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Below is a round up of news from or about South Asia for the period 5–18 March 2009.

'Bhuvan' to compete with Google Earth
The Indian Space Research Organisation plans to introduce Bhuvan, a web-based service that will allow users to map everything from flood-ravaged villages to forests and cities. Bhuvan, expected to be a local variant of Google Earth, will draw on extensive images taken by ISRO's seven remote sensing satellites in the sky. More>>

South Asia could face weakened monsoon
US scientists predict future temperature rises could delay and weaken the South Asian summer monsoon, impacting agriculture and water resources in the region. The research team used a high-resolution climate model believed to contain the greatest detail about the region to date. More>>

Maldives plans to go carbon neutral
Maldives — a nation of tropical coral islands just 1.5 metres above sea level — plans to become the world's first carbon-neutral country with zero greenhouse gas emissions. It plans a complete switchover from oil to renewable energy within the next decade. More>>

Indian crop institute to be part of world study on wheat rust
An Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) station based in the Nilgiris Hills will form part of a global study on a highly virulent fungus strain that attacks wheat crops. The Ug99 strain of wheat stem rust first appeared in Uganda in 1999 and has since spread across continents. The IARI station has developed a resistant strain that is under trial, while biotechnologists at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University who are using molecular markers to identify genes responsible for rust resistance will also be partners in the study. More>>

Stress proteins help dengue virus multiply
Cells infected with dengue virus produce more 'stress' or heat shock proteins that help the virus multiply. Heat shock proteins are a group of proteins whose levels increase at high temperatures or other stress conditions for cells. When scientists suppressed expression of these proteins, dengue virus multiplication also decreased. The findings from cell studies indicate potential new treatment agents for dengue, a disease that poses a risk to 2.5 billion people globally, mainly in developing countries. More>>

Agroforestry helps trap carbon
Agroforestry — growing crops and livestock along with trees and shrubs — can help trap carbon and reduce greenhouse warming. An analysis by Indian and US scientists shows 5–10 kilograms of carbon per hectare can be captured in about 25 years in extensive tree-intercropping systems of arid and semiarid lands. More>>

Japan to assist Bhutan glacial melting study; Indian glacier melts
Japan will provide technology and know-how and fund a US$2 million project in Bhutan's Lunana region and Mangdechu basin to study the effect of global warming on the country's glaciers. The project will fund a satellite system to identify high-risk lakes, a GIS mapping tool for hazard identification and training for Bhutan glaciologists. Meanwhile, another Himalayan glacier, Siachen, the centre of conflict between India and Pakistan, has shrunk to half its size due to warming. More>> 

Aid for Maldives research on solar, telecom sectors
The Commonwealth and ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) Stratospheric Space Agency (CAASSA) has agreed to provide the Maldives access to a US$56 million fund for a research and development facility to help the country produce solar energy and improve its telecom services. More>>

Maldives extends moratorium on reef shark fishing
The Maldives' ministry of fisheries and agriculture has extended a 10-year moratorium — first imposed in 1998 — on reef shark fishing to cover the whole of the Maldives. The move is part of the country's attempts to protect sharks, which multiply at a very slow rate and cannot withstand fishing pressure. Shark fins are a lucrative market in Asia and the government plans to find alternative livelihoods for thousands of poor fishermen engaged in shark fishing. Elsewhere in the country, the government's plan to develop an international standard port at Maamgili poses the risk of destroying its primary whale shark site. More>>

Salt-loving alga gives more polymers
The red alga Dunaliella salina is a potential candidate for industrial and biotechnological use. As scientists increased the salt concentration in lab studies, the alga — found in sea salt fields — produced higher levels of a range of polymers. The scientists call for further exploration of D. salina as a potential producer of polymers. More>>

Aerosol gradients along Indian coasts clues to regional climate
Scientists have measured the gradients of layers of aerosols — fine solid or liquid particles — along the east and west coasts of India and identified regions that help transport of aerosols across a continent. The measurement and impact of the aerosol gradients between coastal landmass and adjacent oceans during summer and pre-monsoon months is significant to the regional climate, they report. More>>

Afghanistan's mineral treasure
Afghanistan is sitting on a storehouse of minerals, says its foreign minister quoting a survey by the US Geological Survey. The country has all the minerals found in nature except diamonds, according to Afghanistan's mines minister. 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]).

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