A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Bjorn is wrong (for once), the real answer from Burma (Myanmar), and 'failed' states.....

The answer to my question (below) about the real impact of the Indian Ocean tsunami on Burma (Myanmar) is starting to be made plain (with no thanks, of course, to the Burmese junta): '"Our government in Burma is lying when it says just a few people were killed"' (The Sunday Telegraph, January 2):

"While aid workers believe that Burma escaped the carnage that was visited on Indonesia, where about 100,000 people are feared to have lost their lives, they say the death toll is certain to be higher than Burmese officials have admitted. 'It is in the thousands,' estimated one foreign diplomat.

Burma is a closed society and the regime is hostile to outside influences. Journalists are banned and tight controls are placed on the movements of aid workers and diplomats. The climate of fear instilled by almost four decades of military dictatorship is such that any Burmese willing to help in exposing suffering and loss of life faces a long jail sentence.

Since the tsunami the military's grip has become even tighter. Conscript soldiers have been deployed on main roads leading out of the southern town of Kawthaung. They have orders to prevent foreign nationals from travelling more than two miles from the centre. The naval vessels are looking for boats that they do not recognise in order to prevent unauthorised missions landing along the ravaged coastline."

Quite despicable. Unquestionably, one of the major limitations to establishing any comprehensive tsunami early-warning system for the Indian Ocean will, of course, be such 'failed' states and provinces - Burma, Aceh, and northern Sri Lanka. These areas are already deeply problematic for the aid agencies. The whole issue of 'failed' states is very well addressed in today's The Observer (December 2) by Nick Cohen: 'The politics of disaster. Corrupt governments such as that in Burma are only adding to the suffering of their people.'

I am, however, absolutely convinced of the need for an Indian Ocean early-warning system and one which includes relatively simple local-response measures. On this, I am sad to say, I must, for once, disagree with my colleague, Dr. Bjorn Lomborg ('Remember, Asia’s old stealthy killers claim more victims than any catastrophe', The Sunday Times, December 2). While he is quite right to emphasise the significance of disease, a warning system would not be expensive to establish and, at the state level, it requires relatively unsophisticated defensive actions. Moreover, the system needs to be in place within two years at the latest. Geologists are, quite correctly in my opinion, warning us that mighty earthquakes of this type, along such subducting plate margins, tend to come in pairs a few years apart.

Unfortunately, the rogue states remain a serious problem.

Philip, busy broadcasting.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

WWW EnviroSpin Watch

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?