South Asia’s intense heat wave a ‘sign of things to come’

South Asia’s intense heat wave a ‘sign of things to come’
Homeless people sleep in the shade of an over-bridge to beat the heat wave in New Delhi on May 20, 2022. (AP/Manish Swarup)
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Updated 24 May 2022

South Asia’s intense heat wave a ‘sign of things to come’

South Asia’s intense heat wave a ‘sign of things to come’
  • Current level of global warming, caused by human-caused climate change, has made those heat waves 30 times more likely
  • Heat wave blamed for glacier burst in Pakistan, causing floods, and scorching of wheat crops in India

NEW DELHI: The devastating heat wave that has baked India and Pakistan in recent months was made more likely by climate change and is a glimpse of the region’s future, international scientists said in a study released Monday.
The World Weather Attribution group analyzed historical weather data that suggested early, long heat waves that impact a massive geographical area are rare, once-a-century events. But the current level of global warming, caused by human-caused climate change, has made those heat waves 30 times more likely.
If global heating increases to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) more than pre-industrial levels, then heat waves like this could occur twice in a century and up to once every five years, said Arpita Mondal, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, who was part of the study.
“This is a sign of things to come,” Mondal said.
The results are conservative: An analysis published last week by the United Kingdom’s Meteorological Office said the heat wave was probably made 100 times more likely by climate change, with such scorching temperatures likely to reoccur every three years.
The World Weather Attribution analysis is different as it is trying to calculate how specific aspects of the heat wave, such as the length and the region impacted, were made more likely by global warming. “The real result is probably somewhere between ours and the (UK) Met Office result for how much climate change increased this event,” said Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at the Imperial College of London, who was also a part of the study.
What is certain, though, is the devastation the heat wave has wreaked. India sweltered through the hottest March in the country since records began in 1901 and April was the warmest on record in Pakistan and parts of India. The effects have been cascading and widespread: A glacier burst in Pakistan, sending floods downstream; the early heat scorched wheat crops in India, forcing it to ban exports to nations reeling from food shortages due to Russia’s war in Ukraine; it also resulted in an early spike in electricity demand in India that depleted coal reserves, resulting in acute power shortages affecting millions.
Then there is the impact on human health. At least 90 people have died in the two nations, but the region’s insufficient death registration means that this is likely an undercount. South Asia is the most affected by heat stress, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of a dataset published Columbia University’s climate school. India alone is home to more than a third of the world’s population that lives in areas where extreme heat is rising.
Experts agree the heat wave underscores the need for the world to not just combat climate change by cutting down greenhouse gas emissions, but to also adapt to its harmful impacts as quickly as possible. Children and the elderly are most at risk from heat stress, but its impact is also inordinately bigger for the poor who may not have access to cooling or water and often live in crowded slums that are hotter than leafier, wealthier neighborhoods.
Rahman Ali, 42, a ragpicker in an eastern suburb of the Indian capital New Delhi earns less than $3 a day by collecting waste from people’s homes and sorting it to salvage whatever can be sold. It’s backbreaking work and his tin-roofed home in the crowded slum offers little respite from the heat.
“What can we do? If I don’t work...we won’t eat,” said the father of two.
Some Indian cities have tried to find solutions. The western city of Ahmedabad was the first in South Asia to design a heat wave plan for its population of over 8.4 million, all the way back in 2013. The plan includes an early warning system that tells health workers and residents to prepare for heat waves, empowers administrations to keep parks open so that people can shade and provides information to schools so they’re able to tweak their schedules.
The city has also been trying to “cool” roofs by experimenting with various materials absorb heat differently. Their aim is to build roofs that’ll reflect the sun and bring down indoor temperatures by using white, reflective paint or cheaper materials like dried grass, said Dr. Dileep Mavalankar, who heads the Indian Institute of Public Health in western Indian city Gandhinagar and helped design the 2013 plan.
Most Indian cities are less prepared and India’s federal government is now working with 130 cities in 23 heat wave-prone states for them to develop similar plans. Earlier this month, the federal government also asked states to sensitize health workers on managing heat-related illnesses and ensure that ice packs, oral rehydration salts, and cooling appliances in hospitals were available.
But Mavalankar, who wasn’t part of the study, pointed to the lack of government warnings in newspapers or TV for most Indian cities and said that local administrations had just not “woken up to the heat.”
 


Death toll from a massive landslide in India rises to 37

Death toll from a massive landslide in India rises to 37
Updated 29 sec ago

Death toll from a massive landslide in India rises to 37

Death toll from a massive landslide in India rises to 37
  • A wall of mud and rock swamped a camp housing railway construction workers and members of the Territorial Army in remote Manipur state in the northeast after heavy rain early on Thursday

GUWAHATI, India: The death toll from a massive landslide in India hit 37 on Sunday, authorities said, as rescue teams battled teeming rain to search for 25 others still missing three days later.

A wall of mud and rock swamped a camp housing railway construction workers and members of the Territorial Army in remote Manipur state in the northeast after heavy rain early on Thursday.

Emergency teams rescued 18 survivors within the first few hours of the incident.

But army spokesperson Angom Bobin Singh said Sunday that 28 people were still missing before an announcement later that three more bodies had been retrieved.

The fourth day of search operations was ongoing “despite adverse weather conditions” because of “heavy rains and fresh landslides,” Singh said.

The remote northeast has generally poor road and railway infrastructure but India in the last few years has pushed ambitious infrastructure projects to match a Chinese buildup across the border.

The picturesque region — with mountains and dense forests — has been pummeled by heavy rainfall in recent weeks, triggering landslides and floods.

Dozens were killed in the area after flooding last month, with relentless rains causing landslides and inundating homes.

Experts say climate change is increasing the number of extreme weather events around the world, with damming, deforestation and development projects in India exacerbating the human toll.

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Floodwaters in Bangladesh take heavy toll on children’s education

Floodwaters in Bangladesh take heavy toll on children’s education
Updated 13 min 45 sec ago

Floodwaters in Bangladesh take heavy toll on children’s education

Floodwaters in Bangladesh take heavy toll on children’s education
  • Deadly floods in Bangladesh had killed dozens of people and stranded millions of others
  • Thousands of schools in worst-hit Sylhet region were impacted by deluge

DHAKA: Last month’s flooding in northeastern Bangladesh has dealt a heavy blow to the country’s education sector as authorities estimate that it has kept hundreds of thousands of children out of school.

Millions of people were displaced, and dozens of others killed when heavy floods triggered by monsoon rains hit northeast Bangladesh in June. The South Asian nation witnessed intense rainfall that continued for days, causing the worst deluge that the country had seen in more than a century.

In the worst-hit Sylhet region, thousands of schools and colleges were forced to remain shut weeks after the devastating floods, leaving hundreds and thousands of students out of classes as authorities began assessing the extent of the damages.

Over 3,000 primary schools — more than half of the total in Sylhet — sustained damages during the floods, Dr. Nasima Begum, deputy director at the department of primary education in the region, told Arab News. Around 1.8 million children were enrolled in the primary schools, she added.

“Since more than half of the schools were affected by flood water, it is anticipated that the children of these areas were also affected,” Begum said.

“We have yet to complete the loss assessment because the floods have not completely receded in many areas,” she said. “We have plans to provide new books and education materials to the children when classes resume.”

Mohammed Nazrul Hakim, executive engineer at Sylhet’s education engineering department, told Arab News that buildings damaged in the floods are in dire need of repairs.

“The ground floors of the affected institutions have become unusable due to the floods. Students can’t have classes there without repair works being done,” Hakim said.

As hundreds of high schools and colleges in the region had also been damaged during the disaster, around 150,000 secondary students also had their final exams, initially scheduled to take place in June, postponed.

“More than 600 high schools and colleges were affected due to this flood,” Prof. Abdul Mannan Khan, director of Sylhet’s department of secondary and higher education, told Arab News.

Classes are expected to resume on July 19, but for most of the affected students, the “floodwater damaged many of their books and education materials,” Khan added.

When the unprecedented floods hit villages across northeast Bangladesh, most people only had enough time to save themselves and their loved ones.

“Saving our lives was the only concern during the flood,” 16-year-old Abdur Rahman Sohag told Arab News.

“It happened so quickly that I couldn’t manage to save any of my books.”

Sohag was among tens of thousands who were scheduled to take their final exams last month. But as the situation worsened and the final exams had to be postponed, a new date has yet to be announced.

Like Sohag, 16-year-old Sanjida Zahan Chowdhury also lost her textbooks in the floods, which had submerged her home in the Sunamganj district.

“Within half an hour at midnight, we found ourselves in around 1.5 meters of high flood water inside our home,” Chowdhury told Arab News, adding that she and her family had to wait eight hours before they were evacuated.

“Many of my books and notes were washed away. How can I sit for the exam without my books?”


Sweden refuses to deny deportations to Turkey part of NATO deal

Sweden refuses to deny deportations to Turkey part of NATO deal
Updated 19 min 52 sec ago

Sweden refuses to deny deportations to Turkey part of NATO deal

Sweden refuses to deny deportations to Turkey part of NATO deal
  • In an agreement signed by Stockholm and Helsinki at a NATO summit in Madrid on Tuesday, the two Nordic countries agreed to examine Turkish extradition requests “expeditiously and thoroughly”

VISBY, Sweden: Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson refused Sunday to deny Turkey’s claim that it had promised to deport individuals sought by Ankara as part of Stockholm’s efforts to join NATO.

Despite questioning by journalists and concerns among Kurdish and Turkish refugees in Sweden, Andersson would not say whether such a commitment had been given to Ankara for it to lift objections to Sweden’s membership.

“I’ve been a minister for eight years and I never talked about what is said in the negotiation room,” she said. “(That) actually puts me in a bit of a difficult situation right now,” she added.

In an agreement signed by Stockholm and Helsinki at a NATO summit in Madrid on Tuesday, the two Nordic countries agreed to examine Turkish extradition requests “expeditiously and thoroughly.”

No promise has been given to actually carry out the extraditions, and Finland and Sweden have since recalled that the process is in the hands of the authorities and independent courts.

But Turkish President Erdogan on Thursday said at the end of the NATO summit that Sweden had made a “promise” to extradite “73 terrorists” and threatened to block NATO membership if the commitments were not met.

Andersson, who was pressed several times on Sunday to say whether such a promise had been given, simply repeated Stockholm’s position.

She said Sweden will continue to respect national and international laws, no Swedish nationals will be extradited, the decision will be up to independent authorities and courts.

“If you are not involved in terrorist activities, there is no need for concern,” she said.

The Swedish leader was holding her first press conference since returning from the summit, during a visit to the Baltic Sea island of Gotland.

Every July, it hosts a week of political meetings bringing together party leaders.

But it is also one of the locations due to be reinforced by the Swedish army after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Sweden’s decision to join NATO.


UK whistleblower receives $500k payout after Kosovo corruption claims

UK whistleblower receives $500k payout after Kosovo corruption claims
Updated 03 July 2022

UK whistleblower receives $500k payout after Kosovo corruption claims

UK whistleblower receives $500k payout after Kosovo corruption claims
  • Ex-Foreign Office prosecutor told to ‘turn a blind eye’ before losing job
  • Lawyer: ‘The protection of whistleblowers is crucial for a fair and functioning democratic society’

LONDON: The UK government has agreed a settlement of more than $500,000 with a Foreign Office whistleblower who claimed she was undermined after exposing corruption in EULEX, the EU’s mission in Kosovo.
Maria Bamieh, a former prosecutor with the Foreign Office, was awarded the $512,000 settlement a decade after first raising concerns in her position in 2012, The Observer reported.
In her role Bamieh worked with EULEX, but a series of discoveries and interventions led to her being sidelined and terminated from her position in 2014.
Bamieh alleges that after discovering corruption and referring evidence back to the Foreign Office and local embassy, she was told to ignore the evidence.
The Foreign Office denies her claims despite the payout, which was agreed upon before a hearing took place.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We have agreed to settle this long-running case without any admission of liability and continue to strongly refute these allegations.”
Bamieh said: “I believe that I should have been commended and supported by the Foreign Office for raising my concerns about possible corruption within EULEX and the treatment I suffered afterward, but instead I felt abandoned.”
The $1 billion EULEX mission aimed to pursue high-profile politicians and officials in Kosovo with links to organized crime and corruption.
Bamieh’s first discovery came in 2012 after attempts by a health official in Kosovo to undermine an investigation using links with a senior EULEX judge.
A senior prosecutor allegedly shared details of the investigation with the official through a third party.
Bamieh raised concerns with a UK diplomat but was told to “turn a blind eye.” A year later, however, she was disciplined for parking and work experience violations in an apparent attempt to undermine her work.
In 2014, the Foreign Office reduced its staff presence in Kosovo. Bamieh was terminated late that year.
He lawyer Mike Cain said: “The protection of whistleblowers is crucial for a fair and functioning democratic society. This is all the more the case in spaces where public power is being exercised as it was when our client formed and reported her concerns both in
Kosovo and to senior figures within the Foreign Office.”
Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, urged the Foreign Office to reform its internal complaints system.
“It takes great moral fibre and courage to raise your head above the parapet, knowing there may be significant personal cost,” he said.
“Cover-up culture benefits no one. Perhaps if the Foreign Office strengthened its complaint processes, and increased its openness, members of staff within the department would not have to resort to such drastic measures.”


Bus crash kills at least 20 in southwest Pakistan — official

Bus crash kills at least 20 in southwest Pakistan — official
Updated 03 July 2022

Bus crash kills at least 20 in southwest Pakistan — official

Bus crash kills at least 20 in southwest Pakistan — official
  • Poor road infrastructure and rash driving often cause deadly road crashes in Pakistan

QUETTA: A passenger bus plunged into a ravine in southwestern Pakistan on Sunday killing 20 people, a government official said.
The road crash also injured another 13 people aboard the bus that was traveling from garrison city of Rawalpindi to Quetta, the capital of southwestern Balochistan province, said Ijaz Jaffar, deputy commissioner of Sherani district.
The ravine is some 350 kilometers north of Quetta.
Poor road infrastructure and rash driving often cause deadly road crashes in Pakistan.
The province is home to several Chinese projects under an investment plan in which Beijing is seeking road and sea trade linkages with the world.