Wanted! Seas and Oceans Dead or Alive?

Barcelona and the Universal Forum of Cultures to Host World Environment Day 2004

This Year's Global Theme: Wanted! Seas and Oceans - Dead or Alive?

Nairobi/Barcelona, 24 February 2004 - The city of Barcelona, known for its commitment to culture and urban renewal, will be hosting World Environment Day 2004, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today.

The annual World Environment Day (WED) event, celebrated around the globe each year on or around 5 June, will take place during the nearly five-month long Universal Forum of Cultures that is being hosted by the Barcelona City Council, the Catalan Autonomous Government and the Spanish Government.

UNEP, in accepting the offer of Barcelona and The Forum to stage WED, has been impressed by the wealth of ambitious and innovative environmental ideas, technologies and infrastructure developments being undertaken by the hosts as part of the Universal Forum of Cultures.

Visitors to Barcelona will not fail to see the huge, 10,500 square-metre solar power plant located at the heart of the Forum. The 1.3 MW of clean, green electricity generated is enough to meet the needs of a town of 1,000 inhabitants.

Other innovative developments (see also note to editors) include a pneumatic rubbish collection system that will take waste generated by the Forum and WED from intakes around the city through an underground network to a processing and recycling centre.

This year's WED theme, "Wanted! Seas and Oceans - Dead or Alive?" reflects not only the activities in Barcelona, which as part of the Forum is holding several activities related to seas and oceans, but UNEP's important activities in the field of the marine environment and sustainable coastal livelihoods.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP, said the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), which in 2002 drew up a Plan of Implementation with time tables and targets, had thrown down several challenges in respect to fisheries, marine protected areas, small island developing States and marine pollution.

"There was a time when humankind viewed the oceans and seas as vast and unchanging, able to absorb and dilute pollution, and provide seemingly limitless catches of fish and other marine-living resources".

"Unlike the land, where concepts of ownership and management have been established for centuries, the oceans have been viewed as truly wilderness areas, owned by no one and free for all," he added.

"That was fine in a world, now long ago, where a coastal mega-city might have been a few thousand rather than 10 million souls. But the growth in the global population, where more than 40 per cent now live by the coast, allied to our abilities to hunt faster and further for ever greater quantities of marine-living resources means we can no longer treat the seas and oceans as a free for all, uncared for and unmanaged," said Mr. Toepfer.

"So I welcome the generosity and enthusiasm of the Government of Spain, the Catalan Autonomous Government and the City of Barcelona to host this year's World Environment Day with its theme of seas and oceans. I am sure that the awareness that will be raised will catalyze further, long-lasting action from governments, right down to the smallest seaside village, to deliver the WSSD Plan of Implementation. I am also impressed by the commitment to environmental technologies which show how a modern, 21st century city can reduce its ecological footprint, not only on the seas but on the air and the land," he added.

Joan Clos, the Mayor of Barcelona, said: " World Environment Day will be a key celebration of the Universal Forum of Cultures. Its focus on peace, sustainability and respect for cultural diversity, reflects the global issues confronting our world of which the seas and oceans and the peoples who are linked with them are a key part".

"Indeed, culture and its links with the environment, are critical. In many ways it is those culturally rich parts of the globe where concepts of conservation, of the sustainable harvesting of natural resources, of living in harmony with wildlife and landscapes, are so keenly understood. Loss of culture is not only a tragedy for the world's social fabric, but a loss of intimate knowledge of the natural world," he said.

UNEP will use the occasion of WED in Barcelona to launch its new International Photographic Competition, which is being sponsored by Canon.

The new competition, with the themes of 'Focus on Your World' and 'Celebrating Diversity', aims to increase awareness of environment and sustainable development issues.

Entries are invited from all nationalities and ages, and from amateurs and professionals alike. Some of the world's leading photographers will be judging the competition.

The award ceremony and winners' exhibition will be held at EXPO 2005 in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan.

Notes to Editors WED, commemorated each year on 5 June is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action.

WED was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Another resolution, adopted by the General Assembly the same day, led to the creation of UNEP.

Information on the day, logos, posters, fact sheets and ideas on how to celebrate WED can be found at www.unep.org/wed/2004

Inquiries about the UNEP International Photographic Competition should be directed to Steve Jackson, UNEP Audio Visual Unit, on Tel: 254 20 623332 or E-mail: steve.jackson@unep.org

Details of the Universal Forum of Cultures can be found at http://www.barcelona2004.org

Apart from the giant solar power plant and the pneumatic rubbish system, Barcelona will show-case other pioneering environmental ideas and urban renewal projects.

These include the construction of a new metro station, two tram networks and the extension of cycle networks, which in the case of the coastal cycle route will extend the network to Adria de Besos.

Barcelona's Besos river is also being transformed with a river side park being created between the Molinet Bridge and the sea. Inflatable dams will keep the river level constant and the new grassy river banks should prove a joy for visitors and locals out for a stroll.

The more natural treatment of the estuary should attract migratory birds. The project will also see power lines running through hidden service corridors allowing the city to dismantle the existing unsightly high voltage towers.

UNEP News Release 2004/10