Pollution in the Third WorldLevels of pollution in the third world are disproportionately impactful and the cost of this impact keeps rising. In 2015, 195 countries came together in Paris to discuss climate change. These countries eventually came to an agreement on what should be done to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

In previous climate summits, the agreements usually excused developing countries (including China and India) from implementing stricter greenhouse gas limits. This was with good reason; many of these countries had not contributed to the majority of GHG emissions throughout history. Consequentially, developing countries did not experience the same opportunities to grow as other nations.

However, the new accord mandates lower emissions regardless of a country’s economic status.

Countries like India and China, with growing populations and a rising middle class, are increasingly contributing to GHG emissions. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to be the largest, developed polluting country.

The impact of climate change is usually felt most by the poorest individuals, especially in third world countries. Pollution in the third world has major implications that are not often felt in developed countries like the U.S.

Many regions within Africa struggle against the adverse effects of climate change. As a 2010 World Bank article stated, “In Sub-Saharan Africa extreme weather will cause dry areas to become drier and wet areas wetter; agriculture yields will suffer from crop failures; and diseases will spread to new altitudes.”

In a 2016 U.N. aid summit, pressure rose to provide more funding to reduce the risks of natural disasters. The world’s poor faces a higher risk from adverse weather due to climate change.

Various government entities and private organizations have been fighting to mitigate the effects of climate change in impoverished countries. For example, the Red Cross is implementing forecast-based financing in Uganda, which “releases funding to communities according to agreed triggers such as weather predictions.”

Some developing African countries are even using solar power to access electricity. Gigawatt Global implemented a $24 million solar project in the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village within Rwanda.

The climate conditions within Sub-Saharan Africa are ideal for solar energy. This solar project also provides training and job opportunities for local residents. Rwanda’s solar energy plant provides hope for the future of clean energy and lower pollution in the third world.

According to scientists, the world has not yet reached the point of no return in terms of climate change. If the heavy reform recommended for high-emitting countries came to pass, future disasters might be avoided in third world countries like Kenya and Rwanda.

Saroja Koneru

Photo: Flickr

Nile Delta
In rural Egypt, the freshwater of the Nile River is a life-giving resource and the main supplier of drinking water; but, due to pollution from human and animal waste, the river is also deadly.

Annually, 5 percent of Egyptian deaths are the result of water contamination and lack of sanitation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Currently, there are as few as 500 rural waste treatment plants in operation throughout more than 5,500 rural villages, with only 37 percent of rural households being covered by a public sewage line.

This lack of sanitation infrastructure is a serious health risk to rural residents because of water contamination. Diarrhea, typhoid fever and E. coli are just a few of the life-threatening illnesses that result from inadequate waste treatment and storage.

In order to fight back against the mounting problem of untreated wastewater seeping or being dumped into the Nile, the World Bank has pledged $550 million to improve existing sanitation facilities in the rural Delta as well as create new sanitation systems throughout Daqahliya, Sharqiya and Beheira in Lower Egypt.

The Sustainable Rural Sanitation Services Program for Results, approved in July 2015 and set to end in October 2020, is designed to restructure the existing centralized system to create a decentralized system, giving local water and sanitation companies (WSCs) within the Nile Delta the ability to expand and cover larger areas while improving their service.

Through this decentralized approach, WSCs are able to generate more local jobs, improving not only the health of poor rural residents but also their economic standing.

Using a bottom-up business model, WSCs are held responsible through a performance-based capital grant (PBCGs) from the Central Government, ensuring empowered employment and quality service to their communities.

The Sustainable Rural Sanitation Services Program for Results is set to serve 769 villages in seven governorates that have a history of releasing untreated wastewater into tributaries of the Nile.

The program will benefit the health and socio-economic status of rural villages as well as aid in preserving the Nile, the largest source of Egyptian freshwater, constituting 98 percent of drinking water.

The program also protects against untreated human waste seeping into the groundwater, leaving impoverished Egyptians with contaminated drinking water. By the end of the five-year period, an estimated 800,000 poor Egyptians will have benefitted from the program.

Claire Colby

Sources: American Institute of Science, World Bank 1, World Bank 2, WHO, International Water and Technology Conference
Photo: The Chronicle Herald

China has been a major manufacturer for quite some time now and the environmental consequences have been laid bare for all to see. Lacking environmental regimes with any real teeth, the Chinese have painted themselves into a pollution filled corner.

This week has some of the worst smog on record in China, and many of its citizens have had enough. For the first time ever, a Chinese citizen has brought a lawsuit against the Chinese government for its ineffective and halfhearted strategies on controlling pollution.

Li Guixin, a resident of Shijazhuang in the Hebei province, filed the lawsuit this week in response to the crippling smog.

The complaint filed simply asks the government to “perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law”. Guixin also seeks compensation for those who have suffered under the pollution.

Having to accommodate his life around the pollution, Guixin owns multiple face masks and an air purifier. Unwilling to unnecessarily expose himself to harsh environment, he has bought a treadmill so he may exercise inside.

The Chinese government has various investments in clean air projects, but it has failed to make a dent in the smog. It has also given power to the courts to prosecute environmental offenders, but normally the courts lack follow through in this regard.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of smog engulfing the entirety of Beijing. Hebei, a large industrial hub known for steel manufacturing, is largely considered the culprit.

Many companies in Beijing have stopped production to help reduce the amount of smog.

Chief among many concerns is the detriment that pollution places on one’s health. Many agree long exposure to pollution consisting of particulate matter can lead to lung cancer.

In fact, environmental researchers have determined that the amount of pollution around Beijing measures approximately 400 PM 2.5. This means that 400 particulates 2.5 microns or greater are present per cubic meter of air. To put it in perspective, the World Health Organization recommends one’s exposure to remain within 25 PM 2.5 per 24 hours.

Exposure to extreme pollution has become such a frequent occurrence in Chinese life that the International School of Beijing has built domes over its outdoor play areas in order to reduce the possibility of children breathing the harsh air. Construction of the domes have cost up to $5 million.

The Chinese government has put out a statement claiming the cause of the pollution can be traced to weather conditions that proved conducive to smog and a large increase in the use of firecrackers. The Chinese New Year was celebrated earlier this month.

Whatever the true cause, the unusual amount of pollution demands serious attention from authorities. Beijing’s mayor has pledged what amounts to $124.6 billion to improve the air quality within the city.

Zachary Lindberg

Sources: Reuters, CNN
Photo: Policy Mic

Few law students find themselves on the front lines of civil suits with Fortune 500 companies; fewer still emerge victorious. Eric Harrison did just that — even while starting a successful nonprofit that restores clean water to communities pushed aside by corporate concerns.

In 2011, while studying at the University of Washington Law School, Harrison became aware of Dole Food Company’s suspicious practice of water sourcing in Guatemala. The banana empire irrigated a plantation by diverting river water from its natural course, which left thousands without clean drinking water. Harrison took Dole to court — shouldering the bulk of the caseload himself — and successfully circumvented Dole’s motion to dismiss, an accomplishment that led to a settlement in 2012.

Dole agreed to cooperate with Harrison’s WASH (Water and Sanitation Health, Inc.) to establish a water distribution system that provides 4,500 Guatemalans in six communities with potable water. The unexpected partnership between plaintiff and defendant has established a community health plan that ensures families receive water filters and locally produced purifiers every 18 months.

The success of the Dole case established WASH as a legitimate player in the fight for sustainable solutions to the world water crisis. This 501(c)(3) organization focuses not only on providing water and sanitation systems to lacking areas, but also emphasizes education regarding hygiene and disease.

The World Health Organization recently estimated that 36% of the world’s population lacks access to improved sanitation facilities while 768 million people do not have access to safe drinking water. Ramifications of these conditions extend beyond the threat of disease to economics and equal rights.

In areas with high disease burdens due to waterborne cholera, dysentery and E. coli, wage earners are less productive, health systems can become quickly overwhelmed and economies drag. Schools lacking proper sanitation facilities may refuse to educate young girls or cease operations altogether. Women are subjected to difficult days fetching water and cannot participate in many aspects of family and social life.

Harrison explains that because Guatemala and other countries lack an authority such as the EPA, “companies can kind of skirt around [regulations]” and evade sanctions for threatening water quality.

Nonetheless, even corporate giants can have a change of heart.

Well-executed legal action seems to effectively remind corporations of their duty to the environment and local populations. Dole’s partnership with WASH, for example, has affected a 180-degree transformation in regional water quality and serves as a reminder that effective cooperation between big business and environmental organization is possible.

Unfortunately, another big name in the banana industry has emerged in connection with alleged contamination of rivers and drinking water in Guatemala’s Ocós municipality. Chiquita Brands International may be polluting water sources affecting six communities and 7,200 people with carcinogenic pesticides, chemicals and organic matter.

It should come as no surprise that Harrison is not standing idly by. In a complaint filed December 4, he — acting as WASH President — alleges that Chiquita misrepresents its self-proclaimed ethical agricultural and labor practices in marketing materials.

The giant is accused of committing “a series of human rights and environmental atrocities” that will be extremely costly, both financially and in terms of public relations, should the suit proceed.

Chiquita has issued a response statement asserting that all of the brand’s farms are environmentally conscious and comply with high labor and social standards. The statement then takes on a cooperative tone, noting the company’s willingness to engage Harrison in a “constructive dialogue that supports local communities and improves the lives of  employees.”

Perhaps the Washingtonian is on his way to another improbable victory for Guatemalans lacking clean water.

Casey Ernstes

Sources: Boston Business Journal, KOMO News, Nonprofit Quarterly, UNICEF