Feature Story

In 2002 a small nation on the fringe of Southeast Asia declared its independence. The vote heralded a bright new future for a people excited to claim back their sovereignty.

Since that time, Timor-Leste, a young country – in fact one of the world’s youngest – has been actively investing in nation-building. As part of this, the Government has been building roads, bridges and cargo sea ports to improve mobility, economic activity and access to public services for its people, now numbering over one million.

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Sami Jan, a 45-year-old villager, remembers the day flash floods erupted near his fields in Balkh district, 25 kilometres northwest of Mazar-e-Sharif city in northern Afghanistan. His crops – his sole livelihood—were washed away and he was trapped in the rising water.

“I had no way to escape,” said Sami. “I would have died that same day if an army helicopter hadn’t rescued me. But my crops were ruined.”

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It’s the beginning of the end for Ethiopia’s stores of DDT, an internationally restricted pesticide. The East African country is moving to eliminate once and for all the largest officially reported global stockpile of the toxic chemical.

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The Caribbean is a biodiversity hotspot. It has over 11,000 plant species, about 72 of which are found only in this region. Its diverse animal species include many exotic fish and birds.

The world benefits from this biodiversity, so when these species are exploited for commercial use – for example in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals – source countries need to be compensated.

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Charito Elcano turned 60 this year, a milestone in a life fraught with ups and downs, challenges and opportunities and – in her case – tragedy. A tragedy that took the life of her brother and son and made her a fierce advocate for non-mercury small-scale gold mining.

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Nearly one-third of Vietnam’s energy consumption is for lighting, with almost half of that going to the country’s highly populated rural areas.

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Jordan’s 9.1 million people are facing serious environmental challenges. Land degradation due to over-exploitation of vegetation, and unsustainable agriculture and water management practices, have resulted in lack of fodder for livestock and reduced land productivity. This in turn has forced many of the country’s nomadic Bedouin people to abandon pastoralism and move to cities. 

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Serious pollution in a lake next to the mega-city of Manila is forcing a rethink by development planners to protect water quality and fish stocks.

Laguna de Bay is the Philippines’ largest lake, and supplies Metro Manila’s 16 million people with a third of their fish. It also supports agriculture, industry and hydro-power generation, and is a welcome getaway for rest and recreation for many Filipinos. Millions more live around its 285-kilometre shoreline.

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Scattered across 12 countries, only an estimated 4,000 snow leopards remain, placing this endangered species at risk of extinction. Staving off extinction cannot be achieved by fiat. Only by addressing larger, underlying issues like rural poverty, climate change, illegal wildlife trafficking, shrinking habitats, and lack of research and awareness can the number of snow leopards be rehabilitated.

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Being just a 30-minute boat ride away from the coast of Hoi An, one of Vietnam’s most visited world heritage sites, the Cham Islands, have become a popular tourist destination. The eight islands sit at the center of a marine protected area and boast a lush tropical forest and great environmental and marine diversity, including approximately 277 species of coral, 270 species of marine fish, five species of lobsters and 97 species of mollusk.

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