Saturday, December 07, 2013
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Nelson Mandela, South Africa's Liberator as Prisoner and President, Dies at 95
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Thursday, November 28, 2013
Monday, November 18, 2013
Fwd: CEC Secretariat advances the Protection of Polar Bears (Canada) and Tourism Development in Gulf of California (Mexico) submissions
Secretariat advances the Protection of Polar Bears (Canada) and Tourism Development in Gulf of California (Mexico) submissionsMontreal, 18 November 2013—The Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has, after a thorough review of the relevant documentation, concluded that a factual record respecting the timely listing of the polar bear species pursuant to Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) is warranted.
On 7 November 2013, the CEC Secretariat issued a notification (PDF) recommending to the CEC Council the development of a factual record on submission SEM-11-003 (Protection of Polar Bears) and now, five working days later, it is authorized to make the notification public.
Submission SEM-11-003 (PDF) was submitted 5 December 2011, by the Center for Biological Diversity (the Submitter), a US-based nongovernmental organization, asserting that Canada is failing to effectively enforce its environmental law with respect to the protection of the polar bear species. In particular, the Submitter alleges that the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) failed to consider the best available information about the status of the polar bear in Canada and that, based on COSEWIC’s recommendation, Canada listed the polar bear as a species of special concern rather than as a threatened or endangered species. The Submitter alleges that the proper listing would have afforded greater protection to polar bears and their critical habitat. Among other alleged failures to effectively enforce SARA, the Submitter asserts that Canada failed to meet mandatory deadlines in making its listing decision.
In its response (PDF), Canada states its position that COSEWIC is not subject to the Article 14 process because COSEWIC is not a Party to the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), and because subsection 15(2) of SARA does not meet the NAAEC’s definition of environmental law. Canada also states that, contrary to the Submission, the mandatory timelines in the SARA were not breached.
Having considered the Submission in light of the Response, the Secretariat finds that there remain central open questions about Canada’s enforcement of SARA, in respect of the polar bear species. The Secretariat considers that a factual record would provide the public with a better understanding of the role of the “best available information” considered by COSEWIC in the SARA listing decision-making process, as well as how the timing of key steps in that process may be affected by other factors. Such factors include the role of land claims agreements and of consultations with Wildlife Management Boards and other bodies.
The Secretariat will develop a factual record if two or more members of the Council—the CEC’s governing body, composed of the highest ranking environmental officials of Canada, the United States and Mexico—so decide. The Council has until 21 February 2014 to vote.
Also this month, on 12 November 2013, the Secretariat requested a response from Mexico in relation to submission SEM-13-001 (Tourism Development in the Gulf of California), filed by the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), Centro Mexicano para la Defensa del Medio Ambiente, Natural Resources Defense Council, Red Ecologista por el Desarrollo de Escuinapa, Amigos para la Conservación de Cabo Pulmo, COSTASALVAJE, Sociedad de Historia Natural Niparajá, Greenpeace México, Los Cabos Coastkeeper, Alianza para la Sustentabilidad del Noroeste Costero, and SUMAR (together, the “Submitters”).
In their submission (PDF), the Submitters assert that the construction and operation of four tourism infrastructure projects on the Gulf of California would have a significant impact on the Bay of La Paz, the El Mogote nesting area, the Cabo Pulmo coral reef, and the Marismas Nacionales wetland. They further contend that Mexico is failing to effectively enforce the Ramsar Convention and the provisions of Mexican environmental law applicable to environmental impact assessment, the protection of wetlands, and the conservation of endangered species.
The Secretariat, in its determination (PDF), requests a response from Mexico in regard to the alleged failures to enforce the environmental law in connection with these projects and, specifically, in regard to: consideration of the best and most complete information available for the production of the relevant environmental statements; the piecemeal consideration given to the projects and the assessment of their cumulative impacts; the failure to implement precautionary, mitigation, and preventive measures; the procedure followed in approving the projects, and the consideration given to technical opinions issued by various bodies. In addition, the Secretariat requests information concerning the alleged failure to exercise the powers to suspend project works or activities and to take measures for the protection of the coral reef located in Cabo Pulmo.
Mexico now has a period of 60 days in which to file its response.
For further information, visit the CEC Submissions on Enforcement Matters website at www.cec.org/submissions.
About the CEC
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) is an intergovernmental organization that supports the cooperative environmental agenda of Canada, Mexico and the United States to green North America's economy, address climate change by promoting a low-carbon economy, and protect its environment and the health of its citizens. The CEC is composed of three bodies: a Council, representing the governments of the three member countries, a Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) that advises the Council and serves as a liaison with the public, and a Secretariat that supports the Council and JPAC and prepares independent reports. The CEC brings together governments, civil society, and businesses to develop innovative North American solutions to global environmental challenges. Find out more at: www.cec.org.
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Friday, November 15, 2013
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Monday, November 11, 2013
Disappearing Dead SeaNov 08, 2013 04:31 pm
By: Tyler Nicoll
With an upcoming trip to Israel, I felt it would be quite fitting to blog about an environmental treasure found there, the Dead Sea. One of the most unique features on earth, it is the lowest point on earth at an elevation of approximately 400 meters below sea level and is the world's saltiest large body of water, with a salinity of just under 300 ppt in the top layer of water and 332 ppt in the lower layer. For the sake of comparison, the Atlantic Ocean, the saltiest ocean in the world, has a salinity of approximately 35 ppt.
The lake's extreme salinity excludes almost all life except some forms of bacteria. While there is a lack of wildlife in the Dead Sea itself, the surrounding region has unique flora and fauna, including endangered species such as the Nubian Ibex, Arabian Leopard and the indigenous Dead Sea Sparrow.
In addition, the water and mud contain over 35 elements including, chlorine, calcium, potassium, magnesium, bromine, sulfur and iodine. The mineral rich mud is said to have many beneficial and therapeutic health properties – a tradition I can't wait to try and not to mention it's just a great excuse to play in the mud.
As a result of impacts from water and mineral extraction as well as increasing development pressure, the wildlife and wetlands in the surrounding area and the Dead Sea itself are in peril.
The Dead Sea water levels are dropping at a rate of more than one meter per year. According to the latest available data on July 1, it stood at 427.13 meters (about 1,400 feet) below sea level, nearly 27 meters lower than in 1977. This is primarily due to increasingly intensive withdrawal for irrigation from the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers, which feed directly into the Dead Sea. The second major cause is the direct withdrawal of water from the Dead Sea used for the manufacture of fertilizer by the Potash Industry in Jordan and Israel. In addition, regional development plans including the construction of new hotels and expansion of industry will further deplete the natural resources. Without drastic changes in consumption rates, a comprehensive development plan, and a feasible solution to the problems this region is already facing, the Dead Sea is on course to dry out by 2050.
The water usage in the region has numerous detrimental consequences. Factories are facing higher pumping costs to extract potash, salt and magnesium out of the Dead Sea as water levels fall. Pumping water directly out of the rivers for irrigation creates a hydraulic gradient which causes an accelerated outflow of freshwater from surrounding underground water aquifers back into the rivers. This will rapidly deplete the aquifers which are an important source of freshwater.
The receding water levels cause buried salt to dry out and also decrease hydrostatic pressure which is needed to maintain a stable shoreline. With this new landscape, when rain water infiltrates the ground, the buried salt dissolves creating soft underground areas. Combine this with the decreased hydrostatic pressure along the shoreline, and there is an unstable situation in which inevitable sinkholes form. The area is becoming treacherous as roads and structures are becoming severely damaged due to the formation of sinkholes and mud. In addition, the receding shoreline has created erosional terraces, which make it difficult and increasingly unsafe for tourists to access the water for traditional or medicinal purposes.
Is there a solution to the sinking sea in an area of rising demand?
A joint Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian plan consisting of a Red Sea-Dead Sea pipeline, a 180 Kilometer long underground pipeline that will carry 2 billion cubic meters of sea water per year from the Red Sea through Jordan to the Dead Sea.
The proposed pipeline is designed so that the downward flow of water goes through a hydroelectric plant that would power a desalinization plant. The brine waste-product from the desalination plant would be discharged to the already saline Dead Sea. This plan will also provide a new supply of freshwater to the water stressed countries, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine.
The plan is seemingly holistic with multiple positive effects but is not without potential adverse environmental impacts. The World Bank held hearings earlier in 2013 to gather public comments on this plan.
The environmental and social assessment, led by the Environmental Resources Management, an international consultancy, indicates that "all potential major environmental and social impacts can be mitigated to acceptable levels" — with one major caveat. If more than 400 million m3 of sea water is added to the Dead Sea, the body of water could be afflicted with algal blooms or the formation of gypsum crystals. However, these effects from the addition of such a large volume of water are difficult to predict. Furthermore, much more than 400 million m3 of water is needed to stabilize or raise the water level of the Dead Sea.
So we are between a rock and a hard place, or in this case a dry and a potentially even drier place. Is it better to do nothing for fear of the unknown effects, or forge ahead with the best plan possible and hope that solutions can be devised as new environmental complications arise? In August of this year, the Jordanian Prime Minister chose the latter of the two options by deciding to press on with the Red-Dead Pipeline project, although some environmental groups continue to reject the project.
The peril of the Dead Sea provides important lessons. We need to increase the sustainability of our society by looking for comprehensive, globally accepted solutions and most importantly realize we live on a planet with finite resources. The Dead Sea is a one of a kind environmental feature and it is in danger of being lost forever, or at the least drastically changed. I hope that many generations after me will continue to have the chance to visit such an exquisitely interesting natural feature.
Dead Sea. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica.
Dead Sea. FoEME (Friends of the Earth Middle East).
Glausiusz, Josie. Environmental Concerns Reach Fever Pitch over Plan to Link Red Sea to Dead Sea. Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group, 27 Feb. 2013.
Liven, Ido. Dead Sea, Red Sea Plan Raises Environmental Hackles. Rappler.
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