|Asia News Digest
Deforestation in Pakistan Has Helped the Killer Floods
Aug. 17 (EIRNS)The torrential rains in the northern hills of Pakistan would have caused floods under any circumstances, sweeping away many homes and their residents. However, what has happened during the last two weeks was foreshadowed at least two decades ago.
Pakistan stands ravaged by unchecked deforestation, which started in the 1990s. Between 1990 and 2000, the country lost an average of 41,100 hectares of forest per year, with an average annual deforestation rate of 1.63%. Between 2000 and 2005, the rate increased to 2.02%. In all, between 1990 and 2005, Pakistan lost 24.7% of its forest cover, or around 625,000 hectares. The hardest hit were the conifer forests of the lower Himalayan belt. Punjab also suffered considerably. As a result, when the rains hit the hills in 2010, Pakistan had only 5.2% of its land under adequate forest cover.
The moist, temperate forests of the Pakistani-part of Jammu and Kashmir, Murree, the Galiyat region and Hazara, so essential to ensure sustainable flow in the Indus and Jhelum rivers, should have been protected as natural watersheds. Due to thick forests of deodar, pine, fir, and oak trees, the area previously received maximum rainfall, which filled the two major reservoirs of the country and recharged various streams and aquifers of the arid regions downstream. Healthy, mature trees and humus soil of forests act as a sponge, soaking up rainfall carried by tropical storms, while anchoring soils, and releasing water through springs. Forests add to local humidity through transpiration (the process by which plants release water through their leaves), and thus ensure local rainfall.
All that vanished with the denudation of trees. Land became exposed to bleaching by the Sun, becoming loose and dusty at the top while becoming harder underneath. And when the rain came in torrents, the land could not absorb any water, and the dust turned into mud, rolling down the hills with a momentum many times greater than clear water would have had. The mud-filled water wiped out trees and all man-made infrastructure, dumping debris into rivers, filling them, and causing them to overflow and flood the plains of Sindh and Punjab. These are the plains where Pakistanis live in larger numbers, grow their food and cotton, and rear their livestock. All are now under water and thick mud.
Once the flood water recedes, Pakistanis will find all their sources of freshwater contaminated, and farmers will find that their well-nurtured fields, where they built up the nutrition of the top soil over years of balanced fertilization, are much less productive, because the topsoil is now resting at the bottom of the riverbed or in the Arabian Sea.
Pakistan's deforestation, caused by timber mafias who work hand-in-glove with the powers that be, is a pattern seen all over the world. Haiti is a case in point, where its once-fertile agricultural land, because of ruthless deforestation, is now lying fallow, unable to sustain even the country's small population.
30 Years of War Have Destroyed Pakistan's Ability To Deal with Flood Disaster
Aug. 16 (EIRNS)Even as Pakistan is deluged by the most destructive floods in its recorded history, the nation has been rendered incapable of dealing with the disaster by three decades of British imperial warfare.
Lyndon LaRouche pinned the Anglo-Saudi imperial apparatus, for conducting cultural warfare against Pakistan, by promoting and funding fundamentalism and boosting the Taliban insurgency.
Pakistan is still suffering the effects of that British operation, and the divisions among provinces and ethnic groups are hampering emergency operations to deal with flooding. The Pakistani Army, which is running the daily effort to rescue and feed hundreds of thousands of flood victims, is also continuing its war on insurgents.
Pakistan has been used as the base for military/insurgent operations into Afghanistan from the time of the Western-run mujahideen operation against the Soviet occupation throughout the 1980s. Warfare and opium trafficking worsened in the past 20 years, and NATO's Afghan War is now also being fought out directly in northwest Pakistanan area badly hit by the flooding. Pakistan is under heavy pressure from NATO to expand that warfare.
Bangladesh Is Ready for Nuclear Power
Aug. 20 (EIRNS)A delegation from Bangladesh will be in Moscow next week to discuss building nuclear power plants. "We have agreed with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh that we will present a funding mechanism," Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's atomic energy corporation Rosatom, said during a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Bangladesh is planning to build a nuclear power plant at Rooppur, 200 kilometers northwest of the capital, Dhaka.
These developments are attributed directly to the vastly improved bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh, and India and Myanmar. In addition, the long-term nuclear agreement signed between India and Russia has helped to bring Russia into nuclear power generation in South Asia. On the other hand, to facilitate sale of nuclear reactors, Russia has reportedly worked out a financing scheme for the nations not capable of paying for these reactors.
What should also be noted particularly in the West, where building of nuclear power plants is often summarily rejected because they are capital-intensive, is that Bangladesh and Myanmar are among the world's poorest nations, and that their demand for nuclear power centers on its cost-effectiveness and the superior quality of the power generated.
U.S. Pressures South Korea Over Iran Sanctions; Seoul Is Cautious
Aug. 20 (EIRNS)Washington is leaning on South Korea to go along with U.S. sanctions on Iran, or else face U.S. measures against South Korea as well. South Korea announced that it will soon engage in talks with both the United States and Iran on the sanctions. "Nothing has been decided yet, on when and how we will start discussions with them," said an official, on condition of anonymity.
The U.S. government announced last week details of its Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Act, a list of disciplinary actions banning foreign multinationals from trading with Iran.
The Seoul branch of the Iranian Bank Mellat is considered to be at the heart of the U.S. demands on Korea, as the bank has been accused of facilitating hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions which the United States characterizes as being related to nuclear, missile, and defense entities. Washington wants Seoul to shut it down, but the South Korean government is widely expected to refuse, since the action could severely limit trade with Iran, Seoul's biggest trading partner in Southwest Asia. The Seoul branch of Bank Mellat accounts for nearly 70% of Iranian firms' remittances to South Korean exporters.
Railroad Plan To Unify Southeast AsiaNot Bold Enough
Aug. 20 (EIRNS)Ministers of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region, meeting with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Hanoi, Vietnam, agreed today on "a significant first step toward the development of an integrated ... railway system."
The national rail systems of the six nationsCambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnamdo not link up except for a line that connects China and Vietnam. Laos has no railroads at all.
The route chosen for initial implementation would stretch from Bangkok to Phnom Penh, then to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and finally north to Nanning and Kunming in China, reconstructing existing lines and with new routes already under construction. The target for completion is 2020.
The project as outlined would cost $1.09 billion. The absolutely required refurbishing and upgrading of existing routes to create an integrated, functional system is not included in current plans. That is estimated to cost about $7 billion.
There is no published estimate of the cost of rebuilding lines to high-speed rail standards, such as are being deployed as rapidly as possible in China.
This plan, and the other three plans studied for further adoption, all suffer from an even more glaring flaw: There is no East-West connection into Myanmar (Burma), even though there exist only relatively short gaps between two existing Thai and Burmese railroads, and a somewhat longer gap to connect into China. Creating these routes into Myanmar, and through to India, would bring the southern tier of the New Silk Road into existence, connecting the Pacific ports of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand with Myanmar, into India, and further on through Pakistan's Indus plain into Southwest Asia.