Saturday, March 18, 2017

Myanmar prepares for water shortage

Myanmar prepares for water shortage

Last year's El Nino exacerbated the dry season but this time the government and NGOs are prepared.


Mandalay:  Myanmar is preparing for water scarcity in at least 500 villages this dry season and plans to distribute 14 million gallons of water to affected areas.

The Department of Rural Development under the Ministry of Agriculture also plans to dig artisan wells and repair over 1,000 existing wells in collaboration with non-governmental organizations.

"We have already coordinated with local authorities and NGOs through information sharing about how to respond to water shortages," Khant Zaw, director general of the department, told on March 15.

"We have drawn our preparations by taking lessons from the 2016 experience and we have enough money from the budget to respond to it," said Khant Zaw.

More than 2,000 villages faced water shortages across the country in 2016 as El Nino hit Myanmar starting from late 2015 until June 2016.

The El Nino phenomenon plays havoc with weather patterns and brings on extreme conditions such as flooding or droughts. These in turn can lead to other problems such as crop failure, wildfires, disease, as well as food and water shortages.

In April 2016, temperatures in Magwe Region reached 46 degrees Celsius, the highest in two decades.

Khin Moe War, a member of parliament from Tharbaung township, said some villages in the Irrawaddy Delta have faced drinking water shortages since February.

She said that local authorities have dug artisan wells and prepared to distribute water via water-tankers to affected villages as a short-term plan.

But several villages cannot find underground water sources for wells "so we need to consider a longer-term plan," Khin Moe War told

Villagers in the Irrawaddy Delta traditionally source drinking water from rainwater harvesting, communal water ponds and wells as most villages have no access to piped water.

Father Henry Eikhlein, director of Karuna (Caritas) Myanmar, said they are closely monitoring the situation. The church-run project helped dig 30 artisan wells and provided a water purification system in Tharbaung township in the Irrawaddy Delta recently.

"Our main purpose is to get drinking water and dig wells to be used in both dry and rainy seasons," Father Eikhlein told

Myanmar's prominent Meteorologist Tun Lwin has warned that the country needs to prepare for water shortages and drought this dry season as the temperature is likely to increase to over 40 degrees Celsius in Magwe, Mandalay, Rakhine, Irrawaddy Delta, Bago and Yangon regions.

Myanmar is no stranger to drought and year-round water shortages can occur in the Irrawaddy Delta, and in a dry zone area comprising 58 townships in Mandalay, Magwe and Sagaing during the March-May dry season.

Myanmar is the world's second most vulnerable country to climate change according to the Global Climate Risk Index.

Source: UCAN

Indonesian farmers reject chemical fertilizers

Indonesian farmers reject chemical fertilizers

East Nusa Tenggara growers pledge to convert to organic methods, preserve the environment.


Jakarta:  Farmers in Indonesia’s Christian majority East Nusa Tenggara province have agreed to stop using chemical fertilizers, and adopt church-sponsored organic farming.

Representatives from 30 farmer organizations made the declaration at the end of a weeklong meeting in Maumere, Sikka district.

The organizations are partners of Misereor — the international aid and development arm of the German Catholic bishops conference — and Massipag, a farmer-led network of people’s organizations, NGOs and scientists based in Philippine.

Some 70 percent of East Nusa Tenggara’s 5 million population are farmers.

"The farmers are committed to developing sustainable agriculture and supporting conservation of natural resources," said Herry Naif, project manager of Wahana Tani Mandiri, an NGO that assists farmers told on March 15.

"Farmers also refused government handouts containing chemicals," he said, adding that chemical fertilizers have a negative impact, especially on soil conditions.

"Farmers are complaining about declining soil fertility and their agricultural output is also diminishing," he said.

Father Andreas Wilibrodus Bisa, director of the Franciscan eco-pastoral center in Manggarai district, West Flores said the declaration is a sign of an increased awareness among farmers about environmental damage.

"It is of course based on their real experiences this development will encourage the church to actively campaign more for organic farming," he said.

Father Bisa said Franciscans have cultivated organic produce for more than 10 years and this form of agriculture can be a solution for farmers whose productivity has declined due to the use of chemicals.

The program, he said, has received a good response from the government. "In Manggarai district, the Education Department has required all schools to teach organic farming," he said.

In addition to the development of organic farming, he said, their efforts also focused on the conservation of forests and waterways.

"We’re encouraging farmers to leave for their children and grandchildren clear rivers and springs and not tears," he said.

Kris Bedha Somperpes, from Sun Spirit for Justice and Peace, a nongovernmental organization that promotes products produced by indigenous communities, said farmer dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides is already very high.

He pointed to Lembor, in West Manggarai regency, where there are 7,000 hectares of wetland, originally known as the granary, now experiencing serious problems.

"Farmers believe they have to use at least five types of chemicals," he said. "They think if they are not used they will not get results."

Source: UCAN

Philippine church leaders call for positive peace talks

Philippine church leaders call for positive peace talks

Joint statement warns against negotiations being 'bogged down by accusations and counter-accusations'.

Church groups call for the resumption of peace negotiations during a demonstration in Manila. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
Manila:  Church leaders in the Philippines called on the government and communist rebels to come up with a more positive outcome when peace negotiations between the two sides resume early next month.

"[The] negotiations should not be bogged down by accusations and counter-accusations," read a statement issued by an alliance of five Catholic and Protestant churches in the country.

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform said the announcement made by government and rebel peace negotiators this week "is a testament to the power of principled dialogue.'

The government and communist rebels agreed this week to resume talks next month following calls from various groups and an escalation in armed clashes in recent weeks.

In a joint statement, both sides announced that they would reinstate their respective unilateral ceasefires before talks begin in the first week of April.

Church leaders welcomed the decision of both parties to reaffirm all past agreements.

"We look forward to more positive outcomes in the next rounds of talks," read a statement signed by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma for the Catholic bishops.

Government negotiators and leaders of the rebel National Democratic Front of the Philippines have agreed to forge an "interim bilateral ceasefire" after resolving issues in previous truces.

Organizations under the church-base peace platform expressed "hope" that unilateral ceasefires declared by both parties will be reinstated before the end of the month.

"We also pray that the proverbial swords of war that were unsheathed ... will not be drawn once more," read the group's statement.

The church leaders urged Filipinos to "pray and work for peace and guard against those who are aiming to spoil" the negotiations.

"There will be more bumps ahead towards the road to a just and enduring peace, but if we continue to be vigilant and see to it that the parties involved stay on course, a better 'future awaits those who seek peace.'" said the group.

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform comprise the Catholic bishops' conference, the Protestant's National Council of Churches, the Association of Major Religious Superiors, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, and the Ecumenical Bishops' Forum.

Source: UCAN

Parrikar wins trust vote, Rane quits Congress

Parrikar wins trust vote, Rane quits Congress

The Congress alleged that the BJP-led coalition government was illegitimate.


Panaji:  Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday won the critical trust vote in the legislature, with 22 MLAs backing his government and the Congress getting the support of 16 legislators.

In a related development, Congress MLA Vishajit Rane resigned from the party and the assembly, complaining that he was sick of the way the party was functioning in Goa.

Parrikar, whose BJP heads a coalition government with a slim majority, was sworn in as Chief Minister of the coastal state for the fourth time on Tuesday.

Parrikar, who is not a legislator and is a Rajya Sabha member, moved a one-line motion of confidence, after which pro-tem Speaker Sidharth Kunkolienkar asked those in favour to stand up.

The pro-tem Speaker overruled opposition member Pratapsingh Rane's efforts to raise a point of order related to the appointment of a junior member of the assembly as pro-tem Speaker.

The 22 MLAs who supported the motion included those of the Bharatiya Janata Party (minus the pro-tem Speaker), three each of Goa Forward and MGP, three Independents and Nationalist Congress Party MLA Churchill Alemao.

Vishajit Rane, who over the last few days had been accusing the Congress leadership of squandering away the chances of forming a government in the state, was not present during the voting.

"We did know how and when he (Rane) disappeared. We do not know where he is. One moment he was perfectly ok, smiling, chatting with us. He also took oath as MLA, but just before the confidence motion was moved, he disappeared," Congress Legislative Party leader Chandrakant Kavlekar told reporters after the trust vote.

Rane later told reporters that he had quit the party and his legislatorship in frustration because the party's senior leadership had let down the mandate of 17 seats won by the Congress.

"The people of Goa gave a mandate to Congress. If our strength was 12-13, I would have stayed in the opposition. That is not the question. But when people gave the mandate to us, we have lost it because of the general secretaries and local leadership," Rane said.

Responding to the development, Congress spokesperson Ramakant Khalap accused Vishwajit Rane of sullying the name of democracy by quitting the party in the middle of a trust vote.

"He has ruined the name of his illustrious family and his father who is an MLA for 50 years... His parents are ashamed of his act of quitting the Congress," Khalap told IANS.

When Parrikar was asked to react to Rane's going missing during the trust vote, he said: "Why are you asking me, ask him."

The Congress alleged that the BJP-led coalition government was illegitimate.

"They have bought over MLAs. They have not allowed us to speak in the assembly or discuss the motion, they have even foisted a Speaker who formerly was reporting to Manohar Parrikar as Chief Minister in 2012.

"There is no legitimacy for this government," Congress spokesperson and MLA Aleixo Reginaldo told IANS.

The former Defence Minsiter later told reporters that portfolios to the 10-member cabinet would be announced on Saturday.

"Expansion of the cabinet will be done after the budget session is over. The budget session will begin on March 22," Parrikar said.

Thursday's trust vote was ordered by the Supreme Court following a petition by the Congress which alleged that Goa Governor Mridula Sinha had played a partisan role in inviting the BJP to form a government although the Congress was the single largest party with 17 MLAs in the 40-member assembly.


Kohima diocese stresses education in villages

Kohima diocese stresses education in villages

Bishop James Thoppil of Kohima said education should create morally upright people.


Dimapur:  The Kohima diocese has opened a new school and convent in the remote Niuland area of the diocese stressing development of people through education.

N. Jacob Zhimomi, Parliamentary secretary for Irrigation and Flood Control was the chief guest at the opening of St. Joseph’s School and St. Ann’s Convent in March 7. “Education is the key to integral progress,” he said.

Jacob said he had assigned Niuland as a special development zone and expected faster and better road connectivity to the place.

The official asked parents not to shrink their responsibility in the education of children. Stressing education as a join venture, he encouraged parents to support local schools by enrolling their children in schools near their villages than sending them to far off places.

Jacob said he was proud to be a product of Catholic education and thanked the Catholic Church in Nagaland for doing a yeomen service in the education of the youth.

Jacob said he admired the Church’s commitment and service with a human touch and also thanked the Church for the huge investment made in the campus.

Bishop James Thoppil of Kohima blessed the buildings. He said he had a nostalgic feeling because of his close association with the place and the chief guest in the area as a missionary in early nineties.

The bishop said that over 1.61 crore had been spend for the various developmental work in the campus during the last two and a half years.

He said education must make people to stand for moral uprightness and moral values taught by Jesus.

Head Gaon Bura (GB) of Viyito village, Vikiye, also spoke on the occasion and requested public to support the growth and development of the school.

Source: Nagaland Post

Goa cop claims St. Anthony helped him track Irish tourist’s killer

Goa cop claims St. Anthony helped him track Irish tourist’s killer

The slain Irish tourist was found naked and sprawled, with injuries to her head and face in a desolate area in Devbag.


Panaji:  A police officer who led the probe into the brutal murder of an Irish tourist in Goa on March 13 has claimed that his patron saint, St. Anthony of Padua, helped him track the killer.

In a Facebook post uploaded late on Mar 15, Deputy Superintendent of Police (Canacona) Sammy Tavares said that praying to St. Anthonyhelped him find a clue in the sensational case, with which the police tracked down the killer within 24 hours.

“On March 13 morning at about 9 a.m., I received a shocking news about a naked dead body of a foreigner female at Canacona. The first thing I did was to pray Jesus and St. Anthony who is my patron. It was a Tuesday, St. Anthony’s day. I demanded with St. Anthony to intervene and help me in solving this sensational case,” Tavares said in his Facebook post.

While 26 per cent of Goa is Roman Catholic in religious orientation, Ireland is also dominated by Roman Catholics.

Tavares claims he got to the clue immediately leading to the arrest of Vikas Bhagat, a history sheeter, who has been booked under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code.

“Within few hours of investigations, we came across a clue, upon which we worked out and within four hours the suspect was put behind bars.

On further investigations, he confessed of having involved in the gruesome murder of the innocent lady,” Tavares said, thanking Jesus Christ and St. Antony for leading him to the clue.

The slain Irish tourist was found naked and sprawled, with injuries to her head and face in a desolate area in Devbag in Canacona, a sub-district located 95 km south of Panaji.

A forensic team is also expected to examine whether the victim, who was vacationing in Goa with a friend, was raped.

“I also assure all, that no stone will be left unturned to give justice to the near and dear ones of the victim,” Tavares also said, even as Irish consular officials have established contact with the state home department to work out the arrangements for ferrying the victim’s remains to Ireland.

Source: Indian Express

Airport project threatens villagers in Ajmer

Airport project threatens villagers in Ajmer

Farmers say land acquisition aims to help business firms at the cost of their livelihood.

A child with a placard asking "where will we go?" in Hindi at a demonstration against the proposed taking of their land ffor a new a new airport in Ajmer district of Rajasthan state, northern India. ( photo)
Ajmer:  Some 1,500 villagers in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan are refusing to discontinue their four-year fight to protect their farms from being appropriated by authorities for a new airport.

Villagers from Rathodon Ki Dhaani in the state's Ajmer district said authorities had in 2013 issued them notices to vacate their land so they could add facilities to the planned Kishangarh airport, scheduled to be commissioned in July.

"Come what may we will not leave our village; we will die fighting to protect our land," said Suraj Kawar, a woman who was exhorting villagers to prepare for the worst in the ongoing protest.

The villagers set up a tent that they fill on a rotational basis. If the government is determined to proceed then they should at least be compensated, villagers said.

"The compensation that the government is offering is grossly inadequate," said Sister Carol Geeta from the Mission Sisters of Ajmer congregation who is supporting the struggle.

Even if the best compensation is offered in terms of money the villagers said they would not be able to find grazing for their cattle and alternative locations for their homes, temples and other public places. "They stand to lose a 500-year-old ancestral place and the traditions they built up there," the nun said.

The villagers said the government offered them one sixth of an earlier sum offered to influential and politically-connected people in their neighborhood. "Why is there so much difference in the price of land?" said Rajendra Singh, a villager who is set to lose nearly three hectares. The current offer is US$12,200 per bigha (just under half a hectare).

Singh said the government is bent on acquiring their land to protect the land of influential people on the other side of the planned airport that could also be used.

The villagers moved Rajasthan state High Court in March 2016 but they are yet get a concrete order, Singh said, adding they will now approach the court to expedite the process as the development is set to begin soon.

Social worker and rights activist Himanshu Kumar, who supports the villagers, said the current form of development in India highlights the issue of building huge structures while "grabbing the land of the poor and handing it over to the rich."

The resistance is ongoing. "We will hold a special meeting with the affected villagers before deciding the future course of action," Sister Geeta told

Source: UCAN