World Environment Day

5 June 2005

Dr. Berhan Ahmed


There are two parts in this article. Part 1 is a clarification on alleged article in Tigrygna and Part 2 is an expression on world environment day.

Part 1: Clarification on article dated 21 May 2005 in Tigrinya

“A giant step in the right direction for Eritrean opposition…”

In an article dated 21 May 2005 in Tigrinya, I was mentioned as a leader and contributor to opposing the Eritrean opposition charter. I did not have any contribution on the article and I don’t support the concept of the article.  Moreover, I am of the opinion that, the Eritrean opposition has to be congratulated for such bold step in the right direction. We, the Eritrean public have to support the opposition morally and financially for such brilliant steps in the right direction.

With enough crises at the Eritrean opposition camp we can not afford to be critic on such a giant step in the right direction for the Eritrean people worldwide. There are certainly many compatriots that worked long and hard to end the factional fighting, and with joyful hearts I welcomed a new era of healing, friendship and common vision between the Eritrean opposition leaders and full support for their charter.

The current political opposition is a reflection of our
current social, economical and political status as people and a nation.
Unfortunately, we can not deny the fact “this is our reality and current maturity” , we wish we had a better opposition like “the Australian opposition, British opposition parties or any civilized opposition group”. But the fact remains the same, we have what we have, so let’s work as hands and gloves to transform the opposition from the current status to a 21st century opposition party.


I extend my deepest appreciation for their noble efforts, as do many in Eritrea who feel too intimidated or afraid to speak out as easily as you or I do. 

Dr. Berhan Ahmed

3 June 2005

Part 2: According to Global Greens Principles: “There is no social justice without environmental justice, and no environmental justice without social justice.”

This year’s World Environment day theme is “Green Cities Care for the Planet” this may not be as relevant as it sounds for the third world countries. Last years’ World Environment Day theme which was ‘Wanted Social and environmental justice; and focuses on land, Seas and Oceans – Dead or Alive?’.  This theme asks us to choose how we want to treat the Earth’s land, seas and oceans. It also calls on each of us to act. Do we want to keep the land, seas and oceans healthy and alive or eroded/polluted and dead? It is also important to recognise that environmental sustainibilty will not be possible as long as poverty persists.

Halting environmental degradation and human right abuse requires no less than restructuring three main features of our society, political will, social and environmenatal justice, and economic development through understanding of our fragile ecosystems. Most importantly is visionary and courage leadership to accept responsibility and transparency to maintain sustainable development and eradicate famine, drought, hunger and restore the fragile social and environmental balance. Respect of our natural heritage and working towards improving our treatment to each other and the environment. The best example would be land ownership and the economy: property rights of forests, pricing of natural products, and political power over the disposition of natural resource.

Social and Environmenatal justice; Political power over natural resources; &

Sustainable economic development

Rights to the forest

India, Dolpura.:- share control of forests with villages.

In the space of 150 yrs, 80% of the world’s tropical forests passed from the hands of local communities to the hands of the govt. foresters and other officials. Tragedy of the commons- Theory wanting! It overlooked that under village control, forests were not unregulated commons. Throughout the tropics (and temperate) forest departments are unable to protect the forest.  Helping forest dwellers secure recognition of their rights is to assist them in developing accurate maps of their territorial boundaries.

Tenure is the key to sustainability National & international efforts focussed on planting more trees. Yet, world forests never lacked regenarative capacity. What they lack is human allies! In the early to mid 1990’s Eritrean government commitment for planting trees in Eritreas rural and urban areas was a classical example, when people were not part of the initial and continous partnership the project and the out come is failure. If such political madness to be prevented in future, it is important to have a grass root participatory democracy in which all citizen have the right to express their view, and are able to directly participate in the environmental, economic, social and political decisions which affect their lives; so that power and responsibility are shared between local, and regional communities, and devoted only where essential to higher tiers of governance.

Rights to the forest’s bounty

Late 1991, Merck & Co. sent $1 million check to Costa Rican organisation called the National Insitutite for Biodiversity (INBio). Signed a contract- train researchers, pay royalties. Costa Ricans merely supply steady stream of bugs, microbes, ooze, etc. from tropical forests.

Exploiting the chemical factory of the natural world.  Leech saliva – hirudin.

Economic value of medicines from tropical forests staggering Pharmaceutical industries worth US $200 billion per annum. Acitve ingredients from the forests worth US $100 billion.

E.O. Wilson

“A newly discovered species of roundworm might produce an antibiotic of extraordinary power, an unnamed moth a substance that blocks viruses in a manner never guessed by molecular biologists. An obscure herb could be the source of a sure-fire black fly repellent-at last. Millions of years of testing by natural selection have organisms chemists of superhuman skill, champions at defeating most kinds of biological problems that undermine human health.”.

Worldwide – not a single country extends intellectual property rights to indigenous people and their ecological knowledge.

For instance, if a traditional healer knows how to cure a skin disease with a herbal remedy, it is called folklore. If a pharmaceutical company isolates and markets the active chemical in the healer’s herbs, it is called a medical breakthrough, protected with a patent, and rewarded with international monopoly power.

Under prevailing laws forest dwellers neither own their land nor their knowledge of that land. The gene rush is likely to yield the same results as past resource booms in the tropics: more poverty, less forest.

This is true of the non-timber (lumber) forest products.

For instance, rattan industry – $3 billion p.a. Three times as many Indonesians work in the rattan industry as in the timber industry. Extractive reserves: Brazil. Best way to expand opportunities for nontimber forest products is to get nation-states to decentralise legal authority, returning at least share of it to local, traditional, forest managers.

Whether the resource is land, timber, floral supplies, or indigenous knowledge, secure tenure is the first necessary condition of a sustainable forest economy. Without it, the people who manage the world’s forests have little reason to safeguard the forest’s health.

Towards ecological pricing

Virgin timber is currently priced far below its full costs. Eg. Burma – teak; USA old-growth DF – fishing industry = $2,150 per chinook p.a. losses. The alternative to trying to organise ecological pricing = failing to reflect the loss of ecological functions at all in the price of wood and other forest products – ensures that the economy will continue to destroy forests.

Acetate on Time-frames for different purposes. Full economic value of forests is clearly huge:

Medicines and flood prevention, water stabilization  and fisheries protection functions are worth millions ( eg. Oregon chinook salmon, Mallacoota inlet, soil turbidity and lack of fishing grounds due to siltation).

No one knows the full magnitude of nontimber forest products industries plants, mushrooms, market vaue of ntfp = $1 billion more than solid wood harvested from US nat. forests in 1992.

Forest’s greatest value = biodiveristy aspects.

prevent global warming; gene pool; raw material for biotech. eg. babassu palm more veg oil/ha than any plant ; ever measured; foods, medicines, pesticides,

But market prices count only the direct costs of extracting goods, not the full ecological costs:

First order of business for governments is to stop subsidizing deforestation. Second, use taxes, user fees, and tariffs to make ecological costs apparent in the money economy.  Without these in place, forest conservation will remain an uphill battle.

Fight for the forests Routleys 1972-75.

Impose environmental taxes on goods produced at high ecological cost. Need to certify sustainable produced wood – whatever its region of origin – not just the tropics. This approach will help govts. sort out standards, methods, enforcement towards ecological taxes.

User fees complement environmental taxation. So, reward managers for all services provided, not just wood, minerals and extractables. (ie. water protection, fisheries, soil, flood prevention, etc.)  camping, fishing, hiking, skiing, walking. Get Forest service budgets to benefit from nonconsumptive uses.

This would generate revenue, and protect integrity of the forest ecosystem. charging visitors would pay better than selling timber! Need to implement environmental tariffs in addition to enviorn. taxes and user fees.


Forests and water are two fundamentally related elements in the world. They interact with one another and through the surrounding environment, are constantly affecting and being affected by factors such as erosion, salinity, logging, and soil quality etc. The current trend of water shortage in every country is an indication of the future political delima our off-spring to face. We have the talents and skills to face the environmental challenges our ecosystem is facing, but we need peace, rule of law and respect of human rights in our region.

The Eritrean fauna and flora

Since European (Italian) colonisation of Eritrea hundred’s of species have become extinct in Eritrea and the region in general, including the forest cover of our region from 40% in the early 1900 to less than 4% and the savanna wild life that once dominated in the gash Barka area is history now and almost extinct. It is likely, many other microbial, insects and plant species have disappeared without our knowledge, mainly in the semi raid region of Barka and Sahel. Curret leadership seem to ignore environmental and human right issue, which are hand and glove of our fragile ecosystem.  Every minute, hour, day, we are losing our precious environmental control and many species are disappearing which would result in more famine, starvation and desertification for generation to come. This natural habitat are the only life support system and we can not manage the water system without this biodiversity.

I call upon our leaders to listen to the calls from our precious environmental indicators, (such as the wild life) and start to reconcile with the natural habitat in our environment. The fragile ecosystem of our region can not tolerate any more bullet firing, helicopter gunship, mig fighter plane, mass murder, boarder war, destruction of  our natural resources for military preparation and for other tools destruction. While, we are at war with each other, our sea resources are vandalised with world mafia dumbing neucliar waste and criminal fisheries extracting our precious and unique sea life, while our leaders at helm of madness debilitating and destroying what is left of our precious environmental asset. How many more of such environmental vandalism has to happen for the international community and the so called international leaders to stop such madness and for our leaders to stop thinking of war, human right abuse and environmental vandalism. I urge every person from human society and particularly the so called International leaders plus the leader in our region be it Ethiopian, Eritrean, Sudanese, Somalise, Djiboutian, Kenyan or the opposition leaders of any of the government named to consider an alternative solution to the current crisses our ecosystem is facing. We are destroying the ecosystem that supported life for generation and without ensure such ecosystem our collective survival is doubtful.

“We do not make either the world or ourselves; we live by using life, not by creating it”.

Wendell Berry.

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