10/18 EnviroWatch: EPA, 'Chemical Killers', AIDS, Hunger
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1) Judge: Forest Service Violated EPA (Assoicated Press)
2) UN Conference in Bonn to Curb 'Chemical Killers' (IPS)
3) Poor Countries Step up to AIDS Fight - With Empty Pockets (IPS)
4) Water Increasingly Scarce, But Vital in Hunger Fight - FAO (IPS)
5) UN says Southern African Suffering 'AIDS Famine' (IPS)

1) Judge: Forest Service Violated EPA
.c The Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - A federal judge has ruled the Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act by permitting overgrazing on 11 national forests in Arizona and New Mexico.

U.S. District Judge Raner Collins issued a summary judgment Wednesday, deciding that the Forest Service presented no evidence of merit in its defense. But the case remains partially undecided because Collins ordered the agency and the environmentalist plaintiffs to propose solutions for the overgrazing.

Ranchers fear the final outcome would put them out of business, said Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association.

Forest Guardians director John Horning said the Forest Service failed to protect Mexican spotted owl habitat on 80 percent of ranching allotments.

``This landmark ruling will require the Forest Service to go back to the drawing board and do a better job of protecting endangered wildlife from livestock caused damage to streams and grasslands,'' Horning said.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bruce King, a rancher from Stanley, said barring cattle from forest allotments during drought would be unfair.

``We can't take the cows out of the forest,'' King said. ``We have nowhere else to go, and they have always had those forest permits.''

Horning said grazing standards established by the Forest Service in 1996 were designed to protect owl habitat. Grazing threatens the owl, he said, by reducing the amount of the owls' favorite prey, degrades vegetation along streams and slows the growth of favorable habitat.

Cowan said the Forest Guardians plan is ``putting people out of business and removing them from the rural areas of New Mexico and Arizona.

``If they do that, they will remove the fabric of rural lifestyle and the custom and culture that these two states were founded on,'' she said.

Collins' 13-page ruling says the Forest Service should have implemented the 1996 grazing plan years ago. Since it didn't, he said, ``the Forest Service is not in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.''

10/19/02 05:07 EDT

2) UN Conference in Bonn to Curb 'Chemical Killers'
Ramesh Jaura

BONN, Sep 30 (IPS) - Government officials and experts from some 100 countries began a five-day conference here Monday to curb the harm done to human health and environment in the developing world, by pesticides and industrial chemicals, also known as chemical killers.

One such chemical killer used extensively in many developing countries to control insects and spider mites on cotton, citrus, rice, maize and other crops, is monocrotophos. It is actively traded and is manufactured by more than a dozen firms, almost all in Asia.

Like other insecticides that contain toxic organophosphates, monocrotophos poses an acute hazard to hundreds of thousands of farm workers, mainly in developing countries where the lack of protective clothing and appropriate application equipment makes it more likely that people will come in direct contact with chemicals.

Medical effects include nausea, diarrhoea, blurred vision, and, in severe cases, respiratory depression, convulsions and death.

Monocrotophos is also highly toxic to birds and mammals. Studies suggest that over the 25 years monocrotophos was used in Hungary it caused more damage to wild birds than did any other pesticide.

The inter-governmental conference Sep 30 to Oct 4 in Germany's former capital, now a UN city, is expected to decide in favour of adding all formulations of monocrotophos to a list of 26 pesticides and five industrial chemicals that are subject to the prior informed consent procedure under the Rotterdam Convention.

According to conference sources, the decision would be facilitated by the fact alternatives to this pesticide exist for each combination of pests and crops now targeted.

"Ensuring that no country will import this dangerous pesticide without full knowledge of the risks involved is a vital first step to preventing any further poisonings," says Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), based in Nairobi, Kenya.

"Thanks to the Rotterdam Convention, we now have an effective system in place for avoiding many of the deadly mistakes made in past decades when people were more naïve about the dangers of toxic chemicals."

The Rotterdam Convention, agreed in 1998, makes it legally binding on exporters trading in a list of toxic substances to obtain the "prior informed consent" (PIC) of importers before proceeding with the trade.

The Rotterdam Convention gives importing countries the tools and information they need to identify potentially hazardous chemicals and to exclude those they cannot manage safely. It also requires countries not to export chemicals against the decisions of importing countries.

When trade is permitted, requirements for labelling and providing information upon export on potential health and environmental effects reduce the risk associated with the use of the chemicals.

The Convention has been signed by 72 governments, plus the European Union, and has thus far been ratified by 33 countries; it will enter into force 90 days after the 50th ratification.

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg countries agreed to promote ratification and implementation of the Rotterdam Convention so that it can enter into force by 2003. In the interim, governments have agreed to apply the prior informed consent provisions of the Convention on a voluntary basis.

The original Convention list included 22 pesticides and 5 industrial chemicals. Since then, four pesticides have been added. Monocrotophos would therefore become the 32nd chemical on the list if governments agree this week to list it.

The Bonn conference is officially termed as the Ninth Meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.

"Agriculture cannot do fully without pesticides. However, the uncontrolled marketing and selling of highly toxic pesticides like monocrotophos poses serious risks to poor farmers in developing countries," says Louise Fresco, assistant Director-General of the agriculture department of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Controlling the monocrotophos pesticide would be a major achievement in itself, but it also highlights concerns over the broader problem of cheap and highly toxic organophosphates, says Germany's Reiner Arndt, who chairs the Interim Chemical Review Committee, a scientific body of the Rotterdam Convention.

"Originally produced in a developed country, these pesticides are often widely manufactured after the patent expires, and use continues despite growing evidence of illness and death," says Arndt.

"Imposing trade controls on monocrotophos would therefore reconfirm the right to make trade judgments on the basis of how a pesticide is actually used in the field, rather than on the basis of the manufacturer's instructions," he adds.

According to UNEP, some 70,000 different chemicals are available on the market today, and 1,500 new ones are introduced every year. This poses a major challenge to many governments who must attempt to monitor and manage these potentially dangerous substances. Many pesticides that have been banned or whose use has been severely restricted in industrialized countries are still marketed and used in developing countries.

3) Poor Countries Step up to AIDS Fight - With Empty Pockets
Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 (IPS) - Despite a strong political boost by world leaders, the global fight against HIV/AIDS is being seriously undermined by a severe shortage of resources, says a U.N. report released here.

The good news is that in several countries - including Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Jamaica, Bangladesh and Ukraine - political leaders are spearheading the fight against AIDS.

But the bad news, according to the United Nations, is that their campaign is being thwarted by lack of resources from international donors.

''In most countries where major progress against HIV/AIDS is reported, strong political leadership is a central feature,'' says a 20-page report by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Annan says that more political leaders in all regions of the world are now speaking openly about HIV/AIDS and the need for ''an aggressive response''.

Nigeria has launched a major effort to increase HIV/AID awareness nation-wide; Indonesia has started a national movement against the disease, while China hosted its first national conference against AIDS last November.

The two legislative chambers in Jamaica held a joint session last year specifically focusing on the spreading disease.

The president of Bangladesh is personally leading the country's response while Ukraine has identified 2002 as the ''Year Against Aids''.

By the end of last year, 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa had developed strategies against AIDS, while 19 countries in that region now have national AIDS councils, compared with three bodies two years ago.

HIV/AIDS has also been an important agenda item at key political gatherings this year, including the Group of Eight summit in Canada, the World Economic Forum in New York and the International Conference on Financing for Development in Mexico.

But all these efforts, Annan complains, are being undermined by a shortage of external funding. Only a few of the hardest hit countries can afford to spend out of their overburdened national budgets.

One of the few exceptions, he says, is South Africa, which has tripled its investment in HIV/AIDS programmes to 89 million U.S. dollars, with spending projected to reach nearly double that level by 2004.

Uganda, which also has a successful anti-AIDS campaign, is planning to increase spending on HIV-related research and development by 25 percent by 2006.

UNAIDS, the joint U.N. agency fighting AIDS, says that spending in low and middle-income countries from all sources - national budgets, bilateral and multilateral assistance, and the private sector - has increased by more than 50 percent in 2002, to a projected 2.8 billion dollars.

But many countries report that their heavy debt burden impedes their ability to spend on HIV/AIDS, Annan said, pointing out that "even where HIV infection rates are escalating, HIV/AIDS programmes are sometimes unable to compete for adequate allocations, given other priorities''.

But Annan's biggest grouse is the lack of international response. In January 2002, he established a 'Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria'.

The projected target was about 10 billion dollars annually, through 2005, to combat all three diseases on a global scale.

Last week the board of directors of the Fund released updated figures on the cost of mounting a global response to HIV/AIDS.

The new estimates project that financial needs will continue to increase significantly, and that by 2007, some 15 billion dollars a year will be needed to successfully combat AIDS.

But to date, the Fund has generated only about 2.1 billion dollars, mostly in pledges, reflecting a shortfall of over 7.9 billion dollars in the short term and about 12.9 billion dollars in the long term.

In its first round of disbursements last April, the Global Fund approved 58 out of 300 requests for funding, mostly for anti-AIDS retroviral drugs.

The 58 proposals, amounting to 1.6 billion dollars over the next five years, came from 40 developing countries.

An estimated two-thirds of the money allocated was earmarked to fight HIV/AIDS while the remainder was for TB and Malaria.

The United Nations has also complained that the flow of funds pledged has been very slow. Of the 2.1 billion dollars in pledges, only about 500 million dollars has been credited to the Fund by donors.

The pledges have come from countries such as the United States, Canada, Britain, France and also from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Stephen Lewis, U.N. special adviser on AIDS in Africa, says that there's been no money for months. ''We're really in trouble unless it gets turned around''.

4) Water Increasingly Scarce, But Vital in Hunger Fight - FAO
Gustavo González

SANTIAGO, Oct 15 (IPS) - Water around the globe is increasingly scarce, meaning more efficient use of this resource is essential in the fight against hunger, which affects at least 840 million people worldwide, says the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on the eve of World Food Day.

"Water: source of food security", is the theme that the FAO, a United Nations agency, has chosen for the annual celebration, Wednesday, marking the anniversary of the organisation's founding on Oct 16, 1945.

"The choice of this theme is an attempt to highlight the role water plays in nutrition, not only in human health, but in the quantity of food available," said Belgian expert Jan Van Wambeke, top official for Land and Water Development at FAO's Latin American office, based in the Chilean capital.

Seventy percent of the water used in the world today goes towards food production that sustains human activity. Within 30 years, 60 percent more food will be needed to cover the nutritional demands of the planet's growing population, according to the figures Van Wambeke cited.

Faced with this critical outlook for 2030, the FAO proposes increasing agricultural productivity, which would require seed improvement, increasing soil fertility and applying advanced farming technologies.

But improving the management of crop irrigation systems is also important. This can be achieved, says the UN agency, through more efficient use of water, a resource that on the one hand might appear to be abundant, but is limited by distribution and the tendency towards scarcity arising from increased competition between domestic and industrial consumers.

"If one equates the quantity of water existing in the world with a 100-litre barrel of water, the water that is really available today for agricultural, human and industrial use would be the equivalent of a teaspoon," said Van Wambeke.

The great volume of water existing on Earth, but impossible to utilise, is the saltwater of the seas and oceans, the water frozen in glaciers and at the poles, other inaccessible sources, "as well as the volume of contaminated water, which is cause for particular concern," said the FAO official.

Another aspect to consider is the unequal distribution of water resources, although Latin America is favoured by the relatively high average precipitation rates across the continent, and the existence of broad networks of rivers and lakes.

However, this does not prevent severe water shortages from occurring in places like Haiti or in the desert areas of northern Chile and Argentina.

Figures from 1999 indicate that Asia irrigated 42 percent of its cultivated land, while in the Middle East and Africa the portion was 31 percent, and in Latin America and Caribbean was 14 percent. Sub-Saharan Africa, the region where the scourge of hunger is the worst, only four percent of cultivated land was irrigated in 1999.

Van Wambeke underscored the direct relationship between endemic poverty and the lack of access to water, particularly in isolated rural areas and in urban settlements of indigent families.

Water management occupies a prominent place on the FAO agenda for 2003, which the UN has declared "International Year of Freshwater".

Furthermore, the third World Water Forum is slated to take place in Japan next year, under the auspices of the UN.

Food security, defined as satisfying the human population's basic nutritional needs, is a moral imperative, but also a difficult goal to achieve, making the rational and efficient use of water ever-more essential, according to the FAO.

Van Wambeke pointed out the five principal water-related issues that the FAO says must be taken into account.

The first is its relationship to sustainable rural development and poverty alleviation in a world in which 1.1 billion people -- a full one-fifth of the Earth's human population -- does not have access to clean water.

The second issue is improving the productivity of water in agriculture -- currently 70 percent of available water resources -- as a means to improve the output, revenues and standard of living for farmers and to curb their emigration to the cities.

Increasing farm production per unit of water poses some technical challenges, said Van Wambeke, listing to-scale irrigation systems, improved practices that rely only on rain, and conservation of soil humidity.

But it also implies social aspects, in which community participation is crucial, he added.

The third area of concern is risk-management in agricultural use of water, preparing for drought, flooding and other natural disasters.

"It means seeking an appropriate distribution of water at the right time, reducing the risks caused by climatic variations," said the FAO expert.

Modernising irrigation systems is the fourth concern, and is linked to the previous points, as the construction of reservoirs or use of drip-irrigation methods allow storage of water to be utilised later in case of drought, for example.

The last issue, said the FAO expert, focuses on incorporating the environmental costs in the management of water resources. The UN agency recommends that countries establish systems that compensate consumers, particularly farmers and industries, that implement water conservation methods. (END/2002)

5) UN says Southern African Suffering 'AIDS Famine'
Haider Rizvi

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 26 (IPS) - The United Nations renewed its appeal Thursday for immediate food and relief supplies to save the lives of millions of people in sub-Saharan African facing death from starvation and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Shocked by the horrors caused by the disease and the continuing famine in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, senior U.N. officials who recently returned from the region say over 14 million people risk starving.

"The crisis is accelerating at a much faster pace than we had anticipated," James Morris, head of the World Food Program (WFP) told journalists at a news briefing. "There is a crisis within the crisis. The HIV/AIDS crisis is enormous."

The United Nations is urging industrialised countries and donors to come up with 611 million dollars for food and other life-sustaining support. Currently, officials say, they have only 40 percent of what they need for food.

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) says that today more than 28 million people in the region - most of them youth - are living with HIV/AIDS.

In July, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 300,000 people would die in the area by the end of the year.

Officials say the spread of AIDS is a leading factor in the decline in agricultural production, as the disease has infected millions of farmers.

Millions of people are now forced to eat seed grain that should be used for planting, a cause of malnutrition that leaves them vulnerable to disease.

"This is an AIDS induced famine," Stephen Lewis, the U.N. secretary general's special envoy in Africa told an international gathering of women on Wednesday. "There are no women left to till the land."

The WFP chief agrees.

"Millions of children are condemned to head their household because their parents and grandparents have died," said Morris, who recently returned from the region.

The devastation has left behind over four million orphans in the region, dramatically changing life in the six countries, particularly in the area of education.

Lewis, a Canadian national who spent several years in Africa, points out that more than a million children have lost their teachers to AIDS, a phenomenon that accelerates the declining rates of primary education.

When education is available, it is increasingly out of reach for poor families because of tuition charges introduced by many governments as a condition to receive loans under the World Bank's structural adjust programme.

Both Morris and Lewis said AIDS infections have disproportionately hit young women between the age of 15 and 24.

The latest UNAIDS figures show that six million of the nearly nine million young people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are women.

Last year, a study by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University warned that infections would continue to spread to younger age groups as men choose increasingly younger partners.

Millions of young women lack information and knowledge about HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it, while they remain vulnerable to rape and forcible marriages to older men infected with the disease.

"AIDS has a woman's face in sub-Saharan Africa," says Lewis who says gender inequality is a fundamental reason for the AIDS epidemic. "There is a need for an unbridled campaign for gender equality," he adds.

"The U.N. itself has to monitor this campaign in Africa and elsewhere in the world."

Last year, Secretary General Kofi Annan established a global fund for AIDS and other deadly diseases and asked governments and international donors to pledge 10 billion dollars to fund it. Till now, the U.N. has received a little more than two billion dollars.

"It's a moral lapse," says Lewis. "When three thousand people died on Sep. 11, the world raised 100 billion dollars. Last year two million people died in Africa," he continued. "There is something wrong here."


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