Two happy campers in a sewer in Colombia

Updated 08 December 2012
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Two happy campers in a sewer in Colombia

MEDELLIN, Colombia: Stick your head in a sewer in the Colombian city of Medellin and you’ll find the cozy home of Miguel Restrepo and his wife, two happy underground squatters, and their dog Blackie. Their digs are too small to stand up in, and it measures just three by two meters (10 by 7 feet).
But somehow they have fitted it with a kitchen, a TV and a tile floor. It’s been home sweet home for 20 years. Restrepo, 62, says he would not give it up for anything because living above ground would mean paying for public services, taxes and other kinds of hassle. In his slice of middle earth, Restrepo says he lives “better than the president.” “I would not trade this for a house,” he told AFP.
Restrepo used to work as a scavenger gathering stuff to be recycled but dropped it because of lung trouble. Now he and his wife, Maria Garcia, live off the charity of neighbors. Now and then Restrepo gets odd jobs watching over people’s cars. “Some days we have more than enough food, and others we do not.
But you get used to it,” he said. Posh, or comfortable, it is not. But they have managed to seal themselves off from the rest of the sewer system by building cement walls.

 


Unmapped roads raise risk to Southeast Asian rainforests — study

An aerial photo of a road running through an palm plantation in Dumai, Riau, Sumatra island, Indonesia. (Antara Foto/Rony Muharrman/via REUTERS/File)
Updated 12 min 52 sec ago
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Unmapped roads raise risk to Southeast Asian rainforests — study

  • Researcher Alice Hughes found that roads have penetrated areas previously considered untouched and unreachable by vehicles.
  • An average of 75 percent of roads in five countries were missing from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a mapping platform widely used by researchers and academics.

KUALA LUMPUR: Forests in parts of Southeast Asia face greater threats than previously thought because researchers often rely on data that ignores new roads, which are precursors to deforestation and development, a study shows.
The paper, published this month by the journal Biological Conservation, showed that an average of 75 percent of roads in five countries were missing from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a mapping platform widely used by researchers and academics.
“Large-scale forest clearance is preceded by the growth of road networks, which provide a stark warning for the region’s future,” the study said.
Author Alice Hughes, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, studied a total of 277,281 square kilometers by analyzing satellite images and maps showing forest loss and coverage, as well as agriculture concessions.
She found that roads have penetrated areas previously considered untouched and unreachable by vehicles.
“We are deluding ourselves that we still have large tracts of inaccessible, pristine forest, when the reality is highly-fragmented, very accessible forests,” Hughs said on Friday.
Her research examined road networks in parts of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
“In some parts of the region, up to 99 percent of roads on those global maps, which are used as the basis for a huge amount of further analysis, are not included,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Deforestation and development of forests in the area studied have occurred at a rapid pace since 2000, said Hughes, while maps used by researchers do not regularly update their road data.
“Most of the time these roads are just providing access to forests and up to 99 percent of deforestation is within 2.5 km of road,” she said. “They are clearly the access method.”
She added that the region urgently needs better protection and enforcement for its remaining forests.
Indonesia, which is the world’s biggest palm oil producer, introduced a forest clearing moratorium in 2011 to help reduce deforestation.
Hughes said the ban should be expanded beyond just land designated as natural, untouched primary forest to include all high biodiversity forests.
Hughes’ research methodology should be used to determine whether the same patterns exist in other parts of the world, said Christopher Martius, team leader for climate change at the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research.
“It is surprising that nobody ever did that before, and it is shocking that the result shows we grossly underestimated the possible threat to tropical forests from road building,” he said by email.