Jan 15, 2009

World - Ocean fertilization opposed

Roy Mathew

Ecologists: expedition to fertilize sea near Antarctica violates CBD

NIO is collaborating with German institute in the expedition in which iron is dumped in the ocean

There is a moratorium on ocean fertilization until there is an adequate scientific basis

THIRUVANTHAPURAM: The Indian Biodiversity Forum has protested against the involvement of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) in the expedition to fertilise sea near Antarctica with iron sulphate.

The NIO is conducting the operation in collaboration with the Alfred Wegener Institute of Germany as part of a project called LOHAFEX (Indo-German Iron Fertilisation Experiment). The expedition, which has set sail from Cape Town last week, plans to ‘fertilise’ 300 sq. km. of the Scotia Sea, close to Antarctica, with 20 tonnes of iron sulphate. (The dumping of iron in the ocean in order to generate an algal bloom is often called ocean fertilization).

In a letter to Prime Minister on behalf of the forum, ecologist S. Faizi, Vice-Chairman of IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management Dhrubajyothi Ghosh, and the former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests D.P.S. Verma, said the expedition constituted a breach of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The conference of parties of the convention in May last year had, by consensus, put a moratorium on ocean fertilization until ‘there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities, including assessing associated risks, and a global, transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanism is in place for these activities.’

The only exception granted was for small scale scientific studies within the coastal waters subject to prior and thorough assessment of the potential impacts of the research studies on the marine environment. The LOHAFEX project was a glaring violation of the consensus decision. It further violated the CBD articles on the precautionary principle and the requirement of prior environmental impact assessment.

They urged the Prime Minister to prevent breach of international laws by the NIO. “India is a key player in CBD negotiations and it is in our self-interest that the authority of this international law is respected. For, as a victim of recurring bio-piracy, we need to invoke this convention more often than many others.”
Resenting voices

They said the project had already caused severe resentment among the global environmental community. A large number of civil society groups around the world are protesting against the project.

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