South Asia News in brief: 1–15 March 2008

Cheese from yaks contains more healthy fatty acids Copyright: Flickr/ucumari

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Below is a round-up of news from or about South Asia for the period 1–15 March.

Pakistan wheat ‘safe from fungus’, for now
Wheat in Pakistan is currently not under threat from a new variety of stem rust that is spreading globally, says a senior official from the country’s food and agriculture ministry. The Ug99 fungus strain had been causing concern in the region, and prompted an alert from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. More>>

India offers flexible working hours for women scientists
Indian women scientists with children under three years will soon have flexible working hours, state-of-the-art crèches, and women’s residential blocks. These and other incentives were announced by science minister Kapil Sibal, in an attempt to reduce the drop-out rate of women scientists from science careers. More>>

New method to monitor nuclear waste damage devised
Nuclear scientists in Pakistan have devised a new method to monitor radiation damage in nuclear waste containers. The method uses ‘ion channelling’ — how ions penetrate and travel through rows of atoms — in crystalline materials like zircon, used to immobilise nuclear wastes. The method, reported in Annals of Nuclear Energy, also helps calculate the collapse rate of the structure of the containers holding the waste. More>>

Herbal tea may help diabetes
A herbal tea developed by scientists from the Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research may benefit diabetic patients. The researchers say the tea — made from the leaves of local tree Lagerstromia speciosa Lin — could help lower sugar levels in patients blood naturally, reducing the amount of insulin they need to inject. More>>

Brain chemical may help regulate tumour growth
The neurotransmitter dopamine may play a role in regulating the development of tumours, report Indian scientists in the Journal of Clinical Investigations. The researchers describe how decreased dopamine levels correlate with the activation of specific cells from the bone marrow that lead to tumour formation, and suggest the hormone could have a use in future cancer treatments. More>>

Bacterial cocktail clears industrial wastewater dyes
A cocktail of three bacteria helps clear coloured waters of their dyes, which could help treat industrial wastewaters. The mix of Aeromonas caviae, Proteus mirabilis and Rhodococcus globerulus helped decolourise more than a dozen azo dyes, report Indian scientists in Bioresource Technology . More>>

Earthworms help ‘mop up’ metals
Earthworms could help mop up lead and zinc wastes from soils, say scientists from India. Laboratory experiments with the earthworm Lampito mauriti, reveals that absorption of the metals by the worm’s tissue increases with the concentration of the metals in the soil. Earthworms also increased the availability of phosphorus and potassium in the soil. More>>

River-rafting destroying Ganges environment
Increasing river rafting, kayaking and camping along the River Ganges is affecting the natural environment and changing the social and cultural fabric of society in the region, according to a report. Future pressure in the area could lead to soil erosion, increased soil pollution and natural habitat loss, scientists caution in Current Science. More>> [320kB]

Yak cheese healthiest, say researchers
It may be healthier to tuck into cheese from yaks than that from dairy cattle, according to researchers. A Nepalese-Canadian study, reported in the Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry, says cheese from yaks grazed on Nepal’s Himalayan pastures contains more healthy fatty acids than cheddar cheese processed from dairy cows. More>>

Compiled by T. V. Padma