Features

Adapting microbes
October 08, 2013
Adapting microbes that dramatically increase crop yields while reducing demand for fertilizers and pesticides through selective breeding or genetic engineering could be cheaper and more flexible than genetically modifying plants themselves, says an author of a new report. Microbes, such as beneficial bacteria, fungi and viruses, could be produced locally for smallholder farmers to significantly improve food security and incomes in developing regions,
Chinese premiers Wen Jiabao and Li Keqiang
March 06, 2013
Out-going Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has told China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) – the country’s rubber-stamp legislature – that the government should adopt effective measures to prevent and control pollution in response to peoples’ expectations of having a good living environment. This obvious assertion came as Wen delivered his final work report to the NPC, which opened for its annual meeting this week. Next year China’s premier-in-waiting, Li Keqiang – who takes over as the head of China’s government at the close of this NPC session at the end of next week – will be delivering the work report.
Dharavi
December 12, 2012
Sprawling over 550 acres of land in the heart of India’s third largest city, Dharavi’s maze of dilapidated shacks and narrow, odorous alleyways is home to more than one million people. In this small area of Mumbai’s sprawling slum, hidden amid the warren of ramshackle huts and squalid open sewers are an estimated 15,000 single room factories, employing around a quarter of a million people and turning over a staggering USD1 billion each year.
Demonstration offshore wind turnine off Chōshi, Japan
October 30, 2012
Japan is beginning to take the development of an off-shore wind industry seriously as shown with the unveiling last week of a 126-meter-tall turbine – the country’s largest to date – off the coast of Chōshi, the easternmost city in the Greater Tokyo Area. A variety of Japanese experts have championed the development of marine wind turbines which they say have much more potential than their land-based counterparts in this small mountainous country.
Japanse solar bubble
October 10, 2012
CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets recently released estimates confirm that Japan’s drive to ramp up renewable energy supplies is having a big impact. The firm reckons Japan could have 17.3-GW of installed solar power capacity by 2014 while wind power will be less than half that, at an estimated 7.6-GW of total capacity by 2016, with most coming from off-shore projects. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, meanwhile, estimates investment in solar, wind and other forms of clean energy could double to USD17.1 billion this year from USD8.6 billion in 2011.
HK Under Secretary for the Environment Christine Loh
September 13, 2012
In what must be considered his boldest appointments since he took office at the beginning of July, Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung has appointed Christine Loh as the Under-Secretary for the Environment in his new administration. Loh was formerly the chief executive of Civic Exchange, the Hong Kong-based think tank she co-founded in 2000, and a staunch but constructive critic of the Hong Kong Government’s environmental policies.
Philippine e-trike
July 31, 2012
The Philippine’s trikes (motorized tricycles) – the country’s most ubiquitous form of transport – are set for a major makeover with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of the Philippines envisaging having up to 100,000 electricity-powered trikes on the road by 2020. An estimated 3.5 million trikes currently ply the country’s streets with 200,000 in Metro Manila, the national capital. As well as causing roadside air and noise pollution the nation’s trike fleet also releases an estimated 10 million tonnes of CO2 every year according to the ADB. The transport sector is the Philippines’ largest source of carbon emissions.
Picking over a Guangzhou landfill
July 25, 2012
Like many of China's rapidly growing cities, Guangzhou is under siege from landfill. The southern city produces about 18,000 tonnes of household waste every day, 14,000 tonnes of which needs to be disposed of after sorting and recycling. That is as much as the city can handle. Some of the waste is incinerated, but most is sent to landfill, and dumping grounds are slowly surrounding the city. In a controversial move, the city decided from July to start charging residents for waste disposal according to the number of rubbish bags used. An additional charge will be applied for excess waste.
Yacht people
May 16, 2012
A pair of former investment bankers based in Hong Kong has launched a new business that aims to persuade owners of diesel-powered pleasure boats, of which there are plenty in local waters, to run their craft on waste vegetable oil (WVO). And, like all good sustainable business ventures, this one looks capable of making a healthy profit while also helping the environment. The idea of running a diesel engine on vegetable oil is not new – inventor Rudolf Diesel having demonstrated one of his eponymous motors fueled by peanut oil at the 1900 Paris Exhibition – but neither is it commonplace, especially in Asia. In the intervening century or so the idea has been largely ignored because of the prevalence of low-cost petroleum diesel oil.
Uranium ore
May 02, 2012
India’s Forest and Environment Ministry has given clearance to Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), a Government of India enterprise, to start open-cast uranium mining in Meghalaya, a mountainous and ecologically fragile province in north-east India. The clearance comes despite decades of opposition to uranium exploration and mining in the province by locals claiming to be victims of radiation and toxic waste resulting from exploratory drillings by UCIL. The most recent anti-mining protests were triggered by the large-scale death of fish in the Ranikor River, allegedly from toxic waste caused by drilling and dumping into the river but local government authorities ruled out radiation poisoning as the cause.
Sarawak's hornbill rises over the Bakun Dam
February 16, 2012
Asia'a second largest hydroelectric project, the Bakun dam on Sarawak's Balui River, has been revealed to be running at well under capacity since it came online in August last year. A report aired on global news broadcaster Al Jazeera yesterday found the plant running only one 150-MW turbine out of the three that are currently operational. Another five turbines are due to be commissioned so that by next year Bakun will have a capacity of 2.4-GW. Sarawak's current level of peak electricity demand is, however, less than a gigawatt.
Ocean acidification process
February 13, 2012
The current trend of increasing ocean acidification, which threatens fisheries around the world, is driven mainly by man-made changes and is higher even than that seen at the end of the last ice age, some 11,000 year ago, a study has said. Much of the carbon released by human activity ends up in the oceans, increasing their acidity and reducing the growth of corals and molluscs, which in turn may affect fisheries and aquaculture.
APAC weather map
February 01, 2012
Here is the Asia Pacific 2012 seasonal weather forecast: Japan is set for a warm spring and the south of the country will by dryer than normal this summer, with lower than average rainfall also affecting eastern China. The Indian sub-continent will experience a weaker summer monsoon but meanwhile, in Indonesia and Australia, the winter rains will be heavier than normal. Will these predictions turn out to be true? Professor Toshio Yamagata, head of the Application Laboratory at Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), is pretty sure they will be
The healthy life-cycle of biogas
January 27, 2012
Nepal is looking to scale up its flagship household biogas program, which has made forays into other developing countries in Asia and Africa. Since its program was initiated in 1992 with support from SVN (the Netherlands Development Organization), Nepal has installed over 240,000 household biogas plants. These have a thermal energy capacity of 444-MW megawatts and greenhouse gas savings of 367,409 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year and the Nepalese model has also attracted ADB investment.
Balloons of Pagan
January 13, 2012
There is an intriguing fight developing between clean and renewable business and non-green industries in Burma. In a very public announcement – to reporters in Rangoon – the minister for electricity Khin Maung Soe halted the construction of a Thai-backed coal-fired power station. It comes only months after the Chinese-funded Myitsone hydroelectric dam was halted after listening to “the people”.  This time he said the coal-fired plant at Dawei had raised pollution and environmental concerns.
Eye on Earth
January 04, 2012
The information is out there. The data that would enable sound decisions on the environment and sustainable development exists in databases, repositories and desk drawers. Yet often it is not tapped, scientifically analysed, communicated or used for the benefit of the environment and the people who depend on it. “By some estimates the amount of data held in the world is 315 times the number of grains of sand and continuing to grow,” Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), told the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi last month.
Insect pest on flowering rice
December 28, 2011
Governments across Asia need to improve their regulation of way that pesticides are marketed and should ban certain pesticides from use in rice production completely, according to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), writes Mike Ives of Sci-Dev.net. IRRI, which is based in Manila, the Philippines, released an action plan listing potential strategies for scaling back pesticide use and adopting ecological growing techniques at a conference in Vietnam, held under the title "Threats of Insecticide Misuse in Rice Ecosystems — Exploring Options for Mitigation".
tesla edison 7
December 23, 2011
The American inventor, who made the incandescent light bulb viable for the mass market, also built the world's first electrical distribution system, in New York, using "direct current" electricity. DC's disadvantage was that it couldn't carry power beyond a few blocks. His Serbian-born rival Tesla, who at one stage worked with Edison, figured out how to send "alternating current" through transformers to enable it to step up the voltage for transmission over longer distances.
Bhutan UN Green Economy Report
December 20, 2011
The United Nations has released a report outlining how its member agencies can work together to help countries move to a green economy. Its the organisation's first inter-agency report on the green economy and argues that to achieve these policies a 'people-centred economy' is crucial.
Chinese traditional medicine
November 11, 2011
There has been a flurry of announcements from the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) market, indicating a renewed interest in a “sustainable” goldmine that was worth about USD48.8 billion last year for China alone. One of the developments has been a new database from British researchers. Last week Wang Guoqiang, China's vice minister of health and also director of the State Administration of TCM said it was important to sustainable development and announced the fourth government supported survey for TCM.