Wednesday, March 18, 2009

World Water Day 2009: Transborder water

Cr!key Creek, via All My Faults are Stress Related has invited bloggers to post about water basins and aquifers that cross political boundaries for World Water Day (March 22).

Quoting Cr!key Creek:
There are hundreds of water basins and aquifers that straddle our political boundaries, at both international and national levels. Neighbours stick their own straws into the same glass. This has historically led to both conflict and cooperation.

"Over the last 60 years there have been more than 200 international water agreements and only 37 cases of reported violence between states over water."

In the spirit of World Water Day, and in an effort to contribute towards transboundary cooperation, I propose that all us waterbloggers (and other bloggers too!) dedicate one or more of our posts that day or beforehand specifically to transboundary water issues. What's more, I further invite you to email your posts' URLs to me at crikeycreek/gmail/com once they're up so I may link to all of them from one central location, and thus provide an archive of the collaboration.
The UN website has this to say:
The world’s 263 transboundary lake and river basins include the territory of 145 countries and cover nearly half of the Earth’s land surface. Great reservoirs of freshwater also move silently below our borders in underground aquifers.

With every country seeking to satisfy its water needs from limited water resources, some foresee a future filled with conflict. But history shows that cooperation, not conflict, is the most common response to transboundary water management issues.

© World BankOver the last 60 years there have been more than 200 international water agreements and only 37 cases of reported violence between states over water. We need to continue to nurture the opportunities for cooperation that transboundary water management can provide.

We share the responsibility for managing the world’s transboundary waters for current and future generations.
Gwynne Dyer is not so optimistic that cooperation with continue to be the norm.

Shared water is a big deal everywhere. We Canadians, especially from around the Great Lakes, constantly hear rumours of American plans to to try to pump or move Great Lake water to the southern Midwest, as their underground aquifers are drying up, leaving farmers with nought but sinkholes.

Here, president LMB's canal system could be jeopardized... ah, I'll leave that dead horse alone.

Here in South Korea, two-thirds of the Imjin River basin is in North Korea. A September, 2008, article in the Korea Times describes the effects a dam the North Koreans are building across the river.
``If [the imjin River] dam is completed, the amount of water flowing into the Imjin River in the South is expected to decrease,'' Kim said.

Beside the decreased water flow, Rep. Kim said water quality has worsened and flood control is at risk.

Kim urged K-Water to take adequate measures to secure the water supply.

The lawmaker also asked the government to sit down with their North Korean counterparts to discuss mutually beneficial use of water resources.

``The water resource issue should be addressed through inter-Korean dialogue,'' he said.

The lawmaker said the government should quickly complete the ongoing construction of the Peace Dam near the North Han River, which is designed for flood control in Gunnam, Gyeonggi Province.

Kim's conclusions are based on a dam, completed 2003, on the North Han River: A Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-Water) report found that the amount of water reaching the Hwacheon Dam in the South has decreased by 43 percent following the completion of the Imnam Dam.

Finally:
``The water resource issue should be addressed through inter-Korean dialogue,'' he said.

The lawmaker said the government should quickly complete the ongoing construction of the Peace Dam near the North Han River, which is designed for flood control in Gunnam, Gyeonggi Province.

Flood control is also an important issue in Flood Runoff Simulation Using Physical Based Distributed Model for Imjin River Basin. In this article, from the Journal of Korea Water Resources Association (Volume 12, #1, 2009/January, by Bak Jin-hyeok and Heo Yeong-taek), researchers attempted to use indirect means to estimate water levels and flows reaching South Korea. The methods are indirect as South Korean researchers are not welcome on that side of the border. The main tool used is hydrological radar.

I was only able to read the abstract, as the full article is in Korean (and didn't jump out at me on Google - I found the journal at my university's library). It appears that the radar measures rainfall. The result was not completely successful but peak flow was accurately predicted.

To complete my review of news regarding rivers crossing the DMZ come the, um, quaintly titled A Dragon Swamp is a Microfilm, which Taped a History of Nature. Fish Hunting of the North Korean Soldiers (Internet translators make reading fun!)
The article starts:
Visitors at the armies near the boarder (sic) area are carrying water bottles these days. The visitors of border area armies at places like Inje, Hwacheon, and Yang-gu run to the wells as soon as they are done with visiting their sons. They get to see their son and bring some clean water back. The scenery of people carrying water bottles is a new phenomenon caused by contaminated water supply in cities. The soldiers at DMZ must be happy with the water they are getting. It is free of the danger of carcinogenic chemicals such as Benzene or Toluene. The parents of soldiers at DMZ are even told that they should have no worries about their sons who reside in such a clean area.

This news may not be true as the water comes from North Korea, and, as the water is leaving their area of influence, they have no pressing need to keep it clean.

South Korean soldiers have the rivers under constant observation against infiltration by North Korean soldiers. Strange things interest the soldiers and intelligence officers. A rubber shoe, size 230mm, floated down and civilian habitation in the basin was deduced.

More seriously, a mass of dead fish floated down Seohwa Creek (near Inje, Gangwon - no date given) and concerns over poisoning were quickly raised. Eventually, it was decided that North Korean soldiers had gone fishing with explosives.

Interestingly, several rare fish were found among the dead. An animal called "tongari" was also mentioned - not in the river but in the area. It is brown, has a waving tail and looks 'cut' (probably 'cute'). However, it has a stinging tentacle.

The behaviour of the two groups of soldiers is to be expected: the North Koreans, at the point where the water leaves North Korea, don't waste much concern with how they treat the water while the South Koreans, at the beginning of the river for their country are not allowed to dip a toe in the river.

2 comments:

PAKA said...

water may be the next resource that will cause the next big war or civil conflict.

Daniel Collins said...

It hadn't occurred to me that southern hydrologists wouldn't have access to northern field sites. But necessity is the mother of invention, so even if knowledge of the waters doesn't increase as quickly, remote sensing technology would.