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Is Turkmenistan’s gas line a pipe dream?

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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Welcome to the Caspian Daily, where you will find the 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region. We appreciate ideas, reports, news and interesting articles. Send along to Caspian[at]moderndiplomacy.eu or on Twitter: @DGiannakopoulos

1For many, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) gas pipeline is nothing but a pipe dream.Its starting point is in Turkmenistan, one of the most isolated and closed-for-business states in the world, before it goes through war-torn Afghanistan and then reaches two countries that are hard to describe as partners – Pakistan and India.However, Turkmenistan insists that the pipeline’s construction will start by the end of 2015. The visit in May of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Ashgabat seemed to confirm this – both sides pledged to put fast track the project. Likewise the recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Turkmenistan is also being seen as a boost to the project” writes Abdujalil Abdurasulov for BBC.

2Azerbaijan to produce nuclear fuel? Azerbaijan aims to develop nuclear research in the country and produce nuclear fuel. The Emergency Situations Ministry together with the Ministry of Communications and High Technologies and the International Atomic Energy Agency are working on a feasibility study for a nuclear research reactor, according to a statement by Communications Minister Ali Abbasov at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers.“We also teamed up with the Ecology and Natural Resources Ministry to launch a geological investigation of nuclear deposits in Azerbaijan,” he said.“If we find enough sources we will draw up a package of proposals on the production of nuclear fuel in the country, and submit it to the government,” the minister added.

3Russia, China to Stage Naval Exercises in Sea of Japan in Late August. The exercises will include approximately 20 ships and support vessels, as well as aircraft from both sides. “For the first time joint training on the marine Klerk Range will include marine landings using landing vessels and flight aviation from both sides,” Capt. 1st Rank Roman Martov said.

4How Iran’s nuclear deal affects India. The landmark nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers has enabled Tehran to restore normal trade with many countries. But before the deal was reached, and despite crippling sanctions, India was among a handful of countries doing billions of dollars of trade with Iran. The lifting of sanctions will have significant implications for Delhi, which hopes to reinvigorate its economic and strategic engagement with Tehran. However, there are concerns among Indian businessmen that Iran may now play hard to get, or even turn to more competitive international players. The BBC’s Anbarasan Ethirajan looks at the impact on India and its economic interests.

5Rosatom promotes its technologies at the PowerGen Africa conference in Cape Town. Rosatom executives gave an overview of the State corporation, which had 250 000 employees in over 360 companies and boasted an order portfolio of $101.4-billion. It is the second largest nuclear energy corporation in the world according to installed nuclear capacity and makes up 17% of the world nuclear fuel market. Besides its dominance in nuclear power stations, it had extensive experience in thermal power technologies, which it was keen to share with South Africa. Rosatom had a separate thermal power utility.

6Kazakhstan to build new refinery jointly with Iran. Kazakhstan will construct a new – fourth refinery in the Mangistau region, Rakimbek Amirjanov, the deputy akim of the Mangistau region said at a briefing on July 15. He also noted that the construction of the refinery will be conducted jointly with Iran, local Kazakh media reported.”Akimat is considering the construction of Kazakhstan’s fourth refinery jointly with the Iranian side. We have conducted an analysis and received a confirmation from the Iranian side,” he stressed. “Currently, we have offered to jointly construct a refinery. It will be located in the Mangistau region. Oil products will be sent from Mangistau to the northern ports of Iran.”Amirjanov went on to add that Iran and Kazakhstan have already held a number of official negotiations. Also, there are large companies in Kazakhstan that are interested in investing in this project.

7Ukraine wants to buy Kazakh and Turkmen gas. Head of the European integration department at the Ukrainian Energy and Coal Industry Ministry Mykhailo Bno-Airiyan said that Ukraine was interested in buying gas from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. It was reported by in October 2014 Ukraine’s temporary charge d’affaires in Kazakhstan Yuri Lazebnik expressed Ukraine’s interest in getting gas from Kazakhstan bypassing Russia. But that time Kazakhstan did not confirm that any official request from Ukraine regarding gas was made.

8Electronic property registration service for Azerbaijan. A new online system will simplify the procedure of real estate registration for Azerbaijani citizens. After having signed and notarized a real estate purchase contract, citizens and legal entities will no longer need to revisit the registrar for documentation. The new paperless system will make it possible to register real estate online. The National System of Real Estate Registration may provide an online payment system for state fees to further simply the registration procedure.

9A new era for Iran. “Iran, host to many unique cultural treasures largely unseen by western eyes, is expecting a significant rise in the number of tourists visiting the country in the wake of this week’s historic nuclear deal. President Hassan Rouhani’s government is taking fresh measures to ease or abolish visa requirements for most foreign visitors and build as many as 200 new hotels, as existing accommodation is insufficient to cater for the spike in tourism that has occurred since his election in 2013. Iran’s vice-president for tourism, Masoud Soltanifar, said that “bright days” lie ahead for the country’s tourism industry following the nuclear agreement struck in Vienna. “No other industry in Iran will see a bigger boost than tourism as the result of this deal,” he said” writes Saeed Kamali Dehghan for the guardian.

10Azerbaijan’s oil production fell by 1.7% year-on-year. In June 2015 oil production in Azerbaijan declined by 2.5% compared to May 2015.The State Statistics Committee reports that in Jan-Jun the country produced 20.971 million tons of oil that was less than production in Jan-Jun 2014 by 1.7%.

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine. follow @DGiannakopoulos

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Top global firms commit to tackling inequality by joining G7 Business for Inclusive Growth coalition

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A group of major international companies has pledged to tackle inequality and promote diversity in their workplaces and supply chains as part of a G7 initiative sponsored by French President Emmanuel Macron and overseen by the OECD.

The Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) coalition will be launched at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Biarritz, France, taking place from 24 to 26 August 2019. Spearheaded by Emmanuel Faber, Danone Chairman and CEO, the coalition brings together 34 leading multinationals with more than 3 million employees worldwide and global revenues topping $1 trillion. Members have agreed to sign a pledge to take concrete actions to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are more widely shared.

B4IG coalition members will tackle persistent inequalities of opportunity, reduce regional disparities and fight gender discrimination. Companies have identified an initial pool of more than 50 existing and planned projects, representing more than 1 billion euros in private funding, to be covered under the initiative. The projects range from training programmes to help employees adapt to the future of work to greater investment in childcare, to increasing women’s participation in the workforce; to financially supporting small businesses, to encouraging greater participation in supply chains; and to enhancing the integration of refugees through faster integration to the workforce. Coalition members will seek to accelerate, scale up and replicate already existing projects, while significantly expanding their social impact.

The platform, chaired by Danone, consists of a three-year, OECD-managed programme. It aims at increasing opportunities for disadvantaged and under-represented groups through retraining and upskilling, as well as promoting diversity on the companies’ boards and executive committees and tackling inequalities throughout their supply chains. They will also step up business action to advance human rights, build more inclusive workplaces and strengthen inclusion in their internal and external business ecosystems.

The B4IG initiative will be presented to President Macron during a meeting with business and civil society leaders at the Elysées Palace on Friday 23 August.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said: “Growing inequality is one of the biggest social challenges in the world today, perpetuating poverty, undermining social cohesion and trust. Sustainable economic growth means inclusive economic growth. It means giving every individual the opportunity to fulfil her or his potential, the chance not only to contribute to a nation’s growth but to benefit from it, regardless of their background or origins.”

Mr Gurría added: “I welcome this initiative by France to involve some of the world’s most important companies to work hand-in-hand with governments and the OECD to tackle inequalities. The OECD, for its part, will contribute with its policy analysis, research and expertise.”

A Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) Incubator of public-private projects will be created at the OECD. The facility will offer companies access to the latest policy research, to help them launch and develop projects, undertake impact assessments and eventually bring about meaningful change. The B4IG Incubator will be funded by both G7 governments and private donors. It will service innovative inclusive business projects that require strong collaboration between the private and the public sector. The Incubator will catalyse and disseminate knowledge around the business models with higher social impact.

An evaluation of the projects will be published after three years, alongside OECD guidance for promoting inclusive growth through joint public-private action and for measuring business performance.

OECD Chief of Staff and Sherpa Gabriela Ramos, leader of the OECD Inclusive Growth Initiative, said: “The OECD has been documenting and raising the alarm bell regarding the increased inequalities of income and opportunities in OECD countries for decades. They do not only undermine social cohesion and trust, but they also hamper growth, by preventing our economies to take full advantage of the talent of its people and businesses. We are delighted to partner with leading companies that are committed to take action. Our experience, evidence and best practices are at the service of the Business for Inclusive Growth Initiative.”

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World Bank Launches Stakeholders Consultations to Support Peace in Afghanistan

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The World Bank today launched a stakeholder’s consultation to identify economic initiatives to support and sustain peace in Afghanistan once a potential political settlement is reached with the Taliban.

After completing several consultations with international and Afghan stakeholders, the World Bank is now seeking broader input from all stakeholders and made public several draft documents on its website to facilitate the process.  

At the 2018 Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, the World Bank was tasked to support planning for post-settlement economic development projects and programming following discussions.

According to Henry Kerali, the World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan, the consultations will serve several purposes. “First, we want to show that a peace agreement can bring substantial economic benefits to all Afghans and is in the interest of all parties involved in the ongoing conflict. Second, we want to identify potential principles and themes to guide programming decisions following a settlement. Finally, we want to provide some concrete ideas about the kind of programs that could be scaled up or initiated to maintain peace and realize new economic opportunities in Afghanistan.”  

Kerali also noted that the consultations come at a critical time for Afghanistan. “The World Bank is merely providing technical analysis and is not involved in any negotiations; our priority is to plan for the future of Afghanistan. Peace prospects can improve if the right economic conditions are in place and create job opportunities for those who might otherwise take up arms.” Kerali also noted that public input would be vital to ensure effective planning.

The World Bank is inviting comment on three documents now published on its Afghanistan website:

  1. A two-page consultation note;
  2. A short consultation presentation; and
  3. A full technical report.

Consultations are expected to continue until a peace agreement is reached and new programming decisions are made. The public is invited to share comments and questions throughout the process via email or through comments on the relevant website.

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Microplastic pollution is everywhere, but not necessarily a risk to human health

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A woman fetches water in Pakistan. Photo: UNDP Pakistan

Tiny plastic particles known as microplastics are “everywhere – including in our drinking-water”, but they are not necessarily a risk to human health, UN experts said on Thursday.

In its first summary of the latest research into the impact of the tiny plastic pollutants on humans, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that they have been found in marine settings, waste and fresh water, food, the air and drinking-water, both bottled and from a tap.

Frequently, microplastics are defined as less than five millimetres long, according to WHO.

Its report notes that the particles most commonly found in drinking-water are plastic bottle fragments.

“Based on the limited information we have, microplastics in drinking water don’t appear to pose a health risk at current levels. But we need to find out more,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO’s Director, Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health. “We urgently need to know more about the health impact of microplastics because they are everywhere – including in our drinking-water.”

According to WHO’s findings, microplastics larger than 150 micrometres (a micrometre is a millionth of a metre) are unlikely to be absorbed in the human body, while the uptake of smaller particles is likely to be limited. 

Absorption of microplastic particles “including in the nano-size range may, however, be higher”, the WHO report continues, before cautioning that available data in this “emerging area” is extremely limited.

Asked by journalists about how levels of plastic pollutants differ between tap water and bottled water, WHO’s Jennifer de France from WHO’s Department of Public Health, replied that bottled water “in general did contain higher particle numbers”.

Nonetheless, Ms. France also cautioned against jumping to conclusions, owing to the lack of available data.

“In drinking water in general, often the two polymers that were most frequently detected were polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene,” she said. “Now these polymers – the polyethylene terephthalate – is often used in producing bottled water bottles, and polypropylene, is often used in producing caps. However, there were other polymers detected as well, so more studies are needed to really make a firm conclusion about where the sources are coming from.”

While citing the handful of available studies into the absorption of microplastics and nanoplastics in rats and mice, which showed symptoms including inflammation of the liver, WHO’s report insists that people are unlikely to be exposed to such high levels of pollutants.

Drinking-water contamination: a million lives lost each year

A much more clearly understood potential threat than microplastics is exposure to drinking-water contaminated by human or animal waste, said Bruce Gordon, from WHO’s Department of Public Health, highlighting a problem that affects two billion people and claims one million lives a year.

One way that Governments can tackle this problem is by putting in place better waste-water filtration systems.

The move would reduce microplastic pollution by around 90 per cent, the WHO official explained, before noting that the report had touched on people’s wider concerns about how to live more sustainably and waste less.

“Consumers shouldn’t be too worried,” Mr. Gordon said. “There’s many dimensions to this story that are beyond health. What I mean by that is, if you are a concerned citizen worried about plastic pollution and you have access to a well-managed piped supply – a water supply – why not drink from that? Why not reduce pollution. Of course, there are times when you need a water bottle when you’re walking around, but please reuse it”, he emphasized.

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