Rio+20, Bangladesh

Rio+20, elephants v bees, and teaching Bangladeshi children to swim

We look ahead to the Rio Earth summit in our podcast. Plus a project in Uganda that really is the bees knees for local farmers


A camel casts a shadow next to its herder at a watering hole outside the town of Aleg in Mauritania. Sustainable farming will be on the conference agenda at Rio+20 this month. Photograph: Joe Penney/Reuters

In less than two weeks, 180 ministers and 50,000 activists, businesses representatives and NGOs will meet in Brazil for the Rio+20 UN conference on sustainable development.

But, 20 years after the UN Earth summit – the first time world leaders had debated issues of development and the environment on the same platform – what can the conference achieve?

Rio+20 is the subject of our latest Global development podcast, which looks at what’s on the conference agenda, what role business can play in the talks and what will be discussed at the People’s summit, which is running alongside the main event. Joining the Guardian’s environment editor John Vidal to debate the issues are Claire Melamed, the head of the growth and equity programme at the ODI, Hannah Stoddart, head of economic justice policy at Oxfam, and Andrew Raingold, executive director of the Aldersgate Group, an alliance of leaders from business, politics and society working for a sustainable economy.

Anil Naidoo, from the council of Canadians and co-facilitator of the water thematic group at the People’s summit, and Saleemul Huq, senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development, join the discussion.

Elsewhere on the site

Pete Jones visited a project in western Uganda that is using bees to keep elephants away from crops around Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Jane Regan reports on gold mining in Haiti and questions whether poor people in the country will benefit.

Duncan Green asks whether the UK hunger summit, recently announced by the UK prime minister David Cameron, will be a genuine attempt to address hunger or will merely be a PR exercise for the British government.

And Syed Zain Al-Mahmood visits a Unicef-backed project in Bangladesh that is teaching children to swim to prevent an estimated 50 deaths a day from drowning.

Coming up on the site

We’ll report on the findings of a 10-year review – published by the International Institute for Environment and Development – of the mining and minerals industry and the challenges the sector faces to ensure sustainability.

Prue Clarke argues why aid agencies limit their impact by refusing to fund the media.

And, following floods in Afghanistan, Emma Graham-Harrison argues that without investment in development and disaster preparedness, the programme to stabilise the country will not yield long-term results.


In pictures: the threat posed by climate change in Bangladesh

Millions of poor people in Bangladesh are risking their lives, homes and land because they are forced to live along constantly changing river systems. Christian Aid highlights their plight ahead of the Rio+20 conference this month, where world leaders will meet to secure renewed political commitment to sustainable development.

Interactive: African Economic Outlook 2012

Africa is one of the fastest growing regions of the world. We’ve created a map to show each country’s GDP growth since 2008.

In pictures: Niger’s emergency food operation

Tens of thousands of refugees from Mali have fled to Niger to escape civil conflict. They are arriving at a time of heightened concern about food insecurity, following the scarce rains and poor harvest of last year. The World Food Programme has launched an emergency operation to help nearly 4 million people in the country.

What you said: some of the best comments from our readers

On Samuel Carpenter’s blog on how the private sector could help Somalia’s development, Farah Jamal wrote:

As humanitarian case loads are increasing, Sam’s suggestion of a more systematic partnership between the private sector and humanitarian efforts is not just desirable, it’s necessary.

Commenting on John Hilary’s post on why the UK prime minister David Cameron is unfit to co-chair the high level panel of post-2015 development, tiojo said:

The trick for DfID won’t be in leading a process towards a good new framework, it will be in making it appear as something that Cameron will want to take credit and responsibility for.

And on Jonathan Glennie’s blog on why sustainable development is the only way forward, AlexCobham wrote:

Few countries if any are so fully ‘developed’, their populations so content, that there is nothing to strive for beyond making the status quo sustainable. Few countries, too, are in a position to care only about immediate poverty and not the shocks that stem from unsustainable global consumption paths.

Highlights from the blogosphere

Global Voices looks at the efforts to preserve indigenous languages.

On the Africa Can… End Poverty blog, Wolfgang Fengler asks whether Kenya can replicate Indonesia’s successful turnaround over the past decade, arguing that the African state has all the assets to do so.

On the Centre for Global Development blog, Justin Sandefur and Alaina Varvaloucas ask whether the trial of Charles Taylor was worth the $250m price tag.

We’ve recently welcomed two new blogs to our blogosphere – Aid Data and Think Africa Press.

And finally …

The Poverty matters newsletter will be back in two weeks with another roundup of the latest news and comment. In the meantime, keep up to date with the issues on the Global development website. Follow @gdndevelopment and the team – @ClaireProvost, @LizFordGuardian, @MarkTran and @JazCummins – on Twitter, and join Guardian Global development on Facebook.

The threat posed by climate change in Bangladesh – in pictures, Tuesday 5 June 2012

Millions of poor people in Bangladesh are risking their lives, homes and land because they are forced to live along constantly changing river systems. Christian Aid highlights their plight on World Environment Day and ahead of the Earth summit in Rio this month, where world leaders will meet to secure renewed political commitment to sustainable development



World’s urban waste mountain a ‘silent problem that is growing daily’

World Bank report urges city authorities to reduce, reuse, recycle or recover energy from growing volume of urban waste

Rubbish dump, Sidon

A fisherman near a rubbish dump on the Sidon seafront in south Lebanon. Photograph: Ali Hashisho/Reuters

The amount of rubbish generated by city dwellers is set to rise steeply in the next two decades, with much of the increase coming in fast-growing cities in developing countries, according to a World Bank report published on Wednesday.

The report, What a Waste: a global review of solid waste management, for the first time provides data on municipal solid waste generation, collection, composition and disposal by country and by region.

The amount of municipal solid waste is growing fastest in China – which overtook the US as the world’s largest waste generator in 2004 – other parts of east Asia, and parts of eastern Europe and the Middle East, the report says. Growth rates for rubbish in these areas are similar to their rates for urbanisation and increases in GDP.

The report estimates the amount of municipal solid waste will rise from the current 1.3bn tonnes a year to 2.2bn by 2025. The annual cost of solid waste management is projected to rise from $205bn to $375bn, with cost increasing most sharply in poorer countries. The report’s authors point to a looming crisis in waste treatment as living standards rise and urban populations grow.

“Improving solid waste management, especially in the rapidly growing cities of low-income countries, is becoming a more and more urgent issue,” said Rachel Kyte, vice-president of sustainable development at the World Bank. “The findings of this report are sobering, but they also offer hope that once the extent of this issue is recognised, local and national leaders, as well as the international community, will mobilise to put in place programmes to reduce, reuse, recycle, or recover as much waste as possible before burning it (and recovering the energy) or otherwise disposing of it. Measuring the extent of the problem is a critical first step to resolving it.”

The report notes that municipal solid waste management is the most important service a city provides. In poorer countries, rubbish collection and processing is often the largest single budget item for cities, and one of the largest employers.

A city that cannot effectively manage its waste is rarely able to manage more complex services such as health, education, or transportation, according to the report, and improving waste management is one of the most effective ways of strengthening overall municipal management.

The authors of the report say an integrated solid waste management plan is needed. Key to such a plan is consultation and input from all parties affected, including citizen groups and those working on behalf of the poor and the disadvantaged. Public health and environmental protection aspects of any such plan are also critical.

“What we’re finding in these figures is not that surprising,” said Dan Hoornweg, co-author of the report. “What is surprising, however, is that when you add the figures up we’re looking at a relatively silent problem that is growing daily. The challenges surrounding municipal solid waste are going to be enormous, on a scale of, if not greater than, the challenges we are currently experiencing with climate change. This report should be seen as a giant wake-up call to policy makers everywhere.”