UN Warns of Rising Levels of Toxic Brine as Desalination Plants Meet Growing Water Needs

UN Warns of Rising Levels of Toxic Brine as Desalination Plants Meet Growing Water Needs

SOURCE: United Nations University DATE: January 14, 2019 SNIP: The fast-rising number of desalination plants worldwide — now almost 16,000, with capacity concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa — quench a growing thirst for freshwater but create a salty dilemma as well: how to deal with all the chemical-laden leftover brine. In a UN-backed paper (“The state of desalination and brine production: A global outlook“), experts estimate the freshwater output capacity of desalination plants at 95 million cubic meters per day — equal to almost half the average flow over Niagara Falls. For every litre of freshwater output, however, desalination plants produce on average 1.5 litres of brine (though values vary dramatically, depending on the feedwater salinity and desalination technology used, and local conditions). Globally, plants now discharge 142 million cubic meters of hypersaline brine every day (a 50% increase on previous assessments). Desalination plants near the ocean (almost 80% of brine is produced within 10km of a coastline) most often discharge untreated waste brine directly back into the marine environment. The authors cite major risks to ocean life and marine ecosystems posed by brine greatly raising the salinity of the receiving seawater, and by polluting the oceans with toxic chemicals used as anti-scalants and anti-foulants in the desalination process (copper and chlorine are of major...
Aliens on the shore: Native UK sea life is at risk from invasive species swept here on plastic litter dumped as far away as the Caribbean

Aliens on the shore: Native UK sea life is at risk from invasive species swept here on plastic litter dumped as far away as the Caribbean

SOURCE: Daily Mail DATE: January 7, 2019 SNIP: British wildlife is under threat from invasive species that wash up on our shores after clinging to plastic litter dumped thousands of miles away, experts say. Record numbers of tropical sea creatures are attaching themselves to plastic waste then being swept across the Atlantic by the Gulf Stream and ending up on our beaches. It is feared this could have a catastrophic impact on British sea life and wipe out native species. Wildlife expert Steve Trewhella found 20 invasive species on one 18-mile stretch of beach in Dorset alone, including a venomous Florida rock snail attached to an old shoe. The snail, thought to have travelled more than 4,000 miles, is an active predator which destroys native mussels and...
Can the Land of a Million Elephants Survive the Belt and Road?

Can the Land of a Million Elephants Survive the Belt and Road?

SOURCE: The Diplomat DATE: January 3, 2019 SNIP: China Railway’s Kunming bureau recently announced that a 36-kilometer long fence will be built along the Singapore-Kunming Railway project to protect wild elephants in southwest Yunnan’s Xishuangbanna region. This is a positive step, but it does little to allay concerns of the railway’s impact on elephant populations along the rest of the 3,900 km (2,400 mile) track of the Pan Asia Railway Central route. This is particularly so in Laos, where total elephant numbers are now below 1,000, and where vehicle collision is only one of many potential threats arising from China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). If current trajectories continue there will be no elephants left in Laos by the year 2030. In just 12 years, we could see the complete eradication of elephants from a country that once was known as “the land of a million elephants” (Lan Xang). So how did we reach this crisis point? What are the most daunting challenges for the future? And can Laos’ elephant population survive the advancement of the BRI? Laos’ current elephant population is estimated to be fairly evenly split between 400 wild and 450 domesticated elephants. These dwindling numbers are the latest in a consistent trend of population decline, with total numbers dropping by almost 90 percent since 1988. Reversing this downward trend for future generations is dependent on addressing key challenges that are all likely to become more pronounced under China’s BRI, including deforestation, habitat fragmentation, human-elephant conflict, and poaching. In November 2013 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announced two ambitious multibillion dollar connectivity schemes across South and...
Third of Wales’ birds are in decline

Third of Wales’ birds are in decline

SOURCE: Bird Guides DATE: December 30, 2018 SNIP: A major report has found that one in three species of bird is in significant decline in Wales. The State of Birds in Wales study found farmland and woodland species were especially vulnerable, with the researchers identifying loss of habitat and climate change while urging urgent conservation action. Patrick Lindley, Senior Ornithologist at Natural Resources Wales (NRW), said: “When we look at conservation urgency, we’ve probably never seen the like of this before in terms of what we need to do. It’s startling.” Notable declines in the report included the extinction of breeding populations of Common Nightingale, Corn Bunting and Eurasian Dotterel. Common Starling declined by a massive 72 per cent between 1995 and 2016. Many threatened species that rely on farmland and moor habitat have also seen numbers crash: Black Grouse declined by 68 per cent, Red Grouse by 45 per cent, Northern Lapwing 46 per cent and Eurasian Curlew 39 per cent. Neil Lambert, Head of Conservation Management for RSPB Cymru said: “With 90 per cent of Wales farmed, agricultural practices have a huge impact on birds and other...
The Trump Administration’s War on Wildlife Should Be a Scandal

The Trump Administration’s War on Wildlife Should Be a Scandal

SOURCE: NY Intelligencer DATE: December 29, 2018 SNIP: The Trump administration’s policies are leading to wholesale destruction of certain birds and other wildlife. This fact has escaped most public notice amid the broader damage the Cabinet is causing to the environment. Among other measures, the regulatory agencies have been working to lift protections on endangered animals, open up vast animal habitats for drilling, encourage more trophy-hunting, and repress treatment standards for farm animals. Read the article for a long list of the egregious ways the administration is killing wildlife. Just one of many examples: To Greenberger and other bird-rights advocates, the most galling development is the dropping of penalties for recklessly endangering birds out in the wild. Greenberger said the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, on the books since 1918, is responsible for all kinds of protective measures at sites around the country. It’s a reason companies often put blinking lights on their towers, or place nets over oil pits: so that birds won’t fly into them and die, triggering corporate fines. But in the spring, Interior announced companies won’t be held responsible anymore, so long as killing birds isn’t the culprit’s primary goal. To clarify, the department sent around a memo with some rather grotesque examples. Say, for instance, someone wants to burn down a barn that happens to be full of owls. So long as the deaths of the owls are merely collateral damage and not the purpose of setting the farm on fire, they won’t be subject to fines. “All that is relevant,” the memo reads, “is that the landowner undertook an action that did not have...