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Dubai gets its first commercial vertical farm

Monitoring Desk

DUBAI: The Gulf region’s first-of-its-kind farm that seeks to produce vegetables in large quantities without the need for soil, sunlight and chemicals has just opened. Badia Farms announced on Tuesday that plans to set up the GCC’s first commercial vertical indoor farm has just come to fruition, and UAE residents can now start getting their leafy greens on the same day of harvest.

The company, owned by Saudi Arabian businessman Omar Al Jundi and British agricultural expert Grahame Dunling, is using the latest hydroponic technology and vertical farming techniques to produce pesticide-free vegetables without using soil, sunlight or chemicals.

The indoor farm is located in Al Quoz Industrial Area 1, just a few minutes from Shaikh Zayed Road, and occupies an area of 8,500 square feet. It produces at least 18 varieties of micro-greens that are packed with antioxidants and rich nutrients, including arugula, kale, radish, red cabbage, basils and mustard.

The crops being grown are said to be “purer than organic,” as they are cultivated in a chemical-free and pesticide-free environment.

The greens are being manufactured in a controlled indoor facility using technology that lets farmers grow plants without the need for soil and requires less water. And instead of exposing the plants outdoors to enjoy full sun, LED lights are being used to mimic the sunlight that the crops require.

Hydroponic farming isn’t entirely new, and some residents in the UAE have in fact already started setting up soil-less gardens inside their home as a hobby.

Louise, an expatriate from France, started experimenting with hydroponics in the summer. In his living room, there’s a small bed of crops consisting mainly of chilli and tomatoes.

He has also set up vertical stacks of crop beds, in which he intends to grow other herbs and leafy greens, including basils, rosemary, thyme and lettuce.

But unlike Badia Farms, the tiny garden is using natural sunlight, but it also doesn’t use as much water as one would in soil farming.

“I can just leave it there without bothering myself to water it,” he said. But for now, the mini soil-less garden will just be a fixture in the living room.” “I don’t think I’m going to use it as my main source of food. There are still chemicals in it.”

But for Badia Farms, the goal is to revolutionize the way the UAE acquires its regular supply of produce, according to Omar Al Jundi, founder and chief executive officer. The UAE has a vibrant dining and hospitality culture wherein restaurants are popping up at almost every corner, yet most of the food served on the table is imported.

With the country’s arid environment that makes it not conducive for farming, it is estimated that more than 80 per cent of UAE residents’ food requirements comes from abroad, travelling thousands of miles before it reaches the plate.

“Through vertical indoor farming methods, we can dramatically reduce the carbon footprint and grow leafy greens that are fresher, tastier and delivered from farm to table within hours,” noted Al Jundi.

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Asian shares mixed in quiet Christmas trading

Monitoring Desk

TOKYO: Shares were mixed in quiet trading Monday in the few Asian markets open during the Christmas holiday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.2 percent to 22,939.18, while the Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.5 percent to 3,280.46. Trading was thin in Japan, with early losses tracking last week’s weak finish on Wall Street.

Shares were higher in Thailand but fell in Taiwan.

Stocks finished slightly lower Friday in New York in subdued trading ahead of the three-day holiday weekend. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell less than 0.1 percent to 2,683.34. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.1 percent to 24,754.06 and the Nasdaq composite also shed 0.1 percent, to 6,959.96.

Stocks were below the record highs they reached earlier in the week but still finished higher for the fifth week in a row.

Markets will be closed in the US and Europe on Monday in observance of Christmas, and with just four days of trading left in 2017, stocks were on pace to finish every month of the year with gains, when dividends are included.

Benchmark US crude rose 11 cents to $58.47 a barrel in New York on Friday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, rose 35 cents to $65.25 a barrel in London.

The dollar was at 113.23 Japanese yen, down from 113.29. The euro rose to $1.1879.

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State firms urged to guard against overseas corruption risks

Monitoring Desk

SHANGHAI: China’s corruption watchdog on Monday urged its state-owned enterprises (SOE) to guard against the risk of corruption in their overseas entities, saying it was a key task of every company’s Communist Party cell.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said it had published guidance instructing state firms to deal with such risks that could arise from their overseas personnel and decision-making.

“Party committees and discipline inspection groups at every state enterprise must stick to the highest standard of Communist Party discipline and deeply understand the importance urgency of controlling overseas risks,” it said in a statement on its website.

The aim was to “ensure the safety of China’s assets, make our state enterprises strong and excellent, and cultivate world-class enterprises that are globally competitive”, it said.

China’s wide-ranging crackdown on corruption has largely focused on the domestic operations of its state-owned enterprises, rather than their overseas activities.

In 2015, the government said it would audit the overseas assets of its SOEs after the state news agency Xinhua disclosed that the government does not audit the 4 trillion yuan of assets such firms hold overseas.

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Police being evaluated in all provinces

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Interior Minister Wais Barmak on Monday said some politicians violated government recruitment rules, preventing reforms in the ministry.

Barmak, who appeared before the Wolesi Jirga or the lower house of parliament, told the lawmakers: “Let us recruit based on the need. Let us do our job. You have granted me the trust vote, if we appoint someone against the law or on ethnic lines you have the authority to ask me.”

He informed the MPs about creation of three committees tasked with evaluating police forces in all 34 provinces to provide basis for a new assignment.

The minister said: “We would announce soon that police personnel have no right to use a high ranking official in transfer and posting.”

“Reforms not possible under pressure from politicians,” he said, without naming anyone.

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Jamiat agreed to approval of Noor’s resignation: CEO

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Chief Executive Officer Abdullah has claimed the Jamiat-i-Islami (JI) party agreed to the ouster of Atta Mohammad Noor as the governor of northern Balkh province but latter changed its stance.

Abdullah, addressing the Council of Ministers here, in his reaction to Noor’s allegations of the CEO’s involvement in his removal, said: “Fifteen days back, I agreed that the Balkh governor should be removed and the JI leadership also agreed with that.”

“The sky would not drop on the earth, another person should be appointed. The JI assured that all issues would be resolved within a week, but the story turned different,” the CEO said.

Abdullah said he still believed all issues should be resolved without causing any harm to the people and the government’s dignity.

“As it was heard I was accused of 80 percent behind the approval of the resignation, I think I was 100 percent responsible. Besides all other engagements I have right now, I have to be also careful about my teeth,” the CEO said, as he referred to Noor remarks of breaking his teeth.

Abdullah said the formation of the National Unity Government (NUG) was a historic move which best suited the situation of Afghanistan and the only applicable option.

“Unfortunately, the agreement of NUG was not implemented in the past three years. Had it been implemented, there would have been fewer problems today”, he believed.

He said efforts had been made to undermine the executive branch of the government and some individuals even tried to introduce themselves as the best option, but they failed and, “We patiently witnessed their failure.”

Abdullah recalled he had been in touch with the president regarding the formation of NUG and introduction of Cabinet ministers and had held consultations with him.

Earlier, Atta Mohammad Noor, the JI secretary, and former governor of Balkh province had said Abdullah lost support of JI.

Last week, President Ashraf Ghani accepted Noor’s resignation and introduced Eng. Dawood his replacement as Balkh Governor.

However, Noor he had said he submitted his resignation last year based on some conditions.

On Saturday, Noor told a gathering in Mazar-i-Sharif that his party Jamiat-i-Islami gave legitimacy to the last presidential election which had otherwise no legitimacy.

Noor accused CEO Abdullah of 80 percent contributing to the making of conspiracies against him.

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Samangan coalmines revenue exceeded

Monitoring Desk

AIBAK: The revenue of two coalmines in the Dara-i-Suf Bala district of northern Samangan province reached more than 2.8 billion afghanis in the ongoing year.

Eng. Mahmood, deputy head of the Samangan coalmine enterprise, told Pajhwok Afghan News that last year the revenue generated from Shabashak and Dahna Toar coalmines was 2.3 billion afghanis.

He said more extraction and rising demand were the main factors in increasing the income of these mines, saying that 90 precent of the coal were exporting to foreign, and the rest consumed internally.

It excludes income from Garmak-i-Gharbi, Garmak-i-Sharqi and Rashk coalmines, the three mines have been leased out to the private sector by the Minister of Mines and Petroleum, he added.

Mohammad Siddique, the governor’s spokesman, said the government obtaining hundreds of million afghanis from these three mines annually.

Ahmad Ali Hussaini, the district’s administrative chief, said 10,000 individuals from different provinces of the country were extracting coal from the mine.

According to the officials, coalmine reserves lie in the form of a belt along the Hindu Kush Mountain stretching from Badakhshan, Takhar, Baghlan, Samangan, and Bamyan to Sar-i-Pul.

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Accord of Machalgho dam construction signed

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The Afghan ministry of water and energy signed the agreement for the construction of Machalgho dam with a Russian firm.

The accord was signed in the presence of Chief Executive Officer Dr Abdullah Abdullah and Russian ambassador to Kabul Alexander Mantytskiy.

Addressing the ceremony, Minister for Water and Energy Ali Ahmad Usmani termed the Machalgho dam of vital importance said it would provide irrigation water for about 300,000 hectares of land in the southeastern provinces.

He said funds of $ 22.9 million were required for the construction of the dam. The project would be completed in three years, he added.

A portion of the 47-meter deep Machalgho dam would also be able to generate power, he maintained.

The construction of the dam had been given to two companies in 2010, he said. However, they could not complete the project in time. The standard of their work was also low. Due to these reasons, he said the agreement was taken back from those firms.

The Machalgho dam is located in Ahmadabad district of Paktiya province. People have been hoping for the construction of the dam since long.

Chief Executive Officer Dr Abdullah Abdullah said they hoped the Russian firm would complete construction of the dam on standard basis as per the accord. Felicitating the people of Paktiya on the project, Dr Abdullah urged them not to allow enemies of the country to create hurdles in the path of basic development projects.

On the occasion, Russian ambassador to Kabul Alexander Mantytskiy said the project was an example of cooperation between the two countries. He hoped other Russian investors and firms would also be given chances of investment in Afghanistan.

Addressing the gathering, head of project design agency and representative of this firm in Afghanistan, Hamid Noori pledged that the project would be executed on standard basis as per the agreement.

It is pertinent to mention here that the water and power ministry signed three agreements of power generation and utilization of water on December 06, this year. The accord of Machalgho dam was also expected to be signed on the same day. However, it could not be signed as the representatives of the Russian firm could not reach in time.

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Drugs openly sold under police nose in Farah

Monitoring Desk

FARAH CITY: Drugs are openly sold in some areas and even close to the police headquarters in the capital of western Farah province.

In Farah City, the provincial capital, Qala-i-Faraidon, Bagh-i-Kafi, and Chahar Bagh are areas where drugs are apparently sold and have most drug addicts.

A Pajhowk Pajhwok Afghan News reporter visited these areas and discovered a house in Lab-Gora area used for selling drugs near the police compound. The gates of the house having some rooms are always found closed but addicts obtain drugs from it.

Khwaja Mohammad, 35, a resident of Kunsak area, was taking heroin and was in a bad condition in Qala-i-Faraidon area. He said: “There are houses around Shahr-i-Kohna named Saqiha and people buy drugs from them.”

Abdul Bari, 28, another addict, confirmed Khwaja Mohammad’s account and said “Drugs are sold in specific areas, if you don’t believe me, so give me money to bring it.”

“Drug sellers have built new houses, they drive in latest cars. But the government can tell them something because they put money in pockets of officials, the government only beats and harasses addicts,” he continued. Abdul Ghani, 30, another addicted in the area, said he used to buy drugs from a house in Chahar Bagh area.

Yet another addict, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said many drugs addicts obtained drugs from houses in Bagh-i-Kafi and Lab-i-Gorak areas.

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15 militants killed in Wardak operation

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: At least fifteen militants who were responsible for the destruction of electricity pylons in central Maidan Wardak province of Afghanistan have been killed during the military operations, the local security officials said.

Provincial police chief Gen. Ahmad Fahim Qayem said the militants were killed during the ongoing clearance operations in Syedabad district. He said two key Taliban group figures identified as Mawlavi Gul Amin and Mawlavi Fayaz are also amogn those killed and the two individuals were involved in destroying electricity pylons transferring 220kV of electricity between Arghandi-Ghazni.

Gen. Qayem further added that twenty villages have been cleared from the presence of the Taliban insurgents so far and several vehicles along with some weapons have also been confiscated during the operations.

Maidan Wardak is among the relatively volatile provinces in central parts of the country, located close to capital Kabul.

The anti-government armed militants are actively operating in its various districts and often carry out insurgency activities, mainly in the districts lying along the highway connecting Kabul with the southeastern and southern provinces.

A top leader of the notorious Haqqani terrorist network was killed along with dozens of other militants in an operation in this province late last month.

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Asad Umar says PPP did not deliver in any tenure

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) central leader MNA Asad Umar has said that despite six tenures of the PPP government, Sindh province is still deprived of the basic facilities. He said 70percent of budgetary funds in Sindh goes to the pockets of corruption mafia and remaining 30percent spent on projects.

According to details, PTI leaders MNA Asad Umar, PTI Sindh senior executive vice president Haleem Adil Sheikh, PTI minority wing leader Jay Parkash Ukrani and others reached Hyderabad on Monday, where they inaugurated PTI offices in different areas and addressed workers’ conventions in various localities including Qasimabad.

Speaking on the occasion, Umar Asad said that in the KP, the PTI government has successfully nabbed the timber mafia. Before the PTI government, they used to hack trees, but our government sent the timber mafia people to jail and planted hundreds of thousands of new saplings. He said 500000 people are now planting trees in the KpK, which is not only making the province greener, but also providing jobs to people. He said in Sindh the PPP has ruled for six tenures and not to speak of planting trees and making a clean environment, it has failed to provide even clean drinking water to the people. He said in Sindh the local government system is not fully functional and all powers are vested with the provincial government. He said seventy percent government funds are devoured by contractors in Sindh and the corrupt bureaucrats and hardly 30precent funds are left for development.

He said in the KP, the PTI government has introduced a local system in which local people are empowered to decide about their development and progress and hence a speedy uplift could be witnessed in every part of the KpK province. He said this is not the case of Sindh, where water is not available, education is in shambles and roads and streets broken.

Haleem Adil Sheikh said on the occasion that the rulers of Sindh have befooled people every time in the name of Bhutto. He said these rulers have given nothing to people but maximized their personal wealth. He said seeing the growing popularity of PTI in Sindh our political opponents have now adopted the course of vendetta and they are targeting our workers.

He said in Nawabshah the hooligans of the rulers attacked the Insaf House and we condemn it in the strongest words. He said now the so-called champions of democracy in Sindh are now afraid of the PTI and its workers. He said these corrupt elements are now fully exposed and people of Sindh would reject them in the coming elections.

Jay Parkash Ukrani said due to the policies of the sitting government, minority communities are feeling insecurity. He said in Sindh the minority communities are facing atrocities and justice is not being doled out to them. He said the minority community of Sindh fully supports the PTI and they would an important role in the win of PTI candidates from Sindh in the coming elections.

PTI leaders Nuzhar Pathan, Ali Junejo and others also spoke. Mohsian Ghuman, Lala Amanullah Moosahel, Ali Hingoro and other leaders were also present.