Nairobi, 15January 2010 – Kenya took a step to restore its diminishing water towers and address rapid environmental degradation when it launched a tree planting drive in the Kiptunga area of the Mau Forest Complex on Friday.
20,000 tree seedlings were planted on 20 hectares at a ceremony attended by Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director, Angela Cropper.
Mau, the largest indigenous forest in East Africa and Kenya’s most vital water tower, covers some 270,000 hectares. After Mau, restoration will also take place in Mt. Kenya, Aberdares, Mt. Elgon and the rest of Kenya’s forests and water catchment areas with the aim of increasing the forest cover from the current 1.7 percent to 10 percent by the year 2020.
In partnership with the government and other stakeholders, including Kenyan NGOs, UNEP has assisted in chronicling and raising awareness about the damage and the degradation of East Africa’s largest closed-canopy forest.
Over the last two decades, the Mau Complex has lost around 107,000 hectares – approximately 25% – of its forest cover, which has had devastating effects on the country as a whole; including severe droughts and floods, leading to loss of human lives and livelihoods, crops and thousands of head of livestock.
UNEP’s contribution to the national debate that has surrounded the Mau has been based on science and the economics, and in 2009 it appointed an expert to provide technical advice to a government-led Mau task force.
One of the findings of this task force was that continued destruction of the forests will inevitably lead to a water crisis of national and regional proportions that extend far beyond the Kenyan borders.
The impetus to restore the Mau is particularly strong this year, as the world marks the International Year of Biodiversity.
So far, the international community has failed to reverse the rate of loss of biodiversity. Economies everywhere continue to dismantle the productive life-support systems of planet Earth.
The latest estimates by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study, which UNEP hosts, estimates that up to US$5 trillion-worth of natural or nature-based capital is being lost annually.
However, through Friday’s tree-planting initiative, the Mau is emerging as a possible inspiring example of how the tide can still be turned in favour of biodiversity and sustainable ecosystem management.
After planting a Kaligen Berekeiyet tree at the ceremony, UNEP Deputy Executive Director Angela Cropper said: “These first saplings, planted in the soils of Kenya, speak of new shoots and new beginnings. New beginnings for a critical ecosystem: new beginnings for the people of Kenya who depend inextricably on the services that the Mau forest complex generates.”
UNEP Spokesman Nick Nuttall planted a Podocarpus tree at the event, declaring: “This is the first tree I have planted, ever. It shows that even at 51, it is never too late.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 11 so far )
Photo: Jane Some/IRIN
|Pius Okello points at the entrance of his new home|
At least 1,300 slum dwellers from Kibera – Nairobi’s largest informal urban settlement – have been moved to new blocks of flats under a slum-upgrading programme.
“I can’t believe I have left Kibera for good! My new home is so clean, we have a toilet inside the house; it is a dream come true,” Pius Okello, 46, father of six, said.
Okello, who had lived in Kibera’s Soweto East zone for 10 years, was one of those who moved on 16 September. The government provided trucks and workers to help the residents settle into their new homes, which they have dubbed `Canaan’, the Promised Land.
Kibera is one of the largest informal settlements in sub-Saharan Africa. According to UN-HABITAT, estimates of its population range from 500,000 to 800,000, with densities of over 3,000 people per hectare – one of the most densely populated informal settlements in the world.
The monthly rent for a room in the new flats, about a kilometre from Kibera, is Ksh 500 (US$7) and tenants pay an additional Ksh300 ($4) for electricity and Ksh200 ($2.5) for water. The kitchen, toilet and bathrooms are shared but if a family takes three rooms, they get exclusive use of these facilities.
“I took three rooms because I have six children and I take care of four other children of my dead brother when schools close; at least now my wife and I have our privacy and the children have a bedroom for the first time,” Okello said.
“The only problem is that I feel that water and electricity charges are high because they are charged per room; I should be charged a single fee for the whole house.”
The ongoing $300,000 Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme (KENSUP) was mooted in 2000, and jointly funded by the government, HABITAT and the World Bank Cities Alliance.
Photo: Jane Some/IRIN
|Some of the new blocks of flats, with Kibera in the background|
Raila Odinga, Kenya’s prime minister and member of parliament for Langata, in which Kibera falls, participated in moving the slum dwellers to their new homes.
“Absence of decent housing means abundance of other problems,” he said in an address to the residents. “Today, we take the first step towards meeting the basic needs and rights of slum dwellers and saying No to slum related problems. This is an initial step towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.”
Nairobi has some of the most dense, unsanitary and insecure slums in the world, according to HABITAT, with almost half of the city’s population living in over 100 slums and squatter settlements.
“The objective of the programme is to improve the overall livelihoods of people living and working in slums through targeted interventions to address shelter, infrastructure services, land tenure and employment issues, as well as the impact of HIV/AIDS in slum settlements,” according to HABITAT.
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What’s the real price of your bouquet? Pat Thomas dishes the dirt on cut flower production in less-industrialised countries
In 2007, just in time for Valentine’s Day, then UK minister for International Development Hilary Benn told consumers to buy flowers flown in from Kenya, rather than European hothouse flowers. ‘People want to buy ethically and do their bit for climate change, but often don’t realise that they can support developing countries and reduce carbon emissions. Recent research shows that flowers flown from Africa can use less energy overall than those produced in Europe because they’re not grown in heated greenhouses.’ ‘This is about social justice’ he continued ‘and making it easier, not harder, for African people to make a decent living.’
If you think there is something slightly sick-making about this melding of bleeding-heart liberalism and colonialism, you could be right.
The retail value of the cut flower industry in Britain is vast. It is worth more than £2 billion a year and, according to a 2007 War on Want report, Growing Pains, in the UK most of these, some 70 per cent, are sold through supermarkets – the highest proportion in Europe.
As consumers’ green concerns have come to the fore, the cut flower industry has gone to great lengths recently to convince us that cut flowers can have low carbon footprints. Much of the data has focused on the benefits of growing flowers in naturally hot countries and then flying them into the UK, over growing them in cold countries in hothouses which can be very energy intensive.
Yet investigating this issue properly would certainly broaden the focus beyond narrow CO2 calculations – which do not tell the entire story of the sustainability or otherwise of any product – including cut flowers.
What is more the ‘carbon footprint’ of cut flowers encompasses much more than simply their transport from one country to another. Such figures must encompass the entire life cycle of the flower and include carbon released from fossil fuels used in cultivation, fertiliser production, refrigeration and transport, as well as the methane released from binned flowers.
In these days of dwindling water supplies it would be important to ask whether it is right to use water that could be a lifesaving resource either as a daily drink or as a means of irrigating food crops, for producing a luxury niche crop that is inedible. This is particularly important given that most cut flowers are grown in developing countries where poverty is endemic and access to clean water is problematic – especially as large corporations buy up land and its associated water rights. It would be important to highlight the impact of large monocultures on local biodiversity, which we know from studies into other monocultures to be deleterious.
From Africa with Love
Some 90 per cent of the cut flowers sold in the UK are imported, mostly from Colombia or Kenya (Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s all source from one or both of these countries). So let’s use Hilary Benn’s planet-friendly Kenyan flowers as our base.
Most of the Kenyan floriculture industry is concentrated on the shores of Lake Naivasha – a complex and sensitive ecosystem. Until a couple of years ago the industry was growing steadily. However, a disputed election in 2007, followed by violence and unrest which spread quickly to Naivasha.
According to the 2008 report, ‘Lake Naivasha: Withering Under the Assault of International Flower Vendors,’ by Food & Water Watch and the Council of Canadians, the flower industry is so important to the Kenyan economy that in the face of such instability the army and police put most of their resources into guarding flower shipments instead of local people – so that the Valentine’s Day delivery could reach European buyers in time. Since 2007, your Kenyan roses have come at a cost of more than 100 deaths and the displacement of more than 300,000 people.
Even the flower industry recognises the environmental degradation resulting from the overuse of water, pollution of the lake, and the increasing population in the area. While there are moves to make Fairtrade standards more widespread and reduce the environmental impact of the industry, the sheer volume of flowers growing in that region cannot fail to have a long-term impact. Since the floriculture industry moved in, Lake Naivasha has shrunk to half its original size and the water levels dropped three metres, its native hippos are threatened by the pollution in the lake and fish catches are dwindling (putting local fishermen out of business).
There are also gender issues and child labour issues – as well as low pay and little job security, the chemicals used in flower growing are a particular threat to a workforce made up largely of women and children.
Because cut flowers are grown in countries where little pesticide regulation exists, this encourages the use of obsolete and potentially dangerous chemicals. A vast range of pesticides, fertilisers and fumigants are used in producing cut flowers. Some of these, such as DDT, dieldrin, methyl bromide and methyl parathion are no longer in use, or deemed to dangerous to use, in the industrialised world.
While groups like the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) stress that conditions are better than they once were, there is still a long way to go in Kenya, Colombia and elsewhere. For instance, in 2005 the World Health Organization deemed 36 per cent of the chemicals applied by Floraverde plantations (that is Colombian plantations certified to meet specific social and environmental standards) as extremely or highly toxic. What is more the science of chemical mixtures has advanced considerably in recent years and we know that mixtures of chemicals such as pesticides can have a more potent adverse effect on health than single applications of single substances.
In Ethiopia for example recent data from the Ethiopian Agriculture Research Institute shows that 18 of the 96 insecticides and nematicides imported by the flower farms were not on the MPS-Code 2006 list (the list of pesticides registered in Ethiopia) and similarly for 19 of the 105 fungicides. The Pesticide Action Network believes these figures are likely to be underestimates.
And while most studies focus on workers in the developing world, the issues are just as relevant to growers in developed countries. For instance, data from the Netherlands’ Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment shows that Dutch floral workers are often exposed to 60 times the recognized ‘safe’ level of these poisonous chemicals, often in an indoor situation, where residues and vapours may not dissipate. Similar concerns have been expressed about workers in the Californian flower industry.
A 2007 study by the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), found that more than 66 per cent of Ecuadorian and Colombian flower workers were plagued by work-related health problems, including skin rashes, respiratory problems, and eye problems, due to chronic exposure to toxic pesticides and fungicides.
ILRF, drawing on the work of Harvard School of Public Health researcher Philippe Grandjean, published in the journal Pediatrics in 2006, also found that: ‘flower workers experience higher-than-average rates of premature births, congenital malformations and miscarriages’.
Another study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in 2002 found that ‘over 50 percent of respondents who worked in fern/flower farms reported at least one of the symptoms of pesticide exposure – headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhoea, skin eruptions, fainting and so on’.
According to Richard Wiles, vice president of research for the US Environmental Working Group, consumers are buying roses that, toxicity levels suggest, should be handled by workers wearing gloves. Wiles reports that pesticide residue on the petals of imported roses is fifty times that allowed on food imports.
Pesticide use has decreased somewhat in the years since that comment. But then again figures which measure reductions simply in terms of weight of pesticides per hectare can be misleading since they may not reflect the use of newer more powerful pesticides which are more active at lower doses.
It seems clear from the larger body of scientific reports that the environmental destruction that is inherent with the volume of cut-flowers produced in places like Lake Naivasha is neither improving quality of life nor protecting the environment for local people. In the face of this, a lower carbon footprint for shipping roses to the UK seems almost irrelevant.
Local and seasonal is not just for food
Most of us don’t even think about where our flowers come from. But experts say that locally-grown flowers have similar advantages to locally produced food. They are for instance, fresher, and thus have a longer vase life. They may even smell nicer: many cut flower roses, for example, are being bred without scent to extend their vase life.
Today the British cut flower industry supplies about 10 per cent of the UK’s cut flower needs. Just 10 years ago this figure was more than 20 per cent; 20 years ago it was 45 per cent.
However the recession might help change things in favour of a domestic cut flower industry. Earlier this year an article published in the journal Horticulture Week suggested that the unfavourable euro exchange rate was paying dividends for the British cut flower industry. Tesco, it said, had just announced that it was buying more from UK producers rather than the Dutch growers. This is good news but as long as retailers use market forces rather than ethics to determine what to buy, the tides can always shift back to imported flowers.
Once again it may be up to the consumer to lead the way.
Pat Thomas is a former editor of the Ecologist.
Republished from Ecologist.orgRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( 57 so far )
Kenya’s Jamii Bora Trust has teamed up with an American nonprofit group to create Africa’s first ecologically friendly town built with microfinancing. Some 2,500 families are slated to live in Kaputei, near Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. The families, most of who are from slum areas of Nairobi, will be able to purchase these homes with micro loans.
|Africa’s first ecologically friendly town built with microfinancing|
They are building their future, one brick at a time.
Members of Jamii Bora Trust produce the bricks, tiles and other materials needed to construct what has become a first in Africa.
A town that is virtually self-sustaining, with its own water supply, primary school and other services, built by the poor for the poor.
Kaputei is a 160-hectare plot located 36 kilometers from Nairobi. It will eventually be home to 2,500 families.
By the end of May, some 300 families had already moved into the homes.
A number of families have brought their businesses with them.
The families come primarily from the Nairobi slum of Kibera, said to be Africa’s largest informal settlement. Most people there earn less than one dollar a day and do not have access to electricity and running water.
Jamii Bora member Jane Ngoiri and her family used to live in Mathare, a slum similar to Kibera.
She says living in a house with several rooms, running water and electricity is a dream come true. “We are talking about [the] kitchen and now I am in my own bedroom, my children are in their own bedroom,” she says, “this is great!”
Kaputei is the brainchild of Jamii Bora Trust, a nationwide microfinance company that gives loans to the poorest of the poor, usually for small-scale businesses.
Members purchasing Kaputei homes receive loans with up to a 10 percent interest rate and up to 15 years’ repayment time. The monthly mortgage is $36, comparable to rents in the slum.
Jamii Bora member Ngoiri says that it makes little difference if people rise out of poverty but are still living in the slum. “If you come out of your house, from your house, outside your house you get flowing sewage. So you do not have different [life] with the person who is saying he is poor and you are saying you are able now. So the first thing we see is that now we have climbed a ladder and we have to change also our living [quarters] so that we can understand how far we have gone,” Bora said.
She says she is confident that her and other children will now not be lured into lives of crime or early motherhood as they might if they continued living in the slum.
Partnering with Jamii Bora Trust is Unitus, a nonprofit microfinance organization based in Seattle, Washington. Its president, Ed Bland, explains how the project fits in with micro-finance. “It is very, very innovative and it shows another element of the rung of a ladder out of poverty. One of the last ones is housing, and really robust housing. So that is what the Kaputei project is,” he said.
Kaputei is designed to be self-sustaining, with its own water and power supply.
Elijah Biamah is an engineer at the University of Nairobi who teamed up with Jamii Bora to design water and sanitation systems.
|Waste water in Kaputei is treated and recycled|
He gives the example of how waste water in Kaputei is recycled after it has been collected and exposed to ultraviolet light.
“Then that water is now safe – safe that is can be used for flushing the toilets. It can also be recycled and used for irrigating the crops around the homestead without any harmful effects whatsoever,” Biamah said.
Meanwhile, residents such as Ngoiri are turning their houses into homes, looking forward to their new lives away from the slum.
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Photo: Neil Thomas/IRIN
|The clash was over water|
NAIROBI, 12 September 2008 (IRIN) – At least 13 people have been killed in inter-clan clashes over water in the north-eastern region of Mandera, a humanitarian official has said.
“The two clans clashed over the ownership of a borehole,” Titus Mung’ou of the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) told IRIN. The clashes broke out on 7 September between the Murule and Garre clans.
“The borehole, which was destroyed in the fighting at Alongo, was an important water source for thousands of people and livestock for the two clans,” Mung’ou said. Alongo is located along the border of Mandera Central and Mandera East districts.
The total number of people injured as well as those displaced remains unclear, according to Mung’ou. “The fighters retreated with their injured while those living in the affected area are now with relatives,” he said.
A police post was also targeted and two police officers were among the dead. “This was criminal activity,” Eric Kiraithe, the police spokesman, told IRIN.
The motive of the attack was to allow the criminals to escape, Kiraithe said. A police vehicle was also badly damaged, he said.
Inter-clan clashes are common in the north-eastern region over scarce resources. “What is different is the audacity in directly assaulting the police,” said Kiraithe.
He said activities aimed at recovering illegal weapons were ongoing in the area.
Security has also been intensified although no arrests have been made, he said.
Meanwhile, the KRCS has mobilised personnel, relief and medical supplies to the area, according to Mung’ou.
There are plans for relief food distribution, which will target at least 30,000 people, he said. Water trucking is also ongoing.
“The clashes have worsened the humanitarian situation for the population, which was already depending on monthly food rations,” he said.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
New Institute of Economic Affairs report identifies gender inequality as a barrier to Kenya’s development
The Institute of Economic Affairs’ (IEA) latest report on the socio-economic status of women in Kenya says women have made minimal strides in their quest to bridge the inequality gap. However, this state of affairs is not blamed solely on women but on the prevailing political system. The report titled Profile of Women’s Socio-Economic Status in Kenya shows low education levels among women in comparison to men. On primary school participation, the overall enrolment rate of boys is higher than that of their female counterparts, but North Eastern Province still lags far behind compared to the other provinces in Kenya by recording the lowest figures for girls’ enrolment in school. The figure stands at 27.6% followed by Nairobi recording a percentage of 40.1%.
Secondary school data on the other hand shows that the rate of women’s enrolment is much lower. This is based on the fact that the female students face the challenges of early marriage and some parents prefer to educate their sons over daughters. The trend continues into institutions of higher learning where again the number of female students at university level is much lower than their male counterparts and their preference is for the arts courses. The situation depicts the low progression of female students across education levels.
In the labour force, women constitute 30% of the overall wage employment. The highest percentage is recorded in the education sector (45%) while the lowest is in the building and construction industry (7%), manufacturing 18%, electricity and water 18%. More women tend to venture into the small micro enterprises (SMEs). Although women operate 54% of the total enterprises in the country where they dominate wholesale and retail businesses, rural manufacturing and urban agriculture sectors. Men are well represented in such sectors as urban manufacturing, transport, financial and social services. It is also pointed out in the report that, representation of both men and women in decision making processes is critical for effective implementation of policies that affect the general population. However a negligible proportion of women are represented in senior and middle level policy formulation and implementation processes.
In the judicial system, women are represented in the lower cadres among district and resident magistrates. Out of the 15 Appeal Judges, there is only one female among them. The report also says that the legal structures enacted face the risk of failing to materialize because of lack of budgetary allocations. Other challenges include the delay of debates before parliament and the long legislation processes. Further, the report says that the government and other stakeholders in the health sector have implemented various initiatives targeted at improving the health of women who in essence, are more vulnerable than men to infections. Interventions include constituency HIV/AIDS fund, national insurance fund, funding for malaria, TB programs and other health related expenditures.
The same report identifies the challenges of dealing with domestic violence as being more to do with attitudinal or cultural perceptions than policy. While it may be argued that the key issue related to persistence of gender violence is the rate of economic dependence of women on men, it is also worth noting that due to cultural reasons even economically independent women persevere and therefore allow the vice of domestic violence to persist. Domestic violence has locks out potential and opportunities for women who cannot develop themselves because they are afraid of their husbands’ attitude and reactions.
Enhancing gender equality is critical for any country’s development. Despite the fact that the women represent 51% of the Kenyan population, their representation in post primary education, wage employment, enterprise ownership and decision making process is limited, they are also adversely affected by such factors as traditional and social practices, poverty and domestic violence among other challenges. Improving women’s profile in all sectors and reducing gender disparities will not only benefit women but also men, children, the poor and rich as well. This will also enhance women’s empowerment and contribute to sustainable economic growth, reduce poverty and social injustices. The national budget could also be tailored to address gender issues in order to reduce gender inequalities.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Photo: Anne Ejakait/Concern Worldwide
|Mobile phones are increasingly being used in delivering aid|
NAIROBI, 4 August 2008 (IRIN) – Hard-pressed to find efficient ways of delivering aid, humanitarian agencies are turning to new technologies.
One such innovation involves mobile phones to send cash. One such project was piloted in Baringo North and Pokot East Districts of Kenya’s Rift Valley Province during post-election violence this year.
“They [local residents] were exposed to cattle rustling after security was withdrawn to deal with the post-election violence,” said Anne O’Mahony, Kenya country director for the NGO Concern Worldwide. “There were also high levels of poverty in the area after the conflict.”
The target beneficiaries selected by the community from among the most vulnerable, were women who would receive fortnightly cash transfers of KSh320 (US$4.70) per household member via short message service (SMS).
The service used a mobile cash transfer service, known as M-Pesa (mobile money), which is a joint venture between multinational giant Vodafone and Kenya’s largest mobile phone company and Vodafone affiliate Safaricom, and allows cash to be sent over the Safaricom network.
Safaricom set up Concern as a corporate user to allow for bulk transfers to the targeted beneficiaries. Normally, M-Pesa is designed for one-on-one cash transfers with a maximum transfer limit of 35,000 shillings (about $583) per transaction.
However, most potential beneficiaries were illiterate or did not have the identification documents required to collect the cash. The targeted households were, therefore, clustered into groups of about 10. Members would nominate one literate person as leader to collect the money on behalf of the group, O’Mahony said.
Of the 571 targeted households, 225 (39 percent) owned a phone. Concern provided 45 handsets to enable the clusters to share one handset between them, along with 60 solar chargers.
At the same time, Safaricom organised agents from the nearest towns of Iten or Eldoret to travel to the local Kinyach police station, which was selected as the money distribution point. The Safaricom agents were available to disperse the cash on local market days.
“This system enabled the beneficiaries to get easy access to the cash and they could buy necessary food immediately,” O’Mahony said. The cash was supposed to meet at least 50 percent of household food requirements.
Photo: Anne Ejakait/Concern Worldwide
|Residents upon receipt of their money at the Kinyach Police post.|
“We thought the best way of getting effective aid to these people was cash,” she said. “If the markets work, there is no point in us buying goods, taking them to the area and distributing them – we might not get the type of goods required right and there are also issues to do with trucking food … Cash made much more sense.”
In the past, O’Mahony added, Concern had bought food in Eldoret town but found it was 18 percent cheaper to give people money to buy what they needed.
“These people are mobile so they can go wherever they can get cheap food and the mobiles reduced their isolation,” she said. “If there is money the food will come … merchants will come. People suffer because they can’t buy.”
Panuel Luker, one of the beneficiaries, said the wider availability of mobile phones had also improved communication in another way: they were useful for warnings about cattle rustling.
O’Mahony said there were plans to scale up the project to reach at least 16,200 vulnerable families, depending on funding.
In future, the ratio of mobiles to families would also be increased, along with the development of a way to deal with lost SIM cards. “We found that one mobile phone per large group of people is not enough, we will need to get more phones,” she said.
“Most of the projects that have used the mobile-phone technology have been small in scale and preliminary probably due the high costs of developing and deploying mobile technologies,” according to a 2008 report by the UN Foundation–Vodafone Group Foundation Partnership, titled ‘Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in NGO Mobile Use’.
An evaluation of the Concern project, however, found that M-Pesa was better than food distributions, “provided the difference between wholesale and retail prices is within a certain range, local food markets are actually functioning and that the cash transfer programme is long enough to justify the costs of the equipment (phones, chargers etc.)”.
Qualitative evidence indicated that about 70 percent of the transfer was spent on food, with the remainder going on transport and other non-food essentials.
According to the evaluation, inflation and early warning data on food prices should be considered when deciding on cash transfer values as food prices rose during the Kenya pilot programme.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Kenya is a few days away from hosting the first ever dreaded and less understood radioactive waste processing facility at Oloolua, located at the institute of primate research in Kajiado district. If the facility is allowed to proceed, Kenyans will without doubt pay dearly, in the same way history is certain to harshly judge the current generation. Why?
With known impunity, corruption and weak institutional mechanisms, proposed relative mitigation measures on waste generation management, occupational hazards and safety will be flouted at the expense of severe environmental waste. Last week, a curious media advertisement from National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) confirmed that a full environment impact assessment report was available for inspection and all that was required was ‘oral or written comments within thirty (30) days..’
World statistics posted on the internet about nuclear substances are shocking: An example is that less than 8 kilograms of of a substance called plutonium is enough for one Nagasaki-type bomb. The technology applied in producing nuclear energy, particularly the process that turns raw uranium into lowly-enriched uranium, can also be used to produce highly-enriched, weapons-grade uranium. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is responsible for monitoring the world’s nuclear facilities and for preventing weapons proliferation, but their safeguards are said to have serious shortcomings. On April 26, 1986 the number 4 reactor at the Chernobyl power plant (in the former U.S.S.R and present-day Ukraine ) exploded, causing the worst nuclear accident ever.
Many troubles as a result
Firstly, 30 people were killed instantly, including 28 from radiation exposure, and a further 209 on site were treated for acute radiation poisoning.
Secondly, the World Health Organization (WHO) is reported to have found that the fallout from the explosion was incredibly far-reaching. For a time, radiation levels in Scotland , over 2,300 km away, were 10,000 times the norm.
Thirdly, thousands of cancer deaths were a direct result of the accident. The accident cost the former Soviet Union more than three times the economical benefits accrued from the operation of every other Soviet nuclear power plant operated between 1954 and 1990.
Fourthly, in March of 1979 equipment failures and human error contributed to an accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor at Harrisburg , Pennsylvania , the worst such accident in U.S. history. Consequences of the incident include radiation contamination of surrounding areas, increased cases of thyroid cancer, and plant mutations.
Fifthly, according to the US House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, “Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences (CRAC2) for US Nuclear Power Plants” (1982, 1997), an accident at a US nuclear power plant could kill more people than were killed by the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki .
What would be the possibilities of environmental degradation?
Firstly, all the steps in the complex process of creating nuclear energy entail environmental hazards.
Secondly, the mining of uranium, as well as its refining and enrichment, and the production of plutonium produce radioactive isotopes that contaminate the surrounding area, including the groundwater, air, land, plants, and equipment. As a result, humans and the entire ecosystem are adversely and profoundly affected.
Thirdly, some of these radioactive isotopes are extraordinarily long-lived, remaining toxic for hundreds of thousands of years.
What are the possible dangers of the Oloolua-type nuclear waste processing?
Firstly, nuclear waste is produced in many different ways. There are wastes produced in the reactor core, wastes created as a result of radioactive contamination, and wastes produced as a byproduct of uranium mining, refining, and enrichment. The vast majority of radiation in nuclear waste is given off from spent fuel rods.
Secondly, a typical reactor will generate 20 to 30 tons of high-level nuclear waste annually. There is no known way to safely dispose of this waste, which remains dangerously radioactive until it naturally decays.
Thirdly, the rate of decay of a radioactive isotope is called its half-life, the time in which half the initial amount of atoms present takes to decay. The half-life of Plutonium-239, one particularly lethal component of nuclear waste, is 24,000 years.
Fourthly, the hazardous life of a radioactive element (the length of time that must elapse before the material is considered safe) is at least 10 half-lives. Therefore, Plutonium-239 will remain hazardous for at least 240,000 years.
When a proposal to dump nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain , Nevada an opposition to it was strong on the 10-point action plan
Experts believe that the best action would be to cease producing nuclear energy (and waste), to leave the existing waste where it is, and to immobilize it. They say that there are a few different methods of waste immobilization. In the vitrification process, waste is combined with glass-forming materials and melted. Once the materials solidify, the waste is trapped inside and can’t easily be released. It is for this reason that Kenya is truly not ready to host this ‘investment’ that could turn out to be a nightmare.
*If you believe in this founded fears, and you would like the Government to delay
making approving the Oloolua nuclear waste processing plant until sufficient
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Kenya Alliance of Residents Associations (KARA)
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Top Ten Reasons to Oppose the DoE’s Yucca Mountain Plan
by David Krieger and Marissa Zubia*,
August 23, 2002
Nuclear energy has always been promoted to the public in fraudulent ways. At the outset, it was claimed that it would be “too cheap to meter,” a claim that was far from true even without taking into account large government subsidies provided to the nuclear industry. Later, and still today, nuclear energy is promoted as being “clean, safe and environmentally friendly.” This claim should have been definitively laid to rest with the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.
Now the proponents of nuclear energy are pushing for long-term storage of highly radioactive nuclear wastes at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The $7 billion that the Department of Energy (DoE) has spent on researching the suitability of Yucca Mountain, Nevada as a radioactive waste storage site has only served to prove that the volatile Yucca Mountain itself is a terrible place to dump the 77,000 tons of nuclear waste that has been building up at nuclear power plants. It is a shortsighted and dangerous scheme that would endanger tens of millions of Americans now and for generations to come.
There are many sound reasons to oppose the Department of Energy’s plan to transport nuclear wastes from throughout the country to Yucca Mountain. Here are our top ten.
1. Accomplishes No Reasonable Objective
Yucca Mountain does not eliminate on-site storage of nuclear waste. After Yucca Mountain is full, there will still be 44,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste stored on-site at reactors throughout the country. There will also be 77,000 tons of such waste moving around the US over the next 30 years, traveling from one of 131 sites an average of 2000 miles per shipment to Yucca Mountain. If the purpose of the Yucca Mountain project is to consolidate the wastes, that goal will clearly not be achieved.
2. Provides Minimal Protection
Yucca Mountain itself only provides a small portion of the “protection” that the proposed site promises. The casks that hold the waste are the actual protection, so why Yucca Mountain at all?
3. Creates More Nuclear Waste
Shipping the waste off-site will allow for the nuclear reactors to continue creating more waste long after the contracts for those sites were set to expire, thus continuing the cycle of producing extremely dangerous waste that no one knows how to safely dispose of. The nuclear industry has economic incentives for moving the waste off-site from the reactors.
4. Adverse Effects on Future Generations
The project is a distinct danger to defenseless citizens — not just in this generation, but thousands of generations to come will be affected by this decision. Plutonium-239, for example, has a half-life of 24,400 years, which means that the wastes will remain lethal for some 240,000 years.
5. Earthquake Danger
Yucca Mountain is directly above an active magma pocket and is the third most seismically active area in the United States, with over 600 earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater on the Richter scale in the last 25 years alone. One such earthquake did over a million dollars worth of damage to the US Department of Energy’s own testing facility! The most recent earthquake on July 14, 2002 had a magnitude of 4.4.
6. Fifty Million People Endangered
Routes will move through 734 counties across the United States. The high-level radioactive waste contained in the casks will endanger 50 million innocent people who live within 3 miles of the proposed shipment routes. Hospitals, schools, businesses, emergency personnel, commuters, travelers, and passers-by will also cross paths with the shipments that will move through the country at an average rate exceeding six shipments per day. Community health facilities are not adequately prepared or equipped to deal with mass exposure to radioactive matter. To find out how close your residence or place of work is to the proposed routes, enter your address at http://www.mapscience.org .
7. Terrorist Attacks
The proposed shipments to Yucca Mountain would move along predictable routes through 44 states, and many major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta (daily shipments), Chicago (every 15 hours), Denver (every 13 hours), and Salt Lake City (every 7 hours). They would provide tempting targets for terrorists.
8. Costly Accidents and Limited Liability
For each spill that may occur (one out of every 300 shipments is expected to have an accident) the cost of the clean-up is estimated conservatively at $6 billion dollars. Thanks to Congress passing and repeatedly renewing the Price-Anderson Act, the nuclear industry’s liability is limited. Taxpayers will pay the bill for accidents even if they occur on reactor property.
9. Adverse Impact on Water Sources
Yucca Mountain sits above the only source of drinking water for the residents of Amargosa Valley. The aquifer below Yucca Mountain provides water to Nevada’s largest dairy farm, which supplies milk to some 30 million people on the west coast.
10. Violates Treaties
Yucca Mountain is located on Native American land, belonging to the Western Shoshone by the treaty of Ruby Valley. The Western Shoshone National Council has declared this land a nuclear free zone and demanded an end to nuclear testing and the dumping of nuclear wastes on their land.
It defies reason to expect that radioactive wastes will sit for tens of thousands of years undisturbed by unpredictable nature, by vengeful terrorists, or by human or technological errors in the design of the containment structure itself. The problem of what to do with high-level radioactive wastes warrants additional consideration and resources, including investigation of alternatives to Yucca Mountain. As an interim solution, the wastes should be converted to dry-cask storage and remain on-site where they were created.
1. Jaya Tiwari, “Time Running Out: Senate to Vote on Future of Yucca Mountain Project Soon,” Physicians for Social Responsibility Security Program Activist Update, (June 2002).
2. Western Shoshone National Council, “US Senate Vote Violates Treaty and Tribe’s Basic Human Rights,”(July 2002).
3. State of Nevada-Nuclear Projects Agency, Nuclear Neighborhoods, http://www.nuclearneighborhoods.org .
4. The Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, Office of the Governor, “A Mountain of Trouble: A Nation At Risk,” Volume 1, (February 2002).
5. Michael E. Long, “Half Life, The Lethal Legacy of America’s Nuclear Waste,” National Geographic, (July 2002).
6. Richard Wiles & James R. Cox, “What If…A Nuclear Waste Accident Scenario in Los Angeles, CA,” Environmental Working Groups, http://www.MapScience.org, (June 27, 2002).
*David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
*Marissa Zubia is the coordinator of the Foundation’s Renewable Energy Project.
©KARA Weekly Newsletter, June 2008Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 9 so far )
8 July 2008 – The first power-generating centre using environmentally friendly hydro and solar power has been inaugurated in a Kenyan village 150 kilometres north east of Nairobi by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
Apart from generating electricity, the new centre, in Kibai village in Kenya’s Kerugoya division, promotes the use of Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps to replace kerosene lamps that contribute to respiratory illnesses in children and women who use them on a daily basis.
Kibai villagers have begun using the centre for phone and lamp charging as well as accessing the internet, a rare phenomenon in rural Kenya, where only 10 per cent of the population has electricity.
UNIDO is calling on communities without access to electricity to submit proposals for similar initiatives in Kenya for consideration by international donors.
The project is part of the “Lighting Up Kenya” programme led by UNIDO and other UN agencies with the objective of eliminating kerosene from home lighting, and using electricity for income generation.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 6 so far )
Package Targets River Clean-Ups to Waste Management
Nairobi, 16 June 2008-A wide-ranging new initiative to assist in greening Kenya’s capital city has been drawn up by the UN Environment Programme(UNEP) in cooperation with the government, the city council, donors and UN-Habitat.
Today Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director held discussions in Gigiri with Honorable Mutula Kilonzo, Minister for Nairobi Metropolitan Development, on the way forward which promises improved lives and livelihoods for millions of Kenyans.
The discussions focused on some key aspects of the plan including solid waste management; air pollution improvements; rehabilitation of the Nairobi’s rivers, new thinking on the developments along the river fronts and energy generation from slaughterhouse and other organic wastes.
Full details of the package, which will support the government’s Nairobi Metro 2030: A vision for a world class metropolis, are expected to be unveiled soon.
Mr Steiner and the UNEP team have already held several consultations with both the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Raila Odinga and the Honourable John Njoroge Michuki, the Environment and Minerals Resources Minister in recent weeks which has resulted in a framework for cooperation covering Nairobi and the country as a whole.
Mr Steiner said UNEP and partners were keen to kick-start several elements of the new initiative in close consultations with the Government of Kenya.
“UNEP, in common with Nairobi’s 4.5 million citizens, have watched with growing alarm and concern the rapid environmental deterioration of our host city as a result of persistent and emerging challenges. The loss of these environmental assets can be reversed and indeed must be reversed as they will underpin much of Nairobi’s economic prospects over the coming years and decades,” he said.
“The commitment and resolve of the Kenya Coalition Government now gives UNEP the impetus and opportunity to support that positive change. We are determined, through a combination of financial, scientific and technical support to explore how best to assist in the transformation of Nairobi into a vibrant, healthy and functioning capital city in the 21st century with the lessons learnt available for other developing metropolitan areas in and outside Kenya,” said Mr Steiner.
Some Elements of City-Wide Support
Development of an Integrated Solid Waste Management Strategy: The UN environment body, in cooperation with others including UN-Habitat, wants to assist the city council in up-dating baseline figures-as a prerequisite for implementing the waste strategy-on the levels and kinds of wastes that need to be tackled.
The data is needed in part to inform the re-location of the 30 acre Dandora dumping site which currently receives 2,000 tonnes of rubbish every day to a new 200 acre modern sanitary landfill site in Ruai.
Dandora has been pin pointed as a major health hazard for people living and working nearby and is a key pollution source into the Nairobi river.
Meanwhile, UNEP is looking to commit funding and to raise additional financial support for a master plan for managing and fast-tracking the Nairobi River Basin Project.
This will include developing a vision of how the river fronts of the City should be planned for optimal recreational and commercial use without compromising their environmental integrity.
An estimated 300 points of direct discharge of sewage, heavy metals, oils and other pollutants into the Nairobi and Ngong rivers have been identified. More points are yet to be documented along the Mathare and other rivers, but this sampling alone illustrates the magnitude of the pollution load released into the river system.
One of these sources is the Dagoretti Slaughter House that processes more than 400 animals a day.
Under the initiative wastes will instead be used to fuel a Biogas power plant, whose output has been estimated to have the potential of generating off-grid electricity sufficient for more than 1,000 homes within the immediate neighborhoods.
The Project also includes plans for the rehabilitation of the Nairobi Dam with the first element being an Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed engineering interventions for the restoration works
UNEP has been providing secretariat support to the Nairobi Dam Trust, which is spearheading with others including the private sector the rehabilitation plans for the Nairobi Dam into a healthy and economically important water body.
Notes to Editors
UNEP and UN-Habitat released the City of Nairobi Environment Outlook on 17 April 2007 which underlined the challenges and opportunities facing the metropolitan area.
A UNEP-commissioned report “Environmental Pollution and Impacts on Public Health: Implications of the Dandora Municipal Dumping Site in Nairobi, Kenya” was unveiled on 5 October 2007
For More Information Please Contact
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, Office of the Executive Director, on Tel: +254 20 762 3084; Mobile: 254 733 632 755 or when traveling +41 795 965 737; E-mail: email@example.com
Or Anne-France White, Associate Information Officer, on Tel: +254 20 762 3088, Mobile: + 254 728600494; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
20 May 2008 –Two people from the Maasai community of Laikipia in Kenya are to be given training in documenting and archiving their cultural heritage through a new project launched today by the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).The two people from the Maasai community will travel with an expert from the National Museums of Kenya to the United States for intensive, hands-on training in documentary techniques and archival skills at the American Folklife Center and the Center for Documentary Studies, which are collaborating on the project with WIPO.
“Our goal is to empower tradition-bearers to preserve and pass on their own traditional cultures if they wish to do so while safeguarding their intellectual property rights and interests,” Francis Gurry, Deputy Director General of WIPO, said today.
New technologies provide communities with fresh opportunities to document and digitize expressions of their traditional culture, but these can be vulnerable to unwanted exploitation, according to a statement released by WIPO.
WIPO will also provide the Maasai people with a basic kit of field equipment, computers and software for their own use when they return to Kenya.
The pilot programme announced today stems from a request made directly to WIPO by the Maasai community, and is aimed to empower indigenous communities to manage their intellectual property in a way that corresponds with their development goals.
- Kenya’s Maasai Ogiek Communities to Gain From UN Declaration
- UN Votes on Indigenous Peoples Declaration
The lives of 1,000 young children a day are being lost to disease and poverty in poor countries because of illegal trade-related tax evasion, says a new report from Christian Aid.
It has calculated that this evasion costs the developing world at least US$160bn in lost revenue annually. The culprits are companies using false accounting to reduce their tax liability.
If that money was allocated according to current spending patterns, the lives of 350,000 children under the age of five, 250,000 of them infants, could be saved every year.
The sum is almost one and a half times the amount given as aid to the developing world every year. If the amount that is also lost through legal tax avoidance dodges were added, it would be many times greater.
Christian Aid’s report, Death and taxes: the true toll of tax dodging, looks at the impact of tax dodging, both legal and illegal, on the developing world. It blames the secrecy offered by more than 70 tax havens for widespread abuses, and highlights the role of facilitators, including the big accountancy firms, in promoting their use.
‘We predict that illegal, trade-related tax evasion alone will be responsible for the deaths of some 5.6m children under the age of five between 2000 and 2015,’ says director of Christian Aid Dr Daleep Mukarji. ‘That’s almost 1,000 a day.’
These children, along with millions of other people, are victims of a financial system in which poor countries are routinely denied the tax that is rightly theirs by transnational corporations and other businesses using methods both licit and illicit to lower their tax liability. This revenue would enable governments of developing countries to work their own way out of poverty rather than just relying on aid and debt relief.
‘The abuse is so widespread and damaging that it is tantamount to a new slavery,’ said Dr Mukarji. ‘The rich are getting richer on the backs of some of the most impoverished and vulnerable communities in the world.’
Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week called on global businesses to do more to help developing countries because the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which are intended to halve poverty by 2015, show no sign of being met.
‘The US$160bn lost tax revenues every year is several times greater than the US$40-60bn that the World Bank has estimated will be needed to meet the goals if policies and institutions in the developing world are improved,’ added Dr Mukarji.
Christian Aid says that the British government has a particular responsibility for what is happening as nearly half the world’s tax havens are UK overseas territories, Crown dependencies and Commonwealth countries.
It is calling on the UK government to take an international lead in pressing for reform through the removal of the secrecy that tax havens offer. Companies should also be compelled to publish their accounts on a country-by-country basis, which will mean that abusive practices can be quickly spotted.
Read the full report here.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
It is the 7th anniversary of the pledge by African Union member states to allocate 15% of national budgets to health. In a statement to mark the anniversary, Archbishop Tutu stated:
“The AU Abuja 15% pledge is one of the most important commitments African leaders have made to health development and financing, and our Heads of State should strive to meet this pledge without further delay. The continued loss of millions of African lives annually which can be prevented is unacceptable and unsustainable. Our leaders know what they have to do. They have already pledged to do it. All they have to do now is actually do it. This is all we ask of them.”
Current social development and health indicators from international and African institutions show that over eight million African lives are lost annually to preventable, treatable and manageable health conditions and diseases mainly – Child Mortality, Maternal Mortality, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and TB.
Meeting the Abuja 2001 by African leaders to allocate 15% or more of annual budgets to health is crucial to Public Health in Africa. Yet this pledge remains largely unmet with just two countries, Botswana and Seychelles demonstrating their commitment to the 15% pledge.
The Nobel Prize Winner underlined that:
“While global health is a global responsibility, African leaders also have a moral responsibility to our people. Just as we expect the international community to honour their commitments to global health, we also expect African leaders to honour African commitments”
In a communiqué from its recent Abuja conference released last week and supported by 141 African and global organisations and networks, the 15% Now Campaign called on “Fellow members of African Civil Society, the health and medical community, other sectors of society and global partners to join in building the biggest continental, sub-regional, national and community based movement possible for ensuring that health development financing and budgeting on a needs based basis and the 15% commitment is implemented as Africa’s top social and economic development priority.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The inventor of manual irrigation pumps used by peasant farmers in Africa has won the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability.
Martin Fisher is the co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit KickStart, which develops and markets tools such as the pumps that can help small-scale rural farmers.
Nearly 62,000 people in Kenya, Tanzania and Mali are running profitable businesses by using KickStart’s MoneyMaker pumps.
Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program, says Fisher’s inventions have helped harness the entrepreneurial drive of many Africans.
The Lemelson-MIT Program will announce the winner of its $500,000 prize in June.
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Growing more potatoes could help countries like Kenya to improve their food security at a time of high cereal prices, an agricultural expert said.
Potatoes are a more efficient food source than maize or rice, requiring less land and water than the cereals.
About 80 per cent of the potato crop can be used for human consumption, significantly more than for cereals.
It is estimated that tropical farmers can produce about 20-25 tonnes of potatoes per hectare within 50-90 days of planting, said NeBambi Lutaladio, in charge of tuber crops at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.
“The same area would yield only 10 tonnes of cereal after a longer period of time,” he told Business Daily.
FAO is organising a series of events and conferences this year, which it has designated the International Year of the Potato, to boost research on more productive varieties of potatoes and ways of incorporating them into the food chain.
High cereal prices have already triggered government initiatives to substitute cereal-based foods with potato products.
In Peru, consumers are being urged to eat bread made with potato flour in a bid to reduce food price inflation driven by expensive wheat imports.
Production of potatoes is also growing faster than grains. By 2020, the average annual growth rate of potatoes will be 2.7 per cent, predicts the FAO, compared with 1.8 per cent for corn, 1.5 per cent for wheat and 1.3 per cent for rice.
The growth is particularly strong in developing countries. These accounted for half of the global crop – 320 million tonnes – in 2007, compared with a mere third in 1990.
China has become the world’s biggest potato producer, doubling its output in the last 10 years to 72 million tonnes last year.
But although the potato is easy to grow, making it a valuable cash crop for many farmers, getting access to added value sectors remains challenging. The knowledge on incorporating potato flour into foods is clearly far behind that of wheat flour, said Mr Lutaladio.
More work also needs to be done on linking small-scale sub-Saharan growers to domestic and regional commodity markets and improving the planting material available to farmers.
“We’re encouraging developing economies to create committees to discuss what needs to be done to make the crop more sustainable,” said Mr Lutaladio.
Kenya is the fifth biggest potato producer in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an output of 790,000 tonnes in 2006, according to FAO.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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