Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Mighty Himalayas

Globalisation and climate change are having a growing impact on the stability of fragile mountain ecosystems and the livelihoods of mountain people across the world. Climatologists say mountain communities - particularly in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region - need help to understand the shifts, adapt to them and make the most of new opportunities.
The HKH region - which extends across eight Asian countries, and includes some of the world’s biggest mountain ranges - is particularly important and vulnerable to climate change because it is the source of ten major river systems that provide water for agriculture, drinking, sanitation and other uses to a fifth of the global population.
The HKH mountain ranges and river basins are socially and economically important, with more than 210 million people in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan earning a living from their natural resources.
The Himalayas influence the climate of the Indian subcontinent by sheltering it from the cold air mass of Central Asia. They prevent dry arctic winds from moving south into the subcontinent, keeping South Asian countries much warmer than other regions at corresponding latitudes around the world.
Himalayan ecosystems also play a significant role in capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere. And they provide a large share of the world’s resources for mining, forestry, drinking water and irrigation, as well as generating hydro and wind power. Among the goods they provide, both locally and further afield, are medicinal plants, nuts, fruits, wood and minerals.
In recent years, population dynamics, economies and the climate have started changing so quickly that the traditional adaptation mechanisms of people in the HKH region are becoming less effective. The result is a higher risk of poverty and marginalisation for mountain communities.

This problem calls for innovative and sustainable strategies to curb climate change and adapt to the impacts already being experience.

The region’s people must be enabled and empowered to cope with, adapt to, and benefit from the changes in climate they are experiencing, so that they will enjoy better livelihoods along with increased social and environmental security.

But while the green economy model may bring opportunities for investment in ecosystem services, such as fresh water, biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration, as well as renewable energy and job creation, it also creates challenges,
“Thus it must be pursued with a balanced approach of economic, environmental and social development as well as apt policy and institutional measures to avoid mounting pressures on an already threatened environment and depleting natural resources,” 
Adopting a green economy approach has become essential for all national governments, as climate change increasingly affects people and ecosystems, 

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

South Sudanese children receive polio vaccine

 3.2 million South Sudanese children have received vaccinations against polio in a United Nations-backed campaign to ensure the new country remains free of the deadly disease, more than two years after the last case was reported.
Over 20,000 people fanned out across the country’s 10 states over five days last week to reach all children under the age of five in the second round of a three-phase campaign that will conclude with further vaccinations next month.

Each child received two drops of the polio vaccine and was then marked by ink on the small finger of the right hand to indicate they had been immunized. Vaccinators went from house to house and village to village to reach targeted children.
UNICEF reported that the immunization system in South Sudan, which became independent in July after years of war, was still in its infancy, with low public awareness of the value of vaccinations.
Bismarck Swangin, a communications officer for UNICEF, told the UN News Centre that given the numerous casualties during the Sudanese civil war, the new nation “can’t afford to lose more due to vaccine-preventable diseases.”
A highly infectious disease caused by a virus, polio invades the nervous system and leads to irreversible paralysis in one out of 200 cases. Only four countries – Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan – remain polio-endemic today, and the number of cases has declined drastically in the past 25 years.
Polio also re-emerged in South Sudan in April 2008, but after an intensive vaccination campaign, no new cases have been reported since June 2009.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Aquaculture has potential to cut poverty, combat food insecurity

More than 50 per cent of the world’s food fish will come from aquaculture, making it a crucial method to reduce poverty and combat food insecurity, said a United Nations report released today, while calling for governments to step up their efforts to support this practice.
Aquaculture, which involves cultivating fresh water and saltwater populations of fish under controlled conditions as opposed to catching fish in the wild, is the world’s fastest growing source of animal protein, growing by more than 60 per cent between 2000 and 2008, from 32.4 million tons to 52.5 million tons, according to the report.
“With stagnating global capture fishery production and an increasing population, aquaculture is perceived as having the greatest potential to produce more fish in the future to meet the growing demand for safe and quality aquatic food,” said the report, World Aquaculture in 2010.
The report, released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), states aquaculture has played an important role in reducing poverty in many parts of the world. However, it says it has not grown evenly throughout the planet.
Eleven out of the 15 leading aquaculture-producing countries are located in the Asia-Pacific region, and in 2008 they accounted for 89.1 per cent of global production. Most remarkably, China alone contributed to 62.3 per cent of production in the region that year.
The report also states that there are marked differences in production levels and types of production. China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and India for example, lead production levels of shrimp and prawns, while Norway and Chile produce mostly salmon.
The report warns that governments need to invest in aquaculture so they can continue to enjoy its benefits and address the challenges that are linked to this practice.
“Achieving the global aquaculture sector’s long-term goal of economic, social and environmental sustainability depends primarily on continued commitments by governments to provide and support a good governance framework for the sector,” the report says.
Key concerns regarding aquaculture include quality and safety standards, traceability, certification and eco-labelling. In addition, aquaculture faces major challenges due to climate change and the economic downturn in many countries, which could particularly affect small producers in Asia and Africa, where they make up the backbone of the industry.
The report calls for governments to increase their efforts to assist small-scale producers by organizing them into associations and through the promotion of better management practices to ensure the industry can continue to meet the global demand for fish.