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Updates of cyclone in Tamil Nadu: Deaths rose to 10, over 16,000 evacuated electricity is cut in Chennai

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It is unfortunate that even while people of Tamil Nadu have not overcome the grief they suffer from the sudden demise of their beloved leader Amma, the high speed cyclone attacked them, making their life just unbearably miserable. Experts say Tamil Nadu this year had the worst ever wild wind this time and devastation is deadly, schools and colleges closed; over 16,000 evacuated.

The death toll due to cyclone Vardah rose to ten in Tamil Nadu on December 13. Four persons have died in Chennai alone, two in Kancheepuram, two in Tiruvallur, one in Villupuram and one in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu.

Chennaities woke up to uprooted trees, big broken branches blocking the roads, fallen name boards, hoardings, damaged compound walls and vehicles under fallen trees, power cut and lack of milk supplies on Tuesday, a day after severe cyclone Vardah ripped through the city. People in the residential localities after being awed by the damage caused by the cyclone started cleaning their compound of fallen trees, leaves and other muck that was blown by the cyclonic winds.

As the cyclone struck land, so strong were the winds that glass panels blew off the facade of a five-star hotel in Chennai, while in Andhra Pradesh, an oil tanker tipped over on a highway. The state government has asked people to stay home at least till midnight. All schools and colleges were closed today in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur and private offices were asked to allow staff to take a day off or work from home. The TN administration began clearing roads the moment the rain stopped this evening, with residents pitching in at many places, but it will be a long haul, with many arterial roads still flooded with ankle-high water.

In Chennai, powerful gusts of wind uprooted more than 200 trees and 50 electricity poles, blocking off many localities for several hours as corporation staff and policemen struggled to clear the roads. The electricity board cut power supply in most parts of Chennai for up to eight hours as a precaution.

Much of TN capital Chennai is in dark as electricity is cut. Traffic is dislocated for hours.

It has not rained in Chennai since about 4 pm, a little after Cyclone Vardah hit the Tamil Nadu coast on Monday afternoon making landfall about 15 km away from the capital. But after a one-hour lull, strong winds have started to blow again. The cyclone struck land with a wind speed of 120 and 130 kmph, bringing with it heavy rain that lashed the coast in Tamil Nadu and neighbour Andhra Pradesh all through Monday morning. More than 16,000 people have been evacuated from low areas and four people have died. Schools and colleges in Chennai, Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur will be closed tomorrow.

Thousands of people were evacuated from the low-lying areas, as the cyclone made a landfall near Chennai. Chennai airport services suspended at least till 9 pm; 4 killed in Tamil Nadu, over 8000 evacuated.

Many roads in Chennai are water logged traffic collapse. Electricity polls are broken as trees fell on them. At least four persons were killed so far as heavy rains accompanied by high velocity winds pounded the city and coastal districts of north Tamil Nadu on December 12 Monday due to severe cyclonic storm called “Vardah” which began making landfall near Chennai, disrupting land and air transport and throwing normal life out of gear. “The landfall process of cyclone Vardah has begun,” the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said. According to M Mohapatra, Additional Director General (Services) of IMD, the “eye” of the Cyclone is 20 kms off Chennai.

In the wake of the cyclone, the government and private schools, colleges and other educational institutions in Chennai, Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur will remain closed today. Chennai Airport has now become operational after the services were temporarily suspended yesterday in view of the cyclone.

Thousands of people were evacuated as Vardah pounded Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts with heavy rain and squall. More than ten thousand people were rescued by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). Director General of (NDRF) R.K. Pachnanda told ANI that the situation is being monitored closely by concerned authorities and they are working to restore normalcy as fast as they can.”It is as if we are in the midst of a forest,” quipped a businessman surveying the fallen trees in his locality.

The government declared Tuesday as holiday for all educational institutions in Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts. Meanwhile shops and hotels opened their shutters in the morning as usual. Some hotels refused to accept debit/credit cards for payment saying the point-of-sale terminals were not working.

In a statement issued on Monday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam said over 4,000 trees fell. According to citizens the number could be much more if one takes into account the trees inside the residential compounds. While the authorities have cleared the main roads of fallen trees for traffic, it would take a couple of days for them to clear the trees in the residential areas. While bus services were resumed, it would take some more time for the services to become normal as the routes have to be cleared of trees.

At the spot where former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa was buried at the Marina beach, the canopy remained intact despite the cyclonic winds. Several sand bags were lined up surrounding the burial spot to prevent flooding. The burial place continued to get stream of visitors from early morning.

Over 7,000 people have been evacuated from near the sea in Tamil Nadu and more than 9,400 in Andhra Pradesh and moved to relief camps. Over 9,400 people living along the Bay of Bengal coast in SPS Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh were evacuated to relief camps amid heavy rains due to the influence of severe cyclonic storm Vardah.

Over 15 teams of NDRF have been deployed in various coastal regions of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh which are on high alert due to the approaching cyclonic storm. Eight fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu were rescued from the sea near the Sriharikota High Altitude Range while search was on for ten more persons feared trapped at sea.

The armed forces have been asked to be on standby with the army, navy and air force prepared to be deployed anytime as and when required.

The Navy, Army and Air Force have been on the ready to assist with evacuation and rescue. The Navy has had two ships ready with doctors, food and water for 5,000 people. The National Disaster Relief Force or NDRF has deployed 16 teams.

The coastal zones are under panic and TN government and CM Paneerselvam, Radio and TV channels alert the people about the latest position and possible future effects and warn them not to go the beach..

However, the human deaths and other casualties are less than that happened last year thanks to preparedness of Tamil Nadu government to face such natural calamities. Last year’s tragedy in Chennai taught lessons to Tamil Nadu to be very cautious and this time the government was quick to react and take appropriate measures to bring the impact lesser felt and under control

Last year about this time giant floods ransacked the Chennai city and many other coastal towns .that had resulted in destructions, evacuations, dislocations, and deaths. It took months for Chennai to return to normalcy as many houses were in flood water.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh has phoned the chief ministers of both Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to assure them of the centre’s help if needed and to make an assessment of damage.

Cyclone Vardah will reach Karnataka tomorrow and pass over south Goa on Wednesday, December 14.

As it stands now the speed of cyclone has come down considerably but local rails in Chennai city have not yet begin operation. Some important trains going to other cities have also been stopped temporarily.

Rescue operations continue while rehabilitation works have begun slowly.

Since roads are filled with fallen tress transportation is facing difficulties, the government sections are taking care to remove the logs from the roads so that transport could begin normally.

The normal life is yet to return to Chennai.

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Energy News

Securing Africa’s Energy Future in the Wake of Covid-19

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African ministers from countries making up 70% of Africa’s total primary energy supply, nearly 70% of its GDP and more than half of the continent’s entire population met with global energy leaders via videoconference on 24 November 2020.

A revitalised energy sector is key to Africa’s economic transformation. Participants agreed on the urgent need to enhance actions to ensure sustainable economic recovery and significantly scale up energy investments in Africa over the next three years in the wake of Covid-19.

Discussions highlighted implementation priorities and innovations key to enabling Africa’s energy sector to power regional economic growth over the three-year period (2020-2023) that coincides with end of the first 10-year Action Plan of the AU Agenda 2063. Africa’s pace of progress towards the realisation of the transformative Agenda 2063 continental vision will be determined by the degree to which it successfully recovers from the evolving impacts of the 2020 global health and socioeconomic crisis. African countries must engage in robust, innovative actions to strengthen energy security, scale up infrastructure investment, and promote the growth of the green economy, making use of all available opportunities to continually accelerate Africa’s clean energy transitions. These interventions can be bolstered by enhanced rates of internal trade in Africa, including in the energy sector, through a speedy implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Ensuring Sustainable Recovery – Participants noted that achievement of full access to modern energy by 2030 is achievable but will require stable, consistent policies and strong political will. They stressed the need for all global stakeholders to maintain focus on collective action, and also update plans to step up the pace of universal access to electricity and modern cooking in Africa. African governments and other partners must continue to work together to ensure progress towards achievement of SDG7. It was acknowledged that the momentum behind existing policy and investment plans was insufficient to meet the modern energy needs of Africa’s population. It was noted with concern that the initial Covid-19 crisis impact in 2020 had already severely affected recent progress on universal energy access.

Financing and Investment – Participants underscored that Africa is facing major challenges in obtaining the required finance and new investments to meet its immense structural transformation needs. Challenges include reduced financing flows, a lack of fiscal space, a slowdown in new investments in the energy sector and significant increases in the cost of borrowing. Oil and gas producers in Africa have been hit very hard throughout 2020, and many new ones have seen their hope for energy sector transformation dashed by the global economic slowdown this year. Local currencies have weakened against hard currencies and this is translating to higher debt burden. The already weak financial position of many African power utilities has been worsened by declining demand due to the pandemic and a high default rate. This situation is further exacerbated by weakened currencies.

Key conclusions – Participants stressed the following top recommendations going forward:

Partnership for a green and just transition is an essential priority to boost sustainable economic recovery in Africa and ensure progress towards universal access to clean energy, whilst ensuring that no one is left behind. In that context, the need to involve more women and youth throughout the value chain of energy projects was also emphasised.

Support for energy sector institutions and particularly power utilities, which are the fulcrum of the sector, is critical against the financial shocks imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Predictable policy environments with innovative market regulations help to attract new investment.

An integrated approach embracing grid, mini-grid and off-grid solutions is required to sustain the momentum for increasing access. In light of the Covid-19 crisis, supportive policies to ensure the sustainability of mini-grid providers need to be replicated across the continent.

Despite the challenges imposed by Covid-19, governments must avoid the temptation to slow down the pace of energy access and provide the right incentives for the private sector to play a part in the recovery process, leveraging on the productive sector and innovative business models and digitalisation.

Enhanced multilateral, regional and international cooperation can play an important role in addressing financing and investmentchallenges in the post Covid-19 era.

Stronger regional integration of electricity markets and infrastructure is a crucial factor in achieving a just energy transition as well as building secure, flexible and reliable power supply in Africa.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) opens the door to a new era of increased interconnectedness. Continental energy infrastructure programs like PIDA should play significant role to support AfCFTA.

A strong focus on improving power infrastructure, within and across borders, building up regulation and capacity to support Africa’s power pools and further enable regional electricity markets could all play an instrumental role in improving the financing and investment climate on the continent.

AUC, IEA and partners should consider forming a Taskforce on climate financing solutions for the African energy community that could present its recommendations at the COP 26 in 2021.

The outcomes of this Ministerial Forum will be shared with African Union and IEA member state leaders, as well as the leaders of international financial institutions and other global decision-makers, business leaders and key stakeholders. In addition, these outcomes will help guide future activities linked to enhancing the strong AUC-IEA partnership and inform the IEA’s continued deepening of its engagement with key decision-makers from governments, the private sector, investors and other leading regional institutions across the continent. 

As the co-chairs of this event, we would like to thank all participants for their active engagement and constructive contributions.

Signed,

  • Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, African Union
  • Fatih Birol, Executive Director, IEA
  • Gwede Mantashe, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, South Africa 

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Human Rights

UN: Renew commitment to Palestinian people

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Al-Walaja, a Palestinian village in the West Bank. Photo: UNRWA/Marwan Baghdadi

Commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to explore every opening to “restore hope” for a two-State solution. 

In a message, the UN chief cautioned that prospects for a viable two-State solution are becoming “more distant”. 

“A host of factors continue to cause great misery, including: the expansion of illegal settlements, a significant spike in the demolition of Palestinian homes and structures, violence and continued militant activity,” said Mr. Guterres. 

“Israeli and Palestinian leaders have a responsibility to explore every opening to restore hope and achieve a two-State solution.” 

The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is observed each year on 29 November. Established in 1977, it marks the day in 1947 when the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution partitioning Palestine into an Arab State and a Jewish State. 

Committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis 

The Secretary-General said that he remains committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict and end the occupation in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements in pursuit of the vision of two States – Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and sovereign Palestine – living side by side in peace and security, within secure and recognized borders, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both States. 

“I hope that recent developments will encourage Palestinian and Israeli leaders to re-engage in meaningful negotiations, with the support of the international community, and will create opportunities for regional cooperation,” he said. 

“Let us together resolve to renew our commitment to the Palestinian people in their quest to achieve their inalienable rights and build a future of peace, dignity, justice and security,” added the Secretary-General.  

In the message, Mr. Guterres also extended his condolences on the passing, earlier this month, of Saeb Erakat, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General and Chief Negotiator for Palestinians in the Middle East Peace Process. 

Financial situation of UNRWA 

Mr. Guterres also voiced concerns over the financial situation facing the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides direct and often life-saving assistance to millions of Palestine refugees. 

“I appeal to all Member States to urgently contribute to enable UNRWA to meet the critical humanitarian and development needs of Palestine refugees during the pandemic,” urged the Secretary-General. 

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EU Politics

Commission and EBRD promote innovative use of data in public procurement involving EU funds

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The European Commission, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Open Contracting Partnership are joining forces to improve the quality and transparency of public tenders co-funded by EU funds in Greece and Poland. Thanks to their support, two pilot projects will provide expertise and hands-on support to public authorities in both countries, with a focus on digital innovation.

By promoting the smart use of innovation and open data, the two pilots will help public administrations to better plan, implement and monitor the procurement of works, goods and services. This will improve the use of public resources and increase opportunities for businesses, especially for small and medium companies (SMEs). Moreover, thanks to a cooperation with local civil society organisations, this initiative will also favour transparency of public spending and stimulate citizens’ participation in the monitoring of investments with a direct impact on the community, such as investments in sustainability, local development and social inclusion. 

The two pilot projects

  • In Greece, the project will aim at consolidating and integrating all databases into a single smart public contract register. This will enable online access for bidders and citizens, improve quality of data and facilitate the use of data-driven analytical tools for monitoring the procurement process.
  • In Poland, the initiative will support Polish national and local authorities to introduce open data in public procurement and promote automated collection, standardisation, and consolidation of procurement data on all tenders.

The two pilots will run until the end of 2021 and their results will be disseminated in order to ensure a successful roll out in other Member States.

Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “In the programming period 2021-2027, Cohesion policy will continue to support Member States and regions in their economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic, as well as boosting competitiveness through new investments in research and innovation, digital transition and the implementation of the European Green Deal agenda. Through the use of new technologies, national and local public authorities managing EU funds will be able to spend public money more effectively ensuring the best possible results for citizens and businesses”.

Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, added: “Transparency in public procurement is essential to ensure efficiency of public investments, in line with the EU strategic policy goals aiming at a greener, digital and more resilient Europe. Public authorities can rely on the EU’s public procurement framework, tools like the electronic procurement systems and open data for an efficient use of public funds.”

The EBRD Vice-President, Pierre Heilbronn commented: “The EBRD is committed to support legal and institutional reforms aimed at ensuring that procurement laws and practices are modern, in line with international standards and can swiftly respond to emerging challenges. Together with Open Contracting Partnership, we are sharing the experience of successful civil society procurement monitoring based on open data. Our joint efforts aim to create a framework for enlisting civil society organisations to support public procurement reforms and use open data to monitor procurement.”

Background

In the context of the next long-term EU budget, more than €370 billion from Cohesion policy funds will be invested to support the digital and green transitions of the Member States. Every year, public authorities in the EU spend around 14% of GDP on public procurement, amounting to more than €1.9 trillion. Almost half of Cohesion policy funding is channelled through public procurement. The Commission has promoted a series of initiatives aimed at helping Member States to improve the way administrations and beneficiaries use public procurement for EU investments. These include the Integrity Pacts to ensure more efficient and transparent tenders and safeguarding EU taxpayers’ money. The Commission also took action to facilitate citizen engagement for better governance and effective Cohesion policy investments.

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