Water everywhere but not a drop to drink?by Rit Nosotro
What is the impact water can have on a population's economic, social, cultural and political role?
Environmental situations can play a large part in the development and happenings of an area's social, cultural, economic, and political role in the world. Three places in which environment has played a key role have been Venice, Italy; Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Maputo, Mozambique. What do these three cities have in common? All three of these cities have, in some way, been drastically affected by water, either the daily presence of it, dangerous flooding monsoons, or the lack of water creating doleful droughts. Various programs have been created in order to try and somehow alter the conditions which are created by water. But ultimately, who controls the environment?
Venice is an Italian city which lies on 120 islands in the Adriatic Sea. A unique city, the people of Venice use canals instead of streets, and thus also use boats instead of the typical mode of transportation. However, the transportation is not the only issue, as even the Venetian diet is affected by the water; many meals consist of seafood. Because of its prime location on the Adriatic Sea, Venice was a major sea power and center of trade for quite a while. In the 5th and 6th centuries, it was founded as an escape from barbaric raids which were a result of the fall of the Roman Empire. By the 1200s, Venice had become a major political power because of its location it was able to be a prime trading port which controlled much of the Mediterranean Sea. However, its days of glory began to fade as it lost control of the Mediterranean Sea in the 1500s. Its decline continued when the city was completely ransacked in 1787 by Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1866, Venice became an Italian city.
At this time, Venice no longer held such power and fame. Now, its city canals and one of a kind location serve to both augment and deter from the success of Venetian society. In May of 2003, the Prime Minister of Venice began an anti-flood program to try and stop the massive flooding experienced each year. Some believe that increasing water levels are an effect of global warming. 1 In many Venetian buildings, the lower levels are "uninhabitable" as flood waters continue to seep in. However, economically, the waters possess an immense benefit--the pull of tourists from all over the globe. Not only is Venice's location and main characteristic of beauty unique, but it is also a vast center of art.
In Dhaka, Bangladesh, monsoons pose a difficulty. Although most days in Dhaka are bright and sunny, this capital city still averages nearly 100 inches of rainfall per year. 2 The monsoons, although dangerous, also play a crucial role in rice farming, a major part of Bangladesh's economy. Yet their danger comes not only from flooding, but from sanitary issues, as bacteria, germs, and even waste material collect in the flood waters. These murky waters pose threats to children especially, and many die each year from water-born diseases which could be prevented if proper sanitation programs were implemented. In October 2003, the South Asian Conference on Sanitation met in Dhaka and drafted the "Dhaka Declaration", which clearly laid out that which was the problem, why the problem existed, and how to attempt to solve the problem. 3
The African city of Maputo, Mozambique has been affected, time and time again, with drought problems. "El Nino" conditions lead to low river levels which complicate drought problems. In addition, the city is often plagued by cyclones which cause massive flooding. When floods occur, the risk for the spread of water-borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery increase. 4 Floods can destroy crops just as much as drought can, and economies can be destroyed.5 The political role of places with such problems is often hindered by the need for the government to spend much of its effort, energy and focus on funding and relief for the conditions the people live with. The social and cultural role of such a place remains underdeveloped because of a subsistent lifestyle that drives people to desperate means of survival, even women into prostitution. Some blame poverty on sin, others say sin is a result of poverty.
What causes these environmental happenings, such as yearly monsoons in Dhaka, rising flood waters in the city of Venice, yet lack of water in Maputo at the same time? How can a country be plagued by both too little and too much water? Scripture clearly states that God's hand controls the wind and the waves. We read "He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly . . . He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow."6 Here, we are told that God Himself melts the snow (mentioned in a previous verse) and causes the waves. Though He governs the earth by the natural processes which He created, these natural processes are not an end in themselves, but rather simply a way by which He chooses to work. Mathew Chapter 8 records Jesus "arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!"
His purposes in these things are greater than we can imagine or understand, as the scriptures tell us "My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." 7 Yet scriptures allow us to glimpse some of the reason the Lord might chose to do these things. 1 Chronicles 7:13-14 says: "When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." 8
In the case of Maputo, perhaps the sins of these people bring judgment upon themselves, such as the prostitution which fills the city.9 These words bring the harsh reality that Christ does bring judgment upon ungodly nations and specifically will use drought to punish a nation. Yet they also offer hope, saying that if Christians in these lands will repent for their sins and seek God's mercy for their nations, He will hear. His supernatural, omnipotent hand brings much more hope for restoration than any government relief programs ever could.
1) Venice, Italy is characterized by all of the following EXCEPT
a. Transportation being by boat because the city is filled with canals instead
b. Buildings whose lower levels are no longer inhabitable because of rising water levels.
c. Once being a major center of trade
d. Being # 3 on the list of the Top Ten Ugliest Places on Earth
e. Anti-flood programs which are in effect
2) Which of the following is NOT true?
a. Venice is reported to have "sunk" 20 cm in about 20 decades.
b. Maputo suffers from yearly monsoons.
c. Dhaka has experienced severe drought conditions over the past 50 years
d. Some scientists believe that global warming is contributing to the rising water levels of Venice, thus making the city a more inhabitable place.
e. Dhaka and Maputo are both areas with essentially no environmental problems, thus making them some of the most prosperous places on earth.
3) True/ False: God uses the environment as a judgment for sin and His people have the potential to change poor environmental conditions by repentance and prayer.
4) Maputo, Mozambique is characterized by all of the following EXCEPT:
a. Yearly monsoons
b. Frequent flooding from cyclones
d. Crops which are harmed from the environmental conditions
e. Spread of disease because of the environmental "problems"
1d, 2e, 3True, 4a
1 Venice's 1,500 year battle with the waves. July 17, 2003. March 3, 2005. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3069305.stm>
2 Dhaka, the Capital City. March 3, 2005. <http://www.betelco.com/bd/dhaka/dhaka.html>
3 The Dhaka Declaration on Sanitation. 2003. March 3, 2005. <http://www.wsscc.org/dataweb.cfm?edit_id=437&CFID=712741&CFTOKEN=73483733>
4 Over a million lives affected by floods in Mozambique. Learning Alive.com. March 3, 2005. <http://www.learningalive.co.uk/lapages/topical/mozambique.html>
5 Mozambique. Focus on a Decade of Peace. October 3, 2002
March 3, 2005. <http://rhodesian.server101.com/mozambique.htm>
6 See "Psalm 147:15, 18" The New King James Version Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.
7 See "Isaiah 55:9". The New King James Version Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.
8 See "1 Chronicles 7:13-14." The New King James Version Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.
9 Maputo. 2003. March 3, 2005. <http://www.go2africa.com/mozambique/maputo/maputo/>
Bangladesh. 2005. March 3, 2005. <http://geography.about.com/library/cia/blcbangladesh.htm>
Best Practices of Environmental Procedures in Mozambique. March 3, 2005. <http://easd.org.za/Eis/repts/Mozambique/mozeis2.htm#causes>
Drought Hits Mozambique. March 15, 2002. March 3, 2005. <http://edcw2ks40.cr.usgs.gov/sa_floods/article.asp?sid=77>
International Conference on Bangladesh Environment. December 21, 2002. March 3, 2005. <http://www.eng-consult.com/arsenic/ICBEN2002.htm>
Venice Guide. 2002. March 3, 2005. <http://www.veniceworld.com/venice_guide_interesting_facts.htm>
"Venice." World Book. 1975.
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