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South Asia

The Canadian forest fire danger rating system

Brian Simpson's picture
On November 1-3, India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and the World Bank organized a workshop in Delhi to discuss forest fire prevention and management.  The workshop brought together fire experts and practitioners from eight countries along with Indian government officials from the ministry and the state forest departments, as well as representatives from academia and civil society. Brian Simpson, an analyst with the Canadian Forest Service, shares his perspective on how Canada developed its national fire danger rating system and how this system has helped in preventing, detecting and suppressing forest fires in that country. Canada's experience may serve as an inspiration as India continues to develop its own fire danger rating system, adapting it to local conditions and management needs.
 
Canada is a big country, with a lot of forest and a lot of water. Fires are common, and are concentrated in the boreal forest region, a band of forest that stretches around the whole northern hemisphere. On average, out of around 400 million ha of forest, about 8,000 fires and 2.5 million ha burn per year. And dozens of communities and tens of thousands of people need to be evacuated each year.
 
People are mostly concentrated along the southern border with the United States, where it’s warmer. A lot of the northern communities are actually indigenous, and many of them are only accessible by air or water. If there is a road, it’s the only road. These communities are often threatened by wildfires, and are frequently evacuated due to this threat.
 
Ultimately, Canada has three main problems with respect to wildland fire - prevention, detection, and suppression.  The Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System (CFFDRS) helps with each, though it’s only part of the solution. It helps with prevention by allowing fire managers to know where the risk of fires is higher. It helps with detection by giving fire managers a place and time to look for new fires. And it helps with suppression by providing some guidance about how the fire will behave. Beyond fire prevention, detection and suppression, CFFDRS helps with planning, response, risk assessment, smoke modelling, and even carbon emissions from these fires.
 Gts/Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: Gts/Shutterstock.com

With respect to wildland fire, the Government of Canada has a mandate to provide for the safety and security of Canadians, to protect critical infrastructure, to mitigate the effects of climate change, and to aid the implementation of other Sustainable Development Goals like reducing poverty and improving health. All are aided by the CFFDRS.

What are we doing to improve food security in Bhutan?

Abimbola Adubi's picture
Bhutan Food Security
The Food Security and Agricultural Productivity Project (FSAPP) will directly benefit approximately 10,400 households (52,000 people). Photo Credit: Abimbola Adubi

While Bhutan has seen immense growth along with impressive reductions in poverty, it remains a predominantly agriculture-based society, with the majority of the population relying on agriculture for their livelihoods. Most of the country’s arable land is cultivated by small farm holdings – an average size of 1.2 hectares – which produce most of the crop and livestock. However, despite importing 34% of its cereal needs, nearly one out of three Bhutanese suffer from food insecurity. Additionally, nearly 27 percent of Bhutanese households consume less than the daily minimum calorific requirement of 2,124 kcal, resulting in nearly 30 percent of the population facing malnourishment and related health issues such as stunting, or children that are too short for their age.  

To help improve the county’s agricultural productivity and better meet the nutrition needs of its people, we recently launched of the Food Security and Agricultural Productivity Project (FSAPP) with the government of Bhutan.  The project is designed to reduce the country’s reliance on food imports, help combat malnutrition in children, while improving agricultural productivity. It will assist farmers in five selected dzonkhags (districts) to diversify and enhance agriculture through better cultivation and sales and marketing of their products.

How could the project really be transformational for farmers in Bhutan?  The project builds on past efforts where the farmers were assisted with production inputs and equipment. It seeks to transform subsistence farming toward commercialization by boosting production and forging direct links to the market. The new project will also provide opportunities for the farmers to work together, form farming collectives, and create a unified voice to negotiate with agro-entrepreneurs for better terms for their goods.  

To improve female labour force participation in Sri Lanka, first change attitudes

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
Sri Lankan Women
Read the feature story here 
Earlier this year in Hatton, I met a group of talented, young adults who had just participated in a social innovation pilot program. They were enthusiastic and dynamic, brimming with potential. But the potential to realize that potential was going to be influenced along gender lines; the expectations and obligations to the families were the most important determinants.   
 
I heard about some of these challenges. One girl had an ailing mother at home and was responsible for her care; another struggled to study on weekends while working on weekdays, with both activities requiring long commutes. One young lady, T. Priya, who had just graduated from university with a BA, told me she was currently unemployed because she was determined to wait for the right job—which to her, meant joining the public sector. You’d be amazed at how often I have heard this from young Sri Lankans. Unfortunately, as we all know too well, there are only a limited number of these positions available. 
Getting Sri Lanka's Women to Work


This week, the World Bank published Getting to Work: Unlocking Women’s Potential in Sri Lanka’s Labor Force. The report notes that the number of women participating in Sri Lanka’s workforce is low, that women under 30 are facing high rates of unemployment and that wage disparities still exist between the sexes.  
 
Among its findings is that women like Priya, despite having high educational attainments (university level or higher), still queue for a limited number of public sector jobs which raises their rates of unemployment. Government jobs are seen as offering more flexible hours and financial security than private sector jobs.
 
Another issue is that the burden of household responsibilities and chores fall disproportionately on women. When women got married, it made it harder, not easier, for them to go to work, and this was only exacerbated when women had children.
 
For men, the situation is somewhat different. As of 2015, marriage lowered the odds of Female Labour Force Participation by 4.4 percentage points, while boosting men’s odds by 11 percentage points.  
 
But I think the roots of this problem go deeper, and start early. Young girls learn that it’s not important to be good at maths or sciences and many more pursue degrees in humanities and the arts, widely considered gender appropriate, rather than in the technical skills that are in demand in the private sector and growing industries.
 
This is only one way in which we limit our daughters.

Five myths about water in Pakistan

William Young's picture



Persistent myths, which can misguide policy, are barriers to improving water security for the people of Pakistan. Here are five:

First, this problem of water security is often presented as one of water scarcity. But Pakistan is a water-rich country – only 35 countries have more renewable water. It is true that measured for each person, Pakistan is approaching a widely recognized scarcity level of 1000 cubic meters each year. But there are 32 countries that have less water for each person and most of these countries are much wealthier and use less water for each person. Pakistan needs to shift its focus from scarcity to managing water demand and producing more from each drop of water. It needs to make water allocation more efficient and fair, and offer incentives that reflect how scarce water is to encourage wise use.

আমার সন্তান যেন থাকে মাছে-ভাতে

Susmita Dasgupta's picture
 
A mother feeds her daughter in Bangladesh. Image courtesy: The World Bank


বাঙালির  চিরন্তন প্রার্থনা তার সন্তানের মুখে একটু মাছ তুলে দেয়া।  প্রকৃতির দাক্ষিণ্যে বাংলাদেশে ধান, ফল, আর মাছের অভাব ছিল না।  তাই বাঙালির  সহজাত জ্ঞান ছিল যে মাছ সুপ্রাপ্য, মাছ সুস্বাধু , মাছ পুষ্টি দায়ক আর শিশুর জন্য মাছ পরিপূর্ণ খাবার। মাছ বাংলাদেশের সর্বত্র ছিল সহজলভ্য। নানা ধরণের মাছ, ছোট মাছ  অনেকটা যেন নিজে ধরা দিতো, মাছ আর কেবল শুধুমাত্র ভালো আর পুষ্টিকর খাবার থাকেনি, বাঙালীর ভালোবাসা আর গর্বের বিষয় হয়েছে। বাংলাদেশের সর্বত্র, অধিকাংশ পরিবারে মাছ সামাজিকতার অঙ্গ হয়েছে, আত্মীয়জন মাছ পরিবেশন না করলে মনক্ষুন্ন হয়েছে।  সব বাঙালিই ছোট বয়সে উপদেশ শুনেছে “মাছ খাও না হলে বড় হবে না” “মাছ খাও, মাথায় বুদ্ধি হবে” বা “এই মাছ খাও, পরীক্ষার ফল ভালো হবে” ।

আজকাল কিন্তু আর মাছ নিয়ে অত কথা শুনতে পাওয়া যায় না।  অবশ্যই এ বছর ইলিশ বেশি না কম হলো, এবার রপ্তানি হবে না আমদানি হবে; এরকম খবর দুচারটি খবরের কাগজে ছাপে।  কারণ এগুলো সব দামি মাছ। খবর গুলো হয়তো মাছ নিয়ে নয়, মাছের দাম নিয়ে। ঢাকা অথবা অন্যান্য শহরাঞ্চলে নতুন দারুণ খাবারের দোকান হয়েছে; দেশিবিদেশী নানাবিধ আয়োজনের খাবার পাওয়া যায়।  কিন্তু একটু ভালো মাছ-ভাত কোথায় পাওয়া যাবে, খুঁজতে হলে অনেকদিন অনেক পথে হাটঁতে হবে। যারা শহুরে  মধ্যবিত্ত, অথবা গ্রামাঞ্চলে উচ্চবিত্ত, তাদের অনেকের বাড়িতে বাচ্চারা দামি খাবার খায়, কিন্তু মাছ খাবে না।

অথচ বাংলাদেশের অসংখ্য শিশু অপুষ্টির শিকার। সরকার আর ইউনিসেফের নতুন রিপোর্ট " প্রগতির পথে বিবরণী " জানিয়েছে যে, পরিসংখ্যান মতে ৩০-৪০ শতাংশ শিশু এদেশে অপুষ্টিতে ভুগছে। কেবল গরিবের সন্তান নয়, মধ্যবিত্ত পরিবারের ছেলে মেয়েরাও প্রয়োজনীয় পুষ্টিকর খাবার আর পরিপালনের বাইরে। প্রশ্ন জাগে, চিরন্তন বিশ্বাস যে মাছ শিশুদের পুষ্টি যোগায়, তার থেকে আমরা দূরে সরে যাচ্ছি না তো? শিশু স্বাস্থ্যের সাথে জড়িত মায়েদের স্বাস্থ্য। মায়েরা মাছ খাচ্ছেন তো? এই সব ভাবনা চিন্তা নিয়ে বিশ্বব্যাংকের নতুন একটা গবেষণা প্রকাশিত হলো সম্প্রতি। বাংলাদেশে সামাজিক অর্থনৈতিক প্রসঙ্গে মাছ খাওয়া ও শিশু স্বাস্থ্য (The Socioeconomics of Fish Consumption and Child Health in Bangladesh)।

 বাংলাদেশের নিজস্ব জনসংখ্যাতাত্ত্বিক ও স্বাস্থ্য জরিপ (Demographic Health Survey) প্রায় প্রতি চার বছর পর হয়। এরকম ৫ টি জরিপের ( ২০০০, ২০০৪, ২০০৭, ২০১১ এবং ২০১৪ সাল) মোট ৩৬৪৯১ টি বর্ণনার সংখ্যাতাত্ত্বিক প্রতিলিপি (statistical regression) বিশ্লেষণ করা হয়েছে বিশ্বব্যাংকের এই গবেষণায়।  জানা যাচ্ছে যে, দেশের উন্নতির সাথে শিশু মৃত্যুর সংখ্যা কমেছে। পরিবারের আর্থিক উন্নতির সাথে শিশুর খাদ্য তালিকায় সর্ব মোট মাছ , মাংস আর  ডিমের অনুপাত বেড়েছে নজর কাড়ার মতো। কিন্তু আর্থিক উন্নতির সাথে মাছের  অনুপাত শিশুর খাদ্যে প্রত্যাশিত সমানুপাতে বাড়েনি।

গবেষণায় একটি অপ্রত্যাশিত ফল হলো যে পরিবারের প্রধানত: মায়েদের উচ্চশিক্ষার সাথে মাছ খাওয়ানোর প্রবণতা কমেছে। সব মিলিয়ে ডিম ও মাংসের তুলনায় বেশি পুষ্টিকর, উপকারী ও সস্তা হওয়া সত্ত্বেও, পারিবারিক ও আর্থিক সাচ্ছল্যের সাথে শিশুর খাবারে মাছের অনুপাত কমেছে। 

গবেষণাটি দেখিয়েছে যে, শিশু জন্মের আগে ও পরে মায়েরা একটু বেশি মাছ খেলে জন্মের প্রথম বছরে শিশুর মৃত্যুর আশংকা কমে যায়, আর জ্বর, কাশি, পেটের অসুখেও অপেক্ষেকৃত কম ভোগে শিশুরা।  বর্ষাকালে ও বর্ষার ঠিক পরে মাছ যখন সুলভ আর সহজপ্রাপ্য, তখন নিতান্ত নিম্নবিত্ত পরিবারের খাবারের তালিকায় অনুপাতে একটু বেশি হলেও স্থান পায় মাছ। ধারণা করা হচ্ছে এই সময়ে মায়েরাও মাছ খান। ফলত : বর্ষা অথবা তার একটু পরে সদ্যজাত বাচ্চাদের রোগ প্রতিরোধ ক্ষমতা বাড়ে এবং মৃত্যুহার কমে।  আর এর  উল্টো ঘটনা  ঘটে শুকনা মৌসুমে, যখন মাছ অতটা সহজ প্রাপ্য ও সুলভ হয় না। এবং মাছ খাওয়া কমে যায়।  সদ্যজাত শিশুদের রোগ বাড়ে, মৃত্যু হার বাড়ে।

বিশ্বব্যাংকের এই গবেষণার ফলাফল যেন কিছুটা ভুলে যাওয়া ঐতিহ্য মনে করিয়ে দেবার প্রচেষ্টা। শিশু স্বাস্থ্যের খাতিরে মাছের যোগান বাড়াতে হবে। বিশেষত: শিক্ষিত মায়েদের মাতৃ মঙ্গল শিক্ষায় জানাতে হবে মাছ খাওয়া কত প্রয়োজন। কেবল শিশুর খাবার নয়, অন্তঃসত্ত্বা মায়েদের বছর ধরে খেতে হবে আরো একটু বেশী মাছ। গবেষণাটি আশা করে যে শিশুর অপুষ্টির অন্যতম সমাধান হবে বাঙ্গালীর চির পরিচিত মাছে ভাতে। আর ভাবতে ভালো লাগে যে সবার প্রার্থনা যেন হয়, কেবল সন্তান নয়, জননীরাও যেন সবাই থাকেন মাছে - ভাতে। 

 
ডেভিড হুইলার , সুস্মিতা দাশগুপ্ত, তাপস পাল , গোলাম মোস্তফা      

From potato eaters to world leaders in agriculture

Priti Kumar's picture
 Raj Ganguly
Matching sheer ingenuity with technological prowess, the Netherlands (pop: 17 millions; about the size of Haryana state in India) today is one of the world’s most agriculturally productive countries, feeding people across the globe from its meager land area. Photo credit: Raj Ganguly

Van Gogh’s famous painting of Potato Eaters depicts a family of poor peasants seated around a dinner table eating their staple fare. The artist confessed that this work is deeply reflective of the hard work that Dutch peasants have to do to earn a bare meal. Van Gogh frequently painted the harvest and often compared the season to his own art, and how he would someday reap all that he had put into it. 

Since those difficult times in the late 1800s, the tiny country of the Netherlands (pop: 17 mill; about the size of Haryana state in India) has come a long way. Matching sheer ingenuity with technological prowess, the Netherlands today is one of the world’s most agriculturally productive countries, feeding people across the globe from its meager land area. Indeed, this small nation is now the world’s second-largest exporter of agri-food products including vegetables, fruits, potatoes, meat, milk and eggs; some 6% of world trade in fruits and 16% in vegetables comes from the Netherlands.

But how exactly did they do this? In October 2017, we went to find out. Our team - of World Bank and Indian government officials working on agribusiness, rural transformation and watershed development projects – sought to learn from Dutch experience and identify opportunities for future collaboration. We met farmer cooperatives, private companies, growers’ associations, academia, social enterprises, and government agencies, and gained fascinating insights.

Primarily, we found that a convenient location, a conducive climate, investments in high-quality infrastructure, high-caliber human capital, an enabling business environment and professionally-run private companies have provided the Netherlands with that unmistakable competitive edge:

Maximizing agricultural output with minimum land and labor

Located conveniently as a gateway to Europe, the Netherlands acts as a transit hub for agricultural produce, importing Euro 4.6 billion worth of produce from 107 countries, adding value to these products through collection, re(packaging) and processing, and exporting almost double that value - Euro 7.9 billion - to more than 150 nations. In 2014, Dutch growers had a turn-over of euro 2.9 billion in fruit and vegetables, produced with a minimum of land and labor - only 55,000 hectares and just 40,000 people - indicating a heavy reliance on automation.

Spotting fires from space helps India’s foresters

E. Vikram's picture
 Vikas Gusain (April 2017)
Almost all fires in India are set by people intentionally or unintentionally. Ground fire in Chir Pine forests in Gumkhal, Pauri Garwal District, Uttarakhand, India. Credit: Vikas Gusain (April 2017)

The three-day international workshop on forest fires organized by the World Bank and the Forest Ministry of India is a watershed event in the management of forest fires in the country (1-3rd November 2017). On the first day, discussions were held on the latest technology being used to alert foresters to fires.

Almost all fires in India are set by people intentionally or unintentionally. For instance, forest-dependent communities in central India burn the forest floor to encourage the growth of tender tendu leaves, and to collect mahua flowers which standout easily on the charred forest floor.

In the northeast and some parts of central India, forests are rotationally burnt to ashes to enrich the soil for agriculture. After a few seasons of cropping, the depleted area is left to nature and the trees grow back once again. In the western Himalayas, pine needles are cleared every year to encourage the growth of grass for cattle-fodder. When pine needles full of resin pile up year after year, it takes just one spark from a careless smoker to burn down an entire forest of enormous value.

In remote areas, forest fires may not be detected for hours or even days, leading to an irreversible loss of forest wealth. Like any other hazard, the earlier one gets to know about the outbreak, the better it is for both the authorities and the people. Since traditional ways of gathering information from people perched on watch towers are not very effective, satellite sensors that can detect heat and smoke from space have now come to the rescue of foresters across the country.   

Today, the Forest Survey of India, in partnership with the National Remote Sensing Centre, uses these satellite detections to alert foresters across the country about the exact location of forest fires. All steps in the detection and dissemination process have been fully automated – including the processing of satellite data, filtering out fires that burn outside forests, composing personalized SMSs to relevant people, as well as sending them across. This system has helped fire alerts to reach people within 45 minutes to 1 hour of detection, enabling foresters to reach the spot quickly and contain the damage.

The Legacy of Saman Kelegama

Sanjay Kathuria's picture
Saman Kelegama, a Sri Lankan economist and the Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS Sri Lanka) died prematurely in June 2017. He was a champion of deeper South Asian cooperation.
Saman Kelegama, a Sri Lankan economist and the Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS Sri Lanka) died prematurely in June 2017. He was a champion of deeper South Asian cooperation. Credit:  Institute of Policy Studies

I first met Saman in the early 1990s in Delhi.  Over the years, our paths diverged.  When I re-engaged on South Asia, I ran into Saman again. We re-connected instantly, despite the long intervening period.  This was easy to do with Saman—soft-spoken, affable, a gentleman to the core.  He bore his considerable knowledge lightly.  

Despite his premature passing away in June 2017, he left a rich and varied legacy behind him. I will confine myself to discussing his insights on regional cooperation in South Asia, based on his public writings and my interactions with him.

Saman was a champion of deeper economic linkages within South Asia. He was also pragmatic. 

Along with a few other regional champions, Saman, as the head of the Institute of Policy Studies in Colombo, helped to kick-start the “South Asian Economic Summit”, or SAES, in Colombo in 2008, to provide a high-profile forum for dialogue on topical issues, especially South Asian regional integration. It is remarkable that the SAES has endured, without any gap. The fact that the policy and academic fraternity meet with unfailing regularity, despite on-and-off political tensions in the region, is testimony to its value.

Saman repeatedly stressed that Sri Lanka has been able to reap benefits from the India-Sri Lanka FTA (ISFTA), contrary to the general belief. His arguments were powerful: the import-export ratio for Sri Lanka improved from 10.3 in 2000 (the start of the ISFTA) to 6.6 in 2015; about 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s exports to India get duty-free access under the FTA, but less than 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s imports from India come under the FTA (since India provided “special and differential treatment” to Sri Lanka).

India joins other countries in tackling forest fires

Christopher Sall's picture

Fire has been a part of India’s landscape since time immemorial. Every year, forest fires rage through nearly every state, ravaging more than half of India’s districts. Today, with growing populations in and around the forests, these fires are putting more lives and property at risk.  Indian Space Research Organization estimates that in 2014 alone, nearly 49,000 sq.km of forests - larger than the size of Haryana – were burned during the peak fire months of February to May. And, this was a mild year compared to the recent past! 



But, forest fires can also be beneficial. They play a vital role in maintaining healthy forests, recycling nutrients, helping trees to regenerate, removing invasive weeds and lantana, and maintaining habitat for some wildlife.  Occasional fires can also keep down fuel loads that feed larger, more destructive conflagrations.  However, as populations and demands on forest resources grow, the cycle of fires has spun out of balance, and the fires no longer sustain forest health.  In fact, in many countries, wildfires are burning larger areas, and fire seasons are growing longer due to a warming climate. 

Measuring South Asia’s economy from outer space

Martin Rama's picture
New technologies offer an opportunity to strengthen economic measurement. Evening luminosity observed from satellites has been shown to be a good proxy for economic activity.
New technologies offer an opportunity to strengthen economic measurement. Evening luminosity observed from satellites has been shown to be a good proxy for economic activity.
Economic growth is a key concern for economists, political leaders, and the broader population.

But how confident are we that the available data on economic activity paints an accurate picture of a country’s performance?

Measuring Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the most standard measure of economic activity, is especially challenging in developing countries, where the informal sector is large and institutional constraints can be severe.

In addition, many countries only provide GDP measures annually and at the national level. Not surprisingly, GDP growth estimates are often met with skepticism.
 
New technologies offer an opportunity to strengthen economic measurement. Evening luminosity observed from satellites has been shown to be a good proxy for economic activity.

As shown in Figure 1, there is a strong correlation between nightlight intensity and GDP levels in South Asia: the higher the nightlight intensity on the horizontal axis, the stronger the economic activity on the vertical axis.
Figure 1 Nightlight intensity increases with economic activity
Figure 1 Nightlight intensity increases with economic activity

However, measuring nightlight is challenging and comes with a few caveats. Clouds, moonlight, and radiance from the sun can affect measurement accuracy, which then requires filtering and standardizing.

On the other hand, nighlight data has a lot advantages like being available in high-frequency and with a very high spatial resolution. In the latest edition of South Asia Economic Focus, we use variations in nightlight intensity to analyze economic trends and illustrate how this data can help predict GDP over time and across space.

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