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AFRIK-IT  September 2006

AFRIK-IT September 2006

Subject:

United Nations Environment Programme Partners with Google Earth

From:

Beth Ingraham <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Thu, 14 Sep 2006 16:17:49 +0300

Content-Type:

multipart/mixed

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (1 lines) , pic07916.gif (1 lines)


Flying Around the Globe on a Time Machine


United Nations Environment Programme Partners with Google Earth


Nairobi,  12  September  2006  –  'Flying'  around  a virtual planet earth,
zooming  in  on  environmental  hotspots and comparing today's crisis zones
with  yesterday's  areas  of  natural beauty: All this has become a reality
today  thanks  to  a  partnership  between  the  United Nations Environment
Programme (UNEP) and Google Earth.


Images  of retreating glaciers and melting ice in polar and mountain areas,
explosive  growth  of  cities such as Las Vegas, forest loss in the Amazon,
rapid  oil  and  gas development in Wyoming and Canada, forest fires across
sub-Saharan Africa and the decline of the Aral Sea in Central Asia and Lake
Chad  in  Africa:  this  and  much  more  is being presented in a series of
'before and after' satellite images of our changing environment to over 100
million Google Earth users worldwide.


Beginning  today,  Google  Earth – Google’s 3D virtual world browser – will
feature  UNEP: Atlas of our Changing Environment, offering satellite images
of  100 environmental hotspots from around the world. The project builds on
the  success  of  UNEP’s  very  popular  hardcover release One Planet, Many
People: Atlas of our Changing Environment.


UNEP's Executive Director Achim Steiner said:” These satellite pictures are
a wake-up call to all of us to look at the sometimes devastating changes we
are  wreaking  on our planet. Through spectacular imagery, Google Earth and
UNEP offer a new way of visualizing the dangers facing our planet today. By
tapping  into  the  global  Google  community,  we are able to reach out to
millions of people who can mobilize and make a difference."


The   printed  Atlas  One  Planet,  Many  People:  Atlas  of  our  Changing
Environment  was  produced in cooperation with the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and
the  University  of Maryland, and launched on World Environment Day in June
2005.


UNEP:  Atlas  of  our  Changing  Environment  uses  images  from  the  2005
publication  together with satellite depictions of changes to African Lakes
(based  on  the  2006  hardcover  Africa’s  Lakes:  Atlas  of  our Changing
Environment),  along  with  several new images and updates, and brings them
into  the  virtual  world  of Google Earth. Each location features multiple
satellite images which are overlaid directly on Google Earth.


Most  of  the  locations  feature  imagery from almost thirty-five years of
global  coverage  produced  by the Landsat programme. Using this invaluable
record of our planet’s recent past, UNEP: Atlas of our Changing Environment
documents hotspots of environmental change around the world.


The  project  coordinator,  Ashbindu  Singh,  of  UNEP's  Division of Early
Warning and Assessment said: "Google Earth technology already allows a more
informative  and  accessible  means  of  delivering  information  about our
changing environment. By keeping pace with the changing world of technology
and  media,  UNEP helps the environmental community keep pace with the real
changes in our real world."


Google  Earth  enables  users  to  put  each image into a rich geographical
context.  At  Lake  Kivu,  Uganda, an active volcano threatens to release a
lethal  cloud  of  carbon dioxide from the lake. The user can zoom into the
city  of  Goma,  caught between the volcano and the lake, and view the high
resolution images showing its houses, roads and parks.


Lake  Chad,  a  great  shallow lake in West Africa which was once the sixth
largest  in  the  world,  shrunk  to  a wetland one tenth its original size
between 1963 and 2001. The user can follow the rivers that feed it to their
sources,  which no longer provide enough water to maintain the lake. Google
Earth  shows  the  countries  and cities affected by the lake’s decline and
offers  the ability to search the internet for additional information about
Lake Chad.


In  the  Trang  Estuary along Thailand’s western shoreline, an explosion in
shrimp  farming  can be seen cutting into the disappearing mangrove forests
between  January  1990  and  October 2001. Jumping 500 km to the south, the
user can see more mangrove forest being lost to agricultural conversion and
urban  expansion,  as  the  population  surrounding Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,
spreads  from  40  km  inland in January 1974, west to the coastal mangrove
forests in January 2005.


'Flying' 2,500 km north across Southeast Asia, China’s economic powerhouse,
Shenzhen,  can  be  seen growing from a small city in the coastal forest in
October 1979 to a sprawling industrial city with a population approaching 5
million  in  the  greater metropolitan area by September 2004. Spinning the
globe  around  to  North  America, enormous open pit mines in the Athabasca
region  of  Alberta, Canada, can be seen where vast low-quality reserves of
oil are being extracted from 'oil sands'.


Some  of the new images featured on UNEP: Atlas of our Changing Environment
on Google Earth:


Kantang, Thailand


Two satellite images from 31 January 1990 and 22 October 2001 show mangrove
forests  in  the  Trang  River  estuary  in Thailand that are being rapidly
converted for aquaculture.


The  mangroves  are  under  threat  from  upstream discharge of wastewater,
industrial   facilities   and   unsustainable   aquaculture   practices   –
particularly  commercial shrimp farming. From 1975 to 1993, it is estimated
that  about  half of Thailand's mangroves along its 2,560 km coastline were
lost.  The  larger  area  of  the Had Chao Mai Marine National Park, the Ta
Libong  Island  Non-Hunting  Area  and  the  Trang River Estuaries has been
designated  a  Ramsar  Wetland  Site  and  supports  over  200 bird species
including  many  'critically  endangered',  'endangered',  'vulnerable' and
'threatened' species.


Mangrove  ecosystems  are  the interface between the marine and terrestrial
ecosystems  and  provide  important services to both. The fallen leaves and
branches  contribute  important nutrients, making healthy nursery areas for
the breeding of many marine species and in turn creating healthy fisheries.
They are also prime habitat for migratory birds, amphibians and terrestrial
species.


The  international  market  for  shrimp  will  likely continue to drive the
development  of  commercial  shrimp  farming.  Protection  of areas such as
Kantang  will  become  increasingly  important  to preserving the dwindling
areas of viable mangrove forest throughout the tropics.


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


With  a population over 1.4 million (and approximately twice that number in
the  greater  metropolitan  area),  Kuala  Lumpur  is  the  largest city in
Malaysia  and  is  growing  rapidly.  Its  sprawl is now encroaching on the
mangrove  forests  at the coastline (approximately 35 km to the west of the
city centre).


Landsat  satellite images from 1974 through 2005 show the gradual spread of
development  and  the  loss  of mangrove forest that has resulted. By 1975,
many areas of mangrove had already been converted to agriculture. As thirty
years  passed,  the  agricultural  areas  expanded  and more mangroves were
converted  to  farms.  At  the  same time, the images show the agricultural
areas being converted to industrial and urban land use. Elsewhere along the
Malaysian  coastline,  mangroves  are rapidly being converted to commercial
shrimp  farms. Forestry Department statistics show that peninsular Malaysia
had 85,800 hectares (214,500 acres) of mangrove swamp forests in 2003, down
from 86,497 hectares just one year earlier.


Mangrove  forests are biologically diverse and highly productive ecosystems
that  offer  valuable  habitats  to  a  wide  variety  of  both  marine and
terrestrial species. They are being lost at an alarming rate throughout the
tropics.  Protection of these areas may be needed to ensure the survival of
this valuable natural resource.


Shenzhen, China


The city of Shenzhen is located just across from Hong Kong and southeast of
the  Zhujian  (Pearl)  River  Delta  Region in China. The city has been the
focus  of intense urbanization, known as the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone
(SSEZ).  Comparison  of  satellite  images shows the dramatic change in the
landscape  from  1979  to  2004,  as  thousands  of high-rise buildings and
factories have replaced earlier agricultural and vegetated areas.


It  is  estimated that over the next quarter-century, almost all population
growth  will  occur  in  cities, most of it in less developed countries. By
2030,  more  than  60 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban
areas.  Already,  one of every three urban dwellers lives in a slum. And in
too   many  of  the  world’s  expanding  towns  and  cities,  environmental
safeguards are few and planning is haphazard.


The environmental consequences of urban growth are considerable. Cities are
prolific  users  of natural resources and generators of waste. They produce
most  of  the greenhouse gases that are causing global climate change. They
often  degrade  local  water  quality, deplete aquifers, pollute the marine
environment,  foul  the  air  and  consume  the  land,  thereby devastating
biological diversity.


Athabasca Oil Sands, Alberta, Canada


Vast  reserves  of  low  quality oil underlie the boreal forest surrounding
Fort  McMurray  in  northern Alberta, Canada, in the form of 'Athabasca oil
sands'.  While these reserves have been known since the early 20th century,
the  high  cost of extracting usable oil from these 'oil sands' has limited
the  development  of a viable oil sands mining industry. In 2003 the rising
cost  of  crude  oil  led  to Canada reevaluating the oil sands as a viable
resource.


Canada's  National  Energy  Board  predicts $125 billion in investments for
creation  and  expansion  of oil sands mining in the Athabasca area between
2006  and  2015  which will take production to around 3 million barrels per
day.  Local  people  including the Native American population are concerned
that  exploitation  will  come  at too great a cost to the environment. The
government  of  Alberta  plans  to propose a surface mining area of 280,000
hectares, an area approximately four times the size of the City of Calgary.


In  1967  The  Great  Canadian  Oil Sands Company began construction at its
Mildred  Lake  site.  In  1974 they were joined by the Syncrude Corporation
which  began  construction  of  a  mine in the same area. By early 2006 the
mining  operations  had  expanded  to cover an area roughly 30 km by 20 km.
Syncrude  operates  a  second  mine, the Aurora, approximately 30 km to the
north of Mildred Lake.


Manaus, Brazil


Manaus,  the capital of the state of Amazonia, is located on the north bank
of the River Negro at its confluence with the Solimoes River, which extends
eastward as the Amazon River. The population of Manaus grew by more that 65
per  cent  between  1993  and  2003  to  its current population of over 1.5
million.


Two  Landsat  images document the conversion of forest areas due to logging
and  urbanization between 1987 and 2001. In addition to the urban expansion
evident  in  the  area  surrounding  the  city,  increased logging and road
construction can be observed in the 2001 image.


About  15  km  from  Manaus,  Rio Negro (Black River) meets Rio Solimoes to
create  an amazing confluence of the brownish white water from the Saliomes
joining  the black water (caused by the very high acidity from tannin) from
the Rio Negro.


Notes to Editors:


One  Planet  Many  People:  Atlas of Our Changing Environment and African's
Lakes:  Atlas  of  Our  Changing  Environment  are  available  to  view  on
http://www.unep.org               or               directly              on
http://www.na.unep.net/OnePlanetManyPeople/index.php                    and
http://na.unep.net/AfricaLakes/


Both are available to purchase from UNEP's online bookstore earthprint.com


More  Information  Please  Contact Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, on Tel:
+254 20 7623084 or E-mail: [log in to unmask]


Ashbindu  Singh,  Regional  Coordinator  North  America,  Division of Early
Warning and Assessment, on Tel: +1 202 785 0465, E-mail: [log in to unmask]


Or  Elisabeth  Waechter,  Associate Media Officer, on Tel: +254 20 7623088,
E-mail: [log in to unmask]


Google and Google Earth are trademarks of Google Inc.


Google Contact:


Megan Quinn


650.253.4944


[log in to unmask]
                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                 
 Beth Ingraham                      (Embedded image moved to     
 Information Officer                file: pic07916.gif)          
 Head, Assessment Documentation                                  
 Unit                                                            
 Division of Early Warning and                                   
 Assessment                                                      
 United Nations Environment                                      
 Programme                                                       
                                                                 
 P.O. Box 30552                                                  
 Nairobi, 00100, Kenya                                           
 Tel: (254-20) 7624299 (+3hr GMT)                                
 Fax: (254-20) 7624269                                           
 Email: [log in to unmask]                                   
 Web: www.unep.org                                               
                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                 

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