Environmental Feats of the Developing World
Developing countries are often perceived poorly in terms of environmental conditions due to high visibility pollution and waste management issues, but if you dig a little deeper there is a lot of positive momentum too! This post highlights some encouraging examples of environmental progress in the developing world.
Morocco Solar Power Production
Morocco holds a very strategic position in the emerging solar power economy. It has an extremely high energy potential thanks to its Saharan environment, and it also has direct power line connections to Europe. Thanks to this unique position, the country will soon be home to the worlds largest solar power complex. The Ouarzazate Solar Power Station will occupy 1100 acres and produce up to 580 megawatts when it's completed in 2018. It will employ the latest technologies, including the use of molten salt for energy storage and overnight production
For perspective, 580 megawatts is comparable to the output of one large natural gas plant in Ontario. In the grand scheme of power generation it is not an exceptional contribution, but for the solar industry it represents a milestone. This development is likely the first of many, as Morocco aims to emerge as an energy exporter and hub for renewable energy.
Treeplanting Around the World
With budgets that tend to be a little more constrained, large scale treeplanting is a green project that isn't too heavy on the green for many developing countries. In fact, what inspired me to write on this subject was the potentially world record breaking event in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh that aimed to have 50 million trees planted in 24 hours.
The United Nations Environmental Programme launched the ongoing Billion Tree Campaign in 2006 to promote treeplanting initiatives. It's 'honor roll' for that program is as follows:
- China, 2.8 billion
- India, 2.1 billion
- Ethiopia, 1.6 billion
- Pakistan, 1 billion
- Mexico, 785 million
- Turkey, 716 million
- Nigeria, 612 million
- Kenya, 455 million
- Peru, 246 million
- Myanmar, 191 million
- Cuba, 137 million
Clearly treeplanting has taken the developing world by storm. These figures should be considered with some skepticism though. Many of the tree species used are non-native, or even invasive, and they are often planted in monoculture. Under these conditions the trees do not create healthy habitats that support biodiversity. They do however provide other benefits such as carbon sequestration, firewood production, air quality improvement, and soil stabilization. If you are interested in reading up on specific treeplanting projects I recommend checking out the Great Green Wall, and Three-North Shelter Forest program.
Restoration and Conservation in Costa Rica
From 1940 to 1987 the amount of forest cover in Costa Rica decreased from 75% to 21%. Their rate of deforestation was out of control, but thanks to a drastic shift in national policy forest cover rebounded to 51% by 2005. Today, Costa Rica has the largest proportion of protected area in the world at 25% and is estimated to host 5% of global biodiversity. I think it's safe to say that that Costa Rica's efforts in recent years exemplify a level of environmental stewardship that matches or exceeds that of most developed countries.
For a more in depth look at recent environmental programs in developing countries see this great UNEP summary.