THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS
Thursday, 17 October 2002
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News
; The Press Trust of India - India rejects UN report ; DPA - U.N. launches probe into depleted uranium used by NATO in Bosnia
; REUTERS - Ottawa yet to calm energy industry over Kyoto
Other Environment-related News
; New Scientist - Climate Modellers Overlook crucial factor in warming
; ENS - Looming Water Crisis Threatens Food Supplies
; ENS -850 Million Still Hungry on World Food Day 2002
; Reuters - Smoke haze causes Singapore to issue health warning
; Reuters - Haze clouds Malaysia as Indonesia's Sumatra burns
; BBC -Hopes rise for mountain gorillas
Environmental News from the UNEP Regions
Other UN News
; S.G.'s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing for October 2002
; U.N. Highlights
The Press Trust of India
October 16, 2002
Communications and Public Information, P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: (254-2) 623292/93, Fax: [254-2] 62 3927/623692, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.unep.org
India rejects UN report
New Delhi, Oct 16 India Wednesday rejected a UN agency's report terming the aerosol layer observed over
the Indian ocean as 'Asian Brown Cloud', as an exaggerated ecological hazard, saying there was a "hidden
agenda" behind the report to possibly divert attention from carbon dioxide emissions in the developed
Announcing the constituion of an expert committee to examine the United Nation Environment Programme
(UNEP) report, IMD officials also inidicated a possible role of "oil and gas lobby" behind the development as
the report projected carbon soot as the main culprit for the observed layer.
In a bid to strengthen the science and technological capacity building to understand and predict climate
change and counter such "misleading" interpretation of data, a Centre for Excellence for tropical Asian
countries was likely to be proposed in the country at the 'International Conference of S and T Capacity
Building on Climate Change' which begins on October 20 here, IMD and Department of Science and
Technolgy (DST) officials told reporters here. "In 1999, the layer that was seen over the Indian ocean was
called aerosol layer, then it became haze and of late the UNEP report termed it as cloud," Additional Direcor
General of the IMD S K Srivastava said.
"Names have been changed for advantage. Besides, what was observed was during one-year study in Male.
Will the layer continue. There is no scientific explanation for that," Srivastava said adding many countries
have not signed the Kyoto Protocol that necessitate curtailing of carbon dioxide emissions.
The aim appreared to give the message that soot is most damaging while carbon dioxide is not. Developing
countries invested billions of dollars in technologies to replace chloroflourocarbons (CFCs) with other gases,
as necessitated by the Montreal Protocol, he said adding it was now found that these alternatives were also
Billions of dollars would again be needed to further change the technology, he said.
The observations on aerosol layer were made during a study called INDOEX in the winter and spring of 1999
by Indian and foreign scientists. The experiments found carbon aerosols in the lower atmosphere originating
from biomass burning. The results were extrapolated to adjacent oceanic areas.
Srivastava said that the UNEP report extrapolated the observations to land area and other seasons which
was "scientifically incorrect".
Emphsasising on the S and T capacity building, Department of Science and Technology (DST) official
Amitabha Pandey said that DST had constituted an expert committee under the chairmanship of IMD Director
General R R Kelkar and involving members from many scientific institutions like National Physical Laboratory,
Indian Institute of Science, ICMR and IARI to examine the UNEP report.
The committee would make in depth study of so-called Asian Brown cloud and bring out its report in three
months, Pandey said.
When asked about reports that ozone hole was shrinking, Srivastava said "our observations have shown that
ozone hole area varies and it is premature to reach any conclusion."
October 16, 2002,
U.N. launches probe into depleted uranium used by NATO in Bosnia
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), together with Bosnian government, would soon launch a
probe into possible pollution by the depleted uranium used by NATO here during the country's 1992-1995
war, the U.N. confirmed here Wednesday.
The probe is designed to assess the environmental impact of use of depleted uranium in munitions. The
project has been funded with 300,000 dollars according to UNEP experts, should
Project head Pekka Haavisto said 17 UNEP experts would analyze short-term and long-term effects of the
depleted uranium to the environment.
Water, soil and bio-mass samples are to be taken from seven different locations in Bosnia, in order to find
any toxic or radioactive traces that could be of danger for human lives and the environment in general.
Initial results of the probe were expected in March, 2003.
Several years ago cases of what has become known as Balkan syndrome began to be recorded.
Italian and Belgian soldiers serving with NATO troops in Bosnia- Herzegovina and Kosovo died from leukemia, believed in some quarters to be caused by depleted uranium used in NATO ammunition during its strikes against Serb troops in the region.
Italian, Portuguese and German military experts have already investigated the case and tested samples
taken in Bosnia and Kosovo, but no definitive link between depleted uranium and cancer was discovered.
Ottawa yet to calm energy industry over Kyoto
CALGARY, Alberta - Canadian oil, power and pipeline groups gained little confidence their businesses would not be harmed by the Kyoto accord on global warming at a meeting this week with Ottawa's point man for their concerns, an industry official said.
George Anderson, deputy to Natural Resources Minster Herb Dhaliwal, met with so-called large emitters of greenhouse gases to explain the government's latest thinking on how they might cut emissions, while moderating the financial impact.
"We continue to have a huge number of questions about this and concern about the time lines we're on," said Pierre Alvarez, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the oil industry's main lobby group.
"But this is the second or third time he's been through and I think they are making an effort to understand the concerns."
The mostly western Canadian-based industrial interests have sharply criticized Prime Minister Jean Chretien's plans to put ratification of Kyoto to a vote in Parliament this year, saying meeting commitments will hurt their ability to compete and will send investment dollars to countries not bound by the accord.
Alvarez declined to give specifics about what was discussed at the meeting in Calgary.
But he said Anderson did not reveal Ottawa's overall plan for how Canada will cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming, only general policy items related to large emitters.
Chretien has promised an action plan, complete with cost estimates, will be ready when federal and provincial ministers meet in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Oct. 21.
Under Kyoto, Canada must cut greenhouse gas emissions to 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The top buyer of its energy exports, the United States, has walked away from the international treaty, first signed in 1997.
It appears Canada will not be able to meet Kyoto commitments solely through domestic emission cuts, meaning large emitters would likely have to buy credits from elsewhere in a trading scheme, Alvarez said.
"That is a huge issue because we're price takers and have no capacity to flow through costs, and we're operating in a world market," he said.
On Friday, Ottawa detailed four possibilities on the costs of implementing Kyoto, the most severe being a loss of 240,000 jobs and C$21 billion ($13 billion) in lost economic output.
It said the most likely scenario, with governments financing costs by cutting spending in other areas, was a loss of 60,000 jobs and C$5 billion of lost gross domestic product by 2010.
Environment Minister David Anderson said the estimates did not factor in job and other economic benefits from moving to cleaner energy and more efficient use.
12 October 2002
Looming Water Crisis Threatens Food Supplies
WASHINGTON, DC, October 16, 2002 (ENS) - Water scarcity could leave millions of people without access to clean water or adequate food, warns a new report released in conjunction with World Food Day
2002. The study by two international agricultural research centers calls for changes in water policies and investments to avert environmental damage, health risks and threats to the global food supply.
Droughts and poor water use policies can leave communities without enough water to irrigate crops or supply livestock. (Photo ? WFP/Wagdi Othman)
Using computer modeling, the report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) projects that by 2025, water scarcity will cause annual global losses of 350 million metric tons of food production - slightly more than the entire current U.S. grain crop.
"Unless we change policies and priorities, in 20 years, there won't be enough water for cities, households, the environment, or growing food," cautioned Dr. Mark Rosegrant, lead author of the report and senior research fellow at IFPRI. "Water is not like oil. There is no substitute. If we continue to take it for granted, much of the earth is going to run short of water or food - or both."
Due in part to rapid population growth and urbanization in developing countries, water use for households, industry, and agriculture will increase by at least 50 percent in the next 20 years, says the report, titled "Global Water Outlook to 2025: Averting an Impending Crisis." Increased competition for water will limit the availability of water for irrigation, which in turn will constrain the world's production of food.
Water will become more scarce as the world's population grows, the report warns. (Photo
courtesy World Health Organization)
Declines in food supplies could cause prices to skyrocket, the report predicts, and higher prices will lead to
increased rates of malnutrition, since many poor people in developing countries already spend more than
half their income on food.
"For hundreds of millions of poor farmers in developing countries, a lack of access to water for growing food is
the most important constraint they face," said Frank Rijsberman, director general of IWMI. "If countries
continue to underinvest in building strong institutions and policies to support water governance and approaches to give better access to water to poor communities, growth rates for crop yields will fall worldwide in the next 25 years, primarily because of water scarcity."
According to the report, it would take only a moderate worsening in global water policy to bring about a genuine ater crisis. If governments continue to cut spending on crop research, technology, and infrastructure, while failing to implement institutional and management reforms, global grain production will drop by 10 percent over business as usual levels, equivalent to losing the entire annual grain crop of India.
Food aid, like the rations of corn and beans provided to Hondurans suffering from drought in 2001, is only a temporary solution to the problems caused by water shortages. (Photo ? WFP/Roberto Koltun)
Lack of adequate investment and poorly planned systems will hamper progress in providing water and sanitation services for hundreds of millions of people.
"Currently, more than one billion people around the world do not have access to a safe water supply, and adequate sanitation is even less available," noted Dr. Joachim von Braun, director general of IFPRI.
"Lack of clean water and sanitation is a major cause of disease and child mortality," von Braun continued. "While world leaders recently agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to cut in half the number of people without access to clean water by 2015, this goal will not become a reality unless governments redirect their water policies to meet the needs of poor people."
Adopting more sustainable agricultural practices could help to reduce food shortages around the
globe. (Photo ? WFP/Peter Smerdon)
Fundamental changes in water policies and investment priorities could achieve substantial benefits and
sustainable use of water, the report argues. For example, the report recommends pricing water to reflect its cost and value.
"Although water subsidies are commonplace in developing countries, they tend to benefit relatively wealthy people,"explained Dr. Peter Hazell, director of Environment and Production Technology at IFPRI. "Making affluent people pay for water would encourage them to conserve. It would also free up financial resources to provide clean, safe water to poor people."
The report also recommends increased investment in crop research, technological improvements and rural infrastructure to boost water productivity and crops yields from rain fed farming, which the report estimates
will account for one half the increase in food production between 1995 and 2025.
Many poor people, like this woman in the Tangalla area of Sri Lanka, must carry their drinking water from distant sources. (Photo by G. Bizzarri, courtesy FAO)
"We need to invest in water conservation, for example, using innovative low cost, small scale irrigation technologies - such as a five dollar bucket and drip kit or manually operated treadle pumps - that allow smallholder farmers to irrigate crops using less water, and deliver water to crops when it is needed," said Rijsberman.
"A number of useful new small scale technologies and community level water management innovations have emerged in recent years," Rijsberman added. "Governments must learn from these practices in order to implement practical solutions for using less water in agriculture. Without conservation, aquifers, lakes and wetlands will be further depleted."
But the report also notes that it is not too late to make the changes that could avert future water and food shortages. A shift to more sustainable water use could expand river flows and boost the water available for irrigation and other human uses, the report notes.
Water pumps for irrigation and agriculture, like this one in India, are depleting aquifers and reducing
river flows throughout the region. (Photo by G. Bizzarri, courtesy FAO)
"A crisis is not inevitable," said Rosegrant. "The world can both consume less water, and reap greater benefits. To achieve sustainable water use,we must act now. The required strategies take not only money and political will, but time as well."
850 Million Still Hungry on World Food Day 2002
ROME, Italy, October 16, 2002 (ENS) - Progress in reducing world hunger has virtually stopped, and mountain sources of fresh water essential to food production are melting away due to global warming, the United Nations warned today in reports released to mark World Food Day 2002. Each year on the anniversary of its founding, October 16, 1945, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization draws attention to the problem of hunger and malnutrition in the world.
A ceremony at Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Headquarters in Rome today featured remarks by President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, a message from Pope John Paul II, and speeches by Italy's Minister of Agricultural and Forestry Policies Gianni Alemanno and FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf (Photo courtesy FAO)
Agriculture is responsible for about 70 percent of all the fresh water withdrawn from aquifers, river,
streams and lakes, said Diouf. "A new water policy is needed, with priority to solutions that avoid waste,"
he said. "The production chain must produce more with less water, and small farmers need to play a part.
They must therefore be trained and actively involved."
Food fairs, field visits, exhibitions, concerts, ceremonies, seminars and radio and television broadcasts are underway in more than 100 countries to underline the essential role of water in food production for a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2030.
Celebrities in the FAO Ambassadors Programme and FAO's Telefood campaign will spread the World Food Day 2002 message, "The world can find enough water to produce the food needed for future generations, if we manage water wisely, now."
"We must stop hunger in the world. We can if we want to and we must," said singer Miriam Makeba. Together with Nobel Prize winner in medicine Rita Levi Montalcini, actresses Gong Li and Gina Lollobrigida, and singers Dee Dee Bridgewater and Youssou N'Dour, she has been appointed as an FAO Ambassador.
Chronic hunger affects nearly 850 million people worldwide, but progress in reducing malnourishment has all but stopped, the FAO says in its annual report on global hunger published Tuesday.
School feeding projects supplied by the UN World Food Programme have increased attendance rates to 90 percent in North Korean primary schools. (Photo by Mike Huggins courtesy WFP)
According to “The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2002,” between 1998 and 2000, an estimated 840
million people were found to be undernourished.
Faced with the slowdown in hunger reduction, the FAO is calling for a $24 billion increase in public investment in poor countries to realize the 1996 Summit goals, proposing that the financing be provided equally by industrialized and developing countries.
Between the period 1990-1992 and 1998-2000, the number of hungry people decreased by barely 2.5 million a year, signalling a drastic slowdown compared to previous developments, the FAO reports.
Six Southern African countries are at great risk of hunger this year. The number of hungry people is currently estimated at 10 million. This figure will increase during the period December to March 2003 to 14.4 million, according to the latest vulnerability assessment from the Southern African Development Community. At least six million more people in the Horn of Africa are facing immediate famine due to drought.
“If trends are not sharply reversed, the world will be very far from reaching the 1996 World Food Summit goal” of halving the number of hungry people in the world by 2015, said Charles Riemenschneider, FAO director for North America.
Ethiopian father Sani Yuya and his two year old son, Ahmed, are malnourished in a traditionally food
producing area. (Photo by Wagdi Othman courtesy WFP)
FAO reports a high mortality rate among children under five, and short life expectancy for young people. “In the worst affected countries, a newborn child can look forward to an average of barely 38 years of healthy
life, compared to over 70 years of life in the 24 wealthy nations,” the assessment says.
With 70 percent of the world‟s hungry living in rural areas, combining investment in agriculture and rural
development with measures to enhance direct and immediate access to food for the most seriously undernourished, "is not only a moral obligation, it is a good investment that will have solid economic returns for both the poor and rich,” Riemenschneider said.
One of every two people drinks water that originates in mountains, but the essential supply of freshwater is threatened by the increasing degradation of mountain ecosystems, the FAO warned in a study published Monday. The magnitude of the threat is behind the UN declaration of 2002 as the International Year of Mountains.
The agency said that "because of the effects of global warming, many mountain glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates."
Other human activities, such as exploitative mining and unsustainable forestry and agricultural practices, are also taking a toll on mountain freshwater supplies.
Runoff from the Quelcaya Ice Cap, for example, has been the traditional water source for residents of Lima, Peru. Over the past decade, melting of the ice cap has increased from three to 30 metres a year, putting freshwater at risk for 10 million people, the FAO said.
Berner Oberland, Switzerland (Photo by Ian Britton courtesy Freefoto)
In the European Alps and the Caucasus Mountains, glaciers have shrunk to half their size, while in Africa an ice cap on Mount Kenya has shrunk by 40 percent since 1963.
If current trends continue, said the FAO "by the end of this century many of the world's mountain glaciers, including all those in Glacier National Park in the United States, will have vanished entirely."
"Mountains are a barometer of global climate change," says Douglas McGuire, head of the International Year of Mountains coordination unit at FAO. "These fragile ecosystems are highly sensitive to changes in temperature and because they are found on every continent, many climatologists believe they are an early indication of what may come to pass around the world."
Nongovernmental organizations met today at FAO Headquarters to discuss the problem of water scarcity in food production. This meeting is sponsored by FAO and the Italian Association of NGOs.
Greenpeace‟s campaign against the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in Southeast Asia succeeded
with five food manufacturers and retailers in Thailand who adopted policies that prohibit the use of genetically
modified materials in their food products. The new True Food Shopping Guide released today by Greenpeace reflects the new policy of CP Interfood, Interproduce Food, Nissin Foods of Thailand, Friendship and Winner Group Enterprise.
Varoonvarn Svangsopakul, genetic engineering campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia" said, "It's a very good sign that more and more companies are avoiding the use of genetically modified raw materials and ingredients in
their products. Consumers hold a significant power to make the changes they desire especially when it comes to the food they eat."
Smoke haze causes Singapore to issue health warning
SINGAPORE - Singapore advised residents with heart and respiratory ailments this week to reduce hard physical activity and stay indoors as the thickest haze of the year blanketed the island state.
The government warning came after Singapore's Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) recorded a year-high of 92 as smoke blew in from forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia.
A reading on the index above 100 is classified as unhealthy and would prompt the government to extend the warning to the general population.
Each year, uncontrolled slash-and-burn practices by farmers, plantation owners and loggers on the Indonesian islands sends billows of smoke to Singapore, Malaysia and southern Thailand.
Haze clouds Malaysia as Indonesia's Sumatra burns
KUALA LUMPUR - Thick haze from forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia returned to Peninsular Malaysia this week and may linger for a while due to low rainfall, a government official said yesterday.
Visibility in parts of Kuala Lumpur and other areas in central and southern Peninsular Malaysia has fallen to five km (three miles), 50 percent below normal, as winds blew in smoke from the island of Sumatra across the Straits of Malacca.
"We expect to see some rains, but I don't think it's going to be heavy," said the official from the meteorology office.
"Winds have blown the haze from Sumatra to Peninsular Malaysia. We learned there were 22 hot spots in Sumatra and another 30 in Kalimantan as of yesterday," he added.
Smoke from forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo island, have frequently drifted to Malaysia and Singapore since early this year
This week, Singapore advised residents with heart and respiratory ailments to reduce hard physical activity and stay indoors as the thickest haze of the year blanketed the island state.
Malaysia has asked Indonesia to take tougher measures to contain fires blamed on land clearing and slash-and-burn farmers. It also plans to send a team to Kalimantan to help study the cause of forest fires there.
Indonesia's Environment Minister Nabiel Makarim said earlier this month his country would try to do a better job of fire prevention, adding that tougher law enforcement had reduced cases of open burning in Sumatra.
Earlier this year, Malaysia banned open burning, even barbecues, with exceptions made for cremations and destroying animal carcasses, following a spate of forest and scrub fires around the country and in Indonesia.
Hopes rise for mountain gorillas
17 October 2002
Mountain gorilla country: The Virunga volcanoes at dawn
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent
A century after their first sighting by Europeans, central Africa's mountain gorillas are slowly increasing.
Despite fears that they faced imminent extinction, the gorillas' numbers have risen by nearly 9% in 13 years.
Conservationists say a vital way to protect them is by attracting more tourists.
They believe the gorillas can help to rebuild the economies of the war-shattered countries where they live.
It was on 17 October 1902 that the species was first sighted by a non-African, when a German explorer, Oscar von Beringei, came across one.
Two animals were subsequently shot and sent to Europe for identification. The gorillas' scientific name is Gorilla
Today half of the animals live in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The rest are split between Mgahinga National Park, also in Uganda, the Volcano National Park in Rwanda, and the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In 1989, there were 620 individuals - today there are thought to be about 674, the increase having occurred among the gorillas living outside Bwindi.
Threats to the apes include hunting, capture for the illegal pet trade, and especially habitat loss.
Three conservation groups formed a coalition to save the species, the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP). The groups are WWF, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), and Fauna and Flora International (FFI).
The IGCP director, Dr Annette Lanjouw, said: "International and national efforts to protect this species have pulled the mountain gorilla back from the brink of extinction.
"However, if we want to ensure that they survive another hundred years, we must ensure that we lift the pressures that still threaten their forest home."
The IGCP says eco-tourism is a notable success, with more than 10,000 tourists visiting the gorillas in some years.
Apes' or humans' needs