Friday 30 September 2011

Friday Photo (2) - Sustainable Water Supply

This water supply was built at least 30 years ago and is still working well, thanks to good management and maintenance by the local community and caretaker (pictured).
(c) Geology for Global Development 2011

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Can Earthquakes Trigger Volcanic Eruptions?

Scientists from the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory have written an excellent article about the relationship between earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Due to the fact that both volcanoes and active faulting occur on plate boundaries, these are closely related processes. Simply put, earthquakes change the stress field in the area in which they occur. These changes in the stress field can change the stress balance around magma chambers - bringing them closer to an eruption. Both the fields of seismology and volcanology are complex processes however, and therefore the interactions between these two systems are also complicated.

One reflection from reading this article, is the importance of understanding and incorporating the interaction of hazards within natural hazard risk assessments. If people have been affected by a large earthquake they will be more vulnerable to a volcanic eruption than if there had been no earthquake. Their properties may have been damaged, giving them less protection from ash, blocks of rock etc - and roads used as emergency escape routes may also have been damaged. This again highlights the importance of a holistic, multi-hazard approach to natural hazard analysis. 

Monday 26 September 2011

Geology for Global Development - University Poster

Did you know... Geology for Global Development is not just a blog - we are an organisation working to raise the profile of international development within the student/recent graduate geoscience community. One of our aims is to establish groups within universities across the UK, to organise seminars, help raise funds, and get people involved in our projects and future placements 

Over the coming weeks we will be working to get posters displayed in UK university earth science / geology / physical geography departments to promote who we are and what we are doing. You can help by downloading a poster from the university groups page of our website and asking to display it in your university department.

Friday 23 September 2011

Friday Photo (1) - Joy of Clean Water

From this week, each Friday this blog will publish a photo or series of photos - highlighting the work of geologists and the impacts of their work. If you have a photo you want to share - contact GfGD.

Protecting the health and improving the lives of children 

(c) Geology for Global Development 2011 

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Hydrogeology & Development Conference 2011

Last week I attended a conference on hydrogeology and development, jointly convened by the Hydrogeological Group of the Geological Society of London and the International Association of Hydrogeologists. It was an excellent opportunity to listen to those working in the hydrogeology sector, and think about the role of the hydrogeologist in global development.

The afternoon began with a presentation by Helen Bonsor, from the BGS, who discussed the BGS's work in developing quantitative maps of groundwater for Africa. This work involved collating existing information, and generating quantitative estimates of key aquifer parameters in order to produce continent-scale hydrogeological maps. This work was crucial for understanding how climate change will affect African groundwater. You can read about their work on the BGS website and see some of the maps resulting from their work.

The second presentation by Dr Mark Cuthbert, of the University of Birmingham, looked at recharge estimation in NE Uganda. An impressive data set looking at groundwater levels was used to determine the amount of recharge in the region (i.e. how much water will be added to the groundwater due to rain, losing streams etc). Understanding recharge is crucial for knowing how to manage water in a sustainable manner - making sure less water is being removed each year than is being added each year). 

The third session was a discussion about the role of the hydrogeologist in aid and development. Thoughts from this session will be documented in a separate and later blog.

The fourth session was presented by Prof. Stephen Silliman, from the University of Notre Dame, who presented this year's Darcy Lecture on the 'development of reliable hydrologic data sets in difficult environments' using case studies from Benin in West Africa. This was an outstanding lecture in which Prof. Silliman argued strongly that reliable and scientifically defensible data-sets can be generated in rural, developing locations where access and finances are limited. Through close collaboration with in-country universities, government agencies, NGOs and local communities, Prof. Silliman was able to monitor the water quality over several years, gathering high-quality and reliable data.

The final session was by Prof. Richard Carter, Head of Technical Support at WaterAid. Prof Carter outlined the importance of systematic supervision when undertaking borehole projects, from ensuring good siting choices to supervising the drilling process itself. His presentation concluded that supervision should include being "systematic about observations, measurements and record keeping - generating important information for decision making, assuring construction quality and cost effectiveness, and monitoring the health and safety of all stakeholders." Currently a common strategy amongst many clients is to ignore good supervision, and to load the risk and responsibility onto the contractor - getting them to choose the sites and only paying them for successful wells. This strategy drives up the prices of boreholes. 

It was very interesting to hear this talk (and many other comments), in light of the work we have been doing on the 'Basics to Groundwater' technical paper. This paper aims to build technical capacity within clients that have no scientific background - introducing them to many key principles within geology and hydrogeology. Hopefully this can be used as a tool to increase the quality and ability of clients to supervise the drilling of boreholes, and other technologies. It was also excellent to hear some very strong success stories, and positive news relating to geologists working closely with other development professionals to contribute to reducing poverty and improving lives.

Monday 19 September 2011

Earthquake in the Himalayas

An earthquake (M6.9) struck the Himalayas yesterday, impacting areas of India, Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. Dave Petley has written two helpful blogs on his 'Landslide Blog' site that give a good insight into the geology and impacts of this earthquake. One thing he discusses is the added effect of landslides following the earthquake. As the earthquake hit at the end of the monsoon season, the ground is already quite saturated promoting ground instability, and further wet weather is due.

L'Aquila Earthquake (2009) - The Trial Begins...

As reported a while ago, a number of scientists are to face trial in Italy for failing to correctly evaluate the risk of the L'Aquila earthquake in Italy (2009) and communicate this to the public. They are to be charged with manslaughter. The L'Aquila earthquake, measuring 6.3 on the Moment Magnitude scale, and killing over three hundred people was Italy's deadliest quake in recent times. 

This week their trial begins, and many scientists involved in hazard assessment will be watching with a keen interest and much anticipation. BBC Newsnight have produced an article discussing the trial and there is also an interesting article on Nature News by Willy Aspinall, former chief scientist at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory in the Caribbean. He highlights one of the main dangers of this trial - that experienced, knowledgeable and professionals in the field will be much more reluctant to give advice shaping policy and decisions then before - essentially making life even more difficult for town planners etc.

As the trial progresses we will continue to report the latest developments.

Thursday 15 September 2011

How Integration Can Defeat Disease & Poverty

A number of NGOs, including Tearfund, WaterAid, Action against Hunger, End Water Poverty, PATH and Action for Global Health, have recently produced an interesting piece of research called 'Join up, Scale up - How integration can defeat disease and poverty' The research highlights cases where an integrated approach across sectors produced a greater impact, than a less integrated approach. For example, water and sanitation projects being joined with health, income generation or food production projects. In one example from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a water and sanitation project was joined with a project working to end violence against women - which often occurs when women are walking to get water.

GfGD believe in a holistic approach, understanding the interactions between sectors - and it is great to read of many projects in which professionals from different sectors are communicating and working together for maximum impact. You can download the report from Tearfund's website or read their blog introducing it on Tearfund's Just Policy blog site.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Basic Guide to Groundwater: Introduction

Over the past few months I have been writing a 'Basic Guide to Groundwater' for use by those working on water and sanitation projects overseas - who have not had much technical training or had any advanced study of science. The guide is also well-suited to those who speak English, but it is not their first language - using many simple and clear diagrams to communicate the key principles of geology and hydrogeology. 

The guide is less aimed at hydrogeologists, water technicians and water engineers (who are likely to have had some training) and more aimed at those managing, contracting and supervising water projects. It will give them a basic understanding of many important questions such as where is water stored underground, what are pumping tests, how does the water table change over time and what materials make good aquifers? It is hoped that the guide will improve the quality of decision making by such people, and from that improve the quality and sustainability of community water supplies. 

The publication is currently going through the review stage, with copies being distributed to some key individuals to seek their feedback and comments. Eventually it will be freely available as a PDF from the resources page of our main website. We are actively seeking sponsors for this publication, to fund future work and resources and help us disseminate this useful guide to as wide an audience as possible. If your organisation would be interested in profiling themselves within this guide, then please get in contact via our support page to discuss this possibility.

Over the coming weeks this blog will publish some of the text and diagrams from the guide to give you a taste of the sort of things it will cover.

Thursday 8 September 2011

Newswatch - September 2011

Newswatch is a regular round up of some of the key stories relating to the geosciences and international development. This month we look at typhoon triggered landslides, the landslides in Bulambuli (Uganda), World Water Week and the crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Typhoon Triggered Landslides 
Dave Petley's Landslide Blog - hosted by the AGU - has some remarkable pictures of a landslide in Taiwan, triggered by typhoon Namadol, with one comment suggesting the landslide had a runout of 2km. It is well worth having a look at the rest of his site also - with reports from typhoon triggered landslides in Japan also.

Mt Elgon Slopes, Uganda
Uganda Landslides
Following last month's landslide in the Bulambuli area of Uganda, there have been a few reports giving updates about the situation there. One report suggests that food aid has only just reached the 800+ households affected, due to many roads being severely affected by the heavy rains. The Uganda Red Cross has managed to distribute medicine, clothes, blankets, water purifiers, mosquito nets, jerrycans and saucepans - however the need for food has been desperate as many crops were buried by the landslide. Flooding in the area, following heavy rains, has affected a wider area with widespread flooding of pit latrines - putting people at risk of water-borne diseases such as cholera.

World Water Week
Following last week's post about World Water Week here are another couple of blogs written by those who were there. The first is on the End Water Poverty blog and the second, looking at the role of the private sector, is on the Tearfund blog

Horn of Africa Drought & Famine
It was welcome to see the terrible situation in the Horn of Africa raised in Prime Minister's Questions yesterday, and it is to be hoped that the political will to continue addressing this crisis is maintained. For the latest information on the situation, The Guardian publish online a weekly blog outlining the funds required and received, and further information.     

Friday 2 September 2011

World Water Week 2011

Last week was World Water Week, an annual conference held in Stockholm, where experts from across the sector gather to discuss the crucial issues relating to global water supply. Following on from last week's look back at some of this blog's water and sanitation posts - here are a few posts from other blogs covering issues raised at this years conference, and other discussions:

"Facing up to the Global Water Crisis - Some poor, politically stable countries have made great strides in access to water supply and sanitation. Water experts meeting in Stockholm called for further improvements..."

Duncan Green, Oxfam's Head of Research, discusses what Oxfam should be doing on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).

Read WaterAid's assessment of World Water Week - with blogs and videos from the event.