Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pacific Islands to push for climate ambition at Majuro summit

By Sophie Yeo , RTCC

A high level forum taking place next week in the Marshall Islands will aim to address the increasingly pressing issue of climate change that is threatening the Pacific Islands region.

Leaders from the Pacific Island states will be joined by delegates from their 13 Post-Forum Dialogue Partners, including the United States, China, the EU and member states for negotiations on the theme of “Marshalling the Pacific Response to the Climate Challenge”.

The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) is the main political and economic policy institution in the region. The Majuro summit will be its 44th gathering.

A series of recent weather-related disasters means that the islands have a keener sense than most of the urgency of drawing up a coherent response to climate change.

The Marshall Islands, a group of 29 atolls and coral islands with 54,000 inhabitants, faces particular challenges.

Rising oceans are slowly engulfing the islands, while the government declared a state of disaster on 7 May due to the lack of clean drinking water after a prolonged drought.

Tony de Brum, the Minister-in-Assistance to the President of the Marshall Islands, recently undertook a tour of Australia, trying to raise awareness of the issues facing the islands ahead of the Forum in the hope that it would raise ambition and give the negotiations more prominence on the global stage.

Talking to RTCC this month, he spoke about the possibility of the islanders becoming “climate refugees” as rising sea levels make the islands uninhabitable.

“If we do have to displace the population, god forbid, then we will have to start thinking about who’s going to be responsible for what happens to our nation, what happens to our sovereignty, and what happens to our culture and tradition,” he said.

While the Forum’s formal mission is to strengthen regional cooperation and integration, this year it will specifically address how to accelerate the response to climate change in the islands.

Majuro Declaration

The hope is that the Forum will culminate in the signing of a Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership, signalling the commitment of the attendees to addressing the problem of climate change.

The proposed declaration, which was issued to PIF Leaders last week, aims to generate a “new wave of climate leadership” and to stimulate action ahead of 2015 attempts to negotiate a globally binding deal.

Specifically, the document aims to recognize that current efforts to reduce greenhouse gases are insufficient, and that there needs to be a worldwide effort to phase down pollution.

It also confirms climate leadership position adopted by those at the head of the PIF by affirming the ambitious commitments, targets and actions set to reduce emissions.

Meanwhile, it calls on others, including governments, the private sector, civil society and in particular the Dialogue Partners, to commit to increasing their contributions to the phase down of greenhouse gas pollution.

Incoming PIF Chair and Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak said, “We want the Declaration to demonstrate the Pacific’s climate leadership through the region’s accelerating transition to clean and renewable energy, and call on everyone, including the world’s biggest emitters, to do more.

“Waiting for a new global agreement in 2015 will not be enough. Accelerating climate action now, and well before 2020, is critical. With global leaders scheduled to come together on climate change in September 2014, now is the time to build our new wave of climate leadership.”

The global response

Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Action, has spoken publicly this week on the need for the EU to take firm action on the situation in the Pacific Islands.

Writing in Islands Business, she says, “It is in our common interest to push for immediate and more ambitious global climate action, for the benefit of our children, our environment and our societies.

“The Pacific can count on Europe’s cooperation and ambition. We count on the Pacific region to help us bring all other major economies on board the future climate regime.”

But Pacific Islands leaders are still on tenterhooks as to whether John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, will attend the event. His attendance, expected but as yet unconfirmed, would mark the commitment of the US to tackling climate change, according to representatives from the Marshall Islands government.

In an open letter to Kerry, Loeak has asked him to show climate leadership by attending the Forum.

He wrote, “In June, President Barack Obama asked if the U.S. would have the courage to act before it is too late. If the U.S. is serious about rolling up its sleeves and renewing its global leadership on climate change, you will pivot to the Pacific and join us in Majuro.”

De Brum said, “Kerry must attend the forum. The United States has already raised the stakes here with Secretary Clinton attending the Cook Islands forum last year.”

Loeak plans to present the Majuro Declaration to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in September, in the hope that it will boost ambition and mobilize political will as he plans for the 2014 Climate Change Summit, ahead of a new climate treaty in 2015.

Pacific Islands to push for climate ambition at Majuro summit

Friday, August 30, 2013

FAO: Rio+20 and beyond together for a sustainable future

United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization: FAO: In this episode: Refugees arrive at Ethiopia's Dolo Ado refugee camp in greater numbers, driven by poor rains and ongoing conflict in Somalia. After 10 years of civil war, women farmers in Ivory Coast fight poverty and preserve peace by growing high-quality rice seeds. Farmers in The Gambia work to minimize food losses at a time of drought and soaring food prices.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Masai Mara: 'It will not be long before it's gone'

By Jessica Hatcher, The Guardian

As lodges and shanty towns proliferate in Kenya's Masai Mara, drastic and urgent steps are needed to save this beautiful game reserve from becoming an environmental disaster
Our vehicle comes to an abrupt stop. "There, now watch," says Josphat, my exacting young Masai guide. We cut the engine and the silence is acute. Josphat points out a cheetah's head in an ocean of golden grass. One minibus has already pulled up on another sandy track a few hundred metres away and four heads are craning out of the roof. We sit and watch for the cheetah. All of a sudden white minibuses crest the horizon in droves. We are in a stampede. Eight of them surround us. Within five minutes we have counted 30, the drivers communicating via radio to make sure their clients tick off "the big five".

A cheetah will never kill like this; its prey will have been alerted. And if it has killed, the vehicles will make it blind to a subsequent hyena attack. But this cheetah is now nowhere to be seen. Undeterred, the minibus drivers start ploughing into the long grass. Eventually they give up. I ask if this happens often. Every day, Josphat says.

Josphat is a member of the Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association, which means he knows the Latin names and mating rituals of every animal in his domain. He is 27, small, intelligent and deeply serious about his work. He is accustomed to tracking animals and avoiding humans, but he is also proving adept at the inverse, showing me the "real" Masai Mara. One of the greatest natural spectacles on earth is under way. More than a million hungry wildebeest are on their way from Tanzania to Kenya's Mara National Reserve to raze tons of sweet red-oat grass. Primordial gnus are the stars of the show, but in supporting roles are a few hundred thousand zebras and half a million Thomson's gazelles; then there are the resident crocodiles, lions, hyenas, leopards and cheetahs.

Their show is in danger of being upstaged. Every year, thousands upon thousands of tourists descend on the Masai Mara to witness the migration. The resident human population is increasing; lodges are proliferating. Rampant corruption means money is not filtering down to the Masai population, who are increasingly turning to charcoal and arable farming to make ends meet. In short, mankind is in danger of squandering one of the most important habitats left in the world.

"It will not be long before it is gone, unless some drastic and urgent steps are taken now," says Joseph Ogutu, a scientist who has studied changes in the area's fauna for 24 years. The Masai Mara represents the northern quarter of the Serengeti ecosystem that stretches down into Tanzania. The wild animals that remain here require vast and various dispersal areas to survive drought, predators and human pressure. These safe havens are disappearing. Lodges surrounding the park have erected kilometres of electric fencing; lions have been known to use them to trap their prey. Shanty towns are developing fast, and some may soon be on the national grid. There are too many cows for not enough land, and wheat fields are advancing (wheat has become a swearword among conservationists). Human waste is being buried or dumped. The environment is displaying symptoms of its mismanagement. Algae are emerging in rivers upstream, a consequence of fertiliser use.

The Mara river, where wildebeest cross from Tanzania, dried up completely in 2009, says Dickson Kaelo, a respected Masai guide. He recalls seeing scores of minibuses queueing to watch wildebeest splash through the water. But there was "just dust". Inside the treasured reserve, monkeys play with crisps packets. Even the predators' behaviour is changing. Malaika is a cheetah who will sit on the roof of your car; Josphat is disgusted by the guides who encourage her, to secure a good tip.

Kenya's economy is heavily reliant on tourism and the core area, the Mara National Reserve, generates an estimated £13m each year. The place projects a timelessness that speaks to notions of man's origins and the beginnings of time. But it also epitomises a modern conflict over land and resources playing out across Africa today.

Landowner Kaitet Ole Naingisa sips hot chocolate in a central Nairobi cafe. He has travelled to the capital to present his case to the commissioner of lands. He pulls his title deed from a brown A4 envelope. Naingisa's family had a plot close to the National Reserve in Siana where they had lived for more than 20 years, and where his 10 children are being schooled. Siana was one of many "group ranches", areas of communal land around the reserve, which have been subdivided among members in recent decades. It was this subdivision, locals say, that opened the door for the land-grabbing that is now epic in scale. When the land registry finally issued Naingisa with his title deeds last year, he got "this", he says, brandishing the embossed title deed to plot 366, far from his home, on unproductive land. The deed states his name as the land's original owner, but another name is semi-legible beneath it. There is a hole in the paper where someone has tried to rub it out. This is not his original land; the authorities have fiddled it, he says.

In battling for their rights, the Masai are seen as greedy by many conservationists, but most are not, an exasperated Josphat says: they just want their rightful share. The Masai occupied most of western Kenya at the turn of the 20th century, but disease, massive evictions by British colonialists and civil war reduced them to only 0.5% of the population. Centuries of survival in harsh lands gave them a strong sense of mutualism, but a culture of cronyism now pits the Masai against one another. The uneducated minority are represented, and exploited, by an educated few. There are countless lawsuits languishing in the courts and a number of unsolved, politically motivated murders. Paramilitary police have carried out forced evictions by night. People are bitter, and trust has eroded. Somali émigrés run thriving businesses in the Mara, because the Masai trust them more than Kenyan tribes.

Until last year, the Mara National Reserve, 371,000 acres of government-owned land, was administered by two different county councils. Now it is united under a new governor. "We call him the Big Fish," a young herdsman says.

One half of the administration had outsourced its management to a conservation group, one that received praise for its environmental work but faced allegations of corruption. Samuel Tunai, the "Big Fish", was on its board of directors. He holds a stake in more than 2,000 acres of prime land that were once part of the reserve but then given to the community to use. The land now boasts three luxury camps. There had also been allegations of corruption on the other side of the administration, and management was said to be worse. But now, under Kenya's new constitution, Tunai, as governor, is in charge of both administrations. He has rejected claims that his involvement in the Mara represents a conflict of interest. The Guardian's attempts to contact him proved unsuccessful.

Three decades ago, the Masai community gave president Daniel Arap Moi a parcel of land on the northern escarpment, a gesture that belonged to a more honourable era when "grabber" didn't feature in the local vernacular. Moi built a spectacular lodge with the only tarmac landing strip in the Mara. Today his presidential pied-à-terre, Ol Kurruk, has fallen into ruin. The buildings have either collapsed or been gutted by fire. Huge herds of giraffe and zebra have moved in. As we pick through the demolished rooms, small antelope, lizards and monkeys skitter away. Communities living on the escarpment fear Tunai plans to turn it into yet another luxury lodge.

"Today it's lodges, lodges, lodges. Everybody wants a lodge," Josphat says in despair. Some of those inside the reserve secure leases by greasing palms; others pay wardens for illegal permits, or start up as temporary camps and never leave. Outside the reserve it's easier. The first Chinese lodge is under construction on the south-eastern edge of the reserve. Its flat-pack cabins travelled 5,000 miles from China to be constructed on cleared forest. The minister for tourism said recently that of 108 tourist operations in the Mara area, only 29% were legal. Jake Grieves-Cook, a former chairman of the Kenya Tourist Board who owns a number of camps, estimates there are 7,000 tourist beds in the Mara ecosystem. If this is true, then in the past 10 years, despite a four-year moratorium on development, the number has almost trebled.

Fifty years after the process of dividing community lands began, it became evident that these traditional pastoral lands would turn into housing estates and farms if something didn't hold them together. A number of "conservancies" sprang up. These are privately managed reserves, funded directly by tourism, that lease land from communities to be set aside for wildlife. They increase the size of the protected area by 50%. Supporters argue that they will be enough to save the Mara; others say they are a sticking plaster and can support it for only so long.

Josphat and I venture out to Richard Branson's much-discussed new camp, which lies on its own conservancy away from the politics of the National Reserve. We eye the "tents" agog. They could feature in Star Wars, with four-metre pegs supporting futuristic domes. But their aspect is all natural. As we stand next to the infinity pool, a hyena obligingly comes to drink at the stream below. When almost 300 landowners of the surrounding Motorogi community were offered 3,500 shillings (£27) per hectare per year, they were delighted; the land was so overgrazed it looked worthless. Fast-forward five years and "you wouldn't recognise it", says Tarn Breedveld, Branson's handsome young manager. The story is the same across the conservancies: overgrazed land has recovered with only a few years of good management, and animals have come back in great numbers. For tourists, the conservancies give a flavour of what the Masai Mara was.

We drive between two conservancies with Grieves-Cook, an early pioneer of the community-owned model. Night falls and we become hopelessly lost. We drive through herds of buffalo and stop for hippopotamuses to cross the road. When we eventually arrive in camp we are greeted with a hero's welcome. The tented camps Grieves-Cook operates don't have menus or cash-bars. Seven hundred acres is budgeted per tent, and a game drive isn't a treasure hunt. Driving through Olare Orok conservancy, we sit in silence with a pride of lions for an hour as the sun goes down. Cubs tumble around like Andrex puppies and bloated females finish off a wildebeest as the lone male has a lie-down.

Go on safari, meaning "journey" in Swahili, with someone like Grieves-Cook and such mishaps and surprises will be the moments you remember best. In the early days, trailblazers took guests on a journey in every sense of the word. In the 1950s, the late Sydney Downey once burst every one of his tyres. His glamorous guests were made to stuff them with grass and bump along. Another time, Downey forgot all the food apart from a wheel of cheese. His guests gave him a silver plaque to commemorate "the great cheese safari". When Downey discovered someone was going to build a permanent structure in his beloved Mara he was "horrified", his daughter Margaret recalls. Keekorok Lodge opened in 1962 on Downey's favourite camping site. It is a 200-bed behemoth with tarmac roads and a swimming pool. At 4pm sharp, white minibuses charge out, taking guests on prosaic "game drives".

Animal habitat is disappearing. On the banks of the Talek river, overlooking the National Reserve, you can get a room for only 300 shillings (£2.30) per night. Talek is an urban island in an expanse of protected land and the largest trading centre in the Mara. Filling stations open early, televisions blare out from restaurants and bars, and the sex workers open their doors at night. The abattoir does a roaring trade but its owner is nervous – he's waiting for the first lion to steal a carcass. There is no public waste management system in Talek and the roads in the town aren't really roads but rising layers of human detritus where there's a tacit agreement not to build.

North of Talek on the Narok road, an enterprising woman has set up an impromptu charcoal stall beneath the Mara North Conservancy sign. A 150-year-old acacia tree lies slain on its side, prey to the charcoal trade. Once you take out these trees, the land can go over to wheat. Wildlife pays around 3,000 shillings per hectare per year, but wheat farming pays 8,000-10,000. Masai society is increasingly monetised, steered by electronic communications, motorised transport and imported food. These people and many more are trying to make a living, and although the National Reserve makes millions, they're getting little from it. Without incentive to protect it, they are destroying it. A Japanese businessman has offered the council 42bn shillings (£235m) to relocate people on the edge of the reserve to 20km away, a consultant for the council says, which would mean more forced evictions and an uncomfortable new chapter in the battle for the Mara's billions.

Jackson Looseyia, a veteran guide of 26 years and presenter of the BBC's Big Cat Diaries, is between safaris. I have come to meet him in a private house owned by a wealthy Briton. Looseyia wears rubber sandals made from old tyres, a red-checked shuka, red dress and beaded belt. "I don't normally eat like this," he says, feigning embarrassment at the elegant meal laid on. I believe him. However much time he has spent around westerners, Looseyia is Masai to the core. What concerns him most about the future of  the Mara is the rocketing value of land. Africa is rising, the media proclaim, but it is doing so unequally. Wealthy investors in the former Masai rangelands 30km south of Nairobi have driven land up to 12m shillings (£93,000) per acre. Both the Masai, who "suffered big time", Looseyia says, and the wildlife are gone. "It's a threat to conservation, it's a threat to the community. We are bordering the famous Masai Mara National Reserve. That in itself is gold. It could easily go," he says.

As well as the Serengeti wildebeest that convene every year in the National Reserve, around 300,000 wildebeest from Kenya's Loita plains used to arrive concurrently and mingle with their Tanzanian counterparts – the "northern migration". Calvin Cottar, whose family have been in the Mara for almost 100 years, has seen the Loita migration reduce by 90% to 30,000 animals in the past three decades. Wildlife populations crashed by up to 70% in that time, according to a Journal of Zoology study, while cows grazing illegally inside the reserve were up by 1,100%.

The Masai don't want to see their pastures become sweeping wheat fields. But wildlife on land comes with a risk to personal safety, loss of grazing, disease and death of livestock – and this should be compensated. Money from wildlife should go directly to the people affected, Looseyia says. Otherwise it will be lost, like America's 65 million wild bison: not one walks freely today. While the focus is on the spike in elephant and rhino poaching, Looseyia says lions and hyenas are disappearing at an alarming rate. "This is a home to these species. We have come to invade and as invaders we need to understand when to back off." People say lions sleep for many, many hours, Looseyia muses. "What I know is that when lions do not want to see you around, the easiest thing is to close their eyes. Yes, they sleep. But not as we think they sleep."

Looseyia likens expats in the Mara to the key that will turn on the engine, with their experience and funding. But the agent of change, the engine, can only be Kenyan. Looseyia's 20-year-old daughter is at university. "In an ideal Masai world she'd have three children by now." Women like her, he says, are the leaders of tomorrow.

That night, Josphat maintains a soft but lyrical commentary as we drive through the National Reserve for the last time, away from the setting sun. "That's a topi on a termite mound – see its dark legs?" he says. "That's a fish eagle." Then something catches my eye, a multitudinous and multicoloured herd. "What are those?" I ask. "Those," Josphat pauses, "are cows." Next to a ranger's post, 200 cows are inside the protected reserve at peak tourist time. If the council cannot enforce their rules, what hope is there for preserving half a million acres of ecosystem for generations to come?

• Watch an audio slideshow of Guillaume Bonn's photographs, narrated by Jackson Looseyia, at

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Amazon Watch - Rights and Responsibility: The Failure of Yasuní-ITT and What it Means for Ecuador’s Indigenous Peoples

By Adam Zuckerman, Eye on the Amazon

In the wake of President Rafael Correa's decision to terminate the historic Yasuní-ITT initiative the big question has been: Who is to blame for the initiative's failure? In his announcement last Thursday evening, Correa made his position clear, "The world has failed us...It was not charity that we sought [from the international community]. It was shared responsibility in the fight against climate change."

Correa was not wrong for blaming the industrialized world for not funding Yasuní-ITT; rich countries were reluctant to contribute to a climate initiative that did not grant them carbon credits, and it didn't help that a global financial collapse came just months after Ecuador launched the initiative. However, amidst all of his finger pointing, Correa failed to mention his role in undermining the initiative's credibility.

Yasuní-ITT makes up 12% of the one million hectare Yasuní National Park, part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that may be the most biodiverse place on Earth. It contains more endemic tree species in one hectare (2.5 acres) than there are in all of the U.S. and Canada combined. This PBS infographic shows that while the park is the size of Delaware, it contains as many species of reptiles (121) as there are in all of Europe. The park supports as many species of birds (596) and as many species of mammals (187) as there are in all of Canada. Perhaps more importantly, the park is territory of the Waorani indigenous people, and two nomadic Waorani clans – the Tagaeri and Taromenane – who live in voluntary isolation.

But the park is no stranger to oil operations. As you can see from the map below, the government of Ecuador started drilling in Yasuní long before last week's announcement. In the 1990s the Maxus Oil Company began operating in Yasuní and in 1993 they built the 180 kilometer Via Maxus oil road through the heart of the park. Since then the government has divided over 40% of the park into oil concessions, and you can see that there are oil wells even outside of the oil blocks. Spanish company Repsol operates in Blocks 16 and 67, Chinese company PetroOriental operates in Blocks 17 and 14, and a Chinese conglomerate Andes Petroleum operates in Block 62. State-run oil company PetroAmazonas operates in Blocks 15, 12 and Block 31, which along with Block 14 border Yasuní-ITT. The steady encroachment of oil activity in Yasuní served as a red flag for potential donors to the initiative.

Carlos Andrés Vera, an Ecuadorian journalist who is directing a documentary about the Taromenane uncontacted tribe in the park, questioned the government's intentions to preserve Yasuní-ITT in a 2012 interview with The Guardian: "The oil companies have already carried out exploratory studies there. I have testimonies from local people who say they are already building tracks to they can push ahead with plan B. They say they are trying to save Yasuní, but that's bullshit." To hear more analysis from Vera, check out his interview in Spanish with Ecuador en Vivo.

How could Correa expect the global community to donate billions of dollars to protect a fraction of a national park that he was actively chopping up into oil blocks? How could he expect the world to donate when he regularly spoke about a "Plan B" to drill the ITT wells if the world didn't pay up?

Yasuní-ITT was a bold and revolutionary initiative, but the government's push to drill the rest of its Amazon undermined the plan's credibility. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area immediately south of Yasuní. As part of his XI Oil Round Correa is attempting to auction off a 6.5 million acre swath of indigenous territory in the rainforest that is roughly 22 times the size of Yasuní-ITT. This does not include the 1.5 million acres of rainforest that state oil company PetroAmazonas is looking to develop in coordination with other partners. Looking at the government's own map you can see that the area comprises Ecuador's last major swath of rainforest that has not yet been contaminated by oil drilling.

But the government's extractive drive has even graver consequences than undermining the initiative's credibility; it is threatening the very existence of Ecuador's indigenous peoples, especially those living in voluntary isolation. The Tagaeri and Taromenane are nomadic relatives of the Waorani who inhabit what is now the area of Ecuador's Yasuní National Park. Both clans have resisted contact for millennia, retreating further into the forests as missionaries, loggers, oil companies, roads, and colonization encroached around them.

For the nomadic Tagaeri and Taromenane whose ancestral territory once spanned large swaths of forest, they literally are now surrounded on all sides and are forced to survival within an incredibly reduced territory. The Ecuadorian government has been unwilling or unable to protect both groups, and instead has promoted policies that are escalating unfettered resource extraction on their ancestral lands, which has led to conflict between the Waorani and their nomadic brethren.

In March while walking to collect food in the forest near their community of Yarentaro in the Ecuadorian Amazon, two Waorani adults, Ompore and his wife Bogueney, were attacked and killed by members of the Taromenane. Before attacking with spears, the Taromenane expressed their anger to Ompare and Boguene – who survived long enough to give details of the tragedy – at the Waorani's inability to stop the destruction of their rainforest territory. They said they were tired of the noise, their trees being cut down, foreign crops, the intrusion of infrastructure and colonists, and the construction of oil platforms. Both groups view the Waorani as intermediaries between them and the outside world due to their distant familial ties, and view the Waorani as having the duty of stopping the encroachment onto their territory. In a reprisal killing a band of Waorani massacred over a dozen Taromenane and kidnapped two young Taromenane girls.

In a written statement, Humberto Cholango – president of Ecuador's national indigenous federation CONAIE – stated, "This is the result of a structural problem. The development model followed by the Ecuadorian state since the beginning of the petroleum era has done nothing but increase pressure on the lives of the indigenous nationalities... These pressures on indigenous territories have provoked conflicts between Waorani and the Tagaeri and Taromenane, encounters that have turned into violent confrontations." These kinds of confrontations are only likely to increase with increased pressure upon isolated groups.

As Amazon Watch colleague and ClearWater International Field Coordinator Alex Goff noted last week, "Article 57 of Ecuador's own constitution prohibits extractivist operations in the intangible zone within Yasuní National Park for the protection of isolated peoples. Violation of this right is labeled 'ethnocide' by the constitution. Why then, we might ask, does Ecuador have to receive a sum of money to follow through on its own human rights commitments?"

Amazon Watch - Rights and Responsibility: The Failure of Yasuní-ITT and What it Means for Ecuador’s Indigenous Peoples

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kwa Zulu Natal (KZN) community sets up game reserve -

Farming the Wild, a community-driven project backed to the tune of R22-million by the South African government's Green Fund, aims to transform lives in rural Somkhanda in KwaZulu-Natal through the establishment of a community game reserve.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa launched the project in uPhongolo local municipality in KwaZulu-Natal on Friday.

Managed by the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the Green Fund provides finance to facilitate investment in greening initiatives.

The Department of Environmental Affairs said the Somkhanda Community Game Reserve represented a green economy solution suitable for the rural areas across the country.

Transforming rural communities
"The sustainable use and conservation of wild animal and indigenous vegetation resources have the ability to ... transform the poor rural economy of South Africa."

The land on which the game reserve was founded was restored to the community of Somkhanda through the land reform process in 2005. The community decided to place the majority of the land under conservation and create a game reserve to drive development in the area.

The Somkhanda community has formed partnerships with the Wildlands Conservation Trust and the World Wildlife Fund to guide them in establishing the reserve.

Through this partnership, various skills development projects have been introduced to members of the community.

Introducing endangered black rhino
The Somkhanda game reserve is a participant in the Black Rhino Range Expansion Programme, which is introducing endangered black rhino to the reserve.

Some of the game already purchased includes buffalo, impala and zebra.

"Revenue can be generated from hunting, live game sales, game products and ecotourism," the department said.

"The project will create approximately 80 jobs. Thus far, 28 permanent and 15 temporary jobs have been created."

The project will be implemented by the Wildlands Conservation Trust, who will coordinate all financial expenditure of the project.

'Sustainable development path'
On Friday, Molewa also launched the South African Green Economy Modelling (SAGEM) Report, which explores the question of whether equal or higher growth could be achieved with a more sustainable, equitable and resilient economy.

"South Africa views a green economy as a sustainable development path that is based on addressing the interdependence between economic growth, social protection and natural ecosystems," the department said.

"The SAGEM was therefore developed to explore the transition to a green economy for South Africa, with special attention for its ability to meet low carbon growth, resource efficiency and pro-job development targets."

The transition to a green economy in South Africa is linked to many policies, strategies and plans, including the National Development Plan, the New Growth Path, the National Climate Change Response Policy and the Industrial Policy Action Plan.

The SAGEM report is closely aligned to these policies and plans. It seeks to present a modelling process and test the national targets and the effects of investing in a green economy in South Africa.

The department and its stakeholders have committed to continuing initiatives that will simulate green economy investments.

The department said it will regularly update the SAGEM report, as and when new relevant policies and scenarios arose.

KZN community sets up game reserve -

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Friday, August 23, 2013

INBO 2013 Adopts Fortaleza - Post-2015 Policy & Practice

By IISD (Post 2015 Policy and Practice)

The 9th World General Assembly of the International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO) convened from 12-16 August 2013, in Fortaleza, Brazil, on the theme “for better river basin management over the world.”

INBO 2013 brought together 285 participants from 46 different countries. The Assembly included roundtables on: water management, first priority of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); adaptation to the effects of climate change and prevention of extreme phenomena of floods and droughts; institutional frameworks for action of the Basin Organizations and participation of local authorities, water uses and the public, role of the basin committees; management of transboundary rivers, lakes and aquifers; and financing of water management and of Basin Organizations. The assembly also included statutory sessions of the INBO General Assembly and concluded with the adoption of the Fortaleza Declaration and Final resolutions.

Among its recommendations, the Fortaleza Declaration stresses integrated water resources management (IWRM) is essential worldwide, the creation and strengthening of River Basin Organizations (RBOs) should be supported, adaptation to the effects of climate change should be a local and global priority, and cooperation between riparian countries sharing transboundary rivers, lakes and aquifers should be improved. In particular the Declaration emphasizes that better water governance should be a priority as water resource availability is a limiting factor for sustainable development.

A number of other resolutions and decisions were adopted by the General Assembly, including election of Lupercio Ziroldo Antonio, President, Brazilian Network of Basin Organizations (REBOB), and Technical Secretary, Latin-American Network of Basin Organizations (LANBO), as president of INBO. The 10th INBO General Assembly will be held in Mexico in 2016

 Full  Fortaleza Declaration from here

Angry Birds Skip Polluted Delhi

Ranjit Devraj
Every winter the Okhla wetlands, a charmed haven in the heart of India’s bustling capital city, play host to Greater Flamingoes, Greylag Geese, Tufted Pochards, Northern Shovelers and other exotic, feathered visitors winging in from colder climes as far away as Siberia.

These avian migrants join hundreds of local water birds to breed in the Okhla Bird Sanctuary and Wildlife Park – a four square kilometres patch of wetland on the Jamuna river. The river is struggling to survive amidst costly real estate and development projects in the state of Delhi on the west bank of the river and Uttar Pradesh state on the east.

Conservationists now warn that unless there is a halt to construction activity on the banks of the Jamuna and to the pumping of raw sewage and effluents into the river, the annual spectacle of colours and shapes winging into the Okhla sanctuary will soon be nothing more than a cherished memory.

According to Tarun Kumar Roy, coordinator of the Asian waterbird census of Wetlands International (WI), some 10,000 birds could be counted at the Okhla sanctuary a decade ago. “That number has now been reduced by half, to around 5,000 birds,” Roy told IPS.

Wetlands International, a Netherlands-based not-for-profit organisation, works to conserve wetlands and their resources for people and for the cause of biodiversity.

Roy, who has been working to get the Okhla sanctuary recognition as a site protected under the 1971 Ramsar Convention, says the dwindling bird numbers have dashed his hopes.

Other experts believe that it is still possible to gain recognition for the Okhla sanctuary as a Ramsar site so that it can benefit from international support through the treaty designed to stop encroachments on wetlands with ecological, economic, cultural, scientific and recreational significance.

“The fact that a good number of transcontinental migratory birds visit the Okhla sanctuary makes it an outstanding candidate for designation as a Ramsar site,” Faizi S. Faizi, who is a member of the expert committee on biodiversity and development at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, told IPS.

Faizi says it is helpful that the Okhla sanctuary has been certified as an ‘Important Bird Area’ by Birdlife International for its ornithological importance.

Gopal Krishna, coordinator of Toxics Watch, a major environment group based in the capital, said it is up to the ministry of environment and forests to get the Okhla sanctuary rated as a Ramsar site. “If the ministry has failed in this regard it is only due to pressure from the powerful construction and real estate lobbies,” Krishna told IPS.

“It is hard to believe that the officials of the ministry are unaware of encroachments into a national sanctuary located barely five kilometres away from its offices,” said Krishna.

“How could, for example, a heavily polluting waste-to-energy incinerator come up on the edge of the park without ministry clearance?”

Krishna said the future of the Okhla sanctuary now rests greatly on a series of cases filed by environmentalists and local residents at the National Green Tribunal, a special fast-track court that handles contentious cases relating to environmental issues.

“The most important of these cases relates to the waste-to-energy incinerator that has been functioning since January 2012 within the eco-sensitive zone of the Okhla sanctuary,” said Krishna. “A judicial commission of the tribunal has established that the emissions from the plant are 25 times above the permitted limit.”

In July, the school of environmental sciences at New Delhi’s Jawaharalal Nehru University released the results of a study that found the air around Okhla to be severely polluted with lead, nickel, cadmium and cobalt that could only have come from the incinerator.

“The high chimneys of the Okhla incinerator are a serious threat to migratory birds since they emit a range of toxic gases into their flight path,” said Roy.

On Aug. 14, the tribunal suspended further unauthorised construction in a 10-km wide eco-sensitive zone around the Okhla sanctuary, and ordered a fresh survey of the area by central and provincial authorities with a view to protecting it.

Faizi said the tribunal order has come not a moment too soon. “The Okhla waste-to-energy incinerator is absolutely unacceptable in this critical bird area and must be removed without further delay,” he said.

According to Roy, although the total number of visiting birds has declined, the range of bird species represented at the Okhla sanctuary appears to be increasing. “A total of 330 bird species has been recorded at the Okhla sanctuary, although some species are no longer being sighted.”

Feathered visitors to the Okhla sanctuary that figure on the ‘red-list’ of endangered bird species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature include the Ferruginous Duck, Black-tailed Godwit, River Lapwing, Egyptian Vulture, Oriental Darter, Painted Stork, Black-bellied Tern and Black-headed Ibis.

The tribunal is currently hearing multiple petitions asking for intervention against property developers, builders and a ‘sand mining mafia’ that defy existing rules that can help protect the Okhla sanctuary.

After it was discovered that illegal sand mining had caused the Jamuna to shift its course eastward, a crackdown involving seizures and arrests was carried out by Durga Shakthi Nagpal, administrator of Uttar Pradesh’s Gautam Budh Nagar district in which much of the Okhla sanctuary falls.

But on Jul. 28, three months after the crackdown was launched, Nagpal was controversially suspended by her political bosses in what was widely seen as a backlash from the construction industry that uses large quantities of river sand for its cement and concrete mixes.

Faizi said that only a people’s movement could save the sanctuary, which acts as a ‘green lung’ for congested and polluted Delhi that is home to 20 million people. “Recognising the Okhla sanctuary as a Ramsar site would be the best way to generate public interest in protecting one of the world’s truly unique wetlands.”

Angry Birds Skip Polluted Delhi

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Modest Case for Unsustainable Development

By Alastair Roderick, The Huffington Post

The central question of the Post-2015 process is how to protect the successes made in poverty reduction and replicate this in the environmental sphere so that development is truly sustainable. This can't be answered, however, unless a few basic issues are resolved.

Just naming something 'Sustainable Development' does not make it so. Because the development and environmental industries (and their supporters in government) use the phrase there is an assumption that great thought has gone into the concept. But 'Sustainable Development', as originally used in The Brundlandt Report, is a quarter-century old idea. Incidentally, Sub-Saharan Africa's economy has quadrupled in size during this period (and would be even further ahead if it hadn't been through a number of shocks in the 1980s and early 1990s) even as the development community has struggled to define what sustainable development meant or how it may be achieved.

'Sustainable Development', which is seen as the basis for a Post-2015 development framework, has devolved from an important idea to a catch-all banality. It has become an unfortunate repository for so many unstructured, and at times actively contradictory, ideas that it has become an overly-politicised cliché that sheds about as much light as Hard Working Families or The Squeezed Middle.

There is a temptation to assume that all good things go together and that development is therefore sustainable, just as a sustainable economy must be one that gets consistently richer. China may offer clues about the former; Costa Rica the latter. Just as poverty has become to be recognised in recent years as multi-dimensional (ironic, given that income is the principal measure of poverty in the Millennium Development Goals), so too is sustainability. So a sustainable Indian economy is on a very different trajectory to a sustainable British economy, and both should be recognised as cyclical rather than linear processes.

Cliché absolves the user from having to address philosophy or semantics. Sustainable Development therefore becomes synonymous with development that protects the environment, or that minimises external threats, or that progressively incorporates Things We Like and rejects Things We Don't. (The imprecision that accompanies cliché is yet another of its disadvantages.)

As such we forget about why we want development to be sustainable. Call it the economic laws of gravity, call it common sense, but we just feel that there is a healthy rate of growth which if unmet leads to poverty and when exceeded leads to environmental and social harm. It is the ability to defer gratification, and accept 'sustainable' progress in one year in order to safeguard similar progress in the next, that instinctively leads us to intellectually and practically support sustainable development.

It is virtual apostasy in both environmental and development circles to criticise the concept of Sustainable Development, but what sort of record does it have? Sustainable Development didn't prevent a rich-world financial collapse. Nor does it seem to be behind the growth rates in much of the poor world that the development community now claim as a vindication of poverty-reduction targets. If anything, Unsustainable Development seems to be winning: not an oblivious race to the environmental bottom, but a conscious decision by rapidly developing countries to escape the poverty trap before resources are exhausted and environmental feedback absorbs excess capital.

Sustainable Development as a concept (which is different from sustainable development as practice), may represent the linear thinking that got us into our current predicament, rather than the sort of systemic thinking required to conceptualise our challenges as complexly reinforcing and inter-related. The sort of thinking that might get us out of the current situation.

It is as if sustainability can be plotted on the X-axis of a graph, and development on the Y-axis, and 'Sustainable Development' is some sort of line of best fit. This way of thinking sees development as a planned act, and if some magical formula can be found to adjust the graph then Niger will inevitably become Switzerland, as if geography, biology, physics and history played no part in the process. It is not the idea that Niger could become Switzerland that is in question so much as the idea that this is some sort of planned and technical feat. To be sure, I am not doing Niger down, it is just that assuming that a technical solution awaits Niger, rather than the dirty, excruciating experience of every other country that has made the development transition, is both anti-evidential and ahistorical.

If sustainable development really is the aim, then democracy needs to be a larger part of the conversation. China would define its development as sustainable in its own way, in that it has lifted 800 million people out of poverty at the same time as strengthening the position of the Chinese Communist Party. Would a member of the Politburo describe that as anything less than sustainable?

As a more obtuse example, the North Korean regime has managed to keep itself in power for sixty years despite bankruptcy, a slave-based economic model, the collapse of Marxist-Leninism globally and the presence of the US Eighth Army on its southern border. Any one of the Kims' acolytes would presumably argue that this was sustainable. Few gave that model much of a chance, yet sixty years later here we are. There is a tendency to confuse stability with sustainability.

Sustainable development - in both senses - doesn't occur just by accident. It implies bargaining. It implies making deals, and sometimes one group will be screwed over so that another can make a short-term gain. If China is to lift 1.4bn people to the same living standards as 400m Europeans, both history and physics suggest it will do so by burning less carbon per person in the long run than Europe did. It will also ultimately despoil less wilderness, use fewer materials, and ultimately (I am willing to bet) guarantee more human freedom than Europe's development project. If that seems an extreme statement, remember that our period of major development ended in 1945, that's not when it began.

We developed through grinding, dirty effort, and a lot of lives along the way were nasty, brutal and short. There were also the small matters of slavery and empire, not to mention world war and genocide. This is simply the mathematics of the demand for development meeting environmental supply. And when, in the future, Niger and other African nations join Europe and China in the first world, they too will have to be cleaner, greener and freer, or they will not get there at all. There is just no other way to square the circle.

This is the logic of the development project. Adam Smith laid out 250 years ago that industries grow and wane by innovation, substitution and efficiency, and that the same rules essentially apply to nations too. All things being equal - a proposition that the rest of the social sciences may have something to say about - these basic rules haven't been repealed. All industries, and nations, will exhaust supply unless innovation, substitution or efficiency intervenes.

As the world congratulates itself on successful Millennium Development Goals, and prepares to transition to the next big idea, let's remember that history doesn't end, that sustainability is not synonymous with living happily-ever-after, and that democracy and the right to escape poverty shouldn't just be limited to a lucky few.

A Modest Case for Unsustainable Development

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Clear Solutions: Hope For The Yamuna

Bioremediation is the use of micro-organisms to remove pollutants. Find out how river Yamuna, that has become a sewage dump, can be cleaned within a few months with almost no investment.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It's a mistake for NGOs not to engage with hydropower companies

By Giulio Boccaletti, The Guradian

Hydropower may be controversial, but NGOs must engage with the hydropower community to ensure the impact is positive

We are entering a new hydro-dam era. As John Vidal has reported, construction of hydropower in the Himalayas will be one of the great forces for change in Asia and a hot spot of regional tension between China, India, and Pakistan.

In Africa, the growth aspirations of many countries are pinned at least in part on the development of its extraordinary hydropower endowment. Only about 5% of the continent's hydropower potential has been developed thus far. But things are changing. Ethiopia's construction of the Renaissance Dam in the upper Blue Nile – which, when completed will be one of the largest dams on the continent – has sparked conflict with downstream Egypt and made headlines about water wars on the Nile. Recently, the World Bank has announced its return to financing hydropower as part of its core strategy, after almost two decades during which it has been virtually inactive in the sector.

Hydropower development has a troubled history. Relocation of people to make room for reservoirs, downstream environmental impacts from the fragmenting of rivers, and the profound modification of aquatic ecosystem – all drive legitimate concerns about the development of this type of infrastructure. But hydropower also brings essential base-load supply, a renewable source of energy, and in some cases much-needed storage capacity and flood control. Managing these competing objectives requires facing difficult trade-offs, which are not susceptible to broad-brush strokes positions.
Not yes or no, but where and how

While some dams' impacts clearly outweigh their benefits, in many places the most important question may not be whether to build a dam but rather about where and how hydropower is built. On 1 July I stood along the Penobscot River in Maine with colleagues and onlookers from partner organisations, government, local businesses and the community to watch the historic removal of the Veazie Dam.

This was the second of two major dam removals as part of the Penobscot River Restoration project – one of the largest such projects in the world. The project will greatly improve access to nearly 1,000 miles of habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon and a number of other species of native sea-run fish – many of which had dwindled from annual populations in the millions in the 1800s to only a few thousand by 2011.

In the late 1990s, after decades of conflict around re-licensing of individual dams on the river and proposals to add new dams, a single power company bought all the dams in the lower river basin. This changed the debate. Instead of taking a dam-by-dam approach, the Penobscot Indian Nation, a number of environmental groups and the Penobscot River Restoration Trust were able to work with the hydropower company and federal and state regulators to look across the river basin and find a solution that meets multiple needs. Ultimately, an agreement was reached to remove the dams while increasing fish passage and electricity generation at other less harmful sites – reestablishing river health, recreation and culture while increasing electricity generation.

This example demonstrates something important. Limiting the impacts of hydropower while harnessing its benefits is first and foremost an optimisation problem. By taking a river-basin wide perspective, the siting and construction of dams can be directed toward the least damaging places within a basin – ensuring as much of the natural flow of water, sediments, nutrients and fish are sustained as possible for the benefit of people and nature. This does not avoid the difficult trade-offs but can improve outcomes.

This is the conversation that needs to happen, and the only route to global impact. Organisations like mine have the science, some solutions and emerging ideas, but businesses and governments will be making the large-scale infrastructure investments and have the delivery capacity that will dictate our reality. This is why the Nature Conservancy and China Three Gorges Corporation have just signed an agreement to work together for the next five years. This agreement builds on our conservation work on the Yangtze River and attempts to begin exporting our lessons and practices to other international locations where Three Gorges works.

It will not be easy and we should not be under any illusion that we will always land on the same side of the debate. But if we fail to engage with the hydropower community, we will miss an enormous opportunity for positive impact. While we may at times still be at odds, working with business – and with governments where major development is occurring – is the only way to bring sustainable solutions to a scale that can alter the path we're travelling on.

It's a mistake for NGOs not to engage with hydropower companies

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Kashmiri Farmers Unprepared for Drought

By Athar Parvaiz

Zareena Bano has had to skip school 17 times this year to help out on her family’s farm in Tangchekh village in the northern Indian state of Kashmir.

Her teachers say she has the potential to be a brilliant student, but warn that if she keeps missing school she will not go far.

Never before has the 15-year-old had to sacrifice her education in order to support her family, but an acute water crisis in this Himalayan state has made irrigation a constant worry and severely disrupted the way of life for thousands of farming families like her own.

Troubled though they are by the toll the extra labour is taking on their daughter’s schoolwork, Zareena’s parents are in no position to order her to stay away from the fields.

Her father, Gaffar Rathar, says the family is entirely dependent on the yields from his 2.5-acre paddy field and half a dozen walnut trees. Frequent droughts mean a lot of additional hard work for him and his family.

“Sometimes, when water is in extremely short supply, we have to store water in small ponds that we dug ourselves, and plastic containers,” he told IPS.

Most residents of this lush valley, nestled between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range, are unaccustomed to drought. For generations subsistence agriculturalists have relied on steady rainfall and glacial rivers to irrigate their farmland, but now this scenic alpine region is feeling the pinch of climate change.

The most recent State of the Environment Report (SOER), released by the Directorate of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing in the capital, Srinagar, says that all its monitoring stations across Kashmir – except Jammu, which is located 290 km away from the capital – recorded a decreasing trend in total annual rainy days.

A number of other studies carried out in recent years corroborate these findings, adding that glaciers in the Kashmir Himalayas are receding, while snowfall and precipitation are both showing decreasing trends.

A study by Norwegian scientist Andreas Kaab and his French colleagues, which was published by Nature Magazine in August last year, found that increasing temperatures in the region posed no immediate threat to glaciers in the Hindu-Kush Karakoram Himalayas (HKKH) except to those in the Kashmir Himalayas.

Kaab’s findings suggest that Kashmir’s glaciers may be receding by “as much as half a metre annually,” presenting an immediate threat to the rivers that feed the Indus basin.

Jhelum, the largest river in the region, originates in South Kashmir and is fed by glaciers in the upper reaches of the town of Pahalgam. One of the river Jhelum’s primary tributaries, the Lidder, is fed by the Kolhai glacier, which is receding fast.

Quoting a study conducted by Kashmir University’s geography department, Department Head Mohammad Sultan Bhat informed IPS that, since 1975, precipitation in the lower parts of Kashmir has declined by 1.2 centimetres in lower altitudes and eight cm in higher altitudes.

These trends, say experts, bode badly for the future of Kashmir’s agricultural industry: according to figures in the most recent Kashmir Economic Survey, only 42 percent of agricultural land in Kashmir is covered by irrigation facilities like canals and lift stations, while the remaining 58 percent is entirely dependent on rainfall.

Following the enforcement of the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act in 1959, over 9,000 landowners were stripped of over 100,000 hectares of land, which was transferred to peasants, thereby creating an agrarian-based economy in Kashmir.

Over 80 percent of the population is now dependent on agriculture for a livelihood, cultivating such crops as rice, maize, pulses, saffron and potatoes.

Official statistics indicate that 75 percent of agricultural land – roughly 46,943 hectares – is under paddy cultivation in Kashmir, indicating that rice farmers comprise the bulk of agriculturalists here.

Early this year, scientists from the earth sciences department at the Kashmir University revealed that increases in temperature and a considerable reduction in precipitation would result in a sharp decrease in paddy yields across the region.

Earlier this year, renowned scientists Shakil A. Romshoo and M. Muslim presented a paper at the Indian Science Congress in New Delhi, predicting that rice production would decrease by 6.6 percent (over 4,000 kg per hectare) by 2040.

According to Romshoo, these projected declines are based on predictions that maximum and minimum temperature will increase by 5.39degrees Celsius and 5.08degrees Celsius respectively by 2090. Precipitation levels are likely to decrease by about 16.67 percent by 2090.

Most farmers in Kashmir earn roughly 1,900 dollars a year and produce an annual average of 40 quintals (4,000 kgs) of paddy per hectare. Experts say these farmers will struggle to withstand the decrease in yields that will undoubtedly accompany the predicted weather changes.

Already countless families are feeling the pinch of decreasing water supplies. Nasreena Begum, a mother of three children living in the village of Surigam in the northern Kupwara district, spends several hours every morning walking over a kilometre to fetch water from a stagnant pond, since the stream that once bordered her village has completely dried up.

She told IPS she makes the trek several times a day in order to collect enough water to meet her family’s daily needs.

In addition to drinking and washing water, she must also ensure that the family cow is properly watered, since her children rely heavily on the cow’s milk for nourishment and she herself sells five litres a day to the local milkman in order to supplement her husband’s meagre earnings as a daily labourer.

As the rains become thinner, and the glacier-fed rivers slow to a trickle, she and many other farming families will be forced to hunker down to weather a hotter and drier Kashmir.

Kashmiri Farmers Unprepared for Drought

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Communicating Climate Change in Nepal

The consequences of climate change will be devastating for a mountainous country like Nepal. Recent reports show Nepal's temperature will rise by up to 3 degrees Celsius in the next 40-90 years. The warming trends may result in heavy floods, landslides, forest fires, and soil erosion. Nepal will also suffer from droughts and Glacial Lake Outburst Flooding (GLOF), which is not only dangerous for those living in Nepal but will affect the livelihoods of people in South and East Asian regions who depend on Himalayan water.

There is an urgent need to prepare vulnerable communities so that they can adapt. A small village in Madan Pokhara in west Nepal understands the consequences of changing climate and is preparing resilience mechanisms that will reduce their vulnerability.

Friday, August 16, 2013

ECLAC: Post-2015 Regional Agenda Requires a Rethink of the Development Model and a Structural Change Centered on Equality


On August 14, 2013 Authorities from several countries and international experts took part in a high-level panel discussion in the context of ECLAC's First session of the Regional Conference on Population and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean in Montevideo, Uruguay, where they highlighted the importance of a paradigm change in the current development model, with a view to constructing a post-2015 regional agenda.

The panel discussion was chaired by Luis Almagro, Uruguay's Foreign Affairs Minister, and involved Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister, Leslie Ramsammy, Minister of Agriculture of Guyana, Marcela Suazo, Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Regional Office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Meeting participants analysed the region's current situation, which is more resilient than developed economies while also facing many challenges in terms of equality, productivity and sustainability. They agreed on the need for consensus around a development agenda based on equality with a medium-term vision and a clear sequence of events: closing remaining gaps in terms of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), placing people at the heart, and aiming for universal sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Uruguayan Minister Luis Almagro said that the new development agenda should be based on human rights, and should continue the international standards achieved with so much effort in recent years. He stated "Human rights should be recognized in all population and development matters".

Mr. Almagro added that there are inequalities that urgently need to be resolved, such as problems in accessing sexual and reproductive health services, teenage pregnancies (which keep people in poverty), greater empowerment and gender equality, legal gaps in enforcing the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendent peoples, recognition of diversity of sexual orientation and protection of migrants.

Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, emphasized that major challenges remain in terms of inequalities throughout the region and within countries, hence the need for specific policies to address these. He also stressed that the sexual and reproductive rights of young people should be protected and promoted. He stated that it was important to increase international cooperation to achieve the aims of the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994.

Mr.Patriota declared that "we must work on the link between social development and human rights, rather than taking it for granted. The post-2015 agenda must be universal and reflect the aims of developed and developing countries alike".

Minister Leslie Ramsammy spoke out in favour of women's sexual and reproductive rights, saying that it was a public health issue. He stated "We can have a better world for our children and future generations if we concentrate on achieving better conditions for children, women, people of various sexual orientations and those with mental health problems. A better world is possible".

Marcela Suazo declared that, 19 years after Cairo, the region is at a historic moment in terms of making progress with a post-2015 agenda and a new development paradigm based on well-being and happiness. She explained that the basic principles that bring together this agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean should be universal and interdependent human rights, solidarity and tolerance among peoples, recognition of equality in diversity and social inclusion without distinction for race, ethnic group or gender identity.

According to Ms.Suazo "The new post-2015 development agenda must recognize that States create the conditions for tackling ongoing gaps in terms of rights. We have a unique opportunity to build a world without exclusion for every man, woman and child".

In her address, Alicia Bárcena underscored the fact that this First session of the Regional Conference on Population and Development of ECLAC is based on women's issues, and this provides the opportunity to find a unified regional voice when presenting to subsequent international meetings. She said "We want everyone to hear loud and clear: it is time for equality in our region. We want the agreements made here to become universal agreements, as they represent civilizing progress".

According to Ms. Bárcena "Much has been done in the region, and there is a rethink under way about the development model. We have the chance to make a structural change for equality". She added that gender equality is the most important, and is the prerequisite for the post-2015 agenda. She stated "the current model is unsustainable. Economic growth is not enough: we must have growth for equality and equality for growth. It is not enough to reduce poverty if there remain structural inequalities based on gender, ethnicity and territory. Social issues are about more than social policy".

Ms. Bárcena cited the need to rethink our destination and implement a deep change in production and consumption patterns. She explained that women's equality, their three forms of autonomy (physical, economic and decision-making) and young people are at the heart of the post-2015 agenda. This is because they are the main social stakeholders who need to be empowered.

ECLAC'sFirst session of the Regional Conference on Population and Development will be held until Thursday 15 August in Uruguay with eight panel discussions on the priority themes of the ICPD Programme of Action beyond 2014: rights and needs of children, adolescents and young people; ageing, social protection and socio-economic challenges; gender equality; gaps in universal access to sexual and reproductive health services; international migration and protection of migrants' rights; territorial inequality, spatial mobility and environmental vulnerability; indigenous peoples, multiculturalism and rights; and Afro-descendent peoples, rights and combating racial discrimination.

At the end of the meeting, co-organized with the Government of Uruguay and held with the support of UNFPA, participants are expected to adopt a series of agreements on these priority themes in the implementation of the Programme of action beyond 2014.

ECLAC - Economic Commission for Latin America and : Post-2015 Regional Agenda Requires a Rethink of the Development Model and a Structural Change Centered on Equality

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Short-term action needed to meet 2° warming goal - report

By Erin Berger , Thomson Reuters Foundation

International pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are nowhere near enough to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius by 2020, and countries will have to do much more outside U.N. climate negotiations to close this “mitigation gap”, says a new report.

The aggregate of mitigation pledges by all countries would not amount to even half of what is needed to meet the 2 degree limit beyond which scientists say the world will experience dangerous climate change, according to the report from Germanwatch, a development and environment group. And that is under a best-case scenario in which nations meet their pledges in full - unlikely since most are not legally binding, it said.

U.N. climate negotiations alone won’t be sufficient to push for more ambitious efforts, the report added.

At talks in 2010, governments agreed deep emissions cuts had to be made to keep an increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels this century.

But as the biggest emitters have not yet been able to craft an ambitious mitigation treaty, other countries are reluctant to step up their pledges, Charlotte Cuntz, one of the report’s authors, told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The researchers hope to see that stalemate change with the new global climate agreement due to be sealed in 2015. After the United States failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the current emissions reduction pact, Germanwatch argues there should be a way for countries to domestically implement an international climate treaty without having to ratify it first. Another suggestion is for several countries to craft a smaller treaty in which they could support each other to meet mitigation goals.

“It’s not clear yet what the new treaty will look like, but it most definitely will not be one international treaty that every country will have to ratify,” Cuntz said. “I do think it is realistic that these [alternative] options could happen.”


Until then, the researchers recommended a slew of additional short-term opportunities for countries to increase their emissions reductions. These actions must be taken by 2015 in order to have an effect by 2020, they added.

To stay below a 2 degree rise, all developed countries would need to stick to a plan of reducing emissions by at least 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels. Developing countries would be encouraged to boost their mitigation ambition as part of their development goals. Countries that have not yet submitted pledges - which make up about 28 percent of projected global emissions in 2020 - would need to do so by 2014.

Some of the proposed short-term actions would likely get more backing than others. Phasing out hydrofluorocarbons is one option that might be politically easier to swallow, for example, since it is technically feasible, cost-efficient and would demonstrate immediate benefits such as improved air and crop quality.

“It’s easier to create political will for something you can see right now,” Cuntz said.

There is also potential for powerful alliances that could develop strategies or standards for emissions reduction. “We think it’s important when big emitters are on board and vulnerable countries are also included, because that sends out a strong moral signal,” Cuntz said. “Those constellations will probably have the most impact.”

Other changes will be more difficult, though. Agriculture and the U.N.-backed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) programme are two areas with the potential to cut emissions significantly, but they are also more complex, making it harder to implement changes fast enough to be relevant by 2020.

For these sectors, the focus should on adaptation as much as mitigation, to avoid negative impacts in areas like health or food security, Cuntz said.


Cuntz identified two main elements likely to generate the most political will. “First, sadly, as there are enough visible and severe natural impacts that become more and more associated with climate change, there will be more pressure to act politically,” she said.

And as countries successfully pioneer low-emissions approaches, others are likely to follow suit. “If these front-runners show it’s possible to reduce emissions like that and still prosper, it will trigger actions from other countries,” Cuntz said. The German Renewable Energy Act is a particularly successful example of legislation copied by many other countries, she added.

Since the Germanwatch report was released this month, Cuntz has seen indications of growing momentum toward closing the mitigation gap, especially in the United States. “It’s still limited to just complying with its Copenhagen [Accord] pledge of 17 percent reduction [of emissions], but hopefully they’ll meet that. It’s promising,” she said.

She also pointed to “remarkable activities” being carried out by some countries. For instance, Costa Rica has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2021, and Bhutan is already carbon neutral. Three countries - Mexico, Dominican Republic and Britain - have national climate laws in place. And Germany is undergoing a major energy transformation that could have significant global implications.

Despite these positive examples, there is still much work to be done around the globe, Cuntz emphasised. “Basically, there’s no country doing a perfect job right now at mitigation,” she said.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Revived to be killed

By Sushmita Sengupta, DownTo Earth

It took the Sri Lankan government eight long years to revive the dead Lunawa lake and the lot of people living around it. The country’s Water Supply and Drainage Minister, Dinesh Gunwardena, wastes no opportunity to present the Lunawa lake revival project as a model for the South Asian region. But a visit to the lake site reveals that the island country’s model lake is fast returning to its earlier murky state.

Till a decade ago, the lake on the fringes of Colombo, was the dumping ground for waste from shanties dotting surrounding hill slopes. Industries and commercial centres used to release untreated effluents directly into the lake. Irregular expansion of shanties had encroached the catchment area and blocked several drains and channels that used to feed the lake. Every time it rained, the clogged canals and the choked lake would spill over, causing flash floods and subsequently disease outbreaks.

Efforts to restore the lake began in 2000. With funds from the Japanese government, Lunawa Environmental Improvement and Community Development project (LEI&CDP) was set up. The projects devised a three-pronged strategy to tackle the situation: it de-silted the lake, checked the flow of waste from the catchment area by improving the living condition of people in its vicinity and involved them in the maintenance of the lake.

More than 1,300 of the 1,925 households had encroached the lake’s catchment area. They were resettled in an organised manner, leaving space for canal and feeder channels to flow freely. As the construction of houses and community infrastructure geared up, there was a demand for carpenters, masons and electricians. LEI&CDP trained the unskilled people and employed them in resettlement works.

“Never before we had included community development in works like canal development, flood control and storm water drainage restoration in the country,” says Anura Dassanayake, former project director of LEI&CDP. Now we are replicating the model in other restoration projects.

Soon after Lunawa’s revival, land price went up by 200 times; expenses on health cost went down. Those who were unemployed now have jobs. In 2010, when Cyclone Laila hit Sri Lanka, the housing colonies around Lunawa lake did not get flooded. A rough estimate shows the project’s direct economic benefit due to “no flooding situation” is SLR 75 million (US $570,000) a year.

But floodings are about to return. Since the project got over in December 2012, industries and commercial centres have resumed releasing untreated effluents into the lake. Dassanayaka says when LEI&CDP wound up, it entrusted the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Cooperation and municipal councils of Morutawa and Dehiwala-Mt Lavinia with the responsibility of maintaining the canals, drains and the lake. Even every police station in these municipal councils has environmental cells. But it seems no one is bothered about it,” he adds.

“We are not able to maintain these canals and drains due to lack of manpower and fund,” says Kesaralal Gunasekera, deputy mayor of Dehiwala-Mt Lavinia.

The community at many places cleans the canals and feeder channels in fear of dengue and floods, says Philip from Angulan North area. “But unless the municipal authorities chip in with us the lake cannot be maintained and the floods may soon return,” he adds.

Revived to be killed

Friday, August 9, 2013

Urban gardening gets a boost in Haiti | United Nations Radio

By Beng Poblete-Enriquez, United Nations.

“Ti Savanne” is a district of Carrefour Feuille in Haiti and it is undergoing a major transformation. It’s becoming greener.

For several months now, recycled car tires have become an all too familiar addition to the roofs and gardens of homes where all kinds of vegetables and spices are growing.

A project called “Urban agriculture” was launched in September 2012 by Oxfam and its local partners.

The main goal of project "Urban agriculture" is to fight food insecurity in this destitute area.

A plant nursery was set up with the support of the workers in the neighbourhood.

OXFAM, a non-governmental organization assisting the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) with several projects, provided the seeds, seedlings and agricultural tools. In January 2013, the first seedlings were distributed to the people of Ti Savanne.

Ernesia Boss is a single mother who was selected to participate in this pilot project. She received theoretical and practical training on how to grow plants in a car tire. Three months later, Ernesia started reaping the rewards of harvesting the vegetables in the community garden of Ti Savanne.

“Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, I have bread but I had to buy vegetables to make soup for the children. Since I now have the garden, I can just take what I need. This improves the living condition of the children and of the whole family too. “

Food insecurity is on the rise in Haiti following last year’s hurricanes and drought, according to the National Commission for Food Security (CNSA). For Oxfam, the development of urban agriculture can offer an alternative to this food insecurity problem. Peleg Charles is Oxfam's Media and Communication Officer.

“We see success in other countries that used to combat food insecurity with urban agriculture. On one side, we help to improve food insecurity in the households and on the other side we help the population to participate in the protection of the environment.”

About a hundred people, the majority of whom are women and 10 men, are the direct and indirect beneficiaries of the project in Ti Savanne.

In other areas of Carrefour Feuille such as Campeche and Pingue, OXFAM also established nurseries and community gardens where a total of 250 families have been benefiting.

More than 5,500 recycled car tires and over 60,000 seedlings were purchased by OXFAM for this project. Already there are signs that the project is a success. Henri Felisme is a community leader in the area:

“First, if a person is jobless, he or she is also vulnerable. Every day, the person gets up thinking that there is nothing to eat and that causes stress. Second, look at the beneficiary who comes into his garden, with its limited resources at its disposal, and the person finds vegetables growing. Third, the farmers retain what they sell during the fair; the income from the individual sale can reach up to 25 US to 30 US.”

Herbs and vegetables such as tomatoes, beets, carrots and eggplants are thriving in the urban gardens providing a gateway for food security and access to a means of livelihood. Urban agriculture has become a blessing for Ernesia who does not have sufficient income and who lives with five children.

“From what is growing in my garden I could also sell. At the moment, I am only consuming. I need to organize myself with my children to find products to sell, as I would like to have a profit from my garden – for food and for sale.”

During the two-year project, Ernesia will be provided with the seeds and car tires free of charge. Meanwhile, going forward, she plans on growing vegetables in her own backyard and is learning the ropes from her neighbour on how to manage this.

Negotiations are currently underway with the CNSA to sign an agreement with Oxfam and its local partners on the ground to build up the capacity of farmers and to increase their production through the project which should spread also to other challenging areas in Haiti.

How the World Bank Puts Self-interest Before Development

By Peter Bosshard - Policy Director, International Rivers

Decentralized renewable energy projects are highly effective at reducing energy poverty. Energy conservation and efficiency improvements are the cheapest way to close the gap between energy demand and supply. Too bad such measures don't fit the business model of the World Bank, the world's most important energy financier.

Under a project supported by the World Bank and the Swedish government, the Vietnamese electricity utility in recent years sold one million efficient CFL light bulbs and installed thousands of electricity meters. The project was an "extremely cost effective" part of an energy conservation and efficiency program that reduced the country's electricity demand by 700 megawatts.

The International Energy Agency has estimated that developing countries could save three dollars in investment for power plants for every dollar they invest in efficiency improvements. According to the Agency, such investments "stand out as the cheapest and fastest way to curb demand and emissions growth in the near term."

The World Bank's experience with energy efficiency projects confirms this assessment. On average, such projects are considerably more economic than new power stations. Unlike power plants, they don't degrade the environment and displace local communities. In spite of such benefits, energy efficiency improvements receive short shrift at the World Bank: From 1991 to 2007, the Bank devoted only about 5 percent of its total energy finance to such projects.

In 2010, the World Bank approved $3.75 billion dollars for the giant Medupi coal power plant in South Africa, even though energy conservation and efficiency programs would have been cheaper. The Bank currently considers support for a polluting lignite coal power plant in Kosovo and two large hydropower plants on the Zambezi, even though energy efficiency measures have again been shown to be cheaper.

What's the problem? Comparing the energy efficiency program in Vietnam with the Gilgel Gibe I Dam in Ethiopia may help to explain. Per dollar of cost, the efficiency program saves about three times as much electricity as the dam generates -- and without displacing any people. Yet per dollar of loan disbursement, the administrative overhead of the complex efficiency program is about ten times bigger. In terms of development impact, the efficiency program scores higher. In terms of institutional self-interest, it loses out.

A World Bank evaluation found in 2009 that "internal Bank incentives work against [efficiency] projects because they are often small in scale, demanding of staff time and preparation funds, and may require persistent client engagement over a period of years." "This", the report concluded, "makes them less attractive to managers and agencies that use disbursement as a measure of action and large turbines as a visible symbol of achievement."

The World Bank's business model has harmed project quality for decades. In 1992 the internal Wapenhans report found that a pervasive "pressure to lend" undermined project assessment. Five years later, the Bank's Quality Assurance Group castigated the institution's "pressure to lend", and pointed to the "fear that a realistic, and thus more modest, project would be dismissed as too small and inadequate in its impact". The World Bank's central problem is "a culture of loan approval, institutionalized in various perverse internal incentives", argues Bruce Rich in his forthcoming book, Foreclosing the Future, about the Bank's environmental track record.

For the past 20 years, World Bank presidents have promised to fix the institution's perverse incentives, and to increase support for energy efficiency projects. On July 16, the Bank management once again assured its Board of Directors it would address the issue through a new working group. This is window dressing. The energy directions paper which the Bank published on the same day continues to focus on large power generation projects. An earlier draft of the paper explains that "the high ratio of preparation and supervision costs to total project size is a considerable disincentive" for Bank managers to undertake effective but complex solar, micro-hydropower or energy efficiency projects.

The member countries which fund the World Bank have so far been complacent in accepting a situation which suits the export interests of their equipment suppliers. If they are serious about promoting least-cost solutions to the world's energy and climate crisis, they need to redirect their funds towards institutions that are better equipped to support renewable energy, energy conservation and efficiency improvements.

How the World Bank Puts Self-interest Before Development