Turkmenistan’s struggling economy hit as Caspian Sea level drops

Turkmenistan’s struggling economy hit as Caspian Sea level drops
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Low water levels are seen in Turkmenistan's Caspian Sea resort of Avaza on September 13, 2023. The Caspian Sea, the inland body of water flanked by the Caucasus region and Central Asia, has been shrinking precipitously year on year. (AFP)
Turkmenistan’s struggling economy hit as Caspian Sea level drops
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A view of the main port of Turkmenbashi, the largest Caspian Sea coastal city in Turkmenistan, on November 19, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 09 January 2024
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Turkmenistan’s struggling economy hit as Caspian Sea level drops

Turkmenistan’s struggling economy hit as Caspian Sea level drops
  • In the seaside town of Hazar, the shore has receded by around 800 meters on both sides
  • The Caspian Sea, an inland body of water, is flanked by the Caucasus region to the west and Central Asia to the east

TURKMENBASHI: On the Caspian Sea coast in Turkmenistan, Batyr Yusupov can no longer ferry his passengers between two ports. There is not enough water.

“I used to go between Turkmenbashi and Hazar,” the 36-year-old ferry worker said of the ports separated by a small gulf on Turkmenistan’s coast.
“But we haven’t been able to go there for a year due to the serious shrinking of the Caspian,” he said.
In at least one seaside city, local bathers have noted the waters receding by hundreds of meters.
But it is not just about ferry routes or having to walk further for a proper swim: the changes hit the heart of Turkmenistan’s struggling economy.
And year after year, the water levels are falling.
It is still not entirely clear why that is happening, but scientists say it is down to naturally occurring processes exacerbated by climate change.
One 2021 study projected that by 2100, water levels in the Caspian Sea could drop by another 8 to 30 meters (26 to 98 feet).
The Caspian Sea, an inland body of water, is flanked by the Caucasus region to the west and Central Asia to the east.
Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic, is one of five countries on the Caspian Sea together with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran and Russia.
And they are all, to some extent or another, affected by the changes.

South of Turkmenbashi, in the seaside town of Hazar, satellite images show the shore has receded around 800 meters (half a mile) on both sides.
That has turned the town, which sits at the end of a peninsula, into an island.
Instead of sailing between Hazar and the main port of Turkmenbashi, Yusupov now takes passengers to Gyzylsuw — between the two — which is more accessible by boat.
But even there, the situation is not much better.
“A new pier is being built because the old one is no longer deep enough,” said one local resident, 40-year-old Aisha.
Dozens of rusty boats line the shore in Gyzylsuw.
Aisha’s house has stilts protecting it from the sea, which now seem superfluous.
“Even during storms, the water doesn’t reach the house,” she said.
In Turkmenbashi itself, Turkmenistan’s largest coastal city, the changing shoreline is evident to swimmers.
“Last summer, the water was up to my shoulders, then around my waist,” said one regular, 35-year-old Lyudmila Yesenova.
“This year, it’s below my knees.”

The receding waters threaten the maritime infrastructure of Turkmenbashi, a major Central Asia port crucial for trade between Europe and Asia.
And on the opposite coast of the Caspian lies Baku, the capital of oil-rich Azerbaijan.
Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov sounded the alarm in a recent speech.
“At present, the sea level is close to the minimum values for the entire time of instrumental observations,” he said in August.
“In the last 25 years, it has decreased by almost two meters,” which meant that the retreat of the sea had become particularly noticeable in recent years, he added.
“The sea has moved hundreds of meters away from its former shores,” he said. “In the north of the Caspian these figures are even higher.”
Neighbouring Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s largest country, has echoed some of Turkmenistan’s concerns.
But after years of disputes over the control of huge hydrocarbon reserves in the region, the collaboration Meredov has called for is only in its earliest stages.

Turkmen scientist Nazar Muradov attributes the changing sea levels to “tectonic movements and seismic phenomena, which change the seabed.”
He said the sea level had previously fallen in the 1930s and the 1980s before rising again. But the changing climate also had to be factored into this latest phenomenon, he added.
“The sea level also depends on the flow of rivers — whose levels are diminishing — as well as low levels of precipitation and intense evaporation.”
Kazakhstan also depends on the sea for its oil and gas industry.
The drop in water levels, coupled with a rise in temperatures, has also hit marine life in the Caspian, including seals.
In a sign he is taking the situation seriously, Kazakh leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has announced he had taken the decline in the seal population under his “personal control.”
He also said Kazakhstan would create a research institute for the study of the Caspian.
 


Violence against women and girls in UK a ‘national emergency’: police

Violence against women and girls in UK a ‘national emergency’: police
Updated 31 sec ago
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Violence against women and girls in UK a ‘national emergency’: police

Violence against women and girls in UK a ‘national emergency’: police

LONDON: Violence against women and girls in England and Wales is a “national emergency” with almost 3,000 offenses recorded daily, police warned in a new report published on Tuesday.
The study, commissioned by two law enforcement bodies, estimates that at least one in every 12 women will be a victim every year, with the exact number expected to be much higher.
“Violence against women and girls is a national emergency,” senior police chief Maggie Blyth said in comments accompanying the report.
The study found that more than one million violent crimes against women and girls were recorded by police in 2022-2023.
They accounted for just under a fifth of all police-recorded crime excluding fraud in England and Wales between April 2022 and March 2023.
The report said violence against women and girls had increased 37 percent between 2018-2019 and last year, with domestic abuse being one of the biggest demands on policing.
One in 20 adults in England and Wales, or 2.3 million people, will be perpetrators of crimes against women and girls annually, the study added.
“These are cautious estimates as we know much crime goes unreported and in policing, we often only see the tip of the iceberg,” Blyth said.
She warned that violence against females in the two countries had “reached epidemic levels” and called for government intervention in the “overwhelmed” criminal justice system.
Child sexual abuse and exploitation offenses meanwhile jumped by 435 percent between 2013 and 2022, the report estimated — from just over 20,000 to nearly 107,000.
Offenders are getting younger, with the average age of a suspect now 15, it said.
The report said stalking and harassment accounted for 85 percent of online-related offenses.
Britain’s interior ministry declared violence against women and girls a national threat to public safety in February last year.
More than 4,500 new officers have been trained to investigate rape and serious sexual offenses over the last year, with the report detailing a 38-percent increase in charges for adult rape from the year ending December 2022 to the year ending December 2023.
 


Death toll from Ethiopia landslide rises to 146: local official

Death toll from Ethiopia landslide rises to 146: local official
Updated 8 min 48 sec ago
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Death toll from Ethiopia landslide rises to 146: local official

Death toll from Ethiopia landslide rises to 146: local official

ADDIS ABABA: The death toll from a landslide in southern Ethiopia has risen to at least 146, a local official said Tuesday, warning the number could rise.
“The number of dead from the sudden landslide that happened in Geze-Gofa district of Gofa zone has passed 146,” a statement from the Gofa zone Communications Affairs Department said, quoting local official Habtamu Fetena, who warned “the number of dead could increase.”


Russia and Iran finish preparing comprehensive cooperation agreement, TASS reports

Russia and Iran finish preparing comprehensive cooperation agreement, TASS reports
Updated 58 min 15 sec ago
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Russia and Iran finish preparing comprehensive cooperation agreement, TASS reports

Russia and Iran finish preparing comprehensive cooperation agreement, TASS reports

MOSCOW: Russia and Iran have completed the preparation of a comprehensive cooperation agreement, the state-run TASS news agency reported on Tuesday, citing the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The agreement will be signed soon, TASS said.


Macron’s political gamble casts shadow over Paris Olympics

Macron’s political gamble casts shadow over Paris Olympics
Updated 23 July 2024
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Macron’s political gamble casts shadow over Paris Olympics

Macron’s political gamble casts shadow over Paris Olympics
  • As he prepares to welcome more than 100 heads of state and tens of thousands of spectators for Friday’s opening ceremony along the Seine, Macron is a fragile force

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron hoped the Paris Olympics would cement his legacy. But a failed bet on a snap legislative election has left him politically stunted, casting a lingering shadow over Macron’s moment on the international stage.
As he prepares to welcome more than 100 heads of state and tens of thousands of spectators for Friday’s opening ceremony along the Seine, Macron is a fragile force — an unpopular president presiding over a caretaker government as it hosts the world’s largest sporting event amid heightened security fears.
“Macron expected to welcome the Games like an emperor,” said French historian Patrick Weil. “But now he’s a lame duck.”
Walking around the Olympic Village on Monday, Macron defended his decision to dissolve parliament and denied the ensuing political instability would overshadow the Games.
“It was me who decided,” he said, referring to his determination to call the election ahead of the Games.
“There is no bitter taste. On the contrary, we did the things that needed to be done before (the Olympics). Now we can fully focus on the Games.”
And in a bid to keep the crisis at bay for a few weeks, he appeared to suggest he was unlikely to name a prime minister until the Games were over.
“There is a sort of truce,” he said.
Macron called the legislative vote after a thumping by the far-right National Rally (RN) in last month’s EU election, saying he wanted the poll to provide clarity.
Instead, French voters delivered a hung parliament and no bloc has so far been able to form a government, leaving Macron’s previous cabinet to manage day-to-day affairs in a caretaker capacity.
“The Olympics are a great break, an extraordinary moment, a brilliant showcase for our country,” said far-right lawmaker Julien Odoul. “But the difficulties of our compatriots continue despite the Olympic Games. And this National Assembly is currently not in a position to provide a response.”
Macron aides, Olympics officials, lawmakers and public figures stressed to Reuters that the show would go on, with years of security and logistics planning unaffected by the politics. But some acknowledged the fallout from the political crisis would hang over the Games.
Socialist lawmaker Christine Pires-Beaune said Macron’s expedited vote had left many French bewildered and angry.
“We have never been in such a thick fog,” she said.
It was not supposed to be this way.
In his New Year’s Eve address to the nation last December, Macron spoke with pride and optimism about the year ahead.
“Only once in a century does one host the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” he said. “2024 will be a year of determination, of choices and of regeneration.”
But more than six months later, Macron’s hopes of regenerating his mandate have evaporated, while the political crisis provoked by his quickfire election has also contributed to weaker-than-expected tourist appetite for the Games.
Flight and hotel bookings to Paris during the Olympics have come in lower than expected, Reuters reported earlier this month, with experts pointing the finger at high travel and accommodation costs, security fears — and political tumult.
The ceaseless drama of the US election — which has so far included an assassination attempt against Republican candidate Donald Trump and President Joe Biden dropping out of the race — has also lured eyeballs away from Macron’s flagship event.
At the Olympic Village on Monday, Macron shook hands with volunteers, wearing a confident smile.
“We are ready,” the president told police officers before thanking Olympic Village staff for their work.
French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera acknowledged that the last few weeks had been “difficult politically.”
But she rejected the idea that the political crisis had stained the Games. She said France could breathe a sigh of relief that the far-right had not won enough seats to form a government, as some polls had projected.
“I think that the Games will allow the country to come together more than ever this summer,” she told Reuters.
Arielle Dombasle, a US-born French singer and actor, recently set social media alight with her performance of a stomping, operatic Olympic number at Paris City Hall, in which she was dressed in a white, hooped, floor-length skirt and peroxide wig.
“There is a terrible bashing among the French of the Olympics, which are nevertheless an astonishing international gathering of the most extraordinary human specimens: the man who jumps the highest, the woman who swims the fastest,” she said.
“There is an atmosphere of anxiety. The world is in disorder, to say the least. But these Games are the occasion for the greatest celebrations.”


Typhoon prompts cancellation of Taiwan air force drills but naval exercises set to continue

Typhoon prompts cancellation of Taiwan air force drills but naval exercises set to continue
Updated 23 July 2024
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Typhoon prompts cancellation of Taiwan air force drills but naval exercises set to continue

Typhoon prompts cancellation of Taiwan air force drills but naval exercises set to continue
  • The Air Force 5th Tactical Mixed Wing announced the cancellation, citing adverse weather conditions

TAIPEI: The arrival of typhoon Gaemi prompted the cancellation of air force drills off Taiwan’s east coast on Tuesday, although naval and land exercises are set to continue in other parts of the self-governing island democracy, which China threatens to invade.
The Air Force 5th Tactical Mixed Wing announced the cancellation, citing adverse weather conditions.
According to the Central Weather Bureau, Typhoon Kaemi is heading westward toward China after bringing moderate flooding to Taiwan’s east coast. Major cities such as Kaosiung, Tainan, Taichung and the capital Taipei were spared any major damage.
Military spokesperson Sun Li-fang said the annual Han Kuang military exercises are on track to continue with adjustments to ensure the safety of personnel and equipment, although some sea and air exercises would be altered due to the weather.
This year’s drills follow the election of Lai Cheng-te as president, who continues the Democratic Progressive Party near-decade in power. The party rejects Beijing’s demands that it recognize Taiwan as a Chinese territory.
Taiwan’s military has long relied on support from the United States, but has in recent years reinvigorated its domestic arms industry, producing submarines and training aircraft that compliment upgraded weapon systems purchased from abroad.