As a primarily desert country, Libya is a place where clean water is one of the most valuable commodities, used for agricultural production and human consumption. Increased levels of pollution from oil drilling and the salt water contamination of natural aquifers, however, have strained the water quality in Libya and made an already scarce water supply increasingly difficult to attain.

Rising sea levels and increased oil drilling have particularly plagued Libya and exposed its already limited and crucial water supply to pollutants and contamination.

Most of Libya’s water exists in naturally formed aquifers located underneath the country’s vast deserts. The only geographic area to receive more than 100 millimeters of rainfall a year is the coastal region, which accounts for less than 5 percent of Libya’s land area. Because of this, water purity is an increasingly crucial issue.

Since the 1950s, the sea level in Libya has advanced approximately one to two kilometers inland due to global warming and rising ocean levels. The slow move inward has caused a dramatic increase in the salinity of groundwater found in natural aquifers, from 150 parts per million in 1950 to 1,000 parts per million in 1990, according to Rajab M El-Asswad, a professor at Al-Fateh University Tripoli. As a direct consequence, the amount of water available and the water quality in Libya is becoming increasingly stretched.

In addition to limiting the amount of water that can be accessed, the increased salinity of seawater has made the overall process of obtaining water in Libya more expensive due to the need for desalination.

As aquifer water salinity and the need for water increases, the Libyan government must expand its desalinization processes. Unfortunately, desalinization is expensive and may require the diverting of funds necessary to help a nation develop.

Coinciding with the water pollution seen from natural causes like rising sea levels, man-made activities like oil drilling also creates pollution. The increase in standard drilling procedures and techniques such as fracking have exposed the vast natural aquifers to contaminants and chemicals, another negative effect on the water quality in Libya.

As the population of Libya continues to grow and the supply of water slowly declines, increased foreign aid funding becomes more important. Funds could be used to help complete the Great Manmade River Project, which aims to install hydraulic equipment necessary to withdraw and transport water from beneath the desert to high population centers for consumption and agricultural purposes.

Clean water is essential for life and agricultural growth and is necessary for a healthy ecosystem. The issue of water pollution in Libya has devastating effects on the country’s people and ecosystems and is a cause deserving of increased foreign aid.

Garrett Keyes

Photo: Flickr

Experts and residents residing in the southeastern Pakistan desert told Al Jazeera a “drought-induced famine” is affecting the lives of impoverished individuals in the region.

Ever since the famine story broke out, the Pakistani government has focused its attention in the region. According to Al Jazeera, the National Disaster Management Authority claims, “Tharparkar has seen the delivery of 3,582.3 tonnes of wheat (worth approximately $2.5m), 201 tonnes of rice, and 1,483.7 tonnes of emergency food packs and other food aid”.

But despite the government’s involvement in helping the famine-stricken region, the Pakistan Meteorological Department believes that there is no drought in Tharparkar in the first place. The department instead classifies it as a “socioeconomic disaster” despite the region being drier than usual this year.

On the other hand, the NGOs in Pakistan believe that the famine that killed over 100 children in Pakistan could have been avoided had the government decided to act sooner. According to the Guardian, Pakistani activists blame the government for failing to provide the region with healthcare and better infrastructure.

A local newspaper also told a similar story about the famine in southeastern Pakistan.

“The provincial government usually declares a state of drought in Thar by September or October when there is low rainfall during and after the monsoon season,” said the Express Tribune, a Pakistani newspaper.

Due to the low amount of rainfall last year in September, the government apparently pushed forward the declaration “and the provision of relief was thus delayed.”

Sources also told the newspaper that the local administration and health officials informed the chief minister that the conditions in the region were “normal during drought”.

According to local organizations that work with some of the poorest people in Pakistan, members of Dalit population are the ones mainly affected by the drought.

“Known in Pakistan as the scheduled class, Dalits suffer heavy discrimination under the caste system common across south Asia.”

The founder of Baanhn Beli, an NGO operating in Tharparkar since 1985, believes that representatives who were elected to represent the region should be held responsible for failing to properly report to the chief minister. He also believes that if the state invested in Tharparkar, most of the deaths caused by the famine would have not occurred.

It is clear that the officials are refusing to take full responsibility for the crisis in southeastern Pakistan. The international community, along with local humanitarian groups, is criticizing the state for failing to stop a preventable famine. They believe that the government should keep its promise and compensate the families of the victims for improperly handling the situation.

– Juan Campos

Sources: Al Jazeera, The Tribune, The Guardian
Photo: India Times