Water & Sanitation As A Human Right

waterMANY governments around the world pay only lip service to the problem of water and sanitation thereby denying an essential human right to their populations.  Though governments attest to the importance of water and sanitation as evidenced by MDG on water and sanitation, they make very little investment in the sector. The matter is rarely given prominence on national political agendas.

Water as a human right refers to the human right to safe water and adequate sanitation without which the enjoyment of other essential human rights can be jeopardized.  The availability of safe drinking water and hygienic sanitation facilities can indeed play a key role in the fight against poverty, hunger, child deaths and gender inequality.

According to the UN, over 1,100 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and over 2,600 million have no access to adequate sanitation. To complicate matters, water sources throughout the world are drying up, chiefly due to climate change and the mismanagement of water resources.

Dirty water and lack of sanitation affects mainly the poor, disadvantaged and voiceless in society, that is, women, girls and children.

Approximately, 1,8 million children die every year to diarrhea because of lack of access to clean water, more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. More than 50 percent of the cases occur in Africa and Asia despite the existence of inexpensive and efficient means of water treatment.

 “In the developing world, 24,000 children under the age of five die every day from preventable causes like diarrhea contracted from unclean water,” said Caryl M. Stern, President and CEO, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF at the launch of a report, titled “Diarrhea: Why Children Are Still Dying and What Can Be Done“.  Continue reading

Africa Must Act on Climate Change

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe urged African governments to do more work on climate change which threatens to unravel the lives of millions of people across the continent.

 

Mr. Motlanthe also called on the countries of the world to work in harmony in order to resolve the problem of climate change.

 

“Africa is one of the regions least responsible for climate change, but it is the most affected and least able to afford the costs of adaptation,” the South African newspaper Mail & Guardian quoted him. “”We must act. We owe it to the millions of people who will be directly affected.”

 

The issue of climate changes and its impacts has been the least of priorities for many African countries which are faced with numerous socio-economic and political challenges.

 

In addition, African government lack the financial wherewithal for technical innovation that have often been bandied as the solution to the problems presented by climate change.

 

In itself, South Africa is the largest emitter on the continent and depends on coal for 90% of its electricity needs. Moves to diversify to other energy sources have stalled due to a lack of policy framework and incentives for investors.
 

Mr. Motlanthe was quoted as saying that the problem of climate represented an opportunity to deal with the economic meltdown unraveling across the globe.

 

“As with climate change, this [economic crisis] is largely a crisis that is not of our own making but one which, like climate change, will affect us all and the poorest the most,” he said.

 

“For us in South Africa, the climate change challenge is therefore not only one of climate stabilisation, but it is ultimately also about combating poverty and promoting healthy livelihoods, energy security and sustainable development.”

 

Mr. Motlanthe stressed that the worst impact of climate change could be avoided if the rest of the world took up the challenge and acted in a united fashion.

 

Magic of the Tsotso Stove

According to an old adage, necessity is the mother of invention; it forces people to find alternative ways and tools. In Zimbabwe today, devising skills to survive is the norm of daily living.

As a means to cope with erratic electricity power cuts that are undoubtedly a defining characteristic of the ongoing socioeconomic crisis in Zimbabwe, many Zimbabweans living in urban areas have resorted to using the tsotso stove because of its low labor and energy saving characteristics.

Traditionally, rural as well as low-income households have always depended on fuelwood, which usually chews up loads of firewood, thereby endangering the environment.

However, in urban areas firewood for use as domestic fuel is always in short supply or simply too expensive. Continue reading

Why kicking the plastic habit is good for the environment

No More Plastic

No More Plastic

At food stalls and in supermarkets in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, plastics of all shapes and sizes are dolled out like confetti when you make a purchase of items. The fascination with plastic is so amazing that with a single purchase of several items you can end up with over five plastic bags when less could do.

What is surprising is the plastic bags come at no cost, so customers gladly accept the packaging.

There is no doubt that the plastic bags which are probably handed out in their millions throughout Chiang Mai, and other parts of Thailand come at a great cost to the environment.

In Thailand, as in many parts of the world, the use of plastics is at epidemic levels with serious consequences for the environment. According to www.reusable.com, a website that promotes fighting the massive over-consumption of plastic shopping bags, the world has consumed over 276 billion plastics this year and the number is rising by the second.

Kicking the addiction to plastic bags is one of the single most important positive things that individuals can do to both protect and keep the environment clean. But it appears that it will take the world a long time to rid itself of the plastic habit because there are too many financial interests vested into the continued production of plastic.

Continue reading

Visionary Politics: Saving the Environment for Future Generations

Visionary

Visionary

Political leaders have a key role to play in developing and taking action to combat the world environmental degradation, according to a recent survey of 1,350 professionals in position to make or influence large climate-related decisions in their governments, companies, or other organizations across 120 countries.

The performance of key actors – particularly national governments – has been inadequate to date with rhetoric at much feted climatic conferences over-dominating action states the survey.

Continue reading

Should US Have Higher Environmental Standards?

The US has in the past shown great moral strength, courage and sacrifice to respond to global crises but no so with the imminent threat of global climate change.

 

USA

 

Yet, in order to accelerate global efforts to protect the environment, the US must not only be held to a higher environmental standard than the rest of the world, it must also show greater commitment to a coordinated worldly response.

 

The statistics speak for themselves – the US produces a total of 5,410 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, almost a quarter of the global emissions, according to researchers. This makes the US the world’s leading polluter, making it imperative to hold the country to a higher environmental standard.

 

The impact of US emissions go far beyond its borders, changing climatic patterns in many parts of the world, and disrupting people’s lives.

 

The apparent lack of US enthusiasm to make the world greener is in a word detrimental to the agenda of protecting the global environment.

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Can Bicycling Really Damage the Environment?

Contrary to popular opinion, bicycling can potentially damage the environment due to the increased longevity of people engaged in physical activity, says Karl Ulrich, a Wharton Business School professor. 

Ulrich argues that the greatest environmental peril society may face is the looming prospect of slowing the aging process, and bicycling potentially contributes to slowing aging.

 

Put simply, Ulrich says there is an underlying conflict between human-powered transportation, longevity, and environmental impact, which needs to be highlighted as the world seeks to find green solutions.

 

“The bicycle is a remarkable machine, allowing humans to transport themselves much more efficiently than by most other means. At the same time, physical activity, fitness, and health are almost axiomatically worthy objectives,” says Ulrich.

 

“And yet, the steady improvements in human health and longevity have a tremendous impact on the energy use and environmental impact of the human population.”

 

In a paper titled, “The Environment Paradox of Bicycling,” Ulrich argues that energy savings due to the use of human powered transportation may be offset by the increased energy used by living longer due to better health.

  Continue reading

Why Asia’s Motorcycles Must Go Green

In Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, motorcycles screech, drone, and dangerously define their way through cars, in the process, discharging a wide range of pollutants into the atmosphere and human lungs.

 

Motorcycles in this part of Thailand, as in many parts of Asia, are a basic form of transportation.

 

Motorcycles constitute 70 to 80 percent of the vehicular traffic fleet of Asia. As many parts of the region undergo economic boom, it is expected that the number of motorcycles will continue to grow which will significantly increase the emission of hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide.

 

According to the Environmental Science and Technology Journal, motorcycles produce 16 times the amount of hydrocarbons and three times the carbon monoxide emitted by a conventional passenger car.

 

The impact of motorcycle emissions on the environment as well as human health are severe and given the fact that motorcycles are widely accepted as a convenient and cheap mode of transport, there is little to no action being taken to combat their hazardous emissions either by citizens or governments.

 

In fact, in Chiang Mai, it appears that motorcycles have escaped environmental regulation, and it is not rare that a motorcyclist can be fined for not wearing a helmet as opposed to the amount of emissions that their motorcycle produces.

 

Besides the emission of pollutants, motorcycles also contribute significantly to noise pollution, a factor largely ignored by politicians and policy-makers.

 

A study conducted by the Asia Institute of Technology, Thailand in collaboration with the National Institute of Environmental Studies, Japan revealed that “under business-as-usual conditions, regional emissions of sulphur dioxide are expected to increase fourfold by 2030 over those of 1990; while emissions of nitrogen oxides are expected to increase threefold.”

 

The omnipresence of motorcycles in the region contributes a huge chuck to the environmental pollution in the region and therefore an alternative transportation system needs to be incorporated into the overall, integrated package to deal with the problem.

 

According to an environment engineer with the World Bank, two and three-wheelers constitute three-fourths of the Asian vehicular fleet, and these emit up to 70 percent of the total hydrocarbons, 40 percent of the total carbon dioxide and a substantial part of the particulate pollution in the region.

 

Making matters worse, motor-cycles equipped with two stroke technology are inefficient at combustion and emit hazardous forms of unburnt hydrocarbons, which damage human lungs.

 

Investing in clean technology in indeed a key priority that governments in the region need to put high on the agenda for the sake of future generations.

 

Replacing two-stroke technology equipped motorcycles in favor of four stroke technology can significantly cut emissions in the region.

 

“On average, a motorcycle with a 4-stroke engine consumes 30 percent less than one with a 2-stroke engine. The emission of particulate matter from a 2-stroke engine is 1.0 gram per passenger kilometer whereas it is 0.2 grams per passenger kilometer for a 4-stroke one,” states the Asia Institute of Technology and National Institute of Environmental Studies report titled “Alternative Policy Study: Reducing Air Pollution in Asia and the Pacific.”

 

The report adds that investing in non-motorised, public transport systems can save “significant quantities of energy and reduce pollution levels.”

 

There is also a need for increased public awareness of the damage that is caused by motorcycles to both the environment and human health so that more people can opt for options that are environmentally friendly.

 

A key indicator of Asia’s step towards a greener future will undoubtedly involve taming its wild motorcycle population.

 

And hopefully, in Chiang Mai, as in many cities across Asia, there will be less but clean-technology powered motorcycles weaving their way through the sea of equally clean technology powered vehicular traffic.