Thursday, February 22, 2007

BBC: The story-tellers of Marrakesh

From the BBC:

In the Moroccan city of Marrakesh, you can still find men who tell ancient stories that have been handed down from generation to generation.

But with modern technology offering new forms of diversion and entertainment, young people are ignoring the story-tellers and for the first time in perhaps 1,000 years the tradition is dying out.

Loading up a van-Pakistani Style

This is one of he most dangerous roads in Islamabad. and yet this does not stop public transport vans from using every inch of space on the van ( Picture is from islamabad Metro blog).

I think the TTC is safer.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

PBS---Canada: The cell next door

PBS frontline documentary on the arrests last summer. One of the more detailed journalist accounts of the arrests.

Water contamination in Pakistan

Recently World Wide Fund for Nature and Several NGOs in Pakistan completed a report on the water situation in Pakistan. Some of it's findings as pe rthe Dawn newspaper were:

Water contamination in the country is continuing unabated as the issue does not feature high on the agenda of the government which also lacks commitment to enforce laws it has enacted for protecting water for future generations.

This apathy on the part of the government, enforcement agencies and the industrial and agriculture sectors responsible for contamination is resulting in the death of at least 250,000 children every year while adults are facing severe health hazards.

This was revealed in a report launched by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan in collaboration with Actionaid Pakistan, Pani Pakistan, Sungi, Pakistan Environmental Lawyers Association, Shehri and Human Welfare and Nature Conservation Society at a press conference here on Thursday.

WWF-Pak Fresh Water and Toxics Programme director Hammad Naqi told the newsmen that all the data for the report “Pakistan’s waters at risk” had been collected from various official studies so that the authorities could not challenge its authenticity.
The News, another leading Daily newspaper expands furthur on the situation:

The picture becomes more disturbing if one looks at it more closely. For instance, the government's own data reveals that 99 per cent of industrial effluent and 92 per cent of urban wastewater is discharged untreated into rivers and the sea (the extent of damage to marine life and the ecosystems of these bodies of water can probably not even be imagined). Drinking water in most urban cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Multan and even Abbotabad and Islamabad has been found to be laced with biological and chemical pollutants (according to a survey conducted by the NGO Network and the National Institute of Health, three-quarters of all water in the federal capital is not suitable for drinking). Equally alarmingly, 36 per cent of the population of Sindh and Punjab is exposed to arsenic levels in water that are five times more than the safe limit as prescribed by the World Health Organisation. The picture is quite dismal and reflects, regrettably, the government's misplaced priorities since some other areas receive more attention and funding (the most obvious being defence).

As the figures above suggest, it would actually not be a cliché to say that improving the quality of water in Pakistan is a life and death issue -- it is precisely just that. What is needed is a government that displays the political will and commitment to address this issue seriously, gives it the priority that it deserves and does not dismiss it as a fashionable issue advocated by the NGO sector for its own ends such as funding and so on (one suspects that is what the government partly tends to think of the matter).
I dont think Pakistan is alone in it's struggle to balance development and water protection. I have heard people say that the economy supersedes the environment when a country is developing. But the where do you draw the line? how many people need to die from water pollution before one realizes that sanctity of life is more important then the economy.

What drives landowners and others to remove pollution causing sources in the developed world? I thinnk it is the legal implications of the impact their land may cause to human health. As in, the threat of a legal suit and/or heavy fine from the government drives water pollution protection.

In summary the key components of water pollution protection is as follows:

  • Government Regulations that set limits for different contaminants
  • Government regulators who oversee the implementation of these regulations
  • Some sort of check or audit on the government to make sure it is doing it's job
  • Public awareness and consultation
  • A justice system to seek out pollutors
  • technical skills ( includes consultants, lab technicians, contractors, etc)
I am sure I have missed some the above bullets but the point is that it is not easy to implement regulations that the developed world currently has and use them in a devleoping country. This is a multi step and multi tiered process which could take decades to implement. So what is the solution?

A question to explore on another blog post.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A proof ( quote)

“A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven.” jean chretien

Monday, February 12, 2007

Spiegel Online: From Ghana to Europe

A very interesting (and long) read from Spiegel Online.

It dicusses the journey of one would-be-imigrant from Ghana to Europe and all the interesting places/people/tests he encountered in between. Realy opens your eyes to how some people are living their lives in this world and how lucky we are.....

There are journeys that change a traveler, that transform ( abd longhim into a different person. And there are travelers who, by the end of their journey, want nothing so much as for life to return to the way it used to be. But they discover that there is no turning back, that their world has changed irrevocably.

For John Ekow Ampan, Africa was his home throughout his journey. Then he lost his security -- his friends, his customers, his language and his laugh. He wanted to become a European. Today he dresses like a European, works like a European and buys European TVs and washing machines. READ (much) MORE


You have all heard me talk about the importance of roti in my life ( and its relevance to my marriage). A cousin of roti is naan. Metroblog Islamabad talks about naan and its roots.:

Islamabad is truly a city with a thousand faces. Islamabad has a population that is characterised by ethnic identities from the far north to the southern most point of the countryand each of these people has brought some part of their own cultures with them and as time has gone by, that particular tradition has become identifiable with Islamabad's life style.

One of these traditions that has grown largely due to the population that was initially based in NWFP, specifically Peshawar City where even today, people rely mostly on the 'tandoor' to provide their daily intake of the 'roti', a flat leavened form of bread made from wholewheat flour. Islamabad has hundreds of small and large tandoors located in small markets and in nooks and cranies around the city which provide many forms of fresh, warm bread hot from the oven to residents of the posh areas to the laborers employed around the city. Some of these tandoors are attached to small hotels that also serve the not so well off when it's time for an afternoon or evening meal.

As time has gone by, tandoors have evolved the conventional 'roti' into many varied types, to suit different occasions and tastes. For example, a 'roghni naan' or a 'paratha' usually kneaded with ghee and/or milk usually signifies a special occasion; guests or lunch or even a simple leasurely meal on a holiday. During a convential week, it is the common 'naan' that usually graces the table. If you don't like what you have to eat at home, you can order a mince meat or vegetable naan that will fill your tank up quite well.

Be it a crisp, clear day or an evening, there is nothing more comforting than the warm scents of the naan and rotis wafting from the tandoor at the corner. It is guaranteed to make anyone feel hungry.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Funny man Colbert

Recently I have started watching the Colbert Report on Comedy Central. And it is hilarious. Mr. Colbert makes you think with his witty sense of humour. One of his most famous Public appearences was the white house correspondents dinner early last year which wa sbeing attended by Mr. Bush as well. Here is a quote from Colbert where he talks about bush:

"I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound — with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world."

Watch full video here!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Warming upto Global warming?

Speigel Online did a summary of the UN Global Warming report. Here are their main points:

  • Eleven of the last 12 years rank among the hottest years since 1850, when records on global surface temperatures began.
  • Global temperatures have climbed 0.76 degrees since the latter half of the 19th century and the rate of temperature increase for the last 50 years is twice that of the last 100 years.
  • The global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide -- one of the gases most directly responsible for the greenhouse effect -- has jumped 35 percent since 1750, from 280 to 379 parts per million in 2005. The current value is well over the average of the last 650,000 years, as shown by ice cores drilled out of the world's glaciers. Seventy-eight percent of the rise can be pinned on the burning of fossil fuels, with the remaining 22 percent due to changes in land use.
  • Other greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide likewise play a role, albeit a lesser one, in global warming. The concentration of methane in the atmosphere has risen by 148 percent since 1750; that of nitrous oxide by 18 percent.
  • The report indicates "a very high confidence" that humans have caused a rise in global temperatures since 1750 and that the rate of temperature increase is "very likely" to have been unprecedented in more than 10,000 years. The report translates "very high confidence" to mean a 9 out of 10 chance of being correct and "very likely" to mean a greater than 90 percent probability.
  • Average temperatures in the world's oceans have increased down to depths of 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) -- the oceans have been absorbing up to 80 percent of the temperature increase, causing sea waters to expand and worsen sea level rise.
  • The frequency of heavy precipitation has increased.
  • Average temperatures in the Arctic have increased at almost twice the global average in the last 100 years; new data indicates that the melting ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica have "very likely" contributed to sea level rises. The rate of sea level rise from 1993 to 2003 was 42 percent faster than the rate from 1961 to 2003.
  • Average temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere in the last 50 years were "very likely" higher than in any other such period in the last 500 years and "likely" (greater than a 66 percent chance) higher than in the last 1,300 years.
  • Sea levels are rising at the rate of some 3 millimeters per year since 1993 and rose 17 centimeters during the 20th century. About half of that rise is due to the expansion of ocean water as it heats up, 25 percent is due to the melting of mountain glaciers and 15 percent is due to melting polar ice caps.
  • The temperature of the upper layer of permafrost has risen by 3 degrees Celsius since 1980 with the total area of permafrost having shrunk by 7 percent since 1900.
  • The average amount of sea ice in the Arctic has dropped by 8 percent since 1978; in summer it has dropped by 22 percent. No such reduction has been observed in Antarctica.
  • Taken together, the warming of the atmosphere and ocean along with the loss of ice "supports the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely (less than 5 percent chance) that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forcing" -- that is, without human activity -- "and it is very likely that it is not due to known natural causes alone."
STARLING!!!Surely none of these changes are natural? The sad part is that despite agreeing with the conclusions of the report, Mr. Harper doesnt want to take urgent action. The problem however is that if we dont act now, we will just make mateers worse. See it this way, its like a rotee warming up on a stove. If you warm it too much it will burn so you need to take it off the stove right away once its ready. The world is like a rotee on a stove and its starting to burn Come on Harper dont let the rotee burn. take some action NOW an at least take part of the rotee off the stove!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Alami Garmee ( global warming)

Well hopefully the debate about Global Warming ends now that the UN report has been issued. The report clearly states:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the most authoritative group on warming which groups 2,500 scientists from more than 130 nations, predicted more severe rains, melting glaciers, droughts and heatwaves and a slow rise in sea levels. The final text of the report said it was "very likely" -- meaning a probability of more than 90 percent -- that human activities led by burning fossil fuels explained most of the warming in the past 50 years.