Socialist Worker

International round up: Floods in Greece and India result of ruined ecosystems

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2777

Floods in India are becoming increasing common and devastating.

Floods in India are becoming increasing common and devastating.


Devastating damage caused by wildfires in Greece this year has now given way to ­widespread flooding.

More than 200 houses on the island of Evia—the site of some of the worst fires—were damaged by floods during storms last week.

The fires have left areas ­vulnerable to flash flooding. Trees and vegetation that would have absorbed rainwater and acted as natural flood barriers are gone.

Emergency services have faced hundreds of calls to pump out water from homes. And at least some of the people who had to flee their homes during the fires had to evacuate once again ahead of the storms.

Giorgos Tsapourniotis, mayor of Mantoudi in Evia, said, “After the catastrophic fires, came a catastrophic flood. There is nothing left standing.

“We are trying to see if people are safe. Things are terrible, my eyes have never seen such a catastrophe, nor have we seen such a tragic ­situation as with the fires.”

Head of the WWF charity in Greece Demetres Karavellas said the flooding was a knock-on effect of the fires earlier this year.

It’s right to strike during the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow
It’s right to strike during the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow
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“What we are witnessing is the loss of critical ecosystem services that forests provide,” he said. “The natural ability of the soil to withhold water, to act as a flood ­control mechanism, has been destroyed across a massive area.”

Destruction

The destruction is just one of many consequences of global heating already playing out across the globe.

But Greek governments—that put the interests of profit and business ahead of protecting people and the environment—are also to blame.

Years of cuts left Greece’s fire service unprepared to deal with the widespread fires and now the flash flooding. And privatisation of forest land allowed private companies to destroy and mismanage areas ­vulnerable to fires.

People in fire damaged areas were then left rushing to improvise flood defences ahead of the storms.

It’s a similar story in India, where a flooding disaster in the southern state of Kerala has already taken more than 20 lives.

Kerala was already hit by ­unexpected deluges in 2018 and 2019. In both cases landslides and flooding hit millions of the poorest people, and hundreds of them died.

Backwater

Professor CP Rajendran told The Hindu newspaper this week that efforts to “modernise” Kerala’s economy are contributing to ­recurring disasters.

He points to the building of the new high speed “Silver Line” ­railway in the state as an example.

The new line will cut through many of the state’s most ecologically fragile coastal ecosystems.

These include wetlands, forest areas, backwater regions, densely populated areas and paddy fields.

Rajendran says its ­construction will “hasten soil erosion, land ­degradation, flooding and habitat destruction.”

Many development projects in the state’s hilly areas are particularly vulnerable to landslides.

But construction there ­continues at a pace with expensive homes being built, rather than more environmentally appropriate dwellings for poorer local people.

Both the hard right wing central government of Narendra Modi and the left wing state government in Kerala are wedded to ­capitalist development models that are destroying the environment.


Metal workers stay strong despite attacks

The metalworkers’ and engineers’ strike in South Africa has become even more important after workers rejected a new pay offer and another union joined the battle.

Over 150,000 members of the Numsa union began an indefinite strike on 5 October over pay.

Support the South African metal and engineering workers on indefinite strike
Support the South African metal and engineering workers on indefinite strike
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The 16,000 workers in the Mewusa union joined the action last week.

But Numsa has wrongly signalled that it’s dropping the demand for an 8 percent rise and will accept 6 percent if it is spread to every worker. The bosses’ most recent offer—that workers rejected—means 6 percent only for some.

The strike is hitting major firms. Car maker BMW said that on one day last week it lost production of around 700 vehicles at its main assembly plant in South Africa due to supply shortages.

Pickets have faced violence from police and private security firms.

At least six workers were injured last week when police fired rubber bullets at a picket line outside the Wireforce plant in Germiston near Johannesburg.

Meanwhile the ANC government refuses to back the strikers and makes vague noises about calm and concessions by both sides.


US strikes resist bosses and rotten deals

Over 10,000 workers began a strike last week at agricultural equipment maker John Deere at 14 plants across the US over pay and other issues.

Around 90 percent of workers rejected a contract their UAW union had negotiated.

Over 2,000 thousand nurses, clerical workers, technologists, and service workers have been on strike at Mercy Health in Buffalo, New York, since the beginning of October over staffing levels.

Meanwhile more than 24,000 Kaiser Permanente health workers have voted to strike over pay and benefits.

Robert Reich, a former secretary of labour, wrote last week, “American workers are now flexing their muscles for the first time in decades.

“You might say workers have declared a national general strike until they get better pay and improved working conditions.”

That is as yet an exaggeration. But it’s certainly true that US workers are fighting back in larger numbers and rejecting some of the union leaders’ attempts to make them accept sell-out deals.


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