• Canadians among world's biggest greenhouse gas producers: Govt

  • Driven to desperation, Lankan elephants eating garbage, fighting plastic bags

  • American scientists develop new pollutant clean-up method

  • Water level to fall, warns TERI

  • Canadians among world's biggest greenhouse gas producers: Govt

    THE HINDUSTAN TIMES [13TH October 2003]
    Agence France-Presse

    Canadians, along with Americans and Australians, are among the world's biggest greenhouse gas producers, according to government figures released on Tuesday.

    Between 1981 and 2000, greenhouse gas emissions increased by 30 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

    "Per capita, Canada has one of the world's highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions," the government office said. "Canada's heavy reliance on fossil fuel for energy rather than other forms of power (such as nuclear) and the structure of its economy are two influences behind this high rate of emissions."

    At 18.3 tonnes in 2000, Canada's carbon dioxide emissions per capita are amongst the highest in the world, according to Statistics Canada.

    The country's carbon dioxide emissions in 2000 were 564 megatonnes, up from 434 megatonnes in 1981 -- an increase of 30 per cent.

    "Economic growth and population increase are important factors behind the growth in emissions," Statistics Canada said.

    In 2000 Canada produced 18.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide per inhabitant, a bit less than Australia (27.6 tonnes) and the United States (21.1 tonnes).

    The 1997 Kyoto Protocol aims to bring greenhouse emissions to 108 per cent of 1990 levels by 2008-12 but the proposal has been rejected as unworkable by some critics, including the governments of Australia and the United States.

    Canada is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol.


    Driven to desperation, Lankan elephants eating garbage, fighting plastic bags

    THE HINDUSTAN TIMES [13TH October 2003]
    Dilip Ganguly (Associated Press)
    Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

    In this tropical island nation where 19 million people share space with about 3,000 wild elephants, forests are dwindling and the huge beasts are entering villages to forage in garbage dumps.

    The sad state of Sri Lankan elephants is not unique. The elephant population in Asia has fallen from hundreds of thousands at the turn of the 20th century to only 16,000 in 11 countries today, according to the United Nations.

    Many face difficult lives. They are used by beggars in Thailand, and to move timber in Myanmar. In Cambodia, still recovering from years of horrific conflict, there are only about 250 wild elephants left, and fewer than 150 captive ones.

    Hoping to find a solution to the plight of the elephant - whether the Asian or the larger African variety, in the wild or in captivity - more than 150 delegates from Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States were expected for a three-day conference beginning Friday. The conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital, is backed by the US-based International Elephant Foundation.

    Local residents and international environmentalists are shocked by scenes such as those that take place near the tourist town of Polonnaruwa, an ancient city famed for its ruins. Recently, a 5-ton elephant, balancing on three legs, used its left front foot to kick a plastic garbage bag across the ground. Seeing it fall open, several other elephants, surrounded by dozens of cows and hundreds of crows, started to chow down. The variety was good: rice laced with curry, rotting bread, cooked vegetables, fruit and even green chilies, a must in Sri Lankan cuisine. Discarded flower garlands helped round out the menu.

    "If you are forced to leave your home and your access to find food is made limited, what will you do?" asked SAM Salim, resident of a small village near Polonnaruwa. "Most likely you will beg," he said, explaining that the elephants have little choice. In some ways, elephants are honored here. In Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, no major religious function is complete without an ornately decorated elephant.

    But the elephants' habitat is deteriorating. In 1956, 44 per cent of Sri Lanka was covered by forest. That has dropped to just 27 per cent today. A century ago, anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 elephants roamed the jungles of this island off the southern tip of India.

    Today, only 3,000 elephants are believed to remain in Sri Lankan forests; another 500 have been domesticated and live in Buddhist temples, sanctuaries or transit homes where they are treated for wounds and then sent back into the wild.

    "It is tragic, but true," said Edmond Wilson, deputy director at the state wildlife department. "Their habitat is shrinking, forcing them to seek food elsewhere."

    The food, though, is often laced with danger.

    At the Polonnaruwa garbage dump, beside a highway, plastic bags can cause choking. Since hospital waste is also dumped there, the beasts risk being hurt by syringes and glass bottles. Bloody discarded bandages also risk infection.

    Every year, about 150 of Sri Lanka's elephants unnecessarily die: shot or electrocuted by angry farmers, or killed by untreated infections or diseases, Wilson said.

    In the first week of September, three elephants were found dead across the country. One died of apparent viral infection and two succumbed to gunshot wounds.

    Elephants are big eaters, with adults consuming 100 to 150 kilograms (220 to 330 pounds) of grass and plants each day. They're drawn to the Polonnaruwa dump in part because of the food waste produced by the tourist town's dozen hotels. Wilson conceded that elephants have been forced to eat garbage in Polonnaruwa, but said the government was helpless. "We have told the local municipality that the area is a corridor for the elephants and they should not dump garbage there," he said.

    It makes no difference, though, and the dump has become a regular stop for Western tourists who photograph herds of eight to 10 elephants eating garbage, unmindful of the attention. When day breaks over Polonnaruwa, the elephants gather around the dump, growing attentive when they hear the advancing tractors loaded with garbage.

    The real feast, though, starts around 10 a.m. when trash from the hotels arrive.

    "They know what 'dishes' are in what trays - I mean trash tractors," said Salim, the villager.


    American scientists develop new pollutant clean-up method

    THE HINDUSTAN TIMES [13TH October 2003]
    Press Trust of India

    While pesticide contamination in soft drinks has triggered a controversy in India, American scientists at the Johns Hopkins University claim to have developed a new approach to clean up organohalides, a class of compounds used in pesticides that pollute groundwater.

    This method combines an extremely thin film of titanium dioxide with a compound found in life known as hemin. After exposure to ultra violet light, the hemin and titanium dioxide can break up organohalides at surprisingly high rates.

    JHU chemists Gerald Meyer and Sherine Obare presented results of tests of the new approach at the 226th national meeting of the American Chemical Society last week, JHU said in a press release.

    Organohalides are a class of organic compounds that include a halogen, a group of elements comprised of bromine, fluorine, iodine and chlorine. The compounds are very difficult to break down chemically


    Water level to fall, warns TERI

    THE HINDUSTAN TIMES [13TH October, 2003]
    HT Correspondent

    A Tata Energy Research Institute (Teri) study says annual per capita water availability in India is going to fall by 67 per cent in the next 50 years.

    The water availability in the first fifty years of independence fell by 62 per cent from 6008 cubic metres in 1947 to 2266 cubic metres in 1997. And if business continued as usual, it is going to fall from 2266 cubic metres to 750 cubic metres in the next 50 years.

    Teri Director R.K. Pachauri has warned that in the absence of policies and strategies for efficient water management, the country may move from a state of "water stress" to "water scarcity".

    Dr Pachauri was presenting the study 'Looking Back to Change Track', which looks back at TERI's earlier Green-India 1947-1997 study, in which the institute had assessed the damage to India's environment in the first 50 years of Independence. The new Teri study projects the impact of development on the environment and natural resources over the next 50 years (1997-2047).

    By 2047, he said, seven of the 20 agro ecological zones are projected to have a situation of water scarcity (annual per capital availability of less than 1000 cubic metres) or absolute scarcity(less than 500 cubic metres).

    Pachauri also warned of the increasing pollution levels in rivers across India. Indian rivers still continue to be filthy, he said, and expressed alarm at the increase in BOD levels (biochemical oxygen demand).

    The BOD level provides a rough idea of how much biodegradable waste is present in the water.