Feature Story

“I remember clearly that it all started in Sofia, Bulgaria, in the autumn of 1991. As an official of the Slovak Ministry of Environment, I had an opportunity to listen to a presentation by the first Chief Executive Officer of the GEF, Mohamed El-Ashry, in which he presented a vision for an environmental recovery programme for the Danube River Basin.

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Ms. Ha Thi Huyen is the Deputy Chair of the Women’s Union in the Thanh Mai Commune. Like many other farmers in the mountainous provinces of the Northern Region of Vietnam, she is very familiar with riverbank erosion and failing roads. The region often experiences intense storms, and the resulting floods can damage infrastructure. With  the frequency and the severity of these natural events intensifying, Huyen’s family and community have been struggling to maintain their livelihoods.

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“Saïda government hospital was established in December 2006 following the war in Lebanon. I came on board as a maintenance engineer back then, and was in charge of completing maintenance checks, both preventive and corrective. Electricity supply in Lebanon was highly unreliable then, and we had to rely heavily on diesel generators – a hospital cannot provide proper medical care without hot water and electricity.

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“I was born in Naganimora village and was schooled only as far as the ninth class, before my marriage to a man from Leangyu village was fixed, and I had to move here. In these mountains we have always relied on jhum for our food and most of our income. We clear patches in the forest and then plant a mixture of crops – some of these are wild plants and others are domestic varieties. After a few years, the harvest gets poorer, so we leave the patch to recover and plant a new area. This used to work well and we were able to meet most of our food needs.

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“Every day, my office phone rings almost non-stop. Calls from farmers, communities, NGOs, schools, journalists, businessmen, park visitors ... and so it goes on. Game parks and wildlife are big in this country. Why? Because they are such a dominant feature of our land – nearly 50 percent of our land surface in Namibia falls either within national protected areas or communal or private conservancies. When you visit my country, you will see wildlife roaming freely almost everywhere.

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“I have lived here in these mountains for my whole life. Like my father, and his father before him, I am a herdsman and I graze my animals here in the Toolaylyg and Barlyk River valleys. My brother Boris lives nearby and we help each other look after our sheep, goats, yaks and horses.

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“We experienced severe floods twice in 2014. In the first flood in May, the water started flowing at night and the flood reached its peak in the early hours of the morning. People tried to move everything to the upper storeys of their homes, but the water level rose so high that it did not really help. Our emergency services did their best to evacuate people, but the people didn’t want to leave their homes – they had no idea how bad the flood would become. Also, our Fire Brigade and Police did not have proper training for such situations.

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The GEF/UNDP/UNEP Integrating Watershed and Coastal Areas Management in Small Island Developing States of the Caribbean (IWCAM) Project was a collaboration between 13 Caribbean nations: Antigua & Barbuda; The Bahamas; Barbados; Cuba; Grenada; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Haiti; Jamaica; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; and Trinidad and Tobago.

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The Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem (YSLME) is a semi-enclosed body of water between the People’s Republic of China and the Korean Peninsula. This shallow sea has an area of about 400,000 km2 and boasts a wide variety of habitats and a high level of marine biodiversity, but the coastline is heavily populated, urbanized, and industrialized. Fisheries have become increasingly important to the region: total annual landings have increased from 425,000 tonnes in 1986 to an average 2.40 million tonnes in 2003 and 2004.

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One of the most remarkable success stories of a GEF investment in water quality improvement and regional cooperation can be found in the Danube and Black Sea region. The Black Sea experienced unprecedented degradation in the 1990s when widespread nutrient loading caused a large dead zone. The main sources of nutrients were runoff from the agricultural sector (fertilizers and livestock waste) as well as domestic and industrial wastes. The Danube River alone contributed 80% of the land-based inorganic nutrients and 50% of the phosphorus loading.

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