Australian aid and Cambodia’s troubled rail project

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has released a damning Compliance Panel Review (CPR) report of a controversial railway redevelopment project in Cambodia, which was supported by Australian aid.

Activists have long challenged the project’s forced resettlement of thousands of poor families who had made makeshift homes along disused railway tracks, alleging inadequate compensation, threats, harassment, inadequate facilities at resettlement sites and adverse impacts on livelihoods.

The CPR report [pdf], released on Friday, agreed with many of these concerns and found that the project was non-compliant with a number of ADB safeguards.

Read the full story on the Devpolicy Blog.


Forests as rainmakers: CIFOR scientist gains support for a controversial hypothesis

A new study boosts support for the physics behind a controversial theory that forests play a significant role in determining rainfall, creating atmospheric winds that pump moisture across continents.

The model could revolutionise the way we understand local climates, and their vulnerability, with many major implications. It suggests, for instance, that by strategically replanting forests we could attract rainfall into desert and arid regions like the African Sahel, where drought has for years ravaged crops and induced famine.

Likewise, significant forest loss could transform lush tropical regions into arid landscapes.

“This theory provides us with yet another reason to protect and conserve forest cover,” said Douglas Sheil, co-author of the paper published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics and a Senior Associate with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Blog story for CIFOR Forests News on controversial research on rainfall physics.

Read the full story.


My Jakarta: Rob Daniel, Climate Change Diplomat — Jakarta Globe

Rob Daniel, the first secretary for climate change and economics at the British Embassy in Jakarta, is one of the people who has been busily working behind the scenes leading up to this week’s UN Climate Change Conference in Denmark. He spoke with Ashlee Betteridge about Indonesia’s preparations ahead of the summit and the environmental issues the country is currently facing.

Published in the Jakarta Globe, December 8, 2009.

View web version of story

Screams of panic as the earth moves in Jakarta —

Eyewitness report from when the 7.0 Java earthquake struck in Jakarta on Wednesday September 2, 2009.

Published in Crikey’s subscriber-only newsletter on Thursday September 3, 2009.  Later released on Crikey Web site.

Read article

I also reported on the earthquake for several ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) radio stations, doing live interviews with breakfast radio shows in Darwin and Alice Springs.

Truckies taking speed to stay in work

A report by the NSW Department of Health says that one in five truck drivers use illicit drugs in order to stay awake and complete sometimes impossible deadlines. In response, the NSW Minister for Health John Hatzistergos has announced the State Government will set up a task force to combat the issue, a move which has been welcomed by the Transport Workers Union. Spokesperson Michael Kaine says transport clients are to blame for the high rates of drug use, because they place unfair pressure on drivers to drive dangerously long shifts. And with 67 people dieing on New South Wales roads this year due to heavy vehicle accidents, it’s an issue affecting all drivers. A former long haul truck driver, who wished only to be identified as Bob, spoke to The Wire’s Ashlee Betteridge about the pressures that forced him to take speed and lie in his driving log books.

Broadcast on 2SERFM Sydney 107.3 and The Wire, national community radio current affairs program. September 25, 2006.

Listen to Truckies (4 min 45 sec)

Contempt over court push to reveal sources

Interview with Christopher Warren, then secretary of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, about the contempt case against Herald Sun reporters Michael Harvey and Gerard McManus. Harvey and McManus refused to name the source of a leaked government document which showed the Department of Veterans Affairs planned to shortchange veterans on entitlements.

Broadcast on 2SERFM’s The Fourth Estate in September, 2005.

Listen to Warren interview (5 min 24 sec)

FOI under fire

The Australian Centre for Independent Journalism has been denied access to complaints about the ABC’s Middle East coverage following a Federal Court ruling. The decision in the Freedom of Information case has raised concerns about the level of transparency at the public broadcaster. The decision raised eyebrows because SBS, which has access to the same FOI Act exemptions as the ABC, decided to fulfil a similar request from author Anthony Loewenstein. Chris Nash from the ACIJ spoke to The Wire about the process involved in lodging the freedom of information request with the ABC. Produced by Ashlee Betteridge.

Broadcast on 2SERFM Sydney 107.3 and The Wire, national community radio current affairs program. September 6, 2006.

ABC and FOI (4 min 39 sec)