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Snow Cover (Everest/Nepal)

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for International Developmentwhat estimate he has made of the percentage of snow cover on Mount Everest in (a) 1953, (b) 1983 and (c) 2003; and what assessment he has made of the impact on Nepal of changes in the level of snow cover. [200691]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: Quantifying the change in percentage snow cover on Mount Everest from 1953 to 2003 is difficult because there have been few surveys of the mountain's snow-covered area over the period in question and none of these surveys has been continual. DFID has recently funded a research project on Snow and Glacier Aspects of Water Resources Management in the Himalayas, 2001–2004 (SAGARMATHA) that undertook analysis of temperature data and developed a predictive model to assess impacts of changes. The analysis revealed a trend of increasing annual average temperature between 1961–1996 of around +0.07o C/year across Nepal, while data from the 15 highest gauges for the period 1976–96, at elevations of between 1800 and 4100 metres, showed an upward trend of +0.1o C/year. If maintained, such trends will cause the snow-covered area in the Nepal Himalaya to recede.

Photographs taken of the mountain since the 1950s, and other anecdotal evidence, do suggest a general reduction both in the snow-covered area and the spatial extent of the mountain's glaciers, but with the snow-covered area varying within each year and from year to year, it is not possible to provide definitive figures from these for the percentage change.

The impacts of a reduced snow-covered area are many. There is a greater tendency for glaciers to retreat resulting in glacial lakes being formed behind unstable moraine dams. Consequently a build-up of melt-water and/or glacier surges behind these structures increases the threat of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), several of which have been reported in Nepal. The reduction in snow and ice cover also has potential impacts on water resources availability and use downstream: it is likely to lead to a temporary increase
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followed, ultimately, by a reduction in river flows. Increased river flows, resulting from more glacial ice being exposed for melting, could increase the incidence of flooding and landslides; whereas reduced river flows, as the glacial ice disappears, could affect agricultural productivity, fisheries, hydropower generation, industry, domestic water supply, and transportation.

The SAGARMATHA project sought to quantify the timing and extent of these impacts across the Himalayan region. It concluded that, while glaciers were retreating throughout the Himalaya, the threat to future water availability was greatest in the west. In the eastern Himalaya changes in the melt-water from glaciers has a relatively small effect. The project's models forecast that flows in eastern Nepal would gradually increase for several decades but would eventually diminish. In the west, river flows were forecast to diminish rapidly over the next few decades, which will be a concern for both India and Pakistan.

Water/Sanitation Projects

Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, what plans his Department has to work with (a) other donors and (b) main partner governments to establish sector wide approaches in water and sanitation. [200112]

Mr. Gareth Thomas [holding answer 29 November 2004]: The Department for International Development (DFID) works with its partners to support governments to achieve the Millennium development goals, including the water and sanitation goals. Where appropriate, DFID provides Poverty Reduction Budgetary Support, which helps countries implement their Poverty Reduction Strategies. Poverty Reduction Strategies are produced following a consultation process within the country concerned, and between governments and donors. Water and sanitation are a key part of these discussions.

Where DFID does not provide all or any of its assistance through Poverty Reduction Budgetary Support, DFID may work with others towards sector wide approaches in water and sanitation. This will depend on the specific situation in a country, including whether water and sanitation are agreed priorities for DFID support. DFID is also promoting improved donor co-ordination in the water and sanitation sector, under the European Union Water Initiative.



Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farms were affected in 1986 by fallout from Chernobyl; on how many farms restrictions remain in place as a result; and when she expects the effects to be eradicated from farms in Wales. [200268]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I have been asked to reply.

This is a devolved issue and the Food Standards Agency for Wales has responsibility for this area.
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Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reasons the term "common policy in the sphere of operation of fisheries", specified in the Maastricht Treaty, was replaced by the term "exclusive competence to manage marine life" in the proposed constitutional treaty for the European Union; and what assessment she has made of the consequences for the UK of the change. [200259]

Mr. Bradshaw: The conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy has been an exclusive competence of the Community since 1979. This competence is derived from a combination of the EC Treaty and the language negotiated in 1973 in the UK Act of Accession and endorsed by all the then member states. This has been confirmed by the European Court of Justice.

The new Constitutional Treaty has been drafted to reflect this position and does not extend competence in fisheries.

Foot and Mouth

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the (a) outcome of her Department's negotiations with the European Commission in respect of the request for financial aid to assist in the management of the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2001 and (b) the comments by the European Commission on the handling of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. [200731]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 30 November 2004]: The Department has recently concluded its negotiations with the European Commission and as a result the United Kingdom will receive a total of £350 million in co-financing for the 2001 outbreak.

The United Kingdom will continue to work with the European Commission and other member states to ensure that the lessons learned from the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001 are applied.

Nickel-cadmium Batteries

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment her Department has made of the impact of a total ban on the sale and use of nickel-cadmium batteries on employment in the United Kingdom. [200282]

Mr. Morley: Neither the European Commission proposal for a Directive on Batteries and Accumulators nor the European Parliament's amendments at First Reading envisage a total ban on the sale and use of nickel-cadmium batteries. A partial ban has, however, been suggested during current negotiations on the proposed Directive, and is the subject of an extended impact assessment by the Council. When participating in negotiations, the Government weigh all relevant factors, including impacts on cost, employment, customer choice, and environmental protection, in consultation with business and other interested parties.
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Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to improve collection and recycling rates for nickel-cadmium batteries. [200283]

Mr. Morley: The proposed EU Directive on Batteries and Accumulators, currently being negotiated, contains collection and recycling targets for portable and industrial nickel-cadmium batteries. If these targets appear in an adopted Directive, it is likely that a range of approaches to achieving them will be necessary. We will develop these in consultation with industry and other parties, taking account of best practice, cost, and environmental impact.

Offshore Dredging

Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to ensure that offshore dredging of marine aggregates does not adversely affect fish spawning. [199496]

Keith Hill: I have been asked to reply.

No offshore dredging of marine aggregates can take place without first receiving an environmental consent called a favourable 'Government View' from the First Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister. His decisions on Government View applications are only reached following wide publicity and consultation, including with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which, in turn, consults the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science; the Sea Fisheries Inspectorate and local fishermen. Applications are subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment and must be accompanied by an Environmental Statement. Only if he is satisfied that there will be no significant effect on the marine environment, including, if appropriate, effects on fish spawning, will the First Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, consider issuing a favourable Government View. Consented proposals are subject to conditions relating to mitigation and monitoring measures; where appropriate, these may relate to fish spawning.

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