Environment Forum

from The Great Debate UK:

Pakistan floods show Asia’s vulnerability to climate change

By Lord Julian Hunt and Professor J. Srinivasan. The opinions expressed are their own.

It is more than a year since the devastating July and August 2010 floods in Pakistan that affected about 20 million people and killed an estimated 2,000. Many believe that the disaster was partially fuelled by global warming, and that there is a real danger that Pakistan, and the Indian subcontinent in general, could become the focus of much more regular catastrophic flooding.

Indeed, right now Pakistan is again experiencing massive flooding.  The UN asserts that, already, more than 5.5 million people have been affected and almost 4300 are officially reported dead, 100 of them children.

Last year’s calamity, in particular, highlights the  vulnerability of much of Asia to climate change, and has helped elevate this into one of the most important and pressing political and social issues in the region. Indeed, an increasingly prevailing view is that the impact of climate change could be worse in the region than all previous social, health and conflict disasters of the past.

In particular, there is growing recognition that global warming is dangerously linked to several significant threats, including not just natural disasters, but also energy, water, and food shortages as average rising temperatures reduce productivity and agricultural land is threatened by sea level rises and salinification of coastal areas.

from Photographers' Blog:

Barefoot in a recycled school

The environment hasn't been spared in India's headlong rush towards development and consumerism. With it came mounds of garbage, piles of waste that had nowhere to go, industrial pollutants that were fed straight back into the rivers and lakes that supply drinking water to millions.‬ Walking around the streets of any town in India, you don't get the feeling that care for the environment is on the top of anyone's list of priorities.‬



So it was with a little skepticism that I read about a school which claimed to be completely environmentally friendly. I made a plan to travel to Pune, about 190km (118 miles) from Mumbai, to take a look at the Aman Setu school, which means "bridge to peace". They claimed fantastic things - the buildings were environmentally friendly made entirely out of recycled and natural bits and pieces - they had their own vegetable garden for children - kids were allowed to run around barefoot.‬



What I found really was surprising. The "school" consisted of just a handful of buildings. Madhavi Kapur, who came up with the idea for the school, told me how they'd made the buildings - they'd taken old cement bags, commonly left over at many construction sites after buildings are made in India, and compacted them together with mud to make the rooms. One of the buildings was cone-shaped, others rectangular. Roofs were made out of old advertisement claddings. Ventilation was provided through disused plastic pipes.‬

Instead of using toxic paints and whitewashes, they used a mixture of cow dung, mud and water. I was told it's been traditionally used in India for centuries because strangely enough, a mixture of cow dung and water insect proofs buildings. Who would have thought?!? It smelled reasonably pleasant too, you wouldn't think you were standing somewhere were the floors and walls were plastered in cow dung.‬

Food for thought

USA/Feeling hungry? Maybe that’s because of all the news, from around the world, about food today — how much people produce, how much more they need, how much it’s going to cost, how much of an effect it will have on climate change, and vice versa.

Starting in Washington, the U.S. Agriculture Department reported that American stockpiles of corn and soybeans will shrink to surprisingly low levels this year, which sent grain prices soaring to 30-month highs. Bad weather in places like Australia and rising world demand led by China are partly responsible for cutting crop inventories around the globe.

There’s actually encouraging news on the food front from south Sudan, where citizens are voting now to become an independent nation. While much of Africa is under intense pressure to provide food for its people, the U.N. World Food Programme says south Sudan could become a food exporter and end its chronic food dependency within a decade. But immediately after the vote, this area is likely to need more food aid, according to the U.N.

from Tales from the Trail:

Green energy aspirations for Obama’s India visit

INDIAWhen Barack Obama heads for India next month, he'll be carrying a heavy policy agenda -- questions over the handling of nuclear material, the outsourcing of U.S. jobs and India's status as a growing economic power, along with regional relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan. But Rajendra Pachauri, the Nobel Peace laureate who heads the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, hopes the U.S. president has time to focus on clean energy too.

Even as Pachauri and the U.N. panel evolve -- and as Pachauri himself weathers pressure from some quarters to resign -- he urged Obama to work on U.S.-India projects that he said would enhance global energy security.

Given India's red-hot economic growth rate -- 8 or 9 percent a year, Pachauri told reporters during a telephone briefing -- he said it makes sense for the United States to work with India to head off an expected soaring demand for fossil fuels.

from Russell Boyce:

Don’t drink the water, even if there is any to drink (Update)

One more picture that caught my eye during the 24 hours news cycle for the World Water Day is the image of hundreds of hoses providing drinking water to  residents of a housing block in Jakarta.  The grubby plastic pipes supplying a fragile lifeline to families seem to represent the desperation that people face when the water supply is cut off.

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Hoses used to supply residences with water are seen hanging across a street at the Penjaringan subdistrict in Jakarta March 22, 2010. Residents in the area say that they have had to construct makeshift water supplies for their homes by attaching hoses to pumps bought with their own money, as the government has yet to repair the original water supply which was damaged. March 22 is World Water Day.     REUTERS/Beawiharta

Today, March 22 is World Water Day and Reuters photographers in Asia were given an open brief to shoot feature pictures to illustrate it.  The only requirement I asked of them is that they included in the captions, the fact that while the Earth is literally covered in water, more than a billion people lack access to clean water for drinking or sanitation. At the same time in China 50 million people are facing drought conditions and water shortages and the two stories seemed to tie in with one another.

from India Insight:

Why let a debate determine the fate of GM foods?

Students hold a mock funeral procession against genetically modified brinjal crop in Chandigarh January 28, 2010. REUTERS/Ajay VermaThere's nothing Indians like better than a good debate.

So when Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh announced last month that he would hold public debates to decide the commercial fate of genetically modified brinjal (eggplant), there were hopes these would provide a chance for all stakeholders to be heard.

But the debates, in seven cities including Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, were chaotic, nothing more than acrimonious shouting matches between environmental activists and scientists, who say they were not given a fair chance to voice their opinion.

One scientist said he had his hand raised for more than half an hour, but was not allowed to speak. Another said he was told he could make a presentation, but was again not allowed to. Others were not even permitted to enter the premises.

from The Great Debate UK:

After 25 years impact of Bhopal leak lingers

Controversy still surrounds one of the world's worst industrial accidents 25 years after an estimated 8,000 people died in the immediate aftermath of a toxic gas leak in Bhopal, India.

At around midnight on December 3, 1984, a leak at a Union Carbide plant of methyl isocyanate gas -- a chemical compound used to make a pesticide marketed as Sevin -- led to about 50,000 people being treated for severe injuries to their eyes, lungs, and kidneys.

An estimated 15,000 to 25,000 may have later died from exposure to the gas.

Union Carbide, now part of Dow Chemical, settled a lawsuit in 1989 by paying $470 million in compensation to the Indian government. In return, the government agreed to drop criminal charges against the company.

Solar players see sun rising over India

India has ambitious plans for solar power as the country looks to boost its solar output to 20 gigawatts by 2022 from close to zero, as Reuters reported in this story.

Some companies are already looking to capture some of the demand they see growing in India.

U.S.-based solar cell maker Suniva finished this week a project with Titan Energy Systems Ltd for a large scale project in West Bengal.

Solar heads to developing world

While solar power has investors on Wall Street seeing green, countries in the developing world also see a bright future in solar technology.

They believe solar power systems that convert sunlight into electricity can help power developing areas without going the route of dirty coal-fired power plants.

Solar companies like China’s solar panel maker Suntech and California-based eSolar, have recently announced forays into the developing world.

from Summit Notebook:

60-hour work weeks, all in the name of climate change

Some politicians may be accused of dragging their heels when it comes to dealing with climate change, but you can't say members of the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism's executive board aren't clocking in the hours.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), an emissions trading scheme under the Kyoto Protocol worth $33 billion last year according to the World Bank, allows companies and countries to outsource their greenhouse gas reduction efforts by investing in clean energy projects in emerging countries like China and India, where making emissions cuts costs less.

Projects are submitted to the CDM for registration and a staff of over 100 examine and scrutinize each one to ensure environmental integrity.

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