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Gender equality will be key to achieving SDGs in Viet Nam

Pham Thi Kim Viet is up before the rooster heralds the crack of dawn.The rice on the cooker is beginning to boil as she tosses freshly chopped vegetables and fish in a wok. She then hurries to wake her two daughters, 12 and four-years-old. At 7 a.m., dressed in laundered uniforms, she takes them to school on her trusted old scooter and proceeds to Hoi An, 30 km from her home in the mountains of Dai Loc district in central Vietnam, to report for work as a freelance tour guide. “Each day is a struggle to make ends meet. I work between 10 and 12 hours a day during the high tourist season to earn 20 dollars. During the low tourist season, there is very little work and I constantly worry about paying bills and putting food on the table,” says Viet, who has been coping with mental and financial abuse from her husband. The physical violence ended, when he moved out, but he drops in anytime, sometimes to demand money. Many of her female friends are in a similar situation

Women’s Health Policies Should Focus on NCDs

Science and medicine were not subjects of dinnertime conversations in the Norton household in Christchurch, New Zealand, but Professor Robyn Norton grew up observing her parents’ commitment to equity and social justice in improving people’s lives. It left an indelible impression on her young mind. Her high school years coincided with the women’s movement reaching its peak. She got drawn into thinking about addressing women’s health issues and moved to Sydney, Australia to enroll in a Master’s in Public Health. Norton feels it’s time the global health agenda expands from a predominant focus on women’s reproductive organs to include women’s whole bodies — and the NCDs, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes.

Excessive groundwater use may hit food security

The increasing use of groundwater for irrigation poses a major threat to global food security and could lead to unaffordable prices of staple foods, warns a new international study.
From 2000 to 2010, the amount of non-renewable groundwater used for irrigation increased by a quarter, according to the study published in
Nature on March 30. During the same period China had doubled its groundwater use. The study finds that 11 per cent of groundwater extraction for irrigation is linked to agricultural trade.  “In some regions, for example in Central California or North-West India, there is not enough precipitation or surface water available to grow crops like maize or rice and so farmers also use water from the underground to irrigate,” the study says.

Education & jobs crucial as Cambodia records pro-poor growth

SIEM REAP/BATTAMBANG [Cambodia] (IDN) - The once conflict ridden, impoverished country of Cambodia has made significant strides towards stability and progress, but it is still facing several socio-economic development challenges. In 2016, it became a lower middle-income country after recording an annual average economic growth of seven percent over the past decade. “The country’s economy has trebled and the number of people living in poverty has halved in the last 15 years. We have to set development issues in the context of those successes,” says Nick Beresford, United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Cambodia Country Director.

1.8 billion people have no access to safe drinking water

While the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mandate safe drinking water for all by 2030, currently 1.8 billion people get drinking water from contaminated sources, putting them at risk of contracting various diseases, according to UN Water, the UN coordinating agency. Despite reaching the Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) target of halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water, huge disparities to access remain. Use of improved drinking water increased by 27 per cent between 1990 and 2015 in East Asia, with over half-a-billion people gaining access in China alone, according to the WHO and UNICEF’s 2015 Joint Progress Management report on drinking water and sanitation. But in Oceania, parts of Western Africa and in the Sahara region in Africa, less than three-quarters of the population uses an improved source with the figure below 50 per cent in Papua New Guinea, Angola and Equatorial Guinea.

More Indigenous doctors aim to close Australia’s health gap

Vinka Barunga was born in the Worrara tribe of the Mowanjum Aboriginal community in the remote town of Derby in Western Australia. As a child, she witnessed disease and suicide amongst her people, which made her resolve to one day become a doctor and help break this cycle of suffering. She is one of six, the largest cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) students, to graduate in Medicine/Surgery from the University of Western Australia this year. Australia has fewer than 300 Aboriginal doctors, but things are gradually changing. Vinka is determined to be the first full time doctor in the town of her birth, situated around 2,400 kilometres north of the state capital Perth in the Kimberley region. It is the gateway to the state’s resource rich north, surrounded by mudflats on three sides, with two distinct seasons.

Australia's No to Prohibit-Nukes Resolution Triggers Debate

As the curtain falls on 2016, the year that marked the fifth anniversary of Fukushima and the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl nuclear disasters, sending a sombre reminder of the devastating humanitarian and environmental consequences of these weapons of mass destruction, the resolve to free the world of nuclear weapons is stronger than ever before. The United Nations Resolution A/C.1/71/L.41, which calls for negotiations on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination”, was adopted at the 71st session of the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on October 27, 2016 with 123 members, including nuclear North Korea, voting in favour of taking forward the multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, 38 voted against and 16 abstained. Australia, once a champion of nuclear disarmament, chose to oppose the Resolution even as the continent country’s nearest 26 neighbours in the Asia-Pacific voted in favour alongside African, Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Protests in Australia Against Adani Coal Mining Project

The Adani Mining Pty Ltd is confident of commencing construction of the Carmichael mine by mid-2017, which will be Australia's largest coal mine, despite growing concerns and protests from environmental and indigenous groups that it will jeopardise the Great Barrier Reef and Aboriginal heritage. There were protests in Melbourne and Townsville, where Adani announced that he will set up the headquarters of the project. These groups are calling on the Australian government to invest in solar energy rather than coal, while the proponents for the mine say it will create jobs and boost the local economy. The Adani Group is also planning solar projects in Australia with a capacity of 1,500 MW within five years. The coal projects are yet to reach financial closure.

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It was never in Jamsetji Tata's ken

© Neena Bhandari, Business Standard, India

ImageThe Tata Group of companies has made big forays into Australia, investing and expanding in various sectors from mining to information technology. Historically too, remote though it may now be, Tata Steel has a connection to the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, which contains 50,000 tonnes of steel. Close to 80 per cent of the steel used in the bridge, spanning 1,650 ft (503 metre), was made by Teesside Company Dorman Long, which became part of British Steel Corporation after World War II. In 1999, British Steel merged with a Dutch company, Hoogovens, to become Corus. In 2007, Corus was bought by Tata Steel.

Tata Steel has had an office in Brisbane since 2000. The original name was Tata International, since deregistered. The principal business activity has been procurement of steel-making raw material in Australasia, predominantly metallurgical coal, for the steel operations in Jamshedpur. “These volumes have continued to grow and are now in the millions of tonnes. Additionally, Tata Steel Resources was tasked with identifying investment opportunities in metallurgical coal mines and made its first overseas coal mine investment in Carborough Downs, central Queensland, in 2005 with a five per cent equity stake. We are now actively identifying new investment opportunities to the increasing metallurgical requirements for the steel mill expansions in India for the next 10 years and beyond,” Bryan Granzien, chief executive officer, Tata Steel Resources Australia Pvt Ltd, said.

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Sydney breaks bread with Sangrur - the wheat link

© Neena Bhandari, Business Standard, India

ImageWheat collaboration between Australia and India is likely to be extended, after experiments combining strengths in each other’s varieties show rising promise.

India and Australia are collaborating on research to enhance the volume and quality of grown wheat. The five-year bilateral programme on marker-assisted wheat breeding concludes in May 2012 but is set to be extended.

It has been exploring molecular technologies, management practices and more heat-tolerant cultivars, to face the challenges of climate change. India and Australia are particularly vulnerable to increasing temperatures, warns a leading Australian wheat scientist.

"In Australia, wheat is rain-fed and will be adversely affected by the combined impact of higher temperatures and drought. In India, increasing temperature linked with lowering water tables would mean farmers will be unable to irrigate with the current frequency. This will result in difficult production conditions and reduction in total yield,” says Richard Trethowan, director, A Watson Grains Research Centre, University of Sydney. India is the second largest producer of wheat and Australia seventh in the world. India produces all its consumption; Australia is the second largest global exporter of wheat and, so, a major contributor to global food security.

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