Inter Press ServiceBiodiversity – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 19 Sep 2018 14:09:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Law of the Sea Convention Expands to Cover Marine Biological Diversityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/law-sea-convention-expands-cover-marine-biological-diversity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=law-sea-convention-expands-cover-marine-biological-diversity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/law-sea-convention-expands-cover-marine-biological-diversity/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 11:21:21 +0000 Palitha Kohona http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157556 Dr Palitha Kohona is former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations & former co-Chair of the UN Adhoc Working Group on Biological Diversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The negotiation process. Smooth sailing or rough seas ahead?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deposit with the UN Secretary-General

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

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

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

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

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Salmon Farming, Questioned in Chile, Arrives to Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/salmon-farming-questioned-chile-arrives-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=salmon-farming-questioned-chile-arrives-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/salmon-farming-questioned-chile-arrives-argentina/#respond Mon, 10 Sep 2018 08:07:24 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157530 Questioned for its environmental and health impacts in Chile, where it is one of the country’s main economic activities, salmon farming is preparing to expand in Argentina from Norway, the world’s largest farmed salmon producer. The news has triggered a strong reaction from civil society organisations. “Argentina today has the advantage that it can refer […]

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A view of salmon cages in the Pacific Ocean in Chile. In recent decades, salmon farming has become an important industry in Chile, but the impact on the environment and people's health has been questioned. Credit: Courtesy of Daniel Casado

A view of salmon cages in the Pacific Ocean in Chile. In recent decades, salmon farming has become an important industry in Chile, but the impact on the environment and people's health has been questioned. Credit: Courtesy of Daniel Casado

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Sep 10 2018 (IPS)

Questioned for its environmental and health impacts in Chile, where it is one of the country’s main economic activities, salmon farming is preparing to expand in Argentina from Norway, the world’s largest farmed salmon producer.
The news has triggered a strong reaction from civil society organisations.

“Argentina today has the advantage that it can refer to Chile’s experience, which has been extremely negative,” attorney Alex Muñoz, director for Latin America of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas programme, told IPS from Santiago, Chile.

“In Chile we have suffered the serious impacts of the activity carried out by both local and Norwegian companies. Salmon is native to the northern hemisphere and there is very clear scientific evidence that farming this species is not sustainable in the southern hemisphere,” added the environmental law specialist.

Muñoz is one of the authors of a highly critical report on the Argentine project presented by 23 Argentine and international organisations – such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Oceana and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) – grouped in the Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea and Areas of Influence."The effects of an industry that stretches 2,000 km along the Chilean coast have never been studied in-depth. Chemicals of all kinds are used to prevent disease and organic matter, food and fecal matter from salmon are dumped into the ecosystem.” -- Max Bello

The Forum is a network formed in 2004 to promote the care of the Atlantic Ocean in southern Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina and of the Pacific Ocean in Chile.

It was the visit to Argentina in March by King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway, who met with President Mauricio Macri, which gave impetus to the initiative.

It would imply the introduction for the first time of an exotic species in the Argentinean sea, since this South American country has only up to now introduced fish in lakes and rivers.

On that occasion, Innovation Norway, a state-owned company and a national development bank that promotes Norwegian investment around the world, signed a cooperation agreement with the Argentine Agribusiness Ministry to study the implementation of “sustainable aquaculture” programmes in this South American nation.

Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic animals or plants in all types of water environments in controlled conditions. In the case of salmon in Argentina, feasibility studies are being carried out in the extreme south of Patagonia, off the Argentine coasts of Tierra del Fuego, the southern territory shared with Chile.

IPS’s questions about the project were not answered by the agriculture authorities of Tierra del Fuego province or by the Agribusiness Ministry, which on Sept. 3 was demoted to a secretariat as part of austerity measures aimed at cutting public spending in the midst of the country’s economic collapse.

Salmon seen in the Chilean sea. Broken cages sometimes cause hundreds of thousands of fish to end up in open sea, generating negative impacts on native species. Credit: Courtesy of Daniel Casado

Salmon seen in the Chilean sea. Broken cages sometimes cause hundreds of thousands of fish to end up in open sea, generating negative impacts on native species. Credit: Courtesy of Daniel Casado

In March, the then minister Luis Etchevere stated that “our relations with Norway will allow us to benefit from that country’s more than 50 years of experience” in aquaculture, and added that “Tierra del Fuego can be a pioneer in development within Argentina.”

Norway, which has both wild and farmed salmon, is the world’s largest producer of this species that is consumed around the world for its taste and nutritional value.

In Chile, salmon farming in sea cages began more than 30 years ago on the island of Chiloé, about 1,100 south of Santiago, in the Los Lagos Region, and from there it grew and spread throughout Patagonia, to the Aysen and Magallanes Regions.

Today salmon is one of Chile’s main export products. Official figures indicate that the sector is expanding, since in 2017 exports amounted to 4.1 billion dollars, 20 percent up from the previous year.

Last year, salmon accounted for more than six percent of the country’s total exports.

According to Chile’s Salmon Industry Association, this year will be even better and sales to 75 international markets will generate more than five billion dollars.

According to the business chamber, the activity generates more than 70,000 direct and indirect jobs.

But “no amount of economic growth justifies the destruction of Patagonian ecosystems,” Max Bello, a Chilean natural resources specialist who has been working for 15 years in marine conservation organisations, told IPS from Santiago.

Starfish seen in the seabed of the Beagle Channel, in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, where the Argentine government is promoting the development of salmon farming. The so-called Patagonian Sea is considered one of the most productive oceanic areas in the southern hemisphere. Credit: Courtesy of Beagle Secrets of the Sea

Starfish seen in the seabed of the Beagle Channel, in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, where the Argentine government is promoting the development of salmon farming. The so-called Patagonian Sea is considered one of the most productive oceanic areas in the southern hemisphere. Credit: Courtesy of Beagle Secrets of the Sea

Bello added: “The effects of an industry that stretches 2,000 km along the Chilean coast have never been studied in-depth. Chemicals of all kinds are used to prevent disease and organic matter, food and fecal matter from salmon are dumped into the ecosystem.”

“Salmon farming has spread in a brutal manner in recent years, affecting not only natural resources but also culture, as it has displaced other activities,” Bello said.

In Argentina, a country whoses population of 44 million mostly eats beef, fish are mostly for export.

In 2017, according to official figures, 706,000 tons of seafood were sold abroad, worth 1.9 billion dollars. The main products are shrimp and squid, both native. In the domestic market, 341,000 tons of seafood was consumed last year.

The report presented by the Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea and Areas of Influence states that, besides the heavy use of antibiotics, the main problem posed by salmon farming is the frequent escape from the sea cages of fish that end up being an exotic species.

In fact, in July, during a storm, four of the five cages of a salmon farm owned by the Norwegian company Marine Harvest in Calbuco, near the city of Puerto Montt, broke and 650,000 salmon ended up in the sea.

“According to the law, the company has to recover at least 10 percent of the fish, because otherwise environmental damage is assumed,” biologist Flavia Liberona, executive director of the Chilean environmental foundation Terram, told IPS.

Regarding the use of chemical products, Liberona explained from Santiago that “because they are not in their environment, salmon in Chile are highly prone to diseases, which is why they use more antibiotics than in Norway.”

“In 2008 there was a major crisis in the industry due to the spread of a virus, which caused the loss of thousands of jobs,” she said.

Biologist Alexandra Sapoznikow, coordinator of the Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea and Areas of Influence, said “this activity has frequent crises and we are concerned that it is seen as a possibility for economic development. Tierra del Fuego receives tourists who are looking for nature, which is this province’s opportunity.”

Speaking to IPS from the Patagonian city of Puerto Madryn, Sapoznikow, who teaches Natural Resources Management at Argentina’s National University of Patagonia, added that the introduction of salmon farming would also come into conflict with the project that civil society organisations have been working on with the Argentine government to create marine protected areas in the South Atlantic.

In November 2017, the government sent to Congress a bill for the creation of two marine protected areas near Tierra del Fuego, which would extend the total conservation area from the current 28,000 square km to 155,000.

The initiative, however, has not yet begun to be discussed, while the Ministry of Environment – which drafted it jointly with the National Parks Administration – was demoted on Sept. 3 to a secretariat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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

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

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

By Zadie Neufville
BELMOPAN, Sep 5 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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New Rules for High Seas Must Include Needs of Poorest Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/new-rules-high-seas-must-include-needs-poorest-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-rules-high-seas-must-include-needs-poorest-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/new-rules-high-seas-must-include-needs-poorest-nations/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 12:52:23 +0000 Essam Yassin Mohammed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157450 Essam Yassin Mohammed is Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

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Essam Yassin Mohammed is Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

By Essam Yassin Mohammed
LONDON, Sep 4 2018 (IPS)

Over-fishing, warming oceans and plastic pollution dominate the headlines when it comes to the state of the seas. Most of the efforts to protect the life of the ocean and the livelihoods of those who depend on it are limited to exclusive economic zones – the band of water up to 200 nautical miles from the coast.

Fishermen offloading tunas at the industrial fish port of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Credit: FAO/Sia Kambou

But to be truly effective, all of the ocean needs to be protected. The high-seas that lie beyond national jurisdictions ― two-thirds of the ocean’s surface ― remain largely ungoverned.

The world has a new opportunity this week to move a step closer to addressing these issues as UN members start negotiating an international legally binding treaty to protect the high seas. (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, 4-17 September). The first of four rounds of negotiations that will continue until 2020.

Despite the common perception that the high seas are too remote to matter to coastal communities, strong scientific evidence shows the ocean is a highly interconnected ecosystem. For example, a number of fish species use the high seas at different stages of their lifecycle for feeding and spawning, which is why protecting it is critically important to coastal communities’ livelihoods and economies.

For these negotiations to be effective and fair, it is crucial the people living in coastal communities in the least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS) are listened to and have an active role in protecting and sustainably managing the ocean. They are among those most affected by the impacts of how the ocean is used and protected, from fishing to conservation measures.

Any measure to govern these waters must make sure that any activity in these waters benefits everyone ― particularly the poorest countries.

The ocean as a whole is recognised by international law as a common heritage of mankind ― it belongs to everyone, now and forever. But most developing countries do not have the financial or technological means to share the benefits it provides.

To make sure they have equal access, it is crucial this treaty establishes a mechanism that enables them to share its benefits. Monetary benefits can be best shared by establishing a trust fund.

This, as is the case with such governing bodies as the International Seabed Authority, would enable coastal communities to build their capacities and become involved in monitoring the environmental health of the seas.

And they would be able to participate proactively in research and development, and sustainably use the high seas as a source for medicines, science and other genetic resources.

It could be financed from a percentage of the profits that wealthier countries make through economic activities on the high seas whether from extraction of marine genetic resources or any other activity.

The equitable distribution of benefits from conservation of the high seas should also be at the core of the negotiations. It is important that any new global agreement recognises that when protected areas are designated they consider how they will affect coastal communities across the global south.

These areas linking territorial waters to the high seas are critical both for protecting marine species and helping to restore coastal fisheries, which are vital to sustaining the livelihoods of people in poor coastal communities.

One of the biggest threats to marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is overfishing. Studies show that fishing in the high seas is unprofitable and are only economically viable because governments subsidies large fishing fleets. It is important that in this first round of talks, governments agree clear steps to end all harmful subsidies.

Instead, these subsidies should be directed towards activities that deliver positive social and environmental results. By providing support for monitoring and surveillance of marine protected areas, giving incentives to fishers for not using damaging fishing practices, and enhancing access to markets and services including by providing support for storage facilities, poor coastal communities and fishers will be able to benefit from ocean-friendly investment.

We cannot afford to keep the status quo. These negotiations are an opportunity to establish a new legally binding treaty that is fair and equitable for everyone. This is about sustainably sharing 50 per cent of the planet with 100 per cent of the world’s population.

It is crucial the needs of the poor are heard at every stage of this process to make sure they are not left behind in the drive to govern the life of the oceans.

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Excerpt:

Essam Yassin Mohammed is Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

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Transforming Food Systems: Today’s Realities and Tomorrow’s Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/transforming-food-systems-todays-realities-tomorrows-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=transforming-food-systems-todays-realities-tomorrows-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/transforming-food-systems-todays-realities-tomorrows-challenges/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2018 15:37:30 +0000 Alice Lloyd http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157007 The world’s food systems face two immense challenges today. One, to produce enough food to nourish a global population of seven billion people without harming the environment. Two, to make sure food systems deliver nutrition to everyone, particularly the world’s poorest, many of whom suffer from chronic under-nutrition. Like the Economist’s 2017 Food Security Index, […]

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Radish production at West Africa Farms, in Northern Senegal. Credit: Sarah Farhat / World Bank

By Alice Lloyd
WASHINGTON, Aug 1 2018 (IPS)

The world’s food systems face two immense challenges today. One, to produce enough food to nourish a global population of seven billion people without harming the environment. Two, to make sure food systems deliver nutrition to everyone, particularly the world’s poorest, many of whom suffer from chronic under-nutrition.

Like the Economist’s 2017 Food Security Index, a new report released earlier this summer looks at the complex connections between the ways we organize and produce our food, and the implications for the environment, human health, and social wellbeing.

With input from over 150 experts from 33 countries, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Agriculture and Food: Scientific and Economic Foundations Report, a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) project, makes the case for a global agri-food systems transformation. It argues that our agri-food systems today are being viewed and evaluated through a narrow, incomplete and distorted lens by focusing on per-hectare-productivity. To fix our food system, our food metrics need to be fixed.

The way we are currently producing food is negatively impacting climate, water, top soil, biodiversity and marine environments. If we do not change course, we will seriously undermine our ability to deliver adequate food for future populations. In addition to the negative environmental impacts, we are struggling to deliver nutritious and healthy diets in an equitable way. Diet-related chronic diseases are on the rise even as we fail to deliver nutritious food to millions of poor people around the world.

The consequences of our current food systems outlined in the report include:
• Agricultural production alone contributes over one-fourth of global GHG emissions.
• However, when considering the entire ‘agri-food value chain’ (including agriculture-related deforestation, farming, processing, packaging, transportation and waste), this number climbs to a staggering 43 to 57 percent of GHG emissions.
• 70 to 90 percent of global deforestation is from agricultural expansion.
• If women had the same access to resources (land, credits, education, etc.) as male farmers, they could raise yields by 20 to 30 percent, and lift as many as 150 million people out of hunger.
• Approximately one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted, enough to feed the world’s hungry six times over.
• Around 40 percent of available land is used for growing food, a figure that would need to rise to an improbable 70 percent by 2050 under a “business-as-usual” scenario.
• 33 percent of the Earth’s land surface is moderately to highly affected by some type of soil degradation mainly due to the erosion, salinization, compaction, acidification, or chemical pollution of soils.
• Diets have become the main risk for human health. Six of the top eleven risk factors driving the global burden of disease are diet-related.
• The World Health Organization estimates the direct costs of diabetes at more than US$827 billion per year, globally.
• Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances causes more than 200 diseases. An estimated 600 million people fall ill after eating contaminated food, while 420,000 die every year.
• 61 percent of commercial fish populations are fully fished and 29 percent are overfished.
• In a “business-as-usual” scenario, the ocean will contain more plastic than fish (by weight) by 2050.

The agricultural revolution is still very strongly influencing our food production. While food production has successfully been increased, the environmental impacts have received a lot less attention. They have been either been ignored or been considered as a necessary trade-off.

The Economist’s 2017 Food Security Index for example, in considering how resilience to natural resource and climate related risks pose long term threats to food systems across countries, includes a tool to explore how individual countries perform on a natural resources and resilience adjustment factor.

“If you look at food production only from a price perspective, and the old paradigm of the cheaper the better, you run into a trap because the long-term sustainability of our food production system is not a given,”says Alexander Müller, Study Leader of TEEBAgriFood.

“The task for agriculture and food systems in the years to come is huge, says Muller: ‘feeding a population projected to reach 10 billion in 2050, achieving the four dimensions of food security (FAO 1996) for all people by providing healthy food, drastically reducing the impacts of different types of agricultural production on the world’s ecosystems, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit climate change and to adapt to it, developing rural areas to create jobs and to improve livelihoods of poor people, maintaining ecosystem services such as clean water and air for a rapidly urbanizing planet are only some of the challenges.”

Tackling these challenges requires a systematic approach. This report looks at all the impacts of the value chain, from farm to fork to disposal, including effects on livelihoods, the environment, and health. It identifies theories and pathways for transformational change in government, business, farming, and consumer contexts while providing a framework for evaluation that supports the comprehensive, universal and inclusive assessment of eco-agri-food systems.

Recognizing the interlinkages, in terms of impacts and dependencies that food systems have with our economies, societies, health, and environment is a crucial first step. Using the report’s Framework and its language can allow for the next generation of agricultural and food research to provide a more comprehensive basis for decision-making and together with the 2017 Food Security Index, provides a comprehensive assessment of food systems as well as natural resource availability and resilience.

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Caribbean Builds Resilience Through Enhanced Data Collectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/caribbean-builds-resilience-enhanced-data-collection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-builds-resilience-enhanced-data-collection http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/caribbean-builds-resilience-enhanced-data-collection/#respond Tue, 31 Jul 2018 13:53:30 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156973 By the end of September 2018, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) would have installed the last of five new data buoys in the Eastern Caribbean, extending the regional Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) network as it continues to build resilience to climate change in the Caribbean. At the same time, the centre […]

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Meteorologists and hydro-met technicians assemble one of the 40 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) being installed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) with funding from the USAID Climate Change Adaptation Program (USAID CCAP). Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
BELMOPAN, Jul 31 2018 (IPS)

By the end of September 2018, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) would have installed the last of five new data buoys in the Eastern Caribbean, extending the regional Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) network as it continues to build resilience to climate change in the Caribbean.

At the same time, the centre is also installing an additional 50 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) across nine countries to expand the existing network of hydro-meteorological stations- yet another push to improve data collection in the region. The data will help scientists to better evaluate potential risks and impacts, and provide the information national leaders seek to build more resilient infrastructures to mitigate climate risks.

Enhancing the data collection and availability is central to the centre’s mandate to prepare the Caribbean’s response to climate change, Dr Ulric Trotz science advisor and deputy executive director told IPS.

He noted: “Experts here are using the critical data they collect, to enhance models, design tools and develop strategies to mitigate and build resilience to the devastating impacts – rising seas, longer dry spells, more extreme rainfall and potentially higher impact tropical cyclones – associated with climate variability and change.”

Reporting in “Volume 1 of the Caribbean Climate Series,” released ahead of the 23rd Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change  in Germany in 2017, researchers at the University of the West Indies Climate Studies Group, Mona Campus, Jamaica, pointed out that the Caribbean is already experiencing the impacts associated with changes in climatic conditions.

According to the report, nights and days are warmer; air and sea surface temperatures are higher and there are longer and more frequent periods of droughts. Not surprisingly, after the 2017 hurricane season, researchers also reported increasing intensity in rainfalls and more intense hurricanes with stronger winds and lots more rain.

“Even if global warming beyond the 1°C already experienced were limited to only a further half a degree, there would still be consequences for the Caribbean region,” the report said.

Trotz explained: “These data gathering systems, which were acquired with funding from the USAID Climate Change Adaptation Programme, are increasing the volume of real-time data and enhancing the reliability and accuracy of weather and climate forecasting in the region”.

In addition to the super computers installed at CCCCC’s Belize location, the University of the West Indies’ Mona Campus and Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH)-under previous projects- the newly installed data points, are already enhancing the capacity of regional scientists to monitor and process the atmospheric and other environmental variables that are affected by the changes in climatic conditions.

The data collection efforts support evidence-based decision-making, and improve the accuracy of the projections from the regional and global climate models while building the region’s resilience to the impacts of climate variability and change. In the end, the information provided in the 1.5 Report which will form part of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change global assessment report AR6 as well as all other Caribbean forecasts and models promises to be more accurate and reliable.

“The data collected from these stations forms the baseline for all climate modelling, ensuring that we have a good baseline data to suffice our regional climate services models for regional forecast and predictions. The network strengthens the baseline for climate change projection models thereby increasing the confidence in the results that are used in the decision-making for climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Albert Jones, instrumentation technician at the 5Cs, told IPS.

The retired weather forecaster explained, that the new AWS are not only improving data collection, they are also expanding the capability and roles of local Met Offices from their historic roles of providing information for primarily aviation purposes.

The importance of these systems cannot be understated, particularly in countries like Guyana and Suriname where deficiencies in the data seriously hampers the coverage of areas with significant differences in the topography and climatic conditions. This is especially significant where comparisons of hinterland and elevated forested areas to the low-lying coastal flood plains are critical to development of lives and property.

The centre, which celebrates its 14th year of operation in July 2018, has worked with several donors over its existence to improve the collection of data in a region that largely depended on manual systems and where historical data has been hard to come by. The latter is an essential input for validation of the regional models required for the production of region-specific climate scenarios, which are utilised in impact studies across all of the affected sectors in the region. These in turn form the basis of crafting the adaptation responses required to build climate resilience in specific sectors.

Popularly known as the 5Cs, the climate change centre carries out its mandate through a network of partners including government meteorologists, hydrologists, university professors and researchers. Scientists and researchers in Universities across the region and at specialist institutions like the Barbados-based CIMH, do the data crunching.

“We are building climate and weather early warning systems to build resilience, so it is important that we collect and turn this data into useful information that will benefit the society,” CIMH’s principal Dr David Farrell told hydro-met technicians at a USAID sponsored training on the grounds of the institute in March.

He noted that in designing the system, the CIMH- that has responsibility for maintaining the network- identified and reduced existing deficiencies to improve the quality of data collected.

And as global temperatures continue to soar, the World Meteorological Organisation 2018 report noted that 2017 was “was one of the world’s three warmest years on record.”

It said: “A combination of five datasets, three of them using conventional surface observations and two of them re-analysis, shows that global mean temperatures were 0.46 °C ± 0.1 °C above the 1981–2010 average, and about 1.1 °C ± 0.1 °C above pre-industrial levels. By this measure, 2017 and 2015 were effectively indistinguishable as the world’s second and third warmest years on record, ranking only behind 2016, which was 0.56 °C above the 1981−2010 average.”

With studies pointing to a warmer Caribbean and an increase in the frequency of extreme events, regional scientists are committed to improving the way they use data to guide governments on the actions that will lessen the expected impacts. In 2017, extreme weather events in the form of Hurricanes Irma and Maria claimed lives, destroyed livelihoods and infrastructure, throwing islands like Barbuda, Dominica and the Virgin Islands back several decades.

In identifying extreme weather events as “the most prominent risk facing humanity”, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2018 noted: “Fuelled by warm sea-surface temperatures, the North Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest ever for the United States, and eradicated decades of development gains in small islands in the Caribbean such as Dominica. Floods uprooted millions of people on the Indian subcontinent, whilst drought is exacerbating poverty and increasing migration pressures in the Horn of Africa.”

The CREWS network is part of a global system to improve the monitoring and management of coral reefs as environmental and climatic conditions increases coral bleaching and death. The centre works in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric and Administration to install monitoring stations that collect data on climate, marine and biological parameters for use by scientists to conduct research into the health of coral reefs in changing climatic and sea conditions.

Under previous funding arrangements, CREWS stations were also installed in Belize, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, as well as other parts of the region.

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“The Sustainable Bioeconomy, a Path Towards Post-Extractivism”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 03:55:57 +0000 Ela Zambrano http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156798 Ela Zambrano interviews TARSICIO GRANIZO, Ecuador’s minister of Environment

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The post “The Sustainable Bioeconomy, a Path Towards Post-Extractivism” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Ela Zambrano interviews TARSICIO GRANIZO, Ecuador’s minister of Environment

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

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

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jul 16 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

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

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

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

I am concerned that not enough is being done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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Urgent Action Needed to Safeguard Saint Lucia’s Biodiversityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/urgent-action-needed-safeguard-saint-lucias-biodiversity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urgent-action-needed-safeguard-saint-lucias-biodiversity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/urgent-action-needed-safeguard-saint-lucias-biodiversity/#comments Mon, 09 Jul 2018 08:43:33 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156592 Wildlife conservationists consider it to be one of the most striking parrots of its kind. Saint Lucia’s best-known species, the endangered Amazon parrot, is recognised by its bright green plumage, purple forehead and dusty red-tipped feathers. But a major conservation organisation is warning that climate change and a lack of care for the environment could […]

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Climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Jul 9 2018 (IPS)

Wildlife conservationists consider it to be one of the most striking parrots of its kind. Saint Lucia’s best-known species, the endangered Amazon parrot, is recognised by its bright green plumage, purple forehead and dusty red-tipped feathers. But a major conservation organisation is warning that climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity, including the parrot.

Sean Southey chairs the Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

He told IPS that urgent action is needed to safeguard the eastern Caribbean island nation’s biodiversity, which is under constant threat.

“With climate change, countries like St. Lucia [experience] significant weather events. The increase in hurricanes, the increase in bad weather and mudslides – these are incredible consequences of climate change,” Southey said.“As you drive across the landscape of St. Lucia, you see a landscape strewn with old plastic bags," Sean Southey, chair of the Commission on Education and Communication.

Though less than 616 square kilometres in area, St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else.

Other species of conservation concern include the pencil cedar, staghorn coral and St. Lucia racer. The racer, confined to the nine-hectare island of Maria Major, is thought to be the world’s most threatened sake.

Also at risk are mangrove forests and low-lying freshwater wetlands, Southey said.

But he said it was not too late to take action, and he urged St. Lucia and its Caribbean neighbours to take advantage of their small size.

“The smallness of islands allows for real society to get involved. What it means is helping people connect to the environment,” Southey said.

“It means that they need to know and feel and appreciate that their individual behaviours make a difference. Especially the biodiversity decisions [like] land use planning. If you are going to sell your family farm, do you sell for another commercial tourist resort, do you sell it to make a golf course or do you sell it to [produce] organic bananas? These are the type of individual decisions that people have to make that protect an island or hurt an island,” he said.

Southey added that thoughtful management of mangroves and effective management of shorelines, “can create natural mechanisms that allow you to cushion and protect society from the effects of climate change.”

 

St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

 

The CEC chair said recent extreme weather events have forced people in the Caribbean to understand climate change more than inhabitants from other countries in the world do.

“If you’re over the age of 30 in the Caribbean, you’ve seen a change in weather patterns. It’s not a story that you hear on the news, it’s a reality that you feel during hurricane season every year. So I believe there is an understanding,” he said.

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma tore through many of St. Lucia’s neighbouring islands, including Barbuda.

The category five hurricane wreaked havoc on Barbuda’s world-famous frigate bird colony. Most of the 10,000-frigate bird population disappeared in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane that destroyed the mangroves in which they nest and breed.

While many countries in the Caribbean are working on building natural barriers and nature-based solutions in response to climate change, Southey still believes there needs to be a greater strengthening of that sense that people can actually do something to contribute.

Reducing plastic waste

In June 2016, Antigua took the lead in the Caribbean with a ban on the commercial use of plastic bags.

The island’s environment and health minister Molwyn Joseph said the decision was made in a bid to reduce the volume of plastic bags that end up in the watercourses and wetlands.

“We are giving our mangroves a fighting chance to be a source of healthy marine life, that can only benefit us as a people,” he said.

Antigua also became the first country within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the second within the Caribbean Community, to ratify the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The Nagoya Protocol provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources.

On Jul. 3 this year, one of the Caribbean’s largest supermarket chains launched a campaign to discourage the use of single use plastic bags for bagging groceries at its checkout counters, while actively encouraging customers to shop with reusable bags as a more eco-friendly option.

Managing director of Massy Stores St. Lucia Martin Dorville said the company is focused on finding more permanent solutions to reducing plastic waste and its own demand for plastic bags.

He said the decision to encourage customers to use less plastic was bold, courageous and will help manage the adverse impacts of single use plastic on the environment.

“I am very thrilled that one of the number one supermarkets has decided to ban all plastic bags. It’s a small behaviour but it helps everyone realise that their individual actions make a difference,” Southey told IPS.

“As you drive across the landscape of St. Lucia, you see a landscape strewn with old plastic bags, so I was very appreciative of that. But what I really liked is that when I spent over USD100, they gave me a recyclable bag as a bonus to encourage me to use that as an individual so that my behaviour can make a difference,” he said.

He added that if school children could understand the importance of mangroves and complex eco-systems and the need to protect forests, wildlife and endangered birds “then I think we can make a huge difference.”

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Bamboo, A Sustainability Powerhousehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse/#respond Fri, 29 Jun 2018 11:30:32 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156466 A landmark conference bringing more than 1,200 people from across the world together to promote and explain the importance of bamboo and rattan to global sustainable development and tackling climate change has ended with a raft of agreements and project launches. The three-day Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress in Beijing this week, organised by multilateral […]

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Bamboo is stronger than concrete or steel but is a renewable resource, providing refuge and food for wildlife as well as biomass. Credit: CC by 2.0

Bamboo is stronger than concrete or steel but is a renewable resource, providing refuge and food for wildlife as well as biomass. Credit: CC by 2.0

By Ed Holt
VIENNA, Jun 29 2018 (IPS)

A landmark conference bringing more than 1,200 people from across the world together to promote and explain the importance of bamboo and rattan to global sustainable development and tackling climate change has ended with a raft of agreements and project launches.

The three-day Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress in Beijing this week, organised by multilateral development group the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) and China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA), was the first international, policy-focused conference on the use of bamboo and rattan to help sustainable development.“Bamboo is not a climate change silver bullet, but we want people to realise that it is a ‘forgotten opportunity’ in helping mitigate the effects of climate change." --INBAR Director General Dr Hans Friedrich

Organisers had pledged to ensure that the event would not be “simply a talking shop”, instead making real progress on raising awareness of the potential role of bamboo and rattan in helping solve major global problems.

As it closed, it appeared that goal had been met with the announcement of a number of agreements, including a major project to develop bamboo sectors across Africa and an agreement between INBAR members to further develop bamboo and rattan sectors in other parts of the world.

Speaking at the end of the conference, INBAR Director General Dr Hans Friedrich said: “We have made some real steps forward for the development of bamboo and rattan.”

Bamboo and rattan have long been championed by environmental organisations and groups promoting sustainable development, especially in the world’s poorest countries.

A grass, bamboo is a native plant on all continents except Antarctica and Europe, although the majority of its natural habitat is in the tropical belts.

It is stronger than concrete or steel but is a renewable resource, providing refuge and food for wildlife as well as biomass. It captures higher amounts of CO2 than most other plants and can be harvested significantly faster than wood – over a period of 20 years it can produce almost 12 times as much material as wood.

It can be used for shelter as well as, in some cases, transport, and provides sustainable, ecologically-friendly economic and commercial opportunities to people, especially in poorer communities.

Groups like INBAR point out that bamboo use can play a significant part in helping countries meet many of the UN’s sustainable development goals.

But awareness of the potential of bamboo and rattan is generally low in many countries, especially in the more developed world and particularly at senior levels of government and industry.

Dr Friedrich told IPS: “A large part of the reason for this conference is about awareness. We want to tell people who don’t yet realise it that bamboo and rattan can help them reach their sustainable development goals.

“The potential is immense. It is understood by people in, for example, the forestry industry, and others, but not really by politicians. At this conference we want to help them realise this by giving them examples.”

Bringing together ministers, industry leaders, scientists and entrepreneurs, the conference used examples of innovative bamboo use – from a thirty-foot bamboo wind turbine blade to bamboo diapers – and real-life stories from individuals of bamboo and rattan helping create sustainable livelihoods to underline to decision-makers and senior industry figures the potential.

One of the key aims of the meeting, said organisers, was to try and push those decision-makers into setting up the institutional, regulatory, policy, and business frameworks necessary to kick-start a new sustainable development paradigm.

“In the last few years I have met a number of ministers and they always start off being sceptical about bamboo but after they see everything they realise its potential.

“We want governments to think about bamboo when they think about their plans for climate change, sustainable development and green policies,” Dr Friedrich told IPS.

INBAR also used the conference to talk to representatives from large private sector firms about how to build global value chains, as well as how to set up international standards which support international bamboo and rattan trade.

Its proponents have pointed out the economic potential, particularly in poorer countries, of the bamboo industry. In China, which Dr Friedrich says has until now been the “only country taking bamboo really seriously [as an industry]”, the bamboo industry employs 10 million people and is valued at USD 30 billion per year.

“People are beginning to realise the economic potential and opportunities for bamboo,” Friedrich told IPS.

The conference also highlighted the impact bamboo and rattan could have on climate change.

Speakers from various countries, including politicians, spoke about how bamboo and rattan was being used to help combat the effects of climate change and help the environment.

Experts outlined its potential and current use in areas like forest protection, restoration of degraded land, and carbon capture as well as a replacement for more carbon-intensive materials such as cement and steel in construction and industry.

An INBAR report released ahead of the conference gave an analysis of the carbon which is saved by substituting more emissions-intensive products for bamboo. It found the carbon emissions reduction potential of a managed giant bamboo species forest is potentially significantly higher than for certain types of trees under the same conditions.

Combining bamboo’s potential displacement factor with bamboo’s carbon storage rate, bamboo can sequester enormous sums of CO2 – from 200 to almost 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare. In China alone, the plant is projected to store more than one million tons of carbon by 2050.

Bamboo can also be used in durable products, including furniture, flooring, housing and pipes, replacing emissions-intensive materials including timber, plastics, cement and metals.
It can also be used as a substitute for fossil fuel-based energy sources – research by INBAR has shown that substituting electricity from the Chinese grid with electricity from bamboo gasification would reduce CO2 emissions by almost 7 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Bamboo can also help communities adapt to the effects of climate change, serving as a strong but flexible building material for shelter, as well as helping restore degraded land and combat desertification.

Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said at the conference: “In short, bamboo and rattan represent an important part of reducing net emissions. And this is exactly what the world needs right now.”

Speaking to IPS on the eve of the conference, Dr Friedrich said he hoped that policymakers would realise the potential for bamboo as part of solutions for dealing with climate change.

“Bamboo is not a climate change silver bullet, but we want people to realise that it is a ‘forgotten opportunity’ in helping mitigate the effects of climate change,” he said.

INBAR officials readily admit that it is likely to take time to raise awareness of the potential of bamboo and rattan, but they are encouraged by the fact that more countries are starting to look at it seriously as an industry, including in Africa and South America.

But Dr Friedrich was keen to stress that the conference was just a beginning and that, with international agreements on important projects being signed, he was hopeful of real change in the future use and awareness of the potential of bamboo and rattan.

“I hope this conference is going to be a landmark moment. I want it to be the catalyst and inspiration for real change,” he told IPS.

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West Africa Moves Ahead with Renewable Energy Despite Unpredictable Challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 18:22:03 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156416 The West African nation of Guinea may be a signatory of the Paris Agreement, a global undertaking by countries around the world to reduce climate change, but as it tries to provide electricity to some three quarters of its 12 million people who are without, the commitment is proving a struggle. Mamadou Bangoura, head of […]

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Forested hills in Guinea’s Kintampo area. Credit: CC by 3.0

Forested hills in Guinea’s Kintampo area. Barely a quarter of the population has access to electricity. Credit: CC by 3.0

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jun 26 2018 (IPS)

The West African nation of Guinea may be a signatory of the Paris Agreement, a global undertaking by countries around the world to reduce climate change, but as it tries to provide electricity to some three quarters of its 12 million people who are without, the commitment is proving a struggle.

Mamadou Bangoura, head of planning and energy management at Guinea’s Ministry of Energy, told IPS that his country faced a major challenge implementing its programme for the development and provision of energy resources to all citizens at a lower cost. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, only 26 percent of the population has access to electricity. “Our main concern is to find a balance between the implementation of this programme and the protection of biodiversity." --Mamadou Bangoura of Guinea’s Ministry of Energy

“Our main concern is to find a balance between the implementation of this programme and the protection of biodiversity. This is further compounded by a requirement to take into rigorous account the environmental and social aspects in the framework of the realisation of any infrastructure project,” Bangoura explained.

According to conservation organisation Fauna and Flora International, Guinea’s wildlife is already under threat. “Conservation solutions need to be found that enable people to make a living while protecting their natural assets into the future,” the organisation reports.

Unlike other African nations that are heavily reliant on fossil fuels, only 43 percent of Guinea’s electricity is generated from this as more than half (55 percent) is produced by hydropower.

The country’s potential for hydropower is significant. Guinea is regarded as West Africa’s water tower because 22 of the region’s rivers originate there, including Africa’s third-longest river, the Niger.

Bangoura added that despite the challenges, his country was making progress and several hydropower projects were being constructed. The Kaléta project, which will produce 204MW, is already completed. However, the Souapiti (459MW) and Amaria (300MW) hydropower plants “are still work in progress.”

He said negotiations were also underway for the construction of a 40MW solar power and a 40MW power plant. “Concession and power purchase agreements are being finalised,” he added.

In the Gambia, challenges in implementing renewable energy exist also. The small West African nation of only 1.8 million people is considered to be rare in its ambitious commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — it pledged a 44 percent reduction below its business-as-usual emission level. It’s a big task as currently around 96 percent of all electricity produced in the country comes from fossil fuels.  

Sidat Yaffa, an agronomist with expertise in climate change at the University of The Gambia, told IPS there were barriers to renewable energy programmes because the sector was still new to the Gambia.

“Therefore, a better understanding of the technology is still a challenge, securing adequate funding for implementation is a gap, and availability of trained human resources using the technology is also a gap,” Yaffa said.

He added that the Gambia’s renewable energy programmes included a wind energy pilot project at Nema Kunku village in West Coast Region.

“The agriculture sector’s GHG could be drastically reduced in the next five years in the Gambia if adequate solar panel water irrigation technologies are implemented,” Yaffa added.

Cote d’Ivoire also has strong ambitions for the development of reliable and profitable renewable energies, a cabinet minister said last year, adding that the country is committed to produce 42 percent of its energy through renewable energy.

This week representatives from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Guinea and Senegal will meet in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou to discuss both the challenges and successes they have had in reaching their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs are blueprints or outlines by countries on how they plan to cut GHG emissions.

The regional workshop, the first of its kind, is hosted by the Global Green Growth Institute in association with the International Renewable Energy Agency and the Green Climate Fund.

It aims to enhance capacity for NDC implementation, share experiences and best practices, and discuss renewable energy opportunities and associated challenges in the region.

Rural electrification headache

This regional cooperation is a significant step forward as 60 percent of the West African population living in the rural areas continue to depend on firewood as their primary source of energy.

In the Gambia and Senegal a quarter of the rural population has access to electricity, while the number is slightly higher in Cote d’Ivoire with about 29 percent having access.

But in Guinea and Burkina Faso only three and one percent of the respective rural populations have electricity.

Last year, Smart Villages Initiatives (SVI) conducted energy workshops in West Africa and it attributes poor electricity access in the region to insufficient generation, high prices of petroleum, lack of financing and transmission and distribution losses.

The World Bank’s 2017 State of Electricity Access Report makes the link that energy is inextricably linked to every other critical sustainable development challenge, including health, education, food security, gender equality, poverty reduction, employment and climate change, among others.

The Agence Française de Développement acknowledged the benefits of rural electrification programmes, stating, “(they) have the opportunity to reach more poor households and have larger impacts in the lives of the rural poor by providing new opportunities and enhancing the synergies between the agricultural and non-agricultural sector,”

Bangoura has acknowledged his country’s challenge to electrify rural areas. He said his government has just created the Guinean Rural Electrification Agency and launched a couple of projects, including a collaboration with the Electricity of Guinea, that will pave the way for the electrification of rural areas.

However, SVI said while most governments had set up rural electrification agencies or funds, the impact of such organisations may be hampered by a lack of financial and technical expertise. Hence the need to turn to international institutions and experts for capacity building and green energy finance.

Bangoura agreed that one of the problems his country is struggling with is implementation. “The problems at this level lies in the adaptation of the texts of the country to those governing the Paris Agreement…Hence the importance of this workshop that is focusing on capacity building.”

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World Wakes up to Climate Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/world-wakes-climate-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-wakes-climate-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/world-wakes-climate-migration/#respond Mon, 11 Jun 2018 10:08:28 +0000 Harjeet Singh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156141 Harjeet Singh is Global Lead on Climate Change at ActionAid International and is based in New Delhi*

 

Millions of people worldwide are being displaced by natural disasters triggered partially by climate change, and the international community is finally taking steps to mitigate the suffering

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Climate migration: Natural disasters forced over 18 million people out of their homes in 135 countries just last year

Sahara Begum of Nadagari village in Jamalpur district lost her home and all her assets to the 2017 floods in Bangladesh. Thousands like her now eke out a living in Dhaka and other cities. Credit: Md Sariful Islam / ActionAid

By Harjeet Singh
NEW DELHI, Jun 11 2018 (IPS)

This year is set to be an important milestone in the arduous journey of climate migrants. The global community is now beginning to fathom the challenges of people displaced by events such as floods, storms and sea level rise that are partly fuelled by climate change.

Natural disasters forced over 18 million people out of their homes in 135 countries just last year, according to a new global report released by Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). It highlights that weather-related hazards triggered the vast majority of the displacement, with floods and storms accounting for more than 80% of the incidents. China, the Philippines, Cuba and the US were the worst affected.

“Climate change is becoming a critical driver of displacement risk across the world, in combination with rapid and badly managed urbanisation, and increasing levels of inequality and persistent poverty,” Bina Desai, Head of Policy and Research at IDMC told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

The study further cites that hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria broke several records in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and a series of storms in South and East Asia and Pacific displaced large numbers of people throughout the year.

Highest disaster displacement risk

In South Asia alone, heavy monsoon floods and tropical cyclones have displaced 2.8 million, and in relation to its population size, the region has the highest disaster displacement risk globally. Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are among the 10 countries in the world with highest levels of displacement risk related to sudden-onset events.

In addition, displacement linked to slow-onset events such as sea level rise, desertification and salinisation are displacing millions more, particularly in the Sub-Saharan Africa and Pacific regions.

“No country is immune to climate change impacts anymore,” Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA), told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “South Asia has 22% of the world’s population but it houses 60% of the poor with the least capacity to confront increasing climate impacts.”

Millions of people in the Sundarbans — a unique mangrove ecosystem shared by Bangladesh and India — are already facing the brunt of rising sea and high intensity storms more frequently. These low-lying islands away from the global attention has already seen thousands being displaced, many of them permanently to inland cities, to eke out a living. See: Sinking Sundarbans islands underline climate crisis

Migration gets centre stage

It was the UN climate change summit in the Mexican city of Cancún in 2010 that for the first time recognised the relationship between climate change and different forms of forced human mobility.

It called on governments to “commit to measures to enhance understanding, coordination and cooperation with regard to climate change induced displacement, migration and planned relocation.” Decisions at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summits advanced the agenda in subsequent years. A high-level political boost came at the Paris summit in 2015.

The Paris Agreement not only acknowledged the rights of migrants but also gave a mandate to establish a Task Force on Displacement to provide recommendations to the Conference of Parties (COP), the apex body of the UNFCCC.

A year later, 193 nations at the UN General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, recognising the need for a comprehensive approach to issues related to migration and refugees and enhanced global cooperation.

It decided to start the process in April 2017 to develop a “Global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.” Since then, several consultations have been organised to gather inputs from various regions and stakeholders.

The on-going negotiations will be concluded this July and the General Assembly will then hold an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018 in Morocco to adopt the global compact.

Along the same lines, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) jointly hosted a stakeholder meeting in May on behalf of the UNFCCC Task Force on Displacement.

More than 60 experts from governments, regional organisations, civil society and international organisations contributed in drafting recommendations to avert, minimise and address displacement in the context of climate change.

After the discussion in its forthcoming September meeting, the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage will present the recommendations for adoption at the Katowice Climate Change Conference (COP 24) in December 2018.

“As climate change is already contributing to forced migration and displacement now and will continue to do so in the future, the recommendations of the Task Force can help develop a more prospective approach to managing displacement risk, including more equitable financing and risk reduction,” Desai told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

Migration as adaptation

There is an on-going discussion to consider migration as an adaptation strategy and not just a desperate measure taken by people badly hit by climate impacts. The answer lies in analysing whether the recourse taken by climate victims offers them better quality of life or an unsafe situation devoid of identity and inadequate access to basic services like healthcare, shelter, sanitation and security.

“If we invest in climate action today, we reduce the risks of displacement due to climate change for future generations,” said Dina Ionesco, IOM Head of Migration, Environment and Climate Change division. “It will mean reducing losses and damages that occur when migration is a tragedy and a last resort.”

But, Ionesco added, “We also have to think migration policy and practice with innovative eyes, so as to see how safe and orderly migration can provide solutions and opportunities for people who are affected by climate change to move in a dignified manner.”

All eyes are now on the December climate summit in Poland, with a few rounds of talks in between, when both the UN processes involving almost 200 countries conclude, collectively aiming to protect the safety, dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants.

“Migration remains the only option left for people who permanently lose home and income to climate change impacts,” said Vashist. “The issue requires serious attention from our governments and the global community alike.”

*The views expressed by the author are personal.

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Excerpt:

Harjeet Singh is Global Lead on Climate Change at ActionAid International and is based in New Delhi*

 

Millions of people worldwide are being displaced by natural disasters triggered partially by climate change, and the international community is finally taking steps to mitigate the suffering

The post World Wakes up to Climate Migration appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Great Green Wall Brings Hope, Greener Pastures to Africa’s Sahelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/great-green-wall-brings-hope-greener-pastures-africas-sahel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=great-green-wall-brings-hope-greener-pastures-africas-sahel http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/great-green-wall-brings-hope-greener-pastures-africas-sahel/#respond Mon, 11 Jun 2018 00:01:15 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156134 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

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Great Green Wall Brings Hope, Greener Pastures to Africa’s Sahel - By 2030 the ambition is to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land and sequester 250 million tons of carbon. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

By 2030 the ambition is to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land and sequester 250 million tons of carbon. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
DAKAR, Senegal, Jun 11 2018 (IPS)

Hope, smiles and new vitality seem to be returning slowly but surely in various parts of the Sahel region, where the mighty Sahara Desert has all but ‘eaten’ and degraded huge parts of landscapes, destroying livelihoods and subjecting many communities to extreme poverty.

The unexpected relief has come from the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI), an eight-billion-dollar project launched by the African Union (AU) with the blessing of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the backing of organizations such as the World Bank, the European Union and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The Sahara, an area of 3.5 million square miles, is the largest ‘hot’ desert in the world and home to some 70 species of mammals, 90 species of resident birds and 100 species of reptiles, according to DesertUSA.

 

Restoring landscapes

The GGW aims to restore Africa’s degraded landscapes and transform millions of lives in one of the world’s poorest regions. This will be done by, among others, planting a wall of trees in more than 20 countries – westward from Gambia to eastward in Djibouti – over 7,600 km long and 15 km wide across the continent.

The countries include Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Senegal. There is also Algeria, Egypt, Gambia, Eritrea, Somalia, Cameroon, Ghana, Togo and Benin.

 

A girl learns about the project through a virtual reality headset. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

A girl learns about the project through a virtual reality headset. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

 

Popularity

Elvis Paul Nfor Tangem, AU’s GGWSSI coordinator, told IPS that the project was doing well, gaining popularity and generating many other ideas as the implementation gains momentum.

Tangem also said that the AU had begun working with the Secretariat of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Namibian government for the extension of the GGWSSI concept to the dry lands of the Southern Africa region.

Namibia, which borders South Africa, is located between the Namib and Kalahari deserts. Namib, from which the country draws its name, is believed to be the world’s oldest desert.

 

Largest project ever

If the GGW is indeed extended to Southern Africa, it will take the number of countries drawn to the project to over 20, making it one of the world’s largest projects ever.

Fundraising for beneficiaries countries is being done through bilateral negotiations, as well as through national investments, the AU said.

International partners including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Sahara and Sahel Observatory (SSO), among others, are also playing a critical role to ensure that the project is being successfully implemented, and upon its completion by 2030 will become the world’s largest living structure and a new Wonder of the World.

 

The icon of GGW shows the path of the Great Green Wall. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

The icon of GGW shows the path of the Great Green Wall. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

 

Food security

The GGW is set to create thousands of jobs for those who live along its path and boost food security and resilience to climate change in the Sahel, one of the driest parts of the world, where the FAO said an estimated 29.2 million people are food insecure.

The project founders said that by 2030 the ambition is to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land and sequester 250 million tons of carbon.

Asked if the project is being implementing one country after the other, Elvis replied: “The implementation of the initiative is first and famous country-based, meaning all the countries are undertaking implementation at their levels.

“However, the common factor among all the countries is the fact that their activities are based on the Harmonized Regional Strategy and their National Action Plans (NAP). We are supporting the production of the NAP in Cameroon and Ghana and also working on the SADC region.”

 

Returning home?

In Senegal, a total of 75 direct jobs and 1,800 indirect jobs, including in the nurseries sector and multipurpose gardens, have already been created through the GGW in the last six years, according to official statistics.

Also in Senegal, where desertification has slashed 34% of its area, the GGW has since ‘recovered’ just over 40,000 hectares out of the 817,500 hectares planned for the project. This is good news for people like Ibrahima Ba and his family who left their homeland to move to Dakar in the quest of greener pastures.

Now, he is contemplating a return home. “I’m planning to go back towards the end of the year to rebuild my shattered life. The Sahara hasn’t done anybody any favor by taking away our livelihood,” Ba, a livestock farmer Peul from northern Senegal, told IPS.

An estimated 300,000 people live in the three provinces crossed by the GGW in Senegal.

 

Participatory approach

However, Marine Gauthier, an environmental expert for the Rights and Resources’ Initiative, (RRI) said a participatory approach was needed if the project was to be implemented successfully.

“In a conflictual region, where people depend on the land for their survival and where there are numerous transhumance activities from herders peoples (Peuls) potentially impacted by the project, a careful participatory approach is needed,” Gauthier said.

“Conflicts have already arisen a couple of years ago with Peuls (herders practicing transhumance, whose travels were to be restrained by the project). Just like any other environmental protection project, its capacity to engage with local communities, to make them first beneficiaries of the project, is the key to its success on the long term.

“Participatory mapping is a very successful tool that has been used within other projects and that could be of great help in defining and establishing the Great Green Wall,” Gauthier said.

Furthermore, Gauthier said empowering communities would be very interesting at the scale of the Great Green Wall. “It would take a lot of efforts, consultations, financial and human resources. It is however the only way to ensure that this project, which people are talking about for more than 10 years now, reaches its goal.

“Because when the communities are empowered and when their rights on the land are secured, it benefits directly to the environment and to preserving this land from more damage.”

The post Great Green Wall Brings Hope, Greener Pastures to Africa’s Sahel appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

The post Great Green Wall Brings Hope, Greener Pastures to Africa’s Sahel appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Plastic Tsunamis Threaten Coast in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/plastic-tsunamis-threaten-coast-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=plastic-tsunamis-threaten-coast-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/plastic-tsunamis-threaten-coast-latin-america/#respond Sun, 03 Jun 2018 08:47:56 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156036 This article is part of special IPS coverage for World Environment Day, on June 5, whose theme this year is “Beat Plastic Pollution”.

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Volunteers from the Peruvian Institute for the Protection of the Environment Vida clean up the waste washed up by the sea on the coast near Lima. Half of the 6,000 tonnes of marine debris collected by the organisation since 1998, with the support of 200,000 volunteers, is disposable plastic. Credit: Courtesy of Vida

Volunteers from the Peruvian Institute for the Protection of the Environment Vida clean up the waste washed up by the sea on the coast near Lima. Half of the 6,000 tonnes of marine debris collected by the organisation since 1998, with the support of 200,000 volunteers, is disposable plastic. Credit: Courtesy of Vida

By Fabiana Frayssinet
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 3 2018 (IPS)

Although Latin America produces just five percent of the world’s plastic, it imports billions of tons annually for the use of all kinds of products, some of which end up in the sea as garbage.

It thus contributes to this kind of artificial tsunami that threatens the biodiversity of the oceans, where 13 million tons of waste, mostly disposable plastics, are dumped each year at a global level, according to UN Environment – enough to wrap around the Earth four times.

The impact is such that it also affects human health, as this resistant waste enters the food chain, and has led the United Nations to declare “Beat Plastic Pollution” as the theme for this year’s World Environment Day, on Jun. 5."Plastic discarded improperly on beaches, rivers and the sewers ends up in the sea and causes the death of thousands of marine animals every year. Drinking straws, cigarette butts, caps, plastic bags, improperly discarded, represent the highest percentage of environmentally hazardous materials for marine wildlife." -- Marcelo Szpilman

Favoured by a 3,000-km coastline on the Pacific Ocean, with one of the world’s most nutrient-rich waters, Peru was one of the first Latin American countries to join the Clean Seas campaign, launched a year ago by UN Environment.

The global campaign aims to eliminate by 2022 the main sources of marine debris, which can remain in ecosystems for 500 years. There are five identified ‘islands’ of plastic rubbish in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, one of them between Chile and Peru.

“We have witnessed firsthand the serious impacts of different types of waste, including plastic in our seas,” said Ursula Carrascal, project coordinator for the Institute for the Protection of the Environment Vida in Peru.

For 20 years, the organisation has been leading a campaign to clean up beaches and coastlines in this Andean country, involving all sectors of society.

According to Carrascal, the problem is exacerbated when the country suffers additional damage caused by natural disasters, such as the “La Niña” phenomenon that in 2017 caused flooding and the shifting of tons of waste accumulated on river banks.

“Marquez Beach in Callao was literally covered in garbage for three km. Many beaches are now gone, fishing boats and artisanal fishermen are affected by the damage to their nets or engines caused by plastic,” she told IPS from Lima.

The country, according to the Environment Ministry, generates 6.8 million tons of solid waste. Lima and the neighbouring port city of Callao alone generate an estimated three million tons per year. Of that total, 53 percent is organic waste, and in second place comes plastic, accounting for 11 percent, a percentage in line with the world average.

In fact, half of the 6,000 tons of marine debris collected by Vida since 1998, with the support of 200,000 volunteers, is plastic.

“There is a strong concern about the risk in the field of food safety due to the plastic accidentally ingested by fish,” Carrascal said.

The governmental Marine Institute of Peru has been studying the impact of microplastic (less than five mm long) on Peruvian beaches and in the digestive tract of fish for years. A 2017 report found 473 plastic fragments per square metre on a beach in Callao.

The British Ellen MacArthur Foundation, dedicated to promoting the circular economy – based on the reduction of both new materials and waste, to create loops of recycling – warns that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans and reminds us that all marine life eats this waste.

One of the consequences, say scientists at Ghent University in Belgium, is that when you eat fish and seafood, you ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic, a material most commonly derived from petrochemicals, every year.

In Brazil, a country with more than 9,000 km of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, a marine aquarium was inaugurated in October 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. AquaRío, which promotes environmental education and scientific research for biodiversity conservation, is the institution with which the Clean Seas campaign was launched.

Guanabara bay, a symbol of Río de Janeiro, Brazil which until recently was surrounded by waste, mainly plastic, along its shores, has changed thanks to new awareness among groups like fisherpersons, who are helping to keep it clean. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Guanabara bay, a symbol of Río de Janeiro, Brazil which until recently was surrounded by waste, mainly plastic, along its shores, has changed thanks to new awareness among groups like fisherpersons, who are helping to keep it clean. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

“Plastic discarded improperly on beaches, rivers and the sewers ends up in the sea and causes the death of thousands of marine animals every year. Drinking straws, cigarette butts, caps, plastic bags, improperly discarded, represent the highest percentage of environmentally hazardous materials for marine wildlife,” director Marcelo Szpilman told IPS.

“The remains of nets, fishing lines, ropes and plastic bags abandoned in the sea remain in the environment for many years due to their low biodegradability and end up injuring or killing countless animals that end up entangled and die by asphyxiation or starvation,” added the marine biologist.

To raise awareness among children about this silent killing at sea, the aquarium uses the image of mermaids dying from the ingestion of plastic.

This happens in reality in the oceans to fish, birds, seals, turtles and dolphins that confuse floating plastic waste with octopuses, squid, jellyfish and other species that they eat.

“Dolphins have been found with their stomachs full of city trash. Cigarette butts, the most widely collected item in all beach clean-up campaigns, have caused the death of animals that swallow them mistaking them for fish eggs,” Szpilman said.

In addition, he noted, “a plastic bag drifting at sea is easily mistaken for a jellyfish, which is a food for several species of sea turtles, which as a result can die from asphyxiation.

According to experts, in Brazil and other Latin American countries, the problem is combated with isolated initiatives, such as the banning of plastic bags in supermarkets, when what is needed is a broader change in the model of plastic production and consumption.

But some things have started to be done.

In Peru, for example, Vida has coordinated actions with the waste management industry to promote the circular economy model through recycling chains with the waste collected in coastal cleanups throughout the country.

This work has been carried out not only with large industry but also with small and medium-sized enterprises and the National Movement of Recyclers of Peru.

“Greater efforts and investment in recycling technology are needed to solve the plastic problem. In Peru, much of the plastic waste collected, although it could be 100 percent recycled, is not recycled because there are no recycling plants, due to lack of knowledge or lack of adequate technology,” Carrascal said.

In his opinion, “great progress is being made in the separation of waste from primary sources, but this cycle ends when the waste ends again in a landfill.”

The Peruvian model of waste management in the marine ecosystem has been used as a reference point in other countries of the Southeast Pacific, including Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Panama.

The post Plastic Tsunamis Threaten Coast in Latin America appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of special IPS coverage for World Environment Day, on June 5, whose theme this year is “Beat Plastic Pollution”.

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World Environment Day Highlights Deadly Cost of Plastichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/world-environment-day-highlights-deadly-cost-plastic/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-environment-day-highlights-deadly-cost-plastic http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/world-environment-day-highlights-deadly-cost-plastic/#respond Thu, 31 May 2018 23:58:08 +0000 Sopho Kharazi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156013 On June 5th, World Environment Day will be hosted in India under the banner of “Beat Plastic Pollution,” aiming to raise awareness and civic engagement alongside creating a global movement to reduce the amount of plastic in the environment. World Environment Day addresses four main campaigns. First, it seeks to decrease the amount of single-use […]

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Food Waste Enough to Feed World’s Hungry Four Times Overhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/food-waste-enough-feed-worlds-hungry-four-times/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-waste-enough-feed-worlds-hungry-four-times http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/food-waste-enough-feed-worlds-hungry-four-times/#comments Mon, 28 May 2018 17:17:58 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155952 The United Nations is continuing to fight a relentless battle to eradicate extreme hunger – particularly in the world’s poorest nations—by 2030. But it is battling against severe odds: an estimated 800 million people still live in hunger— amidst a warning that the world needs to produce at least 50 percent more food to feed […]

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Food Waste Enough to Feed World’s Hungry Four Times Over

Poland wastes at least 8.9 million tonnes of food every year. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu / IPS

By Thalif Deen
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, May 28 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations is continuing to fight a relentless battle to eradicate extreme hunger – particularly in the world’s poorest nations—by 2030.

But it is battling against severe odds: an estimated 800 million people still live in hunger— amidst a warning that the world needs to produce at least 50 percent more food to feed the growing 9.0 billion people by 2050—20 years beyond the UN’s goal.

Still, the World Bank predicts that climate change could cut crop yields by more than 25 percent undermining the current attempts to fight hunger.

The hunger crisis has been aggravated by widespread military conflicts – even as the Security Council, the most powerful body at the United Nations, was called upon last month to play a greater role in “breaking the link between hunger and conflict.”

Holding out the prospect of wiping out famine “within our lifetime”, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Security Council that almost two thirds of people living in hunger were in conflict-stricken countries.

He singled out war-devastated Yemen, South Sudan and north-eastern Nigeria, which still faced severe levels of hunger, while the food security situation in Ethiopia, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo was “extremely worrying”.

In an interview with IPS, Alessandro Demaio, Chief Executive Officer of the Norway-based EAT, an organization promoting healthy and sustainable food for all, said: “At EAT, our mission is a simple but ambitious one: to transform the global food system and enable us to feed a growing global population with healthy food from a healthy planet – leaving no-one behind.”

“We do this by bringing together leading actors from business, science, policy and civil society to close scientific knowledge gaps, translate research into action, scale up solutions, raise awareness and create engagement,” he noted.

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: One of the UN’s 17 SDGs (Goal 2, Zero Hunger) aims to eradicate extreme hunger – particularly in the world’s poorest nations– by 2030. Do you thinks this is feasible?

Demaio: Food is, in one way or another, linked to all UNs 17 Sustainable Development Goals. As a doctor, it deeply concerns me that more than 800 million people go hungry and more than two billion are overweight or obese, worldwide. These numbers are accompanied by a ballooning epidemic of diet-related and preventable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers.

We´re not only producing what makes us sick and destroys the planet, we continue to subsidize it with billions of dollars annually. It is the worlds’ poor and the communities who are least responsible for creating them who are disproportionately affected by these trends.
While working in Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Cambodia at the frontlines, I saw firsthand how hunger has many forms. Undernutrition manifests in children in two key ways: by becoming dangerously thin for their height (wasting), or permanently impeding their growth (stunting). In the other extreme, populations with calorie dense but nutrient-poor diets drive the global burden of overweight and obesity.

There is a deeply unjust disconnect between food availability and quality in different parts of the world. One third of all food produced gets lost or goes to waste — that’s enough to feed all of the world’s hungry four times over!

But slow response to increasing pressures from climate change and increasing social inequalities means that not everyone gets access to the right foods. In fact the United Nations last year declared that hunger, after more than a decade in decline, was on the rise again.

I do believe that we can reach zero hunger by 2030. We have many of the solutions to do so, such as connecting smallholder farmers to markets, removing barriers to trade and boosting food production sustainably.

But we just need the political will to match, and to get stakeholders across sectors, borders and disciplines to work together and pull in the same direction.

Food is our number one global health challenge and a formidable climate threat. We´re not only producing what makes us sick and destroys the planet, we continue to subsidize it with billions of dollars annually. It is the worlds’ poor and the communities who are least responsible for creating them who are disproportionately affected by these trends.

 

IPS: What is your agenda to help reform the global food system, including increasing agricultural productivity, and recycling food waste?

Demaio: In our work to reform the global food system, we at EAT connect and partner across science, policy, business and civil society to achieve five urgent and radical transformations by 2050:

  1. Shift the world to healthy, tasty and sustainable diets;
  2. Realign food system priorities for people and planet;
  3. Produce more of the right food, from less;
  4. Safeguard our land and oceans; and
  5. Radically reduce food losses and waste.

About 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted every year, that’s an estimated one in three mouthfuls of food every day. In poorer nations, this waste generally occurs pre-market and can be part-solved by simple technologies in supply chains including transport, packaging and refrigeration. Technological interventions such as precision agriculture or investments in post-harvest processes will make huge differences.

In wealthier countries, the majority of waste occurs after market, in supermarkets and in our homes. This is where buying less but more frequently, avoiding impulse buys and taking measures to reduce the “buy one get one free” that incentivize over-purchasing, are all key.

 

IPS: The world needs to produce at least 50 percent more food to feed the growing 9.0 billion people by 2050. Is this target achievable because climate change can cause devastation to crop yields?

Demaio: The bad news is that modern agriculture doesn’t feed us all and it does not feed us well. The good news is that we have never had a bigger opportunity, more knowledge or the ingenuity and skills to fix it.

Increasing investment in harvesting infrastructure combined with improving access to markets and technology can result in minimizing field losses for farmers in low and middle-income countries, as well as help to pull millions out of poverty. In high income countries, business and consumers have a transformative role to play in reducing wasted food.

Through new business models, improved production, packaging and educational campaigns, businesses can nudge consumers in the right direction. By nudging better purchasing habits, better evaluations of portion size and improving food preparation techniques, consumers can dive headlong towards a circular food economy. Every pound of food saved from loss or waste will create economic, health and environmental gains.

Through working with remote communities, health professionals, and science and business leaders, I have seen how plant-based dietary trends have fueled a rediscovery of countless crop varieties with promising nutritional and environmental profiles.

With their abilities to deliver ‘more crop per drop’ and withstand unpredictable seasonal changes, diversifying what we grow can help meet local and global nutrition needs. In contrast, gene editing or lab grown meats offer to increase productivity, nutrition and tolerance to environmental uncertainties.

Essentially, the future of agriculture doesn’t lie in intensive expansion only — it lies in the harnessing of holistic, precise and tech savvy methods that enhance the production of more nutritious and more climate resilient foods.

 

IPS: How are ongoing military conflicts, particularly in Asia and Africa, affecting the world’s food supplies?

Demaio: Major regional or national conflicts have often profound impacts on food supplies as they disrupt society. Conflicts often originate from a competition over control of the factors of food production, such as land and water.

A growing global population, lower yields and diminished nutrient content of some crops due to changing climatic conditions contribute to increasing stress, raising the risk of civil unrest or military conflict. Countries under the greatest stress often have the least capability to adequately respond to civil unrest.

Contexts are important and whether it is climate change, food shortages, water crises, ocean sustainability, or geopolitical conflicts — many or most are interlinked.

An example of this is how ocean acidification and warming impacts fishery yields and the redistribution of already overfished and stressed fish stocks, which can cause new geopolitical tensions. Given that many of these challenges are intertwined, they also present common opportunities for co-mitigation.

 

IPS: What is the primary goal of the upcoming EAT forum in Stockholm, June 11-12? What’s on the agenda?

Demaio: Feeding a healthy and sustainable diet to a future population of almost 10 billion will be a monumental challenge, but it is within our reach. The EAT Stockholm Food Forum is a contribution to solving this challenge. The concept is simple genius — my favorite kind.

Bring together innovators, leaders and forward thinkers who usually rarely meet but are working on interrelated, global challenges — food systems, climate change, food security, global health and sustainable development. Put them in one room and get them to share ideas, share best practice, share the latest research and hopefully reshape the broken systems driving our planetary shortcomings.

This year we’re hosting the fifth EAT Stockholm Food Forum in partnership with the Government of Sweden. We have an incredible line-up of speakers, including: World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva; climate leader Christiana Figueres, an architect of the historic Paris Climate Agreement; Sam Kass, chef and former chief nutritionist to the Obama Administration; plus a host of global food heroes representing twenty-nine countries and six continents.

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When Two Becomes One: Blending Public and Private Climate Financehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/two-becomes-one-blending-public-private-climate-finance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=two-becomes-one-blending-public-private-climate-finance http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/two-becomes-one-blending-public-private-climate-finance/#comments Wed, 23 May 2018 05:27:21 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155888 With the landmark Paris Agreement now almost two years old, funding for climate-related activities continues to be a challenge. However, efforts have been underway to bring two seemingly very different sectors together to address climate change. While developed countries have committed to channeling 100 billion dollars to developing countries by 2020, trillions may be needed […]

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The Erie Shores wind farm in Ontario, Canada. Credit: Denise Morazé/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 23 2018 (IPS)

With the landmark Paris Agreement now almost two years old, funding for climate-related activities continues to be a challenge. However, efforts have been underway to bring two seemingly very different sectors together to address climate change.

While developed countries have committed to channeling 100 billion dollars to developing countries by 2020, trillions may be needed in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

“Trying to address climate change at current financing levels is like walking into a Category 5 hurricane protected by only an umbrella,” said head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Patricia Espinosa during a conference.

“Right now, we are talking in millions and billions of dollars when we should be speaking in trillions,” she continued.

Achieving the ambitious climate goals set out by the international community will require major financial investments by both the public and private sectors in order to fill funding gaps.

It also requires coming up with ways for the two sectors to work together.

“International organizations such as the Global Green Institute (GGGI) and development banks are trying and testing different structures, different methods of financing, different blends of public and private financing all the time. And occasionally, things work,” GGGI’s Principal Climate Finance Specialist Fenella Aouane told IPS.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF), set up by UNFCC, was given an important role to serve the Paris Agreement and has since used public investment to mobilize private finance towards low-emission, climate-resilient development.

In March, the GCF approved concessional funding to 23 projects in developing countries valued together at 1 billion dollars.

“This large volume of projects for both mitigation and adaptation – and the additional USD 60 million for readiness support – shows that GCF is ready to shift gear in supporting developing countries to achieve their climate goals…. The projects adopted here will make a real impact in the face of climate challenges,” said GCF Co-Chair Paul Oquist.

Aouane echoed similar sentiments about GCF’s efforts to IPS, stating: “They are testing the waters but that was a very good move by the GCF to say if we’re going to get the private sector, we have got to start dealing with them.”

And waving a magic wand won’t get the private sector, whose sole purpose is to make profits, to funnel money into climate mitigation and adaptation.

“[We need] to make projects more attractive for private sector investment. Reduce the costs, reduce the risks, and do a few using that concessional funding to show that they worked,” Aouane said.

Already, successes can be seen in renewable energy development.

With the help of concessional finance and continued political will, there has been a boom in renewable energy development across the world, opening the door to more players.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the private sector paved the way in renewable energy investment in 2016, providing 92 percent of funding compared to 8 percent from the public sector.

This has helped rapidly reduce the cost of renewable energy, which is set to be cheaper than fossil fuels by 2020.

In fact, solar and wind energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels in many parts of the world.

The forestry sector, on the other hand, is finding it more difficult to attract investments, Aouane told IPS.

“Forestry is a struggle in the sense of what is return, where do you make your money in a project?” she said.

But there is an ongoing initiative by the aviation industry that could help protect forests, Aouane noted.

In an effort to offset its carbon emissions, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has looked to buy credits from projects that reduce emissions such as forestry.

This could not only help level out their emissions, but also help nations protect their forests from deforestation and ensure biodiversity.

“If they do this, then there will be a possible clear return for investors in forestry because they will be able to purchase the forest and then sell the emission reduction assets to an airline who will pay for it. If the price is sufficient, then it’s attractive enough for the private sector,” Aouane said.

The idea has been controversial, however, with environmental groups noting that the move is not enough to substantially offset or reduce emissions.

The environmental group Fern also found that the Virgin Atlantic airline’s carbon offsetting projects in Cambodia have actually led to local residents being “exploited and kicked off their land,” while another project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by Austrian Airlines and the San Diego Airport has resulted in increased deforestation.

Other challenges arise when bringing together two very different sectors with different goals, Aouane said.

“Using some World Bank finance and some GCF finance is relatively simple because they are both heading in the same direction culturally. But when the private sector gets involved, there can often be an issue with trying to get mindsets to work together,” she told IPS.

“You can imagine that the mindsets are very different about how you put a deal together and how you actually get the motives right that the project is right for everybody,” Aouane continued.

The GCF provides a model for bringing the two sectors together, and its new projects could help the private sector become even more involved. But it will take time, Aouane said.

“There is work happening, but I think quite often people forget how long it takes for things to change…but it will get done,” Aouane said.

The post When Two Becomes One: Blending Public and Private Climate Finance appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Shipping and Industry Threaten Famed Home of the Bengal Tigerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 11:23:43 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155835 Toxic chemical pollution in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, is threatening thousands of marine and forest species and has environmentalists deeply concerned about the future of this World Heritage Site. Repeated mishaps have already dumped toxic materials like sulfur, hydrocarbons, chorine, magnesium, potassium, arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, […]

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A sunken ship after it was salvaged in the Sundarbans last year. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A sunken ship after it was salvaged in the Sundarbans last year. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Bangladesh, May 19 2018 (IPS)

Toxic chemical pollution in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, is threatening thousands of marine and forest species and has environmentalists deeply concerned about the future of this World Heritage Site.

Repeated mishaps have already dumped toxic materials like sulfur, hydrocarbons, chorine, magnesium, potassium, arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, chromium, selenium, radium and many more into the waters. They’re killing plankton – a microscopic organism critical for the survival of marine life inside the wild forest."Obviously, such cargo accidents involving shipment of toxic heavy metals inside the Sundarbans would have irreversible impacts on this unique and compact ecosystem." --Sharif Jamil

Scientific studies warn the sudden drastic fall in the plankton population may affect the entire food chain in the Sundarbans in the near future, starving the life in the rivers and in the forest.

The latest incident involved the sinking of a coal-loaded cargo ship on April 14 deep inside the forest, popularly known as the home of the endangered Royal Bengal Tigers, once again outraging environmentalists.

Despite strong opposition by leading environmental organizations vowing to protect the biodiversity in the Sundarbans, which measure about 10,000 square kilometers of forest facing the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh in South Asia, policy makers have largely ignored conservation laws that prioritise protecting the wildlife in the forest.

Critics say influential businessmen backed by politicians are more interested in building industries on cheap land around the forest that lie close to the sea for effortless import of the substances causing the environmental damage.

Divers from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) have traced the latest sunken vessel lying some 30 feet deep underwater, but they have not been able to salvage the ship.

It is the third to have capsized in less than two years in the ecologically sensitive region, some of which remains untouched by human habitation.

The deadliest accident occurred on Dec. 9, 2014. Amid low visibility, an oil tanker collided with a cargo vessel, spilling over 350,000 liters of crude oil into the Shela River, one of the many tributaries that crisscross the forest – home to rare wildlife species like the Bengal Tiger and Irrawaddy dolphin.

Then, in May 2017, a cargo ship carrying about 500 metric tons of fertilizer sank in the Bhola River in the Sundarbans. In October the same year, a coal-laden vessel carrying an almost equal weight of coal sunk into the meandering shallow Pashur River.

Each time toxic materials pollute the rivers, the government comes up with a consoling statement claiming that the coal has ‘safe’ levels of sulfur and mercury which are the main concern of the environmentalists.

Outraged by official inaction, many leading conservationists expressed their grievances at this “green-washing.”

Sharif Jamil, Joint Secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon or BAPA, told IPS, “I feel ashamed to know that such a scientifically untrue and dishonest statement of one cargo owner (safe level of sulfur and mercury) was endorsed by our government in their reports and acts which significantly damages the credibility of the government and questions the competency of the concerned authorities.”

“Obviously, such cargo accidents involving shipment of toxic heavy metals inside the Sundarbans would have irreversible impacts on this unique and compact ecosystem,” he said.

Jamil criticized the state agency responsible for protecting the environment, saying, “The department of environment or DoE has responsibility to monitor and control the pollution by ensuring punishment to the polluters. We have not witnessed any action from DoE so far, in this case particularly.”

While coal may not be as environmentally destructive as crude oil spill, the commercial shipping path across the Sundarbans has a long track record of disasters.

Professor Abdullah Harun, who teaches environmental science at the University of Khulna, told IPS, “The cargo ship disasters are proving to be catastrophic and destructive for the wildlife in the Sundarbans. We have already performed a series of studies titled ‘Impact of Oil Spillage on the Environment of Sundarbans’.

“Laboratory tests showed startling results as the toxic levels in many dead species and water samples were found way beyond our imagination. The most alarming is the loss of phytoplankton and zooplankton diversity and populations. Both these are known to play vital role in the food chain of the aquatic environment.”

Professor Harun fears that the embryos of oil-coated Sundari seeds, decomposed as a result of the spillage across 350 square km of land, will not be germinating. Sundari trees make up the mangrove forest and it has specialised roots which emerge above ground and help in gaseous exchange.

He said, “A primary producer of the aquatic ecosystems, source of food and nutrient of the many aquatic animals, has been affected by the oil spill in 2014. The aquatic population will be decreased and long-term impacts on aquatic lives like loss of breeding capacity, habitat loss, injury of respiratory organs, hearts and skins will occur.”

He said, “Our team of scientists tested for the fish larvae population. Before the 2014 disaster we found about 6,000 larvae in a litre of water collected from rivers in the Sundarbans. After the disaster we carried out the same test but found less than half (2,500 fish larvae) in the same amount of water. This is just one species I am talking about. Isn’t it alarming enough?”

Following the latest incident, the government imposed a ban on cargo ships using the narrow channels of the Pashur River where most of the vessels sail. But there are fears that the ban will only be a temporary measure as seen in the past. After the December 2014 oil spill, a similar ban on commercial cargo was lifted soon after.

These ‘ban games’ on cargo vessels will not solve the underlying problems in the Sundarbans. Several hundred activists recently marched towards the mangrove forest in Bagerhat to protest plans to build a coal-based power plant near the Sundarbans near Rampal. The activists called on the government to stop construction of the proposed 1.3-gigawatt Rampal Power Plant, which is located about 14-km upstream of the forest.

Environmentalists are also worried about rapid industrialization near the Sundarbans. The Department of Environment (DoE) has identified 190 commercial and industrial plants operating within 10 kilometres of the forest.

It has labeled ‘red’ 24 of these establishments as they are dangerously close to the world heritage site and polluting the soil, water and air of the world’s largest mangrove forest.

Eminent environmentalist Professor Ainun Nishat, told IPS, “My main worries are whether the main concerns for safety of the wildlife in the forest is being overlooked.”

Professor Nishat said, “If we allow movement of vessels to carry shipments through the forest then I like to question a few things like, where does the coal come from? What do we do with the fly ash from cement and other materials? How and where do we dispose of the waste and do we have the cooling waters for safety?”

“What we need is a strategic impact assessment before any such industrial plant is established so that we can be safe before we repeat such mishaps,” said Nishat.

Statistics from the Mongla (sea) Port Authority show that navigation in the Sundarbans waterways has increased 236 percent in the last seven years. This means vessel-based regular pollution may continue to impact the world’s largest mangrove habitat’s health even if disasters like the Sundarbans oil spill can be prevented.

Increasing volume of shipping and navigation indicates growing industrialisation in the Sundarbans Impact Zone and the Sundarbans Ecologically Critical Area, which in turn will increase the land-based source of pollution if not managed.

The Sundarbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which hosts range of animals and fish like fishing cats, leopard cats, macaques, wild boar, fox, jungle cat, flying fox, pangolin, chital, sawfish, butter fish, electric rays, silver carp, starfish, common carp, horseshoe crabs, prawn, shrimps, Gangetic dolphins, skipping frogs, common toads and tree frogs.

There are over 260 species of birds, including openbill storks, black-capped kingfishers, black-headed ibis, water hens, coots, pheasant-tailed jacanas, pariah kites, brahminy kite, marsh harriers, swamp partridges and red junglefowl.

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