Connect with us


Syrian refugees at risk as extreme weather hits Lebanon | News





Geneva, Switzerland – The lives of 70,000 Syrian refugees in makeshift camps across Lebanon are at risk as the country faces extreme weather conditions and flooding, the UN’s refugee agency has said.

A heavy storm with colder temperatures and high winds dubbed Norma by Lebanese meteorologists has already affected some 11,301 refugees in 361 different sites across Lebanon since Sunday.

“These exceptional weather conditions are making the living situation of Syrian refugees even more precarious,” said Philippe Lazzarini, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon, said on Thursday.

According to the UN, 40,000 of those at risk are children. They live across 850 sites that may be also hit by the storm in the next few days.

In the meantime UN agencies are trying to provide emergency aid to the worst affected areas. In the Beirut and Mount Lebanon region, some refugee camps have collapsed under the heavy snow, while others have been fully flooded or experienced heavy water leakages.

In these regions, UN agencies in coordination with local authorities and other NGOs are distributing core relief items, such as winter clothing, mattresses and blankets.

In the North and Akkar regions, heavy rainfalls and flash floods have affected some 1,750 refugees. Relief agencies are providing clean water and hygiene kits along with other emergency items, including food parcel distribution, to families in need.

The situation is particularly difficult in the Bekaa and Baalbek regions, which have been hit by torrential rains and heavy snowfalls. A total of 315 sites are at risk, including 117 which are being prioritised, with people in need of shelter and water.

In Arsal, refugees are running out of food and some settlements at high altitudes are particularly difficult to reach, said the UN. Refugees there are asking for fuel for heating, good quality plastic sheeting and insulation kits.

Syrian Refugees

About 1.5 million refugees are estimated to be living in Lebanon today, where one in every four inhabitants is a refugee, said the UN coordinator. The figure includes some 31,502 Palestinian refugees from Syria, 35,000 Lebanese returnees, and a pre-existing population of more than 277,985 Palestinian refugees.

Lazzarini, whose office works closely with Damascus over voluntary repatriations, said the eight-year conflict in Syria and stalemate over its political resolution meant it was difficult for most Syrian refugees to consider returning home.

“The conditions haven’t been met yet for most of the refugees to consider it safe to go back to Syria,” he said.

In 2018, between 16,000 and 17,000 refugees returned home on a voluntary basis, a slight increase compared with 2017, when 13,000 returned.

“With these figures we are far from any mass returns. If the refugees prefer to face dire living conditions rather than returning home, it means we don’t have the right conditions for them to go back,” Lazzarini said.

Syrians who are willing to return have to contact the Syrian Internal Security, which vets their requests. Once their return has been approved, the UN agency assists the refugees on their journey back, said the UN coordinator. However, many refugees still fear being arrested or persecuted upon their return home.

For its part, the Lebanese government has said that refugees will not be forcibly repatriated.

“While the integration of refugees is not an option, Lebanon has agreed to a non-refoulment policy,” Lazzarini confirmed.

Nevertheless, fearing that refugees may settle down permanently, Lebanese authorities have banned the construction of proper camps with permanent structures and services, and have imposed restrictions on the materials to be used. The refugees have ended up in precarious makeshift sites which can hardly withstand extreme weather conditions.


The high number of refugees has taken its toll on the country’s economy as well as on its social fabric, with tensions rising between local communities and the refugees.

Lazzarini said competition between the two groups over low-income jobs and the discriminatory measures adopted by some municipalities are exacerbating friction between the host community and the Syrian refugees.

The prolonged political deadlock over the formation of a new government in Lebanon is also worsening an already bleak economic outlook.

The international community has responded to the Lebanese refugee crisis with average of $1.2bn in annual funding since the crisis began in 2014. The funds have been used mainly for emergency aid and for the education of refugee children. But 75 percent of all refugees still live under the poverty line and half of these in extreme poverty.

Beirut’s Refugee Artists | Al Jazeera World


Source link

قالب وردپرس


Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic





TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

Continue Reading


Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed





On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

Continue Reading


Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon





When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

Continue Reading