Noted Odia poet and short story writer Banaj Devi will be honoured with the 38th edition of the prestigious Sarala award for her short story compilation Kathapua. The annual Sarala Puraskar, recognised as one of the foremost literary awards of the State, comprises a cash award of ₹5 lakh along with a citation. Given away every year by the Indian Metals Public Charitable Trust (IMPaCT), Sarala Puraskar would be presented to her at a special function to be held on October 26 here, a release from IMPaCT said. Besides Banaj Devi, two more prominent personalities of Odisha will be honoured for their valuable contribution in the field of music and art. While Pandeet Guru Dr Ghasiram Mishra will be awarded ‘Ila Panda Sangeet Samman’, Dr Durga Prasad Das will receive ‘Ila Panda Chitrakala Samman’. They will receive a cash award of ₹1,50,000 each and citations. Eminent writer Mamang Dai has consented to be the Chief Guest of the Sarala Award function, the release said. The Sarala Puraskar, instituted by Odia industrialist Dr Bansidhar Panda and Late Ila Pnada in 1979, has been continuously awarded by IMPaCT, the charitable wing of IMFA Group.
The J&K Crime Branch submitted a chargesheet in court on Monday against the seven accused in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua.“The chargesheet against the seven accused persons involved in the crime has been produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kathua,” said Inspector-General of Police, Crime Branch, Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba.The seven accused charged under Sections 302, 376, 201 and 120-B of the Ranbir Penal Code, were identified as a retired government official, Sanjhi Ram; his son Vishal, special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma; head constable Tilak Raj; sub-inspector Anand Dutta; and a civilian, Parvesh Kumar.The Crime Branch said it was in the process of producing a separate chargesheet against a “juvenile, who is among the main accused in the crime”. The lawyers of the Kathua Bar Association held protests to stop the police from submitting the chargesheet.“We want an investigation done by the CBI,” said a protesting lawyer.A eight-year-old girl from a nomad community was kidnapped on January 10 from Kathua’s Hiranagar area and her body was found in a forest area on January 17, triggering street protests in Kashmir valley and parts of Jammu. The family alleged that she was kidnapped, drugged, raped and murdered inside a temple in Kathua, apparently to drive away the community from the area.The four policemen in the case were accused of “destroying evidence.” Another accused who confessed to the crime was initially believed to be 15 years old, but was declared a 19-year-old by a medical board set up by the court.
Dilipkumar Paul, Deputy Speaker of the Assam Assembly, had mixed feelings following the release of the draft National Register of Citizens [NRC] on Monday. His wife Archana’s name did not feature in the draft, which left him a little worried. However, the Barak Valley, often described as a division filled with Bangladeshis, got rid of its “Bangladeshi tag”. Mr. Paul, hailing from Cachar district of Barak Valley, said the latest NRC draft had put an end to the controversy about the citizenship of the residents of the Valley, south of Assam. “It was often claimed that we are all or the majority of us are from Bangladesh. But Monday’s draft stated that nearly 90% of Barak residents are Indian citizens. This will set the record straight,” he said. He was a little uncomfortable about the fact that his wife’s name was missing. “But I’m not tense as it will eventually be included,” said Mr. Paul, an MLA from Cachar district. The three districts of Barak Valley — Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj — have a population of about 37 lakh, noted the 2011 Census. Monday’s draft has dropped nearly four lakh of the 37 lakh residents, predominantly Bengalis.‘No need to panic’About 8% of the residents of Cachar, 11.82% of Karimganj and 14.2% of Hylakandi did not feature in the latest draft. Altogether a little over 11% residents could not make it. “But there is no reason to panic. Once the final list is out, we will find that only a tiny percentage is left out,” he said.
Work on the 103 km Kolhapur-Vaibhavwadi section of the Konkan Railway will begin soon. This decision was taken at a review meeting of Konkan Corporation Limited (KRCL) chaired by Union Minister for Commerce and Industry and Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu in New Delhi.The meeting on Tuesday was attended by the Chairman, Railway Board, Chairman and Managing director, KRCL and other senior officials. The Kolhapur-Vaibhavwadi line has already been sanctioned by the Railway Ministry. Indian Railways will bear 50% of the cost and the rest will be borne by the Government of Maharashtra.During the discussions the Minister said that the construction of the section will be a game changer for not only the Konkan Railway but also for the region and the economy of Maharashtra. It will link the coastal region of Maharashtra with Western Maharashtra, lead to development of ports and harbours and allow flow of goods from the hinterland to the coast, he said.Mr. Prabhu also said that the construction of the line will facilitate the movement of petroleum from the world’s largest integrated refinery cum petrochemicals complexes being built near Vaibhavwadi in Ratnagiri district, in the Konkan region of Maharashtra. The $40 billion mega refinery is being built by IOC, BPCL and HPCL and is expected to be commissioned by 2022. It will have a capacity of 60 million metric tonnes per annum (MMTPA), a press release issued by Press information Bureau on Thursday said.The Minister further said that future economic growth of Maharashtra depends on the connectivity of its coastal areas with the rest of the state and the country.KRCL officials told the Minister that in order to improve services, Konkan Railway is proposing to connect more villages and towns in the region and 10 new stations are being built. The first of these will be inaugurated in January 2019.
Five militants were killed in an operation of the secuirty forces in Shopian district on Saturday.An Army spokesman one militant was shot dead on Friday night when the security forces cordoned off Kilora village and came under fire from hiding militants.”Four bodies were found on Saturday morning at the encounter site,” said the Army.The police have identified one slain militant, Umar Malik, so far. “The operation is on,” said the police.The fresh killing takes death of militants in multiple operations to nine in the past three days in Kashmir.
Meghalaya Chief Minister and National People’s Party (NPP) president Conrad K. Sangma on Monday won the South Tura by-election, defeating his nearest Congress rival Charlotte W. Momin by over 8,400 votes.While Mr. Sangma secured 13,655 votes, Ms. Momin polled 5,235 votes. Mr. Sangma’s sister Agatha had vacated her seat to enable him to contest in the bypoll.While the strength of the NPP continues to remain as 20 in the 60-member Assembly, the Congress has lost a seat.United Democratic Party (UDP) candidate Pious Marwein won the Ranikor Assembly seat by securing 9028 votes, defeating his nearest rival Martin M. Danggo.Incidentally, Mr. Danggo, who was elected from Ranikor on the Congress ticket, joined the NPP and sought re-election. The five-time MLA, however, secured only 6287 votes this time. Congress candidate Jackuish A. Sangma managed to get only 711 votes and finished at the distant fourth.Even though the NPP and the UDP are part of the six-party Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) that has formed the government, they chose to field candidates separately in Ranikor.Besides the NPP, the MDA comprises the BJP (2), NCP (1), the UDP (8), the Peoples Democratic Front (4), the Hill State Peoples Democratic Party (2) and two Independents.
Launching a sharp attack on the ruling NDA government at the Centre, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav said here on Tuesday that the 2019 elections would be a fight between Mandal, Ambedkar and Gandhi on the one hand and Nathuram Godse and M.S. Golwalkar on the other.Painting a grim picture of freedom and social justice under the present government, he said at an event on the role of youth in contemporary politics that only Bahujans and the discourse of social justice can challenge the Narendra Modi government.The Leader of the Opposition in the Bihar Assembly took dig at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his 18-minute address, exhorting the youth not to be afraid and defend the “Constitution, country and reservation.”Lalu’s role“If I had known chacha [uncle] was such a coward, we would not have gone for the grand alliance in the last Bihar Assembly polls. My father was never afraid. He had arrested Advani ji during the rath yatra. He fought for reservation. He always fought like a lion,” he said, comparing Mr. Kumar to his father and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad. “My father never went back on his ideology. He never compromised with Manuwaad and communalism.”Taking a dig at Mr. Modi’s reported statement that selling pakodas was also a form of employment, Mr. Yadav said, “Modi ji says the youth should sell pakodas. We respect the youth selling pakodas, but even that requires some money. If not ₹ 15lakh, please make a start by giving people ₹ 1-2 lakh, so that they can sell pakodas.”He then added, “But if all people start selling pakodas, who will buy the pakodas?”Interactive sessionThe interactive session organised by the Forum of Students and Teachers of DU/JNU/JMI saw the presence of some academics on stage, including Delhi University professor and RJD MP Manoj Jha, JNU political scientist M.N. Thakur, and Delhi University political scientist N. Sukumar.Asked who would be the RJD candidates for the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, Mr. Yadav said it was too early to comment on this, adding that the present priority was a united front to take on the government.
In an election mired with allegations of dynasty politics yet again taking the lead in place of promoting ground level workers, Satyajeet Tambe on Friday was elected as the new state president of Indian Youth Congress. Mr. Tambe is a nephew of Balasaheb Thorat, former Maharashtra Revenue minister and a member of Congress Working Committee (CWC).“Our opponents will make these allegations of dynasty politics, but they should be reminded that I was not appointed, but elected through a process within our organisation. I lost my first two attempts and have now won in the third. This is an example of growing maturity of our inner-party democracy,” Mr. Tambe told The Hindu.Mr. Tambe has served twice as vice-president of the State unit of Youth Congress and hails from Ahmadnagar district. He won the election by over 37,190 votes against Amit Zanak, Congress MLA and son for former minister late Subhash Zanak and former minister Nitin Raut’s son Kunal Raut. Both will now serve as vice-presidents of the party. “Whether we like or not, Youth Congress was limited as a platform for youngsters within the party only. It has to be a wider one, for every youth, from urban to rural and irrespective of religious identity. I plan to make Maharashtra Youth Congress a model to be followed by all States,” said Mr. Tambe. “It has been widely believed that since 2014, despite Congress having taken a number of important decisions for the youth of this country in the past, is losing connect with the youth. My primary goal would be to address the issue as 2019 is our first challenge,” he said.
At least six fishermen were electrocuted and as many injured when a live high-voltage wire touched the water of a pond in Nagaon district of Assam Friday, police said.The incident happened in Rupohi area under Juria police station when the 11,000-volt power line, hanging loose over the pond, touched the water.Villagers had informed the electricity department around 5 am about the wire being loose but they were told that the wire was dead, police said quoting the residents.But the tragedy struck as the wire was activated when the fishermen went to the spot after an hour.The injured were rushed to the civil hospital in Nagaon, police said.Armed with sticks, irate villagers went to the residence of the electricity department official’s house and damaged his car, police said.State Power Minister Kesab Gogoi is headed to the site on the instruction of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, official sources said.
The administration of Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU), Raipur, on Sunday announced that the varsity would be closed sine die if the students go ahead with their campus-wide hunger strike on Monday.“The university appeals to all the students to call off the protest immediately and resume their classes from Monday. If the students do not call off the protest by the said date, the university shall be compelled to take appropriate course of action, including closure of the university sine die, to restore normalcy,” HNLU Vice-Chancellor Prof. Sukhpal Singh said in his appeal to the students. Prof. Singh said no positive response has come from the students despite an appeal by the university to call off the protest. He said he had assumed office on September 25 in compliance with the order of the university Chancellor. “Soon after joining you started asking for my resignation,” Prof. Singh said. “None of your activities are in accordance with the law…Your protest is an act to defeat the purpose of the stay order of the Supreme Court, and may also amount to contempt of court…The majority of students are in favour of restoring normalcy in the university. The unfortunate part of the protest is that it does not seem peaceful…and is going into the hands of outsiders which will ultimately cause irreparable damage to image of the university,” he wrote in his one-page letter.However, the protesting students said they were not expressing disrespect towards the stay order of the Supreme Court. “Nowhere are we opposing the stay order of the Supreme Court. Our protest is peaceful and we will begin our hunger strike. We have expressed no confidence against Prof. Singh’s administration.Among the reasons provided by the students for the protest are allegations of financial irregularities, inaction against sexual harassment complaints, lack of transparency, suppression of students and the students’ association, arbitrary hiring and firing of faculty members, centralisation of administrative power, and alleged maladministration.For the past few weeks, students of the HNLU under the Student Bar Association have been protesting against the V-C. On Augus 27, the Chhattisgarh High Court had quashed the extension given to Prof. Singh as V-C but the Supreme Court stayed the HC order on September 20.
A contentious decision of the Udaipur Urban Improvement Trust to redefine and protect the boundaries of the famous Pichola and Fateh Sagar lakes at their “full tank level” has led to 30% shrinkage in their size and reduced their submergence area to 4.5 sq. km and 2.5 sq. km, respectively. The subsequent construction activities on the lakefront land have changed their ecological character of the once beautiful lakes.The increasing threat to the lake ecosystem in the City of Lakes, which is a globally renowned tourist destination, is conspicuous by its absence as an issue in the election campaign. The tribal-dominated Lok Sabha constituency in southern Rajasthan has witnessed steady inroads made by the BJP during the last two decades. In the poll battle for the 17th Lok Sabha in the constituency reserved for the Scheduled Tribes, the BJP has been trying to influence the voters through its high-pitched campaign highlighting the Balakot air strikes in retaliation for the Pulwama terror attack.Of the eight Assembly segments in the LS constituency, the BJP had won seven and the Congress one in the 2018 election, which was a repeat of the 2013 Assembly election results. Sitting BJP MP Arjun Lal Meena, who is contesting again this time, has sought votes for another term with an entreaty that it would “to help him complete his unfinished projects”. However, rejuvenation of shrinking lakes has failed to find a mention in his campaign.Mr. Meena said though the Congress had formed the government in the State, it would face defeat in the Mewar region. On the other hand, Congress candidate Raghuveer Meena, a three-time MLA and an ex-MP, said the Centre’s Smart City project had failed in Udaipur, with most of the roads dug up, and only a fraction of the sanctioned funds had been spent on improving the city’s infrastructure.Poor implementation Activists in the region blame poor implementation of the National Lake Conservation Plan for the pathetic condition of lakes. Jheel Sanrakshan Samiti’s joint secretary Anil Mehta said told The Hindu that the entire lake system , comprising Pichola, Fateh Sagar, Swaroop Sagar, Badi and Udai Sagar, should be restored to the “maximum water level” with the erection of pillars and the lakefront be left undisturbed for nesting and breeding activities of local and migratory birds. The Jheel Sanrakshan Samiti has also called upon the authorities to stop plying of motorised boats for tourists in the lakes. Dr. Mehta said the diesel and petrol-run boats were polluting the lake waters and increasing the growth of algae as well as sediments at the bottom. Among all lakes, Fateh Sagar is a major source of drinking water for residents of Udaipur.The lakes are also facing contamination caused by the discharge of pollutants from the phosphorite mines and chemical factories and the release of sewage and domestic waste from settlements and hotels. Dr. Mehta said the destruction of lakes had not been raised as a political issue during elections because of the nexus between the powerful lobby of hoteliers and land mafia.Firoze Suhail, a resident of Panchwati locality near the Saheliyon Ki Bari tourist spot, said that not a single project of Smart City had been completed in the last four years., while all main roads, bylanes and arterial roads had been dug up for laying of cables and sewer lines. The citizens would not just consider the national issues, but also the poor infrastructure and damage to lakes while exercising their franchise, he said.
About 750 years ago, a powerful volcano erupted somewhere on Earth, kicking off a centuries-long cold snap known as the Little Ice Age. Identifying the volcano responsible has been tricky. Now, using geochemical, stratigraphic, and even historical data, a team of scientists has fingered a likely culprit: Indonesia’s Samalas volcano, part of the Rinjani Volcanic Complex on Lombok Island.The Little Ice Age has been abundantly depicted in contemporary accounts of advancing mountain glaciers that destroyed villages and paintings of ice-skating on frozen Dutch canals or on London’s River Thames, but the date of its actual onset was uncertain. Chilling of the Northern Hemisphere was pronounced: cold summers, incessant rains, floods, and resulting poor harvests, according to medieval records.That a powerful volcano erupted somewhere in the world, sometime in the Middle Ages, is written in polar ice cores in the form of layers of sulfate deposits and tiny shards of volcanic glass. These cores suggest that the amount of sulfur the mystery volcano sent into the stratosphere put it firmly among the ranks of the strongest climate-perturbing eruptions of the current geological epoch, the Holocene, a period that stretches from 10,000 years ago to the present. A haze of stratospheric sulfur cools climate by reflecting solar energy back into space.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)In 2012, a team of scientists led by geochemist Gifford Miller of the University of Colorado, Boulder, strengthened the link between the mystery eruption and the onset of the Little Ice Age by using radiocarbon dating of dead plant material from beneath the ice caps on Baffin Island and Iceland, as well as ice and sediment core data, to determine that the cold summers and ice growth began abruptly between 1275 and 1300 C.E. (and became intensified between 1430 and 1455 C.E.). Such a sudden onset, they noted in Geophysical Research Letters in 2012, pointed to a huge volcanic eruption injecting sulfur into the stratosphere and starting the cooling. Subsequent, unusually large and frequent eruptions of other volcanoes, as well as sea-ice/ocean feedbacks persisting long after the aerosols have been removed from the atmosphere, may have prolonged the cooling through the 1700s. Volcanologist Franck Lavigne of the Université Paris in and colleagues now think they’ve identified the volcano in question: Indonesia’s Samalas. One line of evidence, they note this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is historical records. According to Babad Lombok, records of the island written on palm leaves in Old Javanese, Samalas erupted catastrophically before the end of the 13th century, devastating surrounding villages—including Lombok’s capital at the time, Pamatan—with ash and fast-moving sweeps of hot rock and gas called pyroclastic flows.The researchers then began to reconstruct the formation of the large, 800-meter-deep caldera that now sits atop the volcano. They examined 130 outcrops on the flanks of the volcano, exposing sequences of pumice—ash hardened into rock—and other pyroclastic material. The volume of ash deposited, and the estimated height of the eruption plume (43 kilometers above sea level) put the eruption’s magnitude at a minimum of 7 on the volcanic explosivity index (which has a scale of 1 to 8)—making it one of the largest known in the Holocene. The eruption, the authors note, was on the scale of the Tambora eruption of 1815, and more powerful than Krakatoa in 1883.The team also performed radiocarbon analyses on carbonized tree trunks and branches buried within the pyroclastic deposits to confirm the date of the eruption; it could not, they concluded, have happened before 1257 C.E., and certainly happened in the 13th century.It’s not a total surprise that an Indonesian volcano might be the source of the eruption, Miller says. “An equatorial eruption is more consistent with the apparent climate impacts.” And, he adds, with sulfate appearing in both polar ice caps—Arctic and Antarctic—there is “a strong consensus” that this also supports an equatorial source.Another possible candidate—both in terms of timing and geographical location—is Ecuador’s Quilotoa, estimated to have last erupted between 1147 and 1320 C.E. But when Lavigne’s team examined shards of volcanic glass from this volcano, they found that they didn’t match the chemical composition of the glass found in polar ice cores, whereas the Samalas glass is a much closer match. That, they suggest, further strengthens the case that Samalas was responsible for the medieval “year without summer” in 1258 C.E.
Life was tough at Teotihuacan. The biggest city in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica depended on maize and beans to keep its 100,000 residents fed, but the unfortunate combination of low rainfall and high altitude in the highlands of central Mexico led to crop failure all too often. So how did Teotihuacanos avoid starving in lean times? By drinking fermented agave sap, of course. Pulque—a distinctly mucus-y beverage made by extracting sap from the heart of a mature agave plant and letting it sit around for a few days—was known to have been made and consumed by the Aztecs around the time of the Spanish conquest in 1521 C.E. But archaeologists weren’t sure if the drink had also been popular in Teotihuacan, an earlier and culturally distinct city in central Mexico that thrived between 150 B.C.E. and 650 C.E. (Its ruins are pictured above.) Excavations at the city had turned up several ceramic vessels waterproofed with tree resin that would have been perfect for storing pulque, however. When their surfaces were chemically examined, 14 of the vessels tested positive for byproducts of a bacterium called Zymomonas mobilis, a key ingredient in pulque production, researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dating to 200 to 550 C.E., this is the earliest evidence for the production of alcohol in Mesoamerica. But pulque probably wasn’t just used for getting tipsy, the researchers propose. The drink is probiotic, nutritious, and so viscous that just one glass makes you feel full—all traits that could have made pulque an important dietary supplement for Teotihuacanos, especially in years with poor harvests.
Madagascar announced plans to triple its marine protected areas. Gabon announced it would create new marine protected areas covering 23% of its territorial waters. Panama pledged to restore 1 million hectares of degraded lands within protected areas. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) concluded its once-a-decade World Parks Congress today in Sydney, Australia, trumpeting a list of more than 70 conservation commitments announced by countries around the world. “There has been a willingness to move beyond words to action,” said IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre during the closing ceremony.Among the pledges: Bangladesh promised to create the country’s first marine protected area. The Elion Foundation and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification announced forming a public-private partnership that will plant 1.3 billion trees along the historic Silk Road as part of efforts to reduce land degradation.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)The commitments were seen as a step toward achieving new conservation goals set out by the congress in a document dubbed The Promise of Sydney, which calls for protecting at least 17% of the world’s land and 10% of its oceans by 2020.”It is clear that a large community of people understand the role of nature as a support system for our well-being,” Marton-Lefèvre told ScienceInsider. She added that many more recommendations came out of sessions focusing on topics such as protected area selection, management, financing, and evaluation. IUCN also announced the creation of a Green List of Protected Areas to recognize best practice examples of protected area management. The 8-day congress attracted 6000 participants from more than 170 countries. “We didn’t quite expect so many; Sydney is not next door to every country in the world,” Marton-Lefèvre said.On the downside, “I would have loved to have hundreds of business leaders among us; we did have some,” Marton-Lefèvre said. She also acknowledged that one major challenge facing protected areas—climate change—is beyond the purview of IUCN. “Quite a lot was said about climate change; it was in the room with us all the time,” she said. “But it wasn’t a climate conference.”
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In June 1991, the government of India pawned 67 tons of gold to the Bank of England and the Union Bank of Switzerland to shore up its dwindling foreign exchange reserves. The U.S. dollar was in great demand. By November 2009, after nearly two decades of reforms and globalization, the shoe had moved to the other foot: India bought 200 tons of gold from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The country’s reserves stood at $285 billion — compared with $2 billion in 1991 — and the demand for greenbacks had dimmed. These signs point to an upbeat outlook for the Indian economy in 2010 which, in the view of some observers, seems as bright as the gold the country has recently acquired. The year could see more gold purchases; India needs to diversify its basket of foreign assets, 90% of which is still in dollars. But foreign exchange reserves — once closely monitored — are the least of the country’s problems right now.At the top of the agenda is inflation and its trade-off partner — growth. “The evolving growth-inflation conditions will dictate the future course of action by the RBI (Reserve Bank of India),” Shyamala Gopinath, deputy governor of the RBI, said during a recent meeting in Bangalore. “The RBI has already started the first phase of exit in its October 2009 policy statement, though primarily in terms of signaling the stance rather than affecting liquidity conditions or interest rates.” Inflation will dictate the next steps of the government and the RBI. It has already reached worrisome proportions. After being in negative territory for part of 2009, wholesale price inflation jumped to 4.78% in November from 1.34% in October. Food inflation, which is more important because it affects the general population and influences voting behavior during elections, was 19% in December. “If the government starts addressing the food issue on the supply side immediately, inflation may continue to be at 4%,” says Ashvin Parekh, a partner and national leader at global financial services firm Ernst & Young (E&Y). “But if oil prices go up, inflation could go up to 5% to 6%. Until about July, it is likely to be around 4% to 6%. After that, it will depend on the monsoon.”“Inflation will continue to be a serious issue,” says Rajesh Chakrabarti, assistant professor of finance at the Hyderabad-based IndianSchool of Business (ISB). “The stimulus is doubtless fuelling it in part, and there is no way of rolling it back. So monetary measures will have to counteract it, but there is very little maneuvering room. Inflation is likely to stay at present levels or worse for much of next year.” High inflation means that the government may have to withdraw the stimulus package, introduced to counter the economic slowdown, sooner rather than later. A hint to that effect in the October 2009 RBI policy statement had the stock markets spooked, and the finance minister had to step in with the assurance that nothing would be done until March 2010. (The Union Budget is announced at the end of February.)Another measure to control inflation is to curb liquidity. There have been fears that the RBI may raise interest rates. Here, again, the RBI has been forced to step in with some damage control. “If (an increase in rates) has to happen, it will happen only in the January 29 monetary policy announcement,” RBI deputy governor K.C. Chakrabarty said during a recent meeting in Hyderabad.“Interest rates are likely to go up 1.5% to 2% over the year,” says Sunil Bhandare, advisor (government and economic policies), Tata Strategic Management Group (TSMG), a management consulting firm. “The increase will be on three considerations: inflation, the fiscal deficit and global interest rates, which are likely to increase in the next three to six months. In the first six months of calendar 2010, interest rates in India may go up by 0.5% to 1%, and thereafter by another 1% or so.” Chakrabarti of ISB believes interest rates have to rise, “but the government and RBI may be nervous about killing a fragile recovery.” The State Bank of India, meanwhile, says that it doesn’t see any chance of rate hikes in the next six months. On the other hand, the public sector Union Bank of India has raised some deposit rates beginning January 1. It has introduced a 555-day maturity scheme at 6.75% against 6% earlier.GDP Growth Because of these imponderables, estimates of GDP growth vary widely. In the April-September quarter, GDP rose a surprising 7.9%. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says he sees a return to the days of 9%-plus growth next year (2010-2011). The government’s own estimate for 2009-2010 is 7% to 8%. Given current trends, it may end up on the high side of that range.“I expect GDP growth to be around 7.5% in 2010,” says Bhandare of TSMG. “There is still some degree of uncertainty about the global recovery — production and private consumption have not picked up and unemployment is still high. A good global economic recovery will be an additional bonus for the Indian economy. If that happens, we could even see 8% GDP growth.” Adds Chakrabarti of ISB: “It should pick up a bit, but is unlikely to be too much higher. I would say 7% to 8%, or more likely 7.5%.” Madhabi Puri Buch, managing director and CEO of ICICI Securities, also sees a 9% figure as overarching. “Our economy is expected to grow at least 7.5% to 8% for many years,” she says. Parekh of E&Y is among the optimists, noting that “8% to 9% seems possible.” In contrast, the IMF has projected 6.4% growth in 2010.Good news is unlikely to be heard on all fronts. “Exports will continue to lag,” says Chakrabarti of ISB. “Exports to emerging market countries are likely to be slightly higher.” Bhandare of TSMG says export growth could be around 10% to 12% but “nowhere near the 20% that we saw earlier.” Exports have turned the corner, depending on how you look at it. In November, exports rose 18.2% to $13.2 billion after 13 months of decline. But this was on a lower base. For the first eight months of 2009-2010 (April-November), exports were down 22.3%.The fiscal deficit is another problem area. Thanks to the stimulus package, the deficit was estimated at 6.8% of GDP for 2009-2010. According to the 2003 Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, the deficit was supposed to come down to 3% by 2008-2009 — but it did not. Will the deficit surpass the extra latitude given in this crisis year? According to government figures, the deficit for April-November was $65.7 billion, or 76.4% of the full-year target. Says Chakrabarti of ISB: “The fiscal deficit, together with inflation, will be India’s Achilles’ Heel in 2010. The combined deficit … will continue to be double digits.”“In 2010, governments will face the very difficult task of trying to restore fiscal discipline while also ensuring that withdrawals of stimulus measures do not kill off nascent economic recoveries,” says the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). It estimates India’s GDP growth at 6.5%, the ninth-fastest growing country. China, at 8.7%, is ahead, but others leading the pack are small economies like Qatar (24.5%).Stock Market RollercoasterThe most-watched indicator by foreign investors is the Bombay Stock Exchange sensitive index (Sensex). This year has been a rollercoaster ride: The Sensex ended the year at 17,464, up 114% from a low of 8,160 in March. Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) have poured in $17.5 billion during the year.The Sensex value is one number nobody in the government will talk about on the grounds that it is speculation. “I don’t expect the Sensex to go up very significantly from current levels. The stock market has recovered too fast in the current year, so the opportunity for further increase will be limited,” says Bhandare of TSMG. Chakrabarti of ISB says: “Some appreciation is likely on the back of continued FII flows. The Sensex will be in the 18,000-21,000 range by the year-end.” Chakrabarti adds: “Overall, in 2010 and beyond, the economy will continue to be strong on the domestic front. The driver of growth will continue to be internal consumption, the aspirations of a large middle class and the spread of the income base across different segments of the economy. We are now seeing the emergence of a much larger and far more powerful middle class with more buying power than ever before. The growth in the automobile sector, for instance, shows that the middle class has been sitting on a certain amount of surplus money which it is now ready to deploy. India is a very peculiar economy where the middle class has a long way to go in building a good quality of life in keeping with its aspirations. This, in itself, is a big driver of growth. The dampener to the economy, however, could come from the supply side. Food prices are a major concern. Within this, the issue is not just of poor monsoons and poor food supply, but also of food management.”Bhandare of TSMG offers his own perspective. “Three significant aspects stand out in the Indian economy at present: The economy has shown tremendous resilience, there is a lot of flexibility and there is a great deal of tolerance among the Indian people — 20% food inflation should have normally led to great social discontent and people should have been out on the streets. Consumer confidence is still shaky, but the confidence levels of industry, foreign investors and domestic investors are very strong. All these factors will influence the performance of the economy in 2010. One has to make a few assumptions while looking at the outlook for 2010: There will not be a repeat of a bad monsoon; there will not be another oil shock, and commodity prices will be reasonable; there will be no major dip in the international economy; and the government will abide by the policy reforms that it is promising.” Related Items
Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant has “mega investment” plans for the world’s fastest growing oil market, according to Saudi Arabian Oil Co.’s chief executive officer.The company, popularly known as Saudi Aramco, plans to create a fully integrated business in India and is interested in partnering with Indian companies, including in a planned large refinery project on India’s west coast, CEO Amin Nasser said in New Delhi on Monday.“India has all the signs of a prosperous economy that is on the move. This is a market of investment priority and not a choice anymore,” Nasser said at the Indian Energy Forum by CERAWeek. “We have a number of partners with whom we are going to have serious discussions.”Saudi Arabia has been edged out as the top oil supplier to India amid an intensifying race among producers to retain their most-prized markets. India, which imports about 80 percent of its crude requirement, has been diversifying its sources of oil supply and is seeking more favorable terms from producers in the Middle East. It received its first oil cargo from the U.S. this month.Saudi Aramco held talks with India’s state-owned oil companies led by Indian Oil Corp. to discuss participation in the 60 million ton a year refinery being set up in the state of Maharashtra on India’s west coast, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Monday at the same event.The oil industry is pinning its hopes on India and China, together home to four of every 10 people in the world, as demand elsewhere remains weak while production stays high, keeping prices low. India’s oil demand is forecast to grow 135,000 barrels a day this year and 275,000 barrels a day in 2018, according to the International Energy Agency.Saudi Aramco opened an office in India this week primarily to market crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas as well as to provide engineering and technical services in the country. Nasser said Aramco’s plans for India would cover oil supply, refining, marketing, renewables as well as manufacturing petrochemicals and lubricants.India’s oil consumption surged 11 percent in 2016 to the most on record as rising income levels spurred greater use of cars, trucks and motorbikes.“By 2040, India is likely to be among the fastest growing oil markets, with demand almost doubling to about 10 million barrels per day. Meanwhile, demand for gas is expected to more than triple over the same period,” Nasser said.—Debjit Chakraborty, Dhwani Pandya, Saket Sundria, Bloomberg Related Items