THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS
                                  Thursday, 7 September 2006



     UNEP and the Executive Di...
Moneyweb (SA): Asset management and investment heavyweights discuss responsible
   investment issues
   By: The Centre for...
One of the heavyweight participants in the seminar was Martin Kuscus, chief executive of the
government employees pension ...
The Daily Star: Breathing life back into Lebanon's environment


Commentary by
Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Commentary by ...
It is also expected to assess the impact of disruption of power supplies. For example, how disposal of
untreated sewage ma...
En fecha cercana al Día Mundial para la Protección de la Capa de Ozono, el próximo 16 de
septiembre, el agujero tiene una ...
Other Environment News

BBC: Iceland to begin whalemeat trade
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website...
"As such legislation has not been established in the Faroe Islands, the declaration made by
Denmark in 1977 still applies;...
global warming is causing changes in the environment that will accelerate the greenhouse
effect.

The research team record...
Last year American scientists reported that permafrost is melting across the Northern
Hemisphere, altering ecosystems and ...
Travelling through Baja, almost everyone has a story about the narcotics trade. Cecilia Fischer,
who works for a developer...
Colombia is also one of the few places where scientists have tried to assess the impact of drug
production on conservation...
Office on Latin America, has studied the escalating drug-related violence in Mexico and
believes the answer lies in effort...
______________________________________________________________________
Reuters: US Funds Project to Pump Oil, Fight Global...
It said the major oil spill off Lebanon during the recent Israel-Hezbollah war highlighted the
vulnerability of the Medite...
response to the drop in pressure and it also gets hotter," said Professor Jon Blundy of Bristol
University, who led the wo...
Published this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, the study found that cle...
A lack of wind has prevented a firestorm like one that erupted last week, but the forecast
included a red-flag warning for...
_____________________________________________________________________________

The Independent (UK): Farmers recruited to ...
Lapwing Champion competition in 2005. Mr Stott has been helping lapwings for several years
and had 16 pairs nesting on 100...
Britain's most ambitious wild bird recovery programme is being launched to bring back the
lapwing, the handsome plover tha...
"The lapwings eat the flukeworm, which would otherwise cause disease in my sheep. Other
farmers have rough land, which is ...
One of the world's most famous scientists wants an assistant.

Stephen Hawking, professor of mathematics at Cambridge Univ...
ROAP Media Update
                                     7 September t 2006



UN or UNEP in the news

Issues on environment...
The strain is so virulent that it can resist at least half of the six main second-generation
tuberculosis drugs, leaving p...
General Environment News
Lead fumes poisoned kids, villagers claim
Shanghai Daily, China, Zhang Liuhao, 2006-09-07
-------...
Treatment can remove some of the lead, but some damage is irreversible, doctors said.

Lead poisoning may also stunt child...
The EU said last year’s trade deficit with China reached 106 billion euros. The EU’s estimates
of trade flows differ from ...
Officials warn of an epidemic in flooded areas and say they are sending medical teams to flood-
hit villages, but charitie...
In Australia, box jellyfish are among the deadliest forms of ocean life, with one species,
Chironex flecken, considered th...
Unless a proper waste treatment facility is built, the mill's production will certainly pose an
environmental threat to Th...
The countryside has fallen behind cities in the availability of safe drinking water, particularly
in central and western r...
The project will take a holistic approach from a standpoint of communities. It will contribute
not only to providing alter...
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  1. 1. THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS Thursday, 7 September 2006 UNEP and the Executive Director in the News • Asset management and investment heavyweights discuss responsible investment issues (Moneyweb) • Breathing life back into Lebanon's environment (The Daily Star) • Cuba reduce sustancias agotadoras de la capa de ozono (Diaro Granma) Other Environment News • Iceland to begin whalemeat trade (BBC) • Environmental News Service: Melting Russian Permafrost Could Accelerate Global Warming (ENS) • Drugs, crime and a conservation crisis (News Scientist) • US Funds Project to Pump Oil, Fight Global Warming (Reuters) • EU Commission Proposes Cleanup Strategy for Mediterranean (Associated Press) • When water bubbles signal a volcanic big bang (The Guardian) • Research Shows Large-Scale Farming Causes Major Amazon Forest Loss (Earthvision.net) • Blaze Devastates Wilderness Area Prized for Beauty (New York Times) • Farmers recruited to help return our land to the lapwing (The Independent) • Le plancton consomme nettement moins de gaz carbonique que prévu (Le Monde) • Hawking seeks graduate assistant (The Guardian) Environmental News from the UNEP Regions • ROAP • ROLAC • ROWA Other UN News • UN Daily News of 6 September 2006 • S.G.’s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of 6 September 2006 Communications and Public Information, P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya Tel: (254-2) 623292/93, Fax: [254-2] 62 3927/623692, Email:cpiinfo@unep.org, http://www.unep.org
  2. 2. Moneyweb (SA): Asset management and investment heavyweights discuss responsible investment issues By: The Centre for Corporate Citizenship Posted: 06-SEP-06 Unisa's Centre for Corporate Citizenship (CCC) in co-operation with the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) Regional Learning Forum began its drive to educate the South African market about responsible investment with an interactive seminar held last week, featuring some of the most important players in responsible investment. The need to incorporate ESG into investment decisions, the need to become active asset owners and the need to seek appropriate disclosure from the companies being invested in were among the key areas discussed. CCC director, Derick de Jongh said that responsible investment is becoming an increasingly important issue globally, and was particularly relevant for South Africa. He said the Centre would continue to raise awareness of responsible investment by hosting seminars related to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues, and offering courses relating to ESG. “We are also undertaking academic research into responsible investment from a South African and African perspective, and believe that a responsible investment survey is needed,” de Jongh said. In April this year, US asset managers who administer $4trillion in assets signed the United Nation's PRI at the New York Stock Exchange. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan invited institutional investors and their financial partners across the globe to adopt the six principles: •we will incorporate ESG issues into investment analysis and decision-making processes •we will be active owners and incorporate ESG issues into our ownership policies and practices •we will seek appropriate disclosure on ESG issues by the entities in which we invest •we will promote acceptance and implementation of the principles within the investment industry •we will work together to enhance our effectiveness in implementing the principles •we will each report on our activities and progress towards implementing the principles “Developed by leading institutional investors, the principles provide a framework for achieving better long-term investment returns and more sustainable markets,” Annan said. Ellen Kallinowsky, head of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) Regional Learning Forum, stated that April this year was historic for the UN. “It was the first time that a UN Secretary-General visited a stock exchange and appeared before some of the world's leading financiers and investment professionals. It is increasingly clear that UN objectives go hand in hand with better investments in markets and more sustainable societies,” Kallinowsky said. 2
  3. 3. One of the heavyweight participants in the seminar was Martin Kuscus, chief executive of the government employees pension fund (GEPF), the single largest investor in South Africa with over R600bn in JSE-listed assets and the only African representative to sign the PRI in April. As an investor which owns almost 30% of the local share market, Kuscus said the GEPF would become a far more active investor, and could greatly influence South Africa's social development agenda due to its size. “On an economic front the GEPF and the Public Investment Corporation will become more vigilant in challenging executive pay. Pay must be commensurate with performance. On a social front the GEPF will assist black economic empowerment, job creation, poverty alleviation and SME development. Environmentally, the global agenda is being pushed by energy efficiency and the GEPF will start an equity fund that addresses environmental issues” Kuscus said. During the seminar, Kuscus joined Frater Asset Management chief executive William Frater in a panel discussion on responsible investment from an asset management and pension fund perspective. Frater said that ESG issues were all relevant in the long term, and should not be seen in isolation from investment decisions. “All issues are financial, and responsible investment is not a separate asset class. Non financial issues become financial over time. We can influence how entities invest in their operations. If we look at companies in the long term we have to consider measures beyond the balance sheet and accounting ratios and look at culture, ethics, systems, policies, learning and the licence to operate,” Frater said. Frater Asset Management is the only South African asset manager to sign onto the PRI initiative. Corli le Roux, who was instrumental in the creation of the JSE Limited's Social Responsibility Index (SRI), said that the SRI and responsible investment is vital for positioning South Africa as an investment destination of choice. “It is important to position the index within the investment community. The SRI encourages companies to progress, disclose, implement and report on their triple bottom line strategies and programmes. The index is also there to facilitate debate and to encourage companies to internalize SRI,” said le Roux. Nedbank’s Justin Smith, speaking on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEPFI) said that major shareholders and investors should exercise more activism, citing as an example a Norwegian pension fund that divested from Walmart due to staff policies that it did not agree with. Gerhald Meharchand from Future Growth Asset Management stated that the South African environment is very different to other countries in terms of ESG issues. “There needs to be courses on how to integrate ESG considerations in investment decisions from a South African perspective. Many books report on Socially Responsible Investment and Responsible Investment. We need to unpack these wordings to see what it means for us in South Africa,” said Meharchand. ____________________________________________________________________ 3
  4. 4. The Daily Star: Breathing life back into Lebanon's environment Commentary by Tuesday, September 05, 2006 Commentary by Achim Steiner You can clean up the language of war and conflict - smart bombs, surgical strikes, collateral damage, friendly fire - but cleaning up the consequences is a far more difficult task. Our first thoughts are of the people on both sides of the conflict and the urgent need for food, water, medicines and shelter. However, reconstruction and the humanitarian efforts should and must remedy the environmental damage with its links to livelihoods, public health and human well-being. The most high-profile wounds inflicted on the environment have come from the up to 15,000 tons of fuel oil which spilled from the Jiyyeh power station tanks after they were damaged by Israeli bombardment in mid- July. Some 150 kilometers of the Lebanese coast and coastal waters have been affected by the pollution, as have parts of the Syrian coast. Sadly the conflict blocked the international community's early response to this environmental emergency. Now that the guns have been silenced we can finally address this issue. As I write, helicopter surveillance flights are taking to the air to confirm the precise quantities of oil that may still be at sea. Clean-up of the coastline is under way at some sites, courtesy of action by the Lebanese authorities and NGOs and as a result of technical support and equipment coming in from countries in the region and Europe. An action plan, agreed recently at a meeting in Athens co-hosted by UNEP and the International Maritime Organization which jointly administer a regional Mediterranean oil spill center (REMPEC), has estimated that more than $60 million will be needed to fully address the threat. We are concerned about endangered and threatened species like turtles and sea-bird colonies at reserves like those of the Palm Islands. But we also know the oil has economic consequences for the hotel and tourism industries and for fishing communities. It would be unduly optimistic to imagine that holidaymakers will be flocking to Lebanon over the coming weeks and months. But we must ensure that when the time comes and confidence returns that clean and attractive coves, beaches and bathing waters are there to welcome returning holidaymakers. The wider impact of the conflict is also high in our minds. Sadly, UNEP has had to gain considerable expertise in post-conflict assessments from the Balkans and Afghanistan to Iraq and Liberia. We have assured the Lebanese authorities this expertise will be made available to them so we can understand how damaged infrastructure may have polluted the air, land and freshwaters. http://www.dailystar.com.lb It will be important to also pinpoint any potential pollution hotspots and recommend and assist in clean- up and making these safe. The UNEP Post Conflict Assessment Branch has carried out a preliminary desk assessment and we have made available funding to send a team which, if conditions permit, could be there in three to four weeks. The field work will be carried out in close collaboration with the joint UNEP/Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs unit, our Regional Office for West Asia in Bahrain and of course the Lebanese authorities. The work will have various elements looking at, for example, direct impact on underground water supplies from the destruction of various targets including bridges, fuel depots and other buildings. 4
  5. 5. It is also expected to assess the impact of disruption of power supplies. For example, how disposal of untreated sewage may have had an impact on rivers, soils and the sea and the consequences of healthcare wastes in the absence of incineration. There are also possible consequences of the breakdown of municipal services like industrial waste collection and processing. Other issues surround the impact on the environment by refugees and displaced people as well as the legacy of the weapons used. The assessment will also involve laboratory testing and the training of local Lebanese experts in the field in monitoring techniques and environmental remediation methods. An action plan, detailing priority sites in need of immediate clean-up and those with a longer-term horizon, will also be drawn up. I sincerely hope and indeed expect that the international community will, as they have done in the past, assist with the necessary funding to undertake this vital work. Funding so we can lift the pollution threat from Lebanon's lands as swiftly as is humanly possible. Funding so that the people of Lebanon can more quickly and safely piece back their shattered lives and livelihoods and rebuild stability and peace. Funding so that a rehabilitated environment can play its crucial role in hastening Lebanon's economic recovery. Achim Steiner is UN undersecretary general and executive director of the UN Environment Program (UNEP). He wrote this commentary for the September issue of Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia (Environment & Development) magazine, which is distributed today. It is a part of an extensive profile on the environmental impact of the war in Lebanon, published in the same issue, entitled "Environment under Siege." ____________________________________________________________________________ Diaro Granma: Cuba reduce sustancias agotadoras de la capa de ozono ALBERTO NÚÑEZ BETANCOURT alberto.enb@granma.cip.cu La sustitución de cientos de miles de refrigeradores y equipos de aire acondicionado, de los millones que se prevé como parte de la Revolución Energética, es un aporte considerable a la protección del medio ambiente, y en particular de la capa de ozono, afirmó Nelson Espinosa, director de la Oficina Técnica del Ozono, al informar sobre la constante reducción en Cuba del empleo de las sustancias agotadoras del llamado "escudo de la Tierra". Nuestro país cumple sus compromisos con el Protocolo de Montreal al disminuir la emisión a la atmósfera de estos gases contaminantes. Gracias a efectivas labores, hoy se ha reducido en un 50% el escape de los clorofluorocarbonos (CFC): en un 20% el uso del bromuro de metilo en la fumigación de suelos, almacenes e instalaciones industriales, en un 30% el metilclorofomo y en un 85% el tetracloruro de carbono, además de no consumir los gases halones, que contienen bromo. Otras medidas aplicadas son la recuperación y reciclaje del gas Freón 12 y el adiestramiento en buenas prácticas de refrigeración de 4 200 mecánicos y técnicos, lo que significa más del 90% de ese personal especializado. El reto mayor de Cuba para el año 2007 será reducir hasta el 85% del consumo de CFC. En este sentido, se trabaja por poner en marcha una planta de aerosoles libres de tales sustancias nocivas. 5
  6. 6. En fecha cercana al Día Mundial para la Protección de la Capa de Ozono, el próximo 16 de septiembre, el agujero tiene una extensión de 25 millones de kilómetros cuadrados. Estamos justo en el periodo (de agosto a noviembre) en que tal abertura tiende a crecer. A pesar de los esfuerzos de un buen número de países por disminuir la cantidad de emisiones de gases contaminantes a la atmósfera, de acuerdo con una evaluación científica del Fondo de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente (PNUMA) y la Organización Meteorológica Mundial, la recuperación de la capa de ozono sobre las latitudes medias deberá ocurrir alrededor del año 2050; el ozono sobre el Antártico se recuperará para el 2065. Con respecto a la eliminación paulatina del bromuro de metilo, se aprecia una actitud consciente entre los países industrializados y subdesarrollados. La única excepción en esta práctica es Estados Unidos, que se vale de subterfugios para continuar con el empleo de la nociva sustancia. 6
  7. 7. Other Environment News BBC: Iceland to begin whalemeat trade By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News website Iceland is to begin exporting whalemeat from its scientific whaling programme. Iceland's whaling commissioner told the BBC that up to two tonnes of minke whalemeat would be exported to the Faroe Islands. Environmental groups say the deal breaches international rules on trading threatened species, though Iceland and the Faroe Islands say it does not. Campaigners also say the trade could become a smokescreen for illegal hunting of whales. Although commercial whaling is banned worldwide, Iceland, like Japan, hunts minke whales for "scientific research"; this year its boats caught about 60 individuals. Until now, meat from the hunt has been sold in Iceland. THE LEGALITIES OF WHALING Objection - A country formally objects to the IWC moratorium, declaring itself exempt Scientific - A nation issues unilateral 'scientific permits'; any IWC member can do this Aboriginal - IWC grants permits to indigenous groups for subsistence food But the country's whaling commissioner Stefan Asmundsson told the BBC News website that exports to the Faroe Islands will begin soon. "Essentially Iceland and the Faroes established a joint trade area, and because of that we do not have any limits on exporting whalemeat to the Faroes any more than any other products," he said. "Our motivation is to increase trade and therefore prosperity in both countries." Countries and borders Environmental groups believe the trade is illegal under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which prevents member countries from exporting or importing products of "listed" species unless they have tabled a "reservation". Iceland has tabled a reservation on minkes; but Denmark, which includes the Faroes as a dependent territory, has not. There is no environmental reason for opposing sustainable whaling Stefan Asmundsson "We think it's illegal under Cites, and we are onto it," said Arni Finnsson from the Iceland Nature Conservation Association (Inca). The key issue is whether Denmark acts on behalf of the Faroes, which are now largely self- governing, in Cites matters. In 2003, when Norway began whalemeat exports to the Faroes, Cites secretary-general Willem Wijnstekers ruled the deal illegal because of Denmark's membership. Since then, Denmark has told Cites that the Faroes are exempt; and the Faroes Islands government said in a statement: "In conjunction with Denmark's ratification of the Cites convention in 1977, a unilateral declaration was submitted noting that the convention would be applicable in the Faroe Islands when the Faroese authorities had established the necessary legislation. 7
  8. 8. "As such legislation has not been established in the Faroe Islands, the declaration made by Denmark in 1977 still applies; Cites provisions... are not applicable to the Faroe Islands." The Danish government says it continues to press the Faroes to implement Cites legislation; in the meantime, environmental groups disagree with the Faroes exemption and are looking at the possibilities of a legal challenge. Betrayals of trust As often happens with whaling, protagonists on both sides of the issue cite what they see as past betrayals. Faroe Islanders have a tradition of catching and eating whales, and say that the 1986 global moratorium on commercial hunting should by now have been lifted - which anti-whaling nations and environmental groups want to prevent at all costs. Anti-whaling campaigners say the Faroes made a public promise in 1977, when Denmark joined Cites, to turn Cites rules into national legislation and abide by its terms. "Twenty-nine year later, they still don't have [national legislation]", observed Vassili Papastavrou of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw). "Iceland has no DNA register of whales killed, so the tiny amount being exported will achieve nothing more than to act as a cover for illegal whaling in the Faroe Islands," he told the BBC News website. This year's meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) saw a victory for pro- whaling nations with the passing of the "St Kitts Declaration" approving an eventual return to commercial hunting, with the countries voting in favour including Denmark. The past year has also seen an expansion of Japan's catch, which it also takes under regulations permitting scientific hunting. The position of these countries is that there is nothing morally wrong with whaling, and that numbers of some stocks are high enough to permit sustainable hunting. "Iceland's position is that we put whaling into two categories - sustainable and unsustainable," said Stefan Asmundsson. "We are firmly against unsustainable whaling; but in the long term we just see whaling as another activity, and anyone who opposes sustainable whaling is not doing so from an environmental perspective because there is no environmental reason for opposing sustainable whaling." Anti-whaling countries such as Germany, Brazil and Belgium have vowed to redouble efforts to prevent the return of commercial hunting, and have lodged diplomatic protests against Japan and Norway over the last year. Richard.Black-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/5319734.stm _____________________________________________________________________ ENS: Environmental News Service: Melting Russian Permafrost Could Accelerate Global Warming WASHINGTON, DC, September 7, 2006 (ENS) - Melting permafrost in Siberia is releasing five times the amount of the potent greenhouse gas methane than previously thought, according to a study published today by American and Russian scientists. The study adds to concern that 8
  9. 9. global warming is causing changes in the environment that will accelerate the greenhouse effect. The research team recorded the bubbling of methane at two thawing lakes in northern Siberia using aerial surveys, remote sensors and year-round measurements. The scientists found the expansion of the lakes between 1974 and 2000, fueled by a period of regional warming, increased methane emissions by 58 percent. The melting permafrost releases carbon-rich remains of plants and animals. These remains sink to the bottom of the lakes, decompose and produce methane that bubbles up to the surface and into the atmosphere. The methane released dates back to the Pleistocene age - some 40,000 years ago, according to study coauthor Jeff Chanton, a scientist with Florida State University. "It's clear that the process, described by scientists as 'positive feedback to global warming,' has led to the release of old carbon stocks once stored in the permafrost," Chanton said. "This is not good for the quality of human life on Earth." The researchers point to the thawing permafrost along the margins of the thaw lakes, which comprise 90 percent of the lakes in the Russian permafrost zone, as the primary source of methane released in the region. More than 4 million tons of methane is being released by Siberia's array of lakes and wetlands, the researchers said, a figure that is 10 to 63 percent higher than previous estimates. They said that understanding the contribution of North Siberia thaw lakes to global atmospheric methane is critical because the concentration of the greenhouse gas is highest at that latitude. Furthermore, methane concentrations have risen sharply in recent decades and exhibit a significant seasonal jump at those high northern latitudes. Although nowhere near as prevalent or long-lasting as carbon dioxide, methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas, with more than 20 times the heat-trapping effect of carbon dioxide. Methane is released by humans through burning of grasslands, forest and wood fuel as well as by intense livestock activity, rice cultivation, and industrial sources - and there is little doubt these activities have boosted methane levels in the atmosphere. A study released Monday by the British Antarctic Survey found that in the past 800,000 years methane had never tipped 750 parts per billion (ppb), but is now 1,780 ppb. But scientists across the world have raised concerns in recent years that global warming could dramatically increase methane and carbon dioxide emissions from natural sources, including permafrost, and thus cause more warming. There is particulate worry about the Siberian permafrost, which was a lush grassland teeming with plants and wildlife when it was frozen some 40,000 years ago. In June scientists with the Russian Academy of Sciences warned that the Russian permafrost - known as "yedoma" - could contain some 500 billion tons of carbon, as much as all the rest of the world's permafrost. 9
  10. 10. Last year American scientists reported that permafrost is melting across the Northern Hemisphere, altering ecosystems and damaging roads and buildings across Alaska, Canada, and Russia. They predicted that more than half the area covered by this topmost layer of permafrost could thaw by 2050 and as much as 90 percent by 2100. _____________________________________________________________________________ News Scientist: Drugs, crime and a conservation crisis 01 September 2006 NewScientist.com news service Where the wild things are In the southern reaches of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, majestic cardon cacti stand sentry over the dusty red desert, which crumbles into the turquoise waters of the Gulf of California. But in this striking landscape, dark forces are at work. Within an hour of leaving the airport at the resort of Loreto, our truck is flagged down at a checkpoint set up by federal agents. They include inspectors from the environment ministry searching for abalone and other illegally harvested wildlife. Calling the shots are members of the AFI - the Mexican equivalent of the FBI - clad in flak jackets and armed with semi- automatic rifles. They are looking for narcotics. I am here with Wallace J. Nichols, a biologist with the California Academy of Sciences and The Ocean Conservancy, who since 1993 has studied endangered sea turtles off the Baja coasts and worked with local fishermen to reverse their decline. These efforts are threatened by the trade in illegal drugs. New Scientist's inquiries suggest that the narcotics trade is a serious but largely neglected impediment to conservation efforts. Drug production and trafficking can damage sensitive ecosystems, and some projects, such as those run by Nichols, are undermined by epidemics of addiction among local people (see "Loggerheads and crackheads"). In other cases, biologists and officials who should be enforcing environmental laws are kept away by the threat of violence. Given the dangers, there have been few studies to quantify the problem. Researchers and conservation organisations are often reluctant to discuss the issue, which is seen as intractable and outside the realm of science. "This is an extremely important issue, and one that is not talked about enough," says Thomas Brooks of Conservation International's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science in Washington DC. Remote biodiversity hotspots make ideal bases for narcotics production and trafficking. The problems are particularly acute along the smuggling routes of Latin America, from the forests of Colombia to the Mexican staging posts from which drug runners make their final push into the US. The situation is often made worse by efforts to crack down on the trade. Mexico is on the front line. According to the US Department of State, up to 90 per cent of cocaine consumed in the US enters via Mexico. Mexican growers also produce some 30 per cent of the heroin on the US market. And in recent years, "superlabs" south of the border have become the major source of methamphetamine, a powerfully addictive synthetic drug. The entire business is controlled by powerful and ruthless cartels that exert a strong influence through official corruption. 10
  11. 11. Travelling through Baja, almost everyone has a story about the narcotics trade. Cecilia Fischer, who works for a developer in Loreto, recalls a stand-off three years ago when she was part of a team trying to eradicate introduced animals on local islands. Her camp was disturbed in the dead of night by armed men expecting to pick up a drugs shipment. "Had the hunters with us not had guns, I don't know where we would have been," says Fischer. Officials employed to prevent poaching of turtles and other marine species live in fear of the drug runners, who want to keep government boats out of the water. "They've had gunfire over their homes at night, flattened tyres or smashed windshields on their vehicles - things that have made them back off from doing their job," Nichols says. Compared to some parts of Mexico, the Baja peninsula is relatively safe. The Sierra Madre highlands (see Map) are a centre for marijuana and opium cultivation, and the gangs that control the trade jealously guard their territory. Dean Hendrickson, a fish biologist at the University of Texas at Austin, says that the threat of violence hampers his attempts to survey streams in the area. "We always work with local guides," he says. "Frequently they'll say: 'Maybe you'd like to go down that canyon, but just don't.'" Where marijuana and opium is grown, the disturbance can displace animals such as jaguars, which may then be shot by ranchers, says ecologist Sandra Guido at the Research Centre for Food and Development in Mazatlán, Mexico. One small benefit is that the lawlessness cuts off remote areas, preventing further habitat destruction. For the most part, though, the negatives outweigh such locally positive effects. The fragile Sonoran desert near the US border is a case in point. It has become a major drugs route in recent years, as border controls tighten around Tijuana and other cities. "The fieldwork I do in north- west Mexico is severely impacted," says Richard Felger, a botanist and director of the Drylands Institute in Tucson, Arizona. "Everyone has guns now." Some sites have become too dangerous to visit and on one occasion Felger was robbed while a gun was held to his forehead. Violence is spilling over the US border. Skirmishes between drug runners and the US border patrol threaten endangered animals - including the Sonoran pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis), now down to a few dozen individuals in Arizona. "They're highly sensitive to disturbance," says Kathy Billings, superintendent of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. For US conservation biologists, encountering drug-related violence is a new experience. At the other end of the smuggling routes, in the forests of Colombia, it has been a fact of life for many years. Since the 1990s, cocaine production in Colombia has largely been controlled by leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries. Thomas Defler, a primatologist now at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá, ran into trouble with the largest left-wing group, the FARC, in the late 1990s while working near the Brazilian border. First, one commander demanded $5000 from him for permission to carry on working. "I was going to give it to them," Defler admits, though fortunately that faction was run out of the area before it could collect the money. Then in 1998 Defler was expelled from his field stationby another FARC unit. Detained by the rebels and expecting to be shot, Defler escaped by diving from a boat then making his way through the forest over three nights. "I've got a huge list of places I'd like to go, but I can't, either because of guerrillas or drugs production," he says. 11
  12. 12. Colombia is also one of the few places where scientists have tried to assess the impact of drug production on conservation. At Javeriana University in Bogotá, Andrés Etter has used satellite images to study deforestation in Caquetá, a biodiversity hotspot in the Colombian Amazon. He found that it reached a peak between 1996 and 1999, when coca cultivation was booming in areas controlled by the FARC. The most comprehensive studies come from a researcher at Columbia University in New York, who has pieced together a picture of the ecological impact of drugs cultivation from a variety of sources. A Colombian national, she writes under the pseudonym of María Álvarez to ensure her personal safety. In 2002, Álvarez revealed that clearance for cultivation of coca and opium poppies had risen to account for half of the deforestation in Colombia, threatening the survival of some bird populations (New Scientist, 3 August 2002, p 10). Since then, she has extended her analysis to the whole of the tropical Andes, including Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. The good news is that it should be possible to preserve most birds endemic to the region by protecting areas that are not yet affected by drug production. "But birds aren't the whole story," Álvarez says. What's more, her studies suggest that efforts to eradicate drug crops by spraying them with glyphosate herbicide are making the problem worse, by driving growers to clear more forest. Since 2000, as part of an anti-drugs initiative called Plan Colombia, backed to the tune of $4.7 billion by the US government, vast quantities of glyphosate have been sprayed in Colombia's remote forests. It seems to have done little to curb drug production. Ecologists are worried about the effects of the sprays, especially surfactant chemicals that are added to help the herbicide penetrate foliage. Frogs and toads, which are highly sensitive to pollution, are a particular concern. John Lynch, a herpetologist at the National University of Colombia, would like to investigate the effects on amphibian populations. But having been kidnapped by leftist guerrillas in 1999 and again in 2000, he is not prepared to take the risk. Such dilemmas help explain why few conservation organisations are addressing the narcotics issue. It is also a difficult topic for groups that rely on a "wholesome" image to attract public donations. "It's not something that foundations necessarily want to print in their annual reports," says Nichols. "It's considered unstoppable. And I think people perceive the danger involved in engaging with it in any way." The conservation organisation WWF, for instance, is running into narcotics-related problems in the forests of Chocó-Darién, near the Colombia-Panama border. "The issue of drug use and production is very far removed from our expertise," says Tom Lalley, spokesman for WWF-US. "We're dealing with very powerful forces which can put our people in danger." Nichols argues that conservationists cannot ignore the issue. He wants to see more studies to quantify the problem, and believes field workers must forge links with public health organisations to try and find solutions. Ultimately, fundamental change may only happen if there is a shift in strategy in the US-led war on drugs, currently dominated by attempts to reduce supply by targeting illicit crops and drug smugglers. Laurie Freeman, a fellow of a non-governmental organisation called the Washington 12
  13. 13. Office on Latin America, has studied the escalating drug-related violence in Mexico and believes the answer lies in efforts to reduce demand in the US, and a broader approach to aiding Latin American countries in their anti-drugs efforts. "You need to have the whole system: education, healthcare, the judiciary and economic development," she says. "It's going to be really difficult. Drug cartels are only getting more powerful, more corrupting, and more dangerous." Loggerheads and crackheads A decade ago, when Wallace J. Nichols first showed up at Isla Magdalena, on the Pacific coast of Baja California, it was a depressing scene. He counted around 240 dead turtles washed up along 45 kilometres of beach. Most were loggerheads (Caretta caretta), which had begun their days on nesting beaches in Japan. Some 300 turtles still wash up each year; when we visit Isla Magdalena in early August there is another carcass to haul to one of the "turtle cemeteries" beneath the dunes. By working with local fishermen, Nichols and graduate student Hoyt Peckham of the University of California, Santa Cruz, have found out why this slaughter is happening and how to reduce it. The problem is that a burgeoning drug trade in the area may be undoing their good work. Through radio-tracking and aerial surveys, Nichols and Peckham have shown that juvenile and immature loggerheads congregate in a spot just off the Baja coast, where they feed mostly on swimming red crabs. The area is also frequented by small fishing boats, which set gill nets for halibut and lay long lines with multiple hooks for sharks. Both snare loggerheads, and this kills many more turtles than the industrial-scale fisheries in Hawaii, which are closely regulated to reduce encounters with migrating turtles. It does not have to be this way. Working with Peckham and Nichols, gill-net fishermen from the nearby village of Puerto López Mateos have found they get better catches if they stay within 12 kilometres of the shore, away from the turtle hotspot. Most fishermen from this village are now voluntarily doing so. López Mateos is only one of several villages on this stretch of coast, though, and elsewhere it is harder to engage with the fishermen. The main problem is an epidemic of crack cocaine and methamphetamine abuse, fed into these communities by drug traffickers who use the villages as stopovers. "Fishermen are really unlikely to think about sustainable seafood if their main concern is their next fix," says Nichols. Just down the coast, at Puerto San Carlos, we talk with an abalone poacher who helps Nichols with his turtle monitoring. He says his village is going down an "ugly road". Of his friends from school, he can count on one hand those who are not using drugs. In some communities, 80 per cent of fishermen are addicted, Nichols says. Nichols fears for the impact the drugs trade is having both on the turtles and his Mexican friends. "Clearly, the major concern is the health of the people we work with," he says. "But secondarily, there's a big impact on efforts to conserve and manage natural resources." 13
  14. 14. ______________________________________________________________________ Reuters: US Funds Project to Pump Oil, Fight Global Warming US: September 7, 2006 WASHINGTON - The US Energy Department said on Wednesday it would spend US$3 million to help fund an demonstration project in Alabama that will inject carbon dioxide (CO2) into a mature oil reservoir to push out more crude and also displace greenhouse gases. The department said once the field is depleted, it could then be used to store carbon dioxide, instead of releasing the gas into the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming. The carbon dioxide injected into the oil field would act much like the C02 in a soda can when it fizzes and forces out liquid. In a field, the CO2 would thin the crude left behind, pressurize it, and move the oil to producing wells. The project, proposed by the University of Alabama in Birmingham, calls for flooding the state's Cintronelle oil field in Mobile County with CO2. The Cintronelle field is the state's largest oil producing field. The department chose the field for the project because of its uniform geological structure and for the fact that the field has already been flooded with water to recover oil. But with so-called CO2 flooding, about 20 percent more of the oil originally in a reservoir can be recovered. At the Cintronelle field, the department said an extra 64 million barrels might be squeezed out using the technique. When the all economically-recoverable oil is removed, the reservoir and adjacent formations can then become storage sites for C02 produced from the coal and natural gas burned at nearby power plants. Southern Company one of the country's biggest electricity generators, is looking into using such reservoirs for CO2 storage. Using C02 for enhanced oil recovery now produces about 237,000 barrels of crude a day, equal to almost 5 percent of total US oil output. However, CO2 flooding is very expensive without a readily available source of gas. That's why about half the world's CO2 flooding takes place in the Permian Basin oil reservoirs in West Texas and New Mexico, which are close to some of the biggest natural CO2 sources. But the department said using the technology at current fields could increase C02-enhanced oil production to 500,000 barrels a day by 2012 and to 2 million barrels by 2020. Story by Tom Doggett Associated Press: EU Commission Proposes Cleanup Strategy for Mediterranean September 06, 2006 — BRUSSELS, Belgium — The European Commission on Wednesday proposed a strategy to clean up the Mediterranean and halt pollution from industry, shipping and households by 2020. 14
  15. 15. It said the major oil spill off Lebanon during the recent Israel-Hezbollah war highlighted the vulnerability of the Mediterranean where pollution threatens the health of the 143 million people living on the sea's shores and the long-term development of such key sectors as fishing and tourism. It estimated pollution now costs "the equivalent of more than 3 percent of the gross domestic product of some North African nations." "We have to act for the promotion of economic development of the Mediterranean and the protection of the health of its people," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in a statement. He proposed a long-term strategy of financial and technical support for EU neighbors along the Mediterranean's eastern and southern shores. Officials put no price tag on that but said funding would come in the years ahead from a variety of sources including the EU budget and International lenders. The key aims are to reduce pollution, promote sustainable use of the sea and its coastline, encourage environmental cooperation and the drafting of credible environmental protection legislation, said Dimas. The EU strategy will target the most significant sources of pollution -- industrial emissions, municipal waste and urban waste water, which are responsible for up to 80 percent of Mediterranean Sea pollution, said Dimas. The EU hopes to finalize its strategy at a gathering of Euro-Med Environment Ministers in Cairo on 20 November. Source: Associated Press __________________________________________________________________________ The Guardian: When water bubbles signal a volcanic big bang Early warning offers 'holy grail of volcanology' - the more the moisture, the bigger the eruption Alok Jha, science correspondent Thursday September 7, 2006 The Guardian Scientists have found a possible early warning system which could help them to predict major volcanic eruptions, based on the amount of water in magma, the molten rock thrown out during minor activity. Researchers have found that the more water there is in the magma, the more likely the volcano is to erupt violently. As the magma deep underground rises to the surface, it crystallises with the reduction in pressure and the water forms bubbles.The magma releases heat, and its temperature rises from 900C to 1000C. When the molten rock reaches the surface, the combination of water bubbles and temperature increase blows out the magma with explosive force, much like champagne spurting from a bottle when it is uncorked. "By looking in great detail at the erupting rock, we've been able to show that, as the magma ascends beneath the volcano prior to an eruption, it crystallises in 15
  16. 16. response to the drop in pressure and it also gets hotter," said Professor Jon Blundy of Bristol University, who led the work, published today in Nature. "This work is now being used to gauge the direction of current volcanic activity at Mount St Helens in the US and could be applied to any active volcano for which monitoring and petrological records are available." The magma can increase in temperature by about 100C in just a few years. This provides a trigger for an eruption without the need for an outside heat source, such as hotter magma below. Scientists normally monitor active volcanoes by measuring how the ground around them deforms and how the gases they release change over time. Local earthquakes can also provide clues on how magma is moving under a volcano. Explosive volcanic eruptions are caused by the escape of gases from magma stored in underground reservoirs. Monitoring magma has been difficult because it is so far below the Earth's surface. "What we've done is study little droplets of volcanic liquid that are trapped inside the magma as it rises to the surface," said Madeleine Humphreys of Cambridge University, speaking yesterday at the British Association festival of science in Norwich. By measuring the water and chemical content of these droplets, called melt inclusions, the researchers were able to tell how the magma was moving underneath the volcano and what condition it was in. If the magma is at high pressure under the volcano, it will contain a lot of water and can form a lot of bubbles. "The sort of material that's ejected by a volcano during its precursory activity could hold the clues to what's going on underground and might indicate what might happen in the future," said Prof Blundy. "More bubbles, more explosive eruptions. If the magma is stored at a low pressure, [there is] potential to form bubbles and less explosive potential." In their study, the researchers looked at the lava thrown out of Mount St Helens in the US and Shiveluch in Kamchatka, Russia. Mount St Helens erupted in May 1980 because of sudden decompression of the magma under the volcano. Prof Blundy said the release of pressure was like smashing the top off a bottle of champagne after giving it a vigorous shake. Mount St Helens lay dormant until 2004, when large columns of magma started erupting from the top of the volcano. Analysis of current eruptions shows that it is unlikely to explode soon, Prof Blundy said. Combining the analysis of melt inclusions with traditional observations of volcanoes was the "holy grail of modern volcanology," he said. _____________________________________________________________________________ Earthvision.net:Research Shows Large-Scale Farming Causes Major Amazon Forest Loss GreenBiz.com COLLEGE PARK, Maryland, Sept. 7, 2006 - A University of Maryland-led study of Amazon deforestation in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso shows that direct conversion of forest to cropland in the state totaled over 2000 sq. miles (540,000 hectares) during 2001-2004, peaking in 2003 at 23 percent of all deforestation for that year. According to the researchers, the findings signal a shift in deforestation from the historic uses of cattle ranching and small-plot farming toward large-scale agriculture. 16
  17. 17. Published this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study found that clearings for cropland averaged twice the size of clearings for pasture and conversion occurred rapidly with more than 90 percent of clearings for cropland planted in the first year following deforestation. Over the four year study period, deforestation for large-scale cropland accounted for 17 percent of forest loss in large clearings. However, area deforested for cropland and the mean annual soybean price in the year of forest clearing were directly correlated, suggesting that deforestation rates could return to higher levels seen in 2003-2004 with a rebound of crop prices in international markets, the authors say. "There has been a lot of debate recently about the role of large-scale agriculture in Amazon deforestation, said University of Maryland geographer Ruth DeFries, who led the study. “This study on one hand refutes the claim that agricultural intensification does not cause new deforestation. On the other hand, it shows that clearing for pasture rather than intensive mechanized agriculture remains the dominant cause of deforestation in the state of Mato Grosso," DeFries said. The team combined deforestation maps, field surveys and satellite-based information to see what happened to large plots (greater than 60 acres) of rainforest after they were cleared. Clear areas were characterized as cropland, cattle pasture, or re-growing forest in the years following initial clearing in Mato Grosso, the Brazilian state with the highest rate of both deforestation and soybean production since 2001. ____________________________________________________________________________ New York Times: Blaze Devastates Wilderness Area Prized for Beauty By JIM ROBBINS McLEOD, Mont., Sept. 6 — The Boulder Valley, which bumps up against the wilderness north of Yellowstone National Park, is a quiet corner with an unusual mix of residents. They include celebrities, the merely wealthy, ranchers and others drawn to a place of quiet beauty. But nature has gone from serene to tempestuous of late. A fire that was detected on Aug. 22, started by lightning at Derby Mountain, has burned more than 185,000 acres. In the last two days, the blaze has turned this valley where “The Horse Whisperer” was filmed, into a raging caldron with flames sweeping through huge stands of trees and thick banks of smoke turning daytime into twilight and the sun into a glowing red ball. Montana is in an extended drought, fire officials say, and it is as dry as when fires swept through Yellowstone in 1988. The state is also battling a shortage of fire crews and equipment because so many fires are burning across the West. “We’re going as quick as we can, but people are fatigued,” said Wally Bennett, the firefighting director. Though officials said the Derby fire was 45 percent contained, it jumped the first of two bulldozer lines on Wednesday in some places along the Boulder River. The lines had been hastily scraped around ranch houses and outbuildings, and the second line held, officials said. Firefighters spent Tuesday night dousing houses to protect them and setting backfires. 17
  18. 18. A lack of wind has prevented a firestorm like one that erupted last week, but the forecast included a red-flag warning for high winds. Winds up to 60 miles an hour spread the fire rapidly east of here last week, near Absarokee, where it destroyed 26 houses. “I’ll never forget the sound when the fire came,” said Janis Maclean, a waitress at the Grand Hotel in Big Timber who has a house near Bridger Creek. “It sounded like the roar of jet engines.” Ms. Maclean’s house was spared, but it sits in a tiny island of green surrounded by burned forest as far as the eye can see. “We did a little dance when the fire missed us,” she said. “But things have really changed.” The fire is devastating to a region whose chief economic asset is its scenic beauty. Things have been tough at the McLeod Resort, which offers cabins and parking for campers near the post office and the lone store in town. “We were full a couple of days ago,” a resort owner, Courtney Rue, said from the back of his pickup cradling a beer and watching helicopters drop water on the flames. “But everybody cleared out Sunday when the fire blew up.” Keith and Marie Engle, who own the cattle ranch where “The Horse Whisperer” was filmed, said they were staying put despite an official evacuation order. “There’s no way we could leave and leave our livestock and buildings behind,” Ms. Engle said. “We have a big irrigating gun, and we’re watering down our buildings, and I think we’re in pretty good shape.” Ranchers whose grazing land burned had heavy losses. “Short term, it will be tough,” said Sonny Todd, a real estate agent and rancher who lost 1,800 acres of range to the fire. “We’ve lost all our grass for one year.” Ranchers without grass may have to sell cattle, Mr. Todd said, though rangeland typically recovers after a year. His real estate business will take a hit, he said, adding: “I had half a dozen ranch listings burned out. So they’re on hold. The immediate effect will be that they probably cut the land value in half.” Land has recently sold for $5,000 to $25,000 an acre. Martin Flanagan, who ranches with his father near Big Timber, said the fire forced his family to move cattle to a swamp. Mr. Flanagan said he worried about how the destruction of so much grass would affect elk and deer herds. “It’s going to be a tough winter for some of those critters,” he said. Mr. Todd sounded optimistic. “Maybe I sound too much like a Realtor,” he said. “But you’d be surprised how things come back. In five years, it’s a nonimpact.” The first order of business, though, is to put out the fire. 18
  19. 19. _____________________________________________________________________________ The Independent (UK): Farmers recruited to help return our land to the lapwing By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor Published: 07 September 2006 Britain's most ambitious wild bird recovery programme is being launched to bring back the lapwing, the handsome plover that once bred on every farm, but is now declining everywhere. In a five-year project, more than 250 trial sites will be used to test measures to help the bird that has been hit harder than any other by the changes in UK farming practice over 40 years. The total population has shrunk by nearly half, and in many places the bird has vanished. The scheme, to be run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) involves co- operation with farmers, as lapwings are essentially farmland birds and only a fraction of the population breeds on nature reserves. It will identify measures such as creating wet fields or changing grazing regimes, which may become part of the Government's agri-environment schemes - so the farmers get paid for carrying them out. The initiative will please bird lovers. Also known as green plovers and peewits, lapwings are striking birds with black and white underparts, a glossy green back and a wispy crest, and for centuries they were one of the commonest, best-loved and most stirring sights of the countryside. In spring, their tumbling aerial courtship display is unforgettable, and in summer they show remarkable defensive behaviour, feigning injury to draw intruders away from the nest. They were also traditional providers of a countryside delicacy - plover's eggs. (Taking the eggs is now illegal). But when intensive farming came to Britain, lapwings were hit from several different directions at once. The birds like to nest in mixed farmland, where arable and pasture land are close together: they would nest in the crops then take their chicks to the grassland to feed. But with intensification, mixed farming is disappearing. The switch to autumn-sown crops meant they could not nest in the spring fields where the crops were already high; the change from making hay to making silage meant the earlier grass-cutting wiped out their nests; the increased use of fertiliser meant fewer of the larger insects on which the chicks feed. The result was a population crash of 46 per cent between 1970 and 2004, and 21 per cent from 1994 to 2005 alone. The greatest decline has been in Wales, where numbers dropped by 77 per cent between 1988 and 1999. There are now about 156,000 breeding lapwing pairs left in the UK. The RSPB's recovery programme is remarkably bold in its scale: it will deal with farms across the Peak District in Derbyshire, Lancashire's Forest of Bowland, the North Pennines, south- eastern Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In each of the areas, RSPB researchers have selected between 40 and 60 trial sites for study. In the Forest of Bowland, 15 farms are implementing lapwing-friendly measures - such as wetting fields, creating ditches and scrapes - currently included in the Government's agri-environment schemes. Another 15 are using more specialist practices, called management-plus, and the remaining 15 are being farmed as controls, with no lapwing-specific measures. Laund Farm in south Bowland, where lapwings are known as "chewits", is one of the management-plus sites, and the farmer, Simon Stott, won the RSPB's 19
  20. 20. Lapwing Champion competition in 2005. Mr Stott has been helping lapwings for several years and had 16 pairs nesting on 100 acres of his 500-acre farm this year, compared with five in 2003. "The RSPB thought the land would be suitable for lapwings and as it wasn't good for anything else, I thought I'd give it a go," he said. "The lapwings eat the flukeworm, which would otherwise cause disease in my sheep. Other farmers have rough land, which is ideal for lapwing. "They want to do something with it but don't realise they can be paid for helping wildlife. If they do what I've done they should see their land improved and lapwing coming back at the same time. I now have a brigade of lapwings, and oystercatchers and snipe too. The lapwings are the first sign of spring for me, and if land can be made fit for wildlife I think it's worth doing." In the past the lapwing was so familiar that it has more vernacular names than any other bird, ranging from tieves' nacket in Shetland to pie-wipe in Norfolk. Its haunting "peewit" cry has given rise to a number of names other than peewit, including peasiewheep (east Scotland) and chewit (Lancashire). It is also known as tuefit (Co Durham), toppyup (Borders), lappinch (Cheshire) flopwing (from its flight) and hornpie (from its crest). Places named after lapwings include Tewitfield near Lancaster, Tivetshall St Mary near Diss in Norfolk and Pyewipe near Grimsby. Pubs named after the bird include the Peewit in Bedfordshire and Pyewipe in Lincolnshire. Bird of Chaucer and Shakespeare * Also known as the green plover, flopwing and hornpie. * Lapwings average 29cm in length, with a much longer wingspan. They eat earthworms, leatherjackets, spiders and beetles. * Lapwings produce one brood of up to four chicks and nest on open land with short vegetation. They can lay up to five clutches in a season. * Lapwing eggs were once widely sought for consumption but the 1926 Lapwing Act restricted egg gathering. * "Much esteemed" lapwing eggs are mentioned in the 1861 book, Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management. * The Ministry of Food turned lapwing eggs into powder for Second World War egg rations. * The parent birds flap their wings on the ground to feign injury to distract predators. * The Greek name for the bird was polyplagktos, which means luring on deceitfully. The collective term is a deceit. * Chaucer describes the lapwing as "ful of trecherye" in Parlement Of Foules while Shakespeare mentions the bird in Hamlet, Measure For Measure, and The Comedy Of Errors. 20
  21. 21. Britain's most ambitious wild bird recovery programme is being launched to bring back the lapwing, the handsome plover that once bred on every farm, but is now declining everywhere. In a five-year project, more than 250 trial sites will be used to test measures to help the bird that has been hit harder than any other by the changes in UK farming practice over 40 years. The total population has shrunk by nearly half, and in many places the bird has vanished. The scheme, to be run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) involves co- operation with farmers, as lapwings are essentially farmland birds and only a fraction of the population breeds on nature reserves. It will identify measures such as creating wet fields or changing grazing regimes, which may become part of the Government's agri-environment schemes - so the farmers get paid for carrying them out. The initiative will please bird lovers. Also known as green plovers and peewits, lapwings are striking birds with black and white underparts, a glossy green back and a wispy crest, and for centuries they were one of the commonest, best-loved and most stirring sights of the countryside. In spring, their tumbling aerial courtship display is unforgettable, and in summer they show remarkable defensive behaviour, feigning injury to draw intruders away from the nest. They were also traditional providers of a countryside delicacy - plover's eggs. (Taking the eggs is now illegal). But when intensive farming came to Britain, lapwings were hit from several different directions at once. The birds like to nest in mixed farmland, where arable and pasture land are close together: they would nest in the crops then take their chicks to the grassland to feed. But with intensification, mixed farming is disappearing. The switch to autumn-sown crops meant they could not nest in the spring fields where the crops were already high; the change from making hay to making silage meant the earlier grass-cutting wiped out their nests; the increased use of fertiliser meant fewer of the larger insects on which the chicks feed. The result was a population crash of 46 per cent between 1970 and 2004, and 21 per cent from 1994 to 2005 alone. The greatest decline has been in Wales, where numbers dropped by 77 per cent between 1988 and 1999. There are now about 156,000 breeding lapwing pairs left in the UK. The RSPB's recovery programme is remarkably bold in its scale: it will deal with farms across the Peak District in Derbyshire, Lancashire's Forest of Bowland, the North Pennines, south- eastern Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In each of the areas, RSPB researchers have selected between 40 and 60 trial sites for study. In the Forest of Bowland, 15 farms are implementing lapwing-friendly measures - such as wetting fields, creating ditches and scrapes - currently included in the Government's agri-environment schemes. Another 15 are using more specialist practices, called management-plus, and the remaining 15 are being farmed as controls, with no lapwing-specific measures. Laund Farm in south Bowland, where lapwings are known as "chewits", is one of the management-plus sites, and the farmer, Simon Stott, won the RSPB's Lapwing Champion competition in 2005. Mr Stott has been helping lapwings for several years and had 16 pairs nesting on 100 acres of his 500-acre farm this year, compared with five in 2003. "The RSPB thought the land would be suitable for lapwings and as it wasn't good for anything else, I thought I'd give it a go," he said. 21
  22. 22. "The lapwings eat the flukeworm, which would otherwise cause disease in my sheep. Other farmers have rough land, which is ideal for lapwing. "They want to do something with it but don't realise they can be paid for helping wildlife. If they do what I've done they should see their land improved and lapwing coming back at the same time. I now have a brigade of lapwings, and oystercatchers and snipe too. The lapwings are the first sign of spring for me, and if land can be made fit for wildlife I think it's worth doing." In the past the lapwing was so familiar that it has more vernacular names than any other bird, ranging from tieves' nacket in Shetland to pie-wipe in Norfolk. Its haunting "peewit" cry has given rise to a number of names other than peewit, including peasiewheep (east Scotland) and chewit (Lancashire). It is also known as tuefit (Co Durham), toppyup (Borders), lappinch (Cheshire) flopwing (from its flight) and hornpie (from its crest). Places named after lapwings include Tewitfield near Lancaster, Tivetshall St Mary near Diss in Norfolk and Pyewipe near Grimsby. Pubs named after the bird include the Peewit in Bedfordshire and Pyewipe in Lincolnshire. Bird of Chaucer and Shakespeare * Also known as the green plover, flopwing and hornpie. * Lapwings average 29cm in length, with a much longer wingspan. They eat earthworms, leatherjackets, spiders and beetles. * Lapwings produce one brood of up to four chicks and nest on open land with short vegetation. They can lay up to five clutches in a season. * Lapwing eggs were once widely sought for consumption but the 1926 Lapwing Act restricted egg gathering. * "Much esteemed" lapwing eggs are mentioned in the 1861 book, Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management. * The Ministry of Food turned lapwing eggs into powder for Second World War egg rations. * The parent birds flap their wings on the ground to feign injury to distract predators. * The Greek name for the bird was polyplagktos, which means luring on deceitfully. The collective term is a deceit. * Chaucer describes the lapwing as "ful of trecherye" in Parlement Of Foules while Shakespeare mentions the bird in Hamlet, Measure For Measure, and The Comedy Of Errors. _____________________________________________________________________________ The Guardian (UK): Hawking seeks graduate assistant Staff and agencies Wednesday September 6, 2006 EducationGuardian.co.uk 22
  23. 23. One of the world's most famous scientists wants an assistant. Stephen Hawking, professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, is looking for a graduate student to help him prepare lectures and assist with scientific papers. The university is offering a salary of up to £22,774 to the right candidate, who would be based in the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics. Prof Hawking, 64, was diagnosed with the crippling muscle-wasting condition motor neurone disease at the age of 22. He is wheelchair-bound and speaks with the aid of a computer and synthesiser. "If you were accepted for the post you would be responsible for maintaining and improving this computer system as well as other pieces of support equipment," says a job advertisement on the university's website. "You would help him to prepare and deliver seminars and public lectures and assist with scientific papers. You would also accompany Prof Hawking on his many travels and assist other members of the group. "Flexibility, stamina and a confident and caring personality, together with a valid driving licence, are essential for this demanding job." Prof Hawking, a best-selling author, mathematician, cosmologist and leading theoretical physicist, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in the 1960s. He is thought to be one of its longest-surviving sufferers. He obtained his first class honours degree in physics at University College, Oxford, and then went on to Cambridge to conduct research in cosmology. He achieved worldwide fame with the publication of his book A Brief History of Time in the late 1980s. Since 1979 he has held the post of Lucasian professor of mathematics - the same chair given to Sir Isaac Newton in 1669. ==================================================================== 23
  24. 24. ROAP Media Update 7 September t 2006 UN or UNEP in the news Issues on environmental law will be debated in Almaty Kazinform, Kazakhstan, 06.09.2006 / 13:02 ----------------------------------------------------------------------- ALMATY. September 6, 2006. KAZINFORM /Yekaterina Panchenko/ - Two-day international conference of Central Asian judges Conformity of environmental legislation with international norms and problems of its application will start its work tomorrow in Almaty city. It will be organized by Kazakhstan Supreme Court, Ministry of Environmental Protection under the auspices of regional office of United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) for Asia- Pacific Region (APR). It is supposed that reps of judicial systems from Central Asia countries, Egypt, NGOs and international organizations will take part in the forum. Undoubtedly, issues on improvement and sustainable development of international legislation in the sphere of environmental protection, discussion of law-enforcement problems are of great actuality to date. http://www.inform.kz/showarticle.php?lang=eng&id=144341 TB experts will grapple with deadly new strains: WHO TODAYonline, Singapore, 07 September 2006 ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Experts grappling with the emergence of deadly strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis, which compound the woes of HIV/AIDS sufferers, will thrash out ways to fight the growing public health threat when they gather for talks later this week. . The World Health Organisation, South African health authorities and the US Center for Disease Control are jointly hosting a two-day conference in Johannesburg from Thursday so that world specialists can tackle the doomsday scenario. . The Geneva-based UN health agency has warned that alarm bells should be ringing worldwide because of the emerging threat posed by Multidrug Resistant Tuberculosis, or MDR-TB, which is able to fend off two longstanding frontline tuberculosis drugs. . Around 450,000 new MDR-TB cases are estimated to occur every year, according to the WHO -- a small but worrying trend among the nine million annual tuberculosis infections as a whole. . Concerns center on a variant of MDR-TB, known by experts as XDR-TB or Extensive Drug Resistant tuberculosis. . 24
  25. 25. The strain is so virulent that it can resist at least half of the six main second-generation tuberculosis drugs, leaving patients "virtually untreatable," the WHO warns. . "XDR-TB poses a grave public health threat, especially in populations with high rates of HIV and where there are few health care resources," according to the agency. . Tuberculosis is primarily an illness of the respiratory system, and is spread through coughs and sneezes. It claims around 1.7 million lives a year. . Shabby medical practices are largely at fault for the emergence of resistant tuberculosis, because inadequate treatment has enabled the original disease to adapt to existing drugs and to survive and mutate in a human host, says the WHO. . The agency has highlighted incorrect prescriptions by doctors, poor quality drugs or an erratic supply, as well as patients' own failure to take their medication correctly. . Recent findings from a joint survey by the WHO and US health authorities show that XDR-TB is present worldwide but most common in former Soviet Union states and Asia. . Researchers found that in some of the areas where resistant tuberculosis is mounting, 19 percent of patients with MDR-TB actually had the XDR-TB variant. . One of the biggest fears is the impact of resistant tuberculosis in Africa and the disease's co- infection with the HIV/AIDS virus which is ravaging the Sub-Saharan region. . Last year, there were at least four million new cases of HIV infection and nearly nine million new tuberculosis cases. . Of the more than two million AIDS victims, more than one in 10 was killed by tuberculosis, a rate that rises to six in 10 in southern African nations. . The risk from co-infection is such that many people who carry tuberculosis do not know it. Only around 10 percent of people with the tuberculosis germ actually go on to develop the disease. . But tuberculosis can resurface years later if a sufferer's immune system is weak -- a key impact of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). . More needs to be done to strengthen basic tuberculosis care in order to ward off mutant strains, the WHO says. . The experts meeting in South Africa will look at news ways of ensuring prompt diagnosis and treatment of drug resistant cases, to prevent further transmission. . They will also consider how to develop new-generation diagnostic tools and smarter drugs to combat the mutating germ, as well as improving links between tuberculosis and HIV programs. — AFP http://www.todayonline.com/articles/141032.asp 25
  26. 26. General Environment News Lead fumes poisoned kids, villagers claim Shanghai Daily, China, Zhang Liuhao, 2006-09-07 -------------------------------------------------------------------------- MORE than 2,000 villagers, including 373 children, are believed to have been poisoned by fumes from a lead smelter in China's northwest. Tests on residents from Xinsi Village and Mouba Village in Huixian County, Gansu Province, revealed high levels of lead in their blood. Some of the tests revealed lead levels several times higher than normal. Villagers said the smelter, which has operated outside Xinsi Village for 10 years and is near a school, is to blame for the contamination. Xu Fuyuan, a senior local government official, was quoted by a Shaanxi newspaper as saying experts should decide whether the smelter caused the poisoning. But he also admitted the smelter was likely part of the reason, because so many people had been poisoned. On August 18, 10 villagers went to the county government and produced their test results, showing they were suffering from lead poisoning. Authorities closed the plant on August 22 and have ordered it to move. Environment officials are now investigating the smelter. The plant, which has over 300 employees, used to be a state-owned enterprise, but turned private last year. "The plant brought a lot of pollution," said Bai Zhiqiang, a worker at the smelter. "Black smoke was always billowing from the chimneys. Sulfur dioxide could be smelt anywhere in the village." Bai's infant son, Bai Xu, was among the poisoned. The 14-month-old boy was the youngest sufferer, according to media reports. His six-year-old daughter Bai Rui was also poisoned and Bai suspects he himself has been contaminated. He said he had worked in the plant for nine months, but had never had a health check. Bai said workers in the smelter were given only a gauze mask and a pair of canvas gloves to protect themselves. Doctors said the lead in the children's blood could either come from pollution or from parents, as many villagers worked in the smelter. Lead poisoning symptoms include stomach aches, constipation and coma. Prolonged exposure can result in death. 26
  27. 27. Treatment can remove some of the lead, but some damage is irreversible, doctors said. Lead poisoning may also stunt child growth and intelligence development. The county government said it would use fiscal funds to cover the cost of treatment for severely poisoned children and asked local authorities to transfer those children to Xijing Hospital in Xi'an, in neighboring Shaanxi Province, for better treatment. Over 200,000 yuan (US$25,000) has reportedly been spent. http://www1.shanghaidaily.com/art/2006/09/07/291318/Lead_fumes_poisoned_kids__villagers _claim.htm China, Europe to discuss energy, environment Financial Express, India, Thursday, September 07, 2006 at 0000 hours IST ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- BEIJING, SEPT 6: China and European Union leaders will discuss cooperation on energy and climate issues at their upcoming summit, but Chinese officials held out little hope of a breakthrough on their long-sought end to the EU’s weapons sales ban. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will arrive in Finland on Saturday for three days of talks with European leaders before visiting Britain, Germany and Tajikistan, foreign ministry officials told a news briefing. Li Ruiyu, a Chinese diplomat in charge of European affairs, said on Wednesday that Wen would raise Beijing’s long-time goal of lifting an EU ban on weapons sales to China imposed after Beijing’s 1989 armed crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. But Li did not offer hope of a significant breakthrough in Helsinki. “The lifting of the arms sales embargo is not a new issue,” he said, calling the ban “discriminatory”. China had hoped the ban would be lifted last year, but opposition from some EU member states and from Washington has stymied any move. The two sides will discuss cooperation in energy and the environment, Li said, without offering any details. “The willingness of China and the EU to strengthen cooperation in energy and climate change will be reflected in the declaration,” Li said of a statement to be signed at the meeting. The EU ambassador to China, Serge Abou, told reporters last week that the European Investment Bank is set to sign an agreement at the Helsinki meeting to provide China up to 500 million euros (339 million pounds) in loans for projects to cut energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. China’s growing hunger for energy has spooked international markets and raised alarm about its output of greenhouse gases, which many scientists say are raising global temperatures, leading to rising sea levels and more extreme weather. In the first seven months of 2006, China’s crude oil imports grew to 84 million tonnes, a rise of 12.9% over the same time last year. Wen would continue lobbying for formal recognition as a “market economy” to ease threats from anti-dumping complaints, Li said. The EU is China’s biggest single trade partner, and trade reached $143.5 billion in the first seven months of 2006, a 21.1% increase over the same period last year. 27
  28. 28. The EU said last year’s trade deficit with China reached 106 billion euros. The EU’s estimates of trade flows differ from China’s. European manufacturers have pressed complaints that China’s cut-price exports are endangering industries, such as shoe and garment making. But easing the trade imbalance would take time, Li said. “Trade problems, and the deficit, need to be steadily resolved through consultation on an equal footing in the course of further developing bilateral trade,” he said. http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=139638 One million lose homes in India floods; relief poor Reuters India, India, Wed Sep 6, 2006 1:41 PM IST, By Sanjaya Jena ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- BHUBANESWAR, India (Reuters) - At least one million people have lost their homes to floods in eastern India, but government relief is slow and inadequate, voluntary groups said on Wednesday. The flooding, triggered by annual monsoon rains over the past week, has hit an area where 2.3 million people live and damaged thousands of acres of paddy in Orissa. But days after floodwaters submerged hundreds of villages in 12 of Orissa's 30 districts, authorities have failed to reach around one million people who remain stranded without shelter, food and medicines, say charities. "People are still desperately asking for dry food and drinking water and infants are almost starving due to non-supply of baby food," said Archarya Kalyan Anand of Sarvoday Rahat Abhiyan, a charity distributing food and medicine in Kendrapara district, 80 km east of the state capital Bhubaneswar. "The administration is still in the wilderness and yet to reach some of the worst-hit villages." Authorities deny they have failed to deal with the disaster, saying relief efforts had initially been hampered due to continuous rain. "I do admit some voluntary organisations have reached the affected villages prior to government agencies, but it does not mean the government has failed to discharge its responsibilities," said Jagadananda Panda, a top relief official. But volunteer groups say requests to authorities for material such as polythene sheets have gone unheeded. As rains continue, thousands of people forced from their flooded homes are camping on river embankments and national highways with little or no shelter. Others found shelter in local schools and colleges. "My house is destroyed and all my belongings and the standing crop in the field have been washed away," said Premalata, a 50-year-old widow from Shyamsundarpur village in Kendrapara who had taken refuge in a college building. 28
  29. 29. Officials warn of an epidemic in flooded areas and say they are sending medical teams to flood- hit villages, but charities say there are areas where no government agencies are present. "Our medical team is providing healthcare support and free medicine to at least 2,000 people every day, whom the government system has failed to each," said Abhaya Pati, the secretary of Utkal Bipanna Sahayata Samiti, a leading volunteer group. Three government officials were transferred for mismanagement of relief operations last week, as hundreds of boats brought from other states for relief and rescue were left unused. http://in.today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx? type=topNews&storyID=2006-09-06T133411Z_01_NOOTR_RTRJONC_0_India-266210-1.x ml Death of 'Crocodile Saver'a blow to conservationism China Post, 2006/9/7, By David Helvarg Special to the Los Angeles Times ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Three months ago, I stepped on a sea urchin in Hawaii, and my foot still hurts some. That's hardly comparable to the sadly ironic death of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, killed by the barb of a stingray, one of the ocean's more benign creatures, while snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. Still, it reflects a truth about our ocean planet: that almost every creature of the sea has some kind of built-in mechanism or tool with which to defend itself, be it camouflage, shell, spine, tooth, stinger, venom or toxin. Stingrays have accounted for only 17 deaths in the last decade, fewer even than sharks, which cause an average of eight human deaths worldwide every year. (We kill 100 million of these slow-growing predators a year, according to a U.N. report.) Irwin, whose "crikey" adrenalin- fueled joy at encountering and wrestling with various wild animals will be missed by millions of TV viewers, was taking a break from his latest documentary series, "The Ocean's Deadliest," when he died. The show was to include encounters with various species of sharks, saltwater crocodiles and venomous sea snakes. Although these animals fall into the category of "charismatic megafauna" (animals we find either very cuddly or very scary), they don't come close to reflecting the ocean's true human-killers: the water itself, bacteria, jellyfish and algae. The oceans are a rougher and more difficult wilderness for humans to function in than any encountered by terrestrial or space explorers. The sea pummels us with an unbreathable and corrosive liquid medium; altered visual and acoustic characteristics; changing temperatures, depth and pressures; upwellings; tides; currents; sudden storms and giant waves. Drowning, not animals, accounts for the vast majority of ocean-related deaths, including about 200,000 in the giant Asian tsunami of December 2004 and many of the 1,800 people who died as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Warming oceans linked to climate change, and the runoff pollution from urban and agricultural activities, are increasing the number of red tides and other harmful algae blooms worldwide by feeding them the nutrients they need to grow. These in turn kill large numbers of marine mammals and fish and, occasionally, people, either through direct contact or indirectly through paralytic shellfish poisoning and other forms of contamination of the marine food web. The number of oceanic dead zones linked to algae blooms has more than doubled since the 1970s, to 146. 29
  30. 30. In Australia, box jellyfish are among the deadliest forms of ocean life, with one species, Chironex flecken, considered the world's most venomous marine creature. Found in the northern tropics, they float close to shore in the warmer months. Swimmers encountering the near-transparent jellies' long tentacles will experience excruciating pain at best. Global warming and the loss of predators to fishing nets are leading to a bloom of jellyfish all over the world. Although education and rapid anti-venom treatment keep Australia's death toll down to one or two a year, in the Philippines, jellies may account for 20 to 40 deaths a year. Other stinging critters include Portuguese man-of-wars (actually a colony of animals that looks like a jellyfish but technically isn't), which sting half a million Americans each year; stonefish; lionfish (which have recently been introduced into U.S. waters from their native South Pacific, most likely through people dumping their aquariums); fire coral; anemones, and sea snakes, which tend to be far more venomous than their land-based cousins. Once, while scuba diving in Australia, I stopped watching a lionfish to follow a beautifully colored 7-foot sea snake until it slid off into the depths. "And what were you going to do if you caught up with it?" my girlfriend inquired when we were back on the boat. It's hard to deny the atavistic pleasure of getting close to (or watching someone else get close to) big things that can kill you with teeth, claws or venom, which was Steve Irwin's specialty. It's also a pleasure that millions could indulge in guilt-free with Irwin because he often included a conservation message in his shows, mentioning that we should protect and conserve the king cobra, Komodo dragon or whatever other deadly critter he was handling. The crocodiles he "hunted" he later released after relocating them away from human settlements. As truly wild habitat for terrestrial creatures has disappeared, Irwin, an iconic Australian, increasingly turned to the sea around him. He was working on "The Ocean's Deadliest" project with Philippe Cousteau, the grandson of famed ocean explorer and conservationist Jacques Cousteau. It's not hard to imagine that, like the elder Cousteau, Irwin's joyful and hugely popular exploits might have, over time and as he aged, become a more explicit forum in which he'd challenge us to protect, restore and value the wild side of our blue marble planet. Without him, we'll have to do it on our own. David Helvarg is president of the Blue Frontier Campaign (bluefront.org) http://www.chinapost.com.tw/editorial/detail.asp?onNews=&GRP=i&id=89830 THAI-CAMBODIAN BORDER Mill on Koh Kong seen as pollution risk Bangkok Post, 7 September 2006, CHAKKRIT WAEWKLAIHONG --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Trat _ The planned construction of a sugar mill in Cambodia's Koh Kong Industrial Park adjacent to this eastern province has raised fears of possible environmental damage to the Thai coastline. Supoj Liadprathom, chairman of Trat's chamber of commerce, said Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Plc (KSL), a Thai firm, is the major shareholder in the four-billion-baht sugar mill project. Mr Supoj fears that waste water from the mill could pose environmental threats to the Thai coastline in Trat, given its close proximity to Koh Kong. The industrial park on the island is located only 5-6km from the nearest Thai territory and some 10km from Trat's coastline. 30
  31. 31. Unless a proper waste treatment facility is built, the mill's production will certainly pose an environmental threat to Thailand's tourist attractions nearby such as Koh Kud and Koh Chang islands, as well as the local fishery business, he said. Trat deputy governor Chonchuen Boonyanusan said the mill, covering about 40-50 rai, would prove a boon for the Cambodian province [Koh Kong] as many jobs would be created. There would also be fewer illegal Cambodian migrants entering Thailand to look for jobs. He dismissed the concerns over potential environmental damage, saying he trusted the Thai investor to have proper anti-pollution facilities in place. KSL has become a business partner with Cambodian Senator Pad Supapa, who supervises Koh Kong Industrial Park, by co-investing in a sugar plantation and the mill project on Koh Kong. KSL now has a 50% stake in the joint venture while Mr Pad holds 20% shares. The remaining shares belong to a Taiwanese investor. http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/07Sep2006_news18.php Rural water accessibility Xinhua, 2006-09-07 10:00:04 --------------------------------------------- BEIJING, Sept. 7 -- In most of the country's urban areas, the constant availability of clean water is virtually taken for granted, even if its purity is sometimes questioned. In the rural areas it is the reverse; it is estimated that some 300 million rural people do not have access to safe drinking water. The central government has made a lofty pledge to make safe drinking water accessible for these people over the next 10 years. Still, it is a tough job. In announcing this grand goal, the Ministry of Water Resources made no mention of the plan's details, particularly how it would be implemented. The country's 11th five-year plan, approved last March for 2006-10, called for the provision of safe and portable water to 100 million rural residents. The target number was raised to 160 million after a State Council conference on August 30 on the safety of drinking water in rural areas. On Monday, the government nearly doubled this to 300 million, presenting its determination to crack the hard nut for good. How the budget, which remains to be firmly settled, will go to the safe water supply projects should be made clear so that the well-intentioned effort will really make a difference to these rural residents. Ecological damage has accompanied the country's industrial boom, with many factories ignoring pollution hazards and dumping toxic industrial waste into rivers and lakes. 31
  32. 32. The countryside has fallen behind cities in the availability of safe drinking water, particularly in central and western rural areas with severe natural conditions and underdeveloped economies. They are afflicted with water shortages and poor water sources. Some springs and rivers have dried up and groundwater levels have dropped in certain places. In addition, technical standards for drinking water works in rural areas are low and water treatment facilities are nonexistent, making it impossible to guarantee the amount and safety of drinking water. Most previously built drinking water works are wells, cisterns or pools that will dry up if hit by drought for a few years in a row. Many villagers draw water directly from wells, rivers, lakes, reservoirs or ponds. Although the water supply for those sources can be guaranteed in normal years, the water quality is often substandard. Also, the substandard discharge of industrial or residential waste water and increased use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers have put some drinking water sources particularly surface water and shallow-seam ground water in danger. The polluted water sources in turn cause diseases. With more than 50 diseases in China transmitted through unsafe drinking water, the task of reducing diseases transmitted by unsafe drinking water in rural areas has posed a grave challenge to the rural drinking water projects. The most effective way to reduce diseases and improve public health in rural areas is to provide safe drinking water for all. The wish list the Ministry of Water Resources has delivered for rural residents without access to safe drinking water is a proper commitment. But it is one thing to put a target on a wish list. Achieving it is a challenge of a different order of magnitude. (Source: China Daily) http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-09/07/content_5060504.htm?rss=1 Arsenic contamination still a major threat to public health JICA supports implementation of mitigation project The News Today, Our Correspondent ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jessore, Sept 6: Arsenic contamination in the ground water level has been a major threat to public health in Bangladesh. It eats up the potentials of people and damage their economic capability. In rural as well as some urban areas the menace became a silent killer even affecting the food chain. The arsenic contamination rate in Sharsha Upazila in the district is 23.3 per cent and in Chowgacha 28.8 per cent. The number of patients in Sharsha is 312 and in Ghowgacha is 275. To achieve the objective of mitigation of the menace, a project involving TK 54.90 million under the technical support of JICA has been initiated. Sharsha and Chowgacha Upazilas of the district have been selected as the target area of the project, according to the sources in the JICA. The population of two Upazilas is around five lakh. 32
  33. 33. The project will take a holistic approach from a standpoint of communities. It will contribute not only to providing alternative water devices to highly arsenic contaminated area, but also to monitoring arsenicosis patients and conducting awareness program among communities. The project will be implemented by LGD of Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives. The Deputy Secretary, Water Supply LGD will act as the Project Director of the project. The execution of project activities will be done through Department of Public Health Engineering (DFHE), Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Jessore Deputy Commissioner''s Office, Sharsha and Chowgacha UNO offices in Jessore District and related UP chairmen. Arsenic Mitigation Committee at district, upazila, union and ward level will be also main actors. JICA will act as support organization for implementation of the project. JICA will provide technical support to implement the project through sending experts, conducting overseas training and providing necessary equipment fund for implementation of the project. JICA will also provide necessary fund for implementing the project including constructing alternative water options to highly arsenic contaminated area. JICA Bangladesh Office will oversee the activities of the project, and communicate with the Government of Bangladesh when necessary. The project puts priority to the villages where arsenic contamination rate is above 80 per cent and also villages where the rate is 60 per cent to 80 per cent. On alternative water devices which will be installed under the Project, most suitable option will be selected for each site after conducting survey. The project gives a priority to surface water in line with the National Arsenic Mitigation Policy endorsed in March 2004. The project office will be set at District and Upazila level. Japanese experts and national staff members will be seated in the offices and work with their respective counterpart staff of the Government of Bangladesh and concerned local government institutions. National staff of the project office will be hired by JICA following its procedure. Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives is the lead ministry responsible for implementing the project on behalf of the Government of Bangladesh. It will coordinate the activities related to the implementation of the project and oversee the activities being implemented. LGD will provide a Project Director to the project, who will be responsible for organizing/communicating with DPHE, DONS, Jessore DC off ice and local government institutions related to the project. DPHE and DGHS are the line agencies responsible for carrying out the related activities with cooperation of JICA experts. DPHE and DGHS will play an active role in the implementation of monitoring activities related to its agencies in the project, and continue to carry out these activities after the project ends. Both agencies will assign dedicated staff resources for the project in their district and Upazila offices. Jessore DC office, Sharsha and Chowgacha UNO office will also participate in the project. Their main roles are convening Arsenic Mitigation Committees to coordinate activities for the project and for other arsenic mitigation activities. Arsenic Mitigation Committees will compile arsenic related information in respective area, make an effective plan for arsenic mitigation activities for a certain period, decide alternative water options to be installed and areas for their 33

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