Saturday, August 21, 2010

Endangered and Extinct: America Turns Her Back on Biodiversity

The Nations of the world have gathered in London for a UN Convention on Biodiversity and Climate Change.

2010 has been named the International Year of Biodiversity by the United Nations. An urgent call to action has been issued to all nations of the world to cooperate and collaborate as a global community to protect the biodiversity of Earth. What is biodiversity you ask? According to Dr. Eleanor Sterling, Director of the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, “Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems, and the ecological and evolutionary processes that sustain it.”

In a keynote address, Ahmed Djoghlaf, Secretary-General of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity expressed concern on the lack of international binding commitments and coordinated action to protect the Earth’s biodiversity and to ameliorate climate change. We are losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate due to habitat change, overexploitation, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change. The UN Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 states that there are multiple indications of biodiversity decline of genes, species and ecosystems. Nearly 25% of the world’s plant species are threatened with extinction. Globally, amphibians are great risk of extinction. The populations of vertebrate species fell by 33 % between 1970 and 2006 with severe declines within freshwater ecosystems and in the tropics. Scientists estimate that 15% of mammal species and 11% of bird species are classified as threatened. Coral species are deteriorating with ocean warming and acidification. Natural habitats worldwide are declining in extent and integrity due to fragmentation, overdevelopment and climate change. The UN Environment Programme has issued an astonishing report, which states that: “150-200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become extinct every 24 hours.” Secretary-General Djoghlaf says “The future of the planet now depends on governments taking action in the next few years.”

Why should we care? UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon states that the reasons are ecological and economic. He outlines the ecosystem services that protect people and their infrastructure, like coastal wetlands minimizing the impact of storm surges, sadly realized too late when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans or the cutting of the mangrove swamps for unsustainable shrimp farms and beach development and the tragic loss of life and property from tsunamis in South East Asia. Ecosystems protect infrastructure. New York City enjoys cheap and clean tap water because the city chose to protect the Catskills watershed, saving several billion dollars in the process. According to the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, “Ecosystems provide services such as pollination, seed dispersal, climate regulation, water purification, nutrient cycling, and control of agricultural pests.”

According to the Secretary, “A UN-backed study estimates the loss of natural capital due to deforestation and land degradation alone at between $2 trillion and $4.5 trillion each year.” Environmental protection and economic protection are two sides of the same coin. He urged member states to invest in sustainable development, which will assist indigenous people to protect the biodiversity in developing countries and meet the Millennium Development Goals of food security, poverty eradication and world health and to build resilience to climate change. Biodiversity and climate change are mutually interdependent. Continued deforestation, over-fishing, industrial agriculture, and introduced invasive species will continue the high rate of extinctions and loss of habitats and exacerbate climate change impacts. Programs as the UNDP Equator Initiative, and the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program have been put in place to provide assistance. Norway has pledged 500 million to prevent the deforestation of the rainforest for monoculture crops within rainforest settings. The Amazon forest will reach a tipping point if 20-30% of the forest is cut or burned creating savannas prone to drought cycles and fire. Today 17% of the Brazilian rainforest has been cut and burned. According to Veerle Vandeweerd, UNDP Environment and Energy Group, three quarters of the world’s population rely on the natural environment for survival. 1.5 billion people live in dry lands and 1 billion people rely on sustenance fishing. There is a need for poverty reduction and biodiversity protection.

We need a new strategy that links climate change, biodiversity, and the Millennium Development Goals with concrete targets and implementation in cooperation with the developed and developing countries. According to Stas Burgiel in Convention on Biological Diversity: a progress report, “The UN Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) is the single most important international agreement designed to protect the world’s biodiversity, to encourage the sustainable use of biological resources, and to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from such use.” The Convention was signed at the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 1992 Conference on Environment and Development- known as the Earth Summit. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted on 11 September 2003. It establishes rules under which crops and other organisms, which have been genetically modified, can be transferred from one country to another. According to Stas Burgiel’s Convention on Biological Diversity: a progress report- “The United States was perhaps foremost among developed countries in resisting potential restrictions on biotechnology and intellectual property rights. Indeed, President Bush (senior) refused to sign the CBD at the Earth Summit in Rio. Although President Clinton signed the Convention two years later, so far, the United States remains one of a small handful of countries that has not ratified the agreement, and so has refused to frame its own national laws in line with the CBD.” Policies must be put in place to protect indigenous knowledge of medicines and cures from the extractive and exclusive corporate explorers who patent local knowledge without proper recompense.

Note to Editor: Hyperlink at United States

The Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties, (COP-10) and the Cartagena Protocol for Biosafety, (COP-MOP 5) will be held in Nagoya, Japan on 29 October 2010. Perhaps the cataclysmic loss of life within the coastal ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico broadcast around the world will galvanize our President and members of Congress to act responsibly to represent the best interests of her people on this blue planet we share with all life in this time of crisis. The nations of the world must be united and just if we are to come to a common accord to exercise our collective Rights of Responsibility, to protect and restore Earth’s biodiversity from potential extinctions and the effects of climate change. A welcome has been extended to the United States to join the Family of Nations in this Year of Biodiversity.

© Joseph Emmanuel Ingoldsby, 2010

Joseph Ingoldsby, writes and advocates for biodiversity. Recent works include Vanishing Landscapes and Endangered Species, The Science Exhibition: Curation & Design, Museums etc Press, UK, 2010; Icons of the Vanishing Prairies, 2009; Vanishing Landscapes: The Atlantic Salt Marsh, Leonardo Journal, 42-2-2009 MIT Press; and Requiem for a Drowning Landscape, Orion Magazine, March/April 2009.

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Celebrate the International Mangrove Action Day -2010

Centre for Coastal Environmental Conservation (CCEC), an NGO celebrated the International Mangrove Action Day (26th July) -2010 at Burigoalini Union adjoining Burigoalini Forest Range Office at Shyamnagar UPZ under Satkhira District of Bangladesh. The CCEC organized a rally with the active participation of Mangroves Protection Society (MPS) members and Sundarbans stakeholders i.e. bouali (wood and thatch cutter), mouali (honey extractor), jellay(fish and crab catcher) cooperative society members. The rally moved around Datinakhali Nil-Dumur BDR/BGB Camp and Burigoalini key areas including plantation site followed by a discussion and circulation of posters and leaflets at “Sundarbans Information and Tourism Promotion centre” run by CCEC. Discussion includes on the important roll and potential of Sundarbans mangrove forest. Mangrove safe our life especially during catastrophic cyclone for example cyclone-SIDR, and cyclone-AILA. The Sundarbans mangrove is the remaining natural coastal defender of Bangladesh and acts like a mother. They also mentioned that Sundarbans mangrove is a source of livelihood, food, fuel of coastal communities and ideal habitat for biodiversity. They commit that the Sundarbans must be protected in cooperation with all concerned. The meeting was attended by Forest Officials, CCEC field supervisors Shamir Kumar Dhali, Nirapado Mondal, Nur Islam. The meeting was also represented by Mr. Shamsur Rahman the Chairperson, stakeholder cooperative society and mouali group leader Mr. Mostofa Sardar who spoke on the discussion meeting. As part of UNEP-APFED Showcase project, titled “Sundarbans crab fattening in bamboo cages and mangrove restoration as an adaptation to climate change” funded by Thailand Environment Institute (TEI).
submitted by
Mowdudur Rahman (Environ. Risk Assessment)
Founder Director
Centre for Coastal Environmental Conservation (CCEC)
IUCN-CEC (Bangladesh)
Takdir Mohal,
House # 93 Road # 2 Sonadanga R/A,
Khulna-9000, Bangladesh
Phone: 88 041 810982
Cell: 01712 995 180

Khulna Declaration

To protect lives and livelihoods of southwest coastal region from
impact of climate change and environmental degradation

Saturday, 10 July 2010, 25 Asharh 1416
Khulna, Bangladesh

We, more than two hundred representatives from different sectors of the society including Members of Parliament, Local Government, Political Parties, Researcher, Teacher, Women Rights Movement, Sociocultural organisation, Students' Organisation, Development Organisation, Small and marginal Farmer and Forest and Indigenous Communities of Southwest Coastal Region of Bangladesh,

Gathering today on tenth of July Two thousand Ten AD in the eve of 'Southwest Coastal Conference on Impact of Climate Change on Coastal Livelihood: Perspective Cyclone Aila' at Khulna Divisional City,
Recalling the potentials of world heritage the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest, fertile alluvial land, billion tons of sediments, disaster-tolerant local rice varieties, rivers and canals like arteries and rich traditional cultural practices;
Concerned for the vulnerabilities of the rural livelihoods such as small and marginal farmer, agricultural labour, fisherman and other natural resource dependant people of Southwest region due to frequent and intensive natural disasters including cyclone Aila, adverse impact of climate change and environmental degradation and unwise development initiatives;
Emphasising on emergence of short, mid and long term initiatives as because the livelihood and ecological problems becomes complicated for climate change induced vulnerabilities and adverse impacts of infrastructural mega projects financed by the Multinational Development Banks (MDBs), Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and 'Donor Organizations' from developed countries;
Solely proclaiming these 21-point demands as Khulna Declaration and urging the Government of Bangladesh to implement this declaration for sustainable rural livelihoods of southwest coastal region of Bangladesh:

1. Allocate sufficient financial resources immediately for reconstruction of cyclone Aila damaged embankments. Finalize working schedule, tender notice and other necessary activities within September 2010 to complete reconstruction of the breached embankments within December 2010. Take alternative measures to complete this task considering failure of Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) in last year;

2. Identify and repair all weakened coastal embankments of southwest coastal region in priority basis. Inter alia ensuring transparency and accountability of BWDB is must to complete this task;

3. Depositing sedimentation in cultivable wetlands of southwest coastal region is must to meet the challenges of land subsidence, sea level rise and wide-spread water logging. To achieve this end, implement Tidal River Management (TRM) in this region as an integral part of the embankments;

4. Update the Embankment Protection Act 1952 and adopt seven years jail for making hole in, illegal cut or any other damage of the embankments. Simultaneously, ensure local small and marginal farmers participation in embankment management;

5. Increase the height of coastal embankments southwest region to eight mitres like southeast and use geo-fibre and iron-net to make it capable of protecting cyclone and tidal surges. Construct roads and highways on the embankments to ensure proper and regular use of them;

6. Stop leasing of riverbanks create environments of planting mangrove forest at outside of the embankments. Stop leasing of state-owned canals and water bodies within the polder. Protect these common resources to use for freshwater reservoir for irrigation for agricultural production, and for natural fish varieties;

7. Provide agricultural tools including fertilizer, seeds and irrigation support to the cyclone Aila affected small and marginal farmers. At the same time, promote local saline and disaster tolerant varieties by banning distribution of hybrid and Genetically Modified (GM) seeds which have come from unknown sources;

8. Provide adequate scholarships and free educational materials to the cyclone Aila affected students to ensure their smooth primary, secondary and higher education;

9. Change the mindset of Cordon Approach of implementing cross dams, river training, flood control and water development, and adopt a different Embankment Management Policy with attitude of sedimentation and water management. Simultaneously, crash the upstream dams to ensure freshwater in the coastal river and canals;

10. Ban the brackish water shrimp cultivation in the agricultural land of coastal region considering its adverse long term socioeconomic and environmental impact.

11. Immediately finance and undertake socioeconomic development projects for climate victims including cyclone Aila induced refugees;

12. Create joint and continuous international pressure on the developed industrialised countries to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) emission and ensure reparations for capacity building to reduce vulnerabilities of climate induced disasters;

13. Assess environmental impacts and take local people's opinion considering negative impacts of climate change before undertaking Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other IFIs financed mega project in the coastal zone;

14. Establish an Adaptation and Mitigation Centre in southwest coastal region considering frequency and adversity of disasters in this region. At the same time, construct one cyclone shelter for every one thousand people in the disaster-prone areas;

15. Provide support to the poor people for constructing disaster-tolerant, environment-friendly and long-lasting houses in southwest coastal region. To this end, undertake an Integrated Settlement Plan for this region. Simultaneously, undertake sustainable measures for safe drinking water and sanitation considering increased salinity and tidal surge;

16. Protect illegal wood extraction, forest bandits and corruption to protect world's largest single track mangrove forest, the Sundarbans;

17. Stop refusing traditional rights of forest peoples of the Sundarbans in the name of conserving biodiversity after disasters like cyclone Aila. At the same time, stop using the Sundarbans as a Carbon Reservoir for corporate Carbon Trading in the name of Climate Change Mitigation;

18. Excavate and dredge dead rivers of the region and smash the entire infrastructure which are creating barrier to drainage. Keep at least fifty mitres water channel in every kilometre of roads and highways;

19. Do not allow any international debt-trade or profit-driven trade aggression to take chance of disaster, extreme salinity, climate-tolerant seed, Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), green technology, water scarcity etc.;

20. Reactivate Coastal Development Board (CDB) and implement the recommendation of Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan (ICZMP) for sustainable development of coastal zone;

21. Amend the National Water Policy and Agricultural Policy to incorporate specific measures for reducing vulnerabilities of coastal zone.

We again urge to the Government of Bangladesh to implement these demands of Khulna Declaration and to promote sustainable rural livelihoods of coastal disaster affected people.