Women Advocates for Harvesting Rainwater in Salinity-Affected Coastal Bangladesh

Asia-Pacific, Climate Change, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Humanitarian Emergencies, Innovation, Natural Resources, TerraViva United Nations

Humanitarian Emergencies

Lalita Roy now has access to clean water and also provides a service to her community by working as a pani apa (water sister), looking after the community's rainwater harvesting plants. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Lalita Roy now has access to clean water and also provides a service to her community by working as a pani apa (water sister), looking after the community’s rainwater harvesting plants. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

KHULNA, Bangladesh, Sep 23 2022 (IPS) – Like many other women in Bangladesh’s salinity-prone coastal region, Lalita Roy had to travel a long distance every day to collect drinking water as there was no fresh water source nearby her locality.


“In the past, there was a scarcity of drinking water. I had to travel one to two kilometers distance each day to bring water,” Roy, a resident of Bajua Union under Dakope Upazila in Khulna, told IPS.

She had to collect water standing in a queue; one water pitcher was not enough to meet her daily household demand.

“We require two pitchers of drinking water per day. I had to spend two hours each day collecting water. So, there were various problems. I had health complications, and I was unable to do household work for lack of time,” she said.

After getting a rainwater harvesting plant from the Gender-response Climate Adaptation (GCA) Project, which is being implemented by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Roy is now collecting drinking water using the rainwater harvesting plant, which makes her life easier.

“I am getting the facilities, and now I can give two more hours to my family… that’s why I benefited,” she added.

Shymoli Boiragi, another beneficiary of Shaheber Abad village under Dakope Upazila, said women in her locality suffered a lot in collecting drinking water in the past because they had to walk one to three kilometers every day to collect water.

“We lost both time and household work. After getting rainwater harvesting plants, we benefited. Now we need not go a long distance to collect water so that we can do more household work,” Boiragi said.

Shymoli revealed that coastal people suffered from various health problems caused by consuming saline water and spent money on collecting the water too.

“But now we are conserving rainwater during the ongoing monsoon and will drink it for the rest of the year,” she added.

THE ROLE OF PANI APAS

With support from the project, rainwater harvesting plants were installed at about 13,300 households under 39 union parishads in Khunla and Satkhira. One pani apa (water sister) has been deployed in every union from the beneficiaries.

Roy, now deployed as a pani apa, said the GCA project conducted a survey on the households needing water plants and selected her as a pani apa for two wards.

“As a pani apa, I have been given various tools. I go to every household two times per month. I clean up their water tanks (rainwater plants) and repair those, if necessary,” he added.

Roy said she provides services for 80 households having rainwater harvesting plants, and if they have any problem with their water tanks, she goes to their houses to repair plants.

“I go to 67 households, which have water plants, one to two times per month to provide maintenance services. If they call me over the cellphone, I also go to their houses,” said Ullashini Roy, another pani apa from Shaheber Abad village.

She said a household gives her Taka 20 per month for her maintenance services while she gets Taka 1,340 (US$ 15) from 67 households, which helps her with family expenses.

Ahoke Kumar Adhikary, regional project manager of the Gender-Response Climate Adaptation Project, said it supported installing rainwater harvesting plants at 13,300 households. Each plant will store 2,000 liters of rainwater in each tank for the dry season.

The water plants need maintenance, which is why the project has employed pani apas for each union parishad (ward or council). They work at a community level on maintenance.

“They provide some services, and we call them pani apas. The work of pani apas is to go to every household and provide the services,” Adhikary said.

He said the pani apas get Taka 20 from every household per month for providing their services, and if they need to replace taps or filters of the water plants, they replace those.

The pani apas charge for the replacements of equipment of the water plants, he added.

NO WATER TO DRINK

The coastal belt of Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable areas to climate change as it is hit hard by cyclones, floods, and storm surges every year, destroying its freshwater sources. The freshwater aquifer is also being affected by salinity due to rising sea levels.

Ullashini Roy said freshwater was unavailable in the coastal region, and people drinking water was scarce.

“The water you are looking at is saline. The underground water is also salty. The people of the region cannot use saline water for drinking and household purposes,” Adhikary said.

Ahmmed Zulfiqar Rahaman, hydrologist and climate change expert at Dhaka-based think-tank Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS), said if the sea level rises by 50 centimeters by 2050, the surface salinity will reach Gopalganj and Jhalokati districts – 50 km inside the mainland from the coastal belt, accelerating drinking water crisis there.

PUBLIC HEALTH AT RISK

According to a 2019 study, people consuming saline water suffer from various physical problems, including acidity, stomach problems, skin diseases, psychological problems, and hypertension.

It is even being blamed for early marriages because salinity gradually changes girls’ skin color from light to gray.

“There is no sweet water around us. After drinking saline water, we suffered from various waterborne diseases like diarrhea and cholera,” Ullashini said.

Hypertension and high blood pressure are common among coastal people. The study also showed people feel psychological stress caused by having to constantly collect fresh water.

Shymoli said when the stored drinking water runs out in any family; the family members get worried because it’s not easy to collect in the coastal region.

SOLUTIONS TO SALINITY

Rahaman said river water flows rapidly decline in Bangladesh during the dry season, but a solution needs to be found for the coastal area.

The hydrologist suggested a possible solution is building more freshwater reservoirs in the coastal region through proper management of ponds at a community level.

Rahaman said low-cost rainwater harvesting technology should be transferred to the community level so that coastal people can reserve rainwater during the monsoon and use this during the dry season.

He added that the government should provide subsidies for desalinization plants since desalinizing salt water is costly.

IPS UN Bureau Report

  Source

Monster Monsoon: “Pakistan and Its People Are Paying the Costs of What They Are Not Responsible For.”

Aid, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Environment, Headlines, Inequality, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Credit: Pakistan Development Alliance

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Sep 1 2022 (IPS) – Pakistan has been going through the worst time of its recent history due to unprecedented colossal monsoon rains and devastating floods. The current floods would have been expected less than once a century, but climate experts claim that what we are seeing today is just a trailer of what’s in store for us if we don’t pay heed to climate change. More than 112 districts are currently afffected and around 30 million people; their property and land are totally devastated. Across the country, where hundreds of thousands of cattle died due to the Lumpy Skin Disease, now more than 727,000 have perished due to floods and rains. The number is increasing rapidly.


We were in the countryside conducting a study on the rights of women farm workers, when the Monster monsoon hit the country. We had to cut our field mission short and we are now relatively “safe” here in Islamabad, busy organising emergency relief and rescue operations.

Pakistan and its people are paying the costs of what they are not responsible for. For the past 20 years, Pakistan has consistently ranked among the top 10 most vulnerable countries on the Climate Risk Index. We are facing such climate change aggression and devastation while contributing only 0.8% of greenhouse carbon emissions to global warming. We are squeezed, geographically situtated between titans China and India, who are the top two emitters of greenhouse gases. This impacts the glaciers of the Himalaya. In Pakistan, our 7253 glaciers – more glaciers than almost anywhere on Earth – are melting faster than ice-cream in the sun due to climate change. Since the whole country is situated in the downstream of the Hamalaya, heavy floods have become the norm. To this scenario, you need to add flawed developement interventions, absence of rule of law and the lack of policy priorities towards the management of “everyday” disasters. This results in risks being left undone instead of being treated as full-fledged national security emergencies.

Today, the horrific scale of the floods are not in doubt, but the catastrophe is still unfolding. Rehabilitation and reconstruction activities need to be initiated immediately. Pakistan is already facing food insecurity due to this manmade disaster. In the long run, this crisis will increase poverty, inequality and economic instability in the country if we – supported by the world at large – fail to respond quickly.

Being part of a civil society network I see with my own eyes how civil society is vehementally engaged in rescue, relief and emergency activities through local resources and philanthropic initiatives. The international community and INGOs have not yet initiated their field operations. Although the government has officially appealed for the support of the international community and has levereged restrictions, the intensive regulatory frameworks are still working against rights based NGOs.

I have a message for the international community. Please support flood affected communities as early as possible. Local civil society needs to be strengthened and financed as well, as they are on the frontlines, they are the first reaching affected communities. In the future, there needs to be serious investments on addressing the impacts of climate change, particularly in vulnerable countries such as Pakistan, where climate change adaptation mechanism and infrastructure support should be mainstreamed. Now they are at the periphery, and it shows.

IPS UN Bureau

  Source

Smelter Finally Closes Due to Extreme Pollution in Chilean Bay

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Environment

The municipality of Puchuncaví in central Chile turns greens after days of rain, but next to it are the smokestacks of the industries located in this development pole that turned this town and the neighboring town of Quintero into "sacrifice zones", with the emission of pollutants that damaged the environment and the health of local residents, which will finally begin to be dismantled. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS - The smelter is an outdated facility that has suffered repeated episodes of industrial pollution, one of the chemicals causing the deteriorating health of the inhabitants of Quintero and Puchuncaví

The municipality of Puchuncaví in central Chile turns greens after days of rain, but next to it are the smokestacks of the industries located in this development pole that turned this town and the neighboring town of Quintero into “sacrifice zones”, with the emission of pollutants that damaged the environment and the health of local residents, which will finally begin to be dismantled. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

QUINTERO, Chile, Jul 4 2022 (IPS) – A health crisis that in 20 days left 500 children poisoned in the adjacent municipalities of Quintero and Puchuncaví triggered the decision to close the Ventanas Smelter, in a first concrete step towards putting an end to a so-called “sacrifice zone” in Chile.


The measure was supported by President Gabriel Boric who reiterated his determination to move towards a green government.

The decision by the state-owned National Copper Corporation (Codelco), the world’s leading copper producer, was announced on Jun. 17, following a temporary stoppage of the plant eight days earlier, and was opposed only by the powerful Federation of Copper Workers.

The union reacted by calling a strike, which ended after two days, when the leaders agreed to discuss an organized closure of the smelter, which will take place within a maximum of five years. The smelting and refining facility will be replaced by another modern plant at a site yet to be determined.

The smelter is an outdated facility that has suffered repeated episodes of sulfur dioxide pollution, one of the chemicals causing the deteriorating health of the inhabitants of Quintero, a city of 26,000, and Puchuncaví, population 19,000.

In the last three years Codelco invested 152 million dollars to modernize the smelter but without success, admitted Codelco’s president, Máximo Pacheco.

Pacheco argued that the closure was due to “the climate of uncertainty that has existed for decades, which is very bad for the workers, their families and the community.”

Sara Larraín, executive director of the non-governmental organization Sustainable Chile, said the definitive closure of the plant does justice.

“It is the first step for Quintero and Puchuncaví to get out of the category of damage that is called a ‘sacrifice zone’ where for decades the emission standards have been exceeded,” she told IPS.

“Sacrifice zones” are areas that have suffered excessive environmental damage due to industrial pollution. Residents of poor communities in these areas bear a disproportionate burden of pollution, toxic waste and heavy industry.

The back of the Ventanas Smelter reveals the poor operating conditions of the copper processing facility in Chile, which will be replaced by a new one within a maximum of five years at an as yet undefined site. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The back of the Ventanas Smelter reveals the poor operating conditions of the copper processing facility in Chile, which will be replaced by a new one within a maximum of five years at an as yet undefined site. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The two adjacent municipalities, 156 kilometers west of Santiago, qualify as a sacrifice zone, as do Mejillones, Huasco and Tocopilla, in the north, and Coronel in southern Chile, because the right to live in a pollution-free environment is violated in these areas.

In Quintero and Puchuncaví the main source of sulfur dioxide is the Ventanas Smelter, responsible for 61.8 percent of emissions of this element, causing widespread health problems.

Fisherman-diver forced to move away returns to Quintero

Carlos Vega, a fishermen’s union leader in Quintero, is the third generation of divers in his family.

“My grandfather, a fisherman, taught me how to make fishing nets. He had a restaurant on the coast,” he told IPS, visibly moved, adding that his two brothers are also fishermen and divers, who catch shellfish among the rocks along the coast.

“Fishing was profitable here. We were doing well and making money,” he said.

He added that people are well-organized in the area. “At one time we were the largest producer” of seafood and fish for central Chile, “because we had management and harvesting areas. But they had to close because of the pollution,” he said, describing the poverty that befell the local fishers in the late 1980s.

Then the health authorities found copper, cadmium and arsenic in the local seafood and banned its harvest. As a result, the small fishermen’s bay where they keep their boats and sell part of their catch lost their customers.

The crisis forced him to move to the south where he worked for 15 years as a professional diver in a salmon company.

Carlos Vega, a fisherman, diver and trade union leader, and Kata Alonso, spokeswoman for Women of Sacrifice Zones in Resistance, pose for a photo in the bay of Quintero, during the celebrations in that town and in neighboring Puchuncaví for the announcement of the definitive closure of the Ventanas Smelter of the state-owned Codelco copper company, whose polluting emissions have damaged the local environment and made local residents sick for decades. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Carlos Vega, a fisherman, diver and trade union leader, and Kata Alonso, spokeswoman for Women of Sacrifice Zones in Resistance, pose for a photo in the bay of Quintero, during the celebrations in that town and in neighboring Puchuncaví for the announcement of the definitive closure of the Ventanas Smelter of the state-owned Codelco copper company, whose polluting emissions have damaged the local environment and made local residents sick for decades. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Today, back in Quintero, with two sons who are engineers and a daughter who is a teacher, he continues to dive, albeit sporadically. He participates along with 27 fishermen in the management area granted to the north of the sacrifice zone, where they extract shellfish quotas two or three times a year.

“The social fabric was broken down here, that is the hardest thing that has happened to us,” said Vega.

Codelco is not the only polluter

Codelco is the main exporter in Chile, a long narrow country of 19.1 million people sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains where the big mines are located. In 2021 it produced 1.7 million tons of copper and its pre-tax income totaled nearly 7.4 billion dollars.

“Chile is the leading global copper producer and the world is going to become more electric every day,” said Pacheco. “And copper is the conductor par excellence, there is no substitute. We have to be ready for copper to be increasingly in demand in this energy transition.”

The president of Codelco emphasized that the wealth does not lie in exporting concentrate, which has 26 percent copper, but anodes with 99 percent purity, “and for that we need a smelter and a refinery.”

Young residents of Quintero and Puchuncaví came out in a drum line to celebrate the closure of the Ventanas Smelter and participate in a Festival for Life which lasted eight hours and was joined by a hundred local and national artists. Thousands of people gathered in the square which is on the edge of Quintero on Saturday, Jun. 25. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Young residents of Quintero and Puchuncaví came out in a drum line to celebrate the closure of the Ventanas Smelter and participate in a Festival for Life which lasted eight hours and was joined by a hundred local and national artists. Thousands of people gathered in the square which is on the edge of Quintero on Saturday, Jun. 25. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

But the smelter, he explained, must be modern and not like Ventanas, which only captures 95 percent of the gases released. In the last three years, Codelco has lost 50 million dollars in the Ventanas smelter, which has a production scale of 420,000 tons. A modern Flash furnace produces 1.5 million tons and captures 99.8 percent of the gases.

The Ventanas Smelter employs 348 people and another 400 in associated companies. Half of them do not live in the area but in Viña del Mar, Villa Alemana or Quilpué, towns that are also in the region of Valparaíso, but are located far from the pollution.

The smelter is part of an industrial cluster that includes 16 companies.

After the latest health crisis, the authorities decreed contingency plans in plants and maritime terminals of six companies for emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and applied an Atmospheric Prevention and Decontamination Plan.

Four coal-fired thermoelectric plants also pollute the area, one of which was definitively closed in December 2020 and another that was to be closed last May, although the measure was postponed.

According to environmentalist Larraín, when the smelter and the four thermoelectric plants are closed “better standards can be achieved, at least with respect to sulfur dioxide and heavy metals,” in Quintero and Puchuncaví.

View from the road of the Ventanas Smelter, in central Chile, which has been temporarily shut down since Jun. 9 and whose antiquated facilities will be permanently closed in a maximum of five years. They are adjacent to populated areas that have been turned into so-called "sacrifice zones" where local residents periodically suffer environmental and health emergencies due to sulfur dioxide fumes. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

View from the road of the Ventanas Smelter, in central Chile, which has been temporarily shut down since Jun. 9 and whose antiquated facilities will be permanently closed in a maximum of five years. They are adjacent to populated areas that have been turned into so-called “sacrifice zones” where local residents periodically suffer environmental and health emergencies due to sulfur dioxide fumes. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The plan to continue decontaminating

Other pollutants are VOCs linked to the refineries of the state-owned oil company Empresa Nacional de Petróleo (Enap) and the private company Gasmar.

Kata Alonso, spokeswoman for the Mujeres en Zona de Sacrificio en Resistencia (Women in Sacrifice Zone in Resistance) collective, told IPS that “the prevention plan is good so that people don’t continue to be poisoned, so that they can breathe better, and so that the companies that pollute can close their doors, instead of the schools.

“There are companies that were built before the environmental law was passed that have not taken health measures. So what we are asking is for each company to be evaluated, and those that do not comply with the regulations must leave,” she said.

The repeated crises occur despite the fact that Chile’s environmental standards are below those of the World Health Organization (WHO).

For level 10 particulate matter, the mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air, the ceiling in Chile is 150 milligrams per cubic meter (m3) and the WHO ceiling is 50.

For particulate matter 2.5 (fine inhalable particles), in Chile the limit is 50 milligrams per m3, while the WHO guideline is 25. And the Chilean ceiling for sulfur dioxide is 250 milligrams per m3 compared to the WHO’s limit of 20.

Three years ago, the Chilean Pediatric Society and the Chilean Medical Association requested that Chile raise its emission standards to WHO levels.

Part of the audience at the Festival for Life, which celebrated the closure of a copper smelter, that along with 15 other industrial plants turned the municipalities of Quintero and Puchuncaví into "sacrifice zones" in central Chile. Performances by musicians and other artists from around the country were interspersed with messages calling for a life free of pollution in the area. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Part of the audience at the Festival for Life, which celebrated the closure of a copper smelter, that along with 15 other industrial plants turned the municipalities of Quintero and Puchuncaví into “sacrifice zones” in central Chile. Performances by musicians and other artists from around the country were interspersed with messages calling for a life free of pollution in the area. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Alonso the activist said that “my two neighbors died of cancer, whoever you ask in Puchuncaví has relatives who died of cancer. Today people are dying younger, breast and uterine cancer have increased in young women, and there are so many miscarriages.

“The statistic we have is that one in four children in Puchuncaví are born with severe neurological problems, down syndrome, autism. Here in Quintero there are two special education schools and many children with learning disabilities,” she said.

Larraín called for “government support for those who have been affected by irreversible diseases, asthma, lung cancer and others that have been proven to be caused by coal combustion and heavy metals.”

The Catholic University conducted a study using data on hospitalizations and mortality in Tocopilla, Mejillones, Huasco, Quintero and Puchuncaví.

“The rates for cardiovascular disease associated with industrial processes are clear. In some cases they are 900 percent higher. Calling them sacrifice zones is real, it refers to impacts that are occurring today,” said Larraín.

The environmentalist said it would be difficult to revive Quintero Bay “because it has a gigantic layer of coal at the bottom, dead phyto and zooplankton because water is used for cooling in industrial processes and is dumped back out with antialgaecides that kill marine life.”

She believes, however, that “over the years, the capacity for regeneration is possible, even in agriculture that has been lost due to sulfur dioxide emissions. There may also be a recovery in fishing and tourism.”

But Larraín demanded “a just transition that restores healthy levels and regenerates ecosystems so that local communities can sustain their economy in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment.”

  Source

Global Biodiversity Agenda: Nairobi Just Added More to Montreal’s Plate

Biodiversity, Climate Action, Climate Change, Conferences, Conservation, Environment, Featured, Global, Headlines, TerraViva United Nations

Biodiversity

A placard on display at activists' demonstration outside the 4th meeting of the CBD Working Group at the UNEP headquarter in Nairobi. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

A placard on display at activists’ demonstration outside the 4th meeting of the CBD Working Group at the UNEP headquarter in Nairobi. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Nairobi, Jun 27 2022 (IPS) – As the last working group meeting of the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Agenda concluded here on Sunday, the delegates’ job at COP15 Montreal just got tougher as delegates couldn’t finalize the text of the agenda. Texts involving finance, cost and benefit-sharing, and digital sequencing – described by many as ‘most contentious parts of the draft agenda barely made any progress as negotiators failed to reach any consensus.


Nairobi – the Unattempted ‘Final Push’

The week-long 4th meeting of the Working Group of the Biodiversity Convention took place from June 21-26, three months after the 3rd meeting of the group was held in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting, attended by a total of 1634 participants, including 950 country representatives, had the job cut out for them: Read the draft Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) and its 21 targets, discuss, and clean up the text – target by target, sentence by sentence, at least up to 80%.

But, on Saturday – a day before the meeting was to wrap up, David Ainsworth – head of Communications at CBD, hinted that the progress was far slower than expected. Ainsworth mentioned that the total cleaning progress made was just about 8%.

To put it in a clearer context, said Ainsworth, only two targets now had a clean text – Target 19.2 (strengthening capacity-building and development, access to and transfer of technology) and target 12 (urban biodiversity). This means that in Montreal, they could be placed on the table right away for the parties to decide on, instead of debating the language. All the other targets, the work progress has been from around 50% to none, said Ainsworth.

An entire day later, on Sunday evening local time, co-chairs of the WG4 Francis Ogwal and Basile Van Havre confirmed that those were indeed the only two targets with ‘clean’ texts. In other words, no real work had been done in the past 24 hours.

On June 21, at the opening session of the meeting, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, described the Nairobi meeting as an opportunity for a ‘final push’ to finalize the GBF. On Sunday, she called on the parties to “vigorously engage with the text, to listen to each other and seek consensus, and to prepare the final text for adoption at COP 15”.

Answering a question from IPS News, Mrema also confirmed that there would be a 5th meeting of the Working Group before the Montreal COP, indicating the work done in the Nairobi meeting wasn’t enough to produce a draft that was ready to be discussed for adoption.

The final push, it appeared, had not even been attempted.

Bottlenecks and Stalemate

According to several observers, instead of cleaning up 80% of the texts over the past six days, negotiators had left 80% of the text in brackets, which signals disagreement among parties. Not only did countries fail to progress, but in some cases, new disagreements threatened to move the process in the opposite direction. The most fundamental issues were not even addressed this week, including how much funding would be committed to conserving biodiversity and what percentage figures the world should strive to protect, conserve, and restore to address the extinction crisis.

True to the traditions of the UN, the CBD wouldn’t be critical of any party. However, on Sunday evening, Francis Ogwal indicated that rich nations had been dragging their feet on meeting the commitment of donating to global biodiversity conservation. Without naming anyone, Ogwal reminded the negotiators that the more time they took, the tougher they would get the decision.

At present, said Ogwal, 700 billion was needed to stop and recover global biodiversity. “If you keep giving less and less, the problems magnify. Ten years down the line, this will not be enough,” he said.

The civil society was more vocal in criticizing the delegates for losing yet another opportunity.

According to Brian O’Donnell, Director of the Campaign for Nature, the negotiations were faltering, with some key issues being at a stalemate. It is, therefore, up to heads of state and other political and United Nations leaders to act with urgency. “But time is now running out, and countries need to step up, show the leadership that this moment requires, and act urgently to find compromise and solutions,” O’Donnell said in a statement.

The Next Steps

The CBD Secretariat mentioned a string of activities that would follow the Nairobi meeting to speed up the process of building a consensus among the delegates. The activities include bilateral meetings with some countries, regional meetings with others, and a Working Group 5 meeting which will be a pre-COP event before COP15.

Finally, the CBD is taking a glass-half-filled approach toward the GBF, which is reflected in the words of Mrema: “These efforts (Nairobi meeting) are considerable and have produced a text that, with additional work, will be the basis for reaching the 2050 vision of the Convention: A life in harmony with nature,” she says.

The upcoming UN Biodiversity Conference will be held from 5 to December 17 in Montreal, Canada, under the presidency of the Government of China. With the bulk of the work left incomplete, the cold December weather of Montreal is undoubtedly all set to be heated with intense debates and negotiations.
IPS UN Bureau Report

 

Healthy Planet Needs ‘Ocean Action’ from Asian and Pacific Countries

Asia-Pacific, Climate Action, Climate Change, Conferences, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Environment, Headlines, Poverty & SDGs, Sustainability, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

BANGKOK, Thailand, Jun 27 2022 (IPS) – As the Second Global Ocean Conference opens today in Lisbon, governments in Asia and the Pacific must seize the opportunity to enhance cooperation and solidarity to address a host of challenges that endanger what is a lifeline for millions of people in the region.


Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

If done right ocean action will also be climate action but this will require working in concert on a few fronts.

First, we must invest in and support science and technology to produce key solutions. Strengthening science-policy interfaces to bridge practitioners and policymakers contributes to a sound understanding of ocean-climate synergies, thereby enabling better policy design, an important priority of the Indonesian Presidency of the G20 process. Additionally policy support tools can assist governments in identifying and prioritizing actions through policy and SDG tracking and scenarios development.

We must also make the invisible visible through ocean data: just three of ten targets for the goal on life below water are measurable in Asia and the Pacific. Better data is the foundation of better policies and collective action. The Global Ocean Accounts Partnership (GOAP) is an innovative multi-stakeholder collective established to enable countries and other stakeholders to go beyond GDP and to measure and manage progress towards ocean sustainable development.

Solutions for low-carbon maritime transport are also a key part of the transition to decarbonization by the middle of the century. Countries in Asia and the Pacific recognized this when adopting a new Regional Action Programme last December, putting more emphasis on such concrete steps as innovative shipping technologies, cooperation on green shipping corridors and more efficient use of existing port infrastructure and facilities to make this ambition a reality.

Finally, aligning finance with our ocean, climate and broader SDG aspirations provides a crucial foundation for all of our action. Blue bonds are an attractive instrument both for governments interested in raising funds for ocean conservation and for investors interested in contributing to sustainable development in addition to obtaining a return for their investment.

These actions and others are steps towards ensuring the viability of several of the region’s key ocean-based economic sectors, such as seaborne trade, tourism and fisheries. An estimated 50 to 80 per cent of all life on Earth is found under the ocean surface. Seven of every 10 fish caught around the globe comes from Pacific waters. And we know that the oceans and coasts are also vital allies in the fight against climate change, with coastal systems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows at the frontline of climate change, absorbing carbon at rates of up to 50 times those of the same area of tropical forest.

But the health of the oceans in Asia and the Pacific is in serious decline: rampant pollution, destructive and illegal fishing practices, inadequate marine governance and continued urbanization along coastlines have destroyed 40 per cent of the coral reefs and approximately 60 per cent of the coastal mangroves, while fish stocks continue to decline and consumption patterns remain unsustainable.

These and other pressures exacerbate climate-induced ocean acidification and warming and weaken the capacity of oceans to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Global climate change is also contributing to sea-level rise, which affects coastal and island communities severely, resulting in greater disaster risk, internal displacement and international migration.

To promote concerted action, ESCAP, in collaboration with partner UN agencies, provides a regional platform in support of SDG14, aligned within the framework of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). Through four editions so far of the Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean, we also support countries in identifying and putting in place solutions and accelerated actions through regional dialogue and cooperation.

It is abundantly clear there can be no healthy planet without a healthy ocean. Our leaders meeting in Lisbon must step up efforts to protect the ocean and its precious resources and to build sustainable blue economies.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

IPS UN Bureau

 

Poor Families Clash over Water with Real Estate Consortium in El Salvador

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Population, Poverty & SDGs, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations, Water & Sanitation

Water & Sanitation

Alex Leiva, holding his baby girl, uses the water he managed to collect in barrels at 4:00 a.m., the only time the service is provided in Lotificación Praderas, in the canton of Cabañas, on the outskirts of the municipality of Apopa, north of the Salvadoran capital. The families of this region are fighting in defense of water, against an urban development project for wealthy families that threatens the water resources in the area. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Alex Leiva, holding his baby girl, uses the water he managed to collect in barrels at 4:00 a.m., the only time the service is provided in Lotificación Praderas, in the canton of Cabañas, on the outskirts of the municipality of Apopa, north of the Salvadoran capital. The families of this region are fighting in defense of water, against an urban development project for wealthy families that threatens the water resources in the area. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

APOPA, El Salvador , Jun 6 2022 (IPS) – Alex Leiva woke up at 4:00 a.m. to perform a key task for his family’s survival in the Salvadoran village where he lives: filling several barrels with the water that falls from the tap only at that early hour every other day.


If he does not collect water between 4:00 and 5:00 AM, he will not have another opportunity to fill the barrels for another two days.

“That’s what I have to do. Sometimes I manage to fill three barrels. The service is provided every other day,” Leiva, 32, a video producer, told IPS.

“It’s difficult to be in a situation like this, where the water supply is so inefficient,” he added.

The water is not provided by the government’s National Administration of Aqueducts and Sewers (Anda) but by the Water Administration Board (Acasap).

In El Salvador there are at least 3,000 of these boards, community associations that play an essential role in the supply and management of water resources in rural areas and the peripheries of cities, in the face of the State’s failure to provide these areas with water.

Leiva lives in Lotificación Praderas, in the Cabañas canton, on the outskirts of the municipality of Apopa, north of the country’s capital, San Salvador.

This northern area covering several municipalities has been in conflict in recent years since residents of these communities began to fight against an urban development project by one of the country’s most powerful families, the Dueñas.

The Dueñas clan’s power dates back to the days of the so-called coffee oligarchy, which emerged in the mid-19th century.

Ciudad Valle El Angel is the name of the residential development to be built in this area on 350 hectares, and which will require some 20 million liters of water per day to supply the families that decide to buy one of the 8,000 homes.

The first feasibility permits granted by Anda to the consortium date back to 2015.

The homes are designed for upper middle-class families who decide to leave behind the chaos of San Salvador and to live with all the comforts of modern life, with water 24 hours a day, in the midst of poor communities that lack a steady water supply.

“There are people in my community who manage to fill only one barrel because there isn’t enough water pressure,” said Leiva, the father of a five-year-old boy and a nine-month-old baby girl.

Valle El Angel is an extensive region located on the slopes of the San Salvador volcano, in territories shared by municipalities north of the capital, including Apopa, Nejapa and Opico.

A general view of Parcelación El Ángel, in the Joya Galana canton, in the municipality of Apopa, near San Salvador. The community is fighting to defend the few natural resources that survive in the area, including a stream that originates in the micro-basin of the Chacalapa River. Water in the area is scarce, while Salvadoran authorities endorse an upscale real estate project that will use millions of liters per day. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

A general view of Parcelación El Ángel, in the Joya Galana canton, in the municipality of Apopa, near San Salvador. The community is fighting to defend the few natural resources that survive in the area, including a stream that originates in the micro-basin of the Chacalapa River. Water in the area is scarce, while Salvadoran authorities endorse an upscale real estate project that will use millions of liters per day. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Unfair justice

Sociedad Dueñas Limitada, the consortium managing the urban development project, received the definitive green light to begin construction: a thumbs-up from the Constitutional court, which on Apr. 29, 2022 rejected an unconstitutionality lawsuit filed in October 2019 by environmental organizations and communities in northern San Salvador.

The lawsuit was against a dubious agreement signed in 2016 between that company and Anda, which manages water in the country. The deal granted the project 240 liters of water per second – that is, about 20 million liters a day.

The consortium intends to dig eight wells in the area. Water will be extracted from the San Juan Opico aquifer, as well as from shallower groundwater from Apopa and Quezaltepeque.

“These agreements open the door to this type of illegal concessions handed over to private companies…it is a situation that is not being addressed from a comprehensive perspective that meets the needs of the people, but rather from a mercantilist perspective,” lawyer Ariela González told IPS.

She is part of the Foundation of Studies for the Application of Law (Fespad), a member of the Water Forum, which brings together some twenty civil organizations that have been fighting for fair and equitable distribution of water in the country.

González added: “It is our public institutions that legalize this dispossession of environmental assets, through these mechanisms that allow the companies to whitewash the environmental impact studies.”

The organizations and local communities argue that water is a human right, for the benefit of the community, and also insisted in the lawsuit that the aquifers are part of the subsoil, property of the State.

Therefore, if any company was to be granted any benefit from that subsoil, the concession could have to be endorsed by the legislature, which did not happen.

Sara García and Martina Vides are members of an ecofeminist collective that has been fighting for five years to prevent the construction of a large residential project in the area, Ciudad Valle El Ángel, owned by one of the most powerful families in El Salvador. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Sara García and Martina Vides are members of an ecofeminist collective that has been fighting for five years to prevent the construction of a large residential project in the area, Ciudad Valle El Ángel, owned by one of the most powerful families in El Salvador. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The resolution handed down by the Constitutional chamber of the Supreme Court comes at a time when people have lost trust in the Constitutional court in this Central American country of 6.7 million people.

The five Constitutional court magistrates were appointed without following the regular procedure on May 1, 2021, when the new legislature was installed, controlled by lawmakers from President Nayib Bukele’s party, Nuevas Ideas, which holds 56 out of 84 seats.

“This government continues to benefit big capital and destroy local territories,” Sara García, of the ecofeminist group Kawoc Women’s Collective and the Let’s Save the Valle El Ángel movement, which forms part of the Water Forum, told IPS.

García´s fellow activist Martina Vides added: “We want protection for the aquifers and to prevent the felling of trees.”

Both women spoke to IPS on a rainy gray afternoon on the last day of May, in the Parcelación El Ángel, where they live, in the Joya Galana canton, also in the municipality of Apopa, which is in the middle of the impact zone.

A short distance away is the river that provides water to this and other communities, which originates in the micro-watershed of the Chacalapa River. Water is supplied under a community management scheme organized by the local water board.

Vides pays six dollars a month for the water service, although she only receives running water three or four days a week.

According to official figures, in this country 96.3 percent of urban households have access to piped water, but the proportion drops to 78.4 percent in the countryside, where 10.8 percent are supplied by well water and 10.7 percent by other means.

Since the Ciudad Valle El Angel project began to be planned, environmentalists and community representatives have been protesting against it with street demonstrations and activities because it will negatively impact the area’s environment, especially the aquifers.

The struggle for water in El Salvador has been going on for a long time, with activists demanding that it be recognized as a human right, with access for the entire population, because the country is one of the hardest hit by the climate crisis, especially the so-called Dry Corridor.

For more than 10 years, environmental and social collectives have been pushing for a water law, reaching preliminary agreements with past governments. But since the populist Bukele came to power, the progress made in this direction has been undone.

In December 2021, the legislature approved a General Water Resources Law, which excluded the already pre-agreed social proposals, although it recognizes the human right to water and establishes that the water supply will not be privatized. However, this is not enforced in practice, as demonstrated by the Dueñas’ urban development project.

A vendor of a traditional ice cream in El Salvador, made with shaved ice bathed in fruit syrup, waits for customers on one of the streets of Parcelación El Ángel, in the municipality of Apopa, north of the capital. The locality is one of the epicenters where poor families have been organizing to block a residential development project, which will affect the local water supply and worsen the water shortage in the area. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

A vendor of a traditional ice cream in El Salvador, made with shaved ice bathed in fruit syrup, waits for customers on one of the streets of Parcelación El Ángel, in the municipality of Apopa, north of the capital. The locality is one of the epicenters where poor families have been organizing to block a residential development project, which will affect the local water supply and worsen the water shortage in the area. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Not the only one

The residential development project is neither the first nor the only one in the area.

Residential complexes of this type have already been built in that area for the upper middle class, thanks to investments made by other wealthy families in the country, such as the Poma family.

And the same type of agreements have been reached with these other companies, in which the consortiums receive an endorsement to obtain water for their projects, said González.

The same thing has happened in the surroundings of the Cordillera del Bálsamo, south of the capital, where residential projects have been developed around municipalities such as Zaragoza, close to the beaches of the Pacific Ocean.

In Valle El Ángel there is also at least one company whose main raw material is water. This is Industrias La Constancia, which owns the Coca Cola brand in the country and other brands of juices and energy drinks, located in the municipality of Nejapa.

González, the Fespad lawyer, said that there should be a moratorium in the country in order to stop, for a time, this type of investment that threatens the country’s environmental assets, especially water.

But until that happens, if it ever does, and until the water supply improves, Alex Leiva will continue to get up at 4 a.m. every other day to fill his three barrels.

“What can we do? We have no choice,” he said.

  Source