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When the bees are gone.

Pesticide use, habitat loss, diseases, parasites and global warming are plunging the honeybee population into decline, so much so that fruit farmers in China and elsewhere are doing the work of bees. Why? Because you have a bee to thank for every one in three bites of food you ingest.

© Shutterstock

Nilo plays with a broken cell phone he found in the canal in Manila. © Paul Ratje

In many developing countries, children grow up in potentially life-threatening environmental conditions – in squalor, surrounded by rampant pollution such as trash, toxic water and polluted air. These pictures – from “Happyland” in Manila, where families salvage waste for a living – present a clear picture of the health hazards posed by these conditions.

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Gold mining has sparked a clash between illegal diggers, artisanal mining associations and large multinationals. © Zigor Aldama and Miguel Candela

One countermeasure to mitigate disasters in tsunami-prone Japan is to monitor ocean waves far offshore. In a buoy equipped with GPS (Global Positioning System), antennas are fixed on top of a buoy that is floating at the sea surface, to continuously monitor changes in sea surface height. A simple filtering technique can then distinguish tsunamis from higher frequency wind waves or lower frequency changes due to astronomical tides.

Japan’s current wave-monitoring network is called the Nationwide Ocean Wave information network for Ports and Harbours (NOWPHAS). During the March 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake off northeast Japan, the Japan Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami alert within three minutes of the onset of earthquake, based on seismological data only. This alert indicated a wave height of more than six metres, which was a significant underestimation. However, after the NOWPHAS system detected the tsunami, the alert was revised to a height of more than 10 metres. The tsunami arrived at the coast several minutes after the revision of the alert.
 
Although the data from the wave-monitoring network were valuable, the lead time it provided was insufficient. The limitation arises because the system requires that a GPS base station is established on land and baseline analysis is used to determine the location of a GPS buoy relative to the land base station. This technique limits the distance of the GPS buoys to at most 20 kilometres from the coast, as the positioning accuracy degrades greatly at further distances.
 
To overcome this limitation, we have recently improved the system and introduced a new technology called Precise Point Positioning, which does not require a land base. The position of the GPS buoys can be estimated in a stand-alone manner with an accuracy of a few centimetres. Implementation of this new system will allow us to deploy GPS buoys at much farther distances, providing earlier and more-accurate alerts.
 

Check out Asian Geographic's Climate Change Issue 1/2016

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Article Professor Kato Teruyuki

TERUYUKI KATO is Professor of Geodesy and Solid Geophsics at the Earthquake Research Institute of the University of Tokyo. His current interest is crustal deformation and tsunami monitoring using GNSS (GPS).

 


ca. 1980s-1990s --- Fishermen fish with a net in the Strait of Malacca.

Long before the sun peeks over the horizon, artisanal fishermen across Malaysia's Johor Strait gather at their respective jetties and beaches. As they set their nets and lines, check their engines and look up for an indication of the weather, they hope that the day's catch will be a good one. 

Some are fortunate enough to be able to fish just off their shores - others burn fuel travelling hours away in their small boats to find a spot that still has fish. Sometimes this even entails sneaking across national borders, risking capture by marine police and violent encounters with human smugglers.

Indigenous Way of Life 

In the southwest of Malaysia, the artisanal Malay fishermen of Mukim Tanjung Kupang ply the narrow straits between Singapore and Malaysia in the Pendas and Pulai River estuaries. These fishermen are used to inshore fishing, never straying far from coastal mangroves and seagrass areas. But over the last few decades, the winds have changed, the weather is erratic and even water patterns are strange. 

The winds bring alternatively extremely hot then much cooler air, sometimes bringing them an unexpected shrimp bounty, other times, their nets coming up empty. The generation-old tricks of the trade do not seem to ensure a catch. Monsoon seasons have completely turned on their heads and the only way to guarantee an income when cash is of essence is to travel further out and risk life in border areas.

The Orang Seletar, the original indigenous people of this area, are still dependent on the seas as a source of food and livelihoods. Ten years ago they would hardly ever be found venturing beyond the mouth of the river - their boats and engines are too small to go far.

By Serina Rahman

Read more in ASIAN Geographic No.117 Issue 2, 2016.

 


Farmer Dilli Ram Regmi stands beside the 4.5kW solar array that harnesses the sun's energy to pump water for drinking and mushroom farming in his community in rural Sirubari, Nepal.

At a magnitude of 7.8 that hit on 25 April, then 6.3 on 12 May - just two weeks apart from each other - the disastrous impact left close to 9,000 people killed and tens of thousands injured. A further  850,000 homes were damaged and over 2.5 million of the population were left without homes. This inevitably meant that healthcare and education facilities were left in tatters, with local agriculture suffering from lack of power to operate water pumps and irrigate crops. As the country continues to struggle with the effects of the natural disasters, climate change and political instability, renewable energy is providing both light and hope for a nation of people renowned for their resilience. 

Over 80% of Nepal's population live in rural mountainous regions that lack access to electricity, and it is this lack that remains one of the biggest barriers to the country's economic development. Kerosene lamps are currently the only reliable source of light, leading many businesses to run privately-owned diesel generators for backup. Still, they suffer from increasing fuel costs, frequent shortages and pollution from fumes and noise. 

In the post-earthquake situation, these businesses have been forced to shut down and are actively seeking out clean, reliable and alternative energy solutions. Solar, therefore, has become a very feasible and viable answer to power Nepal and provide a path towards energy independence.

By Kristin Lau

Read more in ASIAN Geographic No. 117 Issue 2, 2016.

 
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