A recent report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has concluded that the conflict in Darfur is being driven and fueled by climate change and environmental degradation. This report follows an eighteen-month study of Sudan and concludes that Darfur holds grim lessons not only for their own country, but for other countries at risk, particularly Chad and southern Africa. The report also warns that the Darfur tragedy could be repeated throughout North Africa and the Middle East as the result of growing populations fighting over limited water supplies and resources.
The precarious peace signed between north and south Sudan in 2005 may be at risk, due to declining rainfall and the advancement of the Sahara. The resulting tensions between farmers and herders over evaporating water holes and disappearing pastures threaten to reignite the half-century war. The southern Nuba tribe has warned that they could “restart the war” because Arab nomads – themselves pushed south due to a drought – are cutting down their trees to feed their camels.
Estimates of casualties from the Darfur conflict range from 200,000 to 500,000. The immediate cause was a regional rebellion, which the government responded to by recruiting Arab janjaweed militia members to ethnically cleanse the African population. The UNEP study suggests that the actual genesis of the conflict is to be found in the decrease in rainfall and spreading desertification, and the resulting conflict between African farmers and Arab nomads fighting over water and land.
UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, stated to the Washington Post: “Almost invariably, we discuss Darfur in a convenient military and political shorthand – an ethnic conflict pitting Arab militias against black rebels and farmers. Look to its roots, though, and you discover a more complex dynamic. Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.”
The Darfur crisis has in turn exacerbated the environmental degradation, sending more than two million refugees into camps. Deforestation has accelerated and underground aquifers are being drained in order to support the large numbers.
The report contains recommendations and proposed measures that if implemented are estimated to cost $120 million over three to five years. The Sudanese GDP in 2005 was $85.5 billion.
For more information, please see:
The Age – Sudan war fueled by climate change: UN – 23 June 2007
Guardian – Darfur Conflict Heralds Era of Wars Triggered by Climate Change, UN Report Warns – 23 June 2007
All Africa.com – UN Report Says Environmental Degradation Triggering Tensions – 22 June 2007
BBC – Sudan ‘Must Address Climate Ills’ – 22 June 2007
VOA News – UN Program Finds Environment Degradation Triggers Conflict in Sudan – 22 June 2007
Mail & Guardian – UN: Environmental woes a cause of Sudan conflict – June 2007