Thirty years ago, toxic gas leaking from Union Carbide’s factory in Bhopal claimed more than 5,000 lives and exposed more than half a million people to harmful toxins. The negligence and human tragedy made Bhopal synonymous with industrial disaster and showed just how harmful chemical pollution is to health and well-being. The enormous human loss calls for remembering the victims and stronger engagement on a wide range of pollution management and environmental health issues to prevent similar tragedies.
What Happened Then?
A chemical gas spilled from a pesticide factory owned by Union Carbide. More than 40 tons of gas created a dense cloud over more than half a million people and killed thousands. None of the six safety systems at the plant worked to prevent the disaster. The company’s own documents prove the plant was designed with “untested” technology, and that it cut corners on safety and maintenance in order to save money.
The State of Bhopal Today
Today, clean-up of the site is still pending, those who survived the disaster don’t have alternate livelihood opportunities and victims are still suffering.
World leaders and land actors are in Lima this week to help advance climate action. Climate resilience—including the resilience of African landscapes—will be at center of the agenda as they define the role of sustainable, resilient landscapes for a new development agenda.
Why should the world—and Africa in particular—care about resilience?
The importance of resilience as an imperative for development is nowhere as obvious as in Africa. Fragile natural resources—at the core of livelihoods and economic opportunities—are under increasing pressure from unsustainable use, population pressure, and the impacts of climate change.
The socialization of boys shapes their expectations of the appropriate roles and behavior of girls, in contrast to their own, and validates the superiority of men over women. These norms are often strengthened and reconstructed by the families, communities and social institutions that they belong to.
Around 1 billion people worldwide are estimated to live with some form of disability, and for 185 million of those, they are severe enough that they have serious difficulty functioning.
As the World Bank renews its commitment to doing more to support people with disabilities, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the evolution of my own thinking on disability. When I was in my teens I thought of disability in black and white terms – there were people with disabilities and there were others, without.
As I grew up in a small town (by Indian standards) in northern India, my perspectives began to evolve, both through routine observation of the numerous failings of people we see as “able”, and through highly inspiring interactions with people who had so called “disabilities”. I must say I am in a very different place today than I was as a child.
I recently spent three days in Yerevan on a mission to learn a bit more about Armenia’s overall development challenges for a World Bank study on “Connectivity”, before heading off to Tbilisi, Georgia and Baku, Azerbaijan to do the same.
It was my first time visiting Armenia, so it was a fascinating trip and I learned a tremendous amount about the country and its people.
Of course, in three days one can only get a small sample of the major issues that challenge development, rather than a rich flavor for the deep subtleties that represent the people or factors that drive the economy. But, given my basic knowledge of the country, the new information I gained was a tremendous leap forward.
The world is in turmoil - climate change is wreaking havoc across the continents and an Arctic winter is coming; the Brazilians lost 7-1 (did it happen?); Princess Kate is pregnant again (if it’s a girl will it be called Elizabeth?).
Against this backdrop, a fundamental question lingers in the back of every small depositors mind: “is my money safe?”
It’s not very often that the end of a talk is as exciting as its beginning. Perhaps that should be expected when one witnesses historical moments in time—what can be called true game changers. Harrison Karnwea, the managing director of Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority (FDA), recently joined us at the World Bank, just days after the UN Climate Summit in New York and the signing of a $150 million grant Letter of Intent for a Forests REDD+ program between his country and Norway to be facilitated by the World Bank.
Under the agreement, Liberia and Norway will work together to improve the framework for forest governance, strengthen law enforcement and support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in Liberia. Improved governance and adequate law enforcement in the forest sector and agriculture impede further destruction of Liberia’s rainforests and aim to avoid illegal logging and unsustainable agricultural practices. In a country where timber was once used to purchase weapons and helped fuel a devastating civil war, the partnership holds promise to reduce carbon emissions related to deforestation and forest degradation, facilitate green growth and enhance livelihoods.
Liberia has a population of approximately 3.5 million people and 4.5 million hectares of lowland tropical forests—one of the largest contiguous forest blocks that remains in West Africa. Liberia’s forests are also widely recognized as a global hotspot of diversity, boasting flora and fauna (like pygmy hippos) that is both rare and at risk.
Liberia plans to conserve 30 percent or more of its forests as protected areas with the remainder to be used for sustainable forest management and community forestry.
Întreaga lume este într-o stare tumultoasă – schimbările climatice fac ravagii pe toate continentele şi se apropie o iarnă arctică; brazilienii cu pierdut cu 7-1 (chiar s-a întâmplat?); Prinţesa Kate este însărcinată din nou (dacă este fată o va chema Elizabeth?).
În acest context, o întrebare fundamentală persistă în mintea tuturor micilor deponenţi: „banii mei sunt în siguranţă?”
Răspunsul este pe scurt „da”. În foarte mare măsură în siguranţă.
Your name is Sarah. You live in New York, or perhaps Nairobi, where you divide your time between caring for your young family and building a small business. Your life is more comfortable than your mother’s, and your children’s prospects are brighter than you might have hoped. Until your husband’s simmering resentment of your growing business turns violent, and he beats you badly.
Home is where the heart is. It’s also where the hearth is. And for the three billion people around the world who cook every day using traditional fuels, the hearth has a very dark side. Dirty, smoking cookstoves are responsible for killing over four million people a year. In fact, it is the fourth leading cause of death in the world. This was the message of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, one of numerous global leaders to highlight these alarming facts at the Cookstoves Future Summit in New York City last week.
She and leaders of governments, companies and organizations like the World Bank Group were gathered to pledge record amounts of finance and country-level actions to tackle the insidious health and environmental challenges posed by the simple act of cooking.
Growing up in India, I have always been conscious of the daily grind that women and girls in remote, rural areas go through just to prepare one meal. There’s the long, arduous and sometimes dangerous walk to get firewood, sticks or charcoal – whatever one can afford to find or buy. There’s the walk home, loaded down with that fuel. This can take up to five hours in rural areas – time that could be spent at school, work or building a small enterprise. And then of course, there’s the time spent breathing in smoke as they cook an often simple meal of bread, rice, lentils or vegetables. In India alone, more than one million deaths a year are attributed to traditional cooking practices - a shocking figure by any reckoning.