26 March 2008The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has helped open a new hydrological station at a dam near the Afghan capital, Kabul, as part of its joint efforts with the country’s authorities to better manage water resources in Afghanistan. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has helped open a new hydrological station at a dam near the Afghan capital, Kabul, as part of its joint efforts with the country’s authorities to better manage water resources in Afghanistan.The station, at Qargha Dam, is one of a network of 174 hydrological stations and 60 snow gauges and meteorological stations being erected around Afghanistan to measure water levels, precipitation, temperature and water quality.The network of stations, a joint effort of FAO, the World Bank and the national Ministry of Energy and Water, is designed to assist in the planning of water supply, irrigation and hydropower projects, as well as in the mitigation of possible droughts and the operation of reservoirs.FAO engineers attending yesterday’s formal opening stressed that Afghanistan – which is slowly trying to recover after decades of war and misrule – can have no food security without water security. A lack of reliable water supplies hampers Afghanistan’s rural economy and can lead to increased rural poverty.FAO said that aside from the building of the new station, Qargha Dam itself went through partial reconstruction work. The dam serves as a popular recreation site for Kabul residents and also provides water for the western part of the city and for 2,000 hectares of land.
The French company whose light rail vehicles will replace Bombardier Transportation transit vehicles under a revised contract with Metrolinx is going ahead with a plan to build those vehicles in the Toronto region.Alstom Canada spokeswoman Marilena Varano confirmed on Thursday that her firm will establish a manufacturing plant in Brampton, Ont. to build future cars on the Sheppard East LRT and Finch West LRT projects in Toronto.She initially said the project, which has not been formally announced, would create some 200 jobs but later revised that to 120 jobs. The company already employs more than 300 Canadians at facilities in Ottawa and near Montreal.Metrolinx — a provincial government agency in charge of transportation for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area — announced Thursday it will accept only 76 light rail vehicles of the 182 originally ordered for $770 million from Bombardier. A source confirmed the new contract is worth $392 million.CEO Phil Verster said the 106 Bombardier vehicles that were to be used on the two lines will be replaced by 61 larger cars purchased through a $528-million agreement signed last spring with Alstom.Future cars on those lines will likely also be built by Alstom.“We brought a second supplier into the market, which creates a totally different competitive dynamic and Alstom will now build vehicles right here in Toronto for Toronto on those projects,” he said. “And that’s very exciting for us.”The Bombardier cars will now be used only on Toronto’s $5.3-billion Eglinton Crosstown project.Metrolinx had previously asked a court for the right to cancel the contract with Bombardier over doubts about its ability to fulfil train orders in a city where gridlock has become an increasing frustration for commuters. But a judge said it couldn’t without first going through a dispute resolution process.Metrolinx says its new deal with Bombardier includes harsher penalties if vehicles aren’t delivered on time or if the quality of the vehicles is unacceptable.Verster said details of the penalties are confidential but confirmed his agency is liable to pay $500,000 per day to the consortium building the Eglinton Crosstown project if the cars are late. It had previously been $1,500 a day for each late vehicle.“What I can say is that the financial penalties (to Bombardier) are significant and they offset our exposure we have if the delivery of the vehicles are late,” he said.Bombardier said the lost revenue from the smaller Metrolinx order will be offset by an 18-month extension of its Go Transit operation and maintenance contract in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area.“We have always been resolved to find a clear negotiated path forward, one that delivers value to all parties, and foremost to the people of Ontario,” said Benoit Brossoit, president of the Americas region for Bombardier, in a statement.Metrolinx had previously indicated it wanted new operators to take over the suburban GO Transit and UP Express airport rail services after the current contract expires in 2023. It had said its existing contract with Bombardier was worth about $100 million per year.Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said in a statement Thursday his government intends to ensure suppliers like Bombardier fulfil their obligations so that transit projects are completed on time.“We will continue to be vigilant with respect to Bombardier’s performance,” he said.“Simply put, they are expected to deliver as per our new agreement or face significant consequences.”Follow @HealingSlowly on Twitter.