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UN and partners help to power education with solar panel donation

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has partnered with religious institutions to provide solar panels that will power much-needed electricity to schools as well as promote the use of renewable energy.

The first solar panels were donated to the Ebrahim Hamim Madrasa and the Islamic Centre of Social Welfare outside of Jalalabad, in the eastern province of Nangarhar, last week.

The solar panels and related equipment will benefit around 570 students, including 350 girls, by powering lights in the school, stated the mission.

Speaking with students and school officials, the head of UNAMA’s Eastern Regional Office, Nahid Abuakar, said the UN understands the significant role that preaching and religious education hold in promotion of peace and human rights among neighbourhoods.

“We enjoy excellent working relations with representatives of religious communities and we hope that this assistance will increase your working capacity in delivering significant services – especially for women – and promote human rights values,” she said.

During the handover of the equipment, the principal of the school, Mawlawi Esrarullah Hamim, said that the support given to the ulamas, or religious scholars, through the donation could also help create a culture of peace.

“Supporting ulamas means supporting peace because our people respect mullahs and religious scholars. They could encourage people to support peace and reconciliation process,” said Mr. Hamim.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41283&Cr=renewable+energy&Cr1=

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Blue economy needed to protect Mediterranean Sea and world’s oceans

The Mediterranean Sea is a “key pillar” for the development of the countries in the region, a senior United Nations official said today, warning that continued degradation of the aquatic environment could put its entire ecology at risk.

The call came as delegates from 22 Mediterranean and European Union countries brought their three-day meeting on safeguarding and promoting a clean and healthy Mediterranean environment to a close in Paris.

“The time has come for us to rethink how we manage our oceans,” said Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in his address to the gathered delegates. “They are a key pillar for many countries’ economic and social development, and are vital in the fight against poverty,” he added.

The participating countries have called for the creation of a “blue economy” initiative which would be a marine version of the green economy, and hope to see a strategic policy framework adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20) to be held in Brazil in June.

UNEP defines a green economy as one that improves human well-being and social equity while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

“Management decisions and investments that focus on the well-being of the oceans are essential if we are to continue to profit from this rich natural resource,” Mr. Steiner said, noting that too many natural resources found in marine environments were being degraded by unsustainable use, ultimately putting their ecosystems, food security and climate regulations at risk.

“A ‘blue’ economy in the Mediterranean and elsewhere would be a big step on the right path,” he said.

The world’s marine ecosystems provide essential food and livelihoods to millions of people. According to UNEP, a switch to a blue economy would unlock the potential of the marine-based economy while reducing ocean degradation and alleviating poverty.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41210&Cr=sustainability&Cr1=

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Soil erosion and nuclear reactor management emerging as key green issues

The depletion of soil and the growing number of end-of-life nuclear power reactors are some of the most pressing environmental issues, according to a United Nations yearbook launched today that compiles the most important events and developments of the year.

The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) Year Book 2012 depicts the status of key environmental indicators and highlights the benefits of soil carbon and decommissioning nuclear power plants.

“The yearbook spotlights two emerging issues that underline the challenges, but also the choices, nations need to consider to deliver a sustainable 21st century – urgently improved mThe thin skin of soil on the Earth’s surface is often one of those forgotten ecosystems but it is among the most important to the future survival of humanity.anagement of world’s soils and the decommissioning of nuclear power reactors,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“Superficially they may seem separate and unconnected issues, but both go to the heart of several fundamental questions: how will the world feed and fuel itself while combating climate change and handling hazardous wastes?”

According to UNEP, 24 per cent of the global land area has declined in productivity over the past 25 years due to unsustainable land-use. The yearbook points to various assessments indicating that some kinds of intensive agriculture are triggering soil erosion at rates that are about 100 times greater than the rates at which nature can form soil.

The yearbook also warns that without changes in the way land is managed, there will be grave losses in forests, peatlands and grasslands, as well as in biodiversity. In addition, land erosion will also affect climate change as huge amounts of carbon stored in the soil in the form of organic matter could be released in the atmosphere, aggravating global warming.

“The thin skin of soil on the Earth’s surface is often one of those forgotten ecosystems but it is among the most important to the future survival of humanity. The yearbook cites many options for improved, sustainable management such as no-till policies to ones that can assist in productive agriculture without draining peatlands,” said Mr Steiner.

The yearbook, launched on the eve of the 12th special session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, also highlights the importance of decommissioning the growing numbers of nuclear reactors that have reached the end of their original design lives.

As of last month, 138 civilian nuclear power reactors had been shut down in 19 countries, including 28 in the United States, 27 in the United Kingdom, 27 in Germany, 12 in France, nine in Japan and five in Russia. However, decommissioning has only been completed for 17 of them.

Mr. Steiner stated that the yearbook provides information about the options that countries have when making energy choices today regarding radioactive materials, safety procedures and financial implications. For example, the cost of decommissioning varies greatly depending on the reactor type and size, its location, the proximity and availability of waste disposal facilities and the condition of both the reactor and the site at the time of decommissioning.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41213&Cr=environment&Cr1=

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