WorldScan: August 13, 2002

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SOS Planet Campaign for World Summit

GLAND, Switzerland, August 13, 2002 (ENS) - WWF, the conservation organization, has opened a website which allows visitors to send their personal SOS Planet messages to world leaders about actions that must be taken to protect the Earth.

Activated in advance of the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, the campaign includes television and print advertising alerting global audiences to the urgent need for action,

"SOS Planet is a wake-up call to world leaders letting them know that people around the world want them to act now," said Claude Martin, director general of WWF.

As part of its SOS Planet campaign, WWF is sponsoring a concert in the Johannesburg Stadium on August 23 - SOS PLANET: A Concert for People and the Environment, which will be part of the summit's opening ceremonies.

Artists performing include: Mandoza of South Africa, and Jabu Khanyile of South Africa, Salif Keita of Mali, Femi Kuti of Nigeria, The Pretenders of the UK, Siamoon of Germany, DJ Jean of the Netherlands and Kane of the Netherlands, and Mumiy Troll of Russia. Through this concert, WWF expects to reach the youth with messages of hope and a call to action.

"With governments being slow and reluctant to commit to any concrete action to secure sustainable development, alleviate poverty and agree measures to save the environment, WWF gives people from around the world the opportunity to urge world leaders to take action now," said Martin.

Energy and freshwater are issues of utmost concern for WWF at the summit. WWF is asking that governments commit to enable access to clean, affordable and reliable energy services, and to ensuring that 10 percent of primary energy supply comes from new, renewable sources by 2010.

WWF also asks that governments commit to securing water for people and nature by conserving the world's sources of water, increasing peoples' access to water and sanitation, and improving the efficient use of freshwater.

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Thousands Flee Volcano in Papua New Guinea

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea, August 13, 2002 (ENS) - Mount Pago, a volcano that has not erupted for 90 years, began belching clouds of smoke and ash August 5, sending thousands fleeing from their homes. The eruption grew on Friday, spewing a pillar of ashes and gas several kilometres high.

The continuing eruption of the volcano in the nation's West New Britain province has forced the evacuation of more than 9,000 villagers at the base of the mountain, "The National" newspaper said.

In the town of Hoskins, the airport was closed due to ash fall. The evacuees were accommodated at town facilities, with the local church and with the Salvation Army Center.

In addition to the problems of air travel, Salvation Army leaders in Papua New Guinea say that harsh weather conditions are making it difficult to reach the island by boat.

Kimbe, the nearest large town to the volcano, has been unaffected and up to 8,000 people have been evacuated from villages to care centers around the town. Captain Michael Dengi, the Salvation Army officer in charge of the work in Kimbe, reports by telephone that the people are in good spirits despite the hardship.

The Provincial Disaster Management Office is on full alert and says that more people may have to be evacuated if the volcanic activities intensify. Administrator and Disaster Committee Chairman William Padio told reporters that the lack of equipment to monitor activities on Mount Pago has created a situation of uncertainty and the committee has been bracing itself for weeks, listening for the volcanic rumbling.

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Afghani Locust Control Campaign Successful

KABUL, Afghanistan, August 13, 2002 (ENS) - A campaign to control a locust outbreak in Northern Afghanistan has succeeded in keeping crop damage to a minimum. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates crop losses in the breadbasket of the war torn country, were no more than seven percent.

In March this year, the FAO launched a US$800,000 campaign to combat the worst locust plague to hit Afghanistan for 30 years. Funding was provided by the United States, the UK, and from FAO's own resources.

While declaring the campaign a success, FAO officials urged that control operations must start early next spring to avoid another locust emergency.

Following the collapse of the Taliban regime at the end of 2001, locust control program resources were looted and the emergency campaign of 2002 had to start from scratch.

It soon became apparent that mechanical control was being overwhelmed by the size of the outbreak. In a race against time, FAO officials organized an airlift of pesticides and spraying equipment into Northern Afghanistan for deployment against the locusts.

For areas not accessible by road, a helicopter was used to distribute the materials. Five vehicle mounted sprayers and 1,300 handheld sprayers were used to apply almost 30,000 litres (6,600 gallons) of pesticides against the locusts.

Some 250 locally recruited operators were employed either by FAO or nongovernmental organizations to protect the agricultural livelihoods of some four million people.

FAO and the Afghan plant protection staff are now surveying the areas in which locusts are laying their egg-pods. When the results are known, contingency plans and preparedness programs will be drawn up for the 2003 control campaign which will attempt to avoid the development of another major outbreak.

According to FAO locust control expert Andrew Harvey, the survivors of the locusts that infested hundreds of thousands of ares of farmland in Northern Afghanistan in the first half of 2002, have laid eggs across a wide stretch of land.

"We can't afford to wait until the eggs hatch next year and develop into swarms before taking action," Harvey said. "We have to find out where the eggs are laid and kill the young hoppers as early as possible when they hatch out in the spring, before they can become adults and are able to fly."

Moroccan locust (Dociostaurus maroccanus) infestations occur annually in Northern Afghanistan. The scale and intensity of the infestations vary from year to year.

"This year, because it was an emergency campaign, only the locusts directly threatening the crops could be controlled to mitigate crop damage," Harvey said. "But, with a properly prepared campaign, we can not only reduce the damage on crops even further next year, but also begin to bring the overall numbers down to a level that can be managed by a sustainable long term control strategy."

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Kashmina Brand Shawls Could Save Antelopes

NEW DELHI, India, August 13, 2002 (ENS) - An extensive survey of workers in Kashmir has found support for a generic branding of Kashmir's luxurious goat's wool pashmina shawls to provide alternative livelihoods for the workers making shahtoosh, a banned shawl made from the endangered Tibetan antelope.

The creation of an exclusive generic brand - Kashmina - would separate the high quality hand crafted Kashmir pashmina from all other largely machine woven, mixed fiber pashmina shawls flooding the market, workers suggest.

The survey's findings are outlined in a preliminary report issued by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in partnership with the International Fund for Animal Welfare. The preliminary report was released at a seminar organized as part of Lakme India Fashion Week.

Shahtoosh is derived from the under wool of the Tibetan antelope, locally known as chiru and found on the Tibetan Plateau. The animals have to be killed to extract this wool and the collection of wool has now become a commercial activity driving the antelopes to extinction. According to official Chinese estimates 20,000 animals are being killed every year; some 75,000 remain.

During their 14 month long study of the manufacture and trade of shahtoosh and possible alternatives, the study's seven researchers found that shahtoosh shawls are in production despite the local governments' assurance that the practice has been stopped following the ban in 1979.

More than 80 percent of shawlmaking families interviewed by researchers are still involved in shahtoosh production. Out of a total population of 45,411, researchers found that 14,309 people are directly involved in the production of shahtoosh. The rest are other members of the workers' families.

While earnings from shahtoosh are more than three times than that from pashmina, 70 percent of those interviewed wanted to shift to pashmina, the groups report.

Machine made pashmina is being sold under the generic name Kashmir pashmina, diluting the market and the identity of the handcrafted shawls. The groups suggest government encouragement for private sector initiatives in Kashmir to market the Kashmina brand.

"The generic branding will ensure that the product is handcrafted using traditional techniques, is made of the highest quality pashmina, and is woven exclusively by traditional craftsmen," said Aniruddha Mookerjee, director of WTI.

Shahtoosh manufacture, along with a few other traditional handicrafts, is a mainstay for many families in strife torn Kashmir. The state government has been unwilling to force the closure of shahtoosh manufacturing units until a viable alternative employment is found.

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Cuba Meets Opposition to Turtle Shell Trade

WASHINGTON, DC, August 13, 2002 (ENS) - Cuba is proposing to resume trade in the shells of endangered hawksbill marine turtles, but the proposal is up against stiff opposition. The Species Survival Network (SSN), an international coalition of 65 non-governmental organizations committed to the promotion, enhancement, and strict enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has come out against the idea.

The proposal will be voted on at the upcoming CITES meeting to be held November 3 to 15 in Santiago, Chile.

Last week, the first meeting of the Parties to the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC) took place in Costa Rica. IAC Parties have agreed to prohibit the capture, killing and domestic trade in sea turtles and to support the CITES listing that bans trade in this endangered species.

Last April, over 830 participants from 73 countries participating in the 22nd Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation passed a resolution opposing the reopening of international trade in hawksbill shells.

Critically endangered in the wild, populations of this medium sized turtle with a hawk-like beak and patterned shell have declined by 80 percent in recent decades, SSN says. Females lay their first eggs at 20 to 40 years old, making these turtles vulnerable to over-exploitation.

Juan Carlos Cantú, chair of the SSN Sea Turtle Working Group, said, "After the 1993 ban came into effect, the number of hawksbill nests in several Caribbean countries increased. However, illegal trade in sea turtle shells is widespread and is limiting further recovery."

Cuba allows an annual take of up to 500 hawksbills for domestic consumption and has been stockpiling the shells. The country has proposed to export this 7.8 metric ton stockpile, consisting of thousands of hawksbill shells collected between 1993 and 2002.

"Cuba claims that the shells came from the Cuban population of hawksbills. However, there is no such population. Turtles captured and killed in Cuba are part of a wider Caribbean population that nests in other countries where most subpopulations are declining or depleted," says Cantú.

Although no importing countries are specified in the proposal, the most likely country is Japan, which imported 40 tons of tortoise shell annually in the 1970s. Japan uses shells to supply its strong domestic market for personal accessories, such as glasses frames, made from tortoise shell.

Japan does not track trade in finished products and does not regulate trade by wholesalers and retailers. This increases the opportunities for illegal trade.

"A legalized international trade in hawksbill shells could undermine national and regional conservation efforts and encourage other countries to stockpile shells for future sale," said Cantú. "If legal trade increases illegal trade, as it did in the past, this would further threaten depleted populations."

Costa Rica, Barbados and the United States have criticized Cuba's proposal. Similar hawksbill trade proposals were defeated at CITES meetings in 1997 and 2000.

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Poacher Turned Conservationist Freed from Congo Jail

BRAZZAVILLE, Congo, August 13, 2002 (ENS) - Joseph Melloh has spent the last three months in a Congolese jail, not for practicing his former career as a professional poacher, but for campaigning against the bushmeat trade and investigating the operations of a logging company in the Congo.

Once a professional poacher, Melloh not only turned his back on poaching several years ago, he became a campaigner against bushmeat traders who sell the meat of wild animals in city markets.

Melloh has become a leader in uncovering the illegal bushmeat trade in Central Africa guiding journalists from around the world to the story of the ongoing slaughter of wildlife.

Three months ago Melloh set out from his home in Cameroon for the Congolese rainforests and the forestry concession of a Swiss-German logging company Congolaise Industrielle du Bois (CIB). His investigation of the CIB concessions were aimed at forest law enforcement in the Congo, but the law turned on him.

Melloh has been in a Congolese prison since May on charges of "jeopardizing the external security of Congo." He was picked up by police for conducting interviews with residents of Pokola and for filming the CIB forestry operations.

Melloh was released Monday after a judge in Brazzaville reduced the charge and sentenced Joseph to 45 days in jail, which he has already served.

Greenpeace says that Melloh's release is a victory for conservationists working in Africa to protect the last areas of rainforest and animals that live in the forest.

Corporate forest crime costs forest nations several million U.S. dollars each year, yet most of these nations have no formal framework or the institutional capacity for independent monitoring of the companies operating in their forests, the advocacy group says.

Melloh was jailed for doing what Greenpeace says all logging concessions should be required to permit.

The conservation organization is calling on the government of Congo to commit to formal independent monitoring of logging company activities. Without this kind of commitment, current political processes to protect forests, such as the World Bank's program on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance, will mean very little, the group warns.

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Australian Mine Waste Generates Generate Cleaner Power

BRISBANE, Australia, August 13, 2002 (ENS) - New technology for generating power from coal mining waste was launched by Australia's Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources Ian Macfarlane at a government research center in Brisbane last week. The revolutionary technology has the potential to cut greenhouse gases and bring big savings to companies operating coal mines.

The CSIRO-Liquatech hybrid coal and gas turbine system unveiled at the Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies will generate electricity from waste coal and gas that would otherwise have polluted the atmosphere.

Emissions from underground coal mines contribute an estimated 5.7 percent of the total 6.7 percent of Australia's total annual greenhouse emissions attributed to coal mining operations.

Government and industry researchers have been working on the system for the past three years as part of a project that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal mines by 75 percent over the next 20 years.

The method harnesses existing technologies in a 1.2 megawatt hybrid coal and gas turbine system that burns waste coal and methane to generate electricity which can either be used to power the mine's operations or be returned to the power grid for general consumption.

Project leader Patrick Glynn says the technology works by burning methane and coal in a kiln to produce hot air which is then passed through a specially adapted heat exchange unit to drive a gas turbine which generates the electricity.

"Using a kiln coupled with an externally fired gas turbine allows for a simple but highly efficient system," Glynn says.

"The scale of the problem can be gauged by the fact that each of Australia's underground coal mines produces around 800,000 tonnes of waste coal every year," Glynn says.

"The new turbine has the potential not only to reduce fugitive emissions from coal mines but also to significantly reduce existing greenhouse effects by displacing hundreds of megawatts of electricity already in the power grid with electricity fueled by burnt methane which has seven times less greenhouse potential," he says.

Funded by the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), the Australian Coal Association Research Program, the NSW Sustainable Energy Development Authority, and the Brisbane based Liquatech Turbine Company, the turbine-furnace technology will be commercially demonstrated in New South Wales next year.