The environment in the news tuesday, 3 January 2006

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Tuesday, 3 January 2006

UNEP and the Executive Director in the News

  • These issues may have impact in 2006 (The Baltimore Sun)

  • UN Hails Green Triumph As Leaded Petrol Is Banned Throughout Africa (The Independent on Sunday)

  • Era of Leaded Gas Comes to an End In Most of Africa; Gains in Air Quality, Health Expected (Washington Post)

  • Afrika rijdt nog jaren op vieze brandstof (De Volkskrant)

  • Le Kenya exporte davantage d'essence sans plomb vers des pays de la région (Xinhua)

  • Business Briefs (Demand Up) (New Vision)

  • Leaded petrol stock cleared (The Nation)

  • Kenya; Unleaded Oil Demand Climbs As Deadline Nears (East African Standard)

  • L’Afrique subsaharienne passe à l’essence sans plomb (Témoignages)

  • Uso de leña como combustible alternativo (RAP-AL Uruguay)

  • Reports from Developing Countries (China Radio International)

  • All in a year's work (The Sunday Times)

  • Year Was A Deathblow To Kenya's Top Heroes (The Nation)

  • Harvest The Galapagos For Sneakers? (The Hartford Courant)

  • Berliner CDU verzweifelt an Töpfer (Der Tagesspiegel)

Other Environment News

  • Inondations en Indonésie : 29 morts et plus de 9 000 sans abri (Xinhua)

  • Hot wind keeping fire crews on alert (The Australian)

  • Rain, Wind Pelt Southern California (Los Angeles Times)

  • Fans, float decorators ready for wet Rose Parade in Pasadena (Associated Press)

  • Threat of fire likely to grow (Houston Chronicle)

  • The Cute Factor (The New York Times)

Environmental News from the UNEP Regions

  • ROWA

Other UN News

  • UN Daily News of 30 December 2005

  • no spokesman's briefing was available

The Baltimore Sun: These issues may have impact in 2006
Larry Williams


[also in the Bradenton Herald, Lexington Herlad Leader, Fort Wayne Journals Gazette, Longview Daily News,... (all US)]

Sometimes the news explodes, like a hurricane, earthquake or terrorist attack. Sometimes it creeps up glacially. These slower-moving stories that change our lives are almost always the hardest to see and understand.

Here is a look at a few issues likely to have major effects on our lives in 2006:


Although a majority of Americans disapproves of President Bush's handling of Iraq, the nation is closely divided on whether the decision to use military force there was right or wrong, and a majority believes it is still possible that a stable Iraqi democracy can be established.

As the new Iraqi government takes form this year, that hope will be tested. It could be increasingly difficult to explain the strategic value of the continued presence of American forces.

If the violence subsides and the new government is accepted as legitimate by most Iraqis, then the Bush administration is likely to move aggressively to reduce troop levels.

Economic fears

Americans are increasingly worried about the soaring cost of energy - gasoline for driving and natural gas for heating. Many have been tapping the growing value of their homes in the face of slow growth in family income and are concerned about an apparent weakening of the housing market. Health care costs are up, and employers are pushing more of those costs onto their workers.

How will all of this affect the economy in the coming year? Consumers and businesses are likely to remain cautious in the absence of good news, politically or economically. That means fewer good jobs and more layoffs - particularly in traditional industries being challenged by foreign competition or changes in consumer habits.

Political blues

Democrats should take little comfort in last year's plunge in Bush's approval ratings. Both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government are taking a beating in the public eye.

Congress continued its downward slide, with only 45 percent of the public holding at least a somewhat favorable view of the body by mid-October, according to polling by the Pew Research Center, including a mere 7 percent who declared a "very" favorable opinion. Overall the federal government scored no better: Its favorability rating fell from a high of 73 percent as recently as April 2003 to 46 percent in December.

Analysts attribute the decline to dissatisfaction with the government's response to the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe and continuing reports of congressional corruption. This public dissatisfaction is ringing alarm bells for members of Congress from both parties. Members of the House facing midterm elections in November are particularly concerned.

Severe weather

Severe weather around the world made 2005 the most costly year on record, with unprecedented insurance claims on damaged property, the U.N. Environment Programme reported, and weather experts expect more of the same in 2006.

The UNEP said this year's record was partly due to the highest number of hurricanes and tropical storms since records began more than 150 years ago.

Hurricanes weren't the only manifestation of severe weather trouble. Tornadoes, heavy rains and drought caused significant human and economic losses in the last year. Some demographers attribute a significant portion of the increasing weather threat to intense development in coastal areas, on flood plains and in other high-risk areas.


The Independent on Sunday: UN Hails Green Triumph As Leaded Petrol Is Banned Throughout Africa
By Geoffrey Lean
1 January 2006

Lead is banned from petrol throughout Africa from today, in a virtually unheralded victory for international environmental diplomacy.

The move, a late achievement of the 2002 Earth Summit in Johannesburg, is a crucial step towards eliminating the metal from the world's fuel altogether within the next three years.

Lead, which was phased out in Western countries after it was found to harm children's brains, poses an even greater hazard to poor children in developing countries who already suffer damage from malnutrition.

Finally removed from British petrol exactly six years ago, after years of campaigning, it has been known to be dangerous for two millennia. Pliny the Elder warned of the hazards of its fumes in the first century AD.

It was first introduced into petrol in 1921 to prevent engines 'knocking', and over the next decades millions of tons of it were turned into a fine aerosol and spread around the world by cars. Research shows that we have about 500 times as much of the poison in our bodies as our primitive ancestors did.

When the Earth Summit met three years ago, only one of Africa's 49 nations " Sudan " had eliminated lead from its fuel. But governments and industry got together there, under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to campaign to get rid of it continent-wide by the end of 2005. Today the last remaining country, South Africa, has abolished lead in its fuel, and the UN is about to launch a new campaign to get it banned worldwide by 2008.

Nick Nuttall of UNEP says that 28 countries are known still to use lead, from Cuba to North Korea. 'It is particularly dangerous to small children in cities who are at the same level as car exhausts,' Mr Nuttall said yesterday. 'We are determined that the next generation of children will grow up without leaded petrol and the health risks it brings.'

Washington Post: Era of Leaded Gas Comes to an End In Most of Africa; Gains in Air Quality, Health Expected
Craig Timberg
[also in
Concord Monitor, New Hampshire]
1 January 2006

The import and refining of leaded gasoline ended throughout sub-Saharan Africa at the stroke of midnight Saturday as the region eliminated the biggest source of a toxic substance that has damaged brains, weakened nervous systems and fouled air and soil for 80 years.

It will take several months for the leaded gasoline in storage tanks to be consumed. But here in South Africa's largest city, tank trucks have already begun delivering a new grade of gasoline designed to protect older engines built for leaded gas.

"The old one, it will finish, maybe at 11," Thomas Mathabi, 21, a station attendant, said as he stood beside a pump containing some of the final reserves of leaded gasoline at a station in one of the city's plush northern suburbs. "It will be over."

As the last of the leaded fuel disappears, experts said, the air quality in Africa's increasingly dense cities should grow safer, especially for children.

The use of leaded fuel, which spews lead into the atmosphere and destroys emission control systems in vehicles, has caused Africa's relatively modest fleet of cars and trucks to create some of the world's worst urban air pollution. The lead in the air finds its way into children through contaminated soil and food.

"The moment you stop using leaded petrol, the lead levels in citizens start to drop," Rob de Jong, head of the U.N. clean-fuels program office in Nairobi, said in a telephone interview. "Six months from now, the blood lead levels in Africa should have dropped significantly."

Lead is among the most pervasive and damaging of environmental toxics, causing decreased intelligence in children even when exposure is at very low levels. First introduced as a fuel additive to curb engine-knocking in cars in the 1920s, it has been gradually eliminated from gasoline in much of the world in recent decades. Leaded gas was banned in the United States in 1996.

However, it is still found in 27 countries and on several Pacific islands, with the heaviest concentrations in the Middle East and Central Asia. Pressure is growing on the remaining countries that produce leaded gasoline, and supplies of lead additives for fuel refineries are slowly dwindling, said Colin McClelland, director of the South African Petroleum Industry Association.

"This change has to be made," McClelland said from Cape Town, where the association is based. "It's a dying product. It's like saying, 'Do we still want to have ox wagons here?' It's necessary progress."

The change, heavily publicized on South African television and radio in recent weeks, has caused some uncertainty. At many gas stations, attendants wearing yellow T-shirts that said, "Ask me about the right fuel for you," handed out brochures explaining the new choices in gasoline.

But motorists remained puzzled, and some drivers asked whether it was the new or old fuel in the pump before buying.

"I'm not sure if my engine needs to be upgraded" for the new gasoline, said Eric Duma, 36, who pulled up in his baby-blue 1986 Toyota pickup to buy just enough leaded gasoline to make the 30-minute drive to his home in Soweto. He expected to buy his first tank of gas without lead on Sunday. "I am worried," he said.

Leaded gasoline until recently amounted to nearly 60 percent of the South African market. Consumers accustomed to using that fuel will now need to choose between unleaded gasoline or a new variety called lead-replacement petrol, which has additives needed by some older cars to prevent engine damage. The price for leaded, unleaded and lead-replacement gas is the same because of government regulation.

Leaders in sub-Saharan Africa agreed in 2001 to phase out leaded gasoline by the end of 2005. In just the past month, 16 countries have stopped refining or importing leaded gas, according to the U.N. Environment Program. As recently as 2002, Sudan was the only country in the region that had eliminated unleaded fuel.

The health effects of ingesting lead, which also can be contained in paint and contaminated water, include increased risk for heart attack and stroke. Children exposed to high levels often display irritability, stunted growth and decreased intelligence measurements. Before Egypt eliminated leaded gasoline, the average child in one study there had lost 4.25 IQ points, according to the United Nations.

Vehicles are the largest source of lead hazards in the environment. Emissions testing in March found that the average car in Nairobi, for example, produced 16 times the harmful emissions produced by the average new car in the United States.

That same research found that 70 percent of automobiles in Nairobi initially had catalytic converters to break down carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and other harmful emissions. But the systems were destroyed by leaded gasoline, which coats sensitive surfaces within the catalytic converters, rendering them useless.

"The most polluting fleet we've found anywhere in the world is in Nairobi," said James Lents, president of International Sustainable Systems Research Center in Diamond Bar, Calif., which did the study.

Lents, speaking from his home, said the situation is much the same in Africa's biggest cities, with broken emission control systems and high levels of air pollution.

In the move to eliminate leaded gasoline, the conversion of a refinery in Kenya to unleaded fuel in December was a milestone. So were the recent conversions of South Africa's six refineries, where $1.6 billion was spent to eliminate lead and lower the levels of harmful sulfur in diesel fuel.

South Africa is the major supplier of fuel to much of southern Africa. As recently as 20 years ago, testing in South Africa revealed some of the highest concentrations of lead levels ever measured in children.

Unleaded gasoline was introduced as an option in 1996, and the next round of nationwide tests six years later showed reduced levels of lead in children's blood. Levels fell by more than half in Cape Town and by 25 percent in Johannesburg, said Angela Mathee, a lead policy expert for the South African Medical Research Council.

Yet the council estimates that at least 600,000 children in South Africa still have lead levels higher than the international standard of 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood. Mathee predicted that levels would drop with the next nationwide tests, likely in 2007.

Despite the confusion created by the change, motorists said Saturday that they were happy to switch fuels if it means cleaner, safer air.

"They should have done it long ago," said Malcolm Purdy, 45, a firefighter, as he filled the tank of his 1999 Ford pickup with leaded gasoline for the last time.

De Volkskrant (Netherlands): Afrika rijdt nog jaren op vieze brandstof


JOHANNESBURG/LAGOS/DAKAR - Het klinkt goed: Afrika zal na 1 januari 2006 jaar eindelijk zijn verlost van loodhoudende benzine. Lood mag in Europa al jaren niet meer in autobrandstof zitten, omdat het zware metaal zeer schadelijk is voor de gezondheid. Zo kunnen de hersens en het zenuwstelsel van jonge kinderen erdoor worden aangetast, om maar iets te noemen. In Nederland was in 1990 nog circa de helft van de benzine gelood; tien jaar geleden was dat al minder dan 10 procent.

De milieutak van de Verenigde Naties, UNEP, meldde afgelopen week in een ronkende verklaring dat het nu de beurt is aan Afrika. ‘Vanaf 1 januari zullen de voertuigen in de regio loodvrij zijn’, hetgeen ‘een gezondere wereld zal betekenen voor miljoenen mensen’. In 2002 reed slechts één van de 49 Afrikaanse landen op loodvrije benzine: Soedan.

Het lijkt er echter op dat de VN voorbij gaat aan de werkelijkheid. Ten eerste moeten de oliemaatschappijen hun oude loodhoudende voorraden nog opmaken. Ten tweede is überhaupt niet duidelijk wat voor soort brandstof er uit Afrikaanse benzinepompen komt.

Zo is Nigeria volgens de VN sinds 2004 ‘geheel loodvrij’. Maar tijdens een rondgang in de hoofdstad Lagos, een stad met dertien miljoen inwoners, was slechts één tankstation te vinden dat naar eigen zeggen geïmporteerde loodvrije benzine verkoopt. Bij talloze andere pompen zei het personeel niet te weten welke soort benzine er wordt verkocht. Zelfs in Nigeriaanse regeringskringen weet men geen raad met deze vraag. Het land – een van de grootste olie-exporteurs ter wereld – heeft meerdere raffinaderijen, die de regering wil privatiseren. Officials zeggen desgevraagd niet te weten wat voor benzine er uit de installaties komt.

In de Senegalese hoofdstad Dakar is het beeld vergelijkbaar. De tankstations verkopen bijna allemaal benzine onder de naam ‘super’. Wat daaronder wordt verstaan, weet niemand. Bij slechts één pomp wist een bediende te melden dat er sinds een maand loodvrije benzine is te krijgen. In Ivoorkust wordt sinds een halfjaar op meerdere plaatsen loodvrije brandstof verkocht.

In Zuid-Afrika is de claim van de VN eveneens oncontroleerbaar. Net als in andere Afrikaanse landen wordt langs de wegen veel benzine van uiterst belabberde kwaliteit verkocht, niet zelden in glazen potten en plastic flessen. Wat daar precies in zit – gelood of ongelood – weet niemand.

De VN heeft tot doel in 2008 alle gelode benzine wereldwijd te hebben uitgebannen. Andere landen met plannen om lood uit te faseren, zijn onder meer Algerije, Cuba, Irak en Cambodja.

Intussen heeft de VN nog een extra zorg: diesel. Vooral in Afrika wordt de ergst mogelijke blubber onder deze naam verkocht. Volgens de VN ligt het zwavelgehalte van diesel – dat in Europa al niet bepaald als schoon wordt gezien – in sommige Afrikaanse landen duizend maal hoger dan in Europa.


Xinhua: Le Kenya exporte davantage d'essence sans plomb vers des pays de la région

Les exportations kenyanes  d'essence sans plomb vers l'Ouganda et le Rwanda ont fort augmenté à  l'approche du premier janvier 2006, date avant laquelle  l'essence avec plomb devrait être éliminée dans toute l'Afrique  subsaharienne. 

Le Rwanda et l'Ouganda ont pris 70% de l'essence sans plomb du dépôt d'Eldoret, a précisé le directeur de ce dépôt appartenant à   la KPC, cité samedi par le quotidien local The Standard. 

Le dépôt d'Eldoret et celui de Kisumu, également de la KPC,  sont fréquentés par la plupart des exportateurs d'essence qui  viennent commander des produits en la matière pour alimenter les  pays de la sous-région que sont le Burundi, l'Ouganda, la  République démocratique du Congo et le Rwanda.  

Une quarantaine de pays africains se sont engagés à  abandonner  progressivement l'essence avec plomb conformément à  la déclaration de Dakar 2001 signée par 48 pays d'Afrique subsaharienne.

New Vision (Kampala): Business Briefs (Demand Up)



Demand up
UGANDA has increased demand for unleaded fuel from Kenya as the United Nations Environment Programme announced that starting January 1, the region’s vehicle fuels will be lead-free.
The phase-out means a healthier world for millions of people across the region.


The Nation (Nairobi): Leaded petrol stock cleared
by Kennedy Senelwa

Kenya Pipeline has cleared all stocks of leaded petrol from its depots in compliance with the Dakar Protocol, which requires leaded fuel to be phased out beginning January 1.

Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which source petroleum products from Kenya, will now be using unleaded fuel.

Clearance of leaded petrol from the pipeline system and all depots started before December.

The pipeline been receiving unleaded petrol from the Kenya Petroleum Refineries in Mombasa.

"Leaded petrol has been cleared from the pipeline and all depots have been receiving unleaded gasoline from the refineries," said pipeline operations manager Peter Mecha. 

He said Kenya Pipeline was pumping and storing unleaded petrol for the local market and for export.

Under the Dakar Protocol, reached in Senegal in 2001, sub-Saharan African countries agreed to phase out leaded petrol by the end of 2005. 

Lead is a toxic metal that can damage the kidneys, nervous system, brain and reproductive systems.

Pipeline in October stopped transporting leaded fuel in its pipeline to depots in Kisumu and Eldoret through Nakuru.

It notified marketers that it would only pump locally produced leaded petrol up to Nairobi, while awaiting for the refineries to produce the lead-free variety.

National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) praised Kenya for phasing out leaded petrol, which is banned in western Europe, North America and parts of the Far East.

"This is an important step. A cleaner environment is key to sustainable economic and social development," said executive director Ratemo Michieka. 

He said studies had shown that children living near roads and in urban areas where leaded petrol is used suffered brain damage. Lead has also been linked with reduced intelligence, attention disorders and behavioural difficulties in children. 

According to Unep, Kenya and South Africa are some of the countries that have accomplished the Dakar Declaration.

"This is a real environmental and health achievement. More efficient vehicles for everyone across the globe," said Dr Klaus Toepfer, Unep's executive director. He called for measures to tackle other pollutants and promote alternative fuels such as bio-fuels and hydrogen.

He said Partnership For Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV) working under Unep would launch a global strategy for the rest of the developing world to eliminate leaded fuel by 2008. 


East African Standard: Kenya; Unleaded Oil Demand Climbs As Deadline Nears

Demand for unleaded fuel in the neighbouring countries has risen over the lat week as countries in sub-Saharan African prepare to phase out the leaded fuel.

Sources at Kenya Pipeline Company depots revealed that unleaded oil exports to Uganda and Rwanda have hit 70 per cent, as the deadline to phase out leaded fuel expires today.

Over 40 African countries have committed to phase out leaded fuel from the market in accordance to the 2001 Dakar Declaration signed by the 48 SSA countries.

However, a spot check by The Standard revealed that most local oil dealers were still distributing leaded fuel even after the Government had committed itself to honour the declaration.

Early last month, the then Energy minister, Simeon Nyachae, declared that no leaded fuel should be sold in the market by December.

"Lead being a heavy metal is harmful to human beings causing reduced IQ in children, retarded intellectual growth, impaired physical growth, elevated hearing threshold and renal complications in adults," says Festus Muchena, a senior manager at KPC.

"The benefit of using lead was to prevent knock and thus permit use of higher compression ratios in the engine leading to better performance of the engine and to protect against very rapid wear or recession of the exhaust valve seats," he says.

Muchena said lead was no longer useful because most modern vehicles were designed to use cleaner and more enivronmentally-friendly unleaded gasoline.

Most oil refineries were also producing premium with the correct octane requirement without having to put lead additives to produce unleaded fuel.

The KPC Eldoret Depot Manager, Daniel Ochieng, said Rwanda and Uganda were taking 70 per cent of the unleaded fuel products from the Eldoret depot.

"We currently have a 4,000 cubic metres capacity of unleaded fuel at the Eldoret depot, while the capacity of leaded fuel stands at 10,000 cubic metres," said Ochieng.

Most exporters to the regional countries - Rwanda, Uganda, DRC Congo and Burundi - collected their products from Eldoret and Kisumu KPC depots.

Industry sources also confirmed that the Mombasa-based Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited had last month stopped producing leaded fuel in favour of unleaded.

The move had forced KPC, which transports fuel products upcountry, to switch to unleaded fuel.

"KPC was ready to change to the supply of unleaded fuel only if local petroleum companies made such orders," said Ochieng.

"We sell what the petroleum companies have ordered and if they order unleaded fuel, we will definitely supply the products since we do not have any technical hindrances."

The Nairobi-based United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep) has over the years championed a global campaign to phase out leaded fuel due to health and environmental concerns.

The UN body had received massive support from the World Health Organisation, vehicles manufacturers and child rights lobby groups across the globe.

Though most regions had phased out leaded gasoline its uses was still widely used in sub-Saharan Africa where it accounts for 85 per cent of the gasoline used.

By 2002, only one country, Sudan, of the 49 sub-Saharan African countries was fully unleaded.

Unep says oil-rich Nigeria that is also Africa's most populous nation had gone fully unleaded since 2004.

Témoignages: L’Afrique subsaharienne passe à l’essence sans plomb - Un Engagement Pris Au Sommet Mondial Sur Le Développement Durable

Au 1er janvier 2006, les véhicules circulant dans toute l’Afrique subsaharienne seront alimentés par de l’essence sans plomb, conformément à la promesse de supprimer l’essence avec plomb qui avait été faite à l’occasion du Sommet mondial sur le développement durable (SMDD), qui s’était tenu en 2002.
Ces engagements visaient à promouvoir des conditions de vie plus saines pour des millions de personnes dans la région, a annoncé le Programme des Nations-unies pour l’environnement (PNUE). Le plomb, un métal lourd, serait à l’origine d’un grand nombre d’affections et de problèmes de santé, notamment de dégâts cérébraux chez les bébés et les jeunes enfants.

"Véritable réussite écologique et sanitaire"

Son utilisation a déjà été supprimée dans de nombreuses parties du monde, en particulier en Amérique du Nord et en Europe, mais il y a tout juste quelques années, de nombreux pays de l’Afrique subsaharienne utilisaient encore de l’essence avec plomb.
Commentant la marche vers la réalisation de l’objectif en Afrique subsaharienne, Klaus Toepfer, directeur exécutif du PNUE, a affirmé : "Il s’agit là d’une véritable réussite écologique et sanitaire et je rends hommage à tous ces gouvernements, sociétés et autres, comme la Banque mondiale, qui ont contribué à la matérialisation de la promesse qui avait été faite au SMDD".
"Nous devons aussi travailler pour lutter contre les autres produits polluants, promouvoir des carburants alternatifs tels que les biocarburants et l’hydrogène, à côté des véhicules plus efficaces et moins polluants ainsi que des réseaux et systèmes de transport sans danger pour l’environnement et les populations. Cela doit se faire pas seulement dans les pays développés, mais pour tous les habitants du globe", a-t-il ajouté.

Campagne mondiale
Le PNUE, qui a son siège au Kenya, a affirmé mardi, dans un communiqué, qu’en 2002, un seul pays (Soudan), sur les 49 de l’Afrique subsaharienne, utilisait l’essence sans plomb. "Avec la décision de l’Afrique du Sud de passer à l’essence sans plomb le 1er janvier 2006, c’est toute l’Afrique subsaharienne qui sera dorénavant alimentée par ce produit", a-t-il ajouté.
Au début de l’année 2006, il sera lancé une campagne mondiale pour la suppression de l’essence avec plomb dans le reste du monde en développement et dans les économies en transition, dans le but d’éliminer totalement l’essence avec plomb dans le monde d’ici 2008.
La campagne sera appuyée par des séminaires et des campagnes de sensibilisation visant, dans un premier temps, le Moyen-Orient, les quelques pays de l’Afrique du Nord encore récalcitrants et l’Asie occidentale, a noté l’agence onusienne, tout en relevant que, à l’heure actuelle, plus de 30 pays du monde continuent d’utiliser l’essence avec plomb. "Certains des principaux problèmes sont ceux qui se posent dans les petites îles lointaines et isolées du Pacifique, notamment en Micronésie", a affirmé le PNUE. "D’autres pays n’envisagent toujours pas de supprimer le plomb dans l’essence, en particulier l’Afghanistan, l’Algérie, le Bhutan, le Cambodge, Cuba, l’Iraq, le Laos, la Mongolie, le Myanmar, la Corée du Nord, le Tadjikistan, le Turkménistan et l’Ouzbékistan".
RAP-AL Uruguay: Uso de leña como combustible alternativo

El hecho de que organizaciones ecologistas promuevan la leña como combustible ha sido cuestionado por algunos debido a la supuesta emisión de dioxinas y furanos que ello implicaría. Dado que RAP-AL participó activamente en todo el proceso del Convenio de Estocolmo (en el que los países se comprometen a reducir las dioxinas y furanos) consideramos importante hacer algunos aportes sobre el tema.

Durante décadas los científicos han reconocido la emisión de dioxinas y furanos que han producido los procesos industriales (en particular la producción de celulosa) y los problemas generados tanto en la salud de la gente como en la destrucción del medio ambiente. A partir de esta preocupación nace el Convenio de Estocolmo, que entra en vigencia en febrero del 2004, del cual Uruguay es parte, con el objetivo de que los países Partes se comprometan a reducir y eliminar las emisiones de estas sustancias junto con otras denominadas Contaminantes Orgánicos Persistentes (COPs).

Para poder reducirlas y eliminarlas, cada país debe comenzar por elaborar un Inventario de sus emisiones, siguiendo las directrices elaboradas por el PNUMA (Programa de Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente) en el llamado "Toolkit". Todos los países deben seguir estas directrices, por lo que los resultados estarán determinados de acuerdo a las mismas, sin hacer mediciones reales en cada uno de ellos. En el "Toolkit" aparecen distintos procesos que resultan en la emisión de dioxinas y furanos, entre los que figura la leña (que a su vez se discrimina en contaminada y no contaminada).

Uruguay ya hizo su Inventario, en el que incluye a la leña de uso doméstico. Los niveles de emisión estuvieron determinados por el Toolkit, sin que se hicieran mediciones concretas por tipos de leña, aparte de haber separado leña contaminada de leña no contaminada, tal como lo indicaba el Toolkit.

Queremos resaltar que el Toolkit aplicado por los países Parte del Convenio de Estocolmo fue altamente cuestionado durante la primera reunión de las Partes (mayo 2005, Punta del Este), por los miembros de IPEN (Red internacional por la eliminación de los COPs).

La principal crítica de IPEN al Toolkit, fue que éste tiene un efecto distorsionador de las prioridades y actualmente no es una herramienta verdaderamente útil para impulsar la adopción de tecnologías limpias en el sector industrial, debido a que subestima las fuentes industriales, que son las principales liberadoras de COPs, y sobrestima las fuentes dispersas de COPs, como incendios forestales y quemas domiciliarias.

RAPAL entiende que no corresponde hacer afirmaciones basadas en las supuestas emisiones de dioxinas resultantes de la quema de leña, dado que en Uruguay no se han hecho estudios sobre el tema y el inventario de emisiones de dioxinas y furanos se basa en una herramienta cuestionada: el Toolkit.

En esta materia solo es posible afirmar que la madera contaminada con sustancias químicas (pinturas, barnices, creosota, etc.) o que haya estado sumergida en agua salada produce dioxinas y furanos (por la presencia de cloro).

Pese a las intensas búsquedas realizadas tanto en el país como en el exterior, no hemos encontrado ninguna información concreta acerca de la posible emisión de dioxinas y furanos por la quema de madera seca de eucalipto o de otros tipos de leña que se utilizan en Uruguay

Sin embargo, dada la potencialidad de la leña como combustible alternativo es importante despejar dudas y en ese sentido sería imprescindible que el Estado llevara a cabo estudios completos en materia de emisiones aéreas resultantes de la quema de leña (tanto de eucaliptos como de especies de monte nativo) para determinar la presencia de gases peligrosos (tanto dioxinas como otros).

Al mismo tiempo, se debe promover la investigación en materia del mejoramiento de procesos de quema de leña, que prevengan posibles daños ambientales y sobre la salud humana, más allá de que estos provengan de dioxinas o de otros contaminantes.

En definitiva, lo que de ninguna manera se puede hacer, es afirmar que la leña que se quema en Uruguay (de eucalipto y de monte) genere dioxinas y furanos, por la sencilla razón de que no se sabe.


China Radio International: Reports from Developing Countries


Welcome to this edition of Reports from Developing Countries here on China Radio International. I am QZ in Beijng.

In this edition: Residents of the tsunami-hit Indonesian province of Aceh are recovering and rebuilding their lives, but mental health remains a challenge one year after the catastrophe. Plus, a rundown of what's happening in other developing countries. Please stay with us.

Anchor: It's just a little over a year since the Indian Ocean tsunami struck, killing more than 200 thousand people. In the Indonesian province of Aceh, one of the most badly hit areas, people are now recovering and rebuilding their lives. Soupe Arthur, head of the World Health Organization’s mental heath unit in Banda Aceh, spoke with UN Radio’s Sofi Budra about some of the challenges the people still face.

That was Soupe Arthur of the World Health Organization, speaking with UN Radio’s Sofi Budra about the mental health challenge in the tsunami hit Indonesian province of Aceh.

Now let's take a quick look at what's making the news in other developing countries.

According to a report presented by Child Workers in Nepal, a non-governmental organization, at least 14,000 minors in the country have been abducted by anti-government guerrillas in the past ten months. Sixty have died.

Hundreds of children have been released by the guerrillas after indoctrination in their training camps.

Uganda is to intensify crackdowns on the illegal ivory trade following the acquisition of ivory detectors early this month.

The Lusaka Agreement Task Force, informally known as "Interpol for wildlife", worked with the United Nations Environment Program to purchase 15 ivory detectors. They were recently distributed to the LATF member states: Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and the Republic of the Congo.

Well, that wraps up this edition of 'Reports from Developing Countries'.

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This is Qi Zhi in Beijing. I hope you'll join us next time!  


The Sunday Times (Malta): All in a year's work

Anne Zammit

One year ago today, on the first day of January 2005, the Environment Minister started off the year on an alarming note:

"Unless we kill the use of plastic bags they will kill us. Plastic bags which ended up in waste dumps let off harmful dioxin emission which could end up in the food chain".

A 6c eco-tax was slapped on plastic bags. There followed a stampede of housewives snapping up free shopping bags duly distributed by the Environment Ministry to a number of points of sale. The cloth bags were in vogue for a month or two. Supermarkets put a 10c charge on plastic bags to encourage their use and discourage people from using plastic bags.

Today, a year later, you would never know this initiative had taken place. The hessian bags supplied by WasteServ and the ministry seem to have been relegated to storing winter bedspreads by the housewives. Supermarkets became sheepish about charging for plastic bags. They began undercutting each other until the charge fizzled out completely. As another January rolls by we are up to our necks in plastic bags once more.

Just before Christmas the advent of a recycling venture was heralded. WasteServ is to get socially challenged individuals to make our discards saleable again, creating jobs and helping the environment. May the initiative prosper to outlive the year.

We do not always find what we hoped for under the Christmas tree. The present of my choice, had WasteServ been up to it, would have been curbside collection as hinted at in the Waste Management Strategy, but like St Nicholas and his elves, unseen.

On the second day of January 2005, we were regaled by a Transport Ministry announcement that Government was in talks with the Public Transport Authority for buses to be fitted with an auto-locator which would enable people waiting for a bus to know when it might arrive at their bus stop. The Malta Transport Authority said it had commissioned foreign experts to draw up a report on the size of the bus fleet, routes and infrastructure such as bus termini. Nothing more was heard throughout the year.

This time last year the declared aim for 2005 was to carry out an energy audit on at least one ministry. The Ministry for Public Investments' new corporate social responsibility guidelines were to include "new standards for public entities to waste less, recycle waste, consume less water and energy and contribute towards the environment of the localities where they operate if their activity has an environmental price".

Then Minister Gatt tossed the ball back into Minister Pullicino's court, calling for the Environment Ministry to be given "the necessary clout" to run a programme to reduce use of energy in the public sector.

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