Left: November 9, 1984. Right: November 28, 2011. The Dead Sea lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, bordering Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. It is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water, too salty to harbor any life other than bacteria. Minerals from the sea, however, are extracted for various industrial purposes. Mineral evaporation ponds have replaced open water in the southern part of the sea, as can be seen in the 2011 image. In recent decades, the Dead Sea has shrunk as water has been diverted from the Jordan River, the sea’s main tributary. A plan has been announced to replenish the Dead Sea by building a canal from the Red Sea, providing fresh (desalinated) water to Jordan en route.
1984 image taken by the Thematic Mapper sensor onboard Landsat 5. 2011 image taken by the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus sensor onboard Landsat 7. Source: USGS Landsat Missions Gallery, “The Dead Sea,” U.S. Department of the Interior / U.S. Geological Survey.
Images can say more than a thousand words. And sometimes two images together can convey the whole message. Here a few double images that illustrate the conflict between the different uses of Colorado River water. Other combinations just work nicely together visually. Photos: Johannes Abeling and Ronald de Hommel.
This year’s flood has submerged too much land. It’s good for the fish, but not for the farmers and fishermen.
Correction: According to Prof. Chavalit Vidthayanon, fishery expert of the Mekong River Commission, this flooding may actually cause the spread of invasive non native species from fish farms. This may endanger local fish species.
André and I have been on the road along the Mekong River in the past 2 weeks. We revisited some places on the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia that we visited last May already. It was great to see with our own eyes the huge difference in water level between the dry season and the wet season. Unfortunately for the local population this wet season brought the highest flood in 11 years, submerging whole villages that normally stay dry and even flooding the center of tourist city Siem Reap near Angkor Wat.
In a way the extremely high water this year does not illustrate the story we want to tell which is the benefits of the fluctuating waters in the lake. The high water is the time that billions of fish spawn in the lake. The flooded land that is covered in bushes, forests and rice fields provides a safe haven for the young fish. Without the flooding this safe haven disappears, seriously affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of fisher families. But when you ask these families right now, they complain about the high water that floods their houses and disperses the fish temporarily making it hard to catch enough for daily sustenance.
The floating villages in the Tonle Sap Lake were not much affected by the extra high flood. Their location, though, was many kilometres from where we encountered them a few months ago.
We did manage to take aerial photos this time. Last time the weather was too unpredictable. This time it was a close call too. We had rain and thunderstorms every day. But the first morning we had in Siem Reap we took a flight at seven in the morning, the light did fade away a little behind the clouds during our round trip over two floating villages. Be we managed to produce some good pictures and some great video. The days after we didn’t have any good mornings or evenings anymore.
It was our most expensive fight so far 35 minutes in a helicopter for US$ 1000. But it was a great experience and looking at the images it was worth it. Thanks to all our financial backers we managed to do this. Thank you very much, your contributions made the difference!
In a few weeks we will have a great series on the Mekong map.
Last friday I flew above the Rhine in Germany in an ultra light airplane.
Because I had to photograph through a tiny hole in the window, it was not that easy. But it was a lot cheaper than renting a helicopter.
From the air you can see the old Rhine meandering around the canalized Rhine.
This canalized Rhine is good for transportation, but can cause heavier floodings downstream.
‘Go to the airport’, had the travel agent told us. But before going on a wild goose chase that would not get us a decent price I first spent a few more hours researching the internet. Even a close study of the airport in Google Earth didn’t reveal the presence of any small airplanes.
Agriculture is the main industry in the Mexicali valley that straddles the vast Colorado River delta. The 1.5 million acre-feet of water that the USA delivers across the border into Mexico are used to water these fields and to supply the major cities Tijuana and Mexicali. Most of it is used to irrigate the vast agricultural area that covers the northern part of the delta.
El Mayor – Inocencia Gonzalez is 74 years old but looks like she’s well in her nineties or even older, and that’s what most people in the region think of the crooked, wrinkled chief of the Cocopa village of El Mayor at the Colorado River Delta in Mexico. She has a valid excuse: the extinction of her tribe’s culture is approaching.