tagged w/ Drought
Mexico and Central America look like they are covered in dried blood on maps projecting future soil moisture conditions.
The results from 19 different state-of-the-art climate models project extreme and persistent drought conditions (colored dark red-brown on the maps) for almost all of Mexico, the midwestern United States and most of Central America.
If climate change pushes the global average temperature to 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era levels, as many experts now expect, these regions will be under severe and permanent drought conditions.
Future conditions are projected to be worse than Mexico's current drought or the U.S. Dust Bowl era of the 1930s that forced hundreds of thousands of people to migrate.
These are some of the conclusions of the study "Projections of Future Drought in the Continental United States and Mexico", which was published in the December 2011 issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Hydrometeorology and has gone largely unnoticed.
"Drought conditions will prevail no matter what precipitation rates are in the future," said co-author Michael Wehner, a climate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a U.S. government research centre in California.
"Even in regions where rainfall increases, the soils will get drier. This is a very robust finding," Wehner told Tierramérica.
Without major reductions in carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, global temperatures will increase to at least 2.5 degrees of warming between 2050 and 2090, depending on rates of emissions of greenhouse gases, climate sensitivity and feedbacks.
The 19 models used in the study show that the increased heat will dry soils more than any additional rain can replenish soil moisture levels. Ever warmer air temperatures will cause greater evaporation, drying out soils.
Climate change is also altering precipitation patterns, so that more and more precipitation occurs in winter months. And it is more likely to occur in the form of very heavy rainfalls over short periods of time, Wehner said.
Once the ground is dry, the sun’s energy goes into baking the soil, leading to a further increase in air temperature, as Beverly Law, a global climate change researcher at Oregon State University, told Tierramerica at the 16th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in 2010 in Cancún.
Large areas of the Southern hemisphere, including major portions of Australia, Africa and South America, have been drying up in the past decade, according to a study by Law and colleagues, "Climate Change: Water Cycle Dries Out", published in the journal Nature in 2010.
Another 2010 study in Nature, "Drought Under Global Warming: A Review", examined future climate projections and also found severe drying of soils over much of the central United States, Mexico and Central America by 2060, but beginning well before then.
This study by Aiguo Dai, a scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the U.S. state of Colorado, also projected that northeastern South America will experience similar drought conditions.
"If the projections in this study come even close to being realised, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous," Dai said in 2010.
More at the linkMexico and Central America look like they are covered in dried blood on maps... more
Spain has faced the driest winter ever recorded. It has raised red flags in Spain, where farmers face the threat of extreme drought. Grain crops in Spain are suffering after an unusually dry autumn and winter. The amount of rainfall has been just half of normal in key grain producing regions.
The map of the impact of the drought on plants throughout the country made with Normalized Vegetation Difference Index (NDVI) data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer(MODIS) instrument on the Terra satellite. It compares plant growth between April 6 and April 21, 2012, with average conditions for the same period. Brown indicates areas where plants are growing less vigorously than usual for this time of year. Gray indicates areas where data were not available. (NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using data provided by Inbal Reshef, Global Agricultural Monitoring Project. Caption by Adam Voiland.)
In an analysis released on May 10, 2012, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, projected Spain’s wheat production would drop by 20 percent, oats by 18 percent, and barley by 14 percent in comparison to last year. Overall, the USDA expects Spain will need to import 11 million metric tons of grain from other European countries because of the drought.
In late April, increasing rainfall has started to improve the situation, particularly in the northern half of the country. If rain continues to fall regularly throughout May, there’s a chance that barley and wheat yields could rebound.
A closer view of Andalucía, a region in southern Spain that produces almost all of the country’s durum wheat. Only about half the normal amount of rainfall fell in Andalucía between January and April. In the other key wheat producing states of Castilla y Leon, Castilla-La Mancha, and Aragón, rainfall has been low as well. (NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using data provided by Inbal Reshef, Global Agricultural Monitoring Project. Caption by Adam Voiland.)
Spain is not the only European country grappling with a weak wheat crop. Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, and other countries will likely see reduced yields as well due to dry weather. A cold spell at the end of February in Poland and Germany has also harmed crops. (EarthObservatory)
More at the linkSpain has faced the driest winter ever recorded. It has raised red flags in Spain,... more
In California, May typically marks the beginning of a warm and dry summer season. This year, however, things are different. Not only has it been warm and dry for the past couple weeks; it’s been warm and dry for months. So dry, in fact, that officials are warning the risk of wildfires across much of the state is going to be much worse than usual, for several months to come.
According to their most recent outlook, the National Interagency Fire Center predicts that large parts of southern and central California, along with forests throughout the Sierra Nevada, are likely to see more wildfires than normal, particularly later this summer.
Three firefighters watch as a wildfire approaches Carbon Canyon road near Brea, Calif., in 2008. Credit: Mike Blake/Reuters
“A big chunk of the state is looking at above-average wildfire risk,” said Rob Krohn, a meteorologist with the U.S. Forestry Service’s Predictive Services Branch in Riverside. According to Krohn, the exceptionally dry conditions in California during most of this winter have left many areas parched and vulnerable to ignition from both human and natural causes.
This summer’s increased threat of wildfires is something Californians can expect to see more often in coming decades. Climate researchers predict that over the next 75 years, a combination of warmer winters, reduced snowpack, earlier snowmelts, and hotter, drier summers will lead to more wildfires in forested parts of the state. Year-to-year variations in the weather will still heavily influence fire risk in the future, as it has this year, but just how devastating this year’s wildfires are in California will be a warning of the forests’ vulnerability to the developing warmer, drier climate.
The past few years have been relatively quiet for wildfires in California, following two devastatingly dry years in 2007 and 2008, when more than 800,000 acres burned.
During a May 9 press conference, California State Climatologist Mike Anderson described the unusual weather in California this past winter.
“December  was the second driest December in over a hundred years,” Anderson said. Several areas of the state received only 5-to-10 percent of their usual rainfall in December and heading into mid-January, it appeared California might have its driest winter on record.
A few days of heavy rain in late January brought a spot of relief. Then, a wetter than usual March boosted total winter precipitation. Nevertheless, all but the most northern parts of California still registered well below average total rain and snowfall, Anderson said.
And in terms of wildfire risk, Krohn said the wet weather in March and early April came too late. By then the damage was done. While the rain may have helped prevent spring wildfires from starting — to date this year only about 1,000 acres have burned in California, well below normal — plants and trees rely heavily on the rain that falls early in the season to help them stay moist and healthy throughout the dry summer season. Without moisture from early rain, the plants simply haven’t been taking up water that fell later in the spring.
Despite the arid winter, California water supplies are in generally good condition leading into summer. Thanks to record wet conditions last year, most groundwater basins and reservoirs are still high, and the California Department of Water Resources says most people — and farmers — won’t suffer from this winter’s drier than normal conditions.
Unfortunately, these reservoirs have little influence on the wildfire risk, And more often that not in California, Krohn said, predictions for bad wildfire years tend to come true.
More at the linkIn California, May typically marks the beginning of a warm and dry summer season. This... more
191,000 people are homeless or have have suffered "significant" damage due to flooding in the Amazon region of eastern Peru, reports the Associated Press.
The flooding is considered the worst in 30 years, inundating croplands and communities along the Amazon River and its tributaries. Last month the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency in Loreto, a region that borders Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil. Now there are reports of a leptospirosis outbreak, which has already killed three people. Hundreds of others have been hospitalized with skin, intestinal, and respiratory problems.
Damage has been exacerbated by new developments in floodplain areas as well as higher than usual rainfall.
Scientists have warned that Peru is likely to experience increased incidence of flooding and drought as a result of climate change. Last week the country adopted a resolution to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions.
"If we don't do something we will have problems with water supplies along the coasts, we know there will be more droughts, more rains ... we are already seeing temperature changes," Mariano Felipe Soldan, head of the government's strategic planning office, told Reuters.
Read more: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0502-peru-amazon-flooding.html#ixzz1tmAjDCeI
More at the link:
http://lh6.ggpht.com/-kZe8MuFoyps/T5R-Ru-HV1I/AAAAAAAAGXI/NkqP3AfAHro/image%25255B5%25255D.png?imgmax=800191,000 people are homeless or have have suffered "significant" damage due... more
Forecasters have warned of property damage, traffic disruption and power cuts as storms and even the odd tornado batter the country.
But while the Environment Agency had 13 flood warnings and 42 flood alerts in place last night, it said many areas would remain in drought for the foreseeable future because groundwater levels were still extremely low. Householders faced the bizarre situation of being at risk of flooding while at the same time being urged to save water.
Homes and businesses in York city centre were flooded on Friday, and roads and farmland in many areas were submerged as an inch of rain fell.
Trains were cancelled and delayed in West Yorkshire, while beach huts in Seaton, Devon, were destroyed in gales.
There could be worse to come tonight as another powerful storm moves in. The Met Office has issued severe weather warnings for the whole of the South tomorrow. Flooding and 70mph winds could bring down trees and power lines, close bridges and disrupt ferry services. Snow could fall on high ground and there could be more tornadoes, after two destroyed properties in Warwickshire and Essex this week.
The unsettled weather coming in from the Atlantic is likely to last well into May, although it will be fairly warm in the spells of sunshine between the showers.
Sarah Holland, of the Met Office, said: “Sunday will be very wet, very windy and very unpleasant, with the risk of localised flooding and falling trees.
“People need to be aware of this. We’re monitoring the level of the alert and there is a chance this warning may be upgraded.”
It could turn out to be the wettest April on record. Some 97mm (3.8in) of rain has been recorded so far this month — 139 per cent of the average. The record, set in 2000, is 120.3mm.
The Environment Agency said recent rain had helped to push up soil moisture levels in the South East and East Anglia. River flows have increased and most are now normal or higher, although six are still below normal.
However, aquifers and water stored underground remain low because the rain is running off dry soil or being sucked up by plants. Groundwater levels remain lower than in the 1976 drought in the South and East, the agency said.
Of 27 groundwater measuring sites in England and Wales, 14 were exceptionally low — up from 13 last week after levels fell at Ampney Crucis, Glos. Seven sites were notably low. Just four were normal or higher, all in the North West.
Polly Chancellor, the national drought co-ordinator, said: “The rain boosts farmers and gardeners and delays water companies applying for further drought permits.
“But dry soils mean most rain is either soaked up or runs off, causing flooding. Most rain is not reaching down far enough to top up groundwater, which is what we really need to make a difference to the drought. So it is still important we all continue to use water wisely.”Forecasters have warned of property damage, traffic disruption and power cuts as... more
Indigenous communities around the world are highly vulnerable to climate change but instead of seeing them as victims, policy-makers should tap into their centuries-old knowledge of adapting to extreme weather patterns, aid workers say.
In Iran, which has some 700 nomadic tribes, pastoralists have been successfully adapting to climate fluctuations for 12,000 years, development expert Catherine Razavi told an international conference on climate change.
In recent years they have adjusted their migration patterns and switched to more drought resistant strains of livestock, said Razavi who is executive director of Iran’s Center for Sustainable Development (CENESTA).
In central Iran, where much pastureland has been destroyed by drought, she said pastoralists were now planting drought tolerant crops on previous grazing land. These crops include pistachios and fodder barley which can be used to feed livestock.
The story of Iran’s nomads was highlighted during the sixth International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change, hosted in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.
Indigenous communities are vulnerable to climate change partly because they are marginalised and poor and have little access to information and services.
But far from watching passively as their ancestral lands and traditions are threatened by climate-related hazards, many such communities are actively adapting to new conditions, the conference heard.
In Bac Kan province, a few hours north of Hanoi, nearly 80 percent of the inhabitants are ethnic minorities. They are now cultivating drought resistant rice, banana and green bean varieties as well as cold resistant potato.
They have also adapted their farming techniques, for example, intercropping banana and local ginger, said Tran Van Dien from Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry.
Intercropping improves a farmer's chances of getting at least one good crop and can improve soil quality.
In parts of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, indigenous farmers have introduced both upland rice and lowland rice at the same time to reduce the risk of crop failure from drought or floods, according to Nasiri Sabiah of the Malaysian community organisation PACOS Trust. Lowland rice is generally grown in flooded paddies. Upland rice is more drought tolerant.
CENTURIES OF KNOWLEDGE
"Climatic changes are now taking place on a scale, severity and frequency beyond living memory," said CENESTA’s Razavi, showing a photo of a mountain with almost no snow cover. “We’ve never, never seen (this) mountain without snow before these (last) few years,” she told AlertNet during the conference which finished on Sunday.
Another picture showed a dried, cracked waterbed. It used to be the biggest river in Iran, she said, before climate change and ill-conceived dams and agricultural projects severely reduced ground and surface water.
Razavi said indigenous communities had inherited techniques from their ancestors for predicting weather patterns and hazards and were well-versed in monitoring and assessing how many livestock their pasturelands could support in a given year.
“We believe and we work really hard to explain to the government that some of the indigenous practices are applicable (to other places) and are worth learning (from),” she said, adding that CENESTA has been observing the practices of pastoralists for three decades.
More at the linkIndigenous communities around the world are highly vulnerable to climate change but... more
Following a vote in its Senate on Thursday evening, Mexico is poised to become just the second country in the world to enshrine long-term climate targets into national legislation.
The margin of the vote was huge - 78-0 - indicating that all political parties have found common ground on this issue.
Now all that's needed is the signature of President Felipe Calderon, which is expected to materialise next week.
The bill enshrines a number of measures in law, including:
30% reduction in emission growth measured against a "business as usual" pathway by 2020, and 50% by 2050
35% of energy to come from renewable sources by 2024
obligation for government agencies to use renewables
establishment of a national mechanism for reporting on emissions in various sectors
The targets look pretty demanding at first sight - especially for a country where the population is growing and the economy expanding, and where oil makes a significant contribution to the national coffers.
So why is it taking steps that to the eyes of many will probably look like economic suicide?
Tlajomulco, on the outskirts of Guadalajara, recently saw a major oil pipeline fire
I had a chance to ask three Mexican parliamentarians recently when they came to London to look at how the UK, the first country in the world with this sort of national legislation, is doing it.
The views of Eric Luis Rubio Barthell, Nicolas Bellizia Aboaf and Porfirio Munoz Ledo were quite diverse - perhaps not surprising, as they come from different political parties.
"Mexico has a long tradition in multilateral politics," said Mr Munoz Ledo, a founder member of the centre-left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) who now chairs the Foreign Affairs Commission.
That tradition re-asserted itself at the UN climate summit in Cancun in 2010, he said - and "this legislation is a strong commitment coming out of Cancun" to reflect that international commitment on climate change in national legislation.
For Mr Bellizia Aboaf, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which despite its name is considered more of a centrist party these days, it was more about practical issues.
"My state of Tabasco has suffered quite heavily the consequences of climate change," he said.
Low-lying Tabasco has traditionally suffered from flooding but the events of 2007, when water covered 80% of the state, were especially severe.
Yet Tabasco also has nearly 1,000 oil and gas wells in operation - a microcosm of Mexico in general, which is the sixth largest oil exporter in the world.
Traditionally, big hydrocarbon-producing countries have fought tooth and nail against action on climate change; and Mr Rubio Barthell, also of the PRI, said Middle Eastern oil-exporting countries have repeatedly asked Mexico to take this stance too.
But as the country has developed, oil and gas have become progressively less important to the economy as a whole.
That's why a more green economic vision makes sense for a number of politicians.
"I personally think this climate change topic should be an economic and energy issue, not an ecological issue, though I recognise that opinions are divided on this," said Mr Rubio Barthell.
And for Mr Munoz Ledo, the transition implied by a 35% renewable energy target is necessary and absolutely achievable.
The 2010 summit in Cancun put the UN climate convention's journey back on the road
"Mexico is aware this is the end of the oil era, so we need to implement this fiscal reform - and if we go through it, we'll be able to do without this oil," he said.
Solar energy, hydro-electricity, geothermal, biofuels and nuclear are options that are going to be explored.
The irony is, of course, that Mexico has traditionally been a younger and poorer cousin of the giant to its north, the United States, which has repeatedly declined to establish legislation of anything like this strength, citing impacts on economic growth.
"Power for the US is based on the army and energy and oil," Mr Munoz Ledo said.
"In 1989 you had [George] Bush senior coming into office from an oil background; if you go through Clinton and Obama, they serve the oil interest first.
"We're talking about the politics of neo-liberalism here which is based on oil interests and indebtedness - this is why so many in the US don't accept climate change, even though it's based on scientific evidence."
More at the linkFollowing a vote in its Senate on Thursday evening, Mexico is poised to become just... more
For the more than sixty thousand Tarahumara Indians living in the high Sierra’s of northern Mexico, the expression connotes sharing, a tradition borne more of necessity than charity. It is also a subtle reminder of the ongoing drought that is proving to be one of Mexico’s worst dry seasons in recent memory.
In Tarahumara society, those who have must share with those who do not. Far from humiliating, roaming the streets of the Chabochis -- non-Indian mestizos living in the towns and cities below -- asking for a few coins to ease their hunger is a natural tendency that has ensured centuries of survival in this unforgiving terrain.
But times are harder now.
As years have passed without substantial rain, even those who once smiled at Tarahumara children requesting córima outside convenience stores across Chihuahua are now clinching on to their coins more tightly, less willing to share.
“We fear the worst is yet to come,” says Antonio Rodriguez Quinones, chief of staff for Carichi’s municipal administration. “If we don’t get enough water this rainy season, next winter is going to be an uphill battle in terms of feeding these people.”
The city is working with the non-profit Angeles del Desierto – which normally focuses on locating would-be migrants to the U.S. who become lost in the California-Arizona desert – to deliver some 12 tons of winter clothing, food and water to the Tarahumara.
“We have been trying to help them with aid from the federal government, but it is not enough,” says Mayor Ignacio Leonel Ortega, as he carries a casserole of black beans and pork tripe to a crowd of about a thousand Tarahumara, who stand waiting outside the local Catholic church.
The Long Run
Famed for their long-distance running and the focus of a recent bestseller on the topic, Born to Run, the Tarahumara retreated to the canyon-filled mountains high above Chihuahua upon the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. Anthropologists believe running and their tradition of córima both grew out of the environment they found themselves in.
Today that environment is in the midst of a brutal drought that according to reports has wiped out millions of acres of farmland this winter, caused 15 billion pesos ($1.18 billion) in lost harvests, killed 60,000 head of cattle and impacted millions more, pushing food prices higher.
The government has already allotted some $2.65 billion in emergency aid, while the water authority estimates it will need an additional $24 billion in investments in order to recover. Most believe current conditions are signs of worse to come.
For residents in the area, the scarcity that has driven the Tarahumara into the cities in search of food has exacerbated an already ingrained sense that they are lazy and unwilling to work.
“They might be hungry as hell, but if you tell them that you will give them food in exchange for cleaning the plaza, they won’t do it,” says one local police officer who declined to give his name. Like others, he insists córima is simply an excuse to get out of work.
But considering the thousands of Tarahumara who run sometimes hundreds of miles in search of food or water, laziness is not a term easily applied. And neither is charity.
When in need, the Tarahumara turn first to family, then neighbors and finally outward in concentric circles that ultimately lead to the cities below. In their view, reaching out for aid is simply a part of the tradition of sharing.
Denying córima, likewise, is cause for shame. Living in close proximity to one another, those who refuse to share in times of plenty gain a reputation for stinginess and can often find themselves excluded from the community.
It is a centuries-old social safety net that, according to Jose Alvino, is based on the notion, “If you suffer, I will eventually suffer.”
More at the linkFor the more than sixty thousand Tarahumara Indians living in the high Sierra’s... more
With drought conditions chronic in the Sahel, many farmers give up trying to grow crops and head to towns and cities to find work. In Chad many go to the south or to Lake Chad where irrigation from the fast-shrinking lake is used to farm. But some agro-ecologists say governments, donors and farmers should not abandon agriculture in the Sahel, and despite being “very difficult”, with the right approaches, there is “huge potential” in natural regeneration, traditional irrigation methods, and simple alternatives such as crop diversification.
“The Sahel has enormous potential – this is a very marginal food-growing environment, so we are forced to learn how this natural system works. All we’re doing is looking for the clues in nature,” said Tony Rinauld, a research and development adviser on natural resources to World Vision Australia who worked in the Sahel for’ years, practicing agro-forestry, a traditional land-use system that combines trees or other woody perennials with crop and animal production.
The Kanem and Bahr el Ghazal regions in western Chad are chronically food insecure, and periodically experience acute malnutrition rates above the emergency threshold. According to NGOs, rates reached’ percent in Kanem earlier in 2012 and many families have already run out of food and are down to one or two goats.
Both regions are dotted with fertile oases, known as ‘wadis’, that have for years been left by their traditional ‘owners’ – the aristocrats, or ‘Sultanate’, and village chiefs – to grow little more than date palms, lemon and mango trees. Vegetables are systematically grown in just 100 of Kanem’s 500 wadis, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which runs a project with the European Union (EU) humanitarian funder, ECHO, to help the poorest families grow vegetables in 120 oases across Kanem and Bahr el Ghazal.
“Here [in Kanem] one crisis just flows into the next one… but we are trying to keep people here and to see how we can enlarge the wadis further,” said Abdul Karim, FAO’s food security head in Mao, the capital of Kanem.
Sultanates and village chiefs lend the oases to separate producer committees of men and women for 5 to 10 years, while FAO helps build a water point and provides the pump, gives farmers seeds and tools and trains them in market gardening.
Minder Mohamed Ali was guarding fields of lettuces, carrots, aubergines and onions in Aloum 2 wadi, 8 kilometers from Mao. “We eat some, we sell some of the vegetables – many farmers weren’t able to do much before this, as they have had no production this year,” he told IRIN.
“Now we see vegetables in the market every day,” the representative of the Sultanate in Mao, ni Alifeh Mahadi Alifey Mahlabtra, told IRIN. “It is also a motivation for people to do something… we will [probably] renew the contract in five years – we want people to get enough food,” he said. “Before, people here grew rice, now we are completely dependent on our wadis.”
With the right level of investment and the right approach, anything is possible, said Augustin Ilunga, head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Mao, which has for decades been helping to keep severely malnourished children alive. “In a desert landscape like this, with climate change, it will take a lot of work to change… but with the right attitude it’s possible. Otherwise we’ll be here giving Plumpy’Nut [a highly nutritious foodstuff given to malnourished people] forever,” he told IRIN.
Ultimately, this project has worked only because land was made available to the very poorest groups, who ordinarily would not have had access to it, said Remy Courcier, Emergency coordinator at the FAO in the capital, N’djamena. “Land ownership and land rights are central to improving prospects in the Sahel.”
Courcier told IRIN that investors in Chad should follow other Sahelian examples. “Here in Chad not much has been done over the past 30 years, but in Niger there is lots of research into improved seed varieties, traditional irrigation, environmental protection such as controlling sandy dunes – we could use more of this.”
more at the linkWith drought conditions chronic in the Sahel, many farmers give up trying to grow... more
Most of England is now in drought and the dry spell could last beyond Christmas, the Environment Agency will announce on Monday, as government officials started planning for a long-term water shortage that could be disastrous for wildlife, the landscape and farming.
Large swaths of the Midlands and the south-west have entered official drought status, meaning water companies in those areas can apply to place restrictions on water use for households and businesses. This could mean an extension of the hosepipe bans in the south of England.
The drought now extends from Cornwall to Kent, East Anglia to Shropshire and Herefordshire, and as far north as Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and North Yorkshire. Even parts of Wales – normally one of the wettest parts of the UK – are reporting ill-effects from the dry spell. The smattering of rain in many areas over Easter gave little respite from low river flows and falling groundwater levels, with only England's northernmost counties still getting enough wet weather.
While rain over the summer and autumn could alleviate the water shortages, officials are planning for the third dry winter in a row, which could devastate wildlife and farming. Only a very wet autumn and winter could prevent the drought stretching into next year. Soils are so dry that they will need a prolonged heavy soaking to recover, while levels at reservoir across much of England are so low they will take time to replenish.
Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the Environment Agency, warned the outlook was bleak. "A longer term drought, lasting until Christmas and perhaps beyond, now looks more likely, and we are working with businesses, farmers and water companies to plan ahead to meet the challenges of a continued drought," he said. "While we've had some welcome rain recently, the problem has not gone away and we would urge everyone – right across the country – to use water wisely now, which will help prevent more serious impacts next year."
Households and businesses in areas not yet badly affected, and not under hosepipe bans, are also being urged to save water. Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, said: "As more areas of the UK move into drought it is vital we use less water to protect the public's water supply in the driest areas of the country. It is for everyone to share the responsibility to save water. We are asking everyone to help by using less water and starting now."
Helen Vale, national drought co-ordinator at the Environment Agency, added: "The amount of water that we use at home and in our businesses has a direct effect on the amount of water available in the environment, for wildlife and for farmers, so we would urge everyone to start using less water now, whether or not they live in an area with a hosepipe ban."
The state of restrictions varies widely. While most of the south-east is under a hosepipe ban, the south-west – despite being now officially in drought – has more reservoirs and fewer people. South West Water has no plans to restrict consumer usage as its reservoirs are at 84% of their capacity.
Farmers, particularly arable farmers and vegetable growers, face a difficult summer as decisions have already been taken on what to grow this year. Further restrictions such as curbs on abstracting groundwater will become more likely if the drought continues. Price rises are likely for thirsty crops such as soft fruit and vegetables, while the price of beer is also expected to increase.
Wildlife is being hard hit across the south of England, with little that can be done for many species. Amphibians such as frogs, toads and newts are particularly at risk, as their breeding season has been hit by the drying out of ponds and ditches, and fish have died in large numbers after becoming trapped in diminishing pools as the river flow fell.
Although some fish have been moved from some of the most drought-stricken spots, government agencies lack the means to carry this out on the vast scale that would be needed in a prolonged drought. Species from water voles and wildfowl to dragonflies and wading birds will also be hit, wildlife experts have warned, as the drought reduces their habitats, kills off food supplies and leaves them vulnerable to predators and disease. Wildfires – more likely as vegetation dries out – may also pose a danger if hot weather continues this summer.
Welcome though rain would be, sudden showers also carry risks, the Environment Agency warned, as flash floods become more likely when soil is dry. England needs rain – but the right kind of rain.
Fiona Harvey and Madeleine Cuff, The Guardian, Sunday 15 April 2012Most of England is now in drought and the dry spell could last beyond Christmas, the... more
- So-called water schools, which educate communities on the resource and its links with the environment, gender and climate change, are helping to raise awareness on proper water management in Mexico, at a time of severe drought.
In recent years, projects of this kind have been set up in different parts of Mexico, especially in areas where water is scarce and measures to make water use more efficient are needed.
"We are training people to understand the relationship between water and gender, to influence public policies," Araceli Díaz, the president of the NGO Calmécac, told IPS. "We assess the problems faced by different regions, and then design a water policy agenda."
In 2011, Calmécac – named after the schools attended by the children of the nobility in the Aztec empire - set up a water school in the city of Taxco, in the state of Guerrero, 150 km south of Mexico City. Outreach workers from 12 surrounding municipalities are active in the school.
Because it suffers from chronic water shortages as well as pollution of water sources by gold and silver mining, that southwestern region is in need of special conservation and clean-up measures.
Mexico as a whole is highly vulnerable in terms of water supplies. And the situation has been aggravated by the effects of climate change, which in the medium to long term will threaten the availability of water, with negative impacts on food, agriculture, human health and biodiversity, experts from academia and civil society point out.
Besides the problem of pollution of groundwater, at least 100 of the country’s 653 aquifers are overexploited.
Water schools began to emerge in the decade of the 2000s in several countries of Latin America, due to the critical problems with water. The aim is to educate communities on the value of water, and instruct them in efficient, rational usage techniques. The schools also introduce new habits of water recycling, reuse and treatment.
In addition, they address the link between water and women, since in many communities it is women who are responsible for hauling, storing and distributing water, especially in areas where supplies are scarce.
These locally-based experiences "are important and valuable approaches, because the training and awareness-raising is carried out at a local level. Each local context has a very different set of problems," Edith Kauffer, at the public Centre for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS), told IPS.
"Both local capacity-building and government policies are necessary - they are complementary," said the researcher, who lives in the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas in the southern state of Chiapas.
"The solution does not only lie in the hands of civil society. Governments have a role to play too," she said.
Since 2011, central and northern Mexico have been hit by drought, which has caused significant damage to the agriculture and livestock sectors. And several studies forecast that northern Mexico will continue to suffer water stress in the long term.
In Mexico, 30 percent of households do not have piped water and 15 percent receive water through other means only every three days, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.
One of the water schools operates in the town of Malinalco, population 25,600, in the central state of Mexico, next to the Federal District (the capital). Its work focuses on cleaning up the San Miguel river and improving treatment of sewage or blackwater, and greywater, which is wastewater generated by domestic activities like bathing and washing clothes and dishes.
"We carry out community work with the local population to raise awareness about pollution of bodies of water," Macaira Vera, the head of the water school in Malinalco, told IPS. "The key has been community work, driving it home to local people that if we pollute the water, we are killing ourselves."
The initiative promoted the installation of 125 household biodigesters – containers that convert organic waste into fertiliser and biogas – and the construction of four community plants to treat sewage that previously ended up in the river.
An office that provides advice on water, helping the local population work out specific water treatment and handling problems, was also established.
Each biodigester serves 18 families, and each plant has the capacity to process 1.5 litres of sewage per second. The organisation also carries out monthly analyses of water quality at the community plants and in local wells.
Heavily polluted by raw sewage and fertiliser runoff, the San Miguel river is the hub of the work of the water school, which identified 125 spots where sewage was dumped into the river in 2008.
"We decided to try to get these issues onto the public agenda; we formed online networks to communicate with each other and try to get incorporated into the spaces where these issues are discussed, and decisions are reached," Díaz said.
In its assessments, Calmécac found problems of water availability and supplies, serious pollution, obsolete water distribution infrastructure, and a lack of citizen participation in decision-making.
The organisation is seeking funds to create a wetlands sewage treatment system – constructed wetlands that clean wastewater by filtration, settling, and bacterial decomposition – and to promote eco-techniques like rainwater collection and recycling.
It also foments family gardens, "to get people to change their consumption habits and learn to grow their own food," and hydroponics - a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil – Calmécac’s Díaz said.
"The priorities are improving access to piped water, improving water quality, and tackling the enormous lack of sewage treatment," said Kauffer, who is involved in research into the border rivers between Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, along this country’s southern border. "There are practically no rivers that aren’t polluted."
More at the link- So-called water schools, which educate communities on the resource and its links... more
Still reeling from last year's devastating drought that led to at least $10 billion in agricultural losses across Texas and the South, the nation is enduring another unusually parched year.
A mostly dry, mild winter has put nearly 61% of the lower 48 states in "abnormally dry" or drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly federal tracking of drought. That's the highest percentage of dry or drought conditions since September 2007, when 61.5% of the country was listed in those categories.
Only two states — Ohio and Alaska — are entirely free of abnormally dry or drought conditions, according to the Drought Monitor.
The drought is expanding into some areas where dryness is rare, such as New England.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, stream levels are at near-record or record lows in much of New England. The Drought Monitor lists all of Vermont as "abnormally dry," just six months after the state's wettest August on record that stemmed mainly from disastrous flooding by the remnants of Hurricane Irene.
The rest of the East is also very dry. "Georgia is one area we'll really have to watch," says meteorologist David Miskus of the Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md. More than 63% of the state is now in the worst two levels of drought, the highest percentage of any state.
Wildfires and brush fires have been common along the East Coast from New England to Florida in recent weeks because of wind and the unusual dryness.
The Southwest and Southeast had a very dry winter, but the southern Plains, including eastern Texas, had a much wetter winter than expected, Miskus says. The rain eased drought conditions in eastern Texas. The state dropped from 100% in the four categories of drought in late September to 64% this week. Much of western Texas remains in extreme to exceptional drought.
Trouble also looms for water-dependent California. The state Department of Water Resources announced last week that water content in California's mountain snowpack is 45% below normal.Still reeling from last year's devastating drought that led to at least $10... more
A massive brush fire driven by high winds and low humidity was burning out of control on Long Island east of New York City on Tuesday. Two more fires broke out in New Jersey, but firefighters managed to contain a third one that erupted at a landfill on Staten Island.
The blazes broke out Monday as winds gusted at more than 40 mph across New York, New Jersey and the rest of the region. The winds, combined with low humidity and extra-dry conditions caused by a nearly snow-free winter, fed the flames, which forced some evacuations, closed roads and destroyed at least two homes.
The lost homes were in Manorville, on Long Island, the scene of the worst blaze. "This fire is not under control," Steve Bellone, the Suffolk County executive, told the local Fox affiliate early Tuesday. He said winds died down overnight, preventing the roughly 1,000-acre fire from spreading farther. "Once the wind kicks back up, it's unpredictable," he said.
The fire was the worst on Long Island since the mid-1990s, Bellone said, noting that three firefighters had been injured so far fighting it.
Some residents had been evacuated from the city of Riverhead, N.Y. Others evacuated on their own, many from rural areas dotted with stables. Calls went out among residents for extra trailers to transport horses, and the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it would accept some pets from people forced to evacuate their homes.
"It's pretty much all farms out here," Oscar Garcia told the local Patch news site, which offered regular updates on the blaze. Garcia, who lives on a farm in Manorville, said he had moved 24 horses from the farm.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the National Guard was on standby to help firefighters in Suffolk County. "The National Guard has helicopter and other air-based fire suppression equipment deployed in the area and ready to be activated if needed," he said in a statement.
Elsewhere, a major fire that snarled traffic in the New York City borough of Staten Island on Monday night was under control early Tuesday. Fire officials said the blaze, which began at a landfill, probably was the result of spontaneous combustion resulting from wind and extra-dry conditions. It started under a huge compost pile.
More than 1,000 acres burned across New Jersey, and at least one of them in Burlington County continued to burn at dawn Tuesday.
"It looked like hell," Constatin Alimonos, a vineyard owner near that fire, told the Star-Ledger. "When I got up this morning it looked really horrible, looked like it was coming toward us, but fortunately it stopped."A massive brush fire driven by high winds and low humidity was burning out of control... more
Karina Pinasco watched in dismay as flames on a hillside at the edge of town lit up the sky one night in October 2010. A farmer had intended to clear a few hectares of land to plant coffee bushes, but the fire – set during an unusually hot, dry spell – quickly got out of hand.
Propelled by winds and high temperatures, it burned for 10 days, charring more than 250 acres of land.
"We realized we weren't prepared," says Pinasco, a biologist who heads Amazónicos por la Amazonía, a local environmental organization. "The firefighters weren't trained. It was the rain that finally put it out."
Scientists used to think the rainforest, especially in the western Amazon, was too wet to burn. But major fire seasons in 2005 and 2010 made them reconsider.
Fires are a major source of carbon emissions in the Amazon, and scientists are beginning to worry that the region could become a net emitter, instead of a carbon sink. New findings link rising ocean temperatures off the northern coast of Brazil to changing weather patterns: As the Atlantic warms, it draws moisture away from the forest, priming the region for bigger fires.
"We are reaching a tipping point in terms of drought, beyond which these forests can catch fire," says Daniel Nepstad, international program director at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute in Brasília, Brazil.
Once-a-century no more
The 2005 drought – considered a once-in-a-century event – resulted in unprecedented wildfires in Acre, the western Brazilian state bordering Peru. Flames scorched the tree canopy, and at one point the front face of the fire stretched nearly seven miles. As many as 1.2 million acres of forests were affected in Acre and the neighboring regions of Pando in Bolivia and Madre de Dios in Peru. Officials estimated upwards of $100 million in economic damages.
But the forest loss wasn't the only concern for the Acre state government, said Foster Brown, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center and a professor at the Federal University of Acre in Rio Branco, the state capital. Choking smoke spiked respiratory ailments in the region and canceled flights.
Just five years later, another once-a-century drought struck, and fires spread out of control, especially in Acre, Bolivia's Pando region and Brazil's Mato Grosso state. Acre was better prepared, but in Bolivia, smoke from more than 20,000 fires reduced visibility and shut airports in several towns. The Bolivian government declared a state of emergency as more than 3.5 million acres of forest burned. In Mato Grosso, fires destroyed at least 100 homes.
Gigatons of carbon
The 2005 fires added 1.6 gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere, according to a study by Simon Lewis of the University of Leeds, who put emissions from the more widespread 2010 fires at 2.2 gigatons.
In a normal year, the Amazon forests store 0.4 gigatons of carbon a year in the trees and soil, meaning that two bad seasons like 2005 and 2010 could wipe out a decade of gain, according to Lewis' calculations.
And as humans push further into an increasingly drier Amazon, the problem could worsen.
In the western Amazon, humans are the chief source of sparks. With new roads being built and paved through once-inaccessible areas, Peru's Amazonian regions now have some of the country's highest population growth rates. Many of the newcomers clear a little land to farm, and where there are farms, there is fire.
In the Amazon, where weeds and insects run rampant, burning is the most cost-effective way for small farmers to control ticks in cattle pastures and unwanted plants in cassava fields, says Miguel Pinedo-Vásquez, director of international programs for the Columbia University Center for Environmental Research and Conservation, who also works with the Center for International Forestry Research.
More at the linkKarina Pinasco watched in dismay as flames on a hillside at the edge of town lit up... more
Colorado is facing drought not seen since 2002, following the fourth-warmest and third-least-snowy winter in US history. Colorado State University scientists report that 98 percent of the state is facing these drought conditions.
The drought comes after a record-breaking warm winter that left very low “snowpack levels” in water basins. “Even though the reservoir levels are still strong and northeast Colorado soil moisture is still pretty good, we just don’t usually start out quite this warm and dry at this time — so this is very concerning,” CSU climatologist Nolan Doesken said. “In 2002, things didn’t seem that bad at the end of March, as March had been quite cool, with some snow.”
Colorado’s hydrofracking boom — a technology that heavily relies on water — only adds additional strain as farmers and drillers bid for a scarce resource:
At Colorado’s premier auction for unallocated water this spring, companies that provide water for hydraulic fracturing at well sites were top bidders on supplies once claimed exclusively by farmers. . . .
State officials charged with promoting and regulating the energy industry estimated that fracking required about 13,900 acre-feet in 2010. That’s a small share of the total water consumed in Colorado, about 0.08 percent. However, this fast-growing share already exceeds the amount that the ski industry draws from mountain rivers for making artificial snow. Each oil or gas well drilled requires 500,000 to 5 million gallons of water.
A Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission report projected water needs for fracking will increase to 18,700 acre-feet a year by 2015.
Farmers who go to the auctions seeking to produce food — or maybe plant more acres — are on equal footing with companies seeking water for fracking, Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said.
“If you have a beneficial use for the water, then you can bid for that water,” Werner said. “We see the beneficial use of the water as a positive for the economy of the whole region. Fracking is one of those uses. Our uses of water have evolved over 150 years.”
States including Colorado, Alabama, Florida, and Virginia have all faced raging wildfires before wildfire season even officially sets off, fueled by the winter that wasn’t and the March madness powered by global warming pollution from fossil-fuel polluters like Colorado’s frackers.
By Rebecca Leber on Apr 5, 2012 at 4:52 pmColorado is facing drought not seen since 2002, following the fourth-warmest and... more
Margaret Hiza Redsteer has long known the Navajo Nation. Of Crow descent, she grew up near the Montana-Wyoming border, and in the 1970s moved to an area of Arizona then shared by the Navajo and Hopi tribes. She married a Navajo man and they had three children. While living on the reservation, she often heard people talk about how much the land's vegetation had changed. "But at that point," she says, "it hadn’t really clicked what that meant – that it indicated climate change."
In 1986 the 29-year-old Hiza Redsteer and her family resettled in Flagstaff, where she began to study geology at the university. After 14 years of schooling, she returned to the Navajo Nation with a Ph.D., as an employee of the U.S. Geological Survey in the early 2000s. Her research specialty was studying volcanic deposits near Yellowstone. But, as she grew convinced of the harmful effects of climate change on reservation livelihoods, she decided to switch focus. Her pioneering work using aerial photographs, GPS maps and remote laser sensing data to track landscape level changes on the Navajo Nation was written about in "Shifting sands in Navajoland," (HCN story; 6/23/08).
Now, Hiza Redsteer is pushing to find out even more about ecological changes her original data could not track by incorporating a rarely-used form of climate data into her research -- the accounts of Indian elders. She has extensively interviewed many elders, and now their perspective is illuminating new aspects of the region's environmental history.
High Country News If I was a Navajo child, what would I hear about the weather and climate growing up?
Margaret Hiza Redsteer The elders often talk about the difference in grass, how tall, how thick, how much of it there used to be. Some people say when they were young and herding sheep they had to stay right with the herd. If they didn’t the sheep would get lost in the grass. It's not like that now.
HCN What have you learned from these oral histories?
Hiza Redsteer The elders' memories can give us information that the physical records can’t. They give a much better picture of what the ecological changes have been. For example, people talk about how, in the winter, the snow was chest high on the horses. They talk about using particular streams for irrigation of crops, but many of those aren’t even flowing now,
It helps us fill in gaps too. There are huge time gaps in some of the earlier photography. We have a photo set from 1936, for instance, but then the next photo set we have from the area is from 1954. That’s a huge gap in time when you’re trying to unravel how the landscape changed and what caused it.
HCN Is there a difference between the kind of information you can get through oral and analytical methods?
MHR We can model evapotranspiration rates based on temperature; we can make observations of soil moisture. But one thing that we can't do very easily is project back to what those conditions were like when there was more snow. One of the things we’ve learned (from oral accounts) is that soil moisture conditions were much different. In the Southwest we expect precipitation during two distinct periods: winter rains, followed by a dry windy spring, then the summer monsoons. Springs have become much warmer; we can see that in the meteorological record.
We've learned from the elders that the soil stayed moist all through the spring until the summer monsoon arrived. Now, if you were to go out in the springtime during the dry windy season, you could dig a very big trench and not run into any wet sand or soil. The ecological effects are huge because shallow rooted plants aren't going to do as well.
It's also hard to reconstruct where plants and animals were in the past. The elders have told us that when there were cottonwoods in the Little Colorado river there were lots of beavers. They used to see cranes migrate through the area in the spring, stopping in the marshes around lakes that aren't there now.
by Danielle Venton
More at the linkMargaret Hiza Redsteer has long known the Navajo Nation. Of Crow descent, she grew up... more
Climate change, largely abstract in the United States, is already shaping conflicts around the world – and not for the better.
Energy security and climate change present massive threats to global security, military planners say, with connections and consequences spanning the world.
Some scientists have linked the Arab Spring uprisings to high food prices caused by the failed Russian wheat crop in 2010, a result of an unparalleled heat wave. The predicted effects of climate change are also expected to hit developing nations particularly hard, raising the importance of supporting humanitarian response efforts and infrastructure improvements.
"There are going to be Darfur's all over the place."
- Bob Corell, Global Environment & Technology Foundation
Here's a look at several geopolitical hotspots that will likely bear the unpredictable and dangerous consequences of climate change and current energy policies.
By Joshua Zaffos
More at the linkClimate change, largely abstract in the United States, is already shaping conflicts... more
Africa is turning to desert. Studies show that as much as two thirds of the continent’s arable land could become desert by 2025 if current trends continue. But a bold initiative to plant a wall of trees 4,300 miles long across the African continent could keep back the sands of the Sahara, improve degraded lands, and help alleviate poverty. Living on Earth’s Bobby Bascomb reports from Senegal.
GELLERMAN: It's Living on Earth. I'm Bruce Gellerman. Now to the West African nation of Senegal where an audacious and ambitious project is underway to create a vast forest across the African continent. It’s known as the Great Green Wall. The idea is to plant 43 hundred miles of trees through 11 African nations, from coast to coast.
The Senegalese government hopes the Great Green Wall will stop the advance of the Sahara Desert southward, but as Living on Earth’s Bobby Bascomb reports, others see it as a way of alleviating poverty.
[CITY SOUNDS, CARS]
BASCOMB: Horses pull wooden carts alongside cars on the main streets of Dakar, the capital of Senegal. Dakar sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean on a peninsula. And while it’s at least a thousand miles to the Sahara desert, the air today is thick with sand. It’s the worst sand storm in a year.
[DAKAR DRIVING SOUNDS]
[SARR SPEAKING IN FRENCH]
VOICEOVER: The rainy season is becoming shorter, it used to start in July or August, now it doesn’t start until September. The climate is definitely changing.
BASCOMB: Papa Sarr says shifting seasons and climate change could make these sand storms more common but he believes there is a solution. Sarr is the technical director for the Great Green Wall in Senegal. The goal of the project here is to plant two million acres of trees. It’s part of a larger initiative to plant a nine mile wide wall of trees, across the African continent. African leaders hope the trees will trap the sands of the Sahara.
More at the linkAfrica is turning to desert. Studies show that as much as two thirds of the... more
This is not good:
On March 1, snowpack in most of the mountainous parts of the state was between 70 and 89 percent of average. By the third week of the month, a dramatic melt-off was underway. Now, snowpack in the state stands at just 58 percent of normal. That’s only a bit higher than in March of 2002, a year that brought drought of historic proportions to Colorado and the West. By mid-June, 19 U.S. wildfires were burning, most in California, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Alaska. (The worst March conditions on record in Colorado were in 1977, when snowpack stood at just 46 percent of average.)This is not good:
On March 1, snowpack in most of the mountainous parts of the... more
10 years of Bt Cotton – False Hype and Failed Promises Exposed
Coalition for a GM-Free India, March 21 2012
The false hype and failed promises of Bt cotton in India were exposed by the Coalition for GM-Free India with a special report released in a press conference here today. As the 10th anniversary of Bt cotton's regulatory approval in India approaches, the Coalition, using data from government institutions, highlighted that the hype around Bt cotton as revolutionizing the cotton production in India is clearly wrong.
Closer examination of the data from the last 10 years negates the two important claims of dramatic yield increase and significant fall in pesticide usage. The report clearly exposes the dark side of the Bt cotton story – stagnant yields, pest resistance, new pest and disease attacks, the need for high levels of expensive farm inputs and the spate of tragic farmer suicides in the cotton belt.
In the face of aggressive PR campaign by the biotechnology industry which is being uncritically accepted by the government and regulators, the Coalition said, "This is a wake-up call for the Government, Parliamentarians, policy-makers, farmer organizations and media to closely examine the crisis in the cotton belt and critically re-assess the 10 years of Bt cotton. The government should stop promoting Bt cotton and pro-actively advise farmers about its unsuitability and risks."
The cotton farmers are in deep crisis after ten years of Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers. The extensive crop failure has exposed the false hype and advertising, often repeated by policymakers and regulators. In Andhra Pradesh, state government estimates show that out of 47 lakh acres planted with Bt cotton during Kharif 2011 season, the crop failed in 33.73 lakh acres (71% of the area). The state government reported that 20.46 lakh farmers suffered from cotton crop failure and lost Rs.3071.6 cr. In Maharasthra, the cotton crisis forced the government to take the unprecedented step of declaring Rs. 2000 cr. as compensation (the estimated loss is Rs.10,000 cr.). The cotton production estimates had to be downgraded despite the large expansion in cotton cultivation area.
Presenting some of the analysis, Kiran Vissa, co-convener of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) said, "The real yield gains in the past decade (from 278 kg/ha to 470 kg/ha) happened from 2000-01 to 2004-05, i.e. when Bt cotton area reached only 5.6% of the total cotton area. From 2005-06 to 2011-12, when the Bt cotton area grew to exceed 90% of the total cotton area, there is no sustained yield gain – only going from 470 kg/ha to 481 kg/ha. It is the pre-Bt cotton yield gains that have proved to be stable, resulting from various factors including fresh land brought under cotton cultivation, expansion of irrigation and use of high-yielding hybrids." The report also refers to the statement of Dr. K.R. Kranthi, Director of Central Institute for Cotton Research(CICR), "The main issue that worries stakeholders is the stagnation of productivity at an average of 500 kg lint per ha for the past seven years. The gains have been stagnant and unaffected by the increase in area of Bt cotton from 5.6% in 2004 to 85% in 2010."
Regarding pest protection, scientific studies and the company statements show that the target pest bollworm has developed tolerance to Bt cotton, whereas secondary pests like mealy bugs and whiteflies which were hitherto unseen are causing major damage. At the farmer level, pesticide spraying quickly went back to pre-Bt levels after the first three years. Data from Directorate of Plant Protection for six major cotton-growing states shows that in Maharashtra with the largest Bt cotton cultivation area, there has been a steep increase in pesticide volume (3198 MT in 2005-06 to 4639 MT in 2009-10) whereas in four other states (Gujarat, M.P., Punjab, Karnataka) there is a marginal increase. The only decline is in A.P., possibly due to the successful campaign against pesticide use by the government’s Non-Pesticidal Management (NPM) program. At the national level, even in the peak expansion years of Bt cotton, the pesticide usage increased by 10%. This is despite the heavy increase in use of more powerful low-volume pesticides during the same period, which should have reduced the total volumes. This shows that Bt technology is a false solution to the pesticide problem – the NPM methods which eliminate pesticide usage completely have been successfully demonstrated in states like A.P. in large-scale government programs while the Bt technology with all its risks, at best reduces pesticide usage temporarily for a given target pest.
Official information shows that Bt cotton requires more inputs in terms of fertilizers and irrigation, and is particularly susceptible to rainfall shortage at peak bolling period. The costs of cultivation have gone up significantly after the introduction of Bt cotton, leading to increased risk and debt for small farmers. The Coalition’s report also criticizes the false and unethical advertising by the companies like Mahyco-Monsanto whose advertisements were pulled up by Advertising Standards Council of India, earlier this year.
NOTE: The new report is here:
More at the link
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-_18y9F0sPOI/TdIEc4UA1GI/AAAAAAAABEA/xp8fIIcCwNU/s1600/BT-Cotton-CIRAD.jpg10 years of Bt Cotton – False Hype and Failed Promises Exposed
Coalition for a... more