Day: February 8, 2007

Gaping Reminders of Aging and Crumbling Pipes – New York Times

Gaping Reminders of Aging and Crumbling Pipes – New York Times

Local and state officials across the country say thousands of miles of century-old underground water and sewer lines are springing leaks, eroding and — in extreme cases — causing the ground above them to collapse. Though there is no master tally of sinkholes, there is consensus among civil engineers and water experts that things are getting worse.

The Environmental Protection Agency has projected that unless cities invest more to repair and replace their water and sewer systems, nearly half of the water system pipes in the United States will be in poor, very poor or “life elapsed” status by 2020.

Yes, sewers are unsexy, there’s no new fancy science involved. But water and sewer systems are the very basis of public health, and the biggest reason why Americans don’t die of sleeping sickness and dengue fever (or their subtropical equivalents) in large numbers evey year. People who want to cut taxes and limit government need to keep this in mind. There’s no money to be made out of building and maintaining sewers, it’s a dirty job and government has to do it, or else nobody will, and money is required. We produce the waste, we need to be taxed appropriately for it. It’s that simple.

Sea Turtle News of the day, genocide edition

Depressing as always, but this is a yearly headline around turtle nesting season.

1,000 Giant Turtles Wash Ashore in India, Bangladesh

It’s nesting season for the sea turtles of Bangladesh and India, but this year the beaches where the animals lay their eggs are eerily still.

Nearly a thousand dead turtles have washed ashore along the coasts of both countries in the past few weeks, conservation workers report.

About 200 dead reptiles have appeared in the past week alone along a single stretch of beach, pictured here, in the Bangladeshi tourist town of Cox’s Bazar (see Bangladesh map).

A team of scientists visiting the beach on Monday to investigate the mysterious mass deaths concluded that fishing nets were to blame.

Sea turtles swarming the shores to nest are getting entangled in poorly laid nets and drowning, the experts told Bangladesh’s Financial Express.

The survival rate of turtle hatchlings is estimated at anywhere between 0.1 and 1%. Assuming 0.5%, this represents 20000 hatchlings. Assuming a hatching success (not all eggs hatch successfully) of about 2/3rds, that is 30,000 eggs, or between 200-250 nests. In my two years of turtle conservation work on an approximately 3 mile stretch of beach, we relocated about a 100 nests. These aren’t the same turtles (they tend to come back to nest very close to where they hatched), but there’s my two seasons of work down the drain and then some!

Turtle safe fishing is a well researched technology and is not expensive. As I have mentioned before in a similar context, the gaps between the availability of a certain technology and its actual adoption and use are depressingly huge.

When it comes to serious problems like global warming, all the talk is going to be about the cool science and innovative solutions, but how the technology transfers to India and China, how it is implemented, and the nature of the interactions between the traditional powers and the emerging ones is going to be more critical than the science. Something to remember as a scientist!