WorldScan: June 12, 2003

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Cracks Emerge as Three Gorges Reservoir Fills

CHONGQING, China, June 12, 2003 (ENS) - Some 80 cracks have been found in the enormous new Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, and an official said at a news conference today that the cracks could leak if they are not fixed, the Associated Press reports. The statement was made by one of the dam's designers, Pan Jiazheng, who is head of the construction committee inspection group.

The admission contrasts with the statement today of another official reported by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua who said that the water at Three Gorges is "stable." Xu Shubi, deputy director of Chongqing Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection, said most indicators at the Three Gorges Reservoir were up to the state's required water quality, after 20 consecutive days of monitoring.

The reservoir of the Three Gorges project, the world's largest water control project, has stored 10 billion cubic meters of water since storage began on June 1. The dam is needed, the Chinese say, for flood control and power generation.

Jiazheng is prepared to address problems that arise once the Three Gorges Dam has begun operation. A member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and former vice-director of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, he told the Department of Water Conservancy and Hydropower, Qinghua University, Beijing, in February that a new category of disasters known “water calamities,” meaning water disasters caused by human activities, should be considered.

"Let me remind you," he said, "all that the real examiners are not the expert team or the inspection group, but the water pressure after 39 billion cubic metres of water are impounded in the reservoir; the devastating floods that occur almost every year; the earthquakes and landslides; the boats travelling on the river; and the turbines generating electricity. These are the real examiners, who will show no mercy. They are ready to take their revenge and exploit any mistakes and misjudgments that we make in design, construction, manufacturing and installation, as well as project management."

The rise in the water level of the Three Gorges Reservoir reached the specified level of 135 meters, and the trial run of the massive power generators has begun, official Chinese media reported Wednesday. The Yangtze River will reopen for navigation on June 16.

Although the entire Three Gorges Project will not be completed until 2009, it will start to play an important role in flood control, power generation, navigation, water diversion and environmental protection this year, Chinese experts say.

Upon completion, the Three Gorges Project will be the world's biggest hydropower plant in terms of both total installed capacity and annual average power generation volume.

Twenty-six turbine generator sets, with a per-unit generation capacity of 700,000 kilowatts, will be installed on the left and right banks of the Three Gorges Hydropower Station. The overall generation capacity is estimated at 18.2 million kilowatts. Once the project is complete, the annual power generation is estimated to average 84.68 billion kilowatt hours, equivalent to one-seventh of China's total power generation in 1992.

China plans to invest some 40 billion yuan (US$4.8 billion) in curbing water pollution in the reservoir and along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River by 2010. More than 150 new sewage treatment plants and 170 garbage disposal facilities will be built.

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Romania Signs Energy-Environment Pact With USA

WASHINGTON, DC, June 12, 2003 (ENS) - U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Romanian Minister of Industry and Resources Dan Ioan Popescu have signed an agreement for their countries to work together to foster cooperation in energy areas. The pact includes measures to ensure environmental protection, including oil spill emergency response systems.

The two countries will work together to foster the development of Romania’s energy sector with the exchange of information, according to the agreement signed in Washington earlier this month.

Romania’s electricity, gas and oil sectors have a significant investment potential to the U.S., and Romania is moving forward with the privatization of the energy sector. In addition, both countries will determine the interest of U.S. energy companies in trading with and investing in Romania in a competitive investment environment.

Basic and applied energy research and development are on the agenda, as are research, development, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and management of power plants.

Both countries will work together on energy and environmental issues, including energy policy, energy efficiency, and the development and expansion of regional infrastructure networks using environmentally sound technologies. They will also develop legal and regulatory frameworks and regional cooperation.

Power market development including specific tools for operation and risk management are also part of the deal as are the development and upgrading of energy resources and energy infrastructures, the modeling of power operation.

“President Bush’s National Energy Policy calls for more international cooperation in the energy sector, including expanding trade and investment opportunities,” Secretary Abraham said. “American investment increases environmental protections and the development of new technologies. Both producers and consumers will benefit from ensuring that the global energy infrastructure is sufficient and flexible to meet growing global demand.”

In 1998, the U.S. Energy Department signed an agreement with the Romanian Ministry of Industry and Commerce to establish a “Bilateral Dialogue on Energy Development.” The dialogue creates the opportunity for exchanges on energy policy, trade and investment and energy related environmental initiatives.

In October 2001, Secretary Abraham met with then Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase to discuss Romania’s political and economic situation, with a focus on the privatization of the energy sector.

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Drought Stricken Ethiopian Farmers Suffer Green Famine

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, June 12, 2003 (ENS) - Ethiopian farmers have received emergency agricultural assistance to help them prepare land for the next planting season after months of devastating crop failure due to cycles of drought and floods, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Tuesday.

Ethiopia is constantly battered by extremes of weather, both droughts and floods. The country's recent border conflict with neighboring Eritrea, a growing population, fractured road infrastructure and poor land management practices make difficult climatic conditions worse, leaving the country at constant risk of slipping into crisis each time the rains fail.

Some areas in the southern lowlands are experiencing what is known as a "green famine," the FAO says, where recent rains have created a lush landscape which masks severe hunger.

One of FAO's largest emergency projects, with support from the government of the Netherlands, is distributing 4,000 metric tons of cereal seeds, 24 million sweet potato cuttings, as well as vegetable seeds and animal drugs to treat livestock.

The project will benefit 134,000 families in the northern region of Tigray, the central region of Oromiya and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples region

Financial support has also been provided by the governments of Canada and the United States and the United Nations Development Programme.

Years of acute drought in several regions of the country, especially the south, have withered crops and left farming households destitute and unable to feed themselves, the FAO said.

Pre-famine conditions are now reported in parts of the East African country, and many children are malnourished. Animals are dying due to lack of water and feed after repeated failed harvests.

"Traditionally these people cope with drought either by growing crops which can be harvested sooner or by migrating," the FAO's Yon Fernandez de Larrinoa explained.

"But the situation is now so grave, all means of dealing with drought have been exhausted. The already malnourished people are simply eating even less or relying on food aid," he said.

An estimated 12.6 million Ethiopians are now in need of food aid. FAO's emergency agricultural projects, worth some US$4.3 million, aim to help farmers cope with the crisis now and manage better in the future.

These projects include supplying seeds, feed, equipment, animal health services, farming expertise and training in water management to boost the agriculture sector, which accounts for 45 percent of the Ethiopian economy, and improve access to food.

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Australians Would Pay More for Clean Energy

SYDNEY, Australia, June 12, 2003 (ENS) - A Newspoll commissioned by Greenpeace shows that a majority of Australians surveyed would be willing to pay $3.50 more on their monthly energy bills if it meant that 10 percent of Australia’s electricity would come from new renewable sources by 2010.

The Newspoll conducted between May 30 and June 1 asked, “Currently, most of Australia's electricity comes from coal with less than one percent coming from wind and solar energy. A recent analysis claims that to increase the amount of electricity from these and other new renewable energy sources to 10 percent by 2010, would cost the average household approximately $3.50 extra per month. Would you be willing, or not willing to pay an extra $3.50 per month for this purpose?”

Eighty-three percent answered in the affirmative.

When the amount asked for renewable energy went up to $5.50 per month, 64 percent said they would be willing to pay that much more.

Greenpeace climate specialist Catherine Fitzpatrick said, “This clear response is the strongest indication yet that Australians are willing to pay more for clean, renewable energy."

“Climate change is already hurting Australians,” she said. “The recent drought, which scientists tell us was made worse by climate change, cost us a quarter of our projected growth in 2002. "The poll gives the Prime Minister a mandate for strong action on climate change and renewable energy."

The federal government is currently reviewing Australia’s energy future – a process which will have an impact on all Australians for decades to come. The Panel reviewing the nation's renewable energy target, chaired by former Senator Grant Tambling, is touring Australia gathering input from a wide range of stakeholders.

“Renewable energy is clearly not just about environmental concerns, Fitzpatrick said. "A 10 percent target would create thousands of jobs and draw billions of dollars in investment to regional Australia. We know it’s possible. We know it’s reliable. And we now know Australians are willing to pay for it. The Panel has no excuses not to recommend a 10% target.”

Published estimates for the costs of an increase in the share of renewable energy to 10 percent in 2010, the policy recommended by Greenpeace, range from $0.50 to approx $5.00 per month for the average residential consumer.

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South African Aids Traumatized Baghdad Zoo Animals

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, June 12, 2003 (ENS) - Lawrence Anthony, the Zululand conservationist from Thula Thula Game Reserve who provided urgent relief to the Baghdad Zoo at the height of the recent Iraq war, is making a brief return visit to South Africa.

Newly appointed as administrator of the zoo, Anthony used his trip back to South Africa to brief the media on the status of the zoo and the work being carried out by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Relief Team and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA).

He is also using his visit to raise funds for equipment and medical supplies for the zoo.

"The zoo originally had in excess of 400 animals of all varieties - including exotic birds - but their numbers have been reduced to just 50 by looters who stole them either for food or to sell," said Anthony. Only dangerous animals were not stolen.

Anthony said his team had to drive off the looters some of whom where "heavily armed and dangerous, and were willing to risk everything in their bid to strip the zoo of everything."

Animals remaining at the Baghdad Zoo include 19 lions, tigers, brown bears, wolves, foxes, jackals, camels, ostrich, badgers and some primates. The animals are traumatized as much of the main fighting during the recent conflict took place near the zoo.

Anthony was asked to enter Baghdad by the United States armed forces and arrived in the city at the end of April.

"On my first day there I counted over 1,000 gunshots," Anthony told a news conference Tuesday in Johannesburg. "It is only because the zoo falls into what is known as the green zone, an area that contains most of Saddam Hussein's city palaces and government departments, and which is under heavy U.S. security, that we were able to work in any sort of safety at the zoo."

IFAW and AZA have been formally appointed by the U.S. forces, Anthony, and the Iraqi directors of the zoo to put in place medium and long term plans to stabilize the situation and to improve zoo conditions.

Other groups that have provided assistance with the emergency relief efforts at Baghdad Zoo include Care for the Wild International and WildAid.

"The teams are working with the Iraqi zoo authorities and the U.S. military to ensure regular, secure food sources and water supplies for the animals and to install sound logistics at the zoo," said Anthony.

He warned that the relief effort would not be finished soon. "Unfortunately there can be no quick fixes for the Baghdad Zoo. It was originally designed by the Cairo Zoo based on 19th century concepts of animal husbandry, so enclosures are very small, with cement floors and heavy bars."

"One of the most important parts of our relief work at the zoo will be to try and improve the living conditions for the animals by expanding their enclosures, providing some stimulation and generally work to boost their quality of life," he said.

Anthony has moved lions and cheetahs from a private zoo formerly owned by Saddam Hussein's eldest son Uday, to the Baghdad Zoo.

On Sunday, the IFAW relief team, supported by U.S. military personnel, was able to rescue a bear from another private zoo, known as Luna Park, in central Baghdad. The team obtained permission to close down the zoo because of the horrific conditions. The bear was the last remaining animal locked into a tiny cage.

Other groups that have provided assistance with the emergency relief efforts at Baghdad Zoo include the Born Free Foundation, Care for the Wild, Fondation Brigitte Bardot, Thula Thula Private Game Reserve, WildAid and World Society for the Protection of Animals.

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Wolf Remains on Swiss Endangered Species List

BERNE, Switzerland, June 12, 2003 (ENS) - The Swiss National Council has rejected an motion to remove the wolf from the Swiss list of endangered species, according to the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe.

The motion proposed by MP Theo Maissen and carried in the Swiss Council of States in December 2001, required the government not to implement the Swiss Wolf Concept and to release the country from all international obligations that mandate wolf protection.

Under the Swiss Wolf Concept, the Swiss Cantons will continue to shoot wolves that cause damage to livestock and the Swiss Confederation will continue to compensate ranchers for livestock losses attributed to wolves.

Maissen contended that Switzerland is too densely populated and the country is too dependent on tourism to allow wolves to run wild, even though livestock owners were protected from their predation.

After a long debate, lawmakers voted 84 to 77 on June 2 in favor of an alternative non-binding instruction to adapt the Swiss Wolf Concept.

The result means that Switzerland will be saved the potential embarrassment of leaving the Bern Convention, also known as the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats.

Opponents of wolf protection said that wolves would populate the Swiss Alps and that livestock owners would suffer because compensation for damages would be scrapped if the wolf's protected status was removed.

Supporters said wolves might be viewed as a tourist attraction.

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