AUSTRALIAN Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) scientists are researching the environmental effects of agriculture in the Asia Pacific region, as a way of helping to maximise sustainability.
ANSTO’s Professor Henk Heijnis has assembled a team to lead the Regional Cooperative Agreement (RCA) project on land degradation, a multinational research effort that could lead to improvements in the way scarce environmental resources, like soil and water, are managed.
Prof. Heijnis said the Asia Pacific region was enduring “severe pressure on limited soil and water resources” due to a rapidly expanding population and economic development. Recent decades have seen rapid deforestation and clearing of lands for agricultural cultivation.
In soil and land use studies, isotopic techniques play a crucial role in studying natural and anthropogenic soil erosion processes, Prof. Heijnis said.
“These studies will result in outcomes at a number of levels, from providing individual farmers with insights on more effective and efficient livestock, to improved crop, soil and agricultural water management, as well as giving political decision-makers the background to enable informed decisions to be made at national and regional levels,” he said.
Prof. Heijnis said ANSTO was strongly committed to nuclear technical cooperation in the Asia-Pacific through its membership and active participation in the RCA.
The RCA is an intergovernmental agreement of 20 IAEA member states in the East Asia and Pacific region. ANSTO supports the program through essential in-kind support such as the provision of experts at training courses and at meetings; hosting workshops and technical meetings; and hosting IAEA fellows and scientific visitors.
Australia’s participation in RCA is widely seen as prolific, with experts across all four thematic areas – health, environment, agriculture and industry – involved in 18 of the 22 active projects.
ANSTO scientists such as Prof. Heijnis lend their expertise in technical cooperation projects on water resource sustainability, air particulate pollution, and measuring the impact on the marine environment from nuclear power in the region.
With the expertise of Heijnis and his team in IER in collaboration with Dr Tim Ralph of Macquarie University, ANSTO is well placed to lead the land degradation project, with extensive experience and expertise in the use of radioisotopes in soil erosion and accumulation studies.
The next review meeting of the project takes place in Kathmandu, Nepal, with Prof. Heijnis officiating for the first time as project leader.
IN THE WAKE of the Federal Budget, it is unclear what will become of the planned link-up between ABC International and its Australia Network with China’s media powerhouse, the Shanghai Media Group.
The proposed arrangement was reportedly supported by media authorities of the Chinese Government in Shanghai. Yet the cuts to the ABC, SBS and the reported withdrawal of funding for the Australia Network will negatively impact the proposed arrangements.
On the back of the recent Australian Government-backed Australia Week in China trade mission, ABC International and the Australia Network struck an international multi-platform media cooperation arrangement supported by the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film and TV.
The detailed agreement to formalize the arrangement were to be signed in Shanghai on May 4. Through the cooperation, ABC International was set to establish an online portal in China through which a range of ABC and other Australian media content and services could be offered and presented to partner Chinese media organisations.
The arrangement also enabled the ABC to establish a base in Shanghai with official approval to represent and sell media content across China, enter into international co-productions, and generate international sponsorship and promotional opportunities.
“This historic agreement opens up a whole new world of television and online cooperation between Australia and China,” ABC managing director Mark Scott said. “It provides a truly unique window for all Australian media to build a friendly and mutually cooperative relationship with China.”
It is ironic that so much of the media cooperation had been driven by the Australian Government, with the ABC extensively covering Prime Minister Abbott’s visit and early steps for a free trade agreement – yet the Federal Budget now appears to place the deal in jeopardy.
“International Channel Shanghai last week broadcast a week of Australian TV programs provided by the ABC and Australia Network to coincide with Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s visit,” Mr Scott said when announcing the cooperation deal. It was also a time when Australia’s profile was high in China from leading the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370.
“Q&A’s live broadcast in China was the first open interactive public comment style program broadcast live from China to Australia,” he said. “The success of last week and the future under this agreement will help build understanding between China and Australia.”
Shanghai Media Group’s International Channel Shanghai executive director, Sun Wei said, “The Shanghai Media Group is China’s second largest media organization and its recent restructure ensures we are looking to further build our international media partnerships.
“Ground breaking international broadcasts such as Q&A, which was produced as a collaboration between Australian and Chinese television crews, pave the way for bigger and better international media cooperation and cultural connections in the future.”
ABC International CEO Lynley Marshall commented at the time: “This agreement will enable us to put the full range of Australia Network programming and content from other Australian media into China and for China to connect more closely with our media.
“Most importantly, the agreement will provide opportunities for promotion of Australian business, tourism, entertainment, culture and education.”
The eventual shape of any cooperation will play out in the next few months as the ABC is expected to re-organise its budgets in the wake of the funding cuts.
POSTED MAY 16, 2014.