A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER IN YEMEN
The fighting in Yemen is creating a humanitarian disaster, the United Nations children's agency UNICEF said yesterday. Hundreds of people have been killed in ongoing clashes between Yemeni militias backed by a Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels, Reuters reports.
- At least two students were killed in a school today when coalition warplanes bombed a nearby military base controlled by Houthi fighters near the city of Ibb.
- More than a 100,000 people have fled their homes after Saudi-led coalition airstrikes began in Yemen, according to UNICEF. UN spokesman Rajat Madhok told Al Jazeera “most displacements have taken place from and within al-Dhale, Abyan, Amran, Saada, Hajja.”
- Clashes have also cut off water and electricity supplies in several parts of the country. The Red Cross and UNICEF were planning to fly planes carrying aid supplies into Yemen today, but the missions have been delayed awaiting clearance from Arab states waging the airstrikes.
ON THIS DAY
An eruption of Mount Vesuvius devastated Naples 109 years ago today. Time now for your 57-second shot of history.
KENYA DESTROYS AL SHABAAB CAMPS
Kenya’s air force said it destroyed two al-Shabaab terror camps in Somalia Tuesday, Al Jazeera reports. It’s the first major military response since the al-Qaeda-affiliated group targeted Christians and killed 148 students at the Garissa University Campus last Thursday.
The streets of Sacramento had to be cleaned up from hundreds of Easter eggs Monday Photo above: Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee/ZUMA after a giant egg hunt that failed to break a world record of 501,000 set in Florida in 2007.
TURKEY LIFTS SOCIAL MEDIA BAN
Turkish authorities have lifted a nationwide ban on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook that was imposed Monday to prevent the circulation of photographs of Mehmet Selim Kiraz, the prosecutor killed March 31 after being held hostage by members of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, a far-left terrorist organization. According to the Turkish daily Hürriyet, the ban was lifted after all three platforms complied with a court order to remove the photographs and shut down the accounts that posted them.
Read more about it on our 4 Corners blog.
Germany should pay 278.7 billion euros to Greece in World War II reparations for occupying the country between 1941 and 1944, deputy Greek Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas said in Athens Monday. The figure is based on calculations by Greece’s General Accounting Office, Die Welt reports. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras created a parliamentary panel in Athens last week to work on the issue, as the country faces demands from the International Monetary Fund to execute more pension cuts and raise taxes to ease its debt burden.
As Le Monde’s Clarisse Fabre writes, the French far right — most notably, the National Front — has appropriated Joan of Arc’s legacy and used her as an ideological symbol of the fight against “foreign invasion.” But the city of Rouen is raising its flags and is determined to reclaim the young heroine from the extreme-right party's grasp. “On March 20, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius inaugurated the Joan of Arc History Museum in the heart of the city's Archbishop's Palace, a medieval site with Norman crypts that was nicely renovated for the occasion,” the journalist writes. “The young girl's exceptional destiny, the incarnation of the free warrior as well as the tortured victim, has never ceased to inspire artists and politicians alike. In an area called ‘Mythothèque’ (the library of myths), the History Museum delves into the ‘historiographic’ and political debates around Joan of Arc and tries to shed light on how her representations were constructed.”
Read the full article, Exploited By France's Far Right, Joan Of Arc Reborn As Icon For All.
SYRIA REFUGEE CAMP “BEYOND INHUMANE”
The United Nations said Monday that the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus was “beyond inhumane,” and it renewed its demand to access the site. According to UN spokesperson Chris Gunness, it has been unable to provide humanitarian aid to the already starving 18,000 Palestinian and Syrian refugees for several days. Clashes began in and around the camp last week when an estimated 300 ISIS terrorists entered the camp. Syrian rebels have been fighting ISIS from inside Yarmouk, while government forces are carrying out airstrikes from outside, The Guardian reports.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
POLAND TO BUILD WATCHTOWERS AT RUSSIAN BORDER
Poland will build six 50-meter-high watchtowers along its 200-kilometer border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, the Polish PAP news agency reports. Three-quarters of the total 3.7 million-euro construction cost will be covered by the EU’s fund for external borders. This comes after reports that Russia has deployed missiles to Kaliningrad, according to the BBC.
“Congrats to Duke, but I was rooting for team who had stars that are actually going to college and not just doing semester tryout for NBA.” Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, tweeted this controversial response to last night’s NCAA Championship game, referring to the fact that the vaunted Duke might have multiple freshmen enter the NBA draft after one year instead of graduating.
Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?
BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.
The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.
This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.
Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.
"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.
Can you trust environmental officials?
For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.
This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.
It could have sunk because of the rain.
After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.
The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.
"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.
"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.
Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water
A questionable claim
That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.
"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.
He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."
Living in pollution
The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.
"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.
He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.
The mining work should have been stopped long ago
Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.
The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.
In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.
The mine has affected the landscape around the villages
Resisting lignite mining
The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.
The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.
They were dependent on others' land for work.
Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.
In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.
The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.
"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.