Thursday, 18 June 2009

Australian Drought Leads to First "Water Rage" Murder

In Australia's first known case of murder due to "water rage," a dispute over a suburban man's water usage led to him being beaten to death in front of his home. According to police, 66-year-old Ken Proctor was watering the lawn in front of his home in Sydney on October 31 at approximately 5:30 p.m. when a passerby made a comment to him about wasting water. Proctor then turned his hose on the other man, who knocked him to the ground and began to punch and kick him. The attacker was tackled by two bystanders, including an off-duty policeman, and an ambulance came for Proctor. Proctor later died in the hospital after experiencing a massive heart attack.

Due to a severe, nearly eight-year drought, intensive water restrictions are in place across most of Australia. Nearly all states have banned garden sprinklers and the use of hoses on cars or sidewalks.

Sydney, in addition, prohibits leaving hoses or taps unattended except to filling pools, and permits are required for pools larger than 10,000 gallons. The use of fire hoses is prohibited for any use other than firefighting. Hand watering of lawns or gardens is only allowed on Wednesdays or Sundays before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

Because the incident that led to his death happened on a Wednesday, Proctor was actually complying with the city's water rules at the time.

The drought is Australia's worst in at least 100 years. Combined with over-extraction of water, the drought has caused the flows of the country's two largest southeast rivers, the Murray and Darling, to dwindle. More than three-quarters of New South Wales is experiencing a drought, and Victoria has announced that 100 percent of its farmland has been hit.

While a number of suburban disputes, arguments and calls to police have risen from water restrictions, Proctor's is believed to be the first death cause by such a water dispute.

Global Food Production Plummets in 2009

Global food production is expected to plummet between 20 and 40 percent in 2009, due to widespread drought and other stresses on agricultural production

Two-thirds of the world's food is produced in countries currently in the grip of droughts. The extent of this crisis can easily be seen by a chart on the Web site of the Center for Research on Globalization:

Much media attention has focused on a severe drought in Northern China, one of the wheat producing capitals of the world. There, the worst drought in 50 years has already resulted in damage to 161 million mu (26.5 million acres) of crops. In Australia, suffering its worst drought in 117 years, 41 percent of crops have been harmed, farmers have begun abandoning land, rivers have run dry and lakes have evaporated to such an extent that they have turned toxic.

In the United States, Texas and the Southeast remains in the throes of a severe drought. California's drought is the worst in recorded history, with thousands of acres already fallow and worse likely to come -- the Northern Sierra snowpack, which provides much of the state's water as it melts, only reached 49 percent of its average thickness this winter.

Less well-publicized but equally devastating droughts have also gripped other agricultural areas of the world. In Latin America, agricultural emergencies have been declared in six countries, including soy-, corn- and cattle-producing giants Argentina and Brazil. The La Nina weather pattern is expected to make the situation worse in both Pacific South America and the southern United States.

Eastern and southern Africa, and western and central Asia are also facing severe droughts. The wheat harvest in eastern South Africa is expected to be the lowest in 30 years. In Central Asia and the Middle East, wheat harvests have dropped an average of 22 percent, reaching as high as 98 percent in northern Iraq.

Farmers have also been hurt by a lack of credit due to the financial crisis, making it harder to buy fertilizer or seed. Even in Europe, which has been relatively untouched by drought, unusual climate conditions and degraded soil have led to a projected 10 to 15 percent drop in crop output.

Indigenous ‘genocide’ in battle for oilfields

It has been called the world’s second “oil war” but the only similarity between Iraq and events in the jungles of northern Peru over the past few weeks has been the mismatch of force. On one side have been police armed with automatic weapons, tear gas, helicopter gunships and armoured cars. On the other are several thousand Awajun and Wambis Indians, many of them in war paint and armed with bows and arrows, and spears.

In some of the worst violence in Peru in 20 years, the Indians warned Latin America what could happen if companies are given free access to the Amazonian forests to exploit an estimated 6billion barrels of oil and take as much timber as they like.

After months of peaceful protests, the police were ordered to use force to remove a roadblock near Bagua Grande.

In the fights that followed, nine police officers and at least 50 Indians were killed, with hundreds more wounded or arrested. The indigenous rights group Survival International described it as “Peru’s Tiananmen Square”.

“For thousands of years, we’ve run the Amazon forests,” said Servando Puerta, one of the protest leaders. “This is genocide. They’re killing us for defending our lives, our sovereignty, human dignity.”

As riot police broke up more demonstrations in Lima and a curfew was imposed on many Peruvian Amazonian towns, President Alan Garcia backed down in the face of condemnation of the massacre. He suspended – but only for three months – laws that would allow the forest to be exploited.

Peru is just one of many countries in open conflict with its indigenous people over natural resources. Barely reported in the international press, there have been major protests around mines, oil, logging and mineral exploitation in Africa, Latin America, Asia and North America. Hydroelectric dams, biofuel plantations as well as coal, copper, gold and bauxite mines are all at the centre of major land rights disputes.

A massive military force continued last week to raid communities opposed to oil companies’ presence on the Niger delta. The delta, which provides 90 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign earnings, has always been volatile but guns have flooded in and security has deteriorated.

Nigeria’s main militant group said yesterday it had destroyed an oil pipeline belonging to the US company Chevron.

“A major gas pipeline manifold and another major crude oil pipeline belonging to Chevron JV recently repaired at a sum of over $US56 million [$68million] were both blown up,” the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said.

It warned that its fighters were heading to the Chevron tank farm in Escravos and urged staff to flee.

The escalation of violence came in the week that Shell agreed to pay £9.7million ($19.7million) to ethnic Ogoni families – whose homeland is in the delta – who had led a peaceful uprising against it and other oil companies in the 1990s, and who had taken the company to court in New York accusing it of complicity in writer Ken Saro-Wiwa’s execution in 1995.

In West Papua, Indonesian forces protecting some of the world’s largest mines have been accused of human rights violations. Hundreds of tribesmen have been killed in the past few years in clashes between the army and people with bows and arrows.

“An aggressive drive is taking place to extract the last remaining resources from indigenous territories,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpus, chairwoman of the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues. “There is a crisis of human rights. There are more and more arrests, killings and abuses.

“This is happening in Russia, Canada, the Philippines, Cambodia, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Amazon, all over Latin America, Papua New Guinea and Africa,” MsTauli-Corpus said. “It is global. We are seeing a human rights emergency. A battle is taking place for natural resources everywhere. Much of the world’s natural capital – oil, gas, timber, minerals – lies on or beneath lands occupied by indigenous people.”

Source: Global Research