Inter Press Service » Environment http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:05:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Devastating Droughts Continue as El Nino Subsideshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/devastating-droughts-continue-as-el-nino-subsides/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=devastating-droughts-continue-as-el-nino-subsides http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/devastating-droughts-continue-as-el-nino-subsides/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 20:21:17 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146171 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/devastating-droughts-continue-as-el-nino-subsides/feed/ 0 San Juan City: The Smart City of the Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/san-juan-city-the-smart-city-of-the-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=san-juan-city-the-smart-city-of-the-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/san-juan-city-the-smart-city-of-the-future/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 17:47:11 +0000 Felino Palafox http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146173 By Felino A. Palafox, JR.
Jul 21 2016 (Manila Times)

The Philippines has so much to offer to the world, not only ecological treasures by way of tourism, but brilliant minds, visionaries, and craftsmen. Other nations find the uniqueness and diversity of our ecology unimaginable—such as having the third-longest coastline in the world as well as endemic species of plants and animals. Another unimaginable phenomenon, our economy remains strong despite the fact we are crossed by an average of 21 typhoons a year and is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire—prone to eruption of active volcanoes, and earthquakes.

FELINO A. PALAFOX, JR.

FELINO A. PALAFOX, JR.

Despite all this, and insurmountable corruption through the years, the world is proudly calling us as one of the emerging tiger economies in the world. Not many people know, today, we are the 39th largest economy in the world. And I believe if we address corruption, criminality, climate change, and other national issues, we can become part of the top 20 economies in the world by March 16, 2021, when the Philippines celebrates its 500 years.

Smart cities
Two concepts are used interchangeably: Green Cities and Smart Cities. There are only slight differences between the concepts. Green Cities refer more to the passive integration of architecture and urban plan to the overall ecosystem. This concept is concerned in keeping carbon emissions sustainable, and manageable enough for the livability of the city. Smart Cities, on the other hand, are more focused in pro-active actions in becoming a green city—integrating technology, innovation, and citizenship in making the entire ecosystem and city livable. Though slightly different, both concepts are actions toward a more livable and sustainable quality of life.

In 2013, a project titled “Reshaping San Juan City: Planning Toward a Future of Green Consciousness” was awarded in Berlin, Germany. The event called “Smart City: The Next Generation” was organized by Aedes East-International Architecture Forum.

The formulation of the “Comprehensive Land Use and Zoning Plan for San Juan City,” done by our firm Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture, was applauded by the international community as a model city plan. San Juan City was called the “Smart City of the Future.” I was invited to present in a forum in Berlin, New York, and Shanghai the plans for San Juan and “Postcards From the Future.”

San Juan: Smart City
At the peak or at the highest point of Barangay Addition Hills, one can enjoy the scenery of a beautiful sunset. A kilometer down the hill lays access to one of Manila’s main river systems: San Juan River. Going to Ortigas Ave., one will pass by a barangay fondly named “Little Baguio,” used to be known for its towering pine trees and cool temperature. Apart from the special ecological terrain of San Juan City, Pinaglabanan Shrine heritage site known as the site for the start of the Filipino-American war.

There are five emphases in the plan for San Juan: land use, zoning, mobility, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster responsiveness. San Juan has a hilly terrain that is situated along one of the major river systems of Manila, citizens who work and live in San Juan always experience floods. During the wrath of Typhoon Ondoy, in 2009, many portions of the city were submerged.

The mobility plan focuses on being mass-transit-engaged and pedestrian-oriented. It gives priority to walking, biking, and commuting over private cars and vehicles. One of the major causes of systemic traffic congestion is prioritizing cars over public transit, walking and biking. The plan dedicates bike lanes and elevated walkways that connect the buildings and streets to the LRT stations. An elevated monorail was also proposed to connect various areas of San Juan with the LRT stations in Aurora and EDSA-MRT.

By creating elevated walkways for pedestrians, it prepared the entire city during flooding. Instead of people bracing the floods going to work, school, or home, the elevated walkways allow people to move in safety. It also puts people out of harm’s way because they do need to walk beside speeding cars or very narrow streets.

On the other hand, the plan also integrated a flood detection and awareness system. The citizens were asked to be involved in identifying areas that always get flooded, and electric posts were painted with flood-height measurements. Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture created flood overlay zones and Hazard overlay zones for the city of San Juan when it was still not a national requirement for the Comprehensive Land Use Plans and Zoning Ordinance. (Thankfully, it is now a requirement.)

Another recommendation is to bring down of high walls. The concept is known as “Eyes on the street” and “Security by Design.” Lessons I’ve learned elsewhere say that criminals are not afraid of walls and high gates because people wouldn’t know a crime is happening inside the house. Compared to a street where everyone has a view, criminals are more afraid with more eyes on the street. They should also be coupled with the installation of CCTV cameras and integrated police patrol.

One of the recommendations for the zoning ordinance is the transfer of air rights. Lot owners can sell the air right of the property if they do not plan to construct a much taller structure.

Future city plan for implementation
The plan is feasible and viable. It helps that the international community is keeping an eye on San Juan City’s transformation based on our plan. Often, plans for the future are not implemented due to bureaucratic red tape.

In my observation of thousands of cities and 67countries I’ve been to, what we need are: visionary leadership, strong political will, good design, good planning, and good governance. With the vision, mission, values, and goals of San Juan translated in a plan, the city has a bright future.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Economic Recovery Needed To Enhance Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/economic-recovery-needed-to-enhance-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-recovery-needed-to-enhance-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/economic-recovery-needed-to-enhance-food-security/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 12:40:15 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146164 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jul 21 2016 (IPS)

After a half century of decline, agricultural commodity prices rose with oil prices in the 1970s, and again for a decade until 2014. Food prices rose sharply from the middle of the last decade, but have been declining since 2012, and especially since last year, triggering concerns of declining investments by farmers.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Earlier predictions of permanently high food prices have thus become less credible. Higher prices were said to reflect slowing supply growth as demand continues to grow with rising food needs for humans and livestock, and bio-fuel mandates introduced a decade ago on both sides of the North Atlantic.

Prices had become increasingly volatile, with successively higher peaks in 2007-08, 2010-11 and mid-2012. Some food price volatility had its origins in climate change-related extreme weather events in key exporting countries.

‘Financialization’, including linking commodity derivatives with other financial asset markets, also worsened price volatility in the second half of the last decade.

With three food price spikes over five years, food insecurity was widely seen as a major challenge. Higher and more volatile food prices seemed to threaten the lives of billions. But the FAO food price index peaked in 2012, years after the 2007-2008 food price spike triggered many mass protests.

Official development assistance for agriculture has fallen for decades despite the expressed desire by many developing countries to raise such investments. Meanwhile, rich countries have continued to subsidize and protect their farmers, undermining food production in developing countries, and transforming Africa from a net food exporter in the 1980s into a net food importer in the new century.

Food investments for economic recovery

Meanwhile, economic recovery efforts are needed more than ever in the face of protracted economic stagnation. A global counter-cyclical recovery strategy in response to the crisis should contain three main elements.

First, stimulus packages in both developed and developing countries to catalyze and ‘green’ national economies. Second, international policy coordination to ensure that developed countries’ stimulus packages not only ensure recovery in the Northbut also have strong developmental impacts on developing countries, through collaborative initiatives between governments of rich and poor countries. Third, greater financial support to developing countries for their sustainable development efforts, not only aid but also to more effectively mobilize domestic economic resources.

We need more investments that will help put the world on a more sustainable path such as in renewable energy and ecologically sensitive agriculture. After well over half a decade of economic stagnation, with developing countries slowing down dramatically since late 2014, it is still urgent to prioritize economic recovery measures, but also other needed initiatives. Preferably, recovery strategies should help lay the foundations for sustainable development.

Given the large unmet needs for infrastructure, more appropriate investments can contribute to sustainable growth. Such investments should improve the lot of poor and vulnerable groups and regions. In other words, investments should lead to the revival of growth that is both ecologically sustainable and socially inclusive.

Enhancing food security and agricultural productivity should be an important feature of stimulus packages in developing countries dependent on agriculture. Re-invigorating agricultural research, development and extension is typically key to this effort.

The Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s – with considerable government and international philanthropic support – increased crop yields and food production. However, the efforts for wheat, maize, and rice were not extended to other crops, such as other major indigenous food crops and those associated with arid land agriculture.

We need a renewed effort to promote sustainable food agricultural productivity. Public investments, including social protection, can and must provide the support needed to accelerate needed farmer investments. There are many socially useful public works, but priorities must be appropriate, considering national and local conditions.

For Sustainable Development

Projects could improve water storage and drainage, and contribute to agricultural productivity or climate adaptation. For example, in many developing countries, simple storage dams, wells, and basic flood barriers/levees could be constructed, and existing drainage and canal networks rehabilitated. Public works programs could prioritize basic sanitation or regeneration of wetland ecosystems that serve as “filters” for watercourses – as appropriate.

To be sure, many complementary interventions will be needed. Food security cannot be achieved without better social protection. This will be critical for the protection of billions of people in developing countries directly affected by high underemployment and unemployment, to reduce their vulnerability to poverty and undernutrition.

But sustainable social protection requires major improvements in public finances. While more revenue generation requires greater national incomes, tax collection can also be greatly enhanced through improved international cooperation on tax and other related financial matters.

Clearly, such an agenda requires not only bold new national developmental initiatives but also far better and more equitable international cooperation offered by a strong revival of the inclusive multilateral United Nations system.

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Malawi Leads Africa’s Largest Elephant Translocationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/malawi-leads-africas-largest-elephant-translocation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=malawi-leads-africas-largest-elephant-translocation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/malawi-leads-africas-largest-elephant-translocation/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 11:13:47 +0000 Charles Mkoka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146153 Elephants in a solar-powered holding pen in Malawi, which is carrying out a major translocation between conservation parks. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

Elephants in a solar-powered holding pen in Malawi, which is carrying out a major translocation between conservation parks. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

By Charles Mkoka
LILONGWE, Jul 20 2016 (IPS)

One of the world’s largest and most significant elephant translocations kicked off earlier this month within Liwonde National Park in southern Malawi.

Patricio Ndadzela, Malawi country director of African Parks, a non-profit conservation group based in South Africa that is leading the relocation, told IPS that so far, 10 bulls and 144 family groups of elephants have been successfully captured from the park and transported 300 kilometers by truck to their new home in the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in central Malawi.

A few decades ago, around 1,500 elephants roamed Malawi’s biggest wildlife reserve, but now only a few herds totaling about 100 remain. The park is poised to be revitalised and serve as a critical elephant sanctuary for populations nationwide.

Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve covers 1,800 square kms of Miombo woodlands and afro-montane forest along Chipata Mountain on the border with Ntchisi district. The relocation, which began on July 3, involves tranquilising the elephants by dart from a helicopter and loading them by crane onto trucks for the journey to Nkhotakota."It's a story of hope and survival. It is a story of possibility." -- Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks

The World Wildlife Federation notes that elephants remain under severe threat from ivory poaching, habitat loss, and human-wildlife conflict. Since 1979, African elephants have lost over half of their natural range. Less than 20 percent of African elephant habitat is currently under formal protection.

Local engagement for a balanced ecosystem

But Malawi is setting an example for the rest of the continent in how to protect elephants with the full consent and assistance of local communities. Before embarking on this major translocation exercise, African Parks engaged peripheral communities after taking over the reserve in July last year from government. Zonal area committees were established at the traditional authority level. These are chiefs of jurisdiction in the four districts that border the reserve. The districts are Nkhota Kota, Mzimba, Ntchisi and Kasungu.

“We have had a good working partnership with African Parks, together with the local people. They are managing the reserve for 25 years.  So far a number of activities have been done in consultations with the local people,” says Malijani Kachombo, the Traditional Authority Mphonde in Nkhota Kota district.

“They then brought the issue of restocking endangered species so that we have a more balanced ecosystem. This promise that they made has now been fulfilled today. The translocation of 500 elephants is no more a promise but reality.”

The animals will be well secured now as a new fence is already under construction and communities have been given ownership of the reserve, said the chief.

Other animals were also relocated, including 23 zebras, 25 elands, 220 waterbuck, 284 impalas, 32 warthogs, 99 kudu, 200 sables and two collared black rhinos.

A special landing site

As part of their integration into the reserve, a special landing site for the animals was chosen that provided for basic needs. According to Samuel Kamoto, African Parks Manager for Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, the site was identified after confirming that it had adequate water, shelter and food for the animals.

More importantly, they considered the proximity of the landing site’s accessibility to the road, since the heavy trucks carrying the animals need to align the doors with the entrance of the holding pen.

“Elephants started arriving last night and we let them inside the holding pen so that they can rest and regroup as social beings and families. This enables the animals to settle down first other than just letting them out, which confuses them,” Kamoto told IPS.

Senior Lecturer in Ecology and Wildlife at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, John Kazembe, said that the move was a good option considering the fact that Liwonde National Park was relatively small. Overcrowding of elephant populations in Liwonde had led to the animals devouring large areas of vegetation and coming into conflict with local people.

“Elephant herds should be moved into the reserve at intervals so that the ecosystem is not overwhelmed by a one-off relocation,” Kazembe said.

Peter Fearnhead, Chief Executive Officer of African Parks, said “Most stories we hear about elephants in Africa are doom and gloom. This translocation of 500 elephants, which is a pivotal moment for Malawi who is emerging as a leader in African elephant conservation, is a story of hope and survival. It is a story of possibility.”

It’s hoped that this rich reserve, coupled with a good working partnership with the local populace, will enable the animals to resettle quickly.

The giant seven-week translocation is costing 1.6 million dollars, and has been made possible with support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the Wyss Foundation, the Wildcat Foundation, Donna and Marvin Schwartz, Dioraphte and the People’s Post Code Lottery.

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We Ignore Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Livestock Industry at Our Own Perilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/we-ignore-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-the-livestock-industry-at-our-own-peril/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=we-ignore-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-the-livestock-industry-at-our-own-peril http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/we-ignore-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-the-livestock-industry-at-our-own-peril/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 15:16:20 +0000 Risto Isomaki http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146142 Meat, Milk and Climate deals with the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industries.]]>

Risto Isomaki is a science and science-fiction writer whose latest non-fiction book Meat, Milk and Climate deals with the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industries.

By Risto Isomaki
HELSINKI, Jul 19 2016 (IPS)

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, the production of meat and other animal-based products is responsible for around 18 to 20 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Risto Isomäki

Risto Isomäki

If FAO’s assessment is correct, animal waste and the use of nitrogen based fertilizers to grow fodder annually create about 6 million tons of nitrous oxide- 65-70 percent of our total emissions. The impact to global temperatures of this is equivalent to roughly two billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. Besides nitrous oxide, the livestock industry produces more than 100 million tons of methane per year, heating the planet as much as three and a half billion tons of carbon dioxide. This is further exacerbated by the clearing of vast swathes of tropical rainforests for pasture and growing fodder, annually releasing an additional 2.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Our total emissions of carbon dioxide currently amount to slightly more than 35 billion tons, in addition to which we also produce at least 350 million tons of methane and 9 million tons of nitrous oxide.

Many governments, municipalities and private companies have already started to implement programs aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a fraction of their current levels in the coming decades. In 2015, more than 90 percent of new energy investments have shifted to renewables, with fossil fuels and nuclear power struggling to attract the remaining 10 percent.

Similarly, new technological solutions for reducing vehicular emissions as well as industrial production, construction, lighting, and the heating and cooling of buildings are either being developed or already implemented. Even airlines and shipping companies have accepted the challenge. Some sectors have embraced these challenges with more enthusiasm than others, but there seems to be a general consensus that considerable changes are needed to prevent a full-scale environmental catastrophe.

The exception to the general shift toward environmental sustainability appears to be food production. Governments, and intergovernmental organizations like FAO are still discussing ways of increasing the global meat production from 200 million to 470 million tons by 2050.

This is of great concern even if meat, dairy and other animal products really were responsible for only 20 per cent of our combined greenhouse gas emissions. Even then, doubling the industry’s contribution would probably make it impossible to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, as agreed in Paris.

It is possible that the role of the livestock industry has been seriously underestimated. According to current estimates, natural lakes and ponds probably produce about 85 million tons and man-made reservoirs between 20-100 million tons of methane each year. While methane from reservoirs is considered to be a by-product of the energy industry, emissions from natural lakes, ponds and rivers are classified as “natural emissions”.

Research has shown that there are significant variations in the methane levels produced by bodies of freshwater. Heterotrophic lakes whose water and sediments only contain trace amounts of nutrients and organic matter produce very little methane. The smallest measured annual per hectare emissions from such lakes have been as little as 0.78 kilograms. At the other end of the spectrum, seriously eutrophic or nutrient-rich lakes with vast quantities of dead aquatic plants and algae, can release up to 190 tons of methane per hectare per year. In other words: there is a 243,590-fold difference between the largest and the smallest measured per hectare emissions, a spectrum covering almost six full orders of magnitude.

Can we therefore, really assume that the runoff from livestock and fertilizers has nothing to do with these emissions? Most of the methane released into the air from eutrophic lakes and reservoirs cannot really be considered natural emissions, and should not be counted as such. Similarly, much of the nitrous oxide currently defined as natural emissions from oceans or from natural soils should probably be re-classified as livestock-related.

Besides, there are many agricultural practices likely to reduce the amount of organic carbon stored in the trees and soils, as well as tropical deforestation which has historically been the centre of attention. According to studies made in China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Argentina, Brazil, Britain and the USA, vast tracts of pasture that used to be natural grasslands are still losing significant amounts of organic carbon due to overgrazing.

According to one assessment, humans annually burn 4.3 billion tons of biomass, classified as carbon. Of this, wood for fuel and the use of other biofuels account for 1.3 billion tons, whereas the remainder is linked to the livestock industry. This means that we could, at least in theory, reduce our carbon emissions by almost three billion tons by eliminating the biomass burning that is not related to energy production and by using the saved biomass to replace fossil fuels. Current biomass burning practises also produce very large amounts of soot, which has a strong impact on the global rise in temperatures, as well as creating an additional 40-50 million tons of methane and 1.3 million tons of nitrous oxide.

Currently, 3.5 billion hectares of permanent grazing lands and hundreds of millions of hectares of farmlands are being exploited for the cultivation of animal feed used for meat and dairy industries. If we reduced the consumption of animal products and replaced them with alternatives made from soy, wheat, oat or mushroom proteins or by culturing animal stem cells, we could convert huge areas of land to protected forests. These reclaimed forest can in turn absorb vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. Alternatively, we could use the same land for growing biofuels.

This means, today we should be focusing on the environmental degradation caused by the livestock industry, which itself is under pressure from an ever increasing demand for meat and dairy. Much of what has been mentioned deserves urgent and extensive attention and further research worldwide.

It may be impossible to stop global warming without reducing the consumption of meat. However, if we are able to replace a substantial portion of real meat with alternatives, reaching the goals adopted in Paris might actually become much easier than anybody could have ever imagined.

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Germany’s Energy Transition: The Good, the Bad and the Uglyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 12:19:42 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146128 In Germany, wind and solar energy coexist with energy generated by burning fossil fuels. A wind farm next to one of the electric power plants fired by lignite in the Western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In Germany, wind and solar energy coexist with energy generated by burning fossil fuels. A wind farm next to one of the electric power plants fired by lignite in the Western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
COLOGNE, Germany, Jul 19 2016 (IPS)

Immerath, 90 km away from the German city of Cologne, has become a ghost town. The local church bells no longer ring and no children are seen in the streets riding their bicycles. Its former residents have even carried off their dead from its cemetery.

Expansion of Garzweiler, an open-pit lignite mine, has led to the town’s remaining residents being relocated to New Immerath, several kilometres away from the original town site, in North Rhine-Westphalia, whose biggest city is Cologne.

The fate of this small village, which in 2015 was home to 70 people, reflects the advances, retreats and contradictions of the world-renowned transition to renewable energy in Germany.

Since 2011, Germany has implemented a comprehensive energy transition policy, backed by a broad political consensus, seeking to make steps towards a low-carbon economy. This has encouraged the generation and consumption of alternative energy sources.

But so far these policies have not facilitated the release from the country’s industry based on coal and lignite, a highly polluting fossil fuel.

“The initial phases of the energy transition have been successful so far, with strong growth in renewables, broad public support for the idea of the transition and major medium and long term goals for government,” told IPS analyst Sascha Samadi of the non-governmental Wuppertal Institute, devoted to studies on energy transformation.

Renewable electricity generation accounted for 30 percent of the total of Germany’s electrical power in 2015, while lignite fuelled 24 percent, coal 18 percent, nuclear energy 14 percent, gas 8.8 percent and other sources the rest.

This European country is the third world power in renewable energies – excluding hydropower – and holds third place in wind power and biodiesel and fifth place in geothermal power.

Germany is also renowned for having the highest solar power capacity per capita in photovoltaic technology, even though its climate is not the most suitable for that purpose.

But the persistence of fossil fuels casts a shadow on this green energy matrix.

“The successful phasing out of fossil fuels entails a great deal of planning and organisation. If we do not promote renewables, we will have to import energy at some point,” Johannes Remmel, the minister for climate protection and the environment for North Rhine-Westphalia, told IPS.

Germany has nine lignite mines operating in three regions. Combined, the mines employ 16,000 people, produce 170 million tonnes of lignite a year and have combined reserves of three billion tonnes. China, Greece and Poland are other large world producers of lignite.

A part of the Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine, in North Rhine-Westphalia. One of the greatest challenges facing the energy transition in Germany is the future of this polluting fuel. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A part of the Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine, in North Rhine-Westphalia. One of the greatest challenges facing the energy transition in Germany is the future of this polluting fuel. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Garzweiler, which is owned by the private company RWE, produces 35 million tonnes of lignite a year. From a distance it is possible to see its cut-out terraces and blackened soil, waiting for giant steel jaws to devour it and start to separate the lignite.

Lignite from this mine fuels nearby electricity generators at Frimmersdorf, Neurath, Niederaussen and Weisweiller, some of the most polluting power plants in Germany.

RWE is one of the four main power generation companies in Germany, together with E.ON, EnBW and Swedish-based Vattenfall.

Coal has an expiry date

The fate of coal is different. The government has already decided that its demise will be in 2018, when the two mines that are still currently active will cease to operate.

The Rhine watershed, comprising North Rhine-Westphalia together with other states, has traditionally been the hub of Germany’s industry. Mining and its consumers are an aftermath of that world, whose rattling is interspersed with the emergence of a decarbonized economy.

A tour of the mine and the adjoining power plant of  Ibberbüren in North Rhine-Westphalia shows the struggle between two models that still coexist.

In the mine compound, underground mouths splutter the coal that feeds the hungry plant at a pace of 157 kilowatt-hour per tonne.

In 2015 the mine produced 6.2 million tonnes of extracted coal, an amount projected to be reduced to 3.6 million tonnes this year and next, and to further drop to 2.9 million in 2018.

The mine employs 1,600 people and has a 300,000 tonne inventory which needs to be sold by 2018.

“I am a miner, and I am very much attached to my job. I speak on behalf of my co-workers. It is hard to close it down. There is a feeling of sadness, we are attending our own funeral”, told IPS the manager of the mine operator, Hubert Hüls.

Before the energy transition policy was in place, laws that promoted renewable energies had been passed in 1991 and 2000, with measures such as a special royalty fee included in electricity tariffs paid to generators that are fuelled by renewable energy sources.

The renewable energy sector invests some 20 billion dollars yearly and employs around 370.000 people.

Another measure, adopted in 2015 by the government in Berlin, sets out an auction plan for the purchase of photovoltaic solar power, but opponents have argued that large generation companies are being favoured over small ones as the successful bidder will be the one offering the lowest price.

Energy transition and climate change

Energy transition also seeks to meet Germany’s global warming mitigation commitments.

Germany has undertaken to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent in 2020 and by 95 per cent in 2015. Moreover, it has set itself the goal of increasing the share of renewable energies in the end-use power market from the current figure of 12 per cent to 60 per cent in 2050.

In the second half of the year, the German government will analyse the drafting of the 2050 Climate Action Plan, which envisages actions towards reducing by half the amount of emissions from the power sector and a fossil fuel phase-out programme.

In 2014, Germany reduced its emissions by 346 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 27.7 per cent of the 1990 total. However, the German Federal Agency for Environment warned that in 2015 emissions went up by six million tonnes, amounting to 0.7 per cent, reaching a total of 908 million tonnes.

Polluting gases are derived mainly from the generation and use of energy, transport and agriculture.

In 2019, the government will review the current incentives for the development of renewable energies and will seek to make adjustments aimed at fostering the sector.

Meanwhile, Germany’s last three nuclear power plants will cease operation in 2022. However, Garzweiler mine will continue to operate until 2045.

“There are technological, infrastructure, investment, political, social and innovation challenges to overcome. Recent decisions taken by the government are indicative of a lack of political will to undertake the tough decisions that are required for deep decarbonisation”, pointed out Samadi.

Companies “now try to mitigate the damage and leave the search for solutions in the hands of the (central) government. There will be fierce debate over how to expand renewable energies. The process may be slowed but not halted”, pointed out academic Heinz-J Bontrup, of the state University of Applied Sciences Gelsenkirchen.

Meanwhile, the regional government has opted to reduce the Garzweiler mine extension plan, leaving 400 million tonnes of lignite underground.

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Fast-track Development Threatens to Leave Indigenous Peoples Behindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 20:26:39 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146115 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind/feed/ 0 Biodiversity, GMOs, Gene Drives and the Militarised Mindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biodiversity-gmos-gene-drives-and-the-militarised-mind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biodiversity-gmos-gene-drives-and-the-militarised-mind http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biodiversity-gmos-gene-drives-and-the-militarised-mind/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 12:44:27 +0000 Vandana Shiva 2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146103 TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust.]]>

TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust.

By Dr Vandana Shiva
NEW DELHI, Jul 18 2016 (IPS)

A recent report from the National Academy of Science of The United States, titled Gene Drives on the Horizon : Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values”, warns:

Dr Vandana Shiva

Dr Vandana Shiva

“One possible goal of release of a gene-drive modified organism is to cause the extinction of the target species or a drastic reduction in its abundance.”

Gene Drives have been called “mutagenic chain reactions”, and are to the biological world what chain reactions are to the nuclear world. The Guardian describes Gene Drives as the “gene bomb”.

Kevin Esvelt of MIT exclaims “a release anywhere is likely to be a release everywhere”, and asks “Do you really have the right to run an experiment where if you screw up, it affects the whole world?”

The NAS report cites the case of wiping out amaranth as an example of “potential benefit”. Yet, the “magical technology” of Gene Drives remains a Ghost, or the Department of Defence of the United States Government’s secret “weapon” to continue its War on Amaranthus Culturis.

The aforementioned study on ghost-tech was sponsored by DARPA (The Pentagon’s Research Ghost) and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (The ghost of the Microsoft Monopoly). DARPA has been busy.

Interestingly, Microsoft BASIC was developed on a DARPA Supercomputer across the street from MIT, at Harvard. Where does DARPA end and MIT start? Where does Microsoft end and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation start.

The orientation of our technologies has been dictated by the DARPA-Mind, a Mechanical Mind trained in War, and Gates continues to colonise meaning, just as gates had done to our lands, and the Green Revolution has done to our food.

Our planet has evolved, in balance, creating balance, for 4.6 billion years. Homo sapiens emerged around 200,000 years ago. About 10,000 years ago, Peasants developed the selection and breeding of seeds and domesticated agriculture began.

Human creativity combined with nature to provide the abundance that allowed the evolution of societies and species. Humanity and Nature renewed each other, sustaining civilisation and providing the potential for the Industrial Revolution.

75 years ago DARPA-Mind began its Extermination Experiment, and sent humanity off-axis. The Chemicals, Materials, and Technologies acquired during “The War”, and patented (interestingly, the Internal Combustion Engine Patent belongs to Texaco), were forced on Amaranthus Culturis – The Cultures of Living Cycles.

DARPA-Mind called it “The Green Revolution”, colonised the meanings of those two words, and began Stockpiling Chemicals of War in Our Fields; there is nothing “green” or “revolutionary” about Extermination, it must be a secret service code name for the assault that now has the names “Gene Drives”, “CRISPR”, or more accurately, Genetic Engineering.

“CASE STUDY 6: CONTROLLING PALMER AMARANTH TO INCREASE AGRICULTURE PRODUCTIVITY

Objective: Create gene drives in Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri also called pigweed), to reduce or eliminate the weed on agricultural fields in the Southern United States.


Rationale: Palmer amaranth infests agricultural fields throughout the American South. It has evolved resistance to the herbicide glyphosate, the world’s most-used herbicide (Powles, 2008), and this resistance has be- come geographically widespread.”

Palmer Amaranth has emerged as one of the superweeds. Instead of seeing the emergence of Palmer Amaranth as a superweed, as a result of the failure of the misguided approach of Herbicide Resistant GMOs, Monsanto & Co – which includes investors, scientists, corporations, DARPA, and Gates, are now rushing to drive the Amaranth species to extinction through the deployment of an untested Tool.

The tool of gene editing and gene drives – genetic “Copy-Paste”. Untested DARPA-Mind Tools have real impacts on our world. Intelligence requires that we stop, and assess why the tool of GMOs is creating superweeds, instead of controlling weeds, as it promised. Such assessment is real Science.

The ‘DARPA-Mind report’ casually states potential harm:

“Gene drives developed for agricultural purposes could also have adverse effects on human well- being. Transfer of a suppression drive to a non-target wild species could have both adverse environmental outcomes and harmful effects on vegetable crops, for example. Palmer amaranth in Case Study 6 is a damaging weed in the United States, but related Amaranthus species are cultivated for food in in Mexico, South America, India, and China.”

A scientific assessment would tell us that plants evolve resistance to herbicides which are supposed to kill them because they have intelligence, and they evolve. Denial of intelligence in life, and denial of evolution is unscientific. 107 Nobel Laureates – including two that have long passed on – “signed” a letter in support Genetic Engineering a few days ago. Clearly ‘Science’ did not prompt that “communication”.

Amaranth’s root, the word amara – meaning ‘eternal’ and ‘deathless’ in both Greek and Sanskrit – connects two formidable Houses of the Ancient World. From the high slopes of the Himalayas, through the plains of north, central and south India, to the coastlines of the east, west and the south, Amaranth is a web of life in itself. Numerous varieties are found throughout the country. In fact, the Himalayan region is one of the ‘centres of diversity’ for the Amara-nth.

Amaranth, Amaranto, love-lies-bleeding, tassel flower, Joseph’s coat, or ramdana (gods own grain) is the grain of well-being. It is rich in names, nutrition, history and meaning. There are records of Amaranth cultivation in South and Meso America as far back as 5,000 B.C.

The sacred Amaranth criss-crosses the Ancient World, nourishing cultures from the Andes to the Himalayas. Amaranth is a sacred grain for the Indian Civilisation as much as it is for the Aztec Civilisation, civilisations in the shadow of time, yet very much alive. To force cultivation of cash crops that could be traded more easily, the cultivation of Amaranth was forbidden, and punishable by death.

The “pagan” grain that built civilisations was outlawed, to pave the way for Cash Crops for traders.

amaranto.com reports:

“Amaranth was also used as a ceremonial plant in the Aztec empire. In several days the religious calendar, Aztec or Inca women grind or roasted amaranth seed, mixing it with honey or human blood, giving it the shape of birds snakes, deer, or mountains and Gods, ate them with respect and devotion as Food of the Gods.”

The leaves of the amaranth contain more iron than spinach, and have a much more delicate taste. If Popeye – “the sailor man”, had Amaranth on his “ship”, he wouldn’t have needed canned food to fight off his nemesis – “the bearded captain”. Besides rice bran, the grain of the amaranth has the highest content of iron amongst cereals.

1 kilogram of Amaranth flour, added to 1 kilogram of refined wheat flour, increases its iron content from 25 milligrams to 245milligrams. Adding amaranth flour to wheat/rice flour is a cheaper and healthier way to prevent nutritional anaemia; rather than buying expensive tablets, tonics, health drinks, branded and bio fortified flour, or canned spinach from the ship.

The Amaranth is extremely rich in complex carbohydrates and in proteins. It has 12-18% more protein than other cereals, particularly lysine – a critical amino acid.It also differs from other cereals in that 65% is found in the germ and 35% in the endosperm, as compared to an average of 15% in the germ and 85% in the endosperm for other cereals.

When Amaranth flour is mixed 30:70 with either rice flour or wheat flour, protein quality rises, from 72 to 90, and 32 to 52, respectively. The Amaranth grain is about the richest source of calcium, other than milk. It has 390 grams of calcium compared to 10 grams in rice, and 23 grams in refined flour.

The diversity of Amaranth Greens are incredible, edibles that grow uncultivated in our fields. They are a major source of nutrition. Per 100 grams, Amaranth greens can give us 5.9 grams of protein, 530 milligrams of calcium, 83 milligrams of phosphorous, 38.5 milligrams of iron, 14,190 micrograms of carotene, 179 micrograms of Vitamin-C, 122 milligrams of Magnesium.

Amaranth is nearly 500% richer in Carotene than GMO Golden Rice – which is being promoted as a ~~~future miracle~~~ for addressing Vitamin A deficiency.

Golden Rice has failed to materialise for 2 decades. Phantom technology?

The poorest, landless woman and her children have access to nutrition through the generous gift of the Amaranth .

Industrial agriculture – promoted by United States Foreign Policy – treated Amaranth greens as “weeds”, and tried to exterminate with herbicides. Then came Monsanto, with Round Up Ready crops, genetically engineered to resist the spraying of Round Up so that the GMO crop would survive the otherwise lethal chemical, while everything else that was green perished.

As was stated by a Monsanto spokesman during the negotiations of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), Herbicide resistant GMOs “prevent the weeds from stealing the sunshine”.

This DARPA-Mind world view is distorted.

Firstly, what are weeds to Monsanto are food and nutrition for women of the South. Secondly, the sun shines with abundance for all. Sharing the sun’s blessing is a right of all species.

In Amaranthus Culturis – the world of biodiversity and the sun, scarcity is alien, there is merely abundance. Sharing abundance creates abundance. It is not stealing. Stealing is a concept created by Monsanto & Co. When farmers save and share seeds, Monsanto would like to define it as “stealing”.

When the sun shines on the earth and plants grow, Monsanto would like to define it as a plants “stealing” the sunshine, while Monsanto Co. privateers our biodiversity.

This is exactly how seed famine and food famine are engineered through a world view which transforms the richness of diversity into monocultures, abundance into scarcity. The paradigm of Genetic Engineering is based on Genetic Determinism and Genetic Reductionism.

It is based on a denial of the self organised, evolutionary potential of living organisms. It treats living organisms as a lego set. But life is not lego, meccano, or stratego. It is life – complex, self organised, dynamic evolution – auto poetic.

The right to food and nutrition of the people outside the US , and the right of the amaranth to continue to grow and evolve and nourish people, can be extinguished by powerful men in the US because they messed up their agriculture with Round up Ready crops, and now want to mess up the planet, its biodiversity , and food and agriculture systems of the world with the tool of gene drives to push species to extinction.

As in the case of GMOs, the rush for Gene Drives, and CRISPR-based Gene Editing are linked to patents.

Bill Gates is financing the research that is leading to patents. And he with other billionaires has invested $130 million in a company EDITAS to promote these technologies. Bayer, the new face on Monsanto & Co, has invested $35 million in the new GMO Technologies, and committed $300 million over the next 5 years.

“Biofortification” has been given the world food prize of 2016, yet biofortification is inferior to the nutrition provided by biodiversity and indigenous knowledge. The same forces promoting biofortification are also promoting the extermination of nutritious crops like amaranth, as well as rich indigenous cultures of food.

The project of deliberately exterminating species is a crime against nature and humanity. It was a crime when Bayer and others, of IG Farben, exterminated Jews in concentration camps, and is a crime still. The very idea of extermination is a crime. Developing tools of extermination in the garb of saving the world is a crime. A crime that must not be allowed to continue any further.

The DARPA-Mind is obsolete

We are members of an Earth Family. Every species, every race is a member of one Earth Community. We cannot allow some members of our Earth Family to allocate to themselves the power and hubris to decide who will live, and who will be exterminated.

A scientific assessment of the failure of herbicides and GMOs to control weeds , and the success of ecological agriculture in controlling pests and weeds without the use of violent tools will lead us to a paradigm-shift from industrial farming to ecological agriculture – to cultures of eternity.

Dr Vandana Shiva’s article was published in vandanashiva.com. Go to Original – vandanashiva.com | Source: TRANSCEND Media Service.

The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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Rewriting Africa’s Agricultural Narrativehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 11:08:02 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146098 Albert Kanga's plantain farm on the outskirts of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Albert Kanga's plantain farm on the outskirts of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
ABIDJAN, Cote d'Ivoire, Jul 18 2016 (IPS)

Albert Kanga Azaguie no longer considers himself a smallholder farmer. By learning and monitoring the supply and demand value chains of one of the country’s staple crops, plantain (similar to bananas), Kanga ventured into off-season production to sell his produce at relatively higher prices.

“I am now a big farmer. The logic is simple: I deal in off-season plantain. When there is almost nothing on the market, mine is ready and therefore sells at a higher price,” says Kanga, who owns a 15 Ha plantain farm 30 kilometres from Abidjan, the Ivorian capital.

Harvesting 12 tonnes on average per hectare, Kanga is one of a few farmers re-writing the African story on agriculture, defying the common tale of a poor, hungry and food-insecure region with more than 232 million undernourished people – approximately one in four.

Albert Kanga on his plantain farm. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Albert Kanga on his plantain farm. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

With an estimated food import bill valued at 35.4 billion dollars in 2015, experts consider this scenario ironic because of Africa’s potential, boasting 60 percent of the world’s unused arable land, and where 60 percent of the workforce is employed in agriculture, accounting for roughly a third of the continent’s GDP.

The question is why? Several reasons emerge which include structural challenges rooted in poor infrastructure, governance and weak market value chains and institutions, resulting in low productivity. Additionally, women, who form the backbone of agricultural labour, are systematically discriminated against in terms of land ownership and other incentives such as credit and inputs, limiting their opportunities to benefit from agricultural value chains.

“Women own only one percent of land in Africa, receive one percent of agricultural credit and yet, constitute the majority of the agricultural labour force,” says Buba Khan, Africa Advocacy Officer at ActionAid.

Khan believes Africa may not be able to achieve food security, let alone sovereignty, if women remain marginalised in terms of land rights, and the World Bank Agenda for Global Food System sourcebook supports the ‘closing the gender gap’ argument.

According to the sourcebook, ensuring that women have the same access to assets, inputs, and services in agriculture as men could increase women’s yields on farms by 20-30 percent and potentially reduce the number of hungry people by 12-17 percent.

But empowering women is just one of the key pieces to the puzzle. According to the African Development Bank’s Feeding Africa agenda, number two on its agenda is dealing with deep-seated structural challenges, requiring ambition and investments.

According to the Bank’s analysis, transforming agricultural value chains would require approximately 280-340 billion dollars over the next decade, and this would likely create new markets worth 55-65 billion dollars per year by 2025. And the AfDB envisages quadrupling its investments from a current annual average of US 612 million to about 2.4 billion dollars to achieve this ambition.

“Our goal is clear: achieve food self-sufficiency for Africa in 10 years, eliminate malnutrition and hunger and move Africa to the top of agricultural value chains, and accelerate access to water and sanitation,” said Akinwumi Adesina, the AfDB Group President at the 2016 Annual Meetings, highlighting that the major focus of the bank’s “Feed Africa” agenda, is transforming agriculture into a business for farmers.

But even with this ambitious goal, and the colossal financial resources on the table, the how question remains critical. Through its strategy, the Bank sets to use agriculture as a starting point for industrialisation through multi-sectoral interventions in infrastructure, intensive use of agro inputs, mechanisation, enhanced access to credit and improved land tenure systems.

Notwithstanding these well tabulated interventions, there are trade-offs required to create a balance in either system considering the climate change challenge already causing havoc in the agriculture sector. The two schools of thought for agriculture development—Intensification (more yields per unit through intensive agronomical practices) and Extensification (bringing more land under cultivation), require a right balance.

“Agriculture matters for Africa’s development, it is the single largest source of income, food and market security, and it is also the single largest source of jobs. Yet, agriculture faces some enormous challenges, the most urgent being climate change and the sector is called to act. But there are trade-offs to either approaches of up-scaling. For example, extensification entails cutting more forests and in some cases, displacing people—both of which have a negative impact on Agriculture’s role to climate change mitigation,” says Sarwatt Hussein, Head of Communications at World Bank’s Agriculture Global Practice.

And this is a point that Ivorian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mamadou Coulibaly Sangafowa, stresses regarding Agricultural investments in Africa. “The emphasis is that agricultural investments should be climate-sensitive to unlock the opportunities especially for young Africans, and stop them from crossing the Mediterranean seeking economic opportunities elsewhere,” he said.

Coulibaly, who is also president of the African conference of Agricultural Ministers, identifies the need to improve specialised agricultural communication, without which farmers would continue working in the dark. “Farmers need information about latest technologies but it is not getting to them when they need it the most,” he said, highlighting the existing information gap, which the World Bank and the African Media Initiative (AMI) have also noted regarding media coverage of Agriculture in Africa.

While agriculture accounts for well over 60 percent of national economic activity and revenue in Africa, the sector gets a disproportionately small amount of media coverage, contributing less than 10 percent to the national economic and political discourse. And this underreporting has resulted not only in limited public knowledge of what actually goes on in the sector, but also in general, misconceptions about its place in the national and regional economy, notes the AMI-World bank analysis.

Whichever route Africa uses to achieve the overall target of feeding itself and be a net food exporter by 2025, Ivorian farmer, Albert Kanga has already started the journey—thanks to the World Bank supported West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme-WAAPP, which introduced him to off-season production techniques.

According to Abdoulaye Toure, lead agro-economist at the World Bank, the WAAPP initiative which started in 2007 has changed the face of agriculture in the region. “When we started in 2007, there was a huge food deficit gap in West Africa, with productivity at around 20 percent, but it is now at 30 percent, and two similar programmes in Eastern and Southern Africa, have been launched as a result,” said Toure.

Some of the key elements of the programme include research, training of young scientists to replace the older generation, and dissemination of improved technologies to farmers. With in-country cluster research stations set up based on a particular country’s potential, there is improved information sharing on best practices.

“With new varieties introduced and off-season irrigation techniques through WAAPP, I am now an example,” says Farmer Kanga, who does not only supply to big supermarkets, but also exports to international markets such as Italy.

He recalls how he started the farm named after his late brother, Dougba, and wishes “he was alive to see how successful it has become.”

The feed Africa agenda targets to feed 150 million, and lift 100 million people out of poverty by 2025. But is it an achievable dream? Farmer Kanga is already showing that it is doable.

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New Study on Earthquakehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/new-study-on-earthquake-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-study-on-earthquake-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/new-study-on-earthquake-2/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2016 13:50:05 +0000 Editor Dailystar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146056 By Editor, The Daily Star, Bangladesh
Jul 14 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

A new study using ground and satellite GPS monitors have concluded that the north-eastern corner of the Indian subcontinent encompassing Bangladesh, eastern India and parts of Myanmar is at risk of a major earthquake, and the effect when it occurs would be on a massive scale (8.2 to 9 on the Richter scale). The study conducted at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University should be taken seriously, particularly by Bangladesh which has several issues going against it in the event of a major quake.

 A major earthquake may cause massive destruction in the highly populated Dhaka city crammed with unplanned buildings like that seen in this picture taken at Mohammadpur Geneva Camp. Photo: Rahsed Shumon

A major earthquake may cause massive destruction in the highly populated Dhaka city crammed with unplanned buildings like that seen in this picture taken at Mohammadpur Geneva Camp. Photo: Rahsed Shumon

We have long been warned that Bangladesh is at high risk of getting hit by a major quake and over the last year, and the city has been experiencing minor quakes from time to time. Now that scientific data has been presented, we need to assess the impediments to the relief and rescue operations and adopt suitable measures to mitigate the likely impact.

Although no timeline can be predicted, Dhaka would be badly hit and we should remember that 17 million people call it their home. A big quake will result in the flattening of Dhaka’s high rise skyline since most buildings fail to conform to standards set in the building code. Poor construction means lots of falling debris on to the extremely congested lanes and roads of Dhaka city. Getting relief to those trapped under buildings will be the single largest challenge for a post-quake event. These are challenges that need to be met headlong by policymakers.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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IPS Interview with Bernadette Lahai On the Pan African Parliament Food and Nutrition Security Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/ips-interview-with-bernadette-lahai-on-the-pan-african-parliament-food-and-nutrition-security-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ips-interview-with-bernadette-lahai-on-the-pan-african-parliament-food-and-nutrition-security-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/ips-interview-with-bernadette-lahai-on-the-pan-african-parliament-food-and-nutrition-security-agenda/#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:15:33 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146025 Dr.Bernadette Lahai is a Sierra Leonean politician and the current Minority Leader of Parliament. She is the leader of the main opposition Sierra Leone People's Party in the House of Parliament. She is also the Vice President of the Pan African Parliament.]]>

Dr.Bernadette Lahai is a Sierra Leonean politician and the current Minority Leader of Parliament. She is the leader of the main opposition Sierra Leone People's Party in the House of Parliament. She is also the Vice President of the Pan African Parliament.

By Rose Delaney
JOHANNESBURG, Jul 13 2016 (IPS)

Dr.Bernadette Lahai, Vice President of the Pan African Parliament (PAP), discusses the multitude of challenges facing the African continent and how the PAP plans to overcome them. With the rise of malnutrition as a direct result of ongoing food insecurity, the Parliament will play an indispensable role in the future of food in the African continent.

Through open dialogue, the strengthening of parliamentary institutions, an introduction of awareness-raising initiatives, and most importantly, the commitment of African leaders to positively change the food situation as stated in the Malabo Declaration and the African Regional Nutrition Strategy 2015-2025, Dr.Lahai confirms that Africa will be one step closer to meeting the SDG target of “Zero Hunger” by 2030.

IPS: In what ways has the Pan African Parliament (PAP) ensured that partners are upholding their commitments following the Parliamentary meeting held during the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) organized by FAO and the World Health Organization?

Bernadette Lahai

Bernadette Lahai

Dr.Lahai: PAP, as an advisory body, and their members on both national and regional levels, have continuously called for the attention of governments, international agencies, NGOs as well as individuals to fulfil their various obligations that adhere to international commitments and declarations. In order to communicate these responsibilities, expert hearings, workshops, media outreach and advocacies, lobbying and experiential exchanges have been implemented. There has also been a push for the ratification of treaties and protocols which hinder development. Lacking adequate power to slam sanctions on defaulters, PAP can only advocate and lobby for adherence to these commitments. As a result of the granting of legislative and oversight powers over the African Union, it is hoped that PAP will be calling for more accountability and transparency, with the possibility of sanctioning non-compliant governments and institutions.

IPS: In light of the multiple challenges facing the African continent, in your view, how has the PAP fared in consolidating partnerships to impact policy-makers to consider food security and malnutrition when they design and formulate policies?

Dr.Lahai: The PAP Committee on agriculture, rural economy, environment and climate change have and continue to collaborate with their counterparts in the African Union Committee, the New Partnership for African Development’s “The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme”, national and international agricultural organizations and research institutes. NGOs are also working on food security and nutrition-related matters to exchange information on the subject, undertake joint activities and review data on progress. They also plan to make joint resolutions, declarations, and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) reminding governments and international organizations of their commitments, especially related to laws and policies to address nutritional and food security challenges. Fully aware of the fact that food security and nutrition issues are cross-cutting, PAP has also called for joint collaboration of committees and sectors whose work compliments food security and nutrition. Such sectoral coordination will help in addressing food security and nutrition in a holistic manner, which in turn, will help maximize limited resources and gains. Partnership with other institutions has also helped PAP access data, which is critical for inform decision-making, debate, advocacy, and lobbying.

IPS: Did the outcomes of the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) influence the Pan African Parliaments advancement of the food and security agenda?

Dr.Lahai: Most definitely. During the ICN2, parliamentarians identified an urgent need to advocate for more effective responses to address malnutrition, while ensuring that public policies are safeguarded from real or perceived conflicts of interest. I believe the proposed workshop is exactly what they would deem an “effective response” and “proactive measure” in the strive for a food-secure world.

The parliamentarians also underscored the importance of parliamentary dialogue in countries, regions and globally, in order to share good practice and experiences in ensuring food security and adequate nutrition. Emphasis is placed on the strengthening of parliamentary institutions through proactive measures to endow the parliament with greater accountability and oversight powers. The Parliaments upcoming workshop will communicate and recognize the importance of the parliamentarians observations and conclusions on the future of food.

The workshop will also study the draft MOU to be signed between PAP and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to ensure that the areas of collaboration are agreed upon and are within the legal responsibilities of the two parties. Initial thoughts on the structure of the alliance and the communication strategies to be adopted will also be discussed and agreed on during the workshop.

IPS: In your view, how important are initiatives such as training and workshops focused on the Food Security Agenda for Africa to meet the SDG target of zero hunger by 2030?

Dr.Lahai: First of all, food insecurity and malnutrition is not only an ongoing African problem, it is a global issue that needs to be dealt with in an efficient, proactive manner. In fact, according to the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015, 793 million people suffer from hunger and high levels of malnutrition persist. In Africa, specifically, in spite of significant developments achieved in recent years, approximately 217 million people are undernourished as the continent struggles to cope with the ongoing challenges related to malnutrition.

However, through the support of committed African leaders to positively change the food situation as stated in the Malabo Declaration and the African Regional Nutrition Strategy 2015-2025, the advancement of finding solutions to food and nutrition issues is being encouraged and supported on a national level. Governmental bodies have now recognised the fundamental importance of adopting strategies and innovative measures in the bid to eradicate malnutrition. In my opinion, with the implementation of more workshops and training to effectively communicate and propose solutions to the challenges of food insecurity, Africa could meet the SDG target of “zero hunger” by 2030.

The upcoming workshop will provide an avenue to learn, exchange experiences, and success stories while at the same time consider the challenges presented within the Latin America/Caribbean Parliamentary Alliance( PFH-LAC). This will greatly inform the roadmap for the Pan African Parliament Alliance (PAPA-FNS) / FAO collaboration. The focus will also centre on avoiding pitfalls experienced by the PFH-LAC in its establishment, in addition to replicating rewarding and fruitful strategies and approaches within the cultural and social sensitivities of the continent.

IPS: Why are partnerships with organizations vital to tackle food and nutrition issues in the African continent?

Dr.Lahai: Partners come with difference skills, expertise, strengths, institutional, human and financial capacities and capabilities and when put together, can produce a quick and long term impact.

In light of the gravity and persistence of malnutrition in Africa, partnerships with various stakeholders must be fostered in order to eradicate poverty and combat food security challenges. The FAO is, therefore, developing partnerships and alliances with Parliamentarians to cooperate in areas of mutual interest.

The FAO have been actively pursuing the establishment of PAPA-FNS. As a follow-up to various bilateral meetings held with a wide cross section of African Parliamentarians, a presentation presented to the PAP, and the launching of the Alliance in October 2016,the FAO are organizing a one-day workshop next month that will be essential for the exchange of ideas and solutions to pressing food and nutrition issues.

IPS: What do you expect from the planned workshop in August for the Pan African Parliament and where will you go from there?

Dr.Lahai: The workshop will be part of a series of engagements at various levels with African parliamentarians and is aimed at increasing awareness and knowledge about the role of parliamentarian alliances for food and nutrition security issues in addition to identifying possible areas for FAO’s support. At the end of the workshop, we hope that the participants will have gained a deeper understanding of the role of such alliances as they seek to place food sovereignty and food and nutrition security issues at the top of the regional, sub-regional and national political agendas.

The workshop centred on the advancement of the Food and Nutrition Security Agenda is being supported and coordinated by organizations such as FAO and PAP due to the fundamental importance of food security in the future of African development. The workshop is also critical at this juncture in furthering the advancement of the PAPA-FNS to place food and nutrition security issues at the top of the political and legislative agenda.

The outcomes of the workshop will be to help strengthen, improve and properly align the objectives of the Alliance with that of the Technical Cooperation Project document, which will be the guiding tool for the implementation.

IPS: Finally, what are the key institutional and governance challenges for comprehensive policies that protect and promote nutrition for the most vulnerable and contribute to sustainable and resistant food systems?

Dr.Lahai: The cross-cutting nature of food security and nutrition would call for an effective sectoral collaboration and engagement. As of yet, the collaboration remains sporadic and haphazard. There is a need for high-level inter-ministerial coordination to continuously keep the issue on the front burner. Most countries fail to implement progressive food security policies and rights to food laws. Climate change, which is also affecting food security and nutrition, is in need of stronger legal provisions. Uncoordinated national policies, fluctuation in food prices and production, political unrest, poverty, and a lack of clear national and global leadership are some of the main key institutional and governance challenges hindering the implementation of comprehensive, food-secure policies.

Rose Delaney, IPS Rome, interviewed Dr.Lahai

Rose Delaney

Rose Delaney

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Large-Scale Rainwater Harvesting Eases Scarcity in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2016 21:02:07 +0000 Justus Wanzala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146014 African Water Bank technicians put the final touches on a water storage tank at a homestead in the Duka Moja area of Narok County, Kenya. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

African Water Bank technicians put the final touches on a water storage tank at a homestead in the Duka Moja area of Narok County, Kenya. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

By Justus Wanzala
NAROK, Kenya, Jul 12 2016 (IPS)

Rainwater harvesting in Kenya and other places is hardly new. But in this water-stressed country, where two-thirds of the land is arid or semiarid, the quest for a lasting solution to water scarcity has driven useful innovations in this age-old practice.

The African Water Bank (AWB), an international nonprofit, has committed to providing and managing clean water using a much cheaper and efficient method.

The technology’s main focus is to harvest and store rainwater on a large scale. It has features such as an enhanced collection area, a guttering system and a storage system. Additional features include filters, water gauges and first flush devices.

A typical AWB rainwater harvesting system collects 400,000 to 450,000 litres of rainwater within two to three hours of steady rain. It has an artificial roof of 900 to 1,600 square metres and storage tanks. The largest tank ever constructed in Narok County has a capacity of 600,000 litres. All the units can be expanded per the owners’ needs.

This amount of water can serve a community of 400 people for approximately 24 months without extra rain. The capacity can be added at a rate of 220,000 litres per year. The system is low cost and can be 100 percent maintained locally. It also uses local skills, labour, materials and technology.A typical AWB harvesting system collects 400,000 to 450,000 litres of rainwater within two to three hours of steady rain.

Chip Morgan, AWB’s Chief Executive Officer, says their system collects huge volumes of rainwater and conserves it in large storage tanks. “This is akin to one earning money and saving it in a bank, the reasons we are called AWB,” he says.
He adds that the size of the system installed by households is dependent on their needs.

Currently, AWB focuses on the semiarid Narok County, in Kenya’s Rift Valley region, mainly occupied by the pastoral Maasai community. The technology has also been introduced in the semiarid Pokot, Machakos, Samburu and Kajiado counties in Kenya as well as in Zambia’s Chavuma district. Most of the clients are homes and institutions such as hospitals and schools.

Construction of tanks is funded by communities, donors and individuals who pay 50 percent up front before construction begins. Morgan says that despite growing demand, they are still in a phase where people are learning of the immense potential of the initiative. “This year we are fully booked. Our target is to build 50 units in a year,” he says.

The AWB CEO, who has worked for decades in the development sector starting in his native Australia, where water scarcity is a challenge to communities residing in remote areas, argues that one of the reasons why people are poor in many parts of the developing world is lack of water.

According to the 2012 Joint Monitoring Programme’s report, access to safe water supplies throughout Kenya was only 59 percent, while access to improved sanitation was 32 percent. The situation might have improved of late, but the challenge of access to water in both rural areas and urban areas still abounds.

Due to poor access to water and sanitation, says Morgan, water, sanitation and hygiene-related illnesses and conditions are the main cause of disease among children under five.

Meanwhile, just a small tank can irrigate a greenhouse on a one-third acre piece of land, thus promoting food security. As a result, AWB is keen to work with companies involved in the provision of greenhouse irrigation services to assist communities engaged in commercial farming.

Access to water and sanitation is also vital in reducing women and girls’ workload since culturally, fetching water is their job. This enables them to attend to other activities, such as school and homework.

Morgan notes that they use both skilled and unskilled local labour and continuously train their technicians. This is essential because the emergence of plastic tanks had killed demand for concrete ones, resulting in a decline of the number of concrete tank technicians. He says concrete/masonry tanks can last a lifetime.

AWB has two engineers. They offer training to technicians from outside Kenya. Four Ugandan community-based organisations have benefited from AWB’s skills transfer programme by sending their members to be trained on AWB rainwater harvesting technology.

Wataka Stephen, a trainee from Mbale, Uganda, says he was keen to acquire skills and transfer them to Uganda. “I intend to utilize the skills that I have acquired to employ myself,” says Wataka.

Swaga Jaberi, another Ugandan undergoing training at AWB, says his home region in eastern Uganda relies heavily on boreholes, but they are drying up as the water table decreases. Borehole digging is also expensive.

AWB’s rainwater harvesting technology is unique compared to the systems common in Uganda, he says. Jaberi intends to target hospitals, schools, and community centres as his potential clients.

The AWB rainwaters harvesting is indeed beneficial to communities in the semi arid Narok County. Apart from saving livestock during perennial droughts, it is also boosting education. Tonkei Ole Tempa, headmaster of the Ilkeek Aare mixed Day and Boarding Primary School, cannot hide his satisfaction. He says  that since the school completed construction of its 600,000-litre water tank in March, it has enough water to meet all its needs.

The system has a rainwater collecting roof of 400 square metres and was put up at a cost Kenya shillings 4.3 million (USD 43,000). Ole Tempa says the school, which has a total of 410 pupils with 180 pupils being boarders, now has enough water to last from one rainy season to the next.

Ole Tempa reveals that enrolment has gone up. “In 2013 the school had only 106 pupils but this year it has grown to 410,” says the headmaster. He adds that the availability of water has enhanced the school’s feeding programme. This has improved student health and performance. Hygiene standards in the school, adds Ole Tempa, have equally improved.

Indeed, various studies commissioned by Kenya’s ministry of education and other independent bodies in the past have indicated that in schools without clean water and toilets, pubescent female pupil’s absenteeism is rampant during days when they are menstruating. This affects their performance in school, with some dropping out altogether.

According to Ole Tempa, it is because of the vulnerability of girls that they offer boarding facilities to girls as matter of priority courtesy of availability of enough water. He adds that previously they used to spend 48,000 Kenya shillings (480 USD) every three months to buy water, but since they stared harvesting rainwater, the cost is zero.

The head teacher says that they intend to establish a vegetable garden through irrigation to supply fresh vegetables to the school and also rear two dairy cows to lower spending on milk for pupils. Funds for the construction of the roof and tank were provided by the Rotary Club in Kenya and the African Water Bank partners. Parents also chipped in by contributing Kenya shillings 5,000 each (USD 50). “The input by the parents was meant to ensure ownership of the project for sustainability purposes,” he says.

The government has equally recognized the impact of rainwater harvesting technologies in arid and semiarid areas on education. Speaking in Baringo County in June 2016, Fred Segor, Principal Secretary, Kenya’s ministry of water, urged schools to practice rainwater harvesting. He said the move will reduce incidences of water related diseases among pupils.

Apart from boosting access to water in arid and semi regions, rainwater harvesting contributes to water conservation thus reducing overexploitation of water resources. Moreover, rainwater harvesting reduces surface runoff during heavy precipitation which causes floods and erosion as water is harvested.

Morgan says AWB is keen to surmount challenges such as scarcity financial constraints by partnering with financial institutions. This will eliminate dependence on donors and lessen the burden on communities which lack funds to put up large scale rainwater harvesting units.

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Global Coalition Seeks Ban on Mercury Usehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/global-coalition-seeks-ban-on-mercury-use/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-coalition-seeks-ban-on-mercury-use http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/global-coalition-seeks-ban-on-mercury-use/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2016 14:27:42 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146008 Example of mercury use in the healthcare sector. From left to right:  Mercury Sphygmomanometer, Dental Amalgam and a Fever Thermometer. Photo: UNDP

Example of mercury use in the healthcare sector. From left to right: Mercury Sphygmomanometer, Dental Amalgam and a Fever Thermometer. Photo: UNDP

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2016 (IPS)

A coalition of over 25 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has launched a global campaign to end a longstanding health and environmental hazard: the use of mercury in dentistry.

Spearheading the campaign is the Washington-based World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, which is seeking to phase out dental amalgam, described as a “primitive pollutant”, by the year 2020.

The environmental health benefits from mercury-free dentistry would be “huge to the world”, says the World Alliance, “”The European Union’s science committee calls amalgam a ‘secondary poisoning’ because its mercury gets into fish and vegetables which children eat.”

A proposal before the European Commission calls for the use of dental amalgam in an encapsulated form, and more importantly, the implementation of amalgam separators, which should be mandatory to protect dental practitioners and patients from mercury exposure and to ensure that resulting mercury waste are not released into the environment but are collected and subjected to sound waste management.

Describing dental amalgam as “vastly inferior to today’s alternative materials,” the President of the World Alliance Charles G. Brown, told IPS: “Western corporate interests fund the counter-campaign to protect amalgam sales, especially in developing nations.”

“The game changer in our favour is the 2013 Minimata Convention on Mercury,” (which has been signed by 128 nations), said Brown, a former Attorney General of the US State of Ohio.

But the Convention, which aims to reduce or eliminate all man-made uses of mercury, needs 50 ratifications to become legally binding. But so far, only 28 countries have ratified the Convention, including the US.

The most recent ratifications have included Switzerland and Mali (in May) and Botswana (in June).

“We need a push to get over the finish line,” declared Brown, whose campaign reaches out Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, North America and the Island States. .

Besides the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, the coalition includes the European Environmental Bureau, Health and Environment Alliance, Women in Europe for a Common Future, International Academy for Oral Medicine and Toxicology, Asian Centre for Environmental Health, Danish Association for Non-Toxic Dentistry and Zero Waste Europe.

In a letter to members of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament, the coalition points out that, after long delays, the European Commission proposed a new mercury package last February, positioning the EU to finally ratify the Minamata Convention.

The package updates existing EU law to conform to the Convention, but falls short in several key areas, including a new proposal that would eventually perpetuate mercury use in EU dentistry.

“This proposal is clearly out of step with both the spirit and intent of the treaty,” the letter warns. The Minamata Convention requires each State party to “phase down the use of dental amalgam”.

The Environment Committee is calling for a phase-out of amalgam in Europe by the year 2021.

But the EC mercury package, on the other hand, proposes merely to require amalgam separators and encapsulated amalgam – two measures that fail to phase down European amalgam use for several reasons.

Asked if this problem is largely confined to the EU, described as the largest user of dental mercury in the world, Brown told IPS: “No, this problem is not confined to Europe although the EU is the largest user partly because dental care is more available in general”.

A report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), a mercury monitoring network, shows that North America (including the US) is consuming its share.

“Although use is far less in developing countries right now, it is expected to increase as dental care becomes more available – unless we prevent it by ensuring that mercury-free alternatives are used from the start.”

Achim Steiner, former Executive Director of UNEP, wrote a letter to the World Alliance last year endorsing the activist phasing down of amalgam in general, and singling out the work of the World Alliance of Mercury-Free Dentistry, in particular.

UNEP and the World Alliance have co-hosted two 10-nation conferences to work for mercury-free dentistry: for francophone Africa, April 2014 in Abidjan; and for Asia (South, Southeast, & East Asian nations), March 2016 in Bangkok.

The overall goal of the Global Mercury Partnership, according to UNEP, is to protect human health and the global environment from the release of mercury and its compounds by minimizing and, where feasible, ultimately eliminating global, anthropogenic mercury releases to air, water and land.

UNEP recently developed a brochure to assist nations in phasing down amalgam use. In it, UNEP particularly promoted the following steps:

(a) Raising public awareness of amalgam’s mercury content; (b) Updating dental school curricula to promote mercury-free dentistry; (c) Modifying government programs and insurance to favor mercury-free fillings; and (d) Restricting amalgam use in children and pregnant women.

In its attempts to protect human health and the environment from mercury—and in support of the Minamata Convention on Mercury—the UN Development Programme (UNDP), says sound management of chemicals and wastes is an important component of its efforts to achieve sustainable, inclusive and resilient human development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UNDP advocates integrating chemicals management priorities into national environmental and poverty reduction planning frameworks, while helping countries access financial and technical resources, and providing assistance and implementation support to improve the holistic management of chemicals and waste at national, regional and global levels.

UNDP currently supports 42 countries with a Global Environment Facility (GEF) mercury portfolio of $22 million in grants and $32 million in co-financing.

Asked if the medical lobby is powerful enough to keep stalling an eventual ban on dental mercury, Brown said: “It’s actually the dental lobby specifically that opposes the ban (many physicians tend to either not take a stand or they agree with us). “

Are they effective or powerful? It depends on whom you talk with, he said.

Dentistry is divided into two hotly contesting factions: the mercury-free numbers are growing, the pro-mercury faction shrinking – but the latter is represented by the World Dental Federation (FDI, its initials in French) and its constituent Western members, such as the American, British, and Canadian Dental Associations.

The American Dental Association spent $2,850,000 on lobbying expenses in 2013, the year the treaty negotiations ended, but in its arrogance the money was largely wasted, he added.

“At the Minamata Convention, FDI and the American Dental Association (ADA) were represented by white Western males, whereas dentists on our side came from every continent and race, as did our NGO team of talented women and men.”

“We outworked, outpointed, and outsmarted the well-heeled pro-mercury faction of dentistry, and amalgam is crucially placed in Annex A-II of the Minamata Convention.”

Their rearguard action to protect the status quo is not ineffective, but they cannot stall the amalgam ban indefinitely – else their own members will pull out the rug on them, said Brown.

In the United States, the number of mercury-free dentists has grown rapidly. In 2005, a peer reviewed study found that 31.6% of dentists practiced amalgam-free dentistry.

Just two years later in 2007, an ADA survey found that 36.6% of dentists did not use any amalgam – and that number was even higher (37.2%) among pediatric dentists and prosthodontists (the two specialties that perform restorations the most).

A survey by dental marketing firm ‘The Wealthy Dentist’ in 2009 found that 53% were not using amalgam. Seven years later, said Brown, it is safe to say that these numbers are on the conservative side today because of two trends.

Younger dentists use less amalgam than older dentists. According to the 2007 ADA survey, “More dentists 40 years or older (65.0%) currently used amalgam restorations than did dentists younger than 40 years (55.2%).”

So 44.8% of dentists under age 40 were already amalgam-free almost a decade ago in 2007. With many of the older dentists surveyed now retired and more young dentists graduated from dental school, the number of amalgam-free dentists has obviously increased while the number of dentists using amalgam has steadily decreased.

A number of surveyed dentists still using amalgam were dissatisfied with it as a restorative material.

Of the dentists who still used amalgam in the ADA’s 2007 survey, 5.2% were somewhat dissatisfied with amalgam as a restorative material and .8% were very dissatisfied.

Supposedly, said Brown, dentists would have stopped using a material they were already dissatisfied with a decade ago, especially with all the new mercury-free options now on the market.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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The Future of Food in Cities: Urban Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-future-of-food-in-cities-urban-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-future-of-food-in-cities-urban-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-future-of-food-in-cities-urban-agriculture/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 17:28:43 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146004 A food garden at UN headquarters in New York City. Credit: Phillip Kaeding / IPS.

A food garden at UN headquarters in New York City. Credit: Phillip Kaeding / IPS.

By Aruna Dutt
NEW YORK, Jul 11 2016 (IPS)

Habitat III, the UN’s conference on cities this coming October will explore urban agriculture as a solution to food security, but here in New York City, it has shown potential for much more.

Record-high levels of inequality are being felt most prominently in the world’s cities. Even In New York City, the heart of the developed world, many urban communities have food security issues.

Since the year 2000, New York City food costs have increased by 59 percent, while the average income of working adults has only increased by 17 percent.

Forty two percent of households in the city lack the income needed to cover necessities like food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and healthcare but still earn too much to qualify for government assistance.

Last year, OneNYC was introduced, a plan specifically aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, aiming to lift 800,000 people out of poverty in a decade.

“OneNYC has high expectations and they are working hard in terms of addressing equity in the food systems, waste, and making sure that more and more of its citizens have access to good, healthy food.” Michael Hurwitz, director of GrowNYC’s Greenmarket, which has been working on OneNYC, told IPS.

“In a city like New York City, urban agriculture can play a number of roles on top of feeding people, from education to safe spaces, and helping off-set food budgets.” Hurwitz told IPS.

"Within two months, a tough corner had become a corner of great, wonderful activity and it was because there were young people from the neighbourhood selling food to their neighbours.” -- Michael Hurwitz

Urban agriculture plays a significant role in feeding urban populations around the globe. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that 800 million people worldwide grow vegetables or fruits or raise animals in cities, producing what the Worldwatch Institute reports to be an astonishing 15 to 20 percent of the world’s food.

There are parts of the world where urban and peri-urban agriculture account for 50-75% of vegetable consumption within that city.

In Africa, it is estimated that 40 percent of the urban population is engaged in agriculture. Long-time residents and newcomers farm because they are hungry, they know how to grow food, land values are low, and fertilizers are cheap.

In the U.S., though, urban farming is likely to have its biggest impact on food security in places that, in some ways, resemble the global south —  that is, in cities or neighborhoods where median incomes are low and the need for affordable food is high.

Hurwitz saw this transformative power of agriculture when he was a social worker in Redhook, Brooklyn, a community where 40 percent of households were making less than $10,000 a year. He was working in community gardens with 16-17 year-olds in a court diversion program. The food that the kids grew, they took home or sold at farmer’s markets, local restaurants and stores.

“Our youth became leaders of change in their communities. A lot of the kids we worked with were kids that nobody else wanted to work with, but when they became the main source of healthy food in their neighbourhood at the organic farmers market, peers and adults would see that they were the ones actually bringing change to the community.”

This system is now significantly scaled up through GrowNYC, a non-profit that operates from NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. GrowNYC works with 6,000 kids a year through tours, providing materials for teachers to use in their classrooms. Its sister program Grow to Learn manages all of the school gardens in NYC. It also runs a “Mini-grant program” and technical assistance and training for teachers to run the gardens.

As a specific case of development, the South Bronx, ranked the poorest of 435 congressional districts in the U.S.A. in 2010.  Home to 52,000 low-income New Yorkers, with nearly half (42%) below the poverty line, this NYC district has been called a “food desert”.

When GrowNYC went into one section in the Bronx, a police officer warned them: “You don’t want to come here, it’s just not safe,” Hurwitz remembers. “But within two months, a tough corner had become a corner of great, wonderful activity and it was because there were young people from the neighbourhood selling food to their neighbours.”

For years, GrowNYC’s “Learn it, Grow it, Eat it” Program has been working with schools in the South Bronx, helping people become environmental leaders, Hurwitz says. That program operated one of GrowNYC’s youth-run farm stands, training youth in entrepreneurial, business and agriculture to run their own farm stands.

“We’ve seen kids who started in our youth market go on to be managers within the program,” Hurwitz said.

In New York, it’s not just about producing a standardized bulk amount of food for communities in need, but reflecting the diverse cultures. “We have farmers in our program that are growing $150, 000 worth of food on an acre and a half in Staten Island,” according to Hurwitz. On this farm, Mexican growers are growing Mexican-specialty crops, to feed to the Mexican community in Staten Island who otherwise would not have access to traditional foods that they are accustomed to.

The big greenhouse operators are now moving in and have become all the rage. But growing a limited variety of high-end greens is not going to feed the urban population alone. “I would rather see the $2 million being spent preserving rural farms with the goal of feeding the urban population. That can play a crucial role in getting food into cities, ensuring everybody has access to that food, and making sure that farmland remains viable and affordable”, Hurwitz contends.

The number of people living in cities is expected to double in the next thirty years according to the Atlas of Urban Expansion.

The Habitat III, the UN’s conference on cities this October will be the first time in 20 years that the international community has collectively paid attention to the impacts of urbanization, and will form a new global urbanization strategy — the “New Urban Agenda.”.

“Food security is one of the big issues that is going to be dealt with in Habitat III in relation to urbanization” said Juan Close, director of UN Habitat said here last week.

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Rethinking the Population Problemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rethinking-the-population-problem/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rethinking-the-population-problem http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rethinking-the-population-problem/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 15:47:12 +0000 Muhammad Azizul Haque http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146002 Illustration: Michael Morgenstern

Illustration: Michael Morgenstern

By Muhammad Azizul Haque
Jul 11 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

With the knowledge that Bangladesh’s population – which was about 75 million in 1971 – now stands bloated to more than 160 million, all crammed into a land area of only 50,260 sq miles and that the population density is already five times that in any other ‘mega’ country, contemplate the following scenarios and see if you want to picture the country with any further addition to its population. A population that renders running trains to become invisible under loads of humanity spilling out of their interiors and clinging to all over their exteriors, while carrying people to their homes in the countryside on the eve of Eids; traffic jams resulting into prolongation of say a 30-minute trip in the cities to an absurd three-hour trip; unbridled population increase that has already brought down the per capita land to 24 decimals or less and cultivable land to some 11 decimals; law courts reeling under the unwieldy burdens of hundreds of thousands of civil and criminal suits; innumerable daily occurrences of land-related disputes, countless crimes and murders; dying and moribund rivers; desertification and salinity intrusion from the sea; dire inadequacy of water supply causing distress to an enormous segment of the urban and rural population; a catastrophe from the rising sea-level looming large and threatening to submerge one-third of the land area of the country, which could thus engender the need to move and rehabilitate over 50 million internal migrants in the remaining two-thirds of the country’s land territory, which could in turn raise the already high population density to an absurd level; fast-shrinking agricultural and cultivable land due to unplanned and uncontrolled urbanisation, industrialisation, infrastructural and development projects implementation; increasing cost of living, healthcare and education, and rampant and ubiquitous corruption and unscrupulousness; admission of even infants to schools depending on lottery and parents’ capability to pay donations and; myriads of such other woes afflicting our daily life.

The root of nearly all our socioeconomic agonies can be traced back to the overpopulation of the country. Bangladesh’s population has long ago exceeded the combined population of Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Singapore. We do not have enough land even to properly house the existing population, let alone housing any additional people. All the strides and all the remarkable successes that Bangladesh has achieved in various socioeconomic sectors since its independence, and particularly under the present government since 2009, will be nullified if the population growth remains unbridled.

With population growth remaining unbridled, no government can implement development programmes and ensure their long-duration benefits to people. And with hundreds of thousands of young people joining the ranks of jobseekers every year, there is bound to be unmanageable unemployment problems and the resultant negative impact on the society. The world may not keep its doors wide open to perennially absorb our additional manpower and emigrants. There could be many impediments in the receiving countries, including racism and cultural repulsion.

During the first two decades after it came into being, Bangladesh was deemed by the West as a perfect example of a nation ‘whose poverty was a direct consequence of over-breeding’. It was considered a basket-case that barely subsisted on handouts from rich and developed countries. Notable ecologists and leading biologists, like Garrett Hardin, wrote in The New York Times and scholarly journals, that all aids to Bangladesh should be ceased. Very few Bangladeshis were aware of those write-ups and they just occupied themselves resiliently with rebuilding their war-ravaged country. And belying all sinister predictions, today Bangladesh has graduated itself to a lower middle income country.

However, in order to sustain and further augment our socioeconomic progress, we urgently need a sound and effective population policy. We need to plan and regulate the growth of our population so as to avert any big addition to our already huge and absurd population. This small country is comparable to a perilously overloaded ferry that cannot simply accommodate any more passengers. We must not lose our rising living standards. We must not revert to the extreme poverty we had before and be known as a basket case again. We must not return to our pitiable square one and to the mercy of the international community. We certainly don’t want that people of Garrett Hardin’s sort to want to ‘punish’ us for over-breeding.

The government should recognise overpopulation as a priority issue. And in order to address it aptly, a permanent national council or body, comprising eminent demographers, efficient public officials, notable scholars, experts and planners, should be in place to advise the government on the actions to be taken in its bid to manage and regulate our population size, its growth, and its age groups composition, so that it does not show any further significant increase. At the same time, such measures can enable us to avert serious impacts of the ageing of our population on the size of our workforce, which should be as large as we may need.

It may be difficult to achieve and sustain that balance, but solutions to a complicated problem is never easy, although not unattainable. Uncontrolled and unmanaged population is already an existential threat to our nation. We cannot afford to paper over the problem and delay addressing it any more. Over-breeding of any particular species of animal or creature, even human beings, in a land tends to have an adverse impact on the ecology of that land. It upsets the ecological equilibrium and triggers natural cataclysms by over-exploitation of natural resources of the land and polluting its environment.

How can one imagine this little country of already teeming crores to have, say 25 crore people, in the future and still ensure decent lives for them? No government, for all its best intentions and efforts, has the power to do that if the population grows to such a ludicrous size. And every political party in the country, if it calls itself patriotic, must extend unstinting support to the government to forthwith adopt the strictest possible measures to control the growth and size of the population.

With growing cities, townships and urban centres across the whole country, Bangladesh is likely to become a huge city-state in about three decades from now, if the current rate of economic growth is sustained. That, however, will gluttonously swallow the country’s invaluable agricultural land, unless we determine the minimum amount of it that we must unwaveringly protect to ensure food security in times of global food shortage, akin to what we witnessed in 2008.

While many of our neighbours are doing extremely well, progressing and consolidating their progress, we cannot live under the shadow of an existential threat due to the still growing overpopulation. Even our immediate neighbor, Myanmar, under its nascent and still shaky democracy, is showing great promise. In FY2015-2016, Myanmar received an FDI of US$9 billion. The total amount of the FDI received by Myanmar from 1988 to 2015 was around US$60 billion. And the country is expected to attain an economic growth rate of 8.4 percent in the current fiscal year (April 2016 – March 2017). Territorially, Myanmar is more than 4.5 times larger than Bangladesh, with an area equal to about half the country under rich forests. It has natural resources of all kinds, including gems, valuable minerals, oil, and offshore natural gas reserves estimated at 10 trillion cubic feet as well as huge areas of rice producing fertile agricultural land. Yet, it has a population of around 50 million, i.e. less than one-third of the population of Bangladesh. I strongly feel that Bangladesh must keep pace with its neighbours in the matter of progress in socioeconomic areas and other spheres. Bangladesh needs to sustain the progress it has attained so far and achieve more. There cannot be any falling back to our past.

The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Malagasy Children Bear Brunt of Severe Droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/malagasy-children-bear-brunt-of-severe-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=malagasy-children-bear-brunt-of-severe-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/malagasy-children-bear-brunt-of-severe-drought/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 10:39:53 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145975 Nearly half the children in drought-stricken South Madagascar are malnourished. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Nearly half the children in drought-stricken South Madagascar are malnourished. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
AMBOVOMBE, Madagascar, Jul 8 2016 (IPS)

Voahevetse Fotetse can easily pass for a three-year-old even though he is six and a pupil at Ankilimafaitsy Primary School in Ambovombe district, Androy region, one of the most severely affected by the ongoing drought in the South of Madagascar.

“Fotetse is just like many of the pupils here who, due to chronic malnutrition, are much too small for their age, they are too short and too thin,” explains Seraphine Sasara, the school’s director.

The school has a total population of 348 – 72 boys and 276 girls – and they range from three to 15 years. Fewer boys stay in school as they spend most of their time helping on the farm or grazing the family livestock.

The tide, however, turns when the girls reach 15 years, at which point most are withdrawn from school and married off.

But in school or out of school, nearly half of the children in Southern Madagascar have not escaped malnutrition. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says that stunting –  where children are too short for their age – affects at least 47 percent of children under five.“I feed my eight children on rice for breakfast and supper but for lunch, they have to eat cactus fruits." -- Mamy Perline

Compared to acute malnutrition, which can develop over a short period and is reversible, stunting has more far-reaching consequences.

“Stunting is a gradual and cumulative process during the 1,000 days from conception through the first two years of a child’s life,” Sasara told IPS.

It develops as a result of sustained poor dietary intake or repeated infections, or a combination of both.

“It is not just about a child being too short for their age, it has severe and irreversible consequences including risk of death, limited physical and cognitive capacities,” Sasara said.

Statistics show that two million children in this Southern African country are stunted, placing Madagascar fourth in the “Global Chronic Malnutrition” table.

In February this year, though the global acute malnutrition level reached an average of eight percent, it is much higher in many regions in Southern Madagascar where most districts have surpassed the critical threshold of 10 percent.

Rainfall deficit and recurrent drought in Southern Madagascar has led to the deterioration of household food security, which has had a significant impact on the nutritional status of children under five.

Sasara says that the situation has been worsened by the rice eating culture across Madagascar “where children eat rice for breakfast, lunch and supper.”

But Mamy Perline told IPS that even rice is not always available. “I feed my eight children on rice for breakfast and supper but for lunch, they have to eat cactus fruits,” she said.

According to the WFP, which runs a school feeding programme in affected districts, Tsihombe district in Androy region is the most affected, with an average of 14 percent of children under five presenting signs of acute malnutrition.

WFP estimates show that nearly 50 percent of the Malagasy children under five suffer from iron deficiency which causes anemia.

Consequently, of every 1,000 live births, 62 result in children dying before they reach five years.

The lack of clean water and proper sanitation has compounded the situation facing the South.

The education sector continues to bear the brunt of the severe drought, with statistics by various humanitarian agencies including WFP showing that the net primary education enrolment rate in Madagascar is on a downward spiral.

Though an estimated 96.2 percent of children were enrolled in 2006, the number had dwindled to 69.4 percent in 2012, with Sasara saying that the current enrolment is likely to be much lower as children are too hungry to stay in school.

This is the case in Tanandava village, Amboasary district, Anosy region, where hundreds of out of school children gather each day to receive a meal from the village canteen offered by Catholic Relief Services, a humanitarian agency working in the area.

WFP statistics further show that the number of out of school children between six and 12 years is estimated at 1.5 million, with regions such as Anosy, Androy and Atsimo Andrefana in the South of Madagascar which have high rates of food insecurity posting alarmingly low levels of school performance.

Since 2005 WFP has implemented a school feeding programme, providing daily fortified meals to nearly 300,000 children in 1,300 primary schools in the south of the country but also in the urban slums of Antananarivo, Tulear and Tamatave.

“The meals are fortified with micronutrients and are crucial in breaking the malnutrition cycle in this country,” Sasara said.

The school feeding programme is a joint community effort where parents are involved in the preparation of the food, therefore providing a platform for the implementation of other interventions geared towards improving the health and nutrition of vulnerable children.

These interventions access to water and sanitation, which are twin problems in this region.

“When it rains and water collects in potholes on the road, this is the water we collect in containers for drinking, cooking and washing. It does not matter how many cars or people have stepped into the water, it is the only source we have,” says Perline.

Given the increase in acute malnutrition, a contributing factor to child mortality, WFP supports the National Office for Nutrition through its Regional Office for Nutrition, which continues to provide supplementary feeding programs for the treatment of moderate acute malnutrition across villages in the South.

“Treating children affected by moderate acute malnutrition can reduce drastically the number of those affected by severe acute malnutrition and to restore an adequate nutritional status,” says Yves Christian, Head of Regional Office for Nutrition.

WFP is further providing technical assistance to the government at various levels that is expected to result in a nationally owned school feeding programme.

New modalities of school feeding will also be piloted at the start of the next school year later in September 2016.

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Record High Seafood Consumption Not Sustainable, Warns UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/record-high-seafood-consumption-not-sustainable-warns-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=record-high-seafood-consumption-not-sustainable-warns-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/record-high-seafood-consumption-not-sustainable-warns-un/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 00:12:21 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145969 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/record-high-seafood-consumption-not-sustainable-warns-un/feed/ 0 Is Federalism Pro-poor?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-federalism-pro-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-federalism-pro-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-federalism-pro-poor/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 15:25:27 +0000 Jeresa May http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145966 By Jeresa May C. Ochave
Jul 7 2016 (Manila Times)

Poverty, according to the United Nations, is “a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.”

JERESA MAY C. OCHAVE

JERESA MAY C. OCHAVE

Constitutional experts contend that our unitary system’s centralized form is the culprit for poverty in the country. The top-to-bottom approach (pinatulo governance, as we call it) limits the powers, authority and resources of its own local governments, impairing gravely the decision-making process. Planning and programs for the communities are divorced from the realties on the ground.

In effect, local governance are inefficient in providing even the public services that majority of Filipinos need and expect—health care, education, employment and housing; a state of affairs contrary to the promise of the 1987 Freedom Constitution, where framers have been mandated to create one that is “truly reflective of the aspirations and ideals of the Filipino people.”

A research by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), in 2015, affirms that the Philippines remains one of the poorest in Southeast Asia despite robust economic growth in the past few years.

The current and slow increase of the minimum wage cannot partner with the rising prices of commodities; we have the highest income tax rate (32 percent) compared to our neighboring countries in the Asean: Singapore, 2 percent; Vietnam, 20 percent; Malaysia, 11 percent; Cambodia, 20 percent; Laos, 12 percent. We also are a highly corrupt country, ranked 85th out of 175 countries). “Leakages” in our country are far beyond normal—and we don’t prosecute. (The Napoles corruption cases involving senators and congressmen have barely gone up through our justice system and those nominal “name brands” incarcerated may be freed soon with the advent of a new administration).

Rogier van den Brink, of the World Bank (WB), says the perennial challenge is to channel economic growth toward the poor to make the economy inclusive, thus, ending poverty. Rogier adds this can be achieved if investments in infrastructure, health, and education are increased; including an enhanced competition to level the playing field; simpler regulations to promote job creation, especially for micro and small enterprises; and the protection of property rights.

Karl Kendrick Chua, senior country economist of the WB, says both tax administration and tax policy reforms are needed to generate the revenues required to finance the decades-old investment deficit in infrastructure, health and education.

While tax policy reforms can be implemented, however, under a unitary system, national taxes remitted to the center will still take away much of the wealth and revenues generated by agriculture and other industries in various local communities around the country. Major corporations, including banks, pay their taxes in Metro Manila whose cities benefit more from their activities than the provinces and other cities in which the branches of the corporations operate.

Local officials will continue to spend much of their energy and limited funds seeking the assistance and approval of national government officials in Metro Manila. Local dependence will continue to stifle local initiative and resourcefulness, and hamper local business and development.

Although new taxes and fiscal reforms have been initiated, the government lacks funds and is heavily in debt from too much borrowing.

Federalism, in contrast to our current unitary system (that only concentrates political powers and authority in the national government), emphasizes regional and local self-rule and self-reliance in governance based on the principle of subsidiarity. In short, the decisions are made at the lowest possible level where local problems can be solved. In addition, while regions or state governments are designed to be autonomous, the federal government will provide assistance to various regions and states, especially the less developed ones. In most federal governments this is called the “Equalization Fund,” designed to lift the less endowed states to a decent level, meeting the basic needs of its constituencies. This fund is raised by contributions from all the states in the federal republic and expensed by federal government.

As Atty. Josephus Jimenez emphasized in a Philippine Star column, “Once we are under a federal system, all component states collect their own taxes and contribute only a small fraction of their revenues to the federal or central government for only three centralized functions, namely: National Defense, including the National Police, Justice and Foreign Affairs. All the rest shall be left to each state, including health, education, labor and employment, trade, transportation, communication, agriculture, agrarian reform, justice, environment, natural resources. The states will manage mining and forest matters and shall control all natural resources.”

A federal republic will provide better policies and implementation that will enable the people to raise their standard of living. At the same time,

• Citizens will be more willing to pay taxes that will finance government programs and services for their direct benefits, as they see where their money goes;

• Equitable regional development will be promoted;

• Faster political, economic, social, and cultural development and modernization will take place; and

• There will be inter-regional competition in attracting domestic and foreign investments and industries, professionals, and skilled workers.

It is true that there will be inevitably some “leakages,” but corruption on a local level is much more transparent through a vigilant local community now empowered to run its own affairs.

Let us take note at how America has empowered its people and become the most powerful country in the world through federalism:

“So long as local affairs are reserved to the greatest possible extent for the localities themselves and so long as the people are both interested in and capable of understanding and handling their own problems, then the philosopher’s stone has indeed been discovered and a large measure of both freedom and order are possible.” – Dr. George Charles Roche III.

Ms. Jeresa May C. Ochave is communications director of the Centrist Democracy Political Institute (CDPI). A graduate of the Mass Communications program in Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU), she currently serves as secretary of Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) – Davao Chapter and was elected as regional chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) – Region XI. Ms. Ochave is also a part-time professor at the University of the Immaculate Conception, in Davao City, and is taking her masters in Public Administration, major in Public Policy, at the AdDU.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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International Organizations Concerned by El Niño Funding Gaphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/international-organizations-concerned-by-el-nino-funding-gap/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-organizations-concerned-by-el-nino-funding-gap http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/international-organizations-concerned-by-el-nino-funding-gap/#comments Tue, 05 Jul 2016 20:04:16 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145931 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/international-organizations-concerned-by-el-nino-funding-gap/feed/ 0 The Shift from Social Development to Infrastructure – How to Build Greenerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-shift-from-social-development-to-infrastructure-how-to-build-greener/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-shift-from-social-development-to-infrastructure-how-to-build-greener http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-shift-from-social-development-to-infrastructure-how-to-build-greener/#comments Fri, 01 Jul 2016 08:41:39 +0000 Vinod Thomas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145899

The author is Director General of Independent Evaluation at the Manila-based Asian Development Bank.

By Vinod Thomas
MANILA, Jul 1 2016 (IPS)

Across the world, the pendulum has swung from a focus on social development to infrastructure development. Recognizing that infrastructure is only one variable in the development equation, we must try to get the most value from this shift in priorities.

That entails ensuring that new investments are not just more of the same, but ones that contribute to sustainable progress. With trillions of dollars envisaged for constructing dams, bridges and roads, it is pivotal that new infrastructure is environmentally friendly.

To understand why this change is critical, consider the arithmetic of climate change.  At current rates of greenhouse gas production, global temperatures will likely, in a quarter century, rise above 2 C from pre-industrial levels, leading to
catastrophic impacts.

Vinod Thomas

Vinod Thomas

And Asia will be the hardest hit. To dodge this scenario, energy-related emissions alone will need to fall by 40 to 70 percent below 2010 levels worldwide by 2050.

Industrial countries were the primary source of the past carbon buildup. But developing Asia is now the source of some 37 percent of the emissions. Regardless of the history, Asia’s well-being hinges squarely on confronting climate change.

Energy and transport in Asia contribute two-thirds of the emissions. By one estimate, Asia requires $8 trillion of infrastructure investment during 2010-2020.

Multilateral lenders — established ones like the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank, as well as new ones like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the bank of BRICS (comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries — plan to increase funding for infrastructure.

The public sector has a vital regulatory and enabling role, while the private sector has more investible capital at its disposal. Public-private partnerships done right can help expand infrastructure.

But for infrastructure investments to have lasting value, all stakeholders in infrastructure programs must take to heart the priority for climate mitigation and adaptation. The crucial question is how official and private financing can make infrastructure climate-harmonic.

Here are seven ways to do it, as seen from Asia’s experience. First, renewable sources of energy supply need to expand vastly — solar, wind, wave, tidal, geothermal and biomass. But the variability in output  from solar and wind sources is much higher than from coal-fired generation plants. Solutions include battery storage, smart grids and demand measures.

Recent examples of disasters illustrate why safeguards are vital. In the industrial world, Volkswagen’s deliberate cheating on harmful emissions is a gigantic scandal. In the developing world, Indonesia’s man-made forest fires are a crime against the
environment and people
At the same time, integration of advanced weather forecast technology in renewable energy management is emerging, which can be used to enable the expansion of renewable energy.

Second, fossil fuel subsidies have to be reformed. Global subsidies for coal, the worst polluter, and for petroleum and natural gas are some $500 billion a year, and 10 times that amount when environmental damages are also considered.

Asia accounts for half of global fossil fuel subsidies. Eliminating them would promote cleaner energy, protect local environments and reduce the carbon footprint. India and Indonesia, for instance, have started to cut the subsidies and  adjust energy prices.

Third, a tax that sets a price on carbon would reduce the demand for carbon-emitting fossil fuels, and increase the demand for renewable sources and lower-emission fuels such as natural gas.

Fossil fuel producers have opposed carbon taxes, and Australia abolished one in 2014. On the other hand, China, based on seven pilot emissions trading programs,  intends to launch a national cap and trade program in 2017, which will make the country the world’s biggest carbon market. Recently, India levied a carbon tax on fossil fuels.

Fourth, this is the chance to deal with the unacceptable levels of city pollution and congestion, as seen in Beijing or Delhi. Asia added a billion people to its cities in the past three decades, and another billion is expected by 2040.

Fifteen of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in Asia. Fuel and engine efficiency can be improved, as shown by Busan, South Korea, where higher licensing fees are charged for trucks that do not comply with emission standards. City-operated bicycle shares, low-emission car rentals and sidewalk  widening can make cities more livable. Asian cities can be a booming market
for renewable power generation equipment and electric vehicles.

Fifth, there are options to address urban congestion. Intelligent transport systems, as in Seoul, inform passengers of the best routes for their commute. China’s Guangzhou bus rapid transit may be saving 30 million passenger hours a year.

Multi-modal public transport around hub stations, such as in Chennai and Bengaluru in India, can reduce congestion and pollution.

A glaring problem is municipal waste, which will require implementing the so-called 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) approach and investments in disposal capacity such as conversion of waste to energy, anaerobic digestion, recycling and reduced waste disposal.

Sixth, infrastructure finance ought to aim for climate, environmental and social protection. This involves strengthening roads and embankments, building houses and businesses in safer areas, investing in rain harvesting, drainage and flood barrier structures, and applying forecasting and early-warning technology.

Retrofit technologies can be used for old structures, thus lowering maintenance costs. In addition to climate-smart agriculture, a top priority is to stop deforestation, whose damages are evident in Indonesia and others.

Seventh, regulation, compliance and monitoring should deflect risks to communities, habitats and livelihoods. Multilateral development banks must ensure that safeguards are improved, and not weakened under political pressures to lend for infrastructure.

Recent examples of disasters illustrate why safeguards are vital. In the industrial world, Volkswagen’s deliberate cheating on harmful emissions is a gigantic scandal. In the developing world, Indonesia’s man-made forest fires are a crime against the
environment and people.

The seven measures listed here promise socioeconomic gains to local societies.

They also, in varying measures, help slow atmospheric emissions and global warming. Contrary to the belief many people have held, environmental and climate actions are not a drag on economic growth. Quite the contrary, they are essential for ensuring that growth will be sustained.

When it comes to infrastructure investment, the intersection between global and local interests turns out to be a key dimension to identify and exploit.

This common space represents win-win possibilities for designing, implementing and maintaining infrastructure differently and innovatively. It is in our collective interest to consider this possibility and take action. Asia should be at the forefront of such action.

Finally, it would be strategic to run infrastructure investment in tandem with climate finance, which is expected to grow in the coming years. A global target since the Copenhagen and Cancun climate talks is $100 billion for climate finance, including private, by 2020.  For its part, the ADB announced in September that it would double annual climate financing to $6 billion by 2020.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) just approved a $31 million climate adaptation grant for a project financed by the ADB — the first multilateral development bank to gain accreditation to access GCF funding. More funding for infrastructure is good news for revitalizing economic growth in Asia. At the same time, this is not the time to do more of the same.

In the face of environmental catastrophes and runaway climate change, this is the moment to build low-carbon intensity and climate-resilience into infrastructure investment, and thereby improve the prospects for sustaining economic growth and people’s well-being.

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