WorldScan: April 1, 2003

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Water Forum Failed to Ensure Water for Peace

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 1, 2003 (ENS) - Green Cross International, a non-governmental, non-profit organization founded by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, has expressed its disappointment at the final outcome of the Ministerial Conference held in parallel to the 3rd World Water Forum in Japan late last month.

"The Ministerial Declaration agreed to in Kyoto on the 23rd March is a weak document, with few identifiable new commitments or proposed mechanisms for translating already stated goals into action," the organization says.

Participants at the 3rd World Water Forum were instructed to provide the Ministerial Conference with clear recommendations. During the Forum, the major regional and thematic sessions identified dozens of recommendations for action, commitment, policy change and financing - but the Ministerial Declaration failed to take these recommendations into account.

Other environmental organizations were also critical of the Ministerial Declaration. The IUCN-World Conservation Union says the ministers produced a "watered down" document and called for direct input from the thematic sessions into the declaration.

WWF, the conservation organization, condemned governments at the World Water Forum for their failure to commit to a sustainable approach to ensure adequate water supply and sanitation.

"The public has been badly served by their governments at this forum, who have adopted a ministerial declaration that is a backward step from previous commitments," said Jamie Pittock, director of WWF's Living Waters Programme. "We have to ask how credible a forum like this is when governments do not draw on the 12,000 water specialists gathered together to identify common sense solutions to water problems, but instead continue to promote massive infrastructure as the sole solution to the world's water crisis."

One omission in particular will affect millions of people, fisheries, wildlife and water sources, WWF wanrs. This was the failure by governments to commit to review dam development projects.

The most frustrating omission for Green Cross was their set of recommendations on the theme of water for peace, particularly since the 3rd World Water Forum was held from March 16 through the 23, the week when the U.S. led war on Iraq began on March 20.

Green Cross International and UNESCO shared the task of coordinating the theme of water for peace, based on years of work and research in the field of water conflict prevention and resolution.

At the Forum, experts on the subject of transboundary waters, and representatives from government, the private sector and civil society with practical experience in managing shared water resources and associated conflicts held two days of discussions and presented what Green Cross calls a "concise and realistic set of recommendations" to the ministers.

But the ministers did not mention the peaceful sharing of the world's water resources, or protection of water sources and infrastructure during times of war in their Declaration, only a very vague commitment to "encourage states to promote such cooperation" in transboundary basins.

Mikhail Gorbachev, president of Green Cross International, presented the water for peace recommendations to the Forum. They include:

None of these recommendations are included in the Ministerial Declaration.

Despite the events in Iraq during the week, the strongest recommendation of the water for peace theme, and others at the Forum, to take immediate action to protect water infrastructure during times of armed conflict and from terrorist attack, was also overlooked.

Days later, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations declared a humanitarian crisis as people in Basra and other towns in Iraq face the disruption of their drinking water supplies as a result of the war.

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Poll: Europeans Give Environment Top Priority

BRUSSELS, Belgium, April 1, 2003 (ENS) - The results of a Eurobarometer survey that tested the attitudes of Europeans towards the environment for the first time in three years show that environmental issues top their list of priority issues.

European Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallström released the results Thursday. When asked to indicate which causes of environmental degradation most worried them, 50 percent of those polled said that nuclear disasters ranked highest on their list of concerns; 45 percent said that industrial disasters most worried them.

The results reflect the views of 16,000 EU citizens who were polled last autumn. The survey focused on key questions, including what citizens believe are the main causes of pollution, how confident they are that things can be put right, and what is the most appropriate level for taking decisions on the environment.

Commenting on the survey results, Commissioner Wallström said, "Europeans clearly see the environment as a top priority and want more action at European level. The views expressed in this survey will of course be taken into account in our future policy initiatives on environment matters."

The Eurobarometer Survey shows that traditionally perceived problems, like air pollution, natural disasters, water pollution and the elimination of tropical rainforests, still preoccupy many Europeans and were quoted by between 41 and 44 percent of respondents.

Concern has moved since the 1999 survey. Greece, which now holds the rotating EU Presidency is now the most concerned member state, while the Netherlands is the least concerned.

On the issue of what can be done, opinions among Europeans are equally divided. Fifty percent of respondents said they believed that their actions could help reverse current environmental trends, while the other 50 percent felt that their actions would make no difference.

However, 65 percent of Europeans said that their actions could have an impact if others were similarly committed to taking action.

When it comes to what course of action should be taken, 48 percent expressed a preference for stricter regulations and tougher enforcement, while 45 percent saw better information, increased environmental awareness and greater involvement in the decision-making process as the best way to achieve results. Forty percent of respondents believed that better enforcement of existing legislation is the key.

View the Eurobarometer survey online at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/barometer/index.htm

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U.S. Zoo Import of African Elephants Challenged

SAN DIEGO, California, April 1, 2003 (ENS) - Charging that the San Diego Zoo and the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida plan to import 11 wild African elephants from Swaziland in violation of U.S. and international endangered species laws, an international coalition of wildlife conservation and animal protection organizations has sent formal notice to the zoos, demanding that they surrender the federal permits authorizing the imports or face legal action. The notice, sent on March 26, challenges the import of seven elephants to San Diego and four to Lowry Park.

The 10 to 12 year old elephants are protected by both the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The imports would mark the first time in over a decade that African elephants will be removed from the wild and sold to U.S. zoos for exhibition.

The zoos want the young elephants for U.S. captive breeding programs that will ensure a future supply of elephants - particularly baby elephants, who are extremely popular with zoo visitors - for public exhibition, the coalition says. These captive bred elephants are not intended for reintroduction into the wild. While the San Diego Zoo is paying the modest sum of $85,000 for seven elephants, and the Lowry Zoo is paying $48,000 for four, this is an enormous amount of money in Swaziland.

The coalition - which includes Born Free USA, the Born Free Foundation, The Elephant Alliance, the Elephant Sanctuary, In Defense of Animals, Animal Protection Institute, Animal Welfare Institute and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - also notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of its intent to challenge the agency's decision to issue the permits that allow the zoos to import the elephants.

The groups have given the service until April 2 to respond, before taking legal action to stop the import.

The San Diego Zoo said when it received the permits last September that Swaziland's big game reserves, much like the rest of Africa's national parks, are at their holding capacity for elephants. "Because of this, the elephant group was selected by the government of Swaziland for culling. If the Wild Animal Park does not import them, these pachyderms face death."

The coalition is concerned about the zoos' contention that the elephants will be killed if the import is not permitted. The coalition has provided both the zoos and the Fish and Wildlife Service with a signed letter from a Kwazulu-Natal reserve in Africa that is willing to accept all 11 elephants, demonstrating that there is no basis for the zoos' claim that they are rescuing these elephants from certain death.

The San Diego Zoo claims that these African elephants come from a managed facility, the Mkhaya Game Reserve. But the coalition calls that statement a "misrepresentation." The environmental groups say that the elephants who were captured for the import actually come from the 74,000 acre Hlane National Park, which is adjacent to the Mkhaya Game Reserve in Swaziland, but has not asserted any need to cull elephants.

In fact, the coalition says, there are only about 40 elephants in all of Swaziland.

"This illegal action would set a terrible precedent by creating a new international market in wild elephants for zoos and circuses," said Florence Lambert, of the Elephant Alliance.

Suzanne Roy of In Defense of Animals added, "Rather than promoting conservation, these zoos are encouraging African nations to sell elephants for profit rather than safeguard threatened wildlife. This promotes the elephant trade and undermines efforts to preserve African elephants in their range countries."

But the San Diego Zoo says the world's largest terrestrial mammal "faces a dire future" without the help of conservation organizations like itself. Elephants in U.S. zoos may disappear in 20 to 50 years.

According to the North American region African elephant studbook - a birth record of all captive specimens of that species - the North American African elephant population is no longer self sustaining and has nearly reached a reproductive standstill. Without new genes from elephants coming directly from Africa, the aging North American elephant population will no longer be able to procreate, the zoo says.

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New System Tracks Military Herbicides Used in Vietnam

NEW YORK, New York, April 1, 2003 (ENS) - Between 1961 and 1971, U.S. military forces dispersed over 19 million gallons of herbicidal agents, including over 12 million gallons of Agent Orange, in the Republic of Vietnam.

Millions of Vietnamese and a large number of the 3.2 million American men and women who served in the armed forces in Vietnam in areas defoliated by herbicides such as Agent Orange were exposed, but the health effects still are not fully known.

Now researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health have developed a geographic information system (GIS) to estimate these exposures by analyzing the relationships between herbicide spraying, geography, population, and troop location.

Researchers now have a tool to pursue epidemiologic and environmental studies of exposed individuals, military units, and other entities whose health might be affected by spraying activities.

Co-lead investigators of the study Jeanne Stellman, professor of clinical health policy and management, and Steven Stellman, professor of clinical epidemiology, both at the Mailman School, developed the GIS tool that will allow researchers to generate a quantitative measure and estimate and assign herbicide exposure opportunity scores to troops, locations, and individuals - critical tools for epidemiologic investigations of health outcomes.

What this means for individuals is that now both Vietnam veterans and residents can determine their proximity to herbicide sprays by reducing otherwise complex exposure model calculations with rapid, straightforward arithmetic procedures.

Dr. Jeanne Stellman said, "While Vietnam was not uniformly sprayed, patterns we see are sufficient to justify these studies on military and civilian populations as well as studies of environmental and ecologic damage."

Dr. Steven Stellman said, "Lack of data and exposure models no longer need to be the major impediments they have been in the past to research the health of Vietnam veterans and the Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian people."

The complete findings of the study are published in the March issue of "Environmental Health Perspectives." The abstract is online at: http://ehponline.org/orange2003/

The National Academy of Sciences, as contractors of the research, will be issuing a report to the Veterans Administration with recommendations for next steps and continuing epidemiologic research on the effects of Agent Orange.

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Oldest NZ Conservation Group Celebrates Marine Reserves

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, April 1, 2003 (ENS) - New Zealand's oldest conservation organization has its 80th birthday on March 28. The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand was launched as the Native Bird Protection Society on March 28, 1923.

"80 years is a major landmark for any New Zealand organization and a tribute to years of dedication by members, volunteers and staff. I'm proud of the achievements of Forest and Bird over that time," says Forest and Bird president Dr. Gerry McSweeney.

"Eighty years ago New Zealand's native forests were being clear-felled and burnt, there were no marine reserves and even island wildlife sanctuaries were neglected. Today we see a Department of Conservation working for conservation throughout New Zealand, new marine reserves, a network of island sanctuaries and thousands of New Zealanders involved in the conservation of our unique natural heritage," McSweeney said.

Forest and Bird is pleased with the NZ Department of Conservation's proposal for a 52,000 hectare marine reserve off Great Barrier Island. The proposed size of the marine reserve would make it the largest marine reserve close to the mainland in New Zealand, right on the doorstep of New Zealand's largest population center, Auckland.

"This is a bold initiative that will have great benefits for the marine environment," says Eric Pyle, Forest and Bird's conservation manager. "We have been campaigning for years for more marine reserves and this proposal is fantastic news. Its announcement on Forest and Bird's 80th birthday and the recent announcement of a new marine reserve at Waiheke Island makes for a wonderful birthday treat."

Te Matuku Bay off Waiheke Island is to become New Zealand's newest marine reserve, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced March 25. The reserve spans about 700 hectares from Te Matuku Bay out to Passage Rock islet, and contains a large estuary rare in the Auckland area and under represented among New Zealand's protected marine areas.

"This beautiful Waiheke bay has been a top priorty for marine protection since 1988. It contains an estuary and marine habitats of national significance, and best of all it is close to New Zealand's largest city, and offshore from a significant recreation area," Carter said.

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Australia Spends Millions for Environmental Drought Recovery

CANBERRA, Australia, April 1, 2003 (ENS) - Major environmental work will take place in drought affected communities across Australia now that A$3.3 million from the Howard Government's $10 million Envirofund Drought Recovery Round has been set aside to mitigate the country's record drought.

A total of $3,307,707 in priority funding was approved for 164 projects under the Drought Recovery Round for applications received before the end of January this year. The Drought Recovery Round is one element of the $900 million package of measures introduced by the government to help drought affected Australian communities.

The new funding was announced late last month by Federal Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Ian Macdonald, and Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr. David Kemp.

"This special round of funding involves grants of up to A$30,000 for community groups to carry out on ground environmental work in drought affected areas, some of which is already underway as well as new projects that are about to start," Kemp said.

"These successful projects are aimed protecting and rehabilitating the local environment affected by the drought. Grants range from $605 to replant trees that have died in the drought to $27,273 to grow stock fodder from native species which are growing well in the these severe conditions," the environment minister said.

The $10 million Drought Recovery Round is part of the Envirofund program, a community focused component of the government's A$2.7 billion Natural Heritage Trust. Under the Envirofund, funding is channelled directly to local community groups which have the local knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm to deliver results.

Senator Macdonald said, "With funding from the Drought Recovery Round, land managers are fencing waterways to protect them from damage caused by stock grazing, implementing innovative grazing systems by restricting the area that stock can feed in so other areas can regenerate, and planting trees to stabilize the ground and act as a wind erosion barrier in the longer term."

Other projects focus on water quality, protecting native vegetation, and preventing salinity and coastal erosion.

The remaining $6.7 million of funding from this special Drought Recovery Round will be announced soon, the ministers said.

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Firms, NGOs Build Partnerships in Developing Countries

LONDON, UK, April 1, 2003 (ENS) - Executives from corporations and nongovernmental organizations will gather to discuss the practical management of partnership building in developing countries at the Ethical Corporation Europe 2003 conference on April 10 in London.

Taking part in the debate are Rio Tinto, Dow Chemical, Telefonica, Norsk Hydro, Bayer AG, Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, WWF, and other experts in the field.

"Effective corporate contributions to partnerships in developing countries have never been more important to both company reputation and to the lives of those their operations can impact on" said "Ethical Corporation" magazine editor and event organizer Tobias Webb.

"Many of the world's leading companies are realizing the power of their logistics operations in contributing to successful partnerships for development with both NGOs and government departments," said Webb.

A panel discussion on good practice in developing corporate, governmental and NGO partnerships will cover tips on good practice as well as the key challenges that arise.

Speakers for the session include Andrew Vickerman, head of communication and sustainable development for Rio Tinto, Martina Bianchini, director of EU government affairs and public policy for the Dow Chemical Company Europe, Robert Napier, chief executive of WWF-UK, Michael Warner, research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute, and Deepa Ruparel, business program coordinator for International Resources for Fairer Trade, based in Mumbai, India.

The conference participants will hear keynote addresses from MTV Networks president Bill Roedy and Shell Chemicals executive vice president James Smith.

Details on the sessions and speakers can be found at: http://www.ethicalcorp.comeurope2003