New research by the Colombo based economic think-tank, the Institute of Policy Studies says that traditional rice varieties that went out favor in the last 60 years with the advent of hybrids, are much more reseilient than their successors. My story for the Thomson Reuters Foundation http://www.trust.org/item/20131010112839-bhdna/?source=hptop
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Wed, 4 Sep 2013
ISLAMABAD (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Business has picked up for Abdul Latif, and he credits to an eco-innovation in Pakistan’s capital: the solar-powered traffic signal.
Latif runs a shoe shop in Aabpara, a bustling main shopping area in an upscale sector of the heart of Islamabad.
The traffic signal at the Aabpara intersection used to regularly fall dark because of frequent and protracted power failures, causing massive traffic jams on the road that passes by his shop.
“The traffic jam had become a nuisance equally for shoppers and shop owners in the market. Customers would avoid coming to the market for fear that they would become entangled,” he said. “Business activities were suffering seriously.”
But the installation of solar-powered traffic signals has resolved the problem and business is now booming again, a happy Latif told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Traffic jams on Islamabad’s main arteries and at intersections have become routine in the power-starved capital, which sees regular power outages, particularly when energy demand is high. Outages can lead to traffic signals going dark for hours, leading to massive traffic snarls.
But in July, the city’s Capital Development Authority launched a pilot project to power traffic signals using solar panels. Solar-powered signals are now working at the Aabpara roundabout and at two other busy locations in the city.
Officials at the Authority’s engineering wing said that if the pilot project is effective, the solar-powered signals would be installed at more intersections or roundabouts where traffic jams are a serious problem when the signals go dark.
Navid Hassan Bokhari, director of solar energy affairs for the Pakistan Alternative Energy Development Board, said board had put together a plan to install solar panels at 25 traffic signals in Islamabad.
Frustrated traders, fed-up drivers and exhausted traffic wardens welcomed the changes.
“When traffic signals shut down during load-shedding hours, it is the wardens who have to handle vehicular traffic congestation for hours, said Bilal Raza, a 45-year-old traffic warden, standing beneath the solar-powered traffic signal at the Aabpara roundabout.
The solar-powered signals are “helping us manage traffic jams that are a nightmare for us,” he said.
Jacob Joseph, who runs a smartphone shop at the Jinnah Super market in another upscale residential and commercial sector, said he believed solar traffic signals could help manage business-destroying congestion at a range of shopping areas across the city.
Hit by worsening power crises, the country’s other provinces, such as Sindh and Punjab, also are mulling installing solar traffic signals and street lights.
Saeed Akhtar, chief engineer for Punjab province’s Traffic Engineering and Transport Planning Agency told Thomson Reuters Foundation over the telephone from Lahore that contracts have been signed with three local firms for the conversion of traffic signals to solar power at five road intersections in Lahore, the capital city of Punjab province.
The costs of installing solar panels will be paid for by private firms in return for small advertisements at the signals, noting which firm had backed the project, he said.
Akthar said his department is in touch with different potential corporate sponsors to fund installation and maintenance of solar panels at all 138 traffic signals.
If the plan works, it “will help address our aggravating traffic mess without becoming any financial burden on the government’s pocket,” he maintained.
Pakistan is grappled with one of the worst energy crises in its history, with around a 4,000-megawatt shortfall. Authorities hope that can be plugged by tapping into Pakistan’s huge solar energy potential.
Right now, Pakistan uses only 7 megawatts of solar power, out of its estimated potential of 2.9 million megawatts, Gholamreza Zahedi, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, told Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email interview.
He said that attracting local investments in small- and medium-size renewable energy plans and launching local manufacturing of basic components, with the help of European countries and China, which have more advanced renewable technology, could make a big difference in expanding Pakistan’s solar energy production.
Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development reporters based in Islamabad, Pakistan.
- A model village after construction in flood-prone Dera Ghazi Khan district, Punjab province, Pakistan. PHOTO/Punjab Disaster Management Authority
DERA GHAZI KHAN, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Ayesha Fatima, a 29-year-old widow with two small children, burst into tears of delight when she was handed the key and ownership papers for her new home, a two-room, single-storey, disaster-resilient brick building.
Her former home, a mud-brick house, was washed away by devastating floods in 2010, forcing the family to flee for their lives, abandoning everything they owned except two goats.
While living in a makeshift tent outside a nearby primary school, Fatima’s husband died of pneumonia and she was reduced to begging to survive, she told Thomson Reuters Foundation in muted tones.
The village where Fatima now lives – ‘Basti Hote Lashari’ in Taunsa town in Dera Ghazi Khan district, 405 km (250 miles) from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad – is one of 22 model villages built to replace homes washed away by the floods.
Constructed with private-sector funds and technical expertise, the houses are strong and designed to withstand earthquakes and extreme climate events, including floods, as part of a “climate-compatible development” initiative by the Punjab provincial government.
Climate-compatible development focuses on “triple win” strategies that limit greenhouse gas emissions, build resilience and promote development at the same time.
Parts of Punjab have been hit yet again by monsoon flooding in recent weeks, underlining the need for measures like these to protect people, property and crops from natural hazards.
When Fatima moved into her new home, in June 2011, her role as the family breadwinner was transformed by the gift of two buffalos.
“I earn Rs800 ($8) a day by selling nine litres of buffalo milk and this is enough to feed my two children,” she said happily, while milking one of the animals. “My children have also resumed going to school in the model village.”
Thousands of other poor families also lost their homes to the 2010 floods, the worst in Pakistan’s history, which tore through Fatima’s village early one morning after days of torrential rain.
She was woken by a huge uproar and the cries of villagers: “Wake up … wake up, people … Floodwater is coming!”
“When I came out of my room, the gushing floodwater was just minutes away from our home. Getting hold of my two children and two goats, I fled to the higher ground along with my 54-year-old husband. We left everything behind to the floods,” she explained.
The family spent 45 days in a school building on higher ground. When she returned, she could see only mud bricks strewn around where her home had stood.
Some 1.9 million houses were damaged or destroyed by the 2010 monsoon floods, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. Around 2,000 people died and over 20 million were affected, more than one-tenth of the population, from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea.
The World Bank calculated the economic damage at over $9 billion.
With financial support from the non-government and corporate sectors, the Punjab government has built 22 disaster-resilient showcase villages in seven of the severely affected districts, drawing on expertise from two private firms, National Engineering Services Pakistan and Associated Consulting Engineers.
The villages, costing nearly Rs1.35 billion, contain 1,885 single-storey homes, which have been handed over to people who lost their houses in the 2010 floods. The villages have schools, health centres and other community infrastructure, replacing what the floods destroyed.
“These will show how such villages can be better planned, built to higher standards and with improved community infrastructure and facilities. Other facilities are biogas plants, solar energy systems, livestock sheds, covered sewerage, brick-paved streets, parks, play areas, markets and community centres,” said Mujahid Sherdil, director-general of the Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA).
“The corporate sector played a pivotal part by extending support in both cash and in kind for the construction of disaster-resilient houses,” he added.
Sherdil told Thomson Reuters Foundation from his office in Lahore, the provincial capital, that public relief operations after disasters were often delayed by lack of funds, but that businesses could play a bigger role by immediately making financial contributions to meet aid needs under their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.
The private sector’s role in post-disaster reconstruction in 2010 showed it can help society cope with disasters, as well as providing resources, expertise and essential services for rebuilding afterwards, he said.
Dina Khan, manager of climate-compatible development projects in Pakistan for the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), told Thomson Reuters Foundation the Punjab PDMA had asked her organisation to help it incorporate climate resiliency into its post-disaster reconstruction efforts.
CDKN in turn uses management and engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald to prepare guidelines on reconstruction in hazard-prone areas of the province, and to assess the climate compatibility of model villages being built.
Arif Hasan, an independent architect, said this kind of approach addresses the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, use fewer resources and put up buildings that can withstand weather-related disasters.
“There is an urgent need for implementation of such guidelines in highly disaster-prone Pakistan that will help the country adopt climate-resilient construction methods in disaster-prone areas,” he added.
Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, CDKN’s Asia director based in Islamabad, said Pakistan has inadequate guidelines for disaster risk reduction in the construction sector.
It is hoped the climate-compatible development initiative will pave the way for the country to adopt an effective national policy, and give the rural poor and local decision-makers the knowledge they need to reduce the impact of future disasters, he said.
“The Punjab government asked CDKN to help ‘build back better’ after the devastating floods in 2010,” he said. “Not only is this a strategic project for Pakistan, it is also a test case for climate-compatible development that promises to offer lessons for the international community.”
Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development reporters based in Islamabad, Pakistan
LADAKH, India, Sep 24 2013 (IPS) – The Ladakh of today is a different world from the one Skarma Namgiyal remembers as a child. Back then, he had taken for granted the breathtaking beauty of its landscape, the purity of the cold mountain air, and the sweet taste of water in its streams.
Today, at 47 years of age, this resident of Tukcha village in Leh district in the north of Kashmir cannot believe they are digging borewells for water, using water to flush toilets in their homes in place of the dry toilets they had been accustomed to, and having to cope with sewage flowing right up to their houses.
Climate change, booming tourism and modern practices are wreaking havoc in this high altitude cold desert in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state. The average elevation in Ladakh is 11,000 ft above sea level and temperatures swing between minus 35 degrees Celsius in winters to 35 degrees in summer. Annual rainfall in the region is less than four inches.
Earlier, water from the melting glaciers would be enough to cater to the needs of the locals, Namgiyal tells IPS. But with less snowfall and warmer summers, some of the glaciers have vanished altogether while others too are fast melting.
“Look at Khardongla,” says Namgiyal’s neighbour Tsering Kushu. “It used to be a huge glacier. It is not there anymore.”
The living standard of the country’s highlanders has improved through Cordyceps business every year, but it comes at a high cost, both social and environmental, a survey conducted by the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) revealed.
Despite the stringent monitoring in place with strict rules and regulations, officials from the agriculture department agree that there is high pressure on environment.
Director of the department of agriculture and marketing cooperatives (DAMC) Dorji Dhradhul said, “It is a serious concern for us and also for the ministry, but it is not possible to monitor with foresters in the field outnumbered by collectors.”
“We are trying to create awareness through educational program, but only a few seem to be convinced. If the issue gets serious then the ministry might have to revisit the rules and regulations like reducing the number, from three collectors from each household to one, in order to have less impact on the environment. Less collectors mean less impact,” the director added.
This problem is further compounded by growing problems of littering and it is felt that, if not unregulated and unmonitored, the impact from the collection of this highly priced fungus while helping improve livelihood will leave some of the last pristine alpine ecosystems of this planet transformed for the worse.
Every year, from mid May to mid June, the collection season for the Cordyceps begins in the high alpine environment and the extend of environment degradation was categorized in four which were degrading shrub lands, littered landscapes, changing grasslands, and associated forest degradation.
A study by UWICE found that more than 78% of collectors interviewed said that they used Rhododendron and Juniper wood for cooking during the period of Cordyceps collection. The extensive use of slow growing Rhododendron and Juniper wood as fuel also pose a risk of such shrub lands from getting decimated completely.
Fuel wood is scarce in the high altitude collection grounds which are above tree line. With just available wood being Rhododendron, Dwarf Juniper and Willow, which are harvested extensively leading to opening of the areas in the fragile environment. Such openings may accelerate the process of mass wasting, thereby leading to many ecological and environmental hazards.
Studies reveal that it takes nearly 169 years for Rhododendron aeruginosum to attain the base diameter of just 8 centimeters, with an annual increment of only 0.6 millimeter. The slow growth of Rhododendron coupled with huge extraction by the collectors is a big concern. It’s, however, known fact to the collectors.
Some of the collectors The Bhutanese talked to said that it should be made compulsory to stop burning wood and go for kerosene and LPG.
Garbage management is another concern as mostly plastic and bottles wastes are not disposed off properly. Collectors throw garbage either by the side of the stream rocks or underneath the rocks, which might be hazardous to both fresh water biodiversity as well as to the people living downstream.
To address this problem, some collectors have come up with suggestions to have a proper designated disposal site. Some also said that temporary shops at the site should be discouraged.
Changing grasslands was another issue affecting the environment. Cordyceps collection coincides with the time when the young shoots of grass start to grow and with people collecting Cordyceps trampling on the grasses, the grass quality decreases and so does the feed for the yaks.
Digging for Cordyceps at the site is also a concern since it not only disturbs the grassland ecosystem, but may also accelerate soil erosion.
The amount collected from the sale of the Cordyceps has increased the purchasing power of the highlanders. There is a trend of buying power chains in the communities, and this may lead to harvesting of more of timber for construction of house and roofing, and fire wood.
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Wed, 10 Jul 2013 09:15 AM
PAGON, Indonesia (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Falling yields forced rice farmer Shamsuddin Bin Rus to consider abandoning his land and moving to the city to find work as a labourer.
But his 41-year-old wife, Kaswati, came to the rescue by participating in a loan programme that enabled her to start her own small business selling jackfruit snacks.
Low rainfall in recent years has reduced the harvest from her husband’s 2.5-hectare (6-acre) paddy plot in Pagon village, in coastal Subang district some 130 km (80 miles) southeast of Jakarta. The 58-year-old rice farmer said he used to get more than five tonnes of rice per hectare, but now reaps less than four.
“How can we depend solely on farm income any longer when the rainy season is delayed by 25 to 30 days every year and ends 10 to 15 days earlier, and (it does) not rain as much as it used to?” Kaswati said.
“Every year, we do the same labour (and) sow the same amount of paddy seed on the land, but the crop productivity is no longer the same,” she said.
But the couple have not had to leave their home in search of work thanks to a scheme set up by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The project, which began in 1997 in several villages in Subang district, offers low-interest loans to people in farming communities to help diversify their incomes, so they can better survive economic losses from poor harvests amid changing weather patterns.
Kaswati borrowed 4 million Indonesian rupiah ($400) from the scheme at an interest rate of 1 percent in 1999. She also joined an economic self-help group that was part of the programme.
“Having received training about efficient use of the credit, I launched a small-scale jackfruit snacks stall in my village,” she said.
Over the years, her business has boomed. From monthly sales of 40,000 rupiah ($4) in 2000, she now earns 4 million rupiah ($400) per month, having expanded to markets in other villages in Subang and adjoining districts.
Bin Rus said that, without his wife’s earnings, the family would have fallen into poverty and debt. Now he no longer needs to borrow cash for seed from moneylenders, who charged high interest or forced him to sell his crops to them at below-market rates.
Ronald Hartman, IFAD’s programme manager in Indonesia, said the loan scheme has been scaled up to raise the living standards of the poorest rural families in 18 provinces.
Experience has shown that low-income farmers and fishermen are creditworthy and demonstrate economic initiative when mobilised into self-help groups, he added.
Group members have chosen from up to 200 types of business activities, ranging from livestock-raising to small-scale trade, food processing and handicrafts. Most are given training in financial planning and management, Hartman said.
IFAD reports that over the years the scheme has loaned a total of 113 billion rupiah ($11.4 million at current exchange rates) with a repayment rate of 86 percent. The incomes of participating families have risen by 41 to 54 percent.
Agriculture is still a major source of income in Indonesia, employing 57 percent of the labour force and accounting for two thirds of the country’s GDP. But changing climate and weather patterns have forced some to abandon farming, putting the livelihoods of whole communities at stake.
According to the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics, data gathered from 174 climate stations in major food-producing areas of the country indicate that rainfall is declining by nearly 250 mm per year. Indonesia receives on average 1,755 mm (69 inches) of precipitation annually.
Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of rice after China and India. But in the past five years, the country of 248 million people has also become the world’s seventh largest rice importer, requiring an annual average of over 1.1 million tonnes of imported rice to meet its domestic needs.
Zulkifli Zaini, a crop scientist with the International Rice Research Institute in Indonesia, said the Southeast Asian nation’s rice output has not declined, thanks to the cultivation of improved varieties. But the fact that it has remained static over the past five years is a cause for concern.
Rice accounts for half of per-capita food consumption, so meeting rising national demand has become a daunting challenge for the government.
Experts are pressing for climate adaptation programmes that will increase crop planting areas and boost crop intensity and productivity, alongside campaigns to lower the average consumption of rice.
“Improved land management practices that contribute to soil moisture retention and maintain the amount of nutrients in the soil at appropriate levels can strengthen resilience as well as enhance productivity,” said Ir Haryono, director general of the Indonesian Agency for Agriculture Research and Development.
He also stressed the importance of helping farming communities diversify their income sources to survive shocks from erratic weather patterns. Replication of IFAD’s loan programme in other provinces could help with this, Haryono added.
Kaswati, meanwhile, is making the most of her entrepreneurial success.
“Before I rolled out the business…I had no say in our family affairs and was completely dependent on my husband economically,” she said. Now her husband listens to her and values her decisions about family matters.
Saleem Shaikh is a climate change and development reporter based in Islamabad.
PCSIR Laboratories are promoting the green technology through their technology business incubators .They are trying to convince the public to invest in the technology on demand and requirement basis in Khyber Pukhunkhwa. They help the investor to to produce products look for markets and establish business on the research and findings of the scientists of the Labs.This step will be very helpful in promoting green technology which is environment friendly.
For details plz click the link to listen;
Sri Lanka has been increasingly witnessing erratic rain patterns that have had a debilitating impact on the country’s vital agriculture production. Now research has shown that centuries old irrigation schemes spread wide in the rural areas can be used as a workable solution to the vagaries of these shifting rain patterns. – http://www.trust.org/item/20130702101105-pvwac/?source=hptop