Inter Press Service » Water & Sanitation http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 03 May 2016 17:30:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Indian Women Worst Hit by Water Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/indian-women-worst-hit-by-water-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indian-women-worst-hit-by-water-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/indian-women-worst-hit-by-water-crisis/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 10:30:48 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144938 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/indian-women-worst-hit-by-water-crisis/feed/ 0 World Farmers’ Organisation Meeting Eyes New Markets, Fresh Investmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/world-farmers-organisation-meeting-eyes-new-markets-fresh-investment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-farmers-organisation-meeting-eyes-new-markets-fresh-investment http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/world-farmers-organisation-meeting-eyes-new-markets-fresh-investment/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:52:52 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144903 Bags of maize at the Food Reserve Agency Depot in Kasiya, Pemba district, Southern Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Bags of maize at the Food Reserve Agency Depot in Kasiya, Pemba district, Southern Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
LIVINGSTONE, Zambia, Apr 29 2016 (IPS)

‘No Farmer, No Food’ is an old slogan that the Zambia National Farmers’ Union still uses. Some people consider it a cliché, but it could be regaining its place in history as agriculture is increasingly seen as the answer to a wide range of the world’s critical needs such as nutrition, sustainable jobs and income for the rural poor.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), agricultural investment is one of the most important and effective strategies for economic growth and poverty reduction in rural areas where the majority of the world’s poor live. Available data indicates that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth originating in other sectors.

Armed with this evidence, the world’s development trajectory is focusing on how the sector can boost the fight against hunger and extreme poverty—two of the major obstacles to achieving sustainable development. And the upcoming 6th World Farmers’ Organisation General Assembly slated for May 4-7 in Zambia is set to be dominated by, among other things, agricultural investment and market linkages."We should use the gathering to solicit for ideas and investments to improve the agricultural value chain as government sets agriculture as the mainstay of the economy." -- WFO President Evelyn Nguleka

Under the theme ‘Partnerships for Growth’, the conference is poised to deliberate on ways to encourage farmer-centered partnerships and investments aimed at improving the economic environment and livelihood of this group of producers, most of whom live in rural areas.

FAO estimates that an additional investment of 83 billion dollars will be needed annually to close the gap between what low- and middle-income countries have invested each year over the last decade and what is needed by 2050.

But for developing countries like Zambia, where would this kind of investment come from?

Evelyn Nguleka, president of the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU), believes hosting this year’s event is an opportunity for Zambia to market itself as a preferred agricultural investment destination.

“We have the land, water, human resource and good climate which supports the growing of all kinds of agricultural produce,” Dr. Nguleka told IPS. She added that the hosting of the WFO General Assembly comes at a crucial time for Zambia, which has suffered one of the worst droughts induced by the El Nino weather phenomenon sweeping across Southern Africa.

“It is a critical point in our agricultural development that we should use the gathering to solicit for ideas and investments to improve the agricultural value chain as government sets agriculture as the mainstay of the economy,” said the ZNFU president, who is also the current World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) president.

Highlighting the challenge of market access and poor mechanisation, Nguleka is hopeful that Zambia would use the platform to learn from countries that have mechanised and are now reaping the benefits.

“As you are aware, majority producers are smallholders most of whom are women. Women are not only farmers but also home managers, and to balance these two duties requires some basic mechanisation to reduce time spent in the fields,” she said, highlighting the importance of women to agricultural development.

But for Green Living Movement, a member of the Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity Conservation, the conference should ensure that the voice of smallholder farmers – usually marginalised at such big events – is heard loud and clear.

“We welcome the theme, which is timely. But we say no to one-sided partnerships that seemingly favour the bigger corporations while the smallholder farmers lose out,” said Emmanuel Mutamba, director of Green Living Movement and Chairman of the Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity Conservation.

Mutamba said WFO should guard against selfish corporate interests whose agenda is largely driven by profit. “Climate change is here to stay. We call upon our representatives at this conference to seriously consider the plight of smallholders who produce 75 percent of the country’s food requirements and are at the frontlines of climate change effects. Sustainable technologies must be sought for their continued productivity, or else whatever partnerships emerge would not make sense without production,” Mutamba told IPS, highlighting the importance of tackling climate change.

And in adding value to the win-win approach being advocated for, the Cultivate Africa’s Future (CultiAF) Project on reducing post-harvest losses of fish in Western Zambia could be a perfect example.

After introducing fishers to efficient post-harvest handling technologies, the project has moved to fund business ideas meant to up-scale workable technologies whose findings are a result of joint efforts between fishers and researchers through a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach.

Dubbed Expanding Business Opportunities for African Youth in Agricultural Value Chains in Southern Africa, the CultiAF supplementary project is funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Jonathan Tambatamba, director of Programmes at the ATDF Entrepreneurship Hub (AEH), a private company contracted by IDRC to implement the commercialisation project, said, “The project seeks to move away from the ‘business as usual’ approach of using communities for commercial interests, after which they are dumped without a sustainability plan.”

Apart from entrepreneurship training, three novel and creative business ideas would be picked and supported with a 5,000-dollar grant each, addressing some of the noted challenges in the (CultiAF) PAR process – financial sustainability and poor market access.

And for 35-year-old fish trader Joyce Inonge Nang’umbili, the idea of having access to reliable markets built around the local business value chain could be close to a miracle. “For some of us who have taken up salting as the best option for fish processing, we desire proper market access of salted fish which is not widely known by most consumers in Zambia,” she said.

As WFO representatives gather in Livingstone, many hope they will be drawn not only to farmer centered policies that address market linkages, but also responsible agricultural investments, with serious implications for the fight against climate change threatening the very existence of humanity and attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as espoused in the UN 2030 agenda.

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El Nino-Induced Drought in Zimbabwehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/el-nino-induced-drought-in-zimbabwe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=el-nino-induced-drought-in-zimbabwe http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/el-nino-induced-drought-in-zimbabwe/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 05:42:21 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144896 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/el-nino-induced-drought-in-zimbabwe/feed/ 0 UN Predicts 40 Percent Water Shortfall by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/un-predicts-40-percent-water-shortfall-by-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-predicts-40-percent-water-shortfall-by-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/un-predicts-40-percent-water-shortfall-by-2030/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 19:04:20 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144889 The pastoralists of Ethiopia’s Somali region are forced to move constantly in search of pasture and watering holes for their animals. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS

The pastoralists of Ethiopia’s Somali region are forced to move constantly in search of pasture and watering holes for their animals. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 28 2016 (IPS)

Ten presidents and prime ministers from around the world will work together to resolve the growing global water crisis amid warnings that the world may face a 40 percent shortfall in water availability by 2030.

The figures continue to be staggering:  despite improvements, at least 663 million still do not have access to safe drinking water.

And projecting into the future, the United Nations says an estimated 1.8 billion people – out of a total world population of over 7 billion – will live in countries or regions with water scarcities.

The crisis has been aggravated by several factors, including climate change (triggering droughts) and military conflicts (where water is being used as a weapon of war in several war zones, including Iraq, Yemen and Syria).

The High Level Panel on Water, announced jointly by the the United Nations and World Bank last week. is expected to mobilise financial resources and scale up investments for increased water supplies. It will be co-chaired by President Ameenah Gurib of Mauritius and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico. The other eight world leaders on the panel include: Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia; Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; János Áder, President of Hungary; Abdullah Ensour, Prime Minister of Jordan; Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands; Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa; Macky Sall, President of Senegal; and Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan.

At a UN panel discussion last week, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson of Sweden said water lies at the nexus between sustainable development and climate action.

"If the water service fee is beyond a household’s ability to pay, it is a human rights violation.” -- Darcey O’Callaghan, Food and Water Watch.

Referring to the two extremes in weather patterns– droughts on the one hand and floods on the other – Eliasson said one of his colleagues who visited Pakistan after a huge flood, remarked: “Too much water and not a drop to drink.”

When world leaders held a summit meeting last September to adopt the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, they also approved 17 SDGs, including the elimination of extreme poverty and hunger and the provision of safe drinking water to every single individual in the world – by a targeted date of 2030.

But will this target be reached by the 15 year deadline?

Sanjay Wijesekera, Associate Director, Programmes, and Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at the UN children’s agency UNICEF, told IPS: “As we enter the SDG era, there is no doubt that the goal to get ‘safely managed’ water to every single person on earth within the next 15 years is going to be a challenge. What we have learned from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is that water cannot be successfully tackled in isolation.”

He said water safety is compromised every day from poor sanitation, which is widespread in many countries around the world, particularly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Currently, nearly two billion people worldwide are estimated to be drinking water which may be faecally contaminated.

As a result, UNICEF and others working on access to safe water, will have to redouble their efforts on improving people’s access to and use of toilets, and especially to end open defecation.

“As we address water, sanitation and hygiene, we must also take into account climate change. Droughts, floods, and extreme weather conditions all have an effect on the availability and the safety of water,” said Wijesekera.

He also pointed out that some 160 million children under-5 live in areas at high risk of drought, while around half a billion live in flood zones.

Asked how best the water crisis can be resolved, Darcey O’Callaghan, International Policy Director at Food and Water Watch, told IPS the global water crisis must be addressed in two primary ways.

“First, we must provide clean, safe, sufficient water to all people because water is a human right. Affordability is a key component of meeting this need. Second, we must protect water sustainability by not overdrawing watersheds beyond their natural recharge rate.”

“If we allow water sources to run dry, then we lose the ability to protect people’s human rights. So clearly, we must address these two components in tandem,” she said.

To keep water affordable, she pointed out, it must be managed by a public entity, not a private, for-profit one. Allowing corporations to control access to water (described as “water privatization”) has failed communities around the globe, resulting in poor service, higher rates and degraded water quality.

Corporations like Veolia and Suez — and their subsidiaries around the world—are seeking to profit off of managing local water systems, she said, pointing out that financial institutions like the World Bank and regional development banks often place conditions on loans to developing countries that require these systems to be privatized.

“But this is a recipe for disaster. Profits should not be the priority when it comes to providing water and sanitation services to people”, said O’Callaghan.

Asked if the public should pay for water, she said there is no longer any question that water and sanitation are both human rights. What the public pays for is water infrastructure upkeep and the cost of running water through the networks that deliver this resource to our homes, schools, businesses and government institutions.

“The UN has established guidelines for water affordability –three percent of household income—and these guidelines protect the human right to water. If the water service fee is beyond a household’s ability to pay, it is a human rights violation.”

One approach that has shown promise are public-public partnerships (PPPs). In contrast to privatization, which puts public needs into the hands of profit-seeking corporations, PPPs bring together public officials, workers and communities to provide better service for all users more efficiently.

PUPs allow two or more public water utilities or non-governmental organizations to join forces and leverage their shared capacities. PPPs allow multiple public utilities to pool resources, buying power and technical expertise, she said.

The benefits of scale and shared resources can deliver higher public efficiencies and lower costs. These public partnerships, whether domestic or international, improve and promote public delivery of water through sharing best practices, said O’Callaghan.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Harvesting Rainwater to Weather Drought in Northeast Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/harvesting-rainwater-to-weather-drought-in-northeast-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=harvesting-rainwater-to-weather-drought-in-northeast-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/harvesting-rainwater-to-weather-drought-in-northeast-argentina/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 07:52:29 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144799 Jésica Garay, a young mother who is studying to become a teacher, gets water from the family tank built next to her humble home in the rural municipality of Corzuela in the northeast Argentine province of Chaco. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Jésica Garay, a young mother who is studying to become a teacher, gets water from the family tank built next to her humble home in the rural municipality of Corzuela in the northeast Argentine province of Chaco. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
CORZUELA, Argentina, Apr 25 2016 (IPS)

In a semiarid region in the northeast Argentine province of Chaco, small farmers have adopted a simple technique to ensure a steady water supply during times of drought: they harvest the rain and store it in tanks, as part of a climate change adaptation project.

It’s raining in Corzuela, a rural municipality of 10,000 inhabitants located 260 km from Resistencia, the provincial capital, and the muddy local roads are sometimes impassable.

But it isn’t always like this in this Argentine region where, as local farmer Juan Ramón Espinoza puts it, “when it doesn’t rain there is no rain at all, and when it does rain, it rains too much.”

“There have always been water shortages, but things are getting worse every year,” he told IPS. “There are seasons when four or five months go by without a single drop of water falling.”“I used to bring water from the public well. My husband would go with a pony carrying a water container and bring water for the tank we have back there. But other times we would have to go and buy water, and sometimes I even had to forget about buying meat so I could pay for the water.” -- Olga Ramírez

The local residents of Corzuela blame the increasingly severe droughts on deforestation, a consequence of the spread of monoculture crops in this area since the turn of the century.

“They started to invade us with soy plantations,” Espinoza said. “There’s a lot of deforestation. They come and use their bulldozers to knock everything down, on 4,000 or 5,000 hectares. They don’t leave a single tree standing.”

This is compounded by the global effects of climate change, which has led to longer, more intense droughts.

The result is that local peasant farmers don’t have water for drinking, washing, cooking or irrigating their vegetable gardens.

“We would lose half a day going back and forth, filling tanks and containers with water for washing, cooking and bathing,” recalled Graciela Rodríguez, a mother of 11 children who often helped her hauling water.

“Now if you’re in your house and you need water, you go and get some, in your own house,” she told IPS happily, explaining that she uses the extra time she now has to cook bread, clean the house and take care of her grandchildren.

The solution was to build tanks to collect and store rainwater. But the local peasant farmers had neither the funds nor the technology to implement the system.

Today, joined together in associations, the local residents receive funds and other assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), through the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP).

The project is carried out locally with technical assistance from the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) for the construction of tanks using cement, bricks, sand, steel and stones, and from the National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI), for training in safety and hygiene.

“This project helps solve a very pressing local problem: water scarcity in the region,” said SGP technician María Eugenia Combi. “The solution is to take advantage of whatever rainfall there is to harvest and store water, for times when it is scarce.”

Local small farmer José Ramón Espinoza stands next to a recently constructed community tank for harvesting rainwater, which will enable a group of families to weather the recurrent drought in Corzuela, a rural municipality in the northeast Argentine province of Chaco. The underground tank was provided by GEF’s Small Grants Programme. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Local small farmer José Ramón Espinoza stands next to a recently constructed community tank for harvesting rainwater, which will enable a group of families to weather the recurrent drought in Corzuela, a rural municipality in the northeast Argentine province of Chaco. The underground tank was provided by GEF’s Small Grants Programme. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

The first project was carried out in this area from 2013 to 2015, when five community water tanks were built, serving 38 families. A second project began in March this year, to build another eight community tanks and 30 single-household tanks.

The technology is simple and low-cost. The roofs of the “ranchos” or poor rural dwellings are adapted with the installation of rain gutters to catch the water, which flows into 16,000-litre family tanks or 52,000-litre community tanks.

“Once the beneficiaries are trained to build the tanks, they can go out and build them in every house,” Combi told IPS.

Traditionally the main source of water for human and agricultural consumption – small-scale livestock production and small gardens – in this region has been family wells.

But as Gabriela Faggi, an INTA technical adviser to the programme, explained to IPS, besides the drought that has reduced ground-water levels, many wells have high sodium levels and are contaminated with arsenic, and in extreme cases the water cannot even be used for watering livestock or gardens, which has exacerbated the region’s food supply problems.

The new year-round availability of water has now helped alleviate that problem as well.

“I used to bring water from the public well,” said another Corzuela resident, Olga Ramírez. “My husband would go with a pony carrying a water container and bring water for the tank we have back there. But other times we would have to go and buy water, and sometimes I even had to forget about buying meat so I could pay for the water.”

The local farmers depend on subsistence farming, growing traditional crops like sweet potatoes, cassava, pumpkin and corn, and raising small livestock.

“It’s a big help for the animals,” said Ramírez. “We use the stored rainwater for washing, cooking, drinking yerba mate (a traditional herbal infusion consumed in the Rio de la Plata region), watering our chickens and other animals and the garden – for everything.”

“Now that we have this tank we can even waste water,” said Jésica Garay, a young mother who is studying to be a teacher. “We even use it to water the garden. Before, we only had enough for drinking and bathing.

“We don’t have to worry anymore about not being able to eat something, in order to buy water,” she said.

The SGP, active in 120 countries, emerged in 1992 as a way to demonstrate that small-scale community initiatives can have a positive impact on global environmental problems. The maximum grant amount per project is 50,000 dollars.

“What we are aiming at are local actions with a global impact,” the head of the programme in Argentina, Francisco Lopez Sastre, told IPS. “That is, small solutions to global environmental problems like climate change.”

He said the promotion of vegetable gardens, which complement the water tank programme “will boost consumption of fruit and vegetables, which is very low among local families due to the high cost.

“This can improve the household economy and bolster the inclusion of healthy foods, which will result in better health and food sovereignty.”

The SGP is currently carrying out another 13 projects in Chaco, for which it has provided a combined total of 537,000 dollars in grants.

Two of them involve water supply for human consumption in rural communities, complemented by agroecological gardens.

The province, which has a population of one million people, has the highest poverty level in this country of 43 million, according to independent studies. In Chaco, more than 57 percent of the population lives in poverty, and 17 percent in extreme poverty.

It is also the region with the second-largest proportion of indigenous people. Population density is 10.6 inhabitants per square km, below the national average of 14.4.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Ecosystem Conservation Gives Hope to a Vulnerable Communityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 05:55:24 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144803 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community/feed/ 0 No Turning Back in the Global Fight Against Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/no-turning-back-in-the-global-fight-against-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-turning-back-in-the-global-fight-against-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/no-turning-back-in-the-global-fight-against-climate-change/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 06:38:06 +0000 Marcia Bernicat http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144772 Photo: Ambreblends

Photo: Ambreblends

By Marcia Bernicat
Apr 22 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

As people around the globe observe Earth Day today, world leaders are making history at the United Nations in New York. Over 100 countries will sign the Paris Agreement on climate change, representing their commitment to join it formally. This marks a turning point in the story of our planet and may set a record for the largest number of signers to an international agreement in a single day. Moreover, last month, President Obama announced with President Xi Jinping that our two countries will sign the Paris Agreement today and formally join this year. We are confident other countries will do so too, with the intention of bringing this historic and ambitious agreement into force as quickly as possible.

A greener future is already in sight. Leaders of countries and cities are adapting and innovating away from fossil fuels and business owners are investing in a clean energy economy. The United States is moving forward in its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. We are doing this through the strongest fuel economy standards in our history, through our twenty-fold increase in solar generation since 2009, and through proposed rules on everything from energy conservation standards for appliances to reduction in emissions of methane-rich gas from municipal solid waste landfills.

My home state, New Jersey, has undertaken ambitious programmes tackling climate change and promoting renewable energy. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has introduced the Sustainable Jersey programme to aid cities and towns in going green, saving money, and taking the steps necessary to ensure long-term quality of life. Sustainable Jersey provides guidance and financial incentives in support of the programme. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ Clean Energy Programme encourages homeowners, businesses, and municipalities to incorporate clean energy into their lives. The Clean Energy Programme has received the 2016 Sustained Excellence Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for 15 years of success in promoting clean energy use.

While we are taking significant climate action domestically, the United States is also focused on international cooperation to address this global challenge. Our $500 million contribution last month to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – the first tranche of the $3 billion U.S. pledge to the GCF – will help developing countries reduce carbon emissions and prepare for climate impacts, while also advancing our commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – another major landmark agreement the world came together around last year.

One of the most successful environmental agreements of all time is the Montreal Protocol, which is phasing out ozone depleting substances globally. It set the ozone layer on a path to recovery and prevented tens of millions of cases of skin cancer among other health, environmental, and economic benefits. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – which replace many of the ozone-depleting substances – do not harm the ozone layer, but they are greenhouse gases that in some cases can be thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. The United States is working with partners to adopt an HFC phase-down amendment to the Montreal Protocol this year that could avoid half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of the century.

We also need international cooperation to change how we transport ourselves and goods. The aviation sector represents two percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The International Civil Aviation Organisation is aiming to achieve carbon neutral growth for international aviation by 2020. The United States is committed to reaching an agreement on a global market-based measure that will help move the airline sector toward this ambitious goal.

Bangladesh, located at the confluence of the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, and the Meghna rivers, is uniquely vulnerable to climate change. The 600 kilometre coastal zone faces considerable challenges: flooding, erosion, rising sea levels, and cyclonic storm surges. Bangladesh has risen to this challenge. From the establishment of the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan of 2009 and Climate Change Trust Fund to the continued dedication of over six percent of the annual budget to climate change adaptation, Bangladesh has been on the leading edge of environmental policy. For all of these reasons, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was awarded the United Nations’ Champion of the Earth award for Policy Leadership last September.

This Earth Day – with the signing of the Paris Agreement – is truly a cause for hope. It is also a reminder of our shared commitment to combat climate change. We must all seize upon the momentum from Paris to build a clean energy future for ourselves and our children and grandchildren.

The writer is the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Healthcare solutions that are smarthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/healthcare-solutions-that-are-smart/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=healthcare-solutions-that-are-smart http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/healthcare-solutions-that-are-smart/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 16:35:31 +0000 Bjorn Lomborg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144761 Photo: www.tbalert.org

Photo: www.tbalert.org

By Bjørn Lomborg
Apr 21 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Every hour, tuberculosis kills nine Bangladeshis. Another seven die each hour from arsenic in drinking water. Simple and cheap solutions are available to avoid almost all these deaths.

Bangladesh has made incredible progress over recent years on many health indicators. But the country continues to face great challenges, like tuberculosis (TB) and arsenic, two of the biggest killers. Many other grave health issues remain too, including factors that threaten mothers and their children.

Bangladesh Priorities can help identify the smartest solutions to national health challenges, as well as many other development issues.

TB kills 80,000 Bangladeshis each year, constituting about nine percent of all deaths. New research by Anna Vasssall, a senior lecturer in health economics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, outlines a cost-effective TB treatment strategy using community health clinics.

There are well-established ways to treat TB at low cost. Standard drugs for TB treatment and follow-up through community clinics cost Tk. 7,850 per patient. By treating one person for TB, you also prevent that person from infecting others, which makes treatment an even better investment. In total, each taka spent will do Tk. 21 of good.

Some strains of TB, however, are so-called “multi-drug resistant,” meaning that traditional treatments are not effective. Nationally, there are about 4,700 cases of this type of TB each year. The World Health Organization (WHO) is piloting a “Bangladesh regimen” trial in the country that shortens treatment time for these strains from 24 months to just nine months. But because multi-drug resistant TB is up to 45 times more expensive to treat, each taka spent will do just Tk. 3 of good. This shows that it can be much more effective to help the larger group of people who can be treated with conventional methods.

Even though 98 percent of Bangladeshis have access to either piped water or a well, 25 percent of households’ water sources contain arsenic levels that exceed the WHO guideline. New research investigates three water supply options that can largely prevent arsenic exposure: deep tube wells, rainwater harvesting, and pond sand filters. These options would cost between Tk. 1,250 to 1,850 annually per affected household and avert virtually all deaths related to arsenic. It would do about Tk. 7 of good per taka spent. Focusing efforts on the 20 percent worst affected, however, can do even more good—up to Tk.17 in benefits for each taka spent. And because much progress has already been made toward improving sanitation and hygiene, it turns out further investments in these areas would not be nearly as cost-effective as preventing arsenic exposure.

Another pressing health concern is child and maternal mortality. Even though Bangladesh has greatly reduced these deaths, the progress has been uneven. According to the World Bank, the mortality rates are nearly twice as high for infants and young children in the poorest 20 percent of the population compared to those in the richest 20 percent.

New research by Jahangir A.M. Khan, senior lecturer in health economics at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and Sayem Ahmed, research investigator at The International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, looks first at making births safer. Getting more women to deliver in medical facilities, which only half do now, could help.

It would cost an estimated Tk. 6,000 per delivery but is not practical for everyone, particularly in remote areas. The experts estimate that total spending of Tk. 8.94 billion (Tk. 894 crore) could move 80 percent of currently unattended births, or 1.5 million deliveries, into medical facilities. This would avert an estimated 3,260 maternal deaths and 34,467 neonatal deaths. Overall, each taka spent would do Tk. 8 of good.

An even more effective option is for community health workers to visit mothers at home both before and after birth. This option is very cheap – just Tk. 850 over the course of a pregnancy. Nearly 750,000 pregnant women could be targeted, and in all, homecare visits could save lives of more than 8,900 infants. Benefits for each taka of spending would be an impressive Tk. 27.

Lastly, the experts look at vaccinations. While 85 percent of children aged 12-23 months are fully immunised, that figure is just 51 percent for children in remote rural areas and just 43 percent for those in urban slums. Vaccinations cost Tk. 1,400-1,900 per child and could save more than 4,100 lives each year. Each taka spent immunising children would do Tk. 10 of good.

These new studies suggest some of the smartest solutions for the health challenges that still plague the country. Would these strategies be some of your top priorities for Bangladesh? Let us hear from you at https://copenhagen.fbapp.io/healthpriorities. We want to continue the conversation about how to do the most good for every taka spent.

The writer is president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, ranking the smartest solutions to the world’s biggest problems by cost-benefit. He was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Climate: Africa’s Human Existence Is at Severe Riskhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-africas-human-existence-is-at-severe-risk/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-africas-human-existence-is-at-severe-risk http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-africas-human-existence-is-at-severe-risk/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 14:53:52 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144755 Education vital for healthy, productive ecosystems. One of UNEP’s goals within an integrated ecosystem management framework is to foster the capacity of professionals and develop human capacity across all social strata and genders.  Credit: UNEP

Education vital for healthy, productive ecosystems. One of UNEP’s goals within an integrated ecosystem management framework is to foster the capacity of professionals and develop human capacity across all social strata and genders. Credit: UNEP

By Baher Kamal
CAIRO, Apr 21 2016 (IPS)

“Africa’s human existence and development is under threat from the adverse impacts of climate change – its population, ecosystems and unique biodiversity will all be the major victims of global climate change.”

This is how clear the Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is when it comes to assessing the negative impact of climate change on this continent of 54 countries with a combined population of over 1,200 billion inhabitants. “No continent will be struck as severely by the impacts of climate change as Africa.”

Other international organisations are similarly trenchant. For instance, the World Bank, basing on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, confirms that Africa is becoming the most exposed region in the world to the impacts of climate change.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, extreme weather will cause dry areas to become drier and wet areas wetter; agriculture yields will suffer from crop failures; and diseases will spread to new altitudes, say the World Bank experts, while alerting that by 2030 it is expected that 90 million more people in Africa will be exposed to malaria, “already the biggest killer in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

These and other dramatic conclusions are not new to the World Bank specialists. In fact, they alerted five years ago that the African continent has warmed about half a degree over the last century and the average annual temperature is likely to rise an average of 1.5-4°C by 2099, according to the most recent estimates from the IPCC.

Meanwhile, UNEP’s experts explain that, given its geographical position, the continent will be particularly vulnerable due to the “considerably limited adaptive capacity, exacerbated by widespread poverty and the existing low levels of development.”

What Is at Stake?

The facts are striking as mentioned in UNEP’ summary of the projected impacts of climate change in Africa. See UNEP’s fact sheet “Climate Change in Africa – What Is at Sake?”, which is based on excerpts from IPCC reports:

— By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people in Africa are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change.

— By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%.

— Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised. This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition.

— Towards the end of the 21st century, projected sea level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations.

— By 2080, an increase of 5 to 8 per cent of arid and semi-arid land in Africa is projected under a range of climate scenarios,

— The cost of adaptation could amount to at least 5 to 10% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Furthermore, the African chapter of IPCC Report on Regional Climate Projections provide some key factors:

Temperatures: By 2050, average temperatures in Africa are predicted to increase by 1.5 to 3°C, and will continue further upwards beyond this time. Warming is very likely to be larger than the global annual mean warming throughout the continent and in all seasons, with drier subtropical regions warming more than the moister tropics.

Ecosystems: It is estimated that, by the 2080s, the proportion of arid and semi-arid lands in Africa is likely to increase by 5-8 per cent. Ecosystems are critical in Africa, contributing significantly to biodiversity and human well-being.

Mozambique: Investing in Environment Pays off for the Poorest. Communities look to protect ecosystems for livelihoods, following a disease that devastated their coconut plantations. Credit: UNEP

Mozambique: Investing in Environment Pays off for the Poorest. Communities look to protect ecosystems for livelihoods, following a disease that devastated their coconut plantations. Credit: UNEP

Between 25 and 40 per cent of mammal species in national parks in sub-Saharan Africa will become endangered. There is evidence that climate is modifying natural mountain ecosystems via complex interactions and feedbacks.

Rainfall: There will also be major changes in rainfall in terms of annual and seasonal trends, and extreme events of flood and drought.

Annual rainfall is likely to decrease in much of Mediterranean Africa and the northern Sahara, with a greater likelihood of decreasing rainfall as the Mediterranean coast is approached.

Droughts: By 2080, an increase of 5 to 8 per cent of arid and semi-arid land in Africa is projected under a range of climate scenarios. Droughts have become more common, especially in the tropics and subtropics, since the 1970s.

Human health, already compromised by a range of factors, could be further negatively impacted by climate change and climate variability, e.g., malaria in southern Africa and the East African highlands.

Water: By 2020, a population of between 75 and 250 million and 350-600 million by 2050, are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change. Climate change and variability are likely to impose additional pressures on water availability, water accessibility and water demand in Africa.

In Ethiopia, owners bring their livestock to sell for destocking purposes. El Niño impacts have made it necessary to reduce herd sizes. Credit: FAO

In Ethiopia, owners bring their livestock to sell for destocking purposes. El Niño impacts have made it necessary to reduce herd sizes. Credit: FAO

Agriculture: By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 per cent.

Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised. Projected reductions in yield in some countries could be as much as 50 per cent by 2020, and crop net revenues could fall by as much as 90 per cent by 2100, with small-scale farmers being the most affected.

Sea-level rise: Africa has close to 320 coastal cities –with more than 10,000 people– and an estimated population of 56 million people (2005 estimate) living in low elevation (10-m) coastal zones. Toward the end of the 21st century, projected sea level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations.

Energy: Access to energy is severely constrained in sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated 51 per cent of urban populations and only about 8 per cent of rural populations having access to electricity. Extreme poverty and the lack of access to other fuels mean that 80 per cent of the overall African population relies primarily on biomass to meet its residential needs, with this fuel source supplying more than 80 per cent of the energy consumed in sub-Saharan Africa.

Further challenges from urbanisation, rising energy demands and volatile oil prices further compound energy issues in Africa.

Agriculture Pays the Price

Another concerned United Nations body–the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) focuses on the threat climate changes poses to agriculture. “Climate change is emerging as a major challenge to agriculture development in Africa,” FAO reports.

A Zimbabwean subsistence farmer holds a stunted maize cob in his field outside Harare. Credit: FAO

A Zimbabwean subsistence farmer holds a stunted maize cob in his field outside Harare. Credit: FAO

It explains that the increasingly unpredictable and erratic nature of weather systems on the continent have placed an extra burden on food security and rural livelihoods.

“Agriculture is expected to pay a significant cost of the damage caused by climate change.”

The agriculture sector is also likely to experience periods of prolonged droughts and /or floods during El- Nino events. And fisheries will be particularly affected due to changes in sea temperatures that could decrease trends in productivity by 50-60 per cent.

(End)

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Arsenic Threat Looms Large in India: Well Switching Provides the Way Forwardhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/arsenic-threat-looms-large-in-india-well-switching-provides-the-way-forward/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arsenic-threat-looms-large-in-india-well-switching-provides-the-way-forward http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/arsenic-threat-looms-large-in-india-well-switching-provides-the-way-forward/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 13:16:20 +0000 Chander Kumar Singh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144714 Assistant Professor, Department of Regional Water Studies, TERI University ]]>

Assistant Professor, Department of Regional Water Studies, TERI University

By Chander Kumar Singh
TERI University, New Delhi, India, Apr 20 2016 (IPS)

An Indian Govt. Parliamentary Committee on Estimates on “Occurrence of High Arsenic (As) content in Groundwater” in December, 2014 stated that more than 70 million people in 96 districts in India is under threat due to As occurrence in groundwater.

Chander Kumar Singh

Chander Kumar Singh

A new finding suggests that it’s not only Indo-Gangetic plain that is under serious threat of As contamination in groundwater in India. An ongoing study funded by PEER Science grant from USAID and National Academy of Sciences, USA in collaboration with Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, New York and TERI University, New Delhi tested 12790 handpumps/tubewells in 180 villages in Indus Basin of Punjab, India using field test kits. Out of these 25% of wells were found to be having As and Nitrate concentrations above WHO standards, while 8% of samples were found to be high in terms of fluoride. These results were attached on the handpumps/tubewells in the form of metal placards depicting whether it’s safe or unsafe for drinking.

The groundwater contaminations with respect to geogenic contaminants specifically As is spatially heterogeneous and is confined to specific regions. Based on studies conducted elsewhere in South Asia, chronic exposure to As at levels encountered in groundwater of Punjab is likely to have markedly increased mortality due to cardiovascular disease and cancers of the liver, bladder, and lungs. It has also been linked to infant mortality and impaired intellectual and motor function in children.

Chronic excess intake of F, more than the WHO standards (1.5 mg/L), can cause severe dental and skeletal fluorosis which might lead to bilateral lameness and stiffness of gait. Excess intake of NO3 can result in blue baby syndrome which is frequently observed in Punjab.

The most effective policy intervention and mitigation to reduce the health risks of chronic As, F and NO3 exposure is to avoid the source of exposure, in this case unsafe hand pumps, and switch to either safe wells. Our ongoing work in Bihar funded by International Growth Centre and some other studies have shown that if the households are made aware of the hand pumps/tube wells testing results, along with health implications of As in drinking water, leads to a substantial portion of households to switch to a nearby low-As well, markedly reducing exposure to As. However socio-cultural barriers are found to prohibiting well sharing within the communities. This is clearly an undesirable situation that needs to be and can be remedied. The main obstacle to well-switching and exposure reduction for millions of villagers is therefore lack of information: the vast majority of wells have never been tested.

There is presently, however, no organizational structure in India to deploy field kits at scale and with the necessary level of quality control, nor is there sufficient scientific understanding of the mechanisms controlling As levels in groundwater to determine where the deployment of such kits should be prioritized.

Testing wells for As provides information that is not substitutable. Because the distribution of Asincidence in groundwater is difficult to predict, and varies greatly even over small distances, the safety of a well cannot be predicted without a test. A well that meets guidelines for As in drinking water may be found in the immediate neighbourhood of a very unsafe well. Nor is there an easy way to design wells to be both safe and affordable: within shallow ( 100 m) aquifers tapped by most private wells, there is no systematic and predictable relationship between and As and well depth. At the same time, precisely because As contamination varies greatly over small distances, well tests make available an effective way to avoid exposure, namely by switching to a nearby safe well.

If the findings compliment the ongoing finding of the Bihar study then this mechanism can be replicated in most of the South-South East Asian nations which are facing this crisis. A thorough study recently conducted in Bangladesh has shown that if the member switches to a safe well then he would increase his earning by 9% (Pitt et al., 2012). Reducing exposure could therefore also increase economic growth in India for decades to come. Our findings from a different region in India, suggests that approximately 40% of the population is willing to switch to safe wells if they are informed and educated about their well status and potential health impacts of As and F consumption through groundwater.

Considering that there are approximately one million tube wells/hand pumps in Punjab and 28 people are dependent on each of the well; (population of Punjab, 28 million) and half of them turnout to be unsafe in terms of As/F and nitrate when informed 37% of people dependent on each well switch to safe well (result from ongoing study in Bihar) will alone cause lowering of exposure to a population of 5.5 million.

(End)

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Champions of Hygienehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/champions-of-hygiene/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=champions-of-hygiene http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/champions-of-hygiene/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 05:43:21 +0000 Moraa Obiria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144709 Hildah Kwamboka shows how the innovative water spitting jerrican works. Credit: Moraa Obiria/IPS

Hildah Kwamboka shows how the innovative water spitting jerrican works. Credit: Moraa Obiria/IPS

By Moraa Obiria
NAKURU, Kenya, Apr 20 2016 (IPS)

Lydia Abuya, a tenant living in the Kaptembwa informal settlement west of Nakuru town, leaves one of the six on-plot toilets. She returns with a pail of water to splash away the waste.

This kind of a toilet, in this densely populated low income area, is now saving hundreds of residents from the spread of diarrhoea and cholera, very common with presence of a pit latrine which was earlier available for her use. Let alone the suffocating odour, overflowing faeces and fear of children playing in the filth.

But this pour flush toilet, as it is called, has given Abuya and 15 other tenants in the plot a new meaning to their lifestyle.

Soon as she finishes pouring the water, she heads to a five-liter jerrican hung outside the wall of the toilets, pulls off a stick covering a hole made on the lower side of the container and lets out water to wash her hands.

“This is our sink. Nowadays, it is our routine to wash our hands once we leave the toilet. Earlier we ran away because of the strong smell that made you hold your breath while inside the toilet,” she told IPS while shying away from the camera.

Her landlady Hildah Kwamboka who has lived in the area since 1990 does a daily inspection of the facilities to ensure their cleanliness. She says the improved toilets have brought forth a change in her compound. “A lot has changed since they (tenants) started using these new facilities late last year. You cannot see any faeces anywhere in this compound. The pit latrines were unclean which encouraged some to soil the open spaces within the compound, “says Kwamboka who is now a hygiene champion.

In the East African nation, county governments are now responsible for provision of sanitation services formerly administered by local authorities. This follows transfer of functions under devolved governance enacted in 2010 Constitution.

According to Nakuru county public health regulations, pit latrines are not permitted in the urban set up. However, they make up 63 per cent of sanitation facilities in Kaptembwa and its neighbouring informal settlement — Rhonda. Pour flush toilets connected to septic tanks or sewer lines are allowed but in these areas pit latrines put up with planks and mud is a common sight that is slowly fading away.

Worse still is the fact that more than 10 households equivalent to users exceeding 40 people share one latrine as indicated in Practical Action’s 2012 baseline findings. This is against the UN habitat recommendations of one toilet for 20 people or four households.

While Kwamboka has made a leap in bringing her tenants closer to achieving the sixth sustainable development goal on accessing and enjoying better sanitation services, her efforts are as a result of a partnership between Practical Action,Umande Trust and Nakuru county’s department of health.

She is a beneficiary of a Comic Relief-funded project themed ‘realising the right to total sanitation’ which the partners implemented in Kaptembwa and Rhonda — highly dense low income settlements — where approximately 140,000 people live.

The project utilised an innovative approach — community led total sanitation — which involves mobilising communities to identify their sanitation problems and address them using own local resources.

With the project, the partners sought to eradicate all urban forms of open defecation, promote better solid waste management activities and proper hygiene behavior.

Achieving these involved educating the locals on maintaining a clean environment and observing high hygienic standards. Also, facilitating landlords to construct improved toilets and provide innovative hand washing solutions such as the water spitting jerrican hang on the wall of Kwamboka’s toilets.

“We introduced a loan facility in which we linked landlords to K-Rep bank from which they borrowed loans at 7.5 per cent interest. And at the end of the project 17 of them had borrowed a sum of up to Sh 4.8 million (US $ 47,300) constructing 43 new improved sanitation units,” said Patrick Mwanzia, the senior project officer for Practical Action’s urban water sanitation and hygiene and waste programme.

Mwanzia, however, says they entered into a memorandum of understanding with the lending institution to continue offering land owners tailor-made loans to specifically meet costs of constructing or upgrading sanitation facilities.

Between March 2012 and January 2015, the partners sensitised more than 135,000 people who have now become agents of change for the provision of sanitation services and adherence to high hygienic standards.

“There was a positive reception from the communities which resulted to construction of 2,204 sanitation facilities with 58,260 people within the plots directly benefitting,” said Mwanzia.

According to United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, only 15 per cent of the 9,126 villages in Kenya had been targeted to eradicate open defecation by 2014.This means thousands of rural and urban residents live with exposure to open space faecal disposal.

“I can now stand outside with a plate of food and eat peacefully. There is no stench or disturbance of flies. Life is more comfortable and bearable, “notes Hesbon Nyambare, a beneficiary of the project.

He is in charge of 35 rental houses and his house is adjacent to six newly built pour flush toilets which cost him Sh 100,000 (US$985). He completed the construction in mid-2015.

While deputy Nakuru county public health officer, Daniel Mwangi, acknowledges the existing gaps in observing recommendable levels of sanitation in the informal settlements, he says enlightening locals on sanitation and hygiene is key since it unlocks their power to engage in proper sanitary activities.

“We have seen tremendous changes following the implementation of the project. Defecation in areas where it was so rampant has declined significantly,” he observes.

He adds that: “There is a challenge of landlords ignoring rules and regulations but we are committed to keeping them within the laws. The law has to be enforced”.

Even so, the locals reversing their habits remain a concern that the county government hopes to address through the hygiene champions trained under the project.

(End)

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Climate Change and the Middle East (II) No Water in the Kingdom of the Two Seas—Nor Elsewherehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-change-and-the-middle-east-ii-no-water-in-the-kingdom-of-the-two-seas-nor-elsewhere/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-and-the-middle-east-ii-no-water-in-the-kingdom-of-the-two-seas-nor-elsewhere http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-change-and-the-middle-east-ii-no-water-in-the-kingdom-of-the-two-seas-nor-elsewhere/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 16:24:23 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144674 This is part II of a two-part series of reports focusing on the impact of climate change on the Middle East & North of Africa region, ahead of the signing ceremony of the Paris climate agreement, on 22 April 2016 in New York. Part I: Will the Middle East Become ‘Uninhabitable’?]]> In Somaliland and Puntland, close to two million people are affected by the drought amid the El Niño phenomenon. Somalia is a member of the League of Arab States. Photo credit: WFP/Petterik Wiggers

In Somaliland and Puntland, close to two million people are affected by the drought amid the El Niño phenomenon. Somalia is a member of the League of Arab States. Photo credit: WFP/Petterik Wiggers

By Baher Kamal
CAIRO, Apr 18 2016 (IPS)

There is an oil producing country situated in the Gulf region, made of a cluster of islands. It is small, surface and population wise. But it holds the dubious privilege of ranking top of the list out of the 33 countries most likely to be water-stressed in the year 2040.

This country is the “Mamlakat Al Bahrain” (the Kingdom of the Two Seas) or simply Bahrain.

Distant only 200 kilometres from Iran, Bahrain’s largest island is linked to Saudi Arabia by the 25 km-long King Fahd Causeway. The Kingdom extends over just 765 km2, and is home to 1,4 million people.

Considered as the “white gold” –as opposed to the “black gold”—oil, water scarcity has become one of the major concerns of Bahrain in spite of the fact that it has a high Human Development Index and was recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy.

It’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita amounts to 29,140 US Dollars. And it is home to the headquarters for the United States Naval Forces Central Command/United States Fifth Fleet.

All the above does not suffice to make Bahrainis happy. In fact, their country leads the list of 14 out of the 33 countries most likely to be water-stressed in 2040 –all of them situated in the Middle East– including nine considered extremely highly stressed according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).

After Bahrain comes Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Other Middle East Arab countries more or less share with Bahrain this front line position of water-stressed states. These are Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. All of them hold a very close second position in the region’ s water-stress ranking.

The total represents two thirds of the 22 Arab countries. Not that the remaining Arab states are water-safe. Not at all: Mauritania, in the far Maghreb West, and Egypt, at the opposite end, are already under heavy threat as well.

The whole region, already arguably the least water-secure in the world, draws heavily on groundwater and desalinated sea water, and faces exceptional water-related challenges for the foreseeable future, says the WRI’s report: Ranking the World’s Most Water-Stressed Countries in 2040.

Water scarcity is one of the most urgent food security issues facing Near East and North Africa countries: fresh water availability in the region is expected to drop by 50% by year 2050. Photo credit: FAO / Marco Longari

Water scarcity is one of the most urgent food security issues facing Near East and North Africa countries: fresh water availability in the region is expected to drop by 50% by year 2050. Photo credit: FAO / Marco Longari

The report’s authors Andrew Maddocks, Robert Samuel Young and Paul Reig foresee that world’s demand for water, including of course the Middle East, is likely to surge in the next few decades.

“Rapidly growing populations will drive increased consumption by people, farms and companies. More people will move to cities, further straining supplies. An emerging middle class could clamor for more water-intensive food production and electricity generation.”

But it’s not clear where all that water will come from, they say. “Climate change is expected to make some areas drier and others wetter. As precipitation extremes increase in some regions, affected communities face greater threats from droughts and floods.”

While changing water supply and demand is inevitable, exactly what that change will look like around the world is far from certain. A first-of-its-kind analysis by WRI sheds new light on the issue.

Using an ensemble of climate models and socioeconomic scenarios, WRI scored and ranked future water stress—a measure of competition and depletion of surface water—in 167 countries by 2020, 2030, and 2040.

“We found that 33 countries face extremely high water stress in 2040 (see the full list). We also found that Chile, Estonia, Namibia, and Botswana could face an especially significant increase in water stress by 2040. This means that businesses, farms, and communities in these countries in particular may be more vulnerable to scarcity than they are today,” say the authors.

Specialised studies coincide that water consumption in the Arab region has doubled five times in the past fifty years, with an estimated annual consumption of about 230 billion cubic meters, of which 43 billion cubic meters used for drinking and the industry, and 187 billion cubic meters for agriculture.

Poverty of the Arab region with regard to water resources is reflected in water insecurity for human beings and agriculture. While water consumption per capit is estimated in at least one 1,000 cubic meters a year according to the global rate, the average Arab citizen’s share comes down to nearly 500 cubic meters per year, this placing Arab countries below the water poverty line.

This comes at a time when the Arab region has not taken advantage of its water resources of about 340 billion cubic meters, using only 50 per cent. The rest is lost and wasted.

Regarding the North of Africa, the Egyptian Ministry for Environment has recently admitted that large extensions of the country’s Northern area of the Nile Delta, which represents the most important and extensive agricultural region in Egypt, is already heavily exposed to two dangerous effects: salinasation and flooding. This is due to the rise of the Mediterranean Sea water levels and the land depression.

The impact of global warming and growing heat waves is particularly worrying the Egyptian authorities as it might reduce the flow of the Nile water in up to 80 per cent according to latest estimates. All this adds to the loss of massive investments made to promote domestic and foreign tourism.

Meanwhile, Syria, Jordan and Iraq would be sentenced to a similar fate.

In some Middle East countries, water scarcity will increase conflictivity among Bedouin population who survive thanks to pasturage.

Dr. Moslem Shatout, the Cairo-based professor of Sun and Space Research and Deputy Chairman of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences, considers that the Arab North African countries are among the most affected, by large, by the climate change impact.

Satellites monitoring, in particular those carried out by the US-French satellite, have detected between 1991 and 2005, a global rise in the sea levels of 3 millimetres per year, “but given that the Mediterranean is a semi-closed sea this rise reaches 8 millimetres per year.”

In Morocco, the effect of global warming and water scarcity have already forced farmers to cultivate only one third of the lands they used to farm.

A similar situation is being witnessed in Algeria, with a much worse situation in Mauritania.

In the case of Morocco and Algeria, while expected rainfalls should be of at least 400 millimetres/year, the last five years this amount went down to just 200 millimetres, that’s half of the minimum needed.

Last but not least: while Morocco and Algeria have high rocky coasts, this protecting them from sea floods, Arab countries situated at the East of the Mediterranean sea, such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, are exposed to floods.

(End)

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Climate Change (I)Will the Middle East Become ‘Uninhabitable’?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-middle-east-become-uninhabitable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-the-middle-east-become-uninhabitable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-middle-east-become-uninhabitable/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 11:43:50 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144663 This is the first of a two-part series of reports focusing on the impact of climate change on the Middle East & North of Africa region, ahead of the signing ceremony of the Paris climate agreement, on 22 April 2016 in New York. Part II will address the dramatic issue of water scarcity in the region.]]> Middle East map of Köppen climate classification | 20 February 2016 | Derived from World Koppen Classification.svg.| Enhanced, modified, and vectorized by Ali Zifan.| Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.| en.wikipedia

Middle East map of Köppen climate classification | 20 February 2016 | Derived from World Koppen Classification.svg.| Enhanced, modified, and vectorized by Ali Zifan.| Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.| en.wikipedia

By Baher Kamal
CAIRO, Apr 18 2016 (IPS)

This is not about any alarming header—it is the dramatic conclusion of several scientific studies about the on-going climate change impact on the Middle East region, particularly in the Gulf area. The examples are stark.

“Within this century, parts of the Persian Gulf region could be hit with unprecedented events of deadly heat as a result of climate change, according to a study of high-resolution climate models,” a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research warned.

The research–titled “Persian Gulf could experience deadly heat”, reveals details of a business-as-usual scenario for greenhouse gas emissions, but also shows that curbing emissions could forestall these “deadly temperature extremes.”

The study, which was published in detail ahead of the Paris climate summit in the journal Nature Climate Change, was conducted by Elfatih Eltahir, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT, and Jeremy Pal PhD ’01 at Loyola Marymount University.

The authors conclude that conditions in the Persian Gulf region, including its shallow water and intense sun, make it “a specific regional hotspot where climate change, in absence of significant mitigation, is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future.”

Running high-resolution versions of standard climate models, Eltahir and Pal found that many major cities in the region could exceed a tipping point for human survival, even in shaded and well-ventilated spaces. Eltahir says this threshold “has, as far as we know … never been reported for any location on Earth.”

MIT, which was founded in 1861 with the stated mission to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century, alerts that “detailed climate simulation shows a threshold of survivability could be crossed without mitigation measures.”

The research, which was supported by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science, reveals that the tipping point involves a measurement called the “wet-bulb temperature” that combines temperature and humidity, reflecting conditions the human body could maintain without artificial cooling, the say.

That threshold for survival for more than six unprotected hours is 35 degrees Celsius, or about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the recently published research.

The severe danger to human health and life occurs when such temperatures are sustained for several hours, Eltahir says — which the models show would occur several times in a 30-year period toward the end of the century under the business-as-usual scenario used as a benchmark by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

An Even Hotter and Drier Middle East

For its part, the IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change latest assessment warns that the climate is predicted to become even hotter and drier in most of the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) region.

Higher temperatures and reduced precipitation will increase the occurrence of droughts, an effect that is already materializing in the Maghreb,” says the World Bank while citing the IPCC assessment.

A scene in the high desert right outside of Marrakech, Morocco. A shepherd is guiding his sheep through the landscape in search of vegetation. | Credit: Johntarantino1 | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

A scene in the high desert right outside of Marrakech, Morocco. A shepherd is guiding his sheep through the landscape in search of vegetation. | Credit: Johntarantino1 | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

“It is further estimated that an additional 80–100 million people will be exposed by 2025 to water stress, which is likely to result in increased pressure on groundwater resources, which are currently being extracted in most areas beyond the aquifers’ recharge potential.”

In addition, agriculture yields, especially in rain fed areas, are expected to fluctuate more widely, ultimately falling to a significantly lower long-term average.

“In urban areas in North Africa, a temperature increase of 1-3 degrees could expose 6–25 million people to coastal flooding. In addition, heat waves, an increased “heat island effect,” water scarcity, decreasing water quality, worsening air quality, and ground ozone formation are likely to affect public health, and more generally lead to challenging living conditions.”

The World Bank report “Adaptation to Climate Change in the Middle East and North Africa Region” warns that the Middle East and North Africa region is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

“It is one of the world’s most water-scarce and dry regions; with a high dependency on climate-sensitive agriculture and a large share of its population and economic activity in flood-prone urban coastal zones.”

On the other hand, the report adds, societies of this region have been under pressure to adapt to water scarcity and heat for thousands of years, and have developed various technical solutions and institutional mechanisms to deal with these environmental constraints.

While global models predict sea levels rising from about 0.1 to 0.3 meters by the year 2050, and from about 0.1 to 0.9 meters by 2100, the World Bank says, for MENA, the social, economic, and ecological impacts are expected to be relatively higher compared to the rest of the world. Low-lying coastal areas in Tunisia, Qatar, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and specially Egypt are at particular risk.

Climate change also poses many challenges to the region’s cities, which represent hubs for economic, social, cultural and political activities. Rising sea level could affect 43 port cities—24 in the Middle East and 19 in North Africa, according to the World Bank study.

“In the case of Alexandria, Egypt, a 0.5 meter rise would leave more than 2 million people displaced, with 35 billion dollars in losses in land, property, and infrastructure, as well as incalculable losses of historic and cultural assets.” (TO BE CONTINUED)

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Interoceanic Canal Bogged Down in Nicaraguahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/interoceanic-canal-bogged-down-in-nicaragua/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=interoceanic-canal-bogged-down-in-nicaragua http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/interoceanic-canal-bogged-down-in-nicaragua/#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2016 23:58:54 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144534 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/interoceanic-canal-bogged-down-in-nicaragua/feed/ 1 Sri Lanka Braces for Extreme Heathttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/sri-lanka-braces-for-extreme-heat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sri-lanka-braces-for-extreme-heat http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/sri-lanka-braces-for-extreme-heat/#comments Thu, 07 Apr 2016 05:34:35 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144510 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/sri-lanka-braces-for-extreme-heat/feed/ 1 Saving Beirahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/saving-beira/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=saving-beira http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/saving-beira/#comments Wed, 06 Apr 2016 05:10:13 +0000 Andrew Mambondiyani http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144485 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/saving-beira/feed/ 0 Climate Change Dries Up Nicaraguahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-change-dries-up-nicaragua/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-dries-up-nicaragua http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-change-dries-up-nicaragua/#comments Tue, 05 Apr 2016 00:38:00 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144467 Boats stranded on the dry bed of Moyúa lake in northern Nicaragua, which has lost 60 percent of its water due to the severe drought plaguing the country since 2014. Credit: Courtesy of Rezayé Álvarez

Boats stranded on the dry bed of Moyúa lake in northern Nicaragua, which has lost 60 percent of its water due to the severe drought plaguing the country since 2014. Credit: Courtesy of Rezayé Álvarez

By José Adán Silva
MANAGUA, Apr 5 2016 (IPS)

A three-year drought, added to massive deforestation in the past few decades, has dried up most of Nicaragua’s water sources and has led to an increasingly severe water supply crisis.

Since January, photos and videos showing dried-up streams, rivers and lakes have been all over the social networks, local news media, blogs and online bulletins of environmental organisations.

Jaime Incer, a former minister of the environment and natural resources and the president of the Nicaraguan Foundation for Sustainable Development (Fundenic-SOS), is one of the loudest voices warning about the accelerated environmental deterioration in the country.

Incer told IPS that by late March the country had lost 60 percent of its surface water sources and up to 50 percent of its underground sources, which either dried up or have been polluted.

To illustrate, he cited the disappearance of at least 100 rivers and their tributaries in Nicaragua, and the contamination of Tiscapa and Nejapa lakes near Managua, as well as lake Venecia in the western coastal department of Masaya and lake Moyúa in the northern department of Matagalpa.

The scientist said the country’s largest bodies of water are also in danger: the 680-km Coco river, the longest in Central America, which forms the northern border with Honduras, is now completely dry for several stretches of up to eight km in length.

The water level in the river is at a record low, to the extent that it can be crossed by foot, with the water only ankle-deep.

And because of the low water level in the country’s other big river, the San Juan, along the southern border with Costa Rica, large sand banks now block the passage of boats, despite the dredging operations carried out in the last few years.

In addition, the 8,624-sq-km Lake Nicaragua or Cocibolca, the biggest freshwater reserve in Central America has suffered from serious water losses since 2012, which means docks and piers have been left high and dry, said Incer.

The same thing is happening in the country’s other large lake, Xolotlán, in Managua.

Although clean-up operations in the lake were launched in 2009, the results of these efforts have not been announced. But what is clearly visible is that since the drought began in 2014, the shoreline has receded up to 200 metres in some areas, according to reports by Fundenic-SOS.

This is what Lake Moyúa in northern Nicaragua looked like before it lost 60 percent of its water due to the effects of the El Niño climate phenomenon, which in this Central American country has spelled drought. Credit: Matagalpa.org

This is what Lake Moyúa in northern Nicaragua looked like before it lost 60 percent of its water due to the effects of the El Niño climate phenomenon, which in this Central American country has spelled drought. Credit: Matagalpa.org

The environmental organisation does not only blame the crisis on the impact of climate change that has been felt in Nicaragua since 2014 due to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) – a cyclical climate phenomenon that affects weather patterns around the world – but also the lack of public policies to curb the rampant deforestation.

The big forest reserves in the south of the country have shrunk up to 40 percent, according to a study by the British consultancy Environmental Resources Management (ERM), hired by the Chinese consortium HKND Group to carry out feasibility studies for the canal it is to build that will link the Pacific and Atlantic oceans across Nicaragua.

The environmental deterioration of the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve and the Cerro Silva and Punta Gorda nature reserves in southeast Nicaragua was worse in the period 2009-2011 than in the previous 26 years, the ERM reported in 2015.

The study says that between 1983 and 2011, “nearly 40 percent of the natural land cover in southeast Nicaragua was lost.”

The non-governmental Humboldt Centre also reported 40 percent loss of forest cover in Bosawas, the largest forest reserve in Central America, declared a biosphere reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1997.

Food security, a major victim

The impact of the drought has been felt in the economy and the food security of a large part of this country’s population of 6.2 million people, 2.5 million of whom live on less than two dollars a day and 20 percent of whom are undernourished, according to statistics from international bodies.

Organisations of farmers, stockbreeders and tourism businesses have complained about economic damages caused by water shortages.

For example, the National Livestock Commission of Nicaragua (CONAGAN) confirmed in February that the sector is extremely concerned about the scarcity of water in the parts of Nicaragua that account for at least 30 percent of the country’s livestock.

What worries them the most is that according to international and national weather reports, the drought caused by El Niño could last through August, when the first rainfall in 2016 is forecast.

And this month, the Union of Agricultural Producers in Nicaragua (UPANIC) estimated losses caused by the drought at 200 million dollars in 2015.

Nicaragua’s Central Bank, meanwhile, reported that in 2015, the drought affected hydropower production – the least costly energy in terms of production costs.

Sociologist Cirilo Otero, the director of the Centre of Environmental Policy Initiatives, said the part of the country hit hardest by water shortages is the so-called “dry corridor” – a long, arid stretch of dry forest where 35 of the country’s 153 municipalities are located.

According to Otero’s studies, the impact of the drought and the lack of water in that region, which stretches from northern to south-central Nicaragua, has been so heavy that 100 percent of the crops have been lost and 90 percent of the water sources have dried up.

“The measures adopted by the government are ‘asistencialistas’ (band-aid or short-term in nature) – water and food are distributed on certain days – but there are no public policies to curb deforestation in the pine forests in the mountains of Dipilto and Jalapa, and that is one of the main causes of the disappearance of rivers and wells,” Otero told IPS.

He said children and the elderly are suffering the worst food insecurity in the dry corridor.

“There are entire families who have nothing but corn and salt to eat. The situation is very serious,” said Otero.

The government, which has been the target of complaints for failing to declare a national emergency for the drought, has continued to assist families in the area, providing them with medicine, food and water.

Ervin Barreda, president of ENACAL, Nicaragua’s water and sanitation utility, said they send some 65 tanker trucks a day to the most critical areas, supplying some 2,000 families every day.

According to official data, in February 2016 there were 51,527 families in 34 localities who depended on highly vulnerable aquifers for their water supply.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Heavy Rains Once Again Scatter the Poor in Asunciónhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/heavy-rains-once-again-scatter-the-poor-in-asuncion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=heavy-rains-once-again-scatter-the-poor-in-asuncion http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/heavy-rains-once-again-scatter-the-poor-in-asuncion/#comments Fri, 01 Apr 2016 02:00:58 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144433 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/heavy-rains-once-again-scatter-the-poor-in-asuncion/feed/ 0 Corruption Swallows a Huge Dose of Waterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/corruption-swallows-a-huge-dose-of-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=corruption-swallows-a-huge-dose-of-water http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/corruption-swallows-a-huge-dose-of-water/#comments Tue, 22 Mar 2016 23:51:46 +0000 Jeff Williams http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144308 A Somali woman in Garowe drawing water from one of the many man-made ponds dug through a UNDP-supported initiative to bring water to drought-affected communities. Credit: UNDP Somalia

A Somali woman in Garowe drawing water from one of the many man-made ponds dug through a UNDP-supported initiative to bring water to drought-affected communities. Credit: UNDP Somalia

By Jeff Williams
MOMBASA, Kenya, Mar 22 2016 (IPS)

While the United Nations marked this year’s World Water Day on March 22 focusing on the connection between water and jobs, a new report has rung loud alarm bells about the heavy impact of corruption on the massive investments being made in the water sector.

Each year, between 770 billion and 1,760 billion dollars are needed to develop water resources and services worldwide — yet the number of people without “safe” drinking water is about as large as those who lack access to basic sanitation: around 32 per cent of the world’s population in 2015, Transparency International on March 22 reported.

And asked how can so much be spent and yet such massive shortfalls still exist?

“One answer: About 10 per cent of water sector investment is lost to corruption.”

This striking information came out on the occasion of World Water Day 2016, as the Water Integrity Network (WIN) released a new report that documents the legacy of corruption in the water sector.

The WIN report reveals corruption’s costly impact on the world’s water resources. It also shows the degree to which poor water governance negatively affects the world’s most vulnerable populations – specifically women, children, and the landless.

Women carry gravel from the river to be taken to a construction site in Indonesia. Credit © Maillard J. /ILO

Women carry gravel from the river to be taken to a construction site in Indonesia. Credit © Maillard J. /ILO


While access to water and sanitation were formally recognised as human rights by the UN General Assembly in 2010, the reality is far from this goal, says WIN, a network of organisations and individuals promoting water integrity to reduce corruption and improve water sector performance.

“According to the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, some 663 million people lack access to so-called “improved” drinking water sources globally… this contributes to 1.6 million deaths annually, most of whom are children under 5 years old.”

Although the UN’s new 2030 Agenda includes a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) on water and sanitation as well as a mandate for accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels (SDG 16), action is needed so that pervasive and systemic corruption do not continue to seep from the water sector, according to the report.

The study cites some specific cases. In 2013, Malawi’s reformed public financial management system was misused to divert 5 million dollars in public funds to the private accounts of officials.

Another case: in 2015, an audit of the 70 million euro phase II national water programme in Benin, which included 50 million euro from the Netherlands, revealed that 4 million euro had vanished. Dutch development cooperation with the Benin government was suspended thereafter to safeguard additional funds.

Corruption is, however, not limited to developing countries. In fact, WING cites an example from the United States. “In California, a member of the State Senate in 2015 declared a system of permits that allowed oil companies to discharge wastewater into underground aquifers to be corrupt.”

Further more, the Water Integrity Global Outlook 2016 (WIGO) shares examples of both corruption and good practices at all levels worldwide.

In this sense, WIGO demonstrates how improved governance and anti-corruption measures can win back an estimated 75 billion dollars for global investment in water services and infrastructure annually.

It therefore highlights and draws lessons from those examples of where governments, companies, and community groups have won gains for water consumers and environmental protection.

“The report proposes to build ‘integrity walls’ from building blocks of transparency, accountability, participation and anti-corruption measures,” says Frank van der Valk, the Water Integrity Network’s executive director. “Urgent action by all stakeholders is required.”

WIN works to raise awareness on the impact of corruption especially on the poor and disenfranchised assesses risk and promotes practical responses. Its vision is a world with equitable and sustained access to water and a clean environment, which is no longer, threatened by corruption, greed, dishonesty and willful malpractice.

Formerly hosted by Transparency International, the WIN global network is formally led by the WIN association and supported by the WIN Secretariat in Berlin.

(End)

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The Fuel of Economic Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/the-fuel-of-economic-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-fuel-of-economic-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/the-fuel-of-economic-growth/#comments Tue, 22 Mar 2016 16:18:23 +0000 Ali Sheikh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144301 By Ali Sheikh
Mar 22 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Water has become Pakistan`s number one development and governance issue. While water availability in our river systems has remained fairly stable, per capita water availability has diminished from about 1,500 to nearly 1,000 cubic metres, owing to a fast-growing population.

On World Water Day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has an opportunity to set the direction for Pakistan`s water economy. We will need to lay foundations for the blue economy. We will need water to fuel our economy, create water jobs, invest in water efficient technologies, create water markets for water savings and systems. It is critical for Pakistan to make water the central planl< of our development agenda, if we are to meet our SDGs targets. Action on five issues to set the direction is needed.
 
Water policy: Pakistan has no water policy. The ministries of planning & reforms and water & power circulated two different drafts. Both have been withdrawn quietly. The Council of Common Interests is perceived as a spoiler and not an enabler.
 
Hence there is visibly weak resolve to convene the CCI meeting and present the draft policy for approval. Meanwhile, some provinces have started working on their own provincial policies. The best of provincial policies cannot be a substitute for a comprehensive national water policy.
 
Groundwater: The country`s groundwater reserves are not regulated. Pakistan`s agriculture meets about 40pc of its water needs by extracting groundwater. But the water table is fast depleting and getting contaminated both in agricultural and urban areas. Our cities will not be habitable, nor will our agriculture be tenable if the present rate of groundwater depletion and contamination continues. It is a poorly governed area that has seen no meaningful legislation in decades. In fact, the subsidy for solar energy-run tube wells will accelerate depletion unless clubbed with drip irrigation.
 
Groundwater reserves should be seen as strategic assets. Significant investment must be made in mapping, recharging, pricing and regulating individual and commercial use. It has serious implications for our ecosystems, cropping patterns, terms of trade, and transboundary aquafers.
 
Transboundary water institutions: Water resources are shared with three of our four neighbours in very significant ways. Any upstream devel-opments can have adverse implications for us. Our neighbours have elaborate plans for infrastructure development. While it is sometimes suggested we seek their concurrence on our plans, we do not engage with them about theirs. We have failed to engage proactively or to explore benefit-sharing on shared basins. Afghanistan and China still offer opportunities for collaborative approaches.
 
Focus on India or the Indus Waters Treaty is important, but should not be at the cost of other neighbours. In fact, the IWT has provisions for collaboration but a zero-sum approach, pursued both by India and Pakistan, spoils the atmosphere for additional instruments of collaboration. As the lower riparian we cannot afford this and must generate additional policy options for better collaboration.
 
The Pakistan Commission for Indus Waters (PCIW) has failed us more than once in negotiations and court cases; we must reconstitute it by converting it into an independent constitutional authority, with a strong capacity for technical and legal studies and with partnerships with universities and think tanks in such areas as hydrology, meteorology, climatology, early warning, etc. The Commission`s mandate needs to be expanded to cover all transboundary water issues with all neighbours.
 
Interprovincial trust: All provinces are entangled in subtle water wars. KP aspires to construct more dams than it will need. Punjab feels it is surrendering its due share to the lower-riparian, smaller provinces that led by Sindh accuse Punjab of non-transparent transaction. The seeds of mistrust are also sown by early varieties of water-intensive crops in the pre-monsoon months when canals run empty and dams are at low levels.
 
Even a rational conversation on constructing uncontested reservoirs has become hostage to political bickering. The institutions have failed to generate trust. Telemetry or other instruments at locations where water shareholders change hands have remained an elusive dream despite availability of technologies and funds. Irsa has shrunk to a small club of well-regarded but retired officials who, among other things, lack the sense of urgency to translate Irsa`s mandate into action to manage water as a shared national resource. As part of the Ministry of Water & Power, it has failed to get the same atten-tion that energy issues get. Water deserves a separate ministry, or at least an independent commission with constitutional status.
 
Climate change: Climate change poses a more serious threat to Pakistan`s water supply than India`s. India cannot stop Pakistan`s water beyond a certain number of days even if it wanted to. At the risk ofinternationalisolationitcansuddenlyrelease water in some of our rivers and cause damage, or deny water to some crops by exploiting timing.
 
These issues can be handled by our water diplomats.
 
But climate change poses more existential challenges. The changing monsoon pattern is making water supply erratic. It has started reaching the upper reaches of our Himalayan ranges and parts of Balochistan not traditionally covered by monsoon rains. Karachi and other coastal areas have begun to receive more frequent warnings about cyclones.
 
Changes in rain patterns raise questions about food security and the need to invest in climatesmart agriculture. While we have a greater incidence of hydro-metrological droughts in parts of Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh, urban and rural flooding is becoming a recurrent phenomenon. In fact, torrential rains in the Jammu region and the upper reaches of the Kabul river basin have flooded Sialkot in Punjab and Nowshera in KP, drawing attention to emerging transboundary risks. As the glaciers recede, we face the threat of permanent reduction in our water lifeline.
 
Economic growth: The prime minister should take a fresh look at Pakistan`s institutional landscape.
 
The mandates and governance of water-related institutions such as PCIW, Irsa etc should be revisited. He may want to constitute a national commission to look at water as a source of national cohesion and trust between the provinces. Water should also be an essential component of regional foreign and economic policy. We need to base our energy, food, and disaster risk reduction policies on climate change projections. We must address the issues of water access, water equity, and water as a hazard to our development as a national priority. Our vision for Pakistan as a middle-income country can only be fuelled with water.
 

The writer is CEO, LEAD Pakistan, an think tank focusing on climate and water issues.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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