›July 31, 2008 // By Daniel Gleick“If you want fast money and are willing to take the risk, that’s the only way to get it,” says Abdullah Dieng, a fisherman in Bissau, Guinea, in a new IRIN article, “Fishermen turn to trafficking as fish profits drop.” Fishermen in Guinea have a problem: No one is buying their fish. “The lack of decent roads into the interior of the country, combined with prohibitive fuel prices, makes it too difficult for fish-sellers to transport fish any further than Bissau, creating a saturated market,” reports IRIN. As an alternative, the fishermen are turning to illegal trade in drugs and humans. By smuggling, they can earn much more money.
“The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates several hundred kilograms of cocaine go through the country each week, while according to 2004 figures from the International Office of Migration, one million West and Central Africans head clandestinely to Europe every year,” reports IRIN.
Fisheries are collapsing all over the world, but especially in Africa. The New York Times article “Europe Takes Africa’s Fish, and Boatloads of Migrants Follow” reports that there is almost no regulation of Bissau’s fishery, like most fisheries along the African coast. “Creating the Enabling Environment for Effective Fisheries Enforcement,” an event in the Environmental Change and Security Program’s fisheries series, explored some of the challenges associated with fisheries management. One of the most basic problems is a lack of information. Vladimir Kacyznski, a marine scientist with the University of Washington, told the Times that “no one has comprehensively studied the nation’s coastal waters for at least 20 years.” As a result, both local and European fishers have mostly stripped the area of its fish.
The lack of oversight is largely due to a lack of attention, and thus a lack of money. IRIN reports that “The fishing ministry receives just 5 percent of the government’s paltry annual budget, despite fishing bringing in 40 percent of the country’s annual revenues, and most of this money can only cover staff salaries.” Without increased funding and attention, it is unlikely that a solution will emerge to the environmental and economic problems that force fishermen to turn to illegal and dangerous activities. As the source of their livelihoods disappears, they have fewer and fewer options. Said one consultant quoted in the Times story, “The sea is being emptied.”
›July 31, 2008 // By Sonia SchmanskiWomen “are the most likely to bear the heaviest burdens when natural disasters strike,” says a new report from the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), “Gender, Climate Change and Human Security: Lessons from Bangladesh, Ghana and Senegal.” The report also encourages governments to allow women to play larger roles as agents of preparedness, mitigation, and adaptation.
Climate change, the report says, “forms a major threat to human security at national and livelihood levels.” Because 70 percent of people living below the poverty line are women, their livelihoods are threatened most acutely by climate change and the natural disasters it is likely to make increasingly frequent and severe. In addition, women are often responsible for “tasks such as food collection and energy supply for the household as well as many care-giving tasks, such as caring for the children, sick, elderly, the home and assets.” In the wake of a natural disaster, these activities can become nearly impossible, and being responsible for them can prevent women from migrating from disaster zones, despite the burden of living where disaster has struck. This migration, the authors write, has significant impacts on those who stay as well as those who leave, as “the relocation of people has severe impacts on social support networks and family ties—mechanisms that have a crucial value for women.”
Losing over half a million citizens to natural disasters between 1970 and 2005 has given Bangladesh the highest disaster mortality rate in the world, and gender-neutral data collection makes it difficult to determine gender-specific outcomes. From the data that does exist, the report notes that following the cyclone and flood disasters of 1991, for example, the death rate among adult women (20-44 years of age) was 71 per 1000, almost five times higher than the rate of 15 per 1000 for adult men.
There is consensus that South Asia is among the regions most affected by climate change, the report says, and that Bangladesh is the most vulnerable country in the region. For the 80 percent of Bangladeshi women who live in rural areas and are solely responsible for water and firewood collection, food preparation, and family health care, the future appears increasingly imperiled.
A study published last year in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers confirmed that natural disasters decrease the life expectancy of women much more dramatically than men; that the more intense the disaster, the stronger this effect; and that the wealthier the women, the less they are affected by this phenomenon.
Even as women suffer disproportionately from climate change and natural disasters, the report says, “women are more often overlooked as potential contributors to climate change solutions,” and their ability to contribute to preparation, mitigation, and rehabilitation efforts is undervalued. The report recommends that countries develop National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) that involve women as contributors to adaptation processes and work toward “improving human security in the context of climate change from a gender perspective.”
›July 29, 2008 // By Sonia SchmanskiThe land of Niger’s Tuareg Bedouin tribes—and thus the Tuareg way of life—is drying up. The steadily advancing Sahara desert is swallowing northern Niger at a rate of six kilometers per year, part of a centuries-old process recently accelerated by climate change and groundwater withdrawals by the nation’s booming uranium mining industry.
French nuclear giant Areva flies in workers rather than hiring locals to man the mines, and as a result, the Tuareg and other tribal groups have little or no opportunity to find employment. Cut out of the revenue stream, rebel fighters, made up of Tuaregs as well as members of other Bedouin tribes, are demanding a percentage (20-30 percent, by most accounts) of the revenue generated by the uranium mined on their land.
Defying a government ban on reporting on the conflict, Al Jazeera television reporter May Welsh interview the rebels in a five-part video series on the Tuareg. “They’re fighting a state that’s ignoring their problems,” she says. For example, a family suffering from a new and mysterious ailment claim they have been denied care by Areva’s medical offices. Welsh suggests their illness could be attributed to the radioactive water around Areva’s facilities.
Areva, for its part, rejects the notion that it is poisoning the people of northern Niger. In a document released in August 2007, the company reports that 60-70 percent of its private hospital patients are members of surrounding communities. Areva also states it gives preference to local sub-contractors in its exploration and procurement activities. But the yawning gulf between Areva’s position and the reality in northern Niger belies the company’s claims.
Conflict between rebel groups and the Nigerien army has separated families, displaced people, destroyed schools—and interfered with humanitarian missions. The government ordered the French NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to suspend its activity in Niger based on unsubstantiated suspicions that members of the organization were colluding with rebels. Welsh’s daring reports illuminate these and other dangers of life in Niger’s desert, a life that may soon become impossible.
›July 29, 2008 // By ECSP StaffShare your thoughts and ask experts questions about “climate refugees” and other hot environmental migration topics at two upcoming online discussions.
On July 30, from 1-2 p.m., Population Reference Bureau’s Jason Bremner will take questions on “Environmental Change: What Are the Links With Migration?” Bremner, who spent several years studying migration and environment links in the Galapagos and Amazon regions in Latin America, will answer your questions about the relationships between migration and the environment, current trends, and future migrations related to environmental change. You may submit questions in advance or during the discussion at http://discuss.prb.org
From August 18-29, a cyberseminar sponsored by PERN and the Environmental Change & Security Program tackles “Environmentally Induced Population Displacements.” In an online seminar, experts and network members will analyze the evidence for environment’s role in migration, including the potential for future population displacements as a result of climate change. PERN Cyberseminars are conducted using a standard email discussion list; instructions are online.
›July 28, 2008 // By Sonia SchmanskiIn the Central Albertine Rift, which runs from the northern end of Lake Albert to the southern end of Lake Tanganyika, “environmental factors are increasingly an underlying cause of instability, conflict and unrest,” says a new report from the Institute for Environmental Security, Charcoal in the Mist, which outlines environmental security issues and initiatives in the Albertine Rift region.
Part of the larger Great Rift Valley, the Central Albertine Rift encompasses portions of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The area is one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots, but is also a geopolitical hotspot, producing critical natural resources for a number of nations recently emerging from devastating civil wars. Lake Victoria, the birthplace of the Nile River, sits in this region, which means that the watchful eyes of its riparian states are trained at all times on the politics of the area. The Albertine Rift is also home to Africa’s Great Lakes, each of which straddles multiple nations and provides significant income to surrounding communities. Questions of access to these waters only heighten existing geopolitical tensions.
Charcoal in the Mist cites armed rebels, illegal mining, and a growing population’s increasing demands for food and energy as threats to regional environmental security. Virunga National Park, an internationally prized wilderness preserve in the DRC, has fallen victim to these pressures. Rampant poaching and illegal mining, as well as conflicts in the DRC and Rwanda, have left park authorities unable to protect the 7,800 square kilometer park. A timeline from National Geographic dramatically illustrates how violent conflict has disrupted conservation efforts in Virunga.
The “interconnectedness between natural resources, development and security” in the Central Albertine Rift region reinforces the need for innovative approaches to address these issues. For example, according to the report, population density around protected areas in this region is far higher than in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, and the continually growing population already exceeds the capacity of local resources. The area’s population swelled with thousands of refugees fleeing the civil war in Rwanda in the 1990s, and simmering tensions continue to push people away from conflict zones and toward the relative calm of the Albertine Rift. Similarly, conflict stemming from the civil war in DRC, which lasted from 1998 until 2003, has beset North Kivu province. Rebel armies continue to clash in the region, restricting the ability of development organizations to work there and limiting the livelihoods of the local population.
The authors of Charcoal in the Mist call for more comprehensive mapping and monitoring of the Central Albertine Rift ecosystem in order to promote effective policies to address the region’s challenges. They also advocate for enhancing property rights to address fundamental conflicts over land, strengthening environmental law, dampening the illegal natural resource trade, and more aggressively protecting Virunga National Park. They believe that transboundary environmental cooperation has the potential to preserve both the ecological integrity and political stability of this important region.
›July 25, 2008 // By Meaghan ParkerAn independent evaluation group recently reported that while the World Bank has been a vocal supporter of environmentally sustainable practices, it has not followed through on those pledges.
The report, Environmental Sustainability: An Evaluation of World Bank Group Support, states that “addressing environmental degradation and ensuring environmental sustainability are inextricably linked to the World Bank Group’s mandate to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives.” It urges greater coordination between the World Bank, IFC, and MIGA, as well as with external partners, and calls for improving assessments of the environmental impacts of World Bank interventions.
“It is clear now from the Amazon to India that if environmental sustainability is not raised as a priority, then all bets are off,” Vinod Thomas, the director general of the Independent Evaluation Group, told the New York Times. When pressed about the related issue of preventing the impact of natural disasters, Thomas told Revkin, “Even where disasters recur, the preventive side gets neglected, for political reasons. Reconstruction gets photos.”
At the Wilson Center launch of the new book Greening Aid, former World Bank advisor Robert Goodland said that “The World Bank Group…is de-greening itself,” criticizing a new Bank project:
The project manufactures cheeses in India, flies them to Japan to supply Pizza Hut. Project appraisal omitted any assessment of greenhouse gas emissions or climate risks; accountability is zero, in terms of respecting local religious taboos on holy cows. In this project the World Bank promotes the interests of the well-to-do, flying food away from those who need more to those that don’t. Despite soaring claims of fighting the global food crisis and climate change, the bank makes cows fly.
The authors of Greening Aid?: Understanding the Environmental Impact of Development Assistance found that absolute levels of dirty aid have remained relatively constant, while absolute levels of environmental aid have risen dramatically. But despite its absolute rise over the past several decades, environmental aid remains just 10 percent of total aid because neutral aid has increased significantly. Bilateral donors have greened the most, “a bit of a surprise,” said coauthor J. Timmons Roberts, given that so much emphasis has been placed on improving the practices of multilateral donors like the World Bank. The five bilateral donors with the highest per capita environmental aid from 1995-1999 were Denmark, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, and Japan.
As Revkin asked in his blog dotEarth, “As the world heads toward nine billion people, with most population growth in the poorest places, how can prosperity be spurred — by lenders or in other ways — without erasing the planet’s natural assets?”
Note: ECSP interns Sonia Schmanski and Daniel Gleick contributed to this post.
›“Women are key to the development challenge,” says Strategies for Promoting Gender Equity in Developing Countries, but “gender mainstreaming has been associated with more failures than gains.” Detailing findings from an April 2007 conference co-sponsored by the Wilson Center and the Inter-American Foundation, the report calls for a redesigned approach operating on multiple fronts. Blogging about the report, About.com’s Linda Lowen dubs the gap between women and men in developing countries a “Grand Canyon-like divide” compared to the “crack in the sidewalk” faced by Western women.
A Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder on Angola—now Africa’s leading oil producer—tackles the familiar paradox of extreme poverty in resource-rich countries. Burdened by “an opaque financial system rife with corruption,” Angola’s leaky coffers are filling up with Chinese currency. As Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos put it, “China needs natural resources, and Angola wants development.” FastCompany.com’s “Special Report: China In Africa” criticizes the overwhelming Chinese presence in Africa: “The sub-Sahara is now the scene of one of the most sweeping, bare-knuckled, and ingenious resource grabs the world has ever seen.”
In Scientific American’s “Facing the Freshwater Crisis,” Peter Rogers writes that the demands of increasing population, along with increasingly frequent droughts due to climate change, signal rough waters ahead, and calls for major infrastructure investments to prevent catastrophe. Closer to home, Circle of Blue reports on a new era of water scarcity in the United States, and director Jim Thebaut’s documentary “Running Dry: The American Southwest” takes a look at the hard-hit region.
Pastoralists are socially marginalized in many countries, making them highly vulnerable to climate change despite their well-developed ability to adapt to changing conditions, reports the International Institute for Environment and Development in “Browsing on fences: Pastoral land rights, livelihoods and adaptation to climate change.” The paper notes that the “high rate of development intervention failure” has worsened the situation, and calls for giving pastoralists “a wider range of resources, agro-ecological as well as socio-economic,” to protect them.
›July 25, 2008 // By Sonia SchmanskiSpeaking at the
on May 16, Leona D’Agnes described Philippine fisheries as the “global epicenter of marine biodiversity.” A little more than a month later, on June 21, a ferry transporting 22,000 pounds of toxic cargo crossed paths with Typhoon Frank and capsized off the Philippine island of Sibuyan. In addition to the endosulfan (a pesticide banned in the United States) buried within its hold, the ferry carried some 850 passengers; 56 survived the wreck, 173 are confirmed dead, and more than 600 are still missing—their bodies presumed trapped within the wreckage of the ship. Wilson Center
Due to concern about releasing the endosulfan or the 70,000 gallons of oil into the surrounding water, and disagreement over how best to remove the cargo, recovery efforts have yet to begin, though Sulpicio Lines Inc., owner of the vessel, recently agreed to a 40-day time frame for removing the cargo and the bodies inside the ferry.
Though there have been no leaks, fishermen in the area have been banned from plying their trade in the weeks since the incident. Fishing communities can ill afford this sort of livelihood disruption. As D’Agnes explained, “fishermen are the poorest of the poor in the Philippines.” One such fisherman, Walden Royo, agreed with this assessment and spoke for many in his community when he said that the country’s actions in the wake of the event are “slowly killing us.” The island’s remoteness has impeded the delivery of relief supplies, and rural fishing communities often lack access to alternative livelihoods. Municipal fisheries, D’Agnes reported, provide 80 percent of the protein requirements of residents of these villages.
On July 10, 1,000 fishermen from Sibuyan gathered their boats around the bow of the ferry to sing a prayer for the victims and push for removal of the wreckage. There is often conflict between protecting the environment and protecting livelihoods, but in this case, the government has to choose between exposing fishermen and their families to potentially toxic waters and cutting off their primary source of income and food. Royo expressed the desperation felt by many of his peers to IRIN news: “When will they begin to realize that we need to fish?” he wondered. “When our children are already dead?”
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