Globally, the area that is suffering desertification and land degradation is ever expanding. Unsustainable and often large-scale agricultural practices, including the copious use of pesticides and fertilisers, are a major driver of land degradation, aprocess that is further exacerbated by climate change, causing more erratic rainfall patterns, longer periods of drought and unpredictable growing seasons. This is very problematic not only for the hundreds of millions of people who directly depend on land and water for their livelihoods, but also for life on earth as a whole. It is clear that this process must be stopped and reversed, better sooner than later. But how to go about it?
Manila Bay is crucial site for biodiversity and home to over 23 million people, but their wellbeing is at risk due to reclamation projects, which are also part of a large-scale top-down masterplan for the bay. It is estimated that more than 11 million people are threatened with displacement due to land reclamations and related disaster risks. As an alternative, Kalikasan is developing a People's Plan.
Tidal rivers in the southwest coastal area of Bangladesh have been dying since flood plains were replaced by Dutch-style polders in the 70s. Rivers are silted up, and during monsoon season water gets trapped within embankments. Every year, this situation of waterlogging inflicts adverse consequences particularly on women, as they take care of the household in waterlogged conditions in the absence of men who travel to the city in search of temporary work. NGO Uttaran is advocating for a change in policy and practice.
Through pollution and water scarcity, communities along the Kenyan Athi River have learnt the hard way that upstream and downstream communities are inevitably connected. In response to indiscriminate impacts on the environment and people's livelihoods, civil society organisations within the Athi River Basin formed the Athi River Community Network (ARCN).
In the Nam Ou river in Northern Laos, seven dams are built by a Chinese company. All over the world one can see the same picture when it comes to hydropower projects: it has devastating impacts on the people living in or around the area where they are being built, primarily because they are being displaced. It seems that displacement of communities is still accepted as the unavoidable collateral damage of infrastructure projects. This reveals a highly unacceptable attitude towards poor communities in whose name development is proceeding. In Laos, our Laotian partner visited communities along the river to talk with people about their life after displacement:
The water quality of East Java's largest river, the Brantas River, is increasingly deteriorating due to a combination of industrial and household waste. This environmental pollution has a disproportionate impact on women. Yet, their participation in decision-making remains lacking. ECOTON is working to improve the situation.
The European Investment Bank EIB should get rid of its gas-investments, and the Netherlands can take the lead in this. The Netherlands appears to be relying less and less on gas in its energy policy, and also seems to focus on gas-free investments at the EIB. Now it is important to maintain this position and also convince the other EU countries.