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Friday, September 19, 2014

Turtles genocide posing big threat to Pak fishing trade

Sarfraz Ali
Ignorance is a blessing, so better to be blessed. The authorities concerned are unknown to gruesome reality that large scale butchering of indigenous turtles and its illegal trade is on the rise in the waters of River Sindh and its distributaries during the last two decades, posing extinction threat to the species besides posing huge environmental degradation.
This was revealed by Uzma Noreen, Coordinator WWF-P and wild life defender during a media men trip to Sukkur, that was organised by WWF to highlight illegal turtle trade and killing. In Pakistan, there are eight different species of freshwater turtles are found in Pakistan; five of them are globally threatened species, namely Indian soft-shell turtle, Indian peacock soft-shell turtle, Indian narrow-headed soft-shell turtle, Indian flap-shell turtle, black spotted (pond) turtle, Indian roofed turtle, brown roofed turtle and crowned river turtle, she said.
She said and added that all eight freshwater turtle species are listed in the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) Appendices I & II that means their import and export without a legal permit is prohibited. These turtles are found in the entire Indus River system. These turtles are found in the entire Indus river system.
During the briefing, she informed that the turtles paly a pivotal role for filling their tropic role in riverine ecosystems. Though no data available with the WWF and other institutions however the current population status of the species in Pakistan is unknown, though some past studies and surveys exist. Known as scavengers, the turtles feed on dead organic matter in the water and play a very important ecological role in cleaning water, she maintained.
WWF coordinator further said that if the turtles genocide and smuggling is continue with this sprit no matter Pakistan have to face big loss in the form of fish export business becouse turtles farming is not an easy job as it takes long period of time for maturity around 5 to 20 years. And, if allow such farming it would make it hard to verify which turtles are from farm and it will encourage illegal trade. The turtles are mostly smuggled include Vietnam, Korea, Hong Kong and China from 1990. In these countries people enjoy turtle soup, jelly, meat and also used for medicines. She further told that certain communities in Dera Ismail Khan and lower Sindh also eat turtles secretly and sell their eggs.
As per data available with Department of Fisheries, the country’s total fish production stands at 400,000 metric tons per annum out of which 282,000 metric tons is produced by Sindh and remaining by other provinces. Ironically, fish production in the country has remained stagnant which needs attention to propel it and earn foreign exchange.
At the time of media briefing by WWF, the officials of the Sindh Wildlife department Sukkur told the media men that 200  black spotted turtle ((Geoclemys hamiltonii)) that were smuggled to China in June were brought back last month with the help of WWF-P and it is pertinent to be mention here that it was the first incident of Pakistan’s history when any smuggled consignment returned back. The street value of this consignment was estimated at Rs 30 million.These turtles were kept in a small green nursery’s pond at Dolphin Centre WWF ofiice Sukkur. These rescued hard-shell turtles will be released into their natural habitat as soon as the flood situation comes down.
Though the turtles are on ICUN’s red list but still are non protected specie in Sindh. However, in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa both the provinces declared it protced species in 2007.
Ms Noreen, who has done research on turtles trade informed the media to a question that the black spotted turtles that were smuggled to China internationally cost $1600 per animal and locally Rs 50-400 alive irrespective of animal’s size. The cost of eggs about 80 to 250 per kg or 5-10/egg.
She confirmed that the illegal turtle trade was going on in all the three provinces. However, “ Turtle smuggling and trade is a major threat to turtle survival in Pakistan that has brought a significant decline in their number over the years”, she emphases
It is reported that people catch turtles from canals and then keep them at their own water ponds for growth. The turtles are caught from Sukkur, Phuleli and other canals of Thatta, Hyderabad and Badin.
The Wildlife Department Sindh is not paying any heed for the protection of turtle generation in the lower Sindh. It is reported that these turtles are used for making medicines while people also eat their meat.
WWF also arranged field visit for media to talk about illegal trade in Sher Dil Meher village in Ghotki near Indus having some 190 to 100 thatch houses.
General secretary, Community Based Organization, (CBO) Muhammad Ali Mirani, , told the media that the WWF had been helping them an end to the illegal trade.
“If we see an incident catching turtles we at once report to the near by police station and local elders”, he claimed. “For six to seven years there has been no hunting of turtles in this area “, Mirani revealed.
Manzoor Ahemd an other CBO official told that earlier people used to kill turtles massively. They would use nets or poisonous rats to kill or catch them. Those turtles were later sold in the market against Rs400-Rs500 per kilogram.
Phelwan Meher of Gohtani Environmental Organisation said that Bhel and some other non muslim communites are involved in illegal hunting. They are mostly poor people and working on daily wages in suger mills fishing business. “For two to three years ago they used to take sacks full of turtles from this area. However, he said due to the WWF interventions and different awareness campaigns this practice had come to an end now”, Pehlwan explained.
WWF-P Communication Officer, Syed Abubakr told the visiting journalists that WWF was striving for turtle’s importance in aquatic ecosystem among the hunting communities, general public and religious leaders to controlling the trade. “Global Poverty Elevation Fund, WWF UK was also playing a pivotal role in livelihood improvement of Indus fishermen community”, he said.

(The article is also published in Daily The Pak Banker)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

'Alarm bells' as greenhouse gases hit new high: UN

GENEVA: Surging carbon dioxide levels boosted greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to a new high in 2013, amid worrying signs that absorption by land and sea is waning, the UN warned Tuesday.
 "An alarm bell is ringing," Michel Jarraud, head of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), told reporters in Geneva. In its annual report on Earth-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the UN agency said concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide all broke records in 2013.  "We know without any doubt that our climate is changing and our weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels," Jarraud said.
 "We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases across the board," he in a statement, and warned: "we are running out of time."
Especially worrying, Jarraud said, was the sharp rise in CO2, by far the main culprit in global warming, to 396 parts per million in the atmosphere last year. That was 142 percent of levels prior to the year 1750, and marked a hike of 2.9 parts per million between 2012 and 2013 -- the largest annual increase in 30 years. It was not clear why concentrations rose so sharply, but Jarraud suggested it could be due to a shift in the ability of oceans and the biosphere to absorb emissions.

Bio-Gas project launched to discourage abundant forest cutting

To discourage abundant forest cutting in Chitral district, Shandur Bio-Gas project was introduced after a successful experiment by a local NGO at Booni some 75 kilometer off here Monday.
Well-known social worker Sultan Mehmood Khan was chief guest on the occasion while Engineer Qadir Shah presided over the introductory session.
Addressing the event Managing Director Shandur Bio-Gas Muhammad Ali Mujahid said that people are compelled to cut forests abundantly for fuel consumption as natural gas is unavailable in Chitral and in summer season temperature is below freezing point. Besides cooking people are using wood for keeping their houses warmth which cause natural disaster in the shape of flood.
To overcome these damages Shandur Bio-Gas programme introduced. Bio-Gas is a byproduct of animal muck (cow dung) which is very cheap and economical as comparative to other gas. The process of Bio-Gas is to dug a 10 feet well with cemented base and walls which is filled with animals muck and covered then it produce gas which is used as a fuel for cooking and heating purposes.
To make this plan successful a nongovernmental organization is providing financial support for the success of this plan.
Speakers on the occasion demanded the government and NGOs to play their role in such planning in other parts of Chitral too as wood is very expensive and if this plan would become successful it would reduce forest cutting and the poor segment of the society would be benefited.
Sultan Mehmood, Qadir Shah, Allaoudin, Muhammad Ali Mujahid, ex-DHO Dr. Sher Qayum, Sarfarz Ali Khan, Social Organizer SRSP Fakhruddin, Nawab Ali Khan advocate, Zakir Muhammad, Zafarullah, Khan Sahib and others also addressed on the occasion.
Performance award for serving Chitral was presented to senior journalist and President Chitral Union of Journalists Gul Hammad Farooqi.
Talking to our correspondent Dr Sher Qayum said that Bio-Gas is health friendly and have no effect on health and environment. The plan will play vital role in eliminating of deforestation in Chitral.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Home air pollution put the lives of 2.8 bn at risk world wide: Study

Nearly three billion people risk ill health and early death merely from breathing the air in their homes that is polluted by fires made for cooking and heating, researchers said Wednesday.
Some 40 percent of the world's population, mainly in Africa and Asia, use wood, charcoal or coal to cook, warm and light their homes, according to a review published by The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal. "These smoky, dirty fuels are often used in an open fire or simple stove, resulting in high levels of household air pollution in poorly ventilated homes," said a statement.  Led by Stephen Gordon of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and William Martin of Ohio State University, the team concluded that 600-800 million families worldwide are at higher risk of respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, asthma, lung cancer and other ailments as a result of the air they breathe at home.
Studies in India have found that household air pollution can be three times higher than on a typical London Street, and well above the World Health Organization's recommended safety levels.
"Estimates suggest that household air pollution killed 3.5 to four million people in 2010," wrote the team. On current exposure rates, about 2.8 billion people worldwide are considered to be at risk of premature death from breathing polluted air in their own homes

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

UN climate chief says 'door closing' on warming fix

UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres on Tuesday warned time was running out for meaningful action on global warming, citing the plight of low-lying Pacific nations facing ever rising seas.
Figueres, in Samoa for a UN conference on small island states, said the impact of climate change was greatest on Pacific nations, even though they had contributed little to the problem.  "Climate change is the greatest threat these islands face and they are recognised as the bellwether of global efforts to address this issue," she told AFP.  "Unless the world acts on climate change in a timely way, they are going to be the hardest hit."
Figueres said rising seas not only eroded the coastlines of island states, they also spoiled water supplies when they entered the water table and swamped agricultural land, rendering it barren.
Warming also meant more cyclones and storms battered the islands, while planning was underway for a worst-case scenario where populations of climate change refugees would have to be relocated from their homelands.  "Kiribati (which has purchased land in neighbouring Fiji) is probably the most famous, but countries as large as Papua New Guinea are already starting to identify which are their most threatened populations," she said.
"These are extreme measures that these islands are having to look at. Of course they, and the rest of the world, want migration of populations out of the islands to be kept at a minimum."
Figueres said the situation facing island nations underlined the need for progress in the quest to seal a global pact on greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2015. The UN wants to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, which scientists say is the minimum needed to stabilise the climate.
"The science tells us that we have to stay under two degrees temperature-wise and that the door is closing quickly," she said. "It's still  possible for us to stay under two degrees but we have to do it."
Island leaders have become increasingly vocal on the issue in the face of global inaction, with Seychelles President James Michel telling the Samoa conference that the interests of big business have dominated the debate for too long. "It is time that we recognise climate change for what it is -- a collective crime against humanity," he said. "Climate change... is robbing island nations of their right to exist. We must save our future together."
Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak said island nations had to get across a positive message about what needs to be done at a UN summit in New  York this month, which will be followed by an attempt in Paris next year to  forge a new climate deal. "The time for finger-pointing is long past... instead, we must recognise that there is no more powerful form of leadership that leadership by example," he said.