Connect with us

news

The Caspian Sea is set to fall by 9 metres or more this century – an ecocide is imminent

Published

on

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image of the Caspian Sea, left, on June 4, 2010. The map on the right shows the impact of Caspian Sea level projections of -30 feet and -60 feet at the end of the 21st century. Red regions fall dry.(NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team / Map by Prange, M., Wilke, T. & Wesselingh, F.P. The other side of sea level change.)

Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a beach at low tide with gentle waves beyond. And yet there are no tides.

This is what we found when we visited the small harbour of Liman, on the Caspian Sea coast of Azerbaijan. The Caspian is actually a lake, the largest in the world and it is experiencing a devastating decline in its water level that is about to accelerate. By the end of the century the Caspian Sea will be nine metres to 18 metres lower. That’s a depth considerably taller than most houses.

It means the lake will lose at least 25 per cent of its former size, uncovering 93,000 sq km of dry land. If that new land were a country, it would be the size of Portugal.

As we found in our new research, the crisis may well result in an ecocide as devastating as the one in the Aral Sea, a few hundred kilometres to the east. The Caspian’s surface is already dropping by 7 cm every year, a trend likely to increase.

In five years, it might be about 40 cm lower than today and in ten years almost one metre lower. Maritime countries worldwide are coming to terms with one metre or so of sea level rise by the end of the century. The Caspian Sea faces a drop of that size — except it will happen within a decade.

Climate change is the culprit. The Caspian Sea waters are isolated, its surface is already around 28 metres below global oceans. Its level is the product of how much water is flowing in from rivers, mostly the mighty Volga to the north, how much it rains and how much evaporates away.

At the end of the century, the Volga and other northern rivers will still be there. However, a projected temperature rise of about 3? to 4? in the region will drive evaporation through the roof.

Future misery despite past crises

The Caspian Sea has a history of violent rises and falls. In Derbent, on the Caucasus coast of Russia, submerged ancient city walls testify to how low the sea was in medieval times. Around 10,000 years ago, the Caspian was about 100 metres lower. A few thousand years before that it was about 50 metres higher than today and even overspilled into the Black Sea.

Yet people who lived beside the sea were able to overcome the swings. No human infrastructure was around to be destroyed and many animal species simply moved up and down with the sea levels, as they had done over the past 2 million years or so. But this time is different. The fall will affect the Caspian’s unique and already stressed animal and plant life, along with human societies along the coasts.

In some areas, the coastline is about to retract hundreds of metres a year or more. Can you imagine building new piers and harbours that fast? By the time they are ready, the sea will have moved kilometres or tens of kilometres further away. Coastal promenades will soon be landlocked. The beaches of today will be the sand ridges stranded in barren plains of tomorrow.

The drop will also affect lowland rivers and deltas around the Caspian Sea. Once-fertile plains will become too dry for watermelon and rice farming to continue.

Unique Caspian life in peril

The town of Ramsar, on the Iranian coast, gave its name to a global wetland convention. But as the sea recedes, the town is becoming landlocked and the surrounding wetlands will be gone within decades.

The shallower “shelves” of the northern and eastern Caspian are major food supplies for fish and birds, yet the entire northern and eastern shelves will transform in dry barren lands. This will devastate fish species, the Caspian seal and a richness of molluscs and crustaceans species unique to the sea.

These Caspian inhabitants have already suffered badly in the past century from pollution, poaching and invasive species. About 99 per cent of Caspian seal pups are raised on the winter ice of the north Caspian. Yet both the winter ice and indeed the whole north Caspian will disappear.

Remaining biodiversity hotspots in depths between 50 metres and 150 metres will be affected as rivers dump nutrients into the deeper central basins combined with rising temperatures. This will decrease oxygen levels and developing ecological dead zones could affect the remaining refuges of Caspian species. A genuine ecocide is around the corner.

The situation cries for action, but possibilities are limited. Rising global CO2 levels, the main driver of climate conditions causing the Caspian crisis, can only be dealt with global agreements. In Soviet times, large scale water diversions from Siberian rivers were proposed to deal with the shrinking Aral Sea to the east. But such large works — in the case of the Caspian Sea, a canal from the Black Sea might be considered — come with huge ecological and geopolitical risks.

Yet action is necessary to safeguard the Caspian Sea’s unique plants and animals and the livelihood of the people who live around it. The stranded small harbour in Liman is further from the sea every year. If no action is taken, it will be left alone in more than one way.

(The Conversation)



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

news

Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

Published

on

By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

Continue Reading

news

Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

Published

on

Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

Continue Reading

news

RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

Published

on

By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

Continue Reading

Trending