Rolling out the Red Carpet

I welcome you to my blog and hope that you will like the tour. Please leave your footmarks with comments and feedback. This will through and through enhance my knowledge and profundity of thought. Enjoy! Asif J. Mir

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Technical Education

In Pakistan technical education and vocational training systematization focuses on the development of human resource in terms of skill up-gradation, which is demand-driven, meeting the current needs and hence unapt, obsolete and not futuristic.

Although the market and its needs ought to be taken into account, they cannot be the sole guideline for vocational training systems and policies. Markets have short-term views and reasons which if followed unconditionally, may lead to decisions apparently correct for immediate purposes but counterproductive in the long term. The necessary matching of training supply and demand at micro level must not be taken as a substitute for serious long-term policies and preparation our youth for up and coming technological changes.

Pakistan’s technical institutions should contribute to the strengthening of industry and to the full and sustainable development; promote technical education for industries of today and tomorrow; and impart vocational training in line with modern technologies.

In the coming decade we will see body amplifiers that expand human endurance and strength. We will see novel devices that do not rely on wheels, where our own limbs are augmented, where we can traverse very rough terrains with a very high metabolic economy or efficiency. The forecast is that people for certain situations will not want to use wheels anymore, because their legs, augmented by technology, far outperform wheeled vehicles. The technologies—from carbon nano-tube microprocessors and self-driving cars to biosensors and quantum cryptography—are works in progress. Each development holds the promise. The question that can be asked: Are we preparing our workforce for such changes?

A great revolution is coming next—Nanotechnology is a revolution more radical than the industrial revolution is probably occurring. All scientists unanimously agree that this is going to be the largest breakthrough of 21st century.

The present economies are largely based on the scarcity of (materialistic) products. This kind of economy will therefore quite likely disappear almost completely. Within ten years nano-products will dominate a multi-trillion dollar market. All conventional industries will be turned to obsolete chunk.

India prepared its workforce in IT. Pakistan focused on supplying unskilled labor to Gulf and did not adopt IT in management and production functions. It is once again ignoring the upcoming technologies.

Demographic factor is another catalyst for strategic change. Today, national and global demographic changes are a potential catalyst for a long-term systemic imbalance.

According to the Employment Policy Foundation of the USA, a systemic labor shortage is expected to transform the workplace over the next 25 to 30 years as the gap between aging population and entrants of college-educated workers widens due to the senior population’s mass retirements. If the US economy continues to grow at three percent per year—the economy’s consistent average since 1948 — the workforce will have to increase by 58 million employees over the next three decades if the same rate of productivity is maintained. Yet, if the current population trend continues, the number of workers will only increase by 23 million. This trend would create an overall US labor shortage of 35 million workers. Most of these projected shortages are expected to involve workers having specific skills. To counter this systematic shortage the US will import skilled labor force from Asia and Africa.

Europe’s total fertility rate is about 1.4—well below the 2.1 replacement level. Over the next 15 years, West European economies will need to find several million workers to fill positions vacated by retiring workers. European countries will thus accommodate growing immigrant populations (chiefly from Muslim countries). Otherwise they will face a period of protracted economic stasis that could threaten the huge successes made in creating a more United Europe.

The aging of Japan’s work force will reinforce dependence on migrated workers from South East Asia.

The demographic structures in the West and Japan over the next decade produce considerable challenges to education planning and vocational training in Pakistan. Herein lies a potential training challenge for preparing the workforce meeting the technological needs of those countries.

Migration has the potential to help solve the problem of a declining work force in the USA, Europe and, to a lesser degree, Japan and probably will become a more important feature of the world of 2020, even if many of the migrants do not have legal status.

The likely emergence of Pakistan as a new major Asian player—similar to the rise of Germany in the 19th century and the United States in the early 20th century—can transform the geopolitical landscape, with impacts potentially as dramatic as those of the previous two centuries.

Is Pakistan ready to prepare its workforce for meeting the needs of USA, Europe and Japan? How Pakistan exercises its growing power and whether it relates competitively in the international system depends largely on the way it plans (or plans not in the slightest)?

Pakistan must prepare workers for offshore employment. It needs to develop a workforce at par with the workforce of industrialized countries; respond to the industry demands of today and of the future; prepare workforce to meet the demographic gap of the West; push a program to modernize the system of technical education and vocational training; increase the supply and productivity of skilled labor in key sectors of the economy; increase, relevance, internal efficiency and quality of existing technical education and vocational training; and least but not the last, improve the opportunities for gainful employment in the formal and informal sectors of the economy.

According to Neil Edmunds, former president of the American Vocational Association, those who will lead vocational education into the 21st century must be shareholders in a unifying vision; these leaders must understand the broad scope of vocational education. They must be skilled communicators; they must be as comfortable outside the educational setting as within it, moving easily among people from government, education, and business. The question: does Pakistan offer this leadership? (

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Women of Future

Through and through sexual harassment is not the end of gender mistreatment. Far worse than the emotional violence is the physical violence which men unleash on women. The tormenting statistics are ubiquitous. In US every 15 seconds a woman is battered and every day husbands or boyfriends kill 4 women. In Bangladesh 50 percent of all murders are murders of wives by their husbands. Pakistan—a tall Muslim country—also incubates serious state of women affairs. Rapes, harassment and assault by husbands and in-laws are commonplace. This establishes the exorbitant violence directed towards women specifically by men, and indirectly by social and cultural mores.

Many feminist theorists claim a strong link between the behavior of the male gender and male institutions towards both women and the Earth. The violence against women is mirrored in the levels of environmental destruction now taking place across the planet. The idea that nature is female is a common assumption shared by many cultures across the globe, and now Mother Earth is being abused just like many of her daughters.

Right or wrong, it is clear that in many parts of the world, it is "woman's world" which is being threatened the most by so-called development: forests, agriculture, fuel sources, housing, and water resources are being destroyed at alarming rates. Those resources are the basic elements of life for a majority of the world's women and the decline of those resources put the greatest pressure on women. It is male-dominated institutions, which are largely responsible for this sad state of affairs and women are asking for a change.

All the same, in advanced countries, the pressure is on women to perform in the public sphere and to maintain much of the status quo on the home front. While women have succeeded in making some trespasses into decision-making positions in business and government, they are still expected to perform traditional functions of maintaining a household, taking care of the kids, fixing the meals, and being a good spouse—a difficult exercise.

Springing from the premise that the personal is political, radical feminists argue that to adopt traditional political methods would be to play into the hands of male institutions. They seek instead to recreate their own world, their own reality, and seek to give energy to new woman- centered institutions rather than the old male ones. They build new theories of dominance and power and begin to look at the origins of male dominance, which soon became known as patriarchy. Mythic remnants of pagan mother-goddess worship can be found in nearly all divine religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. The importance of the Virgin Mary in Catholicism is a classic example.

There are at least three mini-trends that result from deep-seated feminism, which could alleviate the rising power of women. One of those might be abnormal separatism, a tendency for some women to reject men entirely—as some sort of evolutionary mistake. This movement is an acceptance of an entirely different paradigm.

There are images of women about the future, which come from feminist literature. This entire group is science fiction or fantasy novels, which hypothesize a future world either dominated by women or a world in which men and women share power. Most of these utopian novels have common elements: societies at one with nature, decentralized, and to some extent communal societies.

Other images are also described in the literature. They describe a high tech future where women are treated no less than props.

Normal images of women’s futures are ubiquitous in commercial advertising and multimedia. Mainstream, business-as-usual images picture women in fairly conventional roles, more often than not as sex objects.

Biologically and physiologically men and women can be constructed similarly or differently. (In West) sex change operations have become routine, so changing gender is no problem if they decide they were born into the wrong type. Physiological differences are already narrowing between men and women in advanced countries due to improved health and vitamin use. The most dramatic evidence of this phenomenon is the narrowing gap between men and women’s athletic records.

Psychologically, women are increasingly in charge of their own procreation, bodies, financial and political lives, and a burgeoning women’s culture.

One way to make some sense out of these sometimes converging and sometimes conflicting trends is to consider a range of alternative futures for women. These scenarios are suggested in some cases by the images of the future that woman have and others are suggested by the major trends.

In one scenario there is business-as-usual where women continue to obtain their rights but becoming more like men. Women are able to achieve equal pay for equal work, but also get equal rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, and other stress-related disorders. Women in the Developing World will continue to be exploited and violated.

In another scenario future technological changes totally separate procreation from sexual recreation and gender roles; gender change becomes a simple procedure. Children are designed from the best genetic material and are expected to experiment with both gender roles.

Yet another scenario describes a different future where men will put them back in their place. This might occur after a major global ecological or economic catastrophe. In a backlash against women, polygamy and female slavery might reappear.

And yet additional scenario the basic differences between genders are maintained, but women share power with men equally. In this future there would be less gender-based divisions of labor and parenting would be a shared responsibility. Other features of this future are a more harmonious relationship with nature and a stronger community orientation.

These scenarios are just sketches of the alternative developments of the 21st century, but with a bit of luck challenging. Whether we approve of the changing status of women, or not; whether we accept the need for greater power for women, or not—we must prepare ourselves for the coming changes to our worldview. (

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Water Crisis and Smart Consumption

Fresh water is a life support. Yet over the past half-century the scale and pace of human influences on freshwater systems has accelerated rapidly, along with population and consumption growth. Worldwide water demands roughly tripled.

Pakistan ranks 20th in water resources, 127th out of 142 countries in water availability and 24th out of 140 in severe water stress. Water availability per person in Pakistan today is 1,000 cubic meters, down from 5,600 cubic meters per person in 1947.

Water tables are falling in Pakistan from over-pumping of groundwater. Pakistan has the highest per capita water consumption in the region because of inefficient use. It ranks 8th from amongst 209 countries in groundwater withdrawals. Major rivers now run dry for portions of the year. The impacts of rising water consumption are increasingly visible.

Pakistan has large dams with Tarbela is 5th and Mangla 15th largest in world. For a time, only the benefits of these engineering projects were registered—not their social and ecological costs, in terms of people displaced from their homes, fisheries destroyed, soils contaminated by salts, and aquatic species imperiled. Mangla Dam would silt up in 10 to 15 years.

Pakistan has the 14th highest per capita consumption of water in the world. As much as 97 percent of its water goes to feed its agriculture sector, which is very high. Pakistan’s water table is falling and wells are now being dug deeper and deeper which is not only bringing up salinity but also drying up wells that were shallower.

The exploitation of fossil water in the southern Baluchistan can lead to a disaster. Water is not found until a depth of 1,000 ft is reached in parts of Baluchistan, reflecting that the water table is declining rapidly. The levels of Baluchistan's underground aquifers are dropping at a rate of 3.5 meters annually, and will run out in 15 years, resulting in massive internal displacements.

There are some trends that make the regulation of water resources a much greater need today than it was in the past. The first of these is population growth. Currently the population is 144 million and projected to increase to 260 million by 2050. Added to this, the per capita consumption of water in Pakistan is the highest in the region, due to inefficient use. Urbanization from 1970 to 1994 has increased by 7 percent putting more stress on the resources of cities. Problems are emerging. Water supply development is also reaching its limits. The wells are being dug deeper and deeper, drying up the other wells that are shallower. The Mangla dam may become inoperative in 10 to 15 years time because of silting, and no new large dam is being built.

The most urgent task is to provide all people with at least the minimum amount of clean water and sanitation needed for good health. Yet the large gap in coverage worldwide has almost nothing to do with water scarcity. Globally, providing universal access to 50 liters per person per day by 2015 would require less than 1 percent of current global water withdrawals. There is more than enough water, but so far the political will and financial commitments to provide the poor with access to it have not been sufficient.

Raising the productivity of agricultural water use is critical to meeting people’s food needs as water stress deepens and spreads. In Pakistan agriculture is using 95 percent of our total water, the remaining four to five percent for drinking and industrial use. Of the 565,000 total tube wells in Pakistan, nearly 70 percent are now pumping hard water or saline water, because sweet water has been exhausted. If the drought persists for a year or so, it will mean that there will be more pressure on these tube wells.

To raise the productivity of water, it will be necessary to deliver and apply water to crops more efficiently and to increase crop yields per liter of water consumed. This can be done by using drip-sprinklers and other micro-irrigation systems, changing cropping patterns and growing methods to get more crop per drop, and adopting high-yielding and early-maturing crop varieties. Shifting diets, too, will enable people to satisfy nutritional needs with less water. It takes five times more water to supply 10 grams of protein from beef than from rice, and nearly 20 times more water to supply 500 calories from beef.

There is no mystery about why so much of the water extracted for human use is wasted and mismanaged: the policies that drive water decisions in most cases foster inefficiency and misallocation rather than conservation and sustainable use.

Achieving an optimal balance between meeting human needs and protecting valuable ecosystem functions requires allocating sufficient water throughout the year to sustain those functions. Setting limits on the use of rivers and other freshwater ecosystems is the key to sustainable economic progress because it protects the ecosystems underpinning the economy while spurring improvements in water productivity.

The government should fulfill the obligation to protect the public trust in water by passing laws and regulations that safeguard vital ecosystem functions. It ought to institute groundwater regulations. It also needs to promote more efficient and equitable use of water by using tiered water pricing—where the unit price of water to a user increases along with the volume used. It should restrict water use when necessary—for instance, when river flows drop to low levels. It should also develop markets for water to improve the efficiency of use and allocation. The ability to trade water can help reallocate available supply and encourages users to conserve, because they can sell saved water for extra income.

Pakistan must plan for a sustainable and secure society meeting its water needs without destroying the ecosystems upon the prospects of future generations. (

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Next War with India: Over Water --- not Kashmir

Water, not unlike religion and ideology, has the power to move millions of people. Since the very birth of human civilization, people have moved to settle close to water. People move when there is too little of it; people move when there is too much of it. People move on it. People write and sing and dance and dream about it. People fight over it. And everybody, everywhere and every day, needs it. We need water for drinking, for cooking, for washing, for food, for industry, for energy, for transport, for rituals, for fun, for life. And it is not only we humans who need it; all life is dependent upon water for its very survival.

Water as a resource is more paramount than oil; it is essential to all daily human activities. Water is becoming a very valuable commodity, yet freshwater resources are unevenly distributed. This scarcity in water has triggered desperation in countries that already have little access to water, let alone reliable water supplies. This desperation usually cannot be resolved by negotiations. If governments or rebels want water badly enough they resort to force to obtain it.

For centuries war and conflict has been tied to the protection of water resources. With the risk of water shortages becoming more and more of an issue, it has become the fuel of certain conflicts between Pakistan and India. Water Wars are becoming inevitable in region's future as the misuse of water resources continues between two countries that share the same water source. International law has proven itself inadequate in defending the equal use of shared water supplies in some parts of South Asia.

India has emerged as a major culprit in bullying its neighbors over the distribution of water. The unequal bargaining power of India and its small neighbors such as Nepal and Bhutan is seen as a crucial stumbling block in joint harnessing of Himalayan waters.

A water war between India and Pakistan is inevitable in the future. Apart from other native, vernacular, political, and national sound reasoning, Pakistan's prime interest was to secure its water resources.

Though Kashmir is a political conflict, one of its dimensions is linked to water, because all water resources for India and Pakistan generate from Kashmir. The head-works of main Pakistani rivers originate in India.

The Indus River Basin has been an area of conflict between India and Pakistan. Spanning 1,800 miles, the river and its tributaries together make up one of the largest irrigation canals in the world. The basin provides water to millions of people in northwestern India and Pakistan. Dams and canals built in order to provide hydropower and irrigation has dried up stretches of the Indus River. Water projects have further caused the displacement of people and have contributed to the destruction of the ecosystem in the Indus plain.

The enmity between India and Pakistan over water started early when India discontinued water supplies to Pakistan. Hard bargaining and the mediation of the World Bank led to the world acclaimed Indus Water Treaty in 1960. The treaty allocated the three Eastern Rivers — Ravi, Sutlej and Beas — to India, the three Western rivers — Indus, Jhelum and Chenab — to Pakistan. Pakistan was to meet its requirements of its Eastern river canals from the Western rivers by building replacement works. Safeguards were included in the treaty to ensure unrestricted flow of waters in the Western rivers. Also both parties were to regularly exchange flow-data of rivers, canals and streams. A permanent commission known as the Indus Waters Commission was constituted to resolve the disputes between the parties. This treaty is globally respected that it has survived wars and periods of acute tension between the two hostile neighbors. However, the treaty has encountered hiccups wherein some contentious issues have cropped up.

The 430-megawatt Baglihar power project on river Chenab is one such plan since it violates the treaty. India argues that the treaty allows construction for power generation if there is no diversion of water flow.

Wullar Barrage is another controversial issue, which has the potential to ruin the entire system of the triple canal project within Pakistan. Pakistan has protested because Wullar Barrage’s capacity is 300,000 acres feet, which is 30 times more than the capacity permitted by the Indus Treaty. India is already in control of the Chenab River through Salal Dam constructed in 1976 and many Pakistanis disapprove of the yielding of the Salal Dam.

Yet another issue is the Kishen Ganga project, a (390 MW) hydropower-generating unit on River Neelam in Indian Kashmir. It affects Pakistan’s Neelam-Jhelum power-generating project. However, the most significant point in the history of the treaty was when in 2001 India unilaterally tried to withdraw from the treaty. Despite the inadequacy of the international law, the fact that the treaty has another signatory (World Bank) helped Pakistan protect its legal claim to her rights in the treaty.

Political issues let countries use its water as a tool to maneuver and pressurize the other. A different water/border related dispute is that of Sir Creek. India wishes to follow the 1914 treaty between the then Government of Sindh and the Rao Maharao of Kutch in which the boundary was agreed to run through the middle of the creek as the border. According to Pakistan’s view the boundary should start with the Eastern Bank, on the basis of the resolution Map of 1914, drawn up by the British governor of Bombay.

If India and Pakistan take a political decision to restructure their relations, they will have to ensure that water serves as a flow to bring them together, rather than taking them further on the course of conflict. (

Monday, October 20, 2008

WAPDA & New Technologies

We are dependent on technology as never before, and technology is crucial to electricity as never before. The economy as a whole will now and forevermore be dependent on a power infrastructure that is virtually 100 percent reliable.

WAPDA’s Vision 2025 is a public document. It creates an impression for WAPDA as a farsighted organization. This fantasy is nonetheless blurred with its absolute disregard for technological environment enveloping 2025. The future trends demonstrate that WAPDA is planning investments in obsolete technology.

It looks as if WAPDA has conceived Vision 2025 based on demand built on demographic trends and completely turning its back on up and coming technologies. With enormous novel technologies coming up, mind agitates to ask: will dams in 2025 be relevant to external environment? After demonstrating a laggard response to IT, we seem to be still resisting innovation with all our might. Then multi-billion dollar mega-projects planned by WAPDA will cause cost over-runs, and inflationary risks coming from unanticipated changes in regulations, financial markets, and enthusiasm.

If WAPDA wants to stimulate the economy in a way that have both a short-term and long-term positive impacts, if it wants to give a gift that will keep on giving, it can do no better than to stimulate on-site, decentralized electricity generation. Technologies are now available that can transform households and businesses and office buildings into electricity producers. A national effort to introduce these technologies will make our energy system more efficient.

A stimulus package to literally bring power to the people will spur the installation of millions of small power plants. They will generate the electricity we will need to meet future demand. They will also dramatically improve the environment, reduce our dependence on mega dams and create large number of well-paid jobs. The manufacture of small power plants generates more jobs than the manufacture of large power plants.

Banks are no longer taking underwriting positions with large risk exposure in mega-projects conceived with archaic technologies. Foreign lenders have retreated from the market, leading to as much as a 40 percent reduction in credit capacity. Those that finance future power projects will rightly sharpen their focus on the organizations employed to protect and manage projects' inherent performance and schedule risks.

Hence there has to be a flight to cheaper and innovative technologies allowing lenders to be highly selective, with approval reserved for not large capital extensive but cost efficient projects.

We need a long-term solution. The good news is that the price spikes and power disruptions have crystallized the need for power generation with new technologies promising solutions to transmission losses, high cost, and frequently interrupted supply.

Many new technologies are promising cost efficiency, environment affability, and capability for meeting ever increasing demands. Nuclear power, for example, provides some hope. Natural gas can also help but doesn’t provide the answer. The depletion of gas reserves is going to occur soon. And as supply declines, rates are expected to increase. Price hikes make natural gas too volatile to be used in power generation. WAPDA will pass along these increasing costs to customers, as this is a routine matter for public sector utility providers. For our industry, this often means suspended production and lost earnings. This will not only have a serious impact on us, but on the entire Pakistan economy.

That leaves us to think about alternative energies like wind and solar power. These are fine for niche applications. But for a national policy, we need to depend on something that’s more abundant and that’s inexpensive.

Coal gasification is a clean coal technology and is an option. It’s the cleanest coal technology you can use. It has, for example, inherently low air emissions – the lowest sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and particulate matter emissions of all coal-based technologies for generating power. Gasification also offers the opportunity to capture carbon dioxide, and to do it for significantly less cost than other fossil fuel-based technologies.

In addition to gasification being cleaner than these competing coal technologies, it’s also competitive in cost. And, as environmental issues become more and more stringent, gasification’s cost advantage grows even greater.

No other renewable energy based electricity producing technology has attained the same level of maturity as wind power. There are no major technical barriers to large-scale penetration of wind power. India has now gained sufficient technical and operational experience, and is now on the threshold of taking off in wind power. It offers a viable option in the energy supply mix, particularly in the context of the present constraints on conventional sources. It also offers an attractive investment option to the private sector for generation.

The emerging technology that will significantly alter the entire infrastructure of power generation in the world, while using underutilized high-energy fuel sources including those derived from waste is nanotechnology.

The 1990s was all about E-everything, the next decade will be all about N-everything.

Nanotechnology is starting to make solar-energy cells cheaper and more efficient. The next challenge is to figure out how to store the electricity produced for later use. On a sunny day, an area just a few paces on a side would generate a kilowatt of electrical power. With good batteries (and enough repaved roads and solar-cell roofing), present demands for electrical power could be met with no coal burning, no oil imports, no nuclear power, no hydroelectric dams, and no land taken over for solar power generation plants.

Appreciation of the value of technological change is well entrenched in modern society. However, a powerful barrier is still in place. Government, industry, and the general populace fail to support some technologies because they threaten an established source of wealth and/or power. The generation of electricity in Pakistan is a good example. (

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Vision of Women's Future

Unconcern and deficient resources attached to the issue of women’s economic empowerment, together with unbalance between macro-economic and development policies imply that exact economic empowerment for women remains obscure. In an increasingly globalized and interdependent economy, economic empowerment of women is an issue that needs total commitment and a pull for action.

Substantially and essentially, economic empowerment is central to gender equality. The empowerment of women and the poverty alleviation is an issue that has been enormously neglected. Even though the existence of universal recognition of the value of women’s economic empowerment, expressed through such agreements as the Beijing Platform for Action, and the Millennium Development Goals, advancement of most objectives has been slow and in some cases even been gone wrong way up.

A study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) featured prominently that no country has yet managed to eliminate the gap between women and men’s economic participation. Those countries that performed well in the WEF’s empowerment index generally acted upon better in women’s educational attainment, health and well being and political empowerment rather than in economic participation and opportunities.

Even as economic participation and opportunities are all essential components of women’s overall empowerment, they are only pieces of a puzzle that must include economic empowerment for the portrait to be whole. Regardless of meaningful above-board policy changes together with a many-sided thriving programs and explicit development programs, the all-in-all situation has not improved in the same way as visualized by such agreements as the Beijing Platform for Action, which in 1995 adopted the most clinker-built obligation to put forward women’s empowerment with a across-the-board inventory of recommendations and policy changes that, to a large extent, has yet not been executed.

Consequently and contrary to reason, imbalance prevails in parliaments where a small number of women hold parliamentary seats; women earn less than 78% of the wages that men earn for the same work; poor women represent two thirds of the world’s poor people; the labor force of the informal economy is overwhelmingly female; women provide up to 70% of agricultural labor and produce over 90% of the world’s food; women occupy a paltry percentage of managerial positions; and last but not the least, women constitute two thirds of the world’s illiterate.

There is all the more need for a commitment for research and training activities on women’s economic empowerment focus on the integration of gender perspectives and women’s economic issues in global economic policy and decision-making; a review and analysis of economic programs and projects in order to identify and disseminate good practices; and the establishment of a true measure of women’s economic empowerment that includes data on the gender impacts of economic policies and development projects.

Economic policies are seldom, if ever, gender neutral. Many prominent economists have conducted research that recognize and comment on the often negative gender impacts that are produced by structural adjustment and economic stabilization policies.

Macro-economic policies are formulated and implemented in areas such as trade, fiscal management, debt financing, social welfare and other sectors without a comprehensive assessment of their potential gender impacts.

While some micro-credit and micro-enterprise schemes have been a great deal doing well in lifting individual women and families out of poverty – en bloc they have contributed little in improving end-to-end economic status of women or addressing the gender impacts of existing economic policies. This discrimination of poor women into the micro-credit sector, though it may provide them with more income, does not necessarily address the essential gender inequalities that downgrade women to long-established pursuits such as cooking, dish-washing, sewing, laundering or other chores.

Most micro-enterprise initiatives are actually simple augmentations of the domestic domains. This calls for an urgent need to thoroughly appraise micro-finance and other initiatives thereby making them instrumental in enhancing women’s economic status together with their role within the household, community and their impact on her new function as wage earner.

Such appraisal will determine a record of booming experiences and best practices on which to base future initiatives. This will also ascertain gaps not focused on by these initiatives that would guide future policy advocacy and gender mainstreaming ventures.

The establishment of good practices is a key component of the collection, systematization and dissemination of knowledge on women’s economic empowerment, which is still seriously lacking at all policy levels.

Women’s empowerment has three elements, vis-à-vis, resources, agency and achievements. Determining empowerment is useful because it helps to focus an otherwise insubstantial and somewhat ambiguous concept. This prompts us to questions we must ask from ourselves. These questions are, a) how do we define empowerment? a) who defines empowerment? c) how do we know when women are empowered? d) who gets to decide when women are empowered?

Another crucial component is the creation of a knowledge base on women’s economic empowerment. This is about the establishment of a concrete measure of that empowerment. Ideally, this would use existing and newly created data and indicators to provide a baseline from which to measure improvements and changes in women’s economic status. The World Economic Forum’s report has created an index using a variety of indicators to measure women’s economic and political empowerment and their health and well being in 58 countries. This can serve as a useful reference.

Through and through, the issues of measurement for empowerment are often questionable and conflict-ridden. It is essential that the concept be brought down to earth so that policy-makers and development practitioners have concrete goals to strive for. Measuring empowerment includes developing a gendered statistical system and promoting the collection of sex-disaggregated data, the identification and addressing of gaps in information, including on the informal sector, credit, savings and unpaid community and household work.

We can scrutinize the full range of women’s economic contribution and identify areas for future research and action, which will determine the vision of women’s future.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Where there's no vision . . . .

Where there is no vision, people perish. That’s because they select goals and begin pursuing them, climbing the proverbial ladder of success, before they define mission and clarify purpose. Consequently on reaching the top rung, they often discover to their dismay that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

If you only keep your eyes on the path before you, you won’t get lost, but neither will you see the stars. By creating a vision you create a focus that becomes a target that beacons a direction to which the people can become committed. It also provides a basis for the establishment of goals and objectives. Simply by visualizing their goals, people can harness the power of thought to achieve happiness, health, fulfillment, and success.

Vision sets the direction. It’s where the program priorities are set to get down to business. Pressures from the world, society, and individuals can veer off course and urge to react to the priorities and goals of others. It’s therefore important to set up something that works ahead of time and be vigilant about following that vision.

Visions are statements of destination, of the ends of the labor; they are therefore future-oriented and are made real over different spans of time. Movement of Pakistan was launched with a vision. By achieving freedom, have we completed our mission? Have we accomplished our job of retaining the freedom? Hasn’t Pakistan lost to Bangladesh and the rest is being eroded by no other than us—internal enemies. We have no answers because after the freedom we kept the vision of Pakistan in deep freeze.

Vision is uncanny and exhilarating ability to grasp opportunity, to look beyond the obstacles of today and see new possibilities for tomorrow. In national perspective, such vision is always the inevitable product of national commitment. True vision, in fact, has no other genesis. As dedication to independence grows, so does your vision. Vision for Islamic Ideology was the diadem of Pakistan Movement. Where has that vision gone?

Pakistan has unfortunately been duped to vision killers, such as tradition, fear of ridicule, stereotyped people, conditions, complacency of some stakeholders, fatigued and treacherous leadership, short-term thinking, and nay-sayers.

We were supposed to integrate the vision of Pakistan into our life, making it tougher to put off or drop our highest priorities. Such focusing could provide us a framework for all parts of our life. Unfortunately it could not happen and consequently today we fall short of spirits analogous to independent nation.

The most important role of visions in our national life could give focus to human energy. To enable everyone concerned with Pakistan to see more clearly what’s ahead of them, and our leaders could owe and convey a vision. Consciously or unconsciously, this was not done.

Imagine watching a slide show when the projector is out of focus. How would you feel if you had to watch blurred, vague, and indistinct images for an entire presentation? We face a similar situation in Pakistan. People are unaware of their future. They are expressing frustration, impatience, confusion, anger, and even nausea. Undoubtedly, the leaders with the fingers on focus button had the responsibility to focus the projector. They have utterly failed in their responsibilities.

Thus and so without direction and a map, Pakistan is lurching around, getting off course and ending up in places it never wanted to go. Had Pakistan maintained vision, its distractions would have been minimal and our national life would have been spent in a meaningful way. Thus it would have regained control over our life and no longer felt like wasting time.

Even after 61 years we have not learned to make our motivating vision important. This would have helped us in carrying out the goals with passion and energy; giving a focused meaning to a solid foundation to work from.

Unfortunately, our leaders have completely failed to articulate vision. Contrarily and shamefully they pushed the nation into confusion, chaos and disorientation only to accomplish their personal agendas. They could have painted the big picture, to convey the vision, giving people a clear sense of what the puzzle would look like when everyone has put the pieces in place.

Each Pakistani leader should ask from himself questions such as: “How would I like to change the world for Pakistan and myself? If I could invent the future, what future would I invent for my country and myself? What mission in life absolutely obsesses me? What’s my dream about my society? What’s my burning passion? What work do I find absorbing, involving, enthralling? What will happen in 10 years if I remain absorbed, involved, and enthralled in that work? What does my ideal Pakistan look like? What’s my personal agenda? What do I want to prove?

Even if armed with techniques, though, leaders can’t find any freeway to the future, no paved highway from here to tomorrow. The vision for Pakistan’s future can act as its magnetic north. It can possess the extraordinary ability to attract human energy. It can invite and draw others to it by the force of its own appeal.

Indeed, a new vision will be virtually indispensable when there is a need to significantly transform and revitalize Pakistan to increase the likelihood of its future. This will also help sensitize political leadership to emerging issues, help them think about the future and enhance their creativity or sense of risk taking.

Our leadership must provide a vision, a clear image of a desirable future—one that presents an achievable, challenging and worthwhile long-range target toward people can direct their energies. To avoid extinction, we must design our future and visioning is the starting point. (

Monday, October 13, 2008

Where, oh, where . . . . ?

The motivation for penning down today’s column came from an incident that might turn out to be a routine matter for Lahoreans. It has conversely moved me to the extent that I have started believing that I inhabit with a flock of animals. Today, our need for self-preservation and material gain has taken precedence over concern for society and the community.

One day around noontime in sweltering heat an ill-fated father, carrying on his back a 7-8 year old son with physical disability while waiting at the bus stop in Lahore, gesticulated a bus to stop. Disregarding even the bus stop where the bus was obligatory to stopover kept on moving, thus depriving a needy innocent person his rights as a special child.

As father of a son of just about the same age group, I developed an emotional affinity with that luckless youngster but the gravel heart society seems to be lacking the capacity to think with compassion. I have lived more than 23 years in a culture where persons with disabilities are regarded as a social responsibility and where in a similar situation not just the bus would have stopped and knelt down to facilitate access but also the whole traffic would have become motionless. Alas! This incident caused me a few tossing and turning nights wondering where, oh, where have our values gone?

Many of us are unable to see beyond our own persona. We feel bad only when we receive indifference. This happens because we fail to see the same 'self' in others that has the same needs, expectations and rights. If only we could perceive the big plan of the cosmic mind that interconnects all living beings, we would learn that when we give, we give to ourselves and when we receive happiness from others, we receive it from ourselves. The greatest paradox of life is that when we hold on to life for ourselves, we inevitably lose it, but when we decide to use it for 'giving', we recuperate it.

Indeed, the erosion of values is one of the major concerns of today's society. It is probably due to the increasing stress, fast-paced life, keen competition and overvaulting ambition to achieve too much in too little time. It has made today's man seemingly less principled than our ancestors. This explains, but does not excuse us of responsibility for the widespread decline in values.

Implicitly and explicitly, in a society of humans the real asset of a nation is not its natural resources, but people with right values. Just as it is futile to fill a leaking bucket, it is futile to think of economic reforms and progress without linking up ourselves with our lost values. In Pakistan what we need first and foremost are the solutions that can be utilized on a wide scale and on a long-term basis for reestablishing moral values.

The fabric of society is held together by the standards of morality that we maintain and practice. Values are our personal set of beliefs about what is important, unimportant, right, wrong, good and bad. In other words, values are a kind of map in our minds of how things are or should be. Just as a map is not the territory, values are only our perception of the principles of nature that govern our lives or the universe, not the principles themselves.

Throughout history, this world has seen individuals, families, societies and nations dying for want of values that sustain life—almost with the same certainty with which a plant dies for want of water. We can choose our values in harmony with the laws of the universe or to challenge them. Laws are fixed, so are the consequences of breaking them. We cannot break the laws of the universe; we can only break ourselves against them.

The greatest tragedy of the modern world is that it has given us enough to live with but nothing to live for. Today, our purpose of life has become hazy. Existence has become more important than living. People today do not ask themselves what they feel concerned about and what they would like to dedicate their lives to; they ask which field has better 'scope'. They seek to take decisions on the basis of what lies in the external world, instead of being driven from within. But unless we find a cause to live for, we are not fit to live.

Most homes do not have a value-giver today. Homes have turned into mere houses where family members come to eat, watch TV and sleep. Values are inculcated by the parents, who nowadays shrug off their responsibility. Usually the whole family sits before the TV till bedtime. Where are the values going to come from?

An unpleasant, argumentative environment at home and unresponsive, unsympathetic and ignorant teachers, who cannot act as role models, are the principal reasons for decline of values.

Our school textbooks talk irrelevant things rather than the lives of people with exemplary values. The students look for role models from the contemporary world, as they can relate to them. The media also underplays reports of exemplary people as it assumes that good deeds are uninteresting, hence not for sale.

The main challenges that we face in the 21st century provide viable alternative solutions that can be implemented, and share examples of what millions of people around the world are already doing. I am convinced that people can be transformed, irrespective of their age and conditioning. All that is required is to make them trust the light within and see the need to remove all that keeps our real light from shining forth. A world committed to ecological sustainability would create a new vision of progress that recognizes the future of humanity dependent on our ability to live with compassion for fellow citizens and thus balance with our natural world. (

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The hodge-podge Urbanization

In this urbanizing world, cities hold the key to achieving a sustainable balance between Earth's resource base and its human energy. Industrialization in developing countries has led to urban health problems on an unprecedented scale. Cities around the world affect not just the health of their people but the health of the planet. Urban areas take up just 2 percent of the world's surface but consume the bulk of vital resources.

The definition of an urban area, as distinguished from a rural area, differs from country to country. Whilst most demographers would accept that cities are large, densely populated, built-up areas, there is little agreement about how to define urban using objective measures. Most countries use a combination of criteria: typically population size, population density, and the extent of the built-up area. However, few countries use the same measurements. In the United States census takers regard urban areas as that with at least 2,500 people; in the United Kingdom the figure is 1,000.

Cities are home to more people than ever before. In 1900, only 160 million people, one tenth of the world's population, were city dwellers. But soon after 2000, half the world (3.2 billion people) lived in urban areas--a 20-fold increase in numbers.

The location of a city reflects the function of the original settlement. Similarly, street plan, pattern of land use, and architectural style result from the interaction of factors like site and history as well as function.

Many cities conform to a geometric plan that reveals a conscious decision to impose order on the landscape. The most common plan is the grid, in which streets run parallel to each other or intersect at right angles. Such a plan has endured since the time of the ancient Greeks. In the 16th century, Spanish colonial cities in South America were laid out in grid fashion according to a set of planning laws. Many US cities were originally laid out on a grid to facilitate the sale of land. This pattern was not confined to the countries of Europe and their colonies, 15th-century Beijing was laid out on a grid of streets that surrounded the Imperial Palace.

Other city plans, such as those of Paris and New Delhi, incorporate radial thoroughfares and the street plan of Moscow is a series of concentric circles. However, city plans are more than simple exercises in geometric order; they also reflect the values of those groups or individuals that are in a position to exert power over the urban landscape.

Cities that have developed within a common culture often have strong similarities. For example, the older parts of the Islamic cities of Cairo, Damascus, and Fès all share a number of physical features. At the centre of each stand the citadel, the chief mosque, the palace, and the main souk, or bazaar. The city is divided into distinct quarters that resemble villages. The ancient core of Damascus was divided into about 70 quarters. Meanwhile, the arrangement and dimensions of streets and the architecture and orientation of houses conformed to guidelines set down in the Qura’an.

Many people are ambivalent about cities, believing that they embody the best and worst aspects of civilization. On the one hand, the diversity of peoples and activities encourages innovation and creativity, which in turn create opportunities that attract still more people. On the other, problems of overcrowding, crime, poverty, and pollution may be severe. Cities, therefore, have come to reflect the hopes and fears of the modern world.

The urban population growth in Pakistan accelerated from 4.3 percent per annum in 1960-1992 to 4.6 percent in 1992-2000. With some ten million inhabitants, Karachi is one of the largest cities in Asia; in South Asia it ranks only behind Bombay, Calcutta and New Delhi. Karachi is one of the fastest growing megacities of the world and expected to rank 7th by the year 2015 with over 20 million inhabitants surpassing Calcutta and New Delhi it will be second to Bombay in South Asia; Lahore will rank 22nd internationally and 6th in South Asia with 12 million inhabitants, as many as Hyderabad (Indian), Bangkok, Osaka or Lima.

There is no policy for alleviating urban poverty in Pakistan. And there are only few economists, who think that poverty has to be removed directly. Macro economic policies of Pakistan need major revisions. The policies of growth without much regard to income distribution needs to be reconsidered with a view to eradicating poverty and unemployment problems.

The government is totally absorbed, politically, in its power struggle, and is financially impotent, due to vast outlays for debt servicing, defense, law and order, and a tendency to ad-hocism, it pursues a policy of laissez-faire, hoping for solving social problems by economic growth and leaving them otherwise to foreign donors and private charity.

With urbanization in Pakistan crime is growing even faster. Proud centers of commerce and culture are becoming armed encampments, unable to ensure the daily safety of average citizens. Crime is also a major impediment to development. If the security of cities cannot be guaranteed, Pakistan cannot be expected to move safely along the path of economic and social development.

Environmental health related problems, including drinking water quality, waste management, housing, air quality, health and welfare related issues including narcotics problems must top the list of to do items.

Unorganized, congested and unplanned, the hotchpotch situation of urbanization in Pakistan is not due to a day's or a month's neglect but the cumulative end product of the decades’ misguided actions. Its responsibility, too, is not restricted to any particular segment but to the overall attitude of shifting policies in decision making leading to inaction, indifference and unconcern. Unless we control rural exodus with employment opportunities, unless we add purpose to city planning, and unless we establish a sustainable balance between earth’s resources and city dwellers, we can’t put a tab on future urbanization. (

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Up and coming Future

The trends on important issues shape the future. We can’t plan future unless we know how the wind is blowing. The human ecological footprint is still increasing despite progress made in technology and institutions. Many crucial sources are emptying or degrading, and many sinks are filling up or overflowing. We are much more pessimistic about the global future than we were in 1972.

Over the last three decades a major cultural shift has taken place in the attitudes of Western societies toward the future. Optimism has given way to a sense of ambiguity, which threatens to stifle hope at a personal as well as a social level.

The recent appearance and spread of bird flu across Asian poultry populations has raised concerns that a devastating new influenza pandemic is imminent. Should the bird flu virus evolve to a form that readily infects humans, widespread loss of life is predicted.

In the past three years, the essential ingredients for a global response have coalesced: cheaper drugs, high-level political will, new money to pay for treatment, and growing grassroots muscle to push government to follow through on its promises.

The masculinization of Asia's sex ratios is one of the overlooked megatrends of our time, a phenomenon that may very likely influence the course of national and perhaps even international politics in the 21st century.

In recent years, despite high rates of deforestation in many regions, progress in implementing sustainable forest management around the world has been steady and encouraging.

University communities are at the leading edge in transportation innovation, developing new approaches that may have broad application, from central cities to suburban corporate campuses.

For the overwhelming preponderance of human history, humans have lived in societies that were characterized by 80% continuities, 15% cycles, and only 5% novelties at best. Now the figures are reversed: 80% of our futures may be novel, 15% cyclical, and only 5% continuous with the past and present.

The human population is projected to grow from 6.4 billion as of mid-2004 to 7.9 billion in 2025 (24% growth) and 9.3% in 2050 (45% growth).

Fiscal pressures associated with aging societies are set to intensify over the next few years, and even more so beyond…deficits and debts are on an explosive path in most large OECD countries, as well as in many smaller ones.

Pervasive computing and documentation will ultimately make all things transparent in all public and private enterprises, with total transparency finally becoming international law in 15-20 years.

With 21st Century technology at everyone's fingertips, the general population will demand accurate 21st Century information about the economic systems that govern their lives. In the Information Society there will be no personal secrets – forget confidentiality. The money-economy will be brought up to date with the real-economy, the majority of people in the World, who are currently excluded, will be included in the money-economy, markets will be hugely enlarged and wealth creation will explode. Poverty will be all but abolished by 2021. If you think this is too fast, just remember using your first computer and the changes since then.

It is probable that, as of 2025, the North-South divide in the world-system will not be significantly reduced; indeed, it might be quite enlarged.

The dangers of global fascism cannot be discounted as imaginary or alarmist.

A few very large international corporations will increasingly dominate global markets in wood products. They will move toward fiber farms of intensively managed engineered trees grown on short rotations. These fiber farms "will certainly have the capacity to meet and grossly exceed global needs for bulk wood fiber for the next century."

The probability of another huge quake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone in Missouri, similar to the three quakes of 1811-1812, is roughly 20% between now and 2100. It could incur a cost of $1 trillion, probably bankrupting some state and local governments.

Some preferable futures for a better society or a better world offer exemplary visions worthy of consideration, such as: An ideal scenario for the 2005-2020 period, describing popular movements for peace, reform of the world monetary system, more equitable distribution of recourses, widespread government and corporate reform, etc.

Eradicating disconnectedness in the global economy is "the defining security task of our age…by expanding the connectivity of globalization, we increase peace and prosperity worldwide…making globalization truly global…(is) a future worth creating."

A new layer of governance is needed, but one that differs from the neo-conservative and hyper-liberal views. Emphasis is needed on enhancing community building and on a convergence of interests.

How to promote governance of weak states, improve their democratic legitimacy, and strengthen self-sustaining institutions…(is) the central project of contemporary international politics…because weak or failed states are the source of many of the world's most serious problems.

As soon as powerful personal computers enable every citizen, 90% of whom are innumerate, to count and to follow economic models, global transactions and added-value chains, the mysteries that surround profit and money will evaporate.

Investing in girl's education is "a strategy that will jump-start all other development goals." There is no tool for development that is more effective.

The concept of retirement is outdated and should be put out to pasture in favor of a more flexible approach to ongoing work—one that serves both employer and employee.

By 2021, most factories will be computer controlled automated facilities, many underground near to raw materials, that are switched on and off in response to just-in-time-stock control instructions, by managers perhaps living hundreds of kilometres from the factories.

The hurdles and barriers to these trends and forecasts are not technological nor are they commercial, the barriers are psychological and fiscal/political. The fiscal system is the last of the societal mechanisms to come in line with the rapid pace of change. The major challenges lie in the fiscal and political changes required to accommodate the irrepressible Information Society revolution. (

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Trends Shaping the Future

On July 1, 2002, the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court (ICC) entered into force, creating the first permanent and independent court capable of investigating the most serious violations of international humanitarian law, such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

The statute was adopted in July 1998, with 120 nations voting in favor and 21 abstaining. US President Clinton signed on to the ICC in the last days of his term in office. In May 2002, the Bush administration withdrew the US signature, and that August President Bush signed into law the American Service Members' Protection Act of 2002. The new law prohibits cooperation with the ICC and authorizes the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a US-allied country being held by the court.

Cellular phones are helping to bridge the telephonic divide between rich and poor. Building cell phone towers is cheaper than stringing traditional wires. The industry trends point to time not far off when Pakistan will have more cell phones than fixed-lines.

Global advertising expenditures hit $444 billion in 2002 (Pakistan spends some Rs 5 billion). The advertisers are marketing to children—both to influence consumption preferences early and to take advantage of the growing amounts of money people are spending on children. Children are bombarded with thousands of ads per year. Half of these ads encourage children to request unhealthy food and drinks.

About 80 percent of the world depends on traditional and complementary/alternative medicine for treating and curing illness. In Pakistan where the government managers yell with full lungs about their wondrous health reforms, it nurtures some 600,000 quacks or in plain language, killers. Pakistan has more or less 40-50 percent of the population using traditional remedies. It’s most serious problem is the existence of an unchecked parallel system run by quack and cluck service providers including barbers.

World military expenditures in 2001 were conservatively estimated at $839 billion—almost $100 million every hour or $2.3 billion each day. The United States is now the world’s sole military colossus, accounting for 36 percent of all military spending, or $302 billion. US spending is now projected to rise to $414 billion by 2009. With 3.9% of the GDP, Pakistan ranks 26th worldwide in military expenditure. If Kashmir conflict with India is resolved, it would require a small military and an inconsequential expenditure.

Infectious and parasitic diseases such as tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria cause a quarter of the world's deaths each year. Cancer, heart disease, and chronic respiratory disease cause twice that.

These diseases primarily affect populations at opposite ends of the income scale—the affluent and the impoverished. People in Africa and Southeast Asia, many of whom lack access to clean water, adequate nutrition, or proper healthcare, account for 75 percent of global deaths from infectious diseases, but make up just 36 percent of the world's population. Europeans and Americans constitute just 28 percent of world population, but account for 42 percent of deaths from cardiovascular diseases and cancers—diseases that are often triggered by lifestyle factors such as smoking, being sedentary, and eating foods rich in salt, sugar, and fat. In Pakistan statistics show a very dissimilar picture where death rate is 9.26 per 1000 persons, one quarter of all people attending hospital are ill due to water-related diseases.

Year 2002 was the second hottest since record keeping began in the 1880s. The global average temperature climbed to 14.52 degrees Celsius. The nine warmest years on record have occurred since 1990, and scientists expect that the temperature record set in 1998 will be surpassed by a new high in 2005.

Scientists have linked the warming trend that accelerated in the twentieth century to the buildup of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gasses. By burning fossil fuels, people released some 6.44 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere in 2002. With less than five percent of the world’s population, the US is the single largest source of carbon from fossil fuels—emitting 24 percent of the world’s total.

Wind power is now the world’s fastest growing power source. Global wind-generating capacity grew by 27 percent in 2002 and is projected to expand 15-fold over the next 20 years. Europe has nearly 73 percent of global wind capacity, with more than half of this capacity in Germany. In 2002, Denmark, a nation of 5 million people, installed more wind capacity than all of the US, a nation of more than 290 million. Despite many new and more efficient technologies are approaching fast, Pakistan continues to hang upon dam technology that is fast becoming obsolete. Regardless of contrariety for some dams such as Kalabagh Dam, Pakistan intellectualizes that dam technology is the only option.

In 2002, international tourism and related activities generated some 199 million jobs—one in every 13 positions worldwide. Despite an industry slowdown caused by 9/11 events and the global economic situation, tourism-related spending accounted for some $4.2 trillion of global economic activity in 2002.

Europe remained the top tourist destination, capturing 58 percent of arrivals in 2002, though its share of the world's tourists continues to fall from a high of 75 percent in 1964. France was the most visited country in 2002, followed by Spain, the US, Italy, and China. Despite Pakistan blessed with rich scenic beauty, its share in this thriving industry is almost sweet nothing. Contrarily, for the first time, in 2002, the share of the world's tourists visiting East Asia and the Pacific surpassed the portion visiting the Americas.

Meat consumption levels are by no means evenly distributed around the world. In industrial nations, consumers eat more than 80 kilograms of meat per person per year. Comparatively, in Pakistan, consumption sits at just 20 kilograms. (

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Trends in Energy use

The energy intensity—that is, the energy input per dollar of output—of the global economy is declining, and recent decades have seen continuing improvements in energy efficiency. Yet these encouraging developments are being offset by an ever-increasing level of consumption in countries such as Pakistan.

Energy consumption levels in East Asia tended to grow faster than those in South Asia despite being higher initially. Between 1980 and 2001, South Korean and Taiwanese citizens’ per capita consumption expanded an average of 6.7% and 5.1% per year. Pakistani per capita consumption grew 2.5% during the same period.

Everything we consume or use—our homes, their contents, our cars and the roads we travel, the clothes we wear, and the food we eat—requires energy to produce and package, to distribute to shops or front doors, to operate, and then to get rid of.

Most surprising is the dramatic surge in energy use in Pakistan. Compared with just 10 years ago, for example, Pakistanis are buying more cars, bigger homes and more appliances. Still, the average American consumes five times more energy than the average global citizen and nearly 20 times more than the average Pakistani.

Energy Consumption in Pakistan is rising fast. In 2002 it was 1.8 quadrillion Btu (0.44% of world total energy consumption) and Per Capita Energy Consumption was 12.2 million Btu (vs. U.S. value of 339.1 million Btu). Petroleum use alone has quadrupled since 1970. Current trends in energy use simply must not sustain.

Today, transportation is the world’s fastest-growing form of energy use, accounting for nearly 30 percent of world energy use and 95 percent of global oil consumption. Even relatively small shifts in transport choices have significant impacts. Only 0.5 percent of the total distance people travel each year is done by air, yet planes use up about 5 percent of transportation energy.

But the most significant driver of rising energy consumption for transportation is growing reliance on the private car. Many countries have devoted significant resources to public transport while discouraging the use of private vehicles. In Japan and Europe, much of the investment in transportation infrastructure focuses on passenger trains and transit systems. Today nearly 92 percent of downtown Tokyo travelers commute by rail, and the Japanese do only 55 percent of their traveling by car. West Europeans now use public transit for 10 percent of all urban trips, and Canadians for 7 percent, compared with Americans at only 2 percent.

Congestion charges on vehicles entering city centers, combined with investments in public transit, can also reduce car use and pollution. In London, in response to a toll enacted in early 2003, traffic levels dropped by an average of 16 percent in the first few months, and most former car users began commuting by public transit.

As homes become bigger, each individual house has more space to heat, cool, and light, as well as room for bigger and more appliances. Home appliances are the world’s fastest-growing energy consumers after automobiles, accounting for 30 percent of industrial countries’ electricity consumption and 12 percent of their greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet the same needs could be met with far less energy. Technologies available today could advance appliance efficiency by at least an additional 33 percent over the next decade, and further improvements in dryers, televisions, lighting, and standby power consumption could avoid more than half of projected consumption growth in the industrial world by 2030.

There are extreme differences in the energy intensity of manufacturing industries from one country to another. In the early 1990s, the Japanese and Germans used less than half as much energy per unit of output in their heavy industries as Canadians and Americans did, due primarily to differences in energy prices. Japan, South Korea, and countries in Western Europe have the most efficient manufacturing sectors, whereas Pakistan is among the least efficient.

In the cities, widespread use of low-quality fuel, combined with a dramatic expansion in the number of vehicles on Pakistani roads, has led to significant air pollution problems. A hopeful trend is that Pakistan has become the third-leading country in the world to use compressed natural gas (CNG) to fuel vehicles. Currently, government vehicles are being converted and soon over 100,000 taxi that have been using LNG will change to CNG. Although Pakistan's energy consumption is still low by world standards, lead and carbon emissions are major air pollutants in urban centers such as Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad.

The amount and type of energy we consume is a result of two kinds of choices: those we make as a society and those we make as individuals and families. Through subsidies, taxes, standards, and other measures, government policies have a direct impact on energy supplies, demand, and the efficiency of our homes, appliances, cars, and factories. In Denmark, where the tax on auto registrations exceeds a car’s retail price, and where rail and bike infrastructure are well developed, more than 30 percent of families do not even own cars. And where governments or companies subsidize public transit, people are more apt to commute by bus or subway than by car.

Government policies affecting the price of energy are among the most important, as energy prices are among the fundamental factors determining a nation’s energy intensity. Countries with higher energy prices—like Japan and Germany—also have lower energy intensities, while those with lower prices are generally quite energy-intensive, such as the United States for gas and oil, Australia for coal, and Scandinavia for electricity.

Political will and effective, appropriate policies are essential for driving change. Through taxes and subsidies, regulations and standards, and investments in infrastructure, government can influence how, where, how much, and what form of energy we use. But we as consumers are not powerless bystanders. Ultimately, it is consumers who choose what to buy and how to use it, and thus it is consumers who can drive change. (

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Quiescent Traffic Managers

I have already driven the car that gives you driving directions to your desired destination with road descriptions. Feed the address and the car will take you to the destination. Future is coming when drivers will be able to look forward to receiving information on junction location, traffic jams, weather conditions and diversions. They will also be able to know about accidents, advice on speed including in-vehicle information on the current enforceable speed limit. The information will appear on a display controlled by switches on the steering wheel. Messages will be stored, so drivers can access the information they need at any time via the easy-to-use menu. It may be possible also to keep passengers informed about things like flight arrivals and departures, and connecting services.

The developed countries are refining their planning with time and making leaps into the future. Lucklessly, (mis)management of traffic in Pakistani cities has choked the roads, endangering lives of commuters. It seems as if our traffic managers have no role in planning or execution of programs and plans. Taking bribes from motorbike riders has turned out to be the most sacrosanct duty of the cops. The unplanned constructions and rampant encroachments have also suffocated the city’s roads. With overt and covert intentions both the traffic police and the municipal corporation have seemingly demonstrated their lack of skill and ability to handle the problem.

No innovative methods have ever been used in developing a unique approach to road traffic management and congestion control. And never any theoretical continuing research on the fundamental relationship of traffic flow and their interpretation under congested road conditions has been carried out.

Poor planning by the traffic police is causing enormous problems. Cars, motorbikes, cycles, animal drawn traffic and even the pedestrians have not been educated how to use road. In cities some roads have been divided into lanes (some with wrong marks though), the road users have not been told what do they signify.

Research and development on road traffic management methods maybe found physically, but not functionally. Consequently, there is no road traffic monitoring and surveillance, traffic accidents prevention, vehicle safety, road traffic planning and guidance, safety equipment and its inspection, and the application of the Hi—tech to traffic management.

The poor performance of Traffic Police illustrates that no training center for senior traffic management personnel is in place to introduce the modern traffic management theory and the advanced engineering technologies.

Also lacking is an integrated freeway traffic management system intended to improve safety, optimize the real capacity of the highway and provide a better level of service to motorists without the addition of more traffic lanes. This can be accomplished by faster detection and response to incidents on the highway and through balancing of traffic volumes between the highway and other viable alternate routes.

Planning should take account of the likely level of resources, such as improvements to infrastructure, traffic management measures such as reallocation of road space for cycles and motorcycles and realistic targets for growth in cycling. Priority should also be accorded to create an encroachment-free culture with particular priority given to the busiest and most important routes. It is unknown why our traffic managers rampantly neglect downtown and thickly populated areas. Consequently, no rule of law exists there. This doesn’t mean, however, that it exists elsewhere.

In the future more highly developed vehicle devices will open new perspectives for effective transportation and fleet management on the basis of the Toll System. The advantage of the system is by using automatic toll collection the user can settle the charge without having to stop. Modern technology redefines the world of mobility.

Increasing number of marriage palaces, commercial complexes, hotels, restaurants and other public places without parking facilities have added to the chaos. So, if the car owners park at roads, they are not responsible. After all they have to park somewhere, if not on road then where? The presence of fork lifters to move away such vehicles can be interesting scenes for foreign tourists but most dangerous to traffic. This also lay bare the weird policy planning and lacking integration.

Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death by injury and the 9th leading cause of all deaths worldwide. Such injuries are projected to become the third leading cause of disability-adjusted life years lost worldwide by 2020, surpassed only by heart disease and major depression. Pakistan must also think about this serious problem.

Planning should use the tools of traffic management to improve the environment in towns and cities, by re-allocating road space and giving greater priority to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport, thus creating better conditions for people to move around. It should introduce traffic regulation orders to restrict the use of vehicles - local pedestrian schemes or speed reduction initiatives.

Most roads are with no posted speed limits. Posting speed limits and strictly enforcing it will virtually stop overtaking. Thus, by reducing number of lanes for cars, a lane exclusively for cycles and motorcycles can be included. This will organize the traffic flow.

The dreadful driving of illiterate rickshaw, wagon, and truck drivers compel us to make the driving permits harder to get. Before allowing someone to drive, driving skills and knowledge about traffic rules must be ensured without any let-up.

The government should revitalize the Traffic Engineering Department for modernizing road traffic management, and to serve the functions of developing road traffic engineering technologies, training traffic management personnel, inspecting traffic safety equipment, and providing traffic management information.

Traffic awareness campaigns can play an important part in the proper use of road on sharing and yielding basis. The traffic managers should wake up for developing awareness campaigns at the local level, working jointly with neighboring local authorities and other interested parties as appropriate. Nevertheless, businesses, community, schools and hospitals also have a part to play in alerting people to the problems and the solutions. (