Mining in Zambia and Canada

There are many aspects of sustainable development methods that are required to evaluate. In the developing world such as Zambia, few regard the issue of the environment seriously. On average, lead concentrations in children are five to 10 times the permissible United States Environmental Protection Agency levels, and can even be high enough to kill.

It has over the years left huge effects that can now be felt for many years to come. One of the most prominent environmental issues was the discovery of high levels of lead in the town of Kabwe. The Canadian oil sands provide another example of the need to make sure development is anchored by principles that are sustainable. Politicians mostly see votes and with little focus on effects of unregulated massive development such as pollution in the rivers as the case in Alberta, Canada. According to investment for this region of Canada oil companies will spend nearly $200 billion over the next decades.

In this regard it is important to know what is required to balance needs and realities of the effects on the activities of development. Sustainable development methods are plans that meet the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It contains within it two key concepts: the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor to which overriding priority should be given; and the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs (WCED, 1987:43.)

This way small economic focus approach has several unwanted side effects. For example, the solution to one problem may make another problem worse. Moreover it tends to focus on short-term benefits without monitoring long-term effects. GDP only reflects the amount of economic activity and can rise when the overall community health is being impaired.

The Alberta Oil Sands is the largest energy project on the planet, lying beneath 140,200 square kilometers of northern Alberta forest, an area almost as large as the state of Florida. With estimated $20 billion revenue coming to Canada each year from this project in Alberta, sustainable development with a broad focus is not a huge priority. Even the currently developed portion of the Oil Sands region is already experiencing severe fragmentation effects on the ecology of the boreal forest.

Remarkably one respected scientist from Canada did a report about this dilemma instead the government went on the defensive despite obvious problems in many areas. These include pollution in the Athabasca River affecting aquatic, plant, human and wildlife. This study was conducted by Dr. David Schindler a renowned academician with impressive pedigree such as the acid rain discovery. According to his report, white fish was caught in Lake Athabasca, near Fort Chipewyan, higher cancers than usual (including rare forms of cancer) in adjacent populations to the project.

It now well known that there many methods to sustain development. These are designed to measure and communicate progress towards of human endeavours across the world.

Alan Chanda

Sources: Time 1, 2, CBC, Green Party of Canada
Photo: Wikimedia