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February 19, 2014

Caribbean Climate Change

Filed under: antigua,caribbean,climate change,global islands,weather — admin @ 7:26 am

JONAS ROAD, Antigua , Feb 17 2014 – Antigua is one of the most drought-prone countries in the Caribbean. So whenever it rains, the inhabitants generally regard the weather as “showers of blessing”.

But that is starting to change. Many farmers now see the rains as a curse and are now fighting an uphill battle to save their crops, vital for both the local and foreign markets. “The yield and lifespan [of crops in a greenhouse] basically are three times as much as open-field production.” — Delrie Cole

“We are a drought-prone country,” Ruleta Camacho, senior environmental officer in the ministry of agriculture, said. “The issue now is that due to the impact of climate change, we are having exacerbated drought and exacerbated rainfall events.”

Heavy rainfall can damage crops and high humidity brings with it an infestation of pests and diseases, increasing the consumption of pesticides.

“We are having large amounts of rain in very short times. There are a number of communities that are affected by flood conditions, communities where the livelihoods of the population could be affected,” Camacho added.

One such community is Jonas Road where Delrie Cole has been farming for the last three years. But since Cole introduced greenhouse technology to his farm, he is no longer at the mercy of the rains.

With the greenhouses he is also able to grow his vegetables – cilantro, parsley, basil, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, pumpkins and tomatoes – during periods of drought or deluge.

“The need for the greenhouses came about because of climate change and a lack of production in the summer season when you have more stressful conditions,” he said.

“Due to the changing climate we are having hotter summers and it’s a pretty difficult time when you have the plants being stressed and the fruits are falling from the trees.

“The greenhouse basically gives you that edge where you can better operate in terms of control, cutting down some of the humidity that you would have during the summer,” he explained.

Greenhouse farming, which is cultivation of plants inside a building with glass walls and roof under controlled conditions, has become necessary with climate change.

Climate-proofing the tiny island of Petite Martinique includes a sea revetment 140 metres long to protect critical coastal infrastructure from erosion.

SANCHEZ, Petite Martinique, Feb 5 2014 – Sanchez is a small central business district in Petite Martinique, the tiny island that forms part of the tri-nation state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Petite Martinique’s 586 acres are dominated by communal, recreational, artisanal and industrial land in close proximity to each other, and in some cases sharing the same space. The local population of about 900 people use the beachfront land on Sanchez for boat-building, sports, recreation and other outdoor activities. “The coastal assets are being degraded at a rate that is clearly visible without measurements using scientific tools.” — Bentley Browne

But over the last two decades, the area has experienced extensive erosion. Authorities say that at least 30 metres have been lost over a 15- to 20-year period – a rate equal to 1.5 to 2.0 metres per year – causing severe destruction to the only level piece of land on the island.

The rocky coast located at the north of the beach shifts to a small coral reef, but it’s not enough to protect all of the shoreline from swells and currents. Incoming waves from the Atlantic Ocean regularly pound the shoreline at Sanchez. As a result, any sand moving along the near shore is automatically swept away and lost from the littoral system.

“Our vulnerabilities to natural disasters are tremendous and while we cannot prevent disasters, we can focus on mitigating and building resilience against impacts,” the minister for Carriacou and Petite Martinique affairs, said Elvin Nimrod.

The erosion has exposed the soft ash-cinder layers, which are light grey to light brown in colour. Authorities worry that if the erosion is allowed to continue, the roadway leading from the end of the recreational field will be undermined and eventually collapse.

At the northernmost section of this eroded area, the headland has been protected by a retaining wall. However, sections of this wall have failed, and although it was recently rebuilt, even parts of that newer wall are also now failing. In addition, the armour stones that have been used to protect this wall are much too small to withstand storm waves, and this has likely contributed to the failure of this structure.

But Sanchez is finally getting help to deal with the problem. It is the first completed climate change intervention under the 10.5-million-dollar Reducing the Risks to Human and Natural Assets Resulting from Climate Change (RRACC) Project being funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and administered by the St. Lucia-based Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Secretariat.

In 2012, Grenada requested support from the secretariat in addressing issues of coastal erosion and reduce compounding impacts from climate change.

The initiative for Carriacou and Petite Martinique was three-fold, outlining a comprehensive approach to address the issues with support from the RRACC.

The coastal restoration works in Sanchez were the first of 11 examples of climate change adaptation interventions to be undertaken under the RRACC Project that will help the nine-member OECS grouping build resilience to climate change and reduce vulnerabilities to its impacts.

The project here included the reclamation of land lost to the sea, as well as the placement of one sea revetment 140 metres long to halt the ongoing erosion of the playing field area and protect critical coastal infrastructure and the armouring of the headland to the north with the construction of a revetment to withstand storm surges and strong wave action.

The director of social and sustainable development at the OECS Secretariat, Bentley Browne, said these frequent bombardments of the coastlines have resulted in significant loss of fertile land and coastal forestation, including mangroves.

“Today, the coastal assets are being degraded at a rate that is clearly visible without measurements using scientific tools, and it was recognized that this growing problem requires immediate and appropriate mitigation response measures to reduce the vulnerability of these islands to the impacts of climate change,” he said.

Browne said small island developing states (SIDS) like those in the OECS can do little to stop or reverse climate change, and thus “must do all in our power to cope with its consequences”.

“The impacts on small islands have been explored by many scientists and in general, it is expected that sea level rise will lead to greater coastal flooding and damage to shorelines and infrastructure, erosion and threats to livelihoods. As persons who inhabit the small land spaces in the OECS, this is particularly worrisome,” he said at a ceremony in late January marking the completion of the restoration works in Sanchez.

“As a region, we recognize the challenges that confront us. However, we will not be deterred or thrown off our course towards our quest for sustainable development. Our intentions on this matter are clearly etched in pivotal policies and agreements that guide our region’s growth and development.”

He said the OECS Economic Union Treaty, along with the St. George’s Declaration of Principles for Environmental Sustainability in the OECS (SGD), mandate that each member state minimize environmental vulnerability, improve environmental management and protect the region’s natural resource base, thereby increasing its resilience to climate change impacts and allowing continued social and economic benefits.

Mikell O’Mealy, the Eastern Caribbean climate change coordinator with USAID-Caribbean, said the Sanchez project represented a “shining example of a how community can address the very serious issues facing the region with regard to climate change”.

She said once the coral reefs bleach and die, as occurred in Petite Martinique, they no longer provide a critical buffer to protect the shoreline from currents, waves and storms.

“Here, as in so many places in the region and worldwide, the loss of coral reefs and coastal mangroves has led to severe coastal erosion, threatening critical community infrastructure, such as the road that connects your community around the island and the power plant adjacent to the road that supplies the island’s electricity,” O’Mealy said.

She said the restoration project here demonstrates how climate change-induced erosion can be effectively addressed by combining technical expertise and a strong, collaborative community effort.

In addition to this project in Petite Martinique, USAID was funding 10 other projects across the Eastern Caribbean and supporting the OECS Secretariat “in helping us all learn from each other … [on] what works best, what didn’t work so well, and how the most successful approaches can be scaled-up in each country and region-wide in the most cost effective way.

“Climate change is unfortunately not going away, and we know at this point that the impacts are predicted to worsen in the coming years. We therefore must continue to try new approaches, learn from each other, and scale-up what works,” she added.

February 10, 2014

Silk Road

Filed under: art,china,culture — admin @ 6:32 am


February 5, 2014


Filed under: china,disease/health — admin @ 1:13 pm

Avian Influenza A (H7N9) Virus

Human infections with a new avian influenza A (H7N9) virus were first reported in China in March 2013. Most of these infections are believed to result from exposure to infected poultry or contaminated environments, as H7N9 viruses have also been found in poultry in China. While some mild illnesses in human H7N9 cases have been seen, most patients have had severe respiratory illness, with about one-third resulting in death. No evidence of sustained person-to-person spread of H7N9 has been found, though some evidence points to limited person-to-person spread in rare circumstances. No cases of H7N9 outside of China have been reported. The new H7N9 virus has not been detected in people or birds in the United States.

It’s likely that sporadic cases of H7N9 associated with poultry exposure will continue to occur in China. Cases associated with poultry exposure also may be detected in neighboring countries. It’s also possible that H7N9 may be detected in the United States at some point, possibly in a traveler returning from an affected area. Most concerning about this situation is the pandemic potential of this virus. Influenza viruses constantly change and it’s possible that this virus could gain the ability to spread easily and sustainably among people, triggering a global outbreak of disease (pandemic).

On Feb. 3, 2014, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) of China notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of four additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus, including one death.

Details of the cases are as follows:

A 27-year-old man from Zhangzhou City, Fujian Province, who became ill on January 21 and admitted to the hospital on January 31. He is currently in critical condition. The patient has a history of exposure to a live poultry market.

A 59-year-old man from Loudi City, Hunan Province, who became ill on January 23 and was admitted to the hospital on January 31. He died on February 3. The patient had a history of exposure to live poultry market.

A 2-year-old female from Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province, who became ill on January 31 and was admitted to the hospital on the same day. She has a mild illness. The patient has a history of exposure to live poultry and a live poultry market.

A 76-year-old woman from Huizhou City, Guangdong Province, who became ill on January 27 and was admitted to the hospital on February 1. She is currently in serious condition. The patient has a history of exposure to live poultry.

So far, there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.

The Chinese government continues to take the following surveillance and control measures: strengthen surveillance and situation analysis; reinforce case management and treatment; conduct risk communication with the public and release information; strengthen international collaboration and communication; and conduct scientific studies.

While the recent report of avian influenza A(H7N9) virus being detected in live poultry imported from the mainland to Hong Kong SAR, shows the potential for the virus to spread through live poultry, at this time there is no indication that international spread of avian influenza A(H7N9) has occurred through humans or animals.

Further sporadic human cases of A(H7N9) infection are expected in affected and possibly neighbouring areas, especially given expected increases in the trade and transport of poultry associated with the Lunar New Year.

WHO advises that travelers to countries with known outbreaks of avian influenza should avoid poultry farms, or contact with animals in live bird markets, or entering areas where poultry may be slaughtered, or contact with any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with faeces from poultry or other animals. Travellers should also wash their hands often with soap and water. Travellers should follow good food safety and good food hygiene practices.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event, nor does it currently recommend any travel or trade restrictions.

As always, a diagnosis of infection with an avian influenza virus should be considered in individuals who develop severe acute respiratory symptoms while travelling or soon after returning from an area where avian influenza is a concern.

WHO encourages countries to continue strengthening influenza surveillance, including surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns, in order to ensure reporting of human infections under the IHR (2005), and continue national health preparedness actions.



He has spent over a year adrift in the Pacific Ocean, exposed to the elements in his tiny boat, alone after his friend died, and surviving on turtle blood and dead birds. And now all Jose Ivan wants to do is go home.

“I want to get back to Mexico,” he told his interpreter, in his first contact with the outside world since December 2012. Jose Ivan spoke to Magui Vaca, a Spanish translator based in the capital of the Marshall Islands, as he set off by ship on the 18-hour journey from the tiny atoll to the capital, Majuro.

Due to land in Majuro on Monday morning, he was to be met by representatives from the Mexican embassy in Indonesia – the closest diplomatic post to the remote islands – and a team of doctors.

“I feel bad,” the castaway told his translator. “I am so far away. I don’t know where I am or what happened.”

The details of Jose Ivan’s remarkable journey have been exceptionally difficult to piece together.

The single phone line to Ebon went out of service on Saturday and the island does not have any internet – leaving radio the only option for communication. And the brief interview on Sunday, in which he said he wanted to return home, proved difficult as the radio transmission was marred by static.

No one in Mexico has yet come forwards to say that they know the missing man.

And it was hoped that with his arrival in the capital, Jose Ivan’s story – with is obvious parallels to the Tom Hanks film Cast Away – would be told in full, to an audience gripped by the story of his survival.

All that is known so far is that on Thursday the emaciated man in ragged underpants was found on the Ebon Atoll, where he had washed up in his 24-ft fibreglass boat. He spoke no English, and no one among the 700 islanders spoke Spanish.

With drawings and gestures he managed to explain to the mayor, Ione deBrum, that he had set off from Mexico to El Salvador on a shark fishing trip, but was carried away by currents. His colleague died during the ordeal, and Jose Ivan use images to show that he survived by eating turtles, birds and fish that he caught with his hands, and drinking turtle blood when there was no rain.

“We’ve been feeding him nutritious island food and he’s getting better,” said Mr deBrum. “He has pain in both knees so he cannot stand up by himself. Otherwise, he’s OK.”

It is understood his small boat encountered engine trouble and the currents carried them out into the ocean.

Despite their attempts to attract other vessels, they continued to drift further out to sea – and it was then, as the weeks and the months dragged by, that their desperate struggle to survive took up every minute.

Jose Ivan would not be the first Mexican to wash up on the Marshall Islands.

In 2006, three Mexicans made international headlines when they were discovered drifting, also in a small fibreglass boat near the Marshall Islands, nine months after setting out on a shark-fishing expedition.

They survived on a diet of rainwater, raw fish and seabirds, with their hope kept alive by reading the bible.

Castaways from Kiribati, to the south, frequently find land in the Marshall Islands after ordeals of weeks or months at sea in small boats.

The Marshall Islands, in the northern Pacific, are home to about 60,000 people spread over 24 low-lying atolls.

Ms Vaca said that Jose Ivan was disorientated and did not know what had happened during his many months at sea.

“He feels a little desperate and he wants to get back to Mexico, but he doesn’t know how,” she said.

Shipwrecked man survives 16 months adrift at sea: An emaciated man was discovered on Thursday when his boat washed up on a remote Pacific atoll, having floated over 12,500 kilometers (8,000 miles) from Mexico since September of 2012, according to reports.

He was found when his 24-foot fibreglass boat with propellerless engines floated onto the reef at Ebon Atoll in the Marshall Islands, and he was seen by two locals.

Ola Fjeldstad, a Norwegian anthropology student doing research on Ebon, told AFP by telephone ”His condition isn’t good, but he’s getting better”.

Ms Fjeldstad said the man speaks only Spanish, so details of his survival are sketchy, but he said his name is Jose Ivan, according to reports.

Mr Ivan has a long beard and hair, and was found dressed only in ragged underpants.

Mr Ivan indicated to Ms Fjeldstad that he survived 16 months at sea by eating turtles, birds and fish, and drinking turtle blood when there was no rain.

He says he set off from Mexico to El Salvador in September 2012 with a companion, who died at sea several months ago.

“The boat is really scratched up and looks like it has been in the water for a long time,” said Ms Fjeldstad.

There was no fishing gear on the boat, and Mr Ivan indicated he caught turtles and birds with his bare hands. There was a turtle on the boat when it was found at Ebon.

The Marshall Islanders who discovered Ivan took him to the atoll’s main island to meet Mayor Ione de Brum, who called the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Majuro, according to Ms Fjeldstad.

Foreign Ministry officials on Friday said they were waiting to get more details and for Mr Ivan to be brought to Majuro.

However, the government airline’s only plane that can land at Ebon is down for maintenance and is not expected to return to service until Tuesday at the earliest, so officials are considering sending a boat to pick up Mr Ivan.

“He’s staying at the local council house and a family is feeding him,” Ms Fjeldstad said, adding that Mr Ivan had a basic health check which showed he had low blood pressure.

But he did not appear to have any illness that was life-threatening, and was able to walk with the help of men on the island.

“We’ve been giving him a lot of water, and he’s gaining strength,” said Ms Fjeldstad.

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