Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pacific islands not sinking from global warming

Of all the apocalyptic imagery summoned by global warming's proponents, the most compelling has been the threat of coastal devastation from rising sea levels. In his best-selling work "Earth in the Balance," Al Gore argued that the selfishness of Western industrialization would obliterate small, impoverished countries.

"Although the sea level has risen and fallen through different geological periods, never has the change been anywhere near as rapid as that now expected as a consequence of global warming," he wrote. "... [I]sland nations like the Maldives and Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides), will be devastated if the projections made by scientists turn out to be accurate." Mr. Gore solemnly predicted that millions of poor inhabitants would be forced to flee their homelands in a desperate bid for survival - unless we adopt his political agenda. It just isn't so.

In a forthcoming issue of the journal Global and Planetary Change, researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission in Fiji documented changes in 27 vulnerable, low-lying reef islands in the Central Pacific. Using aerial photographs taken as early as 1944, the areas were carefully mapped and compared with modern satellite images.

It turns out that the islands did, in fact, change over time, but they are hardly sinking. Overall, 20 grew or remained stable. The island of Funamanu, for example, expanded from 7.4 acres to 9.5 acres in size - a 28 percent growth. Only seven islands shrunk, with the biggest percentage change occurring on Tengasu, which dropped from a tiny 1.7 acres to 1.5 acres - a diminishment of 9,670 square feet, the size of Mr. Gore's Tennessee mansion.

According to various studies, sea levels appear to have risen about 8 inches since the year 1860, but these Pacific islands continue to prosper nonetheless. This new study attributed size differences over time to the effect of ocean swells pounding and eroding windward shorelines. On leeward sides protected from the swells, coastlines grew. In other words, nature struck a near-perfect balance, wholly unaffected by the purported evils of America's internal-combustion engines.

This research was not conducted by scientists who disputed climate change, but even they noted the suspicious absence of verification for a key alarmist claim. "The lack of monitoring seems a gross oversight given the international concern over small island stability and pressing concerns of island communities to manage island landscapes," the report stated.

So the islands aren't sinking, the Hockey Stick has been thoroughly debunked, the Himalayas still have snow and the polar bears are alive and well. As just about every tenet in the Church of Global Warming has been debunked, it's time for the movement's high priest, Mr. Gore, to offer a refund to those from his flock who bought his work of fiction.

Source: washingtontimes.com

Maldives to Phase Out HCFCs, Super Greenhouse Gases, 10 Years Early

Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed announced that his country would phase out HCFCs by 2020, ten years ahead of what is required of his country under the Montreal Protocol. HCFCs, used commonly in refrigerators and air conditioners, are ozone-depleting chemicals that are also highly potent greenhouse gases.

In his speech announcing the accelerated commitment, Nasheed thanked his predecessor President Gayoom for having taken the lead in climate change issues. It was an unusual gesture: a leader complimenting a bitter political rival who had imprisoned and tortured and hounded him into exile.

But everything about ‘Anni’, as Maldivians affectionately call their president, shows that he is probably the only leader in this part of the world who hasn’t let the trappings of office get to him.

After giving his speech on Thursday in the resort island of Bandos, Nasheed stepped out for refreshments. He waited in line for tea, there were no sycophants and sidekicks trying to obsequiously usher him to the head of the queue. He waited like everyone else, and everyone left him alone because they knew he didn’t like the fuss.
Later, during an interview at his modest official residence in Male (he has refused to move into Gayoom’s luxurious presidential palace, which he has bequeathed to the Supreme Court) Nasheed denies he is doing this just for effect.

After he was elected to office in 2008, Nasheed drastically cut the size of the presidential secretariat, reducing its annual budget from 400 million rufias a year to 27 million ($1=12 rufiya). He's responsible for leading a nation of nearly 2,000 islands spread over 90,000 square kilometers, and what a change from the usual course of things he represents.
The first priority for every new ruler is to increase the size of the cabinet, award themselves perks, facilities and junkets. Last year, Nasheed initially canceled his trip to Copenhagen for the Climate Summit in order to save money and only decided to go after the Danish government insisted on hosting him.

It’s not just the president, most Maldivian ministers impress visitors with their grasp of the portfolios they head. The reason is that the president appoints technocrats to ministries, not cronies from his own party or members of parliament he needs to appease. Which is why the Maldivian minister of health has a PhD in nursing, the education minister has a PhD in education, the minister of the environment has a geography masters from New Zealand and the vice president is a public health doctor who once worked for UNICEF in Kathmandu.

President Nasheed has already announced that his country will be carbon neutral by 2020. This is a huge challenge: the diesel used in the inter-island ferry system and the country’s fishing fleet needs to be replaced with biofuels, tourists have to buy carbon offsets for flights to the Maldives and back, the resorts themselves need to be converted to renewable energy, and the country has ten years to replace all thermal power plants.
To be truly carbon neutral, the country also needs to phase out the chemical called HCFC that is used in refrigeration and air conditioners in the fisheries and tourism sectors. HCFCs are harmful to the ozone layer and are also potent greenhouse gases.
While Nasheed has become popular abroad for his pioneering environmental activism, it has become more difficult for him to sell the idea of cutbacks and phaseouts at home. Which is why to his own people he justifies the switch to renewables by saying it will bring down the country’s high electricity tariff.

The country is setting up its first carbon-neutral resort in the south of the archipelago, powered by wind and solar and using cold 4 degrees Celsius water from 4 km below the ocean’s surface for cooling equipment to replace air-conditioning. All this will take time, and till then the Maldives is collaborating with the Indian Bureau of Energy Efficiency to label household appliances to cut fuel use.
As Nasheed says: “What we do is not going to save the planet, but it will save us. And we can tell the world, look it works.”

After the interview, the President of the Maldives accompanies us to the street outside and walks along the sidewalk to his office a few blocks away.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Why We Need a Maritime Strategy in the Indian Ocean...

Port Louis — Navin Ramgoolam recently underlined the interplay between maritime safety and security (MSS) and the development in the sub-region. Mauritius could now use the Indian Ocean Commission to conduct an audit of the maritime capacities of the Indian Ocean, so as to better engage international stakeholders.

Piracy costs around 250 million US dollars per year and more and more, it is affecting the economies of the Island States of the Indian Ocean. During the 25th Africa-France Summit, held in Nice on May 31, Dr. Navin Ramgoolam, very rightly pointed out that "piracy has led to an increase in the cost of insurances which in turn is translated into a rise in the price of our imported goods". He called for an increased collaboration between Mauritius and France in order to fight this growing maritime phenomenon both countries are already combining efforts through the Indian Ocean Commission. Mauritius is now presiding over the sub-regional organization and one can expect an increased focus on the nexus between maritime safety and security and the development in the sub-region.

In the same line, India is also discussing greater security and economic cooperation with Seychelles. India has been implementing a more intimate security grid with the Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles as these countries are vulnerable in the absence of maritime domain awareness and adequate firepower.

Recently senior officials from Djibouti, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa and senior Representatives of the US, EU and several international organizations (AU, INTERPOL and UNODC) also discussed on a regular basis the threat and challenges of MSS in the Indian Ocean and they all agreed that the region is particularly affected because of lack of resources to confront the growing maritime menace.

Threats over and above the Somali pirates

As we know, the maritime domain is a space of evolving geo-strategic importance. Africa generally and the Indian Ocean in particular have been particularly affected by maritime threats. In order to begin to address maritime threats and challenges through the development of a maritime strategy, it is critical to assess and prioritize those threats and challenges.

According to several experts and the regional authorities, over and above piracy in Somalia, maritime threats include specific operational issues across the spectrum of maritime activities that can be measured in real losses and opportunity costs. These types of threats include illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing resource theft, including oil bunkering trafficking of goods, including arms and narcotics money laundering climate change and coastal erosion and environmental degradation, which includes illegal dumping (including toxic waste),pollution, and oil and chemical spills, among others.

Beyond these "tangible operational" threats, there are also "institutional" threats and challenges, which are more often of a structural nature. These include endemic poverty and high unemployment, food insecurity, political instability, conflict and corruption. Though these issues may seem removed from the immediate maritime domain, they have a very real and tangible effect on MSS.

Illegal fishing is killing Africa

According to Dr. Andre Le Sage, Senior Research Fellow for Africa at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, "IUU fishing is a primary African maritime security concern. Global annual losses to IUU fishing are estimated at $10 to $23 billion, with estimates for sub-Saharan Africa totaling $1 billion per year." Citing UN and British reports, he added that IUU fishing now represents approximately 15-20 percent of all catches along Africa's Indian Ocean coast. This is a lucrative business: in Somalia, illegal fishing in tuna and shrimp can net $94 million per year.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 200 million Africans rely on fish for nutrition, 10 million rely on fishing for income and some coastal nations could increase their Gross National Product (GNP) up to 5 percent with effective fisheries regulation.

The conference of ministers on maritime safety and security acknowledged that to the direct and indirect threats, a comprehensive strategy should encompass the emerging challenges to address the threats. Hence the expansion of the maritime domain and the under- surveillance by states of their territorial waters, the inability of many states to outfit and sustain a maritime force in terms of human and physical resources the poor coordination and communication between stakeholders in the maritime domain, and the (previous?) lack of political will in government to prioritize and commit resources to the maritime domain. All these challenges, mostly institutional, make it harder to confront the threats.

As the maritime threats affect a broad and diverse group of individuals, from Seychelles to Mauritius, from Mozambique to Maldives, it is vital for each country to develop a national maritime safety and security strategy, before comparing notes to adopt a regional strategy. From the individual citizen to national, regional and international bodies with responsibility for the maritime domain, to a variety of private organizations with specific interest in maritime issues and security, the group of stakeholders that a country can interact is numerous.

In the Indian Ocean Commission, Mauritius can generate momentum in the enhancement of maritime safety and security in the sub-region.

Underscoring the importance of the maritime domain for sustained economic development, like Prime Minister Ramgoolam did, is a first major step. Initiating the creation of national maritime safety and security strategies by conducting audits of maritime capacities in the operational, financial, legal and regulatory domains could be the second one...if we want to develop action plans to make adjustments where needed.

A regional coast guard

Several maritime security analysts believe that the misalignment of maritime security forces hinders states' ability to properly address maritime security threats. The reason for this misalignment is that African states, during the Cold War, relied on external powers to protect their maritime domain. And they have historically tasked their armies to defend the land, shying away from the sea. However, times have changed. In Mauritius, for instance, members of the Special Mobile Force could be asked to focus on coastal security instead.

They could help the coast guards fight organized crime (which includes gun-running, smuggling, drug trafficking, the destruction of maritime resources through dumping and pollution).

Governments must properly identify threats and appropriately allocate resources to address them. Another possibility could be the setting up of a unified maritime force to protect the South-West Indian Ocean with officers from Mauritius, Seychelles, Maldives, Comoros, Reunion, Madagascar...This unified front should be able to attract more attention and collaboration from international stakeholders.

Source: allafrica.com

Manuel is East Bengal coach

Former Angola and the Maldives national team coach Manuel Jose Gomes will be in charge of the East Bengal team in the upcoming season.

Manuel will replace Philippe de Ridder after the Belgian could bring about no change in the club’s fortunes in the last I-League.

Manuel’s deal was finalised after it was discovered that the Portuguese was a European Pro-License holder, which is equivalent to the AFC ‘A’ license.

“Manuel last coached the Angolan national team. He has also done exceptionally well with the Maldives national team. His appointment is an unanimous decision,” assistant secretary Shanti Ranjan Dasgupta said on Saturday. Manuel will be arriving in the city next week to sign on the dotted line.

Source: telegraphindia.com

Going After Government Looters

PARIS — The government of the Maldives wants its money back — $400 million to be precise.

That is the amount that it estimates was looted by its former president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and his associates. Mr. Gayoom dominated politics in the Maldives, a tiny Indian Ocean nation, for 30 years. After winning six successive single-party elections, he finally bowed to popular pressure and allowed open elections in 2008. He lost.

He is one of a number of politically connected figures — some alive, others dead — who are the targets of increasingly coordinated efforts to repatriate misappropriated funds. Results to date have been encouraging, but much more can be done, officials and development experts say.

A report from the Maldives’ national auditor released in 2009 reads like a guidebook on self-enrichment. The president’s spending was “out of control,” it said, as Mr. Gayoom used his power to live a lavish lifestyle and extend largesse to those around him.

An estimated $9.5 million was spent buying and delivering a luxury yacht from Germany for the president; $17 million was spent on renovations of the presidential palace and family houses. Mr. Gayoom built a saltwater swimming pool, a badminton court and a gymnasium, and he bought 11 speed boats and at least 55 cars — including the country’s only Mercedes-Benz, the audit said.

The Maldives, a series of atolls, has a land mass about 1.7 times the size of Washington, including many uninhabited islands. In terms of gross domestic product per capita it ranks 152nd in the world, according to the C.I.A.

And the list goes on, from Loro Piana suits and trousers to watches and hefty bills for medical services in Singapore for “important people” and their families. There was a $70,000 trip to Dubai by the first lady in 2007, a $20,000 bill for a member of the family of the former president to stay a week at the Grand Hyatt in Singapore. On one occasion, diapers were sent to the islands by airfreight from Britain for Mr. Gayoom’s grandson.

Even allocations made to Mr. Gayoom’s office for welfare distribution were spent on the president’s family and their friends, senior government staff members and their friends and members of Parliament, according to the report. [Read More]

Lessons from the Maldives

Fancy sharply pruning down the cost of the president’s office or any government ministry or department for that matter? Maybe we can learn some lessons from the Maldives, a tiny island state which is having a major voice in the global climate change debate.

The island nation of more than 1000 atolls has undertaken a stringent cost cutting exercise to rid the country of extravagant spending and channelling all this valuable money to social spending including a new social insurance scheme. This is happening under the new regime of Mohamed Nasheed who was elected President of the Maldives in November 2008, ending the 30-year reign of Mamoon Abdul Gayoom.

Young, vibrant, frank and honest, the young Nasheed has enforced some cuts which to most governments would be impossible. Consider this: The President’s Palace (residence) and its 300-strong staff previously cost the government 400 million rufiya (about $30.7 million) to run. The new President has cut it, virtually to the bone, and now the cost of running the residence is 27 million rufiya! How? He has moved to a smaller house and cut staff at the residence to 23.

The President’s office which cost 300 million has been brought down to 60 million. The new regime is working to a ‘We Can’ agenda. President Nasheed told two journalists in an interview this week that despite the severe cuts he is living comfortably. “I don’t need extravagance. For example when one launch could be used (to travel to an island), 10 launches have been used (in the past),” he said. All travel between the Maldives capital, Male and the 200-odd inhabited islands is by boat.

“The political staff were lavishly provided for,” he said, referring to Gayoom’s regime. The government has also enforced bold, and somewhat unfavourable, cuts in spending on the civil service with pay cuts for the civil service. The civil service in the Maldives, like in Sri Lanka, is bloated and filled with political cronies. Social welfare was essentially through providing public sector jobs to the people while health and education suffered, according to government officials. The small Gan airport in the Maldives employs some 300 workers when it could do with 20 to 30; just the kind of excessive workforce you find across the Sri Lankan public sector.

Another interesting development which is laudable in terms of transparency is that the Maldives President often declares publicly, expenses incurred in overseas trips. Just before Nasheed took off on a official visit to Australia last week, his Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair announced in the local media that the Australian government will fund most of the costs associated with the trip (including the entourage), aside from airfares. Would the Sri Lankan President, ministers and government official make such a declaration when undertaking overseas trips?

Battling a huge budget deficit, over 30 % of GDP, a cost carried forward from a past era of extravagant spending, the Maldives government is facing an uphill task in funding new healthcare programmes and education development among others. And here’s where the government is bold enough to enforce cuts --- in its own backyard; the President’s own expenditure for example!

In the Sri Lankan context, extravagant spending is across the board, in running the presidency, the cabinet of ministers and sections of the public service. Sometime back the Treasury Secretary was firm with spending requests from Ministers so much so he was unpopular with some cabinet ministers, just because he was doing his job! However with some sections in the Treasury now seen as part of the political hierarchy, there is little or no effort to cut extravagant spending at the top.

Sri Lanka is entering a phase where billions of rupees will be spent on the new development phase after the war and this is where transparency and accountability is important. A better effort to streamline spending and regularly explain in detail spending measures particularly when undertaking foreign trips – like in the Maldives case – would help to ease public concern that this government, like many other governments, is on an extravagant spending spree.

Source: sundaytimes.lk

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

RP Envoy Pays Farewell Calls, Obtains Release Of Nine Filipino Prisoners In Maldives And Sri Lanka

The Philippine Embassy in Dhaka reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs that Ambassador Zenaida Tacorda-Rabago paid farewell calls to high officials of the Maldivian and Sri Lankan Governments from May 22 to 25.
Ambassador Tacorda-Rabago is also non-resident Ambassador to Maldives and Sri Lanka.

The Ambassador stated that President Mohamed Nasheed of Maldives have ordered the release of the seven overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) incarcerated in Maafushi Prison.

This was as a gesture of goodwill and as a farewell gift to the Ambassador, who is retiring from the foreign service.

The seven OFWs, who were working in the hospitality industry in Maldives, pleaded guilty to credit card theft and fraud and sentenced to 25 years in prison last February 2009.

The DFA and the Embassy have been seeking avenues for their release/deportation through the recently approved "Clemency Law," which empowers the President to grant pardons to prisoners.

Ambassador Tacorda-Rabago reiterated the country's request for support for its bid for Observer Status in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to President Nasheed. The Maldivian President gladly obliged, and informed her that he will personally write the OIC Secretary-General of his country's strong support.

In turn, President Nasheed requested the Ambassador for support for an Asian Summit on climate change. He also intimated to the Ambassador the hiring of Filipino professionals from the medical, entertainment, and educational fields.

During her farewell call to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Ambassador Tacorda Rabago appealed for the deportation of two Filipinos held in prison for alleged violation of Sri Lankan immigration laws, stressing that protection of Filipino nationals as one of the pillars of the country's foreign policy.

President Rajapaksa ordered his officials to work on the release and deportation of the two Filipinos, who were remorseful on their alleged participation as front for illegal recruiters in Sri Lanka.

The two have already served seven months in jail while awaiting formal charges from the Sri Lankan Government.

The Sri Lankan Government also reiterated its request for the Philippine Government to re-open its Embassy in Colombo and commended the Philippines as role model in protecting and safeguarding the rights of Filipino migrant workers. END

Source: http://dfa.gov.ph


The success of providing all production and location support for the filming of Dream Hotel Sri Lanka in 2009 was the invitation extended to The Film Team by Lisa Film Austria for their project in the Maldives.

At the request of the Producers, The Film Team crew visited the Maldives in late February for the initial scout and established contact with the authorities to obtain the necessary permits and arrange for the clearance of all equipment to be shipped from Austria for the film project.

The presentation forwarded to Lisa Film was accepted and the go ahead for the shoot was given at the beginning of March 2010.

The Srilankan prep crew comprising of Ainsley, Errol, Gopi and Trian left for the Maldives end March and commenced preparations in the capital, Male. On completion of all arrangements with their local agent, M/S Oriental Express (Pvt) Limited headed by Mr Zainudeen (The former Marketing Manager of Holiday Inn, Colombo) the team flew to Hanimadhoo in the Haa Alifu atoll and boarded the speed boat to the Waldorf Astoria Collection, The Beach House, Manafaru, the main location of the shoot managed by Hilton Worldwide.

The rest of the production, art department and technical crew from Cinepro arrived during the 2nd week of April to organise all arrangements for the shoot to commence on 19th April. However, the production team was in a dilemma, as the actors had not reached the location due to the closure of all airports in Europe. The foreign production company had made the decision to wrap up the project if the situation was to continue for another day. We were all elated to hear that the actors had departed on a private jet no sooner Vienna airport opened for a short while on that day.

The five-week shoot covered various locations at the Beach House, Manafaru. The main attraction was a beach house that was designed by Errol and prefabricated in Sri Lanka by the construction manager, Tennesly and his crew and shipped to the Maldives. The house was erected and dressed on an uninhabited island within close proximity to the resort. The Set Dresser, Welegedera Ranasinghe and Prop Master, Athula Sultanagoda transformed different areas in the resort as hospital interiors and office premises. The Director was impressed with all the local decorations done for the party scene which culminated with a fireworks display with all the material airfreighted from Colombo including a big cake structure which had the provision for a boy to emerge from within.

The crew then moved on to another Hilton Maldives resort in the Noonu Atoll, the Irufushi Spa & Resort. After the filming of arrival scenes with seaplanes, the main crew flew to the third Hilton Resort, the Conrad Rangali. The main location for the shoot was the spectacular underwater restaurant.

Finally, we all moved by flights and ferryboat to the capital, Male for establishing shots at various locations.

The crew wrap party was organized at Bandos Resort and the entire crew had a very enjoyable time after a hectic shoot. The entire Film Team crew was thanked individually by the Director & Producer and highly commended for the professionalism showed from day one of the project.

The meticulous planning and execution of all arrangements with the combined efforts of the entire Sri Lankan crew won the praises of the Director and Producer who extended an invitation for us to be a part of the Dream Hotel crew for all their future projects starting with their next in the Caribbean - Dream Hotel Tobago. We had no option but to turn down the lucrative offer owing to the commitments for other productions in Sri Lanka.

The Film Team is confident of securing International projects for filming in Sri Lanka, especially with the harmonious situation prevalent in the country. The other advantageous ingredient for promoting our island as an exotic filming location is the new studio complex at Ranminithenne. This much-needed facility initiated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa with his dynamic vision of helping the film industry to reach greater heights is definitely an added bonus to attract moviemakers to film in Sri Lanka.

The Film Team said it would endeavour to showcase Sri Lanka as the ideal filming location in the region at all times.

Source: http://www.dailymirror.lk