Friday, January 28, 2011

Integrated Water Disputes Tribunal, the faster the better

Ravi River
In Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization, journalist Steven Solomon argues that water is surpassing oil as the world's scarcest critical resource. Tomorrow there may be a replacement for oil and gas, but as of now there is no replacement for water. The percentage of people who doesn't have access to clean water sources for drinking, cooking and sanitation is high and this value is not showing any tendency to slow down. The pressure is increasing in the already scare fresh water resources due to population growth, non-scientific water usage by agriculture, industry etc.

Already many of the Indian states are fighting against each other for water from various interstate rivers. As of now there are around five running tribunals hearing the cases of various states.


a) Ravi, Beas dispute between Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab
b) Krishna dispute between Maharashtra, Karnataka and AndraPradesh
c) Cauvery dispute between Karnataka, TamilNadu, Kerala and Pondicherry
d) Vansdhava dispute between AndraPradesh and Orissa
e) Mahadeyi dispute between Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa

Cauvery River
Apart from this there are many other interstate water disputes like Mullaperiyar etc. As water become more and more scarce there is no doubt that the number of disputes will increase in the future - especially in the South, South-West and Central India where no glaciers are available to replenish the water flow in the summer season.

In this situation government’s decision to create an Integrated Water Disputes Tribunal is indeed a right step in this direction. This well help to streamline the decisions related to water disputes.

But the question is, is it enough? Soloman is right, apart from popping up in various discussions; we didn’t really understand the gravity of the water crisis. We are using and wasting water as if it is a never ending resource; otherwise how can you explain the huge amount of water flows through leaking pipes, open taps etc? In a quick remedy industries are directing their waste water right in to the river; drainages from various cities (which are as big as river itself) are emptying out their fully polluted water to the rivers and make it another sewage channel.

There is no doubt that water is a critical resource for the survival of humans, everyone can’t afford 15Rs/bottle mineral water, or 30-50Rs drinking cans for all the daily needs. So the tribunal (I hope that Water Resources Ministry will create a proposed tribunal – in India especially in government matters you can’t predict anything) have to look into factors like – implementation of efficient water management system, waste water management system etc. The failure to implement an efficient water management system by different states should be dealt with strict penalties and other measures. If we are not ready to implement the counter measures now, then tomorrow Harvard may have case study of ‘How water wars originated in India?’.

Sajeev.

Photos are taken from Wikipedia

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Egyptian Uprising - In a nutshell

Protests in Cairo
The continuing riots in Egypt is one of the immediate outcome of  Tunisia's Jasmine revolution which bring down the government of Ben Ali. Its looks like an answer to the question, If Tunisians can do it, then why can't we? But Egyptians answer to this question will give long and sleepless night to Hosni Mubarak and his 30 year long regime.

Protesters are demanding the end of the regime, which is one of the longest in the world. Its look like the people suddenly got the energy from Tunisians; and went on to express the emotions hoarded up over the years. Its not limited to the capital Cairo, even Mediterranean port city Alexandria, Sinai Peninsula, Nile region, Suez canal regions are showing the signs of unrest.

Indeed Egypt is witnessing the one of the largest demonstrations in its recent history. At first even the Police was taking aback after seeing the size of the crowds. May be the experience of Jasmine Revolution of Tunisia already thought them a lesson or two. But as the protests grew and thousands occupy the famous Tahrir Square, just meters away from the parliament, police was back in action using tear gas, water cannons etc. According to Guardian reports,

Egyptian Protests
"..as the marches grew, the government moved to isolate them. Access to internet, phone and social media networks was shut down, spreading confusion among protesters and temporarily sealing the largest Arab country off from the rest of the world. Access was later restored, although services remained intermittent."

But Egyptian administration is not so vulnerable. Unlike Tunis, Cairo saw a lot more protests over the years and Mubarak withstood almost all of that. This transcontinental country is a major power in Africa and the most populous Arab nation. With a strong Police and Army Egypt may withstood even the recent wave of protests also.

Moreover without a clear leadership and organisation it is difficult to remove a strong regime like Mubarak's. The revolution; communicated through Facebook, Twitter and other social media network may able to transform the suppressed anger of people in to demonstrations in the street, but a strong relationship in the grass root level is need for any revolution to attain success.

Even if the revolution failed to reach the critical mass there no doubt that its already send a warning not only to the Egyptian administration but also to the non-democratic countries around the world. This warning will force the administration to become more proactive towards the requirements and aspirations of the people and ethos of democracy, otherwise sooner or later a much stronger revolution will oust the government.

Assume that the revolution succeed removing the present regime, then there is no doubt that it will shake the shaky regimes in and around the middle east and Africa. It will alter the future course the of middle east's problems and change the political outlook across Asia and Africa, especially in the Arab nations.


Sajeev


Photo Courtesy: Guardian, Uploaded photos in Twitter.

Tunisia Calling - A warning to Authoritarian regimes

Ayn Rand once said "Ask yourself why totalitarian dictatorships find it necessary to pour money and effort into propaganda for their own helpless, chained, gagged slaves, who have no means of protest or defense. The answer is that even the humblest peasant or the lowest savage would rise in blind rebellion, were he to realize that he is being immolated, not to some incomprehensible noble purpose, but to plain, naked human evil."

Jasmine Revolution
It was around two decades back, world saw the demolition of Berlin wall, soon followed by the fall of the mighty Soviet Union along with many other communist regimes across the world. It is true that all of these countries didn't embraced democracy, but the pattern showed the will of the people to remove the authoritarian regimes.

A good number of African countries are yet to hear the cry for democracy. Many of these countries are either run by pure dictators or dictators wearing the uniform of democracy. Countries like Somalia doesn't have any type of government for the last two decades. If we go to Ivory Coast there is a president who is not ready to resign even after losing the election.

In Tunisia no one imagined any drastic change in recent time, but the situation changed after Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the street after Police confiscated his produce cart. This event started a chain of demonstration and riots (Jasmine Revolution) in Tunisia over unemployment, food inflation, corruption, freedom of speech, poor living condition etc, which ultimately bring down the 23 years long rule of Ben Ali. But bringing down the government didn't end the protest, many people from the old ruling party are still in the interim government, and obviously this will not go down well with the people. Moreover no one knows what will happen to the future elections.

The riots in Tunisia, which have a good educational background - in fact basic education is compulsory for a child aged between 6 and16 - as compared to the neighbouring countries and relatively peaceful and stable country, is indeed a warning for the dictators in the neighbouring countries and around the world. The Tunisian riots already  fuelled riots in Egypt and slowly started people's movement in other countries.

As of now we cant say what will be the real outcome of Tunisian riots. Even if the riots are started from the grass root level; with out a clear leadership and direction it is difficult to say how much change it can bring in to the Tunisian system. It is also possible that the demonstrations may end after a while and the old system continue to govern the nation. we can only hope that the demonstrations based on liberal values will succeed in installing democracy. But one fact is sure, this new movement is a clear warning for the people who are running the authoritarian regimes around the world.

Sajeev.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tax heavens and Common Indian

Numbered account in Swiss bank is still a fascination for many people. It doesn't matter whether it is politician, business man, writer or middle men. This neutral Alpine country (Switzerland didn't participated in the world wars, joined UN only in 2002, not part of NATO or European Union. Military service is compulsory and by law every Swiss resident must have access to nuclear bunker at home or at neighborhood) slowly emerged as a destination for unaccountable money from all over the world.

In Switzerland privacy is part of constitution itself. According to Article 13 of Swiss constitution,
1. Everyone has the right to privacy in their private and family life and in their home, and in relation to their mail and telecommunications
2. Everyone has the right to be protected against the misuse of their personal data.

This small Alpine country enacted their first banking secrecy laws in 1934, in 1998 government tightened its anti-money laundering rules to prevent corrupt dictators depositing ill-gotten money in Swiss banks through the new 'know your customer rules' after the Abacha episode. But these steps didn't prevented many others from using the Swiss banks and other tax heavens.

India has its own share of shocking stories, accusations are always on air regarding to the secret Swiss accounts and accounts in various other tax heavens belonging to corrupt politicians and other people who are close to the system. No one can say whether these accusations are right or wrong as there is no way to validate it. According to the recent report 'The Drivers and Dynamics of Illicit Financial Flows from India: 1948-2008' of Global Financial Integrity,

a) "The total present value of India's illicit assets held abroad ($462bn) accounts for approximately 72 percent of India's underground economy".
b) "From 1948 through 2008 India lost a total of $213bn in illicit financial flows (or illegal capital flight). These illicit financial flows were generally the product of: corruption, bribery and kickbacks, criminal activities, and efforts to shelter wealth from a country's tax authorities."
c) "The present value of India's total illicit financial flows (IFFs) is at least $462 billion. This is based on the short-term U.S. Treasury bill rate as a proxy for the rate of return on assets"
d) "Total capital flight represents approximately 16.6 percent of India's GDP as of year-end 2008"
e) "Illicit financial flows out of India grew at a rate of 11.5% per year while in real terms they grew by 6.4 percent per year"
f) "India lost $16 billion per year from 2002-2006"
g) "In the post-reform period of 1991-2008, deregulation and trade liberalization accelerated the outflow of illicit money from the Indian economy. Opportunities for trade mispricing grew and expansion of the global shadow financial system—particularly island tax havens—accommodated the increased outflow of India's illicit capital flight."

The above mentioned numbers doesn't include the amounts from havala, contraband, drugs, illegal trade, cross border smuggling etc.

The numbers are indeed shocking, even for a common man who is paying bribe, to move his papers from one desk to another desk and taking the regular news tablets of CWG, 2G, Adarsh, fodder scams, Radia tapes etc on a daily basis. Because of the alarming regularity of the corruption scandals, people no longer show any interest in it. The handling of corruption in the higher levels didn’t give any solace to the common man in the street. One day CAG is saying that government lost close to 1.76 lack crores rupees in 2G spectrum distribution and after some months one union minister says that there is no loss to the exchequer and CAG's calculation is wrong. It is better to say nothing about CWG, as far as other scams are considered the less said the better.

In such a situation if the common man believes that government will do little to bring back the illegal money from foreign tax heavens, it is not his fault. After all the number of people convicted for corruption in India is abnormally law. In 2008, out of 8554 corruption cases registered only 7292 cases were actually investigated and charge sheets filed only for 2543 cases. Out of 29783 people facing trials, only 2985 were completed and 977 people were convicted. Out of 736 people faced department actions only 268 were punished and a mere 65 people lost jobs.

If we can't regulate the domestic corruption, not much hope are left for the conviction of people for stashing the ill-gotten money abroad. We can’t say all the people invested in these banks are doing something wrong, but the question is why Swiss secret accounts and tax heavens? They can do the same in Indian or in any other countries, why they are going all the way to Switzerland and other tax heavens for investments?

Recession and 9/11 changed the scenario. Now the cash strapped governments across the world are pushing the governments of tax heavens and Swiss to reveal more about these accounts.

As usual US opened their own way by targeting UBS. On February 18, 2009, UBS agreed to pay a fine of $780 million to the U.S. Government and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement on charges of conspiring to defraud the United States by impeding the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Of the $780 million that UBS will pay, $380 million represents disgorgement of profits from its cross-border business; the balance represents United States taxes that UBS failed to withhold on the accounts. As part of the deal, UBS also settled Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges of having acted as an unregistered broker-dealer and investment adviser for Americans. The day after settling its criminal case, on February 19, 2009, the U.S. government filed a civil suit against UBS to reveal the names of all 52,000 American customers, alleging that the bank and these customers conspired to defraud the IRS and federal government of legitimately owed tax revenue.

But German secret service agency proved to be smarter; Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) paid around €4m to a former Liechtenstein bank employee for CD containing detailed information about Germans with accounts at Liechtenstein's LGT bank. Their actions were said to have been sanctioned by the government.

It is in this situation Indian government have to rethink about regaining or at least taxing the huge amount of illegal money flown out of India in the past. The recent information received by GoI and CBDT about the secret accounts of 26 people in Liechtenstein’s LGT Bank should act as a starting point for cracking down on illegal capital outflow and underground money. It is the time for Indian government to act along with EU and US for flushing out the information of Indians who filled the coffers with ill gotten money. If we didn't act now tentacles of corruption will eat the edifice Indian political and bureaucratic system. This black money may even rerouted to India in the form of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and become as white as milk.

It's time for government to assert that, people who are drinking the sweat of common man will be held accountable for it. If we are not ready to act decisive against the wide spread corruption at this point, it will slowly but certainly creep in to Indian life style and become part of it. Its indeed hard for the people to pay for the mammoth Indian bureaucracy and politicians twice for every service which are supposed to free.

Sajeev.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sudan Referendum: A ray of hope for democracy in Africa but...


Refugee children in Chad

Finally people of South Sudan is going to polling booth to decide their fate - whether to become a separate nation or remain as a single one. Voting started from 9th of January and will continue till 15th of January. In order to pass the succession referendum, 60% of the registered voters have to vote plus majority of the ballots. Recent estimations says that voting percentage already crossed the required 60% and most probably South Sudan will vote to secede.

But the major question is, what will happen if they voted to secede? According to the recent Time report "independence will hardly solve all of the South's problems. Kiir must build a functional state out of his war-ravaged land — and without infrastructure, institutions or even much know-how. South Sudan is also crisscrossed by a web of competing ethnicity and clans whose hostility toward one another manifests itself in tribal clashes and deadly cattle raids. Thousands of South Sudanese have died over the past two years in bloody internal conflicts."

Tribal war over cattle and grazing lands not new to Sudan or Africa. Satellite photos shows that majority parts of Northern Sudan is desert like land except the fertile Nile region, but the southern Sudan is covered with greenery.Because of the decades long conflicts between north - South Sudan and internal tribal wars; gun culture is deep rooted in these places.

According to Time "Thousands of South Sudanese have died over the past two years in bloody internal conflicts. Kiir's Sudanese People's Liberation Movement, too, is split by factional infighting. After April's elections, one former general who lost his bid to run a powerful governorship launched his own miniature rebellion against the state. He has since been joined by two other disgruntled dissidents, each skirmishing with South Sudan's army, which has yet to successfully squelch the uprisings. The fear is that, in a place where war has become a way of life and guns seem as plentiful as people, still more violence could follow".

Refugee women in Chad
The major income for the south will of course be the black gold - petroleum. But will the oil bring safety, wealth and stability to the region? If we take rest of Africa as an example then the answer is hardly positive. There is no doubt that the South's oil will give energy to many machines across the world, but will it give food to one of the poor people in the world?

Will the militias, where loyalty is towards individuals, try to gain power through the barrel of gun? Considering the history of Africa, inter tribal rivalry, reports of deadly cattle raids the chances are high for continuation of gun culture.

Whatever be the outcome, the referendum shows a success of democracy. We can hope that south will not forget the democratic values and success of a democratic referendum will force other African nations to follow the democracy. After the referendum, if South Sudan prefer to secede it is important for UN and other nations to broke a deal with both nations for a peaceful coexistence and of course a stable boundary line. Let the boundary line between the south and north be a peaceful one, not like the 'Radcliffe Line' or 'McMohan Line'.

Sajeev.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Free falling Economy, Political Chaos; Pakistan's future in See-Saw

John Kenneth Galbraith once said "Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable." 

Karachi Station
Current political establishment in Pakistan is going through the same state. Country is in the midest of hyperinflation, acute shortage of essential commodities like gas, fuel, electricity etc. Rising extremism - which extends it tentacles from the Af-Pak border to the rest of the country - is already questioning the integrity of the nation, violence in the streets, recent assassination of Punjab Governor Taseer - A major moderate voice in Pakistani society, an economy in free fall etc are threatening the already fragile government in Islamabad.

Recently IMF extended its stand by arrangement with Pakistan, which was to be completed by December 2010, by nine months. Now the arrangement will last till September this year. However IMF may not be happy with the continuation of large amount of government subsidies; recently Pakistan government has withdrawn the increase in petroleum prices after the intence political pressure on it.

But according the IMF press release "The extension will provide time to the Pakistani authorities to complete the reform of the General Sales Tax, implement measures to correct the course of fiscal policy, and amend the legislative framework for the financial sector." But this may not be possible for the government to go on with reforms as it is threatening the existence of government itself. It is yet to see how World Bank, ADB, US, Japan, EU and other donor nations will react if Pakistan fails to implement reforms.Pakistan's trade deficit already widened to $1.62bn for December as compared to last December's $1.34bn.

Bird eye view of Islamabad
Mean while the recent floods displaced around 20mn people, where 6mn people are in immediate need of help. But the donor nations are also hit by the financial crisis.

According to the The Telegraph "Last year, recession-hit donors gave Afghanistan just two-thirds of the aid the United Nations had appealed for, wary about misappropriation of funds. Yemen is also yet to receive funds committed by partners in the West and Middle East because of concerns over corruption. "Either we can let corrupt governments go under and thus help the terrorists," a US State Department source told The Daily Telegraph, "or we can keep letting them be corrupt and thus help the terrorists. It's a horrible choice.""

Pakistan's external debt now stands at £35.5 billion and according to the estimates this may increase to over £47 billion in 2015. But despite all these problems, there is no reduction in arms race. According to Peter Lavoy, the US National Intelligence Officer for South Asia, said in a 2008 diplomatic briefing: "Despite impending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world".

It is really a harsh time for Pakistan, but things are not fully gone out of their hand. Instead of looking in to the individual gains, political parties of Pakistan have to work together for creating a better economic environment. Instead of moving to the streets for fighting against the government and not existing enemies, religious leader have to work with government and other international agencies like UN, US Aid etc for the benefit of flood and earth quake victims and creating an investment friendly atmosphere in the country.Last but not the least, Pakistani political and military establishment have to realise that India is not their enemy, in fact a stable Pakistan good for India's interest also. Indian and Pakistan can attain a lot together by trade and commerce instead of fighting...

Sajeev

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Taseer, Blasphemy and Pakistan's fragile political establishment

Pakistan Parliament - How far democracy will go?
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin

According to The Economist report "There is a small space in which a liberal vision of Pakistan hangs on. It shrank a lot further with the murder on January 4th of a notable progressive politician and critic of religious extremism, Salman Taseer".

Mr Taseer was a leader of leader of ruling PPP (Pakistan People's Party) and Governor of Punjab. He was killed on the streets of Islamabad by his own body guard for running a campaign against the dreaded blasphemy law. The loss of Taseer is indeed a blow for Pakistan, which is already experience an acute shortage of progressive politicians. The more shocking aspect of this murder is that the assassin become a hero in Pakistan for his action. According to Washington Post's report "outside the confines of Salman Taseer's cordoned-off funeral, his suspected killer was also lauded as heroic - for having slain a liberal politician who had dared to speak out against Pakistan's stringent anti-blasphemy law."

This is one fall out of mixing politics with religion. In Pakistan, barely any lines separates politics from religion. Because of this anyone can rise a religious call for each and every political decision, governments will be forced to reconsider their stand, any changes in laws to make it more liberal will be resisted. As religious principles usually have more than one meaning, people can interpret in different ways adding their own views to it.

The problem was the product of existing laws for blasphemy. The current problem started with the court order for the execution of Asia Bibi in a blasphemy case. According to Asia Bibi's story in Wikipedia "In June 2009, Asia Bibi(mother of five), a farm hand from the village of Ittan Wali in Sheikhpura District, was asked to fetch water; she complied, but some of her fellow Muslim workers refused to drink the water as they considered Christians to be "unclean".Apparently some arguments ensued. There had already been a running feud between Bibi and a neighbour about some property damage. Later some coworkers complained to a cleric that Bibi made derogatory comments about Muhammad. A mob came to her house, beating her and members of her family before she was rescued by the police.However, the police initiated an investigation about her remarks resulting in her arrest and prosecution under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code. She spent more than a year in jail. In November 2010 Naveed Iqbal, judge at the court of Sheikhupura, Punjab, "totally ruled out" that there was any false implication, saw "no mitigating circumstances", and sentenced her to death by hanging. Additionally, a fine of an equivalent of $1,100 was imposed"

According to Pakistan Penal Code,

Section 295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object.
Section 295-A forbids outraging religious feelings. Section 295-B forbids defiling the Quran.
Section 295-C forbids defaming the prophet Muhammad. Except for section 295-C, the provisions of
Section 295 require that an offence be a consequence of the accused's intent. Defiling the Quran merits imprisonment for life. Defaming Muhammad merits death with or without a fine.


Section 298 states: Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

Section 298-A prohibits the use of any derogatory remark or representation in respect of Muslim holy personages. Section 298-B and section 298-C prohibit the Ahmadiyya from behaving as Muslims behave, calling themselves Muslims, proselytizing, or "in any manner whatsoever" outraging the religious feelings of Muslims. Violation of any part of section 298 makes the violator liable to imprisonment for up to three years and liable also to a fine.

In addition to this the alleged blasphemy may neither be stated in the charges nor repeated in court, since that would in itself be an act of blasphemy.

There is no doubt that the killing of Taseer and lauding his killer as hero is showing the increasing intolerance among the people. Because of this action it will be more difficult for the moderates to express their opinions in public. This incident also raises many questions, what will happen if Pakistan's nuclear arsenal fell in to the hands of extremists? As the killer is from the elite SSG, is it showing the increasing penetration of extremists in Pakistan's army? What will happen to the religious minorities in the state? What will happen to Sherry Rehman - who introduced the private bill in Pakistan's assembly for reforms of blasphemy law?Will the Pakistan's fragile political establishment, able to withstand this political storm? and what is Asia Bibi's future? 

Pakistan government already ruled out any reforms to the blasphemy law, Religious Affairs Minister Khurshid Ahmed Shah interrupted the house proceedings to make a policy statement "with full responsibility" that the "government has no intention to repeal the anti-blasphemy law and to disown a private bill of a PPP member proposing changes in the Zia-era law to abolish a mandatory death sentence against a convict provided by it and to guard against miscarriage of justice."

We can only hope that, Pakistan will come out of this turmoils and become a responsible and stable democracy.

Sajeev.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Climate change, Pollution, Deforestation; Cancun - A ray of hope?


Kabwe (Zambia)
Its not long time back when i read the news, "earth don't care about climate change in long term". Earth may not care about climate change in long term, but human being who live here have to care about it - deforestation, environment degradation, pollution etc to make sure that we will be here for a long term.

Its not long time back when we lost our southern most point of India to sea (Yes the Indira Point submerged after the 2004 Dec 24th 9.1 magnitude earthquake). If I quote from the Pankaj Sekhsaria's report on Indian Express "Parts of Nicobar group of islands went significantly under - four feet in Car Nicobar and nearly fifteen feet of submergence at the southernmost tip, Indira point at the Great Nicobar Islands". In fact many of the island chains in great oceans are so vulnerable to a rise in sea level rise that, they will loss considerable amount of land (if not the entire island) in case of a rise in sea level even by a few feets.

Maldives are going to import sand from Bangladesh - not for building high rises - but to protect their shores. If sea levels are continuing to increase - because of melting ice shelfs - then people living in the small island nations - like Maldives - will be forced to find some other country to survive. Even with out rising sea level people who are living in the big industrial areas are forced to find some other places for survival.

Sumgayit (Azerbaijan)
Deforestation, melting ice shelves in the poles, pollution by large and small scale industries, rising emissions from automobiles and fossil fuels and numerous other pollutions are degrading our planet and making it as not suitable for life.

It is already predicted that by the end of this century Artic Sea region will be free of ice. This already created a rush for the natural resources in these areas. According to National Geographic report new shipping routes in this region may be more than three times faster than that of shipments through Panama or Suez. But the cost will be the submerging of a lot of sea shores and end of island nations.

Take the case of deforestation. We are quickly losing the forest cover over the earth, which were once the source of pure water. According to Guardian report on 2008, "between 2000 and 2005, at least 27.2m hectares (68m acres) of tropical forests were cleared to make way for farming. Almost half of the deforested land was in Brazil, nearly four times more than the next most deforested country, Indonesia, which accounted for 12.8% of cleared land." The reports further says that "According to the map, over the five-year period, Brazil lost 3.6% of its forest cover, Indonesia 3.4%, Latin America 1.2%, the rest of Asia 2.7% and Africa 0.8%. The study appears in the US journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

Apart from the already dwindling pure water resources, already existing ground water and air is getting polluted but the ever increasing rush more more industrial output. According to World Bank, per-capita we are emitting 4.63 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide. Apart from Carbon Dioxide we also pushing numerous other gases to atmosphere, and at the same time we are reducing the absorption of these gases by reducing the forest cover.

This is already affecting the people around the world. The Economist recently reported that "A leaked statistic from the health ministry said that 3,600 people had died from air pollution in Tehran in the first nine months of the year. At the peak of the latest crisis, hospital admissions were said to have risen by at least a third and the corridors of local clinics were full of wheezing old people and pregnant women waiting for oxygen."

Is it limited to Tehran? the answer is an obvious no. The reports of Blacksmith institute are really a shocking one, no matter whether it is Linfen(China), Sukinda(India) or Dzerzhinsk(Russia), pollution is affecting the people badly.

It is in this situation we went for Kyoto protocol and after a long chain of events we reached Cancun. If we made progress in reducing emissions? the answer is yes, we made a lot of improvement in talks but on grounds? But nations are yet to commit a legally binding targets for reducing emissions. Developing countries is asking for developed countries to reduce the emissions, take the historical responsibility for emissions, funding and transfer of clean energy technologies. But the developed countries are not fully willing especially in the case of historical responsibility. In this situation of arguments and counter arguments, one can only hope that the original agenda will not go tot he oblivion, island nations are more worried as this is a question of survival threat for them.

In Cancun we made some progress. As The Economist put it out "But even the appearance of progress constitutes a progress of a sort." According to  Wall street Journal report "The agreement calls on rich countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by amounts nations pledged a year ago, although the cuts aren't legally binding. Developing countries are to come up with plans to cut their emissions in a worldwide effort to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. The agreement includes plans for a green fund and $100 billion a year that wealthier countries would provide by 2020 to help poor countries finance programs to cut emissions and cope with drought and other effects of global warming."

But is it enough? Making not so water tight agreement on paper is different and actual agreement on ground level is different. We can say that we made some progress when we can see a ray of hope in not only in the eyes of the people of Sukinda(India), Kabwe(Zambia), Sumgayit(Azerbaijan) etc...(The list is long)

Sajeev.

Photo Courtesy to Time and BBC