UN calls for action as Pakistan floods turn ‘apocalyptic’

great power rivalry

Ukraine: Heavy fighting erupted in southern Ukraine this week as the country’s military launched its first major counter-offensive since the invasion in an attempt to regain Russian-occupied territory in the Kherson region.

The attacks marked a change in tactics for the Ukrainian military, which largely conducted defensive operations. Reclaiming the territory will likely require a significant number of troops, especially since Kherson was captured early in the war, giving Russia months to dig.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he plans to retake all areas occupied by Russia since 2014, including Crimea and territory in the eastern Donbass region. “If they want to survive, it’s time for the Russian army to flee,” he said in a video address.

The Ukrainian assault followed a long stalemate in which fighting continued, but neither nation’s military made substantial gains. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently ordered an increase in the size of his army from 137,000 to 1.15 million by January 2023, a sign that he is preparing for a protracted war.

The war is wreaking havoc across Europe, as the disruption of Russian energy supplies has led to power shortages and runaway inflation. Europe depended on Russia for 40% of its gas before the war, but supplies dwindled as Europe tried to wean itself off Russian energy. Russia retaliated by reducing its supply.

Gasoline prices last week were seven times higher than the same time last year. But prices are set to worsen as Europe enters winter and demand soars.

To conserve energy, France, Spain and Italy have imposed limits on the use of air conditioning, and German authorities have ordered the lights of the Brandenburg Gate and Cologne Cathedral to be turned off. the night.

In Germany, people prepare for winter by storing wood. The head of the German Federal Association of Chimney Sweeps, Alexis Gula, said DW News that the demand for wood stoves had increased by up to 40% and that buyers were no longer buying them to be “cosy”, but to make sure they were ready for winter.

The neighborhood

Solomon Islands: On Tuesday, the Solomon Islands banned foreign navy vessels from visiting amid tensions with Washington over the refusal to allow a US ship to dock.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s announcement came hours after the US Embassy in Canberra confirmed it had been officially advised of a moratorium on naval visits “pending further updates”. up-to-date protocol procedures”.

The move follows an incident last week in which the Solomon Islands refused to allow a US Coast Guard vessel access to a port in Honiara to refuel. The vessel was patrolling for illegal fishing in the area and was diverted to Papua New Guinea. Washington expressed “regret” for the incident and said it “expects[s] all future clearances will be provided to US vessels.”

Ties between the Solomon Islands and the United States, Australia and their allies have soured since Honiara signed a secret security deal with China earlier this year. A leaked draft said the pact would allow Chinese ships to dock and resupply.

Sogavare has pushed for closer ties with Beijing, including transferring diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 2019. Earlier this month, the Solomon Islands reached a deal with China that will see the construction of 161 towers mobile phone by the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. Australia previously built an undersea cable to the Solomon Islands to prevent Huawei from winning the contract.

Democracy in decline

Iraq: At least 30 people have been killed this week in heavy fighting in Baghdad that erupted after Moqtada al-Sadr – one of Iraq’s most powerful figures – announced on Twitter that he was quitting politics.

Sadr, a Shia Muslim cleric, leads a bloc that won the most seats in last October’s elections but was unable to form a ruling coalition. Following his announcement that he was retiring from political life, his supporters entered the Green Zone – the former US military stronghold that now houses government offices and embassies. The ensuing clashes between Shia groups and the Iraqi army led to the worst violence in Baghdad in years and prompted authorities to impose a nationwide curfew.

On Tuesday, Sadr, speaking from his base in the city of Najaf, apologized for the unrest and urged his supporters to retreat.

Iraqi President Barham Salih this week called for new elections to end the political stalemate, and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said he would step down if the violence escalates.

Sadr rose to international prominence after leading a militia against US and Iraqi forces following the US-led invasion in 2003. Although initially closely aligned with Iran, he reshaped himself into nationalist who opposes foreign interference. He has announced his retirement on several occasions, sparking speculation that his exploits this week were intended to demonstrate his grip on his massive support base.

Spotlight on: Disaster in Pakistan

Two months ago, unusually early monsoon rains started falling in Pakistan. But the showers did not stop.

The rains caused devastating floods across the country, killing more than 1,100 people and forcing 500,000 people to flee their homes. About a third of the country is under water and more than a million homes have been damaged or destroyed.

On Tuesday, Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said conditions were “apocalyptic”, noting that the southeastern town of Padidan received 1,700 millimeters of rain in one day. “Unheard of, nowhere,” she said on Twitter. Other reports give the figure at 12oo millimetres.

Rainfall in Pakistan from August 1 to 26 was three times above average. In provinces such as Balochistan and Sindh, rainfall was more than six times and eight times above average, respectively.

Pakistan, which has a population of around 235 million, was already facing economic hardship, but the crisis worsened as floods destroyed buildings, farmland, livestock, roads and more than 160 bridges. The damage is expected to cost around $10 billion.

Pakistan’s government has appealed for international support, saying it is suffering from the effects of climate change, even though its per capita carbon emissions are among the lowest in the world.

On Tuesday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called the disaster in Pakistan a “climate disaster”.

“Let’s stop sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet through climate change,” he said. “Today is Pakistan. Tomorrow it could be your country.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 3, 2022 under the headline “UN calls for action as Pakistan floods turn ‘apocalyptic'”.

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