Inter Press Service » Natural Resources News and Views from the Global South Tue, 30 May 2017 10:56:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Valuing Water Beyond the Money Mon, 29 May 2017 11:29:03 +0000 Paula Fray The catchment area of the Katse Dam in Lesotho, which flows into South Africa. Credit: Campbell Easton/IPS

The catchment area of the Katse Dam in Lesotho, which flows into South Africa. Credit: Campbell Easton/IPS

By Paula Fray

Amid the worst drought in a century, South Africans are kick-starting a global consultative process to agree on the values of water in a bid to ensure more equitable use of the finite resource.

On May 30, ministers, officials, civil society, business and local regional organisations will gather outside Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of a high-level consultation on water called the “Valuing Water Initiative”.“The distribution of water has always been a point of advocacy in relation to the land transformation debate. [There can be] no land reform without water reform.” --Herschelle Milford

The High Level Panel on Water – first convened by the World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and then UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon – consists of 11 sitting Heads of State and Government and one Special Adviser, to provide the leadership required to “champion a comprehensive, inclusive and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and improving water and sanitation related services”.

The HLPW’s core focus is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, as well as to contribute to the achievement of the other SDGs that rely on the development and management of water resources.

The members of the panel are Heads of State from Australia, Bangladesh, Hungary, Jordan, Mauritius (co-chair), Mexico (co-chair), Netherlands, Peru, Senegal, South Africa, and Tajikistan.

The South African consultation takes place on May 30, followed by consultations in Mexico, Senegal, Tajikistan and Bangladesh ahead of a global presentation at the Stockholm World Water Week in August 2017.

Global Water Partnership’s (GWP) executive secretary Rudolph Cleveringa explained that, as the first in a series of consultations, the South Africa meeting was expected to “set the tone and pace”.

“South Africa is extremely committed to the water agenda. South Africa went from an Apartheid policy-driven water policy to a human rights approach. We are very keen to see the country lead not only from a South Africa view but also from a southern Africa perspective,” said Cleveringa.

When she presented her budget speech to South Africa’s Parliament on May 26, Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane – acknowledging her participation on the HLPW –  said “water knows no boundaries and water can be a social, security and economic catalyst, both nationally and internationally”

Announcing that South Africa, in partnership with GWP and working together with the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW), was hosting the regional consultations, Mokonyane said the initiative would “support countries to enhance job creation through investments in water infrastructure and industrialisation”.

On the table will be the draft principles that note “making all the values of water explicit gives recognition and a voice to dimensions that are easily overlooked. This is more than a cost-benefit analysis and is necessary to make collective decisions and trade-offs. It is important to lead towards sustainable solutions that overcome inequalities and strengthen institutions and infrastructure.”

The meeting takes place as the Western Cape province of South Africa has been declared a disaster area as a result of the drought which has seen dam levels drop to crisis levels. The City recently said its feeder dam levels were at 20.7 percent, with only 10.7 percent left for consumption.

According to the minister, it is the “worst drought in the last 100 years and the severest for the Western Cape in the last 104 years.

“This drought has not only affected South Africa, but also the rest of the world because of global warming, climate change,” she said, adding that it would take at least two to three years for the Western Cape to recover.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said the city would increase emergency water schemes in the coming months with programmes such as drilling boreholes and exploring desalinisation.

In a recent speech, De Lille emphasised the need for public-private partnerships.

“We need to be innovative and diversify our financing mechanisms and these efforts will require partnership with the private sector,” De Lille was quoted as saying.

The city council has introduced Level 4 restrictions – one level below emergency level.

Western Cape-based Surplus People Project CEO Herschelle Milford, whose organisation works to support agrarian transformation, said that the city had blamed migration as a reason for the water crisis in Cape Town.

“However, the biggest consumers of water is industry, then agriculture and then households,” she noted. This called for dialogue on how water could be shared equitably among all its users, noted Milford.

“The water crisis is a discussion point in the context of large-scale commercial farmers using irrigation with limited recourse amongst land and agrarian activists,” said Milford.

Water was much more than simply about access: “The distribution of water has always been a point of advocacy in relation to the land transformation debate. [There can be] no land reform without water reform.”

Cleveringa said the discussions were being generated from very high international dialogues to discussions at the local level. To this end, the draft principles offer a range of perspectives on how water can be valued.

Not only will the South African dialogue include a host of ministers but regional input will be provided by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, as well as various organisations such as Dr Oyun Sanjaasuren, Chair of the Global Water Partnership; and Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.

SADC head of water Phera Ramoeli said water valuation was a critical component of water resources management as it allowed “policy and planning across all the developmental spectrum”.

“The SADC region has 15 Shared Watercourses which accounts for over 70 percent of all the available renewable water resources in the region. If they are properly managed and adequately funded they will ensure the continued availability of these resources for the current and future generations for the various needs and uses that water is put to,” he said, noting that water was present in a large number of value chains including agro-processing, mineral processing, pharmaceuticals, energy production, even health.

“Valuing water is important as it will ensure that water resources management, development, conservation and monitoring receives an appropriate share of the national budget,” he added.

The water principles being discussed also emphasise the collaborative process to build water champions and ownership at all levels that allows users to meet all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We are moving away from valuing water in its fiscal interpretation only. We’re not just looking at it in terms of how much does water cost but going beyond this utilitarian approach. The Bellagio principles demonstrate that there is more than just a utilitarian approach to water and we hope that these consultations will draw out those discussions,” said Cleveringa.

“The value of water is basically about making choices,” he said, adding that this called for “not just a cross-sectoral approach but also all of society input into valuing water”.

It is in this discussion that the high level panels aim to provide leadership to champion a “comprehensive, inclusive, and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and improving water and sanitation related services”.

The dialogues need to generate an open debate on the values of water as well as get regional input to the Bellagio principles.

Over half of the consultations are happening in non-OECD settings that are being led by the global South.

“This sets the right tone for buy-in at multiple levels,” said Cleveringa.

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Gateway Portals and the Quest for Sustainable Urbanization Wed, 24 May 2017 15:27:58 +0000 Joan Erakit 125th Station, Broadway. Credit: Joan Erakit/IPS

125th Station, Broadway. Credit: Joan Erakit/IPS

By Joan Erakit
NEW YORK, May 24 2017 (IPS)

On a busy Friday afternoon, the number 1 subway train heading north through Manhattan’s Westside comes out of a dark tunnel –and if one takes a minute to release oneself from communication devices—one can catch sight of the approaching 125th street in the distance, the crosswalk buzzing with yellow cabs.

The train station at 125th street and Broadway that sits high above the commotion below on a green arch bridge is the first clue that a passenger has reached Harlem, the gateway portal to the historic New York City neighborhood.

Last week, the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization and UN-Habitat organized a discussion at the United Nations headquarters that brought together stakeholders from the private sector, the UN system, government, academia and civil society to share ideas for creating and sustaining gateway portals — ultimately emphasizing the need to utilize urbanization as a tool for development.

Whilst many in the room were probably used to such discussions taking the route of creating bustling cities that could accommodate the highest number of urbanites in order to support political, economic and cultural agendas, it was refreshing to instead witness a focus on urban planning through gateway portals that put infrastructure center stage.

A gateway portal is an emblem of a city and can be everything from a bridge, plaza, or historic site that often welcomes one into a city or specific neighborhood. California’s Golden Gate Bridge is the most famous, linking Marin County to San Francisco in an architectural piece designed by engineer Joseph Strauss in the 1930s.

As one heads east of California, other gateway portals across the United States start popping up such as the Minneapolis Stone Arch Bridge that crosses the Mississippi River, connecting the southern and northern parts of the Midwest City. Arriving in New York, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island join the historic Manhattan Bridge as portals to the urban jungle – each depicting an intentional narrative of its own.

Famed architect Santiago Calatrava, a man known for his extraordinary body of work was invited to the discussion last week where he not only shared various projects, but also highlighted the necessity of portals. In his own words he mentioned that, “bridges are important pieces of infrastructure and gateway portals are to a city what infrastructure is to Sustainable Development.”

If this is true then city planners, architects and government officials are now tasked with the challenging job of thinking critically of where and how they place gateway portals. Instead of just creating entrances that mark an area and alert taxi drivers to charge toll fees, planners now have the opportunity to address issues of sustainability by utilizing smart, inclusive design that goes beyond just a pretty facade.

In 2013, author Charles Montgomery published a book called ‘Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design’, an anthropological text on what it meant to create sustainable spaces that were not only focused on developing a city, but also on underscoring the temperament of its citizens in relation to that development. If people were generally happy and continued to live happy lives within urban bustling communities, then was it possible that their surroundings would eventually be transformed socially, economically and politically?

“Urban spaces and systems do not merely reflect altruistic attempts to live the complex problem of people living close together, and they are more than an embodiment of the creative tensions between competing ideas,” he wrote. “They are shaped by struggles between competing groups of people. They apportion the benefits of urban life. They express who has power and who does not. In doing so, they shape the mind and soul of the city,” he concluded.

Citizen Driven Planning

The premise of the conversation last week was straightforward: development cannot succeed without conscious urbanization. This, meaning that urbanization for development needed to include a citizen driven approach to planning and design that accounted for inclusion, health, resiliency and equality.

According UN Habitat, it is estimated that around 54% of people now live in urban areas and as this number steadily grows, the question of how to sustainably house, provide and protect a large population in such dense spaces has become a top priority for both the UN system and government officials.

A timely discussion as Habitat III concluded last year in Quito, Ecuador with the goal of adopting a new urban agenda that would offer a set of action oriented global standards that would guide the way in which we designed and sustained our cities – citizen driven urbanization would need to prioritize these global standards when building or reshaping gateway portals.

Additionally, such plans would also need to uphold the fact that gateway portals established the economic and political power of the city, and to be citizen driven would essentially mean that the portals were of service to the people who used them daily, and not the other way around.

Frederick Douglas Plaza, Harlem.  Credit: Joan Erakit/IPS

Frederick Douglas Plaza, Harlem. Credit: Joan Erakit/IPS

What’s In A Narrative?

During the 5th and 6th centuries, grandiose gates and high towering walls that circled a city – sometimes serving as a safety barrier in the chance of attack – illustrated the gateway portal. The narrative of a powerful gate or great wall such as the one in China laid forth the cities ambitions and easily communicated its priorities.

In 2017 with more and more people moving into urban areas, we are forced to ask ourselves what sort of narrative we’d like to have. When one arrives in Harlem, what narrative is being shared once you’ve crossed the threshold of the gateway portal on 125th street and begin your descent into the colorful street below?

New York City Commissioner Feniosky Pena-Mora spoke during the panel last week about the plans that the De Blasio administration drawn up towards creating sustainable, healthy public spaces with the agenda of changing the narrative of its city.

“We often say that we want to create spaces that work for everyone – diversity is key,” he said, continuing, “We must design to invite, and design to delight.”

This – NYC’s actual design mantra – when applied to redefining gateway portals is to simply put the citizen at the center of the vision. Yes, happiness is key, sustainability is key but city planners must also focus on creating spaces that encourage openness.

In the end, it cannot be disputed: gateway portals emphasize the importance of a city. They provide a first impression and a lasting one if curated with intent. It is with this measure that city planners and government officials must consider portals as the ‘opening line’ of their cities narrative.

Sustainable urbanization can most certainly be an effective tool for development, but must not be approached with naiveté. As the Executive Director of UN Habitat Dr. Clos put during his remarks last week, “when you address one problem, you generate two more.”

Addressing one gateway portal at a time, a city’s quest for sustainable urbanization becomes an actual possibility rather than just a city plan.

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Community Seed Banks: Securing Diversity for Climate Change Adaptation Tue, 23 May 2017 16:13:30 +0000 Elena Pasquini The author is Editor in Chief Degrees of Latitude]]> latitude__

By Elena L. Pasquini
ROME, May 23 2017 (IPS)

For thousands of years, farmers have used genetic diversity to cope with weather variability and changing climate conditions. They have stored, planted, selected and improved seeds to continue producing food in a dynamic environment.

Community seed banks are mostly informal collections of seeds maintained by local communities and managed with their traditional knowledge, whose primary function is to conserve seeds for local use. They can play a major role in climate change adaptation, according to a recent article published by Bioversity International’s researchers Ronnie Vernooy, Bhuwon Sthapit, Gloria Otieno, Pitambar Shrestha and Arnab Gupta.

Based on various countries’ experiences, the article argues that, ‘community seed banks can enhance the resilience of farmers’ by securing ‘access to, and availability of, diverse, locally adapted crops and varieties’.

According to Ronnie Vernooy, genetic resources policy specialist at Bioversity International, ‘mostly because of climate change, there’s a stronger interest in establishing and supporting community seed banks’. However, many of them ‘are still quite fragile, organizationally and in terms of technical management’, he added.

Bioversity International, which is working in several countries on informal seed systems, has designed a project for community seedbanks Platform and is currently looking for donors interested in its implementation. The Platform aims at reinforcing farmers’ seed systems by supporting existing community seed banks as well as national or regional community seedbank networks around the world, scaling out their activities and contributing to their sustainability. It should have four key functions, covering documentation and analysis to practical experiences, capacity building, research agenda coordination and digitalization andmanagement of data.

But why do community seed banks matter?

Tools for adaptation

Seeds are stored in diverse types of collections, ranging from international and national genebanks, or ex situ collections where seeds remain often for years or decades, to small seed banks managed locally by farmers. ‘In the ex-situ collections … seeds are like frozen in time … That means there’s no chance [for them] to adapt in the field to changing conditions’, Ronnie Vernooy, explained to Degrees of Latitude.

In community banks, seeds usually remain for shorter terms, ‘ sometimes for one year’, Vernooy specified, to be then distributed to farmers: ‘Those plants are in the field and in the real conditions, so they are adapting themselves to changing circumstances. Then farmers usually select the best seeds of any given crop in the field. Part of those seeds goes back to the community seed banks and the next year the cycle continues’. Moreover, genebanks focus more on the major food crops, while community banks tend to conserve all the diversity farmers have on field, including minor crops, neglected varieties, medicinal plants, wild relatives and even trees.

Community banks not only conserve genetic diversity, they ‘have the potential … to become seed producers and it’s happening … but it requires support’, Vernooy said. Compared to the formal seed sector – which includes research institutions, genebanks, governmental bodies and private companies – the informal seed bank offers several advantages to small farmers, according to Vernooy. It provides not only ‘broader [genetic] diversity’, but seeds that are better adapted to farming systems that ‘tend to be diverse, [located] in marginal, very dry or mountainous areas, etc.’, he explained. ‘[Seeds from the formal sector] tend to require high level of inputs – fertilizers, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides … – and the price is often high’.

However, ‘it’s not a black and white system’, he stressed. The formal sector can help building farmers’ capacities. In fact, ‘in many countries we are trying to breach the gap between the formal and the informal systems with activities like participatory plant breeding, but also with the community seed banks … We try to bring the national genebanks work together with the community seed banks’, he said. In an ‘ideal world community seed banks could be part of what’s called a national conservation system. Right now, governments channel money into national genebanks … Our argument is why not also put a small amount of money into each of the community seed banks that exists or into the new ones that can be established?’, Vernooy said.


An enabling legal environment
Strengthening community seed banks requires not only technical and financial support but also an enabling policy and legal environment. In many countries, apart from a few like Bhutan, Nepal, Uganda, South Africa, Brazil, “there is no or little recognition of and support for community seed banks …, [and] farmers are not allowed to sell farm-saved seed. In others, legislation to protect farmers’ genetic resources is lacking’, Vernooy’s article reports.

Laws and regulations that can conflict ‘on what community seed banks are trying to do, [for instance] the intellectual property rights policies …’ are also often in place, Vernooy explained. Community seed banks are ‘like collective enterprises’ managed cooperatively: ‘Laws that prohibit or restrain these collective uses are in contradiction to what community seeds banks do’, Vernooy explained.

From an international perspective, the Convention of Biological Diversity and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture have been ‘quite supporting’, according to Vernooy. A study out of the Norwegian Development Fund, suggests that community seed banks can also contribute to the implementation of farmers’ rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seeds. Those rights are recognized by ITPGRFA, which is legally-binding for 143 countries. The Treaty demands contracting parties not only to promote or support ‘farmers and local communities’ efforts to manage and conserve on-farm their plant genetic resources for food and agriculture’ but also ‘in situ conservation of wild crop relatives and wild plants for food production’.

‘ITPGRFA has the farmers’ rights and in principle the text is very much in support of community seed banks, but then it goes back to the national governments to implement those international agreements. So, we are back to the same situation’, Vernooy said.

However, the direction seems clear: ‘There’s quite a strong international movement of people working on these issues and the international treaty itself is quite interested in advancing on this’, he said.

Photo credits: Bioversity International – Bioversity International/C.Fadda – Seeds for Needs, Ethiopia

This story was originally published by Degrees of Latitude

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Defence of Right to Water Drives Call for Land Reform in Chile Thu, 18 May 2017 03:04:10 +0000 Orlando Milesi Small-scale farmers from Samo Alto, in northern Chile, are forced to share the scarce water of the Hurtado River with large agro-exporters, who benefit from a dam built downstream. In this country, water is a private good, granted in perpetuity to the concessionaires. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Small-scale farmers from Samo Alto, in northern Chile, are forced to share the scarce water of the Hurtado River with large agro-exporters, who benefit from a dam built downstream. In this country, water is a private good, granted in perpetuity to the concessionaires. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, May 18 2017 (IPS)

Water at high prices, sold as a market good, and small farmers almost a species in extinction, replaced by seasonal workers, are the visible effects of the crisis in rural Chile, 50 years after a land reform which postulated that “the land is for those who work it.”

To tackle the crisis, environmental and social activists are proposing a new land reform to reclaim water as a public good, at a time when a persistent drought is affecting much of Chile, making it necessary to use tanker trucks to distribute water in some low-income neighbourhoods in cities around the country.

Last year the number of villages, small towns and neighbourhoods that were left without water and were supplied by tanker trucks also doubled in relation to 2015, said water department director Carlos Estévez.

“In Chile, water has become a capital good, left to the discretion of speculators and separated from the land, while international jurisprudence indicates that it should be available for the preservation of life and food production, and only after that, for other economic activities,” expert and activist Rodrigo Mundaca told IPS.“The green revolution is a model that does not preserve natural assets. Our export model is associated with monoculture and we need to promote a new development paradigm based on a harmonious relationship with nature.” -- Rodrigo Mundaca

Mundaca, the secretary-general of the Movement for the Defense of Access to Water, Land and the Protection of the Environment (Modatima), said that “a second land reform is key to recovering water,” after the one carried out in the 1970s.
“The green revolution is a model that does not preserve natural assets. Our export model is associated with monoculture and we need to promote a new development paradigm based on a harmonious relationship with nature,” he said.

This South American country is a major producer and exporter of food products, thanks to the production of major companies and consortiums that own the land and water.

The mining industry still accounts for half of Chile’s exports, which amounted to over 60 billion dollars in 2016. But this is also one of the 10 top countries in the world in food exports, ranking first for several products. The food industry represents a total of 20 billion dollars in exports.

Meanwhile, the current regulation of the right to water in Chile, after it was privatised in 1981 during the 1973-1990 military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, is threatening small-scale family farmers, who are fighting for at least partial restoration of public control.

The 1980 constitution states that water is a private good. The use of hydric resources, according to the laws of the market, is regulated by the Water Code, which gives the state the power to grant usage rights to companies free of charge and in perpetuity.

It also allows water usage rights to be bought, sold or leased without taking into consideration priorities of use. In Chile, there are 110,000 water-use rights contracts in force under the Water Code.

The government of socialist President Michelle Bachelet introduced a proposed amendment to the Code in Congress, although its final approval will take several months.

The amendment would make water usage rights temporary rather than perpetual. But it would only apply to future concessions, and would not be retroactive, which has drawn criticism from environmentalists and social activists in rural areas.

Fifty years after the land reform launched by the Christian Democrat government of Eduardo Frei (1964-1970) and expanded by socialist president Salvador Allende (1970-1973), support for a second land reform plan that would make water a social good once again is growing.

A group of young people who attended the release this month in Santiago of the study “The grandchildren of the land reform: employment, reality and dreams of rural youth in Chile,” by FAO consultant Sergio Faiguenbaum, who found that young people in rural areas in the country have three times as much formal schooling as their parents. Credit: INDAP

A group of young people who attended the release this month in Santiago of the study “The grandchildren of the land reform: employment, reality and dreams of rural youth in Chile,” by FAO consultant Sergio Faiguenbaum, who found that young people in rural areas in the country have three times as much formal schooling as their parents. Credit: INDAP

Between the cities of Petorca and Antofagasta, in arid northern Chile, 200 and 1,340 km from the country’s capital Santiago, respectively, the prices for a year’s water rights for a liter of water per second – the amount needed to irrigate one hectare of vineyard – range from 7,670 dollars to 76,700 dollars, said Mundaca, referring to cases that make the reform necessary.

The rest of Latin America

Luiz Beduschi, a Territorial Development Policies officer at the Santiago-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS that “historically, Latin America has been one of the regions with the highest levels of inequality in the distribution and use of natural resources.”

“This phenomenon has among its causes an increasing concentration in the value chains, the establishment and growth of companies that exploit resources at an industrial scale, backed by public policy approaches that foster an increase in the participation of these countries in export markets,” he said.

Beduschi stressed that “the expansion of investment in the region through sowing pools (speculative investment funds), annual leases or purchases of large extensions of land, among others, has contributed to a higher concentration of land than before the land reforms that were carried out in several countries in the region.”

“Conflicts over access to natural resources have been on the rise around the world and the situation is no different in this region,” said the FAO expert.

“The historical processes of agricultural reform, strongly promoted in different countries in the region, which in the case of Mexico was carried out 100 years ago, and 50 years ago in Chile, allow us today to once again discuss the widespread question of inequality, which arises from the global concentration of the ownership and use of natural resources, historically reflected in land ownership,” he said.

Impacts of the model to be reformed

Agronomist Jacques Chonchol, minister of agriculture during Allende’s government and a promoter of the land reform process, told IPS that the new reform made sense because the counter-reform carried out by the dictatorship “practically privatized water, an increasingly scarce resource.”

“We have very little arable land: less than ten per cent of Chile’s 757 million square kilometres, and part of that is being lost” to the phenomenon of the selling off of parcels of land in rural areas as second properties of city dwellers, he warned.

Chonchol also expressed the need for “a forestry policy that excludes agricultural lands. That was prohibited, but during the dictatorship, it began to happen again. Forestry plantations should be banned on farmland, and these companies should plant native trees, since pines and eucalyptus absorb a lot of water.”

He believes that the counter-reform “gave rise to a new capitalist agriculture, much more efficient from an economic point of view, although not always in social terms,” in a model that “perpetuates inequality”, which the democratic governments have maintained.

On the social level, historian José Bengoa told IPS that until the land reform, there were three kinds of farmers in Chile: “small landholders grouped in towns and villages; tenant farmers and their families, on the big estates; and ‘outsiders’ who wandered between the towns and estates.”

“That structure changed dramatically and today a great majority are non-permanent agricultural workers, who live in towns and cities near agricultural areas,” Bengoa said.

“There is a small sector of small-scale farmers, who could be called peasants, who are the majority in some regions and sectors, and then there is an increasing proportion of seasonal workers,” he said.

For Bengoa, “Chilean agriculture is nowadays, due to the land reform carried out 50 years ago, a highly capitalist and productive sector.”

“This activity, without any controls, leads to an unprecedented level of exploitation of human resources, workers and natural resources, such as water. In the next few years there will be serious problems, both in terms of the need for manpower and of the need for resources such as water and land, as well as environmental problems,” he predicted.

According to Bengoa, these problems cannot be easily solved, because “the agricultural sector will pressure the state to increase the flow of migrant workers, and for more infrastructure works, in particular in water reserves.”

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When It Comes to Fracking, Argentina Dreams Big Tue, 09 May 2017 00:53:36 +0000 Daniel Gutman Two drilling rigs in the Loma Campana deposit, in Vaca Muerta, in the Neuquén Basin, in south-west Argentina. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Two drilling rigs in the Loma Campana deposit, in Vaca Muerta, in the Neuquén Basin, in south-west Argentina. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, May 9 2017 (IPS)

Since a US Energy Information Administration (EIA) report announced in 2011 that Argentina had some of the world’s biggest shale oil and gas reserves, the dream of prosperity has been on the minds of many people in this South American nation where nearly a third of the population lives in poverty.

The question that hangs in the air is whether it is really possible for Argentina to become South America’s Saudi Arabia, or if it is just a fantasy.

Six years after the release of the report, although Argentina is still, like then, a net importer of oil and natural gas, the hope would appear to remain intact for centre-right President Mauricio Macri.

When Macri visited the United States on Apr. 25-27 he stopped over in Houston, Texas, described as the “Oil Capital of the World”. There, he urged the executives of the world’s top energy companies to make the huge investments that Argentina needs to exploit its reserves.“Today in Argentina there are more than 1,500 boreholes that are being exploited by the fracking method, not just in Vaca Muerta, but also in other deposits in the area. In the next years, this number is expected to multiply.” --
Diego de Rissio

“Argentina is among the countries with the greatest potential in the world. We want the best companies to come and partner with us,” Macri told oil executives at lunch in Houston on Apr. 26, before flying to Washington, where he met with his US counterpart Donald Trump at the White House.

“The delays in exploiting non-conventional fossil fuels in Argentina are inherent to the process, from a technical standpoint. The oil and gas industry operates in the long term,” said Martín Kaindl, head of the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute (IAPG), a think tank supported by oil companies in the country.

“We have to do things well for this opportunity to become a source of wealth for Argentina,” he told IPS.

So far, however, what seems to have grown more than the investments are the social movements opposed to hydraulic fracturing or fracking, in which rock is fractured by the high-pressure injection of ‘fracking fluid’ (primarily water, as well as sand and chemicals,) to release natural gas and oil from shale deposits..

This process has environmental and socioeconomic effects, according to experts quoted by environmentalists.

The greatest achievement so far by the opponents of fracking in Argentina came on Apr. 25, when the legislature of the central-eastern province of Entre Ríos banned fracking and other non-conventional methods.

It became the first province in the country to reach this decision, which was preceded by local laws in dozens of municipalities. Entre Ríos has no oil industry tradition, but it is included in the long-run exploration plans of Argentina’s state-controlled company YPF.

“Entre Ríos is a province that lives mainly off of agriculture and tourism, where there is a tradition of environmental activism”, sociologist Juan Pablo Olsson, who is part of the Argentina Free of Fracking movement, told IPS.

“We must not forget that a few years ago, there were up to 100,000 people protesting against the pulp mills on the international bridge,” he added, referring to the 2005-2010 conflict with Uruguay over the construction of two paper factories, due to the environmental impact on the Uruguay River, which separates the province of Entre Ríos from the neighbouring country.

Pear trees in blossom in a farm in Allen, a city in the province of Río Negro, located next to a shale gas deposit. Fruit producers and other traditional sectors of that province are concerned about the negative impacts of the oil and gas industry in Vaca Muerta. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Pear trees in blossom in a farm in Allen, a city in the province of Río Negro, located next to a shale gas deposit. Fruit producers and other traditional sectors of that province are concerned about the negative impacts of the oil and gas industry in Vaca Muerta. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

According to the latest EIA data, Argentina has recoverable shale reserves that amount to 802 trillion cubic feet of gas and 27 billion barrels of oil. It is only second to China in shale gas reserves, and in fourth position after the US, Russia and China, in shale oil.

Of these reserves, 38 per cent of the gas and 60 per cent of the oil are concentrated in the geological formation of Vaca Muerta, where commercial exploitation began in 2013, in the Loma Campana deposit, by YPF and US company Chevron in the province of Neuquén.

This 30,000-sq- km deposit is located in the area known as the Neuquén Basin (a sedimentary basin which has traditionally been the main oil-producing area in Argentina), spreading over four provinces (Neuquén, Río Negro, Mendoza and La Pampa) in the country’s southwest.

The extraordinary potential of Vaca Muerta is one of the few things in which the current president and his centre-left predecessor, Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) have agreed on, with neither having made any reference whatsoever to the environmental risks posed by fracking.

The former president did not hide her enthusiasm when talking about the deposit, which in 2013 she suggested renaming as “Vaca Viva” (living cow) , instead of “Vaca Muerta” (dead cow), since “we are now extracting oil from it.”

Macri, meanwhile, said that Vaca Muerta “is changing the country’s energy future,” since it has “abundant, cheap and exportable” resources.

This was in January, when he announced the signing of an agreement with oil industry trade unions which allows a reduction of up to 40 per cent of labour costs, to attract investments.

Later, the president decreed a minimum price for shale gas, higher than the market price, reinforcing the strategy launched by his predecessor of maintaining domestic fossil fuel prices at levels making it possible to tap into non-conventional deposits.

In addition, during his stay in Washington he announced a 35 per cent reduction in the import tariffs on used oil industry machinery, which will favour the arrival of equipment that fell into disuse in the U.S-Mexican Eagle Ford Formation, due to the fall in international prices.

The minister of Energy and Mining, Juan José Aranguren, who went to Houston with Macri, said that currently between six and eight billion dollars a year are invested in Vaca Muerta, but that the government’s goal is to reach 20 billion in 2019.

“Today in Argentina there are more than 1,500 boreholes that are being exploited by the fracking method, not just in Vaca Muerta, but also in other deposits in the area. In the next years, this number is expected to multiply,” Diego di Risio, a researcher from the Oil Observatory of the South, an organisation of professionals from different disciplines interested in the energy issue, told IPS.

“But we believe that the environmental and social impacts should be debated, since it is a fruit-producing agricultural region,” said di Risio. One of the localities engaged in the production of fruit near Vaca Muerta, where shale oil is being extracted, is Allen, in the province of Río Negro.

Juan Ponce, a fruit jam manufacturer in Allen, told IPS: “Oil production overrode fruit-producing farms. There were 35 fruit warehouses, and now there are only five left.”

He also told IPS by phone that “most people buy bottled water, because our water is not drinkable anymore, despite the fact that we have the longest river in the Patagonia region, the Rio Negro.”

“The best evidence of the pollution that is being generated by the oil and gas extraction is that the owners of surrounding farms are receiving subsidies from the companies, since they can no longer produce good quality fruit,” he added.

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Caribbean Rolls Out Plans to Reduce Climate Change Hazards Sun, 30 Apr 2017 13:48:13 +0000 Desmond Brown Dr. Mark Bynoe, senior environment and resource economist with the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Dr. Mark Bynoe, senior environment and resource economist with the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 30 2017 (IPS)

Climate change remains inextricably linked to the challenges of disaster risk reduction (DRR). And according to the head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Robert Glasser, the reduction of greenhouse gases is “the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment”.

Glasser was addressing the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Americas. Held recently in Montreal, the gathering included more than 1,000 delegates from 50 countries, including the Caribbean.“We see disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation as two sides of the same coin." --Dr. Mark Bynoe

“We recognise that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is arguably the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment, because without those efforts our other efforts to reduce many hazards and the risks those pose to communities would be overwhelmed over the longer term,” Glasser said.

The conference, hosted by the Canadian government in cooperation with UNISDR marked the first opportunity for governments and stakeholders of the Americas to discuss and agree on a Regional Action Plan to support the implementation of the Sendai Framework for DRR 2015-2030.

The Sendai Framework is the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, with seven targets and four priorities for action. It was endorsed by the UN General Assembly following the 2015 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR). The Framework is a 15-year, voluntary non-binding agreement which recognises that the state has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.

“The regional plan of action you will adopt . . . will help and guide national and local governments in their efforts to strengthen the links between the 2030 agenda for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction as national and local DRR strategies are developed and further refined in line with the Sendai Framework priorities over the next four years,” Glasser said.

The Caribbean is a minute contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions but will be among the most severely impacted.

The region is already experiencing its impacts with more frequent extreme weather events such as the 2013 rain event in the Eastern Caribbean, extreme drought across the region with severe consequences in several countries; the 2005 flooding in Guyana and Belize in 2010.

Inaction for the Caribbean region is very costly. An economic analysis focused on three areas – increased hurricane damages, loss of tourism revenue and infrastructure – revealed damages could cost the region 10.7 billion dollars by 2025. That’s more than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all the member countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

At the Montreal conference, Head of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Ronald Jackson was a panelist in a forum discussing the linkages between disaster risk reduction, climate change and sustainable development. He said the region needs to marry its indigenous solutions to disaster risk management with modern technology.

“We’ve recognised that in the old days, our fore parents…had to deal with flood conditions and they survived them very well. There were simple things in terms of how they pulled their beds and other valuables out of the flood space in the house in particular. This contributed to their surviving the storms with minimal loss,” Jackson said.

“That knowledge of having to face those adverse conditions and surviving them and coping through them and being able to bounce back to where they were before, that was evident in our society in the past. It has subsequently disappeared.”

CDEMA is a regional inter-governmental agency for disaster management in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The Agency was established in 1991 with primary responsibility for the coordination of emergency response and relief efforts to participating states that require such assistance.

Another regional agency, the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) is collaborating with other agencies on the Caribbean Risk Management Initiative (CRMI).

The CRMI aims to provide a platform for sharing the experiences and lessons learned between different sectors across the Caribbean in order to facilitate improved disaster risk reduction.

“We see disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation as two sides of the same coin because to the extent we are able to enhance disaster risk reduction we are also beginning to adapt to climate change,” Dr. Mark Bynoe, the CCCCC’s senior environment and resource economist said.

He explained that there are a range of activities carried out specifically in terms of climate adaptation that will also have a disaster risk reduction element.

“We are looking at enhancing water security within a number of our small island states. One of the things we are focusing on there is largely to produce quality water through the use of reverse osmosis systems but we’re utilizing a renewable energy source. So, on the one hand we are also addressing adaptation and mitigation.”

Meantime, CCCCC’s Deputy Executive Director Dr. Ulric Trotz said the agency is rolling out a series of training workshops in 10 countries to share training tools that were developed with the aim of assisting in the generation of scientific information and analysis to help in making informed decisions. These include the Weather Generator (WG), the Tropical Storm Model/ Simple Model for the Advection of Storms and Hurricanes (SMASH), and the Caribbean Drought Assessment Tool (CARiDRO).

The training will target key personnel whose focus are in areas of agriculture, water resources, coastal zone management, health, physical planning or disaster risk reduction.

“The CARIWIG [Caribbean Weather Impacts Group] tool is a critical tool in that it more or less localizes the projection so that for instance, you can actually look at climate projections for the future in a watershed in St. Kitts and Nevis. It localizes that information and it makes it much more relevant to the local circumstance,” said Dr. Trotz.

Training and application of the tools will allow decision-makers to better understand the potential impacts of drought, tropical storms, and rainfall and temperature changes. When combined with other data and information, they can help to build a picture of potential impacts to key economic sectors in the various countries.

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Caribbean Scientists Work to Limit Climate Impact on Marine Environment Fri, 28 Apr 2017 20:50:01 +0000 Zadie Neufville In the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

In the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 28 2017 (IPS)

Caribbean scientists say fishermen are already seeing the effects of climate change, so for a dozen or so years they’ve been designing systems and strategies to reduce the impacts on the industry.

While some work on reef gardens and strategies to repopulate over fished areas, others crunch the data and develop tools designed to prepare the region, raise awareness of climate change issues and provide the information to help leaders make decisions.As the oceans absorb more carbon, the region’s supply of conch and oysters, the mainstay of some communities, is expected to decline further.

In December 2017, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) secretariat, with funding from the UK government, announced a Climate Report Card to help formulate strategies to lessen the impact of climate change on regional fisheries.

“The CRFM is trying to ensure that the issue of climate change as it relates to the fisheries sector comes to the fore… because the CARICOM Heads of Government have put fish and fishery products among the priority commodities for CARICOM. It means that things that affect that development are important to us and so climate change is of primary importance,” said Peter Murray, the CRFM’s Programme Manager for Fisheries and Development.

The grouping of small, developing states are ‘fortifying’ the sectors that rely on the marine environment, or the Blue Economy, to withstand the expected ravages of climate change which scientists say will increase the intensity of hurricanes, droughts, coastal sea level rise and coral bleaching.

In its last report AR5, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported: “Many terrestrial, freshwater and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances and species interactions in response to ongoing climate change,” patterns that are already being noted by Caribbean fishers.

In an email to IPS, Murray outlined several initiatives across the Caribbean that ,he says are crucial to regional efforts. The Report Card, which has been available since March, will provide the in-depth data governments need to make critical decisions on mitigation and adaptation. It provides information covering ocean processes such as ocean acidification; extreme events like storms, surges and sea temperature; biodiversity and civil society including fisheries, tourism and settlements.

In addition, the 17-members of the CRFM agreed to incorporate the management of fisheries into their national disaster plans, and signed off on the Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy for the fisheries sector. 

“It means that anything looking at climate change and potential impacts is important to us,” Murray says.

The IPCC’s gloomy projections for world fisheries has been confirmed by a 2015 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report indicating that for the last 30 years, world fisheries have been in decline due to climate change. In the Caribbean, reduced catches are directly impacting the stability of entire communities and the diets and livelihoods of some of the region’s poorest. Further decline could devastate the economies of some islands.

But even as climate change is expected to intensify the effects of warming ocean waters, pelagic species could avoid the Caribbean altogether, bringing even more hardships. So the regional plan is centred on a Common Fisheries Policy that includes effective management, monitoring and enforcement systems and tools to improve risk planning.

In addition to the disaster plan and its other activities, the Community has over time installed a Coral Reef Early Warning System; new data collection protocols; improved computing capacity to crunch climate data; an insurance scheme to increase the resilience of fishing communities and stakeholders; as well as several tools to predict drought and excessive rainfall.

Worldwide, three billion people rely on fish as their major source of protein. The industry provides a livelihood for about 12 per cent of the world’s population and earns approximately 2.9 trillion dollars per year, the WWF reports. With regional production barely registering internationally, the Caribbean is putting all its efforts into preserving the Blue Economy, which the World Bank said earned the region 407 billion dollars in 2012.

In the coming weeks the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, known regionally as the 5Cs, has coordinated and implemented a raft of programmes aimed at building systems that will help the region cope the effects of climate change.

Through collaboration with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 5Cs has been setting up an integrated network of climate and biological monitoring stations to strengthen the region’s early warning mechanism.

And as the oceans absorb more carbon, the region’s supply of conch and oysters, the mainstay of some communities, is expected to decline further. In addition, warming sea water is expected to shift migration routes for pelagic fish further north, reducing the supply of available deep sea fish even more. Added to that, competition for the dwindling resources could cause negative impacts of one industry over another.

But while scientists seek options, age-old traditions are sometimes still pitted against conservation projects. Take an incident that played out in the waters around St. Vincent and the Grenadines a few weeks ago when whale watchers witnessed the harpooning of two orcas by Vincentian fishermen.

The incident forced Prime Minister Ralph Gonsavles to announce the end of what was, until then, a thriving whaling industry in the village of Barouille. For years, government turned a blind eye as fishermen breached regional and international agreements on the preservation of marine species. The continued breaches are also against the Caribbean Community’s Common Fisheries Policy that legally binds countries to a series of actions to protect and preserve the marine environment and its creatures.

On April 2, five days after the incident, Gonsalves took to the airwaves to denounce the whaling caused by “greed” and announce pending regulations to end fishing for the mammals. The incident also tarnished the island’s otherwise excellent track record at climate proofing its fishing industry.

Murray’s email on regional activities outlines SVG activities including the incorporation of the regional strategy and action plan and its partnership with several regional and international agencies and organisations to build resilience in the marine sector.

Over in the northern Caribbean, traditions are also testing regulations and international agreements. In Jamaica, the Sandals Foundation in association with major supermarket chains has launched a campaign to stop the capture and sale of parrotfish for consumption.

Scientists say that protecting the parrot is synonymous with saving the reefs and mitigating the effects of climate change. And further north in the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. While trade is regulated, household use of both, sea turtles, and some sharks remain unregulated; and residents are resistant to any restrictions.

And while many continue to puzzle about the reasons behind the region’s climate readiness, scientists caution that there is no time to ease up. This week they rolled out, among other things, a coastal adaptation project and a public education and awareness (PAE) programme launched on April 26 in Belize City.

The PAE project, named Feel the Change, is funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Project (J-CCCP) public awareness programme. Speaking at the launch, project development specialist at 5Cs Keith Nichols pointed to the extreme weather events from severe droughts to changes in crop cycles, which have cost the region billions.

“Climate change is not just sea level rise and global warming; climate change and climate variability is all around us,” he said.

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Marching for a Green and Just Future Fri, 28 Apr 2017 15:20:00 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage A climate march for the people. Credit IPS/Roger Hamilton-Martin

A climate march for the people. Credit IPS/Roger Hamilton-Martin

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

People around the world will be banding together to fight one of the world’s most pressing problems: climate change.

Thousands are set to gather at the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. on 29 April to mark the 100th day of President Donald Trump’s administration and push for solutions to the climate crisis.

“The climate crisis has gotten so bad globally that we need much bolder and faster policy changes to really try and address that,” the coordinator of the People’s Climate Movement New York Leslie Cagan told IPS.

A group have scientists recently found that CO2 is being released into the atmosphere at much faster rates and in a shorter period, and that even a two degree Celsius rise of the average temperature will have disastrous effects on the climate.

“We’re really against a ticking clock,” Cagan said.

Cagan was one of the co-coordinators of the 2014 People’s Climate March. However, new challenges have arisen since then.

“This march has the added challenge of having an administration that doesn’t believe in climate change,” Executive Director of UPROSE and member of the Climate Justice Alliance steering committee Elizabeth Yeampierre told IPS.

Among those in the U.S. government that are skeptical of climate change is former Exxon Mobil CEO and now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt, and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.

This has led not only to threats to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and cut funds to the EPA, but the U.S. government has already taken steps to dismantle environmental protections including slashing the Clean Power Plan and approving fossil fuel-related projects such as the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Though dubbed the “People’s Climate March,” the march is in fact for climate, jobs, and justice, intersections that are crucial in order to create a sustainable future.

“We don’t want to and can’t isolate the climate issue from the other pressing issues…part of the reason why the globe is experiencing this extreme climate crisis has to do with the kind of economic structures and dynamics that have been played out for many years,” Cagan told IPS.

Indigenous Environmental Network’s (IEN) Extreme Energy and Just Transition Campaign Organiser Kandi Mossett echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating the argument against climate action often used is that it takes away jobs.

“The point is that we are not against jobs at all, we are against the type of jobs that are poisoning and killing the planet and the people in those jobs,” she said.

In order to move away from fossil fuels to a green economy, activists are advocating for a “just transition,” a framework which helps transition workers currently employed by the fossil fuel industry to jobs created by renewable energy sources.

The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates approximately 3 million Americans are directly employed by the fossil fuel industry while the American Petroleum Institute estimated 9.8 million full-time and part-time jobs in the country’s oil and natural gas industry.

Fracking wells are often located in poor, rural communities including Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region, which are are reliant on the jobs they provide. Workers in such communities therefore need resources such as access to training in order to transition into green jobs.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also found that all 378 coal plants are located near poor and minority communities, exposing residents to high levels of toxins.

“[Communities of color] shouldn’t have to say, ‘well the only job I can take is a job that is going to affect my health and the health of my family. The option of having a job that is renewable and that honors mother earth and our health should exist, and the technology exists to do it,” said Yeampierre told IPS.

According to the Sierra Club, the number of clean energy jobs already outnumbers all fossil fuel jobs in the U.S. by more than 2.5 to 1, and coal and gas jobs by 5 to 1. This shift to renewable energy is only expected to grow.

However, the fossil fuel industry has been resisting the transition with just five fossil fuel companies spending over 115 million dollars per year to oppose climate action.

“[Fossil fuel companies] control the destiny of literally billions on the planet,” said Cagan.

These issues are not unique to the U.S. From Nigerian residents suffering from oil pollution of the Niger River Delta to coal miners in the second largest coal producing country India, the fossil fuel industry and its impacts are felt in virtually every corner of the world.

Mossett noted that even U.S. pollution is not static and that we are all being impacted regardless of where it occurs.

“Our future is connected, their struggle is our struggle,” said Yeampierre, noting that the climate movement is aligned with the Global South.

However, since the U.S. is among the top contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, efforts to combat global climate change may be undermined.

Cagan noted that the movement will only succeed if the links between climate, justice, and jobs are made.

“Now is the time for those movements to work together into one more unified movement. We need to find ways to work with each other and at times to literally march together,” she told IPS.

Yeampierre similarly stressed the importance of this new vision, stating that a different kind of leadership and unity that is built on just relationships is essential. Mossett told IPS that the march allows people to show such solidarity and strength to President Trump.

However, though such mass movements are important, it does not solve the problem, the organisers said.

“We hope very much is that the march will be inspiring and powerful enough that people are reenergized to keep doing the work when they go back home. It’s the long term struggle that makes the difference,” said Cagan.

Beyond the necessity to move away from fossil fuels, she highlighted the need to encourage and strengthen work at the local level which, once added up, could create a different national picture.

Yeampierre noted that solutions must be designed based on context and in order to do so, local communities must be meaningfully engaged.

“If we don’t all collectively learn that we need to fight together, then we are all collectively going to die together. There is no escaping that,” Mossett said.

Over 300 sister marches on climate, justice, and jobs have been planned across the world.

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Financing Key to Reaching Everyone, Everywhere with Water & Sanitation Thu, 13 Apr 2017 17:30:03 +0000 John Garrett John Garrett is Senior Policy Analyst, Development Finance at WaterAid]]> Credit: UN Photo

Credit: UN Photo

By John Garrett
LONDON, Apr 13 2017 (IPS)

Eighteen months ago, UN member-states pledged a new set of goals on eradicating extreme poverty and creating a fairer, more sustainable planet by 2030. This week, we have alarming evidence that at least one of those goals – Sustainable Development Goal 6, to reach everyone everywhere with access to water and sanitation – is already in peril.

The UN Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) report produced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed a huge gap in financing with over 80% of developing countries reporting that they have insufficient resources to meet their national targets.

Globally, the World Bank estimates that as much as £114 billion is required annually, around three times current levels – to meet the UN Global Goals’ ambitions to reach everyone, everywhere with safely-managed water and sanitation.

Some 663 million people in the world are without an ‘improved’ source of water and millions more are drinking water which may be contaminated after collection; nearly 2.4 billion people in the world are without access to decent sanitation, and the resulting health crises kill 315,000 young children each year.

Soberingly, new aid commitments from donors for water and sanitation have fallen by 21% since 2012, from US$ 10.4 billion to US$ 8.2 billion in 2015. Also of major concern is the continuing ineffective targeting of aid. GLAAS reported one country in Europe – Ukraine — received the equivalent of more than half of the aid commitment for water and sanitation to all of Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015.

Nearly 2.4 billion people in the world are without access to decent sanitation, and the resulting health crises kill 315,000 young children each year
Closing this financial gap will require increased levels of domestic and international finance for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), from both public and private sources.

However, given the scale of the financial challenge, there remains a strong need for international aid.

This is all the more important given the additional challenges faced by many developing countries from growing populations, rapid urbanisation, water scarcity and climate change.

Among other findings in this regular report card on water and sanitation financing:

• Sub-Saharan Africa is home to half of the world’s people living without access to clean water, yet they received only US$1.7 billion, or 20% of all water and sanitation aid, in 2015. This is down from 38% in 2012.

• Some 85% of the global population without access to improved sanitation or drinking-water from an improved source live in three regions: Central and Southern Asia, East and South-eastern Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. However, aid commitments to these three regions were only 48% of global overseas development aid for water and sanitation in 2015.

• Non-governmental projects and funding are greater than government spending on water and sanitation in many countries, demonstrating the critical need for continued international aid, as well as efforts to create greater domestic revenues and stronger government systems.

• Sanitation spending is still half that of spending on water, despite there being 2.4 billion people – or one in three of the world’s population – without access.

These are alarming trends. Water, sanitation and hygiene programmes are critical for good health, education and improved livelihoods, providing an essential building block for the eradication of poverty. For every £1 invested, an estimated £4 is returned through improved health and productivity.

Yet we see by the GLAAS report’s findings that the majority of developing countries do not have enough money to achieve their targets on water and sanitation access and that aid commitments are actually falling.

WaterAid has called for overseas development aid to water, sanitation and hygiene to at least double from current levels by 2020, with an emphasis on grant financing, and for it to be targeted to areas of greatest need.

We want to see the volume of development aid spent on water, sanitation and hygiene increased. But just as importantly, we want to see it spent well.

An essential component of aid is ensuring countries have support to plan for water and sanitation services today and in the long-term, with appropriate financing for maintenance and staff training. Without these changes, many countries will be seriously off track on SDG 6 even at this early stage.

The GLAAS report has been released ahead of the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington D.C.

On 19-20 April, as part of the Spring Meetings, the Sanitation and Water for All partnership of more than 150 organisations will gather senior finance and water and sanitation ministers from around the world in high-level meetings, to monitor progress on delivering water and sanitation in their countries and call for further commitments.

The SWA partnership holds members accountable to delivering on four ‘collaborative behaviours’ required to successfully reach even a country’s poorest with sustainable access to water and sanitation: building sustainable financing strategies, strengthening country systems, enhancing government leadership, and using a common information and mutual accountability platform.

As a founding member of the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, WaterAid is calling on ministers from both developing and donor nations to join the High-Level Meeting and deliver on their promises to reach everyone, everywhere with clean water and sanitation by 2030.

Progress is possible: in 2000, around 18% of the world’s population, or one billion people, had no access to even a basic, improved source of water. By 2015, this number had fallen to below 10%, or 663 million.

But those still without access are often hardest to reach – marginalised by poverty, remote or rural locations, age, gender, ethnicity or ability. Going the last mile on water, and extending this progress to sanitation, requires high-level commitment, and the will to turn commitment into action.

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G77 Calls for Access & Benefit-Sharing of Marine Genetic Resources Thu, 13 Apr 2017 17:00:08 +0000 an IPS Correspondent Healthy_Oceans_2

By an IPS Correspondent

The Group of 77 has strongly underlined the significance of marine genetic resources (MGRs) to the economies of developing nations.

Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, joined by China, Luis Ona Garces of the Ecuadorean Mission to the UN told a meeting of the Preparatory Committee that the Group reaffirms the importance of access and benefit sharing of marine genetic resources and reiterates that the principle of common heritage of mankind must underpin the new regime governing MGRs of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

“Given its crosscutting nature, the principle should be at the core of the new instrument,” he added

The common heritage of mankind provides the legal foundation for a fair and equitable regime of conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Over the course of the past sessions, he said, the Group has continued to emphasize that marine biodiversity represents a potential, in terms of economic prosperity, and a challenge, in terms of conservation and global food security, for humanity as a whole.

“However, the ability and capacity of countries to benefit from the potential, and to address such challenges, is not equal, creating a situation in which some access, exploit and benefit from these resources without the concomitant obligation to share the benefits. It is important to work in a provision that define access and benefit sharing obligations and overall compliance,” he added.

“We are of the view that the benefits should be both monetary and nonmonetary. The non-monetary benefits should comprise of access to all forms of resources, data and related knowledge, transfer of technology and capacity building as well as facilitation of marine scientific research on MGRs of areas beyond national jurisdiction”.

The Group, he pointed out, “was also open to discuss the different modalities of monetary benefits on the basis– but would not be limited– to those mentioned in our written submission, which would make their sharing of benefit most effective and responsive to the protection and preservation of marine environment, and the needs and interests regarding marine scientific research as well as the development opportunities of the developing countries, including future generations.”

In this sense, a clearinghouse mechanism could be established and a protocol or code of conduct or guidelines could be developed within the said mechanism in order to ensure environmental protection compliance and ensure transparency in the use of marine genetic resources of areas beyond national jurisdiction, he declared.

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Fishing Village Fights Iron Mine in Northern Chile Tue, 11 Apr 2017 22:09:39 +0000 Orlando Milesi Punta de Choros, a picturesque cove in northern Chile, has become a major tourist draw, and the number of restaurants, lodgings and whale-watching boat tours has climbed. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Punta de Choros, a picturesque cove in northern Chile, has become a major tourist draw, and the number of restaurants, lodgings and whale-watching boat tours has climbed. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
LA HIGUERA, Chile, Apr 11 2017 (IPS)

In Punta de Choros, a hidden cove on Chile’s Pacific coast, some 900 fishers do not yet dare celebrate the decision by regional authorities to deny the Dominga port mining project a permit due to environmental reasons.

The fishers, from the northern region of Coquimbo, are afraid that the government will unblock the project, in which the Chilean company Andes Iron planned to invest 2.5 billion dollars for the extraction of iron ore, promising 9,800 jobs in the building phase and 1,400 in the production phase.

The project would affect several nature reserves, and the local fishers also question the effects from the traffic of cargo ships and from a desalination plant.“More than a political problem, what we have here is a problem with the environmental assessment. There were a series of irregularities and that means that the impacts on one of the world’s 36 top biodiversity hotspots cannot be assessed.” -- Liesbeth Van der Meer

And as they said in interviews with IPS, they also doubt that the cabinet of ministers will uphold the decision by the regional environmental authorities, who rejected the plan for the Dominga mine, controlled by the Délano family.

Andes Iron will file an appeal this month to the cabinet – which will reach the final decision – asserting the positive aspects of the project, which is to extract 12 million tons a year of iron concentrate and other 150,000 tons of copper concentrate.

The 10,000-hectare project would involve an open-pit mine with a useful life of 26.5 years, a plant and a tailing disposal facility. It would also require a port to export the minerals to China, Japan and other markets.

“It is an area rich in benthic resources (bottom dwellers) and in algae and microorganisms. We want the mining project to be redesigned. Development is needed, especially in a poor area like this, but it has to be well done,” geographer and park ranger Paulina Correa, head of the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, told IPS.

“We have low-impact tourism here. Many people make a living from this and protect it. We want development that protects the environment,” said Correa, lamenting that the mining project has divided the community between those who make a living from fishing and tourism, and those who live in the foothills of the Andes mountains.

Punta Choros has an official permanent population of 238, but that figure is multiplied by ten during tourist season, with the influx of workers employed by a dozen restaurants and lodgings that cater to the tourists drawn by the spectacular beaches, whale watching and traditional seafood cuisine.

The project was initially approved by the Coquimbo regional environmental authority, which stated that the mine complied with “the applicable environmental regulations,” and that the company “had corrected any errors, omissions and inaccuracies.”

Oscar Rebolledo, deputy director of the Coquimbo environmental authority, said “the measures proposed (by the company) take responsibility for the effects and circumstances” that may result from the mining project.

Signs against the Dominga iron mine are seen all over Punta de Choros, where fishers point to the growing catches, nature reserves crucial to the planet’s biodiversity, and the presence of large marine mammals, to argue against the extractive project in this village in northern Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Signs against the Dominga iron mine are seen all over Punta de Choros, where fishers point to the growing catches, nature reserves crucial to the planet’s biodiversity, and the presence of large marine mammals, to argue against the extractive project in this village in northern Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

But Coquimbo Governor Claudio Ibáñez disagreed, and on Mar. 9 cast the vote that broke the tie between six regional secretariats, rejecting the project.

“What the company proposes in terms of environmental reparations or redress is inadequate to properly ensure the right to live in an environment free of pollution, the protection of the environment, the conservation of nature and the preservation of the environmental heritage,” said Ibañez, explaining his decisive vote.

He said he was aware that Dominga represents “an important possibility for economic and social development,” but added that he is just as aware that “we are putting at risk one of the world’s most important nature reserves and the habitat of dozens of species.”

Local fisherman and diver Josué Ramos, a member of the Los Choros fishing association, began making a living harvesting surf clams (Mesodesma donacium) in 1996. He told IPS that in 2000 the clam became locally extinct, and two years later a restocking programme started to be implemented.

World biodiversity hotspot
The area where the open-pit mining project is to be developed includes the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, created in the year 1990 to protect this species (Spheniscus humboldti), which is listed as vulnerable. The reserve is home to 80 per cent of the species’ entire population.

The area is also home to other endangered species: the Peruvian diving petrel (Pelecanoides garnotii), a seabird that can dive 80 metres deep, and mammals such as the South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens) and the rare marine otter (Lontra felina). The reserve includes three islands where several species of threatened endemic flora grow, which are under protection due to the fragility of the ecosystem.

Also in the area is the Choros-Damas Island Marine Reserve, with 49 species of flowers, including the yellow añañuca (Rhodophiala bagnoldii). Near the Chañaral island, whale watchers in the summertime see bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus).

“Just 10,000 clams, of the 100,000 that were projected, were restocked. But 14 years later, the effort had produced results. Today there is an 18-km beach with a 10-km productive area, and the clams are expanding,” he said.

“The year 2015 was the first year they started harvesting while simultaneously studying and monitoring the biomass. We extracted 670 tons and from a management area controlled by local people 95 tons were harvested. In 2016, the number increased to 832 tons in the main area and my trade association extracted 156 tons,” said Ramos.

“With the awareness that has been generated, we have obtained better results in the management areas, the seabeds to which the state gave us exclusive access to use and protect. Along 30 km of coastline, there are six management areas, which represent 70 per cent of the production of benthic resources in the region,” he said.

Ramos is opposed to Dominga because “they overexploit, export and then the prices rule. To obtain a ton of iron ore, which currently fetches 52 dollars, they leave 100 tons of tailings with chemical compounds. We harvest a ton of clams for 1.5 million dollars, and we only lift the sand, we don’t change it in any way.”

The local fisherman has “no expectation” that the cabinet will uphold the local environmental authority’s rejection of Dominga and believes that “the cursed progress” is going to prevail.

“Two ministers that vote have already resigned,” he added, in reference to the recent resignations of the ministers of transport, Andrés Gomez Lobos, and the environment, Pablo Badenier.

On Mar. 30, representatives of Andes Iron met with a dozen shepherds in the Casa Dominga, in the municipality of La Higuera. Although the meeting was closed, IPS saw the minutes.

“We are going to fight with everything we have. There is injustice here and we are not going to give in,” a representative of the company told the shepherds, who are in favour of the mine, and who took turns reporting on their interviews with local radio stations to discuss the positive aspects of the project.

At the end of the meeting, Omar Alfaro, with the La Higuera association of shepherds, told IPS that thanks to a framework agreement, “the Dominga project would improve the productive sectors, and when the mine closed down, we would be left with greater development in activities like agriculture, shepherding and fishing.”

Alfaro took part in a community meeting where the framework agreement was signed, which commits the company to pay “a minimum of 1.3 billion and a maximum of 2.6 billion pesos (between two and four million dollars) a year for projects, once the mine starts producing,” he said.

The agreement includes “the genetic improvement of livestock and the possibility of reforesting and recovering the native forest, deteriorated by prolonged droughts,” he said.

About the water the mine will use, Alfaro said that “a hydrogeologist explained the situation to us” stating that Dominga “is going to re-inject water into the same river basin.”

“We are hopeful that our institutions will be respected. I believe the project is important for the country, and the cabinet has a huge opportunity to revert and organise the technical instruments that have been used by the environmental institutions,” Iván Garrido, general manager of the Dominga project, told the online newspaper Pulso.

He urged the cabinet “to assess the report” by the Coquimbo environmental authority, which was favourable to the company.

Liesbeth Van der Meer, executive director of the non-governmental organisation Océana Chile, believes that the project will be rejected in the end.

“More than a political problem, what we have here is a problem with the environmental assessment. There were a series of irregularities and that means that the impacts on one of the world’s 36 top biodiversity hotspots cannot be assessed,” she told IPS.

If Dominga is approved, it will amount to “a crime against our natural heritage,” she said.

Van der Meer said he hoped “that not all development in Chile will be extractivist,” and called for respect for fishers and tourist operators in Punta de Choros, where the number of visitors soared from 900 in 1998 to 50,000 in 2016.

Mining is crucial to the Chilean economy and attracts more than one-third of all foreign investment, in a country that is the leading world producer of copper and other minerals, such as rhenium, lithium and iodine, as well as an important producer of several other minerals.

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Developing Nations Call for New Trust Fund on Forest Protection Tue, 11 Apr 2017 17:37:34 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent

The Group of 77 is calling for the creation of a new and dedicated Trust Fund for the implementation of the UN’s strategic plan on forests for the period 2017-2030.

Forests-UN-Plan_The proposed Trust Fund is expected to be under the management of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network (GFFFN).

Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, joined by China, Santiago Garcia, Director of the National Forestry Office in Ecuador told a Working Group meeting he believes that without such a Fund, the implementation of the Strategic Plan on Forests “is difficult for developing countries”.

“As we come together to this Working Group Meeting, let me stress that Forests are crucial for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth of developing countries,” he said.

Forests are also central to sustained poverty reduction and is related to practically all aspects of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and crucial for access to water, rural development, agricultural productivity, conservation of biodiversity, energy, soil conservation, and flood control.

“They provide habitat for at least 80% of terrestrial biodiversity and are also a major carbon sink for regulating global climate,” he added.

The Group believes that the United Nations strategic plan on forests for the period 2017-2030 should be action-oriented, and strengthened to deliver a real impact on the ground, catalyze the implementation and facilitate the mobilization of increased and predictable financing to adequately carry out sustainable forest management at all levels.

And it should also restate the commitments regarding financing in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Garcia said.

He also reiterated that the adequate and timely implementation of the United Nations strategic plan on forests for the period 2017-2030 is fundamental for developing countries.

“In this regard we express our concern on approaches delivered in this venue regarding the important issue of financing which needs to recognize major gaps on financing issues.”

He said it is important to strengthen the UNFF Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network (GFFFN) and foster and capitalize existing, new and emerging financing opportunities.

These opportunities include capacity building– given constrained abilities by several developing countries to apply to or implement international cooperation for forest-related programs—and facilitating mechanisms for developing countries to access funds and disseminate best practices on Sustainable Forest Management while ensuring the full implementation of the Forest instrument and achieving the goals and targets comprised in this proposal.

The Group took note of the proposal by the Co-chairs to explore further available data on official development assistance (ODA). However the Group is committed to include a reference on increasing of funding from all sources, including an increase in ODA.

“We highlight the voluntarily nature of the Strategic Plan proposed and that the provision of means of implementation should also encompass technology transfer to developing countries on favorable terms and capacity building for developing countries.”

In this regard, he said “we also should avoid increasing the burden of reporting or creating overlaps in the process of communication through streamlined reporting on the implementation of the Forest Instrument, the Strategic Plan and voluntary planned contributions”.

“We should agree on a communication strategy that addresses those issues, especially by reassuring a transparent process on the issue of reports. The Group also believes that the term voluntary planned contributions could be replaced by “national voluntary contributions”.

The Group expressed its general agreement on the co-chair’s proposal for the six Global Forest Goals. The group also recognized certain overlapping among the targets.

“In this regard we believe that numerical targets should be based on clear forest-related definitions and baseline,” he declared.

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Gold Mine Aggravates Tensions in Brazil’s Amazon Region Fri, 07 Apr 2017 22:22:18 +0000 Mario Osava The main street of Ressaca, a town of garimpeiros or artisanal gold miners, on the right bank of the Xingu River, along the stretch called the Volta Grande or Big Bend, where a large-scale mining project, promoted by the Canadian company Belo Sun, is causing concern among the local people in this part of Brazil’s Amazon region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The main street of Ressaca, a town of garimpeiros or artisanal gold miners, on the right bank of the Xingu River, along the stretch called the Volta Grande or Big Bend, where a large-scale mining project, promoted by the Canadian company Belo Sun, is causing concern among the local people in this part of Brazil’s Amazon region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RESSACA, Brazil, Apr 7 2017 (IPS)

The decline of this town is seen in the rundown houses and shuttered stores, and the few people along the streets on a Sunday when the scorching sun alternates with frequent rains at this time of year in Brazil’s Amazon region.

“There is still a lot of gold here,” said Valdomiro Pereira Lima, pointing to the ground on a muddy street in the town of Ressaca, to emphasize that the riches underground extend along the right bank of the Xingu River at the 100-km stretch known as Volta Grande or Big Bend, which could restore the local economy.

This drew Belo Sun, a transnational Canadian mining corporation that intends to extract 60 tons of gold in 12 years through plants that separate gold from rock, in what is to be the largest open-pit gold mine in the country.

But the mine has given rise to a new wave of concern among the locals of Ressaca and other communities downstream, where the local population has already been affected by the impacts of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant, operational since late 2015 and set to be completed in 2019.

Valdomiro Pereira Lima, a garimpeiro or informal miner, says there is gold beneath the streets of the town of Ressaca, as in many other areas along the Volta Grande of the Xingu River. But the residents of this rundown town in Brazil’s Amazon region are opposed to a large-scale gold mining project. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Valdomiro Pereira Lima, a garimpeiro or informal miner, says there is gold beneath the streets of the town of Ressaca, as in many other areas along the Volta Grande of the Xingu River. But the residents of this rundown town in Brazil’s Amazon region are opposed to a large-scale gold mining project. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The 64-year-old Pereira Lima has been mining for gold since 1980, when at the age of 27 he left farming in Maranhão, his home state in northeastern Brazil, to become a “garimpeiro” or informal artisanal miner in Brazil’s Amazon region.

He worked in Sierra Pelada, in the northern state of Pará, and in Volta Grande, which lured near 100,000 miners in the 1980s, as well as in the state of Roraima, along the border with Venezuela, before settling in Ressaca.

But the gold that gave rise to this village and brought it prosperity, as well as to other towns and settlements that emerged around nearby mines, started to become less accessible, while the garimpeiro way of life deteriorated, IPS noted, talking with all the interested parties during a one-week tour of the Volta Grande.

“There were over 8,000 garimpeiros when I arrived here in 1992, today there are just 400 to 500 left,” said 53-year-old José Pereira Cunha, vice president of the Mixed Cooperative of Garimpeiros from Ressaca, Itatá, Galo, Ouro Verde and Ilha da Fazenda.

“We used to find up to two kg of gold per week, now it’s only one per year,” said the garimpeiro leader, known by the nickname of Pirulito, because he is a small man. He has been a miner since the age of 17, and also got his start in Sierra Pelada.

But everything collapsed after 2012, when the police and environmental inspectors began to crack down on the garimpeiros, driving out many of them, he said. Moreover, the mining authorities did not renew the operating permits for the cooperative, outlawing the miners, who are still active in some mines.

Dozens of them have filed lawsuits in faraway cities.

“We have turned to the justice system to secure our rights,” said Cunha, who blames the campaign on Belo Sun and the municipal and state governments, interested in collecting more taxes, since the persecution began two years after the company began investigating potential gold deposits along the Volta Grande.

The village of Ilha da Fazenda depends economically on the town of Ressaca, where many families have left due to the decline of small-scale gold mining, added to the impact of the nearby Belo Monte hydroelectric plant. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The village of Ilha da Fazenda depends economically on the town of Ressaca, where many families have left due to the decline of small-scale gold mining, added to the impact of the nearby Belo Monte hydroelectric plant. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The company obtained an advance license in 2004, which recognises the environmental viability of the project. And on Feb. 2 the Environment and Sustainability department of the state of Pará granted it a permit to build the necessary plants.

But just two weeks later, the justice system suspended the permit for 180 days, demanding measures to relocate the affected population and clarification about the land acquired for the mine, presumably illegally.

Belo Sun claims that it has met all the requirements and conditions. The company keeps a register of the local population in the directly affected area, which it continually updates, because “the garimpeiros come and go,” according to Mauro Barros, the director of the company in Brazil.

João Lisboa Sobrinho, 85, a baker from Ilha da Fazenda who “only” has ten children. Until recently, he used 50 kg of flour a day to make bread, but now uses just three – a reflection of the decline and depopulation of this island village along the Xingu River, in the northern Brazilian state of Pará.  Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

João Lisboa Sobrinho, 85, a baker from Ilha da Fazenda who “only” has ten children. Until recently, he used 50 kg of flour a day to make bread, but now uses just three – a reflection of the decline and depopulation of this island village along the Xingu River, in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“It is not necessary to remove the population, we can even operate with everybody staying in their homes, if that’s what they want. All over the world there are active mines next to cities,” said Barros, a lawyer with previous experience in other mining companies.

But he said, in an interview at the company’s headquarters in the nearby city of Altamira, that those who are relocated will be provided with all the services, access to the river and support to earn an income. “We want to develop the region,” he said, adding that at least 80 per cent of the company’s employees will be locals.

The company will generate 2,100 direct jobs at the peak of the installation phase, and 526 once the mine is operational, he said. The promise is to train the garimpeiros to work in mechanized mining.

According to estimates from Belo Sun, there are probable reserves of 108.7 tons of gold.

It takes a ton of rocks to obtain a gram of gold.

Barros ruled out the risk, which has raised concern among the local population and environmentalists, that the mine will pollute the waters of the Xingu River, which has already been contaminated and has a reduced water level due to the Belo Monte mine. He guaranteed that Belo Sun would only use rainwater, and would hold its waste products safely.

But the conflict with the miners’ cooperative, community leaders and indigenous people who live along the Volta Grande has already begun.

“Either Belo Sun throws us out of here or we throw them out,” said Cunha, vice president of the cooperative.

The town has not received the promised compensation from Norte Energía, the company that holds the concession to run Belo Monte, nor services from the municipality, because “it would be pointless, since we are supposed to be resettled,” said Francisco Pereira, head of the Association of Ressaca Residents.

A map from Belo Sun showing the area where the Canadian mining company intends to extract 60 tons of gold. In blue, the Volta Grande or Big Bend in the Xingu River, where the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant has been built, in Brazil’s Amazon region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A map from Belo Sun showing the area where the Canadian mining company intends to extract 60 tons of gold. In blue, the Volta Grande or Big Bend in the Xingu River, where the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant has been built, in Brazil’s Amazon region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The town of about 200 families still has no basic sewage. “The wastewater runs into the river, we have no drinking water or sports field, and at the school the heat is unbearable,” and nothing will be done because of the uncertainty created by Belo Sun, said Pereira, a 58-year-old garimpeiro who is now working as a farm labourer.

The uncertainty and decline are also affecting the roughly 50 families that live in Ilha da Fazenda, a village dependent on Ressaca and separated from it by a two-kilometre stretch of a tributary of the Xingu River. Children from the fifth grade and up and sick people can only go to school or receive healthcare in the town of Ressaca, which they reach in small boats.

“In the good old days of the ‘garimpo’ (informal mining), there were dozens of bars in Ilha da Fazenda. They extracted gold in Ressaca and came here to spend their money,” said 85-year-old baker João Lisboa Sobrinho, who has “only ten children” and is a living history of the island village.

“I used to use 50 kg of flour a day to make bread, now I use three at the most,” he said, standing next to the brick oven made by his father in 1952.

“Ninety-five per cent of the people on the island want to move away,” because if Ressaca disappears, it will be impossible to live in Ilha da Fazenda,” said Sebastião Almeida da Silva, who owns the only general store on the island.

More than 20 families have already left the village.

But “I will only leave if I am the only one left,” said Adelir Sampaio dos Santos, a nurse from José Porfirio, the municipality where the mining area is located. “We will only be left isolated if we don’t take action,” she said, urging her fellow villagers to struggle for the school, medical post, water and electricity that are needed in the village.

“With the garimpo in better conditions, supported by the government, with state banks buying our gold, we could bring life back to local cities and towns, we could pay taxes, we could all stay and prosper,” said Divino Gomes, a surveyor who worked with environmentalist organisations before becoming a garimpeiro.

“I have seen mining companies elsewhere, they take all the wealth and leave craters. We have to think about it ten times over before accepting their projects,” he concluded.

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Plastic No More… Also in Kenya Tue, 04 Apr 2017 16:19:31 +0000 Baher Kamal Plastic bags are also a major contributor to the 8 million tonnes of plastic dumped in the sea every year. Credit: UNEP

Plastic bags are also a major contributor to the 8 million tonnes of plastic dumped in the sea every year. Credit: UNEP

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 4 2017 (IPS)

Good news: Kenya has just joined the commitment of other 10 countries to address major plastic pollution by decreeing a ban on the use, manufacture and import of all plastic bags, to take effect in six months.

The Kenyan decision comes three weeks after the UN declared “war on plastic” through its new UN Clean Seas initiative, launched on at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali (February 22-24, 2017).

The initiative’s campaign urges governments to pass plastic reduction policies; industry to minimise plastic packaging and redesign products; and consumers to change their throwaway habits before irreversible damage is done to our seas.

“Kenya is taking decisive action to remove an ugly stain on its outstanding natural beauty,” Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment Programme (UNEP) commented on the Nairobi government’s decision.

“Plastic waste also causes immeasurable damage to fragile ecosystems – both on land and at sea – and this decision is a major breakthrough in our global effort to turn the tide on plastic.”

Some 100 million plastic bags are handed out every year in Kenya by supermarkets alone, the UN informed, adding that long identified as a major cause of environmental damage and health problems, they kill birds, fish and other animals that mistake them for food, damage agricultural land, pollute tourist sites and provide breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever.

More Plastic Than Fish

According to UNEP, plastic bags are the number one challenge for urban waste disposal in Kenya, particularly in the poorest communities where access to disposal systems and healthcare is limited.

They also contribute to the 8 million tonnes of plastic that leak into the ocean every year. At current rates by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish, wreaking havoc on marine fisheries, wildlife and tourism.

Biodegradable Plastics Are Not the Answer to Reducing Marine Litter. Credit: UNEP

Biodegradable Plastics Are Not the Answer to Reducing Marine Litter. Credit: UNEP

Kenya, who on March 15 announced its decision to ban plastic bags, is now the 11th country to take action in support of the UNEP’s campaign. Also in Africa, Rwanda and Morocco have already banned plastic bags and other countries are set to announce measures in the coming weeks.

At that Bali Summit, Indonesia committed to slash its marine litter by a massive 70 per cent by 2025; Uruguay will tax single-use plastic bags later this year, and Costa Rica announced measures to dramatically reduce single-use plastic through better waste management and education.

Canada added micro-beads (tiny particles of plastic) to its list of toxic substances, and New Zealand, the UK and the US announced bans on micro-beads in cosmetics.

According to estimates, at the rate we are dumping items such as plastic bottles, bags and cups after a single use, by 2050 oceans will carry more plastic than fish and an estimated 99 per cent of seabirds will have ingested plastic.

Sweden’s Strong Push

Isabella Lövin, Sweden’s deputy prime minister and climate minister told IPS in an interview that the world is going “in the totally wrong direction,” when it comes to achieving the goal of sustainable oceans and life below water.

“If you look at the trends right now, you see more and more overfishing, we are seeing more and more pollution, plastic litter coming into our oceans, and we’re also seeing all the stress that the ocean is under due to climate change, acidification of the water, but also the warming and sea level rises.

Together with Fiji, Sweden is convening a major UN Ocean Conference on 5-9 June this year.

The new Dr. Fridtjof Nansen is one of the most advanced marine vessels sailing today. Credit: FAO

The new Dr. Fridtjof Nansen is one of the most advanced marine vessels sailing today. Credit: FAO

The Conference aims to bring together governments, the private sector and civil society organisations to create a more coordinated approach to sustaining oceans. It will look at the key role that oceans play in climate change but also other issues such as the alarming prospect that there will be more plastic in our seas than fish by the year 2050.

“There’s 3 billion people around the world that are primarily dependent on marine resources for their survival and so they depend on what the ocean can produce, so it’s about food security, it’s also about livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people that depend on small scale fisheries mostly in developing countries,” Lövin explained.

She also noted that rich countries need to work together with developing countries to address these issues, because the demand for fish in rich countries has put a strain on the global fish stocks that developing countries rely on.

“Rich countries … have been over-fishing with industrial methods for decades and now when they European oceans are being emptied more or less we have depleted our resources and then we import and we fish (over long distances in) developing countries’ waters.”

“We need to make sure that fish as a resource is conserved and protected for future generations.”

Norway-FAO Advanced Oceanic Research

In line with these efforts, Vidar Helgesen, Minister of Climate and the Environment of Norway, said at the Bali Summit: “Keeping our seas clean and our marine life safe from plastic is a matter of urgency for Norway. Marine plastic litter is a rapidly increasing threat to marine life, seafood safety and negatively affects the lives of people in coastal areas all around the world. Our oceans cannot wait any longer.”

On Mach 24, Norway and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched a brand new, state-of-the-art marine studies vessel, among the most advanced of its kind — and the only research ship on the globe that flies the UN flag.

Its mission: to investigate some of the planet’s least-explored oceans, using cutting-edge technology and sophisticated equipment to help developing countries assemble scientific data critical to sustainable fisheries management and study how a changing climate is affecting our oceans.

The new Dr. Fridtjof Nansen vessel —the 3rd ship to bear that name during an on-going 40-year partnership between FAO and Norway— houses seven different laboratories packed with high tech gadgetry.

As the only research ship on the planet flying the UN flag, the Dr. Fridtjof Nansen is able to sail freely across different jurisdictional boundaries, unfettered in its pursuit of natural resource challenges that transcend borders.

Speaking at the ship’s naming ceremony in Oslo, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg stressed that both science and international collaboration will be key to implementing the 2030 Development Agenda.

“Norway, with our long coastline and ocean culture, understands the importance of SDG14, with its goal of protecting our oceans. We know this can not be done by any one country on its own. It requires us all to do our part, and Norwegian-FAO cooperation on the Nansen is an example of collaborating with developing countries to achieve this,” she said.

“This new vessel allows us to improve research and activities where marine observations are extremely limited, and better understand the impacts of climate change on aquatic ecosystems and our oceans” said for his part FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva

“This is crucial to enable developing countries to increase the resilience of ecosystems and coastal communities, especially regarding small-scale fisheries.”

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El Salvador Passes Pathbreaking Law Banning Metal Mining Mon, 03 Apr 2017 23:04:26 +0000 Edgardo Ayala César Augusto Jaco, a member of an environmental community network, takes part in one of the demonstrations in support of the new law that bans metal mining in El Salvador, on March 29, in front of parliament. The measure, the first of its kind in the world, responds to a lengthy struggle by environmentalists and local communities. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

César Augusto Jaco, a member of an environmental community network, takes part in one of the demonstrations in support of the new law that bans metal mining in El Salvador, on March 29, in front of parliament. The measure, the first of its kind in the world, responds to a lengthy struggle by environmentalists and local communities. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR, Apr 3 2017 (IPS)

El Salvador, Central America’s smallest country, has become the first country in the world to pass a law banning metal mining in all its forms, setting a precedent for other nations in the world to follow, according to activists and local residents.

“This is historic; we are sending a signal to the world that countries can take a different path and say ‘no’ to the mining industry,” Edgardo Mira, an environmental activist with the National Council Against Metal Mining, an umbrella group of local organisations, told IPS.

With 69 votes out of 84, the members of the single-chamber Legislative Assembly passed on March 29 the landmark law, whose 11 articles amount to a blanket ban on mining, whether underground or surface.

Dozens of jubilant activists gathered early that day outside parliament to demand the approval by the plenary session of the ban agreed the day before by the legislature’s Environment and Climate Change Committee.““This is historic; we are sending a signal to the world that countries can take a different path and say ‘no’ to the mining industry.” -- Edgardo Mira

“I have visited the old mines which were active last century, where you can clearly see the impacts, such as acid drainage in the rivers, which would happen in the rest of the country,” retiree César Augusto Jaco, from the populous neighborhood of Cuscatancingo in the capital, told IPS.

Holding a sign with a yellow background and an image of a skull in black, the 76-year-old member of the Network of Community Environmentalists of El Salvador, said outside parliament: “Mining is disastrous, there’s no way it’s not going to damage our water sources.”

The risk of damaging the country’s groundwater reserves has been one of the main reasons driving the struggle of activists against the extractive industry, which uses millions of litres of water to obtain gold.

El Salvador is one of the most environmentally vulnerable countries, according to international agencies.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Latin American Water Tribunal, the International Water Association and the Global Water Partnership (GWP) concur that the country is heading toward a situation of water stress, researcher, José Simeón Cañas Central American University (UCA) researcher Andrés McKinley told IPS.

The law also prohibits the use of cyanide, mercury and other elements used in mining But it offers a two-year grace period to small-scale miners, so they can find another source of income.

Mira, from the National Council, estimated the number of artisanal miners at about 300, mostly in the San Sebastián mine in Santa Rosa de Lima, in the eastern department of La Unión.

Because the law is retroactive, it blocks all pending exploration permits.

The 2015 report “The Threat of Metal Mining in a Thirsty World,” written by McKinley and published by the UCA, documents the cases of countries where the activity has been restricted, but not banned outright.

Costa Rica, the report notes, passed a law in 2012 that banned open pit metal mining, while still allowing underground mining.

In 2002, the government of the province of Oriental Mindoro, in the Philippines, passed a 35-year moratorium on mining projects, and in 2011, the province of Zamboanga did the same with open-pit mining.

In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) vetoed the Pebble mine in the state of Alaska, to protect the largest habitat in the world of red or sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka).

Earlier, in 1989, the then president of Venezuela, Carlos Andrés Pérez, imposed a 50-year moratorium on all mining activity in the southern state of Amazonas. But that did not stop the expansion of illegal mining in that jungle region, while the current government reverted the measure de facto, allowing mining activity in the area.

“El Salvador is the first country in the world to evaluate the costs and benefits of the mining industry for the country and to exercise its right to say no,” McKinley told IPS.

The approval of the law was a product of many factors that combined to convince lawmakers to finally respond to the longstanding call from activists and local communities for a ban.

Among them, the pressure from environmentalist organisations that have struggled to that end for over a decade, and from the Catholic Church, which endorsed the popular demand.

On March 9, San Salvador’s archbishop, Luis Escobar Alas, led a march against metal mining to parliament, where they handed over a bill drawn up by the UCA, which formed the basis of the law that was finally adopted.

“The Catholic Church has enormous power in El Salvador, and its support for the struggle by local communities did not start this year, but in 2007, when it took a stance, at the Episcopal Conference, with its document Let’s Take Care of Everyone’s Home,” said McKinley.

The law is the culmination of years of struggle by environmental organisations and community leaders against, above all, the El Dorado mine in the central department of Cabañas, operated by the Pacific Rim company, now OceanaGold since it was acquired in 2013 by the Australian-Canadian corporation.

The company sued El Salvador for 250 million dollars in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), after the rightwing Salvadoran government of the time cancelled its exploration permit in 2008.

The two successive governments of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front have maintained this de facto moratorium since 2009.

In October 2016, ICSID ruled in favour of El Salvador, and ordered the company to pay eight million dollars in legal expenses, which it has failed to do.

And in a new setback, the body ruled on March 28 that the corporation must also pay interest on the debt, at a monthly rate between two and five per cent, on back payments dating to October.

These rulings also contributed to generating a climate conducive to approval of the ban.

“We are celebrating the triumph of our struggle, and our celebration continues out there in the communities where the people have been fighting,” Rina Navarrete, the coordinator of the Friends of San Isidro Cabañas Association, told IPS.i

She added that the accomplishment was a vindication of the work by “the fallen martyrs in this struggle against the mining corporation” – a reference to Ramiro Rivera, Marcelo Rivera (not related) and Dora Alicia Sorto, environmentalists killed by hitmen between June and December 2009, in the town of Cabañas.

Navarrete, a single mother of two who lives in the municipality of Llano de la Hacienda, in Cabañas, has taken up the work of the late Marcelo Rivera.

The activists were shot presumably because of their opposition to the activities of Pacific Rim in that area, although this has not been confirmed by the legal authorities.

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World Bank Ignores Land Grabbing Mon, 03 Apr 2017 13:21:57 +0000 Linda Flood Farmers in Ethiopia. Photo: WG Film.

Farmers in Ethiopia. Photo: WG Film.

By Linda Flood
STOCKHOLM, Apr 3 2017 (IPS/Arbetet Global)

Sales of huge land areas of Ethiopia, by the Ethiopian government, to foreign investors, have led to starvation and forced displacement. In his documentary Dead Donkeys Fear no Hyenas, Swedish film director Joakim Demmer exposes the consequences of land grabbing, and holds the World Bank complicit.

The chase for this Green Gold started over ten years ago. Just before the global  financial crisis, agricultural land areas in developing countries became a target for investment among global investors.

Joakim Demmer experienced at first hand at the Addis Abeba airport how emergency food supplies was being unloaded while local food produce was being loaded for export.

Joakim Demmer

Joakim Demmer

”It was so odd. I started reading up on the subject and became aware of the extent foreign investors were striking deals all over the country.

Pursuing this land grabbing story took him to a local journalist covering environmental issues at an early stage, who directed his attention to the Gambela National Park. Together they discovered that investors Saudi Star Agricultural Development had begun the development of a rice farm.

In order to make the sale to investors, the Ethiopian government displaced the local population.

”Our thoughts were of how we could follow this over an extended time period, so we would return several times”

”My definition of land grabbing is when transnational companies seize public lands in developemnt countries without permission from local communities and without compensation. In Ethiopia this land grabbing is also done by force. People do not voluntarily move from their homes.”

Conditions for following the story were difficult. That is why the documentary was a full seven years in the making.

Women working on a rice farm in Ethiopia. Credit: WG Film

Women working on a rice farm in Ethiopia. Credit: WG Film

”Ethiopia is in reality a dictatorship even if there are elections. The governmental apparatus is everywhere. If four Ethiopians gather in one place, at least one of them will report to the secret police. So right from the start, we had to ask ourselves whether we could report this story without compromising the safety of others.”

During the documentary process, Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were imprisoned in Ethiopia. Joakim Demmer continued to film, below the radar of the Ethiopian regime.

"The women are hit the hardest. Men can possibly seek jobs in the cities, which women can not"
Ethiopia is dependent on emergency food aid, which goes to approximately three million Ethiopians. The World Bank has supported the Ethipian development program ”Protection of Basic Services” PBS with billions of dollars. In his film, Joakim Demmer shows a measure of complicity on the side of the World Bank, supporting the mechanisms that promote land grabbing.

”In many parts of Ethipoia the development program has worked, but in several regions, the Ethiopian regime uses these available resources to displace people by restricting funding to new settlements only. New villages that serve as a kind of alibi for the Ethiopian government”.

The Saudi Star rice farm is part of the Midroc Glocal Group corporation, which is owned by the Saudi Mohammed Al-Amoudi. The Swedish subsidiary Midroc Europe was involved in developing the farm for a few years.

”I have tried to get in touch with them, but they do not want to discuss their clients”, Joakim Demmer adds.

After the opening of the film, there has been official comment from Midroc Europe that challenges the accusation of land-grabbing. In an interview with the news journal ”Omvärlden”, managing director of Midroc Europe Roger Wikström considers the relations with local inhabitants as collaborative and refutes the way the documentary portrays their activities and its consequences.

Demmer replies with the situation for the Anuk ethnic minority. ”The World Bank were informed of the situation at an early stage but chose to disregard it. Eventually an internal inquiry was launched, but it ignored testimony from the local inhabitants”

In the documentary, testimony of violence, rapes and betrayal come from several witnesses. Local Anuks were manipulated with lavish but unfulfilled promises. Demmer explains that the local inhabitants now are not just dependent on food aid, but furthermore that their cultural identity is dying as they no longer have access to the lands of their history.

”The women are hit the hardest. Men can possibly seek jobs in the cities, which women can not”.

Translation: Ravi Dar

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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Caribbean Faces Forecast for Prolonged Drought Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:02:24 +0000 Desmond Brown A manmade rainwater catchment on a farm in Antigua. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

A manmade rainwater catchment on a farm in Antigua. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Mar 28 2017 (IPS)

The Caribbean Drought & Precipitation Monitoring Network (CDPMN) is warning countries in the region that the same abnormal climate conditions they have experienced over the last few years, which resulted in some of the worst drought in two decades, could continue this year.

Several Caribbean countries, particularly in the eastern Caribbean, experienced a drier than normal February, and in some cases both February and January were relatively dry, CDPMN said."In my view for agriculture, drought is a more serious threat to us than in fact hurricanes.” --Donovan Stanberry

The Barbados-based network also said that although there is some uncertainty over rainfall during the March to May period in some parts of the Caribbean, concerns remain for the western Caribbean/Greater Antilles for both short and long term drought, and in the southern portion of the eastern Caribbean for long term drought.

“Some models also suggest the possibility for the return of El Niño, and drier than normal conditions late in 2017,” Chief of Applied Meteorology and Climatology at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), Adrian Trotman told IPS. “The CDPMN will continue to monitor this situation.”

El Niño is a weather phenomenon that occurs irregularly in the eastern tropical Pacific every two to seven years. When the trade winds that usually blow from east to west weaken, sea surface temperatures start rising, setting off a chain of weather impacts.

In 2015 and 2016, a powerful El Niño drove up global temperatures and played a role in droughts in many parts of the world.

The so-called “Super El Niño” is said by experts to have had a role in driving global temperatures to record highs.

CDPMN said apart from portions of Barbados and Dominica that were slightly wet, the islands of the eastern Caribbean were normal to below normal regarding rainfall for the month.

It said Trinidad and Tobago was normal to slightly dry; Grenada, Guadeloupe, Anguilla, St. Maarten, St. Thomas normal; while Barbados was normal to slightly wet with St. Vincent extremely dry and St. Lucia moderate to extremely dry.

The French island of Martinique was reported to be moderate to severely dry, while Dominica was slightly wet in the southwest to severely dry in the northeast.

Antigua was exceptionally dry and St. Kitts moderately dry. The CDPMN said that the Guianas ranged from normal to very wet, with greatest relative wetness in interior areas.

Beginning in 1997-1998, drought forced water restrictions across the Caribbean, and resulted in significant losses in the agriculture sector.

Caribbean countries have been implementing water rationing to deal with shortages of the resource, with St. Kitts being the latest country to implement the measure.

On Jan. 25, the Water Services Department announced the resumption of water rationing in the capital Basseterre, Bird Rock, Half Moon and the South East Peninsula. Daily rationing occurs during the hours of 10 pm to 5 am.

The Water Services Department said although rainfall for 2016 was more than in 2015, it was still significantly below average, and therefore the country is still in drought.

“We are approaching the Dry Season and are already experiencing reduced inflows from our surface water sources and storage in our wells. The recent showers only improved the situation slightly,” acting general manager Dennison Paul said.

“We are also experiencing technical difficulties with one of our wells in the Basseterre Valley Aquifer, which has compounded the problem. Our drilling programme is ongoing and should bring relief to consumers when commissioned.”

In 2015, St. Kitts experienced island-wide water rationing as a result of drought conditions. Coming off traditional rainfall levels of around 20.63 inches per year, the island saw an average 9.87 inches in 2015.

Officials have implemented several water-saving measures to help mitigate the upcoming dry period.

These include asking all residents, government and private institutions to make the repair of leaks a priority; asking residents without cisterns to explore purchasing large storage containers  of 500 gallons or more; businesses implementing a water management contingency plan which should involve daily monitoring of water meter; government ensuring that critical institutions such as hospitals and schools, have onsite standby water storage receptacles, based on vulnerability; there should be no washing of vehicles with water hoses; mandatory no watering of grass; no water delivery to cruise vessels; and fines or disconnection of service for violation, where applicable

In addition to other measures taken to improve the supply of water to consumers, Public Works Minister Ian Liburd indicated in July 2016 that a company, Ocean Earth Technologies, had been contracted to locate and bring on-stream new wells in the Basseterre area.

He said they had identified seven sites north of the airport where wells were to be drilled.

Barbados has also been grappling with chronic water shortages while the St Lucia government, in 2015, declared a “water-related emergency” as some communities, particularly in the north, continue to deal with dry weather conditions affecting water supplies across the Caribbean.

At the fifth Regional Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Montreal earlier this month, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Donovan Stanberry called for greater focus to be given to the impact of drought on agriculture in the Caribbean.

“I think that for a long time we have been focusing on hurricanes in the Caribbean and really we have taken our eyes off drought mitigation. And in my view for agriculture, drought is a more serious threat to us than in fact hurricanes,” Stanberry said. “After a hurricane, you can get up the next morning and start producing again; the drought tends to be prolonged.

“The overwhelming majority of our farmers, particularly our smaller ones, really depend on rainfall; and with climate change we are seeing wide variation in rainfall patterns. We are seeing extremes; in some months we have too much rain and for the last three four years, you can almost bet your bottom dollar, that there is going to be a drought and the drought tends to be prolonged,” Stanberry added.

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1 in 4 Children Worldwide Facing Extremely Scarce Water by 2040 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:30:33 +0000 IPS World Desk Shown here in this 2016 photo from Siyephi Village, Bullilima District in Matebeland South Province, Zimbabwe, a 17-year-old girl is seen at the drying up dam where she and her family fetch water. Credit: UNICEF/Mukwazhi

Shown here in this 2016 photo from Siyephi Village, Bullilima District in Matebeland South Province, Zimbabwe, a 17-year-old girl is seen at the drying up dam where she and her family fetch water. Credit: UNICEF/Mukwazhi

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Mar 23 2017 (IPS)

Warning that as many as 600 million children – one in four worldwide – will be living in areas with extremely scarce water by 2040, the United Nations children’s agency has called on governments to take immediate measures to curb the impact on the lives of children.

In its report, Thirsting for a Future: Water and children in a changing climate, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) explores the threats to children’s lives and wellbeing caused by depleted sources of safe water and the ways climate change will intensify these risks in coming years.

“This crisis will only grow unless we take collective action now,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake announcing the report, which was launched on World Water Day on March 22.

“But around the world, millions of children lack access to safe water – endangering their lives, undermining their health, and jeopardizing their futures.”

According to the UN agency, 36 countries around the world are already facing extremely high levels of water stress.

Warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, increased floods, droughts and melting ice affect the quality and availability of water as well as sanitation systems, warns the report.

According to a recent UN-Water report, about two-thirds of the world's population currently live in areas that experience water scarcity for at least one month a year. Credit: World Water Development Report 2017

According to a recent UN-Water report, about two-thirds of the world’s population currently live in areas that experience water scarcity for at least one month a year. Credit: World Water Development Report 2017

These combined with increasing populations, higher demand of water primarily due to industrialization and urbanization are draining water resources worldwide.

“On top of these, conflicts in many parts of the world are also threatening access to safe water.”

According to a UN-Water: World Water Development Report, about two-thirds of the world’s population currently live in areas that experience water scarcity for at least one month a year.

All of these factors force children to use unsafe water, exposing them to deadly diseases like cholera and diarrhoea, UNICEF’s report reminds.

“Many children in drought-affected areas spend hours every day collecting water, missing out on a chance to go to school. Girls are especially vulnerable to attack and sexual violence during these times.”

However, the impact of climate change on water sources is not inevitable, noted the report, recommending actions to help curb the impact of climate change on the lives of children.

One of the points it raised is for governments to plan for changes in water availability and demand in the coming years and to prioritize the most vulnerable children’s access to safe water above other water needs to maximize social and health outcomes.

It also called on businesses to work with communities to prevent contamination and depletion of safe water sources as well as on communities to diversify water sources and to increase their capacity to store water safely.

“Water is elemental – without it, nothing can grow,” said Lake, urging for efforts to safeguard children’s access to water. “One of the most effective ways we can do that is safeguarding their access to safe water.”

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Civil Society Representatives: “Water is the Foundation of our Life” Wed, 22 Mar 2017 19:14:47 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

“Water is life”—a slogan that arose from the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline movement is one that resonates not only in the U.S., but around the world as millions still lack access to clean, safe water.

At the UN, representatives across sectors gathered to discuss and raise awareness of such issues for World Water Day.

“Water is the foundation of our life…if we don’t have clean water, we will not be healthy,” said Founder of Water for South Sudan Salva Dut to IPS.

According to the UN, approximately 1.8 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water and instead use contaminated water sources. Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene cause around 842,000 deaths each year.

Dut created his organisation after his father became ill from unclean drinking water. Upon drilling the first well in his father’s village, Dut found a trickle down effect.

“I put a well down—now we have a school, a clinic, a market,” he said.

Dut particularly noted its impact on women and girls who are often tasked with collecting and carrying water over long distances.

“Seeing these young girls whose jobs are to go long distances to collect water, now they have the opportunity to go to school,” he told IPS.

Oyun Sanjaasuren

Oyun Sanjaasuren

Global Water Partnership (GWP) Chair Oyun Sanjaasuren echoed similar sentiments, telling IPS of the interconnectedness between population growth, food, and water.

“With population growth, people will need more food. With needing more food, one will need more agricultural products, and 70 percent of all the freshwater used is used for making food,” she told IPS.

Sanjaasuren and Dut both highlighted the need to recycle and save water.

“There is probably enough water resources in the world, but only if it is managed well,” Sanjaasuren said.

She pointed to the need to not only develop innovative, modern technologies to address the issue, but also to identify “simple” places to implement small interventions that can lead to change including food loss and waste.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), approximately one-third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted. If food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter after the U.S. and China. Due to the significant amount of water used in food production, food loss also leads to a loss of one-fourth of all water used to produce food.

Sanjaasuren said the loss of such precious resources must be addressed, and reducing food loss and waste is one path to good water governance and sustainable development.

“The most important thing is to not take water for granted as an unreplenishable resource,” she continued.

Through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, governments committed to achieving goals on various water issues including universal and equitable access to safe water; access to adequate sanitation and hygiene; and expanding international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries.

Dut stressed the need for the international community to continue supporting South Sudan despite its ongoing conflict.

“South Sudan today is the youngest nation in the world—it is a baby. And when you see your baby walk into the fire, you always run and stop it so it doesn’t get hurt. Whatever is going on in South Sudan today, we still need to support them,” he told IPS.

Half of the population in South Sudan does not have access to safe drinking water while more than 70 percent lack access to sanitary latrines. In displacement camps, hygiene and sanitation are inadequate. Mercy Corps found that flooding has collapsed latrines in some camps, forcing people to walk through knee-high, contaminated water.

Dut said that the international community must continue to provide aid not only for relief, but for development as well.

“In some parts of the country, they are stable. We don’t pay enough attention to what part we should support with development [aid] and what part we should support with relief,” he told IPS.

“If we support these people, they will be able to stand up by themselves,” Dut continued.

Sanjaasuren and Dut particularly pointed to the need to stop water contamination and to reduce or reuse waterwaste, the theme for this year’s World Water Day.

Globally, over 80% of generated wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused. Polluted environments, including unsafe water, cause one-fourth of the global burden of disease, particularly affecting children under the age of five.

Most recently, Bangalore’s Bellandur Lake caught on fire due to illegal waste dumping and mass untreated sewage. The pollution has threatened residents’ health and caused a chronic shortage of clean water. Experts have predicted that the health and water crisis may make Bangalore uninhabitable by 2025.

“It is a very crucial time to change the way we deal with things and how we solve problems,” Sanjaasuren told IPS. The use of treated wastewater in agriculture is one such solution, contributing to water, food, health and environmental security.

In order to achieve this, Sanjaasuren called for an integrated water resource management in which actors at all levels gather at the discussion table. Dut highlighted the role that World Water Day plays in bringing such discussions.

“Thanks to the UN for this World Water Day to really pay attention and let the world to be aware that water is very important in our lives,” Dut told IPS.

World Water Day, which is held on 22 March every year, aims to raise awareness and take action on water issues.

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Climate Breaks All Records: Hottest Year, Lowest Ice, Highest Sea Level Wed, 22 Mar 2017 18:30:13 +0000 IPS World Desk Extreme and unusual trends continue in 2017. Credit: WMO

Extreme and unusual trends continue in 2017. Credit: WMO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Mar 22 2017 (IPS)

Climate has, once more, broken all records, with the year 2016 making history-highest-ever global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, unabated sea level rise and ocean heat. And what is even worse– extreme and unusual trends continue in 2017.

In its annual statement on the State of the Global Climate, issued ahead of World Meteorological Day on 23 March, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record – a remarkable 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015.

“This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system,” said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas. “Globally averaged sea surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, global sea levels continued to rise, and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year.”

With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident, said Taalas.

“The increased power of computing tools and the availability of long term climate data have made it possible today, through attribution studies, to demonstrate clearly the existence of links between man-made climate change and many cases of high impact extreme events in particular heat-waves.”

Each of the 16 years since 2001 has been at least 0.4 °C above the long-term average for the 1961-1990 base period, used by WMO as a reference for climate change monitoring. Global temperatures continue to be consistent with a warming trend of 0.1 °C to 0.2 °C per decade, according to the WMO’s report.

The powerful 2015/2016 El Niño event boosted warming in 2016, on top of long-term climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Temperatures in strong El Niño years, such as 1973, 1983 and 1998, are typically 0.1 °C to 0.2 °C warmer than background levels, and 2016’s temperatures are consistent with that pattern.

Global sea levels rose very strongly during the El Niño event, with the early 2016 values reaching new record highs, informs WMO, adding that global sea ice extent dropped more than 4 million square kilometres below average in November, an unprecedented anomaly for that month.

“The very warm ocean temperatures contributed to significant coral bleaching and mortality was reported in many tropical waters, with important impacts on marine food chains, ecosystems and fisheries.”

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached the symbolic benchmark of 400 parts per millions in 2015 – the latest year for which WMO globbal figures are available – and will not fall below that level for many generations to come because of the long-lasting nature of CO2.

Noteworthy extreme events in 2016 included severe droughts that brought food insecurity to millions in southern and eastern Africa and Central America, according to the report.

Hurricane Matthew caused widespread suffering in Haiti as the first category 4 storm to make landfall since 1963, and inflicted significant economic losses in the United States of America, while heavy rains and floods affected eastern and southern Asia.

WMO has issued annual climate reports for more than 20 years and submits them to the Conference of the Parties of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The annual statements complement the assessments reports that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produces every six to seven years.

It is presented to UN member states and climate experts at a high-level action event on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Agenda in New York on 23 March.

“The entry into force of the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on 4 November 2016 represents a historic landmark. It is vital that its implementation becomes a reality and that the Agreement guides the global community in addressing climate change by curbing greenhouse gases, fostering climate resilience and mainstreaming climate adaptation into national development policies,” said Taalas.

“Continued investment in climate research and observations is vital if our scientific knowledge is to keep pace with the rapid rate of climate change.”

Extremes Continue in 2017

Newly released studies, which are not included in WMO’s report, indicate that ocean heat content may have increased even more than previously reported. Provisional data also indicates that there has been no easing in the rate of increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

“Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory,” said World Climate Research Programme Director David Carlson.

At least three times so far this winter, the Arctic has witnessed the Polar equivalent of a heat-wave, with powerful Atlantic storms driving an influx of warm, moist air.

“This meant that at the height of the Arctic winter and the sea ice refreezing period, there were days which were actually close to melting point. Antarctic sea ice has also been at a record low, in contrast to the trend in recent years.”

According to WMO, scientific research indicates that changes in the Arctic and melting sea ice is leading to a shift in wider oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns. This is affecting weather in other parts of the world because of waves in the jet stream – the fast moving band of air which helps regulate temperatures.

Thus, some areas, including Canada and much of the USA, were unusually balmy, whilst others, including parts of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, were unusually cold in early 2017.

In the US alone, 11,743 warm temperature records were broken or tied in February, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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