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Among the cranes and containers of the port of Rotterdam is a surreal sight: a herd of cows peacefully feeding on board what calls itself the world's first floating farm.
In the low-lying Netherlands where land is scarce and climate change is a daily threat, the three-story glass and steel platform aims to show the "future of breeding".
The buoyant bovines live on the top floor, while their milk is turned into cheese, yogurt and butter on the middle level, and the cheese is matured at the bottom.
"The world is under pressure," says Minke van Wingerden, 60, who runs the farm with her husband Peter.
"We want the farm to be as durable and self-sufficient as possible."
The cows are a sharp contrast to the huge ships and the smoke from the refineries of Europe's biggest seaport, which accounts for 13.5 percent of the country's emissions.
With their floating farm, which opened in 2019, Peter and Minke say they wanted to "bring the countryside into the town", boost consumer awareness and create agricultural space.
The Dutch are no strangers to advanced farming methods, using a network of huge greenhouses in particular to become the world's second biggest agricultural exporter after the United States.
But that has come at a cost.
'Moves with the tide'
The Netherlands is one of Europe's largest per capita emitters of climate change gases and faces a major problem with agricultural emissions, particularly in the dairy sector which produces large amounts of methane from cows.
Those emissions in turn fuel the rising waters that threaten to swamp the country, a third of which lies below sea-level, and further reduce the land in one of the most densely populated nations on Earth.
The floating farm therefore aims to keep its cows' feet dry in both the long-term, by being sustainable, and the short-term, by, well, floating.
"We are on the water, so the farm moves with the tide -- we rise and fall up to two meters. So in case of flooding, we can continue to produce," says Minke van Wingerden.
The buoyant bovines live on the top floor, while their milk is turned into cheese, yoghurt, and butter on the middle level, and the cheese is matured at the bottom Image source: voavoa
In terms of sustainability, the farm's cows are fed on a mixture of food including grapes from a foodbank, grain from a local brewery, and grass from local golf courses and from Rotterdam's famed Feyenoord football club -- saving on waste as well as the emissions that would be required to create commercial feed for the animals.
Their manure is turned into garden pellets -- a process that helps further cut emissions by reducing methane -- and their urine is purified and recycled into drinking water for the cows, whose stable is lined with dozens of solar panels that produce enough electricity for the farm's needs.
'Cows don't get seasick'
The farm is run by a salaried farmer but the red and white cows, from the Dutch-German Meuse-Rhin-Yssel breed, are milked by robots.
The cheeses, yogurts and pellets are sold at a roadside shop alongside fare from local producers.
The products are also sold to restaurants in town by electric vehicles.
"I was immediately seduced by the concept," says Bram den Braber, 67, one of 40 volunteers at the farm, as he fills bottles of milk behind the counter of the store.
"It's not blood running through my veins, it's milk."
The idea of the farm is also to make farming "more agreeable, interesting and sexy", and not just to be environmentally friendly, says Minke van Wingerden.
When she and her husband first approached port authorities with the idea to build a floating farm, they said "are you nuts?", she recalls.
But the farm is set to turn a profit for the first time at the end of 2021, with consumers apparently ready to pay the 1.80 euro ($2.12) a liter for milk produced there, compared to around one euro at a supermarket.
They are also aiming to build a second floating farm to grow vegetables, and to export their idea, with a project already under way in the island nation of Singapore.
Most importantly, while farming goes greener, the animals don't.
"No, the cows don't get seasick," says van Wingerden. "The water moves only a little bit, it's like you were on a cruise ship." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Cow farm, Dutch cows, Floating farm, Climate Change
High drama was witnessed in Kanpur Dehat for over an hour when a man, upset over his wife's alleged affair with a local man, climbed the tower with his children and threatened to commit suicide. The incident took place on Monday near Gandhi Nagar in Akbarpur, when the man threatened to commit suicide after throwing his kids down from a height of nearly 40-feet. Chaos prevailed around the area and the locals informed the police that rushed to the spot.
After about half-an-hour of convincing, the police managed to bring him and his children down. The man told the police that his wife's affair was going on with his neighbor. He had complained to the police, but no action was taken. Police said that as per the man, his wife had developed an illicit relationship with a man, living nearby their house. "As per the man, in his absence, his neighbor visited his house often. He said that he had reprimanded his neighbor many times, but to no avail," said the police.
The man had complained to the police, but no action was taken. | Pixabay
The man had also lodged a complaint with the police but no action was taken. On the other hand, Akbarpur police said that on the basis of the complaint, action for breach of peace has been taken against the neighbor accused of luring his wife. Circle officer (CO) Akbarpur Arun Kumar said that the police are trying to sort out the issue. "Whatever action is appropriate will be taken," the official added. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, man, wife, alleged, affair, children, India, police, neighbor, complaint, suicide, accuse, drama.)
The US forces continued their bombardment of buildings and institutions in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province, as part of their alleged manhunt of Islamic State (IS) fugitives, state news agency SANA reported. The US forces are shelling buildings and public institutions on Tuesday in the vicinity of the Sina'a prison in the Gweiran neighborhood in Hasakah "on the pretext of hunting down IS militants who fled the prison," said SANA.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry has slammed the US airstrikes as civilian casualties have been reported. | Wikimedia Commons
The shelling came in tandem with waves of raids by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to homes in the surrounding areas, rounding up many civilians and taking them to unknown locations, the state news agency added. On January 20, IS inmates inside the Sina'a prison, which is controlled by the SDF, started a riot that was coordinated with IS militants from outside, who detonated the prison's gates with two booby-trapped vehicles, succeeding to free some prisoners.
The incident triggered clashes between IS and the SDF as well as US airstrikes on the areas, where the IS fugitives could have sought shelter in, Xinhua news agency reported. The clashes and airstrikes are still ongoing as the SDF has so far failed to contain the situation and storm the prison. The Syrian Foreign Ministry has slammed the US airstrikes as civilian casualties have been reported. Hasakah province is largely controlled by the US-backed SDF, while certain areas, particularly in the city of Qamishli, are still under the control of the Syrian government. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: US forces, shelling, bombarding, syria, islamic state, civilian casualties, qamishli, tandem, syrian democratic forces)
The circulating avian influenza outbreaks, including in India, do not seem to pose the 'high' risk but surveillance and biosecurity measures are necessary to reduce spillover risk between poultry and wild birds, a UN-backed scientific task force said. Throughout the past autumn and current winter in the northern hemisphere, multiple avian influenza outbreaks, caused predominantly by the H5N1 HPAI virus, plus other subtypes, including H5N8, have occurred in India, the UK, the Netherlands and Israel with the ever recorded mortality of the Svalbard barnacle geese in Solway Coast.
The Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds, co-convened by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), on Monday recommended that surveillance and biosecurity measures are reinforced to reduce spillover risk between poultry and wild birds. The Task Force has convened and produced recommendations and guidance for authorities and managers of countries affected or at risk. Wild birds, including globally threatened species, are victims of HPAI viruses causing avian influenza. Affected sites also include areas of international relevance for conservation such as protected wetlands.
More than 2,400 migratory water birds died in the Pong wetlands in Himachal last year because of avian influenza. | Unsplash
It is essential that authorities with responsibility for animal health apply the One Health approach for communicating and addressing avian influenza. That means recognising the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment and acting with a coordinated and unified approach. The Task Force reminds authorities of their international obligations to ensure their response to the pathogenic virus does not include the culling of wild birds, nor actions that would cause damage to natural ecosystems, especially wetlands.
Ruth Cromie, who coordinated the work of the Task Force and the production of the statement, said: "Avian influenza represents a One Health issue threatening health across the board. The highly pathogenic viruses are still relatively new in wild birds and this winter's high levels of mortality remind us of their vulnerability and that working to promote healthy wildlife benefits us all." H5N1 is currently the avian influenza lineage most found in Africa and Eurasia in both poultry and wild birds. The wide range of wild birds affected include wildfowl, waders, gulls, cranes, grebes, herons, pelicans, gamebirds, corvids and raptors (diurnal and nocturnal), in addition to sporadic cases in mammals such as red fox (Vulpes vulpes), Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) and harbor Phoca vitulina and grey seal Halichoerus grypus.
Consider occupational exposure, e.g. those working on poultry culling operations. | Unsplash
In terms of human health, the currently circulating H5N1 HPAI viruses do not seem to pose the same zoonotic risk as the 'original' Asian lineage H5N1 (clade 2.2 and their derivatives plus clade 184.108.40.206b H5N6 viruses currently in China). In general, the risk can be considered low, recognising that some agencies now consider occupational exposure, e.g. those working on poultry culling operations, as low or moderate. In India, several instances of bird flu were reported in 2021. More than 2,400 migratory water birds, and almost half of them being endangered bar-headed goose, died in the Pong wetlands in Himachal Pradesh last year and that avian influenza (H5N1) was the cause.
Besides the bar-headed goose, the other species that died were the shoveler, the river tern, the pochard and the common teal. An 11-year-old boy died at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi last year due to avian influenza, country's first fatality. India reported the first outbreak of avian influenza in 2006. RSPB Scotland is calling for an emergency local moratorium restricting shooting on the Solway for the rest of the wildfowling season. It calls for urgent action to reduce the devastating impacts of avian influenza. New statistics from the most recent counts show that the UK is this winter experiencing the worst outbreak of this deadly disease on record, with migratory geese which 'over winter' on the Solway being the hardest hit.
According to RSPB Scotland, the latest population counts of the Svalbard barnacle goose show a drop in numbers from 43,703 in November last year to 27,133 in this month's count. This represents a decline of 38 per cent in the Svalbard breeding population of this species from winter 2020-21. CMS Executive Secretary Amy Fraenkel said: "Through late 2021 and early 2022 there have been numerous outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1, with severe impacts on migratory birds. "The CMS Secretariat responded by convening the Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds together with the FAO. We are pleased to share its advice and key recommendations for countries affected or at risk, and look forward to continuing our collaborative work to minimize risks to humans, poultry and wild populations of migratory birds." (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : avian, influenza, surveillance, United Nation, scientists, breeding, population, birds, affected, countries, poultry, migratory, health, issue, virus, responsibility, international, ecosystem.)