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Climate change challenge: the ICRC mitigators

30-04-2007 Article, Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine, No 1, 2007

Article published in the "Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine", No 1, 2007

 Extract from the article titled   Climate change challenge .

Riccardo Conti heads the ICRC’s water and habitat department and a team of 100 engineers on the ground. His main task is to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable people have access to water, particularly in situations of armed conflict. It is a task that is becoming increasingly difficult as water supplies are affected by climate change; more frequent floods and droughts are putting an increasing strain on irrigation systems and water and sanitation provision. Conti’s department is actively identifying ways of mitigating global warming.

“We are trying to reduce our environmental footprint in areas where we work and to encourage local communities to adopt environmentally friendly energy and consumption patterns,” he explains.

In Eritrea, the team has introduced solar-powered water pumping systems as a “green” alternative to diesel pumps, while in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it persuaded people to plant trees rather than crops on the banks of the Murhundu River to reduce erosion and to ensure the continued supply of water to the city of Bukavu.

Engineers have brought biogas plant s to prisons in Nepal and Rwanda, and thousands of people in Ethiopia and Somalia cook on energy efficient stoves, reducing the consumption of wood and helping in the fight against deforestation and desertification.

As well as contributin g to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the introduction of green technology can also help those hardest hit by climate change become more energy efficient.

“We have always responded to the vulnerability of the environment,” says Thomas Nydegger, ICRC hydrologist, “but climate change has made it even more vulnerable.”

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