Possible change in the fishing industry!

It seems like a unique idea. Will it have a positive or negative effect on aquatic life forms?


First Month in Vietnam!

A month in Vietnam and what a month it was! This has been so far one of the best experiences in my life. Bargaining with shopkeepers, weaving through traffic of Hanoi, visiting karaoke bars with Vietnamese friends, learning Vietnamese from amazing co-workers, riding on a boat in Ha Long Bay with friends and more to come (after I get my motorbike). It has definitely been an eventful month for me.



It is one thing to know that speaking is one form of communication and it is different to actually experience it.  I was surprised when I realized that hand gestures can work very well to substitute for speaking, but not as detailed when needed.

Food is another shocker. Almost everything tastes really really good. But I have dietary restrictions; I don’t eat pork and drink alcohol, while almost every dish here has pork and beer is served with every meal. The sea food has been my savior and it is important to keep an open mind when trying out different food (trust me on that).Image

Ha Long Bay has been another bright dot in our adventure map. We visited the natural beauty last weekend and checked one of the boxes in my To-Do list. These are some of the samples of Vietnam!Image

Is Afghanistan another Vietnam?

We are witnessing a change of tides in the ‘War Against Terrorism’. US officially changed their approach towards the Taliban since the invasion of Afghanistan. The classic statements such as, “As a result of the US military, the Taliban no longer is in existence” by ex-President of US, George W. Bush, are no longer in play. Washington has had a change of heart when Obama called Taliban’s opening of their office in Qatar as an “important first step toward reconciliation”. The war in Afghanistan has been a lost cause from the beginning of the invasion and reconciliation is a necessary step towards bringing a long overdue peace to the region.

The war in Afghanistan has lasted 12 years since its initial invasion by US in 2001. With nearly 100,000 NATO and US soldiers, 185,000 trained members of Afghan National Army and 149,000 members of Afghan National Police, the Taliban, estimated to be 20,000 members, are still roaming the country and fighting a war. Clearly, there is something wrong with this picture when allied forces are outnumbering rebel fighters 21 to 1.

Leaving the numbers aside, there are clear indications that US and NATO are losing this war. Some individuals might say that the Taliban has agreed to participate in the peace talks, so clearly they are frustrated with this war and want an end to it. Not exactly (not saying that they do not want peace)! Taliban have always said that they will only go into peace talks with US as the current Afghan government is a puppet of Washington, thus they want to talk to the head. While US has always responded to this demand by putting the Afghan government at the spearhead of peace talks with the Taliban, that is. US officially accepting to talk with the rebels is as good as surrendering to them.

Furthermore, we are seeing an unhappy Afghan government. Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, said that he will suspend bilateral talks with Untied States about American troops in Afghanistan past 2014, since the Afghan government is not involved in the peace talks. At one side we are trying ‘reconciliation’ with the Taliban, while on the other, we are angering the Afghan government. By holding talks between the Taliban and Washington and not including Afghan government, we are witnessing the irrelevance of Karzai regime. This is yet another unofficial acceptance by Washington.

We also have US diplomats stating that we have achieved what we wanted to begin with, which was eliminating Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Once again, true that Osama bin Laden was killed by American troops, but we must look at the circumstances of his death. Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, in the city of Abbottabad about 1.5 km away from Pakistan Military Academy. Additionally, many reports are coming out from the US government stating that Pakistan is harboring and training the Taliban in their soil. Al Qaeda has been weakened and driven out of the area for many years, but why are still fighting in the Taliban in Afghanistan and not in Pakistan?

Coming back to the recent development of US holding talks with the Taliban, we could have good implication for both sides (aside from the end of this long war). Elections are coming up in 2014 in Afghanistan and the Taliban could, potentially, have a piece of that pie. A huge chunk of the southern part of Afghanistan is not represented in the Afghan government (as majority of the Taliban are from southern Afghanistan). While for US and its allies, it means ending a long overdue war and reducing their military budgets. War in Afghanistan has cost US over $600 billion USD (not include the long-term care for war veterans) in the past 12 years. Resources could be allocated to the much needed domestic issues of US and NATO countries.

The Afghan war has been lost cause from the start, but this does not mean that we should eliminate every member of the Taliban before we could call it quits. Many people have said, including myself, that this war could only come to end with peace talks between the parties involved. As an International Development student, I can honestly say that this war has been waste of resources and precious lives. Development could only proceed forward while there is peace and stability, which is much needed in Afghanistan.

Montreal and Corruption!

Montreal, one of Canada’s largest cities, has recently witnessed corruption charges against their mayor, Michael Applebaum, “Is charged with 14 criminal counts, including conspiracy, fraud and breach of trust”. He was arrested by UPAC, the province’s anti-corruption unit and was held for 9 hours in custody. He is not the first mayor who has been charged on corruption, “Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay resigned after allegations about illegal fundraising, and now his replacement is facing replacement”. City of Toronto was also slammed in the media about suspicious activity.


Most of the time we concentrate on corruption in developing countries, to a point that we forget that it happens everywhere. There isn’t a country or a state on earth where there is zero corruption. The key question is; what can we do (other then not participating in corruption)?

White-only settlers seek S Africa recognition

Soooo, racial segregation is being redefined as culture preservation?

This is how it’s done!

This is how its done!

Very interesting experiment. There are many instances in developing world where we wont understand the situation, but that how its done there.

Lashing out at the Bolivian President

Many of you might have heard about the Bolivian President, Evo Morales, being barred by many of European countries and forced to land in Austria. The President was in Russia for meeting with exporting-gas nations and on his way back to his country, many of the European countries stopped the plane from entering their air space.

These countries are close allies of United States and, ironically, his plane was forced to land in Austria because of a suspicion that Edward Snowden might be aboard the plane. Snowden has been over the news for the past few months because of his involvement in releasing classified information of United States government. Latin American countries have all been outraged by European refusal of letting Bolivian President pass over their air space.

This is a very disappointing news for me to see that Bolivian Present’s plane was forced to stop for 10 hours and checked for a fugitive based on a suspicion. Hypothetically speaking, if this was Barack Obama’s plane coming from Russia, would it get the same treatment as the Bolivian President?

Another disaster waiting to happen!?

I follow a news website/magazine called The Diplomat, which discusses diverse issues around the world. One of the article the website publish was about mining project in Mes Aynak in Afghanistan. Many of you might have heard about Afghanistan in the past decade, the war and other negative topics in regards to the country, but this country has a whole other side. The region has has been center for many invasions including some of the recent wars by Soviet Union in the 1980s and United States and its allies (including Canada) since 2001.

Afghanistan is known for its historical Silk Road, which provides a rich history to the landscape. The region has many unique artifacts dating back to 2600 years ago. The following are quotes from the article which I consider to be important:

As The New York Times noted, while Europe was crawling through the Dark Ages, Afghanistan was home to Nestorian Christians, Persian Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jews and, finally, Muslims, in a tolerant, prosperous society.

According to The Guardian, the 2,600-year-old site contains fortified monasteries, a Zoroastrian fire temple, several Buddhist stupas, more than 1,000 statutes and walls featuring frescoes of donor portraits and scenes from the Buddha’s life. Not to mention smelting workshops, miners’ quarters (even then the site’s copper was well known), a mint, two small forts, a citadel, and a stockpile of Kushan, Sassanian and Indo-Parthian coins.”

“At present, excavation of the site is only 10 percent complete and the bulk of the more significant findings would traditionally come to light in the remaining 90 percent of work. But here’s the problem: the remaining 90 percent of excavation would take an estimated 25 to 30 years to complete, while the mine project is slated to begin shortly. While the group initially planned to begin the project this month, Huffman reports that Mes Aynak has received a stay of execution.”

“In 2007, the Chinese state-backed China Metallurgical Group paid $3 billion to the Afghan government – its largest contract ever – for mining rights to Mes Aynak (“little copper well”), which contains an estimated $100 billion worth of copper. To reach the coveted natural resource, the firm plans to dig a 500-meter-deep crater that would effectively wipe the archaeological treasure off the map.”

” ‘We will use it to build infrastructure – agriculture, electricity – and strengthen the Afghan security forces,’ Abdul Aziz Harib, a Ministry of Mines official who is responsible for Mes Aynak, told The Diplomat. ‘In short, this project will help Afghanistan to stand on its own feet and make us self-sufficient.’ According to Harib, some 7,000 Afghans will be directly employed by the mine, while 35,000 will work for the project indirectly.”


I, personally, lean more towards the economic aspect of development. So when I come across such stories, I always think about financial costs and benefits of such projects. At one side, we have finance flowing to the government (corrupt government, to be more precise) and creating 7,000 jobs directly and 35,000 jobs indirectly, which are both short-term. While on the other side of the scale, we have potential for a huge tourist destination and conservation of historical site (hopefully under UNESCO).

Which option would be better for the country and the people?

International Conservation?


I was browsing through BBC and I found this clip where Hollywood actor Harrison Ford is talking about environmental issues which have turned political. There are many Hollywood actors who have chosen to work on a certain humanitarian or environmental causes, lately.

In this clip, Mr. Ford and Peter Seligmann (Conservation International Chief Executive Officer) talk about how many ‘fragile nations’ have turned to radicalism as an alternative to their daily provision. One example which the clip discusses is the collapse of Somalian fisheries. European nations have over-fished the Eastern coast of Africa, which resulted in many Somalians with boats, but no fish. The alternative which they have taken to is piracy in international waters. There have been several cases of high jacked ships in the region (especially oil shipments). This in turn affects businesses around the world, which operate along those region(s) or are dependent on other businesses which operate there.

Thus, the conclusion one might come to is that we need to conserve our planet. “It’s a lot cheaper to intervene before it becomes a national security issue,” Mr Ford said. “Every dollar that we spend on international conservation comes back to us.”

We, International Development students, have studied this for the past 3 years that humans need to work alongside nature and reduce our negative impacts on our planet. Conservation International is, yet another, organization which is working towards this goal and has many high profile celebrities indorsing this organization. They have said on their website Every year, our planet produces an astounding US$ 72 trillion worth of “free” goods and services.”

Any thoughts about this whole idea of ‘international conservation’?

Bottom Up vs Top Down

There are two types of approaches to development. One is bottom up (grassroots movements), while the other is top down (government movements). Bottom up movements have shown great success in many cases. One such case, as you might have already heard about, is Grameen Bank, which is micro-finance banking. This initiative has exploded and is being emulated worldwide with a few modifications to it, such as Kiva, which is run not by a bank but regular people online.

But, I have always been intrigued by top down approach to development. Most people criticize the effectiveness of this approach. The main issue people bring up with this method is that if the government is corrupt, development will not go anywhere. Or that the top is disconnected from the people, so it will be hard to meet the needs of the people. Although, it is true that top down approach has failed is many cases, but there are some cases where the government has been successful.

One of the biggest success story is in Uganda, where the government has been fighting HIV/AIDS. Some of the methods they have used are:

  • In 1999 the Ugandan Ministry of Health started a voluntary door-to-door HIV screening program using HIV rapid tests in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV.
  • Uganda has also begun to implement routine or ‘opt-out’ testing (whereby anybody who enters a healthcare facility is tested for HIV unless they specifically ask not to be) in some healthcare settings.
  • In 2007, HIV testing and counseling was available in 554 health facilities in the country. By the end of 2008, this number had risen to 812 and increased further to 1,904 in 2010. Uganda delivered HIV testing and counseling to an estimated 2,654,683 people aged 15 years and older in 2010.
  • Uganda produces generic drugs to reduce cost for the public and increase the supply in the market.

Results so far:

  • Uganda continues to increase the number of people on treatment, from around 200,000 in 2009 to 248,222 in 2010, the sustainability of its HIV treatment program must be considered.
  • In fact, between 1991 and 2007, HIV prevalence rates declined dramatically. Various claims have been made on the extent of these declines, but mathematical models estimated falls from about 15% in 1991 to about 6% in 2007. Source

So, there is a good side to governments. Do you agree or disagree with top down approach? Do you know of any other success stories for top down approach?