Archive for October, 2008
By Ali Usman
LAHORE: Residents of areas adjoining the Sagian Bridge over the River Ravi have said that while they appreciate efforts by the Tourism Development Corporation Pakistan (TDCP) to provide Lahoris with entertainment, they long for the days when the river was filled with water.
The TDCP organised a jeep rally, the Lahore Rally Cross 2008, on the dry riverbed of the Ravi two weeks ago so Lahoris could enjoy the first jeep rally in their city. However, the stark contrast of a dry riverbed being used as a racing track has stirred feelings of longing in people living in localities alongside the Ravi. Talking to Daily Times, they said that it was good that the government was attempting to make use of the land occupied by the river. However, they regretted that the river had become so dry that it could only be used as a racing track.
40 years: Muhammad Rafique, a boater aged about 70, was born and raised in the area. He said that he still remembered the days when he used to row a boat across the river. “The river used to look beautiful back then. However, it’s been 40 years since I last saw water in the river when it wasn’t flood season. It was nice to see jeeps being driven on the riverbed, but it is unfortunate that the once mighty river has been reduced to a racing track. What was once a source of water now looks like a desert,” he said. He hoped that the government would formulate more ways to utilise the river land, saying that it now contained more sewerage water than river water. Muhamad Khalil, 69, works for a contractor who uses sand from the riverbed at various construction sites. He said that he remembered how the river used to flow during Ayub’s regime, adding that after that it had started to flow only during the flood season. He said that the river used to help reduce the heat in the area and was a source of great comfort for the city’s residents.
Khalil said that while he thought the jeep rally had been a great utility for the river, a dry river could never compare to a flowing one. “I am not very educated and don’t know much about complicated things. All I know is that the flowing river provided many utilities, while the dry river only provides sand that can be sold to contractors,” he added.
Ignorance is bliss: However, the youth, who have never seen the river flowing at full capacity, do not seem to notice the contrast. Inamullah, a student, said that he had been very excited by the jeep rally. He said that he hoped that such rallies would continue in future, adding that they were great sources of entertainment.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
UNITED NATIONS: Major US cities including New York, Washington, Atlanta and New Orleans have levels of economic inequality that rival cities in Africa, according to a UN report published on Thursday.
The most balanced city in the world is Beijing, with the most egalitarian cities on average to be found in western Europe, the report said.
“The authors (of the study) find that though the cities in the United States of America have relatively lower levels of poverty than many other cities in the developed world, their levels of income inequality are quite high,” the report said.
In the United States and Canada one of the key factors in determining levels of economic inequality is race, the report said.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
By Aseel Kami
Long after the shooting and bombing stops, Iraqis will still be dying from the war. Destroyed factories have become untended hazardous waste sites, leaking poison into the water and the soil.
Forests in the north and palm groves in the south have been obliterated to remove the enemy’s hiding places. Rivers are salted, water is contaminated with sewage, and land is strewn with mines, unexploded bombs, chemical waste, rubble and trash.
“When we talk about it, people may think we are overreacting. But in fact the environmental catastrophe that we inherited in Iraq is even worse than it sounds,” Iraqi Environment Minister Nermeen Othman said in an interview.
“War destroys countries’ environments, not just their people. War and its effects have led to changes in the social, economic and environmental fabric,” she said. “It will take centuries to restore the natural environment of Iraq.” The ecological destruction has already caused increases in rates of cancer and infectious disease. “Most of the infectious diseases and cancer are environmental diseases. When we talk about the environment we mean health.”
Although the fighting has not stopped, violence is now at four-year lows. Work has already begun to clean up after the war, but it is slow. With the help of the United Nations Environment Programme in 2005, Iraq identified 25 pollution hotspots that needed the most urgent cleanup, many of them military manufacturing sites. Two sites — the Qadisiya chemical factory in southern Iraq which was bombed in 2003 and saturated with toxic residue, and the al-Suwayra fertiliser factory south of Baghdad — have so far been cleaned up. Othman said it will cost billions of dollars to clean the rest of the sites.
The environment ministry has planted 17 million trees in Iraq so far this year — up from 7.5 million last year —helping to undo the damage in places where palm groves and forests were chopped down to remove hiding places for rebels. By far the biggest environmental success since the 2003 invasion has been the re flooding of Iraq’s vast southern marshes, where the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates flood the land before reaching the Gulf.
The marshes were drained by former dictator Saddam Hussein, to divert the water for agriculture and to make the long border with Iran easier to defend. That destroyed a unique, diverse natural habitat for wildlife and wrecked a centuries-old native Marsh Arab culture. “The drainage of the marshes is one of the ugly crimes against the environment of the world,” said Othman. With help from the UN, the Japanese government and local efforts, Iraq has re flooded and restored 55 percent of the marshland since 2003. Such successes are important, but a host of other environmental issues have yet to be tackled. Iraq is planted with 25 million land mines. Chemical weapons and depleted uranium munitions have created 105 contaminated areas, the minister said. Sewers need attention and more than 60 per cent of Iraq’s fresh water is polluted. Upriver dams built by Syria, Turkey and Iran have worsened the damage caused by neglect of Iraq’s infrastructure, increasing water shortages, salination and pollution.
“I do not blame the government’s emphasis on security because the security issue is important. But the environment is also important,” Othman said.
By Abdul Manan
LAHORE: Around 300 steel mills in the city are increasingly burning used tyres as fuel, releasing toxic smoke into the environment, it was learnt on Wednesday.
The mills have resorted to using tyres as fuel following the shortage of natural gas.
There are about 300 steel mills in Northern Lahore and their gas emissions are at level four on the Ringelmann scale, whereas the international standard is level one. Emissions at level six blacken the surrounding environment.
According to local government statistics, these factories are situated in Shalimar and Wagha towns, home to around two million people. “These factories have been using natural gas and discarded tyres. However, they have increased the burning of tyres following an increase in gas outages,” a City District Government Lahore (CDGL) official said.
He said factories’ emissions were three times higher than the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) 2000. There is no arrangement in Pakistan for measuring overall environment pollution, known as the Air Ambient Quality Standard. According to official sources, the Pakistan Environment Protection Act, 1997, is silent on the burning of used tyres. The Local Government Ordinance, 2001, and the five sections concerning public nuisance of the Pakistan Penal Code can be used to punish those burning used tyres. The CDGL official said that no civic agency had taken any interest in the issue, adding that the CDGL Environment Department had only seven inspectors which were insufficient to deal with the environmental pollution. He said the smoke from these factories contained excessive carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, which were injurious to health.
The inhalation of the two gases causes listlessness, depression, dementia, emotional disturbances, headaches, vertigo, and flu-like effects, whereas excessive exposure can lead to significant toxicity of the central nervous system and heart, a medical expert said. An Environment Protection Agency (EPA) spokesman said the agency would ask the CDGL Environment Department to accelerate its drive against steel mills. He said these factories, if found burning tyres, would be sealed under the Local Government Ordinance.
Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: Experts have long been warning of the danger of serious earthquakes in South Asia, and say more are likely.
According to BBC science correspondent Roland Pease, many earthquakes have struck along the southern flanks of the Himalayas over the past centuries – but not enough to account for all the steady, northward movement of India into Asia.
An earthquake in Pakistan is the result of India’s long-term, gradual, geological movement north into Asia at a speed of five centimetres a year – a millimetre per week.
Earthquakes happen when energy stored up along geological faults, like the Himalayan thrust, is suddenly released. The trouble is, the more time passes without seismic release, the more energy accumulates, making a giant earthquake more likely.
The October 2005 earthquake fitted in with the scientists’ expectations but, at 7.6 on the Richter scale, was relatively weak compared to what they feared.
Nevertheless, it was likely to have been very destructive, as the 2001 earthquake in the western Indian state of Gujarat was of a similar strength and killed 14,000 people.
But earthquakes ten times more powerful – capable of killing as many as a million people on the Ganges plain – must be expected, the experts warn.
What scientists cannot say is when the next one will strike, which makes it far more difficult for them to convey their warning.