YAOUNDE, Cameroon: The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) has called on Africa and its people to rise against any trade deals and plans that may render their streets and communities a dumping ground for US waste.
The Alliance, with at least 1,000 civil society organisations in 48 African countries under its fold, has especially condemned any plans by oil companies to have a trade deal that would benefit them but weaken Kenya’s rules on plastics and imports of American trash.
In a statement sent to newsrooms today (September 2nd 2020), PACJA’s Executive Director Mithika Mwenda any such plan to “flood Africa with plastics” would be diabolic “and the oil companies and governments behind this endeavour must be shamed and stopped”.
“Africa already receives millions of tonnes of waste from western countries annually. The World Bank estimates that by 2050 waste generated in Sub-Saharan Africa will triple. Right now, 80 per cent to 90 per cent of plastic waste is inadequately disposed of in many countries across Africa,” said Dr Mithika, adding that this posed threats to rivers and oceans.
He was responding to statements appearing in credible media websites insinuating that “faced with plunging profits and a climate crisis that threatens fossil fuels, (Big Oil) is demanding a trade deal that weakens Kenya’s rules on plastics and on imports of American trash”.
Dr Mithika said waste mismanagement was projected to increase on the African continent, and that any additional burden of plastics imports would make it difficult for people and nature to thrive. “We cannot let this happen,” he said.
He called upon the US government to be transparent in its dealings with African countries, noting that it was a glaring concern that already the American leadership had aided the country’s withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Agreement, yet it was responsible for 18 per cent of the total global emissions.
“It is, therefore, wicked and immoral for the US government and its corporate interests to pursue actions likely to cause further havoc and exacerbate existing environmental crises in African countries,” Mithika said. He urged the US government to ensure any of its dealings in Africa were in line with or supported through continued investments in healthcare, sustainable food systems, water, infrastructure to mention a few.
The ED urged big oil investors to begin redeeming themselves by redirecting their resources towards supporting de-carbonised growth in Africa through investments in renewable energy uptake and access.
“Fossils fuels account for nearly 90 per cent of global emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which with other greenhouse gasses, is responsible for climate change,” Mithika noted.
Despite contributing only 4 per cent to global emissions, Africa is among the most vulnerable regions to the impacts of climate change and the least capable to either adapt or contribute to mitigating it.
“Big Oil investors should support strides towards an Africa powered by renewable energy and not work to hamper or reverse them,” said Dr Mithika.
“Big Oil investors should support strides towards an Africa powered by renewable energy and not work to hamper or reverse them,” he added.
PACJA and the African civil society are closely monitoring the unfortunate development and has vowed to hold to account “all parties accountable for any trade deals that put the African people and environment in harm's way”.
KISUMU, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Schools in Kenya only opened for the new term two weeks but the 2000 students of Victoria Primary School in Kisumu might soon have no place to learn from.
The school’s land measuring 3.6 hectares, located in the Kenya’s third city’s central business district has been grabbed by powerful individuals, leaving the fate of the pupils unknown.
Edward Omalla, the school’s head teacher says the problem began in 2012 when part of the land was forcibly annexed, subdivided and given to some individuals.
“We are living in fear. The teachers and learners don’t know what to expect. Our school’s land is registered under numbers 644 and 647. But in 2012, some of the school manage committee members colluded with land grabbers and sold 3.6 hectares. To date, this land has not reverted to us. It is a case that has been fought for eight years now,” Omalla said.
He is optimistic that government has now sent its investigators to get to the bottom of the problem and save the school that is a stone’s throw away from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s State House in Kisumu.
The school’s case illustrates the insatiable appetite of land around Lake Victoria. The lake, the largest fresh water in Africa and second largest fresh water lake in the world has lost some of its land, including that located on its shores to businesspeople and politicians.
Now, the once fresh lake has its waters poisoned and the residents can no longer enjoy the fish, either from the proceeds of selling the fish or eating it. Politicians have hived off junks of land around the lake to erect palatial homes or tourist hotels.
Investigations by The Standard revealed that public land valued at Sh1.654 billion is in the hands of private individuals, who illegally acquired it.
Identified as Block 7 within Kisumu municipality and found on the shores of the lake, this land stretches from Kisumu international airport, through Lwangni beach, Kenya Railways, State House, Impala animal sanctuary to the famous Dunga beach, renowned for fish, school visits and boat rides.
Here, there are 16 pieces of land that have been subdivided from the original Block 7. Records show the pieces are worth Sh1.654 billion.
Through the efforts of EACC, some pieces have been returned to the public. They include Block 7/509 that was owned by Dr Oburu Odinga, former Bondo MP and elder brother of Raila. He is a nominated MP of the East African Legislative Assembly.
In its ruling delivered on July 26, last year, High Court Judge, Justice Stephen Kibunja ruled that the lease given to Oburu by then Commissioner of Lands Sammy Mwaita was not protected under Article 40 of the Constitution. The case was filed by EACC.
The court ruled that the piece of land worth Sh35 million is part of the larger land set apart as reserve and vested in the Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) and was not available for allocation for private purposes. Oburu was accused of colluding with Mwaita, now Baringo Central MP, to defraud Kenya Railways of the half-acre of land.
The judge noted that the properties belongs to KRC and had been alienated, hence not available for allocation.
“No diligent public officer at the Lands registry and Survey Department, would have processed the allocation and subdivision of the suit land, and the registration of the lease thereof without ensuring and satisfying themselves that the relevant approval, consent and documents had been availed before them,” Kibunja ruled, adding the subdivision, issuance and registration of the lease over the land in the name of the accused, was fraudulent, irregular, illegal and unprocedural.
Block 7/548 and Block 7/454 worth Sh140 million were also recovered, same to Block 7/541.
George Mogare Oira, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) regional manager said the commission has also been able to recover a public park within the city centre.
“Taifa Park, registered as Block 7/240 and called Kisumu public park and gardens has been recovered and will soon be used by members of the public. It is worth 370 million and was illegally acquired by Odalo Mak’Ojwando Abuor, Fredrick Otieno, Paula Akoth, United Plaza and Rashid Mwakiwiwi,” Oira said.
He said the land grabbers are so brazen that they don’t even spare protected property. “This was the case when Charles Oyoo Kanyangi and five others illegally acquired Block 8/22 that belongs to the judiciary and is situated very close to Kisumu Law Courts. It is valued at Sh830 million. We have also recovered it,” Oira said.
He said the commission has finalized investigating the matter and will soon present to court suspects for fraudulently acquiring the land valued at Sh22.5 million.
“We will next month present 14 cases in court. Eleven of these are related to land. We are also investigating another 70, which are also mainly dealing with irregular and illegal land acquisition,” Oira said.
The land grabbing mania in Kisumu attracted Uhuru, who, five months ago, ordered government agencies to secure land that original belonged to Kenya Railways.
As a result, many buildings were brought down to pave way for the construction of Kisumu port, a project the President hopes will improve transport and business within the East African Community (EAC) members, made up of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. One of the establishments demolished belonged to former Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo.
The illegal acquisition of public land and establishment of businesses along the lake have given rise to another environmental hazard.
Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest fresh water body and the world’s second largest lake, is no longer fresh as it is polluted, overfished and choked by weeds.
The once clean lake is now choking with pollution from industrial and agricultural wastes, as well as raw sewage from Kenya’s third largest city of one million residents. The massive water body’s problems are compounded by illegal fishing, catching of juvenile fish, and infestation by the invasive water hyacinth.
A carnivorous Nile perch, a large fish breed that can grow to 200 kilogrammes (440 pounds) was introduced into the lake two decades ago. It has since wiped out nearly half of the 500-plus endemic species of Victoria cichlids. These are colourful fishes that once thrived within the lake.
“This lake is in a very sorry state. Everything about the lake is wrong. Fishermen are using wrong fishing gears, but nobody arrests them. Industries are discharging waste into the lake, but no action is being taken,” Moris Okulo, a trained ecologist who has worked as a guide at the lake’s Dunga beach in Kisumu for the past 20 years.
He lamented that some people have built structures including latrines inside the lake with the knowledge of law enforcing personnel, but the authorities are turning a blind eye to the blight.
Lake Victoria covers 68,800 square kilometres (26,500 square miles) and has six percent of its surface area in Kenya, 43 percent in Uganda, and 51 per cent in Tanzania, according to the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO), an inter-governmental fisheries management institution.
Despite the problems, Lake Victoria is believed to be the most productive freshwater fishery in Africa. Each year it yields more than 800,000 metric tonnes of fish with a beach value of up to $400 million and export earnings of $250 million, according to the LVFO. The fishing industry support the livelihoods of nearly two million people and helps feed nearly 22 million people in the region, according to the organization.
But the existence of the lake is now threatened, with Kenya National Cleaner Production (KNCPC) pointing out that 88 industries operating around the lake collectively dump seven tonnes of industrial waste into the lake every year. Yet none of the authorities in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania prosecute offenders.
Sewage is another major source of pollution. On the Kenyan side, four major towns of Kisumu, Bondo, Homa Bay, and Migori that border the lake have malfunctioning sewage treatment plants or none at all. Just 10 per cent of households in Kisumu city are connected to the sewer system, according to an environmental and social impact report for a project to upgrade portions of the system. “Consequently, raw sewage is often discharged into the lake directly from unconnected sources through open drains or partially treated sewage from the treatment systems,” the report states.
Open sewers running from all corners of the city and deliberately directed into the lake are evident on the lake shore.
“The designers of the city did not consider the new settlements that are still coming up in Kisumu. As a result, the sewage system that was put in place cannot cope with the current pressure,” said Antony Saisi, Kisumu County Director of Environment at the Kenyan government’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
Fortunately, in the town of Homa Bay a sewage treatment plant is now being constructed right by the shore of Lake Victoria with financing from the World Bank. Until it is completed, raw sewage from the broader Homa Bay County, with a population of 960,000, will continue to make its way to the lake.
At Dunga Beach in Kisumu city, public restrooms serving over 10,000 people who visit the beach every day hold pit latrines suspended right over the lake.
“We have not been able to tame washing of vehicles inside the lake because of lack of political support. We are dealing with hooligans who are politically connected,” said Saisi.
Behind the beachside facilities, the flies celebrate upon open sewer trenches discharging directly into Lake Victoria. Meanwhile, food kiosks erected on platforms extending into the waters of the lake serve thousands of visitors every day. The kiosks have no solid waste collection services, which means napkins, fish bones, bottle caps, and plastic bags also end up into the lake.
Collins Rabala, a fisherman at Dunga beach, said that he and his fellow fishermen often stay in their boats out on the lake for more than 15 hours at a stretch. “We carry food with us when we go fishing, and when it comes to answering calls of nature, we have no choice but relieve ourselves in the lake,” he said.
As a result of all the human waste pouring into the lake, recent study revealed traces of estrogenic endocrine disruptors in the lake. All water samples analyzed from nine sites in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania tested positive for several estrogenic compounds that can be released from human urine and faecal matter.
The study, co-authored by Paul Mbuthia, an associate professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Nairobi showed that high concentrations of such hormonal chemicals can cause abnormalities in animals, including humans.
“They interfere with normal organ system. With high quantities of estrone, chances of getting animals becoming more feminine are very possible. Others can cause tumors in the system,” Mbuthia said.
To save the lake, a regional body called Lake Victoria Environmental Management Programme (LVEMP) is working with support from the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Sweden and East African Community partner states to reduce environmental stressors throughout the lake’s drainage basin and to enhance the basin’s ecological integrity.
The project that has been running from 2009 aims to solve deteriorating lake water quality due to sedimentation, pollution, declining lake levels, the resurgence of water hyacinth and other invasive weeds and over-exploited natural resources throughout the lake basin.
Kenya is home to the Winam Gulf, where Dunga beach is located. Saisi said the gulf is the breeding ground for nearly all the fishes in the lake, and fishing is prohibited there. But is the favourite spot for fishermen in the lake.
New World Economic Forum Report released this week titled Nature Risk Rising: Why the Crisis Engulfing Nature Matters for Business and the Economy shows that globally, 115 million tonnes of mineral nitrogen fertilizers are applied to croplands each year, a fifth of these nitrogen inputs accumulate in soils and biomass, while 35 per cent enter oceans.
The report also shows there has been a 70 per cent increase of invasive alien species in non-native species, with adverse impacts on local ecosystems and biodiversity.
This article was first published by The Standard Group
The Writer is a Bertha Fellow.
KWALE, Kenya - Ashura Shehe Boi, 41, is struggling to take care of her seven siblings after their mother died in 2013 from a stroke she suffered when her house was razed down and the family evicted from their ancestral land.
A few kilometres away from her home, there are graves of Juma Gomba and Juma Zaidi, both who were arrested, tortured and died for opposing evictions of their families.
At another home, Hassan Salim Dongo is at a bitter man after losing his son, Feisal Hassan, who died from burns after their house was torched by goons hired by the owner of Kwale International Sugar Company (KISCOL) in Msambweni, Kwale County. This happened under the watch of security officers.
Another child agednine years is living with scars sustained when he was burnt in their house during the fateful day. A medical examination report signed by a Mr Chebii, a medical officer, on October 7, 2010 shows that Hassan suffered burnt scars on the chest, breasts, elbow and hip.
Life with evictions, arrests and threats have become the order of the day for the locals of six areas of Msambweni in Kwale.
The people here are fighting for LR. No. 5004/30/R, the 49,000 acres of land in Mabatani, Nyumba Sita, Vidziani, Gonjora, Fahamuni and Kingwede areas.
According to land records, the land was at independence registered as a trust land belonging to the Digo community which has lived there since time immemorial and have no other place to call home.
But the troubles of the families who now number to 4,000 families with an estimated population of 10, 000 began in 2008 when armed security officers supervised the burning down of their houses, cutting down of their coconuts, mangoes, maizeplants and trees and forcefully evicted them at the dead of the night.
“My mother Fatuma Shehe Boi suffered a stroke as a result of shock when she saw her house burnt. She had kept gold in our house but it was all lost. She was bedridden from 2008 and died in 2013 leaving me with the task of taking care of my seven siblings,” Ashura says.
Suleiman Bakari Shauri, 65, chairman of the Vidziani Farmers Group which the affected families formed to fight for their rights is a bitter man and accuses politicians, senior government officials and owners of the Kwale International Sugar Company Ltd (KISCOL) for their woes.
“My parents who died recently aged 80 and 61 respectively were born and lived here all their lives. It beats reason that now we are being evicted from our ancestral land. Our problems began when former president Mwai Kibaki visited here in 2007 and promised to give the owner of KISCOL 15,000 acres of land for a sugarcane nucleus estate for his factory,” Shauri says.
He says the 15,000 acres are located close to Ramisi sugar factory but the owner has now laid claim on the neighbouring 49,000 acres that are being occupied by the 40,000 families.
According to a search done at the Department of the Registrar General in Nairobi under the Companies Act (Cap 486) on June 18, 2012, KISCOL is owned by Rajesh Pabari and Kaushik Pabari. Both are directors cum shareholders with 500,000 shares each.
Investigations further reveal that the two now control 80 per cent of the shareholding and have entered into partnership with leading Mauritian sugar producers, Omnicane, who have acquired 20 per cent of the total shareholding.
KISCOL replaced the old Ramisi sugar factory which closed shop in 1989. “The old factory owner’s lease of 99 years expired in 1986 and former president Daniel Arap Moi ordered that all the land that was initially occupied by sugarcane be reverted to the community. This was minus ours that we are fighting for now,” Shauri says.
Said Omar, vice chairman of the group says the community is leaving in fear and without hope of ever getting the justice they are fighting for. He says the owner of the factory is so brutal that he does not even care about court orders.
“He colludes with security officers and hires goons who come to burn down our houses. Sudi Twabara, who offered us land to build temporary structures after we were evicted was arrested and taken to Msambweni police station. He was arrested in 2008. He came back a few days later shaken and died a few days later. We don’t know what happened to him,” Omar says.
The troubles forced Shauri, Omar, Ashura and other committee members of their group who are Kassim Ali Kama, Tsudzi Bamvua, Abdalla Reja, Bakari Ali Nguvu and Rama Mwinyi Madzumba to move to court.
The committee members together with other 61 community members have filed a petition at the High Court in Mombasa under the Constitutional and Judicial Review Division. The petition number 65 of 2011 was first heard at the Mombasa court on October 25, 2011. It was filed on behalf of the petitioners by lawyer Japheth Chidzipha.
The petitioners want KISCOL owner’s servants, agents or employees permanently stopped from evicting them from their ancestral land as continued evictions have rendered them homeless and destitute.
“Chidzipha has already pulled out of the case. We are now being represented by lawyer Christine Kipsang. The case will again be heard on 17 of this month. Though the case has dragged on now close for a decade, we are optimistic we will emerge winners, one day,” Shauri says.
Kwale County Lands and Environment County Executive Committee Member (CEC) Member Saumu Beja Mahaja who spoke on authority from area Governor Salim Mvurya said there is no way they will abandon the community.
“We are supporting the community in court and we are awaiting the ruling which we hope will give back the land the rightful owners. We welcome investors but we are not ready to let our people lose lives, land, homes and their livelihood over profit,” Mahaja said in her office in Kwale.
She said Mvurya has visited the troubled area to stop evictions and has vowed that his administration will make sure the land is returned to the locals.
“We are aware of the interest by high ranking politicians to grab land here because it is rich in minerals and is even home to the Base Titanium company and maginificent beaches that allow you to see the ocean’s blue water and the Chale Island. But investment should not be done at the expense of lives,” Mahaja says.
According to the company’s audit report the financial year ended December, 2017, KISCOL posted a Sh75 million profit. In 2016, it made a loss of Sh618 million.
The company's core activities include processing of sugarcane for the production of sugar, ethanol and electricity and record show it is a $200 million sugar processing facility, incorporating 5,500 hectares of cultivated cane, a 3,000 tonnes-crushed-per-day sugar mill and an 18 megawatt bagasse-fired power plant. It is listed as one of the largest green field projects in Africa andbegan fully operating in 2014.
Kwale County Women Representative Zulekha Juma says the land belongs to the residents and indigenous owners of the villages of Vidzaini, Fingirika, Vumbu, Nyumba Sita, Fahamuni, Mabatani, and Gonjora.
“I blame former National Lands Commission (NLC) chairman Prof Muhammad Swazuri, who ironically comes from Msambweni for authoring a letter that allowedeviction of the locals to make space for planting of sugarcane. This is inhuman and fraudulent,” Zulekha says. Swazuri has since left NLC and is in court fighting against corruption and abuse of office accusations.
The team visited former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Nairobi to seek for assistance.
“We visited Raila on July 15 this year. He listened to us and took us to Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i. Our intention was to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta and request him to give us our land back but we missed the opportunity. Matiang’i promised to investigate the matter,” Shauri says.
The story was first published by The Standard Media Group as part of Protus Bertha Foundation 2019/2020 Fellowship.
The writer is a Bertha Fellow.
NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - The UN has called for protection of journalists so that they are able to highlight environmental issues.
“UN Environment is taking a stand against the ongoing threats, intimidation, harassment, and murder of environmental defenders around the world, with the launch of the UN Environmental Rights Initiative in Geneva ,” said Erik Solheim, Head of UNEP, which is headquartered in Kenya.
Speaking in Nairobi, Solheim said journalists and other environment activists need protection because they help people to better understand their rights and how to defend them and assist governments to better safeguard environmental rights.
“Those who struggle to protect planet and people should be celebrated as heroes, but the sad fact is that many are paying a heavy price with their safety and sometimes their lives. It’s our duty to stand on the side of those who are on the right side of history. It means standing for the most fundamental and universal of human rights,” Solheim said.
He urged governments to prioritize the protection of environmental defenders from harassment and attack and to bring those who harm or threaten them to justice swiftly and definitively.
‘Killings, violence and threats often go unreported and unpunished. More journalistic coverage and stronger legal support at the local and national level are essential to defend the defenders,” said Jonathan Watts, Global Environment Editor, The Guardian.
Solheim said environmental rights are enshrined in over 100 constitutions and yet in January 2018 Global Witness documented that almost four environmental defenders are being killed per week, with the true total likely far higher.
“Many more are harassed, intimidated and forced from their lands. Around 40 -50 percent of the 197 environmental defenders killed in 2017 came from indigenous and local communities,” he said.
The UN noted that violations of environmental rights have a profound impact on life, self-determination, food, water, health, sanitation, housing, cultural, civil and political rights.
This comes at a time when the Kenya Government has imposed a 90-day moratorium on timber harvesting in public forests.
Deputy President William Ruto also unveiled a taskforce last week to investigate why Kenya is losing forest cover quickly due to illegal timber harvesting and settlements.
The 15-member team led by chairperson Marion Kamau will investigate why the country has 500,000 acres in water catchment areas that have no trees.
The taskforce will also look into existing legal frameworks, including the forest Act and others, to ensure punitive measures are put in place to address various environmental challenges facing the country.
The team which has two weeks to deliver its interim report and a month to give its final report is set to collect views from the public, religious groups, civil societies, diplomats and other interested stakeholders.
“I have told the taskforce that this is not a public relations exercise. In the past, we have had exercises that end up being photo opportunities. The taskforce has a very clear mandate,” Ruto said when he unveiled its members.
The call for protecting journalists and environment activists also comes at a time when the Sengwer indigenous people in Embobut forest has accused Government of violence, threats and eviction from the forest.
UN also called on the private sector to move beyond a culture of basic compliance to one where the business community champions the rights of everyone to a clean and healthy environment.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said two disturbing counter-trends are undermining both the environmental rule of law and human rights to participate and assemble.
“The first is the escalating harassment, intimidation, and murder of environmental defenders. Between 2002 and 2013, 908 people were killed in 35 countries defending the environment and land, and the pace of killing is increasing; 2017 was even worse,” Hussein said.
The second, he added, is the attempt by some countries to limit the activities of nongovernmental organizations.
“Between 1993 and 2016, 48 countries enacted laws that restricted the activities of local NGOs receiving foreign funding, and 63 countries adopted laws restricting activities of foreign NGOs,” he said.
Growing antimicrobial resistance linked to discharge of drugs and particular chemicals into the environment is one of the most worrying health threats today, according to new research from UN Environment that highlights emerging challenges and solutions in the environmental space.
Launched during the United Nations Environment Assembly at UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi, The Frontiers Report looks at six areas: the environmental dimension of antimicrobial resistance; nanomaterials, marine protected areas, sand and dust storms, off-grid solar solutions, and environmental displacement.
Of the issues considered, the report finds that the role of the environment in the emergence and spread of resistance to antimicrobials is particularly concerning.
“The warning here is truly frightening: we could be spurring the development of ferocious superbugs through ignorance and carelessness,” said UN Environment chief Erik Solheim. “Studies have already linked the misuse of antibiotics in humans and agriculture over the last several decades to increasing resistance, but the role of the environment and pollution has received little attention.
“This needs priority action right now, or else we run the risk of allowing resistance to occur through the back door, with potentially terrifying consequences.”
Antimicrobial resistance occurs when a microorganism evolves to resist the effects of an antimicrobial agent. Globally about 700,000 people die of resistant infections every year because available antimicrobial drugs have become less effective at killing the resistant pathogens.
There is clear evidence that the release into the environment of antimicrobial compounds in effluents from households, hospitals and pharmaceutical facilities, and in agricultural run-off, combined with direct contact between natural bacterial communities and discharged resistant bacteria, is driving bacterial evolution and the emergence of more resistant strains.
Once consumed, most antibiotic drugs are excreted un-metabolized along with resistant bacteria – up to 80 per cent of consumed antibiotics, according to the report. This is a growing problem, since human antibiotic use increased 36 per cent this century, and antibiotic use in livestock is predicted to increase 67 per cent by 2030. Additionally, up to 75 per cent of antibiotics used in aquaculture may be lost into the surrounding environment.
Wastewater treatment facilities cannot remove all antibiotics and resistant bacteria, and in fact may be hot-spots for antimicrobial resistance. There is evidence showing that multi-drug resistant bacteria are prevalent in marine waters and sediments close to aquaculture, industrial and municipal discharges.
Solving the problem will mean tackling the use and disposal of antibiotic pharmaceuticals as well as the release of antimicrobial drugs, relevant contaminants and resistant bacteria into the environment, the report says.
The report also considers five other emerging issues.
Nanomaterials: Applying the Precautionary Principle
The global nanomaterials market is expected to grow 20.7 per cent annually, and reach US$ 55 billion by 2022. There is a serious risk that we do not understand enough about the long-term effects of nanomaterials to use them safely. The report finds that the speed of industrial development is far out-stripping the pace of regulatory development.
Past lessons from exposure to hazardous materials – such as asbestos – teaches us that “no evidence of harm” does not equal “evidence of no harm”, meaning that research into the possible negative consequences of environmental exposure to nanomaterials is essential.
Marine Protected Areas: Securing Benefits for Sustainable Development
Overfishing, extractive activities, tourism, coastal development and pollution are damaging ocean habitats and reducing populations of marine species. We have lost half of the world’s coral reefs and are consuming nearly one-third of our commercial fish stocks at unsustainable rates.
Marine Protected Areas offer one of the best options for maintaining or restoring the health of ocean and coastal ecosystems. While the Aichi target of protecting 10 per cent of coastal and territorial waters by 2020 has been achieved – hitting 14.4 per cent to date – protecting the marine environment also requires effective management and the equitable sharing of costs and benefits.
Governing the oceans in a sustainable way could see Marine Protected Areas as a driver – not a limit – for the vital economic and social benefits that we derive from the global ocean.
Sand and Dust Storms: Subduing a Global Phenomenon
Sand and dust storm result from strong winds eroding sand, silt and clay particles from arid landscapes and impoverishing their soils. They can travel thousands of kilometres across continents and oceans, entraining other pollutants on the way and depositing particles far from their origin.
Chronic exposure to fine dust contributes to premature deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer and acute lower respiratory infections. Economic losses from a single dust storm can also be huge. A massive dust storm, called Red Dawn, in Australia on 22-23 September 2009 cost an estimated US$262 million.
Despite the known issues, human activity has caused dust emission to rise by 25-50 per cent since 1900. Land-use changes are responsible for 25 per cent of global dust emission.
Reducing the threat will require strategies that promote sustainable land and water management in landscapes including cropland, rangelands, deserts, and urban areas, integrated with measures addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Solar Solutions: Bridging the Energy Gap for Off-Grid Settlements
Nearly 1 billion people worldwide live without electricity. While significant progress has been made in recent years, an estimated 780 million people could remain off-grid in 2030.
Recent years have seen the proliferation of small distributed solar energy systems serving low-income customers in Africa and Asia, where at least 95 per cent of the world’s off-grid population reside.
There have been successful roll-outs of solar products with improved batteries, lower capital costs, affordable financing and easy access to pay-as-you-go schemes. With the right policies and regulations, off-grid solar could be key to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals for universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services and eliminating poverty.
Environmental Displacement: Human Mobility in the Anthropocene
We live in an era of unprecedented mobility. About 250 million people live and work outside the country of their birth. Another 750 million people migrate within their own countries. Migration drives development and progress, offering opportunities, spreading ideas and creating connections around the world.
Natural disasters and conflicts also drive migration. For example, severe drought and food insecurity has displaced 761,000 people in Somalia since November 2016. Globally, 117 million people were displaced by weather-related disasters between 2012 and 2016.
Migration produces environmental changes that cascade through the Earth’s systems – air, water and soil pollution, deforestation, soil erosion and desertification, water scarcity and biodiversity loss.
The interwoven trends of climate change, population growth, rising consumption, and environmental degradation are likely to lead to the displacement and migration of even greater numbers of people in the future. Unless we deal with long-term environmental vulnerability and build resilience in communities, environmental displacement will become a new normal.
Ministers and senior officials responsible for health and environment have committed to reducing the annual 12.6 million deaths caused by environmental pollution.
Gathering at the COP22 climate meeting in Marrakech, over two dozen high level officials from both sectors signed up to the Declaration for Health, Environment and Climate Change. The goal is to reduce pollution-related deaths via a new global initiative to promote better management of environmental and climate risks to health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that some 12.6 million deaths a year are associated with environmental pollution. Of these, an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6 per cent of all global deaths) are associated with air pollution, from household and outdoor sources.
"This landmark declaration has raised consensus for better articulation of our efforts to find a solution to the major health, environmental and climate challenges. Together, we commit to ensuring that people – their livelihoods, well-being, and particularly their health – are at the centre of the response to climate change," said Ms Hakima El Haite, Minister of Environment, Morocco.
The declaration encourages the health and environment sectors to exchange experiences, technical expertise and best practices to enhance health and protect the environment. Global and comprehensive links between these two sectors does not yet exist.
Most environmental pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. However, outdoor air pollution remains prevalent in high-income countries as well, with 9 out of 10 people worldwide exposed to air pollution that exceeds WHO Air Quality guidelines for fine particulate matter.
Ninety-four percent of outdoor air pollution deaths are due to noncommunicable diseases – notably cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Air pollution also increases the risk for acute respiratory infections. Indoor air pollution in particular causes about half of all childhood pneumonia deaths (about 530,000 childhood deaths in 2012).
Major sources of air pollution include inefficient modes of transport, household fuel and waste burning, coal-fired power plants, and industrial activities.
Prof Judi Wakhungu, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Environment and her Water counterpart Eugene Wamalwa expressed Government's commitment to addressing effects of climate change.
"The Government has invested heavily in the health sector and environment to reduce deaths related with effects of climate change," Wakhungu said.
Wamalwa said his ministry is keen on providing clean water to all Kenyans to reduce water-borne related diseases.
According to WHO, hundreds of thousands more deaths each year are due to direct climate change impacts including heat waves, extreme weather emergencies, drought, and increased diarrhoeal disease and vector borne disease transmission. And these deaths are projected to rise if climate change is not addressed.
"We know that most health risks from climate change are preventable. By establishing this initiative we can work together on strengthening health systems, investing in disease prevention, and common-sense measures such as improving water and sanitation systems, and infectious disease surveillance. This will save lives now and protect us from escalating climate risks," said Dr El Houssaine Louardi, Minister of Health, Morocco.
The Declaration recognizes that well designed policies to protect the environment will result in reducing the global burden of disease attributable to the environment, as well as reducing the rising rate of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as stroke, heart disease, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases. NCDs account for nearly two-thirds – or 8.2 million – of deaths associated with unhealthy environments.
"The devastating consequences of air pollution affect both the climate and health. They are seen everywhere from smog-encircled mega-cities to village dwellings filled with smoke from indoor cooking. Yet virtually all air pollution is man-made – and often excessive," said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. "By working together, across sectors, and with partners, we can help ensure that people – their livelihoods, well-being, and particularly their health – are at the centre of the response to climate change."
"Rather than focusing solely on the cure, we need more integrated policies, solutions and measures that prevent environmental degradation and the health problems they cause. For this we need the environment and health communities to come together. We need to translate global agreements into measures that have a tangible, positive impact on people's lives," said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.
"We have the solutions and they are within reach, but we need to see greater political will for positive change to materialize. The coalition that has been called for today offers an important and timely opportunity to catalyse change across multiple sectors, from energy, transport, housing and agriculture to economic policy and planning."
The health and environment agencies are also linking together in a new campaign, BreatheLife, to raise awareness about air pollution, climate and health impacts as well as promote climate solutions beneficial to health.