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Tons of Dead Fish in Pakistan Prompt Authorities to conduct Drinking Water Tests

Samples of water and dead fish sent for forensic testing after a complaint

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Dead fish in Rawal lake
Dead fish float on the surface of Rawal lake on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, July 15, 2017. VOA
  • Tons of dead fish found in Islamabad’s Rawal lake 
  • Samples of water and dead fish sent for forensic testing
  • No alert issued by the police and the fisheries department yet 

Authorities in Pakistan’s capital are investigating the water in the city’s main reservoir after tons of dead fish were found in a lake on the city’s outskirts.

Police officer Imran Haider says Saturday samples of water and dead fish from Rawal Lake have been collected and sent for forensic testing after a complaint received from the capital’s fisheries department.

ALSO READ: Seawater can turn into drinking water for millions around the world without access to Clean Water

According to Haider, Mohammad Sadiq Buzdar of the fisheries department said there has been an increasing number of dead fish in the lake since monsoon rains began three days earlier.

Police and the fisheries department have not yet issued any alert regarding the situation.

Rawal Dam is one of two that enable water reservoir lakes for the capital. (VOA)

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Monsoon Bliss: Drenched in Rain Kutch is a Must Visit (Environmental Feature)

The monsoon brings out a different facet of Kutch, the brown transforms into green

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Kutch
Rann Utsav in Kutch. Pixabay

Bhuj, Sep 09, 2017: White, fluffy clouds hanging low over green hills, little pools of still water teeming with migratory birds and an omnipresent cool breeze — the semi-arid region of Kutch in Gujarat transforms into a completely different avatar during the monsoon.

And although winter — the time detailed as “ideal” to visit this region — shows you a side of hers that’s truly unique, Kutch makes for a pretty picture during the rains, perfect for a rejuvenating holiday.

Nestling on the country’s western border, close to the Arabian Sea, Kutch had recently been in the news for the cyclonic storm-induced thundershowers that lasted five days. Before that, and like the rest of the state, floods had also hit the region in July.

“Heavy showers are normal during the monsoon,” local taxi driver and long-time Bhuj resident Anwar Khatri said, indicating that the heavy rainfall was not out-of-the-ordinary. “But in the last three-four years, we have had very scanty rainfall. The monsoon brings out a different facet of Kutch, the brown transforms into green.”

Kutch occupies an important geographical location when it comes to birds, said ornithologist Jugal Kishor Tiwari, since it falls on their migration route. His organisation, Centre for Desert and Ocean (CEDO), works on wildlife conservation and promotes nature tourism.

And although the winter is a brilliant time to spot a host of migratory birds, one can indulge in some bird-watching during the monsoon as well. CEDO, which is based out of Moti Virani village, some 400 km from Gujarat capital Gandhinagar, organises tailor-made tours of such nature.

A visit to Kutch would however be incomplete without witnessing its rich treasure trove of handicrafts. Ajrakh (block printing), camel leather craft, Bandhni, different forms of weaving, bellmetal craft, Kutch embroidery — the list is endless — and nothing beats the wonder of watching an artisan work on his or her craft.

After the devastating earthquake in 2001, several NGOs took up the initiative of supporting artisans and their art, even reviving some, and helping them find suitable markets to showcase and sell their products beyond the state’s and the nation’s borders.

There are many such NGOs within a radius of 10-15 kilometres from Bhuj — the point you will either fly down to or reach by train — and one can visit their campuses to see some of these exquisite crafts take shape and understand the story behind them from the artisans themselves. Some names to look out for would be Shrujan, Khamir, and LLDC (Living and Learning Design Centre).

About eight kilometres from Bhuj is a village called Bhujodi, which has the Ashapura Crafts Park set up for artisans to display and sell their work. Again, one can meet weavers, tie-dye artists, block printers and others here. Needless to say, it will leave you wanting for more shopping bags to fill!

From the well-known to the lesser known — a monsoon visit to Kutch would also remain wanting without a trip to one of its pristine beaches. Mandvi is the closest to Bhuj and there are many resorts close by with their own private beach enclosures. The high point of the beaches here — Pingleshwar, about 98 km from Bhuj, a hidden gem — is witnessing the marine life. Jelly fish and hermit crabs are a common sight and the multi-coloured sea weeds look extraordinary.

Also Read: History of Rigvedic river Saraswati

If the children are more in the mood for some fun and frolic, Mandvi has ample opportunity for water sports as well — which may be restricted when the weather is grey. But a ride on a camel would more than compensate for that!

With the temperature hovering on the pleasant side of the scale and a constant breeze, one can also opt for some historical sight-seeing. The Aina Mahal, with its blue tiles, Venetian-style chandeliers and walls studded with mirrors, is a must-visit. Next door is the 19th century Prag Mahal, a brilliant example of Italian-Gothic architecture.

As you travel around the place and move on the fringes of the main town of Bhuj, it is difficult to miss the vast expanses of agricultural land with acres after acres of pomegranate plantations, palm groves and cotton fields — all this thanks to drip-irrigation, which has brought about a sea-change in the region’s crop pattern. With the green hills in the backdrop, it’s a sight to behold. Soak it in, for, with the changing season, Kutch will soon reveal a different face. (IANS)

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Plastic Found in 83% Drinking Water on Five Continents, Nobody is Safe

While the health impact of ingesting plastics are unclear, it is not something you would want to consume

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Plastic
A shelf full of various kinds of bottled water is pictured at a supermarket in Beijing. (VOA)
  • Tiny particles of degraded plastic called microplastics found in drinking water
  • Consumption of microplastics by fishes are known to stunt growth, inhibit hatching of eggs and increase mortality rates
  • The tiny pieces of plastic have been found in both, public taps and bottled water

London, September 7, 2017 : Tiny pieces of plastic have been found in drinking water on five continents – from Trump Tower in New York to a public tap on the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda – posing a potential risk to people’s health, researchers said on Wednesday.

Plastic degrades over time into tiny particles known as microplastics, which were found in 83 percent of samples from Germany to Cuba to Lebanon analyzed by U.S.-based digital news organization Orb Media.

“If you ask people whether they want to be eating or drinking plastic, they just say, ‘No, that’s a dumb question,’ ” said Sherri Mason, one of study’s authors and a chemistry professor at the State University of New York.

“It’s probably not something that we want to be ingesting, but we are, whether through our drinking water, through beer, juice. It’s in our food, sea salt, mussels. Nobody is safe,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Microplastics of up to 5 millimeters are also in bottled water, she said.

The health impact of ingesting plastics are unclear, but studies on fish have shown they inhibit hatching of fertilized eggs, stunt growth and make them more susceptible to predators, increasing mortality rates.

Microplastics absorb toxic chemicals from the marine environment, which are released into the bodies of fish and mammals who consume them, Orb Media’s chief executive, Molly Bingham, said in a statement.

While many studies have shown the prevalence of microplastics in the world’s oceans, where more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are floating, it is the first time research has been conducted into drinking water. (VOA)

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Will Pakistan listen to USA and Stop Harboring Taliban and other terrorist groups?

Pakistan said that Afghan Terror groups don't need hideouts or sanctuaries in Pakistan

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A Pakistani border security guard stands alert at Pakistan-Afghanistan border post
A Pakistani border security guard stands alert at Pakistan-Afghanistan border post. VOA
  • America have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time Pakistan is housing the very terrorists they are fighting
  • Washington and Kabul have long accused Islamabad of turning a blind eye on the issue of safe havens to Afghan Taliban and the notorious Haqqani network
  • Top leaders of both groups-Taliban and the Haqqani network enjoy the ability to live freely in certain parts of Pakistan

Washington, USA, September 2, 2017: In his South Asia strategy speech last week, President Donald Trump publicly puts Pakistan on notice that it must stop providing sanctuaries to armed groups that are fighting in Afghanistan.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” said Trump, laying out his “condition-based approach” to defeating terrorism in Afghanistan.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists we are fighting. But that will have to change and that will change immediately,” he vowed.

Washington and Kabul have long accused Islamabad of turning a blind eye on the issue of safe havens to Afghan Taliban and the notorious Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

Analysts charge that sanctuaries in Pakistan have helped the militants sustain a bloody insurgency in Afghanistan against the Western-backed Afghan government.

“Top leaders of both groups [Taliban and the Haqqani network] enjoy the ability to live freely in certain parts of Pakistan — mainly Baluchistan province, but also some of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,” Michel Kugelman, a South Asia analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, told VOA.

“It is not just the leaderships of these groups that enjoy Pakistani largesse; it’s the fighters, too,” he added.

Also Read: The US Designates Hizbul Mujahideen as Foreign Terrorist Organization

Where are the sanctuaries?

Afghan Taliban’s leadership council, known as the Quetta Shura, is reportedly based in the Pakistani southwestern city of Quetta, which shares a border with Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, the traditional stronghold of the Afghan Taliban.

The Haqqani network, one of the most notorious terror groups in the region, is reportedly based in Miram Shah, a town in the Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of northern Pakistan. The group, which has been blamed for numerous deadly attacks inside Afghanistan against U.S.-led NATO forces and the Afghan government, is reportedly operating with impunity from across the border.

The Afghan government charges that militant sanctuaries are the main reason behind the country’s instability.

“Neighbor countries have been a major part of the problem in Afghanistan. Terrorists’ safe havens and sanctuaries are out of Afghanistan, where they get support, training, and equipment,” Ahmad Shah Katawazai, a defense liaison at the Afghan embassy in Washington, told VOA.

Pakistan’s response

Pakistan maintains that the Afghan Taliban controls large swaths of territory inside Afghanistan and does not need to have sanctuaries inside Pakistan.

“They don’t need hideouts or sanctuaries in Pakistan. They have vast territory [under their control], which is beyond Kabul’s writ, at their disposal. Why would they come to Pakistan for sanctuaries?” Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said over the weekend.

Following Trump’s speech, Pakistan denied the allegations that it harbors militants and cited its sacrifices in the ongoing war against terror as an example of how the country itself has been a victim of terrorism.

In an effort to illustrate its displeasure at the U.S president’s speech, Pakistan postponed Asif’s planned trip to Washington and also delayed a planned visit to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells to Islamabad.

Could the U.S. take unilateral action?

As the administration is weighing its options to deal with the issue of sanctuaries in Pakistan, some analysts doubt Pakistan will take action against militants operating from its soil unless more rigorous pressure is applied on the country.

“The Trump administration will need to deploy new forms of pressure. Previous forms of pressure — threats, aid conditionalities and aid cuts — have not worked. The administration will need to step up its actions and make them much more draconian — and this is clearly already under consideration,” Kugelman, of the Woodrow Wilson Center, told VOA.

Meanwhile, David Des Roches, an associate professor at the National Defense University in Washington, believes that while it is unlikely that the Pakistanis would back down publicly, it “is quite possible that they will facilitate enhanced American action against militants in Pakistan.”

What seems unclear so far is to what lengths the U.S. is willing to go as far as tackling the issue of safe havens in Pakistan.

While talking to reporters at the State Department last week, U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hinted that the U.S. would target terrorists “wherever they live” without elaborating further.

“There’s been an erosion of trust because we have witnessed terrorist organizations being given safe haven inside of Pakistan to plan and carry out attacks against U.S. servicemen, U.S. officials, disrupting peace efforts inside of Afghanistan,” Tillerson said.

Also Read: ‘Blood Stained Hands’ Plan to Take Over Pakistan’s Political Reigns as Terrorist Organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) Prepares to Enter Politics

Sanctions

Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, told VOA that the U.S. should target Taliban and Haqqani network sanctuaries inside Pakistan and push Islamabad “out of its comfort zone.”

“Pakistan has become comfortable with its dual policy; receives U.S. assistance and works to defeat the U.S. in Afghanistan,” Khalilzad said.

He advocated for sanctions against senior military and intelligence officers who support extremist groups.

“Take Pakistan off the list of the major non-NATO ally, which provides the opportunity to receive significant security assistance; suspend assistance program; push IMF, World Bank, and Asian and European allies to suspend assistance programs,” Khalilzad added.

“If America imposes sanctions, Pakistan will probably be unable to receive assistance from IMF and the World Bank, and international companies will not be willing to invest in Pakistan,” Saad Mohammad Khan, a retired Pakistani military leader, told VOA. (VOA)