Translated by Atefeh Rezvan-Nia
Edited by Mohammad Reza
An environmental bill on wetland preservation in Iran will be submitted to the parliament for ratification, the head of the Department of Environment (DoE) said.
Massoumeh Ebtekar, who attended a summit on Asian cheetahs this week, also pointed to the destruction of Aras Forests for a road construction project and hoped such destructive events would not happen again, Fars News Agency reported.
“Large areas of Aras Forests in North Khorasan province have been destroyed for the construction of Bafq Road,” she said, adding that it was too late to stop the construction works because the largest part of the project had been finished and only a small portion remained.
Ebtekar, who is also a vice president, also said it has been decided to complete the project in collaboration with the police chief and under the supervision of environmentalists to reduce further environmental damage.
“We hope such events will not recur as they inflict irreparable damage on the country’s environment,” she said.
Ebtekar said shortage of environment rangers in cheetah’s habitats is a barrier to improving the condition of this endangered species.
“DoE plans to increase the number of environment rangers in protected zones,” she said, adding that they will be supported by the department.
Ebtekar hailed the symbolic action of an Iranian football player, Andranik Teymourian, who saved a butterfly during a football match and said all people should make efforts to save the environment.
“We need to make all-out efforts to save the environment,” she said, adding that economic and political figures should collaborate in this regard.
Ebtekar criticized illegal hunting and said it is harmful to the environment.
She said educating hunters about the negative impacts of illegal hunting will help reduce such actions.
The DoE chief said the National Environment Fund has been launched to collect money for environmental projects.
“Environment lovers and environmentalists can make donations for environmental purposes,” she said, adding that the money will be used for improving the conditions of endangered species in the country.
Ebtekar said the bill supporting wetland conditions has been submitted to the parliament, following the drying up of some wetlands.
“A number of wetlands, including Hurol-Azim, Bakhtegan, Moghan and Hamoun, are at risk of drying up,” she said, blaming it on mismanagement and lack of rainfall.
Ebtekar said wetlands play an important role in improving the environment such as feeding the aqueducts, controlling floods and improving the livelihood of residents.
“Wetlands are home to a number of species, the lack of which will harm ecosystems,” she said.
UN Warns Over Energy Consumption
A senior UN official said the world is at a critical juncture, with energy consumption rising dramatically.
Even allowing for the positive impacts of the policy commitments and plans announced by countries to address global climate change, total primary energy demand in Asia and the Pacific alone is expected to nearly double between 2010 and 2030, wrote Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, the undersecretary-general of the United Nations and executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific, in an article.
According to a press release faxed to Iran Daily by Tehran’s UN Information Center, excerpts of her message are as follows:
How will the Asia-Pacific region meet this demand? How will we grow in a sustainable way that is both equitable and efficient? How can universal energy access be achieved?
These are some of the key questions being addressed at the 22nd World Energy Congress in Daegu in South Korea this month.
The world today faces two main energy challenges: providing enough light, warmth and power for every household--and at the same time shifting to cleaner energy sources to protect our increasingly fragile natural environment.
Just over a year ago, at the United Nations Rio+20 Conference, 191 member-states and observers recognized the critical role that energy plays in development.
This is why the UN General Assembly declared the period 2014-24 as the United Nations Decade of Sustainable Energy for All--and why UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon launched his “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative in 2011, focusing on three major goals: improving energy access, energy efficiency and the share of renewable sources in our energy mix.
Ensuring sustainable energy for all is additionally challenging in Asia and the Pacific.
Despite great progress in improving peoples’ lives, the Asia-Pacific region still has 628 million people without access to electricity, and 1.8 billion people who still use traditional fuels such as wood, charcoal, agricultural residues and animal waste.
Widespread energy poverty condemns billions to darkness, to ill-health and to missed opportunities: children cannot study at night, clinics and hospitals cannot offer quality healthcare and large numbers of people are unable to make use of the opportunities and information accessible through modern technology.
We must end this inequality, but we need to do so in a way that is smart and sustainable, utilizing natural resources, while preserving the integrity of the ecosystems on which we depend.
In addition to the hundreds of millions without access to modern energy services, the Asia-Pacific region also has some of the highest levels of carbon intensity.
Our primary energy intensity is among the highest in the world, despite rapid and significant reductions in recent decades. This limits long-term national and regional competitiveness--jeopardizing employment opportunities and income levels.
The Asia-Pacific region has some of the largest exporters and importers of fossil fuels, as well as the highest rates of fossil fuel subsidies.
Worldwide, these subsidies were six times greater than the financial support for renewable energy. The increasing dependency on fossil fuel imports in both the largest economies and the most vulnerable small island states exposes our region to the risks of oil price volatility and the impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather events.
Still, the current energy mix remains mostly fossil fuel based, especially coal, with renewable resources, including hydro, accounting for only 16 percent of total electricity production.
These additional challenges are why a comprehensive, long-term understanding of “enhanced energy security” is evolving in the Asia-Pacific region. This concept moves beyond calculations of supply and demand alone, towards a holistic consideration of multiple aspects, including access, efficiency, renewables, environment, economics, trade and investment, and last but not least, connectivity.
High Pollution Levels Hit Beijing
A cloud of pollution descended over Beijing at the weekend, shrouding the city and its famous cultural landmarks in a thick haze amid a US warning against physical activity outdoors.
The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said on its website on Sunday that pollution levels in the city’s six core districts was at 225-245.
According to a table carried in the state-run Beijing News daily, such a reading corresponds to Level 5 on the pollution scale. Anything above 300 is Level 6, China’s highest.
Readings posted by the United States embassy, however, were much higher.
In an email message to American citizens on Sunday, the embassy said that readings on its Air Quality Index (AQI) “have averaged over 300 in the 24-hour period beginning at 8:00 pm on October 4, and were over 400 overnight”.
The embassy added that based on recommendations by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), AQI levels surpassing 301 “are considered hazardous” with the EPA recommending that amid such readings “everyone should avoid all physical activities outdoors”.
A photo on the front page of the Beijing News showed the city’s Forbidden City--once home to China’s emperors and a major tourist site--enveloped in thick haze on Saturday.
The pollution comes as China’s annual Golden Week national holiday approaches its final day Monday and while Beijing and environs are hosting major international sporting events.
Cities across China have been hit by intense air pollution in recent years, much of it caused by emissions from coal-burning power stations, with levels of small particles known as PM2.5 reaching as high as 40 times World Health Organization limits this year.
China’s pollution problems are blamed on rapid urbanization, dramatic economic development and climatic factors. Pollution tends to worsen as winter approaches. Earlier this year, pollution levels soared with the US embassy’s AQI soaring above 500.
Pollution has been linked to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, and has tarnished the image of Chinese cities including Beijing, which saw an almost 15 percent drop in tourist visits during the first half of this year.
Women Main Victims Of Islamophobia
Turkey has abolished the ban on headscarf in government offices with a series of reforms introduced through a democratization package Prime Minister Teyyeb Recep Erdogan announced on Monday while Western countries continue to bring new restrictive regulations on headscarf, mostly seen as an indicator of rising Islamophobia.
Shirley Steinberg of Canada’s McGill University told the Anadolu Agency that Quebec recently has passed a law to ban Islamic headscarf in workplaces.
“Women are the target of Islamophobia because they are visible ones wearing the hijab,” said Steinberg.
Pointing at the double standards Muslim women face, Steinberg said Montreal had Orthodox Hasidic men with long beards and hats, whose faces were hardly recognized but they face no ban.
Asked about Turkey’s headscarf reform, Anne Norton, a professor of political science and comparative literature at the University of Pennsylvania, said Turkey has managed to take a very interesting course in becoming consistently more democratic and also taking a leadership position in the Muslim world.
“Recognizing the way in which Turkey can lead in combating Islamophobia is impressive and useful.”
Norton also said freedom of speech should also protect dress and women should be able to dress in a way that expresses their principles and beliefs.
Amnesty International’s Director for International Advocacy Program Yasmin Hussein stressed that Muslim women do not participate in the European Union decision-making process.
In Brussels there is a significant Muslim population and EU institutions are there, but you see Muslims as taxi drivers, security people, waiters, but Muslims, especially with hijab, are not to be seen inside the parliament, where there is power, influence and decision-making.
Women are the most striking victims of Islamophobic actions and policies in the world.
According to the Collective Center for Islamophobia in France (CCIF) in 2012, 85 percent of 469 Muslims attacked were women, while Britain’s first call center against Islamophobic attacks Tell MAMA says 58 percent of attacks against Muslims targeted women.
A March 2013 report by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) shows Muslim women are mostly discriminated in employment and education.
Saudi Women Fighting For Economic Rights
Not so many women in Saudi Arabia are commonly known for holing leading positions in the kingdom’s booming business sector. But one young Saudi woman is aiming straight for the top.
Rania Salama has launched a campaign to be elected to the board of Jeddah’s Chamber of Commerce, and currently serves as the chair of the Young Businesswomen Committee at the chamber, Al Arabiya News reported.
Salama said that by running for the chamber’s board, she is seeking to help match Saudi women with the opportunities that men commonly enjoy.
“We really need to bridge the gap between women and opportunities,” she said.
She also emphasized that her campaign for the board aims to spread awareness of the chamber’s uses among voters.
It is also aimed at “raising awareness and having more people participate in the elections,” she said.
“If the person is active and wants to search for their rights in public sectors, the chamber of commerce should play its role unexceptionally.”
The young businesswoman proved her business credentials by launching in 2000 the Arabiyat Magazine--an online feminine, social and cultural publication.
There are 63 candidates running for the board of Jeddah’s Chamber of Commerce, which has 12 seats. However, only six members will win seats via the elections, while six will be appointed by authorities.
“Anyone who holds a commercial registration in Jeddah is entitled to vote,” she said.
Winning the board’s elections may not prove easy for Salama as a woman.
Only one other woman, Lama Al-Sulaiman, currently serves on the board. Sulaiman was elected deputy chairwoman of the chamber in December 2009, becoming the first woman to occupy this post in Saudi Arabia’s history.
Salama is not alone in her bid.
Rawda Al-Yousef, a woman activist, leads a campaign called “My Guardian Knows Better.”
Yousef argues that it is “not essential for a woman to participate in governmental sectors due to her religious and cultural perspective.”
Commenting on Yousef’s campaign, Salama said, “It is beautiful to see both sides of the story,” adding that a response to such a campaign would be based on actions and not words.
UK Religious Teaching Fails
More than half of England’s schools are failing pupils on religious education.The Religious Education Council for England and Wales called the findings disappointing but not surprising.