As extreme weather hits harvests, food buffers could help – Thomson Reuters Foundation

As extreme weather events keeping increasing in frequency, Sri Lanka’s harvest keeps fluctuating. Now experts say that the country should look at seriously using buffer stocks. “If you want to tackle this problem, then you have to change as fast as climate is changing, preferably faster,” said L.P. Rupasena, deputy director of research at the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Training and Research Institute in Colombo. – http://www.trust.org/item/20130724100422-sv5zd/?source=hptop

Nepal turn to renewable energy

Story from Annapurna Post National Daily july 15-2013

नवीकरणीय ऊर्जाको भर

पिताम्बर सिग्देल 
हाम्रो देशमा भने ऊर्जाका पर्याप्त स्रोत हुँदाहुँदै पनि त्यसको वैज्ञानिक सदुपयोग हुन सकेको छैन। बिजुली, दाउरा, मट्टितेललगायतबाट प्राप्‍त गर्ने शक्ति नै ऊर्जा हो। त्यस्तै गाडी चलाउन प्रयोग हुने पेट्रोल, घट्ट चलाउने पानी, लुगा सुकाउने घामको ताप ऊर्जाका स्रोत हुन्। मुलुकमा एकातिर ऊर्जाको अभाव छ भने अर्कातिर ऊर्जाका स्रोत त्यत्तिकै खेर गइरहेको अवस्था छ। यी स्रोतको प्रयोगमा सरकारले ध्यान दिँदै जनतालाई आकर्षित गर्न सके ऊर्जाका अपार सम्भावना उपभोग गर्न सकिन्छ।
आधुनिक जीवनशैलीसँगै ऊर्जाको खपत बढ्दो छ।

ढुंगेयुगमा एकजना मानिसले वार्षिक एक सय वाट ऊर्जा खपत गर्ने गरेका तथ्य भेटिन्छ। मध्य युगमा मानिसले वार्षिक एक हजार वाट ऊर्जा प्रयोग गथ्र्यो। अहिले प्रत्येक नेपालीले करिब पाँच सय वाट ऊर्जा खपत गर्छ। नेपाली समाजमा ऊर्जाका लागि दाउरा, मट्टितेल, कोइला, गोबर तथा कृषिजन्य सामग्री, ग्यास, बिजुलीलगायत मुख्य रूपमा प्रयोग भइरहेको छ।

ऊर्जा खपतको अवस्था

नेपालको ८० प्रतिशतभन्दा बढी जनसंख्या ग्रामीण भेगमा बस्छ। परम्परागत ऊर्जाका स्रोत दाउरा, कृषिजन्य अवशेष गुइँठा, गोबर नै मुख्य रूपमा त्यहाँ प्रयोग हुन्छन्। नेपालमा खपत हुनेमध्ये करिब ८७ प्रतिशतभन्दा बढी ऊर्जा यिनै परम्परागत ऊर्जा स्रोतबाट प्राप्त भइरहेको वैकल्पिक ऊर्जा प्रवर्धन केन्द्रको तथ्यांक छ। यसको अर्थ परम्परागत ऊर्जाका स्रोतको प्रयोग बढ्दा वातावरणीय विनाश भइरहेको छ। वनजंगलको फडानी भइरहेको छ। यसका कारण बाढीपहिरो, भूक्षयका घटना बढेका छन्।
अर्कोतर्फ खेतबारीमा मलको रूपमा प्रयोग गरिने गोबर कृषिजन्य अवशेष ऊर्जाका रूपमा प्रयोग हुँदा कृषि उत्पादनमा समेत ह्रास आइरहेको छ। यसले वातावरणमा समेत नकरात्मक असर परेको छ। कृषि उत्पादन बढाउन प्रयोग हुने रासायनिक पदार्थले मानव स्वास्थ्यमा असर गरिरहेको छ।

वैकल्पिक ऊर्जा प्रवद्र्धन केन्द्रका अनुसार नेपालमा खपत हुने विभिन्न ऊर्जाको माग हेर्दा करिब ७७ प्रतिशत दाउराबाट पूरा भइरहेको छ। कृषिजन्य अवशेषबाट ३.६५, गाईबस्तुको गोबरबाट ५.८५ प्रतिशत ऊर्जा प्राप्त भइरहेको छ। त्यस्तै कोइलाबाट ३, तैलीय स्रोतबाट ९.३५, जलविद्युत्बाट १.९५ प्रतिशत ऊर्जा प्राप्त भइरहेको छ।
ऊर्जा स्रोतको केन्द्रीकरण तथा प्राकृतिक सम्पदाको दोहनका कारण विभिन्न विपत्ति आउने खतरा बढेको वैज्ञानिकहरूले औंल्याइरहेका छन्। वातावरणीय खतरा, विश्व तापमान वृद्धि, हिम रेखा स्थानान्तरको खतरा, जैविक विविधता नष्ट हुने, अम्लीय वर्षा तथा हिमताल विस्फोट नेपालका लागि मुख्य खतरा हुन्। अन्य देशमा समुद्री सतह बढ्ने, तेलजन्य प्रदूषणका समस्या पनि उत्पन्न भइरहेका छन्। यी सबै समस्यालाई निराकरण गर्दै वातावरण जोगाउन तथा ऊर्जा उपलब्धता बढाउन नवीकरणीय ऊर्जा सबैभन्दा उत्तम विकल्प हो। ‘हामीले अनुदान बढाउँदै लगे देशका सबै वर्ग र समुदायसमक्ष नवीकरणीय ऊर्जा पुर्‍याउन सक्छौं’, वैकल्पिक ऊर्जा प्रवर्धन केन्द्रका कार्यकारी निर्देशक गोविन्दराज पोखरेल भन्छन्।

के हो नवीकरणीय ऊर्जा?

प्रकृतिमा निरन्तर प्राप्त भइरहने र प्रयोग गर्दा वातावरणीय असर कम हुने ऊर्जा स्रोतलाई नवीकरणीय ऊर्जा भनिन्छ। यस्ता ऊर्जाको खपत जति धेरै भए पनि रित्तिने डर हुँदैन। त्यसैले पनि संसारभरि यस्ता ऊर्जाका स्रोतलाई प्राथमिकता दिइँदै आएको छ। नवीकरणीय ऊर्जाका स्रोत स्थानीय तहमा पर्याप्‍त पाइन्छ। ‘हाम्रै वरिपरि यस्ता स्रोत छन्। यिनको वैज्ञानिक व्यवस्थापनमात्रै अहिलेको चुनौती हो, स्थानीय निकायलाई सशक्त बनाउँदै लैजान आवश्यक छ’, पोखरेल औंल्याउँछन्। त्यस्तै यस्ता ऊर्जामा विदेशी लगानी र हस्तक्षेपको सम्भावनासमेत हुँदैन।

नवीकरणीय ऊर्जाका विभिन्न स्रोत छन्। जैविक ऊर्जा, जलशक्ति ऊर्जा, सौर्यशक्ति ऊर्जा, वायुशक्ति ऊर्जा, भूगर्भीय ऊर्जा, समुद्री छाल ऊर्जा, हाइड्रोजन ऊर्जा आदि संसारमा बढी प्रयोग भइरहेका स्रोत हुन्। यसमध्ये जैविक ऊर्जा पृथ्वीको सतहमा रहेको पिण्डको एउटा सानो हिस्सा हो। यो ऊर्जा सबैतिर धेरै परिमाणमा फैलिएको छ। सौर्यशक्तिको एउटा सानो अंश प्राप्त यो ऊर्जाको मुख्य स्रोत सौर्यशक्ति हो।

नेपालमा जैविक ऊर्जाका रूपमा गोबरग्यास, कृषिजन्य कामबाट खेर गएका पदार्थ, जैविक तेल (वनस्पति तथा फलफूल प्रशोधन गरेर निकालिने तेल) आदि प्रयोगमा छन्। त्यस्तै दाउराबाट खाना पकाउने, सुधारिएको चुलो आदि पनि जैविक ऊर्जाभित्रै पर्छन्। जलशक्तिअन्तर्गत सुधारिएको घट्ट, लघुजलविद्युत् ऊर्जाका स्रोतका रूपमा प्रयोग भइरहेका छन्। सौर्य शक्तिबाट भने सौर्य ताप, सौर्य बाकस चुलो, सौर्य पानी हिटर, सौर्य ड्रायर, सौर्य बिजुली मुख्य हुन्। संसारका धेरै देशमा वायु ऊर्जा महत्त्वपूर्ण स्रोतका रूपमा रहेको छ। नेपालमा भने यसको धेरै उपयोग हुन सकेको छैन। नेपालका लागि जैविक ऊजासँगै सौर्य र वायु ऊर्जा उपयोगी हुन्छन्। वातावरणमैत्री ऊर्जाका यी स्रोत प्रयोग गरेर विकसित देशले ऊर्जा अभाव पूरा गरिरहेका छन्। तर, नेपालमा भने परीक्षणका रूपमा यी ऊर्जा प्रयोग भइरहेको अवस्था छ।

वायु ऊर्जा

हावाको गतिमा रहेको शक्तिलाई वायु ऊर्जा भनिन्छ। वायु ऊर्जालाई परम्परागत रूपमा विभिन्न तरिकाबाट प्रयोग गरिए पनि हावा आधुनिकीकरण भइसकेको छैन। यसबाट विद्युत् उत्पादन गर्दा इन्धनको बचत हुन्छ भने प्रदूषण हुँदैन।

पछिल्लो अध्ययनअनुसार नेपालमा हावाबाट तीन हजार मेगावाट बिजुली उत्पादन गर्न सकिन्छ। भौगोलिक र प्राकृतिक रूपमा नेपाल वायु ऊर्जाको अपार सम्भावना भएपछि सरकारी बेवास्ताका कारण यसको सदुपयोग हुन सकेको छैन। नेपालका धेरै स्थानमा चल्ने हावाको प्रकृति र बेगका कारण पनि नेपाल वायु ऊर्जाका लागि आकर्षक स्थान मानिन्छ।

वैकल्पिक ऊर्जा प्रवर्धन केन्द्रले संयुक्त राष्ट्रसंघीय वातावरणीय कार्यक्रमसँग मिलेर गरेको एउटा अध्ययनले नेपालमा तीन हजार मेगावाट वायु ऊर्जा सजिलै निकाल्न सकिने बताएको छ। तर, भौगोलिक विकटता र यातायातको असुविधा प्रमुख समस्या रहेको निष्कर्ष छ। विज्ञहरूका अनुसार मुस्ताङको कागबेनी, भक्तपुरको थिमी, नगरकोट, पाल्पा तथा रामेछाप वायु ऊर्जाका लागि सबैभन्दा उपयुक्त स्थान हुन्। यी स्थानमा सजिलै र छिटो धेरै वायु ऊर्जा उत्पादन गर्न सकिन्छ। तर, सरकारले यसको दस प्रतिशत क्षेत्रमा मात्रै उत्पादन सम्भावनाका बारेमा विस्तृत अध्ययन गरेको छ। सबैभन्दा धेरै सम्भावना संरक्षण क्षेत्र तथा मध्य र उच्च पहाडी भेगमा छ। वैकल्पिक ऊर्जा प्रवद्र्धन केन्द्रका ऊर्जा इन्जिनियर प्रकाश अर्यालका अनुसार नेपालमा वायु ऊर्जा सस्तो र छिटो हुन्छ।

तीव्र गतिमा हावा चल्ने ठाउँमा टर्वाइन जडान गरी वायु ऊर्जा उत्पादन गरिन्छ। विकसित देशहरूले ऊर्जा उत्पादनका लागि सबैभन्दा धेरै प्राथमिकता वायु ऊर्जालाई दिएका छन्। मुस्ताङबाट मात्रै सय मेगावाट क्षमता बराबरको वायु ऊर्जा निकाल्न सकिन्छ। हालैमात्र ऊर्जाविज्ञ अमृतसिंह थापासहितको टोलीले गरेको प्राविधिक स्थलगत अध्ययनले मुस्ताङमा सय मेगावाट ऊर्जा निकाल्न सकिने प्रमाणित गरेको हो। तीन हजार ५४ मिटर अग्लो मुस्ताङको ताङवे गाउँमा ५० मिटर अग्लो टावर राखेर अध्ययन गरिएको थियो।

वायु ऊर्जा छिटो र वातावरणमैत्री हुन्छ। यो छोटो समयमा धेरै उत्पादन गर्ने गरी जडान गर्न सकिन्छ। सरकारले सिंहदरबारभित्र तथा काठमाडौंका केही सडकमा बीस मेगावाटको वायु ऊर्जा उत्पादन गर्ने तयारी गरिरहेको छ। वैकल्पिक ऊर्जा प्रवद्र्धन केन्द्रसँग ठूला विदेशी कम्पनीले समेत वायु ऊर्जा उत्पादनका लागि इच्छा देखाएका छन्।

अहिले नेपालमा ११ वटा विभिन्न ठाउँमा वायु ऊर्जा उत्पादन भइरहेको छ। सरकारले थप केही स्थानमा उत्पादनको तयारी गरेको छ। वायु ऊर्जामा अनुदान दिने नीतिको मस्यौदा पनि सरकारले तयार पारेको छ। सन् १९८९ मा नेपाल सरकारले नेपालमा मुस्ताङको कागवेनीमा दस किलोवाटको वायु ऊर्जाका लागि टर्वाइन राखेको थियो। तर, त्यसको तीन महिनामै त्यो बिग्रेको थियो। त्यसैगरी सन् २००२ मा कीर्तिपुर र झापामा दुई ठाउँबाट वायु ऊर्जा उत्पादनको प्रयास भएको थियो। तीन सय वाट प्रतिवर्गमिटर वायु ऊर्जाका लागि उपयुक्त। तीन मिटर प्रतिसेकेन्डबाटै व्यावसायिक उत्पादन गर्न सकिन्छ।

सौर्य ऊर्जा

परापूर्व कालदेखि नै मानिसहरूले सूर्यबाट प्राप्त हुने शक्तिलाई विभिन्न रूपमा प्रयोग गरिरहेका छन्। जाडोमा घाम ताप्न, लुगा, दाउरा सुकाउन सूर्यकै ताप प्रयोग गरिन्छ। यो नवीकरणीय ऊर्जाको प्रमुख स्रोत हो। सौर्य ऊर्जाको ताप शक्ति र प्रकाशलाई विभिन्न प्रविधिको सहयोगले मानवका लागि उपयोगी हुने गरी संग्रह गरेर प्रयोग गर्न थालिएको छ। सौर्य ऊर्जामा भएको ताप शक्ति प्रयोग गरी खाना पकाउन, बिस्कुन सुकाउन, ड्रायर चलाउन, पानी तताउन प्रयोग भइरहेका छन्। त्यसैगरी सौर्य ऊर्जाबाट प्राप्त बिजुलीबाट रेडियो टीभी तथा बत्ती बाल्ने, पानी तताउने, पंखा चलाउनेलगायतका काम भइरहेका छन्।

परम्परावादी सोच बाधक

नेपालको ऊर्जा क्षेत्र परम्परावादी सोच र प्रविधिको पछि लागेका कारण ऊर्जा क्षेत्रमा प्रगति हुन सकेन। अहिले पनि नीतिनिर्माता तथा राजनीतिक नेतृत्व जलविद्युत्भन्दा अर्को विकल्पमा सोच्न तयार छैनन्। नेपाल भौगोलिक तथा प्राकृतिक रूपमा नवीकरणीय ऊर्जाका लागि उपयुक्त स्थान हो। तर, यसमा सरकारको प्राथमिकता नहँुदा उल्लेखनीय प्रगति भएको छैन। विज्ञान प्रविधि तथा वातावरण मन्त्रालयले नवीकरणीय ऊर्जालाई प्राथमिकता दिन नीति बनाए पनि त्यसको कार्यान्वयनमा धेरै समस्या देखिएका छन्। पछिल्लो दशकमा नेपालको नवीकरणीय ऊर्जाको क्षेत्रमा उल्लेख्य प्रगति भएको छ। तर, यो पर्याप्त भने छैन। सरकारले अनुदान नीति ल्याएर ग्रामीण भेग तथा पिछडिएको वर्गमा ऊर्जा पहुँच पुर्‍याउन विशेष जोड गरेको छ। तर, ठूलो परिमाणमा ऊर्जा उत्पादन गर्नेतर्फ भने सरकारको ध्यान छैन। त्यसअनुसारको नीतिसमेत सरकारले बनाएको छैन। ‘नवीकरणीय ऊर्जाको क्षेत्रमा उल्लेख्य प्रगति भएको छ तर यो पर्याप्त भने होइन’, केन्द्रका सहनिर्देशक राजु लौंडारी भन्छन्। ग्रामीण र सहरी भेगमा नवीकरणीय ऊर्जाका विभिन्न स्रोत फरकफरक रूपमा प्रयोग गर्दै ऊर्जा अभाव टार्न सकिने लौडारीको तर्क छ।

अहिले विश्वको १६ प्रतिशत ऊर्जा नवीकरणीय ऊर्जाको स्रोत हो। खासगरी विकसित देशहरू नवीकरणीय ऊर्जामा गइसकेका छन्। मानव स्वास्थ्य तथा वातावरणका दृष्टिले समेत सुरक्षित नवीकरणीय ऊर्जा अभियान चलाउनुको विकल्प पनि अब छैन। अहिले पनि संसारमा दुई लाख ३८ हजार मेगावाट ऊर्जा वायुबाट मात्रै प्राप्त भइरहेको छ।

८० प्रतिशतभन्दा बढी नागरिक गाउँमा बस्ने नेपालमा प्रतिव्यक्ति ऊर्जा खपत विश्वव्यापी मापदण्डभन्दा धेरै तल छ। नेपालको ऊर्जा क्षेत्रमा परम्परावादी स्रोतकै दबदबा छ। अहिले नेपालमा जम्मा ४० प्रतिशत जनताको पहुँचमा मात्रै बिजुली छ। ग्रामीण विद्युतीकरणको पहुँचमा जम्मा २९ प्रतिशतमात्रै छ। अधिकांशले आफ्नो ऊर्जा आवश्यकता चुल्होमा दाउरा तथा गुइँठा बालेर पूर्ति गरिरहेका छन्। यसको ठूलो आर्थिक, वातावरण तथा स्वास्थ्यमा प्रभाव परिरहेको छ। लघुजलविद्युत् आयोजनाबाट सय मेगावाट बिजुली निकाल्न सकिन्छ तर अहिले आठ सय चार आयोजनाबाट १६ मेगावाटमात्रै निस्किएको छ। त्यस्तै बायोग्यास प्लान्ट ११ लाख जडान गर्न सकिन्छ तर अहिले तीन लाखमात्रै छ। अध्ययन क्षेत्रबाट मात्रै वायु ऊर्जाबाट तीन हजार मेगावाट बिजुली निकाल्न सकिन्छ तर अहिले पाइलट परियोजनामात्रै छ। नेपालमा २५ हजार पानीघट्ट बनाउन सकिन्छ, अहिले आठ हजारमात्रै सुधारिएका घट्ट छन्। नेपालमा नवीकरणीय ऊर्जालाई वैकल्पिक ऊर्जाका रूपमा प्रयोग गर्न सके ऊर्जा क्षेत्रको विकास छिटो हुन्छ। यसका अथाह सम्भावना छन्।

Sri Lanka disaster stocks dangerously low – IRIN

Disaster relief stocks across Sri Lanka are dangerously low, experts and officials warn.

“There are gaps we need to fill, especially on stocks like tents and medicines that cannot be procured at short notice,” Sarath Lal Kumara, assistant director of the Disaster Management Centre (DMC), the main government body tasked with early warning and relief work, told IRIN.  – http://www.irinnews.org/report/98458/sri-lanka-disaster-stocks-dangerously-low

Climate change threatens Bangladesh’s MDG achievements – experts

Mon, 22 Jul 2013 04:33 PM

Syful Islam

DHAKA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Two years before the 2015 deadline, Bangladesh has achieved most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations, but the impacts of climate change pose a threat to the country’s progress, experts say.

“The threat of climate change can diminish the hard-earned beneficial impacts of years of growth and development, not just for the people in impoverished settlements along coastal belts and river banks, but for the entire nation,” said Shamsul Alam, a member of Bangladesh’s Planning Commission.

Bangladesh has recorded impressive feats in lifting people out of poverty, ensuring more girls and boys attend school, and providing access to clean water, Alam said. Considerable progress has also been made in raising the number of children that survive beyond their fifth birthday, and the country has been recognised by the United Nations as on track to meet the goal of reducing child mortality by two thirds of its 1990 rate.

“There have been some improvements to address the country’s massive environmental challenges over the past decade as well,” Alam added.

But Ainun Nishat, an environmentalist and vice-chancellor of BRAC University in Dhaka, said the impacts of climate change were not considered when the MDG targets were set at the beginning of the century.

The issue came into focus after 2007 when a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that a sea-level rise of 1 metre would inundate nearly one fifth of Bangladesh’s coastal area and flood plain.

“The impacts of climate change will definitely hamper steps for achieving the MDGs (and) especially pose a threat to food security,” he said.

Apart from the risk of flooding, Nishat said climate change is causing variable rainfall. From 2007 to 2012 there was hardly any rain in Bangladesh’s northern districts. The recent experience in the capital is different, however.

“This year a full day’s heavy downpour (occurred) in Dhaka, causing huge waterlogging,” Nishat said.

CITY SLUMS SWELL

Climate change is also a factor in internal and external migration, with a negative impact on food security, nutrition and children’s education, areas where the MDGs are meant to bring improvements. It is also implicated in the spread of health-related problems like dengue fever.

Meanwhile, the government is struggling to keep up with the infrastructure needs of expanding cities.

Arif Sheikh, a rickshaw puller who lives in Dhaka’s Korail slum, said poor people living in the shanties are deprived of many civic amenities. “Children here hardly go to school or get medical services, thus (they) sufferer from diseases.”

Sheikh, who came to Dhaka from Barisal district in southern Bangladesh after losing his land to riverbank erosion, said finding work has become extremely competitive as the number of poor people moving to the city increases.

“People from coastal districts are pouring into the capital … as they are losing lands and houses to the river,” he said.

Day labourer Rahim Mia, who lives in Dhaka’s Malibagh area, said migrating to the capital had not ensured even a modest living for him or his family.

“Every morning, several hundred people gather here to be hired by contractors. But not necessarily everyone gets a job since the scope of work is limited compared to the number of jobseekers,” said the 35-year-old father of two young daughters and a son.

“Riverbank erosion and salinity has driven us to the city, but the government (pays) no attention to us.”

ACTION NEEDED

Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, a nongovernmental organisation working on sustainable development issues, agreed the effects of climate change have emerged as one of the main barriers to poverty reduction.

“Climate change is causing lower food production, and adding difficulties for ordinary people,” he said.

Rahman said there is no doubt that global warming will undermine some of the Millennium Development Goals.

“Extreme events like cyclone, storms, floods and droughts continue to pose a threat to (their achievement),” he said.

Adaptation by poor nations will not work unless industrialised countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, he argued. “If sea-level rise is too high, no infrastructural protection will save the low-lying countries,” he said.

BRAC University’s Nishat said Bangladesh’s leaders must act quickly to avert disaster.

“We have to take steps so that the impacts of climate change can’t cause a food crisis, destroy the ecosystem and hinder the development process,” he said.

Syful Islam is a journalist with the Financial Express newspaper in Bangladesh. He can be reached at: [email protected]

http://www.trust.org/item/20130722163326-vjgux/?source=hptop

How predictable can you get?

Imagine a situation in which the countries in South Asia continue their economic growth drawing excessively on natural resources.

Then, around 2030, a series of extreme weather events caused by climate change — drought, glacial melt and floods — pushes the region off the tipping point, leading to civil unrest, political instability and weakening of institutions. … MORE …

Pakistan breaks India’s record mangroves plantation

By 
Lahore Times
Published: June 24, 2013

KETI BUNDER, Sindh: “The Sindh Forest Department has set a Guinness World Record for planting a maximum number of mangroves saplings at Keti Bunder” on Saturday (June 22), informed the Additional Secretary Sindh Forest and Wildlife Department, Mr. Aijaz Ahmed Nizamani at a press conference held here, in Keti Bunder, a coastal town in Sindh.

He was accompanied by Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan; Mr. Riaz Ahmed Waggan, Chief Conservator of Forests and Mr. Muhammad Umer Memon, Project Director Sindh Coastal Community Development Project (SCCDP). Two independent adjudicators for the Guinness World Records event, Mr. Rafi-ul-Haq and Dr. Shaukat Hayat Khan also joined them, along with Mr. Tahir Qureshi, Coastal Ecosystem Expert, IUCN Pakistan.

The announcement was made, shortly after 300 coastal community volunteers had planted 8,47,257 saplings, breaking an earlier record of 6,11,000 saplings planted by India in 2010. While congratulating the nation, he thanked the forest department employees, coastal community volunteers and the coastal experts for their tireless efforts in achieving this goal.

He also informed the media that the Asian Development Bank has announced Rs.5,000 as a special reward for each of the volunteer. ADB has funded a 5-year long Sindh Coastal Community Development Project in the area in partnership with the Sindh Forest Department. A special shield was awarded to Mr. Tahir Qureshi for his exceptional conservation work in the Indus Delta over the last few years.

While congratulating the efforts of the Sindh Forest Department, Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema said that there have been competitions between Pakistan and Indian in sports but a competition in the field of environment is even healthier, as in the end it will only lead to healthy ecology in both the countries.

Weblink: The Lahore Times Read more: http://www.lhrtimes.com/2013/06/24/pakistan-makes-world-record-by-planting-847275-mangrove-saplings-in-a-day-174792/#ixzz2ZCUKpgDs
Follow us: 
@lhrtimes on Twitter | lhrtimes.tcom on Facebook

Government budget cuts threaten Pakistan’s climate change efforts

Saleem Shaikh
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Thu, 11 Jul 2013 01:35 PM

The Leh Nullah river, which flows from Islamabad to Rawalpindi, is dangerously clogged with debris and garbage as the rainy season starts. Photo/Muhammad Javaid

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A sharp cut in government funds for Pakistan’s main climate change agency may mean little to thousands of people in homes perched along a flood-prone river in the city of Rawalpindi. But it could tip them into crisis during the monsoon season that has just begun.

The natural river – known as Leh Nullah – doubles as a drain, and is now contaminated with rubbish and sewage. It has burst its banks several times in the past, severely damaging houses. The last time this happened was in July 2001, when flooding cost 35 lives and swept away several slum areas.

The Leh Nullah winds 30 km east from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, down to low-lying Rawalpindi. It has six major tributaries, three originating in the foothills of Islamabad’s scenic Margallah Hills.

Amid economic woes and a fiscal squeeze, Ishaq Dar, the finance minister of Pakistan’s new government, announced in last month’s budget speech a massive cut of over 62 percent in annual spending for Pakistan’s government department charged with tackling climate change.

A few days earlier the country’s climate change ministry – which had only existed since April 2012 – was downgraded to a division. The Climate Change Division is part of the Federal Cabinet Secretariat which functions under the oversight of the prime minister.

The moves have drawn strong criticism from climate scientists, as well as local and international organisations working to boost the country’s resilience to climate impacts.
They warn that the spending cuts may be felt on the ground as early as this year’s monsoon season, which runs from July to September.

In Rawalpindi, the Leh Nullah brims over during monsoon, posing a risk to thousands of families in the settlements it snakes through. Weeks before, government authorities usually remove debris and garbage dumped in the channel so floodwater can flow through unimpeded.

But no such activity has happened this year, according to Joseph Jacob, a local fruit vendor who lives with his family on the drain’s right bank. “We are in a state of fear, and will be compelled to fend for ourselves during the forthcoming monsoon season,” he said.

Thousands of natural flood drains in urban areas are vulnerable to surging waters during the monsoon. But local newspapers report that most have not been cleared as the government has not provided the necessary financial support.

“We have written so many letters to the government for the release of funds and apprised them of the looming threats if the Leh Nullah is not cleared of debris before monsoon season. But such pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears, because there has been no response as yet,” said Saqib Zaffar, Rawalpindi’s district coordination officer.

‘CAR WITHOUT FUEL’

The finance minister has earmarked just 59 million Pakistani rupees (around $590,000) for the Climate Change Division for the 2013-14 financial year that began on July 1, compared with Rs135 million in 2012-13.

Nearly two thirds of this year’s spending is for four ongoing projects. Only two new initiatives – the development of an information system to manage water and sanitation and the establishment of a high-tech climate monitoring centre – were granted funds, according to budget documents.

Pakistan’s total outlay for the new financial year is Rs3.6 trillion, while it faces a fiscal deficit of Rs1.6 trillion.

As a part of government austerity measures, the finance minister announced a 30 percent cut in non-salary expenditures for all federal ministries and divisions.

The government also slashed the number of federal ministries from 40 to 28 last month, including converting the climate change ministry into a division.

Dar told parliament these “unavoidable” budgetary measures would save about 40 billion rupees.

“It is like you are given a car but there is no fuel to drive it,” said a senior official at the Climate Change Division who did not want to be named. “This will scuttle our mitigation and adaptation initiatives launched last year,” he added with disappointment.

The official told Thomson Reuters Foundation the division had requested a budget of around Rs100 million. The Planning Commission of Pakistan, which approves development programmes weeks before the new budget is unveiled, had principally agreed to it before the budget announcement on June 12, he added.

“But to our sheer surprise, no such (amount) was granted,” he said, adding that the commission had also dropped four new climate schemes relating to water, agriculture and renewable energy.

Jawaid Ali, a former director-general at the climate change agency, slammed the “abysmally low” budget allocation, saying it reflects how climate change mitigation and adaptation remain at the bottom of the new government’s priority list.

Even the division’s day-to-day functioning will be severely hampered, he said, not to mention its joint ventures with U.N. agencies.

INTERNATIONAL CASE UNDERMINED

Officials at the Climate Change Division who look after partnerships with international organisations fear the cut in spending could affect Pakistan’s efforts to highlight its climate change vulnerability at the global level.

Tauqeer Ali Sheikh, Asia director for the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) and head of LEAD Pakistan, an environment and development organisation, said Pakistan is among the top 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change, but the meagre budget allocation reflects the government’s poor understanding of this.

“Because of official apathy, Pakistan is also losing its representation at international forums for highlighting its vulnerability to harsh weather patterns,” he said.

Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, a lead author of the National Climate Change Policy, said Pakistan may face international isolation if it does not take far-reaching measures to cope with climate stresses.

Azeem Khoso, deputy director for regional planning, echoed his concern. “If the country does not participate in international activities for want of funds, the global community will think Pakistan is not serious in coping with the vagaries of climate change and improving national resilience,” he cautioned.

Pervaiz Amir, a member of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Climate Change, told Thomson Reuters Foundation that officials from India and Bangladesh effectively fought their case for receiving international funding at climate talks in Bonn this year. But there was no representative from Pakistan to argue the same – which he described as “unfortunate”.

Still experts say Pakistan can still improve its resilience to climate impacts even with a lower level of government spending.

Sheikh said Pakistan should continue to draft workable mitigation and adaptation plans across a range of social and economic sectors.

“Such plans can help win foreign funding for the country and substantiate its urgency and seriousness in tackling climate change – particularly in the water, agriculture, health and energy sectors,” he said.

“But all government ministries, divisions and departments have to work collaboratively with the Climate Change Division to achieve this,” he emphasised.

Saleem Shaikh is climate change and development reporter based in Islamabad.

Weblink: http://www.trust.org/item/20130711133533-z7p9x/

Cheap loans offer Indonesians alternatives to rice growing as rainfall decreases

Saleem Shaikh
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Wed, 10 Jul 2013 09:15 AM

Kaswati stands at her stall in Pagon village, Indonesia, holding a pouch of jackfruit snacks.TRF/Saleem Shaikh

 

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.

BOOMING BUSINESS

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.

RICE IMPORTS

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.

Weblink: http://www.trust.org/item/20130709182526-2zp8u/