pakistan water dispute groundwater extraction malta

The EU and a civil servant say let’s pay for nature
borehole fracking gas extraction drilling wastewater

Water conflict in Pakistan leaves 100+ dead

Our thirst for water spurs murder and ruin of the Earth. But there is a way to share this liquid for life. We trim, blend, and append three 2010 articles from: (1) CNN Wire Staff, Sept 19, on Pakistan; (2) Times of Malta, Sept 10, on Malta by Ivan Camilleri; and (3) the Johnstown PA Tribune-Democrat, Sept 12, gas drilling by Edward Smith of Jackson Township, a retired city and county manager.

by CNN Wire Staff, by Ivan Camilleri, and by Edward Smith

A water dispute in Pakistan's tribal region has led to over two weeks of fighting and dozens of deaths.

The conflict is centered in Kurram Agency, one of the seven districts of Pakistan's restive tribal region which borders Afghanistan.

Sixteen days ago, the Mangal tribe stopped water irrigation on lands used by the Tori tribe, according to Mumtaz Zareen, a senior government official in Kurram Agency.

Zareen told CNN that 116 people have been killed, including 13 on Sunday alone.

Another 165 people have been wounded over the course of the dispute.

JJS: That’s one way to settle a dispute. Here’s another approach. The people who use water or land or any natural resources should pay those whom they exclude. Since we’re all both users and excludes, we’d all both pay land dues and receive rent dividends. This approach is winning favor.

Farmers and bowser operators could soon be forced to pay for groundwater extraction as the European Commission is insisting such water is a precious resource and should be paid for.

For the past decades various governments have shied away from charging for groundwater extraction. This has led to thousands of illegal boreholes being dug directly into Malta's aquifer, consequently over-exploiting the island's already precarious state of its natural water resources.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik made it clear that, according to EU rules, groundwater extraction should be paid for.

"One of the requirements of the Water Framework Directive (article 9) is that the water pricing policy is to provide adequate incentives to users to use water resources efficiently and, thereby, contribute to the environmental objectives of the directive," he said in reply to a parliamentary question tabled by Labour MEP Edward Scicluna.

Until a few years ago, the Maltese authorities did not even know how much groundwater was being extracted as boreholes were not metered. However, following Malta's entry into the EU, a scheme was introduced, together with an amnesty for boreholes to be registered. Over 8,500 were registered under the scheme, the majority of which had been dug out illegally.

However, many believe there are more illegal boreholes still operating and unmetered. Between September 2008 and September 2009, a total of 19.1 million cubic metres of water were extracted from the aquifer for agriculture use.

This "free" water was much more than the 12.7 million cubic metres extracted by the Water Services Corporation (WSC) during the same period for potable purposes, which consumers had to pay for. Groundwater amounts to 55% of all Malta's potable water needs, the other 45% provided by reverse osmosis plants.

JJS: From one big multi-state government in Europe insisting that people pay for water use to one individual government-worker retiree doing the same.

The gas industry, armed with a drilling technology known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” now has the means of economically reaching gas-bearing rock formations deep in the earth.

In Pennsylvania, officials -- though admittedly totally unprepared -- chose to allow drilling and to tax gas extractions.

The gas industry is spending lots of money lobbying for concessions, such as horizontal drilling under properties whose owners have not agreed, and limitations on zoning so that local communities cannot protect themselves by restricting drilling.

Pipeline companies are trying to obtain the legal status of utilities so they will have the power of eminent domain and can seize property as they wish.

Only a small portion of the frack liquids that drillers pump into the earth is removed. Most stays in the ground. The many vertical faults in subsurface rock formations cause a concern that these toxic liquids and salts will migrate to water tables.

Frack wastewater destroys municipal sewage treatment plants and requires special high-hazard treatment facilities. Perhaps to avoid that cost, the gas drilling industry asked to dispose of its wastewater by pumping it into rivers and streams. But DEP said no. The industry appealed to the Independent Regulatory Commission and lost 4-1.

If we are to have deep-well gas drilling, it must be done with every care and protection for our water and citizens. We should expect our representatives in Congress to sponsor and support the FRAC Act (House Bill 2766 and Senate Bill 1215) that would remove the gas industry exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

When risks are imposed, six-digit fines and bonds are pocket change to a drilling company. Multimillion, and multibillion, dollar fines are required.

Taxing the gas drilling industry [at less than the annual rental value of the gas] is not enough. Plus, Pennsylvanians deserve a direct benefit, a real “homestead exemption,” such as Florida’s, where all resident property owners have $25,000 deducted from their property valuation.

Or why not a “citizens dividend”? If Alaska can view natural resources as common property distribute an annual dividend (about $900 a person), why can’t Pennsylvanians have that benefit?

JJS: Actually, if a society paid its residents a dividend from the value of surface land, besides from the value of buried resources, then it would not need the complication of a homestead exemption. Exemptions can be misused by speculators and politicians can use them to play favorites. Besides, they contradict the moral logic of paying land dues to your neighbors to compensate them for keeping them off your property, just as they compensate you for keeping you off theirs.

And if citizens receive a dividend, that enables them to do without some government programs that come at a high cost in terms of bureaucracy and one-size-fits-all requirements. Plus, in most regions there is so much rental value of sties and resources that, once recovered, not only is it possible to pay dividends but also to eliminate the counterproductive taxes on buildings, business, and earnings.

But it all starts with the awareness that Earth is our commons. To use her, we must pay those whom we exclude. And for respecting the claims of others, we are entitled to a fair share of Earth’s worth. Call it geonomics. It has worked wherever tried.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Guess which tax gets singled out?

We six billion need biodiversity more than ever

Resource Rights and Human Rights

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