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Senegalese divers plunge to end Dakar’s plastic tide4 minutes read

In real terms, their cleanup was Sisyphean: they removed a molehill in a mountain of plastic that is relentlessly growing

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Senegalese divers plunge to end Dakar's plastic tide
A canoeist delivers plastic waste and other items collected by scuba divers from a bay during a 'clean-up day' campaign of the ocean off the coast of the capital Dakar on September 15, 2019. - President Macky Sall, sworn in for his second term in April 2019, has proposed turning Senegal into a "zero waste" nation. (Photo by SEYLLOU / AFP)

When the sight of plastic bags, bottles and other debris littering the seabed becomes too much, there’s just one thing to do: don your diving suit, strap on an air tank and fish out the stuff yourself.

That is the solution adopted by Oceanium, an association of amateur divers in Senegal.

In a few hours last month, divers removed hundreds of kilos of plastic rubbish in the waters around the island of Goree off the capital Dakar — the jewel in Senegal’s tourism crown.

In real terms, their cleanup was Sisyphean: they removed a molehill in a mountain of plastic that is relentlessly growing.

But it provided temporary relief for local biodiversity — and gave a push for environmentalism in a country where green issues trail far behind the drive to ease poverty.

“We’re here to clean up,” exclaimed Ndeye Selbe Diouf, a young woman who took up diving two years ago and said she had lost count of fish she has seen trapped in bottles near the shore.

Oceanium’s diving director, Rodwan El Ali, 36, said the problem of plastic rubbish in Senegal was acute.

Senegalese divers plunge to end Dakar's plastic tide
A man empties a sack delivered by a canoeist who picked up the sacks of plastic and other waste collected by scuba divers from a bay during a ‘clean-up day’ campaign of the ocean off the coast of the capital Dakar on September 15, 2019. (Photo by SEYLLOU / AFP)

“People go to the beach and drink and party, and if there are no rubbish bins, they leave it on the beach and it’s swept into the sea with the tide,” he said.

Ali, a member of the ethnic Lebanese community that has been in Senegal for generations, took over Oceanium with his sister after its founding by their father, Haidar, a former environment minister.

“When we see fishing nets tangled around shipwrecks or plastic littering the sea bottom, we organise a cleanup,” he said.

Their first operation took place in 2017 and is moving towards a monthly cleanup dive — even weekly, if funding becomes available.

‘Dustbin’ –

“People throw everything into the sea because they think it’s big,” said Mamadou Ali Gadiaga, who has been a member of Oceanium since it was founded 35 years ago.

“It’s a hard job but you have to make people aware of the problem. The sea is not a dustbin.”

Twenty-two divers took part in a cleanup in mid-September, using two boats for operations and a third as a floating bin for the rubbish.

Senegalese divers plunge to end Dakar's plastic tide
A handout image made available by Oceanium de Dakar shows scuba divers collecting plastic and other waste from a bay during a ‘clean-up day’ campaign of the ocean off the coast of Goree island on September 15, 2019. (Photo by HO / Oceanium de Dakar / AFP)

By the close of the operation, they had hauled up 1.4 tonnes of debris — mainly plastic but also rusty drink cans, torn clothing and other discarded items.

This gesture for the environment has to be weighed against the realities.

Even though Senegal is in the upper tier of developing economies, it has no recycling facilities.

The rubbish that was so arduously brought up from the bottom of the sea was sent to a huge garbage tip at Mbeubeuss, where household waste from Dakar’s three million people is discharged.

According to the UN, globally, around eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the sea, providing a deadly hazard for birds and marine mammals and breaking down into microscopic waste that also enters the food chain.

Around nine billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the substance was produced on a large scale after World War II, but just nine per cent of this has been recycled.

In Senegal itself, environmental awareness remains low compared with the rising swell of campaigning in the rest of the world. Only a few dozen young people turned out on September 20 for the planet-wide environment rallies.

President Macky Sall has said he wants the country to be “zero waste” but discarded plastic containers and bags are an eyesore in many towns and villages, and a 2015 law to restrict the use of plastic bags is a dead letter.

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Business News

World Bank grants Africa, Asia $500 million to battle locust invasion.

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The World Bank has approved $500 million in grants and low-interest loans to help countries in Africa and the Middle East combat swarms of desert locusts that had been eating their way across vast swaths of crops and rangelands.

Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda; the Four of the hardest-hit countries will receive $160 million immediately, according to Holger Kray, a senior World Bank official.

“The Horn of Africa finds itself at the epicenter of the worst locust outbreak we have seen in a generation, most probably in more than a generation,”

Kray says, noting that the new coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the crisis.

The World Bank emphasized that this pestilence had infested 23 countries across East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, the biggest outbreak in 70 years posing a grave danger to food supplies in East Africa where nearly 23 million people are facing food shortages. Now coupled with the coronavirus pandemic, the situation becomes more worrisome.

The World Bank estimates that the Horn of Africa region could suffer up to $8.5 billion in damage to crop and livestock production by year-end without broad measures to reduce locust populations and prevent their spread further. Even with these measures, losses could be as high as $2.5 billion, the lender adds.

In Kenya, the locusts are eating in one day, the amount of food consumed by all Kenyans in two days, Kray explains.

The new World Bank program will help farmers, herders and rural households by providing fertilizer and seeds for new crops and cash transfers to pay for food for people and livestock. It will also fund investments to strengthen surveillance and early warning systems to make the region more resilient over the medium- to longer-term, Kray explained

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Environment

Namibia is Africa’s most prepared country on energy transition – WEF

Abimbola Awoyele

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Namibia is the best performing African country to make a successful energy transition. This is contained in the World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index 2020 released on Wednesday, May 13.

The report summarizes insights from the “Energy Transition Index” (ETI), which builds upon the previous series of “Global Energy Architecture Performance Index” by adding a forward looking element of country readiness for energy transition.

According to the Fostering Effective Energy Transition report, Nambia has an ETI score of 53,6%, system performance of 54% and transition readiness stands at 53%.
Ghana follows with 53.2% ETI, system performance of 59% and transition readiness of 47%.

The index ranks South Africa 106 out of 115 countries, improving nine places over the past 12 months. The countries are benchmarked on the performance of their energy systems and their readiness for transition to secure, sustainable, affordable and inclusive systems.
Kenya is 79th and rated 54% prepared to make the switch while Zambia and Botswana are ranked 98th and 99th respectively.

Nigeria is the least prepared African country, ranking 113th, one place above Cameroon. Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, is 35% prepared to make the transition while Cameroon which the report ranks 114th is 42% ready.

In the report, the WEF also warned that the coronavirus pandemic risks cancelling out recent progress in transitioning to clean energy, with unprecedented falls in demand, price volatility and pressure to quickly mitigate socioeconomic costs placing the near-term trajectory of the transition in doubt.
According to the report, economic development and growth dimension of energy transition is currently being challenged by the cascading effects of Covid-19.
Sweden (1) leads the ETI for the third consecutive year, followed by Switzerland (2) and Finland (3). France (8) and United Kingdom (7) are the only G20 countries in the top 10.
Meanwhile, the trend has been moderately positive in Germany (20), Japan (22) and South Korea (48) and Russia (80).
On the other hand, scores for Canada (28), Chile (29), Lebanon (114), Malaysia (38), and Turkey (67) have declined since 2015. The United States ranks outside the top 25% for the first time, primarily due to the uncertain regulatory outlook for energy transition.

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East Africa News

Massive rains lead to evacuation of 6,000 Rwandans in high-risk areas

Official says some 4,000 of the displaced persons are staying with their relatives, 1,500 living in government-rented houses

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Massive rains lead to evacuation of 6,000 Rwandans in high-risk areas
Rwandan Minister of Infrastructure Claver Gatete (L) speaks at a press conference in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, on Dec. 18, 2019. The Rwandan government on Wednesday said it has evacuated close to 6,000 residents from high-risk zones in different parts of the country threatened by heavy rains in the first three weeks of December. (Xinhua/Lyu Tianran)

Emergency and other government officials in Rwanda have evacuated about 6,000 Rwandans living in high-risk zones threatened by heavy rainfall in different parts of the country.

Minister of Local Government Anastase Shyaka told a press conference on Wednesday in Kigali that the citizens had been threatened by excessive rainfall in the past few weeks hence the evacuation.

Shyaka said some 4,000 of the displaced persons are staying with their relatives, 1,500 living in government-rented houses while about 300 others were being temporarily sheltered in schools, a Xinxua news agency report said.

Environment Minister, Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya also said at the joint briefing that although the heavy rains had began to cease in the third week of December, disaster management and mitigation measures would still be necessary.

Another top government official and infrastructure minister, Claver Gatete said floods and landslides caused by heavy rains in 2019 have affected 22 national roads, and 42 district roads and bridges. An official assessment showed that the evacuated persons lived in high-risk zones to be hit by heavy rains hence the government’s action.

Official data showed that extreme weather last year has caused more than 250 deaths in Rwanda, and this year have left more than 100 people dead, some 5,000 houses damaged and more than 9,000 hectares of plantations destroyed.

A United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report also said that in East Africa, at least 280 people have been killed and more than 2.8 million others affected by unusually heavy rainfall and flooding this year.

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