Shortage Of Energy Resources Fueling Charcoal Burning

The lack of alternative energy sources is the leading factor why Ugandans continue to descend on forests to cut down trees to collect firewood and burn charcoal, the executive director of National Environment Management Authority, Dr. Tom Okurut confessed.

Dr. Okurut was speaking on Tuesday during a meeting where the Authority hosted three ministers from Ministry of Water and Environment. Sam Cheptoris, the Minister for Water and Environment, and his deputies Ronald Kibule in charge of water and Maria Gorreti in charge of environment were on a familiarization tour of the statutory body.

Uganda's main source of energy is biomass acquired from national resources like tress and other fossils. Burning of renewable resources provides approximately 90 percent of the energy in Uganda because it is affordable, readily available unlike alternatives like electricity and solar.

Charcoal, a solid black substance got after burning tree logs, is most used domestically to cook, provide heat and light, in rural and urban areas. The demand for charcoal increases every day as population and urbanization continues to grow. This has resulted into climate challenges like global warming.

To revert the challenge, Dr. Okurut said they are working with local government across the country to reduce the cutting down of trees to get charcoal. This is proving to be a remedy in northern Uganda where success is being registered in Otuke district.

‘In Otuke, cutting down of trees has gone down by 80%.” Dr. Okurut told the ministers inside the Authorities boardroom. He blamed the burning of charcoal on lack of alternative energy sources like solar or electricity. He said while the citizens want charcoal for their daily lives, the process ‘should be done in a sustainable manner.

The state minister for water Ronald Kibuule asked NEMA to put in place regional offices to help in environment conservation including reducing the cutting down of trees to get charcoal. He vouched for NEMA to start a tree planting crusade. “Let us not just talk about charcoal burners but also encourage planting of trees.” he told NEMA.

Cheptoris, the Minister of Water and Environment, in his speech, said that the Authority should increase sensitization so that people are educated. “Make sure people understand and appreciate the action you are taking.” He advised.

Alternative sources of energy

The mainstream alternative source of energy is hydroelectricity and solar but the two are expensive and not readily available in rural areas. The coverage of electricity in Uganda still remains in major towns however the demand for electricity has been growing at an average of 10% per annum which government is struggling to meet leading to dramatic load shedding.

Uganda has installed hydro electricity supply of about 800MW but this will grow to about 4,356MW by 2035. Government is undertaking a number of big and small hydro power projects across the country to increase supply and meet demand. 

The level of solar energy utilization in Uganda is still very low. The use of solar is mainly driven by donor-funded programmes for lighting and vaccine refrigeration in health centers and rural schools. Domestic use is also picking up in rural areas as forest are depleted. The cost and maintenance of solar panels is an impediment.

Other alternatives to get include thermal power, oil and natural gas, wind energy, cogeneration, fossil fuels and biomass among others. Both government and private investors are injecting money to generate energy at a cheaper cost. Once realized this reduced the burden on natural resources but most especially forests and preserve the environment.

Development Should Not Be At Expense Of Environment – NEMA

The commemoration of World Environment Day reignited the need for mankind to be mindful of how they use natural resources. The World Environment Day was celebrated across the world with a call for humanity to do all that is in their means to protect the environment.

In Uganda, the World Environment Day was celebrated in Gulu, northern Uganda under the theme Conserve Wildlife, Sustain Livelihoods. To put the seriousness of the challenge at hand, Flavia Nabugera Munaaba, the Minister of State for Environment, said the decline in total forest cover was at an average of 89,000 ha per annum for the period 1990 to 2005.

The World Environment Day celebrations in Gulu attracted officials from UNDP, government minister and officials and the private sector

This has mainly been brought about by human activities.  The Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Gulu Capt. Sam Okot speaking at the celebrations said one of the biggest environmental problems is charcoal burning & timber harvesting. "Timber cutting is at a higher level, there is need to sensitize people to plant trees to keep the environment in upstate."

He advised that there is need to employ more police officers to protect the natural resources from being tampered with. The other challenge that was widely discussed was the lost wetlands. It was agreed that there is need to work with the local government, so as to fight encroachment on wetlands and restore all the wetlands hence preserve the eco system at large. Animal poaching is another danger at hand.

A man walks away with a tree seedling given to him by Uganda's Little Hands Go Green team

This year’s celebration kicked off on 3rd June with a number of activities being undertaken by National Environment Authority (NEMA), National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) and partner Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green. There activities involved members of communities planting trees in major towns on the Gulu highway. The communities are taking significant efforts in conserving the wildlife.

Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green, an organization that teaches children about environment conservation teamed up with their partners and cleaned Gulu town. They also gave away thousands of trees to residents living in major towns enroute to Gulu.

Members of Uganda's Little Hands Go Green cleaning Gulu town ahead of the World Evironment Day which tool place in Gulu on 5 June

Onesimus Muhwezi, Team Leader, Energy and Environment, UNDP Uganda, who represented the UN Resident Representative to Uganda noted that 'together we can ensure that our environment is sufficient for us and our Children' adding the ‘it is vital for every one of us to fight and condemn illegal trade in wildlife.’ He warned against the illegal trade in wildlife because it will have significant national & economic effects.

The Executive Director of the National Environmental Management Authority, Dr. Tom Okurut implored that Uganda as a country shouldn't seek development at the expense of the environment. “We must seek for sustainable development,” Dr Okurut said.

Uganda's Little Hands Go Green, NEMA Tie Up World Environment Day Partnership

As the world prepares to celebrate the World Environment Day, Uganda's Little Hands Go Green and National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) are teaming up to drive awareness, excitement and  sensitize Ugandans about conservation of the environment.

World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated every year on 5 June to raise global awareness to take positive environmental action to protect nature and the planet Earth. Uganda will however celebrate it a day later, on Monday 6th June, in Gulu district under the theme "Conserve Wildlife, Sustain Livelihoods."

World Environment Day activations will kick off on 3rd June with a appearances at Wobulenzi, Luwero, Bombo, Nakasongola, Mijera, Kafu, Kiryandongo, Bweyale and Kamdini Corner before visiting Hospitals, Markets, District Headquarters, NGO offices and people's homes on 4th June.

On 5th June activations will be taken to Watoto Church in Gulu ahead of visits to Kolo Abili Primary School, Gulu Baptist Primary School and Coch Ongaka Primary Schoo on 6th June, the day of the main celebrations.

As part of this partnership both organizations and other stakeholders will activate the entire northern corridor with activities ranging from tree planting to anti kavera sensitization and pass on environmental conservation messages. Joseph Masembe the CEO of Uganda's Little Hands Go Green said these activities will carried in all major town enroute to Gulu.

 

Uganda's Little Hands Go Green and National Environment Management Authority have in the recent past had similar partnership that have registered tremendous success. The two organizations recently organized the International Children's Climate Conference, green festivals and visits to schools where pupils have been taught how to care for the environment.

Ill will On Fossil Fuels Break Loose

Things begin falling apart as NASA announces 2016 is hottest year in recorded history. So the threat of climate change proves soaring enough to move countries to break the ice. Here begins a story of men and women standing erect through manmade pains facing the changing planet. Thousands of whom have emptied sorrows to the streets or coal quarries or oil terminals in May 2016 sampling a united will to get rid of dirty energy once and for all.

History may just be rewritten. But the half thrilling and half intimidating side of the truth will forever echo the curse of dirty energy lobby as among the most impossible dystopian illusion of this generation. When the globe finally cools, the battle is successful. When extinction approaches, will the oil industry have planet ‘B’?

Whether or not climate activism is the cup of tea here, the dark past of climate denial, by all standards have bred about 0.04% (400 parts per million) carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, many times higher than 400,000 years ago.

Fossil fuel companies bigger than monsters have bankrolled anti-climate change philosophies; climate activists – as meek as lambs of God are being arrested…the list is endless, but the most recent illogical treatment is the arrests of nearly 60 advocates protesting Keystone pipeline in the US. So confirms the saying: “change is painful but inevitable.”

Equally, it might hurt world governments to give up oil wells for the public wellbeing. But the pains and wretchedness resulting from extreme weather conditions such as ill-health, including those caused by droughts, floods, food insecurity and inundation from rising seas is even much long bottled in communities around the world.

Even oil industry knew of 'serious' climate concerns more than 45 years ago. In fact, researchers warned American Petroleum Institute in 1968 how the release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels could eventually lead to ‘worldwide environmental changes.’

Despite this good faith, they chose to pay a deaf ear, that’s why things had to fall apart. Some did the opposite – trying to challenge climate change science – with illicit documentations. Further evidence unveils that American Petroleum Institute, the peak body for the oil industry in the US, knew about the dangers of climate change at least 20 years before the issue was brought into mainstream public discourse via the former Nasa scientist James Hansen.

The then influential world leaders like the US president Lyndon Johnson also received an early cautioning about climate change, with scientists explaining the mechanism of the greenhouse effect as early as 1965.

For how long could any such delicate matter be hidden? Not too long! With the final blow being the latest Nasa’s thermometers reading global average temperatures as ‘soaring at 1.28C’ as of March above the average from 1951-1980, while February was 1.34C higher, dangerous tipping points, an irreversible benchmark could be crossed.

Climate change is usually crosschecked over years and decades, but even scientists have been struck by the recent unprecedented temperatures. Furthermore, annual heat records have been also breaking records, with 2015 demolishing the record set in 2014 for the hottest year seen, in data stretching back to 1850.

Prof Michael Mann, a climate scientist who spends most of his time between shelves and laboratories of Penn State University also became agile-tonged about March data by saying: “Wow. I continue to be shocked by what we are seeing.” He said the world had now been hovering close to the threshold of “dangerous” warming for two months, something not seen before.”

“The [new data] is a reminder of how perilously close we now are to permanently crossing into dangerous territory,” Mann said. “It underscores the urgency of reducing global carbon emissions.”

As such terrifying facts unfold; the fossil fuel business seems dragging towards hell, with sharp losses resulting from steep price drops. Alternatively, exemplary investors like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is divesting its heavily invested holding in BP.

The weights “breaking” dangerous fossil fuels is the most courageous wave of actions challenging business as usual across the world. Motivated by an ever strengthening, ever stretching effort to achieve 100% renewable energy, breakfree campaign resounds the knell that spelled fossil fuels at the close of COP21.

In the UK, the campaign had the country’s largest open-cast coal mine shut over 12 hours. While in the Philippines, over 10,000 people marched in Batangas city demanding the cancellation of the proposed 600 – megawatt coal powered plant in Barangay Pinamucan.

All signals indicate greener earth and a brighter future will lean on the raptures of renewable energy miracles that must shatter the bondage of carbon dioxide emissions nuclear energy price competitions built from the cradles civilization to the present moment.

To harness the moment, activists and concerned citizens committed to addressing climate change—from international groups to local communities to individual citizens— are united to maintain grips to force energy providers, as well as local and national governments, to steer towards a renewable future through investing in wind and solar energy.

This enviable cause justifies the discharge of thousands of men and women showing the world a glimpse into wrecking resistance through solidarity hard for politicians foster. Each action was unique: from the coal fields of UK, to the oil wells of Nigeria, to defiant actions against new coal power plant in Indonesia and the Philippines -- and many places beyond but all echoes one sound: stop polluting our ecosystem! End fossil fuels. And now.

In order to address the present-day climate crisis, fossil fuel projects need to be shelved and existing infrastructure needs to be replaced now that renewable energy is more affordable and widespread than ever before. The only way to achieve this is by keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground and accelerating the just transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

 

By Boaz Opio

Environmental Writer, Kampala Uganda.

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PHOTOS: Kids Tackle Climate Change Challenge With Verve

Developing countries like Uganda are at a higher risk of being devastated by the negative impact of climate change. As a preventive measure environmental activists are undertaking initiatives to stop agents of climate change.

One of the agents of climate change is deforestation which is an act of cutting down trees. In a situation where trees have been cut, efforts to re-plant new and more tree is taking shape. Afforestation is being used to curb the devastation caused by the vegetation that was cut down by man.

In Uganda, Little Hands Go Green, an organization championing good environmental practices, is using children friendly initiatives to protect the environment. Over the weekend, the organization hosted over 500 children at a one day International Children’s Climate Change Conference 2016. The conference which was also celebrating International Earth Day took place at Rainbow International School.

The conference also celebrated World Earth Day

Children from different schools debated environment and water topics, presented poems, participated in tree planting exercises, made paintings in support of nature, danced and presented their ideas about mitigating climate change. Senior environmentalists were also at hand to answer questions from the pupils.

Pupils were taught how to plant and care for the trees

The annual conference, the third one in a row, was organized under the theme ‘When Water Slows, Trees Die’. It was supported by Midland Group of companies, National Forestry Authority (NFA), NBS Television, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and Vivo Energy.

Uganda's Little Hands Go Green team at the conference

Joseph Masembe CEO of Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green said the only way the environment can be saved is through using the young generation because “they are our future and we must create love for nature in them in order for them to encourage and inspire others.”

Kotecha handed over a dummy cheque of Shs10m to buy tree seedlings that will distributed across the country.

Drashna Kotecha, Director of Rainbow said “we must make sure that environment is protected and preserved to have proper living. A conference like this grooms young generation on the importance of nature and that’s why we as Midland Group of Companies joined Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green and we shall support them as long as we can.”

 

 

 

Charcoal Burning Uganda’s Future

 

Tree fellers should use the timber for making their own coffins. Because, as they kill that 100 year old Mvule, the poor tree is busy supplying them with good air to live. Hacking down a living tree to produce charcoal, one is initiating endless cycles of murder no one can ever tell. First, life of a tragic carbon at a thousandth year of captivity in the trunk is being restored! The logger is innocently condemning the lives of uncountable species of living things.

Deforestation, and especially the destruction of rainforests, is a hugely significant contributor to climate change in Uganda. Scientists estimate that forest loss and other changes to the use of land account for around 23% of current man-made carbon dioxide emissions – which equates to roughly 17% of the 100-year warming impact of all current greenhouse-gas emissions.

The impact of the charcoal industry in Uganda’s once believed to be the most stunning of all Africa’s vegetation is despairing.

Surely, if one day, the spirit of one Sir Winston Churchill, who constantly referred to Uganda as the Pearl of Africa could tour back, we can’t know what the late would make of how rapidly the country has lost it’s beautiful ecosystem to, primarily energy.

Ninety-six percent of Ugandan households depend on wood fuel for cooking. According to a study conducted by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the rate of charcoal production and usage in Uganda between 1998 and 2008 increased by 76% mainly due to increased urbanization.

The study further noted that production of charcoal in Uganda was mainly based on cutting naturally growing trees using simple methods. The current rate of deforestation stands at 1.8%. This means the scarcity of firewood can only get worse unless ambitious interventions are put in place to reverse this trend.

Wood fuel is deeply rooted in both Uganda’s household and industrial energy mix that several attempts to cut the production of the fossil fuel often meets resistance.  In Gulu district, charcoal burners in January only played hide-and-seek with the local authorities trying to impose a mere month ban. 

More burning can’t help heal the already raped lands. But just how will the 85% of the population survive without a reliable alternative energy source? Will the small solar panels visible on few roof tops of villagers produce enough energy for cooking food?

According to some reports, Uganda loses close to 73,000 hectares of forest cover annually, which has critically catalyzed the impacts of global warming in the land-locked country: fields that no longer grow… erratic and harsh weather conditions such as hot days, all have their seeds in a falling tree.

Every year our atmosphere loses around 10 billion cubic metres of oxygen, replacing it with carbon dioxide that would absorbed by flora. Knowing this should help us appreciate the vital contributions made by trees.

During the course of its life, a single average 100 year old tree will have fixed the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) contained in 18 million cubic metres of air in the form of about 2,500 kilograms of pure carbon. Experts have calculated that a hectare of well-working forestry annually absorbs about 6.5 tons of carbon dioxide while releasing 3.5 to 5 tons of oxygen.

For all of human history until around the dawn of the age of fossil fuels, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere was stable at ~275 parts per million (ppm). As climate pundit Bill McKibben explains, “Parts per million is simply a way of measuring the concentration of different gases, and means the ratio of the number of carbon dioxide molecules to all of the molecules in the atmosphere.”7 275 ppm CO2 is a useful, balanced amount which allows enough greenhouse-gasses to create a warm, livable climate but not so much as to make a dangerously hot one.

With limited renewable energy of poor nations, the demand for the fossil fuel have swelled and our carbon-emissions have soared exponentially. As a result, there is now a dangerously high amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

An average 100 year old tree is said to have availed 6,600 kilograms of oxygen for living creatures. A single tree such as a mature Mvule can produce enough oxygen for 10 people for a year. Cut down a Mvule and you condemn 10 people. Cut down a hundred and you condemn a village. Cut down a forest and you are committing genocide; aside from destroying wild-life habitats.

Cut down forests for fossil fuels and you are doing no service to humankind. You are a blight, not a blessing, on civilization; and the face of this Earth – you are burning the future!

 

BY: Boaz Opio

Environmentalist (Kampala Uganda)

 

Rainbow International School Swimathon Fundraises For Children's Climate Conference

 

Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green, a local organization that fights against Climate Change using children led initiatives, has sealed a working partnership with Rainbow International School in support of the upcoming International Children Climate Change Conference.

The conference which is in its third year will take place on Earth Day, 22 April, at Rainbow International School. To kick off their partnership, Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green and Rainbow organized the first ever charity swimming competition dubbed ‘Swimathon’ to raise money to buy fruit tree seedlings.

The two entities used the event that took place on Saturday to hold a press conference to launch the International Children Climate Change Conference. Rainbow International School also used the press conference to announce that they have joined the Go Green campaign. They also declared their unspecified sponsorship of the children’s climate change conference.

“We at Rainbow are all proud to say that today is the day when we officially go green.” A statement released by the school owned by Midland Group of companies read in part. “As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Midland Group and Rainbow have come out to strongly support environmental conservation efforts through tree planting.

We are thankful to all our students, parents and teachers that took part in the ‘Swimathon’ to raise funds that were handed over to Little Hands Go Green (Uganda) for the purchase of tree seedlings to plant all over Uganda. Let’s go Rainbow, let’s go Little Hands Go Green (Uganda), let’s go Uganda – make our country green!”  Drashna Kotecha the Director of Rainbow International School and Midland Group told journalists at the swimathon.

Joseph Masembe, the chief executive officer of Little Hands Go Green urged Ugandans to seek and create a patriotic culture of saving “our mother nature, our environment and ultimately our future” by creating a mass hysteria about tree planting by children both at school and at home.

“There is no one who is going to do it for us but ourselves. We have to tell our children it is their responsibility to protect the environment. Today we have involved them to get tree seedlings through this fun filled event of swimming. At the conference we will tell them why they should care about the environment and how they should do it.” Masembe explained.

Children To Celebrate Earth Day With Climate Conference

 

Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green will celebrate this year’s earth day, a day on which the world demonstrates its support for environmental protection, with an International Children's Climate Conference which will be held at Rainbow International School in Kampala on 22 April, 2016.

Preparation for the conference which will attract hundreds of children from different parts of Uganda are in advanced stages according to Joseph Masembe, the Chief Executive Officer Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green. The conference will discuss challenges affecting environment and solutions. There will also be an exhibition.

“We are ready to host our children at Rainbow International School. We are big and better this year. We expect presentations from high profile environmentalists and children from in and out of Uganda.  The International Children's Climate Conference has demonstrated that working with children to preserve the environment works,” Masembe explained in an interview.

This is the third International Children's Climate Conference. Last year’s conference was held at Sheraton Hotel Kampala. It attracted high profile personalities like Irish Ambassador to Uganda Dónal Cronin, Pius Bigirimana, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Minister Rosemary Nankabirwa among other dignitaries.

The International Climate Change Conference for Children is being organized by Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green and My Kid is a Superstar in partnership with National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), NBS Television, Midland Group, Rainbow International School and Lato Milk.

Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green has in the past years involved children in promoting conservation of climate through planting of fruit trees. Masembe says planting fruit trees hits two birds with one stone; promoting health through eating the nutritious fruits and conservation of the environment.

Issues of global warming and climate change are becoming more critical calling for dynamic approaches and colossal attention. Planting trees is one way that has been recommended. Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green discourages human habits that contribute to damaging the now fragile climate.

Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green discourages the habits like cutting down trees and littering the environment. “We are telling these youngsters to be responsible. We also involve them in finding solutions to issues that are causing climate change. The conference is interactive.” Masembe explains.

Urbanization Must Be Ecologically Sustainable – Experts

 

One of the characteristics of sustainable urban centers is that such settlements and development must be ecologically viable, Associate Professor Sabiiti Makara of Makerere University told a public dialogue at Victoria University in Kampala, Uganda on Thursday 7 April.

This means that urban planners and leaders must address ecosystem challenges when planning to develop urban centers like cities, municipals and towns. Sabiiti, a political science lecturer at Uganda’s biggest and leading university said that cities must be clean with no littering, green with open spaces and environmentally conscience.

Sabiiti was speaking at a Public Dialogue on Promoting Good Urban Governance organized by Victoria University in partnership with the Centre for Urban Studies and Research under the theme ‘Promoting Good Urban Governance in Uganda: Challenges and Opportunities’.

A panel of experts discussed challenges and solutions to ensure good governance in urban centers.  Sabiiti revealed that at 5.1 percent annually, Uganda is one of the countries experiencing the world’s fastest urbanization trends.

The professor added in order for good governance to prevail, urban centers like cities must be economically productive, socially just, politically vibrant, culturally diverse and have own development capacity. He warned by that lack of political order causes problems and stalls urban development.

In Uganda urban centers due to poor planning and lack of good governance surfers every time it rains because of poorly built drainage systems. Due to pollution of the environment by unregulated industrialization, many people are getting deadly diseases.

Often times environmental issues are raised when for example city projects including infrastructure developments are being undertaken. The drive to save swamps and wetlands in Kampala has been ongoing but with less success as rich people and government erect structures in swamps. This destroys the ecosystem.

Leaders blamed

In a similar manner, Dr Kiggundu Amin Tamale working with Center for Urban Studies and Research advised that urban center managers should perform because they are hired and paid to think for what is good for towns. “As city managers, you need to think for your people but they are failing.” Tamale noted.

David Kasimbazi, the programs coordinator at Center for Urban Studies and Research said there is a disconnection between policies and what is on ground. Kasimbazi’s opinion is also reflected by calls to bring law and policy reforms to improve service delivery in urban centers across the country.

Fr. Pascal Kabura from the Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC) explained that disagreements between political leaders and technical people hamper implementation of development projects.

“Take an example of Kampala Capital City, the fighting between Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and the Executive Director, Jennifer Musisi has cost us good service delivery for over four years. It is time we separate politics from City planning; development of towns and cities has been frustrated by politicians who claim to know it all,” Fr Kabura said.

Hima Cement Gets Environmental ISO Certification

 

Cement makers Hima Cement, is a subsidiary of Bamburi Cement Ltd. which is a member of the LafargeHolcim group, has received ISO certification for Environment Management System.

The Environment Management System ISO: 14001 is awarded to companies working towards prevention of pollution, eliminating, reducing and disposing of waste in a responsible manner and having integrated environmental monitoring procedures. 

“We remain committed to the integration of environmental and sustainability issues into our business activities,” says Jimmy Onen, Hima Cement’s Health and Safety and Environment Engineer. The cement manufacturer has been pursuing various projects to ensure the minimum possible harm to the environment as outlined in its environmental sustainability ambitions. 

For instance, the company has significantly reduced the use of Fossil fuel and now mostly uses natural clean fuels in its production operations thus reducing carbon emissions. Hima uses biomass fuels generated from coffee husks, rice husks, palm kernels, G-nuts husks and baggase which also supports Ugandan farmers. 

In 2013, Hima Cement completed installation of a new bag filter technology at its Kasese plant to stop dust Emissions. The company also continues with rehabilitation of all used up quarries to their former productive state.

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