Sunday, September 29, 2013

» Scientists more certain humans cause global warming - Ideas - GLOBAL IDEAS Blog - DW.DE

By The Global Ideas Blog, DW

A much-awaited United Nations report on the science behind climate change says scientists are 95 percent sure that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s. The document, which is meant to serve as a guideline for policymakers to shift towards greener energies, warns that the impact of greenhouse gas emissions could linger for centuries.

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is considered the most comprehensive document on our understanding of the mechanics of a warming planet and the physical evidence behind it.

The following are the main findings of the report:
  • Global warming is “unequivocal,” on the ground, in the air and in the oceans. And It’s “extremely likely” or 95 percent likely that human activities, led by the burning of fossil fuels, are the main cause of a rise in temperatures since the 1950s.
  • Concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased to levels that are unprecedented in at least 800,000 years. The burning of fossil fuels is the main reason behind a 40 percent increase in C02 concentrations since the industrial revolution.
  • Short, individual periods, such as 1998, which was an unusually warm year, are influenced by natural variability and are not an indicator of long-term climate trends.
  • Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3 to 4.8 degrees Celsius, or 0.5-8.6 Fahrenheit, by the end of the century depending on how much governments control carbon emissions.
  • Sea levels are expected to rise a further 10-32 inches (26-82 centimeters) by the end of the century. That will pose a threat to coastal cities from Shanghai to San Francisco.
  • The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been shrinking over the past two decades. Glaciers have continued to melt almost all over the world. Arctic sea ice has shrunk and spring snow cover has continued to decrease, and it is “very likely” that this will continue.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Climate-hit Salvadoran farmers return to indigenous agriculture

By Nelson Renteria, Thomson Reuters Foundation

In this small town, deep in the hills of El Salvador, farmers have become increasingly worried over the last five years as they see their crops of corn, beans and vegetables affected by heavy storms, droughts and hot spells.

To ease the problem, they are going back to school, to learn how to use indigenous agriculture to protect their livelihoods from climate change.

Pablo Perez, a 45-year-old farmer in Ishuatan, a small town 50 km (30 miles) west of San Salvador, said new kinds of fungus and pests in his crop are just one of his worries as the weather shifts.

“We are seeing that the effects of climate change are stronger, not only with drought, but pests are proliferating too,” he said.

Maria de los Angeles, a farmer and mother of three, belongs to a women’s farming cooperative in Ishuatan that has adopted traditional approaches to farming, including the use of native seeds and organic fertiliser. These are promoted by the Salvadoran Ecological Unit (UNES), a non-governmental organisation that has opened schools to teach indigenous agriculture in the west of the country.

De los Angeles explained that traditional farming practices are more economical and healthy, even though the yields are not large.


“Two years ago, I started working with organic (crops) and I feel better, because we spend less money because we do it ourselves. Before we were killing the earth,” she said.

Climate-related problems are not troubling only small-scale producers. A severe infestation of roya fungus has affected many hectares of coffee plantations, reducing production of one of the region’s principal agricultural products.

Last year, the blight hit each of Central America's coffee-producing nations and Mexico, home to about 20 percent of the world's arabica coffee production.

The World Food Programme has distributed food this year to small-scale coffee farmers who have lost their crops because of the fungus.

Floods, storms, landslides and mudslides, as well as droughts, are hitting the region more frequently, according to a report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

In El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America, temperatures have risen by 1.3 degrees Celsius over the last six decades, and experts believe that a further increase of 2 to 3 degrees is likely over the next century.

According to Germanwatch, an environmental organization, El Salvador ranks fourth among the world’s countries for vulnerability to climate change.

The ministry of environment and natural resources says that changes in rainfall patterns have serious implications for water availability, agriculture and food security.

The ministry is implementing a national climate change strategy to promote the restoration of important ecosystems and rural landscapes in areas affected by climate change.

“This programme seeks to establish farming systems (that are) more resilient to climate (change) and biodiversity-friendly, through the expansion of agroforestry, soil and water conservation,” the ministry said.

The government is investing $31.4 million in projects to revive and modernise the agricultural sector by strengthening food security, boosting innovation and improving links with industry and commerce.


But farmers are looking to older approaches, too. Over the past three years, UNES schools have educated 100 Salvadoran farmers in traditional cultivation practices used by their ancestors, the Nahuat-Pipil indigenous people.

Mercedes Palacios, UNES’s specialist for weather, energy and food sovereignty, explained that the schools teach the use of native seeds, care of the earth with organic fertiliser, and the exchange of seeds between farmers.

“Each producer who learns this practice must replicate it in his community. So the more people know about it, the more people become interested in it,” said Palacios.

Amadeo Martinez, head of the Indigenous Council of Central America (CICA), said ancient people understood their environment, the weather and the best growing seasons.

The Nahuat-Pipil used natural fertilizers and pesticides to protect plants without damaging crops, and tended the forests and river basins because the ecosystems helped preserve the life of the community.

“Beyond planting, indigenous practices in agriculture are related to a spiritual relationship with the earth,” said Martinez.

Learning about traditional agriculture has its festive aspects too. During the ceremony at which seeds of different plants are exchanged among farmers, farmers sing ecocorridos (ranchera music with ecological themes) and share their experiences during the previous harvest, while eating corn, beans and fruit.

“Before we had lost this practice, but today we are recovering it,” said Maria de los Angeles. “This is ours.”

Climate-hit Salvadoran farmers return to indigenous agriculture

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership

On 5 September 2013, the Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum* adopted the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership.

In a concise and focused way, the Declaration captures the Pacific’s political commitment to be a region of Climate Leaders, and to spark a “new wave of climate leadership” that can deliver a safe climate future for all.

More specifically, the Declaration:

• Recognizes the gross insufficiency of current efforts to tackle climate change, and the responsibility of all to act urgently to reduce and phase-down greenhouse gas pollution;

• Confirms the Pacific Islands Forum’s climate leadership in the form of their ambitious commitments to reduce emissions and the significant benefit in transitioning to renewable, clean and sustainable energy, and their desire to do more with the cooperation and support of international partners; and

• Calls on others – in particular Post-Forum Dialogue Partners, but also other governments, cities, the private sector, and civil society – to commit to be Climate Leaders by listing specific commitments that contribute more than previous efforts to the urgent reduction and phase-down of greenhouse gas pollution.

The Majuro Declaration is also a dynamic document, which strongly encourages committed Climate Leaders to continue to scale-up their action by listing new and more ambitious commitments over time.

As agreed by Forum members, RMI President Loeak will travel to New York in late September to present the Majuro Declaration to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during General Assembly Leaders’ week from 23 September. He will offer the Declaration as a “Pacific gift” to the UN Secretary-General’s strong efforts to catalyze more ambitious climate action by calling together world leaders on climate change in September 2014 in an effort to mobilize political will for a universal, ambitious and legally binding climate change agreement by 2015.

The Declaration

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Midway Island, North Pacific Ocean, Unbelievable !

This film should be seen by the entire world, please don't throw anything into the sea. Unbelievable, just look at the consequences

Saturday, September 21, 2013

New UN Forum to advance sustainable development

The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development will have it's inaugural meeting on 24 September 2013.

A ‘Drowning’ President Speaks Out

By Christopher Pala, IPS News

Scientists say dredging, building causeways and natural climate variations are largely responsible for the flooding events that many officials here point to as evidence that climate change-induced sea-level rise is shrinking and destroying their tropical Pacific island.

At the United Nations, in multiple climate change conferences and in an interview here, President Anote Tong, the world’s unofficial spokesman for low-lying coral islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans, often says that Kiribati’s 103,000 inhabitants are fighting a rising sea on a daily basis.

He and other officials often point to widespread erosion of the island’s coastline and say that Tarawa is shrinking as the sea rises. A profile of Tong in the U.S. magazine The Nation was even headlined “Interview with a drowning president.”

“We’ve had a whole island disappear, a whole village has been evacuated, our freshwater is being contaminated and our crops are dying,” Tong told IPS in his office. He said his country was “on the front line of climate change”, adding that “time is running out” and emphasising the need for an evacuation plan.

But in fact, a scientific study showed that the southern part of Tarawa, where more than half the country’s population lives, is far from disappearing: in fact it, it is growing. A series of what the scientists called “disjointed reclamations”, involving pouring dredged coral sand over shallow reefs to create land, increased South Tarawa’s size by nearly 20 percent over 30 years.

Meanwhile, the area of the largely unpopulated north of the island remained stable (another study found similar stability in 27 other Pacific atolls).

Tetabo Nakara said that he resigned as environment minister a few years ago because Tong had forced him to focus government policy on relocation rather than on mitigation through improved coastal management, which Nakara said was more appropriate.

Climate scientists say the equatorial Central Pacific is the area in the world where the sea has risen fastest since 1950: 5.9 centimetres in just the past 20 years. That’s because an atmosphere warmed by heat-trapping gases like carbon monoxide and methane is in turn warming the ocean, and warm water takes up more volume than cold water. A second reason is that ancient glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica are melting, pouring fresh water into the sea.

Tong’s adviser on climate change, Andrew Teem, regularly shows visitors examples of what he and Tong say is damage caused by rising seas. On a recent afternoon, he pointed to a breach in a seawall in the village of Eita, one of many around the island.

“We built this wall a few years ago to keep the sea out,” he said. “It breached during a storm, and the breach has been getting bigger. We just can’t win.”

Teem pointed to another locally iconic climate-change casualty, an island in Tarawa’s lagoon called Bikeman that was once dense with coconut groves. Today, it’s a barely visible pencil line on the horizon, a sandbank that disappears at high tide.

The village of Tebunginako in the island of Abaiang, a 15-minute flight away, is also frequently mentioned as evidence that the sea is rising. Its inhabitants moved their 100 or so thatched huts and houses half a kilometre away from the shore after the sea washed away a sandbank that protected a freshwater lagoon, flooding some homes and making growing crops impossible.

Countless climate change documentaries on Kiribati posted on YouTube show footage of waves crashing into houses during storms in 2005.

But scientists who have studied Kiribati say these events have explanations that have little to do with climate change.

The seawall in Eita was built to protect a low-lying mangrove that was filled with dredged coral sand so it could be used for housing as more and more people moved into South Tarawa. But most seawalls are poorly designed and reflect the energy of the waves in such a way that these wash away the sand at the walls’ base, causing them to collapse.

Bikeman Island disappeared because a causeway was built between two parts of the atoll, blocking a pass through which sand came in from the ocean side. Without this input, wave action slowly washed the sand away from Bikeman to other lagoon-side areas that saw their beaches grow.

The village of Tebunginako asked for help to understand why erosion was so much worse there than elsewhere. Scientists reported here that a nearby pass had disappeared a century ago, again depriving the beach of fresh sand.

The dramatic flooding of 2005 happened because of El Nino, a cyclical change in currents that moves warmer water east in the Pacific and is unrelated to climate change. El Nino caused the sea level in Tarawa to rise by more than 15 centimetres, says climate scientist Simon Donner of the University of British Columbia. That level hasn’t been reached since, he pointed out in a paper published in Eos, the journal of the American Geophysical Union.

“A visit to Tarawa can provide the false impression that it’s subject to constant flooding because of climate change,” Donner told IPS. “While it’s certainly experiencing some sea-level rise, people try to attribute current events to that trend and they often make elementary mistakes.”

In an e-mail exchange, he noted that erosion and floodings “are going to happen more and more frequently as the ocean rises. President Tong is right to sound the alarm now, because it won’t be an easy problem to solve.”

Donner contrasts this with the United States, where there is little talk and less action on sea-level rise. “No one is talking about giving up on Miami,” he said. “But they should, because the long-term picture is the same there too.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest assessment predicts a rise of anywhere between 25 cm and one metre by 2100, depending on carbon dioxide emissions.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Video Message from UNESCO to the Strategic and HighLevel Meeting on Water Security and Cooperation

A Strategic and High-Level Meeting on Water Security and Cooperation was held within the framework of the International Year of Water Cooperation 2013. The meeting, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya, on 11-13 September 2013 was organized by UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme (IHP)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Free Lunches Come at an Environmental Cost in India

By Keya Acharya, IPS News

In spite of India’s much-publicised national renewable energy policy as part of its international commitments to reduce carbon emissions, its Mid Day Meal (MDM) Scheme, the world’s largest school lunch programme, has no energy conservation or even a fuel policy in its workings.

Approximately 120 million children in 12.65 million schools around the country get a hot, cooked meal at lunch time every day.

The ruling Congress coalition government’s flagship MDM Scheme, and one that it counts as a voter’s favourite in the upcoming national elections in May 2014, has a central government budget of more than two billion dollars, with each state adding its own finances to its allotted amount.

The central government in New Delhi also gives foodgrains to each state, mandating 100 grams of uncooked rice per primary school child and 150 grams for higher classes.

Accompaniments of “dal” or lentils, vegetables and yoghurt are standard menu in southern states, whilst northern schools have “chapatis”, the Indian wheat flatbread.

The food, over 24 million killogrammes of it, is currently being cooked mainly through fuel wood cookstoves and some amount of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

Along with the firewood, LPG is used as a supplementing energy source, subsidies on which were removed in 2012, costing the government, and the exchequer, a further 117 million dollars.

There are 577,000 kitchens employing 2.4 million cooks, mostly women and in rural areas, cooking in “smoke filled rooms”, by the government’s own admission.

And yet, in spite of the magnitude and scale of operations, there is almost zero research on the amount of firewood being used daily to fuel the midday meals, and no attention as yet on the impact this is having on deforestation, soil conservation, women and children’s health and a host of related factors, including climate change.

While the Ministry of Human Resource Development in charge of the MDM Scheme has made no public mention of the matter, India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) says it is taking steps to spread the use of biomass-based, smokeless cookstoves in the midday meal scheme.

In 2009, a government initiative to create better technology for cookstoves produced a few improved versions, but the stoves did not end up in the MDM Scheme.

“They’re not used,” says Professor Rajendra Prasad of the Centre for Rural Development Technology at the premier Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, which collaborated with the government on improved technology for cookstoves.

“Unless someone tells the schools to use biomass cookstoves, there’s no awareness,” Prasad tells IPS.

“Unlike the fuel energy sector, there is no lobby to push this; all the attention is given to subsidising conventional fuels,” says Tejaswini Ananthkumar of the Adamya Chethana Trust Bangalore.

Adamya Chethana cooks 200,000 government-aided midday meals for 300 schools in Karnataka state, over 75,000 of them catering to children in Bangalore city alone.

In 2012, the trust converted from diesel generator power to biomass briquettes for gasifier energy used for steam generation for its giant cooking vats. Energy costs have since then come crashing down from 60 paise (approximately one cent) per meal to eight to nine paise per meal in 2013.

Another well-known organisation, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness’s Akshaya Patra scheme cooks using biomass gasification in 12 of the 19 midday meal kitchens it has set up in nine Indian states.

Both Adamya Chethana and Akshaya Patra are now working on methods to reuse, reduce and recycle water, effluents, kitchen waste and energy in its midday meal kitchens, but these two organisations remain a rare species inside the MDM Scheme.

Though midday meal cooking in cities constitutes less than a quarter of all midday meals in India, turning to low-consumption methods in urban kitchens too works out to significant savings in India’s huge petroleum imports (diesel and gas), which leapt to a record 140 billion dollars in 2011 to 2012 due to globally high petroleum prices.

Dr. B. S. Negi, in charge of the government’s cookstove programme in the MNRE in Delhi, thinks everybody needs a little patience.

“We can’t go ahead for the sake of the public without competent approval first,” says Negi, speaking of measures the government is currently taking to standardise and push gasifier cookstoves in the market.

But the dissatisfaction amongst those involved in the midday meal scheme continues.

“Ask the government what is being done about fuels for these stoves,” says Dr. H.S. Mukunda from another premier institute working with the government on gasification, the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science’s Gasification and Propulsion Laboratory.

Mukunda, who is in charge of working with the MNRE for gasifier technologies, says the technology has been available for over a decade now, but lacks political and administrative push. “This field is so disorganised,” he says.

Biofuel, mostly from agri-residues in compressed briquette and pellet form for large-scale applications in India, is currently hampered by irregular supply, with manufacturers complaining that lack of government help for collection, storage, transportation and marketing has resulted in exploitative middlemen taking advantage of the situation.

Manjunath Oli of Bangalore-based Alternative Fuels says the lack of government controls on pricing has led to de-husking mills (for biomass from agricultural produce) stamping “any old price they want”.

Ritesh Mehta of Sriri Biofuels based in interior Karnataka state says most biofuel manufacturers now try to stock their agricultural resource when in season, but Oli says the field is so neglected that the technology in the market too is inadequate.

“We are now making our own briquette-making machines,” says Oli.

Negi seems unhurried. “We will now hold consultations with industry to bring down fuel costs, and we are now trying to decentralise pellet-production to make them locally available,” he says.

“Talk to me in 2014, lots will have taken off by then,” Negi tells IPS.

Free Lunches Come at an Environmental Cost

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

MDG designer fears UN goals will ‘degenerate into wish list’ | EurActiv


An architect of the UN’s Millennium development Goals (MDGs) says he fears that a lack of strong leadership at the UN could lead to its poverty eradication goals being replaced by an over-politicised and unachievable “wish list” after 2015.

Jan Vandemoortele told EurActiv that UN member states were becoming “uneasy” about discussions on a framework to replace the MDGs in 15 months time, which are due to begin in New York on 22 September.

“I am worried that the [post-2015 targets] list is getting overly-politicised and member states are increasingly insisting that it should be limited to an inter-governmental negotiating process and even starting to signal that civil society participation should be toned down,” he said. “We need stronger leadership from somewhere.”

Hard choices had to be made but “in an inter-governmental setting, these decisions will not be taken and we will have an agreed international agenda but no meaning whatsoever,” he added.

Vandemoortele co-wrote the current eight UN MDGs, 18 targets and 40 indicators as a tool to communicate UN objectives emerging from the Millennium Summit in September 2000, such as eradicating extreme poverty and achieving universal primary education.

These were decided by measuring global trends in human development over a 25-year period from 1965-1990, and applying them to living standards over the 1990-2015 period, assuming that rates of progress stayed the same.

The MDGs were not intended to increase rates of progress in human development so much as maintain them.

“If you demand anything more of that list we are going to get into an endless and unfocused agenda,” Vandemoortele said. “It is going to degenerate into a wish list and then it loses its communication power. If it is not clear, concise and measurable it will be neglected by everyone tomorrow.”

A UN High Level Panel (HLP) recently produced a report containing 12 ‘illustrative goals’ but skipped the more fundamental question of why a new set of targets was needed at all.

Another report at the table

“They just added another report to the table and that’s obviously not going to be the locus of leadership that is going to be needed,” Vandemoortele said, while supporting the panel’s decision not to propose new targets yet.

The HLP report called for five ‘big transformative shifts’ in the post-2015 framework:
  • Leaving noone behind by moving from reducing to ending poverty
  • Putting sustainable development at the core of policy
  • Transforming economies for jobs and inclusive growth, by involving the private sector
  • Building peace and accountable institutions through democracy and good governance
  • Forging a new global partnership which could, to some extent, shift responsibility for achieving goals from government to civil society
The Panel, which included British Prime Minister David Cameron and the EU’s development commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, also flagged a focus on inequality in the post-2015 debate.

The world’s poorest 1.2 billion people account for just 1% of global consumption, while the richest billion consume a 72% share. Such imbalances present a structural obstacle to human development, and they stretch beyond the developing world.

Global inequality league tables

According to 2007 figures, just six American heirs to the WalMart fortune own more wealth than the bottom 30% of US society combined. The Nobel prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, last year quoted the US business magnate Warren Buffet, as saying: “There’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years and my class has won.”

But, say civil society critics, this also raises questions as to what impact UN declarations can have on the problem.

Vandemoortele called for the introduction of global inequality league tables as a centerpiece of efforts to move the poverty eradication milestones on after 2015.

“Of course, the UN can’t influence [sovereign government policy] but we can use league tables and other things to bring the issue to the fore and hopefully national policy makers will start working on it,” he said. “If you look at the progress that Vietnam and China have made [towards meeting MDGs] it is phenomenal. But if you adjust for equity it is much less impressive.”

The former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan recently called for global tax reform but Vandemoortele insisted that redistributive taxation was a prescriptive measure that fell well outside the UN's MDG remit.

He gave short shrift to EU arguments that September’s New York Review Summit need only capture the media spotlight to be a success.

“We have had a wide capture of public attention already,” he said. “What we need now is some strong leadership.” It was, however, “a moot question whether the member states will allow anybody to take leadership of this process,” he added.

MDG designer fears UN goals will ‘degenerate into wish list’ | EurActiv

Monday, September 16, 2013

An organic manure factory for Indian Rs. 800 only!

A 200 litre capacity plastic barrel and continuous supply of cow dung and urine (something most farmers have access to) - that's all you need to set up a manure factory in your farm.

Cow dung, urine, water and sugar (jaggery is usually used; cane sugar and palm fruit would do as well) mixture is allowed to ferment and settle for 24 hours. The resultant clear micro-nutrient rich solution is used to irrigate the fields.

There is no complicated filtration procedure involved and there are no extra costs!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Climate-hit Zimbabwe farmers opt for traditional crop varieties

By Busani Bafana, Thomson Reuters Foundation

There is always something to eat in Esinah Moyo's one hectare plot.

In between rows of maize are indigenous beans which make a yummy soup. Groundnuts are intercropped with sorghum, ready to harvest for a meal.

In a changing climate where rainfall has become even more unpredictable than before, Moyo plants every inch of her small plot with traditional seed varieties. The benefits, she says are big in terms of resilience to unpredictable conditions, crop diversity and food variety throughout the year.

Moyo, a farmer in Jambezi ward, 300 km north of Bulawayo, credits much of her success as a farmer to conservation agriculture techniques, such as planting seeds in holes that collect water and extend the moisture available to thirsty plants.

But she also grows traditional crops whose seed she can save and sell to other farmers. She focuses on “open pollinated varieties” – plant types that are pollinated by wind and insects, and whose seeds can be saved for planting the next year, unlike store-bought hybrid seeds.

Yields from hybrid seeds can be significantly higher, in good conditions. But with weather shifts making farming seasons more unpredictable, farmers like Moyo are having to balance the need for bigger yields with their need to reliably get at least some yield – and to earn income from selling seed to neighbours.

Hybrid seed varieties are produced from controlled cross-pollution of two different varieties of parent plants, and their seeds cannot be stored and saved for use the following year.

Hybrids can produce bigger crops, and commercial seed companies prefer to sell them as farmers need to buy new supplies each year. But as farmers try to find the right mix of resilience and reliable yields to combat changing climate conditions, plenty believe that traditional seed varieties – not just high-producing hybrids - are part of the answer.

Owing to their resilience in harsh conditions, farmers have for generations saved part of their harvest each farming season to plant the next season. Researchers agree this type of seed does not offer yields that compare to hybrid seed grown in good conditions.

But traditional seed has much wider genetic variety, which can be beneficial when fields face unexpected challenges.

In September, the United Nations World Food Programme said more than 2 million Zimbabweans will need relief food to get through to the next harvest in April 2014 because of food shortages attributed to high input costs – including that of hybrid seed – and bad weather.


Moyo, who has grown both types of seed, says hybrid maize varieties that mature early can produce high yields in good years, compared to traditional varieties.

But “in a bad season, it is mostly the (traditional varieties) that give me a good yield," she said.

Farmers say they are also benefitting from selling to other farmers non-hybrid seed that they can produce themselves – particularly grains that are resilient to increasingly unpredictable weather.

Planting two crops a year, Moyo produces an average of two tonnes of seed each year and earns more than $2,000 from the one-acre plot she farms. She sells at least one tonne of seed for about $1 a kilogramme, keeps a third of the remainder of the crop as seed to replant herself the following year, and uses the rest of her harvest to feed her family.

Moyo and her neighbours in Nemananga ward, in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland North Province, were trained in seed production under the Food Security and Livelihood Diversification Programme in Hwange and Binga Districts in the northern part of Zimbabwe.

Moyo in May showcased some of her seed at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, a global business exhibition held in Bulawayo annually.

Another farmer, Ivy Nyoni, has been producing traditional seed for the past five years, annually harvesting between one and three tonnes of different seed varieties. Last season she made more than $2,000 selling the seed.

"The project has enabled me to build my house, pay school fees for my children and raise chickens and rear goats," Nyoni told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "The seed project has uplifted farmers in my community as they have been able to sell the seed to others and invest the money."


But Moses Siambi, principal scientist with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), encourages farmers to grow hybrids because the productivity of traditional varieties is low and they generally don’t produce enough to give farmers enough excess to sell

"Farmers should be encouraged to grow hybrids because the productivity of (open pollinated varieties) is low. It is difficult to develop, for example, OPV maize that can yield 10 tons per hectare," Siambi said. "OPVs may be good for the family to enjoy certain characteristics of the ‘local’ variety but (farmers) will never produce enough to sell and send their children to school."

Moyo disagrees, noting that by selling some of her produce as seed she can earn enough money while also having greater resilience to changing climate conditions.

Davison Masendeke, the Matabeleland North provincial agronomist in the Department of Agriculture Extension Services under the Ministry of Agriculture, says smallholder farmers who use non-hybrid seed they save each season often cannot afford to buy hybrid seed, cutting off their potential for producing higher yields.

Traditional seed has its own drawbacks, he said. If weather conditions are severe enough that hybrid seed fails, “the chances are that the (open pollinated variety seed) will also fail,” he said. Traditional varieties also can take longer to mature, and “in a climate changing environment, this is not a desirable trait for farmers.”

Climate-hit Zimbabwe farmers opt for traditional crop varieties

Friday, September 13, 2013

Incinerating Trash is a Waste of Resources

Dr David Suzuki, EcoWatch

Many urban areas have built or are considering building waste-incineration facilities to generate energy. At first glance, it seems like a win-win. You get rid of “garbage” and acquire a new energy source with fuel that’s almost free. But it’s a problematic solution, and a complicated issue.

Metro Vancouver has a facility in Burnaby and is planning to build another, and Toronto is also looking at the technology, which is already being used elsewhere in the region, with a plant in Burlington and another under construction in Clarington. The practice is especially popular in the European Union, where countries including Sweden and Germany now have to import waste to fuel their generators.

The term “waste” is correct; there’s really no such thing as garbage. And that’s one problem with burning it for fuel. Even those who promote the technology would probably agree that the best ways to deal with waste are to reduce, reuse and recycle it. It’s astounding how much unnecessary trash we create, through excessive packaging, planned obsolescence, hyperconsumerism and lack of awareness. This is one area where individuals can make a difference, by refusing to buy over-packaged goods and encouraging companies to reduce packaging, and by curbing our desire to always have newer and shinier stuff.

We toss out lots of items that can be reused, repaired or altered for other purposes. As for recycling, we’ve made great strides, but we still send close to three-quarters of our household waste to the landfill. Considering each Canadian produces close to 1,000 kilograms of waste a year, that’s a lot of trash. Much of the material that ends up in landfills is usable, compostable or recyclable, including tonnes of plastics.

Turning unsorted and usable trash into a valuable fuel commodity means communities are less likely to choose to reduce, reuse and recycle it. Burning waste can seem easier and less expensive than sorting, diverting and recycling it, but once it’s burned, it can never be used for anything else—it’s gone.

Incinerating waste also comes with environmental problems. Although modern technologies reduce many air pollutants once associated with the process, burning plastics and other materials still creates emissions that can contain toxins such as mercury, dioxins and furans. As with burning fossil fuels, burning waste—much of which is plastics derived from fossil fuels —also produces carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions that contribute to climate change.

Burning waste doesn’t make it disappear, either. Beyond the fly ash and pollutants released into the atmosphere, a great deal of toxic “bottom ash” is left over. Metro Vancouver says bottom ash from its Burnaby incinerator is about 17 percent the weight of the waste burned. That ash must be disposed of, usually in landfills. Metro testing has found high levels of the carcinogenic heavy metal cadmium in bottom ash, sometimes twice the limit allowed for landfills. High lead levels have also been reported.

Incineration is also expensive and inefficient. Once we start the practice, we come to rely on waste as a fuel commodity, and it’s tough to go back to more environmentally sound methods of dealing with it. As has been seen in Sweden and Germany, improving efforts to reduce, re-use and recycle can actually result in shortages of waste “fuel”!

It’s a complicated issue. We need to find ways to manage waste and to generate energy without relying on diminishing and increasingly expensive supplies of polluting fossil fuels. Sending trash to landfills is clearly not the best solution. But we have better options than landfills and incineration, starting with reducing the amount of waste we produce. Through education and regulation, we can reduce obvious sources and divert more compostable, recyclable and reusable materials away from the dump. It’s simply wasteful to incinerate it.

It would be far better to sort trash into organics, recyclables and products that require careful disposal. We could then divert these different streams to minimize our waste impacts and produce new commodities. Organics used in biomass energy systems could help offset fossil fuel use while creating valuable supplies of fertilizers. Diversion and recycling lessen the need to extract new resources and disrupt the environment while creating more value and jobs. That’s a win all around!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Burkina Faso: Waiting for the rain

Weather patterns are becoming more unpredictable in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso. Farmers say the rainy season that once began regularly in June is often delayed and when the rain finally does come the sudden force and volume of water can cause flooding and destroy crops. To help farmers adapt to these changes, a number of IFAD-supported projects are working together with farmers to develop soil and water retention techniques. These efforts have not only helped green nearly 300,000 hectares of drought-prone land but helped farmer actually produce more food despite the decline in rainfall.

What People Want

Results from the United Nations Global Survey for a better world

What People Want

26 Governments Sign ''Declaration of Panama'' to Eliminate Health Inequalities in Latin America & Caribbean | Medindia

At the Promise Renewed for the Americas conference today, 26 Ministers of Health from Latin America and the Caribbean and seven international partners signed the Declaration of Panama pledge to end all preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035. The Declaration of Panama is a call-to-action for the region since no mother or child's health should be determined by their ethnic group or economic status, and is part of the global Promise Renewed commitment to child survival.

This is one of the most important agreements by governments in the Americas and international agencies in the fight to end preventable maternal and infant child deaths in the region, which is directly aligned with the Millennium Development Goals on this issue.

"It is now critical to galvanize the region's efforts and mobilize resources to accelerate achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the anticipated post-2015 agenda." -The Declaration of Panama

Latin America and the Caribbean have made great progress in reducing infant and child mortality, better than any other developing region in the world. However, there remain huge inequalities in maternal and child health for poor, indigenous, rural, and other disadvantaged groups. In this region, 48% of under age 5 deaths are neonatal deaths, 31% are due to infections, and 29% due to birth asphyxia — and almost all are preventable. On average, up to 95% of indigenous children are malnourished; stunting is 20% more prevalent among them; and their life expectancy is 7 to 13 years shorter than the national average.

With this commitment, each country and international partner has agreed to work toward ending socio-economic and ethnic inequities in health outcomes, with the following actions:
  • Establish National Plans and Strategies Using Evidence-based Health Research
  • Promote Universal Health Coverage
  • Expand Regional Cooperation and Increase Strategic Alliances
  • Mobilize Political Leadership
  • Develop a Country Roadmap to Mark and Report Progress
Over the next two days at the A Promise Renewed for the Americas conference, governments; non-profit, faith-based, and international health organizations; private sector; and international donors will use the declaration as a framework to generate commitment and mechanisms for working jointly to improve the health and survival of all children in the LAC region. A roadmap for the region will be announced at the conclusion of the conference on September 12.

The meeting is hosted by the Government of Panama and sponsored by the following partners: The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the Salud Mesoamérica 2015 Initiative (SM2015), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children's Fund Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNICEF/TACRO), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Bank.

Rural Kenya harvests water from fog

By Kagondu Njagi, Thomson Reuters Foundation

The misty clouds floating over the Ngong’ hills, a rocky ridge on the fringes of Nairobi city, have long provided the Maasai tribal community with dew that keeps the grass sprouting for their animals.

Lately, however, Lucy Lotuno and a few of her Maasai peers have learned that the fog also can provide fresh drinking water right on their doorsteps.

The grandmother of nine happily showed off a recently installed fog harvesting plant in Olteyani village, Kajiado County, an arid area to the southwest of Kenya’s capital.

The plant, which serves a few households, works by capturing fog in nets and draining the collected droplets of clean water into barrels below. Depending on the density of the fog, the unit can provide enough water for 20 to 40 people daily.

“I am happy because I have clean water near my home instead of walking long distances to look for it,” beamed the 45-year-old. “I am able to rest and do more domestic chores than before.”

Like many other women in semi-arid parts of Kenya, the search for water is a daily grind that leaves them weary from walking miles to the nearest water point, often shared with livestock and wildlife.

According to Lotuno, fetching water from distant sources has been part of her life since she was growing up.

That is why she is so vigilant when it comes to protecting the plant, located just a few metres from her homestead. Curious visitors are confronted by the suspicious grandmother, who demands to know why they have stopped by.

Stretched between two posts planted in the ground, a layer of mesh netting traps tiny water droplets which collect into a supply gutter before draining into a barrel. The water is immediately ready for consumption, according to Bancy Mati, a professor at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.


“Fog harvesting is a sustainable way of reducing the pressure on water resources but it remains widely untapped,” she said.

She is the director of the university’s Water Research and Resource Centre and one of the founders of the fog harvesting technology in Kenya, in collaboration with the Kenya Meteorological Department and PedWorld, a German non-governmental organisation that contributed trap nets.

Her university helped research the viability of fog harvesting at Olteyani, in conjunction with the rural community, she said.

Mati said fog harvesting technology is in use in Germany, Chile and Tanzania. A single fog collector can tap between 400 litres and 1,000 litres of water per day, depending on the size and design of the mesh and the atmospheric fog density, she added.

The Olteyani plant is the first one in Kenya, funded by the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD). But the plant’s backers hope to raise funds to establish more and larger plants over the next five years for rural Kenyans, Mati said. According to KMD, the Olteyani fog collector cost about $300.

Fog occurs when air is cooled to a point at which it can no longer retain the water vapour it contains, forming ground-level clouds.

It is common in low-lying plains dotted with isolated hills, and low mountains which trap and hold clouds or force moisture-laden winds into high altitudes, according to a recent Master Plan for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Water Catchment Areas in Kenya, produced by the government and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“Fog and mist occur mainly at night and early in the morning,” explained Peter Ambeje, deputy director of the KMD. “It is heaviest in the months of May to September.”


Its abundance in places like Olteyani and other parts of the country might mean better living conditions for Kenyans like Lotuno. If fog harvesting gathers momentum as experts hope, it could reduce pressure on the country’s decreasing water resources, experts say.

The United Nations categorises Kenya as a water-scarce country, while studies by agencies such as UNEP say the problem has worsened in recent decades due to climate change.

“Innovations that scientifically enable the generation of fresh water are what we are aiming for in the new conservation masterplan,” said Kenya’s environment secretary, Alice Kaundia. “The government is keen to support the fog harvesting technology” by allocating research funds to the country’s meteorological department, she said.

Studies link Kenya’s widening poverty gap to overexploitation of natural resources, including water.

“Most of the poverty taking root in Kenya is due to unsustainable use of natural resources,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, during a press conference in Nairobi in late July. He called for policy makers to balance a push for development with the need to provide basic services in the country in order “to keep the country on a peaceful trail.”

The United Nations Environment Programme has highlighted the increasing pressure on Kenya’s wetlands, despite repeated warnings about the ecosystem’s fragility.

The 2013 UNEP Kenya Wetlands Atlas maps an emerging pattern where ecosystems flanking cities and other urban areas are coming under stress due to new settlements, as populations move from rural areas in search of livelihoods.

According to the report, more than 75 percent of Kenya’s population is concentrated in areas with high economic potential. Those areas represent just 20 percent of Kenya’s land.

“These tend to be forest areas and sources of Kenya’s major river basins, resulting in further pressure on natural resources,” said the Atlas. “This causes loss of wetlands, increased demand for pasture, clearing of vegetation, decrease in agriculture productivity and increase in water extraction rates.”

Rural Kenya harvests water from fog

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

UN Water Seminar Exploring the Water Energy Nexus

Video record of session 'Exploring the Water-Energy Nexus' at World Water Week, 4 September 2013. UN-Water organized this seminar at World Water Week 2013 as part of its preparatory process for World Water Day (WWD) in 2014, which will focus on "Water and Energy". It was meant to trigger a dialogue on the nexus of water and energy, identify stakeholders who could be actively involved in further developing the water-energy linkages in the context of the WWD 2014, and identify policy and capacity development issues in which UN-Water can offer significant contributions. The topic of this seminar also links with the primary theme of the 2014 World Water Week in Stockholm and of the 5th edition of the World Water Development Report, which will be published in 2014.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Andean water 'sponges' facing squeeze

Source: BBC News

Scientists researching future water supplies in the Andes are increasingly worried that high-altitude cities like Quito and Bogota could be adversely affected by warmer temperatures drying out grassland areas known as "paramos", as James Painter reports.

The paramos are cold and moist grasslands and shrublands that cover the mountainsides of the northern Andes from Venezuela to Peru, at elevations of between 3,000m and 5,000m (10,000-16,400ft).

Scientists say the way the paramos react to climate change could have a much bigger impact on water supplies for some cities than melting glaciers.

"Like glaciers, paramos act like vast sponges, storing and releasing water," says Quito-based Bert De Bievre, the co-ordinator of the region-wide Consortium for Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion (CONDESAN).

"But overall, the paramos store a lot more water in their soil than glaciers."

Growing threat

A major problem facing the paramos is that higher global temperatures could dry out the soil and vegetation, thus reducing their capacity to trap surplus water in the rainy season and releasing it in the dry season.

Mr De Bievre was one of the authors of a recent study that used computer modelling to suggest significant losses to paramo areas this century when temperatures increase.

The reduction in the size of the paramos would add another layer of stress to water supplies already under threat from population growth, melting glaciers and changes to agriculture.

"Cities throughout the Andes are facing huge water pressures in the future," says Wouter Buytaert, an Andean water specialist at Imperial College London.

"Population growth will probably be the biggest driver of declines in per capita water availability. But some cities are also particularly vulnerable to changes to the paramos."

Mr Buytaert points out that the cities of Quito and Cuenca in Ecuador, and the Colombian capital, Bogota, get most of their water from the paramos.

Patricio Falconi Moncayo, a senior engineer at Quito's water company EPMAPS, is very aware of the crucial role the paramos play in regulating the water supply to the Ecuadorean capital.

"We recently bought a large hacienda under the Antizana volcano to help us protect the paramo," he explains.

"Along with other measures, this will help the supply of water to the Mica reservoir, which feeds 600,000 inhabitants in the southern part of Quito."

Quito residents also pay a small percentage of their water bill into a fund to help conserve the paramo.

It is thought to be the only such initiative in Latin America.

Thirsty population

Another problem Mr Falconi identifies is the high personal consumption of water by Quito's population. It is estimated to be 250 litres (55 gallons) per person per day, compared to 100 litres in the United Kingdom.

But Mr Falconi says they have achieved a significant reduction due to educational campaigns.

Scientists are at pains to point out that there are a lot of uncertainties affecting Andean water supplies in the future.

In particular, it is not known with much accuracy what will happen to regional rainfall patterns as temperatures rise.

For example, Mr Buytaert has carried out studies showing that water depletion as a result of climate change can rise by as much as 10% or fall by up to 10%, depending on rainfall patterns and other factors like evaporation.

Quito is not the only Andean city to be at risk. La Paz in Bolivia is estimated to rely on surrounding glaciers for between 15% and 27% of its water depending on the season.

Managing expectations

Along with rain and snowfall, glacial water feeds into high altitude wetlands known as bofedales, which also play a significant role in water regulation.

But not much is known about how bofedales will be affected by climate change.

Scientists say there is an urgent need for more research on both wetland and dryland areas in the Andes to get a better sense of what will affect water supplies in a warming world.

"We need to know much more about water storage and regulation mechanisms in high altitude organic soils, and how those would change under warmer conditions," warns Mr De Bievre.

"This would allow water officials in Andean cities to know better what to expect."

Andean water 'sponges' facing squeeze

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Mary Robinson's Video Message to the Pacific Islands Forum Climate Chang...

Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice, presented a video message to delegates at the Panel of Experts on Climate Leadership, which took place on the eve of the Pacific Islands Forum, 2 September 2013, in Majuro, Marshall Islands.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Sunita Narain, Director General of the Centre for Science and Environment, talks about the book 'First Food — A taste of India's biodiversity'..

Friday, September 6, 2013

Defending Indigenous Rights Against Dam Project in Panama

By ECOWatch
Civil society organizations filed an amicus brief last week in Panama’s Supreme Court of Justice in support of a challenge by indigenous people to the environmental review of the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam.

Supporting a lawsuit filed by the Environmental Advocacy Center, Panamá (CIAM), the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and Earthjustice argue that the Panamanian government violated international law by approving the project without adequately consulting or obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of the affected Ngӓbe-Buglé indigenous peoples, and without adequately reviewing the environmental impacts to their lands.

“Our lands and natural resources are the most important aspects of our culture, and we wish to thank the international organizations that are supporting our struggle to protect them,” said Goejet Miranda, President of a Ngäbe community movement to defend the Tabasará River from development projects.

Once completed, the dam is projected to flood homes and religious, archaeological and cultural sites in the Ngӓbe-Buglé territories. The Barro Blanco dam will transform the Tabasará River from a vibrant source of food and water into a stagnant lake ecosystem, and will lead to the forced relocation of several families. Following a visit with indigenous communities in Panama last month, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya concluded that the government should have ensured adequate consultation with the Ngäbe people before authorizing the project.

“Indigenous people have special protections under international law,” said CIEL senior attorney Alyssa Johl. “And in the case of Barro Blanco, Panama violated international law by ignoring the Ngäbe peoples’ rights to consultation and to free, prior and informed consent, which require states to ensure that indigenous peoples are actively engaged in, and take ownership of, decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods.”

The amicus supports CIAM’s lawsuit seeking to nullify the resolution that approved the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) and to suspend construction of the dam until an adequate EIA has been conducted. “Given Panama’s international human rights obligations,” explained AIDA senior attorney Maria José Veramendi, “we expect that the Court will rule in favor of the affected Ngäbe people, strengthening the protection of indigenous communities with respect to development projects in Panamá and contributing to the development of a strong and coherent jurisprudence on the issues of human rights and the environment in the region.”

The Barro Blanco project has also received criticism related to its registration under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a carbon-offsetting scheme established under the Kyoto Protocol. In theory, the CDM—with its dual objectives of reducing carbon emissions and achieving sustainable development—could be a valuable tool in the fight against climate change. However, among other problems, the CDM fails to ensure that its projects do not violate human rights.

“Mechanisms to address climate change should do more than provide economic benefit for the companies developing the projects,” said Earthjustice attorney Abby Rubinson. “They must ensure protection of human rights and equitable solutions on the ground.”

Defending Indigenous Rights Against Dam Project in Panama

Thursday, September 5, 2013 - 7th Earth Dialogues issues Geneva Declaration on Action for a Peaceful and Sustainable World

The 7th Earth Dialogues concluded at the United Nations Office at Geneva with former heads of state and leaders of science, business and civil society urging immediate action to respond to the human-induced global environmental and security risks that threaten to unleash catastrophic results on people worldwide.

The Earth Dialogues, held on Tuesday 3 September as part of the Green Cross International 20th anniversary issued today its “Geneva Declaration on Action for a Peaceful and Sustainable World.” The Declaration states: “To continue on the present business-as-usual path of consumer-driven, resource and energy intensive growth will very likely lead to disaster. The present unsustainable patterns of consumption and production must change. We must develop and implement more responsible strategies for growth and development.”

It paid special mention to the crisis in the Middle East, stating: “The framework of multilateral cooperation must be revitalized to achieve concerted action in the face of common threats, to strengthen the global partnership for development and to avert threats to peace such as now in Syria.”

The Declaration also urged world leaders to at urgently to avert the risk of irreversible climate disruption, reverse the destruction of critical ocean and terrestrial ecosystems, and achieve full nuclear disarmament.

The Dialogues, organized by Green Cross International and hosted by the United Nations Office at Geneva, were attended by Mikhail Gorbachev, founder of Green Cross, former Seychelles President Sir Robert Mancham, former Kyrgyzstan President Roza Otunbayeva, and ex-Netherlands Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers. Leading economists, environmentalists, development experts, and businessmen spoke during the conference, including Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Julia Marton-Lefévre, Martin Lees, Dimitri Zenghelis, William Becker, and Brice Lalonde.

The Declaration said: “Innovative thinking, renewed engagement and enhanced cooperation are needed to break the deadlock of entrenched but inadequate ideas, political stagnation and international fragmentation and the re-emergence of militarisation in thinking and action.”

Rising inequality and unemployment, marginalisation of the poor, growing military expenditure and dangerous instabilities and vulnerabilities in the world economic and financial systems together demonstrated that our present model of economic growth is failing, the Declaration said.

“Rising demands of an increasing world population, of between 9 and 10 billion people by 2050, and of a growing middle class will exacerbate the overuse and destruction of vital resources and will intensify competition and the risks of conflict. … In spite of 20 years of negotiations, climate change emissions have now risen to dangerous levels, with a growing risk of destabilising the global climate.”

The Declaration urges world leaders and decision-makers in all fields to:

• Move beyond GDP as the primary measure of real progress and work urgently towards a new approach to achieve balanced, qualitative growth, development and globalisation – centred on sustainable human progress.

• Adapt national policies and budgets to take full account of the social and employment facets of policy and of natural capital and resource depletion, pollution and carbon emissions.

• Question the centrality of material consumption as a value in our societies: the stimulation of consumption should not be the principal driver of growth.

• Rein in excessive resource use of the rich, and adopt new strategies to meet needs of the underprivileged within the boundaries of a fragile planet.

• Make structural changes in economic and energy systems, and with the adaptation of incentive structures and regulations, to drastically reduce resource consumption and related pollution and waste, and cut emissions to a level which will avert the increasing risk of catastrophic climate change.

• Decouple the exploitation of resources and pollution from industrial output by radical improvements in resource efficiency, by the encouragement of a “circular” economy and through business models and fiscal and social policies and incentives that favour employment and environmental responsibility.

• Strengthen basic and applied research and education to develop and disseminate breakthrough solutions essential to master global challenges.

• Enhance efforts to overcome the present blockages, failures and delays in multilateral cooperation by formulating new patterns of collaboration and new alliances of the willing so as revitalize the international system to meet the intensifying challenges of the 21st century. This will include verifiable, action-oriented, sustainable-development goals to achieve the post-2015 global development agenda.

The Earth Dialogues are public forums bringing together civil society and the private and public sectors in the search for solutions to resolve the most pressing and interconnected challenges of insecurity, poverty and environmental degradation. - 7th Earth Dialogues issues Geneva Declaration on Action for a Peaceful and Sustainable World

Water Scarcity Could Drive Conflict or Cooperation

By Thalif Deen, IPS News

When the General Assembly declared 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation (IYWC) three years ago, the U.N.’s highest policy-making body was conscious of the perennial conflicts triggered by competition over one of the world’s most critical finite resources.

Current and past water conflicts and marine disputes have included confrontations between Israel and Jordan, India and Pakistan, Egypt and Ethiopia, Palestine and Israel, and Bolivia, Peru and Chile.

Picking up the cue from the United Nations, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) is focusing its weeklong meeting this year on the theme “Water Cooperation – Building Partnerships.”

The 23rd annual meeting in the Swedish capital, attended by over 2,500 delegates, is due to conclude Friday.

Striking a more optimistic note, SIWI’s Executive Director Torgny Holmgren told IPS historically, water has been a source of cooperation more often than not. Over the past 50 years, he noted, there has been almost 2,000 interactions on transboundary basins of which only seven have involved violence and 70 percent have been cooperative.

“I think the future situation depends very much on our ability to deal with the water demand challenge,” said Holmgren, a former ambassador and head of the Department for Development Policy at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

“If we are able to increase water productivity so that we can free up water resources for protecting our environment, thereby ensuring the sustainability of the supply, and allowing for new users and uses, it will be easy to cooperate,” he said. “If we aren’t able to manage demand, and water management becomes more of a zero-sum exercise, avoiding conflict will be a challenge.”

Irina Bokova, director-general of the Paris-based U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the lead U.N. agency which will oversee IWYC, points out that there are numerous examples in which transboundary waters have proved to be a source of cooperation rather than conflict.

Nearly 450 agreements on international waters were signed between 1820 and 2007. And over 90 international water agreements were drawn up to help manage shared water basins on the African continent, she said in an interview with IPS last March.

According to the London-based WaterAid, nearly 768 million people in the world live without safe water, roughly one in eight people. Some 2.5 billion others live without access to sanitation, about 39 percent of the world’s population.

The U.S. intelligence community has already portrayed a grim scenario for the foreseeable future: ethnic conflicts, regional tensions, political instability and even mass killings.

During the next 10 years, “many countries important to the United States will almost certainly experience water problems – shortages, poor water quality, or floods – that will contribute to the risk of instability and state failure, and increased regional tensions,” stated a National Intelligence Estimate released last year.

In a report released Monday, SIWI says in a world where the population is growing fast and the demand for freshwater is growing along with it, “the fact that we all depend on the same finite water resources is becoming impossible to ignore.

“Cooperation between sectors is fundamental if we are to successfully share and manage our most precious resource,” the group says.

The water problem is not something that can be solved only by experts, says the report titled “Cooperation for a Water Wise World: Partnerships for Sustainable Development.”

“We need to cooperate with actors outside the water sector, to foster collaboration between the various decision-making institutions, between the private, public and civic sectors as well as between actors who work in research, policy and practice,” it says.

“Only through sound and forward-looking partnerships can we achieve a water wise world,” Holmgren noted.

Addressing delegates Monday, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said in a world of population growth and pressures on water resources within and among nations, sound and fair water management “is a huge task and a clear imperative for all of us. And we have no time to waste.”

The 2015 deadline for the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is rapidly approaching. And there is good news in some areas, he said. Since the adoption of the MDGs in the year 2000, global poverty rates have been reduced by half. Two hundred million slum dwellers live better lives. School enrolment rates have increased dramatically.

“And last year we were able to announce that the world had reached the target for access to improved sources of water,” Eliasson said.

But water quality to a large degree still fails to meet basic World Health Organization (WHO) standards, he cautioned.

One of the main factors that negatively affects water quality is the lack of sanitation. The sanitation target is among the most lagging of the MDG Goals, with more than 2.5 billion people around the world without adequate sanitation – more than one-third of humanity, said Eliasson.

Asked if water and sanitation should stand alone as one of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) currently under discussion as part of the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda, Holmgren told IPS, “I think we need a dedicated water SDG that stresses both the productive and protective roles of water resources management and the sustainable of water and sanitation.”

In addition, he said, the intimate connections between water, food, energy, security, biodiversity, and other issues must be spelled out, either in the water goal or in other goals.

Water Scarcity Could Drive Conflict or Cooperation

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

IBON International calls for an inclusive participatory and pro-poor sustainable development financing strategy

By *IBON International

Finance is one of the most frequently cited barriers to the implementation of sustainable development, and the need for significant mobilization of resources to support countries in their efforts to promote sustainable development, including the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), was acknowledged in the Rio+20 Outcome Document (para. 254). IBON International along with other CSOs following the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development have raised concerns on its work and put forward proposals to address them

The work of the 30-member Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing is critical as it is tasked to assess financing needs, consider the effectiveness, consistency and synergies of existing instruments and frameworks, and evaluate additional initiatives on financing sustainable development. All the global effort involving governments, CSOs and other development actors and stakeholders towards defining sustainable development goals post-2015 will be for naught if resources are not raised, effectively utilized, and equitably managed to support implementation.

IBON International along with other CSOs following the financing for development processes are deeply concerned that the Committee’s first session from 28-30 August was conducted as an exclusive, closed-door meeting, denying participation and input from civil society. IBON strongly urges the Committee to be more inclusive in its future deliberations and to truly hold open discussions with stakeholders such as CSOs throughout its work that is expected to conclude by 2014.

Part of the Committee’s mandate is to prepare a report proposing options on an effective financing strategy to facilitate the mobilization of resources and their effective use in achieving sustainable development goals. Aside from needs assessment, it intends to look into public, private and blended finance; resource mobilization; and institutional arrangements. It will be to the Committee’s benefit to gather different stakeholders’ perspectives on these areas and CSOs are an important source of relevant and substantive input.

On the substance of its work, IBON calls on the Committee to carefully consider not just the financing strategy but also the reforms needed in the international financial system to truly promote sustainable development for the billions of poor and marginalized.

According to UN General Assembly Acting President Enrique Román-Morey, a key responsibility of this Committee is to develop an understanding of and propose improvements to the currently fragmented development financing landscape. But beyond this fragmentation is the challenge of reforming the international financial system that impacts the achievement of sustainable development. The development community is well aware of the destabilizing nature of volatile and short-term investments, the imbalances caused by frantic accumulation of foreign exchange reserves, the debilitating effects of massive debt burdens – and how these undermine any prospect of sustainable development for poor countries.

IBON thus reminds the Committee that pro-poor, sustainable development financing necessitates the implementation of democratic and pro-developing country reforms of the global financial system such as strong regulation of private capital flows to ensure stability, channel finance to productive sectors, and promote access for the poor. A just system of sovereign debt workout must also be pursued as countries burdened by debt spend huge amount of public resources for debt servicing that could otherwise go to social services and development goals.

A financing strategy for sustainable development should also be able to recognize developing countries’ sovereignty over their development, give adequate policy space, and promote self-reliance. IBON recommends that the Committee give more attention to encouraging domestic resource mobilization (DRM) rather than reliance on external financing such as aid and foreign investments. Overdependence on foreign investments has resulted in massive loss of government revenue due to excessive tax incentives, profit and capital repatriation, and financial speculation. Official development assistance (ODA) on the other hand has been falling and is expected to stagnate.

DRM especially in the form of taxation has great potential in raising the needed funds for development goals. Examples are effectively taxing extractive industries like mining and logging, as well as establishing tax regimes to penalize polluting industries. Such taxation schemes serve not only as revenue generators but also as regulatory tools for developing country governments to promote sustainable development.

Promoting DRM, however, should not be an excuse for developed countries to forsake their historical responsibility for today’s unsustainable production, consumption and extraction patterns. Thus there is a need to reverse ODA’s decline as it remains an important source of public financing. Likewise, climate finance and other forms of development financing must be scaled up based on common but differentiated responsibilities.

As the Committee organizes its work for the coming months, IBON calls on it to take immediate steps to ensure that the consultations and deliberations allow multi-stakeholder participation and input. IBON recommends that subsequent sessions as well as the conduct of the Committee’s work in between be carried out in open, inclusive and dynamic engagement with civil society and that timely information is made available to the public.

*IBON International engages in capacity development for human rights and democracy around the world. It strengthens links between local campaigns and advocacies to international initiatives and brings development issues from the international arena in a way that peoples’ organizations and social movements can engage with at country level. 
For More information about this statement, please contact:

Paul Quintos
IBON International 3rd Flr., IBON Center 114 Timog Avenue, Quezon City 1103 Philippines
Phone: +632 9277060 to 62 Fax: +632 9276981
Skype ID: paul.quintos

Monday, September 2, 2013

UN calls for greater focus on sanitation and an end to open defecation

By Mark Tran, The Guardian

The UN has called on countries to give greater urgency to sanitation, particularly efforts to end open defecation.

"We must break taboos. As was the case for the word 'toilets' a few years ago, it is time to incorporate 'open defecation' in the political language and in the diplomatic discourse," the deputy secretary general, Jan Eliasson, said in a keynote speech at a annual World Water Week event in Stockholm, Sweden.

He has urged states to step up their efforts on sanitation, which is the subject of the seventh millennium development goals (MDGs). Meeting the target would involve reducing the proportion of people without access to sanitation from 51% to 25% by 2015. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the objective is off track but, even if it were met, about 1.7 billion people will be without access to sanitation.

In 2008, aid commitments on water and sanitation comprised $7.4bn (£4.7bn), or 5%, of reported development aid, lower than other commitments for social sectors, including health and education, and lower than those for government and civil society, transport and storage, and energy and agriculture. Compared with health and education, the share of development aid for sanitation and drinking water has markedly decreased over the past decade.

Sub-Saharan countries agreed five years ago at an African Union summit to spend 0.5% of GDP on sanitation and hygiene, but only a handful of those countries have budget lines for sanitation, and none of them have come close to meeting their commitment.

In March, Eliasson sought to redress the balance by launching a UN call to action aimed at providing all people with access to sanitation. The aim is to end open defecation by 2025.

More than 2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation worldwide. Of these, 1 billion people practise open defecation. In the least developed countries one in four people defecate in the open, largely as a result of poverty.

Eliasson also drew the link between poor sanitation and ill-health. "Diarrhoea is, after pneumonia, the biggest killer of children under five in the world, responsible for 800,000 deaths each year – around 2,000 children every day," he said.

"Even when diarrhoea does not kill, it empties nutrients from the body which in turn, and after repeated occurrences, results in stunting, stopping children in their growth. Stunted children are not just shorter and thinner. They are more vulnerable to disease and their brains do not develop as they should."

Recent studies suggest a strong link between open defecation and undernutrition in India, where rates of stunting are high, despite strong economic growth. The latest estimates (pdf) show that 48% of under-fives in India are stunted. Children there tend to be shorter than their sub-Saharan African counterparts, even though Indians are, on average, richer.

Eliasson also laid out the financial case for improving sanitation and hygiene. According to the WHO, inadequate water supply and sanitation amounts to annual economic losses of $260bn, while the benefits of meeting the MDG target on water and sanitation would amount to $60bn.

Poor sanitation, on the other hand, costs countries some countries billions of dollars a year, according to the UN – $448m in Cambodia, $3bn in Nigeria, $4.2bn in Pakistan and $53.8bn in India.

"We also know that every dollar spent on water and sanitation can bring a fivefold return, mainly through diminished health costs and increased work productivity," Eliasson said.

The deputy secretary general cited the sanitation and water for all initiative – which brings together ministers of finance, water and sanitation, civil society and international organisations – as an example of the co-operation needed from different sectors to crack the sanitation problem.

"It is self-evident that dealing effectively with the water and sanitation crisis is fundamental to fighting disease and poverty," he said. "It is key for enabling a life of dignity for billions of people around the globe. In a world of population growth and pressures on water resources within and among nations, sound and fair water management is a huge task and a clear imperative."