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31.08.07 : Crude Oil Spill Pollutes Northwest China River
Une marée noire de pétrole brut pollue une rivière du Nord Ouest de la Chine

Rohölverschmutzung in nordwestchinesischem Fluss
BEIJING, China - Crude oil from a punctured pipeline in northwest China spread over at least eight kilometres of a tributary of the Yan river, state media reported on Thursday, forcing one city to tap backup water supplies.
A landslide on Wednesday broke a pipeline belonging to the fourth oil extraction factory of PetroChina's Changqing oilfield, Xinhua news agency reported.
The report said oil quickly spread to the lower reaches of the Xingzi river in Shaanxi province, prompting crews downriver to build dams to contain it.
It was not clear how much oil had spilled before the pipeline hole was patched. Xinhua cited local officials as saying clean-up crews had removed about 20 tonnes of oil.
The pipeline has resumed operation, Xinhua reported, citing Cao Xizhong, vice head of Jingbian county in Shaanxi province.
Calls to PetroChina and its parent company China National Petroleum Corp were not answered.
Yanan city, which draws water from the Wangyao reservoir, started using backup water supplies on Wednesday, when the oil slick was about 50 kilometres upstream of the reservoir, a local official told Reuters.
"Yanan has backup water supplies that could support the city up to one month or two," the official said.
Heavy rains in the region complicated the cleanup effort.
Yanhe River is a tributary of the Yellow River, the country's second longest after the Yangtze.
Chanqing, one of the largest oilfields owned by PetroChina, aims to raise output by 18 percent from a year earlier to a record 12.01 million tonnes of oil and 10.7 billion cubic metres of natural gas in 2007, CNPC said earlier this year.

Source : Planet Ark and Reuters News Service


30.08.07 : Drought Catastrophe Stalks Australia's Food Bowl
La sécheresse menace les réserves de nourriture d'Australie
Dürre bedroht Australiens Lebensmittelvorräte

MOULAMEIN, Australia - A thin winter green carpets Australia's southeast hills and plains, camouflaging the onset of a drought catastrophe in the nation's food bowl.
Sheep and cattle farmer Ian Shippen stands in a dying ankle-high oat crop under a mobile irrigation boom stretching nearly half-a-kilometre, but now useless without water.
"I honestly think we're stuffed," he says grimly.
"It's on a knife edge and if it doesn't rain in the next couple of weeks it's going to be very ugly. People will be walking off the land, going broke."
Shippen's property "Chah Singh" sits in the heart of Australia's Murray-Darling river basin, a vast plain bigger than France and Germany, home to 2 million people and in good times the source of almost half the nation's fruit and cereal crop.
But years of drought, which some blame on global warming, have savagely depleted the huge dams built 60 years ago to hold the snow melt from the Australian alps and push it hundreds of kilometres inland to the parched west for farm irrigation.
The Murray-Darling normally provides 90 percent of Australia's irrigated crops and A$22 billion (US$18.1 billion) worth of agricultural exports to Asia and the Middle East.
But with some crops now just 10 days from failure, farmers are to receive no water at all for irrigation through the summer, while others will get a fraction of their regular entitlement to keep alive vital plantings like citrus trees and grapevines.
The massive Hume Weir, which can hold enough water to fill seven Sydney Harbours, is so dry that a lakeside holiday village is now half-a-kilometre from the depleted shore and rods to measure water depth stand on bare rock far from the waters' edge.
"It's grim. The water is not there," says Wendy Craik, the head of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission which oversees storage in the country's longest river and dam system.
Australia's Prime Minister John Howard warned of an "unprecedentedly dangerous" drought in April and advised the nation to pray for rain as economists warned the dry would wipe one percent off the A$940 billion economy in 2006-07.
Those prayers were answered briefly in May and June after winter storms lashed the east coast and major cities, bringing localised flooding and seemingly the end of a dry spell which has lasted near a decade in some areas of the country.
But by bringing hope, the rains ironically may have also worsened the drought's impact on battling farmers through the hot months ahead.
"We thought it was just going to keep on raining. When you go into drought people normally just lock up and don't spend, but after that rain everyone just went out and spent money to plant crops and climb out of the hole they were in," says Shippen. Near the town of Griffith in the Murrumbidgee River valley, renowned for its citrus and wines, thousands of oranges lie rotting under rows of trees stretching to the horizon under relentless blue skies.
"We are in the lap of the gods and rainfall. The trees are under a great deal of stress and any adverse weather or hot weather is creating an enormous amount of fruit drop," says second generation citrus grower Louis Sartor.
Sartor's father Giulio was among the Italian immigrant pioneers who opened Griffith to farming in the 1950s and he still works at age 80, pruning back trees against the drought.
"He thinks it will pass. He came here from Italy when it was like going to the moon. He is the total optimist," says the nuggety Sartor over tea and biscuits in his still-leafy garden.
Sartor, like many conservative Australian farmers, is deeply sceptical about climate shift's role in the drought, despite a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predictions that temperatures could rise by 6.7 degrees Celsius by century's end.
"Find me the scientist that can stand up on a platform and say 'I know'," he says.
That scepticism runs even deeper south along the Murray, with many farmers certain irrigation shortages are the result of government bungling and a determination to claw back precious water for a green agenda driven by majority city-dwellers.
"I class this as a human-induced crisis, not a climate induced one," says Neil Eagle, 79, a fourth-generation citrus grower at Barham, a retirement and farming haven on the Murray.
Eagle's forebears settled this so-called "Golden Rivers Country" in the 1890s, bringing paddleboats into the area and opening up irrigated cropping in a region verging on desert.
"I believe it was warmer in the 1930s and 40s than it has been in the last 50 years. These things are cyclical," he says.
At the same time environmental scientists like Australian of the Year Tim Flannery argue the continent is a "harbinger" of climate shift and experiencing accelerated greenhouse warming.
They want to pipe the open irrigation ditches carved laser-straight across the landscape and cut back water use by 1,500 gigalitres to protect long-term river health.
"If we are going to devastate the regions for agricultural production, that's exactly what will do it," says a frustrated Eagle. "If that sort of insanity does not prevail, there's no reason we won't get good years again."
But dairy farmer Phil O'Neill, who faces ruin with his critical water allocations cut, suspects climate change may be a part of what some say is the worst drought for a century.
"I'm a bit of a believer. This weather change combined with cyclical downturn in rains, it's a bloody disaster," he says.
O'Neill, a stocky 49-year-old with huge hands and steel-wool hair, is one of the last dairy farmers near Barham, with the long dry having already forced most others off the land.
With a rueful smile he says he spent A$300,000 to keep going through last summer and wont be doing it again, instead opting to sell off parts of his cherished 1,100 acre farm.
"There is 30-40 years of breeding there and it could all be gone soon," he says, his voice cracking with emotion as he hefts three-day-old calves onto pickup truck for sale or slaughter.
George Warne, the head of Murray Irrigation, lives in Barham and is training staff to spot depression in farmers as the drought hits harder.
"There's an underlying epidemic of fear and worry out there," he says. "We've got all the signs of a stressed community."
Reserve Bank figures show rural debt has risen sharply from A$26 billion in 1999 to A$43 billion in 2005. "We are hearing stories of farmers defaulting on lease payments," Warne says. Adding to the economic vice are rising interest rates, with most farmers already heavily in debt for millions of dollars worth of tractors, harvesters and irrigation equipment.
Warne backs a A$10 billion plan put forward by Prime Minister Howard to protect water supplies in the months ahead, but which is being whittled back by bickering between competing states over water. Howard wants to seize control of the river system to end state squabbling and make water a nationally-controlled asset.
Shippen says the drought and a new sense of the importance of water in the driest inhabited continent, with prices having gone from A$30 a megalitre to hover near A$800, will change Australian farming forever and make some irrigation unviable.
"It's going to be a massive change," the one-time rice farmer says. "I spent the first half of my life developing irrigation and I'll spend the second half pulling it down."
To Warne the only solution to a disaster threatening to unravel whole rural communities is in the heavens.
"We are now in something that is beyond probabilities. We are in a drought sequence that's worse than our white history," he says.

Story by Rob Taylor
Source : Planet Ark and Reuters News Service


30.08.07 : Arsenic in Water a Risk to 140 Million People
Arsenic dans l'eau : un risque pour 140 millions de personnes
Arsenik im Wasser : Risiko für 140 Millionen Menschen

LONDON, UK - Naturally-occurring arsenic in drinking water poses a growing global health risk as large numbers of people unknowingly consume unsafe levels of the chemical element, researchers said on Wednesday.
The problem is bigger than scientists had thought and affects nearly 140 million people in more than 70 countries, according to new research presented at the annual Royal Geographical Society meeting in London.
Arsenic can cause lung disease and cancers, even long after people stop drinking contaminated water, said Peter Ravenscroft, a researcher at the University of Cambridge.
"What is new is the extent of arsenic pollution is much bigger than people realised," Ravenscroft said in a telephone interview.
"There is a very important connection between arsenic in water and arsenic in food, especially where people grow irrigated corps."
World Health Organisation guidelines set a safe limit of 10 parts per billion of arsenic in water supplies but tens of millions of people in the world drink unsafe water above that level, researchers said.
At present, Bangladesh is the worst-affected country. There, hundreds of thousands or people are likely to die from arsenic poisoning, the researchers said.
Arsenic has also been found in the water in developed countries and industrial activities such as mining can also lead to contamination.
Rising awareness has led to increased testing that has revealed more widespread arsenic in drinking water but other researchers said even more must be done to address the problem.
"Most countries have some water sources with dangerous levels of arsenic, but only now are we beginning to recognise the magnitude of the problem," Allan Smith, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley and adviser to the WHO on arsenic, said in a statement.

Story by Michael Kahn
Source : Planet Ark and Reuter News Service


29.08.07 : UN Says Floods Affect 100,000 Ethiopians
100 000 Ethiopiens touchés par les crues, d'après les Nations Unies
Hochwasser in Äthiopien : gemäss UN sind 100 000 Menschen betroffen

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - More than 100,000 people have been affected by floods in Ethiopia and 17 have died of waterborne disease, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
"Approximately 103,000 people in Amhara, Tigray, South Sudan Nations and Nationalities Peoples State and Gambella regions have been affected by floods," the UN humanitarian agency OCHA said in a report following days of heavy rains.
Seventeen people died of acute diarrhoea, it said.
Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, was continuing to rise, the report added, increasing the risk of more floods.
Ethiopian authorities have yet to comment on the impact of the latest floods, but OCHA said the government had sent 1,121 tonnes of food aid for 60,000 people in the worst-hit areas.
The United Nations estimates up to 900 Ethiopians died last year when several rivers burst their banks. Flash floods typically happen in lowland areas of the country after heavy rains drench the highlands during the June-Sept rainy season.

Source : Planet Ark and Reuters News Service


29.08.07 : China Puts Summer Flood Death Toll at 1,138
Chine : le nombre de victimes dues aux crues de cet été s'élève à 1 138
China : Hochwasser des vergangenen Sommers 2006 forderten 1 138 Öpfer

BEIJING - Stronger relief efforts helped limit damage and loss of life from droughts and flooding in China this summer, but floods still killed more than 1,100 people, officials said on Tuesday.
Torrential rain has inundated large swathes of China's east, south and southwest since June despite a smaller number of typhoons and tropical storms so far this year, while a prolonged heatwave and drought have afflicted several eastern provinces.
"The climate has been abnormal and has caused serious flooding and drought in our country this year," Vice Minister of Water Resources E Jingping told a news conference.
The flood death toll of 1,138, last updated on Monday, was down about 50 percent from the average for the same period of previous years, E said.
Improved early warning and evacuation, stronger dykes and timely flood water diversion had reduced human losses and damage to property, Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei said.
But 310 million Chinese, mostly peasants in the vast and vulnerable countryside where harvests and houses were destroyed, have been affected by natural disasters so far this year.
The Huai River, China's third longest, suffered its worst flood since 1954 in July, displacing hundreds of thousands of wheat farmers for nearly a month.
The cities of Chongqing in the southwest and Jinan in the north were also hit by the most intensive downpours in history, causing dozens of deaths in street flooding and prompting Chinese media to question the government's response.
The flood season was not over yet and still posed a grave threat, while 37,000 of China's 85,000 dams had "ailments and dangers", Chen warned.
"The bulk of the ageing dams were built between the 1950s and 1970s, with the problems of inherent design defects and poor maintainence. The danger is outstanding," Chen said.
Separately, landslides, floods and lightning killed 17 people in the southwestern province of Sichuan in the past few days, Xinhua news agency said.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs has allocated 165 million yuan (US$21.83 million) to five southern and eastern provinces to help the flood-hit residents, Xinhua said.
(US$1=7.559 Yuan)

Source : Planet Ark and Reuters News Service


28.08.07 : Polluted China Rivers Threaten "Sixth" of Population
Les rivières chinoises, polluées, menacent un sixième de la population
Chinas verschmutzte Flüsse bedrohen einen 1/6 der Bevölkerung

BEIJING, China - Polluters along two of China's main rivers have defied a decade-old clean-up effort, leaving much of the water unfit to touch, let alone drink, and a risk to a sixth of the population, state media said on Monday.
Half the check points along the Huai River and its tributaries in central and eastern China showed pollution of "Grade 5" or worse -- the top of the dial in key toxins, meaning that the water was unfit for human contact and may not be fit even for irrigation, national legislators were told.
Years of crackdowns and waste treatment investment have reined in some of the worst damage to the Huai and Liao Rivers, but industrial pollution remained far too high, Mao Rubai, chairman of the National People's Congress environment and resources protection committee, said in a report delivered on Sunday.
The rivers posed a "threat to the water safety of one sixth of the country's 1.3 billion population", the China Daily said.
The pollution on the Huai threatened the massive South-North Water Transfer Project to draw water from the Yangtze River through the Huai basin to the country's parched north, Mao said.
"Large volumes of untreated domestic effluent and industrial waste-water are dumped directly into the river," Mao said of one of the Huai's worst polluted tributaries, according to the NPC Web site (
"To judge from the inspection, the quality of water used for the South-North Water Transfer Project is threatened by pollution, and this must attract our vigilance."
In Zhoukou city in central Henan province, 15 of 23 factories inspected were found to be illegally dumping waste, Mao said.
Ma Kai, the chief of the National Development and Reform Commission, which steers industrial policy, said meeting energy and pollution reduction targets would be made a major factor in considering promotions for provincial-level officials, the China News Service reported.
China has promised to cut emissions of major pollutants by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010, but last year failed to meet the annual goal.
Mao's call for stricter standards and enforcement came as government leaders promised to lift ceilings on fines for polluters. But Mao went a step further, warning that even factories that met pollution limits were still dumping too many chemicals.
"This situation is directly related to the fact that water pollution standards for some of our country's industries are too low," he said.
Even if standards were met, the volume of toxins entering the Huai "far exceeds the capacity of the river basin to replenish itself and will inevitably create pollution", he said.
Pollutants have also tainted underwater supplies down to a depth of 300 metres in places along the Huai.
The eastern route of the transfer project is scheduled to begin pumping water in 2008, but plans to reduce pollution in Jiangsu province have not been implemented.
"The quality of the transferred water will be very difficult to ensure," said Mao.
The Liao River in China's northeast also remains beset by polluters, with large volumes of untreated waste flowing through it into the sea.
Mao said that officials along both rivers had only used some of the funds set aside for pollution treatment projects.

Source : Planet Ark and Reuters News Service


24.08.07 : Les causes d'une marée noire dans la Garonne inexpliquées
Oil slick in the Garonne River : reasons are not explained yet
Frankreich : Ölteppich in die Garonne : Ursache noch nicht abgeklärt
Le 12 janvier 2007, 12.000 mètres cubes d'hydrocarbures se sont répandus sur le site d'une filiale de Total, suite à la rupture d'une cuve. Les causes de cet incident font l'objet d'une expertise judiciaire.
La marée noire survenue dans la Garonne le 12 janvier 2007 s'apprête à faire parler d'elle. Plus de 8 mois après l'incident, qui n'avait pas été divulgué, "les résultats des expertises sur les causes techniques du sinistre et sur leurs conséquences environnementales, commencées le 18 janvier, feront l'objet d'une réunion en octobre", selon Anne Bernard, du bureau de protection de l'environnement à la préfecture de Gironde.
La commune de Macau, situé en face du dépôt de pétrole, à l'origine de la pollution, exploité par la société pétrolière du bec d'Ambès (SPBDA), s'est portée partie civile en juin, aux côtés de l'association de défense de l'environnement Sepanso et probablement de France Nature environnement. "Cet incident prouve une chose, remarque Philippe Barbedienne, directeur de la Sepanso: on a beau dire que tout va bien et que tout est sécurisé, il y aura toujours le grain de sable qui fera dérailler la machine."
Malgré le classement Seveso II de l'installation, et toutes les mesures de sécurité qui accompagnent ce statut, une cuve de pétrole a été éventrée. La veille de l'incident, le directeur Gilles Coudrette constatait une fuite dans un des bacs stockant le pétrole, et organisait alors la vidange et la surveillance de ce dernier. Lesquelles n'ont pas empêché la rupture du fond du bac le 12 janvier, suivie d'un effet de vague qui l'a fait déborder.
50.000 litres de pétrole se sont déversés dans la Garonne et les canaux environnants, et ce jusqu'au pont d'Aquitaine. Les hydrocarbures ont même atteint le bec d'Ambès, lieu de confluence entre la Garonne et la Dordogne. Quarante kilomètres de berges ont été souillés. Aujourd'hui, "la pollution a été nettoyée au moyen de pompage par bateaux et de nettoyage à la main dans les canaux environnants", selon Benoît Coucaud, de la préfecture de Gironde.
Les causes de l'accident sont pour l'instant totalement inconnues, selon l'industrie en cause. D'après Gilles Coudrette cité dans le Monde, la cuve défaillante a fait l'objet d'un contrôle technique à l'automne dernier. "Apparemment, l'entreprise aurait pris toutes les mesures de sécurité nécessaires ", explique Anne Bernard. Elle ajoute que la préfecture "n'est pas en mesure de communiquer actuellement sur cet événement, puisque l'affaire est encore entre les mains de la justice".
La Garonne se trouvant dans une zone de balancement des marées, celles-ci ont étalé la pollution rapidement le long des berges de la Garonne, de la Dordogne et de la Gironde. L'estuaire de la Gironde, classé Natura 2000, est connu notamment pour sa population d'esturgeons, et pour l'angélique des estuaires, une plante classée sur la liste rouge des espèces menacées en France.

Auteure : Diana Semaska
Source : Journal de l'environnement du 24.08.2007


22.08.07 : Feature - Las Vegas Growth Depends on Dwindling Water Supply
Reportage - La croissance de Las Vegas dépend d'un approvisionnement en eau en régression
Report - Das Wachstum von Las Vegas hängt von der knapper werdenden Wasserversorgung ab

LAKE MEAD, Nevada, USA - Two wooden piers that once extended into Lake Mead, Nevada, now loom over a desert landscape, monuments to the insatiable need for water in nearby Las Vegas and other parts.
A "No Fishing" sign perhaps 600 hundred yards (metres) from the shrinking lake and a ring of white magnesium deposits marks the high water level like a giant, half-full bath tub that has dropped more than 100 feet (30 metres) in seven years.
The dramatic desiccation amid a multi-year Western drought highlights the difficult situation facing Las Vegas, one of America's fastest growing cities, whose economic future depends on the continued supply of water.
"Las Vegas is growing too fast for its water resources, not, unfortunately, unlike many other Western cities," said Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, California.
"Las Vegas is a special case for two reasons: it is growing very rapidly and the second is they are really constrained on water supply."
Built in a desert, Las Vegas has long seemed an unlikely place for a major American city. Yet the Las Vegas region is booming: Its population is 1.9 million, up nearly 50 percent since 1999, amid an expanding tourism and casino business.
At the same time, the West has suffered a sustained drought, with the Colorado River supplying less water to Lake Mead, which serves Nevada, California, Arizona and Mexico. The lake created by Hoover Dam provides 90 percent of Vegas water and stands less than half full.

Las Vegas is adjusting by more efficiently using its current supplies and is planning to build a $2.5 billion to $3 billion pipeline to bring aquifer water from a remote part of Nevada by 2015, said Pat Mulroy, long-time head of the Las Vegas Valley Water District.
She disagrees that Vegas, where on average four inches of rain falls each year, is growing too fast for its water. "We like every other Western city are going through a shift in how we use water resources," she said in an interview. "It is sustainable for the next 50 to 80 years."
"A very different type of growth going on. What you see is one far more conscious of water resources, one that that takes advantage of desert plant life, builds communities that are there to celebrate living in the desert rather than to defy living in the desert."
The gambling capital recycles waste water, but loses much by feeding thirsty vegetation such as grass. The city's water district now pays homeowners to remove grass, and has seen per capita usage fall in recent years.
"There is enough water in the West to support growth well into the future," said John Ritter, chairman of the Focus Property Group, which seeks to build environmentally friendly housing. "Vegas in 2000 was probably one of the poster children on how to waste water and today we are probably an example on how to use water efficiently."

Yet signs of water waste are still easy to find. A late morning drive through Henderson, an adjacent city where many Las Vegas workers live, found many sprinklers spraying in 107 Fahrenheit (42 Celsius) heat, including in city parks.
"This is a city ignoring its own rules," said resident Launce Rake, an official with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. "There's no real commitment to conservation; they run all through the day."
A sign at one of the Henderson parks sprinkling under a blazing sun invited those concerned about water use to call a helpline number. The line was disconnected.
Las Vegas Strip hotels boast ornate fountains, and the Bellagio stages shows with dancing jets of water throughout the day accompanied by music. But overall the casinos and hotels take in just 7 percent of the area's water and consume 3 percent when recycled water is put back into the system, Mulroy said.
Water remains inexpensive. In summer, an average Vegas household uses 17,000 gallons per month and pays $36.64 (or about 2 cents per 10 gallons), and 11,000 gallons in winter for $21, according to the Las Vegas Valley Water District.
"Relative to other cities the cost of water in Las Vegas is a real steal," said developer Ritter. "If it cost people more I think they would use less."
Mulroy disagrees about the impact of higher prices.
"It would just irritate people," she said. "To simply throw out a gross rate increase, it's not going to create the necessary results. I mean look what's happening with gasoline: people are not using less gas as a result of it."
Some environmentalists say Vegas and other Western cities with limited sources should limit growth to preserve water.
Mayor Oscar Goodman disagrees, saying the city's economic boom will fund future water needs. "I hate to be a pragmatist but the bottom line really is that we'll never run out of water as long as we can pay for it," he said.

Story by Adam Tanner
Source : Planet Ark and Reuters News Service


22.08.07 : Construction Begins on Uganda's $799 Million Hydro Dam
En Ouganda, commence la construction d'un barrage de 799 million $.
Uganda beginnt mit dem Bau eines 799 Million $ Dammes.

KAMPALA, Uganda - Construction of Uganda's new 250-megawatt hydropower dam began on the banks of the River Nile on Tuesday, with politicians and locals hoping it will spell an end to the country's power crisis.
The Bujugali dam is estimated to cost $799 million.
But President Yoweri Museveni said it was a clever financial decision as it will spare Uganda more of the high subsidies accruing after two years of serious shortages in the east African nation.
"To avert the power shortages, emergency thermal plants have been installed, (but) you cannot imagine the loss caused by huge subsidies to bring down power tariffs," Museveni said at the launch in Jinja, 80 km (50 miles) east of the capital Kampala.
"We must anticipate demand and produce electricity to always be ahead of demand," he told an audience that included the Aga Khan, leader of 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims worldwide.
The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development is involved in the project, and the spiritual leader himself defended the mammoth construction criticised by environmentalists.
"Hydroelectricity is clean energy advancing sustainable development while minimising its environmental impact," he said.
Local lobby group the National Association of Professional Environmentalists has resisted the dam from the outset.
Uganda generates most of its energy from hydroelectric turbines on the Nile River. But rising demand plus a recent drop in water levels of Lake Victoria, the Nile's source, have sparked regular power shortages and load-shedding.

Story by Francis Kwera
Source : Planet Ark and Reuters News Service


20.08.07 : Progress for flood forecasts
Des progrès dans la prédiction des crues
Hochwasservorhersage macht Forschritte

More accurate predictions of flood risk and earlier warnings of imminent problems may be on the horizon thanks to a £6m research project.
The project may also help forecasters understand better the role of climate change in particular extreme weather events.
Led by the Natural Environment Research Council and supported by the University of Salford, the five year Flood Risks from Extreme Events (FREE) programme will examine what causes floods, help to quantify flood risk, and inform society about the likely effects of climate change.
The programme will involve researchers from 12 UK universities and will study recent floods such as those in Gloucestershire and Boscastle.
The project steering committee have established a Flood Action Team, with results to be presented to the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
According to the team existing flood prediction systems are not sufficiently reliable and it is impossible to tie down direct links between climate change and a particular extreme weather event.
Salford University's Professor Chris Collier said: "At present, flood damage costs the UK about a billion pounds each year. We want to get to the stage where we can use mathematical techniques more reliably to predict floods and prevent the kind of destruction seen recently.
"The group will investigate both meteorological and hydrological aspects of forecasting extreme river and coastal flooding. We will consider both floods that have accumulated over time such as those seen in Gloucester, and flash floods that develop rapidly, like the situation in Boscastle.
"It is essential we improve our ability to forecast, quantify and manage flood risks, and mitigate the effects of climate variability and change, if we're to maintain a sustainable economy. Sound environmental science must underpin our efforts."

Author : Sam Bond
Source: edie newsroom


20.08.07 : L’eau, une espèce en voie de disparition
Water, an endangered species
Wasser, eine vom Austerben bedrohte Art

Lors de la semaine mondiale de l’eau qui s’est tenue du 12 au 18 août à Stockholm en Suède, la nécessité d’agir vite pour réduire les consommations excessives d’eau a été soulignée par les experts. Le développement des biocarburants a particulièrement été pointé du doigt.
«Progrès et perspectives dans le domaine de l'eau : pour un développement durable dans un monde qui change» (1). Tel était le thème abordé par quelque 2.500 experts mondiaux lors de la manifestation organisée par l’Institut international de l’eau de Stockholm (Siwi). «C’est à travers l’eau que les gens subissent le plus l’impact du changement climatique», a déclaré son porte-parole David Trouba. Sur le site de la semaine mondiale de l’eau, l’institut a publié des recommandations dans un rapport intitulé «Au seuil d’une nouvelle pénurie d’eau», appelant les gouvernements à investir davantage dans des mesures visant à prévenir l’augmentation de la rareté des ressources en eau.
Une meilleure gouvernance et une amélioration de la gestion de la demande préalables à une augmentation de l’offre en eau sont souhaitées. Les experts du Siwi estiment qu’il faudrait par exemple réduire les pertes d’eau dans le cadre de l’irrigation, supprimer les subventions à l’agriculture ou encore mettre en place des mesures «réalistes» concernant le prix de l’eau .
Dans les régions affectées par des variations climatiques importantes, il est essentiel d’anticiper les mauvaises années, en stockant l’eau et les produits alimentaires lors des périodes considérées comme bonnes. Collecte des eaux de pluie et dessalement de l’eau de mer peuvent par ailleurs s’avérer nécessaires dans les zones touchées par le manque d’eau et où une gestion de la demande est déjà instaurée.
Un point a été particulièrement critiqué lors des débats de Stockholm: la production de biocarburants, qui requiert l’utilisation de grandes quantités d’eau. «D’où va venir l’eau nécessaire pour cultiver les produits destinées à l’alimentation de la population croissante, si de plus en plus d’eau est utilisée pour les cultures liées à la production de biocarburants?», s’interroge ainsi David Trouba. Finalement, le Siwi estime que «nous sommes au bord d’une ère nouvelle et plus préoccupante de rareté de l’eau, et il est clair que nous allons de plus en plus faire face à des défis complexes». Par exemple, l’offre en «eau bleue» (provenant des rivières et des nappes) s’amenuise, et le manque d’«eau verte» (eau du sol) va limiter la production de biomasse et d’aliments.

(1) «Progress and Prospects on Water: Striving for Sustainability in a Changing World»

Auteure : Agnès Ginestet
Source : le Journal de l'Environnement du 20.08.2007


15.08.07 : Turkey Signs Credit For Controversial Dam Project
La Turquie signe un crédit pour un projet de barrage controversé
Türkei nimmt Kredit für ein umstrittes Staudamm Projekt auf

ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey signed a 1.2 billion euro ($1.64 billion) loan with Swiss, German, French, Austrian and Turkish financiers on Tuesday for what has become one of its largest and most controversial dam projects.
The proposed dam, 45 km (30 miles) from Turkey's border with Syria, is set for completion in 2014 along with a hydroelectric power plant that will have a capacity of 1,200 megawatts and produce an annual 3.8 billion kilowatt hours.
The project also includes a water storage facility with a capacity of 11 billion cubic metres of water.
Turkey, a net importer of energy, has been seeking alternative sources of energy and has completed 960 tenders for the construction of new dams since January.
But the project, which will put approximately 80 villages and hamlets under water as well as submerge the remains of an ancient city, has been hotly debated in Turkey and fiercely criticised by environmental activists.
"This has been one of the most difficult projects ... This has been a project of honour, pride and determination," said Energy Minister Hilmi Guler.
The government has signed a 25 million euro credit to relocate the remains of the ancient city, which dates to Roman times when it was built as a bulwark against the Persians.
The European consortium offered its credit with the condition Ankara fulfill some 150 criteria that cover issues such as environmental protection, relocation of villagers, protection of cultural heritage and resource management with neighbouring states.
Among the consortium firms are Swiss Ed.Zublin AG and French Alstom.

Source : Planet Ark and Reuters News Service


08.08.07 : Pollution du Rhône aux PCB
Rhône river is polluted by PCB
Die Rhone ist PCB - verschmutzt

Selon l’AFP, depuis mardi, il est interdit de consommer tout poisson pêché dans le Rhône en raison d'une pollution sans précédent aux polychlorobiphényles (PCB) qui concerne désormais la quasi-totalité du bassin français du fleuve, de l'est de Lyon à la Méditerranée.
L'interdiction de consommation des poissons du Rhône, adoptée dès septembre 2006 à Lyon, avait été élargie en février 2007 à l'Ain (depuis le barrage de Sault-Brénaz, à 55 kilomètres à l'est de Lyon), l'Isère, puis en juin à l'Ardèche et la Drôme.
Interdits à la vente en France depuis 1987, les PCB sont connus pour entraîner chez l'homme, s'ils sont ingérés régulièrement sur de longues périodes, des problèmes de fertilité, de croissance, ou bien des cancers. Utilisés dans les transformateurs électriques, ils font partie des 12 polluants chimiques particulièrement dangereux, aussi appelés par l'Onu polluants organiques persistants (POP).
Une nouvelle expertise de l'Agence française de sécurité sanitaire des aliments (Afssa) sera effectuée d'ici l'automne.
La préfecture de la région Rhône-Alpes, coordinatrice du bassin du Rhône, a par ailleurs confié une enquête à la Direction régionale de l'environnement (Diren) pour rechercher les causes de cette contamination, ses conséquences, ainsi que la manière de la juguler. Un pré-rapport de synthèse a conclu que les sources de contamination étaient «anciennes, multiples et difficilement identifiables».
«La pollution ne peut venir que du relargage de déchets», a indiqué à l'AFP la directrice départementale des services vétérinaires des Bouches-du-Rhône, Joëlle Feliot. Selon elle, la Drire a conclu qu'il n'y avait pas de rejets dans les Bouches-du-Rhône, «mais probablement en amont».
Interrogée sur les rejets de l'usine Trédi de Saint-Vulbas (Ain), l'une des deux en France habilitées à retraiter les appareils contenant des PCB et à rejeter de faibles quantités de ce produit dans le Rhône, elle a déclaré: «Ce sont des installations classées soumises à des normes très strictes. (...) La Drire de l'Ain suit cela.»
L'usine Trédi est autorisée à rejeter de faibles quantités de ce produit dans le Rhône, «mais cela ne peut être la seule cause», a indiqué à l’AFP le directeur des services vétérinaires du Vaucluse, François-Xavier Temple, qui donne l'exemple de «gens qui jettent les batteries dans l'eau».

Auteure : Claire Avignon
Source : Le Journal de l'Environnement du 08.08.2007



08.08.07 : Seven Die in Bulgaria Floods, Romania Expects Storm
Bulgarie : sept morts suite aux crues, Roumanie : on attend la tempête
Bulgarien : Hochwasser fordert 7 Opfer. Sturmwarnung in Rumänien

SOFIA - Seven people drowned and four were missing after heavy rains caused severe flooding in northern Bulgaria, while storms cut off electricity and washed away bridges in neighbouring Romania, officials said on Tuesday.
Six elderly people died in accidents in the small Bulgarian town of Tsar Kaloyan, some 380 km (235 miles) northeast of Sofia, after torrential rain cut off electricity and raised water levels, the local civil defence service said.
Four people, including a mother and her 7-year-old child, were missing in the lower end of the town which was partly submerged under 60 cm (two feet) of floodwater.
An 89-year-old man drowned in his house in a village near the Danube river town of Rousse, where more than 20 houses were flooded.
Two days of heavy rain caused power cuts, flooding and damage to roads throughout the country -- only days after a month-long heatwave killed hundreds of people in the Balkans.
Romanian authorities issued flood warnings for 13 counties in the east and south of the country, saying river levels were at risk of rising abnormally high.
The Romanian weather institute issued a 'code yellow' warning for Tuesday and Wednesday, signalling torrential rain and strong winds.
Several small bridges in the eastern region of Moldova were washed away and storms cut off electricity supplies to several villages in Braila, Constanta and Giurgiu counties.

Source : Planet Ark and Rueters News Service
Additional reporting by Luiza Ilie in Bucharest


08.08.07 : Flash Floods Kill at Least 14 in Central Nigeria
des crues subites tuent au moins 14 personnes dans le centre du Nigéria
Flash flood tötet mindestens 14 Menschen in Zentral Nigerien

JOS, Nigeria - At least 14 people have been killed and thousands of families forced to leave their homes by flash floods sweeping the central Nigerian state of Plateau, the Red Cross said on Tuesday.
The flooding, which began on Sunday, followed a heavy downpour which made a river break its banks, washing away buildings, livestock and crops in the remote farming districts of Kanam, Wase and Langtang North, officials said.
"Fourteen people were confirmed dead, some people are still missing, while five were injured, and 7,000 have been displaced in the three areas," a Red Cross official told Reuters.
One local official said 16 people were killed in the district of Wase alone, while local sources said seven had died in Langtang North and three in Kanam. This could not be confirmed independently.
Hundreds of people have taken refuge in an emergency camp set up by the local authorities, while scores have taken shelter with friends and relatives.
Heavy rain has caused flooding in several parts of Africa's most populous country, but the disaster in Plateau is the worst.
Thousands of families have been driven from their homes in parts of Nigeria's biggest city and commercial capital Lagos by flooding caused by days of heavy rain, which caused another river to overflow.

Source : Planet Ark and Rueters News Service


07.08.07 : Floods everywhere in the world
Crues dans le monde
Hochwasser in der ganzen Welt

South Asia Flood Victims Fight For Food, Boat Capsizes
Les victimes des crues en Asie du Sud se battent pour la nourriture, un bateau chavire
Die Öpfer des Hochwasser im Süd-Asia kämpfen für Lebensmittel, ein Schiff erschüttert

PATNA, India - At least 35 boat passengers were feared drowned in the overflowing Ganges river in eastern India on Monday as victims of South Asia's devastating floods fought over food supplies and resorted to looting, officials said.
The boat was carrying about 100 people when it overturned in Samastipur district in Bihar state, about an hour by road northeast of the state capital of Patna, said district administrator Sashank Shekhar Singh.
"We are looking for survivors. There is a heavy current in the river and we are facing great difficulties," he said.
"It's very dark, there are no lights and more forces are rushing from Patna," Singh said, adding that most passengers were daily labourers and villagers.
More than 455 people have died in India, Bangladesh and Nepal in the latest phase of the annual monsoon floods, which began two to three weeks ago.
Earlier, one teenager drowned in Bihar's Darbhanga district as he went after food being dropped by helicopter, and dozens of others have been injured in similar scrambles or in fights over dwindling food supplies.
The floods, the worst in living memory in some areas, have affected 35 million people in the region and are being seen by some as a symptom of climate change.
Ten million people have been made homeless or left stranded, and are becoming increasingly desperate as they face food shortages and water-borne diseases even as the waters begin to recede in parts of Nepal and northeast India.
Women and children in a Bihar village clashed over small packets of biscuits being handed out by a local aid organisation, while villagers in another part of the state looted a tractor full of grain, officials said.
"We are surviving on snails as we have nothing to eat," Bhagwan Manjhi of Bihar's East Champaran district told a local news channel.
"The waters have taken everything from me except five cows and some chickens," said Taslima, a mother of four malnourished children who gave only one name, as she sat on the roof of her flooded home in Bangladesh's Munshiganj district.
She had been refusing help from relatives in boats because there was not enough room for her livestock, which floated nearby on a makeshift raft of bamboo and thatch.
"They are my only hope for the future," she said.
While the rains had eased in northern and northeastern India, flood waters were inundating fresh areas in central Bangladesh, including the capital of Dhaka, officials said.
In Bihar's Begusarai district, hundreds of people living in makeshift tarpaulin and bamboo shelters on mud embankments rushed down to a nearby field as a helicopter hovered close to the ground.
Four helicopters were skimming over the north of the state, pushing out thousands of sacks of rice, flour, palm sugar, salt, candles and matches -- but it was clear that demand was outstripping supply.
On one sortie, an emaciated naked boy gestured for the helicopter to release more food, while men argued nearby over the sacks, shoving and pushing.
"I feel sad and sympathy for them," district planning officer Birendra Prasad told a Reuters reporter aboard the helicopter. "At least someone gets something."
UNICEF said it was starting to see early reports of diarrhoea, and urged Bihar's government to drop water pouches instead of rigid containers, which were bursting on impact.
Marzio Babille, who is coordinating the UN response to the Bihar flooding, said he was also worried about diseases such as measles in a state where only a third of children are fully vaccinated and nearly two-thirds are malnourished.
"This population is going to be exposed for two weeks, and even a month," he said. "This is the impact of climate change, and we need new ways of assessing risk."
With floods inundating nearly two-thirds of Bangladesh, 36 more people were drowned or killed by snakebites overnight, taking the confirmed death toll from more than two weeks of deluge to 156, an official said.
In Nepal, where around 60 people have died in the last couple of weeks, hundreds of people were returning to their muddy homes as water levels receded.

Story by Kamil Zaheer
(Additional reporting by Serajul Islam Quadir in Dhaka, Adaz Majumder in Munshiganj, Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu, Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow and Biswajyoti Das in Guwahati)
Source : Planet Ark and Reuters News Service

Fierce Floods Damage Food Crops in India's East
Des crues violentes endommagent les récoltes dans l'Est de l'Inde
Heftige Howhwasser beschädigen die Ernten im Ost - India

NEW DELHI, India - India's farm ministry said on Monday it was still assessing the impact on crops of massive monsoon floods in the country's east, but state officials said vast areas of rice and corn had been damaged.
In the rice-growing state of Bihar close to one million hectares of cultivable land have been submerged by some of the worst floods in living memory, said Manoj Kumar Srivastava, an official managing relief efforts.
"We are yet to get detailed reports on the impact of floods on crops," said N.B. Singh, agriculture commissioner. "But corn output will take a hit."
Assam, Uttar Pradesh and now Orissa have also been inundated after unusually heavy rain caused rivers to burst their banks.
Millions of people have been forced from their homes and where waters have begun to recede a thick layer of silt has been left behind, making further planting impossible for several months in some areas.
Srivastava said corn has been damaged by the two week-long floods, which have killed more than 200 people in India.
Officials in the eastern state of Assam, another top rice producer, said 350,000 hectares (864,900 acres) of land had been inundated for a week now. Orissa mainly produces rice.
The farm ministry said that up to Aug. 2, rice had been planted over 21.98 million ha, down from 22.30 million at the same time a year ago.
Singh said rice could withstand some flooding but maize, millets and pulses wither fast.
Major crops are planted ahead of the monsoon in June, including rice, cotton, oilseeds and sugarcane, and harvests begin in September-October.
The four-month monsoon season ends in September. The flood-affected states do not grow large amounts of oilseeds.

Story by Mayank Bhardwaj
Source : Planet Ark and Reuters News Service

Sudan Floods Affect 500,000, Kill 64 - UN Report
Les crues du Soudan affectent 500 000 personnes et tuent 64 personnes, d'après un rapport des Nations Unies
Hochwasser im Sudan bedrohen 500 000 Menschen und fügen zu 64 Todesfalls, nach der Vereinten Nationen.

KHARTOUM, Sudan - Around 500,000 people have been affected by floods in Sudan in the past four weeks, with a reported 64 killed and 335 injured, the United Nations said on Monday.
Earlier and heavier-than-expected rains displaced thousands due to flash floods and as rivers burst their banks.
Lack of drainage and poor construction means thousands every year lose their homes. But this year, officials say Sudan was hit by the worst floods in living memory, with rivers reaching critical levels in many states.
"Four weeks after torrential rains started to devastate many parts of the Sudan, the United Nations and partners, in support of the Government, have so far assisted up to half a million people affected by the floods," the UN report said.
"Well over 30,000 houses were fully destroyed. At least 365,000 people have already been directly affected, including a reported 64 dead and 335 injured," it added.
David Gressly, acting UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, said UN and aid agencies and the Sudanese government reacted swiftly, preventing disaster.
"(But) If current flooding patterns continue unabated, the situation will deteriorate considerably", he added.
Officials provided blankets, plastic sheeting, water storage and cooking materials to 200,000 people, as well as water purification products and soap to 500,000 people to prevent disease.
"Despite these preventive measures, 637 cases of suspected acute watery diarrhoea were reported in the states of Gedaref and Kassala in the country's east, leading to 39 known deaths," it said.
The UN report said the agencies were monitoring the spread of any epidemics.

Source : Planet Ark and Reuters News Service

Floods, Rains Kill Nine in Central Vietnam
Crues et précipitations causent le décès de 9 personnes dans le centre du Vietnam
Hochwasser und Regen fügen zu 9 Sterbefalls im Mitte - Vietnam

HANOI, Vietnam - Nine people died, 15 were missing and thousands needed urgent evacuation as heavy rains triggered floods in Vietnam's central region and the nearby Central Highlands coffee belt.
The rains and floods struck ahead of a storm that had come close to the central coast by early Monday but then moved further north into the Tonkin Gulf where it weakened into a depression, the national weather bureau said.
The depression, with winds of up to 61 km (38 miles) per hour at its centre, was 200 km east off the central city of Danang as of 0900 GMT on Monday and moving slowly northwest.
Rains of up to 400 mm (15.75 in) have drenched the coffee-growing region since Wednesday, triggering flash floods, the government said. Traders said the coffee crop was not at risk.
Two people were killed and 14 were missing after flash floods swept them away in the highland province of Daklak, while four people died in the neighbouring province of Lam Dong. In Gia Lai province, north of Daklak, floods killed a 41-year-old man and forced more than 450 people out of their houses, the Vietnam Net newspaper ( said.
Daklak and Lam Dong are Vietnam's top coffee growing provinces, accounting for half its output. Along with three other provinces in the Central Highlands, they produce 80 percent of the country's coffee.
Industry experts say the coffee crop is safe as most of the trees are planted on hillsides. The hilly terrain would also help flush water away quickly.
Besides, rains last week helped green coffee cherries develop and harvesting will not start until late October. But 17,000 hectares (42,000 acres) of mainly rice and corn have been submerged in the Central Highlands. Flood waters peaked in a river in Daklak and were rising in another river in Kontum province, state forecasters said. Heavy rains were expected in the coffee region and also in coastal provinces from Thanh Hoa to Danang city in the next days.
Oil and gas production in Vietnam, Southeast Asia's third-largest crude oil producer, has not been disrupted as all the oil rigs and facilities are south of the storm's path.
Tropical storms and typhoons often strike Vietnam from August to October. Last year 10 storms hit the country where about 500 people were killed by floods and landslides, the government said.

Story by Ho Binh Minh
Source : Planet Ark and Reuters News Service



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