Inter Press ServiceEnvironment – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 21 Sep 2018 15:51:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Freezing Inside UAE’s High Rise Buildings While Temperatures Soar Outsidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/freezing-inside-uaes-high-rise-buildings-temperatures-soar-outside/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=freezing-inside-uaes-high-rise-buildings-temperatures-soar-outside http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/freezing-inside-uaes-high-rise-buildings-temperatures-soar-outside/#comments Thu, 20 Sep 2018 13:43:52 +0000 Amna Khaishgi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157691 “Look at these tall, beautiful buildings. I have worked as a mason during the construction and was one of those who laid [the brickwork] brick by brick,” says Mohammed Akhtar* who has been working as mason for over a decade in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Akhtar has seen the evolution of Dubai’s skyline over […]

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The United Arab Emirates is also paying the price of rapid economic development in terms of climate change. Air-conditioning has proved to be a major challenge to climate change mitigation and because of the rise in temperatures in Dubai, most new buildings have air-conditioning. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Amna Khaishgi
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Sep 20 2018 (IPS)

“Look at these tall, beautiful buildings. I have worked as a mason during the construction and was one of those who laid [the brickwork] brick by brick,” says Mohammed Akhtar* who has been working as mason for over a decade in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Akhtar has seen the evolution of Dubai’s skyline over time. “It has been an overwhelming journey.”  When asked what has changed in the last 10 years, Akhtar smiles and says the weather.

“Temperatures outside have been increasing so fast that it drains our energy quickly. We cannot fight with nature. But at least we could play our role in protecting the environment,” the 45-year old Pakistani tells IPS. For him, sitting under the shade of a tree during his work break is the best form of relaxation.

While the rise in temperatures is certainly a concern, this Gulf state has a high level of awareness and government response when it comes to climate change mitigation.

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) has referred to the UAE as the most responsible country in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) when it comes to green growth, and as one of the best-performing countries across the globe.

“The kind of initiatives the UAE is taking is very encouraging and we expect things will improve with the passage of time,” GGGI Director General Dr. Frank Rijsberman tells IPS. The institute has a mandate to support emerging and developing countries develop rigorous green growth economic development strategies and works with both the public and private sector.

Rijsberman gives credit to the country’s leadership, who embraced green growth and sustainability much earlier and faster than many countries in the world.

Rijsberman adds also that the UAE was quick to realise the challenges of water scarcity and installed desalination plants at a time when other countries were only planning, theirs. A GCC report shows that Kuwait was the first country in the region to construct a desalination plant in 1957, with the UAE constructing its first plant two decades later.

Rijsberman, however, says that a lot remains to be done.

“Right now, the challenge is how to run a plant with energy efficiency. Now is the time to move green energy options to run these huge plants, which are a major source of water supplying to the country,” says Rijsberman.

Like many countries, the UAE is also paying the price of rapid economic development in terms of climate change.

“Rapid economic development and population growth in the UAE has led to the challenges like greenhouse gas emissions, extreme weather conditions, water scarcity and habitat destruction. All these issues are interlinked,” Rijsberman tells IPS.

According to the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment; direct impacts of extreme weather events, as well as slow-onset phenomena such as sea level rise, could disrupt the daily functioning of transport and infrastructure, impact the value of real estate, affect environmental assets, and damage the tourism industry.

“The effects of climate change are likely to be felt most severely in coastal zones, where marine habitats will suffer from rising water temperatures and salinity, whereas infrastructure will be tested by storm surges and sea level rise. Other risks include weakened food security and health damages from extreme weather events,” the report further says.

The UAE’s National Climate Change Plan 2017-2050, which was released early this year, notes that climate change impacts increase national vulnerability and, if left unmanaged, will affect the growth potential of the country.

“Potential impacts of climate change on the UAE include extreme heat, storm surge, sea level rise, water stress, dust and sand storms, and desertification. Even small variations in weather patterns could significantly affect the country’s economic, environmental, and social well-being,” the report states.

According to the report, the most vulnerable areas to climate change in the UAE include water, coastal, marine, and dry land ecosystems; buildings and infrastructures; agriculture and food security; and public health.

“Based on the analysis of past and present anthropogenic drivers, future projections using climate models suggest an increase in the UAE’s annual average temperature of around 1°C by 2020, and 1.5-2°C by 2040.

“The effects of climate change are likely to be felt most severely in coastal zones, where marine habitats will suffer from rising water temperatures and salinity, whereas infrastructure will be tested by storm surges and sea level rise. Other risks include weakened food security and health damages from extreme weather events.”

In addition, climate change could have implications on the UAE’s development objectives. “Direct impacts of extreme weather events, as well as slow-onset phenomena such as sea level rise, could disrupt the daily functioning of transport and infrastructure, impact the value of real estate, affect environmental assets, and damage the tourism industry,” the report further says.

But plans are already in place. “They have seen the storm coming and they are preparing themselves to fight it,” says Rijsberman.

However, there are many challenges that remain to be tackled.

According to the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, the country  has a relatively low share, less than 0.5 percent, of global emissions. For this reason, the voluntary adoption of measures to control and limit domestic GHG emissions would have a negligible impact in solving the global problem of climate change.

However, the country’s capital, Abu Dhabi, has very high per capita CO2 emissions, 39.1 tonnes in 2012 an increase of 4.4 percent compared to 37.44 tonnes in 2010more than triple the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) average of 10.08 tonnes.

The main contributors to CO2 emissions in 2012 were the production of public electricity and water desalination (33 percent), oil and gas extraction and processing activities (25 percent), transport (20 percent) and industry (12 percent).

Rijsberman was in Dubai to launch a joint initiative with the World Green Economy Organisation (WGEO). Both organisations have signed a partnership agreement to fast track green investment opportunities to develop bankable smart green city projects across the world.

“The UAE has been a leader in green growth. It is not only investing within the country but also helping other states to promote green cities,” Rijsberman says.

Lack of awareness and insufficient resources are also hindering the UAE’s green growth momentum.

Khawaja Hasan has been working as an environmentalist with both public and private sectors in the UAE for about a decade and tells IPS that while government is serious about promoting green growth initiatives across the board there are several challenges that slow down implementation.

“The private sector suffers with lack of awareness, lack of technology and above all cost are major issues that [hinders] the green growth.

“They [private sector] believe in short term goals. They don’t want to invest extra to benefit long term. Moreover there is no major direct monetary incentives from the government side to acquire and implement green approach.”

He also says that a lack of affordable green technology is also a major factor for mid level and small companies.

Green growth is not a luxury. It is a necessity, says Rijsberman.  He urged governments, including the UAE, to develop policy and introduce incentives that reach the grassroots. “If the green policy and initiatives are not reaching the people then it is not going anywhere.”

For instance, Rijsberman says air-conditioning, is a major challenge to climate change mitigation.

“It is directly related to how the buildings are constructed. If we contract close boxes without any air ventilation, air-conditioning or artificial cooling is inevitable. However, if we work on building style and work on structural changes, dependency on air-conditioning would decrease.

“Today, the situation in Dubai is, inside the building, we are shivering with the lowest temperature and outside, our local environment temperature is becoming unbearable due to the hot air that millions of air-conditioning are throwing out in the environment. The whole cycle becomes artificial and imbalance,” he said.

Though Akhtar is doing his little bit to address the balance.

“If we are building beautiful air-conditioned buildings, we should also plant trees too,” says Akhtar who, each year on his daughter’s birthday, plants a tree in his residential compound in Dubai. “This is my gift to this city who has given me an opportunity to earn decent money for my family back in Pakistan.”

*Not his real name.

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

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Coral reef in Mexico. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Andrew Norton
LONDON, Sep 20 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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Indigenous Peoples Link Their Development to Clean Energieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/indigenous-peoples-link-development-clean-energies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-link-development-clean-energies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/indigenous-peoples-link-development-clean-energies/#respond Thu, 20 Sep 2018 00:27:51 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157687 Achuar indigenous communities in Ecuador are turning to the sun to generate electricity for their homes and transport themselves in canoes with solar panels along the rivers of their territory in the Amazon rainforest, just one illustration of how indigenous people are seeking clean energies as a partner for sustainable development. “We want to generate […]

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United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines (3rd left), calls for the full participation of indigenous communities in clean energy projects during the forum Our Village in San Francisco, California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines (3rd left), calls for the full participation of indigenous communities in clean energy projects during the forum Our Village in San Francisco, California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA , Sep 20 2018 (IPS)

Achuar indigenous communities in Ecuador are turning to the sun to generate electricity for their homes and transport themselves in canoes with solar panels along the rivers of their territory in the Amazon rainforest, just one illustration of how indigenous people are seeking clean energies as a partner for sustainable development.

“We want to generate a community economy based on sustainability,” Domingo Peas, an Achuar leader, told IPS. Peas is also an advisor to the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, which groups 28 indigenous organisations and 11 native groups from that South American country.

The first project dates back to the last decade, when the Achuar people began to install solar panels in Sharamentsa, a village of 120 people located on the banks of the Pastaza River. Currently they are operating 40 photovoltaic panels, at a cost of 300 dollars per unit, contributed by private donations and foundations."Communities have to be at the centre to decide on and design projects that help combat poverty, because they allow electricity without depending on the power grid, and they strengthen the defense of the territory and benefit the people. It's about guaranteeing rights and defining development processes." -- Victoria Tauli-Corpuz

The villagers use electricity to light up their homes and pump water to a 6,000-litre tank.

“There is a better quality of services for families. Our goal is to create another energy model that is respectful of our people and our territories,” Peas said.

The Achuar took the next step in 2012, when they started the Kara Solar electric canoe motor project. Kara means “dream” in the Achuar language.

The first boat with solar panels on its roof, with a capacity to carry 20 people and built at a cost of 50,000 dollars, began operating in 2017 and is based in the Achuar community of Kapawi.

The second canoe, with a cost of 35,000 dollars, based in Sharamentsa – which means “the place of scarlet macaws” in Achuar – began ferrying people in July.

The investment came partly from private donations and the rest from the IDEAS prize for Energy Innovation, established by the Inter-American Development Bank, which the community received in 2015, endowed with 127,000 dollars.

The Achuar people’s solar-powered transport network connects nine of their communities along 67 km of the Pastaza river – which forms part of the border between Ecuador and Peru – and the Capahuari river. The approximately 21,000 members of the Achuar community live along the banks of these two rivers.

“It was an indigenous idea adapted to the manufacture of canoes. They use them to transport people and products, like peanuts, cinnamon, yucca and plantains (cooking bananas),” in an area where rivers are the highways connecting their settlements, said Peas.

The demand for clean energy in indigenous and local communities and success stories such as the Achuar’s were presented during the Global Climate Action Summit, convened by the government of the U.S. state of California.

A solar panel exhibit in San Francisco, California, during the Global Climate Action Summit, which showed the expansion of solar and wind energy and micro hydroelectric dams to provide electricity to small communities. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A solar panel exhibit in San Francisco, California, during the Global Climate Action Summit, which showed the expansion of solar and wind energy and micro hydroelectric dams to provide electricity to small communities. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The event, held on Sept. 13-14 in San Francisco, was an early celebration of the third anniversary of the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, reached in the French capital in December 2015.

Native delegates also participated in the alternative forum “Our Village: Climate Action by the People,” on Sept. 11-14, presented by the U.S. non-governmental organisations If Not US Then Who and Hip Hop Caucus.

Right Energy Partnership

The Indigenous Peoples' Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG), made up of 50 organisations from 33 countries, launched the Right Energy Partnership in July. In Latin America, organisations from Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and five regional and global networks are taking part.

The consortium seeks to ensure that alternative projects are aligned with respect for and protection of human rights and provide access by at least 50 million indigenous people to renewable energy by 2030 that is developed and managed in a manner consistent with their self-determination needs and development aspirations.

This would be achieved by ensuring the protection of rights to prevent adverse impacts of renewable energy initiatives on ancestral territories, strengthen communities with sustainable development, and fortify the exchange of knowledge and collaboration between indigenous peoples and other actors.

The Alliance decided to conduct a pilot phase between 2018 and 2020 in 10 countries. The first countries included were Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Nicaragua, and Australia, the United States and New Zealand could also join, as they have indigenous groups that already operate renewable ventures and have success stories.

In addition to Ecuador, innovative experiences have also emerged from indigenous communities in countries such as Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Guatemala, Malaysia, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and the United States, according to the forum.

For example, in Bolivia there is an alliance between the local government of Yocalla, in the southern department of Potosí, and the non-governmental organisation Luces Nuevas aimed at providing electricity from renewable sources to poor families.

In Yocalla, a municipality of 10,000 people, mainly members of the Pukina indigenous community, “755 families live in rural areas with limited electricity; the national power grid has not yet reached those places,” project consultant Yara Montenegro told IPS.

Thanks to the programme, which began in March, 30 poor families have received solar panels connected to lithium batteries, produced at the La Palca pilot plant in Potosí, which store the fluid.

Each system costs 400 dollars, of which the families contribute half and the organisation and the government the other half. The families can connect two lamps, charge a cell phone and listen to the radio, replacing the use of firewood, candles and conventional batteries.

The development of clean sources plays a decisive role in achieving one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Goal seven aims to establish “affordable and non-polluting energy” – a goal that also has an impact on the achievement of at least another 11 SDGs, which the international community set for itself in 2015 for the next 15 years, within the framework of the United Nations.

In addition, the success of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4All), the programme to be implemented during the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All 2014-2024, which aims to guarantee universal access to modern energy services, and to double the global rate of energy efficiency upgrades and the share of renewables in the global energy mix, depends on that progress.

But most of the groups promoting an energy transition do not include native people, points out the May report “Renewable Energy and Indigenous Peoples. Background Paper to the Right Energy Partnership,” prepared by the Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG).

That group launched a Right Energy Partnership in July, which seeks to fill that gap.

For Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Kankanaey Igorot people, who is the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, energy represents “a problem and a solution” for indigenous people, she told IPS at the alternative forum in San Francisco.

“The leaders have fought against hydroelectric dams and I have also seen projects in the hands of indigenous peoples,” she said.

Because of this, “the communities have to be at the centre to decide on and design projects that help combat poverty, because they allow electricity without depending on the power grid, and they strengthen the defense of the territory and benefit the people,” she said.

“It’s about guaranteeing rights and defining development processes,” she summed up.

Examples of projects that can be replicated and expanded, as called for by the U.N special rapporteur, are provided by communities such as Sharamentsa in Ecuador and Yocalla in Bolivia.

Sharamentsa operates a 12 kW battery bank that can create a microgrid. “A power supply centre is planned that allows the generation of value-added products, such as plant processing,” Peas said.

In Yocalla, the plan is to equip some 169 families with systems in December and then try to extend it to all of Potosí. But Montenegro pointed out that alliances are needed so that the beneficiaries can pay less. “In 2019 we will analyse the impact, if the families are satisfied with it, if they are comfortable,” she said.

This article was produced with support from the Climate and Land Use Alliance.

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Between Drought and Floods, Cuba Seeks to Improve Water Managementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/drought-floods-cuba-seeks-improve-water-management/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-floods-cuba-seeks-improve-water-management http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/drought-floods-cuba-seeks-improve-water-management/#respond Sat, 15 Sep 2018 15:48:23 +0000 Patricia Grogg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157631 If you enjoy a good daily shower and water comes out every time you turn on the taps in your home, you should feel privileged. There are places in the world where this vital resource for life is becoming scarcer by the day and the forecasts for the future are grim. A study by the […]

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A medium-density polyethylene (MDPE) pipe is set to be installed on a centrally located avenue in the municipality of Centro Habana, which will be part of the new water supply grid for residents of the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A medium-density polyethylene (MDPE) pipe is set to be installed on a centrally located avenue in the municipality of Centro Habana, which will be part of the new water supply grid for residents of the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Sep 15 2018 (IPS)

If you enjoy a good daily shower and water comes out every time you turn on the taps in your home, you should feel privileged. There are places in the world where this vital resource for life is becoming scarcer by the day and the forecasts for the future are grim.

A study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which covers the period 2003-2013, shows that the world’s largest underground aquifers are being depleted at an alarming rate as a result of more water being withdrawn than can be replenished.

“The situation is quite critical,” NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti has said, when discussing the subject in specialised publications in the U.S. In the opinion of this expert the problems with groundwater are aggravated by global warming due to the phenomenon of climate change.

Far from diminishing, the impact of climate variations is also felt in greater changes in rainfall patterns, with serious consequences for Caribbean nations that are dependent on rainfall. In Cuba and other Caribbean island countries, in particular, periods of drought have become more intense.

“There is a gradual decrease in water availability due to reduced rainfall, deteriorating water quality and greater evaporation due to rising temperatures,” Antonio Rodríguez, vice-president of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH), told IPS in an interview.

Hurricane Irma, which in September 2017 tore almost through the entire Cuban archipelago, contributed to the relief of a drought that kept the country’s people and fields thirsty for nearly four years. The current rainy season, which will last until November, began in May with Subtropical Storm Alberto with high levels of rainfall that will continue.

“We have been able to show that climate change is real. We lived through 38 months of intense drought and then we had rains well above average,” said Rodrìguez.

A team of workers from the Aguas de La Habana water company work on the replacement of the sewage system in the Vedado neighbourhood in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A team of workers from the Aguas de La Habana water company work on the replacement of the sewage system in the Vedado neighbourhood in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The intense rains associated with Alberto, which hit Cuba in the last week of May, caused eight deaths due to drowning and serious economic damage in several provinces, but at the same time considerably increased the reserves in the 242 reservoirs controlled by the INRH, the government agency in charge of Cuba’s water resources.

Tarea Vida, the official plan to deal with climate change in force since last year, warns that the average sea level has risen 6.77 cm to date, and could rise 27 cm by 2050 and 85 by 2100, which would cause the gradual loss of land in low-lying coastal areas.

In addition, there could be “a salinisation of underground aquifers opened up to the sea due to saline wedge intrusion.” For now, “of the 101 aquifers controlled by the INRH, 100 are in a very favourable state,” Rodríguez said.

These sources also suffered the impact of the drought, but recovered with the rains after Hurricane Irma.

In this context, the inefficient use of water, due to the technical condition and inadequate functioning of the water system, causes the annual loss of some 1.6 billion cubic metres of water in Cuba.

In 2011, a strategic plan outlining priorities to address this situation began to be implemented in 12 cities from Havana to Santiago de Cuba in the east.

Two workers from the Aguas de La Habana company replace water pipes and install water meters in homes to measure drinking water consumption in the Vedado neighbourhood in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Two workers from the Aguas de La Habana company replace water pipes and install water meters in homes to measure drinking water consumption in the Vedado neighbourhood in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

When the programme began, losses amounted to 58 percent, both in the water grid and inside homes and other establishments. So far, the loss has only been reduced to 48 percent.

Since 2013, however, work has been underway on a comprehensive supply and sanitation plan that covers more than a solution to losses in distribution.

From 2015 to 2017, sewerage coverage has improved by 0.6 per cent and an additional 1.6 million people have benefited from the water supply.

Currently, only 11 percent of the country’s population of 11.2 million receive piped water at home 24 hours a day, and 39 percent at certain times of the day. In the remaining 50 percent of households, water is available only sporadically, and sometimes they go more than a week without water.

“I live in downtown Santiago de Cuba and we have two large elevated tanks and a cistern. We get piped water from the grid more or less every seven days and it is enough for us, even for our daily shower,” a worker from the telephone company Etecsa told IPS from that city, asking to remain anonymous.

Part of the historical water deficit in Santiago and other cities in the eastern-most part of the country has been alleviated through the transfer of water from regions with a greater supply. But during times of drought the supply cycles slow down. “That’s why in my house we are careful with our water,” she said.

One study found that of the 58 percent of water lost, 20 percent is lost in homes.

Another priority is to increase wastewater treatment. “Although in the country sewage coverage is more than 96 percent, only 36 percent of the population receives the service through networks, the rest is through septic tanks and other types of treatment,” said INRH vice-president Rodrìguez.

Among these challenges, he also mentioned poor hydrometric coverage.

Alexander Concepción Molina, a worker at Aguas de La Habana, supervises the thermofusion process of a high-density polyethylene pipe, which is part of the installation of new water gridsin the Peñas Altas neighbourhood of Habana del Este, in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Alexander Concepción Molina, a worker at Aguas de La Habana, supervises the thermofusion process of a high-density polyethylene pipe, which is part of the installation of new water gridsin the Peñas Altas neighbourhood of Habana del Este, in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“We were able to get 100 percent of the public sector and all major consumers to be controlled by water metres, although in the residential sector this coverage reaches just over 23 percent of the population. From 2015 to 2017, more than 227,000 water meters have been installed, but the plan is to reach total coverage,” Rodríguez said.

“Without a doubt, water meters reduce consumption and allow us to measure the efficiency of our system,” he added.

Like other services, residential water supply is subsidised by the state and has a very low cost. “There are four of us and we pay 5.20 pesos a month (less than 0.25 cents of a dollar),” said María Curbelo, a resident of the Havana neighbourhood of Vedado.

The national hydraulic programme extended until 2030 includes works for water supply, sanitation, storage, diversion and hydrometry, as well as the necessary equipment for investment and maintenance.

“We are also working on the construction of seawater desalination plants,” Rodriguez said.

These plans include not only works to supply the population, but also everything necessary for agriculture, hotel infrastructure and the housing programme.

Rodriguez explained that to carry out the programme there is both state and foreign funding, which has made possible a subsidised home supply.

“We have benefited by foreign loans from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Spain’s development aid agency and Chinese donations,” among others, he said.

These are soft loans with a five-year grace period, two or three percent interest and to be paid in 20 years, with the Cuban State as guarantor.

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Worldwide Effects of Asbestos Usehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/worldwide-effects-asbestos-use/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=worldwide-effects-asbestos-use http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/worldwide-effects-asbestos-use/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 14:53:45 +0000 Emily Walsh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157623 Emily Walsh is the Community Outreach Director with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

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Earlier this summer, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (EPA) issued a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) on asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is also a known carcinogen. Asbestos is the only definitive cause of mesothelioma, a cancer which affects the linings of internal organs.

By Emily Walsh
WALLINGFORD, CT, US, Sep 14 2018 (IPS)

Earlier this summer, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (EPA) issued a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) on asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is also a known carcinogen. Asbestos is the only definitive cause of mesothelioma, a cancer which affects the linings of internal organs.

What is a Significant New Use Rule?

A SNUR can be required when chemical substances or mixtures are under review for new uses that may cause changes to current policy, or create concerns around environmental health. There are four criteria to determine whether a SNUR is in order. They are volume, type of human or environmental exposure, extent of human or environmental exposure, and method or manner of processing and distribution of the substance.

The rule states, “the Agency has found no information indicating that the following uses are ongoing, and therefore, the following uses are subject to this proposed SNUR,” before going on to list a number of uses that had previously been regulated under the Toxic Substance Control Act because of the health threats posed by asbestos in these capacities.

Though sixty five countries around the world have banned asbestos, heavy hitters like Russia, China, and the United States have not

Any person or corporation wishing to take advantage of the relaxation of asbestos regulations must notify the EPA at least 90 days prior to manufacturing.

After the news of this new rule was released to the American public, news outlets recoiled from the rule, pointing out that by opening up asbestos production to a case-by-case basis, it would create a backlog of EPA notifications and lead to more production of the dangerous mineral.

EPA spokesman James Hewitt told NBC News that this interpretation of the rule was inaccurate.

“Without [the SNUR], the EPA would not have a regulatory basis to restrict manufacturing and processing for the new asbestos uses covered by the rule,” Hewitt said. “The EPA action would prohibit companies from manufacturing, importing, or processing for these new uses of asbestos unless they receive approval from the EPA.”

Of course, without the SNUR, there would be no opening for manufacturing, and therefore no need for a regulatory basis to restrict it. Organizations like the Asbestos Disease and Awareness Organization (ADAO) are pushing for a full scale ban of the material as an amendment to the Toxic Substance Control Act.

It seems that the only way to responsibly use asbestos is to not use it at all.

 

Asbestos Use Worldwide

Though many countries have banned or severely restricted the use of asbestos, it still remains a threat to human and environmental health around the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos in the workplace alone. This mineral can also be found in the home, the environment, or even just walking by a construction site. The WHO also estimated that, “several thousand deaths annually can be attributed to exposure to asbestos in the home.”

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals, divided into six types, all of which are carcinogenic to humans. The mineral is used mainly in construction materials for its valuable properties of insulation, sound absorption, and fire retardancy.

In 2007 the World Health Assembly (WHA) endorsed a worldwide action plan for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases, by way of increased regulation of all forms of asbestos. However, this plan doesn’t give the WHA any actual regulatory power in member states.

This “action plan” may be an effective framework for countries wishing to invest time into asbestos regulation and reduction, but doesn’t attain concrete goals of a worldwide asbestos ban. That often falls to the member states themselves.

Though sixty five countries around the world have banned asbestos, heavy hitters like Russia, China, and the United States have not.

 

Earlier this summer, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (EPA) issued a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) on asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is also a known carcinogen. Asbestos is the only definitive cause of mesothelioma, a cancer which affects the linings of internal organs.

 

Why is Asbestos a Problem?

Asbestos remains a problem because of its continued use and horrifying effects. This mineral can cause health problems like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. All of these are dangerous diseases with far reaching consequences and health repercussions.

Mesothelioma, which takes 2,500 lives per year in the United States alone, is a devastating disease. This cancer has a long latency and then moves quickly and ruthlessly once fully developed. It can take 10 to 50 years for mesothelioma to appear, and only 7-9% of patients live longer than a year from diagnosis.

There are three types of mesothelioma, each occurring in the internal lining of a different part of the body. Pleural mesothelioma takes residence in the lungs and is the most common form of mesothelioma, pericardial lives in the heart’s lining, and peritoneal forms in the abdominal wall.

Typically cancer is measured in percentages of 5-year survival rates, but because of the extremely aggressive nature of mesothelioma, one year percentages are a more apt descriptor. Survival rates for each form of mesothelioma get lower the longer someone has the disease, and vary across pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial, with pericardial being consistently the lowest.

It is estimated that this disease takes up to 43,000 lives annually worldwide. This is a global issue, that should be treated as a serious public health concern.

 

The Canadian Example

Canada can be looked to as an example of how asbestos should be treated and mitigated. As recently as 2011, the country was a major exporter of the material and even headquartered The Chrysotile Institute in Quebec. Chrysotile Asbestos is the most common form of the mineral and is still mined around the world today.

By January of 2018, a full plan to prohibit the sale, use, import and export of the mineral was proposed and sponsored by the federal health and environment departments of the Canadian government.

This pivot from asbestos industry hub to shining example of how to implement a full asbestos ban was precipitated by many factors, which should be studied and replicated around the globe.

The Jeffrey mine, located in the town of Asbestos in Quebec, Canada was once the world’s largest asbestos mine, and was fully functional until 2011. The government in power at that time, the Quebec Liberal Party, had promised a $58 million loan in June of 2012 to reopen the mine.

When the party was defeated in September 2012 by the Parti Québécois, the loan was canceled and the Jeffrey mine, as well as the LAB Chrysotile mine closed down. Without the partisan support and financial support of the government, the asbestos industry was put at a standstill in Canada.

Concern around asbestos in Canada quieted down after the loan was canceled and the mines closed, until 2016 when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party along with the Quebec National Assembly announced that a full ban on asbestos would be passed by 2018.

Leading up to the cancellation of the 2012 loan were petitions written by scientists expressing the financial and public health impacts of continued asbestos use and production, as well as citizen and nonprofit campaigns on the issue.

Basing these campaigns on solid scientific evidence drew the attention of the Parti Québécois, who noticed that asbestos regulation would be an advantageous campaign to support, which in turn cut off the financial support the industry so desperately needed.

 

What Can Be Done?

Looking to other countries around the world, lessons can be gained from Canada’s example. The first step in the Canadian change of wind was the attention of citizen and scientific organizations to the issue, which made asbestos reform an attractive political platform.

After citizen support garnered political attention and the political leaders found a way to cut off financial support, the asbestos industry had little to no chance of recovering in Canada. Replicating, or at least drawing lessons from this example, could be valuable for a worldwide asbestos ban.

This September 26th is Mesothelioma Awareness Day. Taking this day to reflect on Canada’s example and educate the public about the threat of asbestos in the home and workplace are vitally important to the eradication of this disease.

 

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Excerpt:

Emily Walsh is the Community Outreach Director with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

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Preservation of the Klamath River – a Life or Death Matter for the Yurok Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/preservation-klamath-river-life-death-matter-yurok-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preservation-klamath-river-life-death-matter-yurok-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/preservation-klamath-river-life-death-matter-yurok-people/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 16:48:29 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157602 Fishermen are scarce in the Klamath River delta, unlike other fishing season, because climate change has driven up water temperatures which kills off the salmon, the flagship species of this region in northern California. The increase in temperatures favours the proliferation of lethal fish diseases and the absence of fish has devastating effects on the […]

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Yurok lawyer Amy Cordalis (L) explains the impacts of climate change on the Klamath River, such as the drop in the number of salmon, a key species in the traditions and economy of this Native American tribe in the western U.S. state of California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Yurok lawyer Amy Cordalis (L) explains the impacts of climate change on the Klamath River, such as the drop in the number of salmon, a key species in the traditions and economy of this Native American tribe in the western U.S. state of California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
KLAMATH, California, USA , Sep 13 2018 (IPS)

Fishermen are scarce in the Klamath River delta, unlike other fishing season, because climate change has driven up water temperatures which kills off the salmon, the flagship species of this region in northern California.

The increase in temperatures favours the proliferation of lethal fish diseases and the absence of fish has devastating effects on the Yurok, the largest group of Native Americans in the state of California, who live in the Klamath River basin.

“The river level is dropping at a time when it shouldn’t. The water warms up in summer and causes diseases in the fish. This changes the rhythm of the community and has social effects,” lawyer Amy Cordalis, a member of the tribe, told IPS during a tour of the watershed.

Cordalis stressed that the community of Klamath, in Del Norte county in northwest California, depends on fishing, which is a fundamental part of their traditions, culture and diet.

The Yurok, a tribe which currently has about 6,000 members, use the river for subsistence, economic, legal, political, religious and commercial purposes.

This tribe, one of more than 560 surviving tribes in the United States, owns and manages 48,526 hectares of land, of which its reserve, established in 1855, covers less than half: 22,743 hectares.

Conserving the forest is vital to the regulation of the temperature and water cycle of the river and to moisture along the Pacific coast.

The Yurok – which means “downriver people” – recall with terror the year 2002, when the water level dropped and at least 50,000 salmon ended up dead from disease, the highest fish mortality in the United States.

The Yurok are working to conserve and restore the Klamath River basin, to which they are spiritually and economically linked. Part of the restoration involves placing logs in the river, such as these ones that have been prepared on its banks, to channel the water and retain sediment and thus recreate the habitat needed by salmon, the species that is key to the Yurok culture. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Yurok are working to conserve and restore the Klamath River basin, to which they are spiritually and economically connected. Part of the restoration involves placing logs in the river, such as these ones that have been prepared on its banks, to channel the water and retain sediment and thus recreate the habitat needed by salmon, the species that is key to the Yurok culture. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

And in 2015 no snow fell, which affects the flow of water that feeds the river and is fundamental for the fishery because in March of each year the salmon fry come down from the mountain, Cordalis said. This species needs cold water to breed.

The federal government granted the Yurok a fishing quota of 14,500 salmon for 2018, which is low and excludes commercial catch, but is much higher than the quota granted in 2017 – only 650 – due to the crisis of the river flow that significantly reduced the number of salmon.

The migration of fish downriver has also decreased in recent years due to sedimentation of the basins caused by large-scale timber extraction, road construction, loss of lake wood and loss of diversity in the habitat and fishery production potential.

As a result, the number of chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris) and Pacific lamprey (Lampetra tridentata) have dropped in the Klamath River, while Coho or silver salmon (O. kisutch) are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The Klamath River in California, the natural and spiritual sustenance of the Yurok people, is facing threats due to climate change, such as reduced flow and increased temperatures, which kill salmon, a species that requires cold water for breeding. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Klamath River in California, the natural and spiritual sustenance of the Yurok people, is facing threats due to climate change, such as reduced flow and increased temperatures, which kill salmon, a species that requires cold water for breeding. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A reflection of this crisis, in Cordalis’ words, is the ban on commercial fishing for the third consecutive year, with only subsistence fishing allowed.

Faced with this, the Yurok have undertaken efforts for the conservation of the ecosystem and the recovery of damaged areas to encourage the arrival of the salmon.

In 2006, they began placing wood structures in the Terwer Creek watershed as dikes to channel water flow and control sediment.

“We had to convince the lumber company that owned the land, as well as the state and federal authorities. But when they saw that it worked, they didn’t raise any objections. What we are doing is geomorphology, we are planting gardens,” Rocco Fiori, the engineering geologist who is in charge of the restoration, from Fiori Geo Sciences, a consulting firm specialising in this type of work, told IPS.

Tree trunks are placed in the river bed, giving rise to the growth of new trees. They last about 15 years, as they are broken down and begin to rot as a result of contact with the moisture and wind.

But they generate more trees, giving rise to a small ecosystem. They also facilitate the emergence of vegetation on the river ford, explained Fiori, whose consulting firm is working with the Yurok on the restoration.

Salmon is basic to the diet of the Yurok people, who live in northern California. But the catch has fallen drastically due to a lower water flow in the Klamath River and the increase in water temperature. In the picture, a member of the Yurok tribe seasons fish for dinner on the riverbank. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Salmon is basic to the diet of the Yurok people, who live in northern California. But the catch has fallen drastically due to a lower water flow in the Klamath River and the increase in water temperature. In the picture, a member of the Yurok tribe seasons fish for dinner on the riverbank. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Starting in the fall, this strip is flooded every year, which favours the abundance of organic matter for the salmon to feed on, allowing them to grow and thrive in the new habitat.

In addition, four of the six dams along the Klamath River and its six tributaries, built after 1918 to generate electricity, will be dismantled.

The objective is to restore land that was flooded by the dams and to apply measures to mitigate any damage caused by the demolition of the dams, as required by law.

The Copco 1 and 2, Iron Gate and JC Boyle dams will be demolished in January 2021, at a cost of 397 million dollars. The owner of the dams, the PacifiCorp company, will cover at least 200 million of that cost, and the rest will come from the state government.

“The removal of the dams is vital. It’s a key solution for the survival of salmon,” biologist Michael Belchik, of the Yurok Tribe Fisheries Department, who has worked with the tribe for 23 years, told IPS.

The four reservoirs hold between five million and 20 million cubic metres of sediment, and their removal will provide 600 km of suitable habitat for salmon.

It is estimated that salmon production will increase by 80 percent, with benefits for business, recreational fishing and food security for the Yurok. In addition, the dismantling of dams will mitigate the toxic blue-green algae that proliferate in the reservoirs.

Water conservation projects exemplify the mixture of ancestral knowledge and modern science.

For Cordalis, salmon is irreplaceable. “Our job is not to let (a tragedy) happen again. The tribe does what it can to defend itself from problems and draw attention to the issue. We continue to fight for water and the right decisions. Our goal is to restore the river and get the fish to come back,” the lawyer said.

The Yurok shared their achievements and the challenges they face with indigenous delegates from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Mexico and Panama in the run-up to the Global Climate Action Summit, convened by the government of California to celebrate in advance the third anniversary of the Paris Agreement, reached in Paris in 2015. The meeting will take place on Sept. 13-14 in San Francisco, CA.

This article was produced with support from the Climate and Land Use Alliance .

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Global Warming Threatens Europe’s Public Healthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health/#comments Thu, 13 Sep 2018 10:16:43 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157598 Climate change and health experts are warning of the growing threat to public health in Europe from global warming as rising temperatures help potentially lethal diseases spread easily across the continent. This summer Europe has had to contend with record temperatures, drought, and destructive storms caused by heat and wildfires as forests in turn are […]

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Parched olive groves in northern Croatia, where West Nile Virus has already claimed one victim this year. West Nile Virus infections have sharply increased in Europe this year, the World Health Organisation says, largely due to a longer transmission season in the region which this year saw high temperatures and extended rainy spells followed by dry weather, helping mosquito breeding and propagation. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

By Ed Holt
VIENNA, Sep 13 2018 (IPS)

Climate change and health experts are warning of the growing threat to public health in Europe from global warming as rising temperatures help potentially lethal diseases spread easily across the continent.

This summer Europe has had to contend with record temperatures, drought, and destructive storms caused by heat and wildfires as forests in turn are left parched.

It has also, though, seen a spike in cases of the West Nile Virus – which by early September had claimed 71 lives – and the dramatic spread of the potentially lethal vibrio bacteria in an exceptionally warm Baltic Sea. The West Nile Virus is a viral infection spread by mosquitos and can cause neurological disease and death. Various species of vibrio bacteria cause Vibriosis, which can sometimes lead to deadly skin infections or gastrointestinal disease.“We need to think about preventing health problems by dealing with the causes of climate change itself.” -- Anne Stauffer, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

And there have been warnings that global warming has increased the risk of tick-borne diseases on the continent and that the geographical range of mosquitoes, which can transmit diseases like dengue, chikungunya, and Zika, is also expanding.

While disease experts are keen to stress that climate change is just one factor involved in the greater incidence of tropical diseases in Europe – increasing global travel, unplanned urbanisation and others factors are also involved – they do, however, agree that changes to temperature, rainfall and humidity make it easier for mosquitoes and other vectors to spread, survive and pass on infections.

Meanwhile, the incidences of vibrio infections – which can cause lethal illnesses in some people with compromised immune systems – reported in the Baltic Sea this year do appear to be directly linked to higher temperatures.

Jan Semenza, acting head of Section Scientific Assessment at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), told IPS: “The warming of the Baltic Sea is clearly related to global climate change and the increase in sea surface temperatures there is linked to [the increase in] vibrio bacteria.

“There seems to be a link with a warming climate and vibrio infections in the Baltic Sea.”

He added: “Climate change projections for sea surface temperature ….. indicate a marked upward trend during the summer months and an increase in the relative risk of  these infections in the coming decades.”

Groups dealing with the impact of climate change on health say that this year has been a watershed in European perception of climate change and its effects.

Anne Stauffer, director of Strategy at the non-profit Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) group which addresses the effects of climate change on human health, told IPS: “In terms of public awareness this summer’s heatwave has really made people see that climate change is happening in Europe and that we are facing threats.

“In previous years people thought about the effects of climate change only in terms of what’s happened in Africa and other places, not Europe, but now they see that Europe is affected and that Europe is facing challenges.”

But while public awareness of the health threats of climate change in Europe has improved over the last decade, it is still lacking, she says.

Experts on tropical diseases agree that in some countries, people are, perhaps understandably, ignorant of even the presence of certain diseases in Europe.

Rachel Lowe, an assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told IPS: “It would probably not occur to a lot of people in, say the [United Kingdom], to think about West Nile Virus when they go to Romania.”

Indeed, some tropical diseases have been present in Europe for many years, but confined to very southerly latitudes, while ticks, some of which can carry lyme disease (results in flu-like symptoms and a rash) and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain through an infection), are present in many parts of the continent.

But this year has seen a rise in cases of tick-borne encephalitis in central and southern Europe.

But with temperatures rising, that could change in the future. Cases of West Nile Virus, which have been reported in some parts of Europe for many years now, were much higher this year than in recent years and were seen much earlier than previously. This has been put down, in large part, to higher temperatures earlier in the year.

At the same time, there has been a documented expansion in the range of disease-carrying ticks in recent years to more northerly latitudes and higher elevations. Hot summers and mild winters have also been reported to be linked, along with other factors, to high incidence of tick-borne disease in certain parts of central and northern Europe.

A spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) told IPS: “Increases in temperatures in Europe might allow the establishment of tropical and semitropical vector species, permitting transmission of diseases in areas where low temperatures have hitherto prevented their over-wintering.”

Facing this potential threat, the WHO’s European Region Office has devoted increasing attention over recent years to what it says is the “emerging challenge of vector-borne diseases”.

It has developed a regional framework for surveillance and control of mosquitoes and recommends involving a mix of action, including, among others, political commitment supported with adequate financial resources as well as community engagement for both personal protection against insect bites and vector control activities.

But experts say that general awareness of the presence and threat of tropical diseases in Europe needs to be raised, especially as climate change models see similar long, hot summers as well as milder winters becoming more common across the continent in future and countries could suddenly face outbreaks of diseases they have not had to deal with in the past.

The WHO spokesperson told IPS: “Due to globalisation, increasing volume and pace of travel and trade and weather patterns, vector-borne disease may spread to new areas, thus affecting new populations never exposed to them before.

“In these areas, low general awareness about diseases such as West Nile Virus, dengue or chikungunya among the public and both human and animal health professionals might challenge early detection of cases.”

And Lowe told IPS: “People need to be more aware of this [tropical diseases in Europe]. People are becoming more aware of infectious diseases in general, but probably not so aware of the fact there are certain infectious diseases in Europe.”

It is not just public awareness, though, which will help Europe deal with the health threats posed by a changing climate. Whether, for example, mosquito-borne disease outbreaks, would be successfully contained, would depend on a number of factors. “This would include factors such as surveillance of mosquito spread, mosquito control as well as general public awareness,” Lowe told IPS.

The WHO told IPS that public health advice needs to be communicated to people for self-protection and while authorities need to make sure mosquito breeding sites are drained so that they do not become breeding grounds for mosquitos while doctors need to be regularly trained to recognise diseases which were uncommon in Europe.

But what some other experts suggest is, rather than trying to deal with outbreaks of diseases, governments should be working to halt climate change and prevent disease outbreaks happening in the first place.

Stauffer told IPS: “There are still unknowns with regards to the health threats potentially posed by climate change and we do not know how they will play out… but the lesson learnt from this summer is that we need to strengthen efforts to tackle climate change – not just adapting healthcare to cope with a warmer climate but also acting to reduce emissions.

“We need to think about preventing health problems by dealing with the causes of climate change itself.”

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Q&A: Achieving Sustainable Goals: “In the End it is All About People. If People Want, it Will Happen.”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-achieving-sustainable-goals-end-people-people-want-will-happen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-achieving-sustainable-goals-end-people-people-want-will-happen http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-achieving-sustainable-goals-end-people-people-want-will-happen/#respond Wed, 12 Sep 2018 10:05:07 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157577 Manipadma Jena interviews the Deputy Director and Water Sector Lead at the Global Green Growth Institute's (GGGI) Investment and Policy Solutions Division, PETER VOS.

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On Bangladesh's extensive estuaries, millions of poorest climate vulnerable families eke out a paltry living from inter-tidal fishing like this father-son team that is selling their catch of catfish to tourists on a power boat. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
STOCKHOLM, Sep 12 2018 (IPS)

Today just over two billion people live without readily available, safe water supplies at home. And more than half the world’s population, roughly 4.3 billion people, live in areas where demand for water resources outstrips sustainable supplies for at least part of the year.

Yet the world is not managing water well or making the most of it, the United Nations High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development said in July this year. This is due above all to failures of policies, governance, leadership and markets."So currently there is emerging a good opportunity to attract conservation finance for nature conservation, for water management, for sustainable landscapes." -- Deputy Director and Water Sector Lead at the Global Green Growth Institute, Peter Vos.

By 2030, investment in water and sanitation infrastructure will need to be around USD0.9 -1.5 trillion per year, according to the New Climate Economy Report 2018. The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate released this major report earlier this month.

Maximising returns on water investment requires recognising the potential for natural or green infrastructure to complement or replace built infrastructure. It also requires mobilising private finance and investment at scale and generating adequate revenue returns. It will also be vital to put an appropriate value on water and sanitation services.

This is what the South Korea headquartered Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) helps developing countries and emerging economies do, among other things. GGGI, an inter-governmental organisation with 28 member countries, supports and promotes strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in its partner countries. It supports countries’ national efforts to translate climate commitments, contained in their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, into concrete climate action.

“GGGI delivers green growth services in the water sector that requires [the application of] market-based solutions for managing ecosystem services using innovative financial instruments such as Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES),” said Peter Vos, deputy director and Global Water Sector Lead during World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. Vos has extensive experience in international water projects both in the public and private sector.

He said that GGGI saw the PES model as not only providing a vehicle for incentivising ecosystem management, but also being able to help achieve long-term sustainable goals.

In a presentation on financing water conservation for ecosystem services at the global event organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute, Vos strongly emphasised PES as a powerful tool for enhancing economic, environmental and social returns from investments in integrated ecosystem management. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Peter Vos, Deputy Director and Water Sector Lead in GGGI’s Investment and Policy Solutions Division, said that GGGI saw the Payment for Ecosystem Services model as not only providing a vehicle for incentivising ecosystem management, but also being able to help achieve long-term sustainable goals. Courtesy: Peter Vos

IPS: Please tell us about GGGI’s participation in the World Water Week and how it benefits from it.

PV: What is getting the attention of the water discussion now is ecosystem services. We try to get knowledge about the crucial elements of this aspect. GGGI is implementing PES in the water sector and has been involved in the development of financial instruments to support ecosystem services in several developing countries.

GGGI works to address issues impacting water availability and use by encouraging water-related innovation in industries and investment in green urban infrastructure, and through integration with policies on water allocation in economic sectors.

Secondly, there are the bilateral meetings which hold importance for our future work and at World Water Week we met a cross-section of stakeholders, including from ministries, donors, also NGOs.

We had very intense discussions and made good progress. GGGI is an international organisation focusing on green growth, and we need partners to pursue our agenda, not only in terms of attracting finance but also in ways in which we can work together, to cooperate, expand and have more impact. We are a small organisation and cannot do it alone.

IPS: GGGI’s water sector has been providing a range of appropriate technical guidance towards green growth to low and lower-middle income countries that are tailored to their socio-economic conditions, their capacity and demand. What are GGGI’s working strengths in this area?

PV: GGGI focuses on mainstreaming water resources management in green planning frameworks, decentralised sanitation and water quality investments, and innovation through bio-economy, including climate resilient food systems and payment for ecosystem services.

What makes GGGI’s operations successful is that we are embedded in the government. We are not outsiders but one of them. We have our staff sitting in the ministry itself, discussing constantly how to improve sustainable economic growth, looking at policy reform through the green pathway.

Green growth policies allow for limited water resources to be used more efficiently and enable access to all at a reasonable cost, while leaving sufficient quantities to sustain the environment. New green projects in water and sanitation not only improve overall capacity in sustainable water management, but also create additional green jobs.

The second aspect about the way GGGI works is that it is there with partner countries for the long haul. Our commitments are long term and we see it through from policy reforms all the way to supporting project implementation. We are there monitoring projects even five years after [implementation] and assist governments if something goes wrong.

Our linkages between policy reform and project development ensures implementation. But if it is only about policy reform then it is very likely that it will be written in a report and may never see the light of day. Without policy implementation, policy reform is a toothless tiger; it will not be successful…So we have two pillars. The first is policy reform to create a conducive environment. [And the] second is project implementation that creates the hands and feet of what we jointly want to achieve.

IPS: What are some of the implementation challenges GGGI faces and how does it handle them?

PV: In setting the ground for reforms, yes challenges are there. Politicians are there for the short term. Elected governments may be there for four years but ministers are often changed in a year’s time. One cannot rely on political support only; one has to work with all the layers below it – the civil service and municipalities – to make a policy or a project sustainable and internalise it.

We consider ourselves the strategic advisors, discussing policies and project extensively till the administration is fluent with them. We ensure that we have a broad base of support and not concentrated on one or two [powerful] persons.

We have been very nimble. The world is changing very fast and we need to adapt and respond quickly to the needs and opportunities for our member countries. So in the past year we have strengthened our presence in the countries of operations. With two-thirds of our staff in member countries, and just one-third at headquarters, we are closer than before to ground operations in member countries.

IPS: GGGI also helps member countries with investment strategies for their green projects. What is its investment mantra in an increasingly public fund-squeezed world?

PV: The mantra is that public investments are not sufficient to change the world. We need to attract other financing. Private financing is very important. There is a huge amount of private financing floating around. They are all looking for investment opportunities.

With current low interest rates it is difficult for them to find the right investment opportunities. So currently there is emerging a good opportunity to attract conservation finance for nature conservation, for water management, for sustainable landscapes.

Definitely there is a search for returns on investments but investors want impact; they want to do good for Nature, to do good for people. So this is also helping. Investors, especially in Germany, in the United Kingdom and the Nordic countries, are contributing to this shift. We have to find our opportunity in this shift to attract funding.

Since there is limited public money, we have to use it intelligently. What GGGI is doing is putting government and donor money or contributions from the Green Climate Fund into projects in such a way that the private investor feels confident that their investment will give assured returns. For instance, in Rwanda we are working on energy efficiency and climate change investments. Financial vehicles are designed with a foundation of public funds and this gives comfort to private investors.

IPS: How do you see the earth in 2050 and where do you see hope for sustainability coming from?

PV: In principle I am very optimistic. This is not a scientific answer but a personal opinion. I am also optimistic that we will be able to achieve positive results and in the end remain below the two degree warming limit.

This positivity is fed by the innovations for sustainability I see, that investors now are looking for impact rather than financial returns and the fact that the membership of GGGI increased to 28 members who remain very committed to a sustainable growth path. Countries like China may still be resorting to coal-powered electricity but they are taking big steps towards sustainability simultaneously.

Today, it is a combination of positive and negative factors, but I hope and expect the positive will prevail, that we will be able to turn the ship in the end. In the end it is all about people. If people want, it will happen.

The post Q&A: Achieving Sustainable Goals: “In the End it is All About People. If People Want, it Will Happen.” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Manipadma Jena interviews the Deputy Director and Water Sector Lead at the Global Green Growth Institute's (GGGI) Investment and Policy Solutions Division, PETER VOS.

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

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

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

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

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

And it is nothing if not timely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Manipadma Jena
STOCKHOLM, Sep 11 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Q&A: As Water Scarcity Becomes the New Normal How Do We Manage This Scarce Resource? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The negotiation process. Smooth sailing or rough seas ahead?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deposit with the UN Secretary-General

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Four-Year Drought Forces Cuba to Find Ways to Build Resiliencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/four-year-drought-forces-cuba-find-ways-build-resilience/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=four-year-drought-forces-cuba-find-ways-build-resilience http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/four-year-drought-forces-cuba-find-ways-build-resilience/#respond Fri, 07 Sep 2018 14:08:20 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157503 Eastern Cuba has suffered drought since time immemorial. But the western and central regions of the island used to be almost free of the phenomenon, until the latest drought that plagued this country between 2014 and 2017. “For the first time drought is seen as a major threat, due to the magnitude of the economic […]

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A man rests while his horse drinks water from an almost dry stream near the village of Palenque, in the municipality of Yateras in the eastern province of Guantánamo, one of the worst affected by the long drought that affected Cuba between 2014 and 2017. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A man rests while his horse drinks water from an almost dry stream near the village of Palenque, in the municipality of Yateras in the eastern province of Guantánamo, one of the worst affected by the long drought that affected Cuba between 2014 and 2017. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
HAVANA, Sep 7 2018 (IPS)

Eastern Cuba has suffered drought since time immemorial. But the western and central regions of the island used to be almost free of the phenomenon, until the latest drought that plagued this country between 2014 and 2017.

“For the first time drought is seen as a major threat, due to the magnitude of the economic impacts it caused,” agronomist Loexys Rodríguez, who in the eastern city of Guantánamo promotes and carries out research on resilience in the productive sector in the face of drought, told IPS.

Over the past four years, Cuba has faced the most extensive drought seen in 115 years, affecting 80 percent of the country.

Prolonged rationing in the residential sector, with the suspension of water supply for up to a month, caused serious social upheaval, while economic losses amounted to 1.5 billion dollars, according to official figures.

All regions, especially the central part of the country, were ravaged by the so-called “silent disaster,” because it advances slowly and almost imperceptibly.

Latin America has suffered the worst droughts in its history in this century and the subsequent loss of income was four times more than that caused by floods, warned the World Bank, which even called for thinking about a new economy in times of scarcity and variable water supplies.

Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru are among the countries in the region that have experienced the most severe dry spells so far this century, considered part of the effects of climate change.

According to the World Bank, in general terms, this phenomenon has a greater impact on Caribbean island nations such as Cuba.

“It has been demonstrated that these droughts are recurrent, that we are practically living with them,” Rodríguez warned. However, “not all elements of resilience are being given the same level of priority or national scope,” the expert warned.

Because they are the most frequent and dreaded phenomenon in the Caribbean, especially in the islands, hurricanes capture all the attention of the national disaster response systems. Associated with cyclones, the concept of resilience began to be used recently in Cuba’s disaster response system.

With respect to the environment, this term refers to the ability of a community, economic activity or ecosystem, among others, to absorb disturbances such as the onslaught of weather events without significantly altering their characteristics of structure and functionality, so as to facilitate the subsequent return to its original state.

A peasant farmer checks the water level in his backyard well, in the municipality of Horno de Guisa, Granma province, in eastern Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A peasant farmer checks the water level in his backyard well, in the municipality of Horno de Guisa, Granma province, in eastern Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Rodríguez spoke with IPS after presenting a methodological tool that allows farmers and agricultural decision-makers to easily determine how drought-resilient a farm is, at the 10th International Congress on Disasters, held in Havana Jul. 2-6.

The tool is a result of the programme “Sustainable agricultural practices adapted to climate change in the province of Guantánamo, Cuba,” which was implemented in 2016 by local entities with the support of the international humanitarian organisation Oxfam and with aid from Belgium.

In addition to a self-assessment guide, the instrument included in the book “Resilience to drought based on agroecology” includes a perception survey of the phenomenon, possible solutions and a set of local agroecological capacities and services to which farmers can turn to in the face of drought.

The study, which covered the municipalities of Niceto Pérez and Manuel Tames in Guantánamo, establishes 10 features that farms must achieve to be resistant, proposes 64 agroecological practices for farm management and design, and listed more than 50 entities with innovations, services, or funds to be used.

Geologist Yusmira Savón, who also participated in the project, described the tool as “very flexible to achieve collective drought resilience, with a high level of organisation, agroecological bases and the use of local capacities.”

“Droughts are lasting longer and longer, and the duration of rainy and dry seasons is changing,” she told IPS. “It would be very interesting for the country to work harder on the concept of resilience, which allows for the elimination of deficiencies in a proactive way, that is, before disasters happen,” she said.

 A view of a sugar cane plantation after it was destroyed by a fire caused by high temperatures in the municipality of Palma Soriano, in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS


A view of a sugar cane plantation after it was destroyed by a fire caused by high temperatures in the municipality of Palma Soriano, in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Cuban authorities and scientific institutions are calling for more research and projects to prevent and adapt to drought.

“Living in a semi-arid zone greatly limits development, but it gives Guantánamo a potential that other provinces don’t have,” Ángel Almarales, director of the state-run Centre of Technology for Sustainable Development (Catedes), based in the provincial capital, 929 km east of Havana, told IPS by phone.

This province of 6,167 square km hosts a contrasting geography: in the north the climate is rainy and tropical, to the point that the municipality of Baracoa has the highest level of rainfall in Cuba; in the centre, the landscape is a tropical savannah; while the southern coastal strip is the only large semi-arid part of this Caribbean island nation.

Catedes is a scientific institution focused on finding development solutions for semi-desert area, which means it has know-how that is now needed by other Cuban regions.

Its formula, perfected over more than 10 years, includes the use of renewable energies in the fight against desertification and drought.

“Our big problem (as a province) is that we still don’t know how to manage water,” Almarales said of the key goal to be reached by the department of 511,093 people in its search for resilience to drought and improving quality of life.

Caimanera, a municipality known for adjoining the U.S. Guantánamo Naval Base, is in that semi-arid zone, where economic activities are basically limited to salt production, fishing and public services.
“Production of salt continues to be the main source of employment,” said Pedro Pupo, municipal director of labour and social security, during a June visit by international media to Caimanera, where the largest salt industry is located, which supplies just over 60 percent of national consumption.

Pupo cited as an example that in the municipal district of Hatibonico, “which is the most aridt area, mainly produces charcoal, because of the climatic conditions.” Also some opportunities were created in the local production of construction materials, he added in dialogue with IPS.

However, with the urban agriculture programme that promotes agroecological techniques in urban areas, and production adapted to the aridity of the climate and soil salinity, the local government reports that Caimanera produces 70 percent of the food it consumes.

With a rainy season that usually runs from May to November, Cuba has been implementing the National Water Policy since 2012, a programme that depends on rainfall and which uses 60 percent of the water for agriculture, 20 percent for human consumption, five percent for industrial use and the rest for other economic activities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Climate Change Becomes a Reality Check for the Northhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north/#comments Wed, 05 Sep 2018 15:53:42 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157468 “This season, the month of May was particularly hot and dry,” says Leo De Jong, a commercial farmer in Zeewolde, in Flevopolder, the Netherlands. Flevopolder is in the province of Flevoland, the largest site of land reclamation in the world. Here a hectare of land costs up to 100,000 Euros. “At the moment, we are spending […]

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A drought stressed maize crop on Leo De Jong's farm, in the Netherlands. De Jong says he spends between 20,000 and 25,000 Euros per week on irrigation. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
WAGENINGEN, The Netherlands, Sep 5 2018 (IPS)

“This season, the month of May was particularly hot and dry,” says Leo De Jong, a commercial farmer in Zeewolde, in Flevopolder, the Netherlands. Flevopolder is in the province of Flevoland, the largest site of land reclamation in the world. Here a hectare of land costs up to 100,000 Euros. “At the moment, we are spending between 20,000 and 25,000 Euros per week on irrigation.”

While most reports point to developing nations being the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, it is slowly emerging that farmers in the North who generally have more resources are feeling the heat too.

From incessant wild fires and powerful hurricanes in the United States and the Caribbean, to record-breaking high temperatures and droughts in Europe and Asia, the scientific community is unanimously in agreement that climate change is the more likely cause of these extremes in weather.

And it is causing severe disruptions to agricultural production systems, the environment and biodiversity.

This is troubling as, according to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a rise in temperature of more than 2°C could exacerbate the existing food deficit and prevent the majority of African countries from attaining their Sustainable Development Goals on poverty and hunger.

While De Jong can afford spending thousands of Euros on irrigation each week, he knows it is no longer sustainable for his farming business. He currently grows potatoes, onions and wheat, among other crops, on 170 hectares of reclaimed land.

Leo De Jong in his potato field, in the Netherlands. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Soil health emerges as key

With 18 million inhabitants, the Netherlands is densely populated. Half of the Netherlands is below sea level, but part of the sea was reclaimed for agricultural purposes.

After a flood in 1916, the Dutch government decided that the Zuiderzee, an inland sea within the Netherlands, would be enclosed and reclaimed. And later, the Afsluitdijk was completed—a 32 kilometre dyke which closed off the sea completely. Between 1940 and 1968, part of this enclosed inland sea was converted into land and in 1986 it became the newest province of the Netherlands—Flevoland.

Soil health in the Flevopolder, Flevoland, which sits about four meters below sea level, is of particular importance. De Jong sees it as a hallmark for every farmer in this era of climate change, regardless of their location.

He believes the answer to the climate challenge lies in farmers’ ability to “balance between ecology and economy.” This, he tells IPS, can be achieved through various ways such as improved and efficient irrigation technology, research and innovation, as well as farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchanges like the one to which he belongs—the Skylark Foundation. At the foundation he exchanges knowledge with a group of colleagues, mainly focusing on soil health.

“I have a feeling that the climate is getting extreme but consistent usage of manure, cover crops and other efficient sustainable practices guarantees good soil health, and soil health is the hallmark on which sustainable crop production is built.”

Similarly, Peter Appelman, who specialises in farming broccoli and cabbage, agrees with the soil health argument.

Appelman says that farmers should not be preoccupied with the various systems (conventional and organic farming) currently being propagated by researchers. He says that farmers should rather adopt systems that work for them depending on the type of soils on their farms.

“We have stopped feeding the crop but the soil,” he tells IPS, pointing at a pile of composite manure. “I am not an organic farmer but I try to be sustainable in whatever way because this comes back to you. You can’t grow a good product in bad soil.”

Market access for sustainability

In addressing the production cost side of the business, Appelman points to consumer satisfaction and predictable markets as key enablers to farmers’ sustainability in this era of climate stress.

As consumer preferences become more obvious, Appelman says farmers should not expend their energies complaining about market access and growing consumer demands but should rather work hard to satisfy them.

“I think my fellow farmers complain too much, which is not the best practice for the business,” he says. “As farmers, we should exert this energy in looking for customers, and work to satisfy them—I believe better farmer-to-customer relations should be the way forward.”

According to Appelman, production should be determined by consumer/market preferences. “I travel around the world looking for markets, and through these interactions, I learn and do my work according to the needs of my customers. Look for customers first and then proceed to produce for them, because it is tough in the production stage,” says Appelman, whose farm has an annual turn-over of about two million Euros.

The Appelman family grow broccoli on 170 hectares and red and white cabbage on 60 hectares.

Research and innovation

According to Professor Louise Fresco, president of the research executive board of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the answer to the global food challenge lies in ensuring that the contribution of agriculture to climate change is positive rather than negative.

This, she says, is only possible through investment in research and innovation in order to achieve maximum efficiency for food production and to minimise waste.

“The agriculture sector therefore needs to do more than produce food—but produce efficiently,” she said in her opening address to the 2018 International Federation of Agricultural Journalists congress held in the Netherlands in July. “Food has to be produced not as a chain, but in a circular way. Water and energy use are highlights.”

Under the theme: Dutch roots—small country, big solutions; the congress highlighted what lies at the centre of the Netherlands’ agricultural prowess.

“Productivity through innovation and efficiency is the answer to why the Netherlands,ca small country, is the second-largest agricultural exporter [in the world],” said Wiebe Draijer, chief executive officer and chairman of Rabobank.

Draijer said Rabobank, which was founded as a cooperative, was happy to be associated with the Dutch agricultural prowess, which is anchored in sustainable and innovative practices.

“In response to the global food challenge, we keep refining our lending modalities to support environmental sustainability. For example, we track farmers that we give loans to to monitor their environmental sustainability practices, and there is an incentive in the form of a discount on their loans.”

Sustainability is the buzz word globally. However, it seems there is much more to be done for farmers to achieve it, especially now that negative effects of climate change are similarly being felt in both the north and the global south.

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

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

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

By Zadie Neufville
BELMOPAN, Sep 5 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How Accurate Information About the Weather is Yielding Resilience for Zambia’s Smallholdershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/accurate-information-weather-yielding-resilience-zambias-smallholders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=accurate-information-weather-yielding-resilience-zambias-smallholders http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/accurate-information-weather-yielding-resilience-zambias-smallholders/#respond Thu, 30 Aug 2018 09:45:19 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157402 Just having better information about when and for how long it will rain is proving the difference between success and failure among smallholder farmers in southern Zambia. Empowered with timely information about the weather ahead of the 2017/18 farming season, 56-year-old Fainess Muzyamba of Pemba district ditched her traditional maize crop for sweet potatoes. “Through […]

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Fainess Muzyamba of Pemba district, Zambia, ending up ditching her traditional maize crop for sweet potatoes in the last farming season. It proved a successful strategy for her. She is pictured here with the clay flower pots that she also makes and sells at Zambia’s tourist capital, Livingstone, for additional income. Courtesy: Friday Phiri

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, Aug 30 2018 (IPS)

Just having better information about when and for how long it will rain is proving the difference between success and failure among smallholder farmers in southern Zambia. Empowered with timely information about the weather ahead of the 2017/18 farming season, 56-year-old Fainess Muzyamba of Pemba district ditched her traditional maize crop for sweet potatoes.

“Through the monthly weather briefings that we get, I decided to plant sweet potatoes instead of maize,” Muzyamba told IPS.

The monthly weather bulletin that Muzyamba is referring to is part of an integrated package of interventions under the Rural Resilience Initiative by the World Food Programme (WFP).

The initiative integrates six management strategies, which include risk transfer through rainfall index insurance, prudent risk taking through input and cash loans, climate services and information, and post-harvest management and marketing.

“This service has been very helpful,” said Muzyamba. “Through this information and technical advice from extension officers, I was able to project that seasonal rainfall would be problematic, and decided to plant sweet potatoes—these don’t need a lot of water to do well.”

And the decision paid off.

She harvested 60 x 50-kilogram (kg) bags of sweet potatoes which she has exchanged for 40 x  50-kg bags of maize.

At the current market price, Muzyamba would earn 2,800 Zambian kwacha (USD280) for the maize and an additional 1,200 Zambian kwacha (USD120) from her crop of sugar beans, which she has recently diversified into for its income and nutrition value. She added, however, “20 bags of maize is for food consumption” for her 11-member family. And it is guaranteed to last until the next harvest.

Smallholder farmers not protected against climate shocks

In Zambia, 73 percent of farmers or 1.5 million of the country’s 16 million people are smallholders, cultivating less than two hectares of land. Erratic rainfall is an additional burden to challenges such as fragile soils and poor access to agricultural inputs, markets and improved agricultural practices.

They often do not have access to basic risk management strategies and when climate shocks hit, their wellbeing in the short term is compromised. In the long term, these shocks have enduring consequences, including poverty, malnutrition and low life expectancy.

“The issue of erratic patterns of the weather and how we have seen this evolving, is a concern and a larger problem affecting smallholder farmers not only in Zambia but the entire southern African region,” noted Lola Castro, WFP regional director for southern Africa, during her visit to Zambia in March.

She told IPS: “It is for this reason that we think the Rural Resilience Initiative we are implementing with partners needs to be scaled up to empower smallholders to create resilience and adaptation to climate change impacts by discouraging mono-cropping of maize and promoting diversification.”

In partnership with Meteorological Department of Zambia, WFP “has installed two Automatic Weather stations to improve upstream and downstream dissemination and utilisation of agro-met information,” Allan Mulando of WFP Zambia told IPS. “WFP has also installed 20 manual rain gauges manned by trained local farmers and used by the community to make timely decisions on planting.”

Farmers take and then share readings from the gauges with the meteorological office, field project and government extension officers, and fellow farmers for planning purposes.

In their farmers’ clubs, lead and follower farmers gather to discuss parameters such as the right soil moisture content for planting. By comparing their own locally-obtained information and the broad-based national and regional weather forecast, they are able to make projections of what to expect, thereby helping them to plan what and when to plant.

A success in a season of disaster

When she compares the average yields of other farmers in the area, Muzyamba believes her story is a remarkable turnaround in a season that has largely been a disaster for the majority of smallholders due to poor rainfall.

“Paying for my children’s school fees will not be a problem this year. I was particularly worried [about having the fees for my] oldest son who is in grade twelve,” she said. She added that the situation would now be manageable as she is also involved in a savings scheme with the farmers’ club. She uses the proceeds of her savings to transport clay flower pots to Zambia’s tourist capital, Livingstone, where they are sold.

This is a typical story of diversification as a climate change adaptation strategy for smallholder farmers. But, perhaps, what has been lacking over the years are concrete integrated and sustainable ways of incentivising smallholder farmers.

“I think what we have learnt so far, is that the only way to address some of these issues is through an integrated approach—ensuring that activities are mainstreamed into national programmes to avoid confusion, and in future even when we leave as partners, these programmes continue to be implemented by relevant government departments,” Zambia WFP country director, Jennifer Bitonde, told IPS.

The initiative, which started in 2014, has been expanded to the Monze, Gwembe, Namwala and Mazabuka districts, reaching a total of 18,157 farmers.

More people need more food

By the year 2050, global population is expected to rise from the current seven billion to about nine billion, requiring a dramatic increase in agricultural production. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO),  as populations grow and diets change the world must produce 49 percent more food by 2050 than it did in 2012.

FAO believes that hunger, poverty and climate change can be tackled together by recognising the links between rural poverty, sustainable agriculture and strategies that boost resource use efficiency, conserve and restore biodiversity and natural resources, and combat the impacts of climate change.

At a global level, one important step taken to actualise this strategy was the adoption of the Koronivia Work Programme on Agriculture by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the 2017 Conference of Parties—the highest decision-making body on climate change and development.

This was after several years of discussing agriculture as a secondary subject at the UNFCCC negotiating table. But the decision to adopt it as a work programme, provides hope for farmers and processors in developing economies as meaningful action to adverse effects of climate change on agriculture will be taken.

“From our perspective as Zambia, our interest is in line with the expectations of the African group which is seeking to protect our smallholders, who are the majority producers, from the negative impacts of climate change through tried and friendly technologies,” Morton Mwanza, Zambia’s ministry of agriculture focal point person on climate smart agriculture, told IPS.

Technology adoption and human rights approach the way forward

Meanwhile, George Wamukoya, one of Africa’s well-known experts on climate change and agriculture, believes innovative technology adoption is the next big step forward for African agriculture to be transformed.

“I think it is a positive step because it has brought the issues of implementation and science together, and this is what we have been fighting for. We need investment in agriculture, to try and get science to inform whatever we are doing in agriculture, and to help cushion our farmers’ challenges,” Wamukoya told IPS.

However, civil society groups are cautious of some approaches. Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance argued for a human rights approach.

Mwenda told IPS that agriculture is no longer just an issue of science but also a human rights issue, adding that industrialised agriculture was not the right remedy to smallholder farmers’ climate challenges.

“Our interest is to promote resilience to agriculture, the context in Africa is how to support that smallholder farmer, that pastoralist whose cows are dying due to drought every time, so it’s important that we look at it from this context and not theories of industrialisation,” explained Mwenda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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