Articles Tue, 12 Dec 2017 13:47:17 +0000 en-gb Sri Lanka trade deficit contracts by 6.8 percent in October 2015 as exports and imports fall

Sri Lanka's trade deficit contracted by 6.8 percent to US$ 791 million in October 2015 from US$ 765 million a year earlier, according to the Central Bank data released in its External Sector Performance Review Thursday.


Despite the slowdown in imports during the recent months, however on a cumulative basis, the trade deficit during the first ten months of 2015 increased by 2.5 percent to US$ 6.936 billion, the Bank said.

Central Bank attributed the expansion in the cumulative trade deficit mainly to the subdued export performance as a result of depressed global demand.

Export earnings dropped by 6.0 percent to US$ 847.3 million in October 2015, reflecting a year-on-year decline for the eighth consecutive month since March 2015 reflecting lower earnings from exports of all major categories mainly due to weak global demand.

Tea, rubber products and garments exports contributed largely to the overall decline in exports.

The continued decline in demand for tea from Russia and the Middle East mainly caused export earnings to decline significantly by 11.2 percent, year-on-year in October 2015.

On a cumulative basis, earnings from exports declined by 3.9 percent to US$ 8.843 billion during the first ten months of 2015.

Expenditure on imports also declined by 6.4 percent, year on year, to US$ 1.638 billion in October 2015 mainly due to the reduction of fuel imports, which declined by 30.5 percent in October.

On a cumulative basis, expenditure on imports during the first ten months of 2015 decreased by 1.2 percent to US$ 15.78 billion.

Earnings from tourism grew by 20.4 percent (year-on-year) to US$ 229.5 million in November 2015, while earnings during the first eleven months are estimated to have increased by 18.1 percent to US$ 2.535 billion in comparison to US$ 2.147 billion recorded during the corresponding period of 2014.

Foreign exchange inflows from workers' remittances increased marginally by 0.8 percent to US$ 605.1 million compared to US$ 600.1 million in October 2014. During the first ten months of the year workers' remittances grew by 1.7 percent to US$ 5.787 billion from US$ 5.689 billion in the corresponding period of 2014.

Sri Lanka's gross official reserves stood at US$ 6.5 billion as at end October 2015.

The Sri Lankan rupee has depreciated by 9.03 percent against the US dollar up to December 31, 2015.


Articles Fri, 08 Jan 2016 15:29:24 +0000
Multi-religious gathering in India condemns international terrorism

The Indian capital New Delhi recently witnessed an unparalleled unification of minds with leaders of different Muslim schools of jurisprudences, other religious groups and representatives of various countries, who are either victims of Takfiri terrorists or those who are decisively fighting against the menace on the ground, assembled on a single platform to denounce terrorism.


The occasion was “Anti-Terrorism Day” observed on the occasion of Chehlum or Arba’een of the Martyr of Karbala, Imam Husain (AS), the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), held on 3rd December 2015, at Dargah Shah-e-Mardaan. The event was organized by Anjuman-e Haideri, the management committee of the Dargah and Karbala-e Jorbagh, in the heart of New Delhi.

The huge public meeting was attended by foreign dignitaries including Syrian Ambassador Dr. Riadh Kamel Abbas, Iranian Ambassador, Gholam-Reza Ansari, Iraqi Charge d’ Affairs, Mohammad Sabri, Charge d’ Affairs, and Second Secretary at the Russian Embassy, Evgeny Bezeka. Religious leaders and scholars including General Secretary of Malis-e Ulema-e Hind, Mowlana Kalb-e Jawad Naqavi, prominent Hindu leader Acharya Pramod Krishnam, Eminent Sunni religious scholar Mowlana Tauqeer Reza Khan of Bareilly, General Secretary of All India Christian Council John Dyal, and Sant Krishna Saha Vidyarthi Maharaj. All religious leaders, scholars and diplomats were unanimous in condemning Takfiri and other terrorists groups who have been creating havoc in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, France and elsewhere.  

They unequivocally condemned the recent terror attack on Paris by terrorists of the self-styled Islamic State (IS) and urged the international community to step up its efforts to fight global terror. In an unprecedented manner, Russian diplomat Evgeny Bezeka spoke about his country’s fight against Takfiri and other terror outfits in Syria. He said Russia’s decision to fight against IS was at the invitation of the President Bashar al-Assad.  He said “We are fighting under the aegis of the international law with allies who understand the threat of IS. Russia’s actions have been 100% more effective in two months to contain IS, than the international coalition’s strikes for the last one-and-half years.”

Referring to Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian jet fighter, Bezeka said “We have been attacked by Turkey. This was a stab in the back. There should be international partnership in fighting terror. Russia cannot be bullied, we are not afraid.” The Russian diplomat also stressed the importance of providing stability in the region. While explaining the situation on the ground the Russian diplomat asked “Who are these terrorists?  He further elaborated that ‘they are the ones who lost their jobs in the US war against Iraq. We all need to provide stability in the region. That is the only solution.”

Both Iraq and Syria, which are currently fragmented with parts of its territories, captured by IS and other terrorist groups, held the United States responsible for its actions in fueling the growth of IS.

Echoing Russia’s sentiment, Syrian Ambassador Dr Riadh Kamel Abbas said Moscow’s efforts against IS “have been more effective than the international alliance”.  He said that the US coalition strikes has helped the terrorist group grow in size and capture more terrorism. He added: “It is important to fight IS but before that it’s important to know: who is the power behind the group?’’ He expressed his gratitude to the organizers of the event and the masses to be part of the ‘Anti- Terrorism Day being observed on the Arba’een of Imam Husian (PuH).

Mohammed Sabri, Charge d’Affairs of the Republic of Iraq, said the US should be subjected to “international pressure” to convince it to fight IS. He added the US just does the talking. Only with international pressure on the US one can fight the IS.” He claimed that the US was not serious in its intervention to rid the region of IS. He pointed out: “Two decades ago, there was no terrorism in Iraq but after 9/11 and the invasion by US things changed. Even when IS infiltrated to capture parts of northern Iraq and began killing civilians, the US army stood with folded hands.”

Speaking in front of a packed audience, John Dayal, President of All India Catholic Union, said it was wrong to associate any religion with terror and that such activities must not be seen as the work of Muslims, since these terrorists were not representative of the religion. He said that while discussing terrorism, one must not also forget the incidents happening in India. The fight against terrorism was not limited to one country but a fight for all, he added.

Maulana Tauqeer Reza Khan of Bareilly, who is a prominent Sunni Muslim religious leader, recalled the Great Sacrifice of the Prophet’s grandson Imam Husain (PuH) nearly 14 centuries ago. While condemning the acts of the IS, he said that the world is often hypocritical when it comes to defining terrorism. He said: “The incidents that are happening in Iraq and conducted by the Islamic State are terrorism. But what will you call the incidents in Yemen and Palestine? Unless we use the same definition of terrorism for all such activities, we will not be able to tackle it.” He added that the community must also ensure that youths are not misguided towards the IS ideology.

Hindu Leader Acharya Pramod Krishnam extolled the sacrifices made by Imam Husain (PuH), saying that he showed what Islam stood for. He said: “Just as the Dadri incident is not the real face of Hinduism, in the same way, the activities of the IS, is not the real face of Islam. No one who believes in Islam, and Imam Husain (PuH), can commit such acts,” he said, to thunderous applause from the huge crowd present at, and around, Dargah.

The loudest cheer from the crowd came when Krishnam said that he too was a ‘Husaini’, that is someone who believed in the mission of Imam Husain (PuH). He stressed the fact that Indian Muslims need not prove their love for India to anyone, since this country belonged to them as much as it did to anyone else who lived here. At various points during his speech, the crowd broke into loud chants and Krishnam too joined them.

Zafarul-Islam Khan, President of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM), a New Delhi-based umbrella body of Indian Muslim organizations, said IS has nothing to do with Islam. He also rejected the perception of IS ideology spreading among Indian youth. “There is no question of any tolerance of such terrorist outfits in the Muslim community. They are claiming to be working in the name of Islam. But Islam does not approve of terrorism,” Khan added.

Mahmood Pracha, a senior advocate who heads South Asian Minorities’ Lawyers’ Association (SAMLA), said that terrorism can be defeated by following the path of Imam Husain (PuH). He said that followers of Imam Husain (PuH) can succeed in fighting the menace. The teachings of Karbala keep the warmth of faith and determination to act, he said.

Sant Krishna Saha Vidyarthi Maharaj, who is the priest at Valmiki temple, where Mahatma Gandhi stayed before the freedom of the country in New Delhi, said that no religion justifies the acts of terrorism. He appreciated the organizers for observing the Chehlum of Imam Husain (PuH) as “Anti-Terrorism Day” and paying their tributes to the martyrs of Karbala.

Anjuman-e Haideri also passed a resolution which called upon the “International Community to take ‘all necessary measures’ to prevent and suppress IS terrorist acts on its territory under its control in Syria and Iraq.’ The resolution was signed by Ambassadors of Syria and Iran, Charge d’ Affairs of Iraq and Second Secretary of Embassy of Russian Federation, apart from other religious and social leaders from various religious groups.

The resolution further said that  the “participants support all resolutions passed by U.N. Security Council and other International organizations condemning the terrorist attacks perpetrated by IS in France, Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere”.

For the people present at the Dargah, this was not only to commemorate the sacrifice of Imam Husain (AS); it was also a way to show that they too stood against the activities of IS.



Articles Tue, 22 Dec 2015 14:15:15 +0000
How Hindus killed a Muslim over beef and murdered India's secularism

The recent killing of a Muslim man near New Delhi by a mob of extremist Hindus on the pretext that he had eaten beef, which the people of India have been eating for millenniums until the current ban imposed by the BJP government on slaughter of cows – an animal created by God as a source of food and nourishment for human beings, but reduced to a useless stray animal by retarded minds that worship it – has shocked civilized people in India and throughout the world.


Whatever its meaning in standard English, in India the word ‘Secularism’ means freedom to profess and practice the rites of any religion without harassment as guaranteed by the national constitution. Unfortunately, this freedom is being violated by communal parties. Columnist Kavita Krishnan, herself a Hindu, has called the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq the “murder of India’s secularism”.

The mob in New Delhi suburb of Dadri wanted Muslim blood, and whether the victim had eaten beef or mutton, or violated the codes of the Hindu-Rashtra-to-be, mattered little. Far away from the photo ops and boasts of Digital India, democratic India was lynched to death. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on his visit to Ireland, chose to take a dig at secularism in India. While a bare hour away from the Indian capital city, New Delhi, a Muslim man was bashed to death with bricks by a mob over a rumour that he had eaten beef. The mob had been instigated by a priest who declared from a temple that the man, 50-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq, had eaten beef and thereby hurt Hindu sentiments. To avenge the rumoured death of a cow, a human being was done to death.

What is bizarre is the fact that in the eyes of the anti-secular discourse in India - a discourse of leaders of the ruling BJP, the Sangh Parivar of assorted Hindu groups, and some sections of the media - it is the victim who is the accused. For instance, a headline in the Hindi daily “Amar Ujala” described the incident thus: "Man accused of killing an animal dies, followed by a ruckus"

Look at the way this line uses the word "killing" for the purported cow, while describing the murder by a lynch mob as a "death". And the way outrage and anger at the lynching is trivialised by the use of the Hindi word "bawaal", which conveys an unseemly ruckus. A former MLA of India's ruling party BJP has similarly declared that those arrested for the killing of the Muslim man are "innocent kids" who got "excited" by the grave crime of eating beef.

However, those who have conscience, visited the family of the victim in the Noida hospital where the victim's son Danish who was lucky to survive the lynching, is recovering. 

Akhlaq was an ironsmith who fashioned agricultural implements. He had managed to educate his children. His eldest son is in the Air Force as ground staff, and 21-year-old Danish was also studying to get into the Air Force like his brother. Their sister was witness to the terror of a mob breaking down their door, beating her grandmother, mother and herself before dragging off Akhlaq and Danish. She ran from one neighbour to another begging for help, but none came forward. In vain she insisted that the meat in their fridge was mutton not beef. The mob wanted blood, Muslim blood, and the minor detail of whether he'd eaten beef or mutton did not matter to them.

Some members of the mob have been arrested. But the real leaders of the lynch mob don't live in Dadri alone. For the past couple of months, BJP-ruled states have gone on a rampage, banning meat during a Jain festival. Bans on beef have been longer lasting, in several BJP-ruled states. Modi himself, in his speeches during the parliamentary polls, referred to the meat industry as a "pink revolution", implying that Muslims were murdering cattle, especially cows. BJP and RSS leaders have made the phrase "gow hatya" or cow murder popular, instead of cow slaughter.

Ever since the Muzaffarnagar communal violence that paved Modi's path to power, western UP has been a seething cauldron of prejudice and hatred against Muslims, kept on a slow fire and brought to a boil now and then by the Sangh Parivar. In 2002, five Dalits were lynched to death in Jhajjar, Haryana, by a frenzied mob. Since Muzaffarnagar, ironically, the Sangh Parivar has tried to mobilise Dalits too on an anti-Muslim plank, willing them to forget that the RSS has been as violent to the Dalits as it has been to Muslims and women.

In the vocabulary of the BJP and RSS, simple human actions of eating and loving are transformed into crimes. Eating beef or even non-vegetarian food (two-thirds of India is non-vegetarian and many communities and regions in India relish beef) is called murder, while love can be called rape or jihad if a Hindu woman has married a Muslim man. The lynchings, murders or kidnappings they claim are to avenge the cow or the Hindu woman who has married a Muslim man.  

It is this toxic politics that killed Mohammad Akhlaq – politics that declare India to be a Hindu nation and brands every Muslim as a terrorist. Less than a week before the killing of Akhlaq, a Muslim man in Kanpur was lynched to death because of being an alleged "Pakistani terrorist". In both Kanpur and Dadri, what were the police doing while a mob gathered and beat them to death? These episodes also underline the hollowness and cynicism of what passes for dominant "secular" politics in India. UP is ruled by the SP or Samajwadi Party, which justifies every bid for power in the name of being a secular alternative to the BJP. But the SP government allowed Muslims to be massacred and made homeless in Muzaffarnagar and then callously evicted the victims from refugee camps. The same government does not bat an eye when two Muslims are killed by communal mobs in one week in UP. Can such a party and a government really be called secular?

In 1937, in the USA, Abel Meeropol wrote a powerful poem against the serial lynching of black men who would be killed – often on the pretext of raping a white woman – and hung from trees. Here are a few stanzas:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees,

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,

Here is a strange and bitter crop.

The spate of killings of black youth in the USA today reminds us that the lynchings continue, with the difference that it's now the police who do the killing. These killings, as those lynchings, are all justified on flimsy pretexts and vague suspicions that claim the victim was in some way threatening to society.

Will India wake up to at least recognise the strange and bitter fruit of Muslim men - tortured or killed in police custody as "terrorists", publicly stripped or humiliated by a mob for marrying a Hindu woman, or lynched for "eating beef, and hanged to death by the State on thin evidence to avenge the "collective conscience of the nation" – a phrase ironically coined by the Supreme Court to disguise a lynching?

US citizens who hit the streets in thousands to declare that Black Lives Matter have done much to redeem their country and fight racism. Will Indian citizens say no to lynch mobs and declare that Muslim Lives Matter?


Articles Fri, 16 Oct 2015 17:15:46 +0000
Over 70% of Everest glacier may be lost by 2100

Over 70 per cent of the glacier volume in the Mount Everest region in the Himalayas could be lost in 85 years if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, a new paper suggests. It also indicates more flood risk in the future in the Kosi river downstream from Nepal to India.


The paper, “Modelling glacier change in the Everest region, Nepal Himalaya”, published on Wednesday in The Cryosphere, a journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU), said the glacier volume could be reduced between 70 and 99 per cent by 2100.

It is a first approximation to how the Himalayan glaciers will react to increasing temperatures in the region. The results depend on how much greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and on how this will affect temperature, snowfall and rainfall in the area.

A team of researchers from Nepal, France and the Netherlands have found the Everest glaciers could be very sensitive to future warming and that sustained ice loss through the 21st century is likely.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the glaciers could experience dramatic change in the decades to come, said the study.

“The signal of future glacier change in the region is clear: continued and possibly accelerated mass loss from glaciers is likely given the projected increase in temperatures,” said Joseph Shea, a glacier hydrologist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu.

“Our results indicate that these glaciers may be highly sensitive to changes in temperature and that increases in precipitation are not enough to offset the increased melt,” Mr. Shea said.

Increased temperatures will not only increase the rates of snow and ice melt but can also result in a change of precipitation from snow to rain at critical elevations, where glaciers are concentrated. Together, these act to reduce glacier growth and increase the area exposed to melt, said the leader of the study.

The researchers studied glaciers in the Dudh Kosi basin in the Nepal Himalayas, which are home to some of the world’s highest mountain peaks, including Mount Everest, and to over 400 sq. km of glacier area.

“Apart from the significance of the region, glaciers in the Dudh Kosi basin contribute meltwater to the Kosi river, and glacier changes will affect river flows downstream,” Mr. Shea said.

Changes in glacier volume can impact the availability of water, with consequences for agriculture and hydropower generation.

While increased glacier melt initially increases water flows, ongoing retreat leads to reduced meltwater from the glaciers during the warmer months, with greatest impact for the local populations before the monsoon when rainfall is scarce, said the paper.

Glacier retreat can also result in the formation and growth of lakes dammed by glacial debris. Avalanches and earthquakes can breach the dams, causing catastrophic floods that can result in river flows 100 times greater than normal in the Kosi basin.

The Kosi river is known as the “sorrow of Bihar” as it has caused widespread damage in the past due to flooding and frequent change in its course.

To find out how glaciers in the region will evolve in the future, the researchers started by using field observations and data from local weather stations to calibrate and test a model of glacier change over the past 50 years.

“To examine the sensitivity of modelled glaciers to future climate change, we applied eight temperature and precipitation scenarios to the historical temperature and precipitation data and tracked how glacier areas and volumes responded,” said study co-author Walter Immerzeel of Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Courtesy – IANS, Indo-Asian News Service


Articles Wed, 27 May 2015 16:13:21 +0000
India: Bengaluru fares worse than Delhi in air quality

Delhi’s severely high pollution levels during the winter months drives it to India’s worst annual air quality levels, but on individual days, several Indian cities often experience worse air quality. For the first week of April, for example, the urban area with the worst air quality of 17 locations analysed by The Hindu was the BTM Layout region of south Bangalore.


The new National Air Quality Index gives current as well as 24-hour average data on particulate matter – PM2.5 or very fine particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, and PM 10 which are less than 10 micrometers in diameter – as well as other pollutants including nitrogen dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide. PM 2.5 levels are commonly used as the best indicator of severe air pollution, while PM 10 particles are also a cause of public health concern, but less lethal. India now grades air quality along a colour-coded chart based on pollutant levels.

Using data from the new Index, as well as data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and state pollution control boards, The Hindu found that Bangalore’s BTM Layout area has had only one “moderate” air quality day in the last ten days, while all the rest were “poor” or “very poor”. Other parts of the city did far better.Delhi, the focus of global attention for its consistently poor air quality, on the other hand, had “moderate” air quality over the first week of April for the three monitoring stations for which PM 2.5 was available - Dilshad Gardens, Dwarka and Shadipur. Dwarka was the only location with more “poor” or “very poor” days than “good” or “satisfactory” ones.

CPCB officials warned that the quality of monitoring stations was mixed across the country, and Delhi was likely to have the most rigorous data. “There is still a lot of standardisation work we need to do to get all cities and all monitoring stations comparable. The new index should be seen as indicative,” the official said, asking not to be named. Moreover, while comparable data for these 17 locations is available only for the last few weeks, particulate matter is heavily influenced by weather patterns. Anumita Roychowdhury, head of the Centre for Science and Environment’s air pollution and clean transportation programmes, compiled data for Delhi from October 2014 onwards.

The data shows that while there were “moderate” days in October, February and March, the second halves of November and December, and the first half of January were consistently “very poor”.

In 2014, the World Health Organisation compiled average annual PM 2.5 numbers for over 1600 cities across the world, including 124 from India. Delhi had the worst air quality in the world by that estimate, but 12 other Indian cities were among the world’s worst 20 – Patna, Gwalior, Raipur, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Firozabad, Kanpur, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Allahabad, Agra and Khanna.

Courtesy – The Hindu, India’s English Language Daily


Articles Tue, 07 Apr 2015 13:37:52 +0000
Pakistan: Chitral’s markhor population now out of danger’s-markhor-population-now-out-of-danger’s-markhor-population-now-out-of-danger

“The untimely death of the four-year-old markhor is not less than a shock for us and we do mourn this as it means a loss of Rs10 million for the local community who devotedly strive for its conservation,” said Fazlur Rahman, the president of a conservancy, in Chitral which is situated on the western bank of the Chitral River (also called Kunar River), in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.


Tears were visible in his eyes due to grief as the markhor had died of an ailment after they rescued it from an inaccessible cliff in the local pasture and took it to the veterinary hospital. It all happened about a month ago and around a 100 community workers had also reached the hospital to get firsthand knowledge about treatment and convalescing of the markhor.

All this activism of the villagers to save the wild goat was due to the fact that they owned it and this sense of ownership had been inculcated in them by the wildlife department by giving them 80 per cent of the income obtained from the trophy hunting.

It is due to the strong bonds of community-based conservation that the impressive animal with iconic corkscrew horns known as Kashmir markhor is no more an endangered species in Chitral. The phenomenal population growth of markhor, the national animal of Pakistan, can be attributed to the community-based conservation strategy which has proved fruitful in the upkeep of other endangered and rare wildlife species.

The population of markhor had dropped to less than a hundred in Chitral in 1980s and it faced annihilation due to the unchecked poaching despite the presence of a full-fledged department for its preservation. Divisional forest officer of wildlife, Chitral, Imtiaz Hussain recalls that in Chitral the number of markhor did not cross the figure of 100 during 80s when he carried out the survey of the animal and it had filled the conservationists with the apprehension of its extinction.

No effort proved productive to check poaching of markhor which had started in 1970s with the introduction of automatic rifles in large number as the purchasing power of the people of Chitral had greatly enhanced after it was merged with the country as its district. Before that it was a princely state and the area was hit by poverty due to the limited sources of earning. Today, the area embracing the southern part of Chitral – from Arandu to Shoghore along Lot Koh river and up to Koghuzi along the Mastuj river – is teeming with 3,400 heads of Kashmir markhor. Hussain says that it is no more an endangered species in the context of Chitral though it had been declared so by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1975. Associated with the department of wildlife for the last four decades in the district, Mr Hussain says that the changed stratagem for conservation of markhor worked well in early 1990s due to which the hunters became the guards and this was the crux of conservation policy.

As per community-based conservation programme put in place by the department of wildlife, the villages supporting the population of markhor were organised into village conservation committees (VCCs). Each VCC was a statutory body which was incorporated in the Wildlife Act whose office-bearers were chosen by the villagers themselves and they had a defined role in the conservation process with financial powers vested in them. The diversion of 80 per cent permit fee of trophy hunting of markhor to the VCCs acted as catalyst which they utilised for their collective development on their own free will.

Giving breakup of the markhor population in the conservancies, he said that according to latest counting survey it was 1,349 markhors in Toshi-Shasha and 434 in Gahirait-Golen conservancy. The number of markhors in areas other than the two conservancies was 27 in Arsoon, 28 in Sheshi Koh valley and six in Drosh Gol bringing the total to 1,844 while CGNP supported a population of 1,556 and thus raising the total of markhor population to 3,400 in the district.

Every year three markhors of the age beyond eight years are put on auction for trophy hunting in the two conservancies of which two are carried out in Toshi-Shasha due to its large population and one in Gahirait-Golen, Mr Hussain said. “It is heartening to observe that the population of markhor in the conservancies is on steep rise and it will have pleasant effect on carnivores as well which depends on it,” he said.

The DFO of CGNP, Mohammad Buzurg, said that the park was established in 1983 and it was given the status of wildlife division in 2010 while community’s support is being enlisted by 13 VCCs. Though no trophy hunting is carried out in the national park, the VCCs are strengthened financially through national park project funds granted by the World Bank previously. They enjoyed the same economic attractions as that of the VCCs managed by the wildlife department, Mr. Buzurg said, adding that the peculiarity of the park is its highest density of markhor population.

Ejaz Ahmed, a local ecologist, said that markhor was the main prey item of important carnivores, including snow leopard, black bear and Himalayan wolf. Conservation of markhor means the safe population of snow leopard, he said, adding as long as Chitral had a rich markhor population, the gigantic snow leopard would be seen roaming here. He said that the community was working on several fronts to conserve the markhor, including stopping its habitat destruction and checking poaching.


Courtesy –

Articles Sun, 29 Mar 2015 16:42:26 +0000
Pakistan: About 311 Thar children died in 11 months

A latest report prepared by the provincial government vis-à-vis the drought situation in Thar shows that 311 children under five years of age have died between December, 2013 and November this year, it emerged on Sunday.


The report, submitted in the Sindh High Court of Pakistan by the chief secretary after the approval of Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah last week, shows the main causes of death of the children include birth asphyxia, pre-term, low birth weight, respiratory distress syndrome, pneumonia, delivery of babies through traditional birth attendants (Daais)that caused neo-natal sepsis and diarrhoea.

It classifies the casualties of the same children according to their ages, which shows that 118 children who died were newborn babies (one day age), 82 children died were of age two days to one month, 28 children of age 1.5 months to three months and 29 were those whose age ranged between eight months and one year.

The report, however, says Thar, as regards the under five year death rate, was comparatively better than Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Rajanpur, Rahimyarkhan and other neighbouring districts in Punjab. “However the challenges are same.”

The report says that the Thar communities, particularly women, lack awareness of their health concerns.

Majority of the married couple has an average of eight children.

“In view of the aforementioned facts where women is overburdened, takes unbalanced / proteins, fats deficient diet in their meals, shorter birth gaps [deliveries of babies at regular intervals] pose a severe threat for both the newborn as well as the mother,” it says.

The report insisted that the diet of the Thar community today was similar to the one they used to take in the past and the antenatal care was missing.

“The community prefers administration of IV injections over treatment through oral administration of medicines. Simple medicines like Folic Acid, Fefol-Vit beneficial for a pregnant woman, though are available in abundance in the health institutes of the district but despite being provided, their intake is not witnessed as a result of which the pregnant lady and the newborns are at high risk.”

The report claimed that the health department ran health institutes at different tiers across the district besides expanding the network of health centres at micro level, but an extensive awareness programme needed to be launched by all relevant stakeholders such as health, family planning departments, non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations (CSOs) to redress issues such as periodical health care, particularly during pregnancy, use of medicines for increasing the immunity of pregnant women and her child to be born, communication and observance of a normal birth gap between the two children, conduct of day-to-day normal activities, thereby helping in attaining a quality life cycle.

According to the report, the Thar district is a huge district spread over an area of 22,000 square kilometres desert land with scattered settlements and has ever remained vulnerable to drought situation due to the fact that the district has no irrigation infrastructure and it entirely relies on rainfall. This vast distance and tough terrain makes it an uphill task for people to access health and civic facilities, which are present in relatively well-settled cities of Thar.

In 2013, it said, Sindh in general and Thar region in particular did not receive adequate rainfall during the monsoon. During monsoon 2014, only parts of Thar (Mithi and Islamkot) received scattered and somehow heavy rainfall, which minimised the impacts of drought in the region for the time being.

However, the Thar region as a whole did not receive adequate rainfall which was needed. In quantifiable terms, Thar received lesser average rainfalls of 100 millimetres during the monsoon season this year than the last year’s average recorded rain of 189mm, contrary to an average required rainfall of 277mm.

It said due to drought conditions proneness, the district encountered multiple issues that adversely impacted the livelihood of the people.

It counted some key factors for the situation, which included water scarcity resulting in non-maturity of grass and crops, which in turn affected the livelihood of people and posed a threat for the survival of their livestock; overburdened women on account of their involvement in domestic affairs and their contribution in earning of livelihood; reliance on vegetables on account of their religious beliefs by majority due to which lack of requisite calorific/nutritional values; lack of awareness particularly in health issues such as high growth rate due to absence of birth gaps; and scattered settlements.

The report says majority of the people living in Thar are Hindu, who being a strong believer of their religion do not eat red meat, fish, chicken and relies on vegetables and other local products. The vegetables have not requisite energy thus their intake of proteins/energy/fats and other requisite calorific values is relatively lesser to a major extent.

The report examines that the Thari people use chillies and dairy products as their intake for the reasons that they hold huge quantity of livestock and the use of chillies is their traditional pattern. Thus, another factor for weaknesses in women revolves around the non-consumption of proteins-rich diet as well as following their cultural patterns which increase their weakness to a greater extent.

The report mentioned several steps taken by the provincial government to provide relief to the people of Thar, the first and foremost of which was the declaration of the district as calamity affected in February this year which started with focus on free wheat supply, health facilitation, treatment, vaccination of livestock and provision of fodder.

It said the district administration compiled a list of 253,590 families to facilitate with wheat supply of 50-kg bag each, which it completed in three phases of free wheat distribution from March to October.

Regarding complaints pertaining to faulty wheat distribution and favouritism etc, the report claimed that the government provided free wheat relief for 253,580 families in each of the first three phases.

Comparing with the registered head of families data available with the National Database Registration Authority, it said Nadra maintained a record of 237,731 head of families in its database, while the government considered 253,580 families for distribution of wheat in the first three phases.

After the declaration of the district as calamity affected, the provincial government had increased the allocation to 129,973 bags of 100 kg free wheat from 126,790 bags each of the two phases, as a result of which number of families had accordingly increased to 259,946.

It said the question of un-served families with respect to free wheat relief ‘has been satisfactorily catered’.

The report said in addition to this, the government had directed the provincial disaster management authority to engage an independent third-party firm for conducting a door-to-door survey of the district to ensure that the relief measures were effective and efficient.

Courtesy – Dawn News


Articles Mon, 15 Dec 2014 18:00:25 +0000
China invites India for Indo-Pacific partnership China invites India for Indo-Pacific partnership

China is looking towards India for establishing an “Indo-Pacific era,” based on shared interests in developing new routes to Europe, and avoiding the “Asia Pivot” doctrine of the United States.


People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese government is running a commentary that analyses India’s “Look East” and “Act East” foreign policy that is being steered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The commentary, which first appeared in the Global Times — a daily affiliated with the Communist Party of China — acknowledges that Modi “wants a peaceful and stable periphery that will allow him to concentrate on domestic economic structural reform and infrastructure building.” It points out that the Prime Minister wants India to become a manufacturing hub, and deliver his promise of building “a powerful India in a decade.”

In pursuit of its ambitious goals, the six-month old government needs to maintain “stable relations with China, Pakistan and other countries, and needs to absorb investment and technologies from countries like China, Japan and Singapore,” the daily observed.

The write-up, acknowledges that the “Indian government and scholars” have not endorsed the “Indo-Pacific geo-strategy” scripted by countries such as the United States and Japan, which aims to “balance and even contain China’s increasing influence in the Asia-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean”. It asserts that the “Indo-Pacific” construct, of which India is seen as the “linchpin” was first used by Australian scholars, following the Obama administration’s strategic rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific. Also called the “Asia Pivot,” Obama's “rebalance” doctrine aims is to amass forces on China’s periphery with the help of allies — chiefly Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines.

Without biting into a collective US-led approach, India “has enhanced its strategic and military cooperation with countries around China, such as Japan, Vietnam and Australia.”

The commentary, advocates that China and India should overcome both foreign and domestic problems so that an “Indo-Pacific era” can commence. This can happen with the pursuit of an “Indo-Pacific” geo-economic plan that includes the establishment of the Silk Road economic belt, as well as the complementary 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR), aimed at the massive Asia-centered development of Eurasia. The daily observes that Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BIMC) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor are part of this grand inter-continental plan.

A diplomatic source told The Hindu that India has not yet made up its mind on endorsing China’s proposal of the 21st century MSR, but is ready to participate in the development of an economic corridor that would comprise Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar. The source pointed out, incidents such as the visit of a Chinese submarine to Sri Lanka, and Beijing’s intentions in Maldives need to be ironed out in order to boost confidence for larger projects.

In a veiled reference to the “Asia Pivot,” the daily asserts that China and India can overcome their obstacles, “if New Delhi steers clear of foreign backed attempts to “establish an exclusive political, military and economic alliance from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean, which would lead to strategic and military competition and even conflict.” Besides, the border row between the two countries — “the largest obstacle for bilateral relations” — can only be resolved through “mutual understanding and mutual accommodation,” the daily opined.

Courtesy – The Hindu, India’s English Language Daily


Articles Fri, 05 Dec 2014 16:08:43 +0000
Security tightens in Pakistan ahead of Ashura Security tightens in Pakistan ahead of Ashura

Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the Ministry of Interior (MoI) has deployed around 33,000 troops of army and civil armed forces including Rangers and Frontier Corps across 54 districts of the country to assist the provincial governments in maintaining law and order during Muharram.


In a statement, the minister issued directives to law enforcers to remain on high alert during the next few days. He said that 12 helicopters had also been stationed at various areas to extend air support throughout the country, whereas cellular services may also be suspended for limited timings only at selective sensitive locations on the 9th and 10th of Muharram.

He further stated that all Muharram-related activities were being monitored from the control room of the ministry round the clock and “we are in continuous contact with the provinces to ensure maximum protection for the security of mourners and the general public”.

Meanwhile, sources said that the Interior Ministry had decided to suspend mobile phone services in all major cities on the 8th, 9th and 10th of Muharram. Contingents of the Pakistan Army, Rangers and FC personnel would be deployed for security purposes in all major cities, including Karachi.

In Rawalpindi alone, as many as 177 mourning processions will be taken out from different localities of Rawalpindi on 8th, 9th and 10th Muharram-ul-Haram. Two control rooms, one at 111-Brigade and second at Commissioner’s Office have been established where concerned officers would monitor Muharram processions.

In Karachi, thousands of security forces are deployed across the southern port city to beef up security as its Shia population is preparing for commemorating Ashura, the tenth day of the lunar month of Muharram.

Imam Hussein (AS), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and 72 of his loyal companions, were martyred on Ashura in the battle of Karbala against the second Umayyad caliph, Yazid I, in 680 A.D. Imam Hussein was killed after he refused to pledge allegiance to the tyrant ruler.

The mourning services have been in place worldwide since the beginning of Muharram.

The annual Muharram ceremonies, which have been performed for many centuries, symbolize the eternal and unwavering stance of truth against falsehood and humanity’s struggle against injustice, tyranny and oppression; the cause for which Imam Hussein (AS) was martyred.

(Source: Daily Times)

Articles Sun, 02 Nov 2014 17:44:43 +0000
Poverty, child, maternal deaths high in India: U.N. report,-child,-maternal-deaths-high-in-india-u-n-report,-child,-maternal-deaths-high-in-india-u-n-report

India continues to battle poverty, child and maternal deaths, according to a United Nations report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that said while several key global targets have been met, more sustained effort is needed to cover disparities by the 2015 deadline.


The ‘Millennium Development Goals Report 2014’, launched by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon here on Monday, said many global MDG targets on reducing poverty, increasing access to improved drinking water sources, improving the lives of slum dwellers and achieving gender parity in primary schools have already been met.

Many more goals are within reach by their 2015 target date, the report said, adding that if current trends continue, the world will surpass MDG targets on malaria, tuberculosis and access to HIV treatment.

The report is the most up-to-date “global scorecard” on efforts to achieve the eight mostly anti-poverty goals agreed by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000.

It, however, said that some MDG targets related to largely preventable problems with available solutions, such as reducing child and maternal mortality and increasing access to sanitation, are slipping away from achievement by 2015, despite major progress.

The overwhelming majority of people living on less than 1.25 dollars a day belong to Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with one third of the world’s 1.2 billion extreme poor living in India alone in 2010.

India also had the highest number of under-five deaths in the world in 2012, with 1.4 million children dying before reaching their fifth birthday.

While Southern Asia has made “strong and steady” progress in reducing child deaths by more than halving its under-five mortality rate, yet nearly one in every three deaths still takes place in the region.

Despite progress in all world regions, the maternal mortality ratio in developing regions - 230 maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births in 2013 — was 14 times higher than that of developed regions, which recorded only 16 maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births in 2013.

Highlighting the extreme differences in maternal mortality among countries, the report said that almost one-third of all global maternal deaths are concentrated in the two populous countries — India and Nigeria.

India has an estimated 50,000 maternal deaths (17 per cent) while Nigeria has an estimated 40,000 maternal deaths (14 per cent).

The report further stated that despite a large increase in sanitation coverage, with an additional two billion people gaining access to an improved sanitation facility, it seems unlikely that the MDG target of 75 per cent coverage will be met by 2015.

“In 2012, a billion people still resorted to open defecation, a practice that needs to be brought to an end, as it poses a huge risk to communities that are often poor and vulnerable already,” the report added.

“Open defecation is most prevalent in Southern Asia, Oceania and sub-Saharan Africa. The vast majority — 82 per cent — of people practicing open defecation now live in middle-income, populous countries, such as India and Nigeria,” it said, adding that nearly 60 per cent of the one billion people practicing open defecation live in India.

With the 2015 deadline for achieving the landmark goals less that 550 days away, the report said many of MDGs have been met or are within reach. Among the targets that have been met is that the world has reduced extreme poverty by half.

In 1990, almost half of the population in developing regions lived on less than 1.25 dollars a day. This rate dropped to 22 per cent by 2010, reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty by 700 million.

Efforts in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis have shown results with an estimated 3.3 million deaths from malaria being averted between 2000 and 2012 due to the substantial expansion of malaria interventions.

The intensive efforts to fight tuberculosis have saved an estimated 22 million lives worldwide since 1995.

Access to an improved drinking water source became a reality for 2.3 billion people and the target of halving the proportion of people without access to an improved drinking water source was achieved in 2010, five years ahead of schedule.

In 2012, 89 per cent of the world’s population had access to an improved source, up from 76 per cent in 1990.

Hunger also continues to decline, but immediate additional efforts are needed to reach the MDG target, the report said.

The proportion of undernourished people in developing regions decreased from 24 per cent in 1990-1992 to 14 per cent in 2011-2013. However, progress has slowed down in the past decade.

Courtesy – The Hindu, India’s English Language Daily


Articles Wed, 09 Jul 2014 16:46:36 +0000