From my Hide: The water news, of lakes and oceans…

David Holt-Biddle.

IT may well be World Wetlands Day, but the news crossing my desk is of lakes and oceans, which is close enough.

Global climate change often seems like an issue that someone else should be concerned about, but a recent report indicates that very real and very negative impacts of climate change are being seen in Africa.

A Nigerian ecologist and environmental researcher, Nnimmo Bassey, says that it has been calculated that by 2020, that’s just three years away, up to a quarter of Africa’s total population could face what he calls water stress.

He says that water wars or conflicts will intensify as fresh water sources shrink or become contaminated by a rising sea level. He points out that Lake Chad, which lies at the intersection of Chad, naturally, and Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria, has shrunk from 25,000 square kilometres in the 1960s to less than 2,000 square kilometres today.

The impact on local economies can well be imagined.

He says changing rainfall patterns across Africa are affecting not only lakes, but also wetlands, streams and rivers.

Bassey was writing in Third World Resurgence, the journal of the Third World Network based in Penang, Malaysia.

I first met journalists from the Third World Network when I was covering the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992.

I interviewed them on matters concerning the Third World in general and Africa in particular, and I still get their journal.

Interestingly, while at the Earth Summit I also had the opportunity to go aboard the Greenpeace organisation’s ship, Rainbow Warrior Two, docked in Rio. It was a memorable experience.

The original Rainbow Warrior was blown up and sunk by French agents in Auckland, New Zealand in 1985 following Greenpeace’s mission to stop French nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

As a matter of interest the organisation’s first custom built ship, Rainbow Warrior Three, was taken into commission in 2011, so they are still very much at it.

Meanwhile, the international conservation group, Sea Shepherd, renowned for its actions against Japan’s whaling in the Southern Ocean, has taken delivery of its new ship, the Ocean Warrior.

The ship was custom designed for the work the Sea Shepherd group does and built in a Turkish shipyard for about R170-million.

It was financed by national lotteries in the Netherlands. The Ocean Warrior is currently based in Hobart in Tasmania.*

But back to whaling, Japan has led a move to block the creation of a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic.

At a meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Portoroz, Slovenia, the proposal was tabled by five countries from Africa and South America, but it needed 75 percent of the 88 member states of the IWC to have it approved.

Japan, joined by Norway and Iceland, three of the nations that still insist on whaling, and a handful of other nations, voted against the proposal. Japan, Norway and Iceland still hunt whales despite a 30 year old global moratorium protecting whales.

Whaling is not the only threat facing whales. An estimated 300,000 whales and dolphins are killed every year when they become accidentally enmeshed in fishing nets.*

*Maritime News.

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