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Bangladesh Can Boost its Exports with Better Logistics

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To meet the needs of its growing economy and to boost export growth, Bangladesh needs to improve its transport and logistics systems, says a new World Bank report launched today. 

The report Moving Forward: Connectivity and Logistics to Sustain Bangladesh’s Success, finds that by making logistics more efficient, Bangladesh can significantly boost export growth, maintain its position as a leading ready-made-garments and textile producer, and create more jobs. The report notes that congestion on roads and in seaports, high logistics costs, inadequate infrastructure, distorted logistics service markets, and fragmented governance hamper manufacturing and freight, further eroding Bangladesh’s competitive edge and putting its robust growth path at risk. 

“Bangladesh’s congested transportation and often unsophisticated logistics systems impose high costs to the economy,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan. “By making its logistics more efficient, Bangladesh can significantly optimize its connectivity, business environment, and competitiveness, putting the country on the right path to become a dynamic upper-middle-income country.”

Efficient logistics, the report argues, has become one of the main drivers for global trade competitiveness and export growth and diversification. For Bangladesh, improving its logistics performance provides an opportunity to increase its world market share in garments and textiles, which account for 84 percent of its total exports, expand into new markets, and diversify its manufacturing and agriculture into high-value products. 

The report notes that improving Bangladesh’s logistics requires a system-wide approach based on greater coordination among all public institutions involved in logistics and with the private sector, increasing the effective capacity of core infrastructure, and removing distortions in logistics service markets to reduce costs and improve quality. At a regional level, harmonizing its logistics systems and aligning its customs with that of its neighbors could turn Bangladesh into an important node for regional freight flows and further boost its trade. 

“There’s no doubt that reforms and investments for better transport and logistics will yield Bangladesh substantial economic benefits and strengthen its competitive advantage,” said Matías Herrera Dappe, Senior Economist at the World Bank and author of the report. “But the solution to logistics is not just to invest more but to invest better, by focusing on the service gap, and creating the incentives for high quality and competitive logistics services.”

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Environment

Biodiversity loss: what is causing it and why is it a concern?

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Biodiversity, or the variety of all living things on our planet, has been declining at an alarming rate in recent years, mainly due to human activities, such as land use changes, pollution and climate change.

On 16 January MEPs called for legally binding targets to stop biodiversity loss to be agreed at a UN biodiversity conference (COP15) in China in October. The conference brings together parties to the 1993 UN Biodiversity Convention to decide on its post-2020 strategy. Parliament wants the EU to take the lead by ensuring that 30% of EU territory consists of natural areas by 2030 and considering biodiversity in all EU policies.

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is traditionally defined as the variety of life on Earth in all its forms. It comprises the number of species, their genetic variation and the interaction of these lifeforms within complex ecosystems.

In a UN report published in 2019, scientists warned that one million species – out of an estimated total of eight million – are threatened with extinction, many within decades. Some researchers even consider we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history. Earlier known mass extinctions wiped out between 60% and 95% of all species. It takes millions of years for ecosystems to recover from such an event.

Why is biodiversity important?

Healthy ecosystems provide us with many essentials we take for granted. Plants convert energy from the sun making it available to other life forms. Bacteria and other living organisms break down organic matter into nutrients providing plants with healthy soil to grow in. Pollinators are essential in plant reproduction, guaranteeing our food production. Plants and oceans act as major carbon sinks.

In short, biodiversity provides us with clean air, fresh water, good quality soil and crop pollination. It helps us fight climate change and adapt to it as well reduce the impact of natural hazards.

Since living organisms interact in dynamic ecosystems, the disappearance of one species can have a far-reaching impact on the food chain. It is impossible to know exactly what the consequences of mass extinctions would be for humans, but we do know that for now the diversity of nature allows us to thrive.

What measures does the Parliament propose?

MEPs are calling for legally binding targets both locally and globally, in order to encourage more ambitious measures to ensure the conservation and the restoration of biodiversity. Natural areas should cover 30% of the EU territory by 2030 and degraded ecosystems should be restored. In order to guarantee sufficient financing, Parliament proposes that 10% of the EU’s next long-term budget is devoted to conservation of biodiversity

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Human Rights

Syrian conflict has ‘erased’ children’s dreams -new UN report

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Children stand in the courtyard of a school-turned shelter in Ar-Raqqa, in Syria. ©UNICEF/Bakr Alkasem

Nearly nine years of conflict in Syria have robbed boys and girls of their childhood and subjected them to “unabated violations of their rights”, including being killed, maimed, displaced, forced to fight or subjected to torture, rape and sexual slavery. 

The findings come in the latest report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, released on Thursday. 

“I am appalled by the flagrant disregard for the laws of war and the Convention on the Rights of the Child by all parties involved in the conflict”, said Commission chair Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro.  

“While the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic has the primary responsibility for the protection of boys and girls in the country, all of the actors in this conflict must do more to protect children and preserve the country’s future generation.”  

Dreams erased 

The three-member Commission was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international law related to the Syrian conflict, which began in March 2011. 

Its latest report is entitled: They have erased the dreams of my children – a quote taken from a 2012 interview with a woman discussing attacks on her village in Idlib. 

The study is based on approximately 5,000 interviews conducted between September 2011 and October 2019 with Syrian children, but also eyewitnesses, survivors, relatives of survivors, medical professionals, defectors, members of armed groups, healthcare professionals, lawyers and other affected communities. 

The Commission said the use of cluster munitions, so-called thermobaric bombs and chemical weapons by pro-Government forces, have caused scores of child casualties. 

Additionally, children’s experiences in the conflict “have been deeply gendered.”   

Women and girls worst affected 

Women and girls are “disproportionally affected” by sexual violence, and the threat of rape has led to restrictions in their movements. Girls have been confined to their homes, removed from school or faced obstacles to access health care.  

Meanwhile, boys, particularly those 12 and over, have been arrested and kept in detention facilities, and targeted for recruitment by armed groups and militia. 

“The younger ones are very good fighters. They fight with enthusiasm and are fearless. Fighters who are 14 -17 years old are on the frontline”, a person associated with an armed group told the authors. 

The war has also had an impact on access to education, with more than 2.1 million children not regularly attending classes of any form.   

“Urgent efforts are required by the Syrian Government to support as many children as possible to return to education.  Armed groups holding territory also need to act with haste to facilitate access to education,” said Karen AbuZayd, one of the commissioners. 

Commit to protecting children 

The report also expresses concern over the severe impact the conflict has had on children’s long-term physical and mental health.  

Large numbers of young Syrians now have disabilities as well as devastating psychological and development issues. Additionally, fighting has displaced some five million children. 

As the mother in Idlib stated: “They have erased the dreams of my children. They have destroyed what we have built during our whole life; my daughter was so depressed when she found out that our house was burnt down. My other child, a three-year-old boy, is traumatized by the crisis. He is continuously drawing tanks.”   

The Commission members called on all sides to “commit in writing” to granting children special protection during wartime, in line with international law. 

Other recommendations include ending child recruitment and taking child rights into consideration during military planning. 

They stressed that displaced children also require protection, which includes the obligation to repatriate children with family ties to ISIL extremist fighters. 

“States have well defined obligations to protect children, including from statelessness. Failing to abide by such fundamental principles would be a clear derogation of duty,” said Commissioner Hanny Megally. 

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Energy News

ADB Inaugurates Project to Replace Diesel Systems with Solar Hybrid Across Maldives

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Environment Ministry of the Maldives have inaugurated the implementation of a solar–battery–diesel hybrid system in 48 islands under the flagship Preparing Outer Islands for Sustainable Energy Development (POISED) Project to help the country tap solar power and reduce reliance on costly, polluting diesel.

The POISED Project aims to transform existing diesel-based energy minigrids into hybrid renewable energy systems in 160 inhabited islands of the atoll nation, out of which installations on 48 islands spread across 8 atolls have been commissioned. The project has been achieving this by investing in solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants, battery energy storage systems, energy management systems, and efficient diesel generators, as well as distribution grid upgrades to allow future renewable energy penetration.

“The POISED project—one of the largest energy sector interventions in the Maldives—will introduce sustainable energy in the outer islands as well as help reduce the cost of energy, minimize CO2 emissions, achieve considerable fuel savings, and reduce the burden on the government budget,” said the Director of ADB’s Energy Division for South Asia Mr. Priyantha Wijayatunga.

Mr. Wijayatunga, Minister of Environment Mr. Hussain Rasheed Hassan, and Minister of National Planning and Infrastructure Mr. Mohamed Aslam were among those taking part in a ceremony to inaugurate the project in Malé.

The Maldives is the first country in South Asia to achieve 100% access to electricity. Each inhabited island was electrified with its own diesel-powered grid system that was old and inefficient, resulting in expensive and sometimes unreliable electricity supply. Diesel power is also costly and requires government subsidies in excess of $40 million a year. The 100% diesel dependence of the Maldives makes it completely reliant on oil imports and also makes its carbon emissions per unit of electricity among the highest in the region. Project installations were able to prove that the optimally designed solar–battery–diesel hybrid systems could significantly lower the power generation cost compared to existing options.

The project already installed approximately 7.5 megawatt peak (MWp) of solar PV facilities, 5.6 megawatt-hour (MWh) of battery energy storage systems and 11.6 megawatts of energy-efficient diesel gensets, while also upgrading distribution grids in 48 islands. The overall project will target a minimum of 21 MWp of solar PV installations. This will cater for an annual demand of 27,600 MWh, accounting for a reduction of 19,623 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

The POISED Project, approved in September 2014, is supported by $55 million in grants from ADB—$38 million from the Asian Development Fund, $12 million from the Strategic Climate Fund (SCF), and $5 million from the Japan Fund for the Joint Crediting Mechanism (JFJCM)—and $50 million loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB). All the contracts under ADB for SCF have completed installations, while installation under JFJCM is currently in progress. Disbursements under EIB funding have commenced and EIB funds would be used for most of the remaining smaller islands.

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