Halophytes could prove a profitable solution to salinified cropland
Millions of people living in coastal communities face additional food stress from the intrusion of salt into agricultural soils, due to poor irrigation, tidal flooding and rising sea levels. Faced with such a challenge, many talk of using genetic modification to create a new strain of salt-tolerant crops.
But a very different approach is starting to reap rewards in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Here, research is focused on commercialising existing plants which naturally have a high salt tolerance.
With water supplies under stress, smart companies are seeking ways to shrink their thirst. David Burrows dips a toe in the tide.
Look around you: at home, in the office, on the train, in the cafe… Almost everything you see took significant amounts of water to produce, source or transport. We depend on this precious resource for our health, our food, our infrastructure and industry. But until now, we've taken its abundant supply for granted, and paid very little for the privilege.
These days of plenty will soon be over. Consultants McKinsey predict that by 2030 global water requirements will have grown from 4,500 billion m3 today to 6,900 billion m3. Such a hike means demand will exceed our current reliable and accessible supplies by 40%. And these are becoming increasingly unreliable as climate change kicks in.
Constitutional reform grants Kenyans the “right to a clean and healthy environment”.
Environmental rights have been explicitly recognised as part of the constitutional relationship between Kenya’s Government and its people for the first time. Adopted last year following a referendum, the new constitution grants every person “the right to a clean and healthy environment, which includes the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations through legislative and other measures”.
Local lawyers have welcomed the step. Maurice Makoloo, Director of the Institute for Law and Environmental Governance, Nairobi, says that the new legal provisions would have a “profound effect” on prospects for environmental litigation. Specifically, says Makoloo, they will alleviate procedural barriers to court hearings, and improve public access to information about the environment. “These new rights elevate discourse on environmental issues to a higher level”, he adds.
Innovative irrigation techniques aim to restore the lost marshes of Mesopotamia
“Stars reflected in dark water, the croaking of frogs, canoes coming home at evening, peace and continuity, the stillness of a world that never knew an engine. Once again I experienced the longing to share this life,” wrote Wilfred Thesiger, documenting the years he spent among the ‘Marsh Arabs’ of southern Iraq in the 1950s.
The way of life he describes was lmost completely wiped out in the early 1990s, when the Mesopotamian marshes – which dwarfed the Florida Everglades at their peak – were drained under Saddam Hussein. Considered a refuge for insurgents, they were reduced to just 5% of their original size; villages were burnt down, the water poisoned.
Tree-planting programme attracts investment in south Ethiopia
The promise of potential income is driving a reforestation programme in Ethiopia, after the Government granted ownership of the land to cooperative groups. Locals have planted cash crops such as Spanish apple seeds for orchards and fast-growing Australian eucalyptus for wood and fuel – alongside native species – in an attempt to replace lost forests in the southern state of Oromia.
Oromia had been the site of an intensive forestation programme in the late 1980s as part of the communist junta’s regime. The scheme obliged locals to plant trees in exchange for food – a top-down approach to land management that caused many locals to see reforestation as a punishment, as opposed to an opportunity. Mass deforestation in the region for short-term economic gain followed the overthrow of
Ecuador accepts funds to prevent oil-drilling in Yasuní National Park
Ecuador may have set an important precedent in rainforest conservation by signing an agreement not to exploit the oil reserves of the Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini (ITT) field in the Yasuní National Park.
The 2.5 million acre park, one of the most bio-diverse regions on earth, sits on an estimated 846 million barrels of heavy crude. But the Ecuadorian Government is to issue certified guarantees not to exploit the reserve in exchange for financial contributions – from governments, private and public entities, NGOs and individuals – to a trust fund, administered by the UNDP. Each contributor will receive a Yasuní Guarantee Certificate showing the quantity of avoided CO2 emissions, in metric tonnes, as a direct result of the donation, according to the Leipzig Carbon Market.
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