By Angelina Davydova, St Petersburg State University
Russia’s overreaction in prosecuting Greenpeace protesters, including the two journalists, is set to unfold into an international scandal that will seriously damage country’s global reputation.
So far the situation is that 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance photographers (one British, one Russian) will remain in custody in Murmansk for the next two months, on charges of piracy. The international reaction was muted at first. Despite worldwide public outrage, only the governments of Argentina and Ukraine voiced their protest. Finland, for example, while still opposing the charges of piracy, unofficially agrees the Finnish activist arrested (she was one of the few who actually made it onboard the platform) could serve her sentence at home.
Yet to what extent Russia is willing to yield to international pressure remains open. Domestically, public opinion is split on the matter. The state-controlled media has conducted a defensive campaign against foreign influence in Russia or any interference in the vital oil and gas sector, an industry considered sacred under the current state capitalism regime.
Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin called Sergei Medvedev, a professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, a moron after he suggested turning the Arctic into an international nature reserve to save it from corporate and state interests. (more…)
By Angelina Davydova, St Petersburg State University
Russia is the fourth largest producer of greenhouse gases, but has shown little initiative and remained quiet among the turmoil at the UN Conference of the Parties (COP) climate summit in Warsaw. The hottest issues under discussion – of compensation for loss and damage and historical responsibility – appear of little relevance to the country. Her delegation openly admits it prefers to concentrate on negotiating the terms of a new, post-Kyoto agreement. While experts claim climate negotiations have little economic and political importance for Russia’s transition economy, climate change is in fact set to deliver drastic damage to the country.
The current climate negotiations split between developed and developing countries in issues of loss and damage and climate finance. According to Alexey Kokorin from WWF Russia, one of the country’s leading climate experts, Russia feels it falls in between, neither a major donor nor recipient country. (more…)
Helga Yamaki, ELP 2013, Brazil
In Brazil, 128 millions hectares have been set aside for use by forest communities. Most forest communities depend on the harvesting and commercialization of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for their subsistence. The Terra do Meio region, in the state of Para, has been declared by the federal government in 2006-2008 a high priority region for biodiversity conservation.
Since 2010, the Institute of Forest and Agricultural Management and Certification (Imaflora) has been working with Instituto SocioAmbiental (ISA) to assist the communities that are subsisting on the Amazon Forest in order to promote the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in this area by providing support and guidance to 120 families, giving them the ability to access Green Markets.
These protected areas are immersed in a complicated context for conservation, such as:
-The construction of the hydroelectric plant of ‘Belo Monte’ in the same region increases the demand for fish and wood (forest resources), making the extractive sure to manage the forest (collection activity sustainable) only for fishing or to help cut illegal timber;
-They are located far from the city, being one day by boat, and they are located along the river, making it the work of associations and co-operation;
-Are not sufficiently organized for timber management;
This scenario will only get worse, as with each day the number of people increases with the construction of the plant and thus an increased pressure for wood and fish.
The main objective of this work is to find solutions compatible with the local reality in the pursuit of markets for differentiated and adequately compensated extractive production, contributing to a traditional activity becoming competitive against other activities that are not compatible with the conservation units (cattle, illegal timber, and others).
Bounheng Southichak, ELP 2013, Laos
Almost every week in a local newspaper, I always come across an article on the hydropower development projects that are now under investigation and/or construction in Laos. It was very interesting to learn that at present, Laos has, in total, 17 dams in operation, and by 2020, the country aims to have at least 100 dams. The government of Laos believes that the development of hydropower can help Laos become the battery of Asia and escape from the status of least-developed country by 2020. This seems to be a very nice plan for driving economic growth as well as meeting the rising demand for energy in Laos and the near by regions such as Thailand, China and Vietnam. However, there are also many questions that pop up into my mind, especially on how much development is too much for Laos, and how Laos can grow sustainably.
Throughout my working experience, I have been involved with more than 10 hydropower development projects in Laos, mainly on environmental and social impact assessment and public consultation. When talking about a hydropower development project, there are always two opinions: one from the ecologist’s perspective and one from the engineer’s. The ecologists believe that building dams will have many negative impacts on the environment. For example, the dam will block fish migration routes and also destroy the river’s complex ecosystems that serve as important fish habitats. The dam would also block the flow of sediments and nutrients, affecting agriculture downstream. On the other hand, Engineers believe that they can solve all of the concerns raised by the ecologists. The dam will be built in a more environmentally friendly design that will have less impact on the environment. For instance, the dam will be equipped with bottom outlets for sediment release, the use of fish locks, fish ladders, natural by-pass channel, fish lifts and fish-friendly turbine to allow migration of fish and other aquatic animals around the dam. These techniques seem to be very modern and too expensive, but considering the benefits that will come from selling electricity, these costs could be able to be overcome and funded.
Setouvanh Phanthavongsa, ELP 2013, Laos
A significant increase in population growth and the expansion of the socio-economic situation of the People’s Republic of Lao PDR during the last decade (1995 onwards) is clearly observed. Consequently, an increase in the demand of natural resources has occurred in the country, specifically for food, medicine and cloth. In addition, innovations and technologies are obviously required. The socio-economic growth and trend toward a utilization of the natural resources of the country inevitably brings about environment problems, including pollution, degradation and waste. Most people are not aware of how to utilize natural resources wisely and sustainably. They do not care how to protect and preserve the environment for sustainable development.