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A round up of news from or about South Asia for the period 15–30 September 2007.

Climate change, desertification put 'a billion poor at risk'
Climate change and desertification have put a billion poor people across Africa, Asia and Latin America at risk, warned William Dar, director general of the India-based International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and chair of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification's committee for science and technology. Dar said poor farmers in drylands would find it increasingly more difficult to invest in farming in future. More>>

Reducing pesticides could lower suicide rates
Reducing the use of pesticides that are toxic to humans could lower suicide rates, according to a study in the International Journal of Epidemiology. Researchers from the South Asian Clinical Toxicology Research Collaboration in Sri Lanka and the UK-based University of Bristol report correlation between Sri Lanka's import restrictions and a fall in suicide rates in the country. More>>

Chinese and Indian cities among the most polluted
Two Chinese and two Indian cities earned the dubious honour of being among the world's ten most polluted spots where human health is severely affected. The annual review of the most polluted places in the world was released by the US-based Blacksmith Institute. More>> 

Climate change may sink Maldives
Maldivian president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom warned that most of the archipelago's 1,200 islands could sink or become uninhabitable if the world does not cut greenhouse gas emissions. Three-quarters of the islands are no more than four feet above sea level and projected sea level rise due to global warming puts most of these at risk, Gayoom told Reuters. More>>

Race to the moon
Several countries including China and India are gearing up their programmes to explore the moon and use it as a possible base to explore other planets, scientists reported at the 58th International Astronautical Congress in Hyderabad (24–29 September). More>>

Space-borne tsunami warning system
Scientists from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have suggested a space-borne tsunami warning system as an alternative to current warning systems, which rely on measuring deep ocean pressures. The system, comprising 40 satellites, has a detection time of 30 minutes between an event occurring and a satellite picking up the data and verifying it with other seismic data. More>> [413Kb]

Tiny organism removes industrial effluents
A tiny single-celled organism Euplotes mutabilis, isolated from the industrial wastewater of tanneries in Pakistan, can take up toxic heavy metal pollutants such as chromium, cadmium, lead and copper, say scientists from Pakistan's University of Panjab. The findings, reported in Bioresource Technology, could help remove toxic industrial waste in environmental clean-up operations. More>>

Bacteria useful for oil recovery
A strain of a bacterium isolated from fermented food produces a useful biosurfactant — a substance that reduces surface tensions and stabilises emulsions — useful in crude oil recovery, say scientists from the Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda, India. The study, published in Bioresource Technology, also indicates that the strain is a possible antifungal. More>>

US patent for Chromium removal
Scientists in Hyderabad, India, have been granted a US patent for an invention aimed at the total removal of the highly toxic compound hexavalent chromium from water. Chromium is one of the a common contaminants released as effluent from electroplating and the leather tanning industries. More>>

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