Tag Archives: ecology

Venice: cruise ships polemics

Brussels 13.06.2021 The first cruise ship to leave Venice since coronavirus restrictions were eased set sail on Saturday, June 12, but some groups of local residents protested over the return to ‘ante-COVID19’, opposing the practice of the passage of giant liners through the historic lagoon city.

After 17 months of interruption due to a pandemic sanitary measures, a first cruise ship set sail on Saturday, June 12, in Venice, arousing the controversy between supporters and opponents of the presence of these sea monsters in the picturesque Italian lagoon.

The two camps each demonstrated on their own to defend their positions: as the huge silhouette of the MSC Orchestra loomed off St. Mark’s Square, demonstrators waving “No to cruise ships” banners shouted their opposition on board small motor boats.

Defenders of the environment and cultural heritage accuse the large waves generated by these ships, several hundred meters long and several storeys high, of eroding the foundations of the buildings of the Serenissima, a Unesco heritage site, and endanger the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.

Supporters of cruise ships, for their part, highlight the jobs their presence generates for Venice, whose economy depends mainly on tourism, which particularly affected it during the pandemic. They point out that the cruise industry is one of the most significant growth sectors in the tourism market.

Over the past few years, the cruise market has seen an enormous growth in numbers of travellers, while an increasing number of new cruise destinations are emerging. This growth has given rise to a demand for very large cruise ships, however local populations have not profited proportionally from these wealth, facing burdens more than advantages.

France bans bird trap four decades after EU

France prohibits an archaic bird hunting technique four decades after the European Union ban. The country has suspended the use of glue traps, which conservationists say are especially cruel to animals and harmful the environment. The hunting technique involves coating branches with glue to trap songbirds, which are caged to attract prey birds that can then be killed.

Activists have condemned it as cruel to the animals and harmful to the environment, and such practices have been banned in all European Union countries except France, which created a workaround to allow hunters to continue to apply it bypassing the European ban.

This week, France said that it, too, was temporarily banning the practice — a move that follows mounting pressure from conservationists, a complaint to the European Court of Justice, and a threat from the European Union’s executive body in July that the country faced legal action if the glue traps were not banned within three months.

French environment minister, Barbara Pompili, described it “good news for the law and for biodiversity.” And Christophe Baticle, an anthropologist at the University of Picardy Jules Verne in northern France, named the move “symbolic.”

The suspension, issued by President Emmanuel Macron affects a minority of French hunters and applies only to the coming hunting season, pending a final decision from the European Court of Justice. And most people in the country disapprove of hunting, considering it cruel and outdated.

However the hunting lobby is a powerful political force in France. There are about 1.5 million registered hunters in the country, and they can form an influential voting bloc in rural areas. Mr. Macron has made efforts to attract their support since his election in 2017, including cutting the price of national hunting licenses in half, to 200 euros (about $240). About 5,000 hunters use glue traps to hunt birds, according to the French National Hunters’ Federation.

Willy Schraen, the head of the hunters’ federation, called the suspension “unacceptable.” “Let’s leave people alone,” he suggested in a television interview. “Why is this an issue to occupy Europe and our minister?” he questioned, referring to Ms. Pompili.

The hunting technique, known as glue-covered bird traps, is used to catch songbirds like thrushes and blackbirds. Conservationists explain that it not only is cruel to the trapped songbirds, but also threatens endangered species because the traps ensnare many kinds of birds.

The European Union moved to outlaw glue traps in a 1979 measure that prohibited “nonselective” hunting, but France influenced by hunting lobby then created a workaround by regulating how birds captured by mistake could be released.

Skopje suffers pollution

Capital city of North Macedionia – Skopje – regularly registered the most polluted cities in Europe, and sometimes in the world.

In 2018, levels of PM10 – tiny pollutant particles 10 nanometres in size that are harmful to human health – exceeded he European Union limits for a total of 202 days.

While North Macedonia is not part of the EU, it has entered accession negotiations and has some way to go to meet EU ecological air quality standards.

At present, the World Health Organization (WTO) has estimated that around 4,000 premature deaths a year in North Macedonia may be due to air pollution, and the economic cost to Skopje is thought to be between €570 and €1,470 million.

Siberia fires: illegal timber trade with China

Among major causes of devastating Sibera fires Duma Ecology committee chair Vladimir Bourmatov points at the activities of illegal lumberjacks, or “black loggers”. At present upon the request of the State Duma, the government and the Investigative committee of the Russian Federation, have launched the investigation into the occurrence of 500 epicenters of forest blaze as cause of illegal human activities. (Image above: Russian social networks).

The entire forest industry in Russia is in the “shadow” sector. A temporary timber export embargo has been suggested earlier this year. The statement was made by the chairwoman of the Federation Council (upper house of Russian parliament) Valentina Matvienko, requesting an imposition of embargo on the export of timber from Russia until rules are in place. She suggested to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to take measures without delay in February this year.

Matvienko explained the ways of illegal logging and illegal export abroad. The entire trade is oriented toward China as the largest importer of round timber in the world. Thus, massive deforestation is conducted under the pretext of sanitary protection of removing the diseased and rotting trees, instead the companies which are supposed to take care of the forests, are cutting down the best of spruces, pines and oaks and transporting them to China. The lucrative illegal trade is masked by ecological activities across the entire Siberia.

The forest fires in Siberia began almost a week ago, but because of the negligence of Russian officials, who were unwilling to take an action, the area of ignition has been steadily and rapidly increasing reaching an epic scale: more than three million hectares in flames, and smoke stretches for 700 km. At present it has already reached the coast of the USA and Canada, cities touched Vancouver and Seattle.

However the smoke from the blaze continues to stretch further: is now visible in Alaska. In total, three million hectares of forest burn in Siberia. It roughly reaches the size of Belgium.

Meteorology professor from Moscow State University, Alexander Kislov said that the burning particles can fly around the entire planet from west to east, following the movement of Earth in space.

Under wave of international criticism Roscosmos Corporation revealed the gravity of the situation publishing the images of fires swiftly spreading along territories of Russian Federation in the Jewish Autonomous Region, the Republic of Sakha, Buryatia, the Irkutsk Region, the Krasnoyarsk and Khabarovsk Territories.

After the situation caused grave international concern, Russian authorities started to act under direct orders of President Putin, who sent army to resolve the ecological crisis.

At present more than 2.8 million hectares of forest are consumed by blaze, withe the largest area in fire is in Yakutia, where 1.1 million hectares of forest are in flames, in the Krasnoyarsk Territory the flames spread to more than one million hectares, and in the Irkutsk Region – 700 thousand hectares.

This week only 2.700 people, 390 units of ground equipment and 28 aircraft take part in extinguishing on the territory in flames equal to Belgium. The Siberians claim the response in not relevant to the scale of drama.

Among the other causes of Siberia fires Bourmatov names the inefficient and insufficient measures of prevention.

President Trump spoke with President Putin on July 31, and offered U.S. help in fighting according to a Kremlin account of the call.

Putin, in response, expressed his “sincere gratitude” to Trump and said that if necessary, he will accept the offer, the Kremlin said.

Putin, has called in the army to fight the forest fires, enveloping entire Siberian cities in black smoke for weeks. The local authorities has been explaining to population that measures against forest fires are not “economically viable“. They added that rains will stop the advancement of blaze, while meteo scientists clarified that hot air raising from fires prevents formation of clouds. There are no natural heavy rainfall expected until mid-September.