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Joined: 19 Aug 2019
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PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2020 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Residents in Saudi Arabia and Yemen have been faced with the bewildering sight of a truly gargantuan swarm of roughly 360 billion locusts, which can block out the sun at times. But an even bigger swarm is coming soon.
The massive locust swarm measures roughly the size of Manhattan and has caused tens of millions of dollars worth of damage, devastating East Africa in one of the worst outbreaks in decades.
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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2020 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

INDIA Updated: May 22, 2020
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Locusts can fly up to 150 km daily and a one square km swarm can eat as much food as 35,000 people in terms of weight in a single day, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Desert Locust Information Service bulletin.

India is on the alert for crop-munching desert locusts, which according to a UN warning, pose a “severe” risk to the country’s agriculture this year, as a top pest-monitoring agency flagged signs of an early-than-usual summer invasion of the species of grasshoppers from across Pakistan.

This has prompted the Union agriculture ministry to consider importing equipment from the UK, apart from deploying drones, satellite-derived tools, special fire-tenders and sprayers at pre-identified border locations.

Protocols are in place for India to hold videoconferencing meetings with authorities in Pakistan for joint strategies, an agriculture ministry official said requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Locusts can fly up to 150 km daily and a one square km swarm can eat as much food as 35,000 people in terms of weight in a single day, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Desert Locust Information Service bulletin.

A surge in locust attacks since last year is being attributed to favourable breeding weather caused by a large number of cyclones in East Africa. India, China and Pakistan face the most risk in Asia, according to the UN. Pakistan has already declared an agricultural emergency, according to the official cited above.

Locust attacks are known to cause a considerable drop in agricultural output. A moderate infestation chomped through winter crops in an estimated 300,000 hectares in Rajasthan and Gujarat in January. The crucial summer sowing season begins next month.

The alert on Wednesday came after a month of monitoring by the locust warning office, a wing under the agriculture ministry’s directorate of plant protection. Their field agents spotted clouds of the insects in mid-April in Rajasthan’s Sri Ganganagar and Jaisalmer districts.

Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar consulted representatives of the pesticide industry on May 13, a second plant quarantine department official said. Tomar reviewed broad measures to fight off infestations. The ministry now plans to import some equipment from the UK.

In December last year, India held preparatory meetings with Pakistani teams on the India-Pakistan border in Munabao and Khokhapar in Rajasthan’s Barmer district, an official said.

India is constantly monitoring the pests and scheduling more talks with Pakistani representatives during the entire June to September kharif (summer-sown) season, said KL Gurjar, deputy director at India’s directorate of plant protection.

Gurjar was one of the participants at the border talks in December. A report of a senior locust forecasting officer of FAO to the government noted that “swarms would be present in Haryana and Punjab, moving east towards Bangladesh similar to 1950 when there were devastating plagues that lasted up to 14 consecutive years.”

“Despite the Covid-19 lockdown, the locust control offices are working since April 11, 2020, with 50 spray equipment and vehicles, in coordination with officials of district administration and state agriculture department,” a statement from the farm ministry said.

Normally, with the arrival of the monsoon, locust swarms enter the Scheduled Desert Areas of India via Pakistan for breeding in June and July, but this year, their presence was first reported on April 11.

“The situation remains extremely alarming in the Horn of Africa, specifically Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, where widespread breeding is in progress and new swarms are expected to form in the coming weeks,” an FAO alert issued this month said.

Heavy cyclones made for favourable breeding conditions also in the southern Arabian Peninsula for at least nine months (June 2018 to March 2019), allowing “three generations of breeding that was undetected and not controlled”, FAO said.

Pest specialists are drawing on standard strategies, such as maintaining sufficient reserves of melathion, the principal insecticide. “Overnight, they can devour field after field. One large swarm can cover several districts,” said JN Thakur, a former chief of locust monitoring at the agriculture ministry.

According to Thakur, India has an experience of fighting the pest from two previous outbreaks, in 1950 and 1993, but the country lacks large insecticide-spraying aircraft, which are the most effective way of dealing with a large-scale crisis.

Until May 11, the pests have been “controlled in an area of ​​14,299 hectares of Jaisalmer, Sri Ganganagar, Jodhpur, Barmer, and Nagaur districts in Rajasthan and Fazilka districts of Punjab”, the official said. Swarms are active in Barmer, Phalodi (Jodhpur), Nagaur, Sriganganagar, and Ajmer districts of Rajasthan.

The Union government has decided to conduct awareness campaigns and training for farmers and officials from these states.
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Joined: 27 Mar 2003
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 5:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This Country Fought Ebola. It May Beat Another Disease.

How to combat Covid-19 in a developing economy.

The coronavirus has struck the world’s most powerful economies first, leading countries in Europe, North America and East Asia to carry out an array of strategies to help control its spread. But as the virus picks up speed across the global south, those policies may not be applicable there. Low- and middle-income countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and Nigeria should not blindly follow strategies that are sensible for richer nations.

Europe, the United States and Canada can offset the economic losses caused by social-distancing policies with stimulus payments to businesses and individuals. China can mobilize the power of its state apparatus to enforce compliance with lockdown orders. South Korea and Taiwan can deploy technologically sophisticated tracking methods to test and isolate cases.

But the developing world simply can’t replicate these measures. In addition, universal social distancing and work closures may do more harm than good in places where a disproportionate number of people depend on a day’s or week’s labor to feed their families. In many countries in the global south it is also not unusual to have 15 people or more living in a small structure, making social distancing virtually impossible.

Fortunately, there are simple measures that poorer countries can take that will slow the spread of the virus. It is urgent that such countries begin to take them.

Sierra Leone, drawing on its experience fighting an Ebola outbreak in 2014, offers a possible model for how to combat the coronavirus in a developing economy. The country is extremely poor, but it is deploying low-cost strategies to fight the pandemic that other low- and middle-income countries can adopt at large scale. (One of us, Mr. Meriggi, has advised the country’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation during the post-Ebola recovery.)

As of June 15, Sierra Leone had 1,176 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 51 deaths related to Covid-19. On April 11, the country started imposing a “soft” lockdown that limited inter-district travel and constrained working hours in an effort to protect the livelihood of most laborers. Sierra Leone was early to establish airport screening measures and traveler quarantines.

The government and its development partners have been distributing and encouraging the use of face masks and Veronica buckets, a Ghanaian invention popularized during the Ebola crisis. The buckets are simple wash stations with (sometimes bleached) water, along with soap and a plastic basin for washing hands. Since they do not require running water, they can be placed at police checkpoints on the way to and inside remote villages, as well as in upscale and urban areas.

Such frugal innovations make it easier to impose a policy of compulsory hand-washing or mask-wearing before entering villages or buildings. Low labor costs in Sierra Leone — as in other poor countries — also allow it to deploy people to monitor and encourage healthy behaviors, and to take people’s temperature with infrared thermometers as a condition of entry.

During the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, government officials in military vehicles blasted public health messages at people, who typically ran away instead of listening — a reasonable response, given the country’s history of civil war. Now the country is adopting a community-centered focus in tailoring those messages to specific populations and collaborating with local leaders to spread information. While the urban population is easier to reach with print, web and social media, people living in rural areas have less access to the internet and mobile technology. Village elders and chiefs, key female leaders, religious figures and local councils are being asked to provide Covid-19 information. Local “town criers” with boomboxes broadcast health messages on foot.

Sierra Leone also established high standards during the Ebola crisis for local care in field units known as community care centers — temporary facilities in repurposed buildings or in makeshift structures with water pumps, electric generators and toilets. These centers were used mostly to isolate, test and treat Ebola patients. They were staffed with locals, which helped build trust among patients. Sierra Leone has adopted a similar model for isolating Covid-19 patients.

This is not to say that Sierra Leone is certain to win the fight against the coronavirus. The government has acknowledged serious challenges, including limited testing capacity, difficulties enforcing quarantine regimens and obstacles to supplying care centers. The health system remains comparatively weak, and if the virus spreads more widely, as with Ebola, millions could be left unable to get care.

But this harsh reality only underscores the importance of simple, inexpensive policies and solutions that can prevent widespread infection and enable poor people to work and feed their families. Though each country will have to find out what works best in its own context, governments and emergency medical workers across the global south deserve more information about coronavirus strategies that are viable for them.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2020 6:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sweden Has Become the World’s Cautionary Tale

Its decision to carry on in the face of the pandemic has yielded a surge of deaths without sparing its economy from damage — a red flag as the United States and Britain move to lift lockdowns.

LONDON — Ever since the coronavirus emerged in Europe, Sweden has captured international attention by conducting an unorthodox, open-air experiment. It has allowed the world to examine what happens in a pandemic when a government allows life to carry on largely unhindered.

This is what has happened: Not only have thousands more people died than in neighboring countries that imposed lockdowns, but Sweden’s economy has fared little better.

“They literally gained nothing,” said Jacob F. Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s a self-inflicted wound, and they have no economic gains.”

The results of Sweden’s experience are relevant well beyond Scandinavian shores. In the United States, where the virus is spreading with alarming speed, many states have — at President Trump’s urging — avoided lockdowns or lifted them prematurely on the assumption that this would foster economic revival, allowing people to return to workplaces, shops and restaurants.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson — previously hospitalized with Covid-19 — reopened pubs and restaurants last weekend in a bid to restore normal economic life.

Implicit in these approaches is the assumption that governments must balance saving lives against the imperative to spare jobs, with the extra health risks of rolling back social distancing potentially justified by a resulting boost to prosperity. But Sweden’s grim result — more death, and nearly equal economic damage — suggests that the supposed choice between lives and paychecks is a false one: A failure to impose social distancing can cost lives and jobs at the same time.

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