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Monday, 18 August, 2008

Brian Thornton | 17:08 UK time, Monday, 18 August 2008

Here is Emily's look ahead to tonight's programme:

Musharraf's Mixed Legacy:
It took him a good hour to get there - but finally, at the end of a televised address - the President of Pakistan - who took the country in a bloodless military coup nearly a decade ago - resigned. He was facing impeachment on charges drawn up by the coalition government, and said whilst confident any charges against him would not stand, he was stepping down in the best interests of Pakistan.
Internationally, the questions raised by his going are huge. He has long been considered by the West - and particularly America - as a key ally in the fight against Islamic extremists. Yet $10bn has been spent helping Pakistan fight Al Qaeda - perhaps more, covertly - but protagonists Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri are still at large.
Tonight we ask, what does this resignation mean: a set-back for the War on Terror? Or an opportunity?

It was the day the Russians promised to pull out of Georgia - yet as I write, this is far from clear. International pressure has been growing on them to do so - but it still doesn't seem to be having much effect. President Sarkozy has threatened to call an EU emergency summit. But Russia's not exactly looking scared. We talk to our correspondent in Tbilisi about the latest movements on the ground and what happens next.

Is Water the New Oil?
Water scarcity - and its consequent problems - has leapt up the list of concerns of the military and defence world. We report from Mexico City - where water levels are dropping faster than Venice, Kenya - where it's estimated half the African continent could be suffering from 'water stress' within 25 years and the West Bank, where water consumption has become one of the main obstacles to peace. As World Water Week kicks off in Stockholm we ask whether there is a real water shortage or just too much bad political management. And could a lack of water really lead to war in future?

Do join us for all that and (a little bit) more at 10.30pm on BBC Two


  • Comment number 1.

    The total amount of water on planet earth remains constant. If a shortage occures in one place, there will be an abundance somewhere else. The 'clever bit' is in arranging the transfer of water from A to B.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well, its not so much water per se, as fresh water, and even then, it is where you can find large sources to use for drinking, washing and irrigation.

    Across the western world, no politician has actually looked ahead to see what water demand will be like in the future and if resources are sufficient to meet that demand. Take cities in the US like Las Vegas, built in the desert and depending on limited water resources. You can't make lawns in the desert and expect for the water to be unlimited.

    It is also likely to be a flash point, Israel is effectively taking water resources from the Palestinians, and no doubt some of the military planning against Lebanon is to take control of more water resources. This is currently a possible flashpoint, but perhaps the show could find more such examples that may become similarly contested in the future, such as dams being built in one nation that reduce water flows to another state etc.

  • Comment number 3.

    Isn't it obvious to most that 'water stress' shares the same cause as many other stresses on this planet - human population running out of control? Yet it is rarely mentioned in connection with shortages of food, oil and everything including lebensraum (if it's mis-spelt then I won't be accused of being a goosestepper!).

  • Comment number 4.

    When people deny the holocaust happened or declare support for the BNP I think "goose stepper" is all I am allowed to say.

    Its amazing that they managed to fill a field with supporters at the weekend. I am sure the sheep were very, very worried about their "tendencies".

  • Comment number 5.

    On the water topic, you must have searched long and hard to have found someone so extremely neoliberal as your interviewee and her organisation.

    How about someone a little more to the left - Attila?

  • Comment number 6.

    here's a thought: if fresh water can be separated from salt so easily via distillation, why not extend upon this idea. How about, rather than forcing water through a man-made factory, you harness the heat of the sun, and, using a shallow pond, perhaps with a dark bottom, and a transparent glass/plastic dish placed on top, designed to trap water that evaporates from the pond onto the dish, via one of several ways, including collecting the drip, thanks to the power of the sun in effectively evaporating water. Furthermore, you could dig a little trench from the ocean into this pond, so that there is a constant supply of water running through the process. Not very expensive, not very complicated, and it might well help some people stay alive. And when it's warmer, more water evaporates. Hoorah!

  • Comment number 7.

    Another enviromental hoax that water shortage is down to climate change. Another BBC report peddling junk science about climate change and garbage about CO2 warming our atmosphere.

    How does one area of Spain have an abundance (Aragon) while another (Barcelona) has a sevre shortage? Is that climate change?

    No it's planning. The difference is political competance versus incompetance. Areas where there is population growth suffer "water stress" only where the civil government has not met demand (similar to road building and traffic jams).

    What's the differece between water shortage (or not) in dry arrid areas like Africa and Arabia or even America?

    Money and technology. How does Dubai refresh itself without a water shortage while Etheopia suffers drought? Investment. Why has Las Vegas grown unerringly in an arrid desert while Sydney in Australia suffers water stress? Investment.

    The BBC have once again sent out their enviro-stupid reporters to find the wrong answers to the wrong question. My license fee is a waste of money being spent of Enviro-Socialists to pervert the air waves with junk science.

  • Comment number 8.

    The water shortages around the world as highlighted in your programme are, as you sate, as a result of population explosion over the last few years. That fact is something tha I personally entirely agree with, but not one of your contributors said anything about that very cause - population.

    The answer in my view is to concentrate the political minds on reducing the population around the world by better methods of contraception and looking at those countries that have the highest incidence of population. When you consider the African countries for example, with families of children who are near starvation, contraception has been or appears to be the cause of their plight. Education is the key to this, and to stop familes from growing to big families, or better still having no children at all.

    Religion also has its part to play when we know what the Cathalic doctrine is on producing more children, and with the AIDS problems which has compounded some of the difficulties because contraception is not being controlled when it should be.

    It is indeed a major problem that needs to be loked at and discussed by those organisations who are responsible for the welfare of the world, and ultimately each of our world countries.

    This problem will not go away overnight, and sustained education of all our people globally both in well of countries like the UK and the USA and those that are hardest hit in places like Africa and the Sudan regions, should all be taught ways to reduce the population problem so that in the fullnes of time and as the centuries progress, more water will become available for those that need it most, and for familes to live without the threat of shortages of this most vital of our natural resources. The world must wake up to the fact that without a reduction in our population, we face the threat of water not being available, and what could come from that can only be disaster. Our population must decrease substantially as a wise investment for life, and the future of our global survival.

  • Comment number 9.

    Re #4. When will you get tired of this pathetic meandering around issues you clearly know nothing about, and hope to prevent others examining?
    You can't answer a single point that's put to you, pretending to be above it all, and end up calling people names.
    I can't recall anyone denying that the holocaust happened. But I can see posters saying that they reserve the right to discuss the issue. You of course, can disagree, or disagree with the subject being discussed; but you can't expect much respect if you abuse them for wanting the debate. If it weren't for the fact that I'd never sink so low as to suppress anybody's views, I'd complain about your abuse and name calling.
    If I remember correctly, this holocaust-fixation came to light when it became apparent that you couldn't sustain the argument about the BNP. And now you're working your way back to that, only to resort to animal-sex inuendo. Pathetic. Really pathetic.
    For your information, the last local by-election saw the BNP poll 12.9%, and the party in Govt. was too skint and too demoralised to field a candidate. Real votes, real people. And the weekend saw rentathugs enter Britain from all over Europe to try to mire this legal and legitimate movement in violence. Thankfully the police protected members and their families. No one wants to make you agree with the BNP, about which you obviously know absolutely nil; but you of course, can't debate the issues, and become abusive, as was the case when I pointed out that a decent news media should report that the BNP get more hits on their website than the so-called big 3 parties put together. Plain simple fact that I got from research published in the 'Telegraph'. You promptly denied this, and when I reiterated it, you reverted to abusing me, presumably because it clashed with what you'd like to think about support for the BNP. What the hell's the matter with you?

  • Comment number 10.

    So the Corporate Nazi's want everyone to move to the south east, but what about the serious water supply problems of recent years. Water planning is pretty vauge here in the UK so no need for expensive trips overseas.

    Even the Romans could build an aqueduct from Kielder to London and get the water there without expensive pumping. If the corporate nazi's want to increase the population in the south east they will have to compel their water companies to build a national grid for water. ( without increased charges ) The trouble is that all the potential engineers have had their brains washed by modern technology and forgotten the basics. Lake District- Manchester no pumps anywhere and plenty of hills in between!

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    The potential impact of Newsnight's report 'Is Water the New Oil' was unfortunately discredited by the misconstrual of facts regarding Israel's water usage and water usage in the West Bank. If the BBC cannot present an objective picture which seeks to inform viewers of facts which aim at reaching the truth, then it becomes difficult to trust the BBC's reporting of every issue contentious or otherwise.

    One accusation was that the Palestinians in the West Bank only have access to dirty water. It is implied that Israel doesn't supply Palestinians with clean water. Yet Israel has developed a first world water infrastructure system, which does indeed supply millions of cubic metres of clean water to Palestinians each and every year.

    In contrast the Palestinians have consistently mismanaged funds from the international community which could have improved their water infrastructure systems, especially during periods of greater autonomy. According to the UN Environment Programme DEWA/GRID West Asia Region Map of the West Bank),
    'More than two thirds of the West Bank is categorised as being highly vulnerable to pollution'. (Source:, DEC2002)

    Further information from the same source states that there are inadequate waste disposal systems in Palestinian towns, and no regional information on the dumping of industrial waste. This UN collated data indicates that the Palestinians' West Bank coordination of water pollution control measures has been severely limited. The possibility that Palestinians have managed to pollute their own water supplies is highly likely, though this is completely ignored by the report.

    Notably, it may have been difficult for the PA to monitor such things when it's ruling authority the PA (under Yasser Arafat) lead the West Bank into a disastrous conflict whilst he personally siphoned off vast amounts of funds which could have improved water supplies for West Bank residents. In stark contrast it was Israel who built the West Bank water infrastructure, post 1967, connecting 250 Palestinian towns to clean mountain aquifer sources which straddle both sides of the 1967 armistice line. (Source: WILL ISRAEL SURVIVE? Mitchell G. Bard, 2007, p95).

    In the brief discussion of the West Bank water shortages, the reporter completely ignored the fact that West bank agriculture has hugely benefitted from Israeli invented drip irrigation systems, and other Israeli agricultural water saving techniques. Yet the report continued onto Spain where drip irrigation was carefully highlighted. It's a shame the two reporters involved were unable to communicate with each other by phone, or even by email, and suggests intentional bias on behalf of the report's producer.

    Water shortages in the Middle East have not 'become' sources of conflict for the region as the intro to this blog suggests but always have been sources of conflict and are highly complex due to regional water source interdependency. Whilst it is correct to use the West Bank region as an example of potential future conflict involving water, it is an indication of the BBC's lack of authority regarding it's sourcing of information which made what could have been a well balanced report of the origins of polluted water in the West Bank, into a superficial, biased account which raises serious questions for the integrity and journalistic professionalism of the entire segment.

  • Comment number 13.

    While appreciating that I started all this over 12 hours ago, Newsnight must learn that no-one really cares about either Pakistan or Georgia - a couple of rouge states if ever I saw them - but everyone is interested in basic issues, of which water is one.

    Yes, the Malthusians and the flat-earthers have joined in, but their muddled ramblings help the rest of us to focus on the core subject of governmental failure to plan ahead to prevent water 'shortages'.

  • Comment number 14.

    The item on the regional tensions in Spain over water was inaccurate, misleading and deeply offensive to the people of Aragón. The impression given of Aragón was of a lush region awash with surplus water, courtesy of the limitless supply from the River Ebro, unwilling to help out its needy neighbours of Catalunya and Murcia. Nothing could be further from the truth. The scenes of farmers struggling to cultivate potatoes in the parched lands of Murcia, could just as easily have been shot in Aragon. Those who know the region, as I do, will know that much of southern Aragon is little more than desert, quite the opposite of the image portrayed in the report.

    Interestingly, the report quite rightly highlighted the drain on the already meagre resources by holiday homes and golf courses in Catalunya and Murcia. But you will find few of these in Aragón. Here, what water there is is desperately needed to provide for the population and the farming communities and not to maintain holiday facilities. For this reason, the Aragonese spokesman was quite right to say that in an emergency, essential water supplies could be provided to neighbouring regions, but he was also right to reserve the right to maintain current and future supplies available to his own region where the need is just as great. Indeed, the real conflict seems to be between Murcia and Catalunya over the latter’s failure to divert the river Ebro south into the Murcian farmland.

    The reporter chose to present her piece rather provocatively before the elegant fountains at the site of Expo 2008, which takes place this year in Zaragoza, the Aragonese capital, with the key theme of, you guessed it, water. This image was immediately contrasted with one of the waterless fountains of Barcelona, a cheap piece of tele-journalism if ever I have seen one. And to rub salt into the wound, Expo 2008 was not even mentioned in the report: Britain and the USA are two of the very few nations not represented at this wonderful and worthy event, which seems to have received no coverage in this country whatsoever.

    It is a pity that this report should appear in a programme with a tradition of fairminded, thorough and balanced reporting. I’m afraid that in this case, nothing could be further from the truth and it is interesting to note that no-one interviewed in the programme complained directly about Aragón and its policies; they simply complained about not having enough water.

  • Comment number 15.

    more war? i must increase my holdings of british weapons and security firms. its a boom industry. despite stonking profits there is no talk of 'windfall tax' on them even though its the public that fund it?

  • Comment number 16.

    water shortage is due to stupidity. we can build pipelines that go halfway around the world for oil and gas but no water. apparently with water the romans are still way ahead of us.

  • Comment number 17.

    On Water and related matters.

    "A tribe said to the universe,
    "Sir, We exist!"
    "So I see," said the universe,
    "But your multitude creates in me
    No feeling of obligation.
    "Dam my rivers and I'll salt your crops;
    Cut my trees and I'll flood your plains.
    Kill 'pests' and, by God, you'll get a silent spring!
    Go ahead -- save every last baby's life!
    I'll starve the lot of them later.
    When they can savor to the full
    The exquisite justice of truth's retribution.
    Wrench from my earth those exponential powers
    No wobbling Willie should e'er be trusted with:
    Do this, and a million masks of envy shall create
    A hell of blackmail and tribal wars
    From which civilization will never recover.

    "Don't speak to me of shortage. My world is vast
    And has more than enough -- for no more than enough.
    There is a shortage of nothing, save will and wisdom;
    But there is a longage of people...."
    ---Garrett Hardin
    " Carrying Capacity as an Ethical Concept - Food (and drink) for thought.

    "How about, rather than forcing water through a man-made factory, you harness the heat of the sun,"
    Sometime ago, I saw a patent for doing this with solar-powered eductors. I'll look them out, but possibly U S patent Nos 5,614,066 and 3302373 and 3219555 may apply. (I was searching patents in the late sixties) Meantime, try here

    Salaam, etc.


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