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General Environment News

FACTBOX -El Nino Weather Phenomenon Returns

Planet Ark


INTERNATIONAL: September 18, 2006

El Nino, an abnormal warming of equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean that wreaks havoc with world weather, has formed and will last into 2007, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has said.

Here are some key facts about the weather phenomenon:
- El Nino refers to the abnormal warming of sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of South America. Normally, trade winds blowing from east to west carry warm water to Indonesia and Australia and allow cooler, nutrient-rich water to rise along the South American coast. El Nino is observed when the easterly trade winds weaken or are reversed, allowing the warmer waters of the western Pacific to move towards the coast of South America.
- El Nino, which means 'little boy' in Spanish, was noticed by anchovy fishermen in South America in the 19th century. They named it for the Christ child since it appeared around Christmas, and it normally peaked late in the year.
- Scientists do not know for sure how El Nino forms but they can detect its formation and track its progress.
- El Nino usually causes severe droughts and forest fires in Australia, Central America, Indonesia, the Philippines and southern India. It is associated with heavy rain and flooding in Bolivia, Ecuador and the US Gulf States. El Nino can also suppress hurricane activity in the Atlantic.
- Marine and bird life can be affected because of the disappearance of the nutrient-rich cold water along the coast of South America.
- The worst El Nino on record in 1997-98 killed more than 2,000 people and caused property damage worth an estimated $33 billion.
An El Nino usually recurs every 3-7 years with varying degrees of intensity, and conditions are usually felt around the world for over a year. The 1990-94 El Nino period is considered the longest on record.
- La Nina (little girl in Spanish), is essentially the opposite of El Nino and refers to times when waters of the eastern Pacific are colder than normal. In areas where El Nino causes flooding, La Nina brings drought and where winter weather was abnormally mild because of El Nino, it turns abnormally harsh because of the effects of La Nina.
- It is common for an El Nino to be followed by a La Nina. The two phenomena appear about 30 times in a century.

Sources: Reuters; NOAA (; NASA (; National Geographic (

FACTBOX - Water Everywhere, But Not Clean Enough to Drink

Planet Ark


INTERNATIONAL: September 18, 2006


* One billion people, about a sixth of humanity, lack access to safe drinking water, according to UN data. And one in three people live in regions with water scarcity.
* Agriculture absorbs 74 percent of all water taken by humans from rivers, lakes, aquifers and wetlands against 18 percent for industry and 8 percent for municipalities. Demand for water is rocketing with a rising population.
* In many places, 30-40 percent or more of water is lost because of leaks in pipes and canals and illegal tapping.
* Some say the issue is management: "There is enough land, water and human capacity to produce enough food for a growing population over the next 50 years, so in this sense the world is not 'running out' of water," a UN-backed study by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) said in August.

* Governments set a Millennium Goal in 2000 of halving the proportion of people with no access to safe drinking water by 2015. The goal is within reach, according to a 2006 UN review, but the world is lagging in a linked goal of better sanitation.

* Diarrhoea and malaria, the main water-related diseases, killed 1.8 million and 1.3 million people respectively in 2002, almost all of them children under the age of 5.
* Achieving the 2015 drinking water goal will require $10-$30 billion extra a year on top of amounts already spent.
* The amount of water needed for crop production will rise 60-90 percent by 2050, to 11,000-13,500 cubic km from 7,200 cubic km today, depending on factors including population growth and crop yields, according to the IWMI report.
* A calorie of food needs about a litre of water to produce -- typical food consumption is 3,000 calories a day per person, or 3,000 litres of water. A kilo of grain takes 500-4,000 litres, a kilo of industrially produced meat is 10,000 litres.
* Rising production of biofuels -- from crops such as maize, soybeans or sugarcane -- could complicate efforts to feed the world and may add strains to irrigation.
* Emissions of greenhouse gases, widely blamed on burning fossil fuels, are likely to raise world temperatures and bring more floods, droughts and erosion, most experts say. Some areas might benefit from longer growing seasons.
* To ease water shortages, the IWMI report urges putting the focus on improving rainfed farming in poor regions. Collecting rain from rooftops or simple pumps to raise water from rivers, for instance, could help millions in sub-Saharan Africa.
* Recycling can help. Water in the Colorado River in the United States, for instance, can be used perhaps seven times -- by hydropower dams, by towns, or by farmers.
* Industry can often cut its water demand by 40-90 percent, given proper incentives, according to UN data.
* Only about 25 percent of the world's dams are involved in producing hydropower. Europe uses 75 percent of its hydropower potential, while Africa has developed just 7 percent.
(Sources: International Water Management Institute; UN Food and Agriculture Organization; UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization); Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Four Dead as Typhoon Shanshan Hits Japan's South

Planet Ark


JAPAN: September 18, 2006

TOKYO - Four people were dead and one missing as the eye of a powerful typhoon neared Japan's main southwestern island of Kyushu on Sunday.

Typhoon Shanshan was carrying winds of up to 140 km (100 miles) per hour near its centre and lashing many parts of western Japan with torrential rain, Japan's Meteorological Agency said.

An express train was derailed by high winds in Nobeoka on Kyushu, injuring five passengers, police said. Gusts of wind also overturned cars and damaged buildings in the area, injuring at least three other people.

Hundreds of flights in and out of southwestern Japan were cancelled on Sunday, as were some Shinkansen high-speed train services, public broadcaster NHK said.
Shanshan was 100 km (63 miles) west-southwest of the city of Nagasaki, 980 km southwest of Tokyo, at 3:00 p.m. (0600 GMT) and was moving north-northeast at 35 km per hour, the agency said.
The eye of the storm may make landfall on Kyushu later in the day, the agency said.
Shanshan, now a Category 2 typhoon, is expected to fade into a tropical storm over the next 24 hours and head into the Sea of Japan, according to the U.K.-based Web site Tropical Storm Risk (
Three people died in Saga prefecture on Kyushu on Saturday due to landslides and flooding caused by the storm's heavy rain.
Rescuers also found the body of a 50-year-old firefighter who was swept away by a flooded river in Hiroshima, in the west of Japan's main island of Honshu, and were searching for a 27-year-old newspaper reporter who went missing late on Saturday in the same area.
A total of 53 people have been injured by the typhoon across western Japan, NHK said.

6.2 quake hits Indonesia; no damage

Bangkok Post, 16 September 2006


Jakarta (dpa) - An earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale shook parts of eastern Indonesia Saturday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.
The quake's epicentre was near Seram Island in Maluku province, 180 kilometres northeast of the provincial capital Ambon, according to an official at the Jakarta meteorology and geophysics agency.
Meanwhile, a 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck of the western coast of Sumatra island early Saturday, but there were no reports of damage or a possible tsunami.
The tremblor struck around 1:20 a.m. in the Indian Ocean, about 75 kilometres southeast of the capital Banda Aceh, according to the agency official.
In December 2004, a 9.1-magnitude quake triggered a tsunami that struck nine countries, killing some 177,000 people alone in Aceh and wiping out entire villages.

Oil sheen keeps pouring in city's seas

Sun Star, 15 September 2006, By Lory Ann B. Bilbao


ILOILO City Crisis Management Office (ICCMO) Chief Joe Papa confirmed that oil sheen and bunker oil debris from Guimaras, were increasingly flowing in the city's seas and some have reached the shoreline.
From Sto. Niño Sur and Sto. Niño Norte in Arevalo District up to the coastal areas in the City Proper such as Baluarte-North of Guimaras Island, covering a total of 16 coastal barangays, oil sheen were found at around three to five inches in size in intervals. But, the sheen just evaporates, said Papa quoting a Petron Corporation-consultant.
The ICCMO personnel and Papa observed the spread of the sheen Thursday and found that it evaporates at a high temperature. Papa narrated that fumes coming from the oil sheen and debris were already observed in Sto. Niño Sur.
Papa said he has already alerted the village chiefs and urged them to inform their constituents to conduct precautionary measures per the advise of the Department of Health (DOH) when an area's waters become contaminated with oil.
Petron Corporation, Mayor Jerry P. Treñas and other concerned agencies were already informed, Papa said. Very recently, Papa wrote Treñas expressing concern for the fisher folks here.
There are 267 registered fisher folks from six affected villages here, who have complained of losses in their sale of fish after oil sheen was found.
Safe process
Meanwhile, to ensure that bio remediation of the environment affected by the Solar I Oil spill will not cause another environmental problem in the future, the Bio Safety Sub-Committee of the Guimaras Task Force headed by DENR Regional Executive Director Julian D. Amador had lined-up protocols to be followed in dealing with bio-remediation products and technologies.
Early on, the sub-committee was created because of the recommendation from Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III, Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (PCAMRD) to have a Science and Technology intervention in Guimaras after a series of discussions on the environmental situation after the oil spill.
Guerrero committed a P500,000 for the immediate use of University of the Philippines-Visayas to help in the repair of damage, improve the environment and inform the people of the real situation and condition as a result of the tragic oil spill.
The Task Force Guimaras immediately created the sub-committee on bio-safety that is tasked to formulate systems and procedures in evaluating products and technologies for remediation; evaluate and screen in accordance with the established protocols in the use of remediation products and technologies in the oil spill clean-up; and ensure that remediation products and technologies used are environment-friendly.
Amador said in order to effect this bio-remediation one has to be very careful in using micro-organisms as a cleaning agent. A thorough evaluation, assessment and test should be done first before application of any product or technology.
According to Amador, the Sub-Committee recommended the use of the Environmental Technology Verification Protocol (ETVP) used to verify or prove claims on the functional performance of a particular technology/product with regards to relevant parameters.
Amador explained that the ETVP requires the filling up of an application form, National Committee on Bio-Safety of the Philippines (NCBP) clearance, and Bureau of Industry (BPI) Import License. A panel composed of scientists from the academe, private sector and other agencies will do the evaluation with confidentiality.
The track record of would-be panel members shall be highly considered and upon acceptance, these scientists shall sign a non-disclosure form that will include a declaration that the member has no conflict of interests among the proponents. This form will safeguard the product/technology proponents.
Upon submission of the duly accomplished forms and a payment of P8,500.00 fee, a rapid assessment will be conducted for two days. If the product is ineffective, no further testing shall be conducted.
If the product shows effective results, then they will be required to undergo more testing procedures. The tests conducted shall be documented and a report will be prepared on the details of the test conducted and the response of the marine environment to the products applied as well as the other effects it had made on the testing sites.
Testing will be under laboratory condition and may require field testing that should be complied by the proponents. As of press time, there are four proponents who presented their product/technology last September 9.
They were the ECO-LOGIX using a liquid solution for degreasing and dispersant, Trevi's International Corporation using a liquid All-in-one plant derivative solution, the enzyme of which was taken from Musa paradisica and grass extract; Stanton Pharmacal, Inc. presented a liquid solution named Ecowaste; and Allen specialty using a powder and Liquid Solution known as ABR Hydrocarbon.
The proponents are now processing their ETVP applications in Manila and in close coordination with DOST-ITDI.
Meanwhile, Amador said while waiting for the bio-remediation proponents, the beach cleaning is still on process, assessment of air and water quality is at a continuous pace and assessment of mangroves is also being done. Every week, the DENR assessment team provides the report to the Guimaras Task Force on the situation of the mangroves and other marine life at Taklong Tandog Seascape.


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