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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the climate, ecology and environment topic  (Read 48111 times)
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« Reply #1140 on: Jul 17, 2014, 09:41 AM »

Endangered Forest In Florida Will Be Leveled To Make Room For Walmart And Chick-Fil-A

By Anonymous July 17, 2014 8:20 am

To make room for Walmart, a developer is going to level a habitat housing many endangered species.

If there's one thing the world needs, it's more Walmarts and Chick-fil-a restaurants. The University of Miami sold about 88 acres of Pine Rockland, a globally-endangered habitat containing plants, animals, and insects found nowhere else, to Ram, a Palm Beach County developer in order to build a Walmart, a Chick-fil-a, LA Fitness center, Chili's, and some apartments–because progress.

While only 2,900 acres of Rockland exist outside Everglades National Park, the developer plans to follow through with construction. It has agreed to set aside just under half of that, 40 acres, as a preserve.

While some may consider this generous according to Miami-Dade County, more than 20% of the plant species found in the habitat are found nowhere else in the world–five of them are federally listed as threatened or endangered. The Rockland provides a habitat for many endangered species, including the bald eagle, indigo snake, the Florida bonneted bat, and two butterflies expected to be named as endangered this summer–the Bartram's hairstreak and the Atala hairstreak, the latter of which is still clawing its way back from a near-extinction in the middle of the twentieth century.

"You wonder how things end up being endangered? This is how. This is bad policy and bad enforcement. And shame on UM," said attorney Dennis Olle, a board member of Tropical Audubon and the North American Butterfly Association.

Ram CEO Casey Cummings argues that the destruction of this dwindling and beautiful habitat does not matter because this represents "unique chance to create . . . a place where people can easily walk from the neighborhood to shops and elsewhere" and meets a demand for  "high-quality rental housing, shopping, fitness and dining options."

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« Reply #1141 on: Jul 19, 2014, 03:21 AM »

CA halts injection of fracking waste, warning it may be contaminating aquifers

By Pro Publica
Friday, July 18, 2014 15:24 EDT

California officials have ordered an emergency shut-down of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and a review more than 100 others in the state’s drought-wracked Central Valley out of fear that companies may have been pumping fracking fluids and other toxic waste into drinking water aquifers there.

The state’s Division of Oil and Gas and Geothermal Resources on July 7 issued cease and desist orders to seven energy companies warning that they may be injecting their waste into aquifers that could be a source of drinking water, and stating that their waste disposal “poses danger to life, health, property, and natural resources.” The orders were first reported by the Bakersfield Californian, and the state has confirmed with ProPublica that its investigation is expanding to look at additional wells.

The action comes as California’s agriculture industry copes with a drought crisis that has emptied reservoirs and cost the state $2.2 billion this year alone. The lack of water has forced farmers across the state to supplement their water supply from underground aquifers, according to a study released this week by the University of California Davis.

The problem is that at least 100 of the state’s aquifers were presumed to be useless for drinking and farming because the water was either of poor quality, or too deep underground to easily access. Years ago, the state exempted them from environmental protection and allowed the oil and gas industry to intentionally pollute them. But not all aquifers are exempted, and the system amounts to a patchwork of protected and unprotected water resources deep underground. Now, according to the cease and desist orders issued by the state, it appears that at least seven injection wells are likely pumping waste into fresh water aquifers protected by the law, and not other aquifers sacrificed by the state long ago.

“The aquifers in question with respect to the orders that have been issued are not exempt,” said Ed Wilson, a spokesperson for the California Department of Conservation in an email.

A 2012 ProPublica investigation of more than 700,000 injection wells across the country found that wells were often poorly regulated and experienced high rates of failure, outcomes that were likely polluting underground water supplies that are supposed to be protected by federal law. That investigation also disclosed a little-known program overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that exempted more than 1,000 other drinking water aquifers from any sort of pollution protection at all, many of them in California.

Those are the aquifers at issue today. The exempted aquifers, according to documents the state filed with the U.S. EPA in 1981 and obtained by ProPublica, were poorly defined and ambiguously outlined. They were often identified by hand-drawn lines on a map, making it difficult to know today exactly which bodies of water were supposed to be protected, and by which aspects of the governing laws. Those exemptions and documents were signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown, who also was governor in 1981.

State officials emphasized to ProPublica that they will now order water testing and monitoring at the injection well sites in question. To date, they said, they have not yet found any of the more regulated aquifers to have been contaminated.

“We do not have any direct evidence any drinking water has been affected,” wrote Steve Bohlen, the state oil and gas supervisor, in a statement to ProPublica.

Bohlen said his office was acting “out of an abundance of caution,” and a spokesperson said that the state became aware of the problems through a review of facilities it was conducting according to California’s fracking law passed late last year, which required the state to study fracking impacts and adopt regulations to address its risks, presumably including underground disposal.

California officials have long been under fire for their injection well practices, a waste disposal program that the state runs according to federal law and under a sort of license — called “primacy”  – given to it by the EPA.

For one, experts say that aquifers the states and the EPA once thought would never be needed may soon become important sources of water as the climate changes and technology reduces the cost of pumping it from deep underground and treating it for consumption. Indeed, towns in Wyoming and Texas — two states also suffering long-term droughts — are pumping, treating, then delivering drinking water to taps from aquifers which would be considered unusable under California state regulations governing the oil and gas industry.

In June 2011, the EPA conducted a review of other aspects of California’s injection well program and found enforcement, testing and oversight problems so significant that the agency demanded California improve its regulations and warned that the state’s authority could be revoked.

Among the issues, California and the federal government disagree about what type of water is worth protecting in the first place, with California law only protecting a fraction of the waters that the federal Safe Drinking Water Act requires.

The EPA’s report, commissioned from outside consultants, also said that California regulators routinely failed to adequately examine the geology around an injection well to ensure that fluids pumped into it would not leak underground and contaminate drinking water aquifers. The report found that state inspectors often allowed injection at pressures that exceeded the capabilities of the wells and thus risked cracking the surrounding rock and spreading contaminants. Several accidents in recent years in California involved injected waste or injected steam leaking back out of abandoned wells, or blowing out of the ground and creating sinkholes, including one 2011 incident that killed an oil worker.

The exemptions and other failings, said Damon Nagami, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in an email, are “especially disturbing” in a state that has been keenly aware of severe water constraints for more than a century and is now suffering from a crippling drought. “Our drinking water sources must be protected and preserved for the precious resources they are, not sacrificed as a garbage dump for the oil and gas industry.”

Still, three years after the EPA’s report, California has not yet completed its review of its underground injection program, according to state officials. The scrutiny of the wells surrounding Bakersfield may be the start.

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« Reply #1142 on: Jul 19, 2014, 03:26 AM »

EPA blocks huge Alaska mine project with environmental restrictions

• Pebble mine decision protects state's largest salmon fishery
• Copper and gold mine stood to affect Manhattan-sized area

Peter Moskowitz in New York, Friday 18 July 2014 21.26 BST      

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a set of restrictions that will in effect prevent the development of a controversial copper and gold mine in Alaska which many said would have been disastrous for the state’s largest salmon fishery.

Pebble Mine, located in south-west Alaska near Bristol Bay, would have been one of the largest opencast mines in the world — more than a mile deep, the depth of the Grand Canyon. And the total impact of the mine – from the project itself to the huge waste ponds and piles it would have required – could take up an area the size of Manhattan, according to the EPA. That, the EPA’s regional administrator, Dennis McLerran, said on Friday, was unacceptable for the environment, for those who rely on the salmon in Bristol Bay for work, and for the Native community who have argued that the area is integral to their way of life.

“Bristol Bay is an extraordinary ecosystem that supports an ancient fishing culture and economic powerhouse,” McLerran said in a statement. “The science is clear that mining the Pebble deposit would cause irreversible damage to one of the world’s last intact salmon ecosystems.”

Pebble Partnership, the company set up by the two mining corporations that sought to develop the mine, along with the state of Alaska, sued the EPA in May claiming the agency was overstepping its legal authority by weighing in on the development.

The EPA’s decision on Friday could theoretically be affected by that lawsuit, but many consider the suit a long shot.

Supporters of the mine, who say the EPA is killing the potential for an economic boom in the state, saw Friday’s announcement as an all-out attack on states' rights.

“The EPA is setting a precedent that strips Alaska and all Alaskans of the ability to make decisions on how to develop a healthy economy on their lands,” Senator Lisa Murkowski said. “This [decision] is a blueprint that will be used across the country to stop economic development.”

The agency’s decision does not rule out future development of the mine, but it sets environmental restrictions so burdensome that moving forward with the project would probably be financially untenable. While more action from Pebble Partnership and other supporters of the project is likely, those against the mine viewed the EPA’s announcement as a decisive win.

“This has been looming over us for a decade,” said Alannah Hurley, programme manager for the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, which represents different tribal groups in the area. “For the tribal community, everything that makes us who we are was at stake. For the EPA to recognise that Bristol Bay is worth protecting is huge.”

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« Reply #1143 on: Jul 20, 2014, 07:24 AM »

Killer mosquito-borne virus arrives in eastern Massachusetts

By David Ferguson
Saturday, July 19, 2014 14:07 EDT

A potentially deadly mosquito-borne virus called Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE or triple-E) has infected at least one patient in eastern Massachusetts.

WWLP Channel 22 reported Friday that the disease has infected one person and that conditions are right for the disease to spread.

EEE is a viral brain infection that causes fever, headache, hallucinations and seizures, and in one-third of infected patients, death. A patient in Plymouth County tested positive for EEE infection on July 15.

“Even though the only reported case of EEE in Massachusetts was more than 80 miles to our east, our chances in western Massachusetts of getting it just went up. But it probably wouldn’t be the mosquitoes bringing it here,” said Channel 22 meteorologist Nick Bannin.

The disease travels over long distances in the bodies of birds, but is spread to other animals when mosquitos bite the birds and carry the virus to their next host animal.

Entomologist Bob Russell of American Pest Solutions said to Channel 22, “Mosquitoes are an unusual insect because bacteria can survive in its gut and then it can be regurgitated or come out in its saliva when it bites and that’s how you get transmission.”

According to the CDC, the incubation period between a bite by an infected mosquito and the appearance of the first symptoms is typically 4 to 10 days.

The virus has two modes of infection, systemic and encephalitic.

“Systemic infection has an abrupt onset and is characterized by chills, fever, malaise, arthralgia [joint pain], and myalgia [muscle pain],” said the CDC website. “The illness lasts 1 to 2 weeks, and recovery is complete when there is no central nervous system involvement. In infants, the encephalitic form is characterized by abrupt onset; in older children and adults, encephalitis is manifested after a few days of systemic illness. Signs and symptoms in encephalitic patients are fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, cyanosis [blueness of the lips and extremities], convulsions, and coma.”

Approximately 33 percent of patients with full-blown encephalitis will die of the disease. Typically, death comes 2 to 10 days after the first symptoms, but can actually come much later. Of those who do survive a brush with the deadly brain infection, many are left with permanent damage.

After-effects on the brain from EEE can range from minor damage to significant mental impairment, personality disorders, seizures, paralysis, and cranial nerve dysfunction. Many severely afflicted patients die within a few years of infection.

Area residents are urged to avoid outdoor activity at the mosquito-heavy times of day, dawn and twilight. Mosquito repellants are recommended, as well as long sleeves and pants. Wet or heavily wooded areas should be avoided.

There is no vaccine for EEE, and CDC recommends that “(p)atients with suspected EEE should be evaluated by a healthcare provider, appropriate serologic and other diagnostic tests ordered, and supportive treatment provided.”
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« Reply #1144 on: Jul 22, 2014, 06:40 AM »

Germany, UK and Poland top ‘dirty 30’ list of EU coal-fired power stations

Environmental study highlights health affects from pollution, with Germany coming top, and the UK third in total coal consumption

Damian Carrington, Tuesday 22 July 2014 12.55 BST   
The UK and Germany lead a list of the EU’s most polluting coal-fired power stations compiled by environmental campaigners, who say coal emissions are undermining efforts to combat climate change. Both countries have nine of the so-called “dirty 30” and the campaigners say coal burning is increasing due to the relatively low price of the fuel compared to gas.

“Germany and the UK are the self-declared climate champions of the EU,” says the new report. “However, Germany uses more coal to generate electricity than any other EU country, while the UK comes third in absolute coal consumption for power after Poland.” The report argues current EU policy on climate, energy and air pollution in the power sector is not strong enough to achieve the switch from coal to renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Poland’s Belchatow plant came top of the list, with annual CO2 emissions of 37m tonnes in 2013. The UK’s largest coal plant, Drax, was sixth, with four German plants occupying second to fifth place.

Germany’s increase in coal burning has been criticised by supporters of nuclear energy because Germany opted to phase out all nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. The report shows that the electricity generation lost from the closed nuclear plants (43 TWh from 2010-2013) was more than compensated for by the increase in renewable electricity (47 TWh 2010-2103). The increase in the proportion of electricity generated from coal (3.6 percentage points between 2010 and 2013) was the same as the reduction of electricity from gas burning. Germany also exported a record amount of electricity in 2013 (33 TWh).
EU coal-fired power station emissions. EU coal-fired power station emissions. Graphic: Guardian

The total emissions from the EU energy sector fell modestly in 2013 but the campaigners say the rising use of cheap coal puts the EU in danger of not meeting future climate targets. The price of pollution permits in the EU’s emission trading scheme remains far below the level which would make it more economic to use gas, which produces about half as much carbon emissions. According the International Energy Agency, the share of coal in EU electricity generation must be below 4% by 2035 but is currently about 25%.

The report also highlights the negative health impacts of coal burning, stating that air pollution in the form of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, particulates and mercury is estimated to cause 1,600 deaths a year in the UK.

“Our political leaders are justifiably proud of their record on supporting tackling climate change on the global stage,” said Jenny Banks at WWF-UK, one of the groups that produced the report. “But they must make sure they’re not saying one thing and doing another. Coal is by far the most polluting source of electricity. Tackling climate change means making sure that emissions from coal power are phased out over the next decade.”

“Each of the largest coal power stations in Europe is responsible for hundreds of millions of external health costs,” said Julia Huscher, at the Health and Environment Alliance, another group behind the report.”The phase-out of coal in Europe will be a win-win, because it will help to achieve clean air for more people, and avoid further health damage from climate change.”

The report said rising emissions from coal plants were due to increasing use of existing facilities, rather than new ones opening. It warned policymakers against allowing extensions to the lifetimes of coal plants, most of which were built in the 1960s and 1970s.

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« Reply #1145 on: Jul 23, 2014, 05:37 AM »

Falling behind: U.S. among the least energy efficient of the world’s largest economies

By Climate Central
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 8:16 EDT

Germany is the global leader in energy efficiency, and the U.S., with its ingrained car culture, is among the least energy efficient of the world’s largest economies.

That’s the conclusion of a new report released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, which ranks the world’s 16 largest economies based on 31 different measurements of efficiency, including national energy savings targets, fuel economy standards for vehicles, efficiency standards for appliances, average vehicle mpg, and energy consumed per square foot of floor space in residential buildings, among other metrics.

The ACEEE report ranked the U.S. 13th overall, with Germany, Italy, smaller European Union nations, France and China making up the top five most energy efficient economies in the world.

Using energy more efficiently is a critical step countries can take to reduce their fossil fuels consumption and its related climate change-driving carbon dioxide and methane emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency used state energy efficiency standards to help set CO2 emissions reductions goals for each state in the agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, announced in June.

The U.S. was the 9th most energy-efficient economy in the ACEEE’s 2012 ranking, which criticized the country for focusing more on road construction than expanding public transportation.

Since then, the U.S. has made very little progress toward using energy more efficiently, the 2014 report says.

This year, the U.S. took a major hit for its lack of a national energy savings plan or national greenhouse gas reduction plan, and its ongoing resistance to public transit.

Americans drive more than 9,300 miles per year, more than citizens in any other major world economy, according to the report. Australians, ranking second-to-last for annual per-capita vehicle miles traveled, drive 6,368 miles per year. India tops the list, driving 85 miles per year per capita, followed by China with 513 miles per year.

Americans also ranked last for the percentage of their travel accomplished using public transit — 10 percent, tying with Canada. Residents of China use transit 72 percent of the time, followed by Indians, who use transit 65 percent of the time.

The U.S. scored well for its energy efficiency tax credit and loan programs. And, it scored well for efficient ovens and refrigerators.

“We’re a leader in appliance and equipment standards,” said the report’s lead author, ACEEE national policy research analyst Rachel Young.

The report called EnergyGuide appliance labels and Energy Star labels “best practices” for voluntary appliance and equipment standards.

The ACEEE gave the U.S. credit for energy efficiency standards included in residential and commercial building codes in many states, but criticized the country for not having adequate national building standards in place.

Young said the U.S. may improve in the energy efficiency rankings if the Clean Power Plan is finalized because a state may be able to increase the efficiency of its power plants and buildings as ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.

“The rule could spur greater investment in energy efficiency throughout the country,” she said.

By contrast, Germany scored well in nearly every category in the survey, including spending on energy efficiency measures, aggressive building codes, and the country’s tax credit and loan programs.

Germany has set a national target of a 20 percent reduction in primary energy consumption below 2008 levels by 2020 and 50 percent by 2050.

The U.S. is one of only two countries in the survey with no national energy savings plan or greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan.

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« Reply #1146 on: Today at 06:21 AM »

EU agrees to improve energy efficiency 30% by 2030

EU climate chief says energy-saving deal is not good news for Putin, but others hoping for 40% target are disappointed

Fiona Harvey, Wednesday 23 July 2014 14.55 BST    

European Union member states will have to improve their energy efficiency by nearly a third in the next 15 years, under new proposals unveiled on Wednesday by the European commission.

The target – to improve efficiency by 30% by 2030 – had been the subject of dispute, as some industries wanted to avoid setting a firm goal and instead rely on the market and the EU’s carbon price to provide an economic incentive to cut energy waste. But others had been pushing for a tougher target, of 40% energy savings by 2030, and were disappointed.

Günther Oettinger, EU commissioner for energy, said: “Our proposal is the basis to drive the EU towards increased security of supply, innovation and sustainability, all in an affordable way. It is ambitious and at the same time it is realistic. Our aim is to give the right signal to the market and encourage further investments in energy-saving technologies to the benefit of businesses, consumers and the environment.”

He said that the goal would result in cost savings for consumers, as infrastructure and appliances from buildings to fridges would all have to be made more efficient to comply with the new rules.

Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s climate chief, was more outspoken, pointing out that the move could cut Europe’s reliance on imports of gas and other fossil fuels from states such as Russia.

Currently, the EU spends more than €400bn (£315bn) a year on imports of fossil fuels, a large proportion of which come from Russia through gas pipelines. The commission has calculated that for every 1% in energy savings, EU gas imports could be expected to fall by 2.6%.

“Today the commission is sending a strong message on energy efficiency: a 30% energy savings target for 2030,” said Hedegaard. “This is of course very good news for the climate. It’s also good news for investors, and it’s very good news for Europe’s energy security and independence. Meaning no such good news for Putin.”

However, it is not clear whether the new target will be translated into individual legally binding targets for each member state. The 2030 renewable energy target, after pressure from the UK government, is an EU-wide target and is not to be broken down into targets for member states, an omission which many green campaigners have said will render it much less effective.

Energy efficiency experts and green campaigners were critical of the new efficiency target, which some said was inadequate to the challenge of tackling climate change and saving on imports.

Monica Frassoni, president of the European Alliance to Save Energy, said: “The European commission appears to have lost credibility. Its supposedly leading role aiming to build a low carbon economy around an energy efficiency target, shows an obvious lack of ambition in the final proposal. The proposal is clearly not based on a real scientific assessment and a serious cost-benefit analysis, otherwise a target between 35% and 40% would have been proposed.”

She called the move the route of least resistance and regressive, based on narrow politics and a lack of vision. A more stringent target could have produced economic benefits in the form of cost savings and more jobs, she said.

Frederic Thoma, energy policy adviser at Greenpeace, was scathing of the deal, and also invoked the EU’s reliance on Russian gas. “In its dying days, the outgoing commission has tabled another gutless plan on energy that is a gift to the oligarchs of this world. An ambitious efficiency target would drastically cut the need for expensive imports of fossil fuels from Russia and elsewhere and help Europe stand up to bullies like Putin.

"The commission’s own research shows efficiency could also create three-and-a-half million jobs, while helping tackle climate change. It’s a no-brainer that EU leaders cannot ignore. They must put Europe’s energy policy back on track.”

Separately, the commission also said it would not challenge the UK’s move to create a “capacity market” for electricity, which is a key plank of the coalition government’s electricity market reforms.

The news was greeted with dismay by some green campaigners, who argued that the capacity market – which rewards electricity generators for keeping their power stations open, in order to protect the grid against surges in demand – would end up giving excess profits to coal-fired and other fossil fuel power plants. Coal-fired power stations could receive special payments until 2033 under the scheme.

Jenny Banks, energy and climate change specialist at WWF-UK, said: “The capacity market risks pushing up bills and holding up progress towards a decarbonised power sector by throwing money at the UK’s old, dirty coal plants. It’s hard to believe that a country which has just reaffirmed its commitment to tackling climate change by choosing not to amend the fourth carbon budget is about to introduce a policy which could lock in vast payments to its oldest and dirtiest power stations until the 2030s.”

She said the capacity market was “skewed in favour of large existing generators while sidelining valuable sources of flexible capacity such as interconnection, demand reduction and response and electricity storage. Allowing these technologies to compete on a level playing field could push down prices and help integrate renewables into the UK electricity mix.”

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« Reply #1147 on: Today at 06:40 AM »

China's red furniture craze fuelling illegal logging in Guinea-Bissau

Appetite for African rosewood has driven a surge in illegal deforestation that threatens to destabilise local communities

IRIN, part of the Guardian development network, Wednesday 23 July 2014 14.48 BST   

Between March and May, during the cashew harvesting season, it is typical to see trucks line Amílcar Cabral Avenue in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau's capital, waiting to offload their cargo on to ships. But when they line up all year long, suspicion is raised, especially as demand for the nut has plummeted.

From interior regions of Guinea-Bissau, the trucks openly haul tree trunks, said Constantino Correia, an agro-engineer and former director of the country's forest management agency. The cargo, mainly African rosewood, is destined for China, according to Abílio Rachid Said of the government Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas (Ibap).

Environmental activists have been denouncing illegal logging in Guinea-Bissau for years, but now it may be too late, "as we risk not having [the African rosewood] in the coming years", Said warned. "It is a type of wood in extremely high demand in the Chinese market."

Worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, Bissau-Guinean rosewood is used, among other things, to make hongmu furniture, red luxury Chinese pieces replicating the styles of the Qing period.

Reports by the Environmental Investigation Agency indicate that China's craze for rosewood has driven dramatic increases in illegal logging elsewhere in the world.

After the April 2012 military coup, rule of law deteriorated in Guinea-Bissau, heightening corruption and fanning illegal and wanton deforestation. "There has always been illegal cutting of trees," Fodé Mané, president of Human Rights Network in Guinea-Bissau, said. "The difference is that it wasn't as abusive as it is now."

He said protests by communities worried about the loss of the forests and source of their livelihood have resulted in intimidation and abuse by the National Guard and military.

The crisis has piled pressure on the country's mainly rural population, as donors froze funds, while the prices of its main export commodity, cashew nuts, plunged due to falling demand. About 80% of the country's 1.6 million people are involved in cashew nut production.

The falling price has led the terms of trade for cashew to deteriorate sharply for the local population, with 1kg of rice being exchanged for 3kg of cashew nuts in 2013, up from a 1:1 ratio the previous year, according to an assessment by the World Food Programme in 2013.

To access their forests, loggers may typically pay impoverished communities about $500; young villagers may be paid just $2-6 to cut a tree. The average price per kilogramme of cashew nuts was about two US cents in 2013, though prices have improved to about 50 US cents.

While tree felling provides communities with quick money, many are worse off as they are deprived of their source of survival.

"It is from the forests that the people obtain wood, which is their primary domestic source of energy," Correia said. "It is to the forests that the population goes to get its medicine … [and] meagre sources of protein though hunting animals. At this pace, deforestation is going to destroy the animals' natural habitats and cause their disappearance."

On the other hand, a container of wood fetches between $6,000-10,000, while the price of a container of rosewood can reach $18,000, sources say. Rosewood can take almost 50 years to mature.

Lassana Seidi, the country's former corruption chief, describes the illegal logging as barbarism that epitomises Guinea-Bissau's decline. Nearly 70% of citizens of the west African country, which has been jolted by coups and instability, live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

It appears that the illegal loggers have obtained licences to harvest and export logs without requisite conditions, such as setting up sawmills, wood shelters and subjecting themselves to the supervision of the general directorate of forests and wildlife to ensure compliance with regulations, according to environmental activists. "Now, anyone who owns a saw can have a licence," Said said.

According to the forestry regulations, only processed timber can be exported. But local newspapers have reported that containers of unprocessed logs are being shipped out of the country. Recently, Ação Cidadã, or Citizen Action, said logging concessions were being given for wood harvesting in protected areas and in forests held sacred by local communities.

In a petition, the group said extensive logging was ongoing under the eyes of the military in Dulombi national park in western Guinea-Bissau and Lagoas de Cufada park near the Atlantic Ocean.

Correia said that despite certain weaknesses, strict application of the regulations could significantly improve forest conservation. "The problem," he said, "is the inexistence of the state."

In April, Guinea-Bissau elected a new government to end the post-coup transition, and the country hopes to reverse its international isolation and economic decline.

Local populations have continued to decry the extensive wood harvesting, but their efforts have have been hampered by harassment and repression. "The locals, poor as they are, cannot resist the bribes offered. Sometimes even if they want to resist, they don't have the strength to do so. Against the military, there is no possible resistance," Correia said.

As criticism against illegal logging increases, the Chinese operators, to avoid further exposure, have started offering higher prices for the wood at Bissau's port, Mané said. "The trafficking chain now involves a lot of nationals," he added.

There are suspicions that the trafficking involves the police, forest guards as well as high-level government and military officials, which makes law enforcement difficult.

A source, who requested anonymity, said army or police officers allow the logs to reach the port for a $200 bribe.

There may be irreversible losses resulting from the deforestation, warns Said, who has called for immediate implementation of reforestation plans and suspension of wood-harvesting concessions.

Activists and experts agree that, above all, the law must be enforced. The end of the two-year transition period is bringing hope for a new beginning. The council of ministers recently announced a temporary suspension of timber exports and prioritised cashew exports.

Mané said the election of a new civilian government was starting to be a deterrent to deforestation. However, not all share the optimism. Much of the illegal logging benefits a few military officials who are unlikely to easily give up huge profits. According to some activists, illegal logging will continue but under more subtle guises.

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