THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS
Monday, 18 September 2006
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News ? "Water Wars" loom? But none in past 4,500 years (Reuters)
? Instead of water wars, let's go for less-thirsty plants (The San Francisco Chronicle)
? Eco-paradises in crossfire of water scarcity fight (Reuters)
? UN marks Ozone Layer Preservation Day (MercoPress)
? RD celebra Día Mundial Preservación Capa de Ozono (Diario Libre)
? Twelfth International Day For Presentation Of Ozone Layer Celebrated (The Hindustan
? Qatar to phase out ozone depleting substances by 2010 (The Peninsula)
? Uganda awarded for protecting ozone layer (New Vision)
? Health risks for children from ozone layer depletion (News Medical Net)
? Millions to clean up cities and beaches in protest (Reuters)
? Campaña del PNUMA para Limpiar el Mundo (ADN Mundo)
? Sehenswürdigkeiten werden dieses Wochenende gesäubert (Der Standard)
? City people join forces to ‗Clean Up The World‘ (Saigon Times)
? Umweltprobleme vom Weltraum aus (Natur+Kosmos)
? Toxic waste mystery in Ivory Coast deepens (New Scientist)
? Giftmüll soll zurück nach Europa (Die Welt)
? 2007 wird das ?Jahr des Delfins (Schweizer Depeschen Agentur)
? Inconvenient truths (for Al Gore and the rest of the planet) (Indpendent on Sunday)
? Launch of 2007 FT Sustainable Banking Awards (Financial Times)
? La perte de biodiversité pourrait compromettre la réalisation des Objectifs du Millénaire
pour le développement (Le Bulletin)
Other Environment News
? Al Gore: A matter of convenience (BBC)
? 32 mayors discuss global warming (Seattle Post Intelligencer)
? Paying the Freight for Polluting the Air: Europe Takes the Lead (New York Times)
? Firm makes mark on the climate (The Independent)
? Stratospheric Sulfur Could Stall Global Warming (Reuters)
? NASA revela reducción en la capa perenne del hielo ártico (El Financiero)
? Au Vanuatu, mollusques et crustacés jamais vus (Libération)
? World Health Organization Backs DDT to Fight Malaria (Environment News Service)
? BLM Plans to Allow Wilderness Airstrips (Los Angeles Times)
? Nicolas Hulot, l'écolo cathodique (Le Figaro)
? Fighting the return of fur (The Guardian)
Communications and Public Information, P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: (254-2) 623292/93, Fax: [254-2] 62 3927/623692, Email:email@example.com, http://www.unep.org
Environmental News from the UNEP Regions
Other UN News
? UN Daily News of 16 September 2006
? S.G.‘s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of 16 September 2006
Reuters: "Water Wars" loom? But none in past 4,500 years
By Alister Doyle
[appears in the Scotsman, ...]
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - With a steady stream of bleak predictions that "water wars" will be
fought over dwindling supplies in the 21st century, battles between two Sumerian city-states
4,500 years ago seem to set a worrying precedent.
But the good news, many experts say, is that the conflict between Lagash and Umma over
irrigation rights in what is now Iraq was the last time two states went to war over water.
Down the centuries since then, international rivals sharing waters such as the Jordan River, the
Nile, the Ganges or the Parana have generally favored cooperation over conflict.
So if history can be trusted, things may stay that way.
"The simple explanation is that water is simply too important to fight over," said Aaron Wolf, a
professor at Oregon State University. "Nations often go to the brink of war over water and then
resolve their differences."
Since the war between Lagash and Umma, recorded on a stone carving showing vultures flying
off with the heads of defeated Umma warriors, no wars have been fought and 3,600
international water treaties have been signed, he said.
Yet politicians regularly warn that water shortages caused by surging populations and climate
change could trigger conflicts this century in a world where a billion people in developing
countries lack access to clean drinking water.
"Fierce competition for fresh water may well become a source of conflict and wars in the
future," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in 2001. The English word "rival" even comes
from the Latin "rivalis" meaning "someone sharing a river."
Other experts say international "water wars" are unlikely.
"I don't really expect wars over water because ... the benefits of collaboration are so great," said
Frank Rijsberman, head of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).
And still others say water might be one factor in future conflicts. Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), says this is particularly true in border regions where countries share rivers.
"I am not somebody who believes that our third world war will be over water, but I think the potential for conflict will grow as we are faced with water scarcity," he told Reuters. SCARCITY WORSENS?
Rijsberman led a U.N.-backed report in August that said one in three people lives in a region where water is scarce and that demand could almost double by 2050 -- led by farming which absorbs 74 percent of all freshwater used by humans.
Planting extra crops to produce biofuels and global warming -- which could bring more erosion, droughts and floods -- could add new pressures, the report said. But it added that there was enough water to go around, with better planning.
"If there is a war between two countries the 15th reason could be water but the first 14 reasons will have absolutely nothing to do with water," said Asit Biswas, head of the Third World Center for Water Management in Mexico City.
"But if I want to get in the media the easiest thing is to say that a water war is about to break out in the Middle East," he said. "The last war over water was thousands of years ago." A problem, he said, was that water was often viewed as a commodity like oil, which cannot be re-used. Water in the Colorado River, for instance, can get used seven times for hydropower, drinking water or irrigation.
The academics' view is not shared everywhere.
"If we don't address the water issue in the Middle East in a coherent way there will be a war. There's scarcity and when it comes to water it's a matter of life," said Shadad Attilik, a Palestinian who conducts water negotiations with Israel.
He said vital aquifers in the Gaza Strip were being polluted and causing health problems. "If you see a Palestinian with yellow teeth you know he comes from Gaza," he said. Experts note that violence over water often breaks out within countries -- over rivers, lakes, oases or wells.
In Kenya, dozens of people died early this year in fighting between nomadic tribes over scant water and grazing rights. Tamil Tiger rebels were accused of shutting off sluices in Sri Lanka in August in their separatist war with government forces.
Steiner said countries most vulnerable to water scarcity included already conflict-prone Chad, Sudan and Somalia, as well as Ethiopia, parts of Pakistan, south India and China. "We must work very fast in the next few decades to ensure that nations have a shared approach to deal with water scarcity," he said, calling this a priority for UNEP.
HOW WOULD YOU WIN?
In the five decades to 1999, Wolf's research (http://www.transboundarywaters.orst.edu/) indicates there have been no wars and just 37 military acts over water between states -- 30 of them involving Israel and its neighbors.
Among signs of cooperation, Israel and Jordan held secret talks about managing the Jordan River from the 1950s, even when they were technically at war. The Indus River commission kept going despite wars between India and Pakistan.
Among military acts, Israel in the 1960s destroyed Syrian construction on the headwaters of the Jordan River which was part of a project to divert waters for an "all-Arab" water plan. But those predicting future "water wars" should also consider another problem: how do you secure victory?
"If you conquer territory to gain control over a river you still have to provide water to people living there," said Anders Jaegerskog of the Stockholm International Water Institute. "It's very difficult to imagine how you win a water war."
(Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis in Geneva)
The San Francisco Chronicle: Instead of water wars, let's go for less-thirsty plants
Henry I. Miller
Wars have been fought over politics, economics, territory, ethnic origin, race, religion and national pride. We may soon have to add a new reason: water, which is in increasingly short supply -- and increasingly sought after.
More than a third of the world's population lives in regions where water is scarce, and unless we take radical action, in 50 years half will be living with shortages, depleted fisheries and polluted coastlines and groundwater. This could lead to violent confrontations over sources of water, according to a study published last month that was sponsored by several international groups, including two United Nations organizations.
Waste and inadequate management are the main culprits behind growing water shortages, particularly in poverty-ridden regions. The study proposes ways to reduce by half the amount of water that will be needed to grow food in rain-fed and irrigated areas for an additional 2 billion to 3 billion people.
But the proposals amount to no more than vague, sweeping, pie-in-the-sky remedies typical of U.N. agencies -- "reform the state to improve the governance of water," and "deal with tradeoffs and difficult choices," for example. Certainly they provide no roadmap for how to get from here to there. And, not surprisingly, the report ignores the fact that U.N. agencies themselves have made workable solutions more elusive.
Conspicuously absent from the analysis is any mention of the need for new, gene-spliced crop varieties, which are thought by agricultural scientists to be critical to meeting water shortages. Irrigation for agriculture accounts for roughly 70 percent of the world's fresh water consumption -- even more in areas of intensive farming and arid or semi-arid conditions -- so the introduction of plants that grow with less water would allow much of that essential resource to be freed up for other uses.
Especially during drought conditions -- which currently plague much of Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Australia and the United States -- even a small percentage reduction in the use of water for irrigation could result in huge benefits, both economic and humanitarian. However, during the past decade, various U.N. agencies, including the two that sponsored the current report on water usage -- the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Convention on Biological Diversity -- have created major regulatory obstacles to the use of gene splicing, sometimes called genetic modification.
Gene splicing offers plant breeders the tools to make old crop plants do spectacular new things. In the United States and at least 17 other countries, farmers are using gene-spliced crop varieties to produce higher yields, with lower inputs and reduced impact on the environment. Plant biologists have identified genes that regulate water utilization that can be transferred into important crop plants. These new varieties are able to grow with smaller amounts or lower quality water, such as water that has been recycled or that contains large amounts of natural mineral salts. Where water is unavailable for irrigation, the development of crop varieties able to grow under conditions of low moisture or temporary drought could boost yields and lengthen the time that farmland is productive.
Aside from new varieties that have lower water requirements, pest- and disease-resistant gene-spliced crop varieties also make water use more efficient indirectly. Because much of the loss to insects and diseases occurs after the plants are grown -- that is, after most of the water required to grow a crop has already been applied -- the use of gene-spliced varieties that experience lower post-harvest losses in yield means that the farming (and irrigation) of fewer plants can produce the same total amount of food. We get more crop for the drop.
But research is being hampered by resistance from activists and discouraged by governmental over-regulation -- including by the U.N. agency that sets international food standards, and by onerous, unscientific regulation of field trials under the Convention on Biological Diversity. In addition, a technical working group of the U.N. Environment Program is considering whether to recommend a moratorium on all field testing and commercialization of gene-spliced trees. That would be a devastating blow to efforts to preserve biodiversity and to prevent deforestation worldwide.
The United Nation's periodic warnings of dire, impending shortages of water belie its actions, which not only are harmful to health and exacerbate water shortages, but also make a mockery of the organization's overblown Millennium Development Goals. The most ambitious objective, "to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger" by 2015, certainly cannot be accomplished without innovative technology -- which, in turn, cannot be developed in the face of bans and excessive regulatory barriers.
The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization calls on one hand for greater allocation of resources to agriculture, and then makes those resources drastically less cost-effective by gratuitous, unscientific over-regulation of the new biotechnology.
The secretary-general of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization announces that "integrated water-resources management is the key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals of securing access to safe water, sanitation and environmental protection," while a veritable alphabet soup of other U.N. agencies are making virtually impossible the development of gene-spliced plants that can grow with low-quality water or under drought conditions.
The regulation of gene-splicing (among other critical technologies and products) is a growth industry at the United Nations, one that regularly defies scientific consensus and common sense. The result is vastly inflated research and development costs, less innovation and diminished exploitation of superior techniques and products -- especially in poorer countries, which need them desperately, as the most recent U.N. report makes clear.
Journalist Claudia Rosett has questioned "whether in this age of fascist movements, terror tactics and weapons of mass murder, we can afford the indulgence of coddling as our leading global institution this sorry excuse for what was meant to be an honest forum for free and peace-loving nations." We cannot.
Henry I. Miller, a physician and fellow at the Hoover Institution, headed the FDA's Office of Biotechnology from 1989 to 1993. His most recent book is "The Frankenfood Myth." Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reuters: Eco-paradises in crossfire of water scarcity fight
By Laura MacInnis
GENEVA (Reuters) - Delicate wetlands, coasts and wildlife sanctuaries could be ravaged as part of a struggle to stretch the world's water supplies, with the worst damage foreseen in poor countries.
Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), said precious ecosystems like the Okavango Delta in Botswana -- the planet's largest inland delta, which hosts a diversity of fish, game and birds -- may be targeted as a fresh water source if scarcity becomes acute.
"Botswana itself is a water-stressed country. The pressure to extract water that would otherwise maintain that ecological paradise will be immense," he told Reuters in a telephone interview from UNEP's headquarters in Nairobi.
Water basins in Africa's Sahel region, especially Lake Chad, could also be regarded as easy-to-access sources of fresh water if crippling droughts continue to grip countries like Chad, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia, Steiner said.
"There will be difficult choices to make," he said.
One billion people, about a sixth of humanity, now lacks access to safe drinking water, and one in three lives in regions plagued by water scarcity, according to U.N. data.
Steiner said human water consumption could jump another 40 percent over the next 20 years as the global population grows and more affluent societies demand more supplies for drinking, bathing, irrigation, energy generation and manufacturing.
Droughts, which scientists forecast will become more frequent and severe in some already-arid areas as a result of climate change, could further strain existing resources and heap pressure on governments to secure enough water.
MercoPress (Uruguay): UN marks Ozone Layer Preservation Day
Efforts to protect the ozone layer are showing signs of progress, but much remains to be done to restore this life-saving part of the earth's atmosphere that filters out the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message marking the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.
The latest scientific assessments conducted under the auspices of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) found clear evidence of a reduction in ozone-depleting substances in the lower atmosphere, as well as indications that their destructive impact in the stratosphere was also on the wane, according to the message. But they also push back the estimated date for total ozone layer recovery by 15 years, to 2065. Mr. Annan cautioned that failure to comply with the Montreal Protocol, the 1987 international treaty set up to protect the ozone layer, could delay or even bring this progress to a halt. "The work is still unfinished, and it is only through persistent dedication over the course of this century that our generation and future generations will realize the benefits of full ozone layer recovery," he said.
Meanwhile, the WMO has launched its first bulletin detailing depletion of the ozone layer over the Arctic.
While the hole in the ozone layer remains fairly static when it appears over the Antarctic, areas of depletion in the Arctic are much more likely to shift around, subjecting populations across far northern latitudes to less protection from the ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer, cataracts and other ills, the report said.
The WMO also found that the degree of ozone loss depended to a large extent on meteorological conditions, with this past year's mild winter resulting in less ozone loss than the previous winter, which saw one of the largest Arctic ozone losses ever recorded. This comes as three UN agencies today jointly launched a teach programme aimed at showing children how to protect the ozone layer and safely enjoy the sun.
The OzonAction Education Pack is the product of collaboration between UNEP, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Health Organization (WHO)
It involves teaching such basic concepts like looking at your shadow to determine how direct the sun is and covering up with hats, sunglasses and sunscreen.
"The OzonAction Education Pack will help schoolchildren to become aware of the simple protection steps that reduce solar UV health risks," said Dr. Anders Nordström, Acting Director-General of WHO. "Severe health effects such as melanoma and other skin cancers are largely preventable through reduced sun exposure.
Diario Libre: RD celebra Día Mundial Preservación Capa de Ozono
SD . El Día Internacional para la Protección de la Capa de Ozono, con el lema "Protejamos la capa de ozono, salvemos la vida en la Tierra", fue celebrado el pasado sábado con un programa
elaborado por el Programa de Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente (PNUMA), la UNESCO y la Organización Mundial de la Salud.
El programa se denomina Pack Educativo Acción Ozono, y contiene un programa de enseñanza y aprendizaje que ofrece consejos prácticos para que los niños que estudian en nivel primario aprendan soluciones simples para la protección de la capa de ozono y puedan disfrutar del Sol sin preocupaciones.
La iniciativa fue valorada por Achim Steiner, subsecretario general de la ONU y director ejecutivo del PNUMA, quien expresó el interés porque los niños conozcan los grandes riesgos de que una capa de ozono debilitada plantea para la salud humana y el medio ambiente. "Debemos proporcionarles los medios para proteger su propio futuro y la educación es definitivamente clave respecto a este punto," declaró Steiner.
El paquete está vinculado también con la Década de Educación para un Desarrollo Sostenible de la ONU, que liderea la UNESCO.
_____________________________________________________________________________ The Hindustan Times:Twelfth International Day For Presentation Of Ozone Layer Celebrated 17.9.2006
Twelfth International Day for preservation of Ozone Layer was celebrated today to commemorate the date of signing of Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer. Minister of State for Environment & Forests, Shri Namo Narain Meena in his presiding address said, "India has so far received about Rs. 1000 crore to phase-out 23000 MT production of CFC and CTC and about 22000 MT consumption of CFC,CTC, Halon and methyl
chloroform. India has achieved 50% target of CFC production from 22558 MT to 11294 MT and consumption from 6681 MT to 1940 MT. The most critical and important target of CTC production and consumption has also been achieved by adopting suitable alternative technology for non-feedstock applications of CTC. The Government has developed new polices and regulatory measures e.g., customs and excise duty exemption is given to investments made by the industries converting to non-ODS technology since 1995. These provisions will be extended during the current financial year 2006-07".
He attributed this success to the active role taken by industries, government authorities, technical institution, experts, NGOs and said that India has complied with its commitment under the Montreal Protocol successfully. He further emphasised the interactions held with the governments of Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia on ODS trade related issues.
Dr.S.Devotta, Director, National Environment Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur, in a key note address said, "Depletion in ozone layer will create innumerable problems for flora, fauna and human beings. There will be reduction in crop yield, decrease in photosynthesis, disappearance of large number of species and deteriorated air quality that will affect health and growth of human beings. He said that India has participated extensively in drafting the Montreal Protocol and is successfully phasing out CFC. He further added, "Identifying alternative for CFC has been one of the most challenging Research and Development work of the last century".
Mr. Rajendra Shende, Chief of OzoneAction, United Nations Environment Programme said that the ozone layer plays a crucial role in the protection of life on earth from harmful effects of
ultraviolet radiation. Giving examples of action taken by children in China and America, he added, "While some solar UV radiation is necessary for bone health besides, preventing certain chronic diseases, excessive sun exposure causes immediate and long term health problems". He appealed to the children to initiate movement in preserving the ozone layer.
On this occasion, National awards for Prevention of Pollution as well as the Rajiv Gandhi Environment Awards for clean Technology were given.
These Awards are given annually to encourage industrial Units for taking significant steps and measures towards prevention of environment pollution.
The National Awards for Prevention of Pollution for the year 2004-2005 were awarded to Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizer Ltd. Thal, Raigarh, Maharashtra and Seagram Distillers Pvt. Ltd., Dindori, Nasik, Maharashtra. Rajiv Gandhi Environment Awards for Clean Technology is given annually to encourage industrial units for adoption of clean technologies and practices in their processes that substantially reduce, eliminate and prevent environment pollution. This Award for the year 2004-2005 was awarded to Pigments Pvt. Ltd., Ankleshwar, Gujarat.
Prizes to the winners of various competitions like Poster design Competition, Painting Competition, Quiz on Ozone Science, Skit Competition, Model Making Competition and Slogan Writing Competition were given to 53 students from various schools in and around Delhi.
The Peninsula (Qatar): Qatar to phase out ozone depleting substances by 2010
Doha • Strictly adhering to United Nation's (UN) Montreal Protocol, Qatar will emerge as a
Zero 'Ozone Depleting Substance (ODS) Country' by 2010. The country will soon enact a law to 'control, reduction and the total phase out' of ODS consumption, said Waleed Mohammed Al Emadi, Ozone Office Manager, Department of Technical Affairs, Supreme Council for Environment and Natural Reserves (SCENR).
Montreal Protocol is the first world wide agreement designed to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. Qatar is a signatory to this agreement.
Addressing media here yesterday, Al Emadi said Qatar was targeting an 85 per cent slash in its current import of ODS by next year. "In 2007, it will limit its import to 15 per cent. By 2010, Qatar will totally phase out ODS from the country. The article 16 of the proposed law empowers the authorities to penalise the import of ODS" he said.
The industries depend on ODS mainly for fire suppression, explosion protection, refrigeration, air conditioning, motor vehicle air-conditioning, aerosols, and as foam blowing agents. Al Emadi who said that the proposed law would totally ban the use of ODS from 2010, added that the companies would be allowed only to use the Alternatives. As of now, Qatar is receiving an estimated 30 tonnes of Alternatives per annum. However, a largest part of them are of inferior quality, coming from third world countries and Far Eastern nations. The SCENR and the Customs and Port Authority will have a joint inspection of the quality of the Alternatives imported to Qatar in future.
Developed nations like US and Japan have totally switched over to the Alternatives. In Qatar, Civil Aviation authority and the Military are solely depending on the Alternatives, Al Emadi added.
Quoting a message from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, delivered on Saturday to mark the 'International Day for the preservation of the Ozone Layer', Al Emadi said the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is effective and working. There are early signs that the world is on road to recover the precious life-supporting system. "In the latest of a series of scientific assessments conducted under the auspices of the World Meteorlogical Organizations (WMO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), more than 300 scientists from 34 countries of the developed and developing world have found clear evidence of a decrease in the abundance of Ozone Depleting Substances in the lower atmosphere, as well as indications that their destructive impact in the stratosphere has also started to decline,‖ Al Emadi said quoting the UN document.
Jassim Al Tamimi, Assistant Ozone Office Manager, SCENR, also attended the press meet. __________________________________________________________________________
New Vision (Kampala): Uganda awarded for protecting ozone layer
By Gerald Tenywa
UGANDA‘s strides in protecting the ozone layer have earned her recognition from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The ozone is a gaseous layer that protects the earth from dangerous ultra violet rays of the sun that could cause crop failure, cancer and cataracts, weaken immunity and damage the food chain of aquatic organisms.
UNEP‘s Gilbert Bankobeza said Uganda had tremendously reduced the ozone depleting substances by about 98% and was ahead of the deadline to phase out methyl bromide that was commonly applied on flower farms.
He was speaking on Friday at the World Ozone Day organised at a 250-acre Royal van Zanten flower farm in Nakisunga, Mukono district.
Bankobeza also handed over a certificate to Gerald Sawula Musoke, the deputy head of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and Margaret Aanyu, an environment impact assessment officer at NEMA.
―We want you to continue working towards phasing out ozone depleting substances and avoid
slackening, which has been the case with some countries,‘‘ he warned. Celebrations included demonstrations by schools and presentation by a local drama group.
Ozone depleting substances used in refrigeration and fire fighting equipment, aerosols, air conditioners and flower farming break down the ozone layer and allow ultraviolet rays to reach the earth surface.