|"Digging the salt from Lake Katwe involves standing waist or chest deep in toxic water for hours at a time." (James Ewen/Earthmedia)|
By James Randerson
The Observer, November 21, 2010
"Didas Yuryahewa, bent double and waist-deep in water, holds his breath as he struggles to gouge out another shovel of stinking black mud. The air is thick with the bad-egg stench of hydrogen sulphide mixed with ammonia. The equatorial sun beats down on his naked back, leaving a salty sheen. In the good times, Yuryahewa -- and hundreds of other salt miners at Lake Katwe in western Uganda -- can make a reasonable living, but it is a casino existence. Salt production turns rapidly from boom to bust with the seasons, leaving the workers struggling to make ends meet, and climate change is starting to load the dice against them. The gathering of environment ministers and officials at UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, on 29 November may seem a world away, but development campaigners say progress towards a deal to raise $100bn (£62bn) a year by 2020 to help poorer countries such as Uganda adapt to climate change is essential. The climate change fund was seen as one of the few successes to come out of the ill-fated Copenhagen talks last December. Two weeks ago, leading economists, finance ministers and heads of state came up with a draft plan for how the money could be raised -- including a mixture of carbon taxes, aviation and shipping taxes, and the redirection of fossil fuel subsidies. At Cancun, negotiators are expected to inch closer to an agreement on finance, but progress on reducing the world's carbon emissions looks to be as far away as ever.