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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Global warming brings busy year for UN disaster teams

Jo Tuckman in Mexico City
Thursday December 27, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Residents of Villahermosa, the capital of the state of Tabasco, are rescued by the Mexican navy
Residents of Villahermosa, the capital of the state of Tabasco, are rescued by the Mexican navy. Photograph: Gilberto Villasana/AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations office that sends expert teams around the world to help governments deal with natural disasters was busier than ever in Latin America this year, a fact it at least partially blames on climate change.The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, said in a statement that a record nine missions were dispatched to the region during 2007, among 14 sent around the globe, itself a higher than usual number
Of the 14 global missions, 70% were in response to hurricanes and floods, the OCHA statement said, calling this "possibly a glimpse of the shape of things to come given the reality of climate change."

In Latin America the proportion was even higher.

There were the rains in November that left most of the southern Mexican state of Tabasco under water for weeks, including large parts of the city of Villahermosa.

In October, Tropical Storm Noel triggered flash floods in the Dominican Republic that killed dozens. In September, Honduras faced the category five Hurricane Felix, just as Jamaica and Belize had been battered by the similarly strong Hurricane Dean the month before.

In South America, Uruguay suffered its worst flooding in 50 years and hundreds of thousands of Bolivians were inundated and their crops ruined at the beginning of the year, warranting two UN missions alone.

The remaining UN disaster team sent to the region went to help with the relief effort following an 8.0-magnitude earthquake along the Peruvian coast.

There were also other significant disasters which did not receive UN attention because the teams were not invited in by the local government. Hurricane Felix caused its greatest devastation in Nicaragua, but the UN mission was only sent to neighbouring Honduras.

"The number of disasters is increasing and it is connected to climate change but we cannot at this juncture directly link any one incident," OCHA spokesperson Stephanie Bunker told the Guardian. "More studies will have to be done before that is possible."

In 2006, the number of missions to Latin America was just two. In 2005 it was five.

Previously the highest number of missions to the region was the eight sent in 1998 after Hurricanes Mitch devastated Central America and Hurricane Georges ripped through the Caribbean.

Since its establishment in 1993, the OCHA has sent 167 disaster assessment missions. The largest number were in response to the tsunami and earthquake that killed around 230,000 people in 12 Indian Ocean nations on Boxing Day 2004. This year, aside from the missions to Latin America, the UN also sent teams to Madagascar, Pakistan, and Ghana in response to floods, as well as to the Solomon Islands following an earthquake and tsunami, and to Laos to help with disaster preparedness efforts.

Sri Lanka tested satellite disaster warning system to be used in India


Dec 27, 2007 (LBO) – A digital satellite radio disaster alert system that can be remotely activated which was field tested in Sri Lanka is now ready for use in the region to give early warning of tsunamis, officials said.

The Addressable Radio for Emergency Alert (AREA) system can send disaster alerts within seconds of its transmission by government authorities and also has the advantage of activating a siren.

The system is also expected to be adopted in India, which along with Sri Lanka, was among several countries that suffered from the 2004 tsunami.

The system, which has early-warning emergency messages, audio and visual alarms, was tested in a study conducted by LIRNEasia, a regional policy think tank, and Sarvodaya, a charity, in 32 Sri Lankan coastal villages.

"The product is digital satellite radio – it means there's no ground infrastructure at all," said Rohan Samarajeeva of LIRNEasia.

"It is a very small device about the size of my palm and can be taken around. It can give warnings in text and audio in multiple languages."

The device was designed for community-based disaster relief by LIRNEasia and WorldSpace, a US-based wireless technology major.

"We are planning to introduce the product in India as early as possible," WorldSpace's Senior Vice-President S Rangarajan, was quoted as saying in Indian media reports.

"Optimistically, we expect to launch the system especially in the coastal districts, which are prone to natural disasters, by 2008. Later, we plan to move to other regions," said Rangarajan, formerly programme director at Indian Space Research Organisation.

Radio transmission is a very quick way of communicating warnings but the key ingredient is that the radio must usually be on.

"The unique feature of this product is that it can wake you up. Even if the device is off, it can be activated by the disaster warning centre," Samarajeeva said.

"If you're watching another channel, it will automatically switch you to the disaster channel – a feature not found in any other technology that we know of."

The technology has two applications: it can either be used for public warnings or for a community-based warning model, like the one tested in the island under which designated people in disaster prone areas are given prior training.

A pilot project started in December 2005 has just concluded.

"We're now in the dissemination phase educating people in the region. We did it in a closed user group, as only government's have the authority for public warning systems, to see it in real life conditions."

Samarajeeva said they concluded after the trial that for the community-based kind of service they want to use it for, the ideal solution was to use it with another technology like mobile phone to provide two-way communications capability.

"For this sort of thing you don't rely on one technology. It's called complimentary redundancy."

The Closed User Group Digital Audio Broadcast station system that was tested uses digital satellite radios over a WorldSpace channel to broadcast information to remote communities.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Sri Lanka says floods displace 175,000

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COLOMBO (Reuters) - Flash flooding in east and central Sri Lanka has forced 175,000 people from their homes, with many seeking refuge in makeshift welfare centers in schools and temples, officials said on Monday.

Heavy rains on Sunday and Monday caused a reservoir to burst its banks in the eastern district of Batticaloa, where more than 40,000 families comprising around 150,000 people were displaced, said Ramya Siriwansa, deputy director of emergency operations at the National Disaster Management Centre.

The central district of Polonnaruwa was second-worst hit, with around 6,500 people displaced, with the balance affected in the northern districts of Jaffna and Trincomalee and the central district of Matale.

The inundation comes a week after 20,000 people were flooded out of their homes mainly in the eastern district of Ampara, when a depression over the Bay of Bengal intensified monsoon rains. Most of those people have since returned home.

"The flooding is due to heavy rains. A water tank has broken its banks in Batticaloa, so that is why most people have been affected," Siriwansa told Reuters. "There are 175,025 people displaced."

"Many are with friends and relatives, others are in camps and sheltering in schools and temples."

Flooding and displacement are common in Sri Lanka, where a southern monsoon batters the island between May and September, and a northeastern monsoon runs from December to February.

Batticaloa, on the eastern seaboard, was badly battered by the 2004 tsunami. The third anniversary of a disaster that left 35,000 people dead and missing in Sri Lanka alone is just two days away.

Flooding and drought are cyclical in Sri Lanka.

In January, around 60,000 people were displaced by flooding, with the southeastern district of Hambantota badly hit.

More than a dozen people were killed by landslides in the central hills at the time, hundreds of houses were damaged and thousands of people were stranded in makeshift welfare centers.

(Reporting by Simon Gardner; editing by Roger Crabb)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Disaster: Choked roads hinder response

Disaster: Choked roads hinder response

Traffic must not be stopped, but diverted

21 hospitals have agreed to help during calamities

BANGALORE: If you thought the overflowing traffic in the city only got you late for work, here is a bit of a shocker.

Emergency services in the city are severely delayed because of traffic, resulting in delayed response to a disaster situation, M.A. Sadiq, Bangalore Urban Deputy Commissioner, said at a press conference on Saturday.

This was one of the key findings of the mock fire drill conducted at National Games Village in Koramangala as part of testing response mechanisms for disaster.

"We found that the traffic was affected in many places, blockades were reported from areas around Koramangala and even the Fire and Emergency Services took time to reach the spot," he said.

Brigadier B.K. Khanna, senior specialist at the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), said that in case of disasters, traffic must not be stopped but diverted towards other roads.

"It is important to isolate the area so that all services are able to reach on time," he said.

Medical disasters

Twenty-one large private hospitals and five government hospitals have come forward to assist and co-operate in case of medical disasters, Mr. Sadiq said.

"We have many hospitals in the city and until recently we had no ideas about the specialised services they offer, their staff strength or the number of beds.

These hospitals have decided to forego any procedures when victims of medical disasters are brought from other hospitals."

Stating that weak security in malls was a big concern, Mr. Sadiq said he had requested the NDMA to issue guidelines about mall security.

"I have written to malls and cinema theatres in the city to install metal detectors and increase security measures in these public places," he said.


The Disaster Management Cell of Bangalore Urban District is conducting training programmes for 23 government departments.

"We are educating officials about the role of their department and the role of different agencies in case of a disaster," Pradeep K., liaison officer of the cell told The Hindu.

These awareness programmes are conducted in association with the NDMA, National Institute of Disaster Management, and NIMHANS.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

India approves Rs 6bn disaster management plan

NEW DELHI: Indian Home Ministry on Monday approved a Rs 6 billion plan to address the critical gaps in the management of earthquake related disasters.

The concept paper prepared by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has been named National Earthquake Risk Mitigation Project (NERMP). A Home Ministry spokesman said the preparatory work for the detailed project spread over for next five years would be initiated after an approval from the Planning Commission.

The plan involves training of engineers, builders, architects and masons etc at the National Institute for Earthquake Management. It is to be set up in the Himalayan city of Dehradun. The plan also involves investment in the research and development of safe construction technology, which is at present lowest in South Asia.

While the USA, West European countries and Australia spend 4 to 6 per cent of total construction investment in the R&D for developing construction techniques, India and other countries in South Asia spend abysmally low amount to the tune of just 0.03 to 0.05 per cent. The proposed project is aimed to achieve following goals: Capacity building of various stakeholders groups like engineers, architects, faculty members of engineering colleges, site supervisors, contractors, lead masons and masons.

Creation of public awareness on earthquake risk and vulnerability, techno-legal regime, building safety. Creating an enabling techno-legal regime and its enforcement and compliance by different ministries of government of India and state governments. Institutional strengthening and R&D. Retro-fitting of lifeline structures starting with district hospitals in 229 high risk districts in seismic zones IV and V for demonstrative effect.

creating jobs, reducing poverty and improving the qualify of life says IPS

NEW YORK, Dec 21, 2007 (Canada NewsWire via COMTEX) -- Sithe Global Power, LLC, through its special purpose affiliate SG Bujagali Holdings, Ltd., (collectively, "Sithe Global") announced today with its partner, Industrial Promotion Services (K: 53.54, +0.72, +1.36%) ("IPS"), an affiliate of the Aga Khan Fund for African Development ("AKFED"), that their jointly owned special purpose company, Bujagali Energy Limited ("BEL"), a Ugandan company, has closed financing on a USD 682MM construction debt facility for the 250 MW Bujagali hydroelectric station located on the Nile River in Uganda, Africa. Multilateral and bilateral debt will be provided by European Investment Bank, International Finance Corporation ("IFC"), African Development Bank ("AfDB"), Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelinsslanden N.V. ("FMO"), Societe de Promotion et de Participation pour la Cooperation Economique ("Proparco")/Agence Francaise de Developpement ("AFD"), DEG-Deutsche Investitions-und Entwicklungsgesellschaft MBH ("DEG") and KfW. Commercial debt will be provided by Standard Chartered Bank and Barclays/Absa Capital with Partial Risk Guarantee cover provided by International Development Association. The construction debt facilities committed for the project include USD 90MM in contingency and debt service reserve. A total of USD 190.9MM of equity for the Bujagali Project is being funded by Sithe Global, IPS and the Government of Uganda ("GOU"). Sithe Global's equity, which comprises approximately 65% of the total sponsor equity commitment/ownership in the project, is being funded by its majority owner, The Blackstone Group, together with investment funds managed by Reservoir Capital Group and Sithe Global management. Sithe Global has also secured Covered Risk insurance for its equity investment from the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency. IPS's equity, which comprises approximately 35% of the total sponsor equity commitment/ownership in the project, is being funded by AKFED, Jubilee Investment Company Limited and by IPS itself. Additional equity is being provided by the GOU. The Bujagali project is being undertaken as a "Public Private Partnership" between the GOU and the State-owned transmission company, Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited ("UETCL") on the one hand, and Sithe Global and IPS on the other. Sithe Global and IPS were selected pursuant to a competitive international bidding process.

Uganda has one of the lowest rates of electrification in the world and currently faces a serious economic crisis due to the lack of power generating facilities capable of producing electricity at affordable prices. Uganda's electricity demand growth has outstripped the capacity of existing hydroelectric power generation facilities on the Nile River, causing severe disruptions to Uganda's economic activities and forcing reliance on expensive emergency generators that burn diesel transported by tanker trucks over long distances. The Bujagali project will provide substantial additional hydroelectric power generation capacity, producing power at a levelized cost of approximately USD 6.5 cents versus the current approximately USD 31 cents cost of diesel generation units, thus addressing a national policy priority and facilitating Ugandan economic growth.

The Bujagali project will be comprised of a dam and hydropower station of 250 MW capacity on the Nile, 10 KM from the outflow of Lake Victoria, downstream of the existing Nalubaale and Kiira dams. The project will provide power from an indigenous and renewable resource with low carbon dioxide emissions, re-utilizing water already used for power generation at the upstream dams and therefore contributing to sustainable development. BEL will make available generating capacity and will sell power to UETCL under a power purchase agreement. The five generating units will be commissioned sequentially as each becomes available, ensuring that the benefits of the project will be delivered to the people of Uganda at the earliest opportunity. The first unit is expected to be commissioned during the fourth quarter of 2010. When fully commissioned, the Bujagali project will double Uganda's effective generation capacity. It represents one of the largest private power sector investments ever made in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The project is already under construction and approximately two to three months ahead of schedule as a result of a USD 75MM bridge loan that was advanced to BEL by the GOU. Proceeds from the GOU loan were used to finance engineering design, detailed site investigations, construction of permanent civil works, construction of camp-site and offices as well as the procurement of equipment, all of which provides a basis for an accelerated commissioning under the full notice to proceed that was issued today by BEL to the Contractor. The GOU has been repaid its loan in connection with this financial closing.

Hailing the attainment of the project's financial close as an historic event for the people of Uganda, the Minister for Energy and Mineral Development, Mr. Daudi Migereko, said, "This is a great tribute to public private partnership and a just reward for sacrifices that the Government has made on behalf of the people of Uganda. The Government has created an environment that has enabled blue chip lenders and BEL to commit financing for the project while at the same time safeguarding the interests of Ugandans through the GOU's equity ownership in the project as a result of its contribution of certain valuable assets, such as land and intellectual property, which had been previously developed. The loan refunded by BEL will now be returned to the Energy Fund for appropriate reutilization."

Recalling His Highness the Aga Khan's quote during the foundation stone-laying ceremony for the project, "Think of the difference it will make when the supply of power is adequate to the needs, and massive load-shedding becomes a distant memory", Mr. Lutaf Kassam, the Group Managing Director of IPS remarked that "adequate and affordable power supply will restore the competitiveness of the Ugandan manufacturers thereby creating jobs, reducing poverty and improving the qualify of life".

Bruce Wrobel, Sithe Global's Chairman and CEO, said, "Sithe Global is excited to be participating in a project that will have such far reaching but positive impacts to the Ugandan economy. Reliable power, especially of the clean and renewable variety, is one of the most important factors a potential investor considers when exploring a new opportunity for investment. We are proud to be adding to Uganda's already attractive investment outlook."

David Foley, a Senior Managing Director of The Blackstone Group with primary responsibility for Blackstone's investments in the energy sector, said "Blackstone is proud to invest alongside the Aga Khan Group and the Government of Uganda in the Bujagali project, which we believe will provide investors with favorable returns while providing significant economic benefits to the people of Uganda. Blackstone expects to continue to invest substantial equity in support of Sithe Global's growth plan as the company funds the construction of other power projects in its portfolio."

Sithe Global Power, LLC is owned approximately 80% by Blackstone SGP Capital Partners (Cayman) IV L.P., an affiliate of The Blackstone Group, and management, led by Mr. Wrobel, with the remaining approximately 20% stake held by the investment funds managed by Reservoir Capital Group. Blackstone purchased an 80% ownership interest in Sithe Global in 2005 with the objective of facilitating Sithe Global's plans to develop, finance, construct and operate electric power generation facilities in the U.S. and certain international markets. Sithe Global has a portfolio of power plant projects in various stages of development and construction, including: the 880 MW gas-fired combined cycle Goreway project under construction in Brampton, Ontario; the 1,500 MW Desert Rock facility, a coal-fired project in New Mexico; the 750 MW Toquop facility, a coal-fired project in Nevada; the 300 MW River Hill facility, a waste coal-fired project in Pennsylvania; a 1,000 MW project in Italy; and projects in Africa, the Middle East and other regions totaling approximately 5,000 MW of generating capacity.

About Industrial Promotion Services (K: 53.54, +0.72, +1.36%) Ltd.

IPS is the infrastructure and industrial development arm of AKFED. IPS has operations in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Democratic Republic of the Congo and is also actively pursuing investment opportunities in Rwanda, Mozambique and Madagascar. Outside the East Africa and Central Africa regions, IPS also operates in Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal, as well as Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Canada.

IPS's involvement in power comprises: the 288 MW Azito gas power plant in Cote D'Ivoire; concessionaire for Energie du Mali (power & water utility); Kenya's 75 MW diesel plant; and a vertically integrated off-grid utility involved in generation, distribution and sale of electricity in the West Nile district of Uganda. IPS companies in East Africa have a total workforce of approximately 8,500 employees

About the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development

AKFED is an international development agency dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship and building economically sound enterprises in the developing world. AKFED focuses on building enterprises in parts of the world that lack sufficient foreign direct investment. It also makes bold but calculated investments in situations that are fragile and complex.

AKFED operates as a network of affiliates with more than 90 separate project companies employing over 30,000 people. The Fund is active in 16 countries in the developing world: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Mali, Mozambique, Pakistan, Senegal, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania and Uganda.

AKFED's areas of interest comprise aviation, financial, industrial and infrastructure development, media and tourism promotion services. Further details on IPS and AKFED may be obtained from the website www.akdn.org.

About Sithe Global Power, LLC

Sithe Global is a privately held international independent power development and construction company which focuses on certain target markets in North America, Europe, Mexico, Africa and the Middle East. Sithe Global is led by a seasoned management and technical team with extensive independent power project development experience, and a proven record of identifying project development and acquisition opportunities which create substantial value for its investors. The Sithe Global management team has successfully developed more than 50 power plant projects in nine countries with a capital investment in excess of $5 billion.

About Blackstone

The Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX) is a leading global alternative asset manager and provider of financial advisory services. Its alternative asset management businesses include the management of corporate private equity funds, real estate opportunity funds, funds of hedge funds, mezzanine funds, senior debt funds, proprietary hedge funds and closed-end mutual funds. Blackstone is an experienced and active investor in the energy sector, including investments in Premcor, Inc., one of the largest independent refiners of petroleum products in the U.S. prior to its acquisition by Valero in 2005; Texas Genco, a Houston-based wholesale electric power generating company; Foundation Coal (NYSE:FCL), a U.S. coal mining company; and Kosmos Energy, an oil exploration company. The Blackstone Group also provides various financial advisory services, including mergers and acquisitions advisory, restructuring and reorganization advisory and fund placement service. Further information is available at www.blackstone.com.

About Reservoir

Reservoir Capital Group is a privately held investment firm with an opportunistic 'hybrid' investment approach. Reservoir invests directly in public securities and private investments, as well as in partnership with investment teams through the creation of hedge funds and private equity firms in which the Reservoir funds are an owner. Reservoir's investment funds currently have over $3 billion under management.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Namibia: Region Meets On Disaster Preparedness

Namibia and seven other countries from Southern Africa met in South Africa early this month to discuss ways in which they can closely work together to combat the devastating effects of floods in the region.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says the eight countries, namely the Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa met to scale up disaster preparedness ahead of the rainy season.

In 2007, flood and wind damage caused by heavy rains and cyclones destroyed the livelihoods of more than one million people across the region.

In Namibia, the floods hit four constituencies in Caprivi Region, namely Kabbe, Katima rural, Linyanti, and Kongola and displaced more than 7000 villagers. Eleven schools were affected and 1120 pupils were relocated to other schools on higher ground - at Schuckmannsburg, Lusese and Kabbe.

In February this year the floods hit Namibia when heavy rains received in Angola resulted in the Zambezi River bursting its banks, flooding the Caprivi Region.

Many villages, fields, cattle and boreholes were submerged while nine people died from drowning, crocodile attacks and snakebites.

Even though the floods are a perennial event in the Caprivi Region, this year's were reported the worst since 1958.

The floods forced farmers at Muyako to prematurely harvest their crops in the fertile Lyambezi Lake, after the area was submerged.

According to the UN's humanitarian affairs office, emergency responders agreed to a draft declaration of intent to share information and capacities for emergency response, establish regional rapid response teams and develop protocols that allow for the free circulation of emergency personnel and relief materials in the region.

The group agreed on the need for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders to demonstrate the political will and financial commitment necessary to ensure the full implementation of their recommendations, including the re-activation of the SADC Disaster Risk Management Team.

In recognition of the high HIV prevalence levels throughout Southern Africa, the group agreed to pay special attention to integrating HIV prevention and care into emergency preparedness and response.

Two countries, South Africa and Madagascar, were quick to cement their commitment to regional cooperation. They signed an agreement to collaborate in the exchange of technical know-how, human resources and equipment in response to floods and cyclones next year.

"This year, many governments in the region have taken steps in their own countries to be better prepared for the current rainy and cyclone season, in particular undertaking contingency planning for disasters," said Kelly David.

Relevant Links

"And now, they are looking beyond that and how they can help each other and draw on international resources and technical expertise to better manage the impacts they all face from natural hazards."

David is the head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Regional Office for Southern Africa, which hosted the emergency preparedness and response workshop.

International aid workers and officials from countries vulnerable to floods and cyclones attended the workshop held from December 5 to 7 in Johannesburg.

Monday, December 17, 2007

New focus is on disaster prevention

Realizing its extreme climate risks, India is now moving towards a proactive rather than reactive approach to disaster management, wherein prevention and preparedness are being seen as the thrust areas rather than relief and rehabilitation. Vinod Menon, member of the National Disaster Management Authority, says, "A paradigm shift is taking place towards disaster preparedness." A National Alliance of Disaster Risk Reduction formed last month aims to sustain this shift. 

Faced with recurring disasters, many of them due to extreme weather conditions, the common folks are also learning the value of disaster preparedness such as evacuation drills and networks of dormant volunteer groups that could be pressed into service in emergencies. 

People in tsunami hit Poompuhar village in Tamil Nadu learnt their lesson when a fisherwoman's foresight led to evacuation of 10,000 people from her village, sounding of alert in neighboring villages and rescue of over 250 people as the deadly waves crashed into the mainland. Her efforts required quick thinking, coordination and community assistance. With a similar coordination of village, state and national agencies including civil society groups, perhaps the devastation caused by the tsunami could have been reduced manifold.

Villages in Orissa, where floods, droughts or cyclones occur quite frequently, people have mobilized to safeguard trees ensuring conservation of forests, and reducing chances of soil erosion and flooding. Experts at a recently held national workshop on disaster relief reduction hailed the initiative as an example of simple and practical solutions for India's policy makers.

The Indian National Disaster Management Act 2005 explains disaster management as a continuous and integrated process of planning, coordinating and implementing mitigation, capacity building and assessment measures of any disaster as well as rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Climate change has a direct bearing on almost all spheres of human life including poverty, housing, water, and sustainable development. It is magnified when 27 of the 35 states and UTs in India are disaster prone.

India's experience in dealing with disasters in the recent past has been mixed. Initiatives by NGOs, international organizations and government bodies have tried to provide timely assistance as seen during the tsunami, earthquakes and floods. The new preventive approach will change the way people approach hazards and create a fresh synergy between different organizations required to work in tandem in times of crisis.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Global warming has already reached ‘tipping points’: Expert

Saturday,15.12.2007 (GMT)

Washington, A leading climate scientist has said that the global warming has already reached "tipping points", and that present levels of greenhouse gases will further worsen the climate on Earth.


James Hansen, a climatologist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, issued this warning during a presentation at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco.


He recommended curbing the use of fossil fuels such as oil and coal to avoid any further climatic damage. He said that such fuels were responsible for most of human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), which are widely believed to be driving global warming.


Hansen revealed that the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere was enough to cause the Arctic sea ice cover and massive ice sheets such as in Greenland to eventually melt away.


He further said that uninterrupted changes would cause climatic zones like the tropics and temperate regions to continue to shift, and the oceans to become more acidic, endangering much marine life.


"I think in most of these cases, we have already reached the tipping point," the National Geographic quoted him as saying.


Hansen, however, said that mending the way people use energy might help prevent such damages.


"In my opinion, we have not passed the point of no return, so that it's still possible to avoid the impacts. The problem is that it's just been taken as a God-given fact that we're going to burn all of these fossil fuels and let the CO2 in the atmosphere," he said. 


"You just can't do that if you're going to keep this planet resembling the one that we've had for the last 10,000 years," he added.


According to Hansen, the oceans and land currently absorb roughly half of the CO2 people emit each year. If humans stopped emitting CO2 through fossil fuel use, he said, the gas would continue to be soaked up and levels in the atmosphere would drop.


"We have to figure out how to live without fossil fuels someday. Why not sooner?" he said.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Bangladesh: Disaster Management Information Centre situation report

Summary of Cyclone Sidr Response

Updated official report from MoFDM illustrates that the number of death caused by tropical cyclone 'SIDR' has risen to 3324 affecting 8.7 million people of 2 million families. These casualties and damages of houses, livestock, crops, educational institutions, roads and embankments have been reported from 1945 unions of 200 upazilas of 30 districts. Most deaths and damages have been attributed to the storm surge.

AFD is working on non-stop basis and carrying the relief goods to the local administrations, communities at the very remote locations by both BAF and US Aircrafts. Today US carried 7.492 ton relief items to affected areas.

Up to Wednesday, December 05, 2007 GoB have allocated approx 808 million BDT from Honorable Chief Advisor's Relief & Welfare Fund and DRR, MoFDM for the Sidr victims. GoB has also allocated 16890 MT GR Rice, distributed 27,000 food bags, 26700 blankets, 16454 tents, 3,348 carton utensils and 13,000 bundles of CI sheets by the Directorate of Relief and Rehabilitation (DRR).

MAP - Bangladesh: Cyclone SIDR - Damage Information (as of 6 Dec 2007)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

DG ECHO, AKF to implement disaster management accord

DG ECHO, AKF to implement disaster management accord
Sunday, December 02, 2007
ISLAMABAD: An agreement has been signed between the Aga Khan Foundation UK (AKF UK) and DG ECHO through its Disaster Preparedness Program (DIPECHO) to implement a project entitled “Building Local Leadership and Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction in Northern Pakistan.” The project will be implemented by Focus Humanitarian Assistance Pakistan (FOCUS) in three districts in Northern Pakistan.

Northern Pakistan is a highly disaster prone area vulnerable to multiple natural hazards including landslides. Glacial lake outburst floods, debris/mud flow, earthquakes and flash floods. The remoteness and inaccessibility of the area makes it important to build a disaster response capacity of local communities.

With DG ECHO/DIPECHI’s support FOCUS will continue to build local community capacity and will partner with a variety of stakeholders. Including local government, to strengthen and institutionalise disaster risk management (including prevention, mitigation and preparedness) enhanced so that they are able to play a leadership role in disaster risk reduction and management.

The project will improve community and government knowledge of local hazards and natural disaster risks. High risk communities will benefit from small-scale mitigation work to reduce the level of physical vulnerability and will also be targeted with in depth hazard, vulnerability, capacity and risk assessments which will help to enhance their disaster preparedness. Data from these assessments will feed into the refinement of FOCUS’ risk reduction model.

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