In South Asia

The price of power
THE Arun III controversy continues to dog Nepal, reports Jan Sharma from Kathmandu. In an uncanny coincidence, just as loan negotiations for the construction of the Arun III hydroelectric power project were about to begin with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and Germany's KfW Bank, a steep hike of 38 per cent in electricity tariffs was announced.

This is the third hike in the past 3 years and has agitated consumers and political parties alike. They are also apprehensive that the electricity rates will escalate further from Rs 6.20 per unit after the hike to as much as Rs 9 when the Arun III project goes online in 2001. Some observers feel that the present hike is linked to pressure from foreign donors who support Nepal's hydroelectric power projects; these donors seek to link prices to the cost of production. Government officials, however, deny that the hike was directly connected to the Arun III project.

Schooling society
IMPOVERISHED families in Bangladesh receive 15 kg of rice a month as incentive to send one child to school under a Food for Education programme launched by the government. For two or more children, the largesse is 30 kg of rice. This measure, reports Mostafa Kamal Majumder from Dhaka, is intended to ensure a better deal for children who are forced to work at an early age instead of being sent to school. The Bangladesh government has made primary education compulsory and hopes to attain its target of cent per cent education by 2000 AD.

Drying wetlands
WETLANDS in Sri Lanka are under attack from various quarters, according to a report by Mallika Wanigasundara. The major threats are their conversion to fisheries and salt pans, from siltation due to largescale deforestation, landfilling, diversion of water for irrigation, and the clearing of mangroves. To compound the problem, existing laws to deal with the crisis lack adequate teeth.

A Wetlands Conservation Project, executed by the Central Environmental Authority of Sri Lanka, is seen as the only way to combat the indiscriminate exploitation. The project includes a survey of the wetlands: demarcation of boundaries, pilot conservation efforts, and a public awareness programme.