Monthly Archives

August 2018

Climate Change

Snowfall On Tyrol’s Mountain Drops


The roller coaster of temperatures: From more than 30 degrees, the values ​​tumbled in recent days by more than 15 degrees down. It rained in the Tyrolean valleys – and on the mountains fell the first snowflakes. During the night on Sunday, the snowfall fell to around 1,500 meters.

Measuring stations at the Sonnblick and at the Rudolfshütte in the Hohe Tauern, there were about 40 centimeters of fresh snow, reported the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geo-dynamics. At the Stubai Glacier 20 centimeters of fresh snow lay in the morning, at the Hintertuxer Glacier it was 30 centimeters.

Below the valleys there was a hint of autumn: dark clouds and early temperatures of less than 10 degrees caused the Tyrolians to shiver. Low temperatures of 1.4 degrees were measured in Sillian, 2.7 degrees in Virgen and 3.2 degrees in Hochfilzen. This makes the Tyrolean resorts one of the coldest in Austria.


The snow on Austria’s mountains led to traffic obstructions in alpine locations on Sunday morning. Some higher mountain roads from Tyrol to Styria were not passable after snowfall – at least temporarily. The Hahntennjoch was open again in the morning. The snow on the Turracher Straße (B95) in the Turracher Höhe area were cleared relatively quickly. The Sölkpass road (L704) had to be closed between Stein an der Enns (Liezen district) and Baierdorf in the Murau district. The same was true for the Kärntner Nockalm road.

But do not worry, the summer comes back in the new week with all your strength. While in the lowlands partly strong showers descend, from the Oberland the clouds break up more and more in the course of the Sunday. The daily maximums are between 11 and 19 degrees.

On Monday, the sun is shining again from the sky, after a cool autumn start the temperatures rise rapidly to 19 to 24 degrees. It will be a few degrees warmer on Tuesday. According to weather forecasts, up to 28 degrees in the Tyrol are possible again. Only now and then do a few harmless clouds move across the sky.

On Wednesday it will be summerly hot from Vorarlberg to Salzburg with peaks of around 31 degrees. From Thursday, the shower and thunderstorm to increase again, the temperatures to remain same on a late summer level.

Sources: tt news

Ahrntal, the pearl of Tyrol in the extreme north of Italy

Across the Ahrntal, from Campo Tures to the border with Austria, in one of the most pristine

Indigenous no-state people

Grain production falls as reforms, climate affect farming

By Xie Jun Source:Global Times

Farmers pick early season rice in Xincheng county, South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in June. Photo: IC

China’s grain production is decreasing, due to reasons such as government efforts to improve grain quality, natural factors and the relatively low productivity of domestic farms, experts told the Global Times on Sunday. 

The total grain yield in China this summer reached 138.72 million tons, down by 3.06 million tons or 2.2 percent compared with the previous summer, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on July 18. 

The sowing area for summer grain also decreased by 0.6 percent on a yearly basis to 26.703 hectares this year, the NBS data showed. 

A statement from the NBS on Friday said that this year’s production of early season rice stood at 28.59 million tons, down by 4.3 percent compared with last year’s early season rice production. 

Huang Jiacai, a statistician at the NBS, said that the decreasing production is a result of local governments’ efforts to promote supply-side structural reforms by decreasing the sowing area for summer grain and increasing the sowing area for peanuts and vegetables. 

Jiao Shanwei, an analyst at, said that the government is encouraging farmers to replace low-value agricultural products with high-value grain varieties, which might cause a drop in production of some grains. 

Weather is another important factor. According to Jiao, the drought in Northeast China caused a delay in the sowing of corn in spring this year. And the high temperatures in the summer impeded corn production, he told the Global Times on Sunday. 

“I am not optimistic about the overall grain production scale this year,” he said, while adding that the drop should be a temporary phenomenon. 

Ma Wenfeng, a senior analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultancy, told the Global Times on Sunday that in China, land is often cultivated by a lot of different farmers rather than large farms that might be able to introduce high-tech processes. This means that large-scale, standardized production is rare in domestic farming, which in turn has restricted production. 

Low prices

According to data released by the NBS on Friday, almost all major agricultural products, including wheat, corn, beans, peanuts and soybean meal, saw their prices rise in mid-August compared with early August. 

Only cotton’s price decreased slightly during the period. 

But Jiao pointed out that China’s grain price is still kept at a very low level. “Rice prices are at the lowest point in eight years, and the price of wheat is also relatively low,” he said. 

According to Ma, the government in recent years has tried to suppress the price of grain in order to control the pace of inflation, but the increase in prices of other products like pesticides and rising transportation costs makes life difficult for domestic farmers. 

“I think the government should increase the basic pension for domestic farmers, so that they can rent out their land for mass production,” Ma said. 

Jiao said that this year the government hasn’t acquired as much grain as in previous years, and food processing companies did not have enough money to fill in the purchasing gap, which is why grain prices are still low despite the drop in production. 

Indigenous no-state people

Court of Inquiry orders disciplinary action against Major Leetul Gogoi

NEW DELHI: A Court of Inquiry has ordered to initiate disciplinary action against Army Major Leetul Gogoi in the Srinagar hotel altercation case.

Gogoi has been prima facie found guilty of “fraternising with local and being absent from duty in operational area”. 

On May 23, Gogoi was detained by police following an altercation at a hotel in Srinagar where he was allegedly trying to enter with an 18-year-old woman.

Days later, the Army had ordered the CoI into the incident after Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat said in Pahalgam that exemplary punishment would be given to Gogoi if he was found guilty of “any offence”.

“If any officer of the Indian Army is found guilty of any offence, we will take strictest possible action,” Gen. Rawat had said.

Major Gogoi had hit the headlines last year after he tied a man to a jeep in Kashmir purportedly as a shield against stone-pelters during polling in the Srinagar Lok Sabha byelection on April 9.

(TOI With inputs from agencies)

Art & Culture

Copenhagen review – Michael Frayn’s masterwork still blazes with mystery

Faith in science … Charles Edwards, Patricia Hodge and Paul Jesson in Copenhagen. Photograph: Conrad Blakemore

History, morality and quantum mechanics collide in Michael Blakemore’s storming revival of a modern classic

More information has come to light, since Michael Frayn’s play premiered in 1998, about its subject: the ruptured friendship between the German atomic physicist Werner Heisenberg, and his former mentor, Niels Bohr, after their meeting in Nazi-occupied Copenhagen in 1941. Yet the new material does nothing to alter the mind-expanding impact of a play that is about life’s cherishable value and insoluble mystery.

Frayn offers us several alternative versions of what might have happened when the two men met under the watchful eye of Bohr’s wife, Margrethe. But one of the beauties of the play is that, reinforcing a rule of quantum mechanics, it seems to change depending on how it is observed. At different times, it has seemed to me about the moral dilemma of the nuclear physicist, and the motives for Heisenberg’s visit – whether he was seeking absolution or information from his spiritual father.

While those ideas are still there, I was more struck this time by the Brechtian paradox at the heart of the play: that the vilified Heisenberg, by his failure to make the crucial calculation that would have enabled the Germans to develop the atomic bomb, never caused a single death; while the virtuous Bohr, by going on to work at Los Alamos, contributed to a hundred thousand.

Michael Blakemore’s illuminating production – designed, as in 1998, by Peter J Davison and lit by Mark Henderson – treats the stage as a space for the collision of human particles.

Charles Edwards is outstanding as Heisenberg in that he combines a Hamlet-like uncertainty about his own course of action with the physicist’s faith in intellectual disciplines: at one point he cries “mathematics is sense” with the fervour of an ardent rationalist. Patricia Hodge captures perfectly the wary scepticism of Margrethe, who sees the personal motives underlying scientific abstractions. However, while conveying Bohr’s paternal authority and impatience, Paul Jesson gave a rather blurred first-night performance and even rushed though vital speeches explaining Schrödinger’s wave function and uranium 235. Even if the science wasn’t as clear as it could be, it remains a remarkable play that has the rare capacity to make ideas manifest.

  • At Chichester Festival theatre until 22 September.

Michael Billington @billicritic


Kelp dredging proposal criticised by Scottish conservationists

Use of mechanical device to pull kelp plants from beds would destroy local ecosystem, say campaigners

A proposal to mechanically dredge kelp forests off the coast of Scotland has led to an outcry from conservationists, who say it would destroy local ecosystems.

Ayr-based company Marine Biopolymers has approached Marine Scotland to apply for a licence to use a comb-like device that pulls entire kelp plants from the bed. In order to inform the environmental appraisal required by Marine Scotland, Marine Biopolymers has published a report describing the potential environmental impacts to be researched further for a full assessment.

Rake used to harvest L. hyperborea The harvesting technique proposed by MBL is similar to that used in Norway for L. hyperborea. It comprises use of a comb-like harvesting head (3-4 m wide) that is situated within a curved frame . It is deployed from a vessel, and trawled through the kelp bed at approximately 0.5 m above the rock substrate at a speed of around 3 knots.
Rake used to harvest L. hyperborea The harvesting technique proposed by MBL is similar to that used in Norway for L. hyperborea. It comprises use of a comb-like harvesting head (3-4 m wide) that is situated within a curved frame . It is deployed from a vessel, and trawled through the kelp bed at approximately 0.5 m above the rock substrate at a speed of around 3 knots. Photograph: Steen, H., Moy, F.E., Bodvin, T./Institute of Marine Research

Public comment on this report is open until Friday 24 August, and various stakeholders have expressed concern over the proposals. “Kelp habitats are vital ecosystems that absorb the power of waves along stormy coasts, lock up millions of tonnes of carbon every year and provide shelter for hundreds of species,” said Calum Duncan of the Marine Conservation Society.

“This scoping report is only the first stage of an extensive consultation process,” said a statement issued by Marine Biopolymers. “The next stage is the full environmental survey, which will be carried out by internationally renowned scientists.”

The report describes plans to harvest up to 34,000 tonnes of kelp per year, an estimated 0.15% of the kelp in Scotland. Proposed sustainability measures include plans to avoid harvesting young kelp, and to leave harvested beds to recover for five years before returning.

However, these proposals may not be truly sustainable, according to Dan Smale, an ecologist at the Marine Biological Association. “I’m not opposed to wild kelp harvesting if it’s managed appropriately, and it’s been shown from both Norway and France that to an extent it can be done sustainably,” he said. “My problem here is that we don’t have enough baseline ecological information or understanding of how our systems work [in Scotland].” The recovery rate of five years may be insufficient not only for the kelp itself to recover, but also for associated animal communities to return, he explained.

Shetland scallop fishery retains eco label despite dredging protests

Ailsa McLellan, who harvests kelp by hand, is concerned about the precedent set by granting a licence to Marine Biopolymers, given the lack of legislation protecting wild seaweed from unsustainable harvesting: “Even if they’re the most careful company in the world, there’s no pressure on anyone else to do it that way.” There is also a conflict with the strict rules applied to hand harvesters, she added: “I have to record every single invertebrate bycatch. It can’t be one rule for us tiny operators and they’re allowed to go at it with a dredge.”

The Marine Conservation Society supports the exploration of more sustainable alternatives to dredging. “Mechanically stripping swaths of pristine kelp forest clean from the reef at the scale proposed simply cannot be considered sustainable,” said Duncan. “We would urge a complete rethink and lower impact alternatives, such as managed hand-gathering and seaweed culture, to be explored instead.”

Kelp forests grow predominantly on the Pacific Coast, from Alaska and Canada to the waters of Baja California. Tiered like a terrestrial rainforest with a canopy and several layers below, the kelp forests of the eastern Pacific coast are dominated by two canopy-forming, brown macroalgae species, giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) and bull kelp (Nereocystis leutkeana).

A host of invertebrates, fish, marine mammals, and birds exist in kelp forest environs. From the holdfasts to the surface mats of kelp fronds, the array of habitats on the kelp itself may support thousands of invertebrate individuals, including polychaetes, amphipods, decapods, and ophiuroids.

California sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, and whales may feed in the kelp or escape storms or predators in the shelter of kelp. On rare occasions gray whales have been spotted seeking refuge in kelp forests from predatory killer whales. All larger marine life, including birds and mammals, may retreat to kelp during storms or high-energy regimes because the kelp helps to weaken currents and waves.

Cathleen O’Grady @cathleenogrady, The Guardian

Indigenous no-state people

China, India vow to strengthen military exchanges, cooperation

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) shakes hands with visiting Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe on Aug. 21, 2018, in New Delhi, India. China and India pledged on Tuesday to further strengthen ties between the two countries and their militaries. (Xinhua)

China and India pledged on Tuesday to further strengthen ties between the two countries and their militaries.

When meeting with visiting Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the two countries, sharing a friendship dating back to ancient times with broad common interests, should join hands and support each other in striving for win-win cooperation of mutual benefit.

He also called on the two countries to strengthen exchanges and cooperation between their militaries so as to jointly safeguard border stability.

For his part, Wei said under the guidance of leaders of the two countries, bilateral ties and relations between the two militaries have been highlighted by friendly coexistence and win-win cooperation.

He believed that his visit would help implement the consensus reached between leaders of the two countries, deepen military and security exchanges and cooperation, and build mutual trust.

The two countries should jointly maintain peace and tranquility in border area so as to contribute to a closer development partnership, Wei added.

During his visit, the Chinese state councilor will hold talks with Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on strengthening military cooperation and safeguarding border stability.

Global Times


The Royal Highland Festival

The Roof of Bhutan: the Majestic Hidden Land of Laya

Laya, nestled high in the mountains at nearly 4,000 metres, is arguably one of Bhutan’s most stunning and culturally preserved places. Surrounded by euphoric views of mountains towering more than 6,000 metres above sea level, including Gangchen Tag, Tshendegang and Masagang, the majestic hidden land of Laya is as breathtaking as it is humbling. 

My love affair with Laya began in 2012 when I trekked, part of the epic snowman trek, from Paro to Jumolhari base camp, Lingshi, Laya, and Gasa. It was hard not be immediately, irrevocably taken by Layaps and their unique pastoralist culture and semi-nomadic way of life in this picturesque mountain valley. A one-day stop on this awesome trek turned into a three-day ethnographic learning experience, one that I will cherish forever. For this was Laya, before the introduction of electricity, television, mobile coverage, internet, corporate-sponsored travel bloggers, and the fast-approaching road that is due to reach the semi-pastoralist town in the next couple of years. A culturally preserved community off the beaten path, it was, and continues to be, an awe-inspiring destination for any conscientious anthropologist or adventurer in search for an authentic cultural experience.  

The First Royal Highland Festival

Four years after my initial trip to Laya, with extraordinary and unforgettable memories to reverently reflect back on, I was excited to learn that the very first Royal Highland Festival and pioneering Laya Run was being organised in 2016 (a pilot and precursor for the forthcoming Snowman Run). Spearheaded by the Gasa Dzongdag, the historic event was inspired by the vision and passion of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, the Fifth King of Bhutan, under the initiative: A Good to Great Gasa. 

Perched high on the festival grounds above the main town, the Royal Highland Festival highlights the richness and spirituality of Layap culture and traditions, including clothing, dance, music, handicrafts, food, sports, games, livestock and pastoralist practices. The highlight of the festival was meeting His Majesty The Fifth King, who graced the historical inauguration of the first-ever Royal Highland Festival, as well as the following year. As festival goers sang and danced around massive bonfires that sent bright sparks floating into the crisp Himalayan night under a glittering star-studded night sky, I could not help but pinch myself. What a special place. What an awesome night. What a moving experience. Life would never be the same again. 

The Second Annual Royal Highland Festival

The majestic snow-capped mountains emerged as the clouds gently ceded to reveal a fresh sprinkling of glistening snow dusting the stunning peaks and framing the wide-open festival grounds which were dotted with black yak wool tents. Indicating the increasing popularity of the event, last year saw a surge in the numbers of foreign dignitaries, tourists, Bhutanese officials, and thousands of people from all over the country who attended the second Royal Highland Festival. It was a happy and festive celebration of the rich highland culture and pastoralist ways of life, as showcased by Layaps, as well as women, men and children from nomadic communities from Lunana, Merak-Sakteng in Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Paro, Lhuentse, Haa and Sephu in Wangdue.

With pleasant weather during the second day of the festival, the festival ground echoed with laughter and the sounds of festivities, such as traditional dance performances, strongmen/strongwomen competition, wrestling competition, relay races, children’s activities, cultural tents dedicated to highlighting nomadic artefacts and products, the enticing aroma of Bhutanese cuisine drifting from food tents, and livestock and animal competition showcasing prized yaks, horses and Bhutanese mastiffs, a noble breed of dogs bred only in the highlands. 

The comical wrestling competition drew tonnes of laughter as the competitors joked, poked fun at each other and danced and rolled around on the ground in mock combat. I participated in the three-legged race, which literally brought together ankle-bound foreigners and Bhutanese from the highlands and other regions across the country. The festival grounds were a treat for the senses. Every year, highlanders eagerly await the festival to gather and meet friends and family. Tourists get a rare glimpse of pastoralist culture and way of life, and photographers capture heavenly landscapes and iconic portraits of the highlands of Bhutan. 

The next day, as the skies opened up to reveal the full impact of the dazzling snow-capped mountains reflected against the warmth of the brilliant sun, set against the clear, deep turquoise blue of the sky, I was saddened that most runners and tourists had already left Laya after the festival, missing the spectacular scenery that was hidden by partially cloudy conditions the day before. For the next three days, I had the opportunity to experience Laya under the warmth of the sun and azure blue skies, without the crowds, and enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of Layaps. During my stay, I learned more about Layap culture, spiritual practices and pastoralist way of life in the context of change brought about by the new-found pressures of modernisation, development, globalisation, climate change and tourism. 

Ethical and Mindful Travel to Laya and Beyond

As word spreads about unique and special off-the-beaten-path locations in northern and eastern parts of Bhutan, the Royal Highland Festival and other less frequented venues are likely to draw a greater number of foreign tourists this year and into the future. However, the ability to visit culturally preserved communities comes with great responsibility and the need for profound mindfulness. Several experienced Bhutanese tour operators have been organising trips to Laya and other off-the-beaten locales for many years. Such tour operators are highly recommended for foreign tourists, as they understand the critical need for ethical and culturally sensitive travel which sincerely respects local social norms and customs that exist in culturally fragile locales, as well as the importance of treading lightly to preserve and respect local culture, ecologies and spiritual practices of unique, unfrequented areas in Bhutan. By doing so (right from making bookings directly with Bhutanese tour operators to ensuring on-line booking apps are Bhutanese owned and operated), revenue from tourism will remain in Bhutan to benefit the sustainable development of the nation and local communities, as encapsulated in the holistic alternative development approach of Gross National Happiness – far more robust than conventional corporate social responsibility models that donate a share of profits from tourism to charity, but focus on mass consumerism, limitless growth, and the unequal sharing of profits with local partners and communities. For me, Laya remains a phenomenal place that I have had the honour of visiting three times over the span of half a decade. One of my favourite places in Bhutan, it is deeply special, unique and humbling. Through ethical, respectful, holistic, and responsible eco-tourism, we can ensure that it will remain that way for generations to come.

Epilogue and Prologue: The Third Royal Highland 

As I write this, I find myself again drawn to the magic of Laya: I am getting ready to take part in the 3rd Royal Highland Festival and Laya Run. If the first two years of the festival are any indication, this year will be likely be even more enchanting and action-packed. If you have not visited Laya yet, this is a great opportunity to do so. 

The Royal Highland Festival will take place in Laya this year from October 23rd to 24th. The festival always happens in conjunction with the much sought-after Laya Run, a 25-kilometer cross-country high-altitude alpine race from Gasa to Laya (taking place on October 23rd). 

 by  Dr Ritu Verma

Senior researcher and strategic adviser for the Tarayana Centre for Social Research and Development, and Founder/Director of Out of the Box Research and Action.

Layap woman with her dog, a beautiful and noble prized Bhutanese mastiff who competed in the Royal Highland Festival

Indigenous no-state people

Asian Games 2018: Hima Das Wins Silver Medal in 400m Race

Hima Das has written her name in the books of history again, the world champion lived up to the nation’s expectations after winning a silver medal at the 400m race event in the Asian games 2018. She came second to Salwa Naser and registered a time of 50.79

20-year old Hima Das had the hopes of the nation on her and she ran like a true champion.

In the qualification round on day 7, Hima Das broke a 14-year-old national record when she clocked 51.00s as she qualified for the 400m final during the ongoing Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta on Saturday.

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#TeamIndia at the #AsianGames2018
It’s a Silver for #HimaDas! 400m Indian sprint sensation clocks 50.79 in her Women’s 400m Finals, to finish 2nd and pick up Silver No. 8 for India! #Congratulations @HimaDas8 #IAmTeamIndia

The previous national record was set by Manjit Kaur (51.05s) in Chennai in 2004.

Hima ran with Bahrain’s Salwa Naser, who is favourite to win this event and won the Heat 1 with a new Games record.

In other news, Olympic medallists PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal today headed for a gold medal showdown at the 18th Asian Games after their quarterfinal victories ensured India’s first ever women’s singles medals at the Continental event.

First, it was London bronze medallist Saina, who ended a 36-year-old wait for an individual medal after locking at least a bronze following a 21-18 21-16 win over world number five Ratchanok Intanon in a 42-minute quarterfinal.

Rio silver medallist Sindhu then fought past world number 12 Nitchaon Jindapol 21-11 16-21 21-14 in the other quarterfinal.

In the semifinals, Saina faces world no 1 and top seed Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei, while Sindhu will take on either China’s Chen Yufei or world no 2 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan.

Indian Archery team (Rajat Chauhan, Aman Saini & Abhishek Verma) also stormed into finals of ‘Compound Men’s Team Event’ with a 230-227 win over Chinese Taipei where they will take on South Korea in Final on 28th August.

Indigenous no-state people

Arunachal Pradesh: Siang’s murky water now turns turbulent

GUWAHATI: The water of Siang river in Arunachal Pradesh, which flows in from Tibet, that has been murky black since November last year has turned turbulent, creating big waves that are unlike of a river for over two weeks now. The East Siang district administration has issued an advisory to the people living on the banks to stay clear of the river.

“It has been observed that since last two weeks or more, the flow of Siang river is fluctuating with unusual waves. However, as reports received from the water resource department, Pasighat division, there is no reason to be panicked as Siang river is currently flowing below the danger-level mark. However, as precautionary measures, general public is cautioned to refrain themselves from venturing into the Siang river for fishing, swimming etc to avoid any eventualities,” states the advisory note issued by deputy com missioner of East Siang district.

An official of East Siang district said, “The river has been murky since October last year and now this turbulent behavior of the river. This river flows from Tibet and we cannot pinpoint the causes for its unusual behavior. We have written to the state government for taking the matter to the central government. We think that there should be a verification team, which can travel beyond the border to find out the exact causes.” Locals say that they waves created in the river are big, and looks like to be as high as two meters.

The causes of the unusual behavior could either be man-made or natural. Last year, China clarified that it would not pollute its own river, Yarlung Tsangpo, the name by which Siang is known in Tibet. Several scientific studies in subsequent periods held an earthquake of 6.4 magnitude on the Richter scale in Tibet as a strong reason for generating enough dirt to turn the colour of the water from crystal clear to black. There is no official version from the central government so far though.

The Siang is the principal constituent river of the Brahmaputra and it originates from the glacier mass of the Kailash range of the Himalayas and flows eastwards for about 1600 km through the Tibetan plateau. Before entering India it is joined by its tributaries Shap Chu, Nayang Chu, Rang Chu, Yarling Chu, Tong Chu, Shang Chu, Kyi Chu and Po- Tsangpo.

It takes the name of Siang as it enters India at Geling in Upper Siang district and is joined by two other rivers, Lohit and the Dibang join the Siang at about 30 km downstream of Pasighat, which is about 230 km from the international border, to form the mighty Brahmaputra river. (Source : TNN, Photo courtesy: NE Now)