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Satellite technology unites Kenyans against bush fires

first_imgConservation Solutions, Dry Forests, early warning, Fires, Forests, Mapping, Monitoring, Remote Sensing, satellite data, Sensors, Technology, Wildtech The Eastern and Southern Africa Fire Information System (ESAFIS), an online application developed in Kenya, uses MODIS satellite information to detect bush fires in eastern Africa.The freely available app maps and categorizes bush fires in near-real time and shows details of each fire , including the time it was detected, its location with respect to towns and protected areas, and its relative intensity.By providing an early fire warning system, the system helps forest management authorities respond to fires in their early stages and prioritize limited resources to fire hotspots. NYERI, Kenya – It took nine hours for Margaret Wanjugu and neighbors to put out a fire that razed Gathorongai forest near her home in central Kenya, in 2016. She would not like to go through such an experience again, and for a good reason.Not only did the mother of two nearly lose her herd of goats, which were grazing in the forest, but elephants escaping the fire raided her field of potato plants, leaving her without a harvest.“No help came from forest officers working here,” Wanjugu said. “We improvised and used twigs to put out the fire.”Margaret Wanjugu leading her herd of goats home from Gathorongai forest in central Kenya, where they were grazing. The forest is prone to unexpected fire outbreaks that threaten farmers and wildlife alike. Image by David Njagi for Mongabay.Like thousands of farmers living near conservation areas in Kenya, Wanjugu lives in fear of Gathorongai forest catching fire. These communities lack an early warning system, relying on crude methods, like seeing smoke, to know of a fire outbreak.Recently, a technology developed by the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), a government agency based in Nairobi, has begun helping troubled Kenyans like Wanjugu with early detection of bush fires in conservation areas.RCMRD’s Eastern and Southern Africa Fire Information System (ESAFIS) web application is a free and open-source service used in all conservation and protected areas in Kenya and 10 other eastern African countries.Detecting fire intensityThe ESAFIS system senses fire outbreaks using the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer (MODIS) satellite at RCMRD, according to Byron Anangwe, the business development officer there.“When we get high temperature values at any particular point, we estimate that as a fire,” Anangwe said. “We mostly target game reserves and forests.”The system then posts this information on its website for users, including Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS), to access. These institutions can then engage communities to prevent its spread, says Anangwe. Any individual with internet access can also use the service by visiting the website.Screenshot of the ESAFIS home page map with icons designating fire hotspots across eastern Africa. Image by Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD).“We are experts at the science,” Anangwe said, “and so our role is to empower national governments, communities and the private sector to prevent fire outbreaks in national reserves and protected areas.”Anangwe says the ability of ESAFIS to show details of each fire point has helped foresters better contain bush fires. For instance, in January 2017, at the height of a prolonged drought, ESAFIS helped to detect and track fire outbreaks at the Aberdare Forest Reserve.The website opens with a map that shows recent fire hotspots detected by the system in eastern Africa, categorizing them from low to extreme intensity. At the time of filing this story, for instance, the app showed a fire outbreak around the Lake Turkana region in northwestern Kenya.Clicking on a fire icon on the map causes a pop-up to appear with the time the fire was detected, its temperature (in Kelvin, subtract 273 degrees to get Celsius!), and its location. It also identifies the nearest towns and protected areas, , in this case the South Turkana National Reserve and Nasolot National Reserve, as well as the towns of Lokichar and Kaputirr.A pop-up menu describing the fire in northwestern Kenya, near Lake Turkana, shows several characteristics of the fire obtained from MODIS satellite data. Image obtained from ESAFIS website.Anangwe says ESAFIS produces high-resolution images and has an accuracy range of about two kilometers in the areas under investigation. Users can subscribe to the ESAFIS web app and receive real-time alerts of fire outbreaks in their country or conservation area of interest as soon as the data is captured by satellite, he adds.“Everything about the system is informed by data gathered using satellite surveillance,” Anangwe said, adding that the service must work with communities for it to be effective in fighting bush fires. One limitation is the map-heavy app may overburden slower rural internet networks.Importance of early detectionWanjugu had not heard about ESAFIS. At her village, residents often rely on word of mouth to pass information about the safety of lands around Gathorongai forest, which often arrives too late to prevent the spread of fire within such marginalized communities.A wide angle view of the leeward side of the Mt. Kenya forest ecosystem. Fire outbreaks on this side of the mountain are common due to prolonged dry spells. Image by David Njagi for Mongabay.But David Mwanzia has. Mwanzia is the ecosystem conservation manager at KFS’s Nyeri Forest station in central Kenya. A no-smoking sign at the entrance to his office alerts a visitor of the danger reckless disposal of cigarette butts can pose to the fragile ecosystem there. But a fire engine truck parked at the compound assures visitors that his team of foresters are aware and ready to battle bush fires.“Fire outbreaks here are very common,” said Mwanzia. “They are very dangerous, but my team is always on alert to prevent their spread.”Mwanzia says the December to January season is the most prone to fire outbreaks there, but  ESAFIS’ early sensing is helping his teams respond more effectively.“Our staff do not go on leave at this time of the year,” Mwanzia said. “They are positioned to take immediate action when we receive a fire outbreak alert.”What causes the fires in the first place?Wanjugu said the Gathorongai forest fire ignited after a burning cigarette butt was recklessly thrown on the forest floor.Farmers burning farm waste in preparation of the planting season in central Kenya. When left unchecked such fires can spread into forests and raze acres of the natural ecosystem. Image by David Njagi for Mongabay.Stephen Korinko of the Kimana Conservancy in southern Kenya says local communities, and their slash and burn system of agriculture in particular, are to blame for most fire outbreaks. With this system, says Korinko, pastoralists set bushes on fire just before the rainy season to clear the aging vegetation so that when it rains, fresh fodder can sprout.For instance, he said, a fire that razed hundreds of acres along the wildebeest migratory corridor in the Serengeti in July 2018 was linked to the slash and burn system.Additional dangers of bush fires“The fires can spread to uncontrollable levels, especially when there are strong winds,” Korinko said. “Displaced wild animals often attack and kill people’s livestock, leading to a lot of tensions.”Wildfires also pump carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change, says David Ngugi, a retired professor based in Nairobi. According to Ngugi, fires destroy trees that absorb carbon from the atmosphere and lead to the extinction of some tree species which might not be able to grow back once they are burned.“Fires also cause landscapes and ecosystems to change from forests to grasslands and shrubs,” Ngugi said.Members of the Atiriri Bururi Ma Chuka community conservation group from central Kenya showing some of the indigenous tree species that are continuously threatened by fire outbreaks. Image by David Njagi.Not all bush fires are bad, however, especially those that do not burn too long, says Mbeo Ogeya, a researcher at the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI). Bush fires, Ogeya says, are a natural process – nature’s way of removing dying or dead material from habitats. This process allows valuable nutrients to return to the soil, enabling regeneration and a new beginning for plants and animals.Ogeya says that ESAFIS can assist conservation work because it can distinguish between less intense, potentially useful, bush fires and extremely intense bush fires that are more harmful. By sensing fires in their early stages, ESAFIS can help resource managers respond appropriately, according to KWS spokesman Paul Gathitu.It also reduces the cost of hiring personnel to scout for fire outbreaks, adds Mwanzia, the KFS officer. At the Aberdare Forest Reserve, Mwanzia has had to hire and deploy rangers to patrol the forest and report back immediately once they spot a suspicious fire threat. The skills of these rangers could otherwise be applied to reforestation, guarding the reserve against illegal logging, or other activities. But the continued threat of fire outbreaks pressures him to allocate more resources to these patrols because fires are more destructive than logging, he says.“The government and public are giving a lot of attention to logging and neglecting bush fires,” Mwanzia said. “Yet a single fire outbreak can clear hundreds of acres of forest and can take a week to put out.”no smoking sign at the ecosystem conservation offices in Nyeri central Kenya warns a visitor that the threat of fire outbreaks is real. The office serves as a deployment base to fight off fire outbreaks Aberdare Forest Reserve. Image by David Njagi for Mongabay.He adds the Aberdare region is on high alert from December 2018 to February 2019 because this is the peak period of fire outbreaks, but that ESAFIS is making these threats easier to manage.However, not all conservation staff are aware of ESAFIS. Julius Lokinyi, a ranger at the Samburu National Reserve, still relies on scouting and patrols to ensure the safety of that ecosystem. In 2013, Lokinyi stopped being a poacher in 2013 and has dedicated himself to conservation. He says bush fires are a big challenge there and are often ignited by poachers to distract rangers from their (poachers’) trail.Over time, Lokinyi and his team of community volunteers have learned to turn this diversion into an opportunity, enabling them to tackle the twin threats of fires and poaching with precision.“When the poachers light a fire at a particular location, we know they will be active at a site which is the opposite direction to our patrol sites,” Lokinyi said. “So we deploy two teams, one to put out the fire and the other to track the criminals.”He would like to make ESAFIS available to his team, adding that: “It can make our work easier and more fun.” Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the editor of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Article published by Sue Palminterilast_img read more

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Popularity Doesn’t Equal Importance

first_imgThis week, we’re doing another animated movie: Wreck-It Ralph.  As the father of a two-year-old, I watch a lot of animated fare.  I’ve seen Wreck-It Ralph a few times, and I really enjoyed it.  If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the IMDB summary:A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.Even the Most Unpopular Roles are ImportantOne of the central themes is Wreck-It Ralph is Ralph’s unhappiness with being the “bad guy” for 30 years.  Every time a gamer pops in a quarter, Ralph must break windows on his game’s building and then, after he is defeated by Fix-It Felix, he’s thrown off the building.  To make matters worse, the other game occupants don’t like Ralph, because he’s the “bad guy.”  They don’t understand that he’s an important part of the game, after all, once he leaves the game is “Out of Order.”We’re all familiar with “that guy” or “that girl” in our company.  They’re the one that are always telling us what we can’t do.  Maybe its someone from accounting that says you can’t do something because it will cost too much or won’t fit in the budget.  Or may its someone from the legal department or *ahem* outside counsel, who tells you that doing something would be legally risky. It’s important to remember that everyone in your organization has a role to play, even if you don’t like the end result.  If every department could spend as much as they want or there was no one to ensure that legal risk was properly managed, you may not have a job to return to.  Most people don’t like to be the one telling others “no,” but they’re probably doing for a good reason, not a personal one.Movie takeaway:  Even unpopular roles can be important to the survival of an organization.To read the original blog post, please click here.last_img read more

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Redel wins Holts Summit alderman race

first_imgHolts Summit finally has a Ward 2 alderman.Chris Redel won the tie-breaking vote over Lisa Buhr 59-39 on Tuesday.They each got 35 votes in the April election. They were going to flip a coin to break the tie, but Buhr said no.last_img

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18 Telugu icons named ambassadors for Swachh Bharat

first_imgFormer cricketer VVS Laxman was amongst the nominated Telugu icons.Former cricketer V.V.S. Laxman, badminton coach Pullela Gopichand and popular actor Pawan Kalyan are among 18 Telugu personalities from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh nominated by the central government as ambassadors for the “Swachh Bharat” drive.Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu announced their being designated as ambassadors at a function held here Monday. Majority of the personalities were present and assured their full support to the clean India campaign.Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter and Member of Parliament K. Kavitha was among nine people nominated from the state.The only leader to be nominated from Andhra Pradesh is industrialist-turned-politician Galla Jayadev, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MP from Guntur.Young actor Nitin, actress Amala Nagarjuna, famous singer S.P. Balasubramaniam, and lyricist Suddala Ashok Teja are the film personalities in the list.Eminent filmmaker Raghavendra Rao, though not named as ambassador, was present to declare support to the campaign.Former test cricketer and interim president of BCCI Shivlal Yadav, chess champion Koneru Humpy, industrialists B.V.R. Mohan Reddy, J.A. Chowdary, J. Rameswara Rao and G.V.K. Reddy, physicians Gopi Chand and G.S. Rao and journalist Vemuri Radhakrishna are the other ambassadors nominated by Naidu.Naidu said the Telugu icons were free to select their areas of choice for taking up the campaign and also to take it forward with their ideas.The 18 ambassadors will nominate nine ambassadors each and they in turn will name nine each to carry forward the programme.advertisementNaidu said Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to make “Swachh Bharat” a people’s movement by involving people from all walks of life.He told the gathering that he had already held talks with spiritual leaders of all communities and representatives of trade and industry, sports, film industry and other sectors.Noting that 68 percent of people in India still go for open defecation, Naidu said the task of cleanliness was huge and can be accomplished only with the participation of people.The minister quoted a World Bank report that the cost of inadequate sanitation is 6.4 percent of GDP or $54 billion.”In other words, every poor citizen in this country has to bear an additional expenditure of Rs.6,500 every year,” he said.He said the central government was trying to create awareness and change the mindset of the people and develop infrastructure like toilets, sewerage, drainage system and solid waste management.Naidu claimed that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is ready to help in sanitation in a big way. “He told me that money is not the problem, mindset is the problem,” he said.He said he recently amended Delhi building bylaws to make it compulsory for business establishments, advocates, doctors and other to provide toilets for visitors and clients.Similarly, it will be mandatory for hotels to convert their waste into energy. Naidu plans to write letters to the states to frame similar rules.Naidu, however, said regulations to stop open defecation and ensure cleanliness will be made only after creating awareness and infrastructure.Former test cricketer Laxman said it is the moral responsibility of every citizen to keep their surroundings clean the way they keep their homes clean.”If we have to make transformation, it has to be at the grass root level,” he said.On this occasion, Naidu announced Rs.20 crore for Telangana and Rs.10 crore for Andhra Pradesh as token allocation from the central government for undertaking the “Swachh Bharat” campaign.last_img read more

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Lenovo Vibe X2 starts receiving Lollipop 5.0 update

first_imgLenovo Vibe X2 was supposed to get the Android Lollipop 5.0update on May 27 but the Chinese company could not stick to its plan. Theupdate is finally available after a week’s delay. The phone will startreceiving the update in phases.The Lollipop will be a huge upgrade to the current KitKatversion. The update will weigh-in at 1.1 GB and to download it one would require a steady Wi-Fi connection. The new update will introduce Materialdesign that will be a visual overhaul when compared to the previous KitKatversion. The company has not mentioned anything about the Lollipop 5.1 update.The Lenovo Vibe X2 is powered by a MediaTek MT6595mTrue 8-core processor that is clocked at quad core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A17 &quad-core 1.7 GHz Cortex-A7. The phone sports a 5 inch 1080p display and housesa 13 megapixel camera which is paired with a 5 megapixel front snapper. The device waslaunched in September last year.last_img read more

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10 months agoMan City midfielder Gundogan: Title-race on if we beat Liverpool

first_imgMan City midfielder Gundogan: Title-race on if we beat Liverpoolby Freddie Taylor10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveIlkay Gundogan says Manchester City can win the Premier League title – if they can beat Liverpool tonight.City are seven points off the league leaders ahead of tonight’s highly anticipated clash at the Etihad.”Of course, the pressure is great for us,” Gundogan told Sport Buzzer. “I think it’s a game that’s at the absolute top level. It’s going to be tight, as you’ve seen in the first 0-0 draw.”We have a chance to reduce the gap to four points now, and then I think the season is long enough to make up for that in the rest of the games.” About the authorFreddie TaylorShare the loveHave your saylast_img

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Philanthropist Murray Koffler founder of Shoppers Drug Mart dead at 93

first_imgTORONTO – Murray Koffler, the founder of Shoppers Drug Mart, has died at the age of 93, according to Loblaw Companies Ltd.Toronto-born Koffler was a pharmacist when he founded Shoppers in 1962.The chain was taken over in 1978 by Imasco Ltd. and later acquired by Loblaw in 2014 for $12.4 billion.Loblaw spokesman Kevin Groh said that while Koffler was not involved in the chain’s day-to-day business for many years, his legacy is reflected in the company’s stores and the philanthropic spirit behind its support for women’s health.After Koffler witnessed his wife Marvelle’s follow-up treatment for breast cancer at New York’s Evelyn Lauder Breast Centre, the couple decided Canada needed a similar centre, so they founded the Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre in Toronto.Koffler’s philanthropy was also instrumental in the creation of the University of Toronto’s Koffler Institute of Pharmacy, as well as the school’s Koffler Student Centre.last_img read more

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Airbus starts work on A220 assembly line six months after Bombardier sold

first_imgMONTREAL — Airbus SE broke ground Wednesday on the A220 aircraft assembly line at its facility in Mobile, Ala., the first step in a US$300-million construction project paid for by Bombardier Inc.That amount makes up a chunk of the US$925 million the Quebec plane-and-train maker could shell out by the end of 2021 under a partnership that saw Airbus to take control of the C Series — now known as the A220 — last July without paying a penny.The event took place at the Airbus plant in Alabama, where assembly of the popular A320 passenger jet is already underway. The French airplane giant says the new project will create 400 factory jobs.Production of the narrow-body A220 is expected to start in the third quarter, whether or not plant construction is complete, in order to make the first deliveries in 2020.Airbus says the project will generate economic spinoffs for Quebec, forecasting that northern suppliers of the A220 will rake in about $400 million per month once the Mirabel, Que., and Mobile facilities are up and running at full capacity.The company says that the two plants will churn out 10 aircraft and four aircraft, respectively.Companies in this story: (TSX:BBD.B)The Canadian Presslast_img read more

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CEO’s office calls for probe to clear air on ‘intimidation of voters’ by Central Forces

first_imgKolkata: The office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) has asked the District Election Officer (DEO) North Kolkata, Dibyendu Sarkar, to conduct a probe to know if Central Force personnel are intimidating the voters.The move has been taken up after Trinamool Congress leaders lodged a complaint with the commission, alleging that some Central Force personnel were trying to intimidate voters. It has been learnt from the CEO’s office that Sarkar will ascertain if any such incidents happened. He would file a report to the commission in this regard. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaAccording to a senior election official, the allegation against the Central Forces has been looked into with utmost sincerity, like any other complaint. It was alleged that Central Force jawans had talked to many people in the Ultadanga area. TMC has alleged that this type of activity might create fear among the voters. It may be mentioned that some senior Trinamool Congress officials on Monday met an election official at the CEO’s office, alleging high-handedness by some Central Force personnel. They told the commission that a television channel has showed how a Central Force personnel engaged in a conversation with a woman, allegedly giving her some instructions. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwayMeanwhile, mock drills of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) were conducted in various districts on Tuesday. Demonstrations were conducted at various places in the city to ascertain that the EVM and VVPAT machines were functioning correctly. It has been learnt from sources in the CEO’s office that police observers may arrive in the state next week. The police observers will be assigned in various districts across the state for keeping a tab on the election procedures. It may be mentioned that seven expenditure observers have already been deployed by the commission for the first two phases of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.last_img read more

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India records trade deficit with 11 RCEP members in 2018-19

first_imgNew Delhi: India has registered trade deficit in 2018-19 with as many as 11 RCEP member countries – including China, South Korea and Australia – out of the grouping of 16 nations that are negotiating a mega trade pact since November 2012. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) bloc comprises 10 Asean group members (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam) and their six FTA partners – India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. According to the provisional trade data, India’s trade deficit – the difference between imports and exports – with three countries (Brunei, Japan, and Malaysia) has in fact increased marginally in 2018-19 as compared to the previous fiscal. The trade gap with Brunei, Japan, and Malaysia has increased to $$0.5 billion, $7.1 billion and $3.8 billion, respectively in the last fiscal. It was $0.4 billion, $6.2 billion and $3.3 billion in 2017-18. However, deficit with Australia, China, Indonesia, Korea, New Zealand and Thailand has narrowed in 2018-19 as compared to the preceding fiscal. With Australia, China, Indonesia, Korea, New Zealand and Thailand, it narrowed to $8.9 billion, $50.2 billion, $10.1 billion, $11 billion, $0.2 billion, and $2.7 billion, respectively, in 2018-19, compared to $10 billion, $63 billion, $12.5 billion, $11.9 billion, $0.3 billion, and $3.5 billion in 2017-18. Interestingly, the trade surplus with Singapore ($2.7 billion) in 2017-18 has turned into deficit of $5.3 billion in 2018-19. India has trade surplus with Cambodia ($0.1 billion), Myanmar ($0.7 billion), and the philippines ($1 billion) in 2018-19. India did not carry out any trade with Laos in the previous fiscal. Experts have mixed views over the impact of increasing trade gap on India’s position in negotiating mega free trade agreement. An industry expert on these negotiations said as this is a comprehensive trade deal, India will get greater market access in other countries not only in goods, but in services also. On the other hand, some experts said that India needs to be cautious while negotiating the pact, as trade deficit is increasing with several of the RCEP member nations, which would impact domestic manufacturers. “Free trade pacts are not about only giving market access, but also getting that access in other countries. Our exports to countries like Singapore, with which India has trade surplus, is not increasing. In 2018-19, we have a trade deficit with Singapore,” said Biswajit Dhar, the professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He said that as the strength of the domestic manufacturing is weak, India would not be able to take advantage of such free trade agreements. An official said that India does not have free trade agreement with two of its biggest trading partners – the US and China – but the country has highest positive balance of trade with America, while it has highest deficit with China. RCEP negotiations, which started in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh in November 2012, aims to cover goods, services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, competition and intellectual property rights. Pressure is also mounting on India for early conclusion of the proposed trade pact. Member countries are looking to conclude the talks by end of this year but many issues, including the number of products over which duties will be eliminated, are yet to be finalised. Domestic steel and other metal industries wants these sectors to be kept out of the deal. Under services, India wants greater market access for its professionals in the proposed agreement. India already has a free trade pact with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Japan and South Korea. It is also negotiating a similar agreement with Australia and New Zealand but has no such plans for China.last_img read more

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