CAPSULE: Focusing predominantly on Bangladesh Jim Burroughs examines the water crises in countries facing floods and drought. Bangladesh's problems are particularly severe because they are heavily influenced and in large part caused by damming and human manipulation of rivers in India with insufficient concern for the country that is so dependent on that water downstream. Martin Sheen narrates a 55-minute documentary examining a country that before long may be simply washed away. This is a serious and worrying documentary. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Second only to air, the substance that the human body most urgently requires is water. Where clean drinking water is not available it is impossible for people to live for long. Civilizations' fates are frequently determined by the rivers that run through them. Here in the United States the source of most of our water comes from rain falling on our own country. The Mississippi contains some water from Canada, but most of the Mississippi River Basin is in the United States. The Brahmaputra River, on the other hand, follows a course that starts in Tibet, continues through China, flows into India, and then flows into Bangladesh where it is desperately needed for survival. The river provides 65% of Bangladesh's fresh water. That means that the river water has been through two industrialized countries before it reaches Bangladesh. Both India and China are building dams for electrical power and general water control the river. Bangladesh is a small country bordered on the west, north, and east by India. Its rivers are its lifeblood and they consist entirely of water that has flowed through India.
Lack of control of its water's sources places Bangladesh in a particularly vulnerable position. Without consulting Bangladesh the dams of India can cut off that water, causing drought, or open the floodgates and release a flood on Bangladesh. As a very low- lying country--essentially a delta--Bangladesh is subject to huge floods and droughts, not from nature, not from global warming, but from India controlling the waters running through its country. As India opens its floodgates the floods frequently come without warning in Bangladesh. When India closes its floodgates or redirects its water, rivers in Bangladesh dry up and droughts follow. But Bangladesh is not the only victim of less than careful water management in India. Indian villages are also flooded and inundated by rising waters caused by damming. People from Bangladesh and from India politically protest India's water management policies. Between water manipulation to the north and rising water levels in the Bay of Bengal to the south low-lying Bangladesh can flood covering as much as 70% of the country, displacing large percentages of its population. Making matters worse for the dry times, while the Brahmaputra supplies 65% of Bangladesh's fresh water, in 2006 India announced a mammoth river- interlinking project that would draw off 70% of that water.
Jim Burroughs spent two years in Bangladesh examining that country's water issues and the increasingly political responses. WATER WARS--subtitled WHEN DROUGHT, FLOOD AND GREED COLLIDE--was the result of that study. To give his viewers a little more of a feeling they have a stake in these issues, Burroughs shows us water issues of two other countries. One is the Netherlands, which had a disastrous flood in 1953, but now can boast preeminent expertise in the technology of controlling water and preventing flooding. The Dutch were more immediately ready to help remove the waters after the Katrina flood than our own government was, which brings up the other country with water control problems. That is, of course, the United States, not just for the problems from Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed so much of New Orleans. The United States also faces massive ongoing droughts in its Southwest. There simply is not enough fresh water to supply the large population areas of that region.
These are matters of life and death. Nobody can survive for long without fresh water, and these are issues that could lead to some very serious wars. It is important to know about what is happening and track how serious the problem is becoming. I rate WATER WARS a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
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Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2010 Mark R. Leeper