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IMF chief Christine Lagarde calls Asifa rape and murder "revolting"

Washington, April 19: Describing the outrageous rape and murder of  eight-year-old girl Asifa in Jammu & Kashmir, India, as "revolting", IMF chief Christine Lagarde today hoped that the Indian authorities starting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi would pay more attention to it.

Her sharp remarks come in the backdrop of a nationwide outrage over the rape cases in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua and Uttar Pradesh's Unnao.

"What has happened (in India) is just revolting. I would hope that the Indian authorities, starting with Prime Minister Modi pay more attention because it is needed for the women of India," Lagarde said.

"When I was last in Davos after Prime Minister Modi's speech, I did tell him that he had not mentioned the women of India enough. And it's not just a question of talking about them," the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund said.

She quickly clarified that this was her personal position and not that of the IMF. "By the way this is not an IMF official position. It is my position," she said. 


Pakistan gets $300m World Bank loan for agri sector

Islamabad, Feb 4: The World Bank on Friday signed agreement worth of $300 million with Pakistan to support the agriculture sector of the Punjab and $5 million agreement with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to improve the nutrition status of children and women.

Economic Affairs Division (EAD) Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan signed the Loanand Grant Agreements on behalf of government of Pakistan while representatives of government of Punjab and government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa signed their respective Project Agreements while Country Director Patchamuthu Illangovan represented the WB .

The government of Punjab would finance $1290 million for Strengthening Markets for Agriculture and Rural Transformation (SMART) in Punjab. Meanwhile, the World Bank would give loan of $300 million for the SMART programme.

The World Bank in December last year had approved $300 million to modernise agriculture in Punjab province to raise farmers' incomes, give consumers better quality and safer food at lower prices, create jobs on farms and agribusinesses, and improve the use of irrigation water.

The SMART Punjab programme is aimed at helping the government of Punjab to promote transformational change in the crop and livestock subsectors by focusing on activities contributing to three Results Areas: (a) increased on-farm productivity and value of crops and livestock; (b) increased value addition and competitiveness of crops and livestock; and (c) enhanced resilience of smallholder farmers to climate change and natural disasters. Each Results Area involves a specific combination of policy reforms, institutional strengthening and public investments.

The resources provided by the World Bank will be part of a larger programme by the government of Punjab that aims at better harnessing the enormous potential for farming in the province, with its fertile soils and extensive irrigation system.

It addresses the paradox that while Punjab's farmers earn too little, people pay high prices for low quality food. This situation is largely the result of farm policies that have hardly changed in the last 50 years. These include extensive subsidies that are inefficient and ineffective, and government spending that does not provide widespread benefits and results in wasteful water use.

Meanwhile, another agreement of additional financing to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for the Enhanced Nutrition for Mothers and Children Project of $ 5.0 million (Grant) was also signed on Friday.

The objective of the grant is to scale-up nutrition intervention in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to improve the nutritional status of children under two years of age, as well as pregnant and 

lactating women.

The EAD secretary thanked the World Bank for extending its continuous support to the government of Pakistan in its efforts to achieve sustainable economic development in the country.

World food prices seen supported by strong demand in 2018

Rome, Feb 9: 

Strong demand looks set to support world food prices in 2018 although the political situation in oil-producing countries and international trade negotiations may herald more volatility, a United Nations food agency economist said on Thursday.

World food prices rose 8.2 percent in 2017 from the previous year, reaching their highest annual value since 2014, on an index compiled by The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Food on international markets is still 24 percent cheaper than its 2011 high, and supplies of many commodities in the index of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, remain ample.

“The general sentiment is that we know what supplies are, and there is no excuse to think demand would get weak ... so there is momentum being built,” said FAO senior economist Abdolreza Abbassian.

The index rose annually despite a 3.3 percent fall in December from the month before, as dairy, vegetable oils and sugar values declined sharply.

Improved global growth prospects have helped fuel demand in most countries but it was too early in the year to predict what effect weather conditions would have on harvests, meaning supply could still exceed expectations, Abbassian said.

Oil prices were also driving developments, he said.

“If oil prices are the highest in a couple of years, all you need is some sort of unexpected development in one of the big oil producing countries to see a spike in oil and that would definitely spill over to other commodities,” Abbassian said.

Demand for biofuel as oil prices rise and surpluses shrink could support values for vegetable oil, sugar and corn.

Last year’s market uncertainty about issues such as a planned renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement had not yet been assuaged, Abbassian said.

“I think in 2018 we are going to confront the real consequences of some of these developments,” he said. “It’s going to be a little more uncertain, a little more volatile and unpredictable.”


Agriculture in Pakistan Punjab likely to suffer as Mangla reservior reaches dead level

Islamabad, Feb 25: Irrigation situation has worsened in Pakistan Punjab as Mangla Dam reached to its dead level Thursday, prompting Indus River System Authority (IRSA) to equalise water inflow and outflow from the reservoir.

The water supply to Punjab has reduced from Mangla Dam and to meet the demand of Punjab from Indus River, Irsa members with the 3:1 has allowed the opening of Chasma Jhelum Link canal.

“Today after detailed discussions and looking to the Mangla Dam position Irsa has decided to open Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal with immediate effect with a discharge of 4000 cusecs to save Trimmu-Sidhnai Barrages” said spokesperson Irsa, Khalid Rana in an interaction with media.

The spokesman said that the decision was taken by 3:1 majority as Member Sindh strongly objected on decision.

Earlier it was predicted that major reservoirs Tarbela and Mangla are likely to reach their dead level by the end of current month.

“Mangla reservoir has approached to dead level 1050 feet in order to maintain the level at 1050 feet or dead level, as per instruction received from Chief Engineer (operation) Irsa. 

Therefore inflows and out flows has been equalised from the mangla .

Due to reaching of Mangla Dam to dead level the water discharge from the reservoir has been dropped to normal river flows of 35000 cusecs instead of early 18000 cusecs.

Interestingly, according the figures released by Wapda and Irsa early Thursday morning, mangla was still six feet above than its dead level but during the day it dropped to dead level.

Meanwhile, an official source told The Nation that the total water flow in Chanab, Jhelum zone is 9000 cusecs. Currently there is 70 percent water shortage in Jhelum-Channab zone. The shortage was going to affect crops on 1.3 million acre of land, the source said.

The source said that the water flow in Chenab and Jhelum is its historic low this year.

When asked about the abrupt going down of mangla to dead level, the source said that it was due to rating table which has not provided the accurate reading of the water storage at mangla .” Now we have downward revised the water level in Tarbela and reduced it by 175000 Acre feet,” the source added.

In November, the Irsa upward revised the water shortage and anticipated that provinces would face 36 percent shortage during Rabi season instead of the early forecast of 20 percent.

The official said that the provinces are still getting water as per Irsa’s forecast of 36 percent shortage. So far Punjab has received water with 30percent cut on its share, Sindh faced 31 percent water shortage and Balochistan 15percent, the official said.

Currently Punjab is getting 39000 cusecs water, Sindh 37000 cusec while Baluchistan is getting 4000 Cusecs of water, the source said.

Regarding the effect of the water reduction, the source said that water supply to Sindh was also reduced. “Sindh was getting 37000 cusecs, against its share of 25000 cusecs, which has been reduced to 32000 cusecs and will be reduced to 20000 cusecs during next week” the source added. However the source said that the effect of reduced water supply to Sindh will be felt after 10 to 15 days and by that time the wheat crop in Sindh will not require water.

After dam reaching to its dead level the provinces will be provided with water supply on daily basis from the normal flow of the river.

As per the position of the river inflows and outflows at Tarbela, mangla and Chashma along with the reservoirs levels and the barrages as released by Irsa, Thursday morning, are as follows; inflow in Indus at Tarbela were 10200 cusecs and outflows 40000 cusecs, inflows in Kabul at Nowshera were 10600 cusecs and outflows 10600 cusecs, inflows in Jhelum at mangla were 3500 cusecs and outflows 18000 cusecs, While inflow in Chenab at Marala were 5900 cusecs while outflows were 2000 cusecs.

Against the minimum operating level of 1380 feet Tarbela present level is 1406.30 feet.

The maximum conservation level of the reservoir is 1550 feet. Similarly in Manglla against the minimum operating level of 1040 feet the present level 1056.40 feet.

The maximum conservation level of mangla is 1242 feet. Chashma reservoir against the minimum operating level of 637 feet the present level was 640.10 feet.

Courtesy: The Nation

Almost half of world’s population faces severe water stress: UN World Water Development Report 2018

ZT Research Desk

Srinagar, March 25: Almost half of the world’s population lives in regions with severe water stress and climate change will worsen the situation. However, nature-based solutions, such as reforestation, the protection of wetlands or water-efficient agricultural practices, can improve the supply and quality of water and reduce the impact of natural disasters. 

This is the message of the UN World Water Development Report 2018. Currently, an estimated 3.6 billion people live in areas that are potentially water-scarce at least one month per year, and this number could increase to some 5.7 billion by 2050. Climate change will put further pressure on the global water cycle, with wetter regions generally becoming wetter and drier regions becoming even drier. Urbanisation, deforestation and the intensification of agriculture will add to these challenges. 

The global demand for water has been increasing at a rate of about 1% per year over the past decades due to population growth, economic development and changing consumption patterns. The report projects that demand will continue to grow. Industrial and domestic demand for water will increase much faster than agricultural demand, although agriculture will remain the largest user.

The report says that the challenge is to meet this demand in a way that does not exacerbate negative impacts on ecosystems. Ecosystem degradation is already a major problem. Although about 30% of the global land remains under forest cover, at least two thirds of this area are in a degraded state. Most of the world’s soil resources, notably farmland, are in only fair, poor or very poor condition. This has serious impacts on water cycling due to higher evaporation rates, lower soil water storage and more surface runoff accompanied by increased erosion. Since the year 1900, an estimated 64–71% of the natural wetland area worldwide has been lost due to human activity. This ecosystem degradation is negatively affecting hydrology. But nature-based solutions in agriculture could make a difference.

The report argues that agriculture needs to use resources, including water, more efficiently and reduce its external footprint. It calls for sustainable food production, which enhances ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes, for example through improved soil and vegetation management as well as farming practices that minimise soil disturbance, maintain soil cover and ensure crop rotation. The authors stress that “agricultural systems that conserve ecosystem services by using practices such as conservation tillage, crop diversification, legume intensification and biological pest control perform as well as intensive, high-input systems”. They cite a study that assessed agricultural development projects in 57 low-income countries and found that using water more efficiently combined with reductions in the use of pesticides and better soil cover increased average crop yields by 79%.

The report gives further examples for nature-based solutions in agriculture: Following a severe drought in the Indian state of Rajasthan in 1986, NGOs worked alongside local communities to set up water harvesting structures and regenerate soils and forests in the region. 

This led to a 30% increase in forest cover, groundwater levels rose by several metres and cropland productivity improved. Another solution is the System of Rice Intensification that enables savings of 25 to 50% in water requirements and 80 to 90% in seeds while raising paddy output by 25 to 50%, depending on the region. The UN sees a huge potential in rain-fed systems that account for the bulk of current production and family farming and hence provide the greatest livelihood and poverty reduction benefits. “The theoretical gains that could be achievable at a global scale exceed the projected increases in global demand for water, thereby potentially reducing conflicts among competing uses,” the report reads.

However, the use of nature-based solutions remains marginal due to the lack of enabling conditions. The report argues that payment for environmental services schemes would provide monetary and non-monetary incentives to communities, farmers and land owners to protect, restore and conserve natural ecosystems and to adopt sustainable agricultural and other land use practices. It calls for a shift in agricultural policy to finance the further uptake of nature-based solutions. 

“This requires overcoming the fact that the vast majority of agricultural subsidies, and probably the majority of public funding and almost all private sector investment in agricultural research and development, support the intensification of conventional agricultural, which increases water insecurity,” the authors write.

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