Deadly combination highlighted by wildfires

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 23 August 2010

Preveli Crete

Analysis of catastrophic wildfires in Russia and Greece has highlighted a deadly combination of climate change impacts and the neglect of forest management, WWF organizations in the two fire prone countries said today.

In the joint statement, WWF-Russia and WWF-Greece said the catastrophic wildfires that hit Russia during the first two weeks of August awoke the memories of the tragic Greek “black summer” of 2007. Fires have now flared up in Greece, where the national budgetary crisis has seen fire defences downgraded.

“Although the weather did not favour mega-wildfires during June and July, as the 2010 summer ends Greeks witness once more the dramatic ecological consequences of forest fires,” said Demetres Karavellas, Director of WWF Greece.

“Yesterday, we lost to the flames one of the most important forest ecosystems in the Mediterranean, the rare and endemic palm forest of Preveli in Crete.” Continue reading

Russian heat wave worst in 100 years

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 06 August 2010

Speaking to a Russian Security Council meeting on the ongoing threat of wildfires associated with the country’s heatwave and drought, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday (4 August 2010):

View of the smoke generated by wildfires southeast of Moscow. Source: NASA Earth Observatory.

“…our country has not experienced such a heat wave in the last 50 or even 100 years… I want to say that this is, of course, a severe trial for our country, a great trial indeed. But at the same time, we are not alone in facing these hardships, for other countries too have gone through such trials and, despite all the difficulties, have managed to cope with the situation. … Overall, we need to learn our lessons from what has happened, and from the unprecedented heat wave that we have faced this summer.

None of us can say what the next summer will be like. The forecasts vary greatly. Everyone is talking about climate change now. Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past. This means that we need to change the way we work, change the methods that we used in the past.”

A few days earlier, in remarks to a 30 July meeting of the heads of international sports federations, President Medvedev said:

We are in the middle of an unprecedented heat wave…We have never had such record high temperatures before. At times I have the impression that I’m somewhere in Italy or in Egypt, but certainly not in Moscow…Frankly, what is going on with the world’s climate at the moment should incite us all (I mean world leaders and heads of public organizations) to make a more strenuous effort to fight global climate change.

“We will have to take this factor into account in our preparations for the Olympics and other international competitions. I think that we will have to make adjustments for the climate factor, and spend extra money, and this concerns the Winter Olympics too. Very soon in fact I will be meeting right there [in Sochi], as it happens, with the heads of our sports federations representing winter sports. We will need to take what is happening to nature into account.”

Source: WWF

Preparation for Olympics: out of control – WWF

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

Despite a recent visit by the United Nations Environment Programme, preparations for the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia are failing to meet proper environmental standards, according to WWF.

Russian Caucasas. © WWF-Russia / Sergey Trepet

On Jan. 28-30, a UNEP mission visited Sochi to assess environmental impact of preparation for the Games. UNEP representative Theodore Oben “expressed his satisfaction with the steps taken by the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee to fulfil its environmental commitments in venues construction.”

However, WWF and other NGOs, who have been monitoring the environmental damage in Sochi created by construction in anticipation of the Games, were expecting a different outcome from UNEP’s assessment.

Sochi-2014 organizers admitted the poor quality of environmental impact assessments for Olympic facilities as early as on 25 Jan. 2009, but still failed to allocate funding to carry out a survey of those impacts, which means that crucial field data is still lacking, according to WWF. This could lead to serious damage to the Caucasus, a region with the highest level of biological diversity in Russia.

During the visit, WWF and other NGOs also called UNEP’s attention to regular breach of laws for the sake of Olympic construction.

In December 2009, they registered two such breaches: The Russian registration service – without any official government decision or a public discussion – changed the borders of the Caucasian biosphere reserve, a World Heritage site, to allow the building of public road to a resort, and Parliament approved an amendment to the Forest Code, allowing for the cutting of endangered species of trees and shrubs for construction of the Olympic facilities.

“Summing up, we believe that for the time being preparation for the Olympics is out of control, construction is of poor quality, vast damage to the environment has already been made, and NGOs are deprived of the ability to provide independent advice,” said Igor Chestin, WWF-Russia CEO.

WWF is aksing UNEP and other international institutions to publicly withdraw from the process as further involvement would be seen as blessing for the environmentally and socially unacceptable practices.

Source: WWF