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TOP HEADLINES 22 December 2011
1. ASIA: Improved access to safe drinking water
2. INDIA: Take broadband to the masses
3. INDONESIA: Land law passage adds to good news
4. PRC: Environment tax needed as car numbers soar
5. AFGHANISTAN: Opening first major train service
6. ASIA: Ready for its own energy supergrid?
7. BANGLADESH: Realizing the potential of SMEs
8. VIET NAM: Boosting education for ethnic minority children
9. PNG: Population growth fuels conflict
10. UZBEKISTAN: Residents freezing without gas
IN DEPTH
1. ASIA: Improved access to safe drinking water
Source: UN News Centre

"The internationally stated goal of improving access to safe drinking water across the globe is likely to be achieved well ahead of the 2015 deadline, but large numbers of people in the world's least developed regions will still not benefit, according to a United Nations report. Between 1990 and 2008, the proportion of the world's population with access to improved drinking water sources increased from 77 percent to 87 percent. Globally, more than eight in 10 people without improved drinking water sources live in rural areas.

However, the report stresses, even though significant progress has been made, at the current rate, 672 million people will still not be using improved drinking water sources in 2015. There are still many countries in Southern Asia, Eastern Asia and South-East Asia that are not on track to meet the target, according to the report."



2. INDIA: Take broadband to the masses
Source: Hindu Business Line

"The Indian economy has been growing steadily over the last few years. To sustain this growth there is a need to ensure a more well-rounded development that includes remote rural pockets. Financial inclusion of the poor and vulnerable groups, and provision of better access to healthcare and education is critical to achieve equitable development. The role of technology in furthering these ambitions is pivotal.

Building an extensive broadband network across the country and enabling universally accessible, inexpensive broadband can ensure efficient delivery of technology-enabled healthcare, remote education, and improve access to government services. Broadband penetration in India is currently extremely low. Factors that have prevented widespread adoption are failure to make the medium sufficiently attractive and a lack of availability."



3. INDONESIA: Land law passage adds to good news
Source: Jakarta Globe

"After months of delay, legislators in Indonesia have finally approved the long-awaited Land Acquisition Law, which is a landmark achievement for the government and the country. The new law will clear the way for large infrastructure projects as well as for new property development. With the new law, Indonesia can now seriously get its infrastructure development plan under way. Southeast Asia's largest economy is in dire need of new roads, seaports and airports.

The law will help resolve the bottlenecks in the development of infrastructure that have for too long held back growth in the $700 billion economy. The Land Acquisition Law will boost property development not only in the greater Jakarta area, but also in many other parts of the country. The new law will sustain the positive economic momentum into 2012. The government can now go ahead with its plan to spend the $150 billion it has promised to boost infrastructure."



4. PRC: Environment tax needed as car numbers soar
Source: China Daily

"Environmental studies show that the poor air quality, acid rains and smog that blight Chinese cities, and which are harmful to health, are all related to automobile exhaust emissions. Motor vehicles produced 52.27 million tons of pollutants in China last year. Although a series of measures have been taken to limit the pollution from automobile exhausts since 2005, the large number of cars on the road in China, means any increase is significant.

According to a report, the total inventory of automobiles in China has risen from 30.88 million to 77.22 million in the past five years. At present none of the driving expenses in China are related to environmental protection. This will have to change. An environmental tax, or carbon tax, on drivers will serve to remind them of the harm their cars do. Such a tax would help cover the medical expenses caused by environmental problems, which are rapidly escalating."



5. AFGHANISTAN: Opening first major train service
Source: AP

"Operators ran the first train down Afghanistan's first major railroad Wednesday, clearing the way for a long-awaited service from the northern border that should speed up the U.S. military's crucial supply flow and become a hub for future trade. A cargoless train chugged into a newly built station in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif after a 75-kilometer trial run from the border with Uzbekistan, said Deputy Public Works Minister Noor Gul Mangal.

The new rail line is the first stage of an ambitious plan to link landlocked Afghanistan to its neighbors' extensive railways for the first time, eventually opening up new trade routes for goods traveling between Europe and Asia. Afghanistan has never had a functional rail network."



6. ASIA: Ready for its own energy supergrid?
Source: Renewable Energy Focus

"By 2050, Asia could be connected by a massive energy and information architecture. Examining infrastructure projects now underway in Asia, how might these organically develop into a 'Pan-Asian Energy Infrastructure' by 2050? There has been increasing chatter about so-called 'supergrids,' which could join up diverse regions in the power generation market, and help with integrating an increasing amount of renewable energy into the energy system.

A multilateral, open access, common-carrier energy transmission system in Asia offers greater long-term advantages than ad hoc, bilateral energy transmission arrangements, which discourage new market players and result in rigid, brittle markets. In the coming years, Asia will emerge as the world's largest regional economy. To get from here to there, the necessary infrastructure includes road, rail, aviation, telecommunications, not to mention energy generation and transmission capacity. And much of this will be new, not replacement, infrastructure."



 DEVBlogs ROUNDUP
Expectant mothers living in inaccessible island villages across the East Indian state of West Bengal are finally able to access ante- and postnatal healthcare, and have institutional deliveries at community delivery centers and hospitals. The idea behind establishing these centers was to promote institutional deliveries in remote areas where doctors or proper medical assistance were unheard of.


7. BANGLADESH: Realizing the potential of SMEs
Source: Financial Express

"Quantity-wise about 90 percent of all industrial units in Bangladesh fall into the small- and medium-enterprise (SME) category, generating 80 percent of industrial employment. This is a cause for both celebration and concern. Celebration because, the main component of the SMEs, the apparel industry employs 80 percent of its workforce from among women; but it is a concern because the majority of employees are at the very low end of employment drawing a pittance for mere survival.

Larger investment, infrastructure development, skill development and the introduction of compatible technologies can certainly catapult a number of small industries such as the leather industry from the primitive mode of production to an advanced one. Based mostly outside the capital and other metropolitan cities, the SMEs moreover have the advantage of stopping rural migration towards cities. Some of the agro-businesses have expanded their manufacturing networks up to the level of growers, making the role of middlemen redundant."



8. VIET NAM: Boosting education for ethnic minority children
Source: Integrated Regional Information Network

"With Vietnamese the official language for education, school remains inaccessible for many ethnic minorities, who comprise 13 percent of the population and are among the country's most impoverished. The Mong are one of Viet Nam's 53 ethnic minority groups that have fallen behind although the country boasts one of the world's fastest growing economies. Yet more than half the ethnic minorities live in poverty.

Ethnic minorities account for 11 million of Viet Nam's 87 million people, but constitute 44.4 percent of the poor. In 2008, some primary schools began teaching its youngest students in Mong, as part of a UNICEF-supported government initiative to boost academic performance. Children begin school in their native language and in grade three, start learning in Vietnamese as well. By grade five, they are bilingual, according to research by UNICEF and the government."



9. PNG: Population growth fuels conflict
Source: Integrated Regional Information Network

"Unchecked population growth is fast proving an additional source of conflict in Papua New Guinea (PNG), experts say. 'Without doubt, rapid population growth is adding to the risk of conflict,' Max Kep, director of the PNG's national Office of Urbanization, told IRIN, noting that various types of conflict are fuelled by limited resources, including a shortage of land.

As PNG's population nears seven million, comprised of nearly 700 ethnic groups speaking some 800 languages, communities are increasingly fighting over smaller plots of land, while city dwellers in swelling urban areas are clashing with nearby owners of traditional land, Kep said. Over the past 30 years, the country's population has more than tripled, from 2.1 million to 6.7 million, government figures reveal."



10. UZBEKISTAN: Residents freezing without gas
Source: Eurasia Net

"Residents of Uzbekistan's Andijan region have been freezing as the temperature drops and authorities have cut off gas services, the independent news site uznews.net reports. Gas pressure has plummeted so drastically that even special pumps designed to extract better flows in the winter aren't working.

Residents have told uznews.net that since Monday, not only has gas service for consumers been cut off, factories are also experiencing a shortfall. Electricity to residences has also been turned off periodically for increasingly longer times. Officials in the Ferghana region warned consumers three months ago to expect problems with gas supplies, suggesting they stock up on firewood. Some loads of coal were also delivered as an alternative."



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