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New hope for the panda
Upgrading environmental journalism
Controlling dangerous chemicals
A register for consultants
Paraguay's national parks
Good news on desertification
Bad news on desertification


New hope for the panda

Giant pandas are surviving threats to their bamboo food supply far better than was expected a year ago, according to Dr George Schaller, co-director of the China-World Wildlife Fund panda research project in Sichuan Province.

When bamboo began to flower and die in 1984, scientists feared a recurrence of the bamboo die-off of 1974-76, when 138 of the 1000 pandas remaining in the wild starved to death. Last winter only about 20 pandas were found dead and not all died of starvation. New research has established that at least some bamboo species eaten by pandas were available in most areas, and that the pandas range farther in search of food than was thought. Agriculture and logging are cutting into panda habitats. The germination of bamboo is poor in logged areas. Some pandas are caught in snares set for musk deer. And many pandas live outside the protection of China's 12 panda reserves.

"Although the present bamboo die-off is turning out to be less serious than the last one, life for the panda is a continuing crisis." Dr Schaller said. "We are only beginning to collect reliable data on the feeding and breeding habits, nutritional levels and movement patterns of the panda. And we must develop a sound management plan for the pandas and their forest home. This work must be maintained and even strengthened for years to come."

A CHINESE PANDA IN WINTER an Improving food supply

Upgrading environmental journalism

In order to promote more and better environment and science journalism in developing countries, various agencies are involved in new publishing and training projects which aim at building awareness among the public and the media about the links between environment, resources and development.

Recent developments include the following:

· The Pan-African News Agency (PANA) will launch Science and Technology Bulletin. Cheick Ousmane Diallo, PANA's Director, made the announcement in Nairobi on 20 September 1984. The Bulletin will seek to inform "the people of Africa" on scientific and technological development, know-how and benefits.

· PANA, with sponsor IDRC (the International Development Research Centre), held a 10-day Science and Technology Reporting Workshop for 16 journalists from English-speaking Africa.

· Earlier this year. PANA held a similar workshop in Dakar, Senegal, for francophone African writers.

· Earthscan held a workshop for environmental journalists in mid-November 1984, also in Nairobi.

· Last year, UNEP provided 49 percent of the funding for a US$61000 Latin America/Caribbean regional information programme implemented by Inter Press Service, which operates the IPS Third World News Agency. That programme's objectives included the on-the-job training of 32 journalists and the production of 60 news and news feature articles by the 19 IPS bureaux in the region.

· On 18 September, IPS announced the launching of a two-year NGO Communications Project with the support of SIDA (the Swedish International Development Authority). The ultimate aim is to test the feasibility of the interconnection of world NGOs North and South and bring about "new flows of information and structures of communication".

Ecoforum News Alert

Controlling dangerous chemicals

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has adopted a global information scheme for all exports of banned or severely restricted chemicals. UNEP Executive Director Mostafa Tolba hailed the move as a significant step toward increased health and environmental safeguards in the Third World.

Implementation of the plan will depend upon the active participation of the UN International Register of Potential Toxic Chemicals (IRPTC), which will act on request as a broker of notification for exporting countries that wish to contact importing countries concerning the change in legal status of a particular chemical.

Global guidelines for the exchange of information on potentially harmful chemicals were discussed by a UNEP-sponsored experts, group at Noordwijkerhout, Netherlands, from 26 to 30 March 1984. UNEP sees the formation of these guidelines as a first step toward a full-fledged convention.

The 29 experts from both industrialized and developing countries attending the Noordwijkerhout meeting were particularly concerned that potentially dangerous chemicals, notably pesticides which may already be restricted in their countries of origin, are freely sold in other countries where there is a lack of awareness of their risks.

Three major issues emerged at the meeting:

· The scope of guidelines regarding the categories of chemicals that should be included.

· Whether the guidelines should, in any way, control trade.

· Whether the guidelines would, in fact, be redundant, because of the work already done by FAO (on an International Code of Conduct) or OECD (on information supplied on banned or restricted chemicals by OECD exporters to importing countries).

A register for consultants

A consultant register is being compiled by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). The list will be composed of individuals who wish to become involved in short- to medium-term technical assistance consultancies in developing countries.

The groups are soliciting resumes from qualified scientists with at least three years of postgraduate work. However, neither listing nor employment is guaranteed.

Those interested in being included may send a resume to Stephen Berwick. IIED. Suite 800. 1319 F St., NW. Washington, DC 20004. USA.

Paraguay's national parks

National parks are valuable for the protection of renewable natural resources, says Dr Rosa Villamayor in an article published in the Revista Forestal (October 1983), since they are areas containing unique characteristics of a country's biogeographic regions as well as being stores of genetic resources and places of special recreational and educational interest.

The conservation and protection of Paraguay's national parks receive support not only from state and private sources but also from many international organizations. The main national organizations concerned are the Ministry of Agriculture, the National University in Asunción, and the Ministry of Defence, while the private sector includes such associations as the Boy Scouts and the indigenistas (groups concerned with the indigenous populations) of Paraguay. The leading international organizations that provide assistance are the UN and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

Paraguay's parks, reserves and national forests cover an area of 1121441 hectares and include Tinfunqué National Park and Wildlife Reserve, 280000 ha; Ybycuí National Park, 5000 ha; Defenders of Chaco National Park, 780000 ha; Cerro Corá National Park, 5538 ha; Jakui Protected Forest, 1000 ha; Nacunday Protected Forest, 1000 ha; Caaguazú National Park. 6000 ha; Saltos del Guairá National Park, 900 ha; Kuriy National Reserve, 2000 ha; Cerro Lambaré National Reserve Area, 3 ha; and Teniente Enciso National Park, 40000 ha. Each park has a specific purpose such as the protection of hydrographic basins, bird and mammal preservation and the conservation of ecosystems on plant protection.

Good news on desertification

Thousands of young Algerians between the ages of 19 and 21 are planting trees to help check desertification while simultaneously fulfilling part of their military service obligation. The success of the 10-year-old programme has caused other African countries to request information on how it works, according to Jean de la Guérivière in Le Monde (13-14 May 1984).

All Algerian men are required by law to devote two years to military service from the age of 19. The programme is divided into two parts: six months of basic military training, and 18 months of "national service activities", for which reforestation work is one option. The conscripts receive between 6 and 24 weeks of special training for the reforestation work and earn a diploma upon completion. The forestry activity has also proved popular with Algerians living abroad, who often choose to come home to complete their military service by doing reforestation work in Algeria - where they are taught Arabic as well as forestry skills.

Much of the reforestation takes the form of "green belts". Present work is focused on the region between Djelfa and Laghouat, where Aleppo pine (Pinus brutia) is the dominant tree being planted. Near Bou Saada, however, planting is being done with palm trees. While the programme has generally been successful, a few failures have been reported, owing primarily to bad species choice.

TREE-PLANTING IN ALGERIA assistance from the military

Bad news on desertification

The 1977 UN Conference on Desertification in Nairobi warned that poor irrigation was a major factor in desertification. A new report by Earthscan, however, charges that little corrective action has been taken in the eight years since the Conference, and that arable land is being lost at an even faster rate today than it was a decade ago.

The report, Cropland or wasteland: the problems and promises of irrigation, says that much irrigation being practiced in the world today is "bad irrigation" in that it wastes water, increases soil erosion, spreads Water-related diseases at a faster rate and encourages the overuse of pesticides. The result, the report claims, is that crop yields have been reduced on half of the world's land and that 25 million ha of irrigated land - about 12 percent of the world's present total of 215 million irrigated ha - has been taken out of production.

UNEP, according to the report, now admits that its goal of stopping desertification by the year 2000 is "unrealistic". Executive Director Mostafa Tolba calls the agency's own assessment of action against desertification since the 1977 Nairobi Conference "depressing reading".

The 97-page report, which includes three pages of references, is available from Earthscan, 10 Percy Street. London W1P ODR, UK.

IRRIGATION FOR EUCALYPTS difficulties in halting desertification

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