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Delhi braces for pollution with emergency plan
15 October 2018, 3:51 PM

Delhi’s biggest coal power plant was set to shut down Monday as a new emergency plan to improve air quality in one of the world’s most polluted cities came into force, Indian officials said.

Under the new strategy, restrictions on construction sites and traffic will be imposed depending on the air quality in the megacity of some 20 million people.

When the air is classed as “poor”, as it was on Monday, authorities will ban the burning of garbage in landfills as well as fire crackers and certain construction activities.

When the air is “very poor” diesel generators will be halted, parking fees hiked and more public transport provided.

“Severe” measures include closing brick kilns.

When it reaches “severe+”, a new category, authorities will stop the entry of trucks except those with essential goods and regulate the number of cars on the road.

The Badarpur thermal plant was due to permanently close on Monday because of its high contribution to pollution in the city.

Smog spikes during winter in Delhi, when air quality often eclipses the World Health Organization’s safe levels.

Cooler air traps pollutants — such as from vehicles, building sites and farmers burning crops in regions outside the Indian capital — close to the ground.

Authorities in the sprawling city attempted to implement similar measures last winter but to little avail.

This is partly because authorities are powerless to prevent some sources of pollution.

“Our aim is to stop the air quality from deteriorating further though certain factors are out of our control such as crop burning, wind speed and lack of public transportation,” environment authority official Bhure Lal told AFP.

Iranian crude exports fall further as Trump’s sanctions loom
15 October 2018, 3:13 PM

Turkey and Italy are the last buyers of Iranian crude outside China, India and the Middle East, according to tanker data and an industry source, the latest sign that shipments are taking a major hit from looming U.S. sanctions.

The Islamic Republic has exported 1.33 million barrels per day so far in October to India, China, Turkey and the Middle East, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

No vessels are shown heading to Europe with Iranian crude. However, an industry source who also tracks the exports estimated shipments at 1.5 million bpd, including vessels which are not showing on AIS satellite tracking, of which a 1 million-barrel tanker is going to Italy.

That’s down from at least 2.5 million bpd in April, before President Donald Trump in May withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions.

The figures also mark a further fall from 1.6 million bpd in September.

The expected loss of a sizeable amount of Iranian supply has helped drive a rally in oil prices, which on Oct. 3 hit their highest since late 2014 at $86.74 a barrel.

Crude has since eased to $81 although analysts say the Iranian export drop remains supportive. “It’s one of the reasons why prices are still above $80,”said Eugen Weinberg, analyst at Commerzbank.

The October figures add to signs that buyers are sufficiently wary of the U.S. sanctions to stop or scale back their Iranian crude dealings, and that exports are falling more steeply than some in the market expected.

For sure, definitive export data is hard to uncover.

Tanker schedules are often adjusted, exports vary week by week and the tracking of tankers, while easier than in the past due to satellite information, remains both art and science.

In the first week of October, Iran’s crude exports averaged 1.1 million bpd according to Refinitiv and less than 1 million bpd according to another industry source.

While Washington has said it wants to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero, Iran and Saudi Arabia say that is unlikely to happen.

The Trump administration is considering waivers on sanctions for countries that are reducing their imports. India, a major buyer, has ordered Iranian oil for November.

Iran, which has pledged to block any OPEC supply increase that the country deems to be against its interests, says it has found new buyers for its oil and its crude output has fallen only slightly.

For September, Iran told OPEC its crude output dropped by 50,000 bpd to 3.76 million bpd, while consultants and government agencies that OPEC uses to monitor production reported a larger fall to 3.45 million bpd.

Indeed, Iran may not yet have cut production to match the rate of decline in its exports, as the country appears to bestoring more oil on ships, as it did during sanctions that applied until the 2015 nuclear deal.

May to deliver Brexit update in parliament later Monday: spokesman
15 October 2018, 2:39 PM

British Prime Minister Theresa May will update parliament on the status of Brexit negotiations later on Monday, her spokesman said, a day after last-ditch talks in Brussels failed to agree a draft divorce settlement.

The statement to MPs, due mid-afternoon, comes amid mounting concern that Britain will now struggle to get a deal agreed before it leaves the European Union in March next year.

“It’s an opportunity to provide an update to the House” of Commons, just days before a key Brussels summit starting on Wednesday, the spokesman said.

He added that despite “real progress” in the negotiations, there were “a number of unresolved issues” relating to Ireland.

The sticking point is how to keep open the land border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Britain leaves the bloc’s single market and customs union.

The EU has proposed that until a wider trade deal is agreed that removes the need for frontier checks, Northern Ireland should continue to follow its customs and single market rules.

But London says this so-called “backstop” plan risks internal barriers in the UK, and instead suggests the whole country agree a “temporary customs arrangement” with the bloc.

Sunday’s talks in Brussels broke down after the EU was prepared to accept Britain’s backstop plan but only in addition to its own, a British government source told AFP.

The Northern Ireland-only option would come into effect if the whole-Britain plan — a potentially complicated arrangement which London says will still allow it to sign its own trade deals with non-EU countries — is not ready in time, Brussels reportedly proposed.

“The EU continues to insist on the possibility of a customs border down the Irish Sea…. (which) is not acceptable to the prime minister,” May’s spokesman said, declining to give further details.

He also emphasised the need for any backstop to be temporary, saying: “We are not going to be stuck permanently in a single customs territory unable to do meaningful trade deals.”

However, when asked if there would be an end date in the final text, he said: “There are a number of means of achieving what we want to achieve.”

Several of May’s ministers are said to be considering resigning if she agrees to an indefinite customs arrangement with the EU.

The Northern Irish party which props up her government, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), is also strongly opposed to anything that affects the province’s status within the United Kingdom.

The DUP’s Brexit spokesman, Sammy Wilson, said leaving without a deal was now “probably inevitable”.
However, May’s spokesman said: “We want to and are confident of securing a deal this autumn.”

At least 41 dead in Uganda landslide
12 October 2018, 10:14 PM

At least 41 people were killed after a river in eastern Uganda burst its banks, sending a torrent of mud and rocks barrelling into homes, disaster officials and survivors said Friday.

Rescue teams continued picking through the rubble late Friday, searching for survivors and victims of the disaster which took place the previous day in the eastern Bududa district.

An unknown number of people remained missing.

“41 lives have been lost but they’re still going ahead digging, trying to look for whether there are other bodies in the riverbed somewhere,” said Hilary Onek, Uganda’s minister for relief, disaster preparedness and refugees.

“There are casualties up in the hills,” he added, referring to higher ground where the river burst its banks before washing away homes lower down.

Onek said 38 bodies had so far been found, as well as dismembered limbs believed to belong to three more individuals.

Survivors spoke of panic and horror as water cascaded down the hillside.

At the hillside Nanyinza village, the Sume river rushed past the ruins of a concrete bridge swept away by the heavy rainfall.

“The moment we saw the water coming we ran and climbed a hill,” said John Makimpi a 28-year-old fish trader from Nanyinza who got involved in the ad hoc rescue effort.

“We dragged seven bodies from the river,” he said, adding that four of the bodies had been smashed beyond recognition by falling rocks.

Irene Namutosi, 30 and with her legs caked in mud, watched as a solitary mechanical digger struggled to clear huge tree trunks and boulders from the road.

“We found three dead people at one bridge and another three further down the river,” she said. “Some didn’t have arms or legs because the water and stones hit them so hard.”

Government meteorologist Godfrey Mujuni said it was the River Sume, a tributary of the River Manafwa, that had burst its banks.

“It’s a mountainous region and because of the high altitude and steep slopes even a small amount of rain can trigger landslides. There is no early warning system in that particular area hit yesterday.”

“The rains are still coming and the government and NGOs need to keep their preparedness levels high,” he warned.

Nathan Tumuhamye, director of an organisation that helps communities recover from natural disasters and conflict, told AFP that “four to five villages” had been affected.

Bududa district in the foothills of Mount Elgon, which lies on the border between Uganda and Kenya, is a high risk area for landslides.

At least 100 people were reported killed in a landslide in Bududa in March 2010, and in 2012 landslides destroyed three villages.

Downriver from Nanyinza, a small crowd gathered round the bodies of a girl and her grandmother, swept away as they returned from a hospital appointment.

Lacking a child’s coffin mourners simply wrapped the body of the five-year-old in a yellow scarf and laid her on a woven sack next to her grandmother’s white coffin.

Relief workers expect to bury more in the days to come.

Western Sahara celebrates 43 years of proclamation
12 October 2018, 10:05 PM

Thousands of Western Sahara refugees in Algerian refugee camps have held colourful celebrations to mark the 43rd anniversary of the proclamation of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

The celebrations began with the President of the Republic Brahim Ghali who also lives as a refugee inspecting a guard of honour.

There was also traditional dances and a march past by the county’s soldiers.

A delegations of African Liberation movements delivered messages of support and solidarity to the people of Western Sahara.

They reiterated that Africa will not be free, until the last of its colonies, Western Sahara, was liberated, free and independent.

Representatives of various African Liberation movements met this week in Tindouf in Algeria in solidarity with the people of the Saharawi Republic also known as Western Sahara.

During a visit to the National Liberation Museum in Rubani, where refugees from Saharawi live, the call for the decolonisation, liberation and independence of Africa’s remaining colony was echoed by Zimbabwe’s former Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.

The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic is still occupied by Morocco.

 

Highlights

 

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