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|NEWS DIARY | JULY:
Bangladesh Gaining Land, Not Losing: Scientists | Pak Female Athlete Headed for Olympics | IAEA, India | India, Pakistan Meet | Workers Return | Nepal PM Seeks Meeting | Fighting in Lanka | Aid Warning
Bangladesh Gaining Land, Not Losing: Scientists
(Right): An elderly Bangladeshi couple sitting on a raft along with their goat near Manikganj, west of Dhaka. New data shows that Bangladesh’s landmass is increasing.
New data shows that Bangladesh’s landmass is increasing, contradicting forecasts that the South Asian nation will be under the waves by the end of the century, experts say.
Scientists from the Dhaka-based Center for Environment and Geographic Information Services have studied 32 years of satellite images and say Bangladesh’s landmass has increased by eight square miles annually.
Maminul Haque Sarker, head of the department at the government-owned centre that looks at boundary changes, said sediment which travelled down the big Himalayan rivers — the Ganges and the Brahmaputra — had caused the landmass to increase.
The rivers carry more than a billion metric tons of sediment every year and most of it comes to rest on the southern coastline of the country in the Bay of Bengal where new territory is forming, he said.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that Bangladesh will lose 17 percent of its land by 2050 because of rising sea levels due to global warming.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning panel says 20 million Bangladeshis will become environmental refugees by 2050.
Director of the U.S.-based NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James Hansen, says the entire country could be under water by the end of the century.
But Sarker said that many climate experts had failed to take into account new land being formed from the river sediment. “Satellite images dating back to 1973 and old maps earlier than that show some 1,000 square kilometers of land have risen from the sea,” Sarker said. “We think that in the next 50 years we may get another 1,000 square kilometers of land.”
Pak Female Athlete Headed for Olympics
(Right): Sadaf Siddiqui
Pakistan’s sole female athlete Sadaf Siddiqui has modest ambitions for the Olympics and says simply competing will be a dream come true as she hopes to inspire millions of girls back home.
Lahore-based Siddiqui runs the 100 and 200 meters but as a wild card entrant she is allowed to compete in only one event and so will be lining up for the 100m heats in Beijing.
The 22-year-old sprinter knows she faces red-hot competition from a star-studded line-up but promises to keep her head high and proud, even if she finishes last.
“I promise that I will not show an embarrassed loser’s face, my head will be high and my face would be glowing because the Olympic spirit is to compete irrespective of results. For me it’s an honor,” the sprinter told AFP.
Siddiqui is one of just two female competitors in Pakistan’s 37-member contingent for the Games, with 18-year-old Kiran Khan set to jump in the Olympic pool in the women’s swimming.
Pakistan is sending 21 athletes in total and 16 officials, according to the Pakistan Olympic Association.
Siddiqui’s best time for the 100m is 11.81 seconds — a Pakistani record she set in April — and 24.36 seconds in the 200m which are both a far cry from top international standards.
(Right): IAEA headquarters, Vienna.
U.N. nuclear watchdog governors are expected to approve an inspections plan for India needed for its atomic trade deal with the United States, despite qualms about rewarding a non-proliferation outsider.
The deal would open to India the world market in nuclear fuel and technology for civilian uses after an embargo of three decades prompted by New Delhi’s testing of atomic bombs and refusal to join the global Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The draft before the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation governing board would place India’s declared civilian nuclear energy plants — 14 of 22 existing or planned reactors — under regular IAEA surveillance.
If the plan is adopted, India must then win an unprecedented waiver from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group allowing trade in sensitive nuclear materials with a non-NPT state, and ratification by the U.S. Congress for the deal to take force.
The first NSG meeting on India is expected August 21-22.
Washington and New Delhi are lobbying skeptical members of the slow-moving NSG hard to help clinch the deal, with time fast running out before U.S. politics pause for November elections.
Western powers tout the deal as nudging giant India towards the non-proliferation mainstream and fighting global warming by increasing use of low-polluting nuclear energy in burgeoning developing economies, reducing high oil and gas costs as well.
Skeptics, including smaller European and developing nations, Canada, New Zealand and disarmament groups fear it will fray loyalty to an NPT.
India, Pakistan Meet
(Right): India’s Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee (l) meets with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan met July 31 in Sri Lanka amid new strains in their peace process caused by border clashes and a slew of deadly bomb attacks on Indian targets.
The closed-door talks between India’s Pranab Mukherjee and Pakistan’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi took place on the sidelines of an eight-nation South Asian gathering in Colombo.
Mukherjee shook hands with Qureshi before photographers ahead of the talks that lasted about an hour, a source told AFP news agency.
The escalating tensions between India and Pakistan have cast a shadow over the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) full summit aimed at improving regional economic growth and cooperation.
The meeting, the second between the nuclear-armed rivals in a month, came after India said the peace process begun in 2004 was “under stress” after a suicide bomb attack on its Kabul embassy in early July killed 41 people.
India has accused “elements” in Pakistan of responsibility for the attack.
“We shared our perceptions about bilateral relations, the composite dialogue (peace talks) and certain recent events,” Mukherjee said at the end of talks, declining to elaborate.
Qureshi described the talks as “frank, candid and open.”
(Right): Kuwaiti policemen stand guard opposite Bangladeshi workers as they demonstrate to demand better salaries.
More than 200 Bangladeshi workers have been sent home over the past few days from Kuwait following a major strike, deported workers have told the BBC.
Hundreds of arrests were made after violence broke out at a protest earlier.
Deported cleaners and rubbish workers returning to Dhaka say that they were harshly treated by the Kuwaiti authorities for joining the strike.
Kuwait’s state news agency has reported that workers’ rights were violated.
Those returning to Bangladesh had a long list of grievances over pay and conditions of service and some gave the BBC harrowing descriptions of their ordeal at the hands of the authorities.
Some protesters were arrested by the authorities.
“People were screaming, and wailing, in pain but no-one was paying any attention to them,” said Mahmud Kamal who was deported with 57 other workers and arrived in Dhaka.
“In the middle of all of the chaos, many were asking for some water... they tied up our hands and then dragged us into the trucks.
“We were kept inside for about half-an-hour and then they brought us out again. And then they left us there — standing — out in the open, tied up in pairs for the whole night.
“We didn’t have any shoes — some of us were wearing just lungis or a T-shirt. We couldn’t even bring back anything to wear,” he said.
Nepal PM Seeks Meeting
(Right): Nepal caretaker Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala
Nepal’s caretaker Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who is scheduled to attend the 15th SAARC Summit in Colombo amid uproar among the political parties, is seeking a bilateral meeting with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the regional meet.
The meeting between the two premiers is likely to trigger another controversy in Nepal with the Maoists regarding the wily politician, considered New Delhi’s favorite, with wariness.
A chastened Koirala was forced to pare his jumbo 35-member delegation, which would have cost the cash-strapped nation dependent on foreign aid Nepali Rs.7.3 million, to only 10 members after an uproar among the major parties as well as in the caretaker parliament.
However, the team still includes his daughter, minister without portfolio Sujata Koirala, whose inclusion was opposed by the Maoists on the ground that she lost the April election. Koirala’s personal physician, secretary and adviser on foreign affairs are also in the entourage.
Though officially Nepal wants to discuss enhanced investment and hydropower issues with India, the Maoists feel Koirala would also try to gauge the extent of Indian support for him and his Nepali Congress party.
The bilateral meeting between Koirala and Singh is likely to have a crucial effect on Nepal’s future politics.
Fighting in Lanka
The Sri Lankan army launched a wave of attacks against Tamil separatists in the north, sparking battles that killed 29 rebels and one soldier, the military said July 31.
The new fighting came as officials from eight South Asian nations gathered in Colombo for a regional conference that is to culminate in a top-level summit this weekend.
The Tamil Tigers offered a cease-fire beginning because of the conference, but the government rejected it as a ploy by the rebels to gain time to regroup after several recent battlefield losses.
A rebel attack near Colombo during the summit would be deeply embarrassing for the government, which has sealed off roads across the capital and sent 19,000 troops and soldiers onto the streets to prevent any bombings.
At the same time, troops have launched a series of attacks on the rebels’ de facto state in the north in recent days.
Fighting raged throughout July 30 and 31 in the Welioya and Vavuniya regions along the front lines, the military said in a statement.
Five rebels were killed in two separate clashes in Welioya, the military said.
Troops attacked a rebel bunker line in one battle that lasted 11 hours and killed seven rebels on Wednesday, the military said. The military also attacked the Kattikulam area, killing six rebels, the military said.
Food prices and a feared drought are adding to the urgency in Afghanistan, a statement form 10 non-governmental agencies said.
Aid agencies have warned they may become unable to operate in parts of the country once seen as safe because of the intensifying conflict.
A statement on behalf of 100 different non-governmental organizations pointed to a 50 percent increase in insurgent attacks compared to last year.
Aid agencies were increasingly becoming targets, the NGOs said.
This June saw more attacks on aid agencies than in any month since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.
Nineteen of their staff have been killed so far this year — more than in the whole of last year.
There was also criticism of the increasing number of civilians dying in the conflict — mostly caused by insurgents, but also by international forces who, the report says, have increased their use of air strikes.
The NGOs’ statement noted that insecurity had spread to “previously secure areas... including those close to Kabul.”
Matt Waldman, policy advisor at Oxfam International, which is one of the 100 NGOs behind the statement, said the work of the agencies was essential.