The Role of Sherpas in Nature Conservation as Guardians of the Himalayas

On the way from Phakding (2,610 m) to Namche Bazar (3,440m). Walking duration is 5 to 6 hours to cross the 830 meters elevation through deep blue sky, snow-covered peaks, mystical landscape, breathing in fresh air, pine forests and ancient Buddhist sites. Credit: Valentina Gasbarri

By Valentina Gasbarri
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Jan 31 2020 – Since I was a kid, I grew up with adventures and stories of famous characters of the books of Jack London: White Fang, Make a Fire… and the incredible ode to perseverance of Martin Eden.

I was absolutely fascinated by the fact that human beings could establish a deep link with the environment, even in the remote, high-altitude, coldest and hardest places of our Planet. This was the first contact I had with the theoretical concept of sustainability.

But when theory meets curiosity, the result is clear: always looking for stories to be told to document successful models of living where Human-Nature result in creating a perfect balance.

Majestic landscape of mountains, deep valleys and glaciers are dominated by Mt. Everest (Sagarmatha in Nepalese, which means “forehead in the sky” and Chomolungma in Tibetan, meaning “goddess mother of mountains”) at 8,848m above the sea level.

This mountain of many names has always attracted pilgrims, whether Tibetans honoring a peak they believe is abode of a deity, or climbers or trekkers fascinated by the highest point on Earth.

Since the first successful ascent on 29 May 1953 by Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Sir. Edmund Hillary, a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer and philantropist, a pivotal change is taking place but local mountain Sherpas show resilience and are committed to protect high mountain ecosystem, plants and wildlife from the valley to the icy summits, where they have lived for more than 400 years.

“It is our hope that the people who are coming to the Sagarmatha Park and the Khumbu valley will agree that the Sherpa people and landscapes in our land have exhibited an overall stability and resiliency which can provide important insights and lessons-learned for mountain people around the globe” said Sherpa Paisang during our journey to the Everest Base Camp (8.364m).

The term Sherpa or sherwa derives from the Sherpa language words Shyar (“East”) and Pa (“People”), which refer to their geographical origin of Eastern Nepal.

“It’s hard to become a Sherpa guide, there’s a 1 year course to attend and an exam to pass on subject related to mountain and case-studies to be solved. Majority of Sherpas are porters. They can usually carry on their shoulders max 130kg from Lukla airport to Namche Bazar or up to the other villages. They get around $8 per kg. They got a little salary for a huge effort” said Paisang, a young guide with a long experience in trekking in the Himalays.

The 2011 Nepal census recorded 312,946 Sherpas within its borders.

Changes in the Sherpa livelihoods from tradition across the Himalaya to Global Tourism

As a population, the Sherpas have historically responded and adapted to changes brought by the outside world. In the mid-1800s, the King of Nepal granted the Sherpas a trade monopoly by prohibiting anyone but a Khumbu Sherpa from crossing the Nangpa La, the high-altitude pass to Tibet.

Many Sherpa families benefited to some degree from the bartering that took place in either Tibet or border towns of India.

Namche Bazar, 3,450m above the sea level, is the starting point for expeditions to Mt. Everest and other Himalayan peaks in the area. It has been the main trading centre since 1905. Prior to that, it was simply a place where traders from Khumjung stored their trading goods between the seasons when they could travel to the lowlands. The trade to Tibet was drastically reduced after it was taken over by the People’s Republic of China in the late 1950s.

At present only a few Tibetan and Sherpa traders crossed the pass in both directions. They could be seen at the weekly market with lowland in Nepal traders. The weekly market is not a Sherpa tradition, it was started in the mid-1960s by an army officer stationed in Namche to meet the needs of the growing population of Nepali civil servants.

Since the Nepali government first allowed Westerners to visit the Kingdom in 1950s, tourism has grown to be now the main source of livelihood for the Sherpas. Until the beginning of the 21st Century, the number of explorers coming to the SNP annually grown from 1,400 ( ‘70s) to over 25,000. According to the last figures more than 40,000 people per year make the trek from Lukla airport to the Everest Base Camp.

The growing prosperity brought also opportunities for new lifestyles. The Sherpas have constantly balanced outside influences with their own culture, which has valuable spiritual and cultural aspects to share with the world.

Before Western explorers, adventurers and climbers, Sherpas’ economy was based primarly on agriculture (potato and buckwheat farms) yak herding, and trade of salt, wool, rice, yaks and cows from Nepal to Tibet and viceversa. But in the valleys of Khumbu, the summer monsoon lasts from June to September. During the quiet but productive season people carry out their chores of hearding and farming. But… farming is not easy.

Most fields for cultivating food crops are at relatively lower elevtions of about 3,300 meters near the main Sherpa villages. During the cold winter, herds of yak or nak ( female) are grazed on nearby hillsides; when the summer comes, the yaks or nak are taken up to high valleys wher the rains changed the dry mountinsides to rich, green pastures.

Periche, Lobouche and Dingboche were established as their summer huts and hay fields. The shaggy bovines provide dairy products ( yak milk, butter and meat), wool and transportation.

But, nowadays we are witnessing a crucial shift for Sherpa culture, and in particular for the sub-culture of Sherpa guide, climbing and porters community. When the interest for adventurous explorations grew gradually over the decades, Sherpas were firstly hired away from their farms to carry loads, as porters, to become guides and climbers.

In some ways, Sherpas have benefited from this commercialization fo the Mt. Everest more that any ethnic group, earning money from trekkers or climbers. The job of “sherpa” has been progressively formalized and now they own hotels, trekking companies, airlines.

Paradoxically, Khumbu Sherpas are nowadays among the wealthies of Nepal’s dozens of ethnic groups.

***This story is a first of a series based on my experience on the Mt. Everest Base Camp Trekking Route with the aim to discover and understand more the spirit of the mountaneers and communities in a close relationship with the surrounding Nature

Our Message at Davos: Water & Sanitation Are a Critical Line of Defence Against Climate Change

Credit: WaterAid/ DRIK/ Habibul Haque

By Tim Wainwright
LONDON, Jan 31 2020 – There was only one topic on everyone’s lips at Davos this year – climate change. The headlines focused on the cold war between Greta Thunberg and Donald Trump, but there was much greater consensus among those gathered for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The Forum itself updated its manifesto for responsible business – with climate right at its core.

Among those calling for urgent action was WaterAid’s own president, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. It’s more than 30 years since he last attended Davos and, as he reminded the audience, 50 years since he made his first speech on the environment.

His message was stark, and his call to action challenging: the climate emergency requires nothing less than an overhaul of the current economy, with a new deal for people and planet.

The mood is slowly shifting towards the scale of action needed, given that climate change will affect every part of the economy. This cannot be truer than for water – the WEF has ranked water crises in its top five global risks in terms of likelihood or impact every year since 2012.

Infographic showing the top 10 risks over the next 10 years, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 report. Credit: World Economic Forum

The climate crisis is a water crisis, and a threat multiplier

Throughout the forum I had one consistent message: for the world’s poorest, the climate crisis is a water crisis. Yes, it has long-term implications for your businesses and economies. But, first and foremost, it is a question of survival, dignity and justice, with climate change already having devastating impacts on the lives of the people who did least to cause it.

Flooding, storms and droughts, which all impact on how and if people can get clean water, are becoming more frequent and extreme, and these trends are predicted to rise as the climate continues to change. This will undermine the already precarious access to water for billions around the world.

Climate change acts as a huge threat multiplier, worsening existing barriers to these services and rolling back progress already made.

As people living in climate-vulnerable areas experience changing weather patterns, less predictable rainfall, salt water intrusion and increased exposure to disease, water and sanitation become a critical line of defence.

If your water supply comes from a shallow aquifer that fills with sea water, then you can no longer drink it. But if the person designing your water supply has thought of this threat and factored it in, perhaps by drawing on deeper aquifers, then you can carry on living in your neighbourhood.

If your toilets and sanitation systems are constructed to withstand flooding, then your community does not suffer the same level of contamination after flooding as if human waste had been spread by the high waters.

The water and sanitation sector could become a leader in climate adaptation

But we currently lack the level of public and private sector investment and innovation required to deliver the sustainable water services that would benefit poverty reduction, industry and economic development.

This is a huge blind spot for business leaders and politicians, and a missed opportunity for creating a more sustainable future.

Rather than lagging behind, the water and sanitation sector could become a leader in delivering the kind of green infrastructure, services and jobs urgently required to enable adaptation to the worst impacts of climate change.

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive of WaterAid UK, speaking with Hassan Nasir Jamy, Secretary Ministry of Climate Change, at Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change in Islamabad, Pakistan. Credit: WaterAid/ Sibtain Haider

Water, sanitation and hygiene are core to a sustainable future

Leaving Davos last year, I was frustrated. I felt that too few understood or discussed the impact climate change would have on the already grave state of the world’s water and sanitation, and the devastating consequences for education, health, productivity and development.

This year, I sensed a greater understanding of the interlinked challenges we face, and with that an air of urgency and proactivity. Businesses are looking for solutions – not just raising concerns.

That is why WaterAid will be one of the organisations working closely with HRH the Prince of Wales as part of his 2020 year of action.

In March, in London, we will bring together the public, private and philanthropic sectors for a high-level summit that will position water, sanitation and hygiene at the forefront of the fight against climate, and work on the solutions that will ensure a sustainable future for all.

And we will continue that work across the WaterAid federation throughout the year, including at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali in June, and at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP 26, in Glasgow in November, to help build momentum for decisive action.

In this way we hope WaterAid can play its part in shifting the global trajectory in the coming decade, resulting in a fairer world for the poorest and most marginalised people.

Read our guide Water and resilient business: the critical role of water, sanitation and hygiene in a changing climate to learn more about how businesses can take action.

Coronavirus Spread Now a Global Emergency Declares World Health Organization

The rise in new coronavirus cases outside China, now constitutes a global health emergency, the World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee declared on Thursday, calling on all countries to take urgent measures to contain the respiratory disease.

Passengers wear face masks while riding the subway in Shenzhen, China. Credit: UN News/Jing Zhang.

By External Source
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 31 2020 – The rise in new coronavirus cases outside China, now constitutes a global health emergency, the World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee declared on Thursday, calling on all countries to take urgent measures to contain the respiratory disease.

Latest WHO figures state there are more than 7,800 confirmed cases globally, with 7,736 confirmed in China, and a further 12,167 suspected cases inside the country where the outbreak began in Wuhan, a city of around 11 million which remains in lockdown.

 

Latest figures

So far, 170 people have died in China, and 1,370 cases there are officially described as severe. A total of 124 have recovered and been discharged from hospital.

Outside China, there are 82 confirmed cases, in 18 different countries, and only seven had no history of travel in China.

“There has been human-to-human transmission in three countries outside China”, according to a statement released by WHO’s Emergency Committee. “One of these cases is severe and there have been no deaths.”

“The Committee believes that it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk.”

When the committee met last week, there were “divergent views” on whether the outbreak which began last month, constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), but the expert body convened by the WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was in agreement on Thursday.

 

Chinese leadership welcomed

“The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China, but what is happening in other countries”, said the WHO chief, praising the “extraordinary measures” taken there by authorities.

“China quickly identified the virus and shared its sequence, so that other countries could diagnose it quickly and protect themselves, which has resulted in rapid diagnostic tools”, said the statement from the Committee.

With concern rising that less developed countries will be more vulnerable, China has agreed to work internationally, with others who need support and “the measures China has taken are good not only for that country, but also for the rest of the world”, the statement added.

However, there remain “many unknowns”, the Committee warned, concerning the speed and spread of the epidemic.

 

Virus can be contained

“The Committee believes that it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk.”

Mr. Tedros tweeted following the meeting: “We must remember that these are people, not numbers. More important than the declaration of a public health emergency are the committee’s recommendations for preventing the spread…and ensuring a measured and evidence-based response.”

 

Travel and trade should continue

He said there was there was “no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade. We call on all countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent. WHO stands ready to provide advice to any country that is considering what measures to take.”

The Committee said evidence has shown that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies “may be ineffective and may divert resources from other interventions.

“Further, restrictions may interrupt needed aid and technical support, may disrupt businesses and may have negative effects” on the economies of those countries affected.

 

Advice to China:

The Committee is advising China to:

  • continue to implement a “comprehensive risk communication strategy”, regularly informing the population on developments. Public health measures need to be enhanced to contain the virus, and the resilience of the health system ensured, while health-workers are protected.
  • Enhance surveillance and active case finding.
  • Collaborate with WHO and partners to investigate and understand the spread and evolution of the disease.
  • Share full data on all human cases.
  • Strengthen the efforts to identify the animal-to-human source of the infection, and “particularly the potential for ongoing circulation with WHO as soon as it becomes available.”
  • Exit screening at international airports and ports, for early detection.

 

Other countries

“Countries are reminded that they are legally required to share information with WHO” now the health emergency is officially declared, said the Committee.

Despite encouraging countries not to impose blanket restrictions on trade and travel, “in certain specific circumstances, measures that restrict the movement of people may prove temporarily useful, such as in settings with limited response capacities and capabilities, or where there is high intensity of transmission among vulnerable populations.”

WHO is calling for greater support for low- and middle-income countries, to support their reponse to any cases, and allow them access to vaccines and drugs, as well as better surveillance and diagnostic tools.

 

Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) advice for the public.WHO

 

This story was originally published by UN News

WHO Declares Coronavirus a Public Health Emergency, Highlights Need to Support Countries ‘Weaker Health Systems’

Colorised scanning electron micrograph of MERS virus particles (yellow) both budding and attached to the surface of infected VERO E6 cells (blue). Credit: NIAID

By Samira Sadeque
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 31 2020 – Weeks into widespread panic about the “Coronavirus” that has so far killed at least 170 people in China, the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday declared it a public health emergency. As of Friday, the disease had spread to all the regions in Mainland China, with more than 7,500 cases in the country alone, according to the BBC

In a statement, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said owing to the large number of cases, the pace at which it is spreading, and for not knowing what this damage could do, he was declaring it “a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of novel coronavirus”.

The virus has so far spread to countries such as South Korea, and England with four countries reporting human-to-human transmission: Vietnam, Germany, Japan and the United States. A key message from Ghebreyesus was the concern regarding facilities in countries that have “weaker health systems”. 

He reiterated that it is not known the extent of the “damage” the virus could do if it spread to countries that don’t have the capacity to address such viruses. It’s unclear in what capacity WHO is working with these countries, and the organisation did not clarify when asked. 

“We support all countries as they coordinate the efforts of multiple sectors of the government and partners – including bi- and multi-laterals, funds and foundations, civil society organisations and private sector – to attain their health objectives and support their national health policies and strategies,” WHO said in a statement to IPS. 

The health network operates in six regions around the world with 149 field offices. 

Experts told IPS some of the main challenges for countries with “weaker health systems” include the laboratory access, staffing challenges, and bedding capacity.  

There remains a grave challenge in diagnosing the Coronavirus, especially given the symptoms are very similar to the flu. Because pneumonia can be caused by a number of viruses, there are extra lab test required to diagnose a patient with the coronavirus, and not all countries are equipped with that. 

Furthermore, it’s difficult to gauge what kind of treatment each patient needs: a person with a “severe” case might require different treatment. Also, if a larger group of patients each require a bed for treatment that can take up to 20 days, not all hospitals may have that capacity. 

Other concerns that experts worry about is how the virus is transmitted and how infected it is in a patient. In many places that fall under the category of “weaker health practices”, the enforcing of Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), the set of regulations for medical staff to prevent the spread of infections, in itself can be a challenge. 

Depending on how it’s contained and how soon a vaccine is available to stop it, the virus could affect anywhere between 39,000 to 190,000 people in Wuhan province of China, according to a Nature report.

Meanwhile, other countries that have key relations with China — such as those in Asia and Africa are turning away flights. Kenya Airways and RwandAir have suspended all flights from China. 

When asked by IPS whether countries with identified cases are seeking out assistance from WHO, the organisation said, “WHO is working 24/7 with networks of scientists, clinicians, disease trackers, governments, supply chain experts and partners from the public and private sector to coordinate the new coronavirus response and support affected and non-affected countries in various capacities as well as providing help if needed.”

India’s Unique Water Purification Wetland Could Soon Become Extinct

A flock of grey cranes peck for food amidst the shallow watergrass. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
KOLKATA, India, Jan 31 2020 – Ramkumar Mondal’s farm is awash in a brilliant yellow mustard bloom. A flock of grey cranes peck for food amidst the shallow watergrass. But Mondal’s fishpond digs in there like a do-or-die last sentinel as nearby high-rise buildings, a symbol of development and encroachment, menacingly tower over the fishpond, permanently blocking the eastern sun so essential for the pondwater to convert sewage into fish-feed.

Mondal’s fishpond is part of the East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW), spread over 12,500 hectares in coastal West Bengal’s Kolkata city in eastern India that “promotes the world’s largest wastewater-fed aqua culture system,” Shalini Dhyani, a senior scientist at India’s Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR)-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), told IPS.

EKW was designated a Ramsar site in 2002 under the convention and identified as a perfect example of the “wise use” of a wetland ecosystem.

Currently, everyday some one billion litres of wastewater, an estimated 30 to 50 percent of the sewage from central Kolkata, is drained into, treated and reused by the fishponds and again drained out to rice and vegetable farms from where, in about 30 days, the water drains into the sea.

“Where wastewater might deteriorate the entire wetland water quality, Kolkata’s wetland cleans its wastewater in just 20 days,” said Dhyani, who is also the South Asia chair Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Where rich biodiversity meets traditional knowledge

A government baseline report prepared on the EKW prior to its designation as a Ramsar site in 2002 mentions 40 fresh-water and brackish water fish species were common, 11 of which were cultivated. Plant species found were 104.

This complex play of diverse organisms from the humble microbes, wetland plants to more valued fish, aided by sunlight, suitable temperature, dissolved oxygen in the water – all free of cost – cleans Kolkata wastewater of 80 percent organic pollution and 99.9 percent coliform bacteria “much better than sewage treatment plants,” biologists said.

A key insight into how the system works also lies on the reliance of the fisherfolk feeding the human-waste-turned-to-algae to their fish.

“In a conventional waste water treatment, booming algae might be an issue while, in EKW the phytoplankton and algae growth, which is nothing but optimised human waste, is regularly netted by fishermen and fed to the fish. Every hectare gets 20 to 60 kilograms of (nature’s free) feed a day,” Dhyani said.

There are also unique bacteria in the wetlands that serve as “bio-filters”.

“There are 40 species of algae, 2 species of fern, 7 species of monocot and 21 species of dicots plants plays an important role in cleaning the sewage water by reducing the eutrophication, preventing oxygen depletion and ensuring that the fish survive. Around a dozen aquatic vascular hydrophytes in the region serve as bio-filters,” said Bonani Kakkar a leading Kolkata-based environmental activist heading non-profit People United for Better Living in Calcutta (PUBLIC).

There is no indication of how long the wetlands has been functioning as a natural waste treatment plant. But it could be well over a century. The East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority’s (EKWMA) historical timeline shows that in 1884 underground sewers to the city were laid, and by this time the waterbodies that now comprises EKW had already a number of established fish farms.

A conventional Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) would have cost Kolkata $125 million back in 2010. But thanks to this complex system in the wetlands, the city has its own free sewage treatment, according to a University of Essex study.

In an area already marked out for ‘development’ Ramkumar Mondal’s domestic sewage-fed fishpond makes the most of what little time is left. Harvested rice gives place to a mustard crop while a pumpkin vine perches over the water. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Aggressive urban encroachment threatens wetland biodiversity, ecosystem services

One would assume this unique and free natural sewage system would be highly preserved.

But Kakkar is concerned. It was Kakkar’s non-profit PUBLIC that in 1991 filed the first-ever lawsuit against land-use change and encroachment in the EKW that resulted in a major court ruling the following year.

The 1991 public-interest lawsuit by PUBLIC was triggered by a veiled land-grab for setting up a World Trade Centre on 227 acres (90 hectares) of wetland proposed by a private company, and it was supported by the West Bengal government,” she told IPS.

Calcutta High Court’s ruled in 1992 and directed the state government to ensure no change in the wetlands’ land use. 

“The EKW are yet to be demarcated (on the ground, though an official map exists) 28 years after the court order. A proper management plan is yet to be formulated,” Kakkar said. 

Because of this lack of management plan and clear demarcation, there is a frenzy of building activity around the wetlands on land that was previously designated as “wetlands” but is no longer legally so and has since been taken over for development.

“From 1992 onward, PUBLIC  has had to file over a dozen complaints in court against violations of the order, including two in India’s highest court against projects that received funding commitment from the state government’s industrial development wing,” Kakkar said adding, “all of these have posed serious threats to the biodiversity, flood mitigation and other benefits offered by the Kolkata wetland.”

High-rise buildings glare down at one small remaining patch of the East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW) fishponds. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Protection, not development, of the wetlands is needed

“Ironically, some of the biggest threats have been due to the state government – large construction proposals for a flyover bridge and another to access the wetlands, for instance,” Kakkar explained.

Studies and anecdotal evidence tell of surreptitious land-use change where fish ponds are being converted to rice farms aimed eventually for small industrial or residential utilisation.

EKWMA, the government custodian, shows on its official website that 391 cases for violations it has registered with local police from 2007 till 2014. More recent updates are unavailable. Calls made by IPS to EKWMA for their response went unanswered.

Rich returns from a perfect nature-based solution

But one thing is clear, between 1980 to 2000 around 2,200 hectares fishponds had been converted to rice paddies.

The remaining 254 individual sewage-fed fish ponds, some single holdings sprawling over 144 hectares with the smallest being a third of a hectare, are spread over 3,900 hectares on the eastern fringes of the city, crisscrossed with canals and creeks, a dead intertidal river, Bidyadhari, and another named Kulti that carries the city’s wastewater to the Bay of Bengal.

Together they send 10,000 tonnes of fish to Kolkata’s markets yearly, fulfilling one-third of the demand in a city of over five million people.

Not having to buy commercial fish feed saves the farmers money.

And this “nutrient subsidy” fish growers get from the wetland and their low transportation cost to their market is passed on the Kolkata city folks who get fish and vegetable not only farm fresh but reportedly up to 30 percent cheaper than India’s other metropolitan cities. For the city’s poor, the wetland fish remains one of the few affordable protein sources.

Fishing and the vegetable farms in this biodiverse wetland provides livelihoods, albeit many of these are subsistence-based, to around 100,000 people including large numbers of women and children. Maintaining fishponds, catching fish and carrying them to markets, sowing, weeding and harvesting vegetables and rice are among several employments, some of which get paid in kind.

“Kolkata’s wetlands ecosystem is an excellent example of a nature-based solution,” Dhyani told IPS.

Generations of knowledge and practices could be laid to waste by development

Dhyani said three generations of EKW fishers’ traditional knowledge is kept alive from father to sons. Pondwater is cleaned using kerosene, lime and oil cakes; digging the ponds to the accurate depth of three to five feet to allow sunlight to the bottom, mixing the right amount of sewage, maintaining the required time for conversion of wastewater into fish feed, when to add spawns and how to protect the embankments from emerging threats of water hyacinths are knowledge gleaned from long years of experience.

But it is slowly disappearing. Like the wetlands around Mondal’s fishpond, which has long been converted for development, though a few straggler ponds remain.

Some of the younger generation have turned away from traditional wastewater fisheries owing to several factors including an uncertain future in the face of aggressive urban encroachment and demand for land for city expansion. 

“My son has completed a diploma in plumbing and left last year to work in Pune [a city near Mumbai – India’s commercial hub],

“He dreams of going to Saudi Arab, says there is money there,” he told IPS, with an inaudible catch in his voice.

Coronavirus: Why China’s Strategy to Contain the Virus Might Work

Wuhan City has a population of over 11 million. Credit: Tauno Tõhk/CC by 2.0

By Fei Chen
Jan 30 2020 – On January 23, the authorities of Wuhan City, China, sealed off the motorways and shut down all public transport to stop the coronavirus outbreak from spreading. Shortly afterwards, at least ten other cities in China were under quarantine orders, most of them located in the areas surrounding Wuhan.

It sounds unbelievable to quarantine a city of 11 million people, but it may work because movement within and between cities in China relies heavily on public transport infrastructure. Major cities in China are well connected by airports, express railways, motorways and long-distance buses. Once the entry points of these transport routes are controlled and patrolled, people cannot easily get out.

Fei Chen, Senior Lecturer, Architecture, University of Liverpool

The transport infrastructure is built by the state and over 90% funded by public money, so control remains in the hands of the authorities. The one-party government in China also helps to effectively implement such a strategy.

Another reason this containment strategy may work is that major Chinese cities are large and dense. Wuhan has an urban area of 1,528km2, which makes it extremely difficult for people to walk out of the city if they are not able to take public transport or travel on the motorways using private cars.

People who live on the periphery of the city may still be able to get out through small local road networks that mainly lead to villages or the countryside. As long as the major roads are closed off, they are not able to reach other major cities with a large, concentrated population and the quarantine remains effective.

Megacity regions

The urbanisation process facilitated by the Chinese state results in big cities surrounded by smaller cities, towns and counties. This form of city cluster, known as megacity regions, are a recent phenomenon in China and their development
has been driven by both political and economic factors. The Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta are the most well known megacity regions, holding enormous economic power and attracting labourers regionally and nationally.

Wuhan and its surrounding cities, towns and counties holds a similar status in central China thanks to its strategic location on the Yangtze River and national railway network. The local authority’s Great Wuhan Economic Region plan is intended to promote Wuhan in efforts to become comparable to the aforementioned megacity regions.

Megacity regions are connected by transport routes and mostly developed around transport nodes, at both the regional and neighbourhood scales. This so-called transit-oriented development means that if the entry points of public transport are closed off in cities of the whole region, to a large extent, people are controlled in the region.

Chinese New Year

For more than three decades, Chinese urbanisation has seen large scale domestic migration. People from the countryside and smaller cities and towns move to big cities for more work opportunities and better education and healthcare. Chinese New Year is most important occasion when people return to their home towns to celebrate the festival with their families.

The coronavirus containment measures coincided with the national movement for the New Year celebration. This massive movement of people, if not controlled, would be a serious threat to containing the virus. People were advised against long-distance travel and the New Year holiday has been extended into February. These measures are to make sure movement within the country is restricted as much as possible. Workers will stay in their home cities as their returns are suspended.

The containment measures in Wuhan and other cities are likely to continue until further studies of the virus suggest other effective solutions. At the current moment, international travellers from China have all been checked at airports and some flights have been cancelled.

Cities nowadays rely on complex systems to operate. The concentration of labour and resources may enable efficiency but leaves them vulnerable to attacks. The outbreak put enormous pressure on Wuhan’s healthcare system as people can only seek treatment in the city. A few high-ranked hospitals in Wuhan possess the best resources, but they cannot cope with the healthcare demand from large groups at the same time. Two new hospitals are being built in Wuhan to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. They are expected to be completed on February 3rd and 5th respectively and provide 2,300 beds in total.

In the foreseeable future digital technologies and smart city measures may also play a role in dealing with pressure on health infrastructure by, for instance, reporting cases and coordinating the allocation of resources. Wuhan has a reputation for the active integration of smart technologies in urban management.

Although effective, sealing off an entire city or region should always be a last resort. It will surely have a negative social impact and damage the economy.The Conversation

Fei Chen is a senior lecturer of architecture, University of Liverpool

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Organic is the Future’

The seed bank at Navdanya, and (right) Vandana Shiva at the organic farm. Courtesy: Sapna Gopal

By Sapna Gopal
HIMALAYAS, India, Jan 30 2020 – Vandana Shiva, a pioneer of organic farming in India, is incensed by the 2019 draft law to compulsorily register all seeds used by farmers. On a wintry afternoon, at her farm Navdanya in the Himalayan foothills, the noted ecologist spoke on the future of the organic farming movement in India. Excerpts:

Q: What is your view on the Himalayas? How different from the plains is it as a terrain?

A: Agriculture in the Himalayas is diverse because every valley is different, every slope is different, every altitude is different – the North and South faces are different. So, biodiversity is even more important for mountainous regions and for the Himalayas in particular. This is because the difference between Himalayas and other mountains is, for instance in the Alps, there is snow in the winter and there is no agriculture during that time – our peak agriculture season is the monsoon and we get it in four months. So, to not consider biodiversity while planning agriculture is a recipe for ecological disaster as it was for forestry which is why the Chipko movement started – which is how I started my ecological life, 45 years ago.

Q: Do you think there is a revolution in organic farming in India? Do you think the demand for organic produce is much more now and there’s heightened awareness in this regard? If yes, is this good news for the Indian market and the overseas market?

A: There are three levels on which the awareness on organic is growing — we have all worked for 35 years to build this movement. Beginning with a network of people concerned, we started Samvardhan, from Gandhi’s ashram in the early 80s. Then, my book, Violence of the green revolution, is the work that made me realise that we had to give up chemicals and move to organic. So, in a lot of places, it is a revolution happening because the green revolution has destroyed water (since it uses ten times the water). As a result, people are shifting, because there’s no way we can continue to deplete the last drop of water. Farmers are also shifting because the cost of chemical agriculture is so high that it is trapping farmers in debt – 77% of them are in debt. This is for input purchase, not for marriages or wastage of money, but for input of agriculture that’s based on chemicals. Also, it is capital intensive and the fact is that there are 400,000 suicides among indebted peasants in India [over the last few decades]. All these are helping farmers wake up to the fact that this kind of agriculture is not for them.

Then, there are people in the cities who are realising that most of their health problems are related to food and we know that chronic diseases are food related. This being the case, it’s better to shift to organic since it is the best medicine. As Ayurveda says, annam sarvodayi [food as universal upliftement], so that is the shift.

Over the years, I have worked with many states and we have helped around seven of them make a shift towards organic policies. They include Uttarakhand, Kerala (where the movement is very strong and is spreading very fast), Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim (the first 100% organic state in the world), Bihar and Odisha. Now, the government in Odisha has declared an organic policy and our colleagues in Odisha are on the board of the organic policy team. Ladakh as a region (before all the political changes), declared itself organic.

Outside India, the government of Bhutan is totally committed to moving towards organic, and we have helped give advice. So, it is a movement that must grow because there is no other way to farm. In any case, the big companies that draw the chemicals are saying, we don’t need farmers now. We will do farming without farmers. And worse, they are also saying, we don’t need food either – we will just cook together constituents in the lab – so between no farmer and no food, the alternative that will work, for the farmer, for the earth, for the people who have to eat, will be organic. So, no matter how much of a denial takes place, this is the future.

Q: Do you think there is a problem in terms of certification for organic farmers? Are there some policies which could help address this issue?   

A: In the first instance, I remember going into the commerce ministry and saying, why on earth are organic standards being set by the commerce ministry? Our certification is too heavily driven by European standards. I was on the National Organic Board and we said that farmers can’t afford this – so, what was done was that we created group certification. In fact, Navdanya works through group certification — 100 farmers get together and then the overheads come down. In 2018, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) tried to take over the organic standards and were going to make it impossible for any farmer to distribute food, even locally, without certification cost. I recollect fighting it out and saying, “No, where farmers are growing food either for themselves or those they know and directly selling it, the state will not enter in that domain, you don’t need certification, you need relationship,” and we managed to get that exclusion in the national law.

However, it’s a permanent fight because there are those who do want to destroy the small farmer. Which is why for us in Navdanya, from the time I founded it, it is beej swaraj (seed sefl-rule) and ann swaraj (food self-rule) – so, we have to have swaraj (self-rule, freedom) in our seed  and in our food.

We wrote the laws on seed, we got rid of patenting in our laws, we wrote the farmers rights law. I have been part of drafting these laws, 10 to 15 years ago, and we did a satyagraha against seed law that would have made compulsory registration of seed, like compulsory certification of food. However, they have come back with a worse draft in 2019, something that was defeated in 2004. So, you can see that the powers of the industry are strong.

Q: We have witnessed a lot of suicides by farmers in India. Where does the solution lie?

A: The solution comes from understanding the cause, which is debt. Due to debt, there is loss of the land of the farmer. Of all the suicides that I have studied, if I have been in a region where the farmer has committed suicide, the story always goes that the latter went to his field to take one last look,  bought pesticide, and drank it in his field.

Why doesn’t a farmer commit suicide in his home and why the field? That is because in India, most smallholder farmers have received that land through generations of farming and the day the creditors, who are agents of the corporations, come to say that now your land is ours because you did not pay the debt – if he says he never mortgaged his land, he is told that he signed a paper – the shock of being cheated, the disaster of feeling he has betrayed mother earth, all his ancestors who had this land, is what leads to these suicides.

So, why does the farmer get into debt? I watched this in the area of BT Cotton – they are told to sign a piece of paper. The seeds are given for free, but the farmer does not realise he is being piled under debt. Worse, the seeds keep failing, because they are not designed for a drought prone area and are hybrids. They can’t be saved, they can’t control pests – therefore, all these false promises that are made, compel the farmer to constantly go back to the market and take more and more seed, not realising that it is all on credit.

I think it is wrong for a government to say replace your seed and take bad seeds – what kind of government is this? Forcing bad seeds in the name of seed replacement for farmers – it is really anti-national, which is why I do satyagraha against all this. The government’s public breeding has stopped – I filed an RTI (Right to Information petition) and wanted to know how many seeds the Cotton Research Institute had released and why farmers are not buying it. It was found that there wasn’t a single release in Vidarbha.

When I did a study and did not see an alternative, I decided we would bring back the old cotton seed. In villages where we work in, 60% of the (genetically modified) BT cotton has gone.

**This story was first published by Thirdpole.net. You can read it here.

New Challenges to Growth in Latin America & the Caribbean

Alejandro Werner is Director of the Western Hemisphere Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

By Alejandro Werner
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 30 2020 – Economic activity in Latin America and the Caribbean stagnated in 2019, continuing with the weak growth momentum of the previous five years and adding more urgency and new challenges to reignite growth.

Indeed, real GDP per capita in the region has declined by 0.6 percent per year on average during 2014–2019—a sharp contrast from the commodity boom’s average increase of two percent per year during 2000–2013.

This weak momentum reflects structural and cyclical factors. On the structural side, potential growth remains constrained by low investment, slow productivity growth, a weak business climate, and the low quality of infrastructure and education.

On the cyclical side, growth has been held back by low global growth and commodity prices, elevated economic policy uncertainty, economic rebalancing in some economies, and social unrest in others.

Regional challenges

Elevated policy uncertainty in several large Latin American countries continues to weigh on growth. For example, uncertainty about the course of economic policy and reforms in Brazil and Mexico likely contributed to the slowdown in real GDP and investment growth in 2019.

Continued economic rebalancing in stressed economies that experienced sudden stops in capital flows in 2018-19 (Argentina, Ecuador), while helping restore internal and external balances, have also acted as a drag on economic growth.

More recently, a few countries in the region experienced social unrest—Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, and Ecuador—which, in some cases, disrupted economic activity. Economic policy uncertainty has also risen in these countries as governments consider alternative policies and reforms to make growth more inclusive and address social demands.

Outlook and risks

As noted in the recent World Economic Outlook update, growth in the region is projected to rebound to 1.6 percent in 2020 and 2.3 percent in 2021—supported by a gradual pick up in global growth and commodity prices, continued monetary support, reduced economic policy uncertainty, and a gradual recovery in stressed economies.

However, there are also prominent downside risks. While previous external downside risks have moderated following globally synchronized monetary policy easing and the signing of the U.S.-China phase one trade deal, some new risks have appeared, including the potential global spread of the coronavirus, which could significantly disrupt global economic activity, trade, and travel.

Domestic and regional downside risks have also intensified. Social unrest could spike throughout the region, while economic policy uncertainty could rise further due to both heightened social tensions and policy slippages.

Policy priorities

Economic policies will need to strike a balance between rebuilding policy space and maintaining economic stability on the one hand and supporting economic activity and strengthening the social safety net on the other hand.

Although the causes and triggers of social unrest have varied across countries, they generally reflect discontent with some aspects of the economic and political systems. A key priority going forward is to reignite growth, while making it more inclusive.

Promoting competition will be important to avoid monopolistic practices that may hurt the poor disproportionally. Tackling corruption and weak governance will help make political systems more representative, although deeper political reforms may be needed.

Fiscal policy will need to support to growth, expand the social safety net, and improve the quality of public goods and services. However, in many countries, spending room in the budget remains constrained by high deficits and public debt.

These countries will need to improve spending efficiency, reallocate spending from nonpriority areas to public investment and social transfers and increase revenues over the medium term to finance additional increases in these areas.

Monetary policy can remain accommodative to support growth given the stable inflation outlook, well-anchored inflation expectations, and declining neutral rates worldwide.

South America

In Brazil, growth remained subdued at 1.2 percent in 2019, but is projected to accelerate to 2.2 percent in 2020 due to improving confidence following the approval of the pension reform and lower monetary policy interest rates in the context of low inflation.

Steady implementation of the government’s broad fiscal and structural reform agenda will be essential to safeguard public debt sustainability and boost potential growth.

In Chile, the outlook is subject to uncertainty resulting from social unrest and the evolving policy responses to the social demands. Following a sharp decline in late 2019, economic activity is expected to recover gradually supported by a significant fiscal expansion and looser monetary policy, with growth reaching about 1 percent in 2020.

In Colombia, strong domestic demand led to a pickup in growth to 3.3 percent in 2019 and a widening of the current account deficit to 4½ percent of GDP. Growth is projected to accelerate to around 3½ percent in 2020 due to continued monetary support, migration from Venezuela, remittances, civil works and higher investment due to recent tax policy changes.

In Peru, growth is estimated to have slowed to 2.4 percent in 2019, hampered by lower global trade and under-execution of government spending. With these factors dissipating in the coming years, growth is projected to recover to 3.2 percent in 2020 and 3.7 percent in 2021, with inflation remaining well-anchored within the central bank’s target range.

Venezuela remains immersed in a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. Since the end of 2013, real GDP has contracted by 65 percent driven by declining oil production, hyperinflation, collapsing public services, and plummeting purchasing power.

A continuation of these trends is projected for 2020, although at a slower pace. The acute humanitarian crisis has led to one of the largest migratory crises in history, with migration to neighboring countries expected to surpass 6 million—20 percent of the population—by 2020.

Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean

In Mexico, economic activity stagnated in 2019 due to policy uncertainty and slower global and U.S. manufacturing production. Growth is expected to recover to 1 percent in 2020 as conditions normalize, including with the ratification of the trade agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada (USMCA) and the recent easing of monetary policy, which should continue as along as inflation expectations are well-anchored.

Fiscal policy should be geared at putting the public debt-to-GDP ratio on a downward trajectory, with priority on increasing revenues, improving the efficiency of spending, and enhancing the fiscal framework.

In Central America, Panama, and the Dominican Republic growth is projected to rebound to 3.9 percent in 2020, from 3.2 percent in 2019, supported by the beginning of operations of a large copper mine in Panama, and accommodative monetary policy in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. In Costa Rica, continued implementation of all measures in the fiscal reform bill will be key to rebuild market confidence and fiscal space.

In Honduras, the economic plan includes important efforts to improve institutional, governance, and anti-corruption frameworks supporting business confidence, while Guatemala is expected to continue benefitting from a fiscal impulse and economic reform plans of the new administration.

El Salvador is already reaping the effects of the pro-growth agenda of the new administration inaugurated in June, while unfavorable political tensions in Nicaragua are creating a significant headwind to economic recovery.

In the Caribbean, economic prospects are improving, but with substantial variation across countries. Growth in tourism-dependent economies is expected to strengthen in 2020. With commodity prices remaining broadly stable, commodity exporters are expected to see modest recovery in growth, while large oil discoveries and the start of their production in 2020 is expected to boost growth in Guyana.

The region’s exposure to climate risks continues to require strong policies. Potential growth continues to be impeded by lingering structural problems including high public debt, weaker financial systems, high unemployment, and vulnerability to commodity and climate-related shocks.

Some countries have started to strengthen their fiscal positions, but further tightening is needed in others to ensure debt sustainability.

*IMFBlog is a forum for the views of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff and officials on pressing economic and policy issues of the day. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF and its Executive Board.

US Mideast Peace Plan: Israelis Offered the Cheese & Palestinians the Holes

Credit: Palestine Campaign.Org

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 30 2020 – The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has described the much-ballyhooed US Middle East peace plan as “more like Swiss cheese– with the cheese being offered to the Israelis and the holes to the Palestinians”.

“There are many ways to end the occupation, but the only legitimate options are those based on equality and human rights for all,” said the Jerusalem-based B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

“This is why the current plan which legitimizes, entrenches and even expands the scope of Israel’s human rights abuses, perpetuated now for over 52 years, is utterly unacceptable”, it said.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, based in Johannesburg, drew a parallel between Israel and apartheid South Africa of a bygone era.

“We concur with our Israeli comrades, and we painfully recall how Apartheid South Africa tried to impose its own plan during the 1980s where white people would own South Africa and the indigenous Black South Africans needed to be happy with small enclaves called Bantustans.”

“We rejected this then in Apartheid South Africa, and we, today, join those in rejecting it in Palestine-Israel,” said BDS in a statement released here.

Mouin Rabbani, co-editor Jadaliyya, an ezine focusing on the Middle East and produced by the Arab Studies Institute (ASI), told IPS the Trump Plan is not a peace initiative, that seeks to lay the basis for meaningful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to resolve the core issues of the conflict.

Rather, it seeks to unilaterally implement a permanent status reality that is tantamount to the extreme reaches of the Israeli political spectrum, with the imprimatur of US recognition and legitimacy, he said.

Any analyst with even a passing acquaintance of this conflict can immediately recognize that it cannot possibly serve as a basis of negotiations, let alone a negotiated settlement, because it prejudges virtually every Palestinian right, claim, and interest, Rabbani argued.

“This is deliberate — the references to negotiations are no more than a diplomatic fig leaf to enable Israeli to proceed unilaterally with acts of territorial annexation, the liquidation of the refugee question, the transfer of Arab citizens of Israel to Palestinian jurisdiction (thus removing there status as Israeli citizens), and the like,” he added.

Credit: PalestineUN.Org

Ramzy Baroud, a syndicated columnist, editor of The Palestine Chronicle and a senior research fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs in Istanbul, told IPS the Deal of the Century is a complete American acquiescence to the right-wing mentality that has ruled Israel for more than a decade.

This is certainly not an American peace overture, he pointed out, but an egregious act of bullying.

However, it is hardly a deviation from previous rounds of “peace-making,” where Washington always took Israel’s side, blamed Palestinians and failed to hold Tel Aviv accountable to its violations of previously signed treaties and international law, he noted.

“In truth, the Deal of the Century is not a ‘peace plan’, nor was it ever intended to be, despite what its chief architect and White House adviser Jared Kushner has been claiming”.

As expected, said Baroud, Trump has handed Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu everything that he and Israel ever wanted.

He also pointed out that the Middle East Plan does not demand the uprooting of a single illegal Jewish settlement and recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘undivided’ capital.

“It speaks of a conditioned and disfigured Palestinian state that can only be achieved based on vague conditions, rejects the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, and doesn’t mention the word ‘occupation’ even once”, said Baroud, author of the newly-released book These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons.

According to Cable News Network (CNN), the Trump administration unveiled its much-anticipated Middle East plan, which it’s touting as a “realistic two-state solution.

But Palestinians definitely don’t see it that way. The plan caters to nearly every major Israeli demand, including the annexation of its settlements in the contested West Bank region, said CNN.

“A future Palestinian state, meanwhile, would get a capital in eastern Jerusalem, physically separated from the rest of the city. The plan doesn’t lay out what would happen to Palestinian refugees displaced by ongoing conflict”.

In a brutally frank comment, Robert Malley, president of the International Crisis Group, was quoted as saying: “The message to the Palestinians, boiled down to its essence, is: You’ve lost, get over it.”

Rabbani said the peace plan is also not a framework for a two-state settlement.

“The potential Palestinian entity presented in the initiative, assuming it comes to pass, does not have any – I repeat, any – of the attributes of statehood as commonly understood.”

He said its objective is not the establishment of a Palestinian state but rather the permanent expansion of the Israeli state into occupied territory, less those areas heavily populated by Palestinians that Israel does not intend to annex.

The Palestinian entity, or rather the patchwork of Palestinian-populated regions within Israel according to this plan, are held together by some 15 bridges and tunnels, he noted.

“The purpose here is not Palestinian statehood, but rather achieving Israel’s long-term objective of maximum territory with minimum Arabs – an objective additionally furthered by the proposed transfer of Palestinian population centers within Israel to the jurisdiction of this entity”.

The broader purpose of this initiative, he argued, is to utilize the weakness, fragmentation, and polarisation of the Palestinians, and the Arab world more generally, to ram through a unilateral settlement of this conflict while the opportunity presents itself.

A second objective is to facilitate the formalisation of Israeli-Arab normalisation, though given the contours of this plan that is unlikely to be achieved.

In a word, the formalisation of Palestinian capitulation to not only Israel but a particularly extremist Israeli agenda, he declared.

More broadly, said Rabbani, it seeks to replace international law and the international consensus with the principle that might makes right and thus the law of the jungle in which power is the sole principle for the resolution of international disputes.

From the Trump administration’s perspective this therefore has much broader application than only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he declared.

Baroud said the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ has confirmed what many have argued for years: a just and peaceful future in Palestine and Israel cannot be achieved with Washington at the helm.

“So obviously only Israel benefits from the plan, as the Zionist discourse, predicated on maximum territorial gains with minimal Palestinian presence, has finally prevailed.”

He said every Israeli request has been met, to the last one. Meanwhile, Palestinians get nothing, aside from the promise of chasing another mirage of a Palestinian state that has no territorial continuity and no true sovereignty.

Not only will Trump’s plan fail to resolve the conflict, he argued, it will exasperate it as well; it will divide the region into blocs, with some Arabs normalization with Israel and others refusing to do so, especially while Palestinians continue to live in perpetual suffering.

As for the economic component of Trump’s plan, history has proven that there can be no economic prosperity under military occupation. Netanyahu and others before him tried such dubious methods, of ‘economic peace’ and such, and all have miserably failed.

“Time and again, the UN has made it clear that it follows a different political trajectory than that followed by Washington, and that all US decisions regarding the status of Jerusalem, the illegal settlements and the Golan Heights, are null and void; only international law matters, and none of Trump’s actions in recent years have succeeded in significantly altering international consensus on the rights of Palestinians”.

As for the status of and Palestinian rights in their occupied city, said Baroud, East Jerusalem, renaming a few neighborhoods – Kafr Aqab, the eastern part of Shuafat and Abu Dis – as al-Quds, or East Jerusalem is an old Israeli plan that failed in the past.

The late Yasser Arafat rejected it, and neither Mahmoud Abbas or any other Palestinian official would dare compromise on the historic and legal Palestinian rights in the city.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

Genomedia Accelerates its UHD Production Capabilities with Avid MediaCentral | Editorial Management

BURLINGTON, Mass., Jan. 29, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Avid (Nasdaq: AVID) today announced that Dubai–based production company Genomedia has transformed the way it produces and edits Ultra High Definition (UHD) content with Avid. Faced with delivering high–quality content within tight deadlines, Genomedia deployed an end–to–end Avid post–production workflow with MediaCentral | Editorial Management to empower its editors and significantly accelerate the production of its first ever drama series.

Genomedia's content is viewed by audiences across the Arab world. With its roots in documentary production, Genomedia needed a way to streamline the post–production process and enable collaboration between its editorial teams as it looked to expand its TV genre capabilities and meet business demand for UHD content.

An end–to–end workflow consisting of MediaCentral | Editorial Management interoperating with Media Composer , Pro Tools and three tiers of Avid NEXIS storage gave Genomedia's on–site editors and off–site producers the ability to boost production output, particularly UHD content. By enabling Genomedia's editorial teams to collaborate efficiently, multiple editors could easily select and work on the best shots collected from multiple cameras and approve footage simultaneously using just a web browser. With faster turnaround times, review processes are simplified "" allowing Genomedia to focus more on the creative process.

"Our previous workflow was encumbered by decentralized production islands and content maintained in numerous storage silos," said Khaled Ben Younes, Head of Post Production at Genomedia. "For a project of this magnitude, we needed a scalable, cost–effective and easy–to–integrate platform that would let our post–production teams find our assets fast, collaborate seamlessly and create the best story possible under intense time pressures. The usability and performance of Avid's workflow exceeded all our expectations. This type of post–production environment is still unique in the Middle East, but we're hugely excited about the opportunities it will unlock in the future."

The solution needed to be robust enough to handle the huge amount of data involved. The show "" which tells the story of the 16th century conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Egyptian Empire "" saw a minimum of 6–8 terabytes of raw footage collected every day. Genomedia's Avid workflow ensured that this footage could be stored, searched and exchanged between editors without a drop in performance.

"Transforming Genomedia's post–production workflow was necessary for this demanding project," said David Colantuoni, Vice President Product Management at Avid. "With its state–of–the–art Avid infrastructure in place, driven by the intuitive MediaCentral | Editorial Management platform, Genomedia will be able to continue making content to the highest production standards while also setting an example for the region in terms of growth and creativity for many years to come."

For more information about Avid product and services, visit www.avid.com.

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