Ocean Action Hub

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Solving Freetown's Waste Problem
23 Aug 2018 - Bashiru Brima makes bags, mats and hats out of plastic refuse, while teaching his community in Sierre Leone to reclaim waste.
23 Aug 2018 - Bashiru Brima, 21, is not your regular tailor. Living in the slum community of Cockle Bay, in Sierra Leone's capital city, he has been fashioning bags, mats and hats out of plastic refuse, while educating his fellow villagers to reclaim waste rather than let it pile up.

Plastic waste is a major problem in the slums bordering Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital city. Water sachets (commonly used as drinking containers in the country), empty bottles and jerrycans litter the streets and clog up drains, causing flooding in disaster-prone areas.

Sierra Leone is among the top most vulnerable countries to climate change, and with an average rainfall of 3,600 litres (the equivalent of about 18 bathtubs) per square metre per year, flooding affects the country on a recurrent basis.

The devastating flash flooding and landslide that killed thousands in Freetown in August 2017 illustrates how the accumulation of plastics in drainage systems, compounded by poor city planning, exacerbates the problem. Last year’s flooding displaced 5,000 slum dwellers in Freetown alone and caused significant financial losses.

Plastic waste also poses public health issues, as blocked drainage causes water to stagnate and mosquitoes to breed in a region where malaria is endemic. In times of floods, water contaminated by mud and waste is washed into open drinking water wells and can lead to disease.


There is no waste transfer center in Freetown, nowhere to sort garbage and separate what can be used for compost or recycling.

It costs 2,000 Leones to dispose of a rice bag of garbage, says UNDP’s Thorsten Kallnischkies, Geologist and Waste Management Expert.

Kallnischkies, who has worked on almost 200 dumpsites around the world, says recycling and removing garbage from the cities' overflowing drains saves people's money, while also tackling youth unemployment.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://stories.undp.org/solving-freetowns-waste-problem

PHOTO © Lilah Gaafar

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Here's How Your Contact Lenses May Be Polluting the Ocean

20 Aug 2018 - New research suggests that millions of contact lenses may be ending up in U.S. water supplies each year, contributing to ocean pollution.

20 Aug 2018 - New research suggests that millions of contact lenses may be ending up in U.S. water supplies each year, contributing to ocean pollution.

“If you think of plastic pollution, contact lenses are not the first thing that come to mind,” says Rolf Halden, director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering at Arizona State University. But given the estimated 45 million wearers of contact lenses in the U.S. alone, Halden and postdoctoral student Charlie Rolsky got to thinking: how many millions of people are disposing of these plastics improperly?

The two conducted a survey of about 400 contact wearers and found that roughly 15 to 20% had flushed contacts down a toilet or sink drain at some point. That result suggests that a significant number of lenses are ending up in waste-water treatment plants — a conclusion they confirmed after visiting treatment plants and spying lenses in the water. The results were presented Sunday at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Boston.

“We were concerned with what happens to those contact lenses once they’re exposed to the processes in the waste water treatment plant,” Rolsky says.

After analyzing various stages of the process, they found that lenses degraded somewhat during waste-water treatment but did not break down entirely, meaning that small fragments of plastic are being flushed out into the water supplies, potentially endangering marine life.

“From past studies, we know that microplastics are able to absorb contaminants at a much higher level than what’s found in the surrounding environment,” Rolsky says. “That presents threats to that particular organism and anything that feeds on it” — including humans, further up the food chain.

It’s important to keep the findings in perspective; Halden points out that contacts make up a “very, very small fraction” of the plastics that ultimately wind up in the ocean, and serve a far more useful purpose than “frivolous” plastics like single-use bags and straws. Still, the researchers say contact users should be diligent about disposing of their lenses properly, and that manufacturers should make it easier to recycle their products.

“If you use them, just make sure you put them into the solid waste, and not have them enter the sink or toilet,” Halden says. “There’s a lot of plastic still going from our population into the environment, into the ocean, and it ultimately comes back to us and can harm us. Everyone should have an incentive to avoid plastic pollution.”

CONTINUE READING: http://time.com/5369835/contact-lens-ocean-pollution/

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Why sea level rise varies from place to place

15 Aug 2018 - Multiple, overlapping factors can mean big differences in flood risk.

15 Aug 2018 - In the 20th century, ocean levels rose by a global average of about 14 centimeters, mainly due to melting ice and warming waters. Some coastal areas saw more sea level rise than others. Here’s why: 

Expanding seawater

As water heats up, its molecules take up more space, contributing to global sea level rise. Local weather systems can influence that effect. In 2017 scientists reported in Geophysical Research Letters that weakening monsoon winds have resulted in hotter surface ocean temperatures in the northern Indian Ocean, causing local sea level rise. Those weaker winds curtailed ocean circulation that normally brings cooler water up from the deep. Surface waters in the Arabian Sea, for example, got warmer than usual and expanded, raising sea levels near the island nation of Maldives at a slightly faster rate than the global average.

Glacial rebound

Heavy ice sheets covered much of the Northern Hemisphere about 20,000 years ago. Regions once compressed beneath the weight of all that ice, such as the northeastern United States, have been slowly rebounding. In those areas, sea levels appear to be rising more slowly, because the land is rising as well.

But regions that once lay at the edges of the ice sheets, such as the Chesapeake Bay region, are now sinking as part of that ongoing postglacial shift. That’s because the weight of the ice squeezed some underlying rock in the mantle and caused the surface of the land to bulge, much like the bulging of a water bed when a person sits on it. Now, with the ice gone, the bulge is sinking — accelerating the impacts of sea level rise on the communities that sit atop it.

Sinking land

Tectonic activity such as the 2004 magnitude-9.1 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake (SN: 8/27/05, p. 136may tilt the land and alter relative sea level rise, as it did in the Gulf of Thailand. And human activities, such as extracting groundwater or fossil fuels, can also cause land to sink.

Earth's rotation

The planet’s rotation deflects fluids in motion, causing ocean water to swirl counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. As water moves around coastlines, this Coriolis effect can cause bulges of higher water in some areas and troughs in others. Output from rivers can exacerbate this effect, scientists reported in the July 24 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As rivers flow into the ocean, the water gets pushed by the swirling currents to one side, causing water levels to rise higher there than on the side behind the current.

Melting ice sheets

Massive glaciers exert a gravitational pull on nearby coastal waters and cause them to rise higher than they otherwise would. When glaciers melt, their mass redistributes, weakening their gravitational pull and causing the nearby water levels to drop. The melting ice in Antarctica, for example, causes more sea level rise on faraway New York than on the closer beaches of Sydney, scientists reported in 2017 in Science Advances.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/why-sea-level-rise-varies-place-place

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We are all “sailing the waves on our own” now

10 Aug 2018 - Indigenous peoples disproportionately face the brunt of climate change, which is fast becoming a leading driver of human displacement.

10 Aug 2018 - The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples this year has a focus on migration and displacement. Indigenous peoples, who comprise less than 5 percent of the world’s population, have the world’s smallest carbon footprint, and are the least responsible for our climate crisis. Yet because their livelihoods and wellbeing are intimately bound with intact ecosystems, indigenous peoples disproportionately face the brunt of climate change, which is fast becoming a leading driver of human displacement.

In Papua New Guinea, for example, residents of the Carteret Islands – some of the most densely populated islands in the country – have felt the effects of climate change intensify over recent years. With a high point on their islands of just 1.2 metres above sea level, every community member is now at risk from sea level rise and storm surges. Moreover, the community depends almost entirely on fishing for their food and livelihoods, but the health of sea grass beds and coral reefs has gradually deteriorated from warming waters and coral bleaching.

The residents of these islands faced a stark choice – to be passive victims of an uncertain government resettlement programme, or to take matters into their own hands. They chose the latter. In 2005, elders formed a community-led non-profit, called Tulele Peisa, to chart their own climate course. In the Halia language, the name means “Sailing the Waves on Our Own,” an apt metaphor for how the community is navigating rising sea levels. In 2014, the initiative won the prestigious, UNDP-led Equator Prize, in recognition for its ingenuity, foresight and proactive approach in facing the challenges of climate change, while keeping their cultural traditions intact.

Earlier this month, Jeffrey Sachs published an article entitled “We Are All Climate Refugees Now,” in which he attributed the main cause of climate inaction to the willful ignorance of political institutions and corporations toward the grave dangers of climate change, imperilling future life on Earth. 2018 will likely be among the hottest years humanity has ever recorded. Yet a slew of recent articles highlight that we are not on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. We have not shown the collective leadership required to tackle this existential crisis.

Carteret Islanders have been broadly recognized as the world’s first climate refugees, but they are not alone. Arctic indigenous communities are already facing the same plight, as are their regional neighbours from the island nation of Kiribati. According to the World Bank, their plight will likely be replicated around the world, with as many as 140 million people worldwide being displaced by climate change within the next 30 years or so.

But the Carteret Island leaders are more than just climate refugees. They have done something precious few political leaders have done to date – they recognized the warning signs of climate change as real and inevitable, they took stock of their options, and they charted a proactive, realistic course for their own future that promised the most good for the most people. Therefore, they could also be called the world’s first true climate leaders.

Let’s hope that our world’s politicians and CEOs have the wisdom, foresight and fortitude of the elders of Carteret Islanders. Because like it or not, we will all be sailing the climate waves on our own, with or without a rudder and a plan.

CONTINUE READING: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2018/We_are_all_sailing_th...

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1 Aug 2018 - The GEF Humboldt project, implemented by the Government of Peru with UNDP support, promotes sustainable management of our ocean using an ecosystem management approach.

With this objective, its interventions range from reform of public policies, through to pilot projects to strengthen capacity and eliminate wasteful practices. One such pilot is currently generating a virtuous cycle in Pisco, to the south of Lima, through the promotion of fishing company certification in accordance with international standards for sustainable marine resource management.

One of these companies—aiming to become the first exporter of certified anchovy to the European market—assigns the initial processing phase to small female-headed businesses. This is generating a positive indirect effect on the local economy.

Understanding our ocean´s richness means also understanding its social impact: the fishing industry employs 250 thousand people along the Peruvian coast, the majority of whom are women. The activity of Ruth Jurado’s small business―which provides employment to some seventy women—coincides perfectly with Sustainable Development Goal 5, which aims for the full and effective participation by women, and equality of opportunity for leadership at all decision-making levels in political, economic, and public life.

“We have young women, many of them mothers, who support themselves with the income they earn here. But we also have older women who would not find work elsewhere”, says Jurado, whose plant is located on a large site and has been constructed in accordance with the strict rules of the target market for this product—the European Union. In other words, cleanliness and order are fundamental aspects of the daily work.

Advantages of working in the processing plant include the fact that the labor is not heavy and that income is linked to productivity. The hours are another advantage: work begins early and finishes before lunchtime. This enables the women to look after their children when school finishes.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://pnudperu.exposure.co/women-of-the-sea

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Timor-Leste a mecca for whales, but they face threats - The Guardian
31 Jul 2018 - Managed properly, whale tourism could generate significant income for Timor-Leste, one of the world’s youngest – and poorest – nations.

31 Jul 2018 - THE GUARDIAN, UK - Olive Andrews believes Timor Leste could be one of the best destinations in the world for whale watching. The research scientist with a particular interest in cetaceans drew this conclusion when she joined a survey team assessing the coastal waters north of Timor-Leste in October 2016. “I’ve never seen such a biomass of cetaceans in such a small geography,” she says. “We encountered 2287 cetaceans from 11 species, including superpods of up to 600 individuals.”

There are 90 distinct species of cetacean – and at least 30 of them occur in Timor-Leste. These include both local populations like melon-headed whales and spinner dolphins, and migratory species such as humpbacks and pygmy blue whales. Managed properly, whale tourism could generate significant income for Timor-Leste, one of the world’s youngest – and poorest – nations.

Globally, whale watching is booming. According to Andrews whale tourism contributes around US$30m a year to the Pacific Islands group. Without it, countries like Tonga – famed for the humpbacks that congregate there to mate and nurse – could revert to whaling, which was practiced there on a small scale until as late as 1978.

It’s not just the quantity and diversity of whales in its territorial waters that make Timor-Leste so unique; it’s their proximity to the land. Geologically, Timor-Leste and its much smaller sister island Atauro are distinguished by the fact that neither was ever attached to a landmass – they were pushed above the ocean’s surface by tectonic activity. As a result, their reefs rarely stretch beyond 250 metres from shore before plunging to much greater depths. 

“Pygmy blue whales heading south towards Australia will hang out at a 200m depth contour right off the north coast of Timor; you can literally see them from the beach,” says Andrews.

This is because Timor-Leste lies in the middle of the Indonesian throughflow, where the waters of the Indian and Pacific Ocean collide, causing upwellings of nutrient-rich deep ocean water. The resulting mini-ecosystem is abundant in squid, making it an ideal feeding ground for whales. 

But the local whale population faces a number of threats. Timor-Leste is seeking to establish itself both politically and economically following a decades-long conflict with its former coloniser Indonesia, which only came to an end in 2002. Illegal fishing from neighbouring countries is rife and the tiny nation doesn’t yet have the resources to prevent it. Besides a single patrol boat there is no monitoring system to identify shipping in its territorial waters. Whales are getting tangled in vast ghost nets that drift all the way down to the Australian coast. According to Andrews, these intruders aren’t just artisanal fishers, but entire fishing fleets.

Timor-Leste’s ability to enforce fisheries legislation is questionable too. In September last year, ocean activists Sea Shepherd alerted Timor-Leste police to a Chinese fishing fleet illegally catching thousands of sharks. But Australia’s ABC News reported last month that after a nine-month investigation, the fleet had paid a one-off fine of $100,000 to go free, allegedly with its catch – estimated to be worth millions of dollars – intact. 

Resource extraction and infrastructure projects also present challenges. French company Bolloré Group has entered a public-private partnership to build a US$490m deep-water port west of the capital Dili. While an environmental impact assessment has been carried out, environmental NGO Conservation International has concerns about increases in shipping traffic and the dumping of dredged materials in whale feeding grounds. 

CONTINUE READING HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2018/jul/31/timor-leste-a-mecca-for-whales-but-they-face-threats

Photograph: Grant Abel/Conservation International

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One man's quest to lead his village in Papua New Guinea to adapt to climate change
26 Jul 2018 - On World Mangrove Day, meet Alfred, an environmental activist whose team restored a mangrove forest by replanting 60,300 seedlings.

26 Jul 2018 - Alfred Masul is a conservation evangelist in his community located on the remote northern coast of Papua New Guinea. Well known for leading the charge in environmental rehabilitation, Alfred is restoring an ecosystem and promoting a sustainable path for his family and his community.

In Numuru Village, where Alfred is elder of the clan made up of his siblings, cousins, and children, dwellings are arrayed along their 3km of coastline.

After a bad flood about 10 years ago that caused massive damage and required the community to move further inland, Alfred started planting mangroves.

Working in the nearby secondary school, Alfred was a teacher’s aide and oversaw science exams. Sensitised to conservation, Alfred wanted to stop the excessive cutting of mangroves and work to rehabilitate their terrestrial and marine environments. Alfred believes:

‘The future is on your head’.


Alfred’s village is in Madang province, known for some of the highest mountain ranges in PNG, with correspondingly large valleys, coastal strips, volcanic islands, and atolls. In Numuru, the main crops are betel nut, copra, cocoa, and subsistence staples like sweet potato.

Many villagers are fishermen, which provides food and income.

The main climate change effects experienced in the area are inland flooding and coastal erosion. In 2015, a prolonged drought destroyed food gardens, in turn increasing dependence on rapidly depleting fish stocks.

In addition to overfishing pressures, and in a changing climate, warmer water = less dissolved oxygen; less dissolved oxygen = smaller fish.

CONTINUE READING HERE: https://undp-adaptation.exposure.co/no-ordinary-man

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Meet the woman creating jobs in Mongolia to beat plastic pollution

25 Jul 2018 - Ulzii and other women living nearby support themselves by making brooms and household furniture such as chairs and sofas from plastic litter that they collect in the streets.

25 Jul 2018 - As we roamed through the “ger district” in Yaarmag, I noticed the unusual cleanliness of the area, compared to other similar districts we know near Ulaanbaatar. The usual scenes of vodka bottles, cigarette butts, soiled diapers, plastic bottles and aluminum cans are nowhere to be seen here.

The sprawling residential area consists of parcels of land with one or more detached houses or gers — Mongolian traditional dwelling known as yurts in some countries, surrounded by two-metre high wooden fences.

“We might have cleaned the streets off as we pick the plastic bottles up for our projects,” laughs 56-year-old Ulziisaikhan as she welcomes us outside her home.

Ulzii and other women living nearby support themselves by making brooms and household furniture such as chairs and sofas from plastic litter that they collect in the streets.

“When you are young and able, being unemployed is not the end of the world. You know that you will figure it out somehow. But when you are in your 50s and unemployed, that is pretty much it. No one will want to hire you at this age,” Ulzii says.

As we enter the small ger, we find a group of four women including Ulzii, absorbed in their work. This ger serves as their production plant. Plastic bottles, their main supplies, are stacked up on the left side of the ger. Bottles are washed here and labels are removed to make the raw materials for the sofas and chairs. Ulzii and her friends try to collect the plastic bottles in the streets themselves, but nowadays people also bring them the supplies, charging a fair price.

Of the 1.5 million tonnes of garbage that is produced annually in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, only 24 percent is recycled. The number is even smaller when it comes to recycling the 69,000 tonnes of the plastic garbage the city produces annually.

Up until January of 2018, the city used to ship 20,000 tonnes of plastics to China for recycling every year. But this is banned now from China’s side as part of their new regulation. Without a proper recycling facility and a landfill, Mongolia is unsure where to keep the plastic recyclables or what to do with them.

Social entrepreneurs like Ulzii and her friends aren’t waiting around for an official plan. They participated in a training offered by UNDP Mongolia back in 2014 that aimed to improve the livelihoods of rural Mongolians who migrated to the city after losing their livestock in the countryside due to a particularly harsh winter.

“With the support from the UNDP Innovation Facility, we wanted to give them the opportunity to create jobs whilst addressing a common environmental issue in Mongolia — littering,” explains Galaariidii Galindev, coordinator of the “Turning Garbage into Gold” project.

Ulzii and her friends received a start-up kit with basic equipment to set up their businesses. In addition to the in-class training that included workshops on writing a project proposal and designing a business model, the group also received mattresses, linings and other necessary supplies and tools for an immediate start of production.

Over the course of several months, the UNDP Mongolia team followed up with the entrepreneurs to assess the impact and sustainability of their activities, and to help them improve with a view towards becoming independent. Ulzii and her team succeeded and now receive frequent orders, including a recent order of 24 chairs and a conference table from one of Mongolia’s major companies. Trained to create simple designs initially, the hardworking women have since begun developing new designs based on their imaginations and the clients’ demand.

They not only built a business for themselves but also helped set up another group in the neighbourhood made up entirely of people with disabilities.

“Involving people with disabilities is a great example of social inclusion and we did not expect this much of social responsibility coming from a tiny project unit,” Galaariidii says.

In Mongolia, 80 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed. Often marginalized, they face strong stigma from potential employers. Although there is a legal provision encouraging companies to hire people with disabilities, most companies choose to pay a monetary fine.

The broader picture

UNDP Mongolia has been actively promoting the reduce, reuse, recycle principle for years. Ulzii’s story is one of our earliest examples in the global fight against plastic pollution, but the determination has revived this year with our latest campaign #NoPlasticChallenge, which started in March.

Throughout the campaign, some 25 organizations including the US Embassy, local start-ups, banks and coffee shop chains joined the challenge to raise awareness about our excessive use of plastics and the means for reducing it. Hundreds of thousands of Mongolians were engaged online through social media campaigns.

Inspired by the online success, the organizations conducted an eco-bag workshop and trainings on ways to reduce single-use plastics. Coffee shops introduced discounts for customers who brought their own mugs, and we’re already seeing an increase in the number of people who carry reusable grocery bags to their local shops.

Mongolia seems to realize that reducing and reusing are the only ways to beat plastic pollution in the absence of recycling for the time being.

CONTINUE READING: https://medium.com/@UNDP/meet-the-woman-creating-jobs-in-mongolia-to-bea...

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Fish for dinner? See how #blockchain is used to ensure sustainable fisheries.
20 Jul 2018 - Blockchain is one of many ways innovation and technology is being harnessed for social good.

20 Jul 2018 - Blockchain is one of many ways innovation and technology is being harnessed for social good.

As is usually the case with disruptive new technology, blockchain comes with a lot of hype. While its best-known application, bitcoin, divides opinion and makes banks and governments nervous, the technology may have great potential to advance social good.

Serving the underserved
Fintech companies across the globe are using blockchain to improve financial systems and redefine how businesses and individuals make payments. Coins.ph operates out of the Philippines, where transferring money electronically is very popular but can be expensive. The company built a mobile app that runs on blockchain technology and allows cheaper, quicker and more direct fund transfers for those with limited access to formal banking. Users can open an account simply by inputting a phone number and digitally verifying their identity. Transactions are settled instantaneously and at a fraction of the fees charged by traditional banks. This translates into increased disposable income, better resilience to economic shocks, and wider participation of the most vulnerable populations in the financial system.

Like Coins.ph in the Philippines, Kenya’s BitPesa, Mexico’s Bitso, India’s Unocoin and others are using blockchain to expedite cross-border payments, establish new types of digital wallets and allow peer-to-peer payments with digital currencies for previously unconnected people and markets.

As both a database and infrastructure that enables the secure transfer and recording of assets independently of central banks, blockchain is believed to be the most decentralized and secure digital protocol to date, and its market is expected to grow to at least US$2.3 billion by 2021. It’s catching people’s attention across all sectors, and “inclusive business” – for-profit ventures that engage low-income populations as customers or owners – is no exception.

As well as making financial products more inclusive, blockchain is giving people digital identities and revolutionizing personal data management. This is most profound for millions of individuals with no formal economic identity, as well as refugees.

BanQu, a start-up from the United States, is using blockchain technology to create secure and verified IDs for the world’s most vulnerable populations. Through the BanQu app that runs on any mobile phone, an individual can build his or her online profile through facial and voice recognition and start tracking everything from educational qualifications to transaction history. Over time, users build up a financial ID, eventually being able to open bank accounts, own property and access healthcare and other basic services.

Supply chains

Another sector where blockchain has particularly far-reaching potential is global supply chains. With its unique capacity to transfer, record and monitor assets in a virtual space at a low cost, blockchain is well suited to respond to the challenges of supply chains, such as:

  • Evening the playing field. It seamlessly integrates all supply chain players into one system and serves as a single electronic house for an infinite amount of documentation. As traditional costs and barriers to enter are eliminated, even the smallest producers and suppliers have equal footing.
  • Responsible sourcing. It provides a platform for transparent procurement in which every market participant can verify sourcing and compliance in line with existing regulations and good environmental, social and governance standards.

Provenance, a London-based startup, has successfully tested blockchain technology on the Indonesian tuna supply chain (one of the most controversial in the world). Fishermen sent an SMS after every catch giving it a digital identity at the point of origin. A digital ID code enabled tracking at every step of the journey, with new information added along the way, until the fish reached Japanese restaurants. Scaled further, the revolutionary technology can verify ethical claims and help enforce labour and environmental standards in the private sector.

Smart and efficient. Blockchain’s use of smart contracts eliminates fraud, avoids intermediaries, and saves costs and time. It enables users to carry out all contract conditions and functions automatically, as programmed. For example, it could guarantee the delivery of a certain good or service only once the payment is received. If there is a delay, the smart contract will prompt a response. For the most vulnerable supply chain actors, this is revolutionary, because such contracts prevent tampering and help ensure fair treatment.

Blockchain technology can contribute to the achievement of the 17 Global Goals for sustainable development – to end poverty, protect the planet and empower women and men by 2030 – in line with the aims of inclusive businesses. Furthermore, its integration in global supply chains is directly linked to responsible consumption and production, innovation and the elimination of hunger. The application of blockchain technology is expected to inch into areas not previously thought possible – from the digitization of governments’ key functions to transforming healthcare by reducing barriers to accessing services for the underserved.

CONTINUE READING HERE: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2018/realizing-the-potential-of-blockchain-for-social-impact.html

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Seas the day
11 Jul 2018 - The story of a Sri Lankan snorkeler and how her passion to protect the ocean has become her livelihood.

11 Jul 2018The story of a snorkeler and her passion to protect the ocean.

Niluka Damayanthi is up at 2.00 a.m. each day to prepare for the long day ahead. This entails cooking for her household which include her mother, husband and children, while also preparing snack boxes for the snorkelers or divers she would be accompanying for the day. As one of the two female snorkelers at the Kalpitiya Diving Centre, Niluka never imagined that she would turn her love for the ocean into her occupation.

Kalpitiya is now an attractive tourist destination in the country, with its rich marine sanctuaries and diverse range of habitats which range from bar reefs, flat coastal plains, saltpans, mangroves, swamps, salt marshes and vast sand dune beaches. These provide breeding grounds for many species of fish and crustaceans. It also is home to spinner, bottlenose and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, whales, sea turtles, and even the elusive dugong.


Becoming a diving instructor was no easy task for Niluka. Her husband Samith, who earned the license early on, encouraged her to follow her passion and was her main support system. She underwent training for swimming, underwater skills and techniques, safety rules and theoretically understanding the ocean current after which she was able to get her license. Together with Samith, she now accompanies tourist groups which consist of 6-9 persons daily during the peak tourist season which is usually from September to April each year. Foreign and local tourists are charged $85 each for the training, diving session and snack box she prepares. In recent years, there has been a steady increase in local tourists, which has helped them to create their own website and be rated on popular travel sites. She reminisces of the time when the Kalpitiya Bar Reef was a colourful and vibrant tourist attraction. Niluka describes it as “a dive into a whole new world!”

Samith, started diving and snorkeling at the age of 13, and has seen the bar reef in its heyday in all its splendor. Due to human activities such as over fishing, dynamite fishing and high speed boats, the coral reef has gradually deteriorated over the years and has lost its beauty. Now almost 24 years later, they’re working together with local authorities and UNDP to bring this natural ecosystem back to life.


In October 2015, UNDP Sri Lanka together with the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment initiated the ‘Enhancing Biodiversity Conservation and Sustenance of Ecosystem Services in Environmentally Sensitive Areas’ (ESA) project to address these issues. Though Sri Lanka has instituted a national system of Protected Areas (PAs) to safeguard its biodiversity, many of the globally important ecosystems, habitats and species continued to remain outside protected areas and face accelerated threats.

CONTINUE READING HERE: https://undpsrilanka.exposure.co/seas-the-day