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Below is a round up of news from or about South Asia for the period 16–30 April 2008.

Indian genome study finds ethnic difference
The largest study of genetic variation in India has found a high degree of genetic difference between Indian ethnic groups. Scientists say the data from the Indian Genome Variation project can be used to predict the risk of developing certain diseases and a person's response to drugs. More>> [951kB]

Sri Lankan scientists develop mongoose landmine-sniffing system
Scientists from the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka have designed an animal-robot system for landmine detection. The mongoose "sniffs" the landmine and weighs less than the threshold to set it off; while the robot helps guide the mongoose along specific paths and communicates data and images to a remote location. More>> [1.95MB]

Bhutan to install sensors against glacial lake bursts
Bhutan plans to install three types of early warning sensors against glacial lake outbursts in the Himalayan mountains. One will pick up glacial lake water pressure, another rising water levels and the third ground vibrations. More>>

Indian rocket blasts ten satellites into space
A home-made Indian rocket, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C9), has become the country's first to shoot ten satellites into space. The 690-kilogram remote sensing satellite CARTOSAT-2A, the 83-kilogram remote sensing Indian Mini Satellite, and eight nanosatellites weighing 3–16 kilograms were sent into orbit. More>>

Expedition combines research and mountaineering
A unique expedition has kicked off in Nepal to combine mountaineering and research. The Eco Everest 2008 initiative aims to raise awareness of the impact of climate change in the Himalayas. It's partner the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development will collect data on melting Himalayan glaciers and swelling glacial lakes. More>>

New rotavirus strain hits Delhi
New strains of the diarrhoea-causing bug rotavirus have hit India's capital Delhi. The new G12 strains, first detected in 2001, have now become the predominant strain in the city. Experts are worried they could affect current rotavirus vaccination programmes in the country. More>>

Faulty gene and arsenic susceptibility
A faulty repair mechanism in genetic material could make a person susceptible to arsenic poisoning and the subsequent development of skin lesions. Scientists found that people with a faulty gene developed lesions after exposure to arsenic, while those with the normal version of the gene were lesion-free after exposure to similar levels. More>>

Aloe vera 'has anti-diabetic properties'
The cactus-like plant Aloe vera — widely found in arid regions — has anti-diabetic properties, say Indian scientists. Blood glucose levels in diabetic rats fed on Aloe vera extracts returned to normal and the condition of their liver, pancreas and small intestines improved. More>> [194kB]

Maternal vitamin A deficiency 'leads to low birth weights'
Maternal night blindness, a common condition caused by vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy in many developing countries, can lead to low birth weight in babies. It also affects the growth of infants and makes them more prone to infections, an Indian study has found. More>>

Mangrove project underway in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is forging ahead with a project to conserve its mangroves. The Mangroves for the Future project, launched by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the UN Development Programme, gives small grants for conservation of mangroves. The project is also underway in India, Indonesia, the Maldives and the Seychelles. More>>

Climate change 'will not affect Maldives tourism'
President of the Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said that while cutting emissions to reduce the impact of climate change is important, the islands will not cut its air travel-dependent tourism industry. The UN climate change panel predicts sea levels will rise by 60 centimetres by 2100, and tiny islands like many in the Maldives could be wiped out. More>>

Compiled by T. V. Padma. Additional reporting by Sanjit Bagchi.

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]).

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