Archive for the 'deforestation' Category

Drought Takes Hold as Amazon’s ‘Flying Rivers’ Dry Up

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“The unprecedented drought now affecting São Paulo, South America’s giant metropolis, is believed to be caused by the absence of the “flying rivers” − the vapor clouds from the Amazon that normally bring rain to the center and south of Brazil.

Some Brazilian scientists say the absence of rain that has dried up rivers and reservoirs in central and southeast Brazil is not just a quirk of nature, but a change brought about by a combination of the continuing deforestation of the Amazon and global warming.

This combination, they say, is reducing the role of the Amazon rainforest as a giant “water pump,” releasing billions of liters of humidity from the trees into the air in the form of vapor.

Meteorologist Jose Marengo, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, first coined the phrase “flying rivers” to describe these massive volumes of vapor that rise from the rainforest, travel west, and then − blocked by the Andes − turn south.

Satellite images from the Centre for Weather Forecasts and Climate Research of Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) clearly show that, during January and February this year, the flying rivers failed to arrive, unlike the previous five years.

Alarming Proportions

Deforestation all over Brazil has reached alarming proportions: 22 percent of the Amazon rainforest (an area larger than Portugal, Italy and Germany combined), 47 percent of the Cerrado in central Brazil, and 91.5 percent of the Atlantic forest that used to cover the entire length of the coastal area.”

Read more: Climate Central


Glacier Hazards and Risk Mitigation

“Pakistan is located at the junction of the world’s three largest mountain ranges— Karakorum, Himalayas and Hindu Kush. The region has a total coverage area of 3500 and Pakistan hosts 8 out of 14 highest peaks of the world. A large part of the area remains covered by piles of snow round the year. Scientists and climate advocators call the region the Third Pole outside of the polar region.

An inventory study conducted by International Center for Integrated Mountain Development(ICIMOD) in the five Hindu Kush-Himalayan(HKH) countries of Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, has identified a total of 15,003 glaciers, covering an area of about 33,344, and 8,790 glacial lakes, of which 203 have been identified as potentially dangerous


Baltoro Glacier, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, retrieved from DeviantArt

In 2005 water Resource Research Institute (WRSI) of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) in collaboration with ICIMOD prepared a glacial inventory, identifying 5218 glaciers with an average coverage area of 15041 The study has recorded 2420 glacial lakes of which 52 were identified as potentially dangerous.

Outburst floods of such glacial lakes pose great threat to the downstream low lying areas. The northern and north western parts of Pakistan, mostly Chitral in KPK district and Gilgit Baltistan are hosting these larger glaciers. As climate change intensifies, risk and frequency of Glacial Lakes Outburst Floods (GLOF) is expected to increase in future. Many other research papers have also indicated that the glaciers in Karakorum and Himalayas which also have a regional sharing with central Asian region is susceptible to climate change, and these glacier are going through rapid changes.”

Read more: Dardistan Times

Malaysian Indigenous Communities Demand Referendum on Mega-Dams

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“The 110 meter (360 foot) high dam in Batang Ai National Park in Sarawak, financed by the Asian Development Bank, began operating in 1985. It caused the displacement of some 3,000 people from 26 longhouses. These people have been relocated to cultivate cocoa and rubber but the program has not been successful, says Amarhit Kaur, author of “A History of Forestry in Sarawak.”

The Bengoh dam on Sarawak’s Kiri River is expected to be completed by the end of 2012. Some 250 families involving 1,500 people from four villages are rejecting the government’s resettlement plans to give each family a free house and three acres near the dam. Instead, they preferred to resettle themselves on higher ground upstream of the dam on their traditional territory.

The 63 meter (206 foot) high Bengoh dam is expected to submerge about 8.72 square kilometers (3.3 square miles) of land. Wildlife habitat will be destroyed, affecting two species of hornbill and 50 other species of birds, seven species of bats, 14 species of mammals and 52 species of fish.”

Read more: Earth First!


The Real Cost Of Brazil’s Dam

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“Until a few months ago, the future of the Belo Monte dam seemed in doubt. The project faced a wave of legal battles and opposition from indigenous groups and environmental organisations around the world.

About 400 square kilometres of the Amazon forest will be flooded to make way for the reservoirs.

The dam is being built in Brazil’s northern Para state, home to large parts of the Amazon Rainforest.

Some 25,000 indigenous people live along the banks of the Xingu River.

One indigenous group – the Paquicamba – live downstream from the main dam. If the dam is built, the normal flow of the river would shrink significantly. The Paquicamba say their fish stocks would be severely depleted.”

Read more: Aljazeera

Rivers must flow: The case against big dams

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“More than 50,000 large dams now choke about two-thirds of the world’s largest rivers. The consequences of this massive engineering programme have been devastating. Large dams have wiped out species; flooded huge areas of wetlands, forests and farmlands; displaced tens of millions of people, and affected close to half a billion people living downstream.

Large dams hold back not just water, but silt and nutrients that replenish farmlands and build protective wetlands and beaches. Dams change the very riverness of our waterways, in ways we can’t always see, but that the earth can certainly feel.

Of all the complex and interconnected environmental disruptions that dams inflict on the landscape, the most obvious is the permanent inundation of forests, wetlands and wildlife. Reservoirs have flooded vast areas - at last count, the world’s dams had flooded an area bigger than the United Kingdom.

Equally important is the quality of these lost lands: river and floodplain habitats are some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. Plants and animals that are closely adapted to valley habitats often cannot survive along the edge of a reservoir.”

Read more: Aljazeera



Africa’s great ‘water grab’

The banks of the Niger river, in southern Mali, have been flooded by a steady stream of foreigners. Coveted by foreign investors eager to snap up large tracts of fertile farmland, the river basin has been at the centre of a race to get hold of African land at rock-bottom prices. Meanwhile, last week, hundreds of smallholder farmers and civil society activists flocked to the same river basin for the first international conference to tackle the global rush for land.

West Africa‘s largest river, the Niger is thought to sustain over 100 million people as it snakes 4,180km through Guinea, Mali and Niger before emptying into Nigeria’s colossal Niger Delta. In Mali, the Office du Niger is home to the vast majority of the country’s largescale land deals, seen by campaigners as emblematic of the “land grabs” taking place in developing countries. Recent estimates suggest that foreign investment in Mali’s limited arable land jumped by 60% between 2009 and 2010. But the potential knock-on effects of these land deals on local communities’ access to water has rarely made it centre-stage.

Ongoing research from the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development seeks to redress this blindspot, honing in on how such land deals might affect water access for fishing, farming and pastoralist communities. In a policy paper out on Thursday, the IIED’s Jamie Skinner and Lorenzo Cotula warn that an alarming number of African governments seem to be signing away water rights for decades, with major implications for local communities.

Read More: The Guardian


Scientists Propose Thinning Sierra Forests to Enhance Water Runoff

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“Runoff from the Sierra Nevada, a critical source of California’s water supply, could be enhanced by thinning forests to historical conditions, according to a report from a team of scientists with the University of California, Merced, UC Berkeley and the Environmental Defense Fund.

The team proposes to test the hypothesis that forest-management strategies that use thinning to reduce fire risk and maintain the historical mix can also increase water yield and extend the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

The scientists suggest that by selectively reducing the number of trees — which use large amounts of the water received through precipitation — the amount of water that is released from the forest as runoff could increase. This enhanced runoff could make things easier for farmers and water managers statewide.

As part of the Sierra Nevada Watershed Ecosystem Enhancement Project (SWEEP), the scientists plan to reduce forest density in test areas and examine the impacts on water runoff, forest health and other ecosystem services, and provide a template for broader forest management in the Sierra Nevada.”

Read More: Environmental Protection Online


North India Hydro Boom Leaves Communities High and Dry

Forests destroyed by illegal debris dumping for Tidong I project. Retrieved from:

“Rivers and streams are being diverted from one valley into another, with serious impacts. The 800 MW Parbati-II Hydroelectric Project is one such example. The Parbati River is  just one of a number of rivers and streams being diverted through a long tunnel from the Parbati valley into the Sainj valley.  A part of the Great Himalayan National Park was de-listed to permit the project to go forward, despite the fact that the area was a prime nesting site for the rare Western Tragopan bird, for the conservation of which the park has been set up. Another project will devastate a local apple-growing community by drying up about 35 of their water springs.

Projects are being built and proposed at higher and higher altitudes and closer and closer to the snowline (and the Chinese border). The Kashang projects start around 3,000 m. (10,000 feet). If one is to go by the ecological devastation caused by projects at lower altitudes, the prospect of what will happen to the fragile Alpine ecosystem is frightening. Himanshu Thakkar, Coordinator of SANDRP, says that the projects will change the microclimate which will result in accelerated melting of the snow and glaciers. The strategic implications of having these projects so close to the border with China are not being discussed in the public domain.

Cascade dams do not leave any stretch of the river flowing free.  Sutlej River originates from Lake Rakshastal in China. It enters India in Kinnaur District of the State. Within 7 kms (4.3 miles) of entering India it flows from one tunnel into another. All these projects are so-called run-of-river projects. It is funny (in a sad way) how these projects are proposed. It is said that the powerhouse of the proposed 261 MW Yangthang-Khab project will be submerged in the reservoir of the proposed 1020 MW Khab-Shaso project. Both project proponents are in a race to acquire all permissions and sanctions before the other to win the battle of the duelling dams.”

Read more: International Rivers


Drought Just One Example of Africa’s Changing Environment

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“As a prolonged, severe drought puts 10 million people at risk in East Africa, humanitarian agencies are hard-pressed to supply enough food and water. Crops have been destroyed, farmland damaged, seeds consumed as food and livestock sold so families can survive. Thousands of people have migrated to neighboring countries hoping to find relief. They often just find more of the same.

The U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) has issued warnings for years on the affects of potential climate change, deforestation and the loss of grasslands and wetlands.

“This is not a new phenomenon. I mean we seem to be seeing the increasing frequency over recent years these kinds of events,” said Nick Nuttall, chief spokesman for UNEP, which is based Nairobi.

While droughts are not definitive proof of climate change, Nuttall said,” “It certainly is part of environmental change, which is happening in the Horn of Africa, but also happening across Africa in terms of land quality…availability of fresh water, in terms of more frequent drought and floods.”

Read more: VOA News


To the Last Drop

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“Once again the issue is water, but this time it is not just the flow of the river, but the chemicals the current may be carrying downstream from the strip mines and bitumen upgraders.

In recent years, according to the Alberta Cancer Board, Fort Chipewyan has experienced an unusually high rate of cancer. Local fishermen are finding growing numbers of deformed fish in their nets. Residents and John O’Connor, the community doctor, worry there could be a connection to the oil sands.

As they did in the 1970s, the people of Fort Chipewyan have appealed to science for help. Then it was William Fuller, a biologist from the University of Alberta, who collected the data that proved the Delta was dying. Today, it is David Schindler, the winner of the Stockholm Water Prize, and a team of international scientists conducting painstaking research to find out what is in the Athabasca River – and where it is coming from.

Alan Adam, the chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, has worked closely with Schindler. He knows that vast areas of the Delta are once again becoming impassable because of falling water levels. This means the hunting, trapping and fishing rights guaranteed to his people in Treaty 8 are worthless.

He has appealed to elders like Pat Marcel and Francois Paulette from neighbouring Fort Fitzgerald to record the changes they are seeing in the water and the wildlife. In a unique exchange, science and traditional knowledge are coming together to challenge the oil sands.”

Read more: Aljazeera