Posts Tagged ‘human health’

Four Indonesian provinces, including Riau, declare disaster alerts for forest fires

February 21, 2018

 Image may contain: cloud, sky, nature and outdoor

Smoke rises from a peatland fire in Pekanbaru, Riau on Feb 1, 2018. It is one of 73 detected hot spots causing haze on the island of Sumatra. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA – Four Indonesian provinces – including one that sits at Singapore’s doorstep – are officially on disaster alert after a rising number of hot spots were detected within their boundaries.

Riau, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan provinces have declared disaster alert status, said Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman for the country’s disaster management agency (BNPB), in a press statement on Wednesday (Feb 21). All four provinces are located around the equator, with Riau being closest to Singapore.

The disaster alert status means that the national government in Jakarta will be able to step in more easily and with less red tape to deal with raging fires, deploy troops and provide logistics and funds, Dr Sutopo said.

“The number of hot spots has continued to increase. In the past week, the most number of hot spots was found in West Kalimantan province. Pontianak is blanketed by haze,” Dr Sutopo said.

In the past 24 hours through 7am on Wednesday, there was a total of 78 hot spots across Indonesia, according to the Terra and Aqua satellites, based on a confidence level of between 30 per cent and 79 per cent.

West Kalimantan province recorded the highest number at 23 hot spots, followed by West Java at 14, Central Kalimantan with 12, Riau at nine, Riau Islands and Papua each with four, Central Java three, West Papua, East Java and Maluku each with two, and Banka-Belitung Islands, North Maluku and South Sumatra each with one.

 Image result for Riau, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan , Central Kalimantan, indonesia, map

Indonesian provinces located near the equator are now in their first phase of the dry season, which usually runs from early in the year to some time in March. The rainy season then sets in at these provinces in March and lasts till May before another, more intense dry season from June to September.

“Forest and plantation fires usually pick up in the second (June-September) dry season there,” Dr Sutopo said.

The authorities are stepping up their efforts to manage forest and plantation fires. There will be more land and air operations, regular patrols and tighter law enforcement, Dr Sutopo said. Public campaigns against slash-and-burn tactics and on public health are also being ramped up, he added.

Indonesia is deploying joint forces from BNPB’s provincial branches, the armed forces, forestry agency fire fighters, city fire fighters, and civil security officers, among others, Dr Sutopo added.

BNPB has also kept aircraft ready for cloud seeding and helicopters for water bombing.


Fires raged on peatlands on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, on Nov 1.
Fires raged on peatlands on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, on Nov 1, 2015. Photo: Getty Images


Singapore Central Business District, or CBD skyline is covered with a thick haze.


Image may contain: one or more people

An Indonesian woman and a child walk on a bamboo bridge as thick yellow haze shrouds Palangkaraya on Oct 22, 2015. AFP photo



Pakistan is Better than India When it Comes to Controlling Crop Burning

November 9, 2017

This year, according to reports, 2,620 incidents of crop fire were spotted via satellite in Indian Punjab. In Pakistan, the number was limited to just 27.

Adrija Bose |

Updated:November 9, 2017, 3:04 PM IST

 Image result for crop burning, india, pakistan

Pakistan is Better than India When it Comes to Controlling Crop Burning

New Delhi: The air in Delhi is more toxic than what human lungs can deal with. And Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has blamed it on crop burning in neighbouring states. He tweeted, “We have to find a solution to crop burning in adjoining states.” But have we done anything substantial to find a solution?

Well, it seems Pakistan is doing better than India when it comes to controlling crop burning.

This year, according to reports, 2,620 incidents of crop fire were spotted via satellite in Indian Punjab. In Pakistan, the number was limited to just 27.

Now Pakistan is blaming India for causing an “incursion of smoke”. According to a report in Dawn, the Punjab Environment Department (EPD) has requested the federal government to approach Indian authorities on the pollution issue. They say it has caused smog in different cities of the province, including Lahore. “Crop stubble is also being burnt in our cities but the present and the expected level of burning on the Indian side is alarming,” an EPD official told Dawn.

While Pakistan’s Punjab area stretches to 205,344 km2 with a population of 11 crore, India’s is far less. The Punjab area in India is about 50,362 km2 and the population is 2.7 crore.

Though the problem of crop burning has existed in both the countries for decades, it seems Pakistan has been able to tackle it far better than India.

In 2014, Pakistan wasn’t very far from India when it came to the problem of crop burning. Lahore, along with New Delhi, was listed amongst the top 10 worst cities for smog in that year.

A satellite image from November 2015 by ISRO showed that Pakistan had a near same incidence of farm fires a couple of years ago. Mohan Guruswamy, the chairperson for the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Delhi, pointed this out on Facebook.

These maps show that crop burning has reduced massively in Pakistan’s part of Punjab.

1: As shown by NASA in November 2015


2: As shown by NASA in October 2017


Meanwhile, in India, we are still struggling.

India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) has pulled up Punjab government, saying that even after “two years of being asked to come up with an action plan, they have not done much.”

The bench has asked if Captain Amarinder Singh-led government can produce a single farmer from Punjab before them who can say the government gave him any kind of assistance to stop crop burning.

The farmers in Punjab and Haryana say there is no affordable alternative to stubble burning. “I will set fire to my farm to clear it. If need be, I will pay the fine because there is no other option,” Jitendra Singh, a farmer told News18.

Farmers have to clear the fields and ready them for the winter crop in the window between kharif harvest and rabi planting. The window is of 20 days. The highly mechanized agriculture makes the input costs very high. Naturally, pollution is the last thing on their mind.

A fine of Rs 2,500 per acre can be levied if a farmer is caught burning his farm. But that is very little compared to the cost of any alternative method.

Time for us to take a leaf out of Pakistan’s book?


Thousands of schools close as smog envelopes India, Pakistan

November 9, 2017


© AFP | Low winds and the annual post-harvest burning of crop stubble have caused the levels of dangerous pollutants in the air to spike to many times the levels considered safe

NEW DELHI (AFP) – Schools closed across large swathes of north India on Thursday as pollution hit hazardous levels for the third day, with growing calls for urgent government action to tackle what doctors are calling a public health emergency.Punjab’s government said it was closing all 25,000 schools in the state for the rest of the week due to the acrid air blanketing north India and parts of neighbouring Pakistan.

The decision came a day after Delhi authorities said they were closing all 6,000 schools in the capital until Sunday.

Low winds and the annual post-harvest burning of crop stubble in Punjab and neighbouring areas have caused the levels of dangerous pollutants in the air to spike to many times the levels considered safe.

Figures on the US embassy website showed levels of PM2.5 — the smallest particulates that cause most damage to health — spiked at over 1,000 on Wednesday afternoon in Delhi, though by Thursday they had fallen to 590.

The World Health Organization’s guidelines say 25 is the maximum anyone can safely be exposed to over a 24-hour period.

A government advisory urged anyone with breathing difficulties to remain indoors and said everyone should avoid strenuous activity.

Media reports said the thick smog had also led to a series of road accidents in north India.

Eight students were killed late Wednesday when a truck ploughed into them as they waited for a bus on a roadside in Punjab.

On Thursday The Times of India joined growing calls for government action to curb the chronic pollution, which the Indian Medical Association this week termed a public health emergency.

It is the second year running that Delhi — now the world’s most polluted capital with air quality worse than Beijing — has faced such high levels of PM2.5.

“Delhi once again has become a veritable gas chamber with denizens finding it difficult to breathe,” India’s most read English-language newspaper said in an editorial blaming “political apathy”.

“Air pollution during winter months has become a catastrophe for large parts of north India. It’s high time the question is asked: why can’t authorities enjoying jurisdiction over the national capital of an aspiring great power… come up with concrete measures to tackle the world’s worst air pollution,” it said.

Since 2014, when WHO figures showed the extent of the crisis, authorities in Delhi have closed power plants temporarily and experimented with taking some cars off the road.

But the temporary measures have had little effect.

Delhi’s air quality typically worsens before the onset of winter as cooler air traps pollutants near the ground and prevents them from dispersing into the atmosphere, a phenomenon known as inversion.

The Delhi government is to meet later Thursday to decide whether to reintroduce restrictions on driving cars in the city.

Delhi’s poor bear the brunt of deadly smog

November 9, 2017


© AFP / by Nick Perry | Some streets in the Indian capital have recorded pollution levels 40 times the World Health Organization recommended safe level since Monday, with calm weather and the annual post-harvest burning of crop stubble in Punjab fuelling the crisis

NEW DELHI (AFP) – Rickshaw driver Sanjay can only afford a handkerchief to shield his face from the smog-filled streets of Delhi, even as many residents rush to buy protective masks to combat the toxic menace.

Better off inhabitants of the world’s most polluted capital are swarming sellers of face masks — costing more than the 300 rupees ($5) that Sanjay earns in a day — and high-tech air purifiers that could easily cost his annual wage.

Delhi authorities Wednesday ordered all 6,000 schools to shut until Sunday after choking smog descended on northern India, while people with breathing difficulties have been told to stay indoors.

On top of expensive European air purifiers, inhabitants are turning to nose filters, indoor plants and even yoga to mitigate the crisis.

But doctors say that none of it will be enough to prevent deaths in the metropolis of 20 million people battling a pollution crisis for the second year.

Some streets in the Indian capital have recorded pollution levels 40 times the World Health Organization recommended safe level since Monday, with still weather and the annual post-harvest burning of crop stubble in Punjab fuelling the crisis.

Rickshaw drivers, street vendors and tens of thousands of homeless families endure the full force of pollution that doctors warn can do irreparable damage to the heart, brain and lungs, especially in children.

Sanjay, who like many Indians goes by one name, spends his days waiting for passengers, breathing in the poisonous mist so thick that often he cannot see the other side of the road.

“I don’t have a mask. The masks are too expensive. I have a hankie,” he told AFP, bringing out a cotton square.

He knows however that putting the rag over his nose and mouth does next to nothing against the onslaught of fine particles — so small they bury deep in the lungs — that sear his eyes and throat.

“My eyes are fire,” he said, pulling back an eyelid to expose an irritated, bloodshot iris.

Labourer MK Sharma also cannot afford a smog mask. He thought the scarf wrapped around his face — a method favoured by motorcyclists and street workers — made things “a little better”, but he wasn’t sure.

“It is better than nothing,” Sharma said hopefully.

Rupesh Kumar paid $4 for a cheap, poorly-fitted fabric mask. It was all he could afford. “I want to save myself from Delhi,” he told AFP.

– Yoga cure for smog poison –

Nearby, affluent Delhiites jostled in a long queue to a small shop selling neoprene masks, fitted with a carbon mesh designed to filter out the noxious particles.

Panic rose from the crowd as the vendor lowered the shutters, announcing most sizes had sold out.

“Oh my goodness, you’re finished? This is a catastrophe,” said Sue, an expatriate woman who declined to give her second name, her young daughter by her side.

Those lucky enough to secure a mask ripped open the packaging and put it on their children on the pavement.

One elderly Indian woman looked distressed upon learning a mask cost 2,500 rupees, roughly $40. “This is really too much. I cannot deal with this,” she said, shaking her head.

At a nearby shop, office worker Apurva, covering her mouth with her sleeve, purchased two air purifiers to complement the one already at home.

“Every room needs one because it is that crazy,” she told AFP, referring to the high-end machines that cost anything between $150 and $1,000.

Many joggers and dog walkers in Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens park appeared unfazed, joining the overwhelming majority of residents battling on without masks.

Children played cricket, couples canoodled and men read newspapers in smog so thick that the park’s ancient Islamic monuments were barely visible in the gloom.

One snowy-haired retiree taking a daily walk told AFP he did not worry about the danger for his health because he did not have asthma.

“I can walk without a mask. I am not troubled by this weather,” said lifetime Delhi resident Rammi Bakshi, reflecting a common belief that the winter smog is seasonal.

At India Gate, a towering monument barely visible behind a screen of haze, Pushkal Rai scoffed at suggestions the smog would halt his cricket match.

“We’re spiritual guys, we love yoga, meditation, and this will remove (the pollution) from our body,” he told AFP, adding sugar cane also helped clean the lungs of contaminants.

“We are Indians, we never worry about such kind of things here.”

by Nick Perry

China takes global lead in clean energy

January 6, 2017


© AFP/File / by Marlowe Hood | On Thursday, China announced that it would sink at least $361 billion into renewables by 2020, key to the country’s transition away from polluting coal power

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky, outdoor and nature China — A farmer walking through heavy smog on the outskirts of Beijing, early January, 2017. Credit Lintao Zhang-Getty Images

PARIS (AFP) – China’s overseas investment in renewable energy projects jumped last year by 60 percent to a record $32 billion (30 billion euros), marking its leadership in the global market for clean energy, a report said Friday.

In 2016, China finalised 11 foreign deals worth more than a billion dollars each, and is expected to pick up the pace this year, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

On Thursday, China announced that it would sink at least $361 billion into renewables by 2020, key to the country’s transition away from polluting coal power.

“Renewable energy will be the pillar for China’s energy structure transition,” said Li Yangzhe, deputy head of the National Energy Administration, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Overseas investments last year ranged from lithium battery makers in Australia and Chile to an electricity distribution deal in Brazil and the building of a solar cell factory in Vietnam.

China now owns five of the six largest solar module manufacturing firms in the world, according to the report.

On the domestic front, the world’s second largest economy had already emerged as a renewables powerhouse, outstripping the United States.

China poured more than $100 billion in domestic renewable energy — wind, solar, hydro — and related sectors in 2015, more than double the US investment, according Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“The US is already slipping well behind China in the race to secure a larger share of the booming clean energy market,” said IEEFA director Tim Buckley.

“With the incoming (US) administration talking up coal and gas, prospective domestic policy changes don’t bode well,” he said in a statement.

– ‘Hard to compete’ –

US President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to restore America’s flagging coal industry, and has appointed several fossil fuel executives and lobbyists to key posts in his administration.

China’s emerging dominance of the clean energy sector also extends to jobs.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that China holds 3.5 million of the 8.1 million renewable energy jobs globally, compared to less than 800,000 in the United States.

China’s National Energy Administration said the nation’s renewables sector would generate at least 13 million jobs by 2020.

Ulf Moslener, a professor at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, agreed that China has emerged as “the world leader on renewable energy,” with clear advantages over rich-nation competitors such as the United States and Germany.

“Standard solar modules are no long rocket science,” he told AFP. “It will be really hard to compete with China on the cost side.”

The same applies to wind energy.

But US and European entrepreneurs “should still have an advantage” when it comes to high tech, he added, pointing to thin-film solar, and cutting-edge engineering services as examples.

In 2016, China boosted its overseas influence by establishing the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank.

It is also funnelling billions into the New Development Bank, set up by the BRICS nations Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

All the bank’s initial loans were for renewable energy projects.

Add in its established overseas investment banks, and “China is clearly building the financial capacity to drive global mergers and acquisitions,” the IEEFA report concluded.

In 2015, China overtook the United States as the largest market for electric vehicles, and today two Chinese firms — BYD Auto and battery maker CATL — are challenging US firm Tesla for leadership of the sector.

by Marlowe Hood

India court demands Government anti-smog plan in two days amid “public health emergency”

November 8, 2016


© AFP | Delhi has been shrouded in a toxic soup in recent days as pollution levels spiked after the Diwali festival

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s top court on Tuesday gave the federal government two days to chalk out a plan to tackle alarming levels of smog in Delhi, the world’s most polluted capital.

An environmental body filed a petition with the Supreme Court earlier this week demanding a review of the government’s previous lacklustre attempts to control the pollution levels, describing it as a “public health emergency”.

Delhi has been shrouded in a toxic soup in recent days as pollution levels spiked after the Diwali festival which is marked by setting off ear-splitting — and highly polluting — fireworks.

The air quality generally worsens with the onset of winter, as farmers in neighbouring states burn crop stubble after the harvest and cooler temperatures trap pollutants in a smoggy haze over the city.

The government on Tuesday asked the court for two days to come up with a plan, which was granted.

“Give me two days. We will have a meeting with the environment secretary and come up with a comprehensive response to the problem of Delhi pollution,” India’s solicitor general, Ranjit Kumar, told the court.

On Tuesday morning, the US embassy showed the concentration of PM2.5 — the fine particles linked to higher rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease — at a “hazardous” level of 372, lower than Monday’s off-the-charts reading of 778.

Levels between 301 and 500 are classified as “hazardous”, meaning everyone faces a risk of respiratory effects and should stay indoors, while levels above 500 are beyond the official index.

In a separate hearing in India’s environment court on Tuesday, Judge Swantanter Kumar slammed authorities of Delhi and four of its neighbouring states for not taking action sooner to control alarming levels of pollution.

“What did you do when all this smog was going on and the particulate matter reached beyond prescribed limits?” Kumar said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Delhi authorities have so far responded to the smog by including a ban on setting off fire crackers — except at religious events — and driving restrictions earlier this year.

The Delhi government on Monday also shut schools for three days, banned all construction work for five days and temporarily closed a coal-fired power plant.

Authorities are also considering cloud-seeding to produce rain, a technique Beijing used to clear the air before the 2008 Olympic Games.

DR Congo’s second city poisoned by years of mining

August 22, 2016


© AFP/File / by Bienvenu-Marie Bakumanya | A woman and child break rocks extracted from a cobalt mine in Lubumbashi, the second city of the Democratic Republic of Congo

LUBUMBASHI (DR CONGO) (AFP) – “In this stream, the fish vanished long ago, killed by acids and waste from the mines,” says Lubumbashi resident Heritier Maloba, staring into the murky waters of his childhood fishing hole.

Pollution caused by copper and cobalt mining has not only poisoned the Katapula, a tributary of the mighty Congo River and one of the main waterways in this second city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but has also induced widespread illness.

“High concentrations of toxic metals … cause respiratory disorders and birth defects,” particularly in people living near the mines, said toxicologist Celestin Banza of the University of Lubumbashi.

The damage has spread through acids in untreated waste released into nature, polluting the air, the water, and much of Lubumbashi, a city of more than two million residents in the country’s southeast.

Until recently, Lubumbashi was the capital of Katanga province whose fabulous copper wealth was first tapped by Belgian colonists early in the 20th century.

Last year, Katanga was divided into four new provinces. Mining is prevalent in the two southern ones.

Hindered by neglect during the regime of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko (1965-1997) and in the second Congolese war (1998-2003), the mining industry rose from the ashes of devastating conflict.

Between 2010 and 2014, mineral production led strong economic growth and lifted the country up to the rank of the world’s fifth copper producer and top producer of cobalt.

With demand for cobalt driven by its use in mobile phones and electric car batteries, the trade has come at a dire environmental and health cost for DR Congo.

– ‘Lack of expertise’ –

“Mining pollution in Katanga is an undeniable reality,” admits member of parliament Davon N’Sa Mputu Elima, who served as environment minister in 2012-14.

He says that mining firms put up considerable resistance to a 2009 amendment in the country’s environmental code, which imposed stringent new health and safety requirements.

Such protective measures are often not enforced because of what the MP calls “a lack of expertise” among administrative officials responsible for seeing that mining firms comply.

The public health risks listed by Banza, the toxicologist, also include metabolic disorders, certain tumours, burning sensations in the eyes and the throat, and even “short-term sterility”.

“You get the feeling you’re suffocating as you breathe,” says Viviane Kibwe, a mother of four in a city where mining installations can be located hard by people’s homes, schools and fields.

Plumes of smoke and clouds of dust rise into the air carrying dangerous particles, while used water containing cleaning chemicals and mineral alloys runs off untreated into streams.

A 2012 toxicology study by the Carter Center found that many ailments in the area are indeed the result of prolonged exposure to harmful chemicals.

The foundation set up by US former president Jimmy Carter in 1982 also criticised “several flaws” and “ambiguity” with regard to the treatment of waste in DR Congo’s mining code of 2002.

Eric Monga, chairman of the Katanga branch of the Business Federation of the Congo, counters that sustainable and safe mining practices have become “an ethical rule” observed by companies.

“An approved study on the environmental impact is a requirement before any operations,” he says.

Yet Belgian and Congolese experts carrying out health studies since 2008 find that concentrations of cobalt, copper, lead and even uranium in urine samples “largely exceeded the reference values accepted by the World Health Organization,” Banza says.

This is particularly true among children, according to the professor.

– ‘Nothing has grown’ –

At the Shinkolobwe mine some 150 kilometres (95 miles) northwest of Lubumbashi — the source of the uranium used in the Hiroshima atomic bomb — thousands of people worked for many years without the slightest protection.

Banza told AFP that he plans to publish a new public health report demonstrating that people in the south of the former Katanga are far worse affected by breathing difficulties than people in the north, mainly farmland.

“My colleagues and I have recorded a comeback of cardiac and respiratory diseases, (particularly) among children and women,” says Jean-Marie Kazadi, senior medical expert for the new Haut-Katanga and Lualaba provinces.

Yet many thousands of people work arduous shifts in the mines, desperate to make a living in conditions worsened by a global tumble in copper prices.

The high price of mining is also evident at Kipushi, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) south of Lubumbashi, where savannah abruptly gives way to a broad strip of scorched, barren land where the state mining firm Gecamines used to dump acidic waste.

“For more than 30 years, nothing has grown in this place,” says Mwalimu Kasongo, a retired teacher of 76.

Former minister N’Sa Mputu says several bird species that once thrived in the area have now “disappeared”.

For Lubumbashi resident Maloba, now an unemployed man in his 30s, the childhood fishing expeditions remain a distant memory, with little hope of ever catching anything more in his beloved river.

by Bienvenu-Marie Bakumanya

Indonesia in haze warning as fires flare

August 19, 2016


© AFP | Forest fires in Ogan Ilir, Indonesia’s South Sumatra province

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia warned Friday that haze from forest fires was floating over a key waterway towards its neighbours, and that the number of blazes was rising.

The fires and resulting smog are an annual dry season problem in the archipelago, when blazes are started illegally to quickly and cheaply clear land, typically to make way for palm oil and pulpwood plantations.

But last year’s haze outbreak was among the worst in memory, shrouding Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Thailand in acrid smoke. The crisis forced school closures and caused thousands to fall sick across the region.

While this year’s fires have yet to reach the levels of 2015, the number has been rising in recent weeks as Indonesia heads towards its peak dry season in September.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho warned that smoke had Thursday started floating across the Malacca Strait, which runs between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

“Smoke from forest and land fires in Riau (province) has started to enter the Malacca Strait,” he tweeted.

“Let’s prevent and put out the fires.”

Riau, on western Sumatra island, is a major centre of the palm oil and pulpwood industry, and many fires occur there every year.

He also said the number of “hotspots” detected by satellites — areas of intense heat that are either already on fire or vulnerable to going up in flames — had increased in West Kalimantan province, on Indonesia’s part of Borneo island.

A total of 158 hotspots were detected in the province on Friday, up from 106 a day earlier.

The governor of the province, a centre of the palm oil industry, had asked the disaster agency to provide helicopters for water-bombing and “cloud-seeding”, or chemically inducing rain, said Nugroho.

Indonesia has faced intense criticism from its neighbours and the international community over its failure to halt the annual smog outbreaks.

Jakarta has promised tougher action. It has announced a plan to stop granting new land for palm oil plantations, and established an agency to restore millions of hectares of carbon-rich peatlands susceptible to fires.


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Vietnam: Sewage, Household Waste Drains Directly to The Sea Near Da Nang

August 11, 2016

Da Nang is one of the favorite tourism destinations in Vietnam thanks to its beautiful scenery and luxury coastal resorts.

Vietnam sends sewage to the sea at Da Nang, August 10, 2016. Photo by Nguyen Dong, VnExpress

Thanh Nien News

DA NANG – Thursday, August 11, 2016 10:53

Officials in the coastal city of Da Nang have admitted that household waste has been discharged directly into the sea through a combined sewer system that also handles storm water.
The disclosure came days after local media reported that a large amount of waste had been discharged straight into the sea, near the outfall gates of the city’s apparently inadequate sewer system.
Le Quang Nam, director of the environment department, at a meeting Wednesday said that household sewage has been carried directly into the sea through 29 gates along Nguyen Tat Thanh Street and 16 others on Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Streets.
He said the city uses a combined sewer system, in which household sewage is pumped into the same drains that receive storm water.
The city has installed a couple of sewage treatment plants to deal with the waste. Theoretically, only storm water will be discharged without treatment, but the system has failed during heavy downpours and overflows.
“It has been going on for many years,” Nam said, as cited by news website VnExpress.
He does not reveal the amount of sewage that ends up every day on local beaches, some of the most popular in Vietnam and the region.
People living around Thanh Khe Beach, which stretches 4.3 kilometers with nine outfall gates, said the beach is stinky with all kinds of trash, including dead animals.
Officials have pledged to come up with a more effective solution to tackle the problem.
Da Nang is one of the favorite tourism destinations in Vietnam thanks to its beautiful scenery and luxury coastal resorts.
The city, the third largest in Vietnam, received 1.25 million foreign visitors last year, up 30 percent from 2014.

Dead fish on the beach in Quang Tri province, May 2016. Photo via Tuoi Tre.

Philippines President Duterte — We will honor Paris climate treaty if it is fair to all

July 27, 2016
President Duterte assured the US government yesterday that the Philippines would recognize the agreement of cooperation reached during the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris, France last year as long as it will be fair to all. File photo/TOTO LOZANO/PPD

MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte assured the US government yesterday that the Philippines would recognize the agreement of cooperation reached during the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris, France last year as long as it will be fair to all.

Duterte conveyed the message to US Secretary of State John Kerry, who paid a courtesy call on the President in Malacañang.

Duterte and Kerry later had a working lunch where they discussed major issues, including ways to strengthen ties between the US and the Philippines through the Enhanced Development Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Kerry cited the importance of the Paris treaty.

“They also touched on climate change and Mr. Kerry was helpful in defining certain issues about the Paris pact and the President also responded appropriately when he said that the Philippines will work out just as long as everything is fair,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said after the courtesy call.

Prior to Kerry’s visit, Duterte said the Philippines could not attain its full development and industrialization if it will commit to the Paris treaty, which limits the carbon emissions of developing countries.

Since he plans to put up industrialized areas, Duterte slammed developed countries for putting a gag on developing countries when they wantonly destroyed the environment on their way to progress.

US aid for crime campaign

The US has vowed to provide $32 million to support the Duterte administration’s intensified law enforcement efforts.

Washington’s support for law enforcement activities was one of the topics Duterte and Kerry discussed.

“The US committed $32 million in training and services,” Abella said in a press briefing.

It remains unclear what specific programs will be funded by the US. There is no information also on whether the training will cover maritime law enforcement in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and other territorial waters.

Abella confirmed that Duterte had also briefed Kerry about his crackdown against illegal drugs and crime.

Human rights protection

Kerry underscored the protection of civil and human rights in ensuring a safe society.

He said the US and the Philippines have broader agenda than just the question on the South China Sea.

The Philippines and the US, he said, continue to work together with other countries in the region on law enforcement, regional security and combating transnational crimes like human trafficking.

“I made very clear that civil and human rights need to be protected even as we work to keep our society safe,” Kerry said in a joint press conference with Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. following the Philippines-US Bilateral Meeting held at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Kerry is the first foreign minister to call on Duterte.

The two countries also work together on countering violent extremism.

“Unfortunately, the Philippines is no stranger to the threat of terrorism. This nation has been managing these threats by groups like Abu Sayyaf for some period of time and our nations work very closely in order to counter those threats,” he said.

Yasay said the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty has been a cornerstone of security in the region for decades.

Kerry said the EDCA would not only help to coordinate efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region, but it also allows the US to provide rapid assistance to the Philippines in the event of an emergency. It enables the US to preposition humanitarian relief supplies.

“The EDCA agreement will also expand opportunities for our militaries to train together and that will help modernize the AFP and increase their effectiveness in responding to 21st century threats,” he added.

He said the President committed to Kerry that agreements between the Philippines and the US would be fulfilled and respected. – With Alexis Romero, Pia Lee-Brago…


World’s largest carbon producers face landmark human rights case

Filipino government body gives 47 ‘carbon majors’ 45 days to respond to allegations of human rights violations resulting from climate change

Philippines — Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013. Photograph by Erik de Castro, Reuters

The world’s largest oil, coal, cement and mining companies have been given 45 days to respond to a complaint that their greenhouse gas emissions have violated the human rights of millions of people living in the Phillippines.

In a potential landmark legal case, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), a constitutional body with the power to investigate human rights violations, has sent 47 “carbon majors” including Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, a 60-page document accusing them of breaching people’s fundamental rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self determination”.

The move is the first step in what is expected to be an official investigation of the companies by the CHR, and the first of its kind in the world to be launched by a government body.

The complaint argues that the 47 companies should be held accountable for the effects of their greenhouse gas emissions in the Philippines and demands that they explain how human rights violations resulting from climate change will be “eliminated, remedied and prevented”.

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