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Eastern African marine pollution agreement
European action on air pollution
Cheetahs need genetic diversity
World water shortage
Polymers condition desert soils
New national parks in Uganda
Broadening the purpose of botanical gardens

Eastern African marine pollution agreement

An action plan and convention for the protection, management and development of the marine and coastal environment of the eastern African region were adopted at a conference of plenipotentiaries held at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi in June 1985.

The conference also adopted a protocol concerning cooperation in combating marine pollution in cases of emergency and another concerning protected areas and wild fauna and flora. Three resolutions were adopted dealing with programme implementation and institutional and financial arrangements.

POLLUTION SPARES NOT EVEN THE OCEAN East African countries sign agreement

The conference was convened by UNEP as part of its Regional Seas Programme. It was attended by delegates from France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, the United Republic of Tanzania and the European Economic Community.

International Maritime
Organization News

European action on air pollution

A protocol on the reduction of sulphur emissions or their transboundary fluxes by at least 30 percent was adopted by the Executive Body for the Convention of Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution in Helsinki on 9 July 1985. This reduction should be achieved by 1993 at the latest by 21 of the 30 Parties to the Convention. The 30 percent reduction applies to the 1980 level of emissions. The 21 countries are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Byelorussian SSR, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, France, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the Ukrainian SSR and the USSR. The Finnish Government has decided to reduce emissions by 50 percent.

Consideration will further be given to similar measures to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, including transboundary fluxes of secondary by-products, between now and 1995. A set of three international programmes has been drawn up for research into the effects of the main atmospheric pollutants on human health and the environment. Research will concentrate essentially on the effects on materials (including those used in historical and cultural monuments), the evaluation and monitoring of the acidification of watercourses and lakes and the effects of air pollution on forests.

The French Government, meanwhile, has introduced a system of "mutual air insurance". A charge will be levied in respect to sulphur oxide emissions by thermal installations of greater than 50 megawatts capacity. The revenues, estimated at FF 150 million a year, will be divided among industrialists investing in equipment to reduce pollution emissions. This scheme should make it possible to do better than the 1984 objective of reducing sulphur emissions in France by 50 percent between 1980 and 1990.

In the Federal Republic of Germany, industry will have to reduce its pollution emissions by almost 40 percent and invest DM 10000 million to comply with the new regulations on air pollution, which took effect at the end of 1985. The new regulations apply to both new and existing installations. The latter will have to be modified within the next five years so that their pollution emission is no greater than that of the new installations.

The Council of Europe's
newsletter Naturopa

Cheetahs need genetic diversity

When Marco Polo visited Kublai Khan at his summer residence in the Himalayas 700 years ago, he reported that the Mongol ruler kept 1000 cheetahs as hunting companions. The use of the cheetah, the fastest mammal in the world, to aid in royal hunts began with the Sumerians in 3000 BC and was continued by Egyptian pharaohs, French kings, Indian princes and Austrian emperors. In later centuries scientists were puzzled by the fact that with all these thousands of royal pets taken from the wild on three continents, there was not one known instance of cheetahs successfully breeding in captivity; this did not come about until 1956.

Preliminary results from a study begun by the American Cancer Institute five years ago of captive cheetahs in the United States and southern Africa indicated that cheetahs had trouble reproducing because their genes were not sufficiently diverse. Now, with the study complete, the researchers have concluded that if they do not find a range of diverse cheetah genes, the species could soon be vulnerable to extinction.

TOO SPECIALIZED TO SURVIVE? genetics causing cheetah decline

The cheetahs that once roamed North America, Asia and Europe are extinct. Cheetahs now exist in the wild only in southern and eastern Africa. Researchers are hoping that cheetahs in eastern Africa have a different genetic makeup. Since 1970, the researchers reported in the journal Science, 10 to 15 percent of cheetahs caught in the wild have been successfully bred. The mortality rate among offspring produced in captivity has been 29.1 percent.

Estimates of the worldwide cheetah population range from 1500 to 20000.

World water shortage

Conservation and efficient use of existing water supplies will be the only realistic answers to what is expected to be a permanent global water shortage, according to a new study by the Worldwatch Institute. The Institute, a non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C., that does research on issues involving resources, found that the world's existing sources of water for drinking, agriculture and industry are approaching their limits.

The severe drought in Africa, which has brought hunger and death on a wide scale in Ethiopia and other countries "is but a prelude of things to come", the study warned. According to water planners around the world, supplies will fall short in affluent countries as well as developing ones within the next 20 years. Such traditional ways of expanding available water supplies as building dams, reservoirs and canals can no longer provide satisfactory solutions in much of the world.

SHIRE RIVER IN MALAWI new study advocates water conservation

"Pervasive depletion and overuse of water supplies, the high capital cost of new large water projects, rising pumping costs and worsening ecological damage", the report said, "call for a shift in the way water is valued, used and managed."

The study found that future needs for drinking, agriculture and industry would have to be met through more productive, efficient and innovative uses of existing supplies, rather than by expanding supplies through construction projects that would require large amounts of capital and damage the environment.

"Only by managing water demand rather than ceaselessly striving to meet it is there hope for a truly sustainable water future," according to the study, entitled Conserving water - the untapped alternative. "Today's water institutions - the policies and laws, government agencies and planning and engineering practices that shape patterns of water use - are steeped in a supply-side management philosophy no longer appropriate to solving today's water problems."

Perhaps the most important area for increasing the efficiency of water use, the report said, is in agriculture, where wasteful irrigation techniques are rapidly depleting resources in major crop areas of the United States, the USSR, China and other countries.

The study contended that recycling industrial water and what it called modest efficiency standards for household taps and appliances could also produce huge savings.

Philip Shabecoff,
The New York Times

Polymers condition desert soils

Plastic soil conditioners, or polymers, work rather like sponges in that small granules of the material can absorb many times their own volume of water when mixed with soil. This moisture is then released slowly to adjacent plant roots.

Researchers at the Institute for Terrestrial Ecology (ITE) in Khartoum have taken these polymers and used them in a series of trials aimed at improving the establishment of tree seedlings in the Sudan. The polymers, some of which can absorb up to 300 to 600 times their own volume of water, are mixed with the soil at very low concentrations.

Among the trees with which the ITE is experimenting are Eucalyptus microtheca, Acacia senegal, Acacia seyal and Prosopis chilensis. Results so far have been successful and cost-effective. In one experiment, for example, intermittent rains at six-day intervals were simulated. This is the worst growing condition possible in that while one rain stimulates growth, the following rain arrives too late to keep it nourished. In the experiment 70 percent of the trees planted in polymer-treated soils survived while 100 percent of the untreated ones died.

Belgium's Ghent University has developed a similar technology which has been tested since 1981 through a European Economic Community project involving the Egyptian Academy of Sciences. Successful experiments have been carried out in China, Malaysia and Indonesia.

BBC Farming World
and UNEP News

New national parks in Uganda

The European Economic Community (EEC) has pledged to give Uganda US$2.2 million to help rehabilitate three of East Africa's most renowned game parks. This is one of the largest sums spent on wildlife in East Africa in recent years.

The EEC grant will help restore the Queen Elizabeth, Kabalega and Kidepo national parks, once considered among the most beautiful and rich in wildlife in all of East Africa. The parks and their lodges were built in the late 1960s to attract tourism and to generate foreign exchange, but a decade later they had fallen into ruin.

The project aims to strike a long-term balance between human needs and the protection of natural resources. It includes social actions in favour of the human population within the project areas. Direct assistance will be given to Uganda's Institute of Ecology to aid in this task.

Broadening the purpose of botanical gardens

A four-day conference held in November 1985 in Las Palmas, Grand Canary, brought together 220 plant conservation experts from 42 countries to discuss turning botanical gardens into active centres of rare plant conservation. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) had called the meeting to mobilize concern among the world's 1200 main botanical gardens and institutes for the future of the world's plant species, 25000 of which are imminently threatened with extinction. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which sponsored the meeting and is spending US$8 million on plant rescue projects, has run a major campaign since 1984 to alert the public to valuable but vanishing wild species such as the rosy periwinkle from Madagascar, used in the treatment of leukaemia.

The principal force behind the meeting is the realization by IUCN and WWF, together with FAO and Unesco, that existing gardens and seed banks cannot by themselves guarantee the survival and certainly not the genetic variety of wild plant species, many of which are essential in revitalizing key crop strains against disease. Although some gardens are already active in conservation, the aim of the conference was to get botanists out to help conserve endangered plants in their native habitats. It is believed that more than 40 percent of the world's botanical gardens are at present working to improve their conservation efforts. The mobilization of botanical gardens could be a significant accomplishment in that the top ten botanical gardens in the world host 50 million visitors annually.

Heading the list of concerns were the chief "centres of endemism" ("plant-homes" where species originated) around the world to which many species are confined. The conference adopted a "hit list" of 100 top-priority conservation areas which WWF and IUCN will ask governments and international agencies to protect as the world's key plant homelands.


Credit for the photograph on page 43 of Unasylva 147 (Vol. 37. 1985/1) should have been given to ''Bennett" rather than "Benvett", and the caption should have read "Tropical forest dweller" rather than "Amazon forest dweller", since the person pictured is a Chocó Indian from Panama.

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