The Caucasus
Lake Sev

Armenia-Azerbaijan border stand-off —over water

Armenia’s Security Council held an emergency meeting in response to a reported border incursion by Azerbaijan. Local authorities in southern Syunik province issued urgent reports that Azerbaijan’s forces had crossed the border and completely surrounded Lake Sev. The glacial lake, which provides water for irrigation in the area, is bisected by the frontier between the two countries, with its northern third lying within Azerbaijan. But the territory on the Azerbaijan side had been held by Armenia between the 1991-4 war and last November’s ceasefire, under which it was ceded back. The two sides remain at odds on the precise demarcation of the line, which had not been formalized in Soviet times. (Photo: Albero/Wikimedia Commons via Armenian Weekly)

Central Asia
kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz-Tajik border clash over control of water

The armed forces of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan clashed at a disputed section of their border, leaving 30 dead and thousands displaced before a ceasefire was declared. The fighting broke out near the strategic Golovnoi water pumping facility, in the Tajik-controlled exclave of Vorukh. Kyrgyz protesters gathered on their side of the de facto border after Tajik authorities installed surveillance cameras at the facility. The two sides began hurling rocks across the line before military troops intervened. The Golovnoi facility pumps water from the Isfara River, a tributary of the Syr Darya, to irrigate agriculture in the area. It is in the Fergana Valley, a small fertile pocket in the arid Central Asia region. Soviet authorities drew the boundaries so that Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan each got a portion of it. However, this meant intricate, twisting borders, and territorial disputes have arisen. Tajik authorities accuse Kyrgyzstan of seeking to seize the Vorukh exclave. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Africa
somalia

Somalia: drought compounds political crisis

The political heat is rising in Somalia over the determination of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, to cling to power despite his term having ended in February. He’s embraced a decision by the lower house of the Federal Parliament to extend his (and their) stay in office for an extra two years, to allow the running of delayed elections. The move was rejected by the Senate as “unconstitutional. The Senate called on Farmajo to rejoin UN-led talks—which he has rejected. As the crisis deepens, there are reports of a troop build-up in the capital and the fragmentation of the security forces. Yet this political tussle is being played out in the Mogadishu bubble. In the countryside, where the government holds little sway, a new drought emergency is underway. Almost 40,000 people have been forced from their homes in the first three months of the year due to poor rains, joining the 1.3 million displaced in 2020 by combined humanitarian disasters. (Photo: Joe English/UNICEF)

North America
dapl

Biden admin defers to courts on Dakota Access

The Biden administration’s Army Corps of Engineers indicated at a federal district court hearing in Washington DC that they would not stop the flow of oil through the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) despite the threat it poses to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe‘s water supply. The project is currently operating without a federal permit as the matter is contested in the courts. (Photo of January 2017 march against the DAPL in Minneapolis: Fibonacci Blue/Wikimedia Commons)

Central America
Berta Caceres

Accused author of Berta Cáceres murder on trial

The trial of the alleged mastermind behind the March 2016 murder of environmentalist Berta Cáceres began in Honduras. Cáceres was slain when a squad of gunmen invaded her home at La Esperanza, Intibucá department. A visiting Mexican friend, Gustavo Castro, was also shot but survived. Cáceres had been campaigning against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project, then under development by Desarrollos EnergĂ©ticos (DESA). Four of eight defendants were each sentenced in December 2019 to 34 years in prison for the murder of Cáceres and 16 years for the attempted murder of Castro. Three others were sentenced to 30 years as co-conspirators in the crime. In the new trial that opened in a Tegucigalpa court, a former DESA president and military intelligence officer, Roberto David Castillo, is charged with being the “intellectual author” of the murder. (Photo by UN Environment via Wikimedia Commons)

Europe
Dardanelles

Strategic strait at issue in Turkish naval purge

Turkish prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 10 senior navy officers a day after 104 officers released a letter defending the Montreux Doctrine—a 1936 agreement protecting passage of international shipping through the straits of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles. The letter was critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄźan’s Istanbul Canal project, a plan to construct a waterway between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, running parallel to the Bosphorus. ErdoÄźan insists that the new canal would not be subject to the Montreux Doctrine. The officers were arrested on charges of conspiring to commit “a crime against the security of the state.” (Map: French Navy via PopulationData.net)

Mexico
CFE

Mexico: court suspends new electricity law

A Mexican court issued a suspension of the new electricity law that aims to strengthen the state-run company, ComisiĂłn Federal de Electricidad (CFE). The law is supported by President AndrĂ©s Manuel LĂłpez Obrador, who wants to increase state control of the energy market. LĂłpez Obrador claimed that under the previous administration, the electricity market was skewed in favor of private operators. Grupo Bimbo, Walmart Inc and two unnamed companies filed challenges against the law. The US Chamber of Commerce expressed concern that the new law violates the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and may create a monopoly in the electricity sector. The injunction will be in place until the case is decided on its merits. The judge asserted that the injunction was necessary “to prevent economic damage to the electricity sector, to ensure competition, and to protect the environment.” (Photo of power lines in Ixtapaluca via Wikimedia Commons)

Central America
Juan Carlos Cerros

Indigenous water protector slain in Honduras

On the eve of World Water Day, an indigenous activist who was leading the fight against construction of a hydroelectric dam was shot dead in front of his family in Honduras. Juan Carlos Cerros Escalante, a member of the Lenca indigenous people, was gunned down directly outside the church at the pueblo of Nueva Granada, in the Caribbean coast department of Cortés. He was on his way to visit his mother, and his children were beside him. Cerros Escalante led the local group Communities United, which was mobilizing residents along the Rio Ulúa to oppose El Tornillito hydro-dam. The pending project would displace 10 communities in the departments of Cortés and Santa Bárbara. (Photo: Radio Progreso)

Africa
lake victora

Pipeline project threatens Lake Victoria

More than 260 organizations issued an open letter to banks and financial institutions involved in the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), which would carry oil from fields in western Uganda to a port on the northern coast of Tanzania, passing near critical wetlands in the Lake Victoria basin. The human rights and environmental organizations say the line’s construction poses “unacceptable” risks to communities in the immediate 1,445-kilometer (898-mile) path of the project and beyond. They are calling on banks not to fund the $3.5 billion project, and asking government leaders to shift funding from infrastructure for fossil fuels to renewable energy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Mongabay)

The Andes
yaku

Indigenous candidate upsets Ecuador elections

Ecuador is heading to a run-off presidential race in April after leftist candidate Andrés Arauzof the Union of Hope (UNES) coalition won a first-round victory, following years of economic austerity made more painful by the pandemic. However, in a surprise development, his rival leftist Yaku Pérez Guartambel of the indigenous-based Pachakutik party emerged neck-to-neck with conservative banker Guillermo Lasso of the right-wing Creating Opportunities (CREO) party. The vote is still too close to call which challenger Arauz will face in the April run-off. Pérez portrays UNES and CREO alike as parties of the right that have embraced an economic model based on resource extraction. (Photo: Revista Crisis)

Central Asia
kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz ex-PM arrested for mineral corruption

The State Committee for National Security of Kyrgyzstan reported the detention of former prime minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev on charges of corruption and illegal enrichment. The State Committee alleges that during his tenure as prime minister, Abylgaziev violated the law by signing a government decree providing Kumtor Gold Company additional territories for geological exploration and gold mining. Consequently, the total area of the mine doubled, contravening a previous decree banning the expansion of the mine so as to protect the fragile ecosystem of the Issyk-Kul Lake region. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Planet Watch
Line 3

Global petro-resistance greets 2021

As the year comes to a close, Native American activists and their allies in Minnesota are launching a weekly protest vigil against the planned Line 3 pipeline, that would bring more Canadian shale-oil to US markets. The self-proclaimed “water protectors” pledge to continue the campaign into the winter. The Conservation Council of Western Australia meanwhile launched legal challenge against approval of the new Burrup Hub liquified natural gas facility, asserting that it is the “most polluting fossil fuel project ever to be proposed in Australia,” and “undermines global efforts [to mitigate climate change] under the Paris Agreement.” While Denmark has pledged to end North Sea oil exploitation by 2050 as a step toward meeting the Paris accord goals, other Scandinavian governments remain intransigent. The Supreme Court of Norway has upheld a judgment allowing the government to grant oil licenses in new sections of the country’s continental shelf. The decision was challenged by environmental groups including Nature & Youth Norway, who claimed that it violates the European Convention on Human Rights. (Photo: Stop Line 3)