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7th Earthwatch Working Party

NEW AND EMERGING ISSUES - Submissions received from Partner Organizations

Emerging Issues and Priority Areas for Marine Environmental Protection

IAEA - Marine Environment Laboratory

Nuclear Techniques for Integrated Coastal Zone Management

In the last 25 years, nuclear techniques have been used increasingly to quantify the rates of coastal ocean processes, in particular related to the investigation of marine pollution and environmental degradation and many of these applications are directly applicable to providing important information that may be used by managers tackling problems in the coastal zone. The levels, transport, behaviour and fate of radioactive and non-radioactive pollutants in the marine coastal environment need to be characterised and established to enable the development of management approaches that will either prevent or reduce additional inputs and/or mitigate the consequences of these pollutants.

Knowledge of the behaviour of radioactive contaminants often allows assessing the transport and fate of the non-nuclear contaminants.

Radioactive decay characteristics of certain natural radionuclides permits dating the time sequence of sediment layering in certain marine areas which aid in establishing temporal trends in the history of marine pollutants and accretion rates of ecologically important marshlands.

Measuring the real-time transfer dynamics of the radiotracers in marine matrices allows assessing the behaviour of the corresponding stable metal at environmentally realistic concentrations.

The recent use of tritiated saxitoxin for the production of marine algal toxin standards has been instrumental in enabling Member States of the International Maritime Organization to develop and employ rapid assay techniques for measuring toxicity in marine foods suspected of harbouring harmful algal blooms.

Marine Antifoulants - Impact of an International Ban on the Use of Tributyltin-based Paints

Effective marine antifoulants save the shipping industry billions of dollars through fuel savings and extended lifetime between repainting. However, they are toxic and used on vessels of all sizes thereby ensuring world-wide dispersion and can adversely impact coastal ecosystems endangering vital food and touristic resources. In addition economic consequences may be severe such as the collapse of shellfisheries. The best choice of biocide must balance economic advantage with ecological damage and the socio-economic importance of coastal resources.

The IMO leads negotiations for a global ban on tributyltin-containing paints, currently the most widely used biocide in marine paints. Coastal zones and bioresources of developing countries and tropical regions may be at risk when alternative biocides replace tributyltin. Tropical countries merit special attention for a number of reasons. Firstly, sensitive ecosystems with delicate or endemic species that escape adequate testing prior to the introduction of new biocidal compounds may be compromised. Secondly, such countries tend to have limited analytical facilities to understand the fate and effect of biocides in their coastal environment. Thirdly, legislation to protect their marine environment and resources tends to lag behind established practices in developed nations. Finally in the case of small island states, they can be extremely vulnerable due to a heavy reliance on tourism, including visiting yachts and cruise ships.

Member States and Regional Organisations require recommendations on the preferred marine biocide to be used in their marine environment. Information should be gleaned from a wide range of coastal environments and the susceptibility of endemic species to the alternative biocide must be determined. Whereas non-nuclear techniques provide the most viable means for determining biocide distributions in the marine environment, radiotracer and stable isotope techniques can provide complementary experimental data on the environmental behaviour and biological uptake of marine antifoulants.

Submarine Groundwater Discharge B an emerging field of study in the coastal ocean

Submarine Groundwater Discharge (SGD), as a direct discharge of groundwater into the coastal zone, has recently received increased attention due to the recognition of its importance not only for groundwater-seawater interactions, but also as an important pathway for transport of contaminants to the sea. It can be the principal component of fresh water to the coastal zone and can cause substantial loss of fresh water from arid regions. As it is also responsible for limiting salt water intrusion into the aquifer, its nature can determine the reliability and extent of potable water supplies. SGD drives the re-circulation of seawater, which can influence coastal water quality and nutrient supplies, nearshore benthic habitats, coastal wetlands, breeding and resting grounds. Its influence in the coastal zone can be the basis for land use planning and present limits on development.

SGD is as an important factor in the understanding and sustainable management of coastal aquifers in many highly populated areas of the world. Assessing the contaminant fluxes and their impacts on the near-shore marine environment is difficult, as there is no simple means to gauge the groundwater flux. Multidisciplinary investigations to estimate SGD are necessary, which are based on a range of methods including seepage meter measurements, isotopic tracers, onshore and offshore CTD profiling and computer modelling approaches.

The main contamination studies include analyses of heavy metals, nutrients, and oil and sewage contaminants. Analyses of a range of isotopic tracers and contaminants at the aquifer-marine interface will provide the possibility to produce integrated flux estimates of SGD in coastal zones, not possible by other methods, and to contribute to the environmental management of the nearshore coastal marine environment.

UNEP: Review of Global Environmental Reports, Indices, Indicators and Data

The Human Environment Index (HEI):
A Measure of Progress Towards Environmental Protection
(Work in Progress)


As the concern for the environment has mounted, there have been some attempts to draw up an index to measure the ecological aspects of quality of life. Unfortunately, environmental indicators are relatively underdeveloped compared to economic and social indicators. No popular environmental index equivalent to GNP and Human Development Index (HDI) exists to facilitate comparative ranking of countries based on common information and consistent criteria. This UNEP work describes and introduces a new composite index, Human Environment Index (HEI), which attempts to capture the human progress towards environmental protection in a single number. Two general concerns guided the development of the HEI. One is that it is difficult to make decisions when dealing with numerous and disparate dimensions. Another is that reducing multiple dimensions, each providing a slightly different understanding of the issue, into a single measure may mean the loss or masking of potentially valuable information. The HEI characteristics are simple, understandable, credible, and repeatable. The index establishes ranking among countries thereby facilitating a comparative analysis and provides an incentive for governments to achieve environmental goals. The HEI is build upon the three basic elements of the environment: land, atmosphere, and water, which are represented through leading indicators in pursuant with environmental goals, i.e. green land, blue sky and clean water. Though the analyses revealed some serious weaknesses in the international databases it is possible to construct HEI within constraint of the existing data. It could be a powerful tool for >benchmarking= and monitoring progress towards environmental protection, and depicting annual trends, as newer data become available. The HEI may be used to assist decision-making and developing suitable environmental policies related to mainstreaming the environment, early warning system, geographical context, and environmental performance.

Dr. Ashbindu Singh
Regional Coordinator
UNEP Division of Early Warning and Assessment -North America

Environmental Security

UNECE B Environment and Human Settlements Division

The Environment Ministers at the Aarhus 1998 Conference "Environment for Europe" voiced the urgent need to stop the continuous degradation of the environment in the whole of the UN/ECE region, with particular emphasis on the newly independent States. There is growing consensus today that environmental degradation and resource depletion can amplify or cause conflict and instability. Environmental or resource problems that substantively diminish incomes or employment and cause environmental and health hazards pose threats to national security.

Floods, water scarcity and pollution, depletion of fish stocks due to over-fishing or pollution, deforestation, desertification, land degradation and erosion, unsafe waste disposal, accidents with hazardous chemicals, and environmental consequences of armed conflicts are examples of environmental factors that contribute to human insecurity, social tensions and political instability. Conflicts over shared natural resources and ecosystems may lead to tensions within and between States. Conflicts in some parts of the region may have an impact also on other parts, directly or indirectly. All this undermines the efforts of countries themselves and of the international community to promote an economically prosperous, environmentally and socially sound UNECE region.

The time is ripe for the upcoming fifth Ministerial Conference AEnvironment for Europe@ (Kiev, Ukraine, 21-23 May 2003) to make a well-focused contribution to strengthening environmental security in the region. It should, first of all, shed light on key linkages between environmental, social, economic and security issues to help build political consensus on measures needed to resolve the problems. Second, there is a need for the Conference to send a strong political message on policy integration as a powerful tool to promote the environmental security of all countries. Important tools to be considered would cover strategic environmental assessment and integrated land-use planning. Third, the Ministers in Kiev should take important confidence-building and tension-reduction measures. These may include partnership arrangements between Governments with active participation and wider involvement of business and industry, civil society organizations and other major groups. Fourth, the Kiev Conference should also discuss how to strengthen the capacity of countries to cope effectively with environmental insecurity and the way in which the international community can help in this respect. It can address the issues of improving water management, reinforcing environmental institutions including enforcement and compliance agencies, improving public environmental financing, strengthening environmental management in enterprises, and improving environmental education and training.

Building a Culture of Prevention

UNESCO B Unit for Disaster Reduction

Within the framework of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), UNESCO is engaged in ABuilding a culture of prevention@ to counter disasters and reduce vulnerability of populations at risk.

There is today more scientific knowledge and technical know-how than ever to anticipate and mitigate the potential effects of a disaster before it strikes. Yet the number and the impact of natural disasters are increasing. The toll is particularly severe and tragic in poor urban areas of developing countries. The vulnerability of poor and developing countries is increasing as a result of population growth, uncontrolled urbanisation in disaster-prone areas, alteration of the natural environment, and substandard training of city planners and decision makers. Disasters touch the most vulnerable populations, increasing their vulnerability further. To break the vicious circle, disaster prevention and mitigation measures have to be fully and systematically integrated in development processes and planning.

Disaster mitigation involves knowledge and know-how in many domains and necessitates constant dialogue and concerted action of all the actors concerned: general public, scientists and decision-makers.

UNESCO contributes to and participates in the global efforts that enhance preventive interdisciplinary and participatory approaches.

UNESCO is engaged in the assessment and mitigation of risks arising from hazards of geological origin (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and landslides) and contributes to the study of hazards of meteorological origin (storms, floods, prolonged droughts, desertification).

UNESCO provides sustained support to promote research and understanding of the basic natural events processes, of the societal aspects of disasters and of the interface of the two fields.

Intergovernmental scientific programmes such as the International Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP), the International Hydrological Programme (IHP), the Man and the Biosphere Programme, the programmes of UNESCO=s intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and UNESCO programme on the Management of Social Transformation (MOST), in their areas of competence participate in this effort.

UNESCO also contributes to the three global observing systems, the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) and the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS).

To integrate geohazard knowledge and expertise in decision-making processes, to encourage the adoption of policies and actions of sound planning and management of land-use and construction techniques, to promote the development of preventive and preparedness plans, including the implementation of global to local warning systems, UNESCO fosters information, education, transfer of data and experience among countries and communities.

Sharing of knowledge, of data, of resources and know-how is encouraged at the community, national, regional and international levels. Capacity building and user-oriented approaches are fostered. Successful pilot projects are publicized.

Education, communication and information are promoted at all levels, involving scientists, technicians, promoting a sustained dialogue for an increased awareness among policy makers, public and private sector, and local communities. Support is given to the design and dissemination of training and information materials.

UNESCO supports the development and design of educational building and structures capable to withstand disaster forces and participates in the protection of the world cultural heritage against natural disasters.

UNESCO's action is a long-term commitment. UNESCO has no relief action. But it may participate punctually after a catastrophic event in post-disaster investigation, recovery and rehabilitation with the objectives to use this window of opportunity to promote or reactivate prevention initiatives.

Soren Terpager Malling
Head of Unit for Disaster Reduction

Biosphere Reserve

UNESCO - Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB)

The Man and the Biosphere (MAB) develops the basis, within the natural and the social sciences, for the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity, and for the improvement of the relationship between people and their environment globally. By taking advantage of the trans-disciplinary and cross-cultural opportunities of UNESCO=s mandate in the fields of education, science, culture and communication, MAB is promoting both scientific research and information gathering, as well as linking with traditional knowledge about resource use. It must serve to help implement Agenda 21 and related Conventions, in particular the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The biosphere reserve concept is a key component for achieving MAB=s objectives. Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems under a particular regime: ideally, fully functioning Biosphere Reserves perform three main roles: (i) conservation in situ of natural and semi-natural ecosystems and landscapes, as well as the diversity there within; (ii) establishment of demonstration areas for ecologically and socio-culturally sustainable (land and) resource use; and (iii) provision of logistic support for research, monitoring, education, training and information exchange related to conservation and sustainable development issues. These functions are associated through a zonation system consisting of core, buffer and transition areas. Biosphere Reserves are internationally recognized within the framework of the MAB Programme, and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located; they are united globally into the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, and as of September 2001 there are 411 sites established in 94 countries.

The Biosphere Reserve Integrated Monitoring Programme (BRIM) is implemented as part of the MAB programme. BRIM originated in 1991 from an initiative of MAB=s regional network for Europe and North America B EuroMAB. Since then, the goals of BRIM have expanded to include provision of possibilities for the interdisciplinary monitoring of biosphere reserves, to provide scientific, administrative and policy-making communities with access to all kinds of information available in biosphere reserves, and to provide means for systematic exchange of scientific information.

Recent decisions of MAB=s governing body - the International Co-ordinating Council of the MAB programme - were that current work on BRIM should be reoriented to reflect the specificity of biosphere reserves on people and their environment; that BRIM should be provided with an integrated monitoring dimension by incorporating social sciences, including social and economic indicators; and that it should build on existing relevant monitoring initiatives such as the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS). These recommendations have formed the basis for the Special Meeting on BRIM, which took place in FAO Headquarters in Rome in September this year.

The recommendations on the future implementation of BRIM from this meeting were of two-fold nature, as they included:
66847511 Conceptual guidance for the future development of BRIM, including clarifications on the definition of integrated monitoring as well as principles that should be born in mind while designing and implementing activities in the framework of BRIM; and
66847512 Concrete recommendations on actions to be undertaken, based on the comparative advantage of biosphere reserves for monitoring, as well as opportunities and constraints that were identified at the workshop.

As a result a workplan was proposed, with the following main elements:

- activities aiming at developing methodologies for BRIM;
- a process for compilation of case studies;
- pilot studies/projects in selected regions/sites around a number of themes (socio-economic monitoring, integrated mapping and remote sensing, scaling, adaptation, and data requirements/management);
- key partners;
- funding aspects;

- a metadata facility to be developed and maintained by a body that assumes quality assessment/quality control.

The above-mentioned metadata facility is currently under development. However, a first phase is already available and searchable on the website of the MAB Programme - >MABnet.=

It includes basic facts about biosphere reserves such as ecosystem types, location, area, contact persons as well as research and monitoring activities. Thus it gives information on what research and monitoring activities are carried out by which biosphere reserves. This information can be searched either by a free search or by using four predefined lists under the themes abiotic, biodiversity, socio-economic and integrated monitoring (see attached list). There is at the moment no collection of data.

This metadata facility can be visited at: http://www2.unesco.org/mab/br/brdir/directory/database.asp.

Katarina Vestin
MAB Programme

Release of Footprints and Milestones: Population and Environmental Change

UN Population Fund's State of World Population 2001 Report Links
Environmental Protection, Poverty Alleviation and Reproductive Health

On 7 November, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will release The State of World Population 2001 report, Footprints and Milestones: Population and Environmental Change.

Human activity is altering the planet on an unprecedented scale, the report points out. More people are using more resources with more intensity-and leaving a bigger "footprint" on the earth-than ever before.

Global poverty cannot be alleviated without reversing the environmental damage caused by both rising affluence and consumption and by growing populations, the report stresses. It calls for increased attention and resources to balancing human and environmental needs.

World population, now 6.1 billion, has doubled since 1960 and is projected to grow by half, to 9.3 billion, by 2050. Some 2 billion people already lack food security, and water supplies and agricultural lands are under increasing pressure. Water use has risen six-fold over the past 70 years; by 2050, 4.2 billion people will be living in countries that cannot meet people's daily basic needs. Unclean water and poor sanitation kill over 12 million people each year; air pollution kills nearly 3 million.

The report examines the close links between environmental conditions, population trends, and prospects for alleviating poverty in developing countries. It finds that expanding women's opportunities and ensuring their reproductive health and rights are critically important, both to improve the well-being of growing human populations and to protect the natural world.

The State of World Population 2001 will be launched at press conferences in London, Paris, New York, Washington and numerous other cities worldwide. The full report and accompanying press materials will be accessible on the UNFPA web site, www.unfpa.org. Journalists may access the report before 7 November by requesting a password from rector@unfpa.org.

Major findings include:

· Empowering women and enabling them to have only the number of children they want would lead to smaller families and slower population growth, easing pressure on the environment and buying time to make crucial decisions about the future.

· Internationally agreed actions to reduce poverty, empower women and promote social development need to be implemented and adequately funded to ensure the well-being of growing human populations while protecting the natural world.

· Next year's Johannesburg 2002 review of the 1992 Earth Summit agreement will present an opportunity to incorporate this integrated social agenda-including education for all and universal access to reproductive health care and family planning-into initiatives to promote sustainable development.

Key facts:

· All of the projected growth in world population will take place in today's developing countries. The 49 least-developed countries will nearly triple in size in 50 years, from 668 million to 1.86 billion people.

· To accommodate the nearly 8 billion people expected on earth by 2025 and improve their diets, the world will have to double food production and improve distribution.

· The world's richest countries, with 20 per cent of global population, account for 86 per cent of private consumption; the poorest 20 per cent account for just 1.3 per cent. A child born today in an industrialized country will add more to consumption and pollution over his or her lifetime than 30 to 50 children born in developing countries.

· Nearly 60 per cent of people in developing countries lack basic sanitation, a third do not have access to clean water, one quarter lack adequate housing, 20 per cent do not have access to modern health services, and 20 per cent of children do not attend school through grade five.

· Support from international donors for reproductive health and population programmes is less than half the amount required to meet basic needs.

UNFPA is the world's largest multilateral source of population assistance. Since it became operational in 1969, it has provided more than $5 billion to developing countries to meet reproductive health needs and support sustainable development efforts.

Additional links may be made from UNFPA website to poverty, polutation, environment and sustainable development. For a valuable publication on these issues phease see Population, Environment and Poverty Operational linkages on the same website.


7th Working Party


UNEP/DEWA/Earthwatch 1996-2003