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Jean-Michel Cousteau The Athens Environmental Foundation (AEF) – in partnership with the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee (ATHOC) and UNEP – is celebrating World Environment Day with a clean-up. It is tackling several beaches around the Greek capital, including Piraeus, and mounting an underwater clean-up led by Jean-Michel Cousteau near the port and at several other places around the Greek coast. Hundreds of divers are involved. Three ships are to remove large debris, such as cars and refrigerators, from the sea bed, while municipal trucks take the rubbish for recycling and/or disposal. Two other ships are to demonstrate oil spill containment. The International Olympic Committee and Greek Government officials are participating along with thousands of citizens and local and international media. The Executive Director of UNEP, Klaus Toepfer, is to be connected live via satellite from the main international celebrations of the Day in Barcelona, while Athens organizes a reception – with an exhibition by the Greek synchronized swimmers team – around the Olympic Pool.
The first-ever global survey of seagrasses has been published by UNEP-WCMC. The World Atlas of Seagrasses estimates that world- wide there are some 177,000 square kilometres of the habitats – consisting of some 60 species of underwater flowering plants, and making up one of the most important of all marine ecosystems. Yet it also reveals that 15 per cent of them have been destroyed in the last decade. ‘We now have a global, scientific view of where seagrasses occur and what is happening to them,’ says Klaus Toepfer, UNEP’s Executive Director. ‘Unfortunately, in many cases, these vitally important undersea meadows are being needlessly destroyed for short-term gain without a true understanding of their significance.’
Two reports on the state of the seas – Protecting the Oceans from Land-based Activities and its popular version A Sea of Troubles – are available from UNEP. Produced by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection – representing UNEP and seven other United Nations agencies – they provide a comprehensive survey of the latest knowledge on the effects of pollution and overfishing on the oceans.
The 2003 UNEP Annual Report details UNEP’s activities during the year to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment. Focus sections include UNEP’s work during the International Year of Freshwater; environment and security; and regional implementation. The report is available from Earthprint at $10, plus packing and postage, and at www.unep.org/annualreport/2003.
Clean Up the World – a global campaign which promotes community action as the key to long-term environmental change – is organizing special drives to mark World Environment Day and support UNEP’s focus on seas and oceans throughout 2004. Members of Clean Up the World are supporting the Day from Pakistan to Cuba, and from Cyprus to Kenya. In Pakistan World Environment Day is the highlight of a three-month campaign expected to attract a million participants. During 2004 the Cyprus Marine Environment Protection Association is conducting a campaign to clean up the Pedieos River to try to prevent waste from the city of Nicosia travelling down it to the sea, while the Emirates Diving Association, in the United Arab Emirates, is mobilizing more than 300 divers, conducting 500 beach clean-ups and monitoring coral as part of its activities.

Poor island and coastal communities may be able to get drinking water from the sea by using a simple, solar-powered plastic cone. The Watercone – which promises to save long, backbreaking walks to rivers or ponds inland – makes saltwater drinkable without the vast expense of traditional desalination plants. It needs no electricity or high maintenance technology, and each cone will produce a litre of freshwater in 24 hours. The base, the size of a car wheel, is filled with salt water, which evaporates in the sun and condenses onto the curved edge of the cone so that freshwater can be poured out through a spout. The cone can also clean polluted water. At present its cost, $60, is still too high for many poor communities and so it would be distributed as aid: CARE Germany has been using it in a pilot project in the Yemen.
PHOTOGRAPHS: Tom Ordway, Watercone.com


This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Töpfer | Into the mainstream | Creation’s forgotten days | Restoring a pearl | Stop my nation vanishing | Energy release | Oceans need mountains | People | An ocean corridor | At a glance: Seas, oceans and small islands | Profile: Cesaria Evora | No island is an island | Small islands, big potential | Small is vulnerable | Natural resilience | Books and products | Keeping oil from troubled waters | Redressing the balance | Neighbours without borders | Will Mother Nature wait? | Pacific canaries

 
Complementary articles in other issues:
AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:
Ecosystems