Archive for ‘Water’

Cattle – not climate change – killing the Great Barrier Reef

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

Few people have seen the entire reef – it’s 3,000km long!  Each part of the reef is unique, but those who have visited even one corner of this amazing underwater world talk in wonder of the exquisite, vibrant colours and shapes of diverse marine life.  Diving the reef is almost like stepping into a parallel universe, experiencing a vision that inspires awe and respect for nature.  I have a personal fondness for the reef, having worked up and down its length in my early 20′s, mapping the reef for the Australian bid for UNESCO World Heritage status, given in 1981.

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Water map shows billions at risk of ‘water insecurity’ – BBC News

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

About 80% of the world’s population lives in areas where the fresh water supply is not secure, according to a new global analysis.

Researchers compiled a composite index of “water threats” that includes issues such as scarcity and pollution.

The most severe threat category encompasses 3.4 billion people.

Writing in the journal Nature, they say that in western countries, conserving water for people through reservoirs and dams works for people, but not nature.

They urge developing countries not to follow the same path.

Instead, they say governments should to invest in water management strategies that combine infrastructure with “natural” options such as safeguarding watersheds, wetlands and flood plains.

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Fungi Expert’s Solution for Oil Spill

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Now the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been contained, few in the media are delving into the severity of its continued impact on the planetary ecosphere. But mushroom expert, author and Bioneer, Paul Stamets, has a viable solution for the long-term clean-up procedure. Recently named as one of the ‘50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World’, he has made extraordinary discoveries about how the humble mushroom could be the key.

Fungi were the first life forms to inhabit the land 1.3 billion years ago; 600 million years before plants evolved. After asteroid impacts darkened the skies, de-greened the Earth and caused mass extinctions 65 million years back, the only organisms to survive were the ones that ‘paired up’ with fungi and learnt how to
be co-dependent.

“It’s time for another re-greening,” Paul thinks, “as Earth recoils from the on-going catastrophes inflicted by our species.” And cleaning up after oil spills, pollution, storm damage, floods and volcanic clouds is just another day at the office for fungi. It’s a process he has called mycoremediation and here’s how it works.

Beneath the fruit – or mushroom as we call it – fungal roots, known as Mycelia, spread outwards to create a vast mat of underground cells that permeate the soil. Now known to be the largest biological entities on the planet, a single colony can cover an area equal to 1,665 football fields and travel several inches a day. A massive network of whispering spaghetti, these ‘neurological’ tendrils intersect with neighbouring colonies and even fuse with the roots of other species to share water, food and communicate vital information.

Paul explains:

“Mycelia are the Earth’s natural internet – the essential wiring of the Gaian consciousness. The creation of the computer internet is merely an extension of a successful biological model that has evolved over billions of years.”

Once the Mycelium has taken root, it gets to work as a super-filter, producing enzymes and acids that break down the components of woody plants. But importantly, these same enzymes are excellent at disintegrating hydrocarbons – the base structure of all oils, petroleum products, pesticides and pollutants.

Through a series of trials, Paul’s team at Battelle Laboratories, in the US, made some astonishing findings. Soil that had been heavily contaminated with oil and hydrocarbons was inoculated with Oyster mushroom spawn. After four weeks, it was bursting with fruit, while 99% of the hydrocarbons had been destroyed. Only non-toxic components remained and even the mushrooms themselves revealed no traces
of petroleum.

“And then came another startling revelation,” Paul says. “As the mushrooms rotted, flies arrived. The flies laid eggs, which became larvae. The larvae, in turn, attracted birds, who apparently brought in seeds. Soon it was an oasis, teeming with life!”

Amazingly, Paul’s team also found that Oyster mushrooms are tolerant to salt water. Mixed with straw, which will also absorb oil, and encased in biodegradable hemp-socks that are called MycoBooms, the Mycelium is able to colonize and get to work underwater. Myceliated straw and woodchip tubes could also be placed at the shoreline to capture and break down the incoming hydrocarbons. Meanwhile, the mushrooms sprout to create floating gardens; gnats and flies gather, and fish, birds, bats and insects benefit from the emerging food source.

Ahead of the game, back in 1994, Paul proposed that world governments set up Mycological Response Teams who could be deployed after events, such as hurricanes and oil spills.

Mycoremediation centres could be hubs of learning; places to cross-educate others and build central bodies of knowledge for our future generations. In time, world leaders, policy makers, scientists, students and citizens would have all of the Mycoremediation tools necessary to address every single environmental event.

During his 30 years working with fungi, Paul has also made other significant discoveries. Mycelium can protect human blood cells from major infections, such as smallpox, hepatitis B, influenza, HIV and various strains of cancer. Another type of fungi consumes and effectively eliminates the bacteria E. coli, while one species – and the research is currently classified by the Department of Defence – will destroy biological and chemical warfare agents; especially VX, the same deadly nerve gas that Saddam Hussein was accused of using in the Gulf War.

“The time to act is now,” Paul says. “Waiting for science and society to wake up to the importance of these ancient old growth fungi is perilously slow and also narrow in vision… But an unfortunate circumstance we face,” he continues, “is that mycology is poorly funded in a time of intense need. We need to educate our friends, family and policy makers about these solutions and bring local leaders up to speed.”

In order to appreciate the many benefits of mycotechnology, including the ones not yet discovered, Paul believes we need to adopt a ‘mycelial perspective’ of the world and wholly understand how it is  interconnected with every living being on the planet.

“Your job,” he tells us, “is to become embedded into the mind-set of Mycelium and to run with it… Earth is calling out to us, and we need to listen.”

Source: Positive News UK

Date: 14 September 2010

Egypt and Ethiopia discuss need for Nile water consensus

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abulgheit said in a Thursday that his talks with Ethiopian government officials on Nile water allocations focused on the need to build upon consensus, dpa reported.

Abulgheit, accompanied by Minister of International Cooperation Faiza Abunaga, held talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin in Addis Ababa on Wednesday.

Ethiopia’s plans for hydropower projects using the river will not affect the Nile’s flow if the projects are implemented within a framework of agreement amongst the eastern countries of the basin – Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia, Abulgheit said in a press statement.

Egypt has been exerting diplomatic efforts against a treaty signed by Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Tanzania in May. The treaty increased the share of Nile water of these countries for irrigation and hydropower projects.

Egypt and Sudan strongly oppose the agreement, fearing that their historic majority share of the water supply would be severely reduced.

Cairo wants all the Nile basin countries to return to the negotiating table.

Egypt, which depends mainly on the Nile for its water consumption, has vowed to take legal action to maintain its current water rights that it has described as a “red line” not to be crossed.

The Information and Decision Support Centre (IDSC), a government think tank, warned last year that the country’s water needs would surpass its resources by the year 2017.

Egypt is allocated 55.5 billion cubic metres of water from the Nile each year, under a 1959 agreement with Sudan that was based on 1929 promises from Britain that it will not undertake projects in its East African colonies that would interfere with Egypt’s water supply.

Source: Egypt and Ethiopia discuss need for Nile water consensus – en.trend.az

Date: 08 July 2010

Water well upgrades offer solution for Syria’s drought-hit northeast

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

An innovative approach to water resource management in Syria is estimated to be helping 18,000 people hit by a three-year long drought.

UNDP and its partners are upgrading a network of ancient water sources under the barren terrain of the country’s northeast, where water shortages have led to large-scale population displacement in recent years.

More than one million people, have been affected by the drought which has driven tens of thousands of families to urban settlements such as Aleppo, Damascus and Deir ez Zour.

Beginning in 2009, the Government of Syria, Spanish Development Agency and UNDP began rehabilitation of Roman- and Arab-built wells that were constructed some 2000 years ago.

Well rehabilitation involves cleaning and pumping out stagnant water, widening and deepening wells to increase water capacity, analyzing water quality, and finally handing over to local authorities and communities. The upgraded wells provide access to safe drinking water and undoubtedly improve quality of life.

These wells also contribute to sustainable and environmentally-friendly local development, protect traditional ways of life and reduce pressure on rural residents to migrate to urban centres, a move that can have devastating social and economic impacts.

Water scarcity is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today, particularly in the Middle East where populations are expanding and fresh water supplies are diminishing fast.

Source: Water well upgrades offer solution for Syria’s drought-hit northeast – Reliefweb

Date: 08 July 2010

Cleaner Water Mitigates Climate Change Effects on Florida Keys Coral Reefs, Study Shows

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Improving the quality of local water increases the resistance of coral reefs to global climate change, according to a study published in June in Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Florida Institute of Technology coral reef ecologist Robert van Woesik and his student Dan Wagner led the study, which provides concrete evidence for a link between environmental health and the prospects for reefs in a rapidly changing world.

  • When waters in the Florida Keys warmed over the last few summers, corals living in cleaner water with fewer nutrients did well. On the other hand, corals in dirtier water became sick and bleached.
  • In the face of climate change and ocean warming, this study gives managers hope that maintaining high water quality can spare corals.
  • Regulating wastewater discharge from the land will help coral reefs resist climate change.

Source: Cleaner Water Mitigates Climate Change Effects on Florida Keys Coral Reefs, Study Shows - sciencedaily

Date: 07 July 2010

Drought Hastens Rural Emigration

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

As extreme drought conditions stress agriculture in many areas of Bolivia, rural farming families are having to choose between the prospect of starvation or relocation to urban areas.

According to Simón Pisaya Mamani, a farmer from Ingavi province in the state of La Paz,

“[They] say the drought this year will be stronger than before, which worries us because already we don´t have food. It´s a shame, my sons told me that if we´re going to continue in the same situation they´re going to emigrate to the city.”

Rufino Mamani, a farmer in nearby Tacaca, recalled that last year as a consequence of drought, two of his sons moved to Cochabamba in search of work.

The mayor of Jesús de Machaca, Moisés Quiso (MAS) said,

“We’ve sent information to the municipal experts to calculate exactly what percentage of animals and planted fields are in danger. The dry season has only just begun and we´re worried that all the production will be for nothing.”

In the municipality of Laja, in the Los Andes province, farmers´ wells have run dry and the only reliable water source is the Pallina River which is contaminated by run-off from El Alto.

Many farmers report that their meager potato harvests will only be good enough for making chuño, freeze-dried potatoes. Unfortunately the winter frosts haven´t been very consistent and without the nightly frosts needed to make chuño, farmers fear the potatoes will only be good for feeding pigs. Other parts of Bolivia are also hurting in the dry season, including areas in Santa Cruz and Potosí. The drought is hitting other economic sectors in addition to agriculture. The Laguna Colorada, a major tourist draw near the Salar de Uyuni, has dropped several centimeters this season and lost much of its characteristic red color.

Source: Drought Hastens Rural Emigration - boliviaweekly

Date: 04 July 2010

Starvation, thirst kill many antelope in Jodhpur

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

The antelope, including chinkaras and black bucks, continue to die at regular intervals in the arid region of Jodhpur and Barmer. This has been primarily attributed to starvation and thirst, say sources On Saturday, the members of the Bishnoi Tiger Vanya Evam Paryavaran Sanstha, brought the carcasses of 25 chinkaras from Dhawa village at the office of deputy forest conservator (wildlife).

According to the general secretary of the organization, Ram NiwasBudhnagar, some 60-70 antelope, the major portion of which are theblack bucks, have died in the past 5-6 days due to acute shortage of water and fodder. He claimed they kept drinking the brackish water due to which their stomach got swollen as they could not digest their food and died a slow and painful death.

He blamed the forest department for this situation for it had “brazenly relied upon the monsoon rains.”

Budhnagar said, “We have demanded the present DFO be removed from office for failing to bring relief to the antelope.”

All these antelope were found dead in such villages like Bhawanda, Dhawa, Satlana, Dhundhara and Bhacharan etc. A medical team had visited a village and conducted post-mortem of six black bucks which confirmed their death from starvation and thirst.

According to experts, these animals are very shy in nature and due to the presence of stray dogs in the vicinity of water holes they fear to go there and prefer to remain thirsty, which lead to death.

Source: Starvation, thirst kill many antelope in Jodhpur - timesofindia.indiatimes

Date: 04 July 2010

Revealed: Shocking satellite images of lakes show extent of man’s impact on world’s water supply

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

These dramatic before-and-after satellite photos show the terrifying effect man is having on the world’s resources.

Taken over nearly 40 years, photographs show the drying up of several bodies of water around the world – receding as mankind’s demand for water grows.

Included in the shocking collection is the once mighty Aral Sea in Central Asia.

The expanse of water, like several others across the globe, has been reduced to worryingly sparse levels. In April the situation at the Aral Sea was described as ‘one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters’ by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

1973: Satellite image of the Aral Sea used to be the fourth largest lake in the world  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1291433/Shocking-extent-mans-impact-worlds-water.html#ixzz0tJbT54ux

1973: Satellite image of the Aral Sea used to be the fourth largest lake in the world

1999: More than 25 years on the sea has noticeably shrunk to less than half its size  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1291433/Shocking-extent-mans-impact-worlds-water.html#ixzz0tJbkxZhc

1999: More than 25 years on the sea has noticeably shrunk to less than half its size

2009: Satellite image taken last year shows a situation described as one of the planets worst  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1291433/Shocking-extent-mans-impact-worlds-water.html#ixzz0tJcJS9pj

2009: Satellite image taken last year shows a situation described as 'one of the planet's worst'

Shown here in images taken from space between 1973 and 2009, slowly but surely the Aral – in fact a salt water lake – has shrunk from being the size of Ireland to a cluster of contaminated ponds.

An inland lake, the Aral is found between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and used to be the fourth largest lake in the world. Since the 1960s, it has lost more than half of its volume.

The drying is due to overuse of the lake’s feeder rivers. In the 1960s the former Soviet Union diverted the Syr Darya and Amu Darya for the irrigation of cotton and paddy fields.

Now 50 years later the water is at a dismal 10 per cent of its level when the projects first began.

So great was the impact on the region the local climate was thought to have changed and pollution has risen to dangerous levels.

The destruction of the lake has also decimated the local fishing industry, causing severe knock-on unemployment and further economic woe for the people living around it.

Across the globe once rich and fertile lands are facing the same catastrophe.

Arid and desolate Iraq was once a green, lush environment even reputed to be the setting of the Garden of Eden.

Seen from above between 1973 and 2000 the Mesopotamia marshlands straddle the borders between Iraq and Iran near the mighty Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

1990: Satellite image of drained areas (grey) amongst marshland (dark red) around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq. Darker areas show deep water  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1291433/Shocking-extent-mans-impact-worlds-water.html#ixzz0tJdKeEmO

1990: Satellite image of drained areas (grey) amongst marshland (dark red) around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq. Darker areas show deep water

2000: The same image shows how dramatically the water has receded in just 20 years. The rivers were drained to provide agricultural land  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1291433/Shocking-extent-mans-impact-worlds-water.html#ixzz0tJdShqna

2000: The same image shows how dramatically the water has receded in just 20 years. The rivers were drained to provide agricultural land

The marshes were systematically drained in the mid- to late 20th century. This was done to provide agricultural land, but also to destroy the habitat of the Shi’a Muslim Marsh Arabs, who were persecuted by the Iraqi ruling Ba’athist Party.

Also included in the before-and-after pictures are the Toshka Lakes, in southern Egypt.

They were formed in the 1990s by diverting water from Lake Nasser, an artificial lake formed behind the Aswan High Dam on the river Nile.

The region was planned to be a major new agricultural and industrial site for Egypt. But as these images show, the region is drying fast.

One image taken in March 2001, shows the lakes near their maximum capacity. A later satellite picture from December 2005 shows how the waters receded due to drought and rising demand for water, leaving a ring of brown wetlands around the edges of the lakes.

Lake Chad, located in the Sahel region near the Sahara, was the fourth largest lake in Africa in the 1960s and had an area of more than 10,000 square miles.

But by the 21st century it had shrunk to less than 600 square miles – around a twentieth of its size. This was caused by increased use of irrigation combined with severe droughts.

The Toshka Lakes in southern Egypt were formed in the 1990s by diverting water from Lake Nasser, an artificial lake that formed behind the Aswan High Dam on the river Nile.

The region was planned to be a major new agricultural and industrial site for Egypt but as these images show – between 2001 and 2005 – the region is drying fast.

The waters have receded, leaving a ring of brown wetlands around the edges of the lakes, because of drought and a rising demand for water in the area.

Dr Benjamin Lloyd-Hughes of the Walker Institute for climate system research, University of Reading, said: ‘Ultimately the disaster seen at the Aral Sea and the marshes are the combined effects of man and rising temperatures in those regions.

‘There has not been much change in rainfall in those areas but the temperature has risen by over 1 degree Centigrade since 1970, which will have enhanced losses due to evaporation.

‘Pollution in the area will have become worse because as the water evaporates, pollutants in the water become more concentrated and less diluted.’

At Lake Chad and the Toshka Lakes the same effect of man in combination with climate change has been observed.

Dr Lloyd-Hughes added:

‘There has been a 30% reduction in annual rainfall since 1900 in these regions but not a significant change in temperature.

‘Reductions in lake levels here seem to driven by reductions in rainfall rather than increased evaporation.

‘The outlook is that there will be no change in rainfall but temperature could increase by another two degrees Centigrade by 2100. This is not good but not so bad as for the Aral Sea and Mesopotamia.

‘Global warming is a problem that is happening everywhere but if drought is happening in your region then it is a far greater problem.’

With the growth of mass-agriculture to feed a severely ballooning global population, water demand has begun to perilously outstrip supply, making disasters like the Aral Sea a grim and alarming likelihood for the future.

Source: Revealed: Shocking satellite images of lakes show extent of man’s impact on world’s water supply – dailymail.co.uk

Date: 03 July 2010

Zimbabwe: Food Shortages to Worsen in Drought-Prone Areas

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

The southern parts of the country are expected to suffer acute grain shortages, with more people expected to rely on food aid.

The United States-funded Famine Early Warning System (Fewsnet) reported that the availability of grain was likely to deteriorate through September until the end of the farming season in March next year.

The food security situation in the southern, western and some eastern parts of the country is likely to deteriorate through September and food assistance will be required for the vulnerable households both in rural and urban areas,” reads the report.

The report by Fewsnet is likely to put the government in a spot of bother.

A number of Zanu PF ministers announced earlier that Zimbabwe would not accept food aid as this was being used as a tool for regime change.

Earlier this year, Agriculture and Mechanisation and Irrigation Development minister, Joseph Made announced that the government had banned donor agencies from dolling out free food. Matabeleland South governor, Angeline Masuku also said her province, which is drought prone and is among the hardest hit, would reject any food aid.

Early this year Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai conducted a tour of farming areas describing the farming season as catastrophic.

He said at least US$500 million was needed to offset the food deficit, but so far his appeals had not achieved much.

The farming season runs between October and March with food insecurity in rural areas peaking around January and February.

The most affected areas are the southern districts, Binga, Kariba, Mudzi and the southern parts of Manicaland.

Fewsnet noted that the supply of grain had remained favourable throughout the country, though the cost of living had remained high.

“The cost of living for the majority of poor urban households is likely to remain high, making it difficult for these households to meet their basic food and non-food requirements.”

Already there is a food deficit of 416 000 metric tonnes of grain, due to poor imports and unimpressive harvests and this is set to worsen in October, when the traditional “hunger” season sets in, continued the report.

The northern parts of the country have 10 months of food supply, while most of the country only harvested food to last them untill the end of this May.

Fewsnet noted that there were pockets of moderately food insecure households who failed to produce anything from the 2009/2010 agricultural season and these would need food assistance at the beginning of October.

Initial reports indicated that about 2,2 million people were in need of food aid.

Zimbabwe has had to rely on food aid since President Robert Mugabe embarked on a chaotic and ill advised land reform programme a decade ago.

Thousands of white commercial farmers were pushed off their land, since then the country has experienced successive grain deficits.

Source: Zimbabwe: Food Shortages to Worsen in Drought-Prone Areas – allafrica

Date: 03 July 2010

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Forests, Fisheries, Agriculture: A Vision for Sustainability (2009)

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