In a news update from World Environment Day HQ on March 2
it was announced that Havana And Torino are To Host International World Environment Day with the theme
of,Connect with the World Wide Web of Life, this year's hosts are organizing a wealth of events, which link mankind's development and ultimate survival with the delicate balance of the natural world.
Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of UNEP, said:"This year's theme sends an important message. It reminds all of the Earth's inhabitants that mankind's future is inextricably woven with the plants, animals and ecosystems of the planet which provide us with food, water, air, medicine, building materials and, not least, beauty which is vital for nourishing the human spirit".
"I am delighted that Havana and Torino are to host our prestigious, annual World Environment Day celebrations. For the first time, our two main hosts will be bridging the needs and environmental aspirations of the developing and developed world. This year, there will also be links with Hue in Vietnam and Nairobi, Kenya, where UNEP is headquartered. More than 100 countries are
expected to take part in the celebrations," he said.
During WED, a new scientific survey entitled The Millennium Assessment will be unveiled in Torino. The Assessment, which is being coordinated by the World Resources Institute in cooperation with the United Nations, is bringing together an unprecedented network of scientists, experts and
non-governmental organizations, in an attempt to fill important gaps in mankind's knowledge of threats to the Earth's plants, animals and ecosystems.
One of the activities in Havana will be a workshop, organized by UNEP, on developing guidelines covering the import and export of genetically modified organisms, known as Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) under the Biosafety or Cartagena Protocol of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The meeting will discuss ways in which developing countries can acquire the scientific skills to assess whether a shipment of gene-modified animals, plants or microbes is safe and suitable for their country.
Jorge Illueca, Director of UNEP's Division of Environmental Conventions (DEC), said: "It is appropriate that a workshop on capacity building takes place in Cuba during WED. The issue of genetically modified organisms has become a global one involving all sectors of society from governments, industry and farmers to consumers and environmental groups. The debate
surrounding this new biotechnology is very much at the heart of the Connect With The World Wide of Life theme".
"While many developing countries still lack the expertise to make judgements on LMO imports, Cuba is one of the developing nations at the forefront of the biotechnology revolution. Its Institute of Biotechnology, one of the finest in the world, employs close to 2,000 professional staff. Exports,
mainly in the field of pharmaceuticals, but also in agricultural biotechnology, have been worth some US$ 900 million in recent years," he added.
"We want to learn from developing countries like Cuba and others active in this field including Thailand, China and Argentina, so that all developing countries have the expertise to accept or reject imports of LMOs on sound scientific and environmental grounds," said Mr. Illueca.
Torino will also use this year's theme, Connect To The World Wide Web of Life, as a launch pad for a special telecommunications initiative. It will highlight the potential of telecommunications for solving some of the most pressing environmental issues of the new millennium.
Telecoms, through such emerging technologies as videoconferencing, telecottaging and the Internet, offer the possibility of delivering education and knowledge to far flung parts of the globe. Telecommunication offers the prospect of raising standards of literacy and awareness of
environmental issues, especially in the developing world.
Telecottaging, in villages and small communities with high-tech nerve centres that allow residents to carry out jobs from word processing to accountancy, can reduce the drift of people from rural areas in both the developed and developing world and can help stimulate creativity. This not only helps keep small communities together but can take the pressure off cities, thereby reducing the spread of shanty towns with all their links to poor sanitation, ill health and vulnerability to natural disasters.
Video conferencing enables businessmen to link up via satellites and undersea cables. It can reduce the need to travel by air and car, helping to reduce transport-related emissions, which are linked to poor air quality in cities and emissions of gases linked to global warming.
The City and Province of Torino and the Piedmont Region will be launching the first Biennial International Eco-Efficiency Fair. This event will bring together the latest, state of the art, energy miserly systems along with experts in the field.
"Energy efficiency is at the heart of the fuel debate, and if we are to deliver economic growth without damaging the planet and mortgaging our children and grandchildren's future, we must find ways to de-couple economic development from energy use," said Mr. Toepfer.
The Fair will cover issues ranging from environmental management systems for companies, which are designed to boost energy efficient practices in business and industry, to eco-labeling schemes aimed at giving consumers useful information on products that are genuinely environmentally-friendly. Sustainable tourism and the eco-friendly design of buildings will also be
high on the Fair's agenda.
Like Havana, Torino has planned a series of citywide events, including one involving street traders and the general public on the theme of recycling. It will be held in the City's central square of Porta Palazzo.
An environmental action plan, that will detail how the Province plans to achieve a sustainable future for the area and drawn up by the Agenda 21 Local Forum will be unveiled by the Italian Province during WED.
Professor Mercedes Bresso, President of the Province of Torino, said she believes UNEP's decision to make Torino one of this year's two key locations for the WED celebrations was in recognition of the Province's ongoing commitment to the environment.
"We are in the process of bringing in a new and integrated water management system based on eco-efficiency and our programme for waste disposal is aimed at a 50 per cent recycling rate and energy recovery of the rest," she said.
Professor Bresso added that the Province was also developing sustainable transport systems as evidenced by the new infrastructure, which will be used to create an underground train network for Torino and its metropolitan area.
A key WED event planned for 5 June is the annual Global 500 awards, which recognize the outstanding contributions of individuals and organizations to the protection of the environment.
Dr Rosa Elena Simeon Negrin, Cuba's Environment Minister, said: "The designation by UNEP of the Republic of Cuba as one of the two world venues for the 2001 World Environment Day has been welcomed in my country with great enthusiasm. Without doubt, this event will strengthen public awareness regarding the need to bring together all the players in our society so we can reach higher targets for achieving sustainable development".
Other events scheduled to take place in Havana include a tree planting ceremony, art and photographic exhibitions with an environmental theme; a national competition of children's drawings on the environment; and a National Community Day for Recycling and Community Hygiene.
In Vietnam, some the WED activities will include tree planting, exhibitions of photographs and paintings on the environment and a youth cultural exchange programme.
Events in Nairobi, planned around WED, include a sponsored clean-up effort of water hyacinth from the Nairobi dam where organizers will show how this invasive weed can be turned into compost, briquettes, paper and furniture. This effort is part of UNEP's second phase of the Nairobi River Basin
Project. In addition, clean up activities are planned at some 20 locations throughout the City. Also planned, is a unique fashion show entitled 'Plastic Fantastic' in which models will sport clothes made out of plastic bags and other recyclable materials.