Inter Press Service » Projects http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 27 Apr 2017 16:29:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.17 New Generation Rallies to Climate Cause in Trinidadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/new-generation-rallies-to-climate-cause-in-trinidad/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-generation-rallies-to-climate-cause-in-trinidad http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/new-generation-rallies-to-climate-cause-in-trinidad/#comments Wed, 26 Apr 2017 20:28:20 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150167 Marchers form a heart shape at the 2015 climate marc, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, organised by youth activists from IAMovement. Credit: IAMovement

Marchers form a heart shape at the 2015 climate march, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, organised by youth activists from IAMovement. Credit: IAMovement

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Apr 26 2017 (IPS)

As two environmental activist groups in Trinidad and Tobago powered by young volunteers prepare to ramp up their climate change and sustainability activism, they are also contemplating their own sustainability and how they can become viable over the long-term.

IAMovement and New Fire Festival both began their environmental activism in earnest less than three years ago.“Young people are really inspired by the festival and they got involved willingly, just to be a part of it because there is a feeling that it is needed.” --Gerry Williams

IAMovement captured the Trinidadian public’s imagination with its climate change march in 2014 and the iconic heart shape formed by 150 marchers who joined them, an emblem reprised by the 450 who joined IAMovement in 2015 in the country’s capital city of Port-of-Spain for the march that coincided with COP21 in Paris.

For the group’s first event in 2014, timed to coincide with the rallies being held worldwide during UN climate talks in New York, “people came, interested, but not sure what to expect. But from the beginning the conversation was very positive about what we can do and the solutions available to us,” said IAMovement’s Managing Director Jonathan Barcant.

New Fire Festival, run by the NGO T&T Bridge Initiative, began its engagement with climate change activism in 2016 with the launch of an ecologically sustainable music festival that emphasises reducing, reusing, and sustaining. This followed a successful run as organisers of an underground music festival designed to give more exposure to talented but marginalised artists and musicians.

Founder of New Fire Festival, Gerry Williams said, “We decided we needed to do something a bit more impactful…It’s more than just an entertainment event. It is based on the transformational festival model.”

Since their launch, both organisations are seeing more and more young people rallying to their side and offering to work as volunteers. “We have had about 50 volunteers over the last three years, and we have a growing list of people who are interested [in volunteering],” Barcant said.

Williams likewise said, “It’s really a small team of people who came together to make it happen. This generation is basically expecting, hoping, longing for something new to happen on our landscape. Many people said they had always dreamed of doing something like this or being part of it. A lot of it is volunteer work.

“Young people are really inspired by the festival and they got involved willingly, just to be a part of it because there is a feeling that it is needed.”

This groundswell of support has incited New Fire Festival and IAMovement to want to move their organisations to another level, as they make ever more ambitious plans to engage with climate change activism and environmental sustainability issues. But to ensure the long-term viability of their organisations and their plans, they are interested in providing proper remuneration to those who work on their projects.

“One reason we are restructuring is because we got so many requests to volunteer now, that I can finally say we have the capacity to do so,” Barcant said. IAMovement operates “as a full grassroots non-profit. This is the first year we are getting real funding where we can pay a project coordinator.

“As young people giving more and more of ourselves we need to look at sustainable growth if we are going to keep growing. As the demands grow, as more and more work is required of us, we need to be paid as well.” He said the plan was to “have people with full salaries to coordinate projects. Up to now it has been totally voluntary.”

In similar vein, Williams of New Fire Festival observed, “I do not get a salary from the organisation or from New Fire Festival. This year we have only managed to break even to cover our costs. Last year, we had to dip into our pockets.

“Because it is a non-profit, even when the festival is eventually earning profits we will have an obligation to treat with that money a certain way. It’s not that we can pocket it or give to shareholders,” he said. For this reason, the NGO behind New Fire Festival is preparing to launch a for-profit enterprise using discarded shipping pallets to make fine furniture.

IAMovement is raising revenue through donations on its Web site, funding from European embassies operating in Trinidad and Tobago, grants from multinational agencies, as well as crowdfunding to cover the cost of its environmental projects. The organisers of New Fire Festival are also interested in launching a business that would green events for event organisers.

The year has begun on a high note for both organisations. IAMovement is in the process of hosting a series of 40 climate talks at schools and other venues, where their low-budget film on climate change, entitled “Small Change”, will be shown.

The film was shown at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival last year and will be screened at other festivals, including the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, described as “one of the world’s largest and most influential festivals for emerging filmmakers.” It was created by IAMovement member, 23-year-old Dylon Quesnel.

The film presents IAMovement’s argument that Trinidad and Tobago can derive major social and economic benefits by moving away from an economy based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable energy and care of the environment.

IAMovement will also be planting the country’s first edible roof on the Ministry of Education building, which was designed to accommodate such a project.

New Fire Festival concluded the second edition of its annual festival early in April. The festival was held in the lush surroundings of Santa Cruz in Trinidad’s famous Northern Range and attracted approximately 2,000 paying visitors, nearly three times the attendance in 2016, its first year.

At the festival, visitors were given access to workshops on eco-sustainability topics. They were also discouraged from entering the festival with disposable water bottles. “We do our best to avoid disposables. Even where we use disposable items they are compost-type items,” Williams said.

“Consumption is one of the biggest drivers of climate change. We have to alter our consumption habits,” he said. “We hope that the festival will be an inspiring experience to all…that outside of the festival and having fun they will incorporate some of it into their lives.”

Thirty-two-year-old Sasha Belton, who attended IAMovement’s climate talk and film showing at MovieTowne in March, said, “It definitely raised awareness, made you realise how much you take for granted…It inspired me to be more aware of my own actions and how you should be [environmentally responsible] recycling and sharing information with others.”

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No Trace of the Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-trace-of-the-nicaraguan-interoceanic-canal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-trace-of-the-nicaraguan-interoceanic-canal http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-trace-of-the-nicaraguan-interoceanic-canal/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 23:40:11 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150149 In April 2017, three years after this road was created to mark the official start of the construction of the Great Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal in Brito, on the country’s Pacific ocean western coast, it remains unpaved, and is only used by horses from nearby farms. Credit: José Adán Silva/ IPS

In April 2017, three years after this road was created to mark the official start of the construction of the Great Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal in Brito, on the country’s Pacific ocean western coast, it remains unpaved, and is only used by horses from nearby farms. Credit: José Adán Silva/ IPS

By José Adán Silva
PUNTA GORDA/BRITO, Nicaragua, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

Less than three years from the projected completion in Nicaragua of a canal running from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, there is no trace of progress on the mega-project.

IPS traveled to both ends of the routet: Bluefields, on the Caribbean coast in eastern Nicaragua, 383 km from Managua, and Brito, on the Pacific coast in the southern department of Rivas, 112 km from the capital.

In the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, IPS traveled by boat from Bluefields, the regional capital, to the town of Punta Gorda to the south.“About two years ago, foreigners used to come and travel around by helicopter and boat from the mouth of the Punta Gorda River all the way upstream. They were escorted by the army and would not talk with anyone, but they have not returned." -- Anonymous indigenous leader

There are 365 small scattered indigenous settlements along the banks of the rivers, in a region divided into two sectors: the Southern Triangle, facing the sea, and the Daniel Guido Development Pole, along the banks of the Punta Gorda River – the Caribbean extreme of the projected canal.

According to the plans of the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development (HKND) group, in charge of the project to build the Great Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal, in this sparsely populated jungle area bordering the territory of the Rama indigenous people, a deep-water harbour must be built, as well as the first locks on the Caribbean end for the ships that cross to or from the Atlantic Ocean.

The entire Great Canal project, according to HKND, is to include six sub-projects: the canal, the locks, two harbours, a free trade zone, tourist centres, an international airport, and several roads.

Other connected works are a hydroelectric power plant, a cement factory, and other related industrial facilities to ensure the supply of materials and the successful completion of the canal in five years, counting from 2014, when the project officially got underway.

But in Punta Gorda there are no infrastructure works, no HKND offices, and among the local population nobody is willing to openly talk about the subject.

“The silence is a matter of caution, people think you might be a government agent,” a local indigenous leader of the Rama and Kriol Territorial Government (GTR-K), an autonomous organisation of indigenous communities that own the lands that will be affected by the canal, told IPS on condition of anonymity.

In the days prior to IPS’ visit to the region, army troops and the police carried out operations against drug trafficking, and there was an overall sense of apprehension.

The members of the GTR-K are divided between supporting and opposing the project, but negotiations with the government representatives have been tense and conflict-ridden, to the extent that complaints by the local indigenous people demanding respect for their ancestral lands have reached the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

“About two years ago, foreigners used to come and travel around by helicopter and boat from the mouth of the Punta Gorda River all the way upstream. They were escorted by the army and would not talk with anyone, but they have not returned,” said the indigenous leader of this remote territory that can only be accessed by boat or helicopter.

Silence on the subject is not just found among the locals. There is no talk anymore at a government level about what was once a highly touted project.

Fishermen and stevedores on one of the docks on the Punta Gorda River, near where it runs into the Caribbean Sea, the projected Caribbean extreme of the interoceanic canal, where local residents have not seen any visible sign of progress on the works officially launched more than two years ago. Credit: José Adán Silva/ IPS

Fishermen and stevedores on one of the docks on the Punta Gorda River, near where it runs into the Caribbean Sea, the projected Caribbean extreme of the interoceanic canal, where local residents have not seen any visible sign of progress on the works officially launched more than two years ago. Credit: José Adán Silva/ IPS

However, Vice President Rosario Murillo, the chief spokesperson of the government of her husband Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua since 2007, announced this month that with Taiwan’s support, a deep-water harbour, not connected to the plan for the canal, would be built in the same area with an investment that has not yet been revealed.

María Luisa Acosta, coordinator of the Legal Aid Centre for Indigenous Peoples, told IPS that the Special Law for the Development of Infrastructure and Transportation in Nicaragua Relating to the Canal, Free-Trade Areas and Associated Infrastructure, known as Law 840, was passed in June 2013 without consulting local indigenous and black communities.

A year later, on July 7, 2014, HKND and the Nicaraguan government announced the route that had been chosen for the canal, running from the Rivas Isthmus across Lake Cocibolca, also known as Lake Nicaragua, to Punta Gorda.

The route would negatively affect the indigenous communities of Salinas de Nahualapa, Nancimí, Veracruz del Zapotal, Urbaite de las Pilas and San Jorge Nicaraocalí, along the Pacific, while in the Caribbean region it would impact the Creole communities of Monkey Point and Punta Gorda, as well as the Rama people of Wiring Kay, Punta de Águila and Bangkukuk Tai, home to the last speakers of the Rama language.

According to leaders of different indigenous communities, government representatives began to pressure them to give their consent over their lands to allow the canal to be built, giving rise to a still lingering conflict.

The canal is to be 278 km in length – including a 105-km stretch across Lake Cocibolca – 520 metres wide and up to 30 metres deep.

It was to be built by the end of 2019, at a cost of over 50 billion dollars – more than four times the GDP of this Central American country of 6.2 million people, 40 per cent of whom live in poverty.

The construction of a harbour, the western locks and a tourist complex is projected in Brito, a town on the Pacific coast in the municipality of Tola.

The town is named after the Brito River, a natural tributary of Lake Cocibolca, which winds through the isthmus until flowing into the Pacific Ocean. The works were officially inaugurated in Brito in December 2014.

The president of HKND, Wang Jing, together with Nicaraguan government officials, appeared in the media next to the construction equipment to inaugurate the work on a 13-km highway, which would be used to bring in the heavy machinery to build the initial infrastructure.

It was the last time Wang was seen in public in Nicaragua.

There is no new paved highway, just a dirt road which in winter is difficult to travel because it turns into a muddy track.

No heavy machinery is in sight, or vehicular traffic, workers or engineering staff.

Here, as in Punta Gorda, people avoid talking about the canal, and if they do it is on condition of anonymity and in a low voice.

“In Rivas we drove out the Chinese with stones when they tried to come to measure the houses, and after that, the police harassed us. They disguised themselves as civilians – as doctors, vendors and even priests, to see if we were participating in the protests,” said one local resident in Brito, who was referring to the 87 protest demonstrations held against the canal in Nicaragua.

In Managua, Telémaco Talavera, the spokesman for the state Commission of the Great Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal, said briefly to a small group of journalists, including IPS, that studies on the canal continue and that “the project is moving ahead as planned.”

However, Vice President Murillo announced in January that a 138-km coastal highway would be built along the Rivas Isthmus, to cater to the tourism industry and improve transportation, at a cost of 120 million dollars – with no mention of the canal.

One month later, government machinery was moved to Rivas to begin building the road where the canal was supposed to go.

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Fate of Earth Must Not be Decided by US & Fellow Nuclear Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fate-of-earth-must-not-be-decided-by-us-fellow-nuclear-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fate-of-earth-must-not-be-decided-by-us-fellow-nuclear-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fate-of-earth-must-not-be-decided-by-us-fellow-nuclear-states/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:21:57 +0000 Joan Russow http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150115 Dr Joan Russow is Co-ordinator, Global Compliance Research Project]]> Credit: UN photo

Credit: UN photo

By Joan Russow
VICTORIA, BC, Canada, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

When the United Nations continues its negotiations in June for an international treaty against nuclear weapons, there must be a treaty that should cover every single aspect of the devastating weapons — and leading eventually to their total elimination from the world’s military arsenals.

As envisaged, the treaty should not only prohibit stockpiling; use and threat of use, and planning for use of nuclear weapons but also the deployment; transfer, acquisition, and stationing; development and production of these weapons—along with testing; transit and transshipment; and financing, assistance, encouragement, and inducement and an obligation for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and a framework to achieve it.(WILPH, Reaching Critical Will).

As Eva Walder, the Swedish representative to the UN’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, declared: “Sweden’s position is clear. The only guarantee that these weapons will never be used again is their total elimination.”

Through the current negotiations, there is the global opportunity to speak truth to power, to save the world from the scourge of war and to prevent and remove the threats to peace.

The US has stated that the treaty to ban nuclear weapons would be ineffective, with adverse consequences for security and would hinder the implementation of Article VI of the US constitution on international treaties.

It is, rather, NATO`s nuclear policy which contravenes Article VI, as well as some of the Thirteen Steps Towards Nuclear Disarmament, and has consequences for common security:

1) nuclear weapons must be maintained indefinitely
2) We will improve their use and accuracy (modernize them)
3) We can use them first.
4) We can target non-nuclear weapon states
5) We can threaten to use them
6) We can keep them in Europe, as they are now doing
7) We can launch some on 15 minutes warning.
8) We say “they are essential for peace
(Murray Thompson, Canadian for a Nuclear Weapons Convention)

In October 17 2016, prior to the vote of the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Nuclear Weapons, the US circulated a “non-paper“, to NATO and its allies on potential negative impacts of starting negotiations for a nuclear ban treaty and wrote,“ for the allies, participating in the OEWG , we strongly urge you to vote no on any vote at the UN First Committee on starting negotiations for a nuclear ban treaty.“ http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/NATO_OCT2016.pdf

Subsequently, in the October 27 2016 meeting of the OEWG, the US Intervention appeared to work. Only the Netherlands did not vote no. On December 23, 2016.the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approved a significant resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

The resolution was adopted by a large majority, with 113 UN member states voting in favour, 35 voting against and 13 abstaining. Support came from every continent, except Australia, and represented the range of legal systems. It thus fulfilled the criteria for a peremptory norm.

The US appears, however, to have provided a script for the US allies voting on the nuclear ban treaty; most of them gave the reason for voting against the resolution as being, “the US nuclear weapons are essential for its security and they have refused to declare that nuclear weapons should never be used”. Perhaps “security” needs to be redefined not distorted by the US weapons industry.

The late Olof Palme, former Prime Minister of Sweden, affirmed “True security exists when all are secure, through “common security” (Palme Commission (Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security) 1982)
http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/04/the-u-n-at-70-a-time-for-compliance/

The aforementioned October 17 2016 letter to the NATO and the script for allies at the UNGA, continues the practice of the US “influencing“ votes through financial incentives, threats, or intimidation (FITI),

For example, in 1990, only two countries on the UNSC opposed the passage of US Resolution 678, and when Yemen cast one of these votes, the U.S. Ambassador threatened him: “that will be the most expensive vote you ever cast,” and the U.S. immediately cut off aid to Yemen.

In 2003, several UNSC non-permanent members who opposed the US` proposed intervention in Iraq, suddenly came out with a US script supporting the invasion of Iraq. In addition, in 2003, the US sent a letter, described as an ultimatum, to all the members of the UNGA pressing them to not support the call for an emergency session of the UNGA to oppose the invasion of Iraq.

The data, based on UNGA voting patterns, provided in the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) document of participants in the March negotiations, indicates that there were 138 “supportive” states, one “not supportive” state (Japan), and 13 “not clear” states

The ICAN data on voting patterns of participants who did not attend the March negotiations indicate 14 were “supportive, five were “not clear”, 27 NATO states were “not supportive,” along with the other non-NATO nuclear weapons states (Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and other US allies from NATO along with Japan, and South Korea, http://www.icanw.org/

If the 14 supportive states attend the upcoming June 15– July 7 meeting, there will be around 143 “supportive` states” (70% of the 193 member states of the United Nations). This would be the case, provided the US does not threaten or offer financial incentives and persuade them to claim “that the US nuclear weapons are essential for its security and has refused to declare that nuclear weapons should never be used”`.

If there is a positive vote in the UNGA, the US and the four other permanent members will try to block decision through taking any UNGA decision to the UNSC. With the current composition of the UNSC, the nuclear powers will be able to get “not supportive” votes from only three non-permanent members: Italy, Japan and Ukraine.

This is assuming that Bolivia Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Senegal. Sweden, and Uruguay will not be coerced into renouncing their former supportive positions for a treaty for the abolition of nuclear weapons. If the required number of nine votes does not oppose the treaty, the UNSC would fail to make a decision. Then there is a precedent in the 1950 “Uniting for Peace Resolution” and the decision could pass back to the UNGA. http://www.un.org/en/sc/repertoire/otherdocs/GAres377A(v).pdf

In the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations, there is a call to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war – and “to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”…

In 2017, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday clock to two and one half minutes to midnight because of the threats arising both from nuclear weapons and climate change. The funds thus saved from ending the production of nuclear weapons could be transferred to fully implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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Bamboo Gaining Traction in Caribbean as Climate Saviorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/bamboo-gaining-traction-in-caribbean-as-climate-savior/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bamboo-gaining-traction-in-caribbean-as-climate-savior http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/bamboo-gaining-traction-in-caribbean-as-climate-savior/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 00:01:36 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150089 Bamboo sequesters carbon at rates comparable to or greater than many tree species. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Bamboo sequesters carbon at rates comparable to or greater than many tree species. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

Keen to tap its natural resources as a way to boost its struggling economy, Guyana struck a multi-million-dollar deal with Norway in 2009.

Under the deal, Norway agreed to pay up to 250 million dollars over five years, if Guyana, a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country in South America, maintained a low deforestation rate."It is a plant, it does photosynthesis, but it happens to be the fastest growing plant in the world so the absorption of CO2 by bamboo forests is quite significant.” --Dr. Hans Friederich

It was the first time a developed country, conscious of its own carbon-dioxide emissions, had paid a developing country to keep its trees in the ground.

The initiative was developed by the United Nations and called REDD+ (for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus conservation).

The main aim was to allow for carbon sequestration – the process involved in carbon capture and the long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Trees are thirsty for the potent greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, soaking it up during photosynthesis and storing it in their roots, branches and leaves. Each year, forests around the world absorb nearly 40 percent of all the carbon dioxide produced globally from fossil-fuel emissions. But deforestation increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as trees are burned or start to decompose.

Most of the other Caribbean countries do not have the vast forests present in Guyana, but one expert believes there is still a huge potential to sequester carbon.

While the bamboo plant can be found in abundance in several Caribbean countries, the director of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), Dr. Hans Friederich, said its importance and the possible role it could play in dealing with climate change have been missed by many of these countries.

“Bamboo and rattan, to a lesser extent, have been in a way forgotten as mechanisms that can help countries both with mitigation of climate change and with adaptation. And I think, certainly for the Caribbean, for Jamaica, both aspects are important,” Friederich told IPS.

“Mitigation, because carbon is sequestered by bamboo. It is a plant, it does photosynthesis, but it happens to be the fastest growing plant in the world so the absorption of CO2 by bamboo forests is quite significant.”

“The stems are thin but, over a period of time, the total sink of CO2 from a bamboo forest is actually more than the average from other forests. We’ve tried this, we’ve tested this and we’ve measured this in China and that’s certainly the case over there,” he added.

As far as adaptation is concerned, Friederich said bamboo also has a key role to play.

“For example, helping local communities deal with the effects of climate change in relation to erosion control, in relation to providing income in times when maybe other sources of income are no longer there or have been affected through floods or droughts or other environmental catastrophes,” the INBAR official explained.

“So, bamboo really is something that should be included in the overall discussion about climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

INBAR has facilitated a trip to China for a group of Jamaicans, to show them how the Chinese are using bamboo as a source of energy, as a charcoal source – to replicate that intelligence and that experience in Jamaica and help the island develop a bamboo industry.

In 2014, the Jamaica Bureau of Standards announced the country would embark on the large-scale production of bamboo for the construction of low-cost houses and value-added products such as furniture and charcoal for the export market.

The bureau also facilitated training exercises for people to be employed in the industry, and announced plans to set up three bamboo factories across the island.

The agency said it would also offer incentives for people to grow, preserve and harvest the bamboo plant for its various uses.

The following year, the bureau and the Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ) collaborated to establish the country’s first ever Bamboo Industry Association (BIA).

The BIA’s mandate is to engage and heighten awareness among owners of properties with bamboo, about the potential economic values to be derived from the plant, of which there are more than 65,000 hectares of growing across the island.

“We believe in changing the nation…so we are here to make an impactful difference in the lives of the average citizen of this country,” SBAJ President Hugh Johnson said.

It seems the importance of bamboo might be slowly catching on in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

“Does it connect? It depends really with whom. I think our members, we now have 41 states that are part of the network of Inbar – they recognize it. And more and more do we get requests to help countries think about ways that we can develop the industry,” Friederich said.

“But beyond the people that understand bamboo there is still a lot of awareness raising to be done . . . to make people understand the opportunities and the benefits.

“The nice thing about bamboo is that the start of the production chain, the start of the value chain is something that basically involves unskilled, poor people. So, it is really a way to address Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number one – poverty reduction and bringing people out of real bad conditions. Therefore, that is something that we are working our members to see how we can support local communities with activities that basically promote that,” he added.

INBAR is an intergovernmental organisation established in 1997 by treaty deposited with the United Nations and hosted in Beijing, China.

Friederich said reactions from the producing countries have been very positive.

“From the international community, equally, I think those working in forestry like the Food and Agriculture Organisation, they definitely see the opportunities,” he said.

“From the investment community, maybe less so. I think the banks and individual investors are still wondering what the return on investment is, but we do have some very interesting private sector reactions and there are some exciting things going on around the world. So, in general, I think the message is getting through,” Friederich added.

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Nicaragua’s South Caribbean Coast Improves Readiness for Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/nicaraguas-south-caribbean-coast-improves-readiness-for-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nicaraguas-south-caribbean-coast-improves-readiness-for-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/nicaraguas-south-caribbean-coast-improves-readiness-for-climate-change/#comments Sat, 22 Apr 2017 01:41:32 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150081 A dock in the coastal community of Laguna de Perlas, in the municipality of Bluefields, which owes its name to its location along the longest coastal lagoon in Nicaragua, 40 km north of the city. Coexistence with maritime, river or lake water is part of life in the South Caribbean Region, but climate change is compelling the local population to make changes. Credit: José Adán Silva/IPS

A dock in the coastal community of Laguna de Perlas, in the municipality of Bluefields, which owes its name to its location along the longest coastal lagoon in Nicaragua, 40 km north of the city. Coexistence with maritime, river or lake water is part of life in the South Caribbean Region, but climate change is compelling the local population to make changes. Credit: José Adán Silva/IPS

By José Adán Silva
BLUEFIELDS, Nicaragua , Apr 22 2017 (IPS)

The effects of climate change have hit Nicaragua’s Caribbean coastal regions hard in the last decade and have forced the authorities and local residents to take protection and adaptation measures to address the phenomenon that has gradually undermined their safety and changed their way of life.

Bluefields, the capital city of Nicaragua’s South Caribbean Autonomous Region, has endured a series of hurricanes, floods due to heavy rains or storm surges, droughts, environmental pollution and general changes in temperatures, which have caused economic damages to the local population.

The latest catastrophic event along Nicaragua’s eastern Caribbean coast was Hurricane Otto, which was a category 2 storm on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale when it hit in October 2016.

The structural damages and heavy flooding were the same as always, but something changed for the better: there were no fatalities, wounded or missing people in Nicaragua.“The population in this area has suffered a lot due to climate change, not only because of the hurricanes and flooding from the sea and rivers, but due to the climate variability. They have lost crops because of droughts or too much rain. They used to know how to interpret the signs of rain, but not anymore.” -- Guillaume Craig

The 10,143 people from the 69 coastal communities directly affected in the South Caribbean Region survived with no injuries, having taken refuge in shelters set up by the governmental National Agency for Disaster Management and Prevention (SINAPRED).

This was due to the gradual development of social awareness in the face of climatic events, according to Ericka Aldana, coordinator of the non-governmental international organisation Global Communities’ climate change project: “Citizens Prepared for Climate Change”.

“Historically, Nicaragua’s South and North Caribbean regions have been hit by natural disasters due to their coastal location and environment surrounded by jungles and big rivers which have served as means of transport. But with climate change the vulnerability increased, and it was necessary to make an effort to change the mindset of the population,” Aldana told IPS.

Her organisation, together with the civil and military authorities, have organised conferences, discussion forums and environmental awareness campaigns, in addition to prevention and coastal community rescue plans in the entire South Caribbean Region.

The two autonomous Caribbean coastal regions represent 52 per cent of the territory of Nicaragua and are home to 15 per cent of the country’s 6.2 million people, including a majority of the indigenous and black populations.

Aldana said that in the coastal communities, especially Corn Island and Little Corn Island, located in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Bluefields, the waves changed due to the intensity and instability in wind patterns.
This makes it difficult to maneuver fishing boats, alters fishing cycles, drives away the fish, and erodes the coasts of the two small islands.

On Little Corn Island, local resident Vilma Gómez talked to IPS about the threats posed and damages caused by the change in ocean currents, winds and waves.

As an example, she said that she has seen almost four km of coastline submerged due to the erosion caused by waves over the last 30 years.

The municipality of Corn Island, comprised of the two islands separated by 15 km, with a total area of 13.1 square kilometres, is one of the most populated areas in Nicaragua’s South Caribbean Autonomous Region, with about 598 people per square kilometre.

Part of the central region of the city of Bluefields, in Nicaragua’s South Caribbean Autonomous Region, from the access pier to Bluefields lagoon, with buildings at the water’s edge. The municipalities’ urban and rural residents learned to raise their houses on pilings, among other measures to face the increasingly frequent floods. Credit: José Adán Silva/IPS

Part of the central region of the city of Bluefields, in Nicaragua’s South Caribbean Autonomous Region, from the access pier to Bluefields lagoon, with buildings at the water’s edge. The municipalities’ urban and rural residents learned to raise their houses on pilings, among other measures to face the increasingly frequent floods. Credit: José Adán Silva/IPS

Gómez said that on her island, infrastructures such as seawalls was built with government funds, to contain the coastal erosion, the damage in wetlands, the shrinking of the beaches and the impact on tourism, which together with fishing make up 90 per cent of the municipality’s economic activity.

But in her opinion, they are futile efforts in the face of the strength of the sea. “I believe that if this continues this way, in a few years the island will become uninhabitable, because the sea could swallow it entirely after contaminating the water sources and arable lands,” lamented Gómez.

Other communities located near Bluefields Bay and its tributaries suffer ever more frequent storm surges and sudden floods, that have destroyed and contaminated the wetlands.

But once the shock and fear were overcome, the population started to try to strengthen their capacities to build resilience in the face of climate change, said Aldana.

Guillaume Craig, director of the environmentalist organisation blueEnergy in Nicaragua, is involved in the project “Citizens Prepared for Climate Change”, in which authorities, civil society and academia together in Bluefields carry out campaigns to strengthen the Caribbean communities’ response capacity to the impacts of climate change.

“The population in this area has suffered a lot due to climate change, not only because of the hurricanes and flooding from the sea and rivers, but due to the climate variability. They have lost crops because of droughts or too much rain. They used to know how to interpret the signs of rain, but not anymore,” Craig told IPS.

As a result, he noted that “the wells dry out in January, when that used to happen in April, the rains in May sometimes fall in March, or do not occur until July. It is crazy, and the local people did not know how to handle it.”

After years of training and campaigns, the locals learned to apply techniques and methods to save water, plant crops resistant to the changes, and techniques for building in coastal areas, which started to suddenly flood due to storm surges or heavy rains.

Climate change has already cost the communities a great deal: a fall in the production of basic grains, a loss of biological diversity and forest resources, water shortages, degradation of soils, salinization of wells, floods in low-lying coastal areas and landslides, among other phenomena.

“The rise in temperatures is affecting people’s health and producing cardiac problems, increasing the populations of vectors that carry diseases, erosion by sea waves and loss of soil, and increasing energy consumption and the risk of fires. The rise in the water level is driving up the risks,” said Craig.
Bluefields, originally a pirate base of operations, is 383 km from the capital city, Managua, and can only be reached by air or by boat along the Escondido River from the El Rama port, located on the mainland 292 km from the capital.

The population of just over 60,000 people is multi-ethnic: Creoles, mestizos (mixed-race), Rama and Garifuna peoples, and descendants of English, French or Asian immigrants.

It faces a bay that serves as a barrier to the sea’s direct waves, and is surrounded by rivers and lakes that connect the region with the Pacific Ocean and the North Caribbean. The elevation above sea level is barely 20 metres, which makes it especially vulnerable.

Marlene Hodgson, who lives in the impoverished coastal neighborhood of El Canal, on the outskirts of the city, told IPS that she and her family have been suffering from the bay’s swells for years.

“Sometimes we did not expect it and all of a sudden we had water up to the waist. Now we have raised the house’s pilings with concrete and dug canals and built dikes to protect it. But we have also become aware of when they come and that allows us to survive without damages,” said the woman of Creole ethnic origin.

After the storms, many houses in the area were abandoned by their occupants, who moved to higher and less vulnerable lands.

The phenomenon also disrupted the economy and the way of life of the traditional fishers, said Alberto Down.

“Just 20 years ago, I would throw the net and in two hours I would get 100 fish,” he told IPS. “Now I have to spend more in fuel to go farther out to sea and I have to wait up to eight hours to get half of that. And on some occasions I don’t catch anything,” said the fisherman from the 19 de Julio neighbourhood, one of the most vulnerable in this area forever threatened by the climate.

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Caricom’s Energy-Efficient Building Code Could Be Tough Sellhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caricoms-energy-efficient-building-code-could-be-tough-sell/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caricoms-energy-efficient-building-code-could-be-tough-sell http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caricoms-energy-efficient-building-code-could-be-tough-sell/#comments Fri, 21 Apr 2017 00:01:06 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150072 This commercial building, known as Savannah East, is located close to Trinidad and Tobago's historical Queen's Park Savannah. Owned by RGM Limited, it was hailed in the Trinidadian media last month as the first LEED-certified building in the country. Photo credit: RGM Limited

This commercial building, known as Savannah East, is located close to Trinidad and Tobago's historical Queen's Park Savannah. Owned by RGM Limited, it was hailed in the Trinidadian media last month as the first LEED-certified building in the country. Photo credit: RGM Limited

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Apr 21 2017 (IPS)

Caribbean Community (Caricom) states are in the process of formulating an energy efficiency building code for the region that would help reduce CO2 emissions, but implementation of the code may depend heavily on moral suasion for its success.

Fulgence St. Prix, technical officer for standards at Caricom Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) who is overseeing the Regional Energy Efficiency Building Code (REEBC), told IPS, “When we at the regional level propose a standard or code it’s meant to be voluntary…We do not have the mechanism to dictate to member states to make any standard the subject of a technical regulation thus making implementation mandatory.”"The architects are quite knowledgeable in terms of sustainable design. What we do not have are clients who are willing to do the financial outlay to incorporate sustainability.” --Jo-Ann Murrell of Carisoul

In keeping with WTO guidelines, he said, “A standard is a voluntary document. You cannot force any member state to implement any one standard.” The decision as to whether to implement the REEBC, therefore, rests with member states.

The REEBC project was officially launched at a meeting in Jamaica at the end of March. This followed consultations over several months by a Regional Project Team comprising representatives from some of the Caricom member states, as well as regional architects, engineers, builders and electricians, on the need for a minimum energy efficiency building standard for the region.

It was unanimously agreed that it was imperative one be established and the decision was taken to base the REEBC on the 2018 version of the International Energy Conservation Code that will be published in July of this year.

“The goal is to have a document that would reduce the CO2 footprint on the average,” said St. Prix, adding that climate change is just one of the considerations driving the REEBC initiative. “If we could develop that code and have it effectively implemented, we could realise at least a 25 per cent reduction of CO2 emissions, but this is just an estimate.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) chapter on Buildings in its Fifth Assessment Report states that in 2010 buildings accounted for 32 per cent of total global final energy use, 19 per cent of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (including electricity-related), and approximately one-third of black carbon emissions.

GHG emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean from buildings were said to have grown to 0.28GtCO2eq/yr (280,000,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents of GHG emissions) in 2010.

The report also states, “final energy use may stay constant or even decline by mid-century, as compared to today’s levels, if today’s cost-effective best practices and technologies are broadly diffused.”

However, the IPCC’s report suggests that moral suasion may not be the most effective means of achieving the implementation of energy efficiency standards. It notes, “Building codes and appliance standards with strong energy efficiency requirements that are well enforced, tightened over time, and made appropriate to local climate and other conditions have been among the most environmentally and cost-effective.”

Trinidadian architect Jo-Ann Murrell, managing director of Carisoul Architecture Co. Ltd., a firm that specialises in green architecture, said effective implementation of a regional energy efficiency building code may have to wait until the region’s younger generation become the decision makers with regard to home purchases.

“We have a younger generation who will be older at that time, who will be interested in investing in energy efficiency. They are interested in the sustainability of the climate,” she said.

She said that the subsidised cost of electricity in Trinidad and Tobago is 3 cents US per kWh. So, “there is not a desire on the part of clients, due to the cost factor, for using alternative sources of energy or using energy saving devices. So when we tell clients they can achieve energy savings if they use certain building methods, they will choose the energy efficient air conditioning unit, they will use LED lights, and so on, but [not always] when it comes to other options,” Murrell said.

She stressed, “We have very competent architects in Trinidad and Tobago and the architects are quite knowledgeable in terms of sustainable design. What we do not have are clients who are willing to do the financial outlay to incorporate sustainability.”

St. Prix also cited economic challenges for Caricom states wishing to implement the REEBC. “You know that member states are at very different stages of their development. Any building code is a challenge. The major challenge is human resources and [the need for] economic resources to be able to employ the needed personnel to implement the code.”

The IPCC report also cites transaction costs, inadequate access to financing, and subsidised energy as among the barriers to effective uptake of energy efficient technologies in building globally.

The IPCC report goes on to state, “Traditional large appliances, such as refrigerators and washing machines, are still responsible for most household electricity consumption…albeit with a falling share related to the equipment for information technology and communications (including home entertainment) accounting in most countries for 20 % or more of residential electricity consumption.”

For this reason, CROSQ is also undertaking a regional energy labelling scheme for appliances sold in the region. Though common in European countries, they are not standard practice throughout the Caribbean. The scheme, said Janice Hilaire, project coordinator for the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project (R3E), is being funded by the German government.

“We also want to develop standards for PVC panels and water heaters,” she added.

Hilaire said the R3E would be training people to carry out the testing for this scheme at select labs in the region that has a limited amount of equipment for carrying out the tests.

“We are setting up an intense information and awareness campaign because we want to bring about a change in behaviour. We want householders to understand why they must adopt certain practices. We also want to bring about a more efficient use of energy.in the region which will positively affect GDP. The REEBC cannot operate in a vacuum. It must be complemented by other initiatives,” she said.

The REEBC and the associated R3E are in their early stages, St. Prix pointed out. As these projects are rolled out, CROSQ will begin collecting data that shows the actual dollar savings the region enjoys through these initiatives. The CROSQ team will then be able “to go to our policy makers and say, if you make this mandatory you will be saving this amount.” Member states would be urged to put legal mechanisms in place, St. Prix said.

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“Imagine a World Where the Worst-Case Scenarios Have Been Realized”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/imagine-a-world-where-the-worst-case-scenarios-have-been-realized/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=imagine-a-world-where-the-worst-case-scenarios-have-been-realized http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/imagine-a-world-where-the-worst-case-scenarios-have-been-realized/#comments Thu, 20 Apr 2017 00:01:13 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150052 Picturesque Antigua and Barbuda says its “natural beauty” is what is being fought for in the war on climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Picturesque Antigua and Barbuda says its “natural beauty” is what is being fought for in the war on climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Apr 20 2017 (IPS)

The tiny island-nation of Antigua and Barbuda has made an impassioned plea for support from the international community to deal with the devastating impacts of climate change.

Urging “further action”, Environment Minister Molwyn Joseph said the Paris Climate Agreement must become the cornerstone of advancing the socio-economic development of countries.“When I see long lines of vehicles trying to escape the storm by heading over state lines or crossing internationial boundaries, I always wonder what they would do if they lived here." --Foreign Minister Charles Fernandez

“One area of approach that we have undertaken in Antigua and Barbuda, that I believe would be beneficial amongst other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and developing countries, is for those of us with more advanced institutions to seek to be of assistance to other countries,” Joseph told IPS.

“I would like to encourage other countries, which have strong institutions, to take up the challenge in not only seeing how to combat climate change locally and nationally but, where possible, taking regional and global approaches.”

The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in November last year, brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so.

Its central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees C.

Earlier this month Antigua and Barbuda hosted the 16th meeting of countries participating in the Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action.

The Dialogue is an informal space “open to countries working towards an ambitious, comprehensive, and legally binding regime in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and committed, domestically, to becoming or remaining low carbon economies.”

It aims to “discuss openly and constructively the reasoning behind each others’ positions, exploring areas of convergence and potential areas of joint action.” It is one of the few groups within the UN climate negotiations that brings together negotiators from the global North and South.

Joseph told delegates that “as a nation, we have a lot to lose” and he urged them to ensure that the Paris Agreement serves the future of all nations and becomes the cornerstone of advancing economically, socially and otherwise.

“Imagine a world where white sandy beaches and coral reefs like the ones just off these shores become a rarity. Where glaciers and snow covered mountain tops might be limited to postcard memories. Where droughts, storms, famines and epidemics can become more intense and more common. Where the worst-case scenarios of climate change have been realised. And with this grave image of what is at stake for humanity in our minds, let us earnestly collaborate to ensure that such horrors never come to pass,” Joseph said.

His colleague, Charles Fernandez, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said as a member of the SIDS, Antigua and Barbuda’s “natural beauty” is what is being fought for.

“Sometimes I watch how larger and richer countries react to the approach of a major hurricane,” he told IPS.

“When I see long lines of vehicles trying to escape the storm by heading over state lines or crossing international boundaries, I always wonder what they would do if they lived here. We small islanders have to be ready to bunker down and bear it; and when it’s over, dust off and pick up the pieces.

“It is for this reason, that for those of us who live on small islands, climate change is an existential threat to our survival and way of life. It is for this reason that so many of us have signed on and begun work on the implementation of the Paris Agreement. For this reason, that we place our faith in the international community to find aggressive solutions to climate change together,” Fernandez added.

The Cartagena Dialogue is one mechanism through which countries look beyond their self-identified commitments toward establishing an ambitious new and binding agreement on climate change.

Joseph said the establishing of such a regime will require the coming together of many and various minds on an impressive list of complex issues.

“From the promotion and access of appropriate technologies that will help nations pursue economic development while mitigating greenhouse gas production, to ensuring that other strategies such as public awareness, education, finance, sector specific targets and national limits — all deserve our keenest consideration toward achieving our goals,” he said.

“Here in Antigua and Barbuda, the government is in the process of developing regulations to further guide the implementation of the Paris Agreement. However, this will only be one in a series of vital steps needed to put Antigua and Barbuda on a progressive path to deal with climate change. We are aggressively pursuing accreditation to the various mechanisms and hope that our experiences both in the accreditation process and implementation will serve as examples and best practices for other SIDS and developing countries to further their own actions against climate change.”

Antigua and Barbuda is the first and currently the only country in the Eastern Caribbean to have achieved accreditation to the Adaptation Fund.

“We have decided as a member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States to use this status not only for our own advancement but also toward the advancement of fellow members of the sub-region by allowing ourselves to serve as a regional implementing entity, improving their access to the financial mechanisms,” Joseph said.

Last September, Antigua and Barbuda joined more than two dozen countries to ratify the Paris Agreement on Global Climate Change.

The Paris Agreement was opened for signatures on April 22, 2016, and will remain open to Parties of the UNFCCC until April 21, 2017.

The Paris Agreement becomes international law based on a dual “trigger” – when 55 Parties have ratified the Agreement, and 55 percent of the goal of emissions are covered by the Parties.

While the Paris Agreement wasn’t expected to enter into force until 2020, countries including Antigua and Barbuda have been demonstrating leadership to address the global threat of climate change, and reduce emissions to meet the target of less than 1.5 degrees C increase in global average temperatures.

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Typical Cuban Sweet – a Symbol of the Post-Hurricane Challenge to Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/typical-cuban-sweet-a-symbol-of-the-post-hurricane-challenge-to-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=typical-cuban-sweet-a-symbol-of-the-post-hurricane-challenge-to-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/typical-cuban-sweet-a-symbol-of-the-post-hurricane-challenge-to-agriculture/#comments Tue, 18 Apr 2017 07:01:27 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149993 Vendor Raulises Ramírez is up early to sell the typical coconut cones which he made the previous day, alongside the La Farola highway into the eastern Cuban city of Baracoa. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPSRaulises Ramírez is up early to sell the typical coconut cones which he made the previous day, alongside the La Farola highway into the eastern Cuban city of Baracoa. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Vendor Raulises Ramírez is up early to sell the typical coconut cones which he made the previous day, alongside the La Farola highway into the eastern Cuban city of Baracoa. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
BARACOA, Cuba, Apr 18 2017 (IPS)

Early in the day, when a gentle dew moistens the ground and vegetation in the mountains of eastern Cuba, street vendor Raulises Ramírez sets up his rustic stand next to the La Farola highway and displays his cone-shaped coconut sweets.

“These will maybe be the last ones… the cones will disappear, because the hurricane brought down all the coconut palms in Baracoa,” the 52-year-old private entrepreneur told IPS. He makes a living in Cuba’s oldest city selling this traditional sweet made of coconut, honey, fruits and spices, wrapped in the fibrous cone-shaped palm leaf.

“Look at all this!“ exclaimed Ramírez, pointing to the ground next to the highway littered with the trunks of coconut palm trees knocked down or bent by Hurricane Matthew, which hit Baracoa and other parts of eastern Cuba on Oct. 4-5, 2016.

He expects to continue making his sweets for a while longer thanks to his reserves. His main customers are Cubans who pay the equivalent of 25 cents of a dollar for each “cucurucho” or coconut cone, a typical sweet of this municipality, with an agricultural sector based on coconut and cacao, among other products.“We have to provide the local population with support to produce staple crops and provide new sources of income, until the commercial perennial crops begin to produce.” -- Theodor Friedrich

When his coconut reserves are finished, he will have to look for a different source of income than the one that has sustained his family for the last five years. “The tourists like to buy dried fruit,” he said, referring to the growing influx of foreign visitors in the area.

Ramírez’s situation is in some way similar to that of the entire agri-food sector in this municipality with a population of 81,700, which is facing a tough challenge: recovering their main long-cycle crops that were ravaged by the strongest hurricane ever registered in the province of Guantánamo, where Baracoa is located.

“We estimate the shortest possible time for coconut production to recover is four years, while cacao will take two and a half years. But reforestation will take many more years, between 15 and 20,” said Baracoa Mayor Luis Sánchez, referring to the fundamental components of local economic development: cacao, coconut, coffee and forestry products.

In the affected territories in Guantánamo, agriculture was among the hardest-hit sectors, with 70,574 hectares damaged. According to official reports, 27 per cent of the cacao, coconut and coffee plantations and 67 per cent of the forest heritage was lost.

The hurricane damaged 35,681 hectares of the main crops in this mountainous coastal municipality. Only four per cent of the vast plantations of coconut palm trees are still standing, which were used to obtain part of the seeds vital to the recovery effort.

A beach along the coast of Baracoa, where coconut trees were damaged by Hurricane Matthew – a serious problem in this city in eastern Cuba, since coconuts are one of the main local agricultural products. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A beach along the coast of Baracoa, where coconut trees were damaged by Hurricane Matthew – a serious problem in this city in eastern Cuba, since coconuts are one of the main local agricultural products. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“In small areas on the outskirts of the city some coconut palm trees still remain on private farms and in people’s yards, which are the source of the coconuts vendors are using to make their cones, but the state-run factory is not producing any,” Rodríguez said, about the temporary disappearance of this symbol of Baracoa.

The factory, the only one that made coconut cones and distributed them in the provinces of Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba and Holguín, is now producing tomatoes and fruit brought from other parts of the country. The cocoa industry is still active, even producing several by-products, thanks to reserves of cacao.

So far, only 3,576 hectares of forestry, coconut, coffee, cacao and fruit plantations have been recuperated, since the authorities are putting a priority on “the areas dedicated to short-cycle crops to quickly obtain food, such as vegetables and fruits for domestic consumption,” said the mayor in an exclusive interview with IPS.

“Baracoa, the cacao capital” reads an enormous poster at the entrance to this city founded 505 years ago by Spanish colonialists. Alongside coconut cone vendors like Ramírez, men and women sell big scoops of home-made dark chocolate along the La Farola highway.
Hurricane Matthew thwarted a project to create production chains based on coconut and cacao, with investments to foment cultivation of the crops and modernise the food industry in the municipality. The initiative hoped to tap into other potential sources of income, especially using coconuts.

The current production based on coconut and cacao does not cover domestic demand in this country of 11.2 million, nor demand from international tourists, who reached the record number of four million in 2016.

Baracoa Mayor Luis Sánchez Rodríguez shows IPS the impact on Cuba’s oldest city of Hurricane Matthew, and explains the measures adopted to reactivate production in the main agricultural.  Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Baracoa Mayor Luis Sánchez Rodríguez shows IPS the impact on Cuba’s oldest city of Hurricane Matthew, and explains the measures adopted to reactivate production in the main agricultural. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“Meanwhile, we have to provide the local population with support to produce staple crops and provide new sources of income, until the commercial perennial crops begin to produce,” advised Theodor Friedrich, representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Cuba.

He told IPS that to this end, FAO is supporting several initiatives for agricultural and food production recovery in the area affected by Matthew, through two projects financed by the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and FAO resources. In addition, it is awaiting the approval of a bigger third project financed by a donor.

“There is an urgent need to recover the most commercial crops, to avoid delaying this process,” said Friedrich, an agronomist who advocates the need of restoring them with resilience to future climate shocks.

“In part, these crops can be used to intersperse food crops and integrate new crops with their corresponding value chains,” he said.

In the case of the territories affected by the hurricane, and together with the local authorities, FAO promotes the proposal to plant drumstick or horseradish trees (moringa oleifera) among the perennial crops, a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree which provides a micronutrient-rich ingredient used to fortify food and animal feed, while also offering a natural fertiliser for the soil.

This initiative can strengthen small industries in the area involved in the manufacturing of fortified foods and in livestock production. “It will increase the production and availability of high value-added foods, while at the same time providing a financial income to farming families,” said the FAO representative.

The government of Baracoa also identifies another economic option for local residents.

“Tourism is the most feasible alternative, because the recovery of agriculture will take some time, even though there is a programme for agro-industrial development,” said Mayor Sánchez. “After Matthew, visits here by local and international tourists fell, but now we are experiencing a surge.”
In the area, government-run hotels and other lodgings offer at total of 275 rooms, and another 367 rooms are available in 283 private houses, where the number of rooms offered has climbed to cater to the current tourism boom.

Near Baracoa’s seafront, retiree Dolores Yamilé Selva’s hostel, which she has run since 1998, is full. She believes that there is still untapped tourism potential in the area. “The tourists that come to our town, mainly from Europe, is interested in our natural surroundings,” she told IPS.

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Disease Burden Growing as Vector Insects Adapt to Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/disease-burden-growing-as-vector-insects-adapt-to-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=disease-burden-growing-as-vector-insects-adapt-to-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/disease-burden-growing-as-vector-insects-adapt-to-climate-change/#comments Tue, 18 Apr 2017 00:02:32 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150000 Dry drains will reduce the numbers of mosquitoes breeding, but now the Aedes aegypti mosquito is going underground to breed underground in available water and flying to feed. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

Dry drains will reduce the numbers of mosquitoes breeding, but now the Aedes aegypti mosquito is going underground to breed underground in available water and flying to feed. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 18 2017 (IPS)

There were surprised gasps when University of the West Indies (UWI) Professor John Agard told journalists at an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting in late November 2016 that mosquitoes were not only living longer, but were “breeding in septic tanks underground”.

For many, it explained why months of fogging at the height of Zika and Chikungunya outbreaks had done little to reduce mosquito populations in their various countries. The revelation also made it clear that climate change would force scientists and environmental health professionals to spend more time studying new breeding cycles and finding new control techniques for vector insects.“Globally, we predict that over 2.17 billion people live in areas that are environmentally suitable for ZIKV transmission." --Dr. Moritz Kraemar

Jump to March 31, 2017 when the UWI and the government of Jamaica opened the new Mosquito Control and Research Unit at the Mona Campus in Kingston, to investigate new ways to manage and eradicate mosquitoes. Its existence is an acknowledgement that the region is looking for improved management and control strategies.

Agard was reporting on a study by the late Dave Chadee, a co-author on the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report and UWI professor. The study examined evolutionary changes in the life cycle of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads the yellow and dengue fevers as well as the chikungunya and Zika viruses.

“We found out that in higher temperatures, the mosquito’s breeding cycle shortens. They go through more cycles during the season and they produce more offspring. The mosquitoes, however, are a little smaller,” Agard told journalists.

Even more worrisome were Chadee’s findings on the longevity of the “evolved” mosquitoes – 100 days instead of the 30 days they were previously thought to survive. The study also found that mosquitoes that survived longer than 90 days could produce eggs and offspring that were born transmitters, raising new concerns.

Alarming as these findings were, they were only the latest on the evolutionary strategies of vector insect populations in the Caribbean. A study published in February 2016 revealed that the triatomino (or vinchuca), the vector insects for Chagas disease, were breeding twice a year instead of only in the rainy season. And before that in 2011, Barbadian Environmental officers found mosquitoes breeding in junction boxes underground.

Sebastian Gourbiere, the researcher who led the Chagas study, pointed to the need for regional governments to re-examine their vector control methods if they are to effectively fight these diseases.

“The practical limitations that the dual threat poses outweigh the capabilities of local vector teams,” he said in response to questions about the control of Chagas disease.

Caribbean scientists and governments had already been warned. The IPCC’s AR 5 (2013) acknowledged the sensitivity of human health to shifts in weather patterns and other aspects of the changing climate.

“Until mid-century climate change will act mainly by exacerbating health problems that already exist. New conditions may emerge under climate change, and existing diseases may extend their range into areas that are presently unaffected,” the report said.

Gourbiere agrees with Agard and other regional researchers that there is need for solutions that are primarily focused on vector controls: eradication and effective controls of the Aedes aegypti could also eliminate the diseases they spread.

The failure of the newest vector control strategies also forced health professionals to revisit the old, but proven techniques developed with the guidance of researchers like Chadee, whose work on dengue and yellow fever, malaria and most recently the Zika virus had helped to guide the development of mosquito control, surveillance and control strategies in the Caribbean.

And while Zika brought with it several other serious complications like microcephaly, which affects babies born to women infected by the virus, and Guillain Barré Syndrome, the threats also exposed more serious concerns. The rapid spread of the viruses opened the eyes of regional governments to the challenges of emerging diseases and of epidemics like ebola and H1N1.

But it was the World Health Organisation (WHO) that raised concerns about the status and possible effects of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) – a group of communicable diseases including the Zika virus – which affect more than a billion people in 149 countries each year but for which there are no treatments.

NTDs include Dengue, Chic-V and Chagas Disease and until the last outbreak in 2014 that killed more than 6,000 people, Ebola was among them. In the previous 26 outbreaks between 1976 and 2013, only 1,716 people in sub-Saharan African nations were infected, WHO data showed.

Now the Caribbean is changing its approach to the study and control of vector insects. So while there are no widespread infections of Chagas disease, UWI is preparing to begin its own studies on the triatomino and the disease it transmits.

An addition to UWI’s Task Force formed just over a year ago to “aggressively eliminate” breeding sites for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the Mosquito Unit is expected to build on Professor Chadee’s groundbreaking research.

“From dealing with the consequences of Chikungunya, Dengue and Zika on our population to managing the potentially harmful effects of newly discovered viruses, the benefits of establishing a unit like this will produce significant rewards in the protection of national and regional health,” UWI Mona Professor Archibald McDonald said at the launch.

Zika had been infecting thousands of people in Asia and Africa for decades before it made its devastating appearance in Brazil and other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. Zika also made its way to the US and several European nations in 2016, before being confirmed in Thailand on Sept 30.

Not surprising, as in its 3rd AR, and most recently in the 5th AR the IPCC projected increases in threats to human health, particularly in lower income populations of mainly tropical and sub-tropical countries. Those findings are also supported by more recent independent studies including Mapping global environmental suitability for Zika virus, published by the University of Oxford (UK) in February 2016.

By combining climate data, mosquito prevalence and the socio-economic makeup of each region, researchers found the likelihood of the Zika virus gaining a foothold worldwide to be “extremely high”. The team led by Moritz Kraemer also concluded that Zika alone could infect more than a third of the world’s population.

The findings noted that shifts in the breeding patterns of the Aedes family of mosquitos allowed it to take advantage of newly ‘favourable conditions’ resulting from climate change. The environmentally suitable areas now stretch from the Caribbean to areas of South America; large portions of the United States to sizeable areas of sub-Saharan Africa; more than two million square miles of India “from its northwest regions through to Bangladesh and Myanmar”; the Indochina region, southeast China and Indonesia and includes roughly 250,000 square miles of Australia.

“Globally, we predict that over 2.17 billion people live in areas that are environmentally suitable for ZIKV transmission,” Dr. Kraemar said.

The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes’ efficiency at spreading diseases in urban areas and population densities are believed to be the main factors driving the rapid spread of the Zika virus. Other studies have found the Zika virus in 19 species of the Aedes family, with the Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus) – which has now spread its range to Europe –  likely another efficient vector.

Back in the Caribbean, Chadee’s findings on the adaptation of the Aedes aegypti mosquito from clean water breeders to breeding in available waters is expected to drive the development of regional strategies that are better suited to the evolving environment of a changing climate.

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Climate Impact on Caribbean Coral Reefs May Be Mitigated If…http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-impact-on-caribbean-coral-reefs-may-be-mitigated-if/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-impact-on-caribbean-coral-reefs-may-be-mitigated-if http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-impact-on-caribbean-coral-reefs-may-be-mitigated-if/#comments Fri, 14 Apr 2017 14:43:51 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149978 Cahuita National Park, on Costa Rica's eastern Caribbean coast, is suffering a process of coastal erosion which is shrinking its beaches, while the coral reefs underwater are also feeling the impact of climate change. Credit: Diego Arguedas/IPS

Cahuita National Park, on Costa Rica's eastern Caribbean coast, is suffering a process of coastal erosion which is shrinking its beaches, while the coral reefs underwater are also feeling the impact of climate change. Credit: Diego Arguedas/IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
CAHUITA, Costa Rica, Apr 14 2017 (IPS)

A few dozen metres from the Caribbean beach of Puerto Vargas, where you can barely see the white foam of the waves breaking offshore, is the coral reef that is the central figure of the ocean front of the Cahuita National Park in Costa Rica.

Puerto Vargas is known for the shrinking of its once long beach, as a result of erosion. The coast has lost dozens of metres in a matter of a few years, which has had an effect on tourists and on the nesting of sea turtles that used to come to lay their eggs.

Just as the beaches have been affected, there have been effects under water, in this area of the eastern province of Limón, which runs along the the country’s Caribbean coast from north to south.“We can test which corals are more resistant to the future conditions and that way we can create stronger ecosystems based on survivors that will tolerate the conditions that lie ahead.” -- Dave Vaughan

“The impact of the rise in sea level and changes in temperatures also affect the coral ecosystems,” Patricia Madrigal, Costa Rica’s vice minister of environment, told IPS.

The waters of the Caribbean sea are particularly fertile for corals, but the warming of the waters and acidification due to climate change threaten to wipe out these ecosystems, which serve as environmental and economic drivers for coastal regions.

The most visible effect is the coral bleaching phenomenon, which is a clear symptom that corals are sick. This happens when corals experience stress and expel a photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae, that live in their tissues, producing oxygen in a symbiotic relationship. The algae are responsible for the colors of coral reefs, so when they are expelled, the reefs turn white, and the coral is destined to die.
According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in 2015, there is clear evidence that 80 per cent of coral reefs in the Caribbean have bleached, and 40 per cent died during a critical period in 2005.

This is a recurring phenomenon all over the world. The report projected that 75 per cent of coral reefs in the world would suffer severe bleaching by the middle of this century, if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed.

The coral reefs in the Caribbean make up about seven per cent of the world’s total, but play a key role in the economies of many coastal communities in the region.

The conservation of coral reefs goes beyond defending biodiversity. Coral reefs provide a living to nearly one billion people, offer protection by buffering coastal communities against storms and heavy swells, and bring in billions of dollars a year from tourism and fishing.

Because of this, experts from Costa Rica and the rest of the Caribbean region are calling for a halt to activities that cause global warming, such as the use of fossil fuels, and for research into how to restore coral reefs.

However, Caribbean countries should also think about reducing pollution, said biologist Lenin Corrales, head of the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre´s (CATIE) Environmental Modeling Laboratory.

A reef in an underwater mountain area in Coiba National Park, Panama. Credit: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

A reef in an underwater mountain area in Coiba National Park, Panama. Credit: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

“How do you maintain the resilience of coral reefs? By not dumping sediments or agrochemicals on them. A sick coral reef is more easily going to suffer other problems,” Corrales told IPS at CATIE´s headquarters.

This argument is well-known in badly managed coastal areas: marine ecosystems suffer because of human activities on land and poor health makes them more vulnerable to other ailments.

In fact, an academic study published in 2012 showed that coral degradation along Panama’s Caribbean coast began before global warming gained momentum in the last few decades. Researchers blame deforestation and overfishing.

In terms of preparing for climate change, this means a step back: it is not possible to protect against future global warming ecosystems that the countries of the region have been undermining for decades.

The sediments as a result of deforestation or poor agricultural practices prevent the growth of corals, while overfishing affects certain species key to controlling algae that infest the reefs.

“Many of the fish that are eaten in the Caribbean are herbivorous and are the ones that control the populations of macroalgae that damage the coral,” said Corrales.

“With the herbivorous fish gone, in addition to the higher temperatures, the algae have a heyday,” said the expert.

A report published in 2014 by several organisations, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), notes that the absence of crucial herbivorous fish such as the parrotfish jeopardises the region’s coral reefs.

How long will these undersea riches last? No one knows for sure. All scenarios project severe impacts in the following decades, after many reefs suffered critical damage from the 2015 El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) weather phenomenon.

That is why experts such as Corrales warn that far from expecting an increase of one to two degrees Celsius as some scenarios project, fast changes in temperature should be considered, such as those associated with El Niño.

“People think that biodiversity is not going to die until the climate changes; but really biodiversity, and in this case coral reefs, are already suffering from thermal stress,” said the biologist.

When a coral reef spends 12 weeks with temperatures one degree higher than usual, it can suffer irreversible processes, he pointed out.
As the average sea level rises, it is more likely for the threshold to be reached, but even before that point it is also dangerous for coral. Stopping global warming does not guarantee a future for coral reefs, but it does give them better opportunities.

A possible way forward is being developed by the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Summerland Key, in the U.S. state of Florida, where researchers are growing corals in controlled environments to later reintroduce them in the ocean, as is done with seedlings from a greenhouse in reforestation efforts.

“We can actually test to see which would have a given resistance to future conditions and in that way build a stronger ecosystem of survivors for what the next years might bring,” Dave Vaughan, the head of the lab, told IPS in an interview by phone.

The team headed by Vaughan reintroduced 20,000 small corals to degraded areas of the reefs, in a process that will accelerate the recovery of these ecosystems.

In 2015, the lab received an investment of 5.1 million dollars to make Vaughan´s ambition possible: reintroducing one million coral fragments in the next five to ten years.

However, Vaughan himself admits that this is a mitigation measure to buy time. The real task to fight against climate change is reducing the emissions that cause the greenhouse effect.

“Coral restoration can give us a 10, 50 or 100 years head start, but eventually if the oceans continue to raise in temperature, there’s not too much hope,” he said.

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Caribbean Pursues Green Growth Despite Uncertain Timeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caribbean-pursues-green-growth-despite-uncertain-times/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-pursues-green-growth-despite-uncertain-times http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caribbean-pursues-green-growth-despite-uncertain-times/#comments Fri, 14 Apr 2017 13:24:26 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149962 A wind farm in Curacao. In late 2015, Caribbean countries joined a global agreement to phase out fossil fuels and shift to renewable energies such as wind and solar power. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

A wind farm in Curacao. In late 2015, Caribbean countries joined a global agreement to phase out fossil fuels and shift to renewable energies such as wind and solar power. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Apr 14 2017 (IPS)

Barbados and its Caribbean neighbours are continuing to press ahead with their climate change agenda and push the concept of renewable energy despite the new position taken by the United States.

This was made clear by the Minister of the Environment and Drainage in Barbados, Dr. Denis Lowe, against the background of the position taken by U.S. President Donald Trump that climate change is a “hoax”, and his subsequent push for the revitalisation of the coal industry, and the issuance of an Executive Order to restart the Dakota Access Pipeline.“We stand ready to do what needs to be done." --Dr. Denis Lowe

“The moment has come. The President of the United States of America has determined that climate change is really a hoax, and that any notion about climate change science is based on false belief, and that there is no clear justification that this phenomenon called climate change exists,” Lowe said.

However, the Environment Minister pointed out that while Trump was “decrying” the legitimacy of climate change, 2016 was already being labelled as the warmest ocean temperature year.

“The impact of that accelerated warmth of the earth, according to American environmentalists, is the Michigan coastline, Lake Michigan. Evidence has been produced to show that the impact of climate change has affected that whole seaboard area, including the erosion of beaches along the Illinois Coast. This is a fact as reported,” he said.

Dr. Lowe cautioned that the new US position spelled “bad news” for the Caribbean.

He warned that the new position could see a significant reduction in funding from the United States to the United Nations system, which was the primary driver of the climate change fight.

“Institutions like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Green Climate Fund will be impacted. The Adaptation Fund will be affected, and all of the other activities driven by US-donated funding will be impacted,” he pointed out.

But Lowe stressed that the region could not allow itself to be “hemmed in” by what might or might not occur relating to international funding.

He gave the assurance that his Ministry and Government would continue “to plough” ahead and look for unique ways to fund the island’s coastal rehabilitation and green energy programmes.

“We stand ready to do what needs to be done. Our Ministry continues to work with our stakeholders to look for ways to continue to press ahead with our climate change agenda,” Lowe said.

“We ask Barbadians from all walks of life to assist us in adopting and practising habits that would reduce the impacts of climate change on us as it relates to our water supply, our conservation effort, and our preservation efforts in terms of our spaces around the island that would be of importance,” he added.

Meanwhile, New York-based syndicated columnist Rebecca Theodore, who has written extensively on climate change and renewable energy in the Caribbean, said while President Trump seeks for a revitalisation of the coal industry in the United States, this will need more than government policy in Washington to be implemented.

“First, renewable energy sources like wind and solar are much more price-viable than coal. The demand for jobs in renewable energy is going up while for coal it’s rapidly going down,” Theodore told IPS.

“Secondly, the moral arguments and market forces in which the production of coal as an energy source are interlaced cannot be ignored. Carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants are the leading cause of death in many places and continue to be a hazard to public health.

“Thirdly, if the Clean Power Plan is to achieve its aims of cutting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, then there must be a reduction in coal consumption,” Theodore added.

She also noted that carbon pollution from power plants is one of the major causes of climate change.

“It follows that if the United States must continue the fight in the global efforts to address climate change then the goal must be centered on cheap natural gas and the installation of renewable energy plants, Theodore told IPS.

“There must be options for investment in renewable energy, natural gas and shifting away from   coal-fired power.”

Earlier this year, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said a significant portion of the 13 billion dollars it will be lending this year has been earmarked for agriculture, climate change and renewable energy projects.

IDB Executive Director Jerry Butler noted that the issue of renewable energy has been a constant focus for the institution.

“We are going to lend 13 billion dollars and of that amount we’ve carved out 30 percent of it for climate change, agriculture and renewable energy. In fact, 20 percent of that 13 billion in the Americas will be devoted to climate change and renewable energy,” Butler said.

“I think we are putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to us as a partner with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and us as a partner with the other entities that work with us.”

Highlighting the IDB’s commitment to the region, Butler noted that even though the Eastern Caribbean States are not members of the bank, through its lending to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), countries in the sub-region have not been left out.

“For example, the more than 80 million dollars that’s devoted to geothermal exploration, Grenada will be the first beneficiary in the Eastern Caribbean,” he said.

“And our focus on the Caribbean is not stopping – whether it be smart financing programmes in Barbados, whether it be programmes associated with renewable energy and energy efficiency in Jamaica, or whether it be programmes in Guyana off-grid or on-grid – we try to do everything that we can to bring resources, technology, intelligence and at the same time best practices to everything that we do when it comes to the topic of renewable energy.”

Butler said the IDB believes that the sustainability, the competitiveness and the job-creation potential of the Caribbean can be unlocked “if there is a considered focus on weaning ourselves off the dependence on foreign fuels for generation” and focusing on “producing its own indigenous type of energy”.

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A Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons Is in the Makinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/a-treaty-to-ban-nuclear-weapons-is-in-the-making/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-treaty-to-ban-nuclear-weapons-is-in-the-making http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/a-treaty-to-ban-nuclear-weapons-is-in-the-making/#comments Fri, 14 Apr 2017 13:19:36 +0000 Sergio Duarte http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149969 Sergio Duarte is a Brazilian Ambassador, former United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs; former Chairman of the Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; former President of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Amb. Duarte’s Op-Ed first appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS). Amb. Duarte’s Op-Ed first appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS).]]> Image by The Official Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Photostream – flickr.com

Image by The Official Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Photostream – flickr.com

By Sergio Duarte
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 14 2017 (IPS)

The nine possessors of nuclear weapons and most of their allies chose to ignore the negotiations on a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.

This unprecedented initiative resulted from a proposal by South Africa, Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico and Nigeria and was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2016 by an overwhelming majority.

The first Session, from 27 to 31 March, ended on an optimistic tone. There was wide convergence of views on the core prohibitions relating to stockpiling, use, deployment, acquisition, development and production of nuclear weapons.

Sergio Duarte

Sergio Duarte

Other questions such as verification of compliance, clauses for accession by nuclear-armed and other States, timelines for elimination of stockpiles and the relationship of the new instrument with existing treaties such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), among others, will be further discussed during the second Session, from June 15 to July 7, when the President of the Conference will introduce her draft. The future instrument may soon be opened to the signature of States.

It is clear that these negotiations will not bring about a sudden shift in the mindsets of the nine governments that threaten the rest of the world with the willingness to use the most cruel, indiscriminate and destructive weapon ever invented.

It is undeniable, however, that even at this early stage public opinion in many countries have begun to pay attention to the potential impact of a prohibition treaty through press articles and analyses in specialized publications.

The mantra “a world free of nuclear weapons” has become the stated and uncontroverted objective of the community of nations.

Opponents of a ban argue that such an agreement would impede or at least render more difficult efforts for reductions of atomic arsenals under the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and that a treaty to which the current nuclear powers choose not to adhere would not bring about any tangible results in reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons.

They consider that negotiating a prohibition is “premature” and even counterproductive as it risks unraveling the disarmament architecture put together over the past decades.

Supporters, for their part, contend that a ban treaty would establish a clear legal standard rejecting nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds and would enable States to formalize such a rejection besides enhancing the stigma against those weapons.

They add that it would reaffirm their unacceptability and incompatibility with universally recognized principles of international law and would re-state and strengthen commitments assumed under other treaties. It would enhance, not detract from such commitments.

They hope that it will set into motion a trend toward further specific agreements on nuclear disarmament.

In fact, one of the major challenges for the universality and full effectiveness of a ban treaty is precisely how to design a mechanism that will ensure the possibility, in a second stage, of adherence of States currently under the “umbrella” of nuclear-armed powers and ultimately the adherence of the latter themselves.

Before we can hail a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons as a worthwhile accomplishment or dismiss it as futile, the two sets of arguments must be checked against the results that the treaty may bring about in the short, medium and long run.

If the ban proves at least to be a positive ingredient to infuse life and energy into the moribund multilateral disarmament machinery or to create viable alternative, but not conflicting paths we may consider it useful and justifiable. If not, it will simply fall into oblivion or at best remain as a monument to human fallibility.

The push for negotiations on a nuclear arms ban treaty grew out of years of mounting frustration over the lack of progress in efforts under the NPT regime.

Whether or not parties to that instrument, possessors of nuclear weapons have displayed little or no inclination to fulfill the commitment enshrined in its Article VI, which requires all its Parties “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”.

Possessors are currently engaged in a new round of the nuclear arms race as they seek to enhance the destructive power, accuracy and range of their weapons. As a result, confidence in their real motives and intentions waned in recent years.

In the recent past, a new and powerful force helped to propel forward the drive to finalize a treaty banning nuclear weapons and brought this matter to the forefront of the preoccupations of a large majority of States.

The collective conscience of humankind has increasingly taken to heart the unanimous concern expressed at the 2010 Review Conference of Parties to the NPT over the catastrophic consequences of nuclear detonations as well as the conclusions of three international Conferences held in 2013 and 2014 on such consequences.

In 2015 a large majority of States supported the humanitarian pledge to “stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate” nuclear armament. Civil society organizations contributed studies and discussion forums that helped shape specific, realistic proposals.

The thrust of the movement to ban nuclear weapons is not directed against any State in particular, but against the inhuman nature of nuclear weapons themselves and their disastrous effects on populations and the environment.

The movement does not advocate unilateral disarmament but rather good faith compliance with treaty commitments and with imperatives dictated by humanitarian international law and the universal principles of civilized behavior.

Accordingly, it does not discriminate against “good” or “bad” possessors, whether these are States or non-State actors. No country should be allowed to possess the means to annihilate whole populations and render the planet uninhabitable under the pretense that this would somehow protect their own security.

In his vote in the legal suit brought last year before the International Court of Justice by the Marshall Islands against the nine countries possessing nuclear weapons Judge Cançado Trindade stated: “A world with arsenals of nuclear weapons, like ours, is bound to destroy its past, dangerously threatens the present, and has no future at all. Nuclear weapons pave the way into nothingness”.

It is time for mankind as a whole to act decisively in defense of its own survival.

This article originally appeared Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 10 April 2017: TMS: A Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons Is in the Making.

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Did You Know that the Oceans Have It All?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/did-you-know-that-the-oceans-have-it-all/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=did-you-know-that-the-oceans-have-it-all http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/did-you-know-that-the-oceans-have-it-all/#comments Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:04:02 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149945 Healthy oceans have a central role to play in solving one of the biggest problems of the 21st century – how to feed 9 billion people by 20550. Credit: FAO

Healthy oceans have a central role to play in solving one of the biggest problems of the 21st century – how to feed 9 billion people by 20550. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 13 2017 (IPS)

Perhaps you are not aware enough of the fact the oceans have it all! What is “all”? Well, oceans have from microscopic life to the largest animal that has ever lived on Earth, from the colourless to the shimmering, from the frozen to the boiling and from the sunlit to the mysterious dark of the deepest parts of the planet. Who says that?

It is the United Nations, which by the way reminds that oceans are an essential component of the Earth’s ecosystem –a source of biodiversity, food, and life. Just think that over 40 per cent of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometres of the coast.

Thus, a better management of the ocean resources is “crucial to ensuring global food security, says the UN leading organisation in the key field of food and agriculture.

No Oceans, No Life!

Simply “without them, life could not exist,” assures the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Although the list is almost endless, the specialised agency reminds of seven facts, just to start off with:

1. Fisheries and aquaculture currently employ directly 56 million people. And many more are employed in follow-up activities, such as handling, processing and distribution. Altogether, fishing and fish farming support the livelihoods and families of some 660 to 880 million people, that’s 12 per cent of the world’s population. “Without oceans, life could not exist”

2. Oceans host 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity, and are the largest ecosystem on Earth. Fish provide 20 per cent of animal protein to about 3 billion people. Only ten species provide about 30 per cent of marine capture fisheries and ten species provide about 50 per cent of aquaculture production.

3. Oceans provide vital renewable energy. Devices are being developed to generate electricity from waves and tides, as well as offshore wind farms.

4. Oceans regulate our climate. Did you know that the oceans absorb a quarter of all the carbon dioxide that humans put into the atmosphere? This makes them a ‘carbon sink’, but its ability to absorb even more carbon is limited.

Over 90 per cent of the additional heat caused by global warming is stored in the Oceans. Without this service, and the heating and cooling effects of ocean currents, world temperatures would be too unstable to support life.

5. Oceans affect our weather. As they are heated by the sun’s rays, water from its surface evaporates and then condenses to form clouds as part of the water cycle. This is how we get our rain and therefore our drinking water. It also contributes to wind, thunderstorms and hurricanes, and helps produce the monsoon rains that millions of people in South Asia rely on.

6. Scientists have discovered that many marine invertebrates produce antibiotic, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory substances. Horseshoe crabs, seaweeds and marine bacteria have also been found to have useful medical properties.

7. Oceans influence our health and well-being. Water is known to calm and reduce anxiety in people and being near blue spaces, such as the ocean, is thought to have positive effects on our mental health.

Unfortunately, different human activities are putting our oceans under threat, FAO regrets, while adding some more facts, such as that overfishing is reducing fish populations, threatening the supply of nutritious food and changing marine food webs.

UN Photo/Martine Perret

UN Photo/Martine Perret

Overfishing or How to Deplete the Oceans

In fact, the FAO estimates that, globally, some 91-93 million tonnes of fish are captured each year, and seafood products are among the world’s most widely traded food commodities, with an export value of 142 billion dollars in 2016.

On top of that, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is estimated to strip as much as 26 million additional tonnes of fish from the oceans annually, damaging marine ecosystems and sabotaging efforts to sustainably manage fisheries.

Also that around 80 per cent of the pollution in the oceans comes from land, and coastal zones are especially vulnerable to pollutants, FAO informs.

Let alone plastics, which are also particularly problematic with enormous floating rubbish patches forming in the oceans.

Add to the above, climate change and its related impacts, such as ocean acidification, are affecting the survival of some marine species.

And the fact that coastal development is destroying and degrading important coastal marine ecosystems such as coral reef, sea grass meadows and mangroves.

The issue is so essential–and urgent that world leaders, scientists, experts, and civil society organisations, are now getting ready to participate in The Ocean Conference, which will run from 5 to 9 June.

By absorbing much of the added heat trapped by atmospheric greenhouse gases, the oceans are delaying some of the impacts of climate change. Photo: WMO/Olga Khoroshunova

By absorbing much of the added heat trapped by atmospheric greenhouse gases, the oceans are delaying some of the impacts of climate change. Photo: WMO/Olga Khoroshunova


A World Ocean Festival

As a way to heat up for that major event, the UN on April 11 announced that an inaugural World Ocean Festival will kick off the week-long event, with activists and enthusiasts taking to the streets – and waterways – of New York City to raise their voices to reverse the declining health of our oceans.

Penny Abeywardena, the Commissioner of the (New York City) Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, joined Peter Thompson, President of the UN General Assembly, to announce the first-ever Festival which will be held on 4 June, the day before the opening of The Ocean Conference, which will run from 5 to 9 June.

Sweden has been a major supporter of acting to save the oceans, commented through its deputy prime minister and climate minister of Sweden, Isabella Lövin, that the Ocean Conference could be a “chance of a lifetime” to save the oceans under enormous stress.

Most likely reflecting the general feeling of most scientists, environmentalists and civil society organisations, Lövin said “We don’t need to invent or negotiate something new, we just need to have action to implement what we already agreed upon.”

The facts are there, so is the solution. Will world’s political leaders listen… and act?

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Microbes, New Weapon Against Agricultural Pests in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/microbes-new-weapon-against-agricultural-pests-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=microbes-new-weapon-against-agricultural-pests-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/microbes-new-weapon-against-agricultural-pests-in-africa/#comments Mon, 10 Apr 2017 11:24:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149879 A farmer shows a crop-eating fall armyworm taken from his field in Gwanda, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

A farmer shows a crop-eating fall armyworm taken from his field in Gwanda, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Apr 10 2017 (IPS)

Microscopic soil organisms could be an environmentally friendly way to control crop pests and diseases and even protect agriculture against the impacts of climate change, a leading researcher says.

Africa is battling an outbreak of trans-boundary pests and diseases like the invasive South America fall armyworm (FAW), tomato leaf miner and the TR4 which have cost the agriculture sector millions of dollars in crop damage.“Chemicals are a quick fix and short-term solution to insect pest control and also kill the predators of the pests." --Dr. Christian Thierfelder

“Research from our labs at Auburn University has shown a great potential in microbes for helping fight pests- and we have done some research on fall army worm that are pests in turf grass,” said Dr. Esther Ngumbi, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the Auburn University in Alabama, United States.

Ngumbi’s research has looked at how beneficial soil microbes help recruit natural enemies.

Microbes are tiny organisms like bacteria and fungi that interact with the soil and plants. Though not widely appreciated in much of Africa, Ngumbi said microbial formulations have been found to improve plant growth and protect crops from insects, drought and other climate-related extremes.

Researchers also say microbes can help preserve the environment threatened by growing reliance on chemical solutions in fighting crop and livestock trans-boundary pests and diseases. Pesticides pose a threat to food safety, human and ecological health, necessitating the promotion of non-chemical alternatives to handling pests.

Researchers at Auburn University have worked on beneficial soil bacteria/microbes, specifically plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR). The soil dwelling bacteria that colonize plant roots have beneficial effects of increasing plant growth and enhancing the ability of plants to fight off herbivorous insect pests such as the beet armyworm-Spodoptera exigua and the fall armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda to which they have a direct toxic effect.

First reported in Sao Tome and Principe in January 2016, the crop-eating pest has affected thousands of hectares of crops in Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe to date. The pest which is difficult to control with one type of pesticide can cause extensive crop damage of up to 73 percent in the field. It also attacks non-cereal crops including potato, groundnut, spinach, tomato, cabbage, soybeans, cotton and tobacco.

In Brazil the fall armyworms have a cost of 600 million dollars a year to control.

Dr. Christian Thierfelder, Senior Cropping Systems Agronomist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Southern Africa Regional Office, says poor identification of the pest delayed response to the outbreak in November 2016 because the pest has never been encountered before in Southern Africa.

“Everyone was classifying it [FAW] as a stalk borer or the American bollworm but they were all wrong. This new pest has now been identified as the fall armyworm and people started extensively using pesticides – some of them not yet registered,” Thierfelder told IPS.

“Chemicals are a quick fix and short-term solution to insect pest control and also kill the predators of the pests. This affects the environment and also birds who feed on caterpillars making it important to focus more on alternative ways through biological solutions such as Integrated Pest Management, crop diversification and intercropping.”

The use of IPM has been recommended to deal with insect pests. Integrated pest management is an approach that seeks to minimize and rationalize the use of chemicals.

The approach promotes the use of safer alternatives to pesticides like biocontrol and cultural practices. These include resistant cultivars to control insect pests and diseases, crop rotation and diversification at the plot and landscape, monitoring of insect pests using pheromone traps and seed treatment with beneficial soil rhizobacteria to reduce soil and foliar diseases.

Thierfelder said during extensive field tours in southern Africa, he observed less damage in early planted maize fields under conservation agriculture, intercropped with pigeonpeas or cowpeas and with some trees nearby.

“Here the attack of the fall armyworm was minimal,” said Thierfelder. “This shows that nature can help us in biological pest control as predators can hide in those diversified landscapes and control the pest.”

FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for southern Africa, David Phiri, says the fall army worm has threatened food security in the region because it is new and exposed the need to investment in surveillance systems.

“We do not have ready-made control mechanisms for the fall armyworm and we worry that pesticides used indiscriminately might actually contribute to environmental damage and also contribute to pesticide resistance,” Phiri said.

He added that, “We need to take the issue of monitoring and surveillance very seriously. Historically FAO has been trying to inform and convince governments that they should try to monitor as a matter of course not just monitor when there is a threat because they might be pests and disease coming into the region.”

According to the 2017 FAO report “The future of food and agriculture: Trends and challenges,” public investment is required to catalyze and support private investment. Investment in R&D has to be associated with the development of infrastructure and services to prevent and control the spread of pests and diseases; including trans-boundary ones and mechanisms that help reduce risks.

Rob Vos, Director of FAO’s Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division and one of the authors of the report, told IPS that the threats posed by biological invasions and outbreaks of existing trans-boundary pests highlight the importance of investing in agricultural research to rapidly respond to threats.

“The nature of trans boundary pests requires management on an international scale with countries coordinating their efforts. FAW is a highly mobile pest. The threat it poses to maize production and food security in Africa is not confined to individual countries but affects the entire region,” Vos said.

“Successful management of recurrent and new threats such as FAW is likely to be best achieved through collaboration among governments and international and national organizations.”

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Gold Mine Aggravates Tensions in Brazil’s Amazon Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/gold-mine-aggravates-tensions-in-brazils-amazon-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gold-mine-aggravates-tensions-in-brazils-amazon-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/gold-mine-aggravates-tensions-in-brazils-amazon-region/#comments Fri, 07 Apr 2017 22:22:18 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149859 The main street of Ressaca, a town of garimpeiros or artisanal gold miners, on the right bank of the Xingu River, along the stretch called the Volta Grande or Big Bend, where a large-scale mining project, promoted by the Canadian company Belo Sun, is causing concern among the local people in this part of Brazil’s Amazon region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dozens of them have filed lawsuits in faraway cities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More than 20 families have already left the village.

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

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

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

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Green Power: Wave of the Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/green-power-wave-of-the-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=green-power-wave-of-the-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/green-power-wave-of-the-future/#comments Thu, 06 Apr 2017 17:25:58 +0000 Francoise Estais http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149820 Françoise d’Estais is Head of the Finance Unit, Energy and Climate Branch, Economy Division, UN Environment, Angus McCrone is Chief Editor, Bloomberg New Energy Finance & Ulf Moslener is Research Director, Frankfurt School - UNEP Collaborating Centre]]> Sustainable energy. Credit: World Bank/Dana Smillie

Sustainable energy. Credit: World Bank/Dana Smillie

By Françoise d’Estais, Angus McCrone & Ulf Moslener
PARIS/FRANKFURT/LONDON, Apr 6 2017 (IPS)

The price of renewable energy — especially solar power — continues to tumble, and the result is more green power generating capacity for fewer dollars.

That’s the bottom line message from the latest figures on world investment in clean technologies.

In 2016, record levels of new renewable energy generating capacity were added worldwide even as investments fell 23 per cent from the year before.

The data are contained in the 11th annual Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment, a product of UN Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, small hydro and marine sources added 138.5 gigawatts to global power capacity in 2016, up almost 9 per centfrom the 127.5 gigawatts added the year before. The added generating capacity roughly equals that of the world’s 16 largest existing power producing facilities combined.

The proportion of electricity coming from renewables (excluding large hydro) is now 11.3 per cent, a significant jump from 10.3 per cent in 2015. Thanks to green tech, humanity’s emissions of carbon dioxide were an estimated 1.7 gigatonnes less than they might have been had the same power been produced from fossil fuels.

And these impressive additions to the world’s generating capacity were made at a fraction of previous costs. Total investments of $241.6 billion (excluding large hydro), were down 23 per cent from 2015 and represented the lowest total dollar investment since 2013.

As noted, this was partly the result of falling costs: the average dollar expenditure required to add a megawatt from solar photovoltaics and wind turbines dropped by over 10 per cent.

The data also show public and private sector investors — who have invested a cumulative $2.5 trillion in renewables since 2004 — favor renewables over fossil fuels by a large margin. Investment in renewables capacity was roughly double the figure for fossil fuels; the corresponding new capacity from renewables excluding large hydro was equivalent to 55 per cent of all new power, the highest to date.

Solar and wind remain by far the most attractive renewable energy investment options.

New investment in solar totalled $113.7 billion, down 34 per cent from the record high in 2015. Solar capacity additions, however, rose to an all-time high of 75 gigawatts.

Wind made up $112.5 billion of investment globally, down 9 per cent; wind capacity additions fell to 54 gigawatts from the previous year’s high of 63 gigawatts.

The smaller sectors had mixed fortunes in terms of new investment. Biofuels fell 37 per cent to $2.2 billion, the lowest for at least 13 years; biomass and waste held steady at $6.8 billion and small hydro at $3.5 billion. Geothermal rallied 17 per cent to $2.7 billion. Marine edged down 7 per cent to $194 million.

In addition to reduced technology costs, the fall in investment also reflected a slowdown in China, Japan and some emerging markets, for a variety of reasons.

Renewable energy investment in developing countries fell 30 per cent to $117 billion, while that in developed economies dropped 14 per cent to $125 billion. China saw investment drop 32 per cent to $78.3 billion, breaking an 11-year rising trend.

Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, South Africa and Morocco all saw falls of 60 per cent or more, due to slower than expected growth in electricity demand, and delays to auctions and financings. Jordan was one of the few new markets to buck the trend, investment there rising 148 per cent to $1.2 billion.

The US saw commitments slip 10 per cent to $46.4 billion, as developers took their time to build out projects to benefit from the five-year extension of the tax credit system. Japan slumped 56 per cent to $14.4 billion.

Investment in renewables did not drop across the board, however. Europe enjoyed a 3 per cent increase to $59.8 billion, led by the UK ($24 billion) and Germany ($13.2 billion). Offshore wind ($25.9 billion) dominated Europe’s investment, up 53 per cent thanks to mega-arrays such as the 1.2 gigawatt Hornsea project in the North Sea, estimated to cost $5.7 billion. China also invested $4.1 billion in offshore wind, its highest figure to date.

And in India, the Ramanathapuram solar complex, billed as the world’s largest ever solar photovoltaicproject (648 megawatts), was constructed.

“The question always used to be ‘will renewables ever be grid competitive?’,” says Michael Liebreich, Chairman of the Advisory Board at BNEF. “Well, after the dramatic cost reductions of the past few years, unsubsidised wind and solar can provide the lowest cost new electrical power in an increasing number of countries, even in the developing world – sometimes by a factor of two.”

“It’s a whole new world: even though investment is down, annual installations are still up; instead of having to subsidise renewables, now authorities may have to subsidise natural gas plants to help them provide grid reliability.”

Recent figures from the International Energy Agency cited the switch to renewables as a main reason for greenhouse gas emissions staying flat in 2016, for the third year running, even though output in the global economy rose by 3.1 per cent.

We need this trend to continue and accelerate. And this latest renewable energy investment trends report offers reason to hope that it will.

In the words of Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment: “Ever-cheaper clean tech provides a real opportunity for investors to get more for less.

“This is exactly the kind of situation, where the needs of profit and people meet, that will drive the shift to a better world for all. ”

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Climate Change Solutions Can’t Wait for U.S. Leadershiphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-change-solutions-cant-wait-for-u-s-leadership/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-solutions-cant-wait-for-u-s-leadership http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-change-solutions-cant-wait-for-u-s-leadership/#comments Tue, 04 Apr 2017 00:02:11 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149788 President of the Caribbean Development Bank Dr. Warren Smith says the bank is giving high priority to addressing the fallout from climate change in the region. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

President of the Caribbean Development Bank Dr. Warren Smith says the bank is giving high priority to addressing the fallout from climate change in the region. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Apr 4 2017 (IPS)

From tourism-dependent nations like Barbados to those rich with natural resources like Guyana, climate change poses one of the biggest challenges for the countries of the Caribbean.

Nearly all of these countries are vulnerable to natural events like hurricanes.“Why is this such a big deal? The Caribbean is facing a climate crisis, which we need to tackle now - with urgency.” --Dr. Warren Smith

Not surprisingly, the climate change threat facing the countries of the Caribbean has not gone unnoticed by the region’s premier financial institution, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

“We are giving high priority to redressing the fallout from climate change,” the bank’s president Dr. Warren Smith told journalists at a press conference here recently.

“This is an inescapable reality, and we have made it our business to put in place the financial resources necessary to redress the effects of sea-level rise and more dangerous hurricanes.”

CDB has also tapped new funding for renewable energy and for energy efficiency.

For the first time, the bank has accessed a 33-million-dollar credit facility from Agence Française de Développement (AFD) to support sustainable infrastructure projects in select Caribbean countries and a 3 million euro grant to finance feasibility studies for projects eligible for financing under the credit facility.

“At least 50 percent of those funds will be used for climate adaptation and mitigation projects,” Smith explained.

“We persuaded the Government of Canada to provide financing for a CAD 5 million Canadian Support to the Energy Sector in the Caribbean Fund, which will be administered by the CDB. This money will help to build capacity in the energy sector over the period 2016 to 2019.”

In February, CBD also became an accredited partner institution of the Adaptation Fund, and in October 2016, the bank achieved the distinction of accreditation to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

“Why is this such a big deal? The Caribbean is facing a climate crisis, which we need to tackle now – with urgency,” Smith said.

“The Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund have opened new gateways to much-needed grant and or low-cost financing to address climate change vulnerabilities in all of our borrowing member countries (BMCs).”

The financing options outlined by the CDB president would no doubt be welcome news to Caribbean countries in the wake of United States President Donald Trump’s recently proposed budget cuts for climate change funding.

The proposed 2018 federal budget would end programmes to lower domestic greenhouse gas emissions, slash diplomatic efforts to slow climate change and cut scientific missions to study the climate.

The budget would cut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding by 31 percent including ending Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan – the Obama administration’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

At the U.S. State Department, the budget proposal eliminates the Global Climate Change Initiative and fulfills the president’s pledge to cease payments to the United Nations’ climate change programmes by eliminating U.S. funding related to the Green Climate Fund and its two precursor Climate Investment Funds.

The Green Climate Fund is the U.N. effort to help countries adapt to climate change or develop low-emission energy technologies, and the Global Climate Change Initiative is a kind of umbrella programme that paid for dozens of assistance programmess to other countries working on things such as clean energy.

The proposal would also cut big chunks out of climate-related programmes of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The USAID is the American agency through which the countries of the Caribbean get a lot of their funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“We would be foolish to have taken a lead role in getting the world to move on climate, to put innovation at its core and then walk away from that agenda,” Dr Ernest Moniz said on CNN. “Some of the statements being made about the science, I might say by non-scientists, are really disturbing because the evidence is clearly there for taking prudent steps.

“I would not argue with the issue that different people in office may decide to take different pathways, different rates of change etc., but not the fundamental science,” added Moniz, who was instrumental in negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement.

Throughout his election campaign, Trump consistently threatened to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate deal.

Moniz, a nuclear physicist and former Secretary of Energy serving under President Obama, from May 2013 to January 2017, said he would wait and see how this develops, but said of the threat to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, “obviously, that would be a very bad idea” noting that every country in the world is now committed to a low-carbon future.

“There’s no going back. One of my friends in the industry would say ‘you can’t keep the waves off the beach’. We are going to a low carbon future.”

Since being sworn in as president in January, Trump’s administration has been sending somewhat mixed signals about climate change. While Trump himself has described climate change as a hoax, he also said he had an open mind toward efforts to control it.

Caribbean countries, meanwhile, are watching with keen interest the developments in the United States.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) Milton Haughton said fisheries is one of the industries being impacted by climate change.

“Climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification and disaster risk management are major challenges facing the fisheries sector and the wider economies of our countries,” Haughton said ahead of a two-day meeting in Kingston to discuss measures for adaptation to climate change and disaster risk management in fisheries as well as the status of and recent trends in fisheries and aquaculture in the region.

“These issues continue to be high priorities for policy-makers and stakeholders because we need to improve capacity, information base and policy, and institutional arrangements to respond to these threats and protect our future.

“At this meeting, we will be discussing the USA-sponsored initiative to provide risk insurance for fishers, among other initiatives to improve and protect the fisheries sector and ensure food security,” Haughton added.

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A Transformational Moment in Nuclear & International Affairs?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/a-transformational-moment-in-nuclear-international-affairs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-transformational-moment-in-nuclear-international-affairs http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/a-transformational-moment-in-nuclear-international-affairs/#comments Mon, 03 Apr 2017 06:21:12 +0000 John Burroughs http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149763 John Burroughs is Executive Director of the New York-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy & Director of UN Office of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms.]]> Credit: UN Photo

Credit: UN Photo

By John Burroughs
NEW YORK, Apr 3 2017 (IPS)

Is a paradigm shift now underway on nuclear weapons at the United Nations? That was the question posed as about 130 nations gathered this past week to begin negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination. The treaty would prohibit development, possession and use of nuclear weapons, but would not contain detailed provisions relating to verified dismantlement of nuclear arsenals and governance of a world free of nuclear arms.

This is the first multilateral negotiation on nuclear weapons since the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was adopted in 1996. It is also the first ever such negotiation relating to the global elimination of nuclear arms, despite the fact that the first UN General Assembly resolution, in 1946, called for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

The hope of the nations leading the negotiations, including Costa Rica, whose ambassador, Elayne Whyte, is president of the negotiating conference, is that the second session, to be held from June 15 to July 7, will succeed in adopting a treaty. The idea is to strike while the iron is hot.

What makes the initiative at first hard to grasp is that it involves countries whose acquisition of nuclear weapons is already barred by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and by regional nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties.

The nuclear-armed states (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel) are not participating, nor are almost all states in military alliances with the United States. The aim, nonetheless, is to set a global standard stigmatizing nuclear arms and laying the foundation for their universal and permanent elimination.

The initiative grew out of three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear explosions organized by the governments of Norway, Austria, and Mexico, in 2013 and 2014. The straightforward message is that the consequences of use of nuclear weapons are morally unacceptable and also incompatible with international humanitarian law barring the use of weapons causing unnecessary suffering and indiscriminate harm.

Therefore, nuclear weapons should be explicitly prohibited by treaty, as have other weapons including biological weapons, chemical weapons, landmines, and cluster munitions. The initiative also builds upon the regional nuclear weapon free zone treaties, to which most of the negotiating states belong.

The Trump Administration has carried forward the Obama Administration’s policy of opposing the negotiations. An alarming related development is that Christopher Ford, a former US Special Representative for Nonproliferation now serving on the National Security Council, has stated that the administration is reviewing “whether or not the goal of a world without nuclear weapons is in fact a realistic objective, especially in the near to medium term.” Ford, a lawyer, knows very well that the United States is legally bound by Article VI of the NPT to pursue in good faith negotiations on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament.

A common objection made by U.S. allies is that a nuclear ban treaty will undermine the NPT. Participating states reply: How? We are negotiating an effective measure relating to nuclear disarmament as Article VI requires of all NPT states parties.

The first week of negotiations revealed a broad convergence in favor of a relatively simple prohibition treaty. Only a few countries advocated negotiation in this forum of a comprehensive convention addressing all aspects of nuclear disarmament. Many other countries see negotiation of a comprehensive convention as a step to be taken later, when at least some nuclear-armed states are ready to participate.

There remain significant issues to be resolved concerning the provisions of a prohibition treaty, including issues relating to threat of use of nuclear arms and to testing. My organization, the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), advocates for inclusion of a prohibition of threat of use.

In our view, that would confirm and specify existing international law and, as Chile and South Africa also said, help to delegitimize nuclear deterrence. An opposing view is that the illegality of threat of use would be implicit in the prohibitions of possession and use and is already adequately covered by the UN Charter.

IALANA also calls for the treaty to prohibit design and testing of nuclear weapons, capturing a whole suite of activities from computer simulations to explosive testing. The treaty will help set the template for future disarmament agreements, and therefore should be reasonably comprehensive.

Many governments support the inclusion of a prohibition of at least testing. Some governments maintain, however, that it is captured by the prohibition of development and note that explosive testing is banned by the yet to enter into force CTBT.

A knotty issue is how to handle possible later participation in the treaty by nuclear-armed states. The basic options are to require that they denuclearize prior to joining the treaty, or to provide that they may join the treaty if they have accepted a time-bound obligation verifiably to eliminate their arsenal. Participation by nuclear-armed states in a ban treaty in the near term is entirely theoretical, and may not happen even when they do decide to eliminate their arsenals. Still, negotiators want to make it clear that all states are welcome and encouraged to join the treaty.

The initiative and the negotiations have been marked by close cooperation between governments and civil society, notably the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, and with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Civil society was given ample opportunity to comment throughout the first week.

Such cooperation has never before occurred in the nuclear sphere. Also noteworthy is that the negotiations are taking place in a UN process over the opposition of the permanent five members of the Security Council, perhaps a harbinger of democratization of the United Nations.

Diplomats and civil society organizations involved in the negotiations are clearly energized, even passionate, and determined to work constructively. If all goes well, members of a ban treaty, working together with civil society, will become a potent collective actor that will transform nuclear and international affairs for the better.

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Brazilian Dam Causes Too Much or Too Little Water in Amazon Villageshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/brazilian-dam-causes-too-much-or-too-little-water-in-amazon-villages/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brazilian-dam-causes-too-much-or-too-little-water-in-amazon-villages http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/brazilian-dam-causes-too-much-or-too-little-water-in-amazon-villages/#comments Sat, 01 Apr 2017 21:42:59 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149744 A chicken coop in the village of Miratu, flooded because the Xingu River rose much more than was announced by Norte Energía, the company that built and operates the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant, whose main reservoir is some 20 km upstream from the Juruna community in Brazil’s northern Amazon jungle region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A chicken coop in the village of Miratu, flooded because the Xingu River rose much more than was announced by Norte Energía, the company that built and operates the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant, whose main reservoir is some 20 km upstream from the Juruna community in Brazil’s northern Amazon jungle region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ALTAMIRA, Brazil, Apr 1 2017 (IPS)

The Juruna indigenous village of Miratu mourned the death of Jarliel twice: once on October 26, when he drowned in the Xingu River, and the second time when the sacred burial ground was flooded by an unexpected rise in the river that crosses Brazil’s Amazon region.

Their cries are also of outrage against the Norte Energía company, the concession-holder for the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, which determines the water flow in the Volta Grande stretch of the Xingu River, a 100-km area divided in three municipalities, with five indigenous villages along the riverbanks.

Jarliel Juruna, 20, was very good at what he did: catch ornamental fish, which have been increasingly scarce since the dam was inaugurated in November 2015. Apparently the need to dive deeper and deeper to find fish and help support his family contributed to the fatal accident, according to his siblings Jailson and Bel.

The company had ensured that the rise in water level in that area would be moderate, since the flow was divided between the Volta Grande and a canal built to feed the main Belo Monte generating plant, near the end of the curve in the river known as Volta Grande or Big Bend.

The markers showing how high the water would rise were surpassed early this year, due to heavy rains and a limited diversion of the water to be used by the hydroelectric plant, which will be the third largest in the world in terms of capacity once it is completed in 2019.

The unexpected rise also caused material losses. Boats and equipment were carried away by the high water. “My manioc crop was flooded, even though it was on land higher than the markers,” said Aristeu Freitas da Silva, a villager in Ilha da Fazenda.

Despite the excess of water, this village of 50 families is suffering a lack of drinking water.

“The river is dirty, we drink water from a well that we dug. The three wells drilled by Norte Energía don’t work because the water pump broke eight months ago,” said Miguel Carneiro de Sousa, a boatman hired by the municipality to ferry students to a nearby school.

The school in Ilha da Fazenda only goes up to fourth grade, and in Brazil education is compulsory up to the ninth grade.

Bel Juruna, a Juruna indigenous leader from the village of Miratu along the Volta Grande of the Xingu River. The 25-year-old woman is an impressive defender of indigenous rights, against the Belo Monte hydropower plant and inefficient government authorities, in this territory in Brazil’s Amazon region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Bel Juruna, a Juruna indigenous leader from the village of Miratu along the Volta Grande of the Xingu River. The 25-year-old woman is an impressive voice in the defence of indigenous rights, against the Belo Monte hydropower plant and inefficient government authorities, in this territory in Brazil’s Amazon region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Deiby Cardoso, deputy mayor of Senador José Porfirio, one of the municipalities in Volta Grande, admitted that water supply is a municipal responsibility, and promised that the problem would be resolved by late April.

He did so during a Mar. 21 public hearing organised by the public prosecutor’s office in the city of Altamira, to address problems affecting Volta Grande. IPS attended the hearing as part of a one-week tour of riverbank and indigenous villages in this area.

Taking over the Xingu River for energy purposes, to the detriment of its traditional users, such as indigenous and riverine peoples, has cost Norte Energía many obligations and complaints in its area of influence in the northern state of Pará, where local people sometimes confuse its role with that of the government.

The company is required to carry out a plan for compensation and mitigation of social and environmental impacts, with conditional targets, and the number of complaints about non-compliance is increasing.

Local residents of Ilha da Fazenda had reasons to complain at the hearing. The health post is filthy and abandoned, the ambulance boat has a broken motor, and the electricity produced by the village generator is only available from 6:00 to 10:00 PM.

The deputy mayor accepted the complaints about the delays, which he said were due to the short period that the municipal government has been in power, since January.

The dilapidated, unkempt health post in Ilha da Fazenda, one of the villages on the banks of the Xingu River affected by the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant, in the state of Pará in Brazil’s Amazon region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The unkempt health post in Ilha da Fazenda, one of the villages on the banks of the Xingu River affected by the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant, in the state of Pará in Brazil’s Amazon region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

But holding the key to the Xingu River, opening or closing spillways and activating or shutting off its turbines, Norte Energía dictates the water level downstream, especially in the Volta Grande. At the hearing, it seemed clear that they do it without considering the human and environmental impacts.

“The water level drops and rises all of a sudden, without warning,” complained Bel Juruna, a 25-year-old community leader and defender of indigenous peoples’ rights who talked to IPS during the visit to the village of Miratu.

“These abrupt fluctuations in the volume of water released in the Volta Grande produce changes in the water level in the river that confuse the aquatic fauna, disoriented by the availability of space to feed and breed,” said ecologist Juarez Pezzuti, a professor at the Federal University of Pará.

And once the hydroelectric plant starts to operate normally, the water flow will be permanently reduced, he added.

The local people are informed daily, through phones installed by the company in many houses, about the volume of water that enters Volta Grande. But this information about cubic metres per second means nothing to them.

“The information has to be useful,” adding the water level in the river in each village, the local indigenous people told the authorities present at the hearing, who included prosecutors, public defenders and heads of the environmental and indigenous affairs agencies.

There is a “failure of communication” that Energía Norte needs to fix, it was agreed during the hearing, where there were no representatives of the company.

Indigenous houses, practically submerged by the unexpected rise of the Xingu River. These traditional houses of the Juruna people give support to the “canoada”, a tourist and political event that the native people organize each September along the Volta Grande, in the northern Amazon state of Pará in Brazil.  Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Indigenous houses, practically submerged by the unexpected rise of the Xingu River. These traditional houses of the Juruna people give support to the “canoada”, a tourist and political event that the native people organize each September along the Volta Grande, in the northern Amazon state of Pará in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Safety of navigation is another demand by the Juruna and Arara native people, who live on the banks of the Volta Grande. The damming of the river exacerbated the “banzeiros” (turbulence or rapids), which have already caused one death, early this year.

The local indigenous peoples are demanding large vessels, one for each of the five villages, to cross the reservoir to Altamira, the capital of the Medio Xingú region, without the risks that threaten their small boats.

They are also asking for support equipment for the most turbulent stretches of the Volta Grande, from August to November, when small dangerous rocky islands emerge due to the low water level.

The reduced water flow has made navigation difficult in the Volta Grande, the traditional transport route used by local people, increasing the need for land transport.

An access road to the routes that lead to Altamira is a chief demand of the Arara people.

“It was a condition of the building permit for Belo Monte, to this day unfulfilled. We have been waiting for that road since 2012,” protested José Carlos Arara, leader of the village of Guary-Duan.

They rejected the handing over of a Base of Operations that Norte Energía built for the National Indian Foundation, the state body for the defence of indigenous rights, to protect their territory. “With no land access, we won’t accept the base, because it will be incomplete,” said Arara, supported by leaders of other villages.

To improve territorial protection and the participation of indigenous people in the committees that deal with indigenous issues and those involving Volta Grande within the programmes of compensation and mitigation of impacts of Belo Monte is another common demand, submitted to the hearing in a letter signed by the Arara and Juruna people.

The need for protection was stressed by Bebere Bemaral Xikrin, head of the association of the Xikrin people, from the Trincheira-Bacajá indigenous land.

Since mid-2016, the waters of the Bacajá River have been dirty, which has killed off fish. The reason is the “garimpo” or informal surface mining along tributary rivers of the Bacajá, on the outskirts of the Xikrin territory.

And things will get worse with the construction of a road to bring in machinery for the garimpeiros or informal miners, if the Protection Plan, which was to be ready in 2011 “but hasn’t made it from paper to reality, is not fully implemented soon,” said Bebere Bemaral.

The Xikrin people do not live along the Volta Grande, but everything that happens in that stretch of the Xingu River affects the Bacajá, a tributary of the Xingu, which this people depend on for survival, he explained.

The rivers which were the lifeblood of local indigenous and riverine people became a risk factor with the implementation of a hydropower megaproject, to which could be added the Belo Sun mining project, also on the banks of the Volta Grande.

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IPS Interviews FAO DG on appointment of David Beasley as WFP headhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/ips-interviews-fao-dg-on-appointment-of-david-beasley-as-wfp-head/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ips-interviews-fao-dg-on-appointment-of-david-beasley-as-wfp-head http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/ips-interviews-fao-dg-on-appointment-of-david-beasley-as-wfp-head/#comments Sat, 01 Apr 2017 09:06:58 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149741 José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).]]> José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Apr 1 2017 (IPS)

As widely known, the key objective of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is to eradicate hunger and malnutrition by 2030, as established with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals two years ago.

The two other Rome-based Agencies, partners of FAO in this endeavor, have both recently seen a change in their leaderships : the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). On February 14, Gilbert Houngbo, former Prime Minister of Togo, was elected by the member states of IFAD as its President, and will take over on 1 April.

In the case of WFP, a joint programme of the United Nations and FAO, the UN Secretary-General and FAO Director-General led the selection process to identify the best candidate to serve as the new head of the largest humanitarian agency for food assistance and food aid. On March 29, the former Governor of South Carolina, David Beasley, was formally announced as the Executive Director of WFP after endorsement by the WFP Executive Board.

In this exclusive interview, FAO Director-General, Jose Graziano da Silva, shares with IPS his experience of carrying out this important task.

IPS : How do you feel about David Beasley’s nomination? Did you have a chance to speak to him after the final decision ?

Graziano da Silva: It was a very good outcome. David has outstanding credentials for the position, as he brings his extensive experience in liaising with key government and business leaders around the world and in leading peacebuilding missions and development efforts, working with foreign leaders. I truly hope we can continue the excellent collaboration between FAO and WFP undertaken under the leadership of the outgoing Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, and enhance it even further. Through our collective efforts and a twin-track approach, of emergency food assistance and delivering livelihoods, we must work together to keep people alive and help them to build resilience during a food crisis, ultimately eradicating hunger.

After the announcement of his selection, we had a fruitful telephone conversation and exchanged messages through the social networks. In a message from his Facebook post, he thanked me and SG Antonio Guterres for his appointment, and said he will increase efforts for “expanding the public and private partnerships (…) getting food and assistance to those who so desperately need it”. FAO stands ready to support and collaborate with him in this regard. I feel that he is very excited about his new job, and I look forward to welcoming him in Rome.

IPS : How do you see the collaboration between FAO and WFP unfolding with a new leadership, particularly at this critical time of food security crisis?

Graziano da Silva: The precarious condition of many countries in terms of food security, as well as the current famines, make it more urgent now than ever that the Rome Based Agencies work together.

We are faced with an unprecedented situation in the world today with South Sudan experiencing famine and three other countries – Yemen, northeastern Nigeria and Somalia – facing the threat of famine. Our task is not only to ensure that the people survive today but that they can live with dignity tomorrow.

If people abandon their lands, they lose their livelihoods, food production declines – thereby worsening not only their situation, but the food security of the country for many years to come.

Together the Rome Based Agencies (FAO, IFAD, WFP) need to undertake a twin-track approach, providing food assistance and simultaneously offering livelihood support and income opportunities.

FAO for its part will provide all its support to the new WFP Executive Director in order to tackle the many challenges of emergency assistance and providing relief around the globe. I shall also extend all support to the new President of IFAD.

IPS: Can you tell us more about Beasley’s nomination process ? Could you share with us your experience during the selection exercise and its implications
?

Graziano da Silva: As WFP is a joint autonomous subsidiary programme of the UN and FAO, its Executive Director is appointed by the Secretary-General of the UN and the Director-General of FAO, after consultation with the Executive Board of WFP.

Throughout this appointment process, the UN SG and I have been fully aware of the importance of ensuring a fully transparent process. The Executive Board was consulted on the proposed appointment, at the end on the process.

I am particularly proud to have taken part in this process, in close coordination with the Executive Office of the SG. I am very pleased to have been involved in this process, especially as WFP is the largest humanitarian agency for food aid in a world where many lives are at risk during one of the worst food crises in 70 years.

IPS: Could you give us more details about the process of selection itself?

Graziano da Silva: A call for nominations and applications was issued and was open from 14 to 28 February 2017, followed by a formal communication circulated to the Member States calling for candidates. The vacancy announcement was also posted on the FAO’s website and the UN SG’s senior level vacancies web page.

In total, 23 candidatures from 14 countries were received (5 women, 18 men), out of which 19 were individual applications (4 women, 15 men) and four were nominations from Member States (1 woman, 3 men). After review, 6 candidates (1 woman, 5 men) were short-listed and interviewed.

IPS : What was the criteria used for the recommendations made? Can you take us through some of the steps undertaken to ensure proper evaluation was done in this process?

Graziano da Silva: The evaluation panel composed of the UN Deputy Secretary-General and the Chief of Cabinet of the UN SG, as well as the FAO Deputy Director-General for Programmes and the FAO Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Deputy Director-General for Operations. They focused on four areas for the interview: background, strengths and weaknesses of the candidate; strategic vision and work programme; previous experience in building partnerships with key stakeholders; and management and leadership expertise.

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