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First Metrorail test train arrives in S Africa

Some 18 months after the financial close of a passenger train supply contract between the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and Alstom subsidiary Gibela, the State-owned firm has welcomed the arrival of the first test train aimed at replacing the old Metrorail train fleet over the next 20 years.

The train, which was this week delivered to Prasa’s Wolmerton depot, in Gauteng, was the first of a planned 600 trains that would be configured as six-car sets able to transport 1 346 passengers.

As part of the implementation programme, the first 20 train sets would be built at Alstom’s facility in Brazil, while the remainder would be built at a new facility in Ekurhuleni, in line with government’s industrialisation plan.

Print Send to Friend 0 0 The local manufacturing plant would, according to Gibela, achieve an average of 67% local content over the delivery period, increasing to 75% local content by year ten.

The deal formed part of Prasa’s broad modernisation programme, which included investment in key infrastructure programmes such as signalling, depots, perway and station modernisation.

Prasa kicked off its R172-billion investment in the acquisition of modern passenger trains and the support infrastructure in the 2013/14 financial year with a view to replacing the existing Metrorail rolling stock over a ten-year period.

“This government is committed to the transformation of passenger rail infrastructure and in ensuring that rail becomes the backbone of public transport and a mode of choice for the multitudes of our people who depend on affordable, reliable and safe public transportation.

“This train is the realisation of government’s investment on the rolling stock fleet renewal programme. Our government is serious about implementing infrastructure and rail transport programmes as spelled out in the National Development Plan (NDP). Transport is one of the key pillars of the NDP,” Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said in a statement.

Prasa chairperson Dr Popo Molefe added that the arrival of the first test train signalled the start of the modernisation of passenger rail infrastructure and services. “We are in the process of building modem rolling stock that will form the backbone of a world-class metro service that is safe, reliable, and affordable.

“This investment by the government demonstrates its commitment towards developing a high quality transport system. Prasa is serious about delivering on its mandate. We aware of the enormous responsibility entrusted upon us and we intend to meet and exceed our customer and stakeholder expectation,” he commented.

The first train had been specifically designed to act as a test train and would undergo “key testing”. As a result, it did not feature commuter train fittings, such as chairs, but would have exposed electronic panels exposed, while basic structural fittings would be marked for ease of reference during testing .

All data gathered from the seven-month testing programme, which would start in the new year, which would be used to validate the train’s safety, design and performance parameters . A second test train had been planned for delivery within the first quarter of next year. Each of the two test trains would arrive with updated fittings, in line with the various stages of testing by Prasa and Gibela engineers.

These tests would also facilitate the accurate manufacturing of the initial trains made in Brazil and create a proven methodology for the balance of the trains, which would be manufactured in South Africa.   “Gibela is quite pleased with the delivery of the test train, which was a collaborative effort between ourselves and Prasa.

“The final journey to the Wolmerton depot will mark the start of a series of tests on the train, transferring skills and the training of new train drivers, as we continue to manufacture the new Metrorail trains” said Gibela CEO Marc Granger.   The new metrorail trains would offer a 31% energy-saving compared with the current trains and a design life of 40 years.

Source: engineeringnews


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Who Is Addressing Sustainable Agriculture?

Q. What about agriculture? Current conventional practices often lead to land degradation and massive deforestation. What is happening to address non-sustainable agriculture on a global scale?

A.   The environmental pressures from global agriculture are indeed enormous.

The demand for food is rising, in large part because of population growth and rising incomes that give millions of once-low income people the means to eat richer diets. Global demand for beef and for animal feed, for instance, has led farmers to cut down huge chunks of the Amazon rain forest.

Efforts are being made to tackle the problems, and a slew of announcements are coming this week at the Paris climate conference.

The biggest success has arguably been in Brazil, which adopted tough oversight and managed to cut deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent in a decade. But the gains there are fragile, and severe problems continue in other parts of the world, such as aggressive forest clearing in Indonesia.

Last year, scores of companies and organizations, including major manufacturers of consumer products, signed a declaration in New York pledging to cut deforestation in half by 2020, and to cut it out completely by 2030. The companies that signed the pact are now struggling to figure out how to deliver on that promise.

Many forest experts at the Paris conference see the pledge as ambitious, but possible. And they say it is crucial that consumers keep up the pressure on companies from whom they buy products, from soap to ice cream.

Source: nytimes


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Global climate deal is vital

Paris – France is counting on Brazil to convince world leaders to strike a deal to limit annual temperature rise at an upcoming Paris summit, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Sunday.

With one week to go to a crucial global warming summit, 170 countries have submitted pledges for greenhouse gas (GHG) curbs meant to underpin a 195-nation climate rescue pact.

Those countries account for about 93 percent of the world population and are responsible for roughly the same proportion of emissions blamed for driving dangerous levels of climate change.

The voluntary pledges, dubbed Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs, are the chosen means for staying under the UN-agreed global warming ceiling of two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Fabius met Sunday in Brasilia with President Dilma Rousseff, his counterpart Mauro Vieira and Brazil’s Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira on a three-day world tour.

Earlier, he stopped in India, the fourth largest emitter of GHGs, and in G77 leader South Africa. The emerging nations are crucial to getting a deal done.

“Brazil has made very ambitious and exemplary commitments, and that lends to its credibility as a historic partner in the negotiations on climate [change] since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro,” Fabius said.

“I am really counting on Brazil’s drive to succeed in this area – and on its strong reputation [on climate change] – to help convince others. That was really the main reason for my visit.”

Brazil has pledged to reduce GHG emissions by 37 percent by 2025, and 43 percent by 2030, compared to its 2005 levels.

Other large developing countries in many cases so far have only pledged to keep GHG emissions from increasing.

Brazil also has committed to eliminating illegal logging in the Amazon basin region – one of the world’s critical huge green areas.

Some non governmental groups say the pledge is not realistic due to lax rules and enforcement.

With the summit fast approaching from November 30-December 11, Fabius said “it must be a success.”

“There is no Plan B, because there is no Planet B,” Fabius stressed.

With time was running out to put a dent in damage done, “Paris must be a turning point,” he stressed.

Source: iol


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Zimbabwe: Carnival Lives Up to Billing

Despite high temperatures that hit the city on Saturday afternoon, thousands of people thronged the streets in the city centre for Harare International Carnival street party.

The carnival that brought thrills excitement and competition saw different groups showcasing their cultures bringing business to a standstill in the capital.

The carnival saw 24 different countries, more than 20 corperates, schools and culture groups coming together to exhibit their cultures and works.

Countries that participated include Zambia, Malawi, DRC, South Africa, Swaziland, Brazil, and India.

The countries and groups showcased their cultures through dancing, music and other acts with most making memorable performances. Momo Kings of Brazil brought their acts to the streets while Indian Preeti also gave outstanding performances.

Though some could not come to terms with some groups with cultural costumes coming too close to nudity, the cultural experience was nice.

Different musicians including Jah Prayzah, Mawungira eNharira and Fungisai Zvakavapano participated in the street march leaving merrymakers asking for more.

The participants were rates and Brazil won the carnival contest for this year.

Other local groups including musician-cum-dancer Sandra Ndebele, traditional group dance Dzikwa, among others went home smiling after winning top spots at the event.

Streets like Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela had thousands of people enjoying the event that brings cultural integration and entertainment.

Hordes of people gathered at the Africa Unit Square where the final performances were being judged to come up with the best performers of this year.

People broke barricades at Parliament building to get closer to the performers and police officers had to use their force to restrain merrymakers.

The clash however came to an end after the intervention of the deputy minister of tourism Anastancia Ndlovu who fumed against the officer.

Tourism and Hospitality Industry Walter Mzembi expressed his satisfaction saying this year’s carnival has managed to attract more than seven million people who matched the street in celebration of this event.

“This year’s carnival has outgrown our logistics, as you can see we need to plan for a bigger hosting as this space is small and we have surpassed last year , carnival is measured in numbers and this year we have more than seven million and this shows that we have managed to connect with people,” said Mzembi

The day was filled with different activities as the people were enjoying themselves at different entertainment arenas erected around the city.

Meanwhile, as the capital was awash with different Carnival events, LongCheng Plaza was a hive of activity on Thursday Night as several rhumba musicians performed.

With the main attractions being Congolese musician Koffi Olomide and Zimbabwean sungura king Alick Macheso merry makers were left asking for more as several musicians performed well at the event.

Parking space was a nightmare at the mall with some parking their vehicles about 100 meters away from the venue.

Entry to the event was free as thousands came to enjoy music from different artistes.

Koffi went on stage around 9pm in the evening and the musician performed his hit songs much to the delight of the fans.

Though technical glitches marred first 10 minutes of his act, the musician managed to restore the carnival mood that has gripped the city last week with good performance.

He was joined on stage by Macheso, Bev, Lady Storm and some merrymakers towards the end of his act.

Former Macheso chanter Jonasi Kasamba who is from Congo Brazavile also joined the two musicians on stage.

“Let me welcome my brother here he is a great musician,” he said much to the delight of the merrymakers.

However, some of the musicians and dancers likes of Diamond Musica and controversial dancer Beverly Sibanda failed to raise the bar high, people waited patiently for Macheso to come.

Macheso came on stage belting most of his hit songs much to the delight of the fans.

The musician proved why he is the “King of Sungura” in the country.

He sampled songs from his forthcoming album leaving fans convinced that he will save the genre’s waning fortunes.

Dancehall musician Killer T was at the event but could not make it to the stage.

He took the opportunity to meet his fans and had social interaction with them.

Source: allafrica


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Drought Spells Disaster for Food Systems Worldwide … But the Solution Might Just Start on Our Plates

Water is central to our food system. It irrigates crops, hydrates livestock, and is even used as a mode of transportation to get food products moved from one region to the other. Not only does water grow crops to sustain communities at a local level, it also fuels supplies for international trade and economic growth. Water certainly is the lifeblood of society and without it, our food system would cease to exist. And that is why water shortages worldwide are increasingly becoming a concern – we simply cannot survive without enough water to produce the food we eat.

It is estimated that as soon as 2025, two-thirds of the world population will face water shortages. That is two-thirds of the world population that doesn’t have enough water to drink, maintain adequate hygiene, provide proper sanitation, and grow food. It is safe to say that water scarcity has the potential to create a disaster for mankind in the future.

While projections for future water shortages are concerning, the reality is that many regions across the planet are already facing water shortage issues. And while this is bad news for many aspects of everyday life, it is the food system that is taking a massive hit from water shortages.

Take a look at how several countries around the world are dealing with their own water scarcity problems, and how they are struggling to produce enough food in the process.

Brazil
If you’re a coffee drinker, you’re in for a doozy. Water shortages are spelling bad news for coffee producers worldwide, including Brazil which has been the leading supplier of java for the last century. A staggering 35 percent of coffee beans originate in Brazil. But a drought that began in January 2014 caused coffee production to drop 20 percent that year. And given that coffee is not harvested once a year but rather throughout the year, stress on the plants will stunt their growth and continue to have an impact on production into the future, even once the drought hopefully eases. While some may argue coffee isn’t an important food crop entirely necessary for sustenance, it still does hold a place in the food system as a widely distributed good as well as a crop that provides a livelihood to many individuals worldwide. Water shortages act as a direct threat to that.

Coffee isn’t the only Brazilian crop hit by the drought. Perhaps surprisingly, Brazil is actually the largest producer of soybeans in the world. China has shifted to being the number one importer of Brazil’s soybeans as water for soybean production in Asia becomes more scarce. And while Brazil has historically had enough water for soybean production, the country has seen declining production numbers for soy due to recent drought. Water rationing for citizens is already taking place in some regions, and food security is being challenged by the lack of available water to grow crops important to the world’s food system, soybeans included.

United States
The United States is currently facing a problem of epic proportions when it comes to food production in the face of drought. Water shortages have gripped the Western U.S., and especially California where a third of the country’s vegetables and two thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown. With 80 percent of the state’s water going to agriculture, the shortage has had a huge impact on California’s food production. In 2014, farmers planted 25 percent less rice than the year before, and 34 percent less corn in response to the drought. With the decreased production of many crops, prices for items such as broccoli, berries, lettuce and melons grown in California increased. With California playing such a major role in providing the rest of the country with its produce, the drought is threatening to upend a system that has historically provided enough fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts to the nation. These healthy and nutritious foods become less available and less affordable, especially to the disadvantaged members of society.

Afghanistan
Over the recent years, Afghanistan has faced a series of droughts that have threatened its food security. By 2001, a three tear-old drought had caused a famine that depleted the necessary cereal grains needed to feed the country’s population by half. Animal agriculture was also impacted by the decrease in cereal crops, and poppy farms had to be abandoned as irrigation was not available. The job losses resulted in five million Afghans having little no or no access to food.

Last year in the Ghor providence of Afghanistan, residents began fleeing their homes in response to the food insecurity caused by drought. Water in the region decreased by 60 percent, making drinking water and irrigation water much less available. And because 80 percent of the providence’s people rely on agriculture as a livelihood, many lost their source of employment and thus ability to even pay for food.

Ethiopia
Ethiopia has seen a drought-induced food crises similar to that in Afghanistan. In 2011, Ethiopia was in the midst of the worst drought the country had seen in six decades. The resulting widespread hunger was staggering. Roughly 700,000 were in need of food aid and medical workers in the area noted the sharp increase in severely malnourished children they were treating. While the country continues to yo-yo in and out of drought and famine cycles, the resulting sanitation and health issues only compound the problem. With only 21 percent of Ethiopians having access to adequate sanitation, the spread of disease and waterborne illness in the country is all too real for an already undernourished population.

The Big Picture
We may not “run out” of water on planet earth as it will still be maintained in one form or another. But fresh water may become less accessible to us as we withdraw it at unsustainable rates and continue to carelessly use it. With unstable water supplies, we also face unstable food supplies. Production levels will drop and there will not be enough food to go around. Prices stand to increase as supplies fall, making the first victims in the crises those with the least money. Beyond food availability, international trade and business, as well as, the livelihoods of those that grow and produce food are also put at risk. The impacts of this issue become far-reaching, touching many aspects of life and society all over the planet and forcing us into survival mode. Yes, it is very important to recognize the importance of water within our food system.

Do Your Part
Global water scarcity is a massive problem and not one that any single individual can address on their own. However, your efforts paired with those of other concerned individuals does stand a chance in making fresh water sources more stable and in helping solve food security problems in the process. By addressing your personal water footprint, you can help ensure that fresh water resources are used sparingly and efficiently, reserving it for important uses like food production.

There are a variety of ways to lower your water use to help ensure the future our food system, but interestingly, one of the best ways to cut your water footprint comes in the form of your diet. On a whole, agriculture sucks up around 70 percent of the world’s fresh water supplies and one-third of that goes to irrigating feed crops for livestock. That all translates into the amount of virtual water that is hidden in our diets. Did you know that a person who eats meat and animal products uses on average, 162, 486 more gallons of water than someone who adheres to a plant-based diet? If you send animal products packing, in converse, you can save that many gallons of water annually.

Looking at the breadth of our global water scarcity issue, it is clear that if we want to ensure a sustainable future for our food supply, we need to start taking into consideration how our personal choices impact the world around us. As a defining voice in the space, One Green Planet has made it a point to draw the connections between our individual food choices and the broader impact they have on the planet. As Nil Zacharias, One Green Planet’s co-founder puts it, “If we want to have any hope for a sustainable food system that can feed our growing population, we need to exercise our power to be a part of the solution with every food choice we make.” Starting with the #EatForThePlanet campaign and our commitment to promoting plant-based foods, One Green Planet has worked to empower individuals to see the incredible opportunity they have three times a day to craft a better food system.

Plant-based foods are the future of sustainable food and the best part is they are already readily available. Join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign and start making a difference with your food today! Together we can create a more sustainable food system, one meal at a time.

Source: onegreenplanet


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