Month: October 2011

Gilgit-Baltistan:Modern Controlled Atmosphere (CA) facilities for potatoes in Peshawar, Quetta, Gilgit and Multan

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ISLAMABAD (APP): The annual export of potato from the country averaged about 50,000 tonnes during the past 5 years which could be boosted by focusing on the regional markets including Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

Concentrated approach is needed to enhance exports Chief Executive Officer Harvest Tradings, Ahmad Jawad said adding that the county could enhance its exports to Sri Lanka and Malaysia up to 75 percent and 50 percent respectively.

He said annual potato imports of Sri Lanka are over 60,000 tonnes and Malaysia over 100,000 tonnes while Pakistan’s share in these imports is 60 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

“The share in Sri Lanka can be increased to 75 per cent, i.e. an additional 15,000 tonnes and in case of Malaysia up to 50 per cent, i.e. an additional 43,000 tonnes,” he remarked adding markets in East Europe and Africa Regions could also be explored for enhancing exports.

Potato ranks third among food crops, after wheat and rice, and fifth in total agro products in Pakistan, Jawad said. Pakistan was one of the largest potato producing country in the world.

The total production of potatoes was about 1.8 million metric tones (MMT) in 1988-99 that increased to 2.94 MMT in 2008-09 which was the highest in the history of potato production.

Production reached 2.94 MMT in 2008-09 and 3.14 million tones in 2009-10, he said adding for the Rabi season 2010-11 the government has set potato production target of 2.64 million tones.

Total production from these crops has increased at the rate of 4 percent due to 1.9 per cent expansion in area and 2 per cent rise in yield, he added.

Jawad said that the government aims to launch a project for establish modern Controlled Atmosphere (CA) facilities in different cities of the country with total cost of Rs.2.29 billion.

The facilities would be established in Peshawar, Quetta, Gilgit Baltistan and Multan he said and informed modern CA storage facilities and advance ventilated cold storage rooms for fruits would be part of the project.

Jawad said that it is estimated that 25% fruit and vegetables are lost due to lack of provision of cold storage and with the establishment of CA facility the damages of perishable commodities could be decreased.

Storage facilities would be built in collaboration with a Chinese company through procurement of needed machinery and its installation.

The scheme would increase shelf life of agricultural products like apple and pear and according to the plan, CA rooms would be established in Peshawar, Quetta and Multan, each having 5,000 ton of storage capacity of fruits and vegetables.

He said that the project would be completed in five years 2010 to 2015 for which the government of China would provide Rs1.862 billion as grant and local component for this scheme includes Rs.366.878 million.

The advance storage facilities would be available to store about 34000 ton of fruits and vegetables per annum, while the advanced ventilated potato storage rooms would be established in Okara, Daska and Karachi having 6,000 ton of potato storage ccapacity; Jawad added.

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Gilgit-Baltistan:World Bank under severe criticism for not funding Diamer-Bhasha Dam

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ISLAMABAD (Dawn): With the United States seeking a gradual increase in the water tariff to recover the full cost of its delivery both for irrigation and urban uses as part of its proposed financing for the $12 billion Diamer-Bhasha dam, the World Bank has come under severe criticism from international development lenders for not funding this ‘highest priority project’.

Informed sources told Dawn on Monday that the forthcoming strategic dialogue between the United States and Pakistan ahead of a fresh round of discussions of the water sector task force (WSTF) of the so-called Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) would focus on Islamabad’s precise plans for water sector reforms and the World Bank’s lack of interest in the Diamer-Bhasha dam project. The two events are expected early next month.

The dam has been described by both Islamabad and Washington as the highest priority project. The two sides generally agree that the project with 7 million acre feet water storage and 4,500MW power generation capacity required support from external partners – both public and private – and hence the support of the FoDP member countries was critical.

The FoDP support is likely to lead to direct bilateral financing by member states and also help Pakistan obtain financing from multilateral institutions, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank.

While the ADB has made initial commitments to extend between $2-4 billion for the project, the unwillingness of the World Bank has worried many bilateral lenders given the fact that the World Bank’s Operational Policy on disputed territories (OP 7.60) does not require a ‘no objection certificate’ from other party – India in this case as the dam site is in Gilgit-Baltistan.

According to some bilateral lenders, the operational policy of the WB required that in a case like Bhasha dam either Pakistan or the World Bank should ask the government of India to say in writing if it has any objection to the project on the grounds that such a project would prejudice the outcome of the territorial dispute.

If India raises objections in writing, the World Bank management should consider them and make an assessment about the merit of such objections. In proceeding with such projects, the World Bank documents state that it does not intend to make any judgment on the legal or other status of territories concerned or to prejudice the final determination of the parties’ claims.

On the other hand, it is generally believed that India has informally communicated its objection to Bhasha dam to the World Bank and for this reason the bank has not engaged itself in the project. Friendly lenders believe that if that is the case then the “bank management has not followed its operational policy on disputed territories”, an issue that needs to be addressed by US and other leading nations.

Interestingly, the World Bank helped India and Pakistan to sign a landmark Indus Waters Treaty in 1960 as part of the Indus Basin Development Plan which required Pakistan to build new major dams every 10 years but none has been built in 50 years.

The World Bank stance has also been found at fault in view of the fact that the 1960 treaty gives Pakistan the right to projects concerning waters of the Indus River. It may be mentioned that India helped finance the construction of the Mangla dam as part of ‘replacement works’ although the dam is located in disputed territory – Azad Kashmir.

Also, India has constructed and continues to construct a large number of dams in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir and has not sought, nor received, non-objections from Pakistan. In fact, India has formally urged Pakistan to build storage dams on the Indus.

Informed sources said the US was supportive of the project, along with project financing, because of the fact that the dam would have enormous benefits – from energy, food and irrigation security to poverty reduction and environmental contribution and flood protection. It agrees that the Colorado and Murry Darling could store 1000 days of average river flows whereas Pakistan’s Indus project that can store only 30 days of flows and the Three Gorges Dam in China reduces the peak of the 50-year flood by 40 per cent against Tarbela’s negligible flood impact.

But before making any formal financial commitment, the US wants Pakistan to commit prioritising investments in on-farm water management in provinces and institutionalise full cost recovery of water distribution for better service delivery through fresh contracts with consumers – provinces, municipalities, farmer associations – for gradual increase of tariffs to sustain maintenance of water infrastructure.

Gilgit-Baltistan:GBLA passes 22 Laws in 2 years

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Gilgit (ET):The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Legislative Assembly has passed legislation on 22 subjects over two years and six bills are in the process of legislation, deputy speaker Jamil Ahmed G-B said  while briefing journalists on Monday.

He added that the performance of this assembly is far better than the one which served under the General (retd) Pervez Musharraf government. “We have made marvellous legislative progress in a very brief period,” he said.

Ahmed criticised previous G-B governments, saying that lawmakers spent money on irrational projects, resulting in the loss of resources and time. “When we came to power in 2009, we had several incomplete projects on which we had to spend large sums of money,” he said, adding that the Attabad disaster, followed by the floods in 2010, wrecked havoc on the region’s economy.

About G-B’s constitutional status, Ahmed said that it is not a constitutional province but an administrative setup, carved out under the Empowerment and Self Rule Order 2009, to honour the demands of local people for self-rule. “If you ask me, I will say that G-B is geographically more important for Pakistan than Azad Jammu and Kashmir because of its location,” he said, adding that the establishment of the G-B Council was meant to keep the region connected with the Kashmir issue.

Ahmed also said that the region will have to pay taxes if it wants to be self-sustaining. He said that while taxes will not be levied on poor people, the corporate sector and those earning more than Rs 50,000 per month will be liable to pay. However he clarified that the matter has been deferred until G-B’s constitutional status is resolved, adding that the maintenance of law and order is the government’s top priority.

Gilgit-Baltistan: NGO urges journalists to highlight gender issues

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GILGIT (ET): Print and electronic journalists were urged in a workshop to pay attention to issues hindering equality and equity in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B).

“It is our collective responsibility to highlight issues hindering gender equity and equality in our society,” said Shaukat Ali, coordinator of Individual, an Islamabad based NGO, during an address to journalists at Gilgit Press Club on Sunday. More than two dozen journalists participated in the two-day workshop organised by Individual.

“We want you to raise awareness on issues of gender equality and equity,” he said, adding that proper implementation of policies is required for improving women’s status in society. Ali urged the journalists to clearly convey messages regarding women issues and to depict a complete picture of the situation facing women in conservative societies.

Sharing data collected from 23 districts of Pakistan, Ali said that the survey revealed that despite society’s conservative mindset, the media has vast outreach and the public demands that it play a positive role in projecting issues concerning gender, “You are the ears and eyes of the society, therefore you must play your role in a way that is beneficial for society,” he said.

The journalists informed the NGO that G-B had a comparatively flexible society which is not against women education. “Though the G-B literacy rate is encouraging, more efforts are required by the government and NGOs to bring it to 100 percent,” said Gilgit Press Club President Imtiaz Taj.

The journalists also shared their views regarding the independence of the media in G-B, saying that various groups are still influencing media in the region. Later, certificates were distributed among the journalists.

Gilgit-Baltistan:NDMA holds a Two days Disaster Management Workshop

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Skardu (ET):A two-day workshop to educate the departmental heads of Gilgit-Baltistan to confront disasters concluded here on Saturday.

The workshop was held under auspices of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

Addressing the concluding ceremony of the workshop, deputy commissioner and District DMA chairman said the workshop was essential to handle disaster situations in the region, adding that such training programmes would be conducted on grass-root level in future.

Speaking on the occasion, Hamza Farooqi described the training as highly successful and stressed upon the participants to spread awareness to other people as well.

Five groups presented their reports on preventive measures and post disaster situation during the workshop, following which group discussions were held. 

Gilgit-Baltistan:GB government spent approximately Rs20 million on PM visit

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Gilgit (ET): The cash-strapped Gilgit-Baltistan government spent approximately Rs20 million on arrangements for the prime minister’s visit to the region, The Express Tribune has learnt.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who laid the foundation stone for the country’s third-largest reservoir the Diamer-Bhasha Dam in Chilas on Tuesday, stayed in the area for an hour or two where he was accompanied by the Gilgit-Baltistan chief minister, governor and Pakistan Peoples Party workers and leaders from the region.

According to sources, before Gilani’s arrival in Chilas, two bullet-proof cars were flown to Gilgit via a C-130 aircraft and then transported to Chilas, about 124 kilometres from Gilgit.

“The cars were used to escort the prime minister from and to the helipad, for a distance of approximately one kilometre,” a government official said on condition of anonymity.

After the event, sources said, the cars were transported back to Gilgit by trucks and flown to Islamabad by a similar plane.

The prime minister’s entourage comprised Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Gilgit-Baltistan Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah, Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Mehdi Shah, Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Mohammad Yaqoob Ahmed Khan, Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, Minister for Information Firdous Ashiq Awan, Minister for Water and Power Naveed Qamar, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kauser and Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Shortage of fuel in GB as mercury drops

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Gilgit (ET): As the mercury begins to drop in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), firewood prices have started taking an upward trend.

Following sporadic showers in G-B last week, the temperature in Gilgit dropped to as low as 5 Celsius on Tuesday. However firewood in some parts of the region was being sold for Rs550 per 40kg, Rs100 more than last year.

“There is a shortage of firewood in the whole city,” said Munir Khan, a resident of Gilgit. “I have been searching for fuel for the past one week but have not been able to find any stock at reasonable rates,” he said.

Mahboob Khan, a firewood dealer in Gilgit, said there is a shortage in the market this year. “Dealers who provide us with the required fuel every winter haven’t contacted us so far,” he said.

Also supply of wood from Diamer Valley hasn’t started as yet due to a ban placed by G-B’s Forest Department on transporting wood out of the valley, he added. “The crisis of firewood will remain in Gilgit as long as the transportation ban isn’t lifted,” he said.

G-B Minister for Forests and Wildlife, Aftab Haider, told The Express Tribune that the government will decide soon whether or not to allow transportation of timber from Diamer to the rest of the G-B region in the coming months.

Aqeel Mohammad, a resident of Amphery, said that they had some stock of wood but the cost was too high. “The vendor is demanding Rs550 for 40 kgs which isn’t within my budget,” he said.

Firewood is the primary fuel in G-B during winters, when temperatures can go down to as much as -15 Celsius. Therefore, winter’s arrival is normally synonymous with a water, firewood, and power crisis in this part of the country. Majority of the people keep a stock of firewood in view of this situation; however the demand of firewood still increases, leading to a rise in prices.