I just learned from colleague Aaron Wolf that Dr. Anthony “Tony” Turton, one of the world’s top experts on hydropolitics and transboundary water resources and one of the movers in the Universities Partnership for Transboundary Waters, has been suspended by the Council on Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) after he sounded the alarm on an impending water crisis in South Africa.
CSIR has no real equivalent agency in the USA but this situation is analogous to the EPA or USGS suspending a top water researcher for whistleblowing.
From Megan Power’s article in The Times, published on 23 November 2008:
The move followed just days after the CSIR barred the top scientist from delivering the keynote address at its biennial conference in Pretoria on Tuesday. The council said certain images and unsubstantiated claims in his presentation had caused concern.
The hard-hitting presentation by Dr Anthony Turton warned of an impending water quality disaster that had the potential to spark public violence.
He included graphic images of service delivery protests and xenophobic violence and asked if such anger could be unleashed in response to deteriorating public health as a result of declining water quality.
“If I’m guilty of anything,” Turton said yesterday, “I’m guilty of being a scientist with a moral conscience. Scientists must be free and independent to raise concerns.”
The story continued:
Five of SA’s major dams, Turton claims, are contaminated with toxin levels that are among the highest in the world. And there is no current engineering solution to the problem.
In his paper, Three Strategic Water Quality Challenges that Decision-makers Need to Know about and how the CSIR Should Respond, Turton said no studies had been done on people exposed to chronic doses of microcystins, a water toxin, and this bordered on the “criminally negligent”.
“We need to know if microcystins are causing human health problems, specifically in communities that are immune-compromised,” he wrote.
Turton’s paper also highlighted a growing antiretroviral load that is passing through people into rivers, entering the population either through the drinking-water stream or through produce irrigated with contaminated water.
Here is Tony’s keynote address, Three Strategic Water Quality Challenges that Decision-Makers Need to Know About and How the CSIR Should Respond:
Could Tony’s suspension be politically motivated?
What’s your take?
I’ll keep you informed as I learn more.
[Disclosure notice: Tony is a good friend and colleague with whom I have worked on a few occasions. I have the greatest resepct for his abilities and integrity.]
“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell