Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Putin Meets with Jordanian King Abdullah II

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Jordan’s King Abdullah II
President Vladimir Putin and Jordan’s King Abdullah II met in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss bilateral cooperation in the trade, economic, military technology, investment, energy and humanitarian sectors, the Kremlin reported.
According to earlier reports, the two leaders were supposed to discuss in particular the proposed Russian participation in a project to build Jordan’s first nuclear power plant (NPP), but it was unclear from a statement on the meeting posted on the Kremlin’s website whether that particular topic was discussed and to what extent.
The Kremlin said earlier that “the heads of state will discuss the possibility of Russian participation in the construction of the first nuclear power plant in the Kingdom of Jordan, as well as infrastructural development and mining.”
Jordan first announced plans to build its own nuclear capacity and exploit the country’s uranium resources in 2008. Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom is on a short list of potential contractors for the NPP project.
The Fukushima disaster led to a clear commitment from the Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission that any reactor built must meet current Western standards of safety and would undergo a full safety assessment by an experienced and credible independent safety regulatory body.
In May 2012 the Jordanian Parliament voted to suspend the NPP program and the uranium exploration effort pending the completion of economic feasibility and environmental impact assessments.
Meanwhile, Rosatom provided 12 Jordanian nuclear physicists with scholarships to study in Russia.
Jordan currently relies on fossil fuels, but imports 97 percent of its energy needs from neighboring countries.
“The heads of state also exchanged views on current issues on the international agenda, including the situation in Syria and the Middle East peace process,” the Kremlin said in a statement Tuesday.
Putin praised bilateral trade, and Abdullah II said the countries have a lot of interesting economic projects that may be discussed, adding that military and technological cooperation was developing well.
According to the Russian government, Russian-Jordanian trade grew 22% in 2012 to $426.5 million. Russian exports, mainly oil products, steel and grain, dominate bilateral trade.RIA

Medvedev has arrived in Brazil’s capital Brasilia, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported Wednesday.
During his visit to Brazil on February 20-21, Medvedev is expected hold talks with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and co-chair with Vice-President Michel Temer the sixth meeting of the Russian-Brazilian high-level bilateral cooperation commission.

 Russian premier will also meet with business executives and entrepreneurs.
A source in the Russian delegation told media on Monday that Russia and Brazil are expected to sign several intergovernmental agreements and up to five contracts in such areas as metallurgy, medicine and hi-tech industry.

Russia hopes to participate in a tender for the construction of four nuclear power plants in Brazil until 2030 and expand military-technical cooperation with the Latin American country, the source said.

On February 21, Medvedev will arrive in Cuba for a two-day working visit and hold talks with Chairman of the Cuban State Council and the Council of Ministers Raul Castro. He may also meet with Fidel Castro if the medical condition of the leader of Cuban Revolution permits.

Taj Mahotsava begins

Taj Mahotsava, the ten-day long cultural feast showcasing country’s finest crafts and culture at a single platform, has started near the Eastern gate of the Taj Mahal, Agra.
Uttar Pradesh Minister for Tourism Om Prakash Singh opened the festival at Shilpgram, the artisans village about a kilometre east of the Taj Mahal.
The theme for this year’s Mahotsav is ‘Our Tradition, Our Heritage’ (humari parampara, humari virasat).
The festival was started in 1992.
The minister said that the people of Agra were fortunate in having the world heritage monument in their city.
“Development of Agra was a top priority of the Chief Minister and steps were being taken for speedy implementation of many development projects in the city,” Singh said.
EDITORIAL: Kumbh: time to come clean
by Sunita Narain
Maha Kumbh in Allahabad has perhaps no parallel in terms of the sheer
size of the congregation. In less than two months over 100 million
people are expected to come to this city, which sees the confluence of
two rivers of India—the Ganga and the Yamuna. People come to worship on
the banks of the Ganga. Even as they celebrate the river it seems they
don’t see the river, but only the ritual.

The fact is that this “mela” is about how the Hindu religion—and I
believe all religions—is based on a deep understanding of and respect
for nature’s strength. But we now worship without reason. So, people can
take a dip in the polluted river but still believe that the dirt, the
filth and the plastic that swims around them, will not defile the
river’s properties. Our strength has become our weakness.

It is a fact today that the Ganga and the Yamuna are polluted beyond
acceptable levels. But why should we be surprised. We mercilessly take
clean water from our rivers and return sewage and industrial waste. In
the upper reaches, the Ganga does not even flow in many stretches
because we take water for generating hydropower. The tunnels for
run-of-the-river projects divert the rivers and as soon as they are
released, they are diverted again. The engineer-designers have no
concept of ecological flow to ensure they take water for power only
after the river has enough to fulfil its environmental, social and
livelihood needs. Then as the Ganga and the Yamuna reach the plains, we
take every drop of water for irrigation and drinking needs. We suck our
rivers dry. Then as worshippers, we put plastic into the river and
everything else that should not be there. We do all this and then still
believe we have rivers to worship. Or we pray to a dead and dying river
but pretend otherwise.

It is clear that for the occasion of Maha Kumbh the government has made
huge efforts to clean the two rivers, with a little success. These steps
tell us that it is possible to reduce pollution in the Ganga and all
other rivers of the country. We just have to learn the art of innovative
pollution management.

This is what the government has done to contain pollution, albeit
temporarily. First, more water is allowed to flow in the river. This is
critical because without dilution there will be no assimilative capacity
in the river. Rivers without water are drains. We should remember this.
It is also a fact that this “release” of additional water deprives
farmers upstream of irrigation; cities and industries of water. But it
is also a fact that we cannot continue to plan for rivers without water.
All users must be forced to plan for water needs based on what the river
can spare, not what they can snatch.

Secondly, Allahabad has built sewage treatment plants. But then it is
not as if it was desperate to clean the river. Let me explain.

In all cities of India, without exception, there is a mad rush to build
sewage treatment plants. But we forget that cities do not have
underground sewerage systems to intercept the sewage and transport it to
plants for treatment. In this way, the built plants are white
elephants—call them temples of modern India—which are built but not
used. In all cities built sewage treatment capacity is underutilised.
But engineers and planners have the uncanny ability to make us forget
these details and be happy. They assure governments that the underground
network will be built and pollution will vanish.

But the network is not built. Some sewage is treated and the bulk flows
into drains and into the Ganga and the Yamuna. Worse, the little sewage
that is treated (at considerable expense) is then released into the same
drains that carry untreated effluents. The end result is pollution. It
was in mid-1980s that the government of India launched an ambitious
programme to clean the Ganga. Under this programme, sewage treatment
plants were built. City engineers are still catching up with building
the sewerage network for the plants to work. For the Kumbh, the
government has done something smart. It intercepts the untreated sewage
from the open drain and conveys it to the treatment plant. Simple.

Thirdly, the city is trying to experiment with “affordable” ways of
treating sewage—by using bio-remediation techniques. The preliminary
reports suggest that this system is working. The key is to measure its
effectiveness carefully and deliberately.

Fourthly, the government has come down hard on the polluting
industries—mainly tanneries and distilleries—on the banks of the river.
The question is why enforcement against pollution happens only when
there is a crisis; it should be happening in ordinary times.

The end result is that there is a temporary relief against pollution.
Now the challenge is to keep the river clean. This will need more than
government’s will. This will need a collective wish. This will not
happen till Indians join the dots—faith is connected to the river not by
accident or by ritual but by reason and rationale.

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