Water Disputes Reaching the Cloud

September 5, 2022

Clouds have always fascinated people. White clouds turning dark remind people of the coming rain or storm, sometimes inspiring hope, at other times fear. Cloud colors at sunrise or sunset captivate them. Regardless of one’s vantage point, be it on the ground or high up from a plane window, clouds are nature’s constantly changing work of art, untouchable by man. Without clouds, the sky is an empty canvas.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on.” He was referring to a constantly changing world. Perhaps, this is even more true for clouds because as we bitterly see now, water can stop flowing in rivers, but clouds never stop moving and they decide whether rivers would resume flowing, if at all.

Annette Wynne was an American poet specializing in children’s poetry. She had written:

The curly white cloud loves the sky;

It stays up there—so high, so high,

Until the earth sends up a call,

“I’m thirsty, cloud, O, fall, please fall!”

The flower children all around

Cry up: “Dear cloud, come to the ground,”

And so, the cloud says: “Good-by, Sky,

I’ll come again—so high, so high.

At present, it is not only the flower children begging for rain in the drought-stricken regions of the world. In some other areas, it is exactly the opposite. People are praying for the dark clouds to give them a respite from the deluge. Had Annette Wynne seen the havoc wreaked on the world by climate change and read the New York Times article titled, “Cloud Wars: Mideast Rivalries Rise Along a New Front”, she could have been shocked like many of us.

This is what the article said:

“Iranian officials have worried for years that other nations have been depriving them of one of their vital water sources. But it was not an upstream dam that they were worrying about, or an aquifer being bled dry.

“In 2018, amid a searing drought and rising temperatures, some senior officials concluded that someone was stealing their water from the clouds.

“Both Israel and another country are working to make Iranian clouds not rain,” Brig. Gen. Gholam Reza Jalali, a senior official in the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps, said in a 2018 speech.

“The unnamed country was the United Arab Emirates, which had begun an ambitious cloud-seeding program, injecting chemicals into clouds to try to force precipitation. Iran’s suspicions are not surprising, given its tense relations with most Persian Gulf nations, but the real purpose of these efforts is not to steal water, but simply to make it rain on parched lands.” [i]

A week earlier, the Washington Post had reported that China will try to protect its grain harvest from record-setting drought by using chemicals to generate rain.[ii]

Water conflicts have been on the world’s agenda for centuries but disputes about clouds are a novelty for many. It seems that while cloud-seeding has been around for 75 years, the science has yet to be proven. And experts are especially dismissive of worries about one country draining clouds dry at the expense of others downwind. But even if they are right, a growing interest in cloud-seeding, beyond its uncertain dividends, and unprecedented droughts may signal new or worsening conflicts in river basins that cross political boundaries.

In brief, with the hugely negative impact of climate change, the world’s leading powers, leaders need to contain their differences and start focusing on the wider challenges threatening the livelihood of billions including their own people. The world of the “flower children” in Annette Wynne’s poem is far behind us. Yet despite continuing calamities across the globe, everything is about the war in Ukraine and “victories” that are more than likely to prove pyrrhic.

Turning to Türkiye, firstly I am hoping to hear a word from someone, but mostly from the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change to warn us about the looming problems and create some awareness about saving on water. Unfortunately, however, the emphasis is on urbanization and all we hear about is more high-rise apartment projects.

Secondly, last Wednesday, in remarks on “the continued battle for the soul of the nation”, President Biden said:

“I believe America is at an inflection point — one of those moments that determine the shape of everything that’s to come after.

 “And now America must choose: to move forward or to move backward?  To build the future or obsess about the past?  To be a nation of hope and unity and optimism, or a nation of fear, division, and of darkness?” [iii]

In Türkiye, we should ask ourselves exactly the same questions since we too are at an inflection point.


[i] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/28/world/middleeast/cloud-seeding-mideast-water-emirates.html?smid=em-share

[ii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/china-plans-cloud-seeding-to-protect-grain-crop-amid-drought/2022/08/21/eef663fc-2113-11ed-9ce6-68253bd31864_story.html

[iii] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/09/01/remarks-by-president-bidenon-the-continued-battle-for-the-soul-of-the-nation/


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