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Below is a round up of news from or about South Asia for the period 28 May–10 June 2009

WHO backs rotavirus vaccine
The WHO has recommended that routine immunisation with rotavirus vaccine be included in all national immunisation programmes to prevent deaths due to diarrhoeal disease among children — which causes more than 500,000 deaths and two million hospitalisations a year. Meanwhile clinical trial data from Bangladesh and Vietnam in Asia; as well as Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Mali in Africa, are expected to be unveiled later this year. More>>

Narmada River a breeding ground for Shigella infection
India's Narmada River is an 'environmental reservoir' of virulent strains of Shigella infection, which typically causes dysentery and is closely related to Escherichia coli and Salmonella, scientists have found. An analysis of river water samples shows the presence and dispersion of several virulence genes — genes responsible for the ability of an infective agent to cause disease — among Shigella isolates in the river. More>>

Jatropha chomps toxic soil metals
The non-edible plant Jatropha curcus — whose seeds can be processed to produce high-quality biodiesel — can rid soils of toxic metals, researchers have found. Jatropha removed arsenic, chromium and zinc from contaminated soils to which a bacterial biofertiliser and dairy sludge were added to improve plant growth. More>>

Climate benefits from India's anti-poverty project
India has begun a pilot project to quantify the climate benefits of its National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. The project, launched three years ago, provides a minimum of 100 days of employment a year for the country's rural poor. About 70 per cent of the works involve afforestation, water harvesting and land development, and the benefits of these tasks will be evaluated during the project — which will be carried out in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. More>>

Bangladesh pledges to save its rivers
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has promised to save the country's severely degraded river system, vital for irrigation and transport, regardless of cost. She cautioned that the Bangladesh's rivers have lost the free flows they had in the past due to heavy silt depositions, and said that restoration of riverbeds will reduce frequent water overflows. More>>

Maldives seeks space photos to build sea walls
The Maldives has sought the help of the UN Office for Outer Space affairs for satellite data that will help the country defend itself against climate change and rising sea levels. The Maldives — threatened by eroding beaches and storm surges — hopes to obtain commercial photos from space through the agency for free and use them to plan sea walls and future population centres. More>>

Sri Lanka urged to spend more on science
Sri Lanka needs to spend more on science and technology, its science minister Tissa Vitharana says. Currently the country spends just 0.13 per cent of its gross domestic product on science. The article says that many of the country's policies have been "short sighted", favouring quick fixes over long-term gains. Vitharana points out that investments made to boost a country's technological capacities take time and will therefore take a longer time to be apparent. More>>

Measles toll heavy in Nepal
The first detailed study of measles outbreaks in Nepal indicates that the infection is continuing to cause high numbers of illness and deaths in areas of the country ravaged by conflict in the past. High coverage with the measles vaccine must be maintained in these areas to reduce deaths, reports a WHO bulletin. More>> [692kB]

Afghanistan inspires catastrophic surgery training
Lessons learned at a Canadian military-run hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan, could help surgeons learn how to prepare for civilian disasters such as a bus crash or school-building roof collapse, says a doctor. Vivian McAlister, professor and surgeon at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at The University of Western Ontario, is preparing a course in catastrophic surgery which will be offered at the Canadian Surgery Forum in Victoria, British Columbia, in September. More>>

Indian Bt cotton seeds for Pakistan
India's genetic engineering approval committee has given the green light to send seeds of its Bt cotton to Pakistan for multi-location trials. The cotton is genetically engineered to contain genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which are lethal to the cotton crop-devastating bollworm. More>>

Indian tiger reserves among UNESCO's new biosphere hotlist
Three of India's nature reserves have made it onto UNESCO's list of 22 new biosphere reserves. The Indian sites include Nokrek a biological hotspot in Meghalaya state — and the tiger reserve areas of Pachmarhi and Similipal. More>>

New species spotted in South Asia
The Zoological Survey of India recorded 37 new species from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka in 2008. The rich haul includes 12 amphibians, 14 insects and nine nematodes, according to India's Ministry of Environment and Forests. More>>

Compiled by T. V. Padma. Additional reporting by Papri Sri Raman.

If you would like to suggest a story for this news in brief, please contact the South Asia Regional Coordinator T. V. Padma ([email protected]).