China to burn, not bury, as it tack­les trash chal­lenge ‘Waste-to-en­ergy’ en­cour­aged

Seek­ing ha­lal con­tra­cep­tion in Kenya’s Mus­lim north­east

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Thou­sands of tons of ur­ban waste are hid­den be­hind scrubbed white walls at a new power plant on the out­skirts of the Chi­nese city of Wu­jiang, with even its chim­ney dis­guised as a clock tower. Des­per­ate to fight mount­ing trash prob­lems but wary of pub­lic op­po­si­tion, China is build­ing new in­cin­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity de­signed to blend into its sur­round­ings and limit en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age. Lo­cated in sparsely pop­u­lated farm­land around 60 miles west of Shanghai, with white geese dot­ting the lake around it on three sides, the Wu­jiang plant is de­signed to burn 1,500 tons of garbage every day.

It gen­er­ates heat to run tur­bines that de­liver 500,000 kilo­watt-hours of elec­tric­ity to the power grid at pref­er­en­tial tar­iffs, around dou­ble those of coal-fired plants and the source of two-thirds of its rev­enue. “Com­bus­tion re­duces the vol­ume, turns it into a re­source and detox­i­fies it, so we be­lieve it is go­ing to be a main­stream prod­uct within 20 years,” said Cai Shuguang, deputy gen­eral man­ager of China Ever­bright In­ter­na­tional, which built the plant. With land scarce and con­sump­tion surg­ing, China has lit­tle choice but to burn as much trash as it can, said Cai.

The land­fills en­cir­cling Beijing are known col­lec­tively as the cap­i­tal’s “sev­enth ring road”, while through­out the coun­try burial of un­treated waste has con­tam­i­nated land and built up po­ten­tially haz­ardous pock­ets of meth­ane. About 200 trucks dump up to 10 tons of trash each day in a silo 26 me­ters deep at the Wu­jiang plant. Toxic emis­sions are cap­tured and lit­tle is wasted, with fur­nace slag re­cy­cled into bricks. Ever­bright’s first waste-to-en­ergy (WTE) plant was built in nearby Suzhou more than a decade ago. China as a whole had 223 WTE plants by the end of last year, and that num­ber could dou­ble by 2020.

But house­hold waste treat­ment and re­cy­cling rates are still way too low, China said in a plan pub­lished in Septem­ber, adding that in­dus­try spend­ing would need to reach 192.4 bil­lion yuan ($28 bil­lion) from 2016 to 2020. The plan aims to in­cin­er­ate more than 500,000 tons of waste a day by then, or 2-1/2 times the 2014 fig­ure. Bet­ter-off cities will have to burn most garbage, and curb land­fill ex­pan­sion. “Waste-to-en­ergy is be­ing en­cour­aged from top to bot­tom: Sub­si­dies are very high and prof­its far ex­ceed those from re­cy­cling,” said Zhao You­cai, a waste man­age­ment ex­pert at Shanghai’s Tongji Univer­sity.

But China has strug­gled to reach pre­vi­ous

Swad­dled in col­or­ful hi­jabs the women ex­change puz­zled looks and sup­press em­bar­rassed gig­gles. “You’re sure it’s ha­lal?” asks one, peer­ing at a col­lec­tion of birth con­trol pills, con­doms and IUDs. Such ev­ery­day forms of con­tra­cep­tion are lit­tle known and rarely seen in Kenya’s arid and ne­glected north­east, an over­whelm­ingly poor, con­ser­va­tive and Mus­lim part of the coun­try where most peo­ple are pas­toral­ist eth­nic So­ma­lis.

A study of early mar­riage by the charity Save the Chil­dren found that just two per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion of Wajir county uses con­tra­cep­tion-com­pared with a na­tional Kenyan av­er­age of 58 per­cent-due to mod­ern con­tra­cep­tive meth­ods be­ing seen as a breach of Is­lamic prin­ci­ples. But Deka Ibrahim, a fe­male Is­lamic teacher, ex­plains that con­tra­cep­tion is ha­lal, per­mis­si­ble, as she talks to a group of 40 newly-weds and mothers sit­ting on the dusty con­crete floor of a dark room that is the vil­lage’s tiny ma­ter­nity cen­tre.

One woman feeds her child while oth­ers ab­sent­mind­edly fid­get with the long sleeves of their aus­tere out­fits, re­veal­ing in­tri­cately painted henna tat­toos and fake di­a­mond bracelets. “The Mus­lim re­li­gion al­lows the use of these meth­ods in cer­tain cir­cum­stances, es­pe­cially if the health of the baby and mother are at the heart of the thought process,” says Ibrahim. She adds how­ever that ac­cord­ing to this in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Is­lam there are con­di­tions for us­ing con­tra­cep­tives: they must be tem­po­rary, spousal ap­proval is re­quired, and, she re­minds them, abor­tion is il­le­gal in Is­lam as well as in Kenyan law. As a gov­ern­ment nurse goes on to ex­plain how to use the dif­fer­ent de­vices, Hal­ima, 16, the mother of a nine-month-old girl lis­tens

China wants to rem­edy en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age caused by three decades of break­neck growth through in­cen­tives for pri­vate busi­nesses to profit from en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion. It now has fewer low­in­come “scav­engers” to sort garbage in big cities, as ris­ing liv­ing stan­dards and fall­ing prices of raw ma­te­ri­als have blunted re­cy­cling in­cen­tives, Zhao said. “Garbage moun­tains” and “garbage rivers” lit­ter the coun­try­side, where China aims to treat 90 per­cent of house­hold waste by 2020. But of­fi­cials say in­no­va­tive fund­ing mech­a­nisms are needed. Sub­sidy is not a sus­tain­able path, so China must boost mar­ket par­tic­i­pa­tion, Zhao said. “Garbage re­cy­cling re­lies on gov­ern­ment, and waste-toen­ergy is sub­si­dized,” he added. “It is a bot­tom­less pit: the amount is just too high and the prof­its too low.”— Reuters in­tently. “I want to have more chil­dren, but not now. I want to wait un­til my child has grown up a bit and I’m sure she is healthy,” Hal­ima says.

Tra­di­tion vs health -

tar­gets, with daily in­cin­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity of 235,224 tons by the end of 2015 miss­ing a goal of more than 300,000 tons. “The main rea­son is the level of un­der­stand­ing among lo­cal gov­ern­ments, and we also need to work on elim­i­nat­ing the prob­lem of Nim­by­ism,” Cai said. Waste in­cin­er­a­tors have pro­voked protest as com­mu­ni­ties worry about stench and the risk of toxic emis­sions. Last week, the hous­ing min­istry vowed to toughen pol­lu­tion con­trols and com­bat “Nim­by­ism” by of­fer­ing cheaper wa­ter, heat and elec­tric­ity for those liv­ing near waste projects. Such moves would trans­form per­cep­tions to “profit in my back­yard” from “not in my back­yard”, the min­istry said.

Here, ma­ter­nity and tra­di­tion are is­sues that burn as hot as the sun beat­ing down on the sandy soil and dry thorn bushes out­side, is­sues that side­line women and can en­dan­ger their lives and those of their chil­dren.More than four in 10 women in north­east Kenya are mar­ried be­fore their 18th birthday, their youth lead­ing to in­creased prob­lems in preg­nancy, labour and birth. Mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion worse is that most de­liv­er­ies are home

In­cen­tives

births, un­san­i­tary and with­out qual­i­fied mid­wives. On top of that, the av­er­age woman has eight chil­dren, a large brood-like a herd of live­stock-seen as a sym­bol of wealth in So­mali cul­ture. “When an ado­les­cent girl be­comes preg­nant or there is not enough space be­tween preg­nan­cies, the risk of com­pli­ca­tions is high,” says Sulekha Mo­hamed of Save the Chil­dren, adding that 98 per­cent of women in north­east Kenya are cir­cum­cised, heap­ing fur­ther risk on giv­ing birth. “If you are preg­nant four months af­ter giv­ing birth, your body has not had time to re­cover,” she says.

Re­li­gion to the res­cue

A 2014 de­mo­graphic study showed peri­na­tal deaths in Kenya’s north­east were more than 50 per­cent higher than the na­tional av­er­age. Since then re­li­gious lead­ers have been co-opted into bat­tling the sta­tis­tics. “His­tor­i­cally, in our cul­ture, men take many wives and women have many chil­dren, so fam­ily plan­ning is seen as a for­eign idea, a colo­nial Western idea to limit the pop­u­la­tion,” says Mur­sal Ab­di­wa­hab, the khadi of Wajir in charge of the Mus­lim fam­ily court, who ruled that con­tra­cep­tion is ha­lal. “Our role as re­li­gious lead­ers and learned peo­ple is to ex­plain what Is­lam al­lows or not.”The mes­sage seems to be get­ting through. In the first three months of this year, 3,177 women joined the fam­ily plan­ning pro­gram, a ma­jor in­crease from the 1,382 par­tic­i­pants in the same pe­riod the year be­fore. Safiya, a 28-year-old mother of four, says she wants “more chil­dren, be­cause that is what my re­li­gion dic­tates,” but af­ter learn­ing that con­tra­cep­tion is per­mit­ted in Is­lam she is now spac­ing out her preg­nan­cies. — AFP

WAJIR, Kenya: An em­ployee of charity Save the Chil­dren gives ex­pla­na­tions to a group of women dur­ing a ses­sion at the lo­cal ma­ter­nity fa­cil­ity on what Is­lam al­lows and does not al­low in terms of fam­ily plan­ning, and on the ben­e­fits of fam­ily plan­ning at a vil­lage in Wajir County. — AFP

HEIHE: Smoke bil­lows from a heat­ing fac­tory in Heihe, in north­east­ern China’s Hei­longjiang prov­ince. Car­bon emis­sions from burn­ing fos­sil fu­els have been nearly flat for three years in a row-a ‘great help’ but not enough to stave off dan­ger­ous global warm­ing, a re­port said yes­ter­day. — AFP

A nurse ex­plains how var­i­ous con­tra­cep­tive meth­ods work dur­ing a ses­sion at the lo­cal ma­ter­nity fa­cil­ity in Wajir County. — AFP

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