Day 5: UNEP Roundtable & Urban Rehabilitation

Written by Sven Jadyschke

Today, the 24. June – I will never forget this day, it is a historical day, for me as Summer School participant in Genèva, for the United Kingdom, for the European Union and for direct democracy. In the morning when I woke up, the first news I saw was  that the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.

We started friday in the morning in the International Environment House one (IEH), to learn how the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is organized. At first we got a friendly welcome by Diana Rizzolio, who gave us an overview about the location and relevance of the building, the Geneva Environment Network (GEN) and why Genèva is so important in this context. Ms. Rizzolio is the coordinator of the GEN, a cooperative partnership of over 75 environment and sustainable development organizations based in the building and elsewhere in the Genèva area. GEN started in 1999 and is supported by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment and meanwhile the numbers of actors and activities increasing in the region. Genèva, meanwhile serves as an  important international environmental hub. Any hub examples are: trade and green economy Jobs (WTO, ILO, UNEP), Chemicals and hazardous substances, climate change (WMO, REDD), biodiversity water, human rights, and disaster management. For us was it very interesting to understand why the Swiss Government supports the International Environment House. The reason is to centralize competencies and have one entry point to people and find other who are specific experts. Most of the top level people know each other, but not intermediate level officers, which is why the IEH serves a real advantage for a get-together. In addition, they have an interest to inform people about the currently environment situation and besides is it country representable.

After Ms. Rizzolio’s presentation, we turned to another topic, the Cooperation for Peacebuilding with Pauliina Upla. Ms. Upla works with the Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding Programme at the UNEP`s Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch (PCDMB) in Genèva. The UNEP is the leading environmental authority in the UN system, she got us an overview about the 7 priority Areas, where the PCDMB is one part of the seven. During her presentation, she showed 2 very interesting examples of PCDMB’s work, first was oil spill clean-up in Ogoni Land, and the second was creating a hub for open data called Map-X, was it relatively easy to recognize the link of her work with the SDGs. In addition, it  made us aware that the environment is a silent victim in war times.

Next she showed us pictures about deforestation in Haiti, a problem I knew already and thought thought to myself, as I regarded the pictures, with the link to this historical day, “sometimes is it good to having boundaries, and especially for overexploitation”.

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We then dove into the issue of deforestation with Ms. Wahida Patwa Shah. Ms. Wahida Patwa Shah takes explained the UN-REDD program, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. Ms. Patwa Shah, a Kenyan National, has more than 20 years of experience in environmental management and policy issues with agencies such as International Union for Conservation of Nature, the World Agroforestry Centre and the UNEP. She explained how REDD works and gave us an update of where the implementation process currently stands. After her presentation, Dr. Hedjazi triggered a discussion, and the last question in the room was “What’s your opinion about climate change?” I thought about this for a moment in silence about my opinion. I will not say climate change does not exists, but sometimes, for me as an engineer, I miss in explanations about climate change, the critical question – in a world of billions of influences, substances and possibilities, how can the growth catalyzer CO2, be the only reason for climate change? Whatever the reason is, it is in every case the right, to clean up and stop destroying our environment.

After lunchtime, Dr. Hedjazi and Ms Pilipiszyn prepared us with information for our visit to the renaturation project, Aire River. We learned about the processes for nature projects, how important it is to co-define, co-design, co-implement and co-monitor the project and include all stakeholders from the beginning until the end.

After we the presentation, we started our excursion to the transboundary River Aire, which has 337 km of rivers, streams and watersheds between France and Switzerland. The river has been through lots of pollutions and construction works. The goal was to protect and renature the river and their landscape in the perspective of sustainable development.

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We arrived the the river at Pont de Lully, the most polluted area through the industry in the past, our first impression was a friendly looking location. Another course participant and I was a little bit confused, because we were surrounded by vineyards. But the area is now depolluted and the vineyards sit on an upwards hill, so soil pollution is not an issue. Our group walked along the renatured river, saw old pieces of the canal and the famou “chocolate bar” design of the new riverbed to promote natural growth.

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Dr. Hedjazi stopped at important points, where he explained how the construction works under the considerations of flood management and how the old canal was transformed into a walkway. At the end of the day, everybody in the group now has an interesting imagination how an urban rehabilitation project could works. We have seen a practical result of depolluting an area to use this area in peaceful coexistence with nature.

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 1) Source: http://blog.kulikulifoods.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/haiti_deforestation.jpg     

2)Source: http://www.unep.org/disastersandconflicts/portals/155/countries/haiti/imgs/Haiti2013.jpg

3) Source: Google Maps

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