News Wrap


The Brahmaputra has a length of 2880 km, of which 1625 km is in Tibet, 918 km in India and 337 km in Bangladesh. Out of five major tributaties of Brahamaputra river, only three come from China, the rest are from Arunachal Pradesh. Precipitation in China contributes to the flow of tributaries of Brahmaputra—Subansiri, Siang and Lohit—which originate from China, Of the total water entering Brahmaputra only 7% is contributed by precipitation in China. Of course, China has an ambitious $62 billion south-north water diversion scheme. Still not much water is gathered upstream. The average annual rain- fall is 400 mm in Tibet, and 3000 mm on the Indian side. Arunachal Pradesh has the highest potential for hydro-power generation in India. China has plans to divert water from rivers that flow into the Brahmaputra to the arid zones of Xinjiang and Gansu. There are concerns about the slow pace of work on the 233 hydro-electric projects awarded to Arunachal Pradesh. On rivers originating in China, India is losing out on the strategy of establishing prior-use-Claim.

Pension Bill
Demographic projections indicate the number of aged in India would increase to 17.9 crore, and comprise 13.3% of the population by 2026. However, barely 3.4 crore or less than 11% of the estimated working population of the country, is eligible to participate in formal provisions meant to provide old age income security. The passage of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill (2011) in the Lok Sabha in September 2013, makes the scope of membership to the National Pension System unlimited. Earlier, civil servants were the main subscribers to the NPS. Now private sector companies and self-employed individuals will start to invest in the scheme. The individual pension accounts will be portable across job changes. There are fears if the employees’ hard earned money is invested in private funds or the markets, there would be high risk involved.

Fukushima Nuclear Leak
Two years ago, the Fukushima-Dachi Nuclear plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company, had suffered a triple meltdown. An estimated hundreds of tons of contaminated ground water is flowing into the sea from the site, everyday. In August 2013, about 300 metric tons of highly radioactive waste has again leaked from a storage tank at the nuclear plant. The contaminated water registered radiation levels so high that workers near it would soon exceed their annual limit for exposure. The operators search for places to keep on estimated 400 tons of excess water a day, pumped out of the plant’s highly radioactive reactor and turbine buildings. The recent nuclear leak has spilled contaminated water into the ground around the tank. The leak originated from one of the 350 tanks set up hurriedly after earlier leaks in April 2013.

Chemical Attacks in Syria
Syria has natural gas fields, which is more attractive than Iraq’s oil fields. Western powers oppose the planned $10 billion Syria-Iraq-Iran pipeline, agreed in July 2011. Ever since president Assad of Syria bombed protesters during the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011, more than 100,000 people have been killed in two and half years of civil war in Syria. There are an estimated 1200 different rebel units, including the Free Syrian Army, ranging from family bands of fighters to small armies with tanks and artillery. The al-Nusra Front has al-Qaida connections, and the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant. Assad’s minority sect Alawite regime has friendly ties with Iran and the Hezbollah, both of which supply the Syrian regime with weapons.

Horrific video shot by activists on 21 August 2013, depict hundreds of Syrians killed or injured in a chemical attack on civilians, in at least seven districts, north-east of Damascus. Syria denies blame for the gas attacks, and says that they were perpetrated by rebels. To avert an American military attack on Syria, Russia has proposed to put all Syrian chemical weapons and related materials fully under international control, in order to ensure their verifiable and enforceable destruction.

Vol. 46, No. 19, Nov 17 - 23, 2013

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