may get too warm to farm
PARIS (AFP) – Climate
change is on track to disrupt lifeline food crops across
large swathes of Africa and Asia already mired in chronic
poverty, according to an international study released
More than 350 million people face a “perfect storm” of
conditions for potential food disaster, warns the report by
scientists in the Consultative Group on International
Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
Temperature increases projected by UN climate scientists
could, by 2050, shorten growing seasons below critical
thresholds, worsen weather variability, and render many
regions dominated by subsistence farming unsuitable for key
If these areas have a history of persistent food shortages
to begin with, the mix could be lethal.
“We are starting to see much more clearly where the effect
of climate change on agriculture could intensify hunger and
poverty,” said Patti Kristjanson, a scientist at CGIAR’s
Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food
Farmers know from experience how to cope with fickle weather
patterns by changing planting schedules and moving
But rapid and major climate shifts may force them to use
“entirely new crops or new farming systems,” and many may
not be able to adapt, Kristjanson said.
The 100-page study identifies potential food crisis
“hotspots” by overlaying three kinds of data onto global and
One identifies areas likely to heat up beyond optimal
conditions – or even outright tolerance – for major crops,
including rice, maize (corn) and beans.
Average maximum temperatures during growing seasons, for
example, are poised to rise above 30 degrees Celsius (86
degrees Fahrenheit) across parts of west and southern
Africa, India and China by 2050.
In some agricultural zones growing seasons may be shortened
by at least five percent, and in others year-on-year
variation in rain will likely to exceed 21 percent, both
considered viability thresholds for certain crops, the study
|Pakistan jacks up
annual defence spending
|ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan’s government jacked up
defence spending and government employees’ pensions in a new
budget on Friday that set a deficit of four percent of GDP.
The budget for the fiscal year 2011-2012 starting July 1
came as pressure mounts on Pakistan to launch a military
offensive in the restive North Waziristan region, known as
the hub of Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militants.
It earmarked 495 billion rupees ($5.7 billion) for defence,
an 11 per cent increase on the current year.
“We stand by our valiant men, who are laying down their
lives to safeguard our country,” finance minister Abdul
Hafeez Shaikh told parliament.
“The country has constantly been suffering because of the
existing security situation” but the government was
determined to improve the economy and provide security to
the people, he said.
More than 4,410 people have been killed across Pakistan in
bomb blasts and suicide attacks blamed in Taliban- and
Al-Qaeda-linked militants since July 2007.
The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for a
string of recent attacks against government security forces,
vowing to launch even larger ones to avenge the killing of
Osama bin Laden, shot dead in a US raid last month.
|Indian guru on hunger
strike over graft
|Baba Ramdev, India’s most celebrated yoga guru, has
begun a “fast-unto-death” in an effort to raise awareness
against rampant corruption in the country.
The guru began his indefinite fast in New Delhi early on
Saturday, joined by thousands of his supporters.
Ramdev pressed ahead with his much-publicised fast after
several federal ministers dispatched by prime minister
Manmohan Singh failed to persuade him to call off his
Senior minister Kapil Sibal, who led the talks with the
guru, said on Friday that the government “had a constructive
dialogue on the issues. We are very happy with the
But he added that “we cannot expect that these issues can be
resolved today because they have long-term implications”.
Before launching the fast, Ramdev held a yoga and prayer
session during which he told the gathering that his protest
was intended to “save the country from corruption and ensure
that the poor get a good life”.
He wants the government to bring back “unaccounted wealth”
that the corrupt have allegedly stashed away in foreign
The government fears the protest, by the guru whose
televised yoga lessons reach 30 million viewers and whose
empire is worth $40m, could fuel voter anger.
|No proof vegetables
behind bacteria outbreak: Lab
|ROME (AFP) – Scientific tests have failed to support the
hypothesis that contaminated vegetables are behind a deadly
bacteria outbreak in Europe, the EU’s Reference Laboratory
for E. coli in Rome said on Friday.
“Alarmism over the consumption of vegetables is not
justified... since laboratory analyses do not support the
hypothesis that contaminated vegetables were the source of
the infection,” the laboratory said in a statement.
The laboratory, part of Italy’s Higher Institute for Health
(ISS), said it would be sufficient to follow basic kitchen
hygiene to avoid infection, such as washing your hands after
handling food and ensuring knives are clean.
“The only previous detection of a similar strain, although
with a different serotype was carried out in ISS
laboratories in relation to a small epidemic of haemolytic
uraemic syndrome (HUS) in France,” it said.
HUS, a kidney disease, usually affects children and can be
The laboratory said the strain “cannot be considered
mutant... but rather a strain originating from the
acquisition of new genes.”
The current outbreak has now spread to 12 countries and
appears to be stabilising, a senior German doctor said
Friday, as the death toll rose to 19.
|Rare tiger killed in
|KATHMANDU (AFP) – A rare wild tiger, nursed back to
health by Nepalese vets after being injured, has been killed
by poachers, a wildlife official said on Friday.
The adult male tiger, which had been fitted with a collar
carrying a GPS tracking system that allowed scientists to
monitor its adaptation back into the wild, was killed two
weeks ago, the official said.
Tikaram Adhikari, a warden at Bardia National Park in
Nepal’s southern plains where the endangered animal was
released, said the tiger, was last captured by the tracking
system on May 9.
“For two days following that, we could not locate it. Then,
early this week, we found out it had been killed by
poachers,” he said.
“The tiger was moving towards human settlements. After
seeing it, the poachers offered the animal pieces of
poisoned beef. It died after consuming the food,” Adhikari
The tiger had been named Namobuddha by park authorities.
Four locals have been arrested on suspicion of poaching,
The tiger was captured by wildlife officials after being
injured and wandering into a tourist resort in southern
It was released into Bardia national park as it was an ideal
home for the animal because it of its vast size, available
prey and relatively low levels of poaching, authorities
Using the tracking system, “we were hoping to gain valuable
insights into its movement and habitat,” Adhikari said.
|Syria: bloody protests
over the slaying of 30 children
|Alarmed by the impact of a widely circulated video
showing the corpse of a 13-year-old boy allegedly tortured
to death while in prison, the government instituted an
The death of Hamza el-Khatib spurred tens of thousands of
demonstrators to join marches across the country.
Activists said up to 150,000 people gathered in the northern
city of Maarat an-Numan, which, if confirmed, would be by
far the largest protest since protests began in March.
The violence, which killed at least 34 people, was centred
on the historically volatile city of Hama, scene of the
worst civilian massacre in modern Syrian history. In 1982,
government forces put down an Islamist uprising, killing
Yesterday’s violence came after protesters attempted to burn
down the local headquarters of the ruling Ba’ath party. Some
in the crowd were said to be carrying hunting rifles. An
estimated 50,000 people rallied against Mr Assad.
Security forces unleashed “intense gunfire” against the
crowd as they marched and the death toll was likely to rise,
said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the London-based Syrian
observatory for human rights.
Protesters also came under live fire in a district of
Damascus and two eastern towns as a call to observe a “Day
of Child Martyrs” after Friday prayers was met with an
“Yet again the Syrian government has shown an abhorrent
disregard for human life as ordinary Syrians took to the
streets today in memory of the innocent children who have
died during the unrest,” said Alistair Burt, Foreign Office
minister for the Middle East.
The previously flagging protest movement has been given
renewed impetus by horror over Hamza el-Khatib’s death.
Activists say the images of his mutilated body show that he
was repeatedly subjected to cigarettes burns, electric
shocks and beatings. He also had his neck broken, his penis
cut off and was shot through both arms and his head.
Many other children have become victims of regime
development support for Lanka
Outgoing Israel Ambassador to Sri Lanka Mark Sofer, who was
based in New Delhi, India, bid farewell after four years’
Briefing a media gathering in Colombo last week, he said:
“Any individual report or a report published by any
institution is not going to solve issues faced by a country.
The Sri Lankan Government should focus on rebuilding the
North and East.” He made this comment referring to the
Darusman report on alleged human rights violations in Sri
“We would like to work closely with the Sri Lankan
Government on this. We are confident that President Mahinda
Rajapaksa is capable of handling this kind of situation.
Israel has been with Sri Lanka in troubled times in the
past. We believe that our two countries can work together in
future to create a win-win situation.”
Ambassador Sofer reiterated Israel’s commitment to peace and
emphasised zero tolerance to terrorism; “Both our countries
have suffered a lot from terrorism. There were many
similarities and situations experienced by the two
“We learnt about suicide bombing from here. We don’t
consider Bin Ladens of the world as guarding lights. Human
rights should be equal throughout the world. Look at Libya,
they were once the head of UN Human Rights Commission. See
what’s happening there? And Syria, they massacre their own
people,” he alleged.
Sofer said that he was in Sri Lanka when the LTTE bombed a
train in Colombo.
Explaining Israel’s plans on giving assistance to Sri Lanka,
he said: “There is a lot of scope in tourism and agriculture
in Sri Lanka. We are ready to help Sri Lanka in many ways
with technology, especially in the agriculture sector. We
would be assisting Sri Lanka to improve dairy farming and
milk production with the best mechanism and also planning to
set up two model farms in Sri Lanka. We have already
identified two locations here.”
On the rehabilitation process, he said: “We will provide
humanitarian assistance to war victims such as psychiatric
treatment and counselling, by providing professional
psychologists and psychiatrists.”
Replying a query about employment opportunities for Sri
Lankans in Israel, he said: “Due to strict laws in Israel we
cannot assure opportunities for outsiders. But there are
possibilities for skilled people in technical and
Ambassador Sofer took over the Israel Diplomatic Mission in
New Delhi in 2007.
|JANASEVANA Housing Programme
exceeds set target
Translate Mahinda Chintanaya
promise into reality: Wimal
|Janasevana One Million Houses and Housing and Habitat
Development Program has exceeded its target set for the
first quarter of this year. The number of houses currently
under construction has topped the 22,000 mark. Meanwhile,
the Ministry has received requests for loans and guidelines
for the construction of another 20,000 houses. This
information transpired during a progress review conference
held in Colombo recently with Construction, Engineering
Services, Housing and Common Amenities Minister Wimal
Weerawansa in the chair.
It also transpired at this conference that there is a strong
possibility of exceeding the annual target of 60,000 houses
by the end of the current year. Addressing this meeting,
Minister Weerawansa told the relevant officials to ensure
that the target set for the year is achieved.
“Judging by the enthusiasm being shown by the people, there
is a strong possibility that the targets set for the 2nd and
the 3rd quarters of the year too will be exceeded. In this
context, it is imperative that the officials concerned take
prompt action to sort out the practical difficulties that
the prospective house builders may encounter,” the Minister
told the officials.
Minister Weerawansa also told the meeting that plans are
underway for the NHDA to step in to provide housing credit
to prospective house builders who find it difficult to raise
necessary loans from commercial banks. The Minister
emphasized the need to provide housing to every family
without a permanent abode without discrimination on any
grounds to translate the promise held out under the Mahinda
Chintanaya into reality.
Sustainability Report 2010/11
|Sustainability is in
the DNA of John Keells
|The John Keells Holding’s Sustainability Report
2010/2011, released on May 30, 2011 sums up the Group’s
commitment to Sustainability integration across its
Sustainability has carved its own niche in the bigger
picture of the business world, and stakeholders - be it
investors, customers, suppliers or employees - are now
increasingly becoming aware of the importance of seamless
integration of Sustainability into all aspects of business.
The John Keells Group fully appreciates its significance,
and thereby has embraced Sustainability as being
intrinsically interwoven with what we do and hence is in the
DNA of our business processes.
Last year, the Group committed itself to upholding and
integrating Sustainability into the value chain of all its
sectors, focusing not just on its financials, but also on
its economic, environmental and social performance. This
year, our Sustainability process has been taken one step
further, by decentralising the process to all our business
units in order to align the Group’s strategic and
operational objectives. The main focus of this process was
to integrate the objectives of Sustainability with those of
the businesses and ensure they are practised across the
Group. A key change brought about was that the
Sustainability goals and targets deliverable were determined
by the individual business units, thereby facilitating their
integration not only as an operational guideline but also as
performance targets for each business.
The Group’s Sustainability Report this year, similar to last
year, was compiled at a GRI disclosure Level B(+), and has
achieved a GRI Application Level Check; it has also been
assured by a third party. The Group’s decentralized
Sustainability process has been a very insightful and
extremely advantageous exercise as it has made the
businesses look very closely at its operations and
understand their impacts. This continuous Sustainability
process has now become entrenched across the Group’s
business units and has formed an integral part of our
business practices in the review of all our operations and
our stakeholder touch points. The benefits of the Group’s
Sustainability integration - tangible and intangible - can
now be felt across the Group. This progressive approach will
ensure that Sustainability at the John Keells Group is,
indeed, here to stay.
|SriLankan gets EU
green light for key environmental initiative
SriLankan Airlines became one of the first airlines in the
world to completely satisfy a key environmental requirement
of the European Union (EU) with regard to monitoring of
aircraft emissions, as part of a general initiative to
better protect the environment.
SriLankan carried out comprehensive collection of emissions
data from its entire fleet of aircraft throughout 2010, and
the EU on April 27, 2011 approved the benchmarking of this
data. This signifies acceptance of SriLankan Airlines’
Aircraft Emissions Monitoring System, approving the high
standard of the state-of-the-art system that was developed
by the airline itself.
SriLankan’s Head of Flight Operations, Captain Navin De
Silva, said: “SriLankan is proud to continue its pioneering
role in environmental conservation. Only a handful of
airlines have so far satisfied the EU’s tough new
requirement. We have already gained a reputation as an
airline that is focused on protecting the environment,
notably through our ‘Planet Friendly Flights’ programme.”
Following an audit by SGS of the UK, the Environment Agency
of the UK (the agency authorized by the EU) recommended the
data collected by SriLankan’s system throughout the year
2010 as being 100% compliant with EU regulations in terms of
Kamal Nanayakkara, SriLankan’s Head of IT, said: “What is
most significant is that our Emissions Monitoring System was
developed completely in-house, in sharp contrast to most
other airlines which are purchasing very expensive systems
from IT software vendors.”
SriLankan’s Emissions Monitoring System has already come to
the limelight when it won a Merit Award at the National Best
Quality Software Awards 2010 (NBQSA), for innovations in
Information Technology. The system itself was designed by
SriLankan’s Information Technology Division and the Aviation
Fuel Department of Flight Operations, saving a considerable
cost versus obtaining a similar system from an external
vendor. It monitors emissions throughout a flight, and
uploads the data directly from every aircraft.
SriLankan’s Manager Aviation Fuel, Capt. Anushad Liyanagoda,
said: “The EU’s tough new regulations for the airline
industry have made monitoring of aircraft emissions
mandatory. Non-compliance could even lead to individual
airlines being banned from operating in European skies. So
the acceptance of our system ensures the uninterrupted
continuation of all our services to Europe and also
qualifies SriLankan for the maximum possible amount of
The EU has formulated a system where airlines that do not
satisfy the emissions monitoring requirements would be
levied financial penalties starting in 2012 that could
amount to millions of dollars (billions of rupees). However,
airlines could obtain up to 100% free allowances from this -
85% through its Emissions Monitoring System, and 15% by
investment in other environment friendly projects. SriLankan
has now obtained the full 85% waiver, and is presently in
discussions with local companies that have accrued carbon
credits to enter into partnerships with them and obtain the
remaining 15% waiver.
The airline has in the past several years adopted a wide
range of fuel conservation measures, as well as energy
saving, recycling and other initiatives, which have drawn
the attention of conservationists.
Advisor and Disability Activist Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera
presented to US Ambassador Patricia A. Butenis a copy of his
book “Access Ability for All” together with a copy of the
recent Supreme Court order that mandates that public
buildings must be designed and constructed according to
statutory standards that ensure optimum accessibility and
External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris delivered an
address of appreciation of the life and work of the Late
Kalasuri Arisen Ahubudu, at S. Thomas’ College, Mount
Lavinia, on Wednesday. The late Kalasuri was the Minister’s
Warden the Rev. John Puddefoot, the staff and students of
the College attended the Special Assembly, held in the
College Hall, at which the address was delivered. The son of
the late Kalasuri Arisen Ahubudu was present.
Kalasuri Ahubudu was a highly respected teacher at S.
Thomas’ College for more than 35 years
|Moment with the
President at Temple Trees
Ms. Shanthi Indurugolla, the teacher in charge of Form 6N of
Colombo Royal College with the approval of Principal Upali
Gunasekera and Vice Principal Sumedha Jayaweera organized a
visit of students in her class to the Temple Trees recently,
the official residence of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Here,
the students who received a warm welcome from the President
pose for a picture with him on the occasion