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Morocco positions Western Sahara town as pivot to Africa

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Dakhla
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Dakhla (Morocco)

This quiet town, situated at the tip of a narrow peninsula abutting the Atlantic Ocean and part of the Western Sahara, is buzzing with sudden activity with over 1,000 delegates from across the world descending on it for a forum to deliberate on development in Africa and South-South cooperation.

With the blue expanse of the Atlantic as a perfect backdrop, Dakhla, known as a destination for kitsurfing and windsurfing, is witnessing a gathering of ministers and senior government officials from several African countries and from Small Island Developing States (SIDS), besides delegates from Asian and other regions for the five-day Crans Montana Forum (CMF).

The March 16-21 event is being held for the third time in a row in Dakhla, which has a population of just over 100,000 spread out on the flat expanse of the Western Sahara in the Maghreb region of northern Africa.

Hosted by Moroccan King Mohammed VI, the theme of the event is “Towards a New Africa for the 21st Century – Stability, Cohesion and Solidarity for a Sustainable Development”.

With Morocco joining the African Union in January this year and the kingdom eager to play a leadership role in the continent, the forum has the underlying theme of “The Structuring Role of Morocco in Africa”.

The formal inauguration on Friday of the event, held in a large convention hall, saw a message by the King read out by the President of the Dakhla-Oued Eddahab region, Ynja Khattat.

Referring to his country’s return to the African Union, more than three decades after it quit over the issue of Western Sahara, whose separatist movement was once supported by many African countries, including Algeria, the King said Morocco will be at the forefront of contributing to serving Africa’s interests and “consolidating its peoples’ unity and cohesion”.

But, he added: “Morocco will not, however, give up defending its lofty interests, particularly its national unity and territorial integrity.”

He said “The Moroccan Sahara region, and Dakhla in particular”, play a special role and “as a historic platform connecting Morocco to Africa” and of his country’s push to turn it into a hub to promote communication with other African states.

US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, addressing the inauguration, was critical of the “tendency towards isolationism” in the world and referred to the BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa — forum as an example of cooperation between countries.

The Forum, over the next few days, will discuss food security and sustainable agriculture, public health, renewable energies, migration to Europe, and women’s participation in the economic and political spheres.

The Dakhla-Oued Eddahab region is one of the 12 regions of Morocco and Dakhla is considered by Morocco to be the “pearl” of the southern provinces.

With Morocco’s re-admission, the African Union now comprises all 55 countries of the continent.

Morocco has launched a number of infrastructure projects in the Western Sahara — whose sovereignty is disputed by neighbour Algeria which supports the region’s independence or autonomy — part of an $8 billion development plan designed to “make the Moroccan Sahara a hub for communication and exchange with sub-Saharan African countries”. The projects include new ports, fish markets, desalinisation and fertiliser plants, and road infrastructure improvements.

By Ranjana Narayan 

(IANS)

(Ranjana Narayan is in Dakhla on the invitation of the Crans Montana Forum on Africa and South-South Cooperation. She can be reached at [email protected])

Tech

Western Railway uses modern technique to scan old Mumbai bridges

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Western Railway

Mumbai, July 14 (IANS) After Railway Minister Piyush Goyal cracked the whip, the Western Railway (WR) launched a safety audit of all 445 bridges on the Mumbai suburban section, deploying modern techniques to scan some of the oldest structures, an official said here on Saturday.

The first to be inspected and audited was the 98-year old Mahalaxmi road overbridge (ROB) and later the Bandra ROB, with the new time-saving technique through the “tower wagon car”.

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“The tower wagon has been designed to save inspection time to two hours against the normal four hours by conventional methods and even perform urgent repairs,” said WR spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar.

Image result for WR spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar.

Western Railways chief spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar

Conventionally, a long ladder was transported from Lower Parel station to the required station, shifted manually to the bridge site and only one person at a time could climb it, while clutching a load of equipment. The ladder needed to be shifted continuously for examining each girders, pillars or spans.

However, the new tower wagon allows the entire inspection team to climb to the targeted site armed with tools and machinery, and even carry out spot emergency repairs, making it a quick, safe and quality process, said Bhakar.

On the WR’s Churchgate-Virar sector, there are 29 ROBs, 110 Foot overbridges (FOBs) and four pipeline bridges, and the rest are on the Central Railway (CR), across Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Raigad districts, catering to over eight million daily suburban commuters.

Top WR officials including General Manager A. K. Gupta, Divisional Railway Manager Sanjay Mishra, Principal Chief Engineer R. K. Meena and Chief Safety Officer Manoj Sharma were present when the inspections were carried out in the early hours on Saturday.

Image result for WR General Manager A. K. Gupta,

Western Railway top boss Western Railway GM A.K Gupta

Spelling relief, the Mahalaxmi ROB was found to be “structurally sound and in safe condition” at all its 15 girders and five spans after it was inspected in minute details by two tower wagons.

The 56-year old Bandra ROB with 13 girders and three spans was also found structurally safe and sound, the WR said.

Bouyed by the results, the WR will now carry out the safety audits of all the remaining bridges with tower wagons over the next three-four months, as resolved at a high-level meeting on July 5.

Following stringent observations by the Bombay High Court, a public uproar after the July 3 crash of a portion of the Andheri FOB which killed one woman, the beleagured WR, CR, BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation along with IIT-Bombay experts launched the full-scale bridges’ audits.

Image result for July 3 crash of a portion of the Andheri FOB which killed one woman

July 3 crash of a portion of the Andheri FOB

It was decided to order repairs or reconstruct the stressed bridges on priority without procedural delays, with precedence given to the oldest structures, while ensuring complete coordination among various agencies.

The three organisations will also conduct regular monthly meetings of top officials, clear issues about designs, drawings, approvals, land issues, etc, to speed up the required works.

They would also explore the feasibility of creating a special corpus fund for the purpose of an appropriate amount, to ensure financial resources are readily available, especially for undertaking works of urgent nature or in emergencies.

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Lifestyle

30 per cent Indians planning couple trip during monsoon: Study

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Couple trip monsoon

New Delhi, July 10: With the onset of the monsoon, more and more couples are taking advantage of the pleasant weather and heading for short breaks with 30 per cent planning it with their better halves, says a study conducted by travel marketplace ixigo.  

The data reveals that 39 per cent Indians, travelling during the monsoon, are planning to travel as couples, followed by 24 per cent with family and 18 per cent solo, reads a statement.

Couples are planning short-stays that extend to about three or four days. Also, hotel searches for Goa show the maximum spike of 16 per cent from previous months, while Shillong and Guwahati follow with 11 per cent and 9 per cent spikes respectively.

goa-couple-on-beach

While about 25 per cent couples from Chennai and 18 per cent from Bangalore are booking a short vacation to Puducherry, about 14 per cent couples are travelling from Mumbai to Goa via train.

Commenting on the findings, Aloke Bajpai, ixigo CEO & Co-founder said, “With the arrival of monsoon across the country, millennial couples are now planning their bae-cations. Travel becomes far more affordable during the monsoon as it is a lean season in comparison to summer and winter.

“Major Indian airlines have announced their monsoon sales, offering big discounts on flights, reducing fares by almost 20 per cent. Goa remains to be the most popular destination showing an 8 per cent increase in in flight and 16 per cent increase in hotel searches. It is great to note, how owing to improved infrastructure and better flight connectivity, north-eastern destinations like Shillong and Guwahati are also becoming crowd favourites.”

IANS 

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Lifestyle

Why one should consider a beach holiday

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beach

New Delhi, June 30: Selecting your next destination isn’t easy and spending the month of June and July at home can never be treated as an experience. But then a beach trip can always be your escape! Right? Ditch the hills and snow when you can head out for a beach holiday.

Goa Beaches-wefornews

Jayant Singh, Founder and Managing Director, Karma Hospitality and Richa Khurana Singh, Travel Expert, share some insights why a beach holiday is the best way to refresh the mind.

* Beauty and the beach: The coming months are a good escape to beaches for people who want to travel and have an adventure at the same time. The temperature is not so hot and days are also the longest, which gives you more time to explore and party. The beauty of the beaches relaxes you and at the same time the rapids give the best adrenaline rush.

goa-nightlife

* Enjoy the festivities and the rains: June brings out the unseen views of beaches – especially Goa – that are usually absent during the summers. The beginning of the monsoon gives relief from the humid climate and a wave of new fresh air.

* Adventure be your saviour: It is not just about the beauty of the sea, but there is much more beyond that parties and beaches. June is the best time to enjoy for adventure lovers and they can enjoy the different water sports like jet skiing, water skiing, paragliding, scuba diving. Also, the beginners training for scuba diving can best learn in these months.

 jet skiing

* Affordable accommodation: October-January are the months when the tourist traction is huge for beach areas, but from June-September the areas are less occupied and you don’t have to spend much on travel and stay. Fares are affordable for luxury resorts and you can book your fairies and adventures at a low cost.

IANS

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