Inter Press ServiceNatural Resources – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 23 Oct 2018 09:14:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Solar Power Lights up the World’s Fastest-Growing Refugee Camphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/solar-power-lights-worlds-fastest-growing-refugee-camp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solar-power-lights-worlds-fastest-growing-refugee-camp http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/solar-power-lights-worlds-fastest-growing-refugee-camp/#respond Mon, 22 Oct 2018 12:32:49 +0000 Dr Iftikher Mahmood http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158293 Dr Iftikher Mahmood is Founder and President, HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh

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Credit: HOPE Foundation

By Dr Iftikher Mahmood
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Oct 22 2018 (IPS)

Solar energy has long powered homes, businesses and portable electronics. Now, it’s powering a field hospital in the middle of the world’s fastest-growing refugee camp.

Last month, my organization, the HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh, opened the HOPE Field Hospital for Women in the Kutupalong mega-camp for Rohingya refugees.

Here, the population density is five times above the United Nations’ recommended standard for refugee camps, and there is a dire need for more health services among this vulnerable community.

UN Women estimates that more than half of the refugee population are women and girls—and UNFPA has estimated over 64,000 pregnant women will give birth this year—many of whom have been traumatized and are suffering from injuries caused by fires, brutality, rape, gunshots, and more.

The HOPE Field Hospital for Women is the first to be opened by a Bangladeshi NGO, and the only hospital in the camp that specializes in care for women. But there is another important distinction that we are equally proud of: our field hospital is significantly powered by solar energy, at a scale not seen anywhere else in the camps.

Credit: HOPE Foundation

Solar power is unique in its ability to be brought into remote areas, to be pollution free, and to scale easily. Before the new solar installations, there were numerous times when a lack of power put women and children at risk.

One example is during the recent monsoon season, when our midwives found themselves providing care in the dark after flooding brought power outages. They worked in the conditions they had to, but as you would imagine, they were quite concerned that in the dark they might make a mistake that could harm mother or the baby. But, when a mother goes into labor, you can’t exactly tell a baby to wait for the lights to come back on.

It’s not just monsoons that cause loss of power. The hot, humid conditions in southern Bangladesh are often responsible for disruptions to the electrical service.

This is another reason why it was important to HOPE to make sure that solar energy played a key role in powering our new facility. A generous donation from the family foundation of 8minutenergy Renewables’ CEO, called the Abundant Future Foundation, helped us do just that. Five solar-powered clinics, custom-built by SOLARKIOSK in Germany, now power our field hospital’s most important and power-dependent services.

They’re ensuring that labor and delivery rooms stay well lit, that our sterilization units maintain power and that our medications and vaccinations remain refrigerated at the appropriate temperature. We’ve also incorporated solar into other areas of the hospital power grid, using this technology to fuel our indoor lighting as well as lighting around the perimeter of the hospital.

Credit: HOPE Foundation

Now, our midwives won’t have to worry about delivering in the dark. And babies who need incubators and specialized care will stay safe and warm.

Nearly one million Rohingya refugees have crossed the border to Bangladesh since the Rohingya influx began a little over a year ago.

This is the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian crisis. The last thing any aid organization wants to have to worry about is loss of power during an operation or a life-saving intervention.

Solar will be a game-changer for our ability to provide high-quality, uninterrupted care, and there is room for growth in this area. Other organizations have utilized solar power on a smaller scale in the camps. For example, UNFPA has distributed solar-powered LED lights to all of the health facilities in the camps that are open 24/7.

But investment in renewable energy on a larger scale could provide a tremendous payoff in terms of lives saved here in Bangladesh, and in refugee camps around the globe. In Jordan last year, UNHCR opened a solar plant in the Za’atari refugee camp, which supports 80,000 Syrian refugees.

In Kenya, you’ll find Africa’s largest solar-powered borehole, providing clean drinking water for refugees in the Dadaab camp in the country’s arid northern border. Renewable energy is good for the planet and the pocketbook, too, reducing emissions and saving precious dollars that aid organizations can apply toward providing critical services and procuring medicines, materials and staff to help alleviate suffering.

The HOPE Field Hospital for Women is the first facility to apply solar technology at such a scale in the Rohingya camps. Hopefully we’re just the first of many.

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Excerpt:

Dr Iftikher Mahmood is Founder and President, HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh

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For the Survival of the Nile and its Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/survival-nile-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=survival-nile-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/survival-nile-people/#respond Wed, 17 Oct 2018 14:25:11 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158229 Running through eleven countries for 6,853 kilometres, the Nile is a lifeline for nearly half a billion people. But the river itself has been a source of tension and even conflict for countries and territories that lie along it and there have been rumours of “possible war for the Nile” for years now. While to […]

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Natural fertility is actually the Nile's biggest legacy for Egyptians. A fisherman fishes for food on the Nile. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Oct 17 2018 (IPS)

Running through eleven countries for 6,853 kilometres, the Nile is a lifeline for nearly half a billion people. But the river itself has been a source of tension and even conflict for countries and territories that lie along it and there have been rumours of “possible war for the Nile” for years now. While to date there has been no outbreak of irreversible tension, experts say that because of increasing changes in the climate a shared agreement needs to be reached on the redistribution of water soon.

“Right now I do not think there is a concrete and imminent risk of conflict between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, given the internal difficulties and the unstable nearby area [Libya] of the first, the recent secession suffered by the second and the peace agreement achieved by the third with Eritrea,” Maurizio Simoncelli, vice president of the International Research Institute Archivio Disarmo, a think tank based in Rome, told IPS.

“However, it is certain that if a shared agreement is not reached on the redistribution of water in a situation of increasing climatic changes, those areas remain at great risk,” he said.

No one master of the river Nile

All the cities that run along the river exist only because of these waters. For Egypt, this is particularly true: if the Nile wasn’t there, it would be just another part of the Sahara desert.

Egypt has tried to be master of the river for centuries, seeking to ensure exclusive control over its use. Nevertheless, today upstream countries are challenging this dominance, pushing for a greater share of the waters. Egypt and Sudan still regard two treaties from 1929 and 1959 as technically binding, while African upstream nations – after gaining independence – started to challenge these agreements, signed when they were under colonial rule.

The 1959 treaty allocates 75 percent of the river’s waters to Egypt, leaving the remainder to Sudan. Egypt has always justified this hegemonic position on the basis of geographic motivations and economic development, as it is an arid country that could not survive without the Nile’s waters, while upstream countries receive enough rainfall to develop pluvial agriculture without resorting to irrigation.

“From the Egyptian point of view, it is right [to hold this hegemonic position] because it is true, Cairo has no alternative water resources. Without the Nile, Egypt would die,” Matteo Colombo, associate research fellow in the MENA Programme at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) told IPS.

Egypt – according to Colombo – should therefore aim to open regional forums focusing on cooperation in a broad sense.

Cooperation among countries sharing this watercourse is key. For example, Ethiopia could need more water to produce more electricity, which could in turn diminish the amount of flow towards Cairo. Indeed, Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is currently under construction, will be the biggest dam on the African continent and could diminish the amount of water flowing to Egypt.

Water is not the only gift of this river for Egypt. Each year, rainfall in Ethiopia causes the Nile to flood its banks in Egypt. When the Nile flood recedes, the silt – a sediment rich in nutrients and minerals and carried by the river – remains behind, fertilising the soil and creating arable land. Natural fertility is actually the Nile’s biggest legacy for Egyptians.

“The problem for Egypt is that, from a geographical point of view, it does not hold the knife on the side of the handle,” warns Colombo.

“For this reason, Egypt cannot fail to reach an agreement with neighbouring countries. What Cairo could do is to create a sort of ‘regional forum’, a ‘platform’, where the various disputes with neighbouring countries are discussed and perhaps include other topics in the talks,” Colombo added. “If other themes were included, Egypt could have some more voices than Sudan and Ethiopia, while if the discussion remains relegated to the theme of water, the margin of action for Egypt would be limited.”

The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), created in 1999 with the aim to “take care of and jointly use the shared Nile Basin water and related resources”, could be an example of regional multilateralism to resolve disputes but it remains relegated to discussions about water management.

Institutionally, the NBI is not a commission. It is “in transition”, awaiting an agreement on Nile water usage, so it has no legal standing beyond its headquarters agreement with Uganda, where the secretariat is settled.

Due to differences that have not yet been resolved, the NBI has focused on technical, relatively apolitical projects. This ends up weakening the organisation since Egypt sees technical and political tracks as inseparable. Therefore, Cairo suspended its participation in most NBI activities, effectively depleting the organisation’s political weight.

Populations living on the Nile and the impact

If regional agreements on the management of the Nile’s waters seem difficult, what is certain is that local populations’ living along the river have always been impacted by environmental changes.

The Nubian population are among these affected people. The Nubians, an ethnic group originating in southern Egypt and northern Sudan, have lived along the Nile for thousands of years. In 1899, during the construction of the Aswan Low Dam, they were forced to move and relocate to the west bank of the Nile in Aswan. During the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, over 120,000 Nubians were forced to move for a second time.

Their new home proved far from satisfactory: not a single resettlement village was by the river. And to date, the socio-economic and political conditions of the Nubians have not appeared to have improved.

“I think we are passing through one of the worst moments for us Nubians. Every time we tried to claim some rights in the last few years, the government did not want to listen to us and many of our activists were recently arrested,” Mohamed Azmy, president of the General Nubian Union, a movement that actively promotes the right to return of the Nubian community to their ancestral land, told IPS.

Lorri Pottinger of International Rivers told Al Jazeera that Africa’s large dams have not reversed poverty, or dramatically increased electricity rates, or even improved water supply for people living near them.

“What they have done is help create a small industrial economy that tends to be  companies from Europe and elsewhere. And so these benefits are really, really concentrated in a very small elite,” she had said.

The demographic challenge

The reasons why Egypt faces water scarcity are numerous but the exponential increase in population certainly accelerates the critical situation.

The United Nations estimates that unless the current fertility rate of 3.47 changes by 2030, Egypt’s population is expected to grow from the current 97 million to 128 million. This demographic growth has grave implications as it comes at a time of unprecedented challenges in the climate which in turn has worrisome implications for loss of arable land, rising sea levels and depletion of scarce water resources.

Moreover, the demographic increase is having grave consequences on the entire economic system, as there is insufficient infrastructure and not enough jobs for the increasing young population.

Birth control policies could be and should be part of the solution to overcome these challenges. The government has recently launched a campaign named ‘Kefaya etnen’ (‘Two is enough’), through which it is trying to raise the awareness on controlling birth rates and having no more than two children per family. “I think this is a great initiative from the Egyptian government but it definitely needs to permeate the society, and this will not be easy,” said Colombo.

Egypt needs to curb its population and to turn its youth into an asset for its economy, otherwise the waters of the Nile could be insufficient.

Indeed, the importance of the Nile is felt in the blood of all Egyptians. “Walking along the Nile for me is what makes me relaxed and vent when I need it, in the chaos of the city,” Tarek, a resident of Cairo, tells IPS.

And many Egyptians hope that this gift will be with them forever, because it is not just about survival, but about the essence itself of being part of these lands.

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Going Full Circle for Growth and the Planethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/going-full-circle-growth-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=going-full-circle-growth-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/going-full-circle-growth-planet/#respond Fri, 05 Oct 2018 14:04:02 +0000 Li Yong and Hong Joo Hahm http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158017 LI Yong is Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

Hong Joo Hahm is Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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LI Yong is Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
Hong Joo Hahm is Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

By Li Yong and Hong Joo Hahm
Oct 5 2018 (IPS)

The business case for making our economy more sustainable is clear. Globally, transitioning to a circular economy – where materials are reused, re-manufactured or recycled-could significantly reduce carbon emissions and deliver over US$1 trillion in material cost savings by 2025.(1) The benefits for Asia and the Pacific would be huge. But to make this happen, the region needs to reconcile its need for economic growth with its ambition for sustainable business.

LI Yong

Today, the way we consume is wasteful. We extract resources, use them to produce goods and services, often wastefully, and then sell them and discard them. However, resources can only stretch so far. By 2050, the global population will reach 10 billion. In the next decade, 2.5 billion new middle-class consumers will enter the fray. If we are to meet their demands and protect the planet, we must disconnect prosperity and well-being from inefficient resource use and extraction. And create a circular economy, making the shift to extending product lifetimes, reusing and recycling in order to turn waste into wealth.

These imperatives underpin the 5th Green Industry Conference held in Bangkok this week, hosted by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in partnership with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Royal Thai government. High-level policymakers, captains of industry and scientists gathered to discuss solutions on how to engineer waste and pollution out of our economy, keep products and materials in use for longer and regenerate the natural system in which we live.

The goal is to embed sustainability into industries which we depend on for our jobs, prosperity and well-being. Action in Asia and the Pacific could make a major difference. Sixty percent of the world’s fastmoving consumer goods are manufactured in the region. Five Asia-Pacific countries account for over half of the plastic in the world’s oceans. The region’s material footprint per unit of Gross Domestic Product is twice the world average and the amount of solid waste generated by Asian cities is expected to double by 2025.

Hong Joo Hahm

If companies could build circular supply chains to reduce material use and increase the rate of reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycling – powered by renewable energy – the value of materials could be maximized. This would cushion businesses, manufacturing industries in particular, from the volatility of commodity prices by decoupling production from finite supplies of primary resources. This is increasingly important as many elements vital for industrial production could become scarce in the coming decades.

With these goals in mind, the United Nations is working with governments and businesses to support innovation and upgrade production technologies to use less materials, energy and water. UNIDO is engaged across industrial sectors, from food production to textiles, from automotive to construction. Over the past twenty-five years, its network of Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production Centres has helped thousands of businesses to “green” their processes and their products. The Global Cleantech initiative has supported entrepreneurs to produce greener building materials. Industrial renewable energy use is being accelerated by the Global Network of Sustainable Energy Centres. New business models such as chemical leasing help reduce chemical emissions. And the creation of eco-industrial parks has contributed to the sustainable development of our towns and cities.

In Asia and the Pacific, the UN is intensifying its efforts to reducing and banning single use plastics. The Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy is implementing programmes to reduce plastics consumption, marine litter and electronics waste, and encourage sustainable procurement practices. UNESCAP is identifying opportunities in Asian cities to return plastic resources into the production cycle by linking waste pickers in the informal economy with local authorities to recover plastic waste and reduce pollution.

The 5t h Green Industry Conference is an opportunity to give scale to these efforts. The gap between our ambition for sustainability and many business practices is significant. So it’s essential for best practice to be shared, common approaches coordinated, and success stories replicated. We need to learn from each other’s businesses to innovate, sharpen our rules and increase consumer awareness. Let’s step up our efforts to build a circular economy in Asia and the Pacific.

(1) World Economic Forum, Towards the Circula r Economy. Available from http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_ENV_TowardsCircularEconomy_Report_2014.pdf

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Excerpt:

LI Yong is Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

Hong Joo Hahm is Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Saving the Lungs of Our Planethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/saving-lungs-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=saving-lungs-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/saving-lungs-planet/#respond Thu, 04 Oct 2018 04:47:17 +0000 Gordon Radley http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157973 Dr Sylvia Earle, an eminent marine biologist and explorer has strong views on how nations needs to work together to save what the United Nations calls the lungs of our planet. When asked how well the U.N.’s call to action for balance and respect of the oceans will work Earle says: “It will work or […]

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Dr Sylvia Earle, an eminent marine biologist and explorer has strong views on how nations needs to work to save what the United Nations calls the lungs of our planet.

By Gordon Radley
Oct 4 2018 (IPS)

Dr Sylvia Earle, an eminent marine biologist and explorer has strong views on how nations needs to work together to save what the United Nations calls the lungs of our planet.

When asked how well the U.N.’s call to action for balance and respect of the oceans will work Earle says: “It will work or not depending on the response of people who understand the importance and the fact that there was a conference by the United Nations about the ocean is cause for hope.”

Her remarks come ahead of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference being co-hosted by Canadian and Kenyan governments in Nairobi Nov. 26 to 28.
The theme of the conference is ‘Blue Economy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. It is the first global conference on a sustainable blue economy.

 

 

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Saving the Kindergarten of Sharkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/saving-kindergarten-sharks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=saving-kindergarten-sharks http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/saving-kindergarten-sharks/#respond Thu, 04 Oct 2018 04:38:04 +0000 Gordon Radley http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157970 Every winter dozens of bull sharks come to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera to breed. A single bull shark can give birth to up to 15 young. They are the only species of shark that can live in both fresh and salt water. Saving Our Sharks has called for a strict no fishing sanctuary along the Mexican […]

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Every winter dozens of bull sharks come to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera to breed. A single bull shark can give birth to up to 15 young. They are the only species of shark that can live in both fresh and salt water.

By Gordon Radley
MAYAN RIVIERA, Mexico, Oct 4 2018 (IPS)

Every winter dozens of bull sharks come to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera to breed.
A single bull shark can give birth to up to 15 young. They are the only species of shark that can live in both fresh and salt water.

Saving Our Sharks has called for a strict no fishing sanctuary along the Mexican Caribbean to help protect the fish at this very vulnerable time in their lives.

Ahead of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference being co-hosted by Canadian and Kenyan governments in Nairobi Nov. 26 to 28, the protection of marine life and oceans, seas, lakes and rivers is in the forefront of the development agenda.

The theme of the conference is Blue Economy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

 

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Water Scarcity and Poor Water Management Makes Life Difficult for Egyptianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/water-scarcity-poor-water-management-makes-life-difficult-egyptians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-scarcity-poor-water-management-makes-life-difficult-egyptians http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/water-scarcity-poor-water-management-makes-life-difficult-egyptians/#respond Thu, 27 Sep 2018 15:24:44 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157820 Local residents in Cairo are becoming concerned and discontent as water scarcity is reaching a critical point in the capital and the rest of the country. Although not all areas of the country are affected in the same way, many Cairo residents say they don’t have water for large portions of the day. And some […]

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Houseboats line the Nile bank in Cairo. Some 85 million Egyptians depend on the Nile for water. According to the United Nations, Egypt is currently below the U.N.’s threshold of water poverty. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Sep 27 2018 (IPS)

Local residents in Cairo are becoming concerned and discontent as water scarcity is reaching a critical point in the capital and the rest of the country.

Although not all areas of the country are affected in the same way, many Cairo residents say they don’t have water for large portions of the day. And some areas are affected more than most.

“Where my grandmother lives, in a central area and near a hospital, water is almost never missing, but where I live with my family in a more peripheral area, water is missing several times during the week if not during the day,” one local resident from Cairo, who did not want to be named, tells IPS.

According to the United Nations, Egypt is facing an annual water deficit of around seven billion cubic metres and the country could run out of water by 2025, when it is estimated that 1.8 billion people worldwide will live in absolute water scarcity.

The U.N. World Water Development report for 2018, warns that Egypt is currently below the U.N.’s threshold of water poverty, it is currently facing water scarcity (1,000 m3 per capita) and dramatically heading towards absolute water scarcity (500 m3 per capita).

“The water goes away all the time, we don’t know how to handle this issue. The other day I even opened the tap and the water that came out was stinking of sewer,” the Cairo resident adds.

As highlighted in the ‘Egyptian Journal of Aquatic Research’, problems affecting the Nile River’s flow are many and range from inefficient irrigation to water pollution. In addition, the uncontrolled dumping of anthropogenic waste from different drains located along the Nile River’s banks has significantly increased water contamination to a critical level, warns the research. 

The pollution of the river—considered the longest river in the world—is an issue that has been underestimated over the past few decades. “Most of the industries in Egypt have made little effort to meet Egyptian environmental laws for Nile protection, where, the Nile supplies about 65 percent of the industrial water needs and receives more than 57 percent of its effluents,” the study says. 

As so many people rely on the Nile for drinking, agricultural and municipal use, the water quality is of concern. 

The reality is that the Nile is being polluted by municipal and industrial waste, with many recorded incidents of leakage of wastewater and the release of chemical waste into the river. 

But Dr. Helmy Abouleish, president of SEKEM, an organisation that invests in biodynamic agriculture, says there is increasing awareness in the country about its water challenges.

“I can see the awareness towards the water insecurity challenge is now spreading in society more than before,” Abouleish tells IPS. “We all should be quite aware of the fact that whatever we are doing today, our children will pay for it in the future. None of the current resources will be available forever,” he adds.

SEKEM has converted 70 hectares of desert into a green and cultivated oasis north east of Cairo, which is now inhabited by a local community.  

These futuristic innovations is what Egypt needs more of, considering that water availability is progressively worsening in the country.

“In Egypt rainfall is limited to the coastal strip running parallel to the Mediterranean Sea and occurs mainly in the winter season,” Tommaso Abrate, a scientific officer in the Climate and Water Department at the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), tells IPS. 

“The amounts are low (80 to 280 mm per year), erratic and variable in space and time hence rainfall cannot be considered a reliable source of water.”  

“Climate models indicate that Egypt, especially the coastal region, will experience significant warming and consequent substantial drought by the end of the century, while rainfall is expected to show just a small decrease in annual means,” Abrate says. 

He warns that other factors like abstraction (removal of water from a source) and pollution, have major effects on water quality. 

Another concern is the fact that the country uses 85 percent of its water resources for agricultural activities—with 90 percent of this being used for conventional agriculture. 

But agricultural wastewater, which carries the residual of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, is drained back into the Nile River.

It is a vicious cycle that is worsening the quality and the sustainability of Egypt’s farmlands.

However, this year the Egyptian government and partners announced the allocation of about USD4 billion in investment to address the water shortage.

“Major efforts are being invested in the desalination of water from the Red Sea and the Mediterranean (for example the mega scale project in Ain Sokhna, which will purify 164,000 cubic litres per day). A regional centre unit will be established to follow water movement using the latest remote sensing techniques to combat this problem,” Abouleish adds.

SEKEM says that it is working to develop a “sustainable and self-sustaining water management system in all of Egypt.” 

“We foster several research projects that are developed by the students and the research team at Heliopolis University to realise this mission. For instance, researching water desalination models from salt water, recovery systems for water from the air as well as waste water recycling systems is now considered in our core focus,” says Abouleish. 

The U.N. agrees that in the next few years Egypt will face a water crisis of considerable size, which will require a more effective management of the available, scarce resources. This should involve a modernisation of the irrigation systems to avoid the current waste. 

If water scarcity is not addressed by those accountable, there is a risk that in the coming decades, a country of nearly 80 million people could run out of water. It could result in a humanitarian crisis that would probably destabilise the entire Mediterranean region with unpredictable consequences.  

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First Steps Towards a Global Agreement on the High Seashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/first-steps-towards-global-agreement-high-seas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=first-steps-towards-global-agreement-high-seas http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/first-steps-towards-global-agreement-high-seas/#respond Thu, 20 Sep 2018 12:08:34 +0000 Andrew Norton http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157701 Andrew Norton is director, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

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Coral reef in Mexico. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Andrew Norton
LONDON, Sep 20 2018 (IPS)

The world’s first efforts to develop a way to govern the high seas – international waters beyond the 200 nautical mile national boundary – is truly underway. The initial round of negotiations at the United Nations has just ended after two weeks of talks.

On the face of it, given the importance and scale of the task, some may feel there has not been much progress. But it is significant that despite the range of views and interests in the room, all the member states of the UN engaging in this intergovernmental conference to ‘formulate a legally binding treaty to govern the conservation and use of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction’ (BBNJ) remain committed to the process and the goal.

Although member states and civil society had expected a draft treaty to be presented for consideration, it wasn’t, and therefore the discussions were similar to previous preparatory committee meeting phases.

But the key points around what needs to be addressed are clear: ensuring fair access and ability to share the benefits of marine genetic resources; agreeing measures for marine protected areas so they benefit all; processes for establishing environmental impact assessments, and agreeing a mechanism for enabling developing countries to have access to the necessary technological means, including data (digital sequencing of marine organisms’ DNA, for example), to share the oceans’ benefits and become active stewards of the ocean.

None of the governance measures that currently tackle these issues extends beyond 200 nautical miles from the coast. There are fragmented regional initiatives such as the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic — the OSPAR Convention —but nothing that governs the high seas in its entirety.

Some governments including Russia, Iceland and Japan, feel that this is enough. But while regional treaties provide important governance mechanisms, no single treaty covers all the items currently on the BBNJ table or deals with the part of the ocean covering 50 per cent of the planet — the high seas.

There is a clear risk that lack of effective governance will play to the interests of richer countries that have the resources to exploit the biodiversity of the high seas and can proceed without benefit to the bulk of the world’s population. That is why IIED is working to support the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) negotiating group and negotiators from the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other developing countries in the BBNJ process.

Limiting high seas governance to regional initiatives would mean nothing more than maintaining the status quo. We need to end this fragmentation of high seas governance and work towards establishing a fair and inclusive global instrument. It’s about sharing half of the planet with all of the world’s people.

All member states are keen to see a draft treaty text in the next BBNJ intergovernmental meeting that can be a focus for negotiations. There must also be more time to discuss cross-cutting issues, including financing, institutional arrangements and clarifying decision-making processes.

For the next round to be more effective we would also want to see the views of people affected by any agreed high seas management regime being central to negotiations. So that means a sustained and greater presence by the Least Developed Countries, other developing countries and Small Island Developing States at the negotiating table from Spring 2019 onwards.

This is early days, so despite slight frustration with the pace of progress, it’s important to remain optimistic. IIED will continue to provide on demand, real time support to the Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States and other developing countries’ negotiators. This first round is more than a step in the right direction, and we look forward to meeting again.

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Excerpt:

Andrew Norton is director, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

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“Running Out Of Time” – Local Communities Mobilise for the Climatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/running-time-local-communities-mobilise-climate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=running-time-local-communities-mobilise-climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/running-time-local-communities-mobilise-climate/#respond Wed, 12 Sep 2018 08:42:24 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157572 Local communities across the globe have risen up to demand commitments on climate change, as frustration mounts over the lack of action. Over the next few days, leaders from civil society, local governments, and the private sector will convene in California to highlight the urgency of the threat of climate change and “take ambition to […]

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Fayaz Ahmad Khanday plucks a lotus stem from Wullar Lake in India’s Kashmir. He says the fish population has fallen drastically in recent times. The Global Climate Action Summit aims to hear the voices and experiences of local communities, but also to showcase the existing grassroots achievements in climate action and that progress is possible. Credit: Umer Asif/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 12 2018 (IPS)

Local communities across the globe have risen up to demand commitments on climate change, as frustration mounts over the lack of action.

Over the next few days, leaders from civil society, local governments, and the private sector will convene in California to highlight the urgency of the threat of climate change and “take ambition to the next level.”

And it is nothing if not timely.

Not only is it being hosted midway between when the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016 and when it will legally commence in 2020, the Global Climate Action Summit is happening as the United States’ government continues to roll back federal regulations aimed at addressing the issue.“All of the scientists who understand climate change are telling us that we are running out of time to address this issue.” -- Union of Concerned Scientists’ president Ken Kimmell.

In July, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed weakening a rule on carbon dioxide pollution from vehicles. Most recently, the U.S. agency proposed easing Obama-era rules on the reduction of oil and gas industry leaks of methane gas, a major fossil fuel that contributes to climate change.

“The Trump Administration is kind of a wrecking ball that is swinging at virtually all the policies we have in place to try to address climate change,” Union of Concerned Scientists’ president Ken Kimmell told IPS. The union is a nonprofit science advocacy organisation.

“What’s so important about the summit is that if you look beyond the federal government and look at what states and cities and the private sector are doing, you see that in fact there is a still very significant commitment to addressing climate change… it gives us a chance to tell the rest of the world that we are still in this fight,” he continued.

Just days before the meeting, over 300,000 people took part in climate marches and protests around the world to urge local governments to step up action—from rising sea levels in Vanuatu to fossil fuel extraction across the U.S. to coal mining in Kenya.

350 Pilipinas conducted a virtual march by projecting the photos more than 500 frontline communities, activists, students, artists, churchgoers, and other advocates for climate action in Quezon City, Metro Manila. Courtesy: AC Dimatatac/350.org

Executive director of international climate change campaign 350.org, May Boeve, told IPS of the importance of local voices and action, stating: “Part of why the mobilisation is rooted in the local is because we recognise that tackling the climate crisis requires building a new economy that works for all of us and leaves no one behind.”

“This is a set of people who, in many ways, are dedicating their lives to making sure this transition happens. For them, the fact that it’s global, helps them realise that they are not isolated, that the fight that they are waging in their community may seem unwinnable at times but they can draw inspiration from elsewhere,” she continued.

And the summit aims to do exactly that—put the local at the heart by not only hearing the voices and experiences of local communities, but also to showcase the existing grassroots achievements in climate action and that progress is possible.

Earlier this week, California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to transition the state’s electricity to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, a major step forward to achieving a carbon-free society.

On the other side of the country, the state of Massachusetts has announced its intention to create offshore wind farms to help power homes.

In China, electric buses are replacing diesel-fuelled assemblies at a rapid rate. Soon, Chinese company BYD, the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer, will supply electric vehicles to the U.S. state of Georgia, which will help the state achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gases.

Even still, more can be done, Boeve and Kimmell said.

Boeve highlighted the need for Brown to cease the expansion of oil drilling and fracking. While production has decreased, California is still ranked sixth among U.S. states in crude oil production.

Kimmell noted that states and cities could work to make building more efficient while the private sector can purchase and use renewable energy for their operations.

“For us to effectively fight climate change, it really has to be from the bottom up, not the top down. It’s really important that local governments and states and private businesses are thinking about what they can do within their power to lower their carbon footprint and the answer is that there is a lot that they can do,” Kimmell told IPS.

A semi-submerged graveyard on Togoru, Fiji. The island states in the South Pacific are most vulnerable for sealevel rise and extreme weather. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

Boeve expressed concern that progress on climate action, including the transition to renewable energy and the Paris Agreement, are not moving fast enough.

“This is an enormous opportunity to make this transition happen. But if that happens in 50-75 years, we are not actually addressing what we know will reduce warming in the future so we have to make sure the people making decisions on this issue know that the timetable is critical,” she said.

A recent United Nations (U.N.) climate change meeting in Bangkok was criticised by activists after it failed to produce concrete outcomes, including a set of guidelines to implement the Paris Agreement.

“We have not progressed far enough. It is not just an additional session; it is an urgent session,” said Fijian prime minister and COP23 president Frank Bainimarama in his opening remarks. COP23 is the 23rdannual Conference of the Parties to the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Among the controversial topics in the meeting was climate finance for developing countries, from which developed nations such as the U.S. shied away from committing to.

“When people understand the climate crisis, you immediately realise that any country can’t do it alone. Not even half the countries can do it alone—it really requires all of us together,” Boeve said.

“All of the scientists who understand climate change are telling us that we are running out of time to address this issue,” Kimmell said.

He expressed hope that summit participants will leave with a renewed appreciation for the urgency of the crisis and motivation to raise their own and their local and national government’s ambitions.

“There are all of these different success stories and what’s driving this progress is technology and innovation coupled with clear-thinking state policies…this is really a clean energy train that has left the station and I don’t think that Donald Trump can stop it,” Kimmel said.

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Q&A: As Water Scarcity Becomes the New Normal How Do We Manage This Scarce Resource?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 12:42:37 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157558 Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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In south west coastal Satkhira, Bangladesh as salinity has spread to freshwater sources, a private water seller fills his 20-litre cans with public water supply to sell in islands where poor families spend 300 Bangladesh Taka every month to buy drinking and cooking water alone. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
STOCKHOLM, Sep 11 2018 (IPS)

Growing economies are thirsty economies. And water scarcity has become “the new normal” in many parts of the world, according to Torgny Holmgren executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

As climate change converges with rapid economic and urban development and poor farming practices in the emerging economies of South Asia, water insecurity for marginalised people and farmers is already intensifying.

By 2030 for instance, India’s demand for water is estimated to become double the available water supply. Forests, wetlands lost, rivers and oceans will be degraded in the name of development. This need not be so. Development can be sustainable, it can be green.

Technology today is a key component in achieving water use sustainability – be it reduced water use in industries and agriculture, or in treating waste water, among others. Low and middle income economies need water and data technology support from developed countries not only to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on water, which relates to access to safe water and sanitation as well as the sound management of freshwater supplies, but several global goals in which water plays a critical role.

Speakers at SIWI’s 28th World Water Week held last month in Stockholm, Sweden, underpinned water scarcity as contributing to poverty, conflict, and the spread of waterborne diseases, as well as hindering access to education for women and girls.

Women are central to the collection and the safeguarding of water – they are responsible for more than 70 percent of water chores and management worldwide. But the issue goes far deeper than the chore of fetching water.  It is also about dignity, personal hygiene, safety, opportunity loss and reverting to gender stereotypes.

Women’s voices remain limited in water governance in South Asia, even though their participation in water governance can alleviate water crises through their traditional knowledge on small-scale solutions for agriculture, homestead gardening, and domestic water use. This can strengthen resilience to drought and improve family nutrition.

Holmgren, a former Swedish ambassador with extensive experience working in South Asia, among other regions, spoke to IPS about how South Asia can best address the serious gender imbalances in water access and the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), says as water scarcity becomes the new normal, traditional knowledge must be combined with new technology to ensure water sustainability. Photo courtesy: SIWI

IPS: What major steps should South Asian economies adopt for sustainable water services from their natural ecosystems? 

TH: South Asia is experiencing now a scarcity of water as demand now grows, thanks to a growing economy and also growing population. For the region specifically, a fundamental aspect is how its countries govern their water accessibility. We at SIWI have seen water-scarce countries manage really efficiently while those with abundance mismanage this resource.

It boils down to how institutions, not just governments but communities, industries at large govern water – how water systems are organised and allocated. We have instances from Indian village parliaments that decide how to share, allocate and even treat common water resources together with neighbouring catchment area villages.

One good example of this is 2015 Stockholm Water Prize winner Rajendra Singh from India who has worked in arid rural areas with local and traditional water harvesting techniques to recharge river basins, revive and store rain water in traditional water bodies and bring life back to these regions. These techniques can also help to manage too much water from more frequent climate-induced floods.

Even though the largest [amount] water is presently still being consumed for food production, more and more water is being demanded by industries and electricity producers. As competition for the scarce resource accelerates, soon we have to restructure user categories differently in terms of tariffs and allocation because households and food production have to be provided adequate water.

Even farm irrigation reforms can regulate and save water as earlier award winning International Water Management Institute research has shown – that if governments lower subsidies on electricity for pumping, farmers were careful how much and for how long they extract groundwater, without affecting the crop yield. Farmers pumped less when energy tariffs were pegged higher.

IPS: What is SIWI’s stand on the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries?

TH: Water has key advantages – it connects all SDGs and it is a truly global issue. If we look around we see similar situations in Cape Town, China and California. Water is not a North-South matter. Africa can learn from any country in any region. This is the opportunity the World Water Week offers.

It is true that new technology is developing fast, but a mix of this with traditional technology and local knowledge works well. We also need to adapt traditional technologies to modern water needs and situations. These can be basic, low cost and people friendly. And it could encourage more efficient storage and use of ‘green water’ (soil moisture used by plants).

Drip irrigation has begun to be used more in South Asia, India particularly. There is need to encourage this widely. Recycling and the way in which industries treat and re-use water should be more emphasised.

Technology transfer is and can be done in various ways. The private sector can develop both technologies and create markets for them. Governments too can provide enabling environments to promote technology development with commercial viability. A good example of this is mobile phone technology – one where uses today range from mobile banking to farmers’ access of weather data and farming advisory in remote regions.

Technology transfer from different countries can be donor or bank funded or through multi-lateral organisations like the international Green Climate Fund, but any technology always has to be adapted to local situations.

Training, education, knowledge and know-how sharing – are, to me, the best kinds of technology transfers. Students and researchers – be it through international educational exchanges or partnerships between overseas universities – get the know-how and can move back home to work on advancing technologies tailored to their national needs.

Is technology transfer happening adequately? There is a need to build up on new or local technology hardware. For this infrastructure finance is (increasingly) available but needs scaling up faster.

IPS: How can South Asia best address the serious gender imbalances in water access, bring more women into water governance in its patriarchal societies?

TH: It is important that those in power need encourage gender balance not in decision-making alone but in educational institutions. Making room for gender balance in an organisation’s decision-making structure is important. This can be possible if there is equal access to education. But we are seeing an encouraging trend – in youth seminars sometimes the majority attending are women.

Finding women champions from water organisations can also encourage other women to take up strong initiatives for water equity.

When planning and implementing projects there is a need to focus on what impacts, decisions under specific issues, are having on men and women separately. And projects need be accordingly gender budgeted.

IPS: How can the global south – under pressure to grow their GDP, needing more land, more industries to bring billions out of poverty – successfully balance their green and grey water infrastructure? What role can local communities play in maintaining green infrastructure? 

TH: When a water-scarce South Asian village parliament decides they will replant forests, attract rain back to the region, and when rain comes, collect it – this is a very local, community-centred green infrastructure initiative. Done on a large scale, it can bring tremendous change to people, livelihoods and societies at large.

We have long acted under the assumption that grey infrastructure – dams, levees, pipes and canals – purpose-built by humans, is superior to what nature itself can bring us in the form of mangroves, wetlands, rivers and lakes.

Grey infrastructure is very efficient at transporting and holding water for power production. But paving over the saw-grass prairie around Houston reduced the city’s ability to absorb the water that hurricane Harvey brought in August 2017.

It isn’t a question of either/or. We need both green and grey, and we need to be wise in choosing what serves our current and potential future set of purposes best.

Be it industrialised or developing countries, today we have to make more sophisticated use of green water infrastructures. Especially in South Asia’s growing urban sprawls, we must capture the flooding rainwater, store it in green water infrastructure for reuse; because grey cannot do it alone.

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Excerpt:

Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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Law of the Sea Convention Expands to Cover Marine Biological Diversityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/law-sea-convention-expands-cover-marine-biological-diversity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=law-sea-convention-expands-cover-marine-biological-diversity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/law-sea-convention-expands-cover-marine-biological-diversity/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 11:21:21 +0000 Palitha Kohona http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157556 Dr Palitha Kohona is former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations & former co-Chair of the UN Adhoc Working Group on Biological Diversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction

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Coral reef ecosystem at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Jim Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

By Dr Palitha Kohona
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Sep 11 2018 (IPS)

Responding to a persistent demand by developing countries, the conservation community and science, the UN General Assembly has commenced a process for bringing the areas beyond national jurisdiction in the oceans under a global legally binding regulatory framework.

Approximately two thirds of the oceans exist beyond national jurisdiction. The Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), concluded in 1982, currently provides the broad legal and policy framework for all activities relating to the seas and oceans, including, to some extent, for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ).

However, despite the comprehensive nature of UNCLOS, many feel that BBNJ is not adequately covered under it as detailed knowledge of BBNJ was not available, even to the scientific community, at the time. Advancements in science and technology have brought vast amounts of knowledge to our attention in the years following the conclusion of UNCLOS.

Today human knowledge about the oceans, including its deepest parts which were inaccessible previously, is much more comprehensive and new information continues to flood in due to significant scientific and technical advances.

UNCLOS, referred to as the ‘Constitution for the Oceans’ by the former Singaporean Ambassador Tommy Koh, came into force in 1994,and will necessarily be further elaborated as human knowledge of the oceans increases and human activities multiply.

It is already complemented by two specific implementing agreements, namely the Agreement relating to Part XI of UNCLOS, which addresses matters related to the Area as defined in the UNCLOS (the sea bed beyond national jurisdiction), and the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of UNCLOS relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. The proposed treaty on BBNJ will be the third implementing agreement under the UNCLOS.

The seas and oceans, which have acquired unprecedented commercial value and have become a major source of global nutrition, have also been the subject of considerable international rule making, most of it piecemeal. An estimated 200 million people world-wide make a living from fishing and related activities. Mostly in poor developing countries.

Fish provide at least 20 % of the animal protein intake of over 2.6 billion people. A treaty on BBNJ, as envisaged, while filling a gap in the existing global regulatory framework, will also result in significant areas of the oceans being set aside as Marine Protected Areas (MPA) to provide protection to marine biological diversity, its critical habitat, including spawning areas, as well as ensuring the equitable division of the benefits resulting from the scientific exploitation of such resources, especially through the development of new products.

Under the umbrella of UNCLOS, and carefully accommodated within it and its implementing agreements, a number of international instruments (and regimes) at the global and regional levels relevant to the conservation and
sustainable use of marine BBNJ, have been put in place already.

At the global level, these include inter alia, the regulations adopted by the International Seabed Authority for the protection and preservation of the marine environment in the Area; the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); instruments adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); measures adopted by the International Maritime Organization; measures relating to intellectual property in the context of the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

At the regional level, the relevant measures include those adopted by regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements (RFMO/As) by regional seas organizations having competence beyond areas of national jurisdiction.

A range of non-binding instruments/mechanisms also provide policy guidance of relevance to the conservation and exploitation of marine biodiversity, including beyond areas of national jurisdiction. These include the resolutions of the UN General Assembly on oceans and the law of the sea and on sustainable fisheries, as well as the Rio Declaration and Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation adopted in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the outcome document of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, i.e. The future we want, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development).

However, despite the existence of the above regimes, the need for a legally binding multilateral instrument to govern the protection, sustainable utilisation and benefit sharing of BBNJ has been advocated by a range of interest groups for some time. A champion of this process has been Argentina.

The negotiation process. Smooth sailing or rough seas ahead?

The UN ad-hoc working group (WG) on BBNJ, established by the GA in 2004, in response to the demands of a majority of the international community, took over ten years to finalise its recommendations in February 2015. Initially, the WG made little progress and was running the risk of being terminated.

Since 2010, it was co-chaired by Sri Lanka (Ambassador Dr Palitha Kohona) and the Netherlands (Dr Liesbeth Lijnzard). While the subject was not easy, and many delegations were only beginning to grasp its complexities, curious coalitions began to form. The Group of 77 (G77) and the European Union (EU) formed a common and a powerful front for different reasons.

Many strategic negotiating approaches were discussed behind the scenes and effectively deployed by these two unlikely allies resulting in a successful outcome to the work of the WG. Basically, the G77 wanted the future exploitation of BBNJ regulated globally so that the anticipated benefits would be distributed more equitably and marine technology transferred consistent with the commitments made under the UNCLOS.

Already significant numbers of patents based on biological specimens, including microorganisms (12,998 genetic sequences), retrieved from the oceans, many from hydrothermal vents, have been registered. (11% of all patent sequences are from specimens recovered from the ocean). 98 per cent of patents based on marine species were owned by institutions in 10 countries.

The German pharmaceutical giant, BASF, alone has registered 47% of the patented sequences. The financial bonanza that was expected from the commercialisation of these patents was hugely tempting. It is estimated that by 2025, the global market for marine biotechnological products will exceed $6.4 billion and was likely to grow further.

The EU, for its part, wanted to reserve large areas of the oceans for marine protected areas for conservation purposes. Conservation in this manner would result in providing space for genetic material to replenish itself naturally. The goals of the two groups were not necessarily contradictory.

The reservations on the need for a global legally binding regulatory mechanism for BBNJ were expressed mainly by the US, Japan, Norway and the Republic of Korea. Their interest was in preserving the unhindered freedom of private corporations to exploit biological specimens to conduct research and produce new materials, including drugs, biofuels and chemicals for commercial purposes.

These corporations needed the assurance that the billions that they were expending on research would produce financially attractive results. The difficulties involved in identifying the sources from where the specimens were recovered (whether beyond national jurisdiction or within), the costs usually associated with a discovery and bringing a commercially viable product into the market place, the actual need for a legally binding instrument in the current circumstances, the possibility of achieving the same goals through a non binding instrument, etc, were some of the concerns articulated.

These concerns are expected to be raised during the treaty negotiations as well. The US which held out to the bitter end preventing consensus at the WG is not even a party to the UNCLOS. A Preparatory Committee established by the UNGA to make recommendations on the elements of a draft of an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine BBNJ under UNCLOS, prior to holding an international conference met in four sessions in 2016 and 2017. Treaty negotiations began in September 2018 following the organizational session (in April 2018) and the conclusion of the fourth and concluding session of the Preparatory Committee.

It could be expected that the US and the like-minded group, reflecting a recognisable private enterprise oriented policy bias, would continue to raise objections affecting the smooth progress of the negotiations. The Trump administration, which has made it a habit of distancing itself from compacts to which the US had solemnly subscribed cannot be expected to be more sympathetic to the BBNJ aspirations of the G77 and the EU any more than the Obama administration.

Deposit with the UN Secretary-General

The Secretary-General is the depositary of over 550 multilateral treaties, mostly negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations. The UNCLOS and its two implementing agreements are examples. These are customarily deposited with the SG due to the recognition that he enjoys in the international community as a high level independent global authority.

The proposed treaty on BBNJ would in all likelihood, be deposited with the UN SG, when concluded. The day to day management of activity relating to these multilateral treaties is the responsibility of the Treaty Section of the UN Office of Legal Affairs, a function which dates back to the early days of the creation of the UN. Exceptionally, a major multilateral treaty may be deposited elsewhere.

For example, the NPT is deposited with the governments of the US, UK and Russia. Under Article 102 of the UN Charter all treaties, both multilateral and bilateral are required to be registered with the UN. The UN is the custodian of over 55,000 bilateral treaties so registered, currently available on line.

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Excerpt:

Dr Palitha Kohona is former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations & former co-Chair of the UN Adhoc Working Group on Biological Diversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction

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UN Begins Talks on World’s First Treaty to Regulate High Seashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/un-begins-talks-worlds-first-treaty-regulate-high-seas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-begins-talks-worlds-first-treaty-regulate-high-seas http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/un-begins-talks-worlds-first-treaty-regulate-high-seas/#comments Fri, 07 Sep 2018 10:22:21 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157498 After several years of preliminary discussions, the United Nations has begun its first round of inter-governmental negotiations to draft the world’s first legally binding treaty to protect and regulate the “high seas”—which, by definition, extend beyond 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) and are considered “international waters” shared globally. “The high seas cover half our planet […]

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A trawler in Johnstone Strait, BC, Canada. Human activities such as pollution, overfishing, mining, geo-engineering and climate change have made an international agreement to protect the high seas more critical than ever. Credit: Winky/cc by 2.0

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 7 2018 (IPS)

After several years of preliminary discussions, the United Nations has begun its first round of inter-governmental negotiations to draft the world’s first legally binding treaty to protect and regulate the “high seas”—which, by definition, extend beyond 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) and are considered “international waters” shared globally.

“The high seas cover half our planet and are vital to the functioning of the whole ocean and all life on Earth. The current high seas governance system is weak, fragmented and unfit to address the threats we now face in the 21stt century from climate change, illegal and overfishing, plastics pollution and habitat loss”, says Peggy Kalas, Coordinator of the High Seas Alliance, a partnership of 40+ non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“This is an historic opportunity to protect the biodiversity and functions of the high seas through legally binding commitments” she added.

The two-week Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), which concludes 17 September, is described as the first in a series of four negotiating sessions which are expected to continue through 2020.

Asked about the contentious issues facing negotiators, Dr Veronica Frank, Political Advisor at Greenpeace International, told IPS “although it is still early, we can expect that some of the potential issues that will require attention include the relationship between the new Global Ocean Treaty and existing legal instruments and bodies.”

These will include those who regulate activities such as fishing and mining, and what role
these other organizations will play in the management of activities that may impact on the marine environment in future ocean sanctuaries on the high seas.

“Also tricky is the issue of marine genetic resources, especially how to ensure the access and sharing of benefits from their use,” Dr Frank said.

Asked how different the proposed treaty would be from the historic 1994 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Essam Yassin Mohammed, Principal Researcher on Oceans and Environmental Economics at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), told IPS: “This new treaty is particularly significant because it is the first time the high seas will be governed.”

These negotiations are an opportunity, not just to protect the health of the oceans, but also to make sure all countries ― not just the wealthy few ― can benefit from the ocean’s resources in a sustainable way, he pointed out.

“As important as The Law of the Sea is, it only covers the band of water up to 200 miles from the coast. It does not cover the use and sustainable management of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction,” he added.

While this was acceptable in an era when the technological capacities that enabled people to venture beyond this area were limited, rapid innovation and technological advancement has changed this. Increasingly, economic activities are taking place in the high seas, he noted.

Most are unregulated and pose a major threat to marine biodiversity. It is more urgent than ever to fill this governance gap and monitor and regulate any activity in the high seas and make sure they benefit everyone ― particularly the poorest countries, he argued.

According to the High Seas Alliance, the ocean’s key role in mitigating climate change, which includes absorbing 90% of the extra heat and 26% of the excess carbon dioxide created by human sources, has had a devastating effect on the ocean itself.

Managing the multitude of other anthropogenic stressors exerted on it will increase its resilience to climate change and ocean acidification and protect unique marine ecosystems, many of which are still unexplored and undiscovered. Because these are international waters, the conservation measures needed can only be put into place via a global treaty, the Alliance said.

Dr Frank said the new treaty must create a global process for the designation and effective implementation of highly protected sanctuaries in areas beyond national borders.

Such global process must include the following elements: (a) a clear objective and a duty to cooperate to protect, maintain, and restore ocean health and resilience through a global network of marine protected areas, in particular highly protected marine reserves, and (b) the identification of potential areas that meet the conservation objective.

Asked about the existing law of the sea treaty, she said UNCLOS, which is the constitution of the ocean, sets the jurisdictional framework, ie general rights and obligations of Parties in different maritime zones, including some general obligations to cooperate and protect marine life and marine living resources that also apply to waters beyond national borders.

However, the Convention doesn’t spell out what these obligations entail in practice and puts much more emphasis on the traditional freedoms to use the high seas.

The Convention does not even mention the term biodiversity, she said, pointing out that
the treaty under negotiation will be the third so-called “Implementing Agreement” under UNCLOS – after the agreement for the implementation of Part XI on seabed minerals and one on fish stocks – and it will implement, specify and operationalise UNCLOS broad environmental provisions in relation to the protection of the global oceans.

Dr Frank said this is the first time in history that governments are negotiating rules that will bring UNCLOS in line with modern principles of environmental governance and provide effective protection to global oceans.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Maya Farmers in South Belize Hold Strong to Their Climate Change Experimenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/maya-farmers-central-belize-hold-strong-climate-change-experiment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=maya-farmers-central-belize-hold-strong-climate-change-experiment http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/maya-farmers-central-belize-hold-strong-climate-change-experiment/#respond Wed, 05 Sep 2018 14:14:45 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157466 This is an op-ed contributed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).

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In one of Belize’s forest reserves in the Maya Golden Landscape, a group of farmers is working with non-governmental organisations to mitigate and build resilience to climate change with a unique agroforestry project.

Magnus Tut a member of the Trio Cacao Farmers Association cuts open a white cacao pod from one of several bearing treen in his plot. The group is hoping to find more buyers for their organic white cacao and vegetables. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
BELMOPAN, Sep 5 2018 (IPS)

In one of Belize’s forest reserves in the Maya Golden Landscape, a group of farmers is working with non-governmental organisations to mitigate and build resilience to climate change with a unique agroforestry project.

The Ya’axché Conservation Trust helps farmers to establish traditional tree crops, like the cacao, that would provide them with long-term income opportunities through restoring the forest, protecting the natural environment, while building their livelihoods and opportunities. Experts say the farmers are building resilience to climate change in the eight rural communities they represent.

The agroforestry concession is situated in the Maya Mountain Reserve and is one of two agroforestry projects undertaken by the 5Cs, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), in its efforts to implement adaptation and mitigation strategies in communities across the Caribbean.

Close to 6,000 people both directly and indirectly benefit from the project which Dr. Ulric Trotz, science advisor and deputy executive director of the 5Cs, noted was established with funding from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UK DFID).

“It is easily one of our most successful and during my most recent visit this year, I’ve seen enough to believe that the concept can be successfully transferred to any community in Belize as well as to other parts of the Caribbean,” he told IPS.

The Trio Cacao Farmers Association and the Ya’axché Conservation Trust have been working together since 2015 to acquire and establish an agroforestry concession on 379 hectares of disturbed forest. The agroforestry project was given a much-need boost with USD250,000 in funding through the 5Cs.

According to Christina Garcia, Ya’axché’s executive director, the project provides extension services. It also provides training and public awareness to prepare the farmers on how to reduce deforestation, prevent degradation of their water supplies and reduce the occurrence of wildfires in the beneficiary communities and the concession area.

Since the start, more than 50,000 cacao trees have been planted on 67 hectares and many are already producing the white cacao, a traditional crop in this area. To supplement the farmers’ incomes approximately 41 hectares of ‘cash’ crops, including bananas, plantains, vegetable, corn and peppers, were also established along with grow-houses and composting heaps that would support the crops.

This unique project is on track to become one of the exemplary demonstrations of ecosystems-based adaptation in the region.

The 35 farming families here are native Maya. They live and work in an area that is part of what has been dubbed the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, which connects the forests of the Maya Mountains to that of the coastal lowlands and is managed by Ya’axché.

Farmers here believe they are reclaiming their traditional ways of life on the four hectares which they each have been allocated. Many say they’ve improved their incomes while restoring the disturbed forests, and are doing this through using techniques that are protecting and preserving the remaining forests, the wildlife and water.

On tour of the Ya’axché Agroforestry Concession in the Maya Golden Landscape. From right: Dr Ulric Trotz, deputy executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC); Dr Mark Bynoe, head of project development at the 5Cs; Isabel Rash, chair of the Trios Cacao Farmers Association; Magnus Tut, farmer and ranger and behind him Christina Garcia, executive director Ya’axché Conservation Trust. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

Other members of the communities, including school-age teenagers, were given the opportunity to start their own businesses through the provision of training and hives to start bee-keeping projects. Many of the women now involved in bee-keeping were given one box when they started their businesses.

The men and women who work the concession do not use chemicals and can, therefore, market their crops as chemical free, or organic products. They, however, say they need additional help to seek and establish those lucrative markets. In addition to the no-chemicals rule, the plots are cultivated by hand, using traditional tools. But farmer Magnus Tut said that this is used in conjunction with new techniques, adding that it has improved native farming methods.

“We are going back to the old ways, which my father told me about before chemicals were introduced to make things grow faster. The hardest part is maintaining the plot. It is challenging and hard work but it is good work, and there are health benefits,” Tut told IPS.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) supports the farmers’ beliefs, reporting that up to 11 percent of greenhouse gases are caused by deforestation and “between 24 and 30 percent of total mitigation potential” can be provided by halting and reversing deforestation in the tropics.

“The hardest part of the work is getting some people to understand how/what they do impacts the climate, but each has their own story and they are experiencing the changes which make it easier for them to make the transition,” said Julio Chun, a farmer and the community liaison for the concession. He told IPS that in the past, the farmers frequently used fires to clear the land.

Chun explained that farmers are already seeing the return of wildlife, such as the jaguar, and are excited by the possibilities.

“We would like to develop eco-tourism and the value-added products that can support the industry. Some visitors are already coming for the organic products and the honey,” he said.

Ya’axché co-manages the Bladen Nature Reserve and the Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve, a combined 311,607 hectares of public and privately owned forest. Its name, pronounced yash-cheh, is the Mopan Maya word for the Kapoc or Ceiba tree (scientific name: Ceiba pentandra), which is sacred to the Maya peoples.

Of the project’s future, Garcia said: “My wish is to see the project address the economic needs of the farmers, to get them to recognise the value of what they are doing in the concession and that the decision-makers can use the model as an example to make decisions on how forest reserves can be made available to communities across Belize and the region to balance nature and livelihoods.”

Scientists believe that well-managed ecosystems can help countries adapt to both current climate hazards and future climate change through the provision of ecosystem services, so the 5Cs has implemented a similar project in Saint Lucia under a 42-month project funded by the European Union Global Climate Change Alliance (EU-GCCA+) to promote sustainable farming practices.

The cacao-based agroforestry project in Saint Lucia uses a mix-plantation model where farmers are allowed to continue using chemicals, but were taught to protect the environment. Like the Ya’axché project, Saint Lucia’s was designed to improve environmental conditions in the beneficiary areas; enhance livelihoods and build the community’s resilience to climate change.

In the next chapter, the Ya’axché farmers project is hoping that, among other things, a good samaritan will help them to add facilities for value-added products; acquire eco-friendly all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) to move produce to access points; and replace a wooden bridge that leads to the main access road.

Tut and Chun both support the views of the group’s chair Isabel Rash, that farmers are already living through climate change, but that the hard work in manually “clearing and maintaining their plots and in chemical-free food production, saves them money”, supports a healthy working and living environment and should protect them against the impacts of climate change.

The post Maya Farmers in South Belize Hold Strong to Their Climate Change Experiment appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This is an op-ed contributed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).

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How Guyana Must Prepare to Cope With the ‘Jeopardies and Perils’ of Oil Discoveryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/guyana-must-prepare-cope-jeopardies-perils-oil-discovery/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=guyana-must-prepare-cope-jeopardies-perils-oil-discovery http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/guyana-must-prepare-cope-jeopardies-perils-oil-discovery/#respond Mon, 03 Sep 2018 08:27:20 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157432 Recent huge offshore oil discoveries are believed to have set Guyana– one of the poorest countries in South America–on a path to riches. But they have also highlighted the country’s development challenges and the potential impact of an oil boom. Oil giant ExxonMobil has, over the last three years, drilled eight gushing discovery wells offshore […]

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The Essequibo River is the longest river in Guyana, and the largest river between the Orinoco and Amazon. As oil production in Guyana is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2020, experts say the increasing environmental risks of more oil wells require increasing capacity to understand and manage these risks. Courtesy: Conservation International Guyana.

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Sep 3 2018 (IPS)

Recent huge offshore oil discoveries are believed to have set Guyana– one of the poorest countries in South America–on a path to riches. But they have also highlighted the country’s development challenges and the potential impact of an oil boom.

Oil giant ExxonMobil has, over the last three years, drilled eight gushing discovery wells offshore with the potential to generate nearly USD20 billion in oil revenue annually by the end of the next decade.“These are the jeopardies and these are the perils that we have to prepare for. We should not take them for granted or believe that we are dealing with something that is so far removed from our consciousness or our reality that we don’t have to be prepared.” -- minister of natural resources Raphael Trotman

“For Guyana where the current oil sector is located offshore, the direct environmental risks are primarily associated with oil spills, but will also include emissions from the operations, and from seismic activities that can affect marine species,” Dr David Singh, executive director of Conservation International Guyana, told IPS.

“The environmental risk increases with the number of oil wells in any one area.”

Singh said increasing environmental risks require increasing capacity to understand and manage these risks.

From a regulatory standpoint, he said this means building the institutional capacity in step with the development of the industry.

“For civil society, the responsibility is ours to learn about the industry, to contribute to the creation of good policies and laws related to the industry, and to ensure the highest levels of accountability from the industry and from the state towards the environment,” he said.

“It also requires us to support companies and initiatives that are in the business of clean, renewable energy generation, and in supporting efforts to reduce our ecological footprint. Even as we focus on these efforts we are cognisant of the limited human and institutional capacity of the country which will have an impact on the design and application of good and responsible environmental and social safeguards.”

Several commentators have observed that senior government officials here have little experience regulating a big oil industry or negotiating with international companies.

But minister of natural resources Raphael Trotman said Guyana is prepared and has been building and strengthening its capacity to deal with the potential hazards that come with the development of an oil and gas sector.

He said no effort will be spared to ensure that Guyana puts a sound disaster risk reduction and management system in place so that it is prepared to prevent an oil spill or respond effectively should there be an accident in that regard.

“These are the jeopardies and these are the perils that we have to prepare for. We should not take them for granted or believe that we are dealing with something that is so far removed from our consciousness or our reality that we don’t have to be prepared,” Trotman told a national consultation on the drafting of the National Oil Spill Response Contingency Plan at the Civil Defence Commission’s.

“It has to be taken seriously and whilst the industry standards are very high, we do have a risk. We recognise that there is a risk. However, government is making every effort to prepare for that risk. We expect that in 24 months when we go to production in the first quarter of 2020, we will meet not only minimum standards expected, but we will go past that and dare to say to ourselves and particularly to the world that we are ready for any eventuality,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tyrone Hall, a PhD Candidate at York University, is urging those involved in civil society in Guyana, especially its environmental sector, to assess the exemplary efforts underway in Belize.

Hall, who has been studying the issue, notes Belize recently found itself at the centre of rare positive environmental news of global importance.

Its portion of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, arguably the world’s longest living barrier reef and certainly this region’s most iconic marine asset, was removed from the World Heritage Sites’ endangered category after nearly a decade (mid-2009 to June 2018), according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Centre.

The decision was taken after Belize ditched plans to rapidly expand its nascent oil industry.

“There are lesson we can draw from the Belizean experience for raising the bar and boldly re-imagining environmental responses in the face of a petro-economic reorientation,” Hall said.

“In other words, while oil exploration is unlikely to be halted in Guyana at this point, the environmental community, and broader civil society must not settle into vassal like, aid-recipient disposition.

“It should raise its expectations, and also challenge, contextualise and transcend the singularly economistic conventions being drawn from distance places,” Hall added.

ExxonMobil has made eight discoveries in Guyana’s waters to date.

Production is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2020 with an estimated 120,000 barrels per day. This should increase to 220,000 barrels per day by 2022.

“What the oil revenues will allow us to do is to fulfil these dreams of the Guyanese people and to ensure that the quality of life for every citizen dramatically improves over a period of a few short years,” Trotman said.

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Why India’s Solar Water-Drawing ATMs and Irrigation Pumping Systems Offer Replicable Strategieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/indias-solar-water-drawing-atms-irrigation-pumping-systems-offer-replicable-strategies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indias-solar-water-drawing-atms-irrigation-pumping-systems-offer-replicable-strategies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/indias-solar-water-drawing-atms-irrigation-pumping-systems-offer-replicable-strategies/#respond Tue, 28 Aug 2018 08:54:18 +0000 Ranjit Devraj http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157362 At New Delhi’s Savda Ghevra slum settlement, waterborne diseases have become less frequent thanks to solar-powered water ATMs that were installed here as a social enterprise venture three years ago. “The water is cheap, reliable and fresh-tasting,” Saeeda, a mother of three who lives close to an ATM, tells IPS. Each day, Saeeda collects up […]

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A man draws water from a solar-powered water ATM in New Delhi’s Savda Ghevra slum settlement. Thanks to these machines, which allow users to withdraw water with a rechargeable card, waterborne diseases have become less frequent here. Credit: Ranjit Devraj/IPS

By Ranjit Devraj
NEW DEHLI, Aug 28 2018 (IPS)

At New Delhi’s Savda Ghevra slum settlement, waterborne diseases have become less frequent thanks to solar-powered water ATMs that were installed here as a social enterprise venture three years ago.

“The water is cheap, reliable and fresh-tasting,” Saeeda, a mother of three who lives close to an ATM, tells IPS. Each day, Saeeda collects up to 15 litres of water from the ATM, paying 30 paisa per litre for the water with a rechargeable card. It means she pays 4.5 Rupees (about 6 US cents) for 15 litres of pure drinking water. It is convenient and cheap as bottled drinking water costs about 20 Rupees (about 30 US cents).Over the last 25 years India’s ministry of new and renewable energy, a GGGI partner, has developed specialised programmes for both drinking water as well as irrigation systems using solar water pumping systems of which there are now an estimated 15,000 units.

Installed by Piramal Sarvajal, as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility, the decentralised drinking water project for urban slums now provides access to clean water to some 10,000 families in six slum clusters, Amit Mishra, the project’s operations manager, tells IPS.

Mishra says that each water ATM, though locally operated through a franchise system and powered using solar panels, is centrally controlled through cloud technology that integrates 1,100 touch points in 16 states. The result is reduced costs that allow round-the-clock provision of pure drinking water to underserved communities.

Sarvajal Piramal is not the only group that has set up solar-powered water ATMs in New Delhi or other parts of Delhi. Solar-powered water ATMs are part of a plan to use solar power to supply water for India’s vast 1.3 billion people, not only for drinking, but also for agricultural use.

“This is the kind of decentralised, neighbourhood solutions that the Global Green Growth Initiative (GGGI) is interested in,” the Netherlands-based group’s deputy director and water sector lead, Peter Vos, tells IPS. “However, solutions of this type may not be ideal in all situations, since the networks may require a lot of maintenance and can be costly.”

GGGI, says Vos, is interested in promoting policies that allow efficient use of limited water resources sustainably and at reasonable cost. “We do this by embedding ourselves in key ministries concerned with renewable energy, rural development as well as water and sanitation.”

Currently, GGGI has an approved budget of USD 1.37 million dollars for knowledge sharing, transfer of green technologies and capacity building in order to meet global commitments towards implementation of India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris agreement. “Facilitating the flow of domestic and international climate finance and investment would be a key contribution to support India’s NDC implementation,” Vos says.

India’s setting up of the International Solar Alliance, an alliance that facilitates cooperation among sun-rich countries, provides GGGI an opportunity to disseminate renewable energy best practices with 18 GGGI member countries and seven partner countries—India and China are partner countries and prospective members.

As a predominantly agricultural country, with the world’s largest irrigated area serviced by some 26 million groundwater pumps mostly run on diesel or electricity, GGGI is keenly interested in India’s plans to switch to the use of solar power for irrigation.

Electric pumps are considered unreliable and diesel is costly. To keep them running, India spends about USD 6 million in annual subsidies that create their own distortions. Farmers tend to waste electricity as well as water thanks to the subsidies, Vos explains.

Under India’s National Solar Mission programme, farmers are now supported with capital cost subsidies for solar pump systems. A credit-linked subsidy scheme invites local institutions across the country to provide loans to reduce the subsidy burden on the government and make the system affordable for farmers.

According to a GGGI study released in 2017, the ‘context-specific delivery models’ used in the solar pump programme have resulted in noteworthy initial successes in terms of economic and social benefits, emission reductions, reduced reliance on subsides, increased agricultural output, development of new businesses, job-creation and improved incomes and livelihoods in rural areas.

India’s models offer replicable strategies to support solar irrigation pumping systems in other countries where GGGI has a presence, says Vos. In fact, the Indian government has plans to export solar pumping systems and expertise to countries interested in greener alternatives for irrigation.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), irrigation is becoming an important part of global agricultural production, consuming about 70 percent of global freshwater resources and reliable irrigation. However, using solar-powered systems can increase crop yields four-fold and can be key to national objectives like achieving food security.

Over the last 25 years India’s ministry of new and renewable energy, a GGGI partner, has developed specialised programmes for both drinking water as well as irrigation systems using solar water pumping systems of which there are now an estimated 15,000 units.

The progress has not been entirely without a hitch and, so far, the solar water-pumping market has remained relatively small primarily due to high up-front capital costs and low awareness among farmers as well as users of drinking water provided through ATMs.

A study of the Savda Ghevra slum showed that it took 18 months before the first ATM could be provided to Piramal Sarvajal. And then only 37 percent of the residents were using the ATMs as a primary or secondary source of potable water.

The study found that the ATMs were more than covering operating costs and generating revenue for Piramal Sarvajal, and could reach a wider population with government or other support, especially in the rural areas. The monies generated by Piramal Sarvajal are used to pay salaries and to maintain the machines.

According to the government’s own figures, presented in parliament in 2017; out of 167.8 million households in rural India only 2.9 million or 16 percent have access to safe drinking water. GGGI with its  considerable experience and expertise around the world is well-placed to step in, says Vos.

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Africa’s Economic Growth Prospects Amongst the World’s Brightesthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/africas-economic-growth-prospects-amongst-worlds-brightest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africas-economic-growth-prospects-amongst-worlds-brightest http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/africas-economic-growth-prospects-amongst-worlds-brightest/#respond Thu, 23 Aug 2018 09:58:22 +0000 Ayodele Odusola http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157321 Dr Ayodele Odusola is Chief Economist, UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa

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Africa’s Economic Growth Prospects Amongst the World’s Brightest

By Ayodele Odusola
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 23 2018 (IPS)

The best time to invest in Africa is now. However, foreign investors have not moved into the continent as quickly as expected because foreign investment decisions are often methodically over-structured. One of the major factors cited is too much risk. But risks and profits are inseparable twins: high-risk ventures are frequently associated with higher profits.

Africa is the most profitable region in the world. A report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development states that between 2006 and 2011, Africa had the highest rate of return on inflows of Foreign Direct Investment: 11.4%.  This is compared to 9.1% in Asia, 8.9% in Latin America and the Caribbean. The global figure is 7.1%.

Six of the world’s 12 fastest-growing countries are in Africa (Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Rwanda). Further, between 2018 and 2023, Africa’s growth prospects will be among the highest in the world, according to the IMF.

Examples of companies benefiting from bountiful profits in Africa abound: Sonatrach’s turnover from oil and gas alone was $33.2 billion; MTN Group’s turnover was about $10 billion; and Dangote Group’s turnover was $4.1 billion—all in 2017.

A variety of factors drive up Africa’s profit prospects, making it imperative for European, North American, Asian, and Latin American businesses to invest, helping to foster the continent’s economic progress.

Africa’s economic growth prospects are among the world’s brightest. Six of the world’s 12 fastest-growing countries are in Africa (Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Rwanda). Further, between 2018 and 2023, Africa’s growth prospects will be among the highest in the world, according to the IMF.

Good news: sectors where foreign companies could have a comparative advantage, such as banking, telecommunications and infrastructure, are among the drivers of current economic growth in Africa—creating clear investment opportunities for foreign businesses.

Africa’s growing, youthful population, amidst an aging population in most other regions, constitutes a formidable market. The continent’s population is predicted to quadruple from 1.19 billion in 2015 to 4.39 billion by 2100.  In 2015 alone, 200 million Africans entered the consumer goods market. Maximizing this bourgeoning market size calls for actively engaging Africa’s structural economic transformation.

Africa’s youthful population contributes to an abundancy of labour, which is one of the region’s highest potentials for labor-intensive industrialization, and lowers production costs, leading to benefits that far outweigh the cost of doing business on the continent. 

The hourly wage in Africa is less than 50 cents (for example, it’s $0.27 in Mozambique, $0.34 in Nigeria and $1.62 in Morocco) compared to $10.49 in UK, $7.25 in the USA and $6.57 in Japan. Engaging more foreign companies may help raise wage rates in Africa, improve labour market efficiency and generate additional resources for those left behind on the age ladder.

Africa’s large deposits of natural resources promise a bright future for developing value chains. Agriculture and the extractive sectors are linchpins of national, regional and global value chains. Africa hosts 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land. In 2015, the continent produced 13% of global oil, up from 9% in 1998.

The growth trend of oil and natural gas production between 1980 and 2012 was amazing: from 53.4 billion barrels to 130.3 billion barrels for oil; for natural gas, from six trillion cubic meters in 1980 to 14.5 trillion cubic meters in 2012.  As of 2012, Africa also controlled 53.9% of the world’s diamond resources.

In 2017, the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone accounted for 58% of the world’s cobalt (used in electronics production) while South Africa accounted for 69.6 % of the world’s platinum production in 2016 (used for catalytic converters and in other goods). Actively investing in adding value to these commodities, among other extractive activities, will shape global economic activities over the next five decades.

Finally, emerging domestic developments lend credence to actively engaging Africa’s economic transformation agenda. Some of these developments include improvements in macroeconomic prudence and overall governance. For instance, evidence from the 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance shows that Africa’s overall governance index improved at an annual rate of 1.4% since 2007, an improvement of more than 5% in at least 12 countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Rwanda and Ethiopia. This improvement helps to mitigate perceived risks for many investors on the continent.

African governments should build on this positive trend to maximize foreign investments. This includes eliminating corruption; improving safety and security; strengthening macroeconomic environment, investing in quality education and skill development in science, technology and innovation; and avoiding a ‘race to the bottom’ syndrome, that gives unnecessary tax holidays and waivers to foreign companies.

Investing in Africa is good business and a sustainable corporate strategy for foreign investors. Advanced and emerging countries’ governments and the private sector should leverage these profitable, emerging investment opportunities.

Using official development assistance to leverage and de-risk the investment climate in Africa is a key component in attracting FDI. Japan’s Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI) initiative, to insure a facility in Ghana, is a laudable effort that should be scaled-up and supported by other actors.

Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa offers investment opportunities to foreign companies. Good examples abound: the Sumitomo Chemical’s insect-proofing mosquito nets technology is helping to fight malaria; the Sonatrach, JGC, and Hitachi’s desalinating seawater technology is accelerating access to clean water; and the Commodity Risk Management Group and the Sompo Japan Niponkoa’s weather index insurance is helping to mitigate climate change.  In Africa, each SDG offers business solutions and investment opportunities to foreign companies.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is working with African governments and private sector actors to de-risk and improve the continent’s investment climate. Developing industrial strategies and clusters, promoting special economic zones, improving energy access, facilitating innovative funding, advocating for value chain development across countries and supporting investment promotion through the International Conference on the Emergence of Africa are some of UNDP’s efforts.

The best time to invest in Africa is now.

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Excerpt:

Dr Ayodele Odusola is Chief Economist, UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa

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Mixed Signals as Guyana Develops its Green Economy Strategyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 11:52:57 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157293 Guyana is forging ahead with plans to exploit vast offshore reserves of oil and gas, even while speaking eloquently of its leadership in transitioning to a green economy at a recent political party congress addressed by the country’s president. The mixed signals on plans for a green economy have increased in the past year, in […]

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About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, some 15 million hectares, have remained untouched over time. The country is making plans for a green economy while also looking to exploit its fossil fuel reserves. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

Guyana is forging ahead with plans to exploit vast offshore reserves of oil and gas, even while speaking eloquently of its leadership in transitioning to a green economy at a recent political party congress addressed by the country’s president.
The mixed signals on plans for a green economy have increased in the past year, in the wake of a 2015 discovery of what has been termed one of the largest discoveries of oil and gas 120 miles off Guyana’s shores, which saw major international oil companies vying for exploration rights even as the government began work on a Green State Development Strategy.

Central to the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS) is “the structural transformation of Guyana’s economy into a green and inclusive one [that] will recognise the economic value of the extractive sectors, instituting measures to ensure their environmental sustainability while facilitating new economic growth from a more diverse set of inclusive, green and high value-adding sectors.”

In line with its goal to transition to a green economy, Guyana entered into a seven-year partnership with Norway for a REDD+ investment fund, on the basis of its 19 million hectares of forest with a carbon sink capacity of 350 tons/hectare, in what it described as “the world‟s first national-scale, payment-for-performance forest conservation agreement.” The USD250 million investment fund from Norway is earmarked for pioneering Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy.

At the same time, government agencies of this small South American country, the only English-speaking one on the continent, gave some assistance to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as it researched the most effective measures for ensuring the Guyanese labour force developed the skills needed in a green economy.

The ILO agreed to respond to IPS’ queries about the seeming paradox of Guyana exploiting its fossil fuel reserves while making plans for a green economy, whereas repeated efforts by the IPS to obtain an interview with Guyana’s Office of Climate Change were unsuccessful.

Andrew Small, the consultant commissioned by the ILO to carry out the study on greening Guyana’s labour force, told IPS via e-mail that he thinks the country is indeed ready and positioning itself for a green economy. He pointed to changes in the education curricula at both secondary school and tertiary level, as well as efforts at encouraging climate smart agriculture. “Guyana is indeed a small country but a major contributor to the global effort to reduce carbon emissions from economic and social activities,” he said.

He also pointed out the move by some large businesses to incorporate renewable energy into their buildings and processes, and an attendant move by the government to enable further uptake of renewable energy. “In particular the Guyana Energy Agency and Guyana Power and Light Company are leading the final draft and implementation of the Draft Guyana Energy Policy (2017) and Guyana Energy Sector Strategic Plan (2015-2020), respectively. These policies outline anticipated energy demand, an optimal energy mix for Guyana including a 100 percent increase in renewable energy sources aligned to Guyana’s transition to an environmentally sustainable economy,” he said.

However, with an estimated four billion barrels of oil in its waters, the pull of oil money has been creating a shift in focus for some who might potentially have taken up working in green jobs. Small admits, “The shift is already happening. The magnitude of this sector will attract many highly skilled Guyanese. There have been some local concerns expressed about this, in particular in the case of engineers from the Public Infrastructure Ministry or [with regard to those] who would otherwise seek employment with this Ministry among others.”

Apart from labour market concerns, it remains to be seen how Guyana will live up to its Nationally Determined Contributions tabled last year. The country promised “to avoid emissions in the amount of 48.7 MtCO2e annually if adequate incentives are provided”, on the basis of its forest cover. If the four billion barrel estimate given is correct, Guyana’s reserves alone represent almost four-fifths of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 estimate of the amount of energy that will be generated by Latin America’s industrial sector including its fossil fuel industry in the years leading up to 2030. The IPCC estimates the approximately 33 EJ of energy (roughly equivalent to 5.4 billion barrels of oil) Latin America will generate up to 2030 will result in 2,417 MtCO2 emissions, making Guyana’s promises in support of the Paris Agreement inconsequential in the light of emissions its billions of barrels would produce.

Still, the ILO Caribbean’s Enterprise and Job Creation Specialist Kelvin Sergeant told IPS that the impact of oil and gas exploration on the green transition could go either way. “It can be positive or negative. Positive if the resources from the oil sector are used to develop the green economy and ensure sustainability of the environment and the rest of the society, especially the more vulnerable in the society. If this is not done, then there could be many new problems in the future.”

The ILO commissioned the “Skills for green jobs” in Guyana study, which was completed in 2017, because his organisation believes a green economy is a sustainable one. “The ILO places great emphasis on greening of the economy and green jobs. This is critical towards sustainable economies and societies,” Sergeant said.

“The ILO, however, argues that policies towards greening of the economy will have an impact on workers. There will be job losses, job gains or jobs will be redefined. Because of this, the ILO believes that any policy towards greening of the economy should be just and fair and must leave no one behind.”

The focus on fossil fuels “can be only detrimental if there is no trickling down of the gains from the oil sector The whole process has to be carefully managed to avoid Dutch disease and other problems which have plagued Caribbean countries that have oil,” he said. “There needs to be careful policies which ensure that everyone benefits from the oil finds.”

But Sergeant remains upbeat about the future of Guyana’s green economy. He said the focus on fossil fuel exploration does not mean efforts to promote green skills for a green economy are pointless. “It does not have to, if the guidelines for a just transition are followed.”   

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Poverty-Stricken Communities in Ghana are Restoring Once-Barren Landhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2018 13:53:53 +0000 Albert Oppong-Ansah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157270 In the scorching Upper East Region of Ghana, the dry seasons are long and for kilometres around there is nothing but barren, dry earth. Here, in some areas, it is not uncommon for half the female population to migrate to the country’s south in search of work, often taking their young children with them. “We […]

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Drone visual of the area in Upper East Region, Ghana that have not been restored. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah /IPS

By Albert Oppong-Ansah
GARU and TEMPANE, Ghana, Aug 20 2018 (IPS)

In the scorching Upper East Region of Ghana, the dry seasons are long and for kilometres around there is nothing but barren, dry earth. Here, in some areas, it is not uncommon for half the female population to migrate to the country’s south in search of work, often taking their young children with them.

“We realised that the long dry spell, bare land and high temperature of 40 degrees and the absence of irrigation facilities for farmers to [allow them] to farm year-round…effectively made them unemployed for the seven-month dry season,” Ayaaba Atumoce, chief of the Akaratshie community from the Garu and Tempane districts, tells IPS.“But for this initiative, our younger and future generation may have never known the beauty and importance of such indigenous trees as they [would have] all been destroyed." Talaata Aburgi, a farmer from the Garu and Tempane districts in Ghana.

The Garu and Tempane districts, which encompass 1,230 square kilometres or 123,000 hectares, had large portions of barren and degraded land until just three years ago. Now, there are pockets of lush grass, neem trees, berries and indigenous fruit growing on some 250 hectares of restored land. The dry earth is beginning to flourishing, albeit it slowly.

Atumoce remembers that growing up in the area, there was dense forest cover. But it gradually diminished over time as the mostly farming communities here supplemented their income by making charcoal and selling it at regional centres. According to the 2015 Ghana Poverty Mapping report, the rate of poverty in these two districts is 54.5 percent or 70,087 people—accounting for the highest number of impoverished people in the entire region.

The rate at which trees were cut down surpassed the rate at which new trees grew, if they did at all. And soon there were less and less trees for people to make charcoal with. Sprouts were soon unable to grow also as the land became hard and lacked nutrients.

And rainfall patterns changed.

“Previously, we would prepare our farmlands in early February and start planting when the rains begin in late March or early April and ended in late September or mid-October. Now, our planting is pushed to the end of June or early July and ends just around the same period it used to. We are getting low yields,” Atumoce says.

Carl Kojo Fiati, director of Natural Resources at Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency, tells IPS that deforestation and indiscriminate bush burning in the Upper Region has reduced the natural water cycles band, a natural cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation, and resulted in the reduced rainfall pattern and unproductive land.

“When the shrubs are allowed to grow it draws water from the ground that evaporates into the atmosphere and becomes moisture. This moisture adds to other forms of evaporation and this is condensed and comes down as rain,” he explains.

Women and children affected

The reduced rainfall affected this community significantly. According to the Garu and Tempane districts Annual Report, 2014, large portions of the population migrated south in search of jobs from November 2013 to April 2014. According to the report, 53 percent of women in the Kpikpira and Worinyanga area councils migrated with their children to the southern part of Ghana to engage in menial jobs, exposing their children to various forms of abuse, and depriving them of basic needs such as shelter, education, health care and protection.

But three years ago, World Vision International (WVI) Ghana began implementing the Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) programme. FMNR is a low-cost land restoration technique.

“After watching the video [presented by WVI] we got to know and accepted that we are suffering all these consequences because we harvested trees for timber, firewood, and constantly cleared our farmlands, engaged in indiscriminate burning and cutting,” Atumoce says.

But by this time, farmers in Garu and Tempane already knew that their crops like maize, millet, groundnuts, onions and watermelon would not grow without the use of chemical fertilisers, Atumoce explains.

“For the past 20 years, our parcels of land have not been fertile because one cannot plant without applying fertiliser. There was a long spell of drought; I observed that because the rainy season was delayed and the period of rain has now shortened. It decreased our crop yield and left us poor,” Atumoce says.

Asher Nkegbe, the United Nation Convention to Combating Desertification and Drought focal person for Ghana, explains to IPS that Ghana has adopted Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and set nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs are commitments by government to tackle climate change by 2030. As part of Ghana’s NDCs, the country has committed to reforesting 20,000ha of degraded lands each year.

This includes identifying highly-degraded areas, establishing a baseline and increasing the vegetation cover. The Garu and Tempani districts are considered LDN key areas.

Ghana’s natural resources are disappearing at an alarming rate. More than 50 percent of the original forest area has been converted to agricultural land by slash and burn clearing practices. Wildlife populations are in serious decline, with many species facing extinction, according to a World Bank report.

The Garu and Tempane districts were the second and third areas in which the project was implemented, run in conjunction with the ministry of food and agriculture, the Ghana National Fire Service and other government agencies. From 2009 to 2012 the pilot was conducted in Talensi, Nabdam District, which is also here in Upper East Region.

The projects have been handed over to the communities and another one is now being introduced in Bawku East District, also in Upper East Region.

Farmers undertaking periodic pruning at vegetation Susudi, in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

Simple restoration methods

The restoration in Garu and Tempane began using simple principles. This community of mostly farmers selected a degraded area and were asked to not destroy the shrubs there but to protect and allow them to grow.

They were also taught by the ministry of food and agriculture how to periodically prune away weak stems, allowing the shoots to grow into full sized trees rapidly. They were also advised to allow animals to graze on the vegetation so that their droppings could become a source for manure.

“The critical science behind regeneration and improved soil nutrient are that the leaves of the shrubs or vegetation drops and decay. The decayed leaves constitute carbon in the soil and that promotes plant growth,” says Fiati.

So far, 23 communities in Garu and Tempane have adopted the approach, and 460 people were trained by the ministry of food and agriculture. Volunteers were also trained in fire fighting techniques by the Ghana Fire Service. Community volunteer brigades were then formed, and these play an active role in quashing bushfires threatening the land.

New bylaws to regulate the harvesting of surplus wood, grasses, and other resources were also passed and enforced to prevent the indiscriminate felling of trees.

The Garu, Tempane and Talensi districts are estimated to now have over 868,580 trees, with an average density of about 4,343 trees per hectare, compared to a baseline of around 10 trees per hectare.

“We gave the farmers animals to keep as a source of an alternative livelihood so that farmers do not go back to the charcoal burning,” Maxwell Amedi, Food Security and Resilient Technical officer of WVI Ghana tells IPS.

A significant number of people, including mothers and their children, now remain in the area thanks to this alternative source of livelihood.

Amedi notes that forests are essential to realising the world’s shared vision for its people, and the planet. Forests, he says, are central to future prosperity as well as the stability of the global climate.

Talaata Aburgi, 60, from Susudi community in the Garu and Tempane districts, tells IPS that neem trees have always been used here to cure ailments including diabetes, skin ulcers, birth controls, malaria fever and stomach ache. She is glad that these trees are now repopulating the area.

In addition, red and yellow berries and other indigenous fruit have started growing again. Birds, butterflies and wild animals, like monkeys and rabbits, have reappeared. As IPS travelled through the region and visited Aburgi’s farm, we saw a significant number of farmers adopting FMNR.

The FMNR project, Fiati says, is an excellent method of correcting the problem of reduced rainfall by bringing the production cycle in sync with nature.

Nkegbe is optimistic.

“With lessons learned and the results observed with regeneration initiatives, there is hope. We are scaling it up and have even expanded it to include traditional healers and have set up 14 herbaria. It may not be 100 percent but for sure there are positive signs. More support is needed,” Nkegbe says.

Meanwhile, Aburgi says that adopting the initiative has contributed to young herders spending less time seeking grazing land and allows them to attend school for longer periods.

“But for this initiative, our younger and future generation may have never known the beauty and importance of such indigenous trees as they [would have] all been destroyed,” Aburgi says.

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Blue Economy Movement Gains Traction in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa/#respond Mon, 16 Jul 2018 10:42:42 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156707 An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs–particularly extreme poverty and hunger. Countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and the Seychelles–which has already established the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy–are recognising the need […]

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A coastal city, Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, is an area where people have relied on the ocean for food and employment for as long as they have lived there. An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jul 16 2018 (IPS)

An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs–particularly extreme poverty and hunger.

Countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and the Seychelles–which has already established the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy–are recognising the need to diversify their economies.

“The African Union has also adopted the blue economy, which is about exploiting resources such as oceans, lakes and rivers, into its 2063 development agenda for socio-economic transformation,” Danson Mwangangi, an independent economic researcher and analyst, tells IPS.

He says that for agrarian economies like Kenya, “agriculture alone will not be sufficient to drive the economy since the sector is facing many challenges, including shrinking farmlands, pest infestations and unpredictable weather changes.”The blue world will only be a win for Africa if there are strategies in place to exploit and protect it. -- Caesar Bita, head of underwater archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya

In Kenya, for instance, World Bank statistics show that in 2017 alone maize production dropped 20 to 30 percent due to insufficient rains and army worm infestation. The country has an annual maize shortfall of eight million bags per year.
Against this backdrop, experts are urging African countries to diversify and look beyond land-based resources by exploring the blue economy as it presents immense untapped potential.

The World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in their 2018 policy brief make a strong case in favour of the blue economy.
Mwangangi says that it can significantly enable Africa to improve its volumes of global trade, achieve food security and meet its energy demands.

Ocean renewable energy has the potential to meet up to 400 percent of the current global energy demand, according to the International Energy Agency.

“Seventy percent of African countries are either coastal or islands, we need to harness such valuable coastlines,” says Caesar Bita, head of underwater archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya.
He tells IPS that the blue world can significantly transform the lives of communities that live closest to those bodies of water since they lead very precarious lives.

According to John Omingo, head of commercial shipping at the Kenya Maritime Authority, very little has been done in the way of harnessing these vast water-based resources for economic gain.
“Africa’s coastline is about 31,000 kilometres long and yet trade among African countries accounts for 11 percent of the total trade volume, which is the lowest compared to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Europe and America,” he expounds.

Bita tells IPS that while Africa is the largest island on earth as it has the Atlantic Ocean on the west; the Indian Ocean on the east; the Antarctic ocean on the south, and the Mediterranean and Red Sea on the north, “there is very little shipping that is going on in Africa. African-owned ships account for less than 1.2 percent of the world’s shipping.”

Ahead of the upcoming Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, that will be co-host by Kenya and Canada this November, in Nairobi, economic experts are optimistic that the blue economy movement is gaining traction.
The high-level conference is expected to advance a global agenda on sustainable exploitation of oceans, seas, rivers and lakes.

One of Freetown’s larger fishing harbours is Goderich Beach, less than 30 minute’s drive from the city’s downtown core. There, a single motorised boat can bring in as much as 300 dollars worth of fish in a single day. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

“Holding the conference in Africa with Canada as a co-host is also very strategic and shows that the continent is coming into this agenda as an important partner. Some of the most important gateways for international trade are actually in Africa,” says Bita.
Mwangangi says that African countries will need to assess their own individual capacities and interpret the blue economy in the manner that makes most economic sense to them.

“The concept is not a one-size-fits-all. Each country will need to evaluate what water-based natural resources are at their disposal,” he says. “On the Indian Ocean side of the continent where we have South Africa and Mauritius, countries tend to embrace an industrial approach,” he adds.

Research shows that South Africa’s Operation Phakisa, a national development plan, also places a focus on the blue economy as it is expected to create one million new jobs by 2030 and add approximately USD13 billion into the country’s economy.

Experts also point to Mauritius which is among the smallest countries in the world but has territorial waters the size of South Africa, making the small nation one the strongest blue economies in Africa. It ranked as Africa’s wealthiest nation based on its per capita income in 2015. Bita adds that Mozambique, which lies alongside the Indian Ocean, is characterised by the highest species of diverse and abundant natural resources.

Kenya is among African countries that are developing strategies to mainstream the blue economy within its national economic blueprint. Bita says that this East African nation’s blue economy includes maritime transport and logistics services, fisheries and aquaculture, tourism as well as the extractive industries such as the offshore mining of gas and oil, titanium and niobium.

Nonetheless, environment experts, including Bita, have expressed concerns that ongoing talks on the blue economy have largely revolved around full exploitation, in order for countries to develop rapidly in the next 10 years, and little on sustainability.

“This is a problem since there is evidence to show that oceans resources are limited. For instance, explorers have presented evidence to show that at least 90 percent of the largest predatory fishes have disappeared from the world’s oceans,” he cautions.

The blue world will only be a win for Africa if there are strategies in place to exploit and protect it, he adds.

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Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time/#respond Fri, 13 Jul 2018 10:54:03 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156690 IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

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Soil degradation, climate change, heavy tropical monsoonal rain and pests are some of the challenges the young farmers face. Soil degradation will impact two-thirds of humanity who will be food-insecure while societies are left with a heightened risk of instability. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 13 2018 (IPS)

Land degradation caused by human activities is occurring at an alarming rate across the world, and the cost will be steep if no action is taken.

In recent years, environmental groups have been sounding the alarm on land degradation while stories of the human impact on the environment have inundated twitter feeds and development news—and with good reason.

This year, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) produced the world’s first comprehensive, evidence-based assessment highlighting the dangers and far-reaching impacts of land degradation.

The United Nations-backed study found that land degradation has reached “critical” levels across the world as 75 percent of land is already degraded and projections show that such degradation will increase to over 90 percent by 2050.

Since then, more reports have poured in highlighting concerns over the issue.

Most recently, the Joint Research Centre at the European Commission created a “World Atlas of Desertification” and found that an area half the size of the European Union is degraded every year by farming, city expansion, and deforestation.

Before that, the U.N Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) reported that the global economy will lose a staggering USD23 trillion by 2050 because of land degradation.

Not only will it affect economies, but the phenomenon will impact two-thirds of humanity who will be food-insecure while societies are left with a heightened risk of instability.

IPS spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of IPBES’ assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

Q: How is land degradation caused, and what are the dangers? 

Land degradation is kind of at the overlap of many contemporary concerns. For instance, a very long proportion of the current drivers of climate change come out of things that are related to land degradation.

About one-third of current climate change relates to processes of land degradation—either deforestation or decrease in soil carbon for agriculture and other similar processes.

Climate change has a reverse effect on land degradation—as the climate changes, the ecosystems that were in a particular place can no longer exist there. In the transition period while ecosystems try to sort everything out, those ecosystems lose their ability to supply the things on which we come to rely.

The current major driver of biodiversity loss is the loss of habitat, and loss of habitat is directly related to land degradation.

From the human side, these direct impacts come through the supply of food.

The result of a lot of this is that for people who depend on ecosystems for their livelihoods, their livelihoods are undermined. So those people are either worse off or are forced to move off the land and into other people’s territories and that leads to problems of conflict.

Q: What were some of the more concerning or surprising findings in the IPBES assessment?

This is quite likely the single environmental issue within the world today that affects the largest number of people.

There are many environmental issues that are going to have a big effect as the century unfolds—things like climate change and biodiversity loss— and there are many environmental issues that affect limited populations, like air pollution.

But when you look over the entire world, about two people out of every five are directly materially impacted by land degradation.

Q: What are some of the challenges around acting on land degradation? And what action(s) should governments take to overcome such challenges? 

The biggest single constraining factor is the fragmentation of land issues across many authorities … This is costing us, in terms of lost production and risks, billions and billions of dollars. But it’s not obvious to anyone because no one sees the full picture.

I think you need to attack the problem of integration between authorities at multiple levels.

First, the kind of management we do on the land physically has to move to what we call landscape-scale management. In other words, you don’t look at all the little bits individually, you actually look across the landscape and then you fit the bits into it.

When you get a level up, which is national management, it’s probably better that we do this by arranging for more than communication but coordination between the various agencies which have partial responsibility.

We also need coordination at the international level because although land degradation has its primary impact on the local level, many of the drivers of the causes of it have international manifestations.

So you can’t solve it purely at the local level—you have to have a national level which sets in place the right policies, and you need an international level to ensure, for instance, that global trade does not take place in such a way that it drives land degradation.

Q: Is it a matter of achieving land degradation neutrality or do people need to make a shift in lifestyle?

Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

We do need to achieve land degradation neutrality, which is basically equivalent to saying that you are halting the decline. The only way to achieve that in the long term is to alter many of our lifestyle impacts because it is those that are ultimately driving the increasing degradation of the land.

Land degradation neutrality is the strategy we would take but it has to be underpinned by these bigger scale changes in the demands that we put on ecosystems.

Q: What is your message to the international community to act on this issue? 

I am concerned that not enough is being done.

There’s a distribution of responsibility—you can’t solve this all at the international level nor all at the local level. It requires really strong action at all of those levels.

If you think of the Rio Conventions—the three conventions including the Climate Change Convention, the Biodiversity Convention, and the one related to land degradation, which was specifically around dry land degradation—the climate convention has moved forward with some ground breaking international collaborative agreements. Biodiversity is sort of moving forward but perhaps not as fast, and the convention on desertification hasn’t gone anywhere at all. The question is why?

Partly, because up until now, this has not been seen as a critically important issue. [It is an] ‘it affects far away people; it doesn’t affect us’ kind of issue.

What we point out is that both the causes and the consequences ultimately end up being international so it does affect everyone.

It’s a key driver of both the biodiversity loss and climate change, and that’s one of the reasons we have to raise its profile and address it sooner rather than later.

Other ambitions like many of the Sustainable Development Goals will not be possible unless we sort this one out too.

The post Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Time appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

The post Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Time appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Ocean Conservation Is an Untapped Strategy for Fighting Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/ocean-conservation-untapped-strategy-fighting-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ocean-conservation-untapped-strategy-fighting-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/ocean-conservation-untapped-strategy-fighting-climate-change/#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 12:02:37 +0000 Eliza Northrop http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156578 Eliza Northrop is an Associate in the International Climate Action Initiative at World Resources Institute.

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Eliza Northrop is an Associate in the International Climate Action Initiative at World Resources Institute.

By Eliza Northrop
WASHINGTON DC, Jul 6 2018 (IPS)

The ocean contributes $1.5 trillion annually to the global economy and assures the livelihood of 10-12 percent of the world’s population. But there’s another reason to protect marine ecosystems—they’re crucial for curbing climate change.

2018: A Year for the Ocean and Climate Action

This year is shaping up to be a critical one for ocean action. The 53 member countries of the Commonwealth adopted the Commonwealth Blue Charter on Ocean Action earlier this year, a plan to protect coral reefs, restore mangroves and remove plastic pollution, among other actions.

A new United Nations assessment has found the world’s oceans to be in dire shape. Credit: Shek Graham/CC-BY-2.0

Ocean conservation was a centerpiece of the G7 meeting resulting in the ‘Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Communities’ which commits the G7 to supporting better adaptation planning, emergency preparedness and recovery; support innovative financing for coastal resilience; and launch a joint G7 initiative to deploy Earth observation technologies and related applications to scale up capacities for integrated coastal zone management.

In addition, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the European Union agreed to tackle ocean plastic in the ‘Ocean Plastics Charter.’ Such action lays important groundwork for substantial negotiations for the first ever international treaty for conservation of the high seas to begin in September. The negotiations will last 2 years, culminating in 2020. The high seas cover nearly half the planet and are filled with marine life, from fish to plankton that are crucial to generating oxygen and regulating the global climate.

Approximately 40 percent of all CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels is absorbed by the ocean. The new treaty will be negotiated under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, joining other agreements that govern sea bed mining and highly migratory fish stocks. It has been dubbed the “Paris Agreement for the Ocean”, potentially enabling the creation of large marine protected areas in the high seas that have long been called for as crucial to curbing the decline of global fish stocks and other marine life.

Speaking of the Paris Agreement, this year is also a turning point for international climate action. The first stocktake of progress under the Paris Agreement on climate change, known as the Talanoa Dialogue, is currently underway, and is expected to highlight tangible opportunities for countries to further advance climate action. Countries are also expected to agree later this year on a rulebook for implementing the Paris Agreement.

The ocean and coastal ecosystems provide an untapped, nature-based climate solution that needs to be part of both conversations.

The Ocean as a Climate Solution

“Blue carbon” ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass meadows and kelp forests are 10 times more effective at sequestering carbon dioxide on a per area basis per year than boreal, temperate, or tropical forests and about twice as effective at storing carbon in their soil and biomass. They also play a crucial role in protecting coastal infrastructure and communities from climate impacts, including extreme weather events.

• Mangroves are found in 123 countries and territories and are estimated to cover more than 150,000 square kilometres globally. Mangroves buffer coastal communities from wind and waves, acting as a frontline defense against storms and sea level rise.
• If the world halted just half of annual coastal wetlands loss, it would reduce emissions by 0.23 gigatonnes, Spain’s total annual emissions in 2013.
• Restoring coastal wetlands to their 1990 extent would increase annual carbon sequestration by 160 megatonnes a year, equivalent to offsetting the burning of 77.4 million tonnes of coal.

National Climate Commitments: An Opportunity to Advance Action on Climate and the Ocean

Commitments made by countries to advance climate action in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement are a vehicle to advance action on both agendas. Known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the ocean and coastal ecosystems are currently underrepresented in these commitments.

There are a number of policy options for incorporating blue carbon ecosystems into NDCs. These include:

• Creating or protecting blue carbon ecosystems (including through Marine Protected Areas). This includes establishing buffer zones to reduce impacts from adjacent land-use and allowing mangroves to migrate inland in response to sea level rise.
• Reforesting or rehabilitating degraded blue carbon ecosystems.
• Introducing incentives to create new or protect existing blue carbon ecosystems on privately owned land, including through access to carbon markets.
• Ensuring the mitigation potential of blue carbon ecosystems is included in national greenhouse gas inventories.

Recognizing the Blue Carbon Economy

Of course, curbing climate change isn’t the only reason to invest in ocean and coastal ecosystem protection. Coastal ecosystems can also but the resilience of coastal communities to natural hazards—including storms (mangroves absorb the energy of storm-driven waves and wind), flooding, erosion and fire. Wetlands provide nurseries for the many species of fish that support economies and improve food security. And marine protected areas can also protect biodiversity.

Fighting climate change is just yet another benefit the ocean provides us. It’s time to start recognizing its protection as a climate change solution.

The post Ocean Conservation Is an Untapped Strategy for Fighting Climate Change appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Eliza Northrop is an Associate in the International Climate Action Initiative at World Resources Institute.

The post Ocean Conservation Is an Untapped Strategy for Fighting Climate Change appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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