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Monday, December 13, 2010
I thoroughly enjoyed participating in Think About It Climate Change blogging competition. It was great learning experience, got to learn so much more about our world, environment and also about myself.
Let me be a pompous a## and start by explaining how glorious I feel now that I have successfully participated in this month long competition. It feels great to have contributed to the debate on climate change and Nepal, although towards the end I got a little wiser and wrote about US issues too.
It was not all about me, I learned about our world too. There is still hope and there are committed people working hard to make a difference. That was a reality check for a chronic cynic like me.
So, all of you who love this world and our environment, please keep the fire burning. We have keep climate change discussion relevant and push fore more action to deal with issue.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Clean coal is an oxymoron, just like "intelligent design" or "Senate ethics panel". There is nothing clean about coal, you burn it and the by-products are harmful to the planet. Coal can be made clean if you just don't burn it!
Now, even in heartland of the big coal country America, the public is seeing through the big lie being spread around by the coal industry. In Kentucky, locals have embraced clean energy instead of a coal plant.
Jeff Biggers at Huffington Post says,
"Recognizing the spiraling costs of coal-fired plant construction and more practical energy efficiency and renewable energy options, the East Kentucky Power Cooperative has agreed to halt its once fervent plans to construct two coal-burning power plants in Clark County.
The announcement comes nearly one year after American Municipal Power abandoned its plans to build a coal-fired power plant along the Ohio River in Meigs County, and shifted the battle between coal-fired plants and New Power sources to Kentucky.
Led by EKPC members, the Sierra Club, Kentucky Environmental Foundation and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, along with individual co-op members Wendell Berry, Father John Rausch and Dr. John A. Patterson, the announcement comes as an extraordinary shift in the national debate over coal-fired energy."
A very positive development indeed. Kentucky is moving in right direction, not only are they saving money by not choosing coal, they are also saving the environment and some cold cash.
"Clean coal" lie manufacturers must be going crazy right now. Let them! facts and science don't support them either. Here are some simple truths about coal
- Carbon capture and storage(a plan that could make coal "clean") is a scam.
- 24,000 people a year still die prematurely from pollution emitted at coal-fired power plants, in addition to a litany of other health effects that injure and impede hundreds of thousands of Americans.
- Time magazine reported in 2009,"coal remains a highly polluting source of electricity that has serious impacts on human health, especially among those who live near major plants. Take coal ash, a solid byproduct of burned coal. A draft report last year by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the ash contains significant levels of carcinogens, and that the concentration of arsenic in ash, should it contaminate drinking water, could increase cancer risks by several hundred times."
And the list of myths and lies about coal and clean coal goes on and on. The industry is spending millions to cheat people, instead of investing it on honestly clean power plants. How about investing in a wind farm or solar energy, you "clean coal" liars?
Monday, December 06, 2010
At this blogging platform I have been focused on highlighting climate change and broader environmental issues facing my homeland Nepal. But the United States is my adopted land never far from my thoughts. I am a Jersey girl now and what the state's governor remarked about climate change has really saddened me. I believe his comments has brought shame to the state too.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie denies climate change. Here is what Gawker reports,
"Mankind, is it responsible for global warming? Well I'll tell you something. I have seen evidence on both sides of it. I'm skeptical - I'm skeptical. And you know, I think at the at the end of this, I think we're going to need more science to prove something one way or the other. But you know - cause I've seen arguments on both sides of it that at times - like I'll watch something about man-made global warming, and I go wow, that's fairly convincing. And then I'll go out and watch the other side of the argument, and I go huh, that's fairly convincing too. So, I go to be honest with you, I don't know. And that's probably one of the reasons why I became a lawyer, and not a doctor, or an engineer, or a scientist, because I can't figure this stuff out."
Seriously Mr. Governor?? You cannot see any evidence of climate change around you? Let me break a news to you, please consider:
Chris Christie's ignorant dismissal of climate change, I believe, comes at a point when the in the United States it is a cool thing to be this rusty, earthy commoner who rejects all things "science". Christie has Sarah Palin and the Tea Party gang for back-up. And while America elects these dim-witted Republicans, the world is fed up and now more than ever is looking for elsewhere for climate change leadership. Europe looks like a much better climate change leader that the United States. Sad turn of fate after historic elections of 2008!
Monday, November 29, 2010
According to NepalNews.com,
"While, other South Asian nations will also be affected by sea-level rise, Nepal will be largely affected by the melting of snow in the Himalayas and the changes in climatic pattern.
The vulnerability index also takes into account the region's poverty level, preparedness to combat impacts of climate change, and high dependency on natural factors for food."
Rapid deforestation, dependence on forests for majority of domestic energy need and food supply directly dependent on rain and climate pattern has Nepal on the front-line of climate change. Unfortunately, because of unstable political and social environment, climate change and related issues are being pushed to the sidelines.
In an interview with this blogger, Ganesh Shah-former Minister for Science and Technology for the Nepali government which was pushed out in 2009 following a row with the military; expressed his frustration over what Nepal is not doing with regards to preparing for climate change. He blamed the instability, saying that a country which doesn't even have a basic things straightened out cannot be expected to tackle complex issues like climate change.
Mr. Shah, though, sounded optimistic about the role of the youth and private groups in dealing with climate change and environmental issues.
It would be premature to completely write off any and all climate change efforts made by Nepal; but compared to the severity of the matter-almost nothing is being done.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
But because of various issues-mainly technical difficulties and lack of stable government; Nepal;s hydro-power potential remains under utilized.
For last couple of years, Nepal has been facing acute energy shortage, forcing the state run Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) to resort to frequent power cuts to stretch out the limited supply. The country imports all its oil and natural gas through neighboring India. State run Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) is the agency responsible for handling the imports and distributing oil through local dealers. NOC is chronically corrupt and mismanaged institution operating under huge losses-even if it has no competition when it comes to importing oil and natural gas into Nepal.
Developing local energy sources and investing alternative energy is the only way for Nepal to be energy independent and fill the energy deficit.
Bio gas projects and wind turbines have produced some success in villages in various parts of the country. But solar remains by far the most promising one.
Southern Nepal could be the place for solar power harnessing projects in Nepal; as the region gets plenty of sunlight and is mostly flat terrain-making it easier to install energy distribution infrastructure. As Southern Nepal is developed as solar energy focal point, there is also a possibility to push for energy independence at the local level. Installing solar panels on roof tops, encouraging green building designs and also providing deep discounts on solar panels could bring more people to join in
Nepal's private sector and also the government has made encouraging strides on developing alternative energy sources in the country.
Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) is a "Government institution established on November 3, 1996 under the then Ministry of Science and Technology with the objective of developing and promoting renewable/alternative energytechnologies in Nepal. Currently, it is under Ministry of Environment. It functions independently, and has a nine member board with representatives from government sector, industry sector and non-governmental organizations." AEPC's projects include-developing small scale hydro-power plants, solar,wind and biomass energy, geothermal energy and also improved water mills.
Number of international donor agencies support AEPC's efforts ,including the USAID and the Asian Development Bank(ADB).
In the private sector, there are numerous projects focused on developing alternative energy sources in Nepal. Here is a short list, which by no means is complete:
Renewable Nepal and Alternative Energy Pvt.Ltd.
The Renewable Energy Project (REP) (joint effort of the European Union and the Government of Nepal)
Embassy of Denmark in Nepal also has alternative energy development project, along with UNDP and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.
Energy deficient developing nations can provide a huge boost to their economy and also improve standard of living by investing in alternative and renewable energy sources. Nepal has made some progress in being energy independent, but here is still a long way ahead.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Main reasons for decline are
Illegal logging: Corruption within the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation is legendary-even in corruption soaked administration of Nepal. Officials from the ministry have been accused of aiding illegal loggers and accepting bribes from them. Even ministers and high ranking political party leaders have been found to be helping the criminal gangs active in illegal logging and poaching.
Culture of corruption and insider deals has made it easier for the criminals to take advantage of the situation and carry on their logging operations without regards to the environment.
Unplanned Urbanization: To make way for growing populations centers across Nepal, forests are being cleared away. Although there are organs within the local administration to manage building codes and check for violations, they functioning in snail's pace. By the time they have determined that a violation has occurred, the building is three story tall and filled with renters. Because of lawlessness in the country-thanks to political turmoil in Kathmandu, government cannot make the builders take the illegal construction down. Political fringe groups take advantage of situations like this to further fan anti-establishment emotions and sometimes pit one community or religious group against the other. Corruption and political and social influence dealing has also hampered operations of the code enforcers.
Energy need: 87% of domestic energy need in Nepal is met by firewood. Alternative energy sources and green energy technology is a must for the country. There is great interest in the country for solar and bio energy, lack of adequate funding the flip-flopping energy policy of the government, although, is hindering the green energy growth.
Private sector, however, is pushing ahead in developing alternative energy sources in Nepal. FoST, which stands for "Foundation for Sustainable Technologies", is providing low-cost, low-tech, easily-applicable and locally built sustainable technologies for improving the quality of life of poor rural communities and to protect the fragile environment of Nepal. Here is a video of a Dutch volunteer working with FoST.
Wild fires are also responsible for deforestation in Nepal, but compared to the three major factors, effect of the fires is not that severe. Mad made causes are killing the forests more than the natural reasons.
Unchecked deforestation is threatening Nepal's bio-diversity and it also a threat to the country's public because every year floods claim lives of hundreds across the country.
Here is a video shot by distancefading, of landslides in Nepal's hills.
Last year the flooding the land slides were very severe, just one district 45 people were killed and many more displaced. In my column for UPI Asia, I had an opportunity to express my frustration:
"As a popular proverb goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” Nepal has been fooled many times over and yet there is no feeling of shame. Every year, the monsoons cause flooding, landslides, misery, death, destruction and hunger and yet, surprisingly there are no advance preparations or preventive measures to combat it, as if natural disasters are totally natural and somehow the poor deserve it for being poor and ignorant.
There was a time, not very long ago, when Nepal used to have miles of dense forests, undisturbed and protected. They formed a natural layer of protection against raging rivers and landslides. Forests also balance the environment, preventing soil erosion, which helps agriculture and local ecosystems.
But with the promise of rapid development, these precious national treasures have been squandered. Forests have been cleared for housing, construction projects and agriculture with little or no thought for the environment.
Successive governments paid lip service to preserving Nepal's natural beauty and little was done to protect forests. Deforestation is so rampant that presently only 29 percent of the country's forests remain. So, it is no surprise that every year swollen rivers cause so much havoc and destruction because there are no forests standing to block their way.
The same goes for landslides. Uncontrolled population growth and rapid urbanization has pushed people to cut trees and build houses in their place.
Outside of Kathmandu valley, hills that were once covered with trees and vegetation are no longer in sight, their place taken by houses. When rain comes, there are no trees to hold the land and it slides down taking houses and people with it.
In some parts of the country, community efforts keep a close guard on surviving forests and actively police the area to keep loggers and unauthorized firewood collectors out. This is a remarkable public effort but unfortunately pales in comparison to the scale of the problem."
A year has gone, unfortunately, it seems that no lesson has been learned by the leaders in Kathmandu. There is still no comprehensive alternative energy policy and no plans on how to save the forests and still allow for development and growth. Sustainable development is not just a slogan; but for the deaf ones in helm of affairs in Kathmandu it is just a way to get foreign aid and all expenses paid foreign trips.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Nepal's water crisis is directly related to the country's deteriorating environment.In capital Kathmandu, many areas don't get water for six days a week, and are forced to either buy water through dealers or have to rely on local wells and rivers-whose water quality is not monitored.
The dealers collect water from rivers just outside Kathmandu city, which are polluted and are used sewage dumping points. Sand dealers illegally mine these rivers which has caused un-natural depths in various points along the river causing water stagnation-which has affected water quality and clarity.
As the government is pre-occupied with never ending cycle of in-fighting and political turmoil in the country, taking care of the environment is an after thought.
There is little effort to make Kathmandu green-deforestation is surrounding hills and also rapid urbanization within the city has turned Kathmandu into a gray barren land filled with unplanned housing and businesses.
In villages across the country, the issue is not water but clean water. Villagers largely rely on rivers,wells and pond for water supply as water supply in these areas is not managed through an agency-private or public.
Water quality monitoring is an alien concept in these areas and every year hundreds get sick because of waterborne illnesses. During the monsoon season, diarrhea is a common occurrence as the water sources are polluted by sludge carried downstream down by the rain.
All this misery about water in Nepal is entirely preventable and also manageable if only the people and government work together to make access to clean water a priority issue. Nepal's government has to make clean water a human right and act accordingly.
Previously posted at Think About It Climate Change.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
I am participating in a blogging competition which is focused on climate change and environmental issues.
"TH!NK ABOUT IT is a series of blogging competitions organised by the European Journalism Centre. The competitions are aimed at professional and aspiring journalists and new media creators from a diverse range of backgrounds. TH!NK aims to provide a online platform for coverage of a timely topic, establishing an international community of bloggers in the process. The first Th!nk edition in 2009 concentrated on the European parliamentary elections, with subsequent editions focusing on global topics such as climate change and development."
I have uploaded two posts, one is on Nepal's water crisis and the other one is on lack of enthusiasm for COP 16. My main motivation is to highlight climate change issues and Nepal; and also to gripe about the fickle media and the public's short attention span when it comes to environment and climate change.
I request your support.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
North Korea is on its bad behavior once again. Right before the U.S. Fourth of July holiday the reclusive regime was back to threatening its neighbors and the United States, test-firing four short-range missiles. This came at a time when U.S.-North Korea tensions were already at a high point following the capture and imprisonment of two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said he is ready to welcome North Korea back to the six-party talks, in an effort to calm the waters. But judging by its history, North Korea’s cycle of belligerence may just be starting.
Professor Morse Tan of the Florida Coastal School of Law says that these events are typical of how the North Koreans operate. They precipitate a crisis, then use negotiations to extract maximum benefit for the regime. They then break their side of the agreement and repeat the cycle again. He says that grasping the pattern in the context of Pyongyang’s objectives gives one a better understanding.
Tan explains that North Korea has three main long-term policy goals toward the South: “1) foment positive political sentiment towards itself in South Korea, which has been succeeding to an extent, especially in some parts of the media, the government and the younger generations; 2) eliminate U.S. military involvement on the peninsula – which is why they have repeatedly asked for a peace treaty with the U.S.; 3) re-unify the two Koreas by military force.”
North Korea has surely been doing its best to precipitate a crisis in recent weeks, with its nuclear and missile tests, closure of its joint venture factories with South Korea, and the detention of the U.S. journalists and one South Korean citizen.
Now reports suggest that North Korea was behind cyber attacks on U.S. and South Korean business and government websites this week. In the United States, the Pentagon, New York Stock Exchange and White House were targeted. In South Korea, the Defense Ministry, Presidential Blue House, and numerous media websites were hit by suspected North Korean cyber attacks.
This saber-rattling is not likely to result in a North Korea-U.S. peace treaty any time soon. Most observers think the six-party talks are the best hope of bringing some resolution. Professor Tan, however, cautions against expecting early success through the talks.
“The six-party talks will continue only if North Korea thinks they can gain through them,” he says. “Five-party talks without North Korea could help coordinate the other five countries in response to North Korea. However, China and Russia have aided North Korea in various ways, notwithstanding their agreement to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1874 and 1718, due perhaps to international pressure.”
Lost in North Korea’s high-risk game of nuclear brinkmanship is the plight of the country’s regular citizen. The regime appears least bothered about its starving and suffering people, and instead continues to spend millions on weapons programs.
A report from the World Food Program says that North Korea is now severely limiting the distribution of food aid in the country. The U.N. children’s aid agency, UNICEF, is also restricted in the country; recently it was banned from working in the country’s most impoverished region.
Day-to-day life for a normal citizen in North Korea is a steep struggle, Tan says. “Far from any system that rewards merit and work, the North Korean regime divides the populace based on perceived political standing. The three basic categories are: core, wavering and hostile. Within these three categories, there are fifty some sub-categories.
“The core are the elite, while the “hostile” are sent to concentration camps where they are subjected to sever malnourishment, relentless heavy labor – about 14 to 16 hours every day – cruel torture, and in many instances death through malnourishment, over-work, torture, sickness or outright execution. The middle categories make up the large peasant populace that resort to eating bark, grass and leaves in a despondent attempt to ward off starvation.”
North Korea’s acts against its own citizens are indeed criminal and evil. But there is hope; the international community and even regular citizens can do their bit to help the people and isolate the regime. Professor Tan suggests that U.S. groups could invite North Korean sports teams and cultural groups to help break the ice and initiate people-to-people contact, as the South Koreans have done. The New York Philharmonic’s performance in Pyongyang last year stands out in this regard.
The failing health of leader Kim Jong Ill has been widely reported, and a change in leadership could bring an opening for change, however small. Kim’s successor is reported to be his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, who has studied in Switzerland and is in his mid-twenties. His exposure to Western society could be a positive sign, says Tan.
With North Korea things are never what they seem. But no matter how belligerent the regime, the long-suffering citizens of the country are worth every effort to bring the reclusive regime back into the world community.
Originally published July 09,2009. UPI AsiaOnline
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I would argue in support of including India and Germany as permanent Security Council members. India, although not a "superpower" yet, is a very important factor in world economy, diplomacy and also security. India's inclusion in the Security Council will bring greater understanding of South Asian issues and also act as a balancing factor when it comes to China.
And Germany, it is a power house-economically and culturally. It does not make sense to exclude a nation as influential as Germany from the Security Council.
Well, India and Germany have secured temporary membership-2 year term in the Security Council. Hopefully by the end of the term there will be more support for them joining as permanent members.
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