River chief system in China

To better water protection

written by Liu Zhuo

There are numerous rivers and lakes in China, including a total of 45,203 rivers with a catchment area above 500,000 square kilometers and 2,865 natural lakes with a perennial surface area above one square kilometer.

China has a long history of water control and management. In ancient times, the administrators appointed special officials in charge of river affairs. During the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) governor of Shu prefecture, Li Bing ordered the building of the Dujiangyan Irrigation System in today’s Sichuan province in Southwest China, which is a famous example of water conservancy and could be regarded as the precursor of the river chief system.

Dujiangyan irrigation system

With the rapid economic and social development, some new issues have occurred in management and protection of rivers and lakes in China: the emissions of pollutants into rivers and lakes remain high in some areas, while encroachment of river courses, reclamation of lakes and illegal sand mining often occur in some places.

Water pollution

To solve the problems, in some areas, government leaders at the four levels – province, prefecture, county and township – serve as river chiefs, and the province level is led by general river chiefs, to manage, protect and govern rivers through inter-agency coordination and cooperation.

On the basis of the practice of some provinces/autonomous regions/municipalities in the last ten years, in December 2016, the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council promulgated the opinions on the All-Around Implementation of the River Chief System. By the end of 2018, the River Chief System will be implemented all around for rivers and lakes nationwide, with providing an institutional guarantee to maintain the healthy life of rivers and lakes and to achieve their sustainable use.

The river chief system today is a management system for rivers and lakes and is linked to the accountability system of environmental protection and performance evaluations of top officials. River Chief is the first person responsible for river management, and his/her main duty is to urge the river chiefs at the lower level and relevant agencies to complete the ecological protection tasks of rivers and to coordinate to solve major issues in river protection and management.

Combating soil erosion in Kigezi: (Un)Gifted by Nature?

written by Alfred Ahimbisibwe

Kigezi is a beautiful region of Uganda also known as the Switzerland of Uganda due to its high mountains and cold conditions. It is a densely populated region with a population density of 314 persons/km2. It has an annual food crop agricultural system where farmers open up gardens every rainy season to grow their crops. Unlike other mountainous areas of Uganda, the hills of Kigezi have deep soils suitable for crop production, nature’s special gift to the people. The hills are terraced as mitigation against severe soil erosion.

Rapid population growth has increased pressure on land and families have heavily fragmented their land by subdividing their holdings. This has led to continuous cropping and with intense rains as a result of climate change, soil erosion from these agricultural areas has reached alarming levels. Farmers lose their crops, livestock, lands and property and in worst cases, lives are lost as people are washed away by landslides. Also, as a result, rivers are heavily silted and their waters unsuitable for household use.

Concerted effort is therefore needed to control the rate of soil erosion and restore these hillsides into the productive areas they were not long ago. The interventions available require the participation of every landowner to be effective, and this is a huge task to get everybody to participate. Investment in engineering structures of the steeper hills is also required, and this necessitates external support because the communities cannot afford the costs of establishment of these structures.

What was previously viewed as an exceptional gift by nature, now is a cause for worry for people who live in these highlands. Whenever the rainy season starts, it becomes a matter of when the heavy rains will sweep away the fields. Is Kigezi now ungifted by nature?

Picture 1: Cultivation extends to the top of the hills (Photo Credit: World Agroforestry Centre)

Picture 2: Excessive soil erosion in Kabale District (Photo Credit: Uganda Red Cross)

New Delhi: Grey Capital of Colorful India

written by Dhruv Verma

Once known for its rich cultural heritage and diversity, New Delhi, the capital city of India has now earned an unenviable acclamation of being one of the world’s most air polluted city.

Air pollution has always been a problem in cities, since modern era industrialization. The Donora smog disaster (1948) and the London killer fog (1952) are few of the infamous anthropogenic hazards. In New Delhi, being the center of the nation having thrust on economic development, policies and a framework governing the state of the environment became trivial. Recently, in the city the problem of air pollution escalated due to cumulative impacts of traffic menace, large-scale construction, industrial emissions, insufficient public infrastructure and crop residue burning in neighboring provinces. In winter season, it worsens because of stagnant winds, fog and firecrackers burning. In 2017, the city and its surrounding areas cripple under a thick film of smog as the air quality readings were recorded 30 times of the World Health Organization’s recommended safe level. Burning sensation in eyes, headache and sore throat are few of the ill effects of air pollution. It was reported that breathing in the city is equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes a day. The air quality deteriorated to such an extent that government declared a public health emergency and asked vulnerable people to avoid coming out of their houses and use pollution masks like N95.

So, what is the solution? Pollution is not a matter of air and environment only, it is a matter of fundamental rights and wellbeing of citizens and national pride. Hence the role of policy makers, judiciary, industries, technical institutions, civil agencies, non-environmental sectors and involvement of people in addressing the problem is crucial. Besides strict implementation of environmental rules and regulations, education and self-driven responsibility to protect the environment is equally important to address this over-arching problem.

 

Phnom Penh Capital, from an abandoned city to a prosperous place to live

written by Chandara Yem

The kingdom of Cambodia is a one of the oldest countries located in Southeast Asia. With a rich and old history, the capital city was changed from time to time. Phnom Penh is currently the capital city of the kingdom, and it is where I am originally from. Within a strategic location, Phnom Penh City is not only the capital, but it is also the center of political, culture, tourism and commercial hub with a population of 1,876,000 inhabitants (Phnom Penh Population, 2018).

Phnom Penh was a well-developed city during the Sangkum Reastre Niyum period in the 1960s. It was the center of industrialization and an enjoyable city. However, during the genocide era from 1975-1979, Phnom Penh had been abandoned while all people were forced to leave the city. Some infrastructure was destroyed, and it had become a ghost city. After the end of this era, people returned to the city and rebuilt the city.

After the 1993 national election, with a stabilized government and full peace, Phnom Penh has re-opened to the world. Many investments have started while the tourism sector has been growing annually. Phnom Penh has become a major tourist destination in the country where people can easily find and learn about history, culture and Khmer civilization at the same time.

Furthermore, the infrastructure including hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and public spaces has been booming remarkably in the last several years. People in the city have a variety of choices to enjoy time with their families and friends. Phnom Penh has been converted from a silent city to an enjoyable place to live.

 

If there is a will, there is a way

How awareness raising is changing my life

written by Maksim Makukha

Perhaps my life story thus far is quite common. However, I would like to share how my life experience so far has provided invaluable lessons that have changed my mindset, and how through having a new mindset leads you to new challenges and experiences.

I started out with a pretty normal life plan after high school. I decided to study mechanical engineering and production management at a University; it seemed logical to pursue these fields of study as I already had some practical experience working with metal on my part-time after-classes job. However, while studying at the University, I realized that I did not necessarily want to be a production engineer, but the perfectionist in me told me that I should finish what I started.

After completing my studies at the University, I decided to take a more slow-paced approach to life. I elected to live in a village while also becoming a raw vegan. While living in the village, I began to read a lot of books, namely about ecological topics, such as eco-building, organic farming and permaculture. After experiencing village life for several months, I realized that I didn’t want to live only for a personal benefit, but for the benefit of others as well and help contribute to the betterment of society.

Subsequent to having such a profound realization, I began to detect ‘magic’ in my life. Firstly, by accident, I became an instructor for survival skills at a local scout camp. I realized that I really enjoyed working with children and imparting my knowledge on them. Moreover, this job allowed me to live in the forest while earning an income. What a dream job! Though it was only a part-time job in the summer and I had to find other means of income. While searching for another workplace I realized that if you wish to see a change in the world, you should make it your job.

After working as an instructor for a scout camp, I started working as a trade agent and engineer in a small company that worked with renewable energy. At the time, renewable energy was just entering the market in Ukraine, so the fact that I was able to work with such a company was a very beneficial and interesting experience for me. Then, life took a very bad turn for many people in Ukraine. At the end of 2013, the Revolution of Dignity began and the economy in Ukraine had collapsed, severely devaluing the Ukrainian currency. This was a difficult period for me, and for many people in Ukraine. However, when life closes one door, another one opens. I polished up some old skills and found work as a blacksmith assistant, which I enjoyed doing. After working for a short time in the blacksmith, I decided to move back to my native city, finding a job in an internet shop.

After moving back home, I still thought about how I could make the world a better place. In my free time, my family and I thought we could start by cleaning a nearby forest.

Even though contributing to society by picking up litter, felt good, it was an endless job. Every weekend, we would discover new trash left by local citizens who did not have access to a trash pick-up service. As a result, we decided to install trash containers to ease the amount of litter. Next we spoke to the village council and they agreed to install trash containers. We also found local people to co-fund the installation and management of trash containers and I received a special permission to install containers to collect PET and glass. Alas, we had the first village pilot project of sorting waste! After initiating the pilot project, I began my own small business of collecting valuable, recyclable materials in rural areas; it was a good business because not only did locals learn how to sort waste, but they also profited from disposing such materials to recycling centers.

Around that time, I started to ask myself “how can I change people’s mindset to think in a more eco-friendly way?” I decided to first collect batteries and other hazardous waste with volunteers. From that initiative, local teachers approached me to present the importance of sorting waste, like batteries to their students. From this initiative, a very important project was born: “ChistoTak!” (Clean-up!). Together with volunteers Istarted giving lessons to students of all ages on how to collect and sort materials. ChistoTak! began to expand throughout Ukraine, motivating other people to sort waste along the way. I eventually ended my small sorting business and began working full-time for an NGO, ‘Ekoltava’ that I cofounded together with fellow volunteers.

Now our NGO supports and consults local authorities and businesses on their way to sustainability. I’m growing as a professional together with my organization.

And now, an old dream of mine has come to fruition… studying environmental management in Germany! And life continues to open new and unexpected doors for me.

Where there is a will, there is a way.

The rot starts at the source.

written by FISSEHA BERHE HALEFOM

For as long as the Nile has flowed, Ethiopia’s rains have made up the great bulk – over 80% – of its waters. Fat droplets pour down from July to September, not stopping until the roads have been churned into impassable bogs. Small inland seas emerge almost overnight. Gushing out of a forest just south of Lake Tana, the Blue Nile greedily soaks up this bounty, quickly swelling from a stream to a torrent.

Though slightly longer, the White Nile, which originates in East Africa’s Lake Victoria and merges with the Ethiopian branch at Khartoum, carries a fraction of the volume. But these rains are not falling as they used to. And that is potentially catastrophic for the entire basin. The Meher, the long summer wet season, is arriving late, and the shorter rains earlier in the year sometimes not at all. It’s so inconsistent now. Sometimes stronger, sometimes lighter, but always different.

As crops wither and food prices soar, many rural communities, who have historically relied on steady rains rather than rivers to irrigate their land, have been pitched even deeper into desperate poverty.

Some villagers have given up on agriculture altogether, trying their luck instead in cities, the regional hub or nine hours’ bus drive away in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s booming capital.

Most have simply struggled on, subsisting on reduced rations while hoping against hope that the rains will normalize.

For a small minority, however, enough is enough. Even in poor, out-of-the-way hamlets with no TVs or electricity, many have heard of the possibility of seeking their fortunes in Europe.

But this time many people have dropped their hope on the completion of construction of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and take coupon paying bonds maturing in 5, 7 and 10 years for better and bright future l.

FISSEHA BERHE HALEFOM

GOD BLESS ETHIOPIA

CHILDREN OUR FUTURE

written by Khusniddin Alikulov

I would like to share a story about a kid, who changed his environment by taking care of nature and health of people.
Uzbekistan has four seasons, winter, spring, summer and autumn.

One beautiful day of golden autumn, kid named Akmal was playing in the street with dried leafs of trees. A street was looking full of dried golden leafs such colorful ground. Like all kids, Akmal also likes to make fire and bake a potato in the fire. Sounds like spending time in a summer camp, and make his own world. Then Akmal brought couple of fresh potatoes from their kitchen and tried to make pile of woods of small tree branches, and mostly dried leafs. When he made a fire, he saw blowing stream of smoke and felt a heat of the flame. Then one old man walking through the street saw Akmal and decided to come to ask him some questions. He asked: “Hey boy, why are you burning wood and leafs?”. Akmal looked up and saw old man standing in front of him. Akmal immediately started to greet him by saying “Assalomu alaykum grandpa!”. Akmal a bit shocked because he was holding couple of potatoes in his hands and thought that this old man knows his small secret about taking out of potatoes without permission of his mother. Akmal with blinking eyes was looking to the old man without answering to his question. And old man again asked him same question. Afterwards, Akmal started quietly speaking: “I am making a fire!”. Then Old man told him that he knows that he makes a fire, but what for he makes a fire was his next question. Akmal was under the emotion and told that he just made a fire. Looking to his hands holding potatoes the old man asked him again same question, and Akmal told that he wants to bake a potato in the fire. Wondering old man smiling him told him that once upon in his childhood, he had same attitudes to bake a potato, but he did not understand adverse effect of the smoke from the leaf to the health of people and environmental as well. Akmal could not understand words of the old man and was sitting coughing in front of him. The old man started to tell him about the facts, which was his cough due to the smoke of the flame and dusty face with hands due to the emission of harmful substances from the burning leafs. Moreover, the old man told him that beside Akmal, other people may also suffer from the exhausted harmful substances of the flame with several diseases, unless otherchildren do same things. After short conversation, Akmal dumped the fire and returned to home.

In the evening with his father and mother, Akmal curiously asked several questions from his parents. Questions was repeating the same words of the old man. Parents of Akmal was wondering about his questions and tried to answer him as much as possible with the clear explanations. As Akmal sees, the explanations was same with the one Old man told him afternoon. Then Akmal deiced that he has to care about environment and should take care of health issues of other people. Then he never made a fire again.

Besides, at school Akmal wrote an essay about how to care about environment and conserving natural resource in the example of his case. As a result of his essay, his teacher awarded him excellent grade and asked him to tell about his story to all other his classmates. Finally, many pupils understood about truthful story with Akmal and started to save nature. Last but not least, Akmal had a good and wise Old friend too.

Story of ‘’Khosrov Forest’’ State Reserve Republic of Armenia

written by Mkhitar Avetisyan

Overview of State Reserve

The “Khosrov Forest” State Reserve was established in 1958. The State Reserve is one of the richest biodiversity nature reserves in the temperate zone of the Earth. The reserve is a real natural treasure in the heart of Republic of Armenia. Covering 23.5 thousand ha, Khosrov Forest is a home for more than the half of the flora of Armenia (more than 3500 species) and about 1/3 of the wealth of the Caucasus flora (about 6000 species). The big range of mountainous ecosystems are habitats of 283 species of vertebrates, including highly endangered Caucasian leopard, Bezoar goat, Black vulture, Caspian snowcock, Armenian viper etc.

The reserve is located at an altitude of 700-2800m above sea level.  The surface area is mountainous and disjointed to numerous deep canyons because of the river net. This is the result of geological active tectonic activity and geological structure features. The Reserve climate is dry and continental. Winter is cold and snowy with very low temperature. Summer is dry and hot.

Historical sources say that “Khosrov Forest” expression is associated with the King Khosrov II Kotak (4th century). The King Khosrov’s forest remained during the centuries to become a reserve.

Disaster of the “Khosrov Forest” State Reserve

Fires broke out in the Khosrov Reserve on 12 August in 2017, and were only extinguished by 18 August in the same year. Approximately 2100 hectares was burnt in the Khosrov Reserve and 360 hectares of which was forested. 300–800 year-old trees (junipers and oaks) lost after the fire.

Fire in Khosrov Forest state reserve caused enormous damage to its biodiversity. The reserve in terms of flora and fauna has not only national and regional significance, but also international. The recovery process will require the efforts of many experts and will last for decades.

The reason for the fire is not yet known, but a number of experts have speculated that it was unlikely to have occurred naturally, despite the arid and hot summer in Armenia.

The story of my life!

written by Emmanuel Suka

suka

I grew up as an orphan when I lost my father at an early age. My mother single handedly nurtured us basically from products from the forest and subsistent farming. Our problems increased because according to our local culture, women are not allowed to own land. However, my mother was never discouraged, but would negotiate farmland, cultivate food crops and at the end harvest and share it equally with the land owners. Eventhough we were left with very little to eat, she continued working very hard to meet up with our needs. So without the forest, myself and many others whose livelihood depends solely on the forest wouldn’t have been alive today. Although I was demoralized and miserable, I was never discouraged, instead my misfortune motivated me to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I decided I would protect the environment. Consequently, natural sciences became my life hobby particularly forestry, environment, agriculture, and agroforestry. Moreover, though life is a challenge, it is also surrounded by treasures and opportunities but I must think well and work very hard to make life better for me and mankind. Really, it is huge interest to me devoting my life to enhancing the lives of others particularly the underprivileged. Therefore, beyond my educational goals, I plan to teach and conduct research in the area of sustainable forest and environmental management at university level. Thus, Technische Universität-CIPSEM (Center for International Postgraduate Studies of Environmental Management), Dresden, is the right place for me. Above all, in the future I hope to lead sustainable development programs that will allow me to directly assist a development community.

Mr. Emmanuel Suka