Pollution killing endangered turtle

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 05 March 2011

Hundreds of people are working around the clock to clean up a lake in the heart of Vietnam’s capital in hopes of saving a rare, ailing giant turtle that is considered sacred.

Only 4 giant freshwater turtles are believed to be alive worldwide

Experts say pollution at Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake is killing the giant freshwater turtle, which has a soft shell the size of a desk. It is one of the world’s most-endangered species, with only four believed alive worldwide.

Teams of people are cleaning debris, pumping fresh water into the lake and using sandbags to expand a tiny island to serve as a “turtle hospital”. The rescuers may even try to net the animal for the first time as part of the effort.

The Hoan Kiem turtle is rooted in Vietnamese folklore, and some even believe the creature that lives in the lake today is the same mythical turtle that helped a Vietnamese king fend off the Chinese nearly six centuries ago.

It swims alone in the lake and in the past has been glimpsed only rarely sticking its wrinkled neck out of the water. But it has recently surfaced much more frequently, alarming the public with glimpses of raw open wounds on its head and legs. Continue reading

2010 – The International Year of Biodiversity

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 20 September 2010

South Africa is considered among the top five most mega-diverse countries in the world, boasting almost 10% of the world’s known bird, fish and plant species and over 6% of the world’s mammal and reptile species contained on a land surface of only 1,1 million square kilometres (1% of the Earth’s total land area).

To highlight the crucial role nature’s rich diversity plays in our lives, the United Nations (UN) has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB-2010).

Tswaing Crater,about 40 km north of Pretoria, is extraordinarily rich in fauna and flora.

According to the UN Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, biodiversity (the variety of life on Earth), is essential to sustaining the living networks and systems that provide us with health, wealth, food, fuel and the vital services our lives depend upon.

The Convention, of which South Africa is a signatory, covers all ecosystems, species and genetic resources, linking traditional conservation efforts to economic goal of using biological resources sustainably, setting principles for the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from use of genetic resources, notably for commercial use and covering rapidly expanding field of biotechnology, and addressing technology development and transfer, benefit- sharing and biosafety.

Unfortunately, South Africa’s increased population growth, habitat destruction, overexploitation, pollution and the introduction of invasive alien species are all placing increasing pressure on our natural systems.

This holds particularly true for South Africa’s freshwater ecosystems, with the 2006 South Africa Environment Outlook indicating that 82% of the country’s main river ecosystems are threatened. Continue reading

SA dams: a rapidly worsening water crisis

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 27 June 2010

By Bill Harding, a limnologist (aquatic sciences), who has been involved with issues to do with SA dams since the ’70s

South Africans will be aware that our country is not blessed with abundant rainfall, with an average of only 450mm a year, compared with the global average of 860mm a year.

Without substantial supplies of underground water, we rely heavily on water that is stored in dams. Our reliance on stored water is rendered critical by population growth and industrial expansion. Water resources per capita of population are dwindling.

Brandvlei Dam. Pressure on many dams is increasing, with a considerable portion of their inflows made up of wastewater effluents and urban runoff.

At the same time, pressure on many dams is increasing, with a considerable portion of their inflows made up of waste-water effluents and urban runoff.

The Department of Water Affairs and Environment manages 574 dams, of which 320 are major dams, each holding more than a million cubic metres of water. From this storage, irrigation uses 62%; urban and domestic use equals 27%; and mining, industry and power generation absorb 8%. Commercial forestry utilises 3%.

Evidence suggests that the quality of about 35% of the storable volume is already severely impaired – and nearly all of this in the economic heartland of Gauteng. Water quality is in fact poorest in the areas with lowest runoff and highest contribution to GDP.

Insidious and sinister changes are appearing in some dams, completely unnoticed by routine monitoring programmes. From this it may be reasonably assumed that SA would possess a national programme for reservoir management.

In recent months there have been many reports referring to a water crisis, mentioning the extreme levels of pollution in most Gauteng dams. Continue reading

Demand management to meet India and China’s huge water needs

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 31 May 2010

A fight breaks out as student Vikas Dagar jostles with dozens of men, women and children to fill buckets from a truck that brings water twice a week to the village of Jharoda Kalan on the outskirts of New Delhi.

Wei River

Several thousand kilometres away, in central China, power-plant worker Zhou Jie stands on the mostly dry bed of the Wei River, remembering when he used to fish there before pollution made the catch inedible. Dagar and Zhou show the daily struggle with tainted or inadequate water in India and China, a growing shortage that the World Bank says will hamper growth in the world’s fastest-growing economies.

It also pits water-intensive businesses such as Intel’s China unit and the bottling plants of Coca-Cola against growing urban use and the 1.6 billion Chinese and Indians who rely on farming for a living.

“Water will become the next big power, not only in China but the whole world,” said Li Haifeng, the vice-president at sewage-treatment company Beijing Enterprises Water. “Wars may start over the scarcity of water.”

Water demand in the next two decades will double in India to 1.5 trillion cubic metres and rise 32 percent in China to 818 billion cubic metres, according to the 2030 Water Resources Group, a research collaboration between the World Bank, management consulting firm McKinsey & Company and industrial water users such as Coca-Cola. Continue reading

India now worlds 5th biggest polluter

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 12 May 2010

India is the world’s fifth-biggest polluter, a new study confirmed on Tuesday, with its greenhouse gas emissions growing by more than 3 percent annually between 1994 – 2007.

Ganges River pollution

The Asian giant is also suffering from the effects of global warming such as rising temperatures and sea levels along its coasts. The study represents the first update to an assessment of India’s air emissions that was done 16 years ago. More than 80 scientists from 17 institutions across India were involved in the study, said Jairam Ramesh, India’s environment minister.

The sectors that showed the most significant annual growth in emissions were cement production, 6 percent; electricity generation, 5,6 percent; and transport, 4,5 percent, said the study, which was released by India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests.

India’s per capita carbon dioxide emissions were roughly 1 360 kilograms in 2007, according to the study. That’s small compared to China and the US, with 4 763 kilograms and 19 278 kilograms respectively that year. The study said that the European Union and Russia also have more emissions than India.

Still, pollution is causing India’s environment to erode significantly, the study said, underscoring the need for India to take action. Continuous warming and the changing rainfall pattern “may jeopardise India’s development by adversely impacting the natural resources such as water, forests, coastal zones and mountains on which more than 70 percent of the rural population is dependent,” the study said.

Temperatures in India, which already suffers from economically debilitating heat and drought, could rise by 2 to 4 degrees Celsius (3,6 F to 7,2 F) by 2050, the study said. In addition, the study says, India’s coastal waters have risen between 1,06 and 1,25 millimetres per year over the last four decades, the study said, threatening life along the coasts.

UN scientists says greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide – emitted mostly by burning fossil fuels for electricity and transportation – are causing climate change that threatens potentially catastrophic environmental damage such as floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

A conference in Copenhagen in December failed to reach a new legally binding treaty after two years of UN-sponsored negotiations.

Last week, some 40 nations agreed to take individual steps to fight global warming but made little progress during a three-day meeting near Bonn, Germany, toward a new international climate change treaty.

– Sapa