Water Level Drastically Fallen, Waterways Transport Crippled

By Syyed Mansoor Agha

The plans of Allah are strange. Usually amused over the blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet ﷺ, and over the joking about the existence of a Supreme Power, the Planner and Creator of the universe, Europe is on its knees today in the face of a severe drought. Embroiled deep in the luxurious life after the industrial revolution, and unrestrictedly intertwined in ‘relationships’, Europeans did not only distance themselves from the religio-spiritual aspect of life but also forget to look into the power of nature. As William Words Worth said:

They did not have gone astray, had they pondered into the phenomena working perfectly in nature, as Allah said:

“Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;- (Here) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise.” (Al-Baqara : 164)

A WARNING

After abnormally high temperatures in 2018 and also drought conditions, Europe is presently suffering from acute drought. A repeat of a dry spell within four years and breaking the records of 500 years, is a stern warning for humankind. Reports suggest it has never been so dry since 1540. With the absence of rainfall, temperatures have risen to a historic high in several parts. The conditions are melting the people who are now used to leading a luxurious life which has weakened their stamina.

WATERWAYS DRIED-UP

This drought has dried up many streams fully and big rivers drastically, crippling the most popular and cost-effective mode of travel and transport on the continent. Since water levels have dangerously lowered, sailing of ships, big motor-boats and barges, etc. has drastically curtailed. Boats can be seen at ports sitting on dry riverbeds. Many ships drowned decades ago during the world wars and villages submerged in the water long ago have come up again but as tourist spots.

Travel and transport by boat were normal in India too in the past. Water levels in the rivers were safe for sailing. Unlike modern-day ships and large motorboats, in that era, the boats were smaller and manually sailed. In Europe too it has been a popular and voluminous mode. The waterways network is huge, busy, and time-bound like roadways in India. Crippling of the system has rendered many jobless, shipping companies in financial distress.

POWER SCARCITY

Crippling of the transport system has reduced the regular coal supply to Thermal Power Stations. The atomic power stations are also under stress due to a shortage of water which is required in large quantities as a coolant to keep the plants safely running. In this ‘developed’ era, almost all domestic and industrial activities are dependent upon gas or electric power. Power cuts are crippling life and industrial activities. Unprecedented hikes in energy rates are also reported. Besides the danger of blackouts in the winter, the energy cost may spiral high. Frequent or long-term power-cuts will be harsh for the public. The days have gone when coal or wood fire was used in the kitchen, and aatishdan (fireplace) with chimney was central to keep the house warm in winters. Now electric gadgets are part of life. Power with sufficient water will need to bathe and wash the clothes.

AGRO PRODUCTION

On the other hand, agro production has also entered in danger zone. Many seasonal crops, including the maze, have already been damaged in various degrees. An unusually hot climate, scarcity of water, and shortage of fodder have made the upkeep of milking herds a challenge. With declining production, market prices are increasing. The shortage in foodgrains is also being felt. War of Ukraine, the main supplier of foodgrains to Europe, has also added to the woes, as transportation has been disturbed.

This situation has arisen only because of the absence of rainfall, which is entirely a natural phenomenon and under the control of Allah, the Creator and Planner of everything. Ponder over the situation, and then look again at what the Qur’ān says (quoted above). There are more than 41 places where Allah has described the virtues of rain for human life and the importance of water, the great gifts of Allah, and beyond the reach of manpower.

THREE CATEGORIES

Drought (a scarcity in rainfall) is classified in: (i) Meteorological drought i.e. a prolonged dry spell during the rainy session; (ii) Hydrological drought: When scarcity of water hits the normal supply system, and (iii) Agricultural drought: when scarcity of water begins to adversely affect agro-productions. The current drought in Europe is a combination of all three types in various degrees in different areas.

An official European agency has estimated that drought conditions have affected about 64% area of Europe till now and warned that the situation is tending towards further worsening. According to the report, around 90% of the land area of Switzerland and France, 83% of Germany, and close to 75% in Italy, are facing agricultural drought i.e. crop loss. The report’s estimates show that the conditions are likely to continue for the next 2-3 months. It means in the coming months of September and October the situation will remain grim and the danger of worsening the situation is looming large. Improvement is based upon the hope of rains returning in the month of November onwards. Again, it is beyond human control.

GLOBAL WARMING

The drought situation is a direct result of global warming. This is hugely a manmade catastrophe. The main reason is the uncontrolled emission of dust particles and carbon gases from industries. Their presence in the atmosphere hinders sunrays to travel to earth and return back, which causes a rise in temperatures. This change disturbs precipitation. It may be the main cause of rainfall shortage in most industrially dense areas of Europe and the US. The data shows that this July Britain remained driest since 1935 and France since 1959. Rainfall in the Netherlands also recorded a low. Germany got just 50% of the normal. In the last months, the temperatures were also higher than normal, resulting in greater evaporation of moisture on earth worsening the effect of drought.

OTHER CONTINENTS

As newspapers have reported, parts of Asia are also under drought threat. A report suggests, ‘parts of China too are headed towards a serious drought, worst in 60 years. A report from South China Morning Post indicates that the longest river in the country, Yangtze, which caters to about a third of the Chinese population, is seeing water levels drop to record lows. Two of the country’s biggest freshwater lakes, Poyang and Dongting, have touched their lowest levels since 1951.

The US is also not safe from drought threats. It has been officially acknowledged that 40% of the US land mass is currently facing drought conditions, affecting about 130 million people.

WILDFIRE

Like droughts, wildfires are also a cause of concern. It spurts heat waves, pollutes the air, and shoots lung diseases. Sparking, lightning, human error, etc. can ignite such a fire. Controlling it is a challenging task. Only rainfall can bring real relief.

In the reverse process heatwaves and dry spells create favourite conditions for wildfires. The higher the temperature, the drier the climate making bushes and leaves highly flammable. Increased global warming also intensify conditions of droughts, heatwaves, and wildfires. In the US alone, annually fire destroys habitats of wild animals and green cover over around 4-5 million acres yearly.

According to a WHO report, “Wildfires and volcanic activities affected 6.2 million people between 1998-2017; including 2400 deaths attributed to suffocation, injuries, and burns. The size and frequency of wildfires are growing with time due to hotter and drier climate conditions.” The root cause lies in our pursuit of materialism and blind eye to the beauties of nature.

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