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Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

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In September 2004, 150km-an-hour winds hit the small Caribbean island of Grenada, flattening 95% of buildings, killing dozens and making thousands homeless.

Jenny Gilchrist, a local woman from the parish of St David’s, remembers the devastation which greeted her the morning after the storm hit.

“Our island was destroyed, my house had the roof ripped clean off, it was total devastation,” she says. “My daughter said to me “mammy where shall we go?” and I said to her “we have no place to go” all our clothes and our possessions were ruined. We lived in water in our house for two days before help came.”

As well as destroying large tracts of Grenada’s pristine rainforest and coral reef, the hurricane decimated the nutmeg plantations, the island’s main source of income and employment for hundreds of farmers.

Since the hurricane the government has been struggling to rebuild the island’s bankrupt economy and has been increasingly looking to tourism development as the answer to its woes.

But the speed at which the island is being sold off to foreign property companies has led to accusations by environmentalists that the Grenadian government is sacrificing the island’s pristine natural habitats to the fast buck of resort development.

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Miskito children

When the first white cranes started appearing on the banks of the Rio Coco, deep in the Nicaraguan rainforest, Marciano Washington told his sons to start preparing the family’s three hectares of land for planting.

A month later, the weather-beaten Miskito elder from the town of San Carlos shades his eyes from the baking sun and surveys his cracked and barren land. His seed is rotting or has been eaten by rats. The few rice seeds that have sprouted are only inches high, yellow and discoloured.

“All my life the earth has told me when the rains are coming,” he says. “I don’t understand what is happening to our land.”

Miskito boat

The natural signs that Washington’s father taught him to observe, such as the white cranes, flowering avocado plants, silver fish and rapid flashes of lightning, no longer herald the rains that his community so desperately need.

Climate change is having a devastating effect on the Miskito Indians who live in wooden huts in Nicaragua’s western territories. They subsist on crops planted on a few hectares of land and food hunted from the jungle and rivers.

Ten years ago Washington said he could harvest 60 bags of rice a hectare. Last year he managed seven. “Every year it is getting worse,” he says. “We have floods in the summer and droughts in the winter. We can’t depend on nature anymore and we don’t know when to plant our crops. I don’t know how I am going to feed my family.”

Miskito boy

Environmental researchers are warning that the effect of climate change is likely to hit indigenous communities like the Miskito the hardest. Many of the world’s indigenous people live in isolated communities and their livelihoods depend on nature and on predicting the weather, making them vulnerable to increasingly unstable weather patterns.

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Pakistani fishing boats

There is an old proverb, beloved of fisherfolk in Pakistan, that says when all else fails the sea will provide. Now, after centuries of surviving on fish such as the tuna and shrimp that thrive in Pakistan’s coastal waters, many traditional fishing communities are facing ruin as the sea is stripped bare by foreign trawler fleets and industrial overfishing.

According to trade campaigners, it is a story that is being replicated in poor fishing communities in developing countries across the world. And as the current round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations splutter back to life, the demise of Pakistan’s fishing communities is being held up as a warning of the impact that the moves to further liberalise global fishing could have on some of the world’s most deprived communities.

Pakistani fishing boy

The Pakistani Maritime Security Agency (MSA), which polices fishing along Pakistan’s coastline, says there are currently 23 mid-size trawling boats and 21 trans-national trawlers operating with licences in Pakistani waters.

Local fishermen in Ibrahim Hydri, a small fishing town in the sparse Sindh coastal province, unload their fishing boats just yards from half-a-dozen trawlers with Chinese insignia in the town harbour. Many dispute the official figures, insisting that around 100 foreign ships have been spotted in local waters in the last 12 months.

paistani fishing boat

“Since the government has let these foreign ships into our waters, our stocks have depleted and there is nothing left,” says local fisherman Abbas Ali. “For hundreds of years, our forefathers have fished these waters, but our children are going to end up beggars.”

He says the town’s small wooden fishing boats are no match for the trawlers. “It’s like trying to race a truck with a bicycle,” he says. “In just a few years, these people have come here, destroyed the sea, and stolen our livelihoods from us.”

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