A Bolivian mountain road known as the “Death Road” turned into a wildlife sanctuary. The trail, which dates back to the 1930s, meanders along steep cliffs in the country’s Andes and connects the capital, La Paz, with the Amazon rainforest.
After thousands of fatal vehicle accidents, Bolivia opened an alternative transport route in 2007, leaving the original path for cyclists, the curious and wildlife.
Why we wrote this
In our progress chart, change for a notoriously dangerous road in Bolivia, declining child marriage rates in Nigeria, and Belgium’s city centers where people’s safety is a priority.
Animals were virtually absent due to the pollution and noise of the 24-hour traffic in the area. But once the heavy-duty trucks had moved, biodiversity blossomed. Using camera trap data, the Wildlife Conservation Society has since documented 94 species of wild birds, including hummingbirds, toucans and parrots, and 16 species of mammals in the region.
Sources: Reuters, Ecología en Bolivia
2. United States
Students now have access to free menstrual products at California schools. Beginning in the 2022-2023 school year, all public schools serving grades 6 through 12, as well as public colleges and universities, are required to stock menstrual pads and tampons in women’s and all-gender bathrooms, as well as at least one men’s restroom, thanks to one last fall signed bill.
According to the National Education Association, nearly one in four college students in the United States struggles to afford period products. “Similar to food, school supplies and other basic necessities, students are often too embarrassed to admit that firstly there is a shortage of such things in their own homes and secondly they need help to obtain them,” said teacher Yurii Camacho, who did this formerly did period products for college students self stock.
The law expands on a 2017 bill that required many low-income schools to offer menstrual products. “Just as toilet paper and paper towels are provided in virtually every public bathroom, menstrual products should also be provided,” said Assembly Member Cristina Garcia. Over a dozen other states have passed similar laws, including Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii and New York.
Sources: The Associated Press, National Education Association
Belgian cities give priority to bicycles and pedestrians, contribute to the quality of life and reduce emissions. Studies show that minimizing the number of cars on the road reduces traffic accidents and makes eco-friendly modes of transport safer. In the university city of Leuven, for example, cycling has increased by 40% in the five years since the city approved a community-based mobility plan.
Similar changes are taking place in the country’s capital. As part of a plan that went into effect last month, Brussels added new cycle lanes and low-speed zones, pedestrianized pedestrian zones and created one-way streets to ease traffic while expanding investment in public transport. Cars that would previously drive through the city to reach other locations will be diverted onto a ring road.
Less than a quarter of people living or working in central Brussels use cars, according to Bart Dhondt, the city’s deputy mayor for mobility. “We’re leaving behind the Brussels of the ’60s and ’70s, when everything was built for cars, and moving in a completely different direction where the city is for people,” he said.
Sources: Euronews, Politico, European Cyclists’ Federation
Seed banks across Nepal are reviving native varieties of food crops. These community-run banks have emerged as a way to protect crops that are particularly resilient to extreme weather and pests. While over 90% of vegetable seeds grown in Nepal are imported, seed banks make it easier for farmers to access local varieties that have been dying out around the world for over a century. Today there are over 50 community-run seed banks across the country, according to the government’s Center for Plant Development and Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation.
For example, residents of Maramche in western Nepal set up a seed bank in 2020 after local farmer Krishna Adhikari attended a national meeting for community seed banks in Kathmandu. The city’s new seed bank preserves 12 native crops, including rice, cucumber, and corn. These organizations and their farmers face challenges ranging from limited financial support in the short term to the migration of younger generations to cities. Despite the uncertainty, “we know we are doing our part to preserve our heritage,” Mr Adhikari said. “That’s what matters now.”
Child marriages in Nigeria fell by 14 percentage points in five years. Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest rates of child marriage in Africa. According to a national report in 2016, around 44% of Nigerian women said they were married under the age of 18. That number dropped to 30% by 2021, with a higher percentage of underage girls getting married in rural areas than in urban areas.
According to UNICEF, girls who marry before adulthood are less likely to continue their education and are more likely to experience domestic violence. Nigeria’s Children’s Rights Act banned this practice in 2003, but legislation has not passed in 11 states. The report also showed improvements in infant mortality, birth registration and breastfeeding. “While there has been some good progress – and this is something we should celebrate – we still have a long way to go to ensure the well-being of children in Nigeria,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative.
Sources: Premium Times, UNICEF