Last resort – a visit to the soil cleaning facility in Hirschfeld

During an excursion to the soil treatment facility of the Bauer Resources GmbH we learned what can be done if prevention has failed and in-situ treatment of polluted soil is not an option – and at which cost.

See the image captions for details.

The treated soil can be used for construction, not for food production.

Dresden Nexus Conference – at the science-policy interface

by Andrea Vera (Peru) & Fernanda Martinelli (Brazil)

During three days we had the opportunity to participate and be involved in the Dresden Nexus Conference (DNC). The conference was held at the Deutsches Hygiene Museum (a must see museum if you are in Dresden) from 17th to 19th May.

This biannual conference was focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Nexus Approach: Monitoring and Implementation. Major topics covered were ‘Wastewater Reuse in Nexus Perspective: Environmental, Economic and Societal Opportunities’, ‘Smart Green Cities: Adaptation and Urban Resilience’, ‘SDG Agenda: Achieving SDGs’, and ‘Resource Recovery and Reuse in Multifunctional Land-Use Systems’.

It was a great space for networking, discussion, lectures and sees the results from case studies around the world. DNC is a platform that brings all stakeholders and actors (researchers, implementers, decision makers) together implementing the Nexus Approach. But what does it mean to implement the ‘Nexus Approach’? This was the first question that some of us were wondering during the conference. First, this approach is focused on Water-Soil-Waste and that all natural resources are interconnected to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).  Amazing goal! But, it is a serious challenge as we look forward to reduce poverty and provide enough food and water for all. Second, this approach also aims to join scientist, implementers, decision-makers and donors to exchange experiences, discussions and close the gaps between actors. This was well addressed, but more involvement from the private sector is needed.  Finally, it seeks to improve governance and participation to implement the Nexus Approach outside the academic circle and intersect all efforts from individuals to governments.

One of the newest sections in the conference was the World Café. During 60 minutes, in a round-table, we dialogued about multifunctional land-use systems and resource management. Every person could choose on which table to participate according to their field of expertise or interest. An expert moderated the discussion and noted the main points of interest to be taken into account for the next conference. Questions like ‘What data is missing?’, ‘How can we monitor and what potentials indicators could we use?’, ‘Which stakeholders should be involved?’, ‘What are the next steps? Where are the information and knowledge gaps?’: among other were discussed and summarized into key points.

Some final remarks that we need to bear in mind: you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Management and monitoring is important in every work, so we can see where we are and how are we achieving the goals; we must work together, build bridges between all actors and stakeholders, make connections between governments and financial sector. Let’s move from laboratories and start field implementation. As the Agenda 2030 says: ‘let’s ensure that no one is left behind’.

Photos by Anna Görner

Another knowledge-search excursion to the German Environment Agency (UBA)

by Ms. Kebaabetswe Keoagile (Botswana)

It all started with the admiration of the main building. One would have thought it’s a business building; it is a piece of architectural beauty indeed!

 

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Picture by Bendicto Kabiito, Uganda

That was on the 11 th and 12 th of May, 2017 when CIPSEM EM40 participants had an excursion to the German Environment Agency (UBA) in Dessau. The Agency is Germany’s central federal authority on environmental matters. According to their website and other websites, there have three main functions.

Its key statutory mandates are:

  • To provide scientific support to the Federal Government (e.g.. the Federal Ministries for Environment; Health; Research; Transport, Building and Urban Affairs);
  • Implementation of environmental laws (e.g. emissions trading, authorisation of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and plant protection agents)
  • Information of the public about environmental protection.
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Introduction to UBA (Photo by Andre Lindner)

 

Different topics were presented, graced questions and discussions from the participants. The agenda for sustainable development 2030 was of great importance to generate insights into topics such as Sustainable development, green economy, sustainable resource use, and resource efficiency. Presenters were insightful about the need for action regarding transitioning to green economy. Population growth, high economic growth in developing countries, increasing fluctuating energy resources prices were cited as reasons for action.

And with these actions they are benefits that can be derived and the presenter covered: business opportunities, job creation, less environmental change hence higher welfare and quality of life, less dependency on energy imports and less use of resources, to name a few.

In the discussions, green economy was being viewed an aspect of sustainable development.

It also emerged through the discussions that sustainable development is an overarching vision while green economy gives shape to sustainable development, however, it does not fully address social issues.

It was important for us to learn that Germany has sustainability strategies which include resource efficiency policy and national strategy for sustainable development which were updated in 2016 for alignment the Sustainable Development Goals.

As the day progressed, the Dr. Uwe Leprich, Head of Department under Climate Protection and Energy unit, welcomed us to the Agency and introduced the two alumni of the CIPSEM Programme: Ms Rachel Boti-Douayoua (a 2015 CIPSEM participant) and Prof. Dr. Bert Kohlmann (a 1981 participant). The two gave interesting presentations about their experiences during the course. The latter noted that environmental issues by that time included ecological change, soil pollution, ozone layer depletion and air pollution, as opposed to climate change. His valuable experiences included making friends who were resourceful for his subsequent collaborations and project work. His projects were more into what he studied during the course (renewable energy and bio monitoring) and currently embarking on renewable energy projects as part of the transition to green economy.

Ms Boti-Douayoua also gave insights into her current work of which she managed to integrate what she learnt from the course on carbon credits. This was evident that indeed the course reaches its objectives of skilling and enriching participants.

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Professor Dr Bert Kohlmann (CIPSEM Alumnus -1981, photo by Dr. André Lindner)
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Ms Rachel Boti-Douayoua (CIPSEM Alumna -2015, Photo by Dr. André Lindner)

The participants had a relaxed evening and informally continued discussions about the day’s events at a joint dinner at the NH-Hotel (courtesy of CIPSEM secretariat). Some participants had a night-walk within the city centre to appreciate its beauty thereafter. Thanks to CIPSEM invite!

Day 2 was the day to get the practical part of the issues previously identified, with aid of cases from Germany. The topics of the day ranged from climate change priorities, adaptation and institutionalisation, to waste electrical and electronic equipment management and the strategic and environmental impact assessments. Thanks to the presenters for the knowledge share with or imparted onto the participants on the above areas. The participants engaged the presenters through discussions.

At the end one will say it was still clear that the challenge is putting theory into action remains critical in many spheres. One example of such challenges was the comment from a participant on the amount of work done on the environmental issues especially climate change, the results of which are not yet realized.

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Ms Judith Voss-Stemping (presentation on international Climate Protection-Priorities and institutionalization in Germany, photo by Dr. Anna Görner).

Implementation! Implementation! Implementation!

The Dilemma of land use: Bringing Reality to the Classroom

By: Ahmed Said Sulaiman

Making decisions that affect people’s use of land is among the most anxious actions that any progressive society has to deal with. Some of the mainstream arguments claim that the economic needs of the country should always take the priority in determining land use, while others say that indigenous or traditional claims to land use have to be respected. Emphasizing humankind’s stewardship obligations, still others argue that where nature is threatened, the best use of land is excluding human intervention. Even though, the intensions of conservation might be industrious in protecting fauna and flora, its final consequences could also be destructive. For example, if the actions of protected areas impose misery on people especially those who are fully dependent on it for their survival, it is unlikely to succeed in the long run. Well!  What is the best option of using natural resources then? This question seems easy to ask than answered!

As part of unpacking this complexity associated with land use, Environmental Management Class (EM40) led by Dr. Eckhard Auch, performed a simulation game on May 3rd 2017. The role play was based on a case of conservation area located in India (Kaziranga National Park) which was threatened by human encroachment. The intension of the scene was to bring all relevant stakeholders and involved actors to a meeting and eventually make an agreement on issue at stake (eviction of local users). The scene brought reality on the ground to the classroom and provided a lively discussion, arguments and counterarguments among the opposing parties.

Jürgen Habermas, a German Sociologist was right when he said “only by knowing the partner’s real interests (best), a negotiation can achieve best compromises”.   I learned that land use is beyond the affiliation of certain actors. There are other stakeholders (private, civil society and NGOs etc.) who have a say and influence the decisions of every aspect. Hence, making compromises was one of the determinants of reaching success.

However, even with in this role play, the process of making compromise was not smooth either. It was quite challenging to reach a common ground even with in a small group of the same interest let alone confronting opposing parties.

On the other hand, moderation of such kind of meetings needed skillful tactics and attention to the details. For example, the facilitators’ understanding about the culture of the involved community or behavior of individuals is crucial while on the other hand systematically balancing the power of the actors in the discussion process is important factor for reaching a fair consensus.

Overall, being part of this exercise was a valuable brainstorming. It stirred my sense and brought my attention that land use management does not happen in a vacuum – it combines science and society. Though the process is complex per say, if well designed and managed, it can make a tangible progress and lead to a cumulative positive outcome or, in other words a win-win solution.

 

Ahmed Said Sulaiman is EM40 participant from Ethiopia

Visiting the wastewater treatment plant Dresden-Kaditz

By Liu Haibo, China

Today we visited the wastewater treatment plant Dresden-Kaditz. Although the weather conditions were not beautiful with wind and rain, the EM40 course participants still happily visited the unit. This unit, as the only municipal sewage treatment plant in the area, has a long history but is maintained well and orderly. Although conventional sewage treatment technology is used, the plant is unique in its design / operation and management. Moreover the processing indicators can meet the management requirements.

Photos: T. Karp / Liu Haibo

Mr. Lucke, the head of the environmental analysis laboratory at the wastewater treatment plant, guided us along the treatment process, and explained the different treatment steps from inflow to coarse and fine screens to the different clarification tanks and sludge treatment. Seeing the huge groundwater pipes, we could feel our gap with Germany not only on the ground, more perhaps we can not see the place. During the visit, the participants were able to ask questions about the treatment process, the rainwater impact,and so on.

Terratec – 2017 and the Circular Economy: The Journey of many Colours

By Kabiito Bendicto

Life is a journey, right? But you cannot make it alone! On the 6th, March 2017 was yet another day for a journey to Leipzig and indeed, ‘I was’ because ‘we were’. Team CIPSEM -2017 hit the road to Leipzig, ably led by Dr. Andre Lindner with Mr. Bernd Kaute behind the steering wheel to the exhibition grounds (Leipziger Messe) for Terratec-2017. There, in the huge glass-domed exhibition hall was innovators and pioneers displaying and educating the public about their efforts towards making ‘closed-loop economy’ a reality. And thank God, we were welcome!
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Our journey to Terratec 2017 on 6th March, 2017 was directly related to the classes and excursions we had had with Dr. Dietmar Lohmann in January and February, 2017, in which we had interesting discussions about the anthropological footprint on nature and the need to do something about it–may be  the ‘cradle to cradle approach’!!?? By extension though, this journey can be situated in the larger context of the emerging conceptual discourse of the ‘circular economy’, which ought to provide a foundation for fast-pacing state-of-the art environmental management approaches in Germany. This is currently at the heart of the Dresden University of Technology and many other Germany academic and professional institutions such as Interessengemeinschaft KURIS. This development is being championed by the Institute of Environmental Management and Circular Economy under the Material Fluxes and Circular Economy Initiative, and other governmental, individual and corporate establishments.

By both necessity and design we had Dr. Lohmann Dietmar for our classes about waste management. A passionate educationalist deeply enthusiastic about ‘wealth management’ (sorry, ‘waste management’); for he believes, after all, that ‘waste is wealth’.  He stands squarely opposed to the old ‘cradle to grave’ economic system, thus an ardent supporter of the ‘cradle to cradle’ economic vision, widely popularized in the publications of Micheal Braungart and William McDonough since 2002. This need for change is enhanced by the approaching resource scarcity and the human ingenuity and willingness to get on top of the faults of the old economy system that fast turns resources into waste. May be Erol Ozan was right in his assertion that “some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.” Now that we got lost, we hope here we arrive at the ‘right’ path; ‘the closed-loop economy’.

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The exhibition brought together 129 exhibitors between 5-7 March, 2017, who  included; Green Ventures, Energy World, the Saxony Federal Ministry of Environment, BAUER Resources GmbH , MTM Plastics –the Upcyclers, Multipet- Multiport Kunststoffe, Reluma International GmbH, Purus Plastics, Baufeld, Gutezeichen Kompost, Interessengemeinschaft KURIS, Veolia, Dresden University of Technology, Hochschule Nordhausen University of Applied Sciences, International Solid waste Association, and the list goes on… The 129 exhibitors were displaying technologies and techniques applicable to solid waste management, biomass decomposition and biogas generation, waste water treatment, wood, plastic, electronic and oil recycling, among others. Resource efficiency and renewable energy-related innovations were at display too, alongside water treatment and purification technologies all under one roof. The audience was both local and international, with provisions (in the upper chamber of the facility) for international networking and information sourcing. With the guidance of Dr. Lohmann, we visited quite a member of stales for brief inputs; including one presided over by a CIPSEM alumnus Dr. Uwe Schlenker of BAUER Resources GmbH.

Interestingly, this exhibition was regarded not just as small,but as ‘very small’ by ‘Germany measures’; especially in Leipzig, historically known as a city for trade fairs. By 1610, Leipzig was being referred to as “the famous trade fair city” by Friedrich Taumann.  Christian August Clodius in 1779 wrote about it as “the city where so many capable strangers arrived with a walking staff in their hand, and through talent, hard work and God’s blessings, acquired a ton of gold”. For big spenders, there awaits the mighty IFAT in Munich in May 2018.Iit is expected to be a mega ‘closed-loop economy’ exhibition.  Our reporter expects it to be really big, given his 2016 experience. The same kind attracted 3096 exhibitors in 2016, exhibiting in fields of water supply, waste water management and waste management, with a total of 137,000 visitors (only!). Bye for now, see you in Munich.

PAGE Ministerial Conference 2017

– Relative Anxiety –

by Sean Townsend (Jamaica)

On March 27, 2017, the CIPSEM EM40 cohort travelled to Berlin, Germany to attend the second staging of the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) Ministerial Conference. Before exploring the activities of this 2-day conference, it is first important to reflect on the genesis of PAGE.

In 2012, Rio+20 (the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) was held in Brazil. The conference’s outcome document entitled “The Future we Want was a call to action for governments, businesses and the UN alike to support countries interested in the transition to a green economy in an inclusive manner (for people, the planet and prosperity). This call to action resulted in the creation of an action plan, which would use the window of opportunity identified for achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs), as well as laying a foundation for addressing climate change from 2015-2030. This plan would involve Ministers, heads of UN Agencies, business and thought leaders, representatives from civil society and development partners and so the PAGE was launched in 2013.

The focus of the 2017 conference was to explore how our investments, lifestyles and growth patterns can be “enablers” for the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. It also sought to answer questions such as:

  • What are the necessary ingredients for the transformational change required to deliver prosperity for all on a healthy planet?
  • How can the shift to the Green Economy be accelerated by widening existing partnerships and initiatives to build inclusive green economies?

It should be no surprise that the conference was well organised. It consisted of several main plenary sessions addressed by influential keynote speakers who took the opportunity to make jabs at the current USA administration, especially because of the denial of the existence of climate change which is quite clear to the rest of the world, but that is not the focus of this reflection. Parallel sessions ranged from fascinating case studies presented by state ministers, leaders of global companies as well as young entrepreneurs all working towards the smooth transition into the Green Economy. I should also mention the food provided was superb and dining with the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum was neo-historic.

At first, it was fascinating to observe the level of thinking which has been put in at the higher level by the PAGE partners and the myriad of factors under consideration. But I could not help but wonder how does this transition into reality? How does it accommodate John Public and those of us residing in the developing world?

With these questions, I decided to dialogue with my fellow participants to get feedback to these questions. Like myself, many were impressed with the organisation of the conference and the level of thinking put into the process by scholars and sector leaders. However, we could not help but feel left out of this people-centric process as there was no definitive plan of action and those that were illustrated seem to address stakeholders “who must be aliens from another planet,” as expressed by one of the participants. Many felt the transition to the green economy was imperative but the developing world is not ready, and there is no proper plan of action to address this. It seemed it was business as usual; providing aid to developing countries, instead of building capacity in the true sense to enable us and to put a stop to this dependency on developed countries. During one of the discussion forums, one participant expressed that PAGE 2017 was like “a ‘family wedding’ where one could be caught up with the global family;” I then wonder if the developing world was a distant cousin.

Nonetheless, it was a great opportunity to network, meet leaders of industry and state as well as meet fellow compatriots and especially the women working in this area. The EM40 cohort also took the opportunity to share with conference participants, information on the CIPSEM programme. Who knows, maybe in the near future the CIPSEM programme may include some high profile participants with deep governmental nepotic connections.

Perhaps transition into the Green Economy requires an action plan developed by the developing nations for implementation, influenced by the ideas of the youth and adapting those of the developed nations.