated Regions in Re-establishing Industrial Activities and Normal Life of the People, New York 1920, pp. 17f.

  12. Mosse, George: Fallen Soldiers. Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars, New York 1990, p. 109.

  13. Mosse, Fallen Soldiers 1990, p. 107.

  14. Fussell, Paul: The Great War and Modern Memory, New York 2000, pp. 231, 235.

  15. Showalter, Dennis: Mass Warfare and the Impact of Technology, in: Chickering, Roger/Förster, Stig (eds.): Great War, Total War: Combat and Mobilization on the Western Front, 1914-1918, New York 2000, p. 87.

  16. For more on the issue of wilderness see: Cronon, William: The Trouble with Wilderness. Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature, Environmental History 1 (1996), pp. 7-28.

  17. For more on the mentalities of soldiers from agrarian backgrounds see: Ziemann, Benjamin: War Experiences in Rural Germany, 1914-1918, trans. Alex Skinner, New York 2007.

  18. All Quiet on the Western Front. WWI Hell as it is Today, in: The Sun, 9 November 2011.

  19. In Fields Sown with Tragedy. Flanders and Picardy, in: The Sunday Times, 12 November 1989.

  20. Jünger, Storm of Steel 2003, pp. 27f, 41.

  21. Jünger, Storm of Steel 2003, pp. 139, 143, 158, 175.

  22. Smith/Hill, Rising Above the Ruins 1920, pp. 57f.

  23. Smith/Hill, Rising Above the Ruins 1920, pp. 141, 73f.

  24. Hupy, Joseph P.: The Long-term Effects of Explosive Munitions on the WWI Battlefield Surface of Verdun, France, in: Scottish Geographical Journal (2006), pp. 172.

  25. Mosse, Fallen Soldiers 1990, p. 112.

  26. Hupy, Long-term Effects 2006, p. 170; see also: Hupy, Joseph P.: Verdun, France. Examining the Effects of Warfare on the Natural Landscape, in: Palka, Eugene J./Galgano, Francis A. (eds.): Military Geography. From Peace to War, New York 2005, pp. 457, 462, 467; Tallier, Pierre-Alain: La Reconstitution du Patrimoine Forestier Belge après 1918, in: Corvol, Andrée/Amat, Jean-Paul (eds.): Forêt et Guerre, Paris 1994, pp. 215-25. Similar issues plagued reforestation efforts in the Alps. See: Armiero, Marco: A Rugged Nation. Mountains and the Making of Modern Italy, Cambridge 2011, pp. 100-106.

  27. Hupy, Joseph P.: The Environmental Footprint of War, in: Environment and History 14 (2008), p. 413; see also: Hupy, Joseph P./Schaetzl, Randall J.: Soil Development on the WWI Battlefield of Verdun, France, in: Geoderma 145 (2008), p. 47.

  28. For a detailed discussion of Bombturbation, see Hupy, Joseph P./Schaetzl, Randall J.: Introducing 'Bombturbation,' a Singular Type of Soil Disturbance and Mixing, in: Soil Science 171 (2006), pp. 823-36. For more on current efforts to remove unexploded shells from the former battlegrounds see: Webster, Donovan: Aftermath. The Remnants of War, New York 1996, pp. 11-80.

  29. Moore, Barrington: French Forests in the War, in: American Forestry 25 (1919), p. 1113. For a broader discussion of forestry and warfare see: Corvol/Amat, Forêt et Guerre 1994; see also: McNeill, John: Woods and Warfare in World History, in: Environmental History 9/3 (2004), pp. 388-410.

  30. West, A. Joshua: Forests and National Security. British and American Forestry Policy in the Wake of World War I, in: Environmental History 8 (2003), p. 271.

  31. Tucker, Richard: The World Wars and the Globalization of Timber Cutting, in: Tucker, Richard P. / Russell, Edmund (eds.): Natural Enemy, Natural Ally. Toward an Environmental History of War, Corvallis 2004, pp. 115ff; see also: West, Forests and National Security 2003, pp. 274-78.

  32. Tucker, World Wars 2004, pp. 113f; West, Forests and National Security 2003, pp. 280ff.

  33. For details on Germany's forest reserves see: HStADr 10736 Folder 7396 Heereslieferungen und Arbeitsbeschaffung in der sächsischen Holzindusrtrie, 1915; see also: BAMA RH 61/1185 Die Holzbewirtschaftung während des Krieges.

  34. Österreichisches Staatsarchiv- Kriegsarchiv AdTK 1931 Detusche Grp. + Kps 28.8.1915; McNeill, John R.: Woods and Warfare, in: Environmental History 9 (2004), p. 399.

  35. Fickle, James E.: Defense Mobilization in the Southern Pine Industry. The Experience of World War I, in: Journal of Forest History 22 (1978), pp. 206-23; Tucker, World Wars 2004, pp. 117ff; West, Forests and National Security 2003, p. 280. See also: Black, Jean Blashfield: Wood at War, in: Wood and Wood Products 100 (1995), pp. 204-16.

  36. For a full account of the history of tin mining in Malaysia, see: Hoong, Yip Yat: The Development of the Tin Mining Industry of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur 1969.

  37. Santiago, Myrna: The Ecology of Oil. Environment, Labor, and the Mexican Revolution, 1900-1938, New York 2006, p. 139.

  38. Santiago, Ecology of Oil 2006, p. 140.

  39. Worster, Donald: Dust Bowl. The Southern Plains in the 1930s, New York 2004, p. 89.

  40. Phillips, Sarah: Lessons from the Dust Bowl. Dryland Agriculture and Soil Erosion in the United States and South Africa, 1900-1950, in: Environmental History 4 (1999), p. 255.

  41. "Grow War Munitions at Home for 1918," and "In the Furrows of Freedom," published by the National War Garden Commission.

  42. "Grow War Munitions at Home for 1918," and "In the Furrows of Freedom," published by the National War Garden Commission; see also: Gowdy-Wygant, Celia: Cultivating Victory. The Women's Land Army and the Victory Garden Movement, Pittsburgh 2013, p. 87. Avner Offer discusses the economics of agriculture during the war in his study: Offer, Avner: The First World War. And Agrarian Interpretation, New York 1989.

  43. See: Chickering, Roger: The Great War and Urban Life in Germany. Freiburg, 1914-1918, New York 2007, pp. 165-188.

  44. Worster, Dust Bowl 2004, pp. 89f; Phillips, Lessons from the Dust Bowl 1999, pp. 255f; McNeill, John: Something New Under the Sun. An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World, New York 2000, p. 80.

  45. "War Gardening and Home Storage of Vegetables, Victory Edition 1919," published by the National War Garden Commission.

  46. Smiley, Gene: Rethinking the Great Depression, Chicago 2002, pp. 7f; Atack, Jeremy/Passell, Peter: A New Economic View of American History from Colonial Times to 1940, New York 1994, pp. 574ff; see also: Alston, Lee J.: Farm Foreclosures in the United States during the Interwar Period, in: The Journal of Economic History 43 (1983), pp. 885-903.

  47. Lewin, Kurt: Kriegslandschaft, in: Zeitschrift für Angewandte Psychologie 12 (1917), pp. 440-47. See also: Nübel, Christoph: Das Niemandsland als Grenze. Raumerfahrungen an der Westfront im Ersten Weltkrieg, in: Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 2 (2008), pp. 41-52.

Selected Bibliography

  1. Closmann, Charles Edwin (ed.): War and the environment: military destruction in the modern age, College Station 2009: Texas A&M University Press.

  2. Clout, Hugh: After the ruins: restoring the countryside of Northern France after the Great War, Exeter 1996: University of Exeter Press.

  3. Fickle, James E.: Defense Mobilization in the southern pine industry: the experience of World War I, in: Journal of Forest History 22/4, 1978, pp. 206-223, doi:10.2307/4004461.

  4. Folco, John di: Terrain landscapes of the Great War, in: History of Photography 28, 2004, pp. 261-264.

  5. Gowdy-Wygant, Cecilia: Cultivating victory: the Women's land army and the Victory Garden movement, Pittsburgh 2013: University of Pittsburgh Press.

  6. Hupy, Joseph: The long-term effects of explosive munitions on the WWI battlefield surface of Verdun, France, in: Scottish Geographical Journal 122/3, 2006, pp. 167-186.

  7. Jensen, W. G: The importance of energy in the First and Second World Wars, in: The Historical Journal 11/03, 1968, pp. 538-554.

  8. Keller, T.: The mountains roar: The Alps during the Great War, in: Environmental History 14/2, 2009, pp. 253-274.

  9. McNeill, J. R.: Woods and warfare in world history, in: Environmental History 9/3, 2004, pp. 388-410.

  10. Offer, Avner: The First World War: an agrarian interpretation, Oxford; New York 1989: Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press.

  11. Pearson, Chris: Mobilizing nature: the environmental history of war and militarization in modern France, Manchester 2012: Manchester University Press.

  12. Russell, Edmund: War and nature: fighting humans and insects with chemicals from World War I to Silent Spring, Cambridge; New York 2001: Cambridge University Press.

  13. Smith, Corinna Haven / Hill, Caroline R.: Rising above the ruins in France: an account of the progress made since the Armistice in the devastated regions in re-establishing industrial activities and the normal life of the people, New York; London 1920: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

  14. Storey, William Kelleher: The First World War: a concise global history (2 ed.), Lanham 2014: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

  15. Tucker, Richard P.: Natural enemy, natural ally: toward an environmental history of war, Corvallis 2004: Oregon State University Press.

  16. Webster, Donovan: Aftermath: the remnants of war, New York 1996: Pantheon.

  17. West, A. Joshua: Forests and National Security: British and American Forestry Policy in the Wake of World War I, in: Environmental History 8/2, 2003, pp. 270-293.

Article Last Modified

21 September 2015


Keller, Tait: Destruction of the Ecosystem, in: 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson, issued by Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin 2014-10-08. DOI:


© 2014 This text is licensed under: CC by-NC-ND 3.0 Germany - Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivative Works.

Aquatic Ecosystems

Destruction of Aquatic Ecosystems

As aquatic habitats are destroyed bit by bit, countless creatures and plants disappear.  Crystalline bodies of water that furnished ample water to wildlife and people alike only a few centuries ago have become polluted or dried up. Growing human populations and development consume millions of acres of ecologically important coastal marshes and mangrove swamps to make way for airports, urban development, seaports, shrimp farms and resorts.  More subtle changes are occurring from ozone depletion, acid rain and global warming caused by chemical pollutants in the atmosphere.  These may end in far-reaching ecological changes and extinctions that are only beginning to be chronicled.

Less than 3 percent of the Earth's water is fresh, and two-thirds of it is frozen in glaciers and ice caps.  The remaining 0.5 percent is contained in aquifers, rivers, marshes, other wetlands and in the atmosphere (Barlow 1999).   Global population growth is expected to outpace freshwater supplies by 56 percent by 2025 unless patterns of use change radically (Barlow 1999).  Water use has grown at more than twice the rate of population increase in the 20th century, according to the United Nations (Barlow 1999).  Almost 70 percent of the world's population lives in areas bordering bodies of water such as rivers, coastlines and lakes, where civilizations have traditionally arisen (Dugan 1993).  The United Nations reports some 80 countries, 40 percent of the world's population, are already facing water shortages (Lewis 1996).  At least 20 percent of the world's peoples do not have clean water for drinking, according to a 1997 conference of Earth Summit Plus (Grossfeld 1997).  Cities have been increasing in size, and the United Nations predicts that within a decade, most of the world's peoples will live in cities for the first time in the human history.  Currently, 2.6 billion people live in urban areas; this total is expected to rise to 3.3 billion by 2005 (Lynch 1996).  By 2025, 5 billion people, or almost all people now living on Earth, are expected to be city-dwellers, the vast majority in poor countries without effective pollution control or sufficient water supply, by UN estimates.

The United Nations believes that by 2025, the world's population will number 8.3 billion, with two-thirds living in conditions of serious water shortage and one-third suffering from severe water scarcity (Barlow 1999).  Growing urban populations require more and more fresh water.  Rivers and lakes have been dammed, diverted and channeled to supply these cities, often with disastrous consequences for wildlife.  Since all portions of a river are part of the same ecosystem, when it is dammed or altered, the river and its wildlife and plants are affected throughout its length, which may extend over 1,000 miles.  Wetlands at the mouth of a river can be drained by the construction of a dam hundreds of miles inland.  Likewise, channeling at the mouth of a river, increasing flow for ship navigation, can drain wetlands and alter flow for the entire length of the river, eliminating native wildlife and plants.  The Missouri River, for example, was once a shallow, sandy-bottomed river lined with trees and swamps.  When Lewis and Clark explored the region in the early 19th century, they saw great numbers of sturgeon, trout and other fish, aquatic mammals, and vast flocks of cranes, waterfowl and shorebirds.  During the 20th century, multiple dams were built, and the river was channeled to accommodate ship traffic, radically altering the Missouri's ecosystem.  The shallow-water feeding grounds for birds were drowned, and migratory sturgeon and trout found their routes blocked, endangering many species.  After much opposition from barge operators and farmers, Congress funded a program in October 2000 to partially restore the flow to accommodate the needs of native wildlife by altering water releases from dams for a few months each year.  Many conservationists are working to save even more of this original ecosystem.

Underground aquifers contain water that has been accumulating for thousands of years.  Only in recent decades have they been exploited, and many are being over-pumped for city water supplies or agriculture.   The High Plains Ogallala aquifer in the Great Plains of the United States stretches from South Dakota to Texas; pumping is depleting it eight times faster than it can be replenished naturally (Barlow 1999).  This story is being repeated around the world, especially in desert regions such as North Africa, northern China and the Saudi Arabian peninsula, where fossil aquifers are being over-pumped for agriculture, industry and household use (Barlow 1999).  This is resulting in their gradual depletion, contributing to a future "water bankruptcy" (Barlow 1999).  Countries in arid regions are already competing for scarce water supplies.  The Euphrates River has been dammed by Turkey, turning its flow to a trickle by the time it reaches Iraq.  The latter country has become increasingly arid over the past few thousand years as grassland and bountiful water supplies deteriorated to desert as a result of over-use of water and drainage of wetlands.  

Trade treaties, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed between the United States, Canada and Mexico and the World Trade Organization (WTO), whose members include the majority of countries, override national water rights, assigning them to corporations and other commercial interests.  Water is now being bought and sold as a commodity.  One large company, the US Global Water Corporation, has signed an agreement with Sitka, Alaska, to transport 18 billion gallons of glacier water per year to China, where it will be bottled and sold (Barlow 1999).  A California company was denied the ability to purchase water from British Columbia and, under the principles of NAFTA, sued the government of Canada for $220 million (Barlow 1999). Environmental and species preservation are not considered in these global transactions.  By treating water as a commodity to be traded to the highest bidder, ecosystems will be devastated.  The International Forum on Globalization of San Francisco outlines many of these issues that point toward future catastrophes for the environment and human society alike in its report, Blue Gold.  It concludes that only if water is considered to be commonly shared by humans and all species, and water diversion, damming, pollution, sale and bartering are halted, can there be hope for the future (Barlow 1999).

In the United States, only the onset of droughts brings about restrictions on water usage.  Agriculture and livestock use an estimated 65 percent of the country's water supplies, households 10 percent and industry 25 percent.  Much of the water used for agriculture comes from diverted rivers in irrigation programs which return it to water tables contaminated with large amounts of pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers.  An American family of four uses 300 gallons a day, far more than the average in most of the rest of the world.  This profligacy has been at the expense of natural ecosystems.  As human populations grow, water use will result in ever more strain on water supplies.  Cities have sprung up in near-desert regions in the United States, requiring water diversion from other areas.  One of the most dramatic examples of this is Los Angeles.  The major flows from several rivers and lakes have been diverted to supply the needs of Los Angeles (Reisner 1986). Only with artificial water supplies has this city been able to grow to metropolis size.  Its denizens waste their water supply to grow green lawns, and an enormous amount is used by local industry and agriculture. Los Angeles' water has been supplied at the expense of wildlife and plant species native to the diverted and drained water bodies, many of which are now endangered (Reisner 1986).  Salmon and other fish have become endangered in the source rivers and lakes used to supply Los Angeles.  Las Vegas, Phoenix and other western cities also tap the scarce water resources of the West. The diversion of water from natural rivers and lakes for large cities and massive agriculture projects is destroying aquatic oases in dry areas and drying up entire rivers in deserts, endangering species as diverse as tortoises, Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and songbirds.

  Half of the people in developing countries suffer from illnesses associated with contaminated water, such as chronic diarrhea (Grossfeld 1997), and more than 5 million people, most of them children, die every year from these illnesses (Barlow 1999).  Conflicts over water resources between countries and states are increasing, and in the future, wars may be fought over dwindling water supplies.

  Although marshes are able to filter limited amounts of nutrient-laden water, raw, untreated sewage dumped into waterways can turn them into fetid, oxygenless mires.  Ninety percent of the sewage in the swelling cities of poor countries is untreated, having had none of the solid matter removed, according to the World Resources Institute in Washington, DC.  Some rivers, such as the Ganges and Brahmaputra River systems, are so polluted that the native dolphin, the endangered Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica), struggles to survive in the contaminated water.  Fish are killed by the pollution, leaving the dolphins without food, and the high bacteria counts may be killing these dolphins directly.  The Ganges has become so sewage-laden that it presents major health risks to the people who drink from and bathe in its water.  This is especially ironic because this river is a holy river to the millions of Hindus who come to anoint themselves in its water.   India has more than 3,000 towns and cities, but only eight of these have sewage treatment plants (Crossette 1996).  Even sewage treatment systems can overflow during heavy rains, spilling toxic chemicals and oily runoff from roads, as well as untreated sewage.  Since almost half of the world's population lives in cities, this is one of the world's most serious environmental problems.

The failure to conserve forests and vegetation has become a major factor in destroying natural aquatic ecosystems around the world.  Besides causing mud slides and floods, the cutting of trees bordering rivers and streams also results in a rise in water temperature that affects the local climate and kills fish eggs and other wildlife.  Clear-cut logging also causes siltation of rivers and lakes, smothering fish and wildlife.  Salamanders, who require damp, undisturbed forest floors, are often eliminated by clear-cut logging.  James Petranka of the University of North Carolina estimates that in the national forests of North Carolina, 14 million salamanders are wiped out every year by clear-cutting (Stolzenburg 1997). Extreme deforestation causes streams, springs, ponds and rivers to dry up and the regional climate to become more arid.


Oceans were once thought resilient to heavy pollution and the dumping of all types of debris.  We are learning, however, that the combined effects of overfishing, killing of coral reefs and toxic contamination are turning them into aquatic deserts, according to Dr. Sylvia Earle, an eminent oceanographic scientist, and conservationist-author, Carl Safina (Earle and Henry 1999, Safina 1997).  The oceans have also become crowded with commercial ships, fishing boats and pleasure craft, all of which are causing problems for wildlife.  These ships discard plastics and other material and pose a threat of collision.  Several cruise lines have been indicted and fined in recent years for dumping illegal materials overboard, including plastics, large amounts of waste oil and other toxic substances.

  Coral reefs have proven very delicate and vulnerable to die-offs.  Pollution, overfishing, cyanide poisoning and dynamiting to obtain tropical fish for the aquarium and Asian restaurant trades, or corals for the curio trade have all contributed to severe losses in the 70 million square miles of coral reef around the world.  

Natural, unpolluted aquatic environments are fast disappearing around the world.  Approximately 50 percent of the world's wetlands have been lost in historic times, according to Wetlands in Danger: A World Conservation Atlas (Dugan 1993).  In the past, wetlands were destroyed primarily for agricultural development.  Although this remains a major threat, programs such as dam construction and irrigation projects financed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are becoming the major threat to pristine aquatic environments around the world.  Unfortunately, the effects of these losses are usually appreciated too late, when species disappear and water ecologies are damaged.

Soils in many dryland areas have become polluted by salinization caused by irrigation schemes.  Irrigation water flowing onto drylands brings to the surface substratum minerals and salts, which render the soil unfit for agriculture or almost any natural vegetation.  Regions covering at least 150,000 square miles worldwide have become too saline to farm after irrigation programs (Dugan 1993).

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