In an Indian ashram, its solar power that nourishes the spiritual

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The ashram's kitchen serves free meals to more than 35,000 devotees daily. UNDP Photo

It was a hot summer day in Shirdi in the Indian state of Maharashtra. A wind blew in from the arid plains, covering its tracks with a patina of dust. Thousands of devotees at the Sai Baba temple had lined up for a ritual meal offered at the Prasadalaya (a free eatery run by the trust), which feeds more than 35,000 visitors daily. This ashram – a cornerstone of tradition and spiritual faith for many – has undergone a sea change in it’s reliance on fossil fuels. As we walked through the clatter of aluminium plates in the food hall, Amrut G. Jagtap, an engineer at the Prasadalaya explained that meals for about 17,000 devotees are now cooked using thermal energy from solar technology installed on the roof of the building.

 In a country of 1.2 billion people, where fossil fuels are in high demand for their use as cooking fuel, the climate could well allow a significant reduction in energy use (and family expenses) if reliance on alternative energy could find a foothold. If  solar technology can be harnessed at an industrial scale, however, it can partially meet energy needs and reduce the demand for costly fossil fuels, such as... Read more

Truth-by-phone: How PNG is pitting the humble mobile phone against massive corruption

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Papua New Guinea stands at one of the most decisive junctures in its development. With predicted record levels of economic growth of 20% for 2015, the country has a unique opportunity to leverage significant sustainable and equitable improvements of Human Development of the more than 7 million Papua New Guineans. However, if poor choices are made, the impact of the high growth rates will be limited, even detrimental to the development prospects of the nation. This ‘paradox of plenty’ occurred when a 20% growth rate in the early 1990s was followed by a ‘lost decade’ for the majority of the population. Despite the Government of PNG’s increased budget allocations to provincial, district and local level governments by 87% over the last two years, low implementation capacity at sub-national level has prevented the high volume of resources to translate effectively into improvements in the lives of the population. One reason for this inefficiency is corruption.  
 In 2013, government task force estimated that almost 40% of PNG’s annual budget (approx. USD 6.5 billion) was lost to corruption and mismanagement, a worrying number that seems to be confirmed by Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perception Index, and the World Bank’s Global Governance Corruption Index.... Read more

How a low-tech mobile app is changing the way Indonesia responds to disasters

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Sitting between two of the world’s most active seismic plates, Indonesia is struck with over five light earthquakes on a daily basis. Photo: Wahyu Wening

Reliable real-time data on post disaster information will help ensure a well-targeted and speedy response to future disasters in Indonesia, which in turn, will save lives and money.... Read more

Bhutan continues to face the risk of glacial lake flooding

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There are more than 20 glacial lakes in Bhutan alone that are considered at risk of outburst, and many more in other nations of the Himalayas. UNDP Photo

he peace of mind that the project brought to the people living in the valleys below the glacier is immeasurable, but for how much longer? There are more than 20 glacial lakes in Bhutan alone that are considered at risk of outburst, and many more in other nations of the Himalayas.... Read more

Tackling illegal money flows in Asia could bring schools, hospitals and bridges to the poorest

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Globally, illicit financial flows drained roughly US$950b from the developing world in 2011 according to Global Financial Integrity. Photo: WatchSmart licensed use under CC2.0

Illicit financial flows (cross-border flows of money that are illegally earned, transferred or utilised) are depriving the poorest economies in the region from vital funds for development. And the consequences of these flows on the sustainability of some of the region’s strongest economies are still largely underestimated.... Read more