Newly appointed KWSB project directors lack engineering background

ICMD, Feb 6, 2018 The Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) has expressed serious reservations over appointment of officials lacking engineering degrees on positions requiring engineering expertise. Speaking to Daily Times, Najamuddin Sheikh, a member of the executive committee of the PEC, said that the recent appointments of the project directors of the Greater Karachi Bulk Water Supply Scheme K-IV Phase-I and Greater Karachi Sewerage Plant (S-III) were in violation of the PEC Act of 1976. He said the council would soon send a delegation to Sindh chief minister Murad Ali Shah to convey its reservations. He said a letter had already been written to Prime Minster, Shahid Khaqan Abbassi on the matter. Assad Zamin a BPS-19 official, was posted as the project director of K-IV Phase-I, and Noor Ahmed, also a BPS-19 official, of S-III on January 31. “These two officials hold simple graduate degrees with no relevant engineering knowledge and expertise. They have been posted in place of Saleem Siddiqui and Imtiaz Ahmad Magsi who held relevant engineering degrees and experience,” Sheikh said. Regarding the appointments in the KWSB, a senior officer in Sindh government, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two officers were appointed on directions of Muzaffar Owais alias Tappi, the former minister of the Local Government Department, since he was a major shareholder in the company that has the contract for the S-III project. The contract for the K-IV Phase-I is with the Frontier Works Organisation. Both projects got started with a delay of more than eight years and as a result their cost got escalated to around Rs 92 billion, based on the figures quoted by the Sindh chief minister at a recent Supreme Court hearing. Their original cost had been estimated at around Rs 7 billion (SIII) and Rs27 billion (K-IV). Almost a year ago, Hashim Raza Zaidi was appointed as the managing director of the KWSB on SC directions with specific instructions to turn around the organisation so that water woes of the residents of Karachi could be addressed. Meanwhile, the PEC official says that they have been receiving complaints from graduate engineers about violations of the PEC Act’s Section 27(5A) in government appointments not just in Sindh but in other provinces as well. Sheikh said the law was clear that no person shall perform as a professional engineer, unless registered as an engineer or holding any post in an engineering organisation where he has to perform professional engineering work.” These concerns were the subject of a letter dispatched by Jawed Salim Qureshi, the PEC chairman, to the Prime Minister’s Office a couple of months ago. In the letter, a copy of which is available with Daily Times, the PEC has expressed concerns over the appointment of officials with non-engineers education and professional backgrounds on engineering posts in government departments. The letter says that the problem isn’t just restricted to Sindh. The chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority, responsible for executing infrastructure projects worth billion of dollars is a non-cadre official, according to the letter. Similarly, it highlights that secretaries of Irrigation and Communication and Works (C&W) Departments in Punjab, KPK, and Balochistan, DGs of provincial development authorities, the CEO of PESCO, the MD Sui Southern Gas Company Limited are all required to have engineering education and experience under Sections 2(XIII) and 27(5A) of PEC Act. The PEC’s mandate is to regulate engineering profession including registration of engineers, accreditation of engineering education, construction and consultancy sectors. -- DT

Special lunar eclipse: 'Super blue blood moon' to light up sky today

ICMD, Jan 31, 2018 The triple lunar event will be seen today (Wednesday) as a blue moon, super moon and total eclipse blood moon will light up the sky in some parts of the country after 151 years. People at some parts on the Earth will have an opportunity to witness all three lunar events at once, while most countries will miss out to see the triple lunar event, that hasn't been seen since 1866. It will be visible in some parts of Pakistan, Russia, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and Australia, US, northeastern Europe. The total phase of this lunar eclipse, also known as Blood Moon, would be visible penumbral at 15.51 PST, an official of Met Office. While the partial eclipse would begin at 16.48 PST whereas the total eclipse would start at 17.52 PST, however, the greatest eclipse time is 18.31 PST. The total eclipse would end at 19.08 PST, partial eclipse at 20.11 PST, and penumbral eclipse at 21.08 PST. The penumbral magnitude of the eclipse would be 2.2941while the umbral magnitude would be 1.3155. 'Super blue blood moon' A blue moon is called when the moon is full, and occurring twice in the calendar month. The moon is on a 28-day cycle so that only happens once in a while – or, as you might say, once in a blue moon. While the supermoon appears larger and brighter than usual as it's especially close to the Earth, during these times, the moon can appear 17 percent larger than it does at its furthest point in its orbit. The moon doesn't orbit Earth in a perfect circle – it's an ellipse, which means there are times during the orbit that it is thousands of miles closer to Earth than others, A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth's shadow moves across the Moon, blocking out the light from the Sun. TN

2017: the second hottest year since 1880

This year could turn out to be the second hottest year since the records began in 19th century, UN weather agency World Meteorological Organisation announced on Monday as countries gathered for climate change talks in Bonn. Temperatures were the highest ever in 2016, which climatologists attribute to El Nino event that releases heat from Pacific Ocean that contributes to warmer weather. El Nino was the reason that 2015 and 2014 saw sweltering heat but not 2017. In fact, the 2013-2017 period is likely to be the hottest five years the planet has seen in recorded history. The findings of the WMO will give around 200 countries something to think about at Bonn in Germany, where they will discuss the 2015 Paris climate pact that has been dealt a blow by the US plan to pullout. “We have witnessed extraordinary weather,” Reuters news agency quoted WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas as saying in a statement. He pointed to severe hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean, temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius in Pakistan, Iran and Oman, monsoon floods in Asia and drought in East Africa. “Many of these events - and detailed scientific studies will determine exactly how many - bear the tell-tale sign of climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities,” Taalas said. -- ICMD, Nov 6, 2017

Future of water

Hisaar Foundation‎ and Engro Foundation are organizing an international water conference in Karachi. The 3rd conference, the moot namely 'Future of Water' will be held on November 21 and 22, 2017 in Movenpick Hotel. The Conference Hisaar Foundation – a foundation for water, food and livelihood security, holds an international water conference every 2 years. This conference has gained a ‘must attend’ status in the region due to the bold and engaging ways in which it addresses water issues. Pakistan is uniquely situated in relation to the Third Pole and the Himalayan region, the Indus river system, the Punjab aquifer, the stark desert areas and the coastline on the Arabian Sea. It is also sits on the cusp of South Asia and Central Asia, and is linked to China, Iran and the Middle East, as well as to the Asia Pacific region. These linkages give this conference its value, focus and depth. This conference is attended in large numbers by participants from Pakistan, South Asia and across the globe. Since this conference is about the future of water, we will be mainstreaming many cross-cutting themes with special focus on youth, the inclusion of women, marginalized groups and poor communities. See more here: http://waterconference.hisaar.org/

Pollution Kills 9 Million a Year, Costs $4.6 Trillion

Pollution kills at least nine million people and costs trillions of dollars every year, according to the most comprehensive global analysis to date, which warns the crisis “threatens the continuing survival of human societies”. Toxic air, water, soils and workplaces are responsible for the diseases that kill one in every six people around the world, the landmark report found, and the true total could be millions higher because the impact of many pollutants are poorly understood. The deaths attributed to pollution are triple those from Aids, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The vast majority of the pollution deaths occur in poorer nations and in some, such as India, Chad and Madagascar, pollution causes a quarter of all deaths. The international researchers said this burden is a hugely expensive drag on developing economies. Rich nations still have work to do to tackle pollution: the US and Japan are in the top 10 for deaths from “modern” forms of pollution, ie fossil fuel-related air pollution and chemical pollution. But the scientists said that the big improvements that have been made in developed nations in recent decades show that beating pollution is a winnable battle if there is the political will. “Pollution is one of the great existential challenges of the [human-dominated] Anthropocene era,” concluded the authors of the Commission on Pollution and Health, published in the Lancet on Friday. “Pollution endangers the stability of the Earth’s support systems and threatens the continuing survival of human societies.” Prof Philip Landrigan, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, US, who co-led the commission, said: “We fear that with nine million deaths a year, we are pushing the envelope on the amount of pollution the Earth can carry.” For example, he said, air pollution deaths in south-east Asia are on track to double by 2050. Landrigan said the scale of deaths from pollution had surprised the researchers and that two other “real shockers” stood out. First was how quickly modern pollution deaths were rising, while “traditional” pollution deaths – from contaminated water and wood cooking fires – were falling as development work bears fruit. “Secondly, we hadn’t really got our minds around how much pollution is not counted in the present tally,” he said. “The current figure of nine million is almost certainly an underestimate, probably by several million.” This is because scientists are still discovering links between pollution and ill health, such as the connection between air pollution and dementia, diabetes and kidney disease. Furthermore, lack of data on many toxic metals and chemicals could not be included in the new analysis. The researchers estimated the welfare losses from pollution at $4.6tn a year, equivalent to more than 6% of global GDP. “Those costs are so massive they can drag down the economy of countries that are trying to get ahead,” said Landrigan. “We always hear ‘we can’t afford to clean up pollution’ – I say we can’t afford not to clean it up.” The commission report combined data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and elsewhere and found air pollution was the biggest killer, leading to heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and other illnesses. Outdoor air pollution, largely from vehicles and industry, caused 4.5m deaths a year and indoor air pollution, from wood and dung stoves, caused 2.9m. The next biggest killer was pollution of water, often with sewage, which is linked to 1.8m deaths as a result of gastrointestinal diseases and parasitic infections. Workplace pollution, including exposure to toxins, carcinogens and secondhand tobacco smoke, resulted in 800,000 deaths from diseases including pneumoconiosis in coal workers and bladder cancer in dye workers. Lead pollution, the one metal for which some data is available, was linked to 500,000 deaths a year. Low-income and rapidly industrialising countries are worst affected, suffering 92% of pollution-related deaths, with Somalia suffering the highest rate of pollution deaths. India, where both traditional and modern pollution are severe, has by far the largest number of pollution deaths at 2.5m. China is second with 1.8m and Russia and the US are also in the top 10. In terms of workplace-pollution related deaths, the UK, Japan and Germany all appear in the top 10. The report was produced by more than 40 researchers from governments and universities across the globe and was funded by the UN, the EU and the US. “This is an immensely important piece of work highlighting the impact that environmental pollution has on death and disease,” said Dr Maria Neira, the WHO director of public health and the environment. “This is an unacceptable loss of lives and human development potential.” The editor-in-chief of the Lancet, Dr Richard Horton, and the executive editor, Dr Pamela Das, said: “No country is unaffected by pollution. Human activities, including industrialisation, urbanisation, and globalisation, are all drivers of pollution. We hope the commission findings will persuade leaders at the national, state, provincial and city levels to make pollution a priority. Current and future generations deserve a pollution-free world.” Richard Fuller at Pure Earth, an international pollution clean-up charity and co-lead of the commission, said: “Pollution can be eliminated and pollution prevention can be highly cost-effective, helping to improve health and extend lifespan, while boosting the economy.” Since the US clean air act was introduced in 1970, levels of the six major pollutants have fallen by 70% while GDP has gone up by 250%, said Landrigan: “That puts the lie to the argument that pollution control kills jobs and stifles the economy.” Gina McCarthy, former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, criticised the rollback of pollution controls under the Trump administration: “Now is not the time to go backwards in the US,” she said. “Environmental protection and a strong economy go hand in hand. We also need to help other countries, not only for the benefit it will bring them, but because pollution knows no boundaries.” Rolling out new regulations, ending subsidies for polluting industries and deploying technology like smokestack filters could tackle pollution, the researchers said. But more research on the impact of pollution is also urgently required, said Fuller: “Available data does not include lead’s impact from toxic sites like Flint, in Michigan, US, or Kabwe, Zambia. Yet these populations experience enormous health impacts.” Landrigan said his biggest concern was the unknown impact of the hundreds of industrial chemicals and pesticides already widely dispersed around the world: “I worry we have created a situation where people are exposed to chemicals that are eroding intelligence or impairing reproduction or weakening their immune system, but we have not yet been smart enough to make the connection between the exposure and the outcome, because it is subtle.” On Wednesday, a horrific plunge in the abundance of vital insects was reported, with pesticides a possible cause. “Pollution has not received nearly as much attention as climate change, or Aids or malaria – it is the most underrated health problem in the world,” he said.