Thursday, October 23, 2014

Monitoring a Regional Environmental Project for Accountability: Lessons from the Lake Victoria Environment Management Project Phase II (LVEMPII) Civil Society Watch Project (2009 – 2014) of the East African Sustainability Watch Network to the Post-2015 Agenda

This Paper is a contribution from the East African Sustainability Watch Network (comprising Tanzania Coalition for Sustainable Development with secretariat in Mwanza; Sustainable Environmental Development Watch Network based in Kisumu, Kenya; and Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development based in Kampala, Uganda) to the UNDG Consultation: Participatory Monitoring and Accountability which is co facilitated by UNICEF, UN Women and UNDP with support from Governments of Canada, Peru and Republic of Korea

The East African Sustainability Watch  (EA SusWatch) Network is implementing the LVEMP II Civil Society (CS) Watch Project which is a three-year monitoring project of the East African Sustainability Watch (EA SusWatch) Network (November 2011 – October 2014). The Project’s overall goal is to contribute to the promotion of sustainable environmental and natural resources management in the Lake Victoria Basin, with a short-term goal to register 100% realization of the execution of Component 3 of the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project’s Adaptable Program Lending 1 (APL1) in terms of: community involvement and appreciation of Sustainable Land Management (SLM) sub projects.

LVEMPII CS Watch Project has three immediate objectives: to periodically assess and document community beneficiary experience, capacity, knowledge and level of adoption of sustainable land management (SLM) practices under LVEMP II, in selected areas in River Nyando (Kenya), River Simiyu (Tanzania) and River Katonga (Uganda) arising from the Community-Driven Development sub-projects that aim at reducing non-point sources of pollution into Lake Victoria so as to influence project implementation; to influence the operationalization of East African Community Climatic Change Policy (EACCCP) provisions by LVEMP II, Lake Victoria Basin Commission, Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation and other regional institutions and interventions starting with assessing compliance of the key sectors of water supply and sanitation; agriculture and food security and rural energy supply; to further develop the EA SusWatch Network’s institutional capacity as a regional CSO network enabling environmental and natural resources – related collective quality monitoring and watchdog roles for LVEMP II and other interventions in the Lake Victoria Basin. 

This paper provides the rationale of the LVEMPII CS Watch Project, livelihood challenges (related to land-use, population growth and fisheries sector) in the Lake Victoria basin that supports one of the densest rural populations in the world. The Paper provides monitoring and accountability opportunities created under this Project; Key activities implemented, level of engagement of EA SusWatch Network with LVEMPII implementers and actors; lessons learnt and recommendations for the Post-2015 Agenda; what has not worked and planned follow up intervention areas.

The paper emphasizes the importance of putting people first while promoting learning and knowledge sharing among all actors alongside the usual ‘Progress Reports’

Monday, October 20, 2014


14 Civil Society Organizations, have called on African governments to end discrimination against rural women in Africa, especially in their access to traditional leadership roles and inheritance rights, on the occasion to mark the International Day of Rural Women (October 15, 2014).

They noted that, currently, a number of countries in Africa deny daughters the ability to become chiefs solely on the basis of their gender, whether in terms of law or practice. For example, under the Chieftainship Act in Lesotho, daughters are prohibited from succeeding to chieftainship solely because of their gender. This blatantly discriminatory law was upheld by the Lesotho Court of Appeal despite the Constitution prohibiting discrimination and guaranteeing the right to equality.

'Similarly, a number of countries deny women equal access to inheritance, again, solely due to their gender. For example, countries, including Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, amongst others, contrary to constitutional and statutory protections, continue to deny women equal inheritance to men of family property', the Statement noted.

The CSO statement warned that these discriminatory laws and practices tend to have a greater impact on rural women leaving them vulnerable to poverty. They further reinforce women’s secondary status to men within the community. Given the recent celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child, this negative impact on girls must be addressed.

The Statement added that laws and practices discriminating against women violate key rights guaranteed under international and regional treaties. Women have the right to equality with men in terms of Article 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 3 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Article 3 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), and Article 8(f) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). In addition, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Article 26 of the ICCPR, Article 2(2) of the ICESCR, Articles 2 and 18(3) of the African Charter, and Article 3 of the Maputo Protocol all require countries to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.

A handful of countries in Africa have acknowledged the importance of ending discrimination against women in inheritance. For example, in Botswana, the Court of Appeal made it clear that any law that denied women equal access to inheritance solely on the basis of their gender violates the Constitution and laws of Botswana. This decision and its implementation by the government was a significant step forward in ensuring an end to women’s secondary status.

However, despite a few positive steps towards ending discrimination, much more needs to be done.
'We call on African governments, including parliaments to ensure that women have equal access to inheritance and to traditional leadership roles to men. In addition, where courts have failed to uphold basic principles of the Constitution, as is the case in Lesotho, parliament must act to ensure that laws permit women the equal ability to inherit and rise to traditional leadership positions as men' the Statement concluded.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2014, The Year of Family Farming: is it Time to Celebrate or Screech in East Africa?

By Kimbowa Richard, Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development

Given that the East African Community (EAC) Treaty is almost 15 years old and the EAC Food Security Action Plan is due to ‘expire’ next year (2015), it is judicious to start a clear-headed reflection to establish how far these commitments have been effected to benefit the peoples of East Africa within the context of the 2014 World Food Day theme: To what extent has the promotion of modern farming methods been done in order to ensure that there is enough food for home consumption (family) and a surplus for export (Article 105)? How far has breeding of quality seeds and their proper distribution to farmers been ensured (Article 106)? What is the progress in promoting the production of high quality livestock in the EAC (Article 107)? How far have the Partner States cooperated in the control of plant and animal diseases (Article 108)? What is the progress in expansion of land for farming through irrigation and other water trapping methods (Article 109)? Is there enough food for everyone in East Africa (Article110)?

East Africa largely depends on rain fed agriculture making rural livelihoods and food security to be highly vulnerable to consequences of climate variability and change. It is also noted that agriculture provides a living for 80% of East Africans. Agriculture and livestock production in East Africa is hampered by its reliance on unreliable rainfall and absence of water storage facilities compounded by, poor land use practices and antiquated technology and farming methods.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations marks World Food Day each year on 16 October, the day on which the Organization was founded in 1945. The 2014 World Food Day theme - Family Farming: “Feeding the world, caring for the earth” seeks to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers. It focuses world attention on the significant role of family farming in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas. According to FAO, family farming is inextricably linked to national and global food security. Both in developing and developed countries, family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in the food production sector. Family farming includes all family-based agricultural activities, and it is linked to several areas of rural development.

Food Security Situation in East Africa Vs the EAC Treaty Provisions

The East African Community (EAC) region is frequently affected by food shortages and pockets of hunger although the region as a whole has a huge potential and capacity to produce enough food for regional consumption and a large surplus for export to the world market. For example, the latest Food Security Outlook Report from FEWSNET indicate that about 14 million people in East Africa are in stressed, crisis, and emergency including in north-eastern Burundi, Djibouti, eastern Ethiopia, northern and eastern Kenya, eastern Rwanda, Somalia, western, south-eastern, and north-eastern Sudan, north-eastern Uganda, and central Tanzania.

There are many factors leading to this state of affairs but the most critical are: inadequate food exchange/trade between times and/or places of abundant harvest on one hand, and those with deficit on the other; high variability in production caused by high variability of weather which is becoming worse due to climate change; and conflict.

In response to this, an East African Community Food Security Action Plan (2010 – 2015) with a budget of USD about USD 43.11billion was developed to address food insecurity in the region, as an initial step of implementing the provisions of the EAC Treaty as set out in Chapter 18 (Articles 105 -110).

It is in this regard that the East African Sustainability Watch (EA SusWatch) Network commissioned a study (in form of a Score Card) within the bounds of the Lake Victoria basin, to assess 2 key regional commitments: The Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO) Regional Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing on Lake Victoria and its basin that is related to fisheries (due the rampant unsustainable fishery practices on lake Victoria); and the EAC Food security Action Plan – as food security an already a perennial challenge in East Africa, could be worsened by the region’s rapidly growing population— already one of the highest in the world. This study is in line with the desire to contribute to 2014 as the African Union’s African Year of Agriculture and Food Security which is also the United Nations’ International Year of Family Farming. It complements the EA SusWatch Network’s Lake Victoria Climate Change Readiness Brief No.3.

Key issues from the Sustainable Development Score Card in relation to fisheries, nutrition and food security in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda 

The EAC Food Security Action Plan is organized into four sections. Section one contains the introduction which highlights the background to the development of the EAC food security action plan and the constraints in achieving food security in the EAC. Section two describes the contexts for the EAC food security action plan. Section three provides for the priority areas for the EAC food security action plan while Section four provides detailed action plans which include implementation and coordination arrangements, monitoring and evaluation and resource mobilization for implementation of the Plan.

The Sustainable Development Scorecard focused on the three parameters: Enhancing access to food (9 indicators); Increasing production by enhancing productivity (11 indicators); Improve and accelerate implementation of policies, strategies and institutional framework (3 indicators).

I would like to restrict this article to the findings on the selected indicators related to the ‘social goods’ under the 3 parameters, as summarized below in for the three countries, in view of the World Food Day 2014 theme.

Improvement in access to food: Supporting development of fisheries infrastructure

In Kenya, the main laws governing fisheries activities (including small and medium pelagic fisheries) are the Fisheries Act Cap 378 (1991). In 2012 the number of landing sites in Kenya on Islands was sixty two (62). Many landing sites do have fish bandas, where fish is received, weighed and sold to traders or agents. Though efforts have been made, most of the fish landing sites have inadequate infrastructure from poor roads, to lack of clean drinking water, adequate public toilets. The main challenge is limited budgetary allocation to manage the beaches around the country. Hence, there is need to increase budgetary allocation for fisheries activities, specifically improving facilities at the landing sites

According to the 2010 Frame Survey, the majority of the landing sites in Tanzania do not have basic facilities: only 74 landing sites had roofs and 10 had refrigeration units. Only 52 had drying racks and 104 had kilns for smoking fish indicating that processing facilities are not sufficient. According to LVFO report, in 2012, Tanzania recorded a decrease by one landing site from 216 to 215 landing sites. The Tanzanian Government has promoted the development of facilities, particularly around landing sites that focus on Nile perch. There are now 26 of these comparatively well-equipped Improved Landing Sites in Kagera, Mwanza and Mara.

According to the Fisheries Union Organisation (FUO), efforts to improve fishing infrastructure has largely been by the private sector. The cooling and transporting of fish from the landing site is purely by private sector. The main challenge is poor management of few facilities leading to dilapidation. Hence, there is need to enhance capacity of the Beach Management Unit (BMU) officials in carrying monitoring these facilities within their sites and liaising with relevant ministry for maintenance

In Uganda, government through the relevant ministry has made efforts to develop fisheries infrastructure. Community processing infrastructure (drying racks, dip frying and smoking kilns) were constructed for Mukene processing at Katebo (Mpigi) and Kikondo and Kiyindi (Buikwe) and Katosi (Mukono) and Kasekulo (Kalangala) landing sites on Lake Victoria Plate. Completed 20 urban and rural fish markets in various Districts. The Department has constructed four regional fish fry production (hatcheries) and demonstration centers in Mbale, Gulu, Kajjansi and Bushenyi under Fisheries Development Project. Fish handling structures have been constructed in Ntoroko and Kayei landing sites in Ntoroko and Apac districts respectively. Ice plants installed at Majanji, Gorofa, Bwondha, Bugoto, Mwena, Bukungu and Butiaba landing sites and new ones have been constructed at Nakasongola district headquarters and a cold storage installed at Bakuli fish market.

Handling facilities, ice plants, storage facilities, sanitary conditions (including boats with containers) are either lacking or inadequate at landing sites, contributing to poor fish quality while also making it difficult for fisheries managers to enforce the provisions of the Fish Act and related subsidiary statutory instruments that were premised on availability of such infrastructure. The main challenges include limited resource allocation for construction and or maintenance of social facilities within the landing sites and the continued decline in Nile perch stocks, a target for the export market. Hence, there is need to for Government partnership with private sector to improve infrastructure along the landing sites as well as sustainable harvesting measures for the Nile perch stocks

Increasing production by enhancing productivity: Eradication of illegal fishing practices and trade in undersize fish 

It was noted that Kenya is making great strides in the eradication of illegal fishing practices and trade in the undersized fish. Under section 46 of the Fisheries Management and Development Bill, 2011, use of certain fishing gears and methods is prohibited. Under section 47, the Bill also prohibits damage, destruction to and interference with fishing gear and vessel. However along Lake Victoria, despite the regulations, there have been cases of use of destructive fishing gears leading to overfishing.

The national fisheries management capacity has been weak and has not been able to ensure that there is proper Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS), and as a result there has been no data collection. An estimated potential of over 150 000 metric tons has been given but is subject to confirmation through a comprehensive stock assessment. The main challenge relates to inadequate sustained enforcement of fisheries regulations, inadequate clarity on policies regarding Illegal fishing practices, and insufficient support to alternative income generating activities to capture fisheries.

Hence, there is need for government to focus on participatory enforcement of existing legal, strengthen the capacity of institutions such as Fisheries Department to enforce fisheries regulations, and for community members to be supported in alternative income generation activities.

In Tanzania, LVFO technical report on stock assessment shows that the number of fishers who use smaller–meshed net grew much more rapidly in 2011. In February 2009, the Council of ministers of Lake Victoria approved the zero tolerance measure to remove illegal gears to a minimum by 50% by June 2009 and by 100% by December 2009. The main challenges are inadequate awareness/ sensitization campaigns on illegal fishing practices carried out, as well the inadequate regular inspection and monitoring of fishing activities. Hence, more awareness and education efforts on the appropriate fishing practices should be enhanced while more coordinated monitoring and surveillance effort by the combined government and BMU officials should be enhanced.

In Uganda, implementation and enforcement of the Fish Act are normally through controlling access (LVFO, 2005). Access to fisheries in Uganda has for a long time been controlled through licensing (Ministry of Natural Resources, 1995; Department of Fisheries Resources, 2008). The challenge is the remoteness of some of the landing sites and the inadequate transportation infrastructure that were found to impose severe constraints on the implementation and enforcement of the fishing legislation on Lake Victoria. Hence, there is need to enhance capacity of the BMUs in the remote areas to effectively implement and enforce the fishing legislation

Increasing production by enhancing productivity: Promoting community participation in management of fisheries through Beach Management Units

In Kenya, Government has recently emphasized on fisheries co-management and strengthened the previously inefficient BMUs, for example, though training of 117 BMUs was supported in 2011/2012 a lot more is still needed for further development. Despite these policy frameworks, capacity, strategies, and tools of management have not substantially changed. The main challenges include lack of legal framework and clarity on the mandate of the BMUs. Hence, there is a need to develop a legal framework for BMUs, as well as enhancing capacity building for the BMU members on their roles and responsibilities

From the monitoring and evaluation report reviewed in Tanzania, it was realized that only a small proportion of BMUs (4%) was involved in vetting of licensing. After the review of the frame survey of 2010, it was also noted that BMUs are not effectively helping to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Lake Victoria, because of the presence of informal landing sites. The main challenges include lack of fisher folk understanding of the BMU concept, inadequate funds to facilitate BMU activities, and lack of capacity and power for BMUs to enforce the law on illegal fishing practices. Hence, there is need to create more awareness on the importance of community participation in the fishing industry, mobilise more partners to support the BMU activities, and capacity building and institutionalizing the BMUs to enable them enforce the law on illegal fishing practices

In Uganda, government in partnership with the BMUs are enforcing the Fish Act regulations. According to the new BMU Uganda Statutory Instrument, a Beach Management Unit is an organization of fishers (boat crew or fishing labourers), Boat /Gear owners, Managers, caterers, Artisanal among others). Available information reveals that the 355 BMUs serving 548 landing sites, have total membership of 64,130 with average of 209 members. Generally BMU leaders were reported to comply with the fisheries laws and regulations. However, at some landing sites, the committee members were strongly engaged in use of illegal gears and also promoted illegal fishing on the lake through reselling of already confiscated gears to other fishers at different landing sites.

The main challenges include existence of several community institutions within the landing sites, with different and often conflicting interests undermining the existence of the BMUs; inadequate equipment to carry out work like boats, engines and fuel; and lack of comprehensive training of the BMU officials on various aspects of their work. Hence, the institutions charged with the responsibility of institutionalizing BMUs, as well as the BMUs themselves, should endeavour to improve the low understanding of co-management among the different stakeholders, including the roles of the BMUs; adequate tools and equipment should be provided to BMUs to fully execute their mandates; while the BMU capacities to manage and generate revenues need to be strengthened.

Improve and accelerate implementation of policies, strategies and institutional framework: Implement the 10 per cent budget allocation for agriculture focused on strategic investments

The assessment showed that Kenya allocated an average of only 4.6 per cent of its national budget to agriculture during 2009-13. Lack of capacity and poor coordination can mean that budgets (often already low) are not entirely spent. Kenya’s actual spending on agriculture averaged 80 per cent of its budget allocation during 2009/10 and 2011/12, while delayed disbursements of funds from donors and cumbersome international procurement procedures lead to slow expenditures. Hence, there is need to invest more in adequate staff training and capacity building in the agriculture sector and improve coordination between and among Ministries by learning from best practice elsewhere as well as ensuring disbursement of funds for timely implementation of projects

In Tanzania, the assessment showed that the country allocated approximately 3.4% in the year 2009 – 2013. The main challenge related to inadequate funds to increase budgetary allocation, hence the need to increase budgetary allocation by 6% to bridge the deficit, through grants from various development partners

In Uganda, The assessment showed that government allocated an average of only 3.5 per cent of its national budget to agriculture during 2009-13 (ActionAid Walking the Talk, December 2013). The main challenge is that although increasing budgetary allocations to the agriculture sector is laudable, those increases must be followed by the efficient allocation, utilization, and management of such resources if they are to stimulate and lead to the desired growth and development of the sector. Hence, there is need to mobilize more funds from development partners to increase the allocation of budget to improve agricultural productivity as well as enforcement of laws to ensure proper utilization of public funds

Overall, “Feeding the world, caring for the earth” in the Lake Victoria region and East Africa in general brings to the fore the urgent need to devise strategies to address the declining commercial fisheries stock, while addressing food insecurity scenarios through capacity building of farmers, fisher folk and supportive institutions within a co-management context. Furthermore, enforcement of rules regarding sustainable use of land, water, fisheries and other natural resources needs to be scaled up through experiential learning involving farmers, fishers and other actors.

Above all, in relation to the Treaty provisions and the Food Security Action plan, the EAC should promote a participatory monitoring mechanism to regularly capture achievements that can be replicated, while addressing loopholes in real time.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Nile Forum Urges Member States to Fully Own the Cooperation and ‘Bring Back’ Egypt

The 4th Nile Basin Development Forum on the theme; Building sustainable trans‐boundary cooperation in a complex River basin: Challenges, lessons and prospects was attended by over 450 participants from within and outside the Nile Basin took place October 6-7, 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Forum appreciated the achievements so far made under the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), built from unfavorable baseline, in sustaining an all-inclusive institution with national and basin‐wide capabilities of water resources management and development and demonstration of the benefits of cooperation on the ground through investments;

It also recognized the immense demand pressures the basin is facing and will face against ‐ a fragile, complex and not fully understood science of the river; against equally complex hydro‐political and historical legacies ; against limited water resource base in the midst of uncertain climate change impact consequences; against the ongoing proliferation of unilaterally planned water resources infrastructure across the basin; against raising corporate and project finance for cooperative water infrastructure implementation.

However, the 4th Nile Basin Forum noted that a lot remains to be done in that ‐ poverty is still endemic in the basin; youth unemployment is a development challenge; poverty‐driven continuing degradation of resources and loss of ecosystems is worrisome; the basin is still least economically integrated; there is still the need to further build water resources management development capacities; there is still need to understand better climate change impacts better; there is need to further expand NBI's stakeholder bases to reach out further to national, International and regional bodies;

Nevertheless, the Forum affirmed that the NBI is the only cooperation mechanism through which basin challenges and threats can be addressed collectively; affirmed that it is only NBI, by its very nature and mandate, that can be the custodian of Nile, able to look beyond political confines of national priorities to mitigate the risks associated with fragmented and nationally focused resource use and thus safeguard the interests of future generations.

The Forum among others calls upon Nile Basin Governments to commit more finance and resources to the NBI so that it covers all the operating and program costs on its own. ‘We call on Member Countries to own NBI. NBI, despite the growing country contributions, by and large is still a donor‐funded organization, after 15 solid years’, the Declaration said.

In line with the longstanding need to expeditiously make NBI a permanent institution to resolve differences and putting in place the agreed legal and institutional framework, the Declaration urges member countries to work together to 'bring back the sisterly country of Egypt to the NBI family'.

This is a result of some sticking points over the Comprehensive Framework Agreement  (CFA) negotiated under the NBI - allowing upstream countries to establish irrigation and hydro-electric projects without Egypt's prior consent. On its part Egypt maintains that  it  welcomes any cooperation in any development project in the Nile Basin countries on condition that it 'does not affect its water share'.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Nicaragua canal will wreak havoc on forests and displace people, NGO warns

By The Guardian

Forests of the World says shipping firms must pressure Nicaragua and Chinese backer to limit canal’s impact

Shipping firms should pressure the Nicaraguan government and the Chinese backer of a proposed canal to ensure that the project does not force indigenous people off their land and inflict massive environmental damage on the country’s ecosystem, an environmental advocacy group has urged.

The proposed 178-mile waterway seeks to rival the Panama canal by offering an alternative Atlantic-Pacific passage which cuts voyage times. Construction is scheduled to begin in December with $50bn (£31bn) funding from the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company (HKND), which is owned by Chinese lawyer Wang Jing.

But Danish NGO Forests of the World has accused the Nicaraguan government and HKND of failing to involve indigenous people in the planning process, saying the canal will wreak havoc on forests and force people to move.

“The canal is to be built straight through the Rama and Kriol territory, fragmenting it into two parts,” said Claus Kjaerby, Central America representative at Forests of the World. “It’s just like if someone wanted to build a bicycle trail through your garden and they do not consult with you.”

The Nicaraguan government said it has shared information about the canal with indigenous people, but conceded that no formal discussions had taken place.

Paul Oquist Kelley, executive secretary of the Nicaragua Grand Canal Commission, said: “Inasmuch as there was no definition of the canal route in 2013 there were no formal consultations with the communities to be affected, but informative presentations on the canal project were made throughout the country.

“After the presentation they were asked if anyone opposed the canal project. Not one person objected. Their concerns were about inclusion, participation and receiving their fair share if the canal were to traverse their territory.”

Nicaragua’s indigenous groups have appealed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for legal counsel, citing violations of Nicaraguan law and international labour standards, according to Kjaerby. They say they will be forced to relocate under the current plan, with little support from the government.

The course of the canal will slice through the Reserva Natural Cerro Silva and then cross Lake Nicaragua close to the island of Ometepe, which is formed of two volcanoes; one of them, ConcepciĆ³n, is active.

But Nicaragua’s government said business and political leaders considered five different routes before settling on the least destructive course. “Route four that runs from Punta Gorda on the Caribbean Sea to Brito on the Pacific Ocean was chosen precisely because it was the route with the least environmental and social impact. Despite the fact that route four was not the lowest cost option, it was chosen because it has the lowest environmental and social impact,” Kelley said.

The canal will plough through two Unesco-established biosphere reserves, which are inhabited by endangered species including jaguar, great green macaw, tapir and sea turtles, according to Forests of the World.

“The list of potential environmental threats is long and includes negative impact on protected wetlands vital to migratory birds, the Central American biological corridor, destruction of freshwater habitat, deterioration of drinking water reserves and the inevitable pollution of Lake Nicaragua,” Kjaerby said.

The NGO has urged Danish firm Maersk – one of the world’s biggest shipping companies – to use its influence to protect the rights of indigenous people and prevent environmental damage.

“Maersk’s interests are being used as an argument for building the canal,” Kjaerby said. “This gives Maersk a unique opportunity to ensure that the project is not implemented at the expense of indigenous peoples’ rights and unique natural habitat. We urge Maersk to use this unique position to influence and stop these violations that would mar the canal and its users throughout its future.”

The shipping firm said the project could reap economic benefits for Nicaragua. A Maersk spokesman said: “In principle, we are positive towards infrastructure development such as the Nicaragua canal. Efforts to promote the expansion of industry and commerce in Latin America – and the world – is positive and has the potential to increase the competitiveness of the countries in the region. We do not have the information to evaluate the specific Nicaragua canal project.”

Shipping firms say Nicaragua’s watercourse would provide a faster trip than the Panama canal, shaving as much as 800km off the New York to Los Angeles route. The proposed canal will be able to accommodate ships of up to 250,000 tons – more than double the freight allowance of the Panama canal.

A spokesman for HKND said: “HKND will strictly comply with the principle of being legal, transparent and fair in implementing the project. HKND is committed to explore canal route area with care and adhere to international standards of environmental responsibility. Our aim is to make impacted communities and indigenous peoples better off and not worse off in terms of livelihoods and living standards, through the project.”

Monday, September 29, 2014

Countering Water Scarcity in Jordan

By Nura A. Abboud, EcoMENA

Water scarcity is a reality in Jordan, as the country is counted among the world’s most arid countries. The current per capita water supply in Jordan is 200m3 per year which is almost one-third of the global average. To make matters worse, it is projected that per capita water availability will decline to measly 90m3 by the year 2025. Thus, it is of paramount importance to augment water supply in addition to sustainable use of available water resources.

Augmenting Water Supply

There are couple of options to increase alternative water supply sources in Jordan – desalination of seawater and recycling of wastewater. Desalination can provide a safe drinking water to areas facing severe water scarcity, and may also help in resolving the conflict between urban and agricultural water requirement needs by providing a new independent water source.

The other way to counter water scarcity in Jordan is by recycling and reuse of municipal wastewater which is an attractive method in terms of water savings. Infact, the reuse of the treated wastewater in Jordan has reached one of the highest levels in the world. The treated wastewater flow in the country is returned to the Search River and the King Talal dam, where it is mixed with the surface flow and used in the pressurized irrigation distribution system in the Jordan valley.

Another cheap and natural option for wastewater reuse is the construction of wetlands, and surface water reservoirs, which are water storage facilities that are able to collect and hold rain water for later use during dry seasons for irrigation or even for fish farming purposes. To prevent water loss by evaporation, reservoirs should be covered in a specific way to allow air to enter but with minimum evaporation rate. Another option is to install floating solar panels above the reservoir which will not only reduce the evaporation rate but also produce clean energy.

However, technology-based solutions are also raising several environmental and health concerns. Seawater desalination and wastewater treatment are like large-scale industrial projects which are capital-intensive, energy-intensive and generate waste in one form or the other. The desalination process may be detrimental to the marine ecological system as it increases the salinity of seawater.

Similarly, irrigation using recycled municipal wastewater is causing public health concerns. For example, directly consumed vegetables and fruits are excluded from allowable crops. Further studies should be conducted so as to address health issues that might arise from municipal wastewater usage. Effluent irrigation standards should be broadened to encompass a wider range of pathogens, and appropriate public health guidelines need to be established for wastewater irrigation taking into consideration the elimination of steroids.

New Trends

New intervention is needed to satisfy local irrigation demands; irrigation water for agriculture makes up the largest part of total average water used, which accounted for 64% during 2010. The main period of water stress is during summer due to high irrigation demand, and there is therefore a conflict arising between the supply of water for urban use and agricultural consumption. There has to be a proper combination between improvement of irrigation methods and selection of crop types. Application of updated water techniques, such as micro-sprinkling, drip irrigation and nocturnal, can reduce water loss and improve irrigation efficiency. Infrastructure improvement is also necessary to improving efficiency and reducing water loss.

Crop substitution is another interesting method to increase water efficiency by growing new crop types that tolerate saline, brackish, and low irrigation requirements. Such approach is not only economically viable, but also is socially beneficial and viable to mankind in an arid ecosystem. Mulching system is also highly recommended to reduce evaporative loss of soil moisture and improve microbial activities and nutrient availability. Farmers should use organic manure, instead of chemical fertilizers, to increase quality of water and reduce risk of groundwater contamination and agricultural run-offs.

The industrial sector uses about 5 percent of water resources in Jordan, while releasing harmful substances to the environment (including water). Industries have to put together a water management plan to reduce water intake and control water pollution. For instance, the establishment of a local wastewater treatment plant within a hotel for irrigation purposes is a good solution. Traditional solutions, like Qanats, Mawasi and fog harvesting, can also be a good tool in fighting water scarcity in arid areas.

Countering Water Scarcity in Jordan