FIELD NOTES — ASIA PACIFIC

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Regional: The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) launched an ambitious research project that may unite the scientific community and civil society organisations across India, Pakistan and Afghanistan to find ways of mitigating the effects of recurrent droughts that devastate the region.

The IWMI (www.iwmi.org) launched a new website that is intended to be a portal for drought-related studies, news and information on the South West Asia region, and a meeting place for scientists, managers and policy makers dealing with different aspects of droughts.

Governments and international relief agencies face many difficulties when dealing with droughts. Major obstacles are the absence of reliable data and information networks, coupled with limited professional and institutional capacities to cope with the problems. Two aims of the project are to review the status of drought research and management in South West Asia, and then identify the gaps in order to develop interim recommendations for improving drought management for regional governments, relief agencies and local communities. Based on this initial research phase, the IWMI will develop a more extensive research proposal to help create an effective, long-term drought management programme for the region. For more information, contact Vladimir Smakhtin at Email: v.smakhtin@cgiar.org.

Japan: The UK company Simon-Hartley and Tomoe Engineering Co. Ltd of Japan signed an exclusive distribution agreement allowing Tomoe to sell the Simon-Hartley range of Aquabelt gravity belt thickeners (GBTs) into the Japanese municipal sewage treatment market. Tomoe is a manufacturer and supplier of wastewater treatment equipment in the Asia Pacific region.

Environmental pressures are driving Tomoe's move to GBTs. Company officials view them as a low-power, high-efficiency technology, which can help Japan reduce fossil fuel use to decrease "greenhouse gas" emissions in line with the country's commitment to the Kyoto protocol on climate change.

Japan: The Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) signed a US$ 76-m loan agreement with the government of the Republic of Tunisia to finance a water pipeline construction project in northern Tunisia.

Tunisia receives only 200mm of rainfall per year - one-fifth the world average, which causes water shortages.

Pakistan: Karachi may soon be the location of a desalination plant with a capacity of 25 million gallons per day, according to Federal Minister for Communications Senator Babar Ghauri, as concerned officials have been asked to submit its feasibility by early May 2004. The US Trade Development Authority granted US$ 284,000 for the plant, but the project had been pending for the last 18 months. Potable water supply and quality is declining every day, the minister claimed, so he said that he directed officials to urgently work on the project and warned of strong action against those responsible for further delay or mishandling.

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