Google Earth – Google’s 3D virtual world browser – has unveiled ‘UNEP: Atlas of our Changing Environment’, offering satellite images of 100 environmental hotspots around the world.
The project builds on the success of UNEP’s hardcover release ‘One Planet, Many People: Atlas of our Changing Environment’.
News of the new environmental site was premiered in Bahrain at a meeting of environmental agencies, chaired by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP).
Regional co-ordinator, Dr. Adel Farid Abdel-Kadir, said the partnership between the UNEP and Google Earth was part of efforts to create an environmental information network – “an environmental version of Google Earth” which will keep countries informed of their environmental thresholds and hotspots and help design scientific solutions for environmental issues.
The site features images of retreating glaciers and melting ice in polar and mountain areas, explosive growth of cities such as Las Vegas, forest loss in the Amazon, rapid oil and gas development in Wyoming and Canada, forest fires across sub-Saharan Africa and the decline of the Aral Sea in Central Asia and Lake Chad in Africa in a series of ‘before and after’ satellite images of our changing environment to over 100 million Google Earth users worldwide.
Such a system is relevant to the Middle East, where the acceleration of development has created the danger of environmental degradation slipping unnoticed into the development grid, Dr. Abdel-Kadir said.
UNEP’s environmental watch information network will build on existing networks and consist of a distributed set of focal points reflecting geographic and thematic coverage, he added.
“We need to use environmental data to develop and use environmental indicators to measure the impact of our policies and decisions and the progress in protecting our environment.
“The unprecedented development that West Asia is witnessing is associated with fast growing population, which places increasing pressure on fragile environment and scarce renewable natural resources. To meet the challenges of development while conserving and protecting the environment and natural resources, we must rely on credible information and integrate it into our decision-making.”
UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said, “Through spectacular imagery, Google Earth and UNEP offer a new way of visualising the dangers facing our planet today. By tapping into the global Google community, we are able to reach out to millions of people who can mobilise and make a difference.”
Warning over Gulf projects
By Mandeep Singh
CLEAR plans must be drawn up to regulate land reclamation and other projects in the region, to safeguard the environment, according to experts.
The major development projects in Bahrain and other Gulf countries are cause for concern because of their long-lasting impact, said United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Early Warning and Assessment Division regional co-ordinator Adel Abdul Kader.
"All this can have an impact on the environment and could contribute towards water and air pollution, in addition to disturbing the marine environment and ecological balance," he said.
Mr Abdul Kader said the long-term implications of the "rush" to develop should be realised right now to avert a disaster in the future.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the West Asia Expert Group Meeting on Environmental Information Networking, at the Sheraton Bahrain Hotel.
"This is the reason for this gathering, to discuss the efforts in and between countries in the region," said Mr Abdul Kader.
"It is important that there are coherent plans which are well co-ordinated to provide sound and credible information to the planners.
"All the member states have plans, but these are not often known to the others and that makes co-ordination between countries difficult.
"We need to use environmental data to develop and environmental indicators to measure the impact of our policies and decisions as well as the progress we have made in protecting the environment."
He said to meet the challenges of development, while conserving and protecting the environment and natural resources, countries must rely on credible information and integrate it in their decision making process.
UNEP Nairobi headquarters' Capacity Building and Partnerships acting head Gerard Cunningham said no matter how well-planned the countries' efforts are, there is always room for improvement.
"There are regional issues of concern, such as water scarcity, waste and air pollution, that have to be addressed," he said.
"In many cases, lack of efforts lead us to forget about such issues. We must not let that happen."
The three-day event also features discussions on proposals by member countries on how to strengthen the scientific base of UNEP as well as the means of linking their information systems.
It is being attended by representatives from international and regional organisations, national environmental authorities, non-governmental organisations and academic institutions active in environmental information.
Hotel staff to clean up beach
ABU DHABI — The Millennium Hotel will organise a day-long cleaning drive at Ras Al Akhdar, the main public beach in the capital on October 20. This is the second such initiative being taken by the hotel, which is building up a reputation as a ‘green hotel’.
Moine Kandil, the general manager of the Millennium Hotel, told Khaleej Times in an interview that for a few months now, he and his staff have been concentrating on environmental issues.
“With the continuous increase in population and urban developments, there is more and more stress on our natural world and we need to take better care of it.
Of course, hotels must play their part since they produce a lot of waste as well as often also face misuse of electricity, water and chemicals”, said Kandil. Kandil, who set up an Environment Committee at the hotel three months ago, said “Its task is to find different ecological actions the hotel could get involved in both within its premises and outside.”
The hotel is in the process of changing all their 60 watts bulbs with more eco-friendly 15 watts bulbs, which are just as good.
He said that while the public beach cleaning on Sept. 20 will be done by the hotel staff, but everybody is welcome to join in.