China lowers number of missing in landslide to 73

27 Jun

The number of people missing from a huge landslide that buried a mountain village in southwest China last weekend has been revised down from 93 to 73, authorities said Tuesday.The confirmed number of dead remained at 10 after heavy rain brought down th…

Hong Kong shark art protests at fin trade

27 Jun

A towering shark fin sculpture is the latest addition to Hong Kong’s harbourfront as part of an artistic push against the infamous trade. Hong Kong is one of the world’s biggest markets for shark fin, which is viewed by many Asians as a delicacy and is…

Greenland now a major driver of rising seas: study

26 Jun

Ocean levels rose 50 percent faster in 2014 than in 1993, with meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet now supplying 25 percent of total sea level increase compared with just five percent 20 years earlier, researchers reported Monday.The findings add to…

Successful SpaceX launch delivers satellites into orbit

26 Jun

The American company SpaceX on Sunday successfully placed 10 satellites for the communications company Iridium into orbit using a Falcon 9 rocket.After launching as scheduled from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 1:25 pm local time (2025 …

Study: egg shape depends on flying skills of bird

23 Jun

The rich variety in shapes of the eggs that birds lay — elliptical, pointy, spherical — seems to be linked to how well a given bird flies, researchers report.The study released Thursday in the US journal Science stems from the most extensive research…

Zimbabwe begins mass transfer of animals to Mozambique

22 Jun

The animals won’t travel two-by-two, but thousands of safari stalwarts will soon begin their journeys from Zimbabwe to Mozambique in one of Africa’s largest ever wildlife transfers.Fifty elephants, 100 giraffes, 200 zebras and 200 buffaloes will be amo…

Anger in Nigeria’s south over oil spill clean-up delay

22 Jun

Under a leaden sky in oil-rich southern Nigeria, young men hang around with nothing to do, covering their noses from the noxious fumes of the polluted swamp.

The sight in Bodo, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) southeast of Port Harcourt, is repeated in communities elsewhere in the maze of creeks that criss-cross Ogoniland.

One year after the launch of a much-heralded clean-up programme, the oil slicks which blackened the waters, killed the fish and ruined the mangroves remain untouched.

Locals, deprived of their livelihoods from fishing and farming, and with the billions of dollars extracted from under them channelled elsewhere, are angry and frustrated.

“The progress made on the Ogoni clean-up is known only to the government,” said Fegalo Nsuke, from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People pressure group.

“The people of Ogoni still cannot have access to safe drinking water, not to talk of electricity, basic schools and roads,” he told AFP.

– Environmental disaster –

In January 2015, there were hopes Ogoniland’s luck was changing after Shell agreed to pay £55 million ($70 million, 63 million euros) in compensation to more than 15,500 Bodo people.

The Anglo-Dutch energy giant also agreed to start a clean up of two devastating oil spills in 2008, following a three-year British legal battle that was settled out of court.

In June 2016, Nigeria’s Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo formally launched the project, which the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said could take 30 years.

So far, however, only $10 million of the initial $1 billion programme has been released.

Since then, a governing council and trust fund have been set up, and a project coordinator appointed, but no equipment has been moved to the sites, residents say.

Drinking water is still not fit for human consumption.

“The fact is that Ogoni still drinks poisoned water and remains polluted and these cannot be changed by internal processes and media promotions,” said Nsuke.

“Our people are frustrated,” added Livinus Kiebel, chairman of the Bodo council of chiefs.

“The environment is completely devastated.”

– Fish and carcinogens –

Ignatius Feegha, 41, used to catch fish as a child in the waterways of the Niger Delta.

“I used to wake up around 5:00 am with my father to fish and would come back with baskets of fish before going to school,” said the civil servant.

Today, fishermen are lucky to catch even periwinkles.

Standing near a jetty, Buddy Pango holds up a plastic bottle filled with discoloured water as the heavens open and a boat heading to the Bonny Island natural gas plant speeds by.

“We can’t see no fish in this water because the water is stained with crude oil,” he said. “Before we can get some fish, we (must) go to the ocean and it is very far.”

In places like Ogale, wells and boreholes are contaminated with the carcinogen benzene at levels more than 900 times above the recommended World Health Organization limit.

Signs beside boreholes warn residents not to drink the water.

“Every week, at least five people die because of cancer and respiratory diseases,” said community leader Dandyson Nwawala.

– Clean-up suspended –

Roman Catholic priest Father Abel Agbulu, who has been mediating between Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary and Bodo locals, said the clean-up could have started earlier but for opposition from some youths.

He said the youths who were unemployed insisted on being paid the money instead of allowing Shell to give the job to contractors.

“The youths said they wanted money instead. So Shell, which had already engaged two companies to do the job, had to back out,” he added.

Agbulu said Shell was not ready to give cash to the youths and since they would not allow the contractors to handle the job, decided to suspend the clean-up.

The head of the government-appointed Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), Marvin Dekil, said training local workers in the required skills is taking time.

“We don’t want… to rush it and get it done in a wrong way,” he explained.

In the meantime, some locals have taken matters into their own hands and begun planting trees to try to restore the damaged mangroves.

The United Nations Development Programme’s representative in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, visited Ogoniland last week and called for patience.

“This is a very technical investment, it is not a rural type of investment where you are going to see houses built within a short period of time,” he said.

How long they will have to wait is anyone’s guess.

Pakistani citizens gasp for clean air

22 Jun

Furhan Hussain moved to Islamabad seeking fresher air, only to find Pakistan’s leafy capital in a semi-permanent haze. Frustrated, he joined a vanguard of citizens monitoring pollution themselves amid a void in government data.Fast-growing Pakistan is …

New therapy for macular degeneration shows promise: study

21 Jun

An experimental treatment may significantly slow the progression of the blindness-causing disorder macular degeneration, in what would mark the first therapy of its kind, research showed Wednesday.There are currently no available treatments to stymie m…

EU migration to Britain falls sharply: study

21 Jun

The number of people moving to Britain from Eastern Europe has fallen by around a third since the Brexit vote, according to a study released Wednesday that suggested the plunge in the pound could be to blame.The study focused on eight countries that be…

Europe OKs project to seek alien life

21 Jun

Europe has approved the launch of a deep-space observatory to sniff out habitable planets in other star systems, along with any life forms they may host.”The PLATO mission will address fundamental questions such as ‘how common are Earth-like planets?’ …

Vietnam environment official sacked over mass fish kill

21 Jun

A senior Vietnamese environment official has been fired for negligence over a toxic waste dump that killed tonnes of fish in a major environmental crisis last year, according to officials and state media.Luong Duy Hanh, director of Vietnam’s Environmen…

Scientists to explore meltwater at Greenland Cold War camp

20 Jun

Scientists in Denmark plan an expedition to Greenland’s remote northwest to measure how fast ice is melting around a Cold War-era US military base, which risks leaking toxic waste into the environment.Resembling something from a James Bond film, US arm…

Lightning kills 22 in Bangladesh

20 Jun

Lightning strikes have killed at least 22 people in Bangladesh in the last 48 hours, authorities said Tuesday, a week after monsoon rains triggered a series of deadly landslides in the country.The deaths came as storms swept the country on Sunday and M…

Climate imperils Ethiopia’s coffee output: study

19 Jun

Climate change could wipe out more than half of Ethiopia’s coffee production unless farmers move to higher ground, scientists warned Monday.Climbing temperatures and dwindling rainfall have already degraded prime growing areas, such as the Zege Peninsu…

NASA discovers 10 new Earth-size exoplanets

19 Jun

NASA revealed Monday 10 new rocky, Earth-sized planets that could potentially have liquid water and support life.The Kepler mission team released a survey of 219 potential exoplanets — planets outside of our solar system — that had been detected by t…

Religious leaders join forces to protect rainforests

19 Jun

Religious leaders around the world met Monday in Oslo to urge further efforts to fight deforestation that is wiping out thousands of square kilometres of rainforests each year. Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and Jewish leaders are meeting i…

Portugal risks more and more deadly fires: experts

19 Jun

Highly exposed to global warming’s climate-altering impacts, Portugal is likely to see more massive forest fires such as the one — still raging — that has killed at least 60 people this weekend, experts say.- Why Portugal, why now? -The Iberian penin…

EU ‘deeply regrets’ US Paris climate pact withdrawal

19 Jun

The European Union on Monday blasted US President Donald Trump for pulling out of the Paris climate change pact and said Brussels would continue to lead efforts to prevent global warming.Trump caused outrage when he withdrew the United States — one of…

Boeing, Airbus take dogfight to Paris Air Show

17 Jun

The aircraft industry descends on Paris Monday for the world’s biggest airshow, a prime battleground for bitter rivals Boeing and Airbus, but also a chance for new kids on the block to snap at the heels of the two giants.Single-aisle planes for short a…

Warmer climate threatens malaria spread in Ethiopia: study

14 Jun

Cool, high-lying areas of Ethiopia hitherto shielded from heat-loving malaria mosquitoes are increasingly exposed to the disease as the climate warms, researchers said Thursday.Most Ethiopians live in the country’s highlands, and have long enjoyed natu…

New Amazon dams would be ‘massively’ destructive: study

14 Jun

Building the 428 hydroelectric dams proposed for Brazil’s Amazon basin — three times the existing number — would devastate the environment and could even disrupt regional weather, an international team of researchers warned Wednesday.Writing in the j…

EU’s Juncker says no Paris climate deal renegotiation

14 Jun

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday rejected US President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the Paris climate pact could be renegotiated.Trump’s decision two weeks ago to pull out of the landmark pact was “a sign of abdication from …

Japan kicks off Pacific whaling campaign

14 Jun

Japan on Wednesday kicked off a whaling campaign in the northwestern Pacific, in a move sure to anger animal rights activists and others calling for an end to the hunts.Three ships are leaving port on a three-month mission to catch 43 minke whales and …

Russia launches space freighter to ISS

14 Jun

Russia on Wednesday launched an unmanned Progress cargo ship carrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.”The Soyuz-2.1A booster rocket with the Progress MS-06 cargo ship launched successfully f…

Weak and awaiting worse: villagers fear S.Sudan famine

14 Jun

South Sudan’s northwest is untouched by civil war, yet hunger still wreaks havoc: here food shortages are cyclical and the annual “hunger gap” is about to begin.About 800 kilometres (500 miles) from Juba, where a new conflict erupted in late 2013, the …

Giant flying turkey once roamed Australia

14 Jun

A giant, flying turkey as tall as a kangaroo once roamed Australia, palaeontologists said Wednesday, after an analysis of fossils and bones from around the country revealed five extinct bird species.A team from Flinders University in South Australia sa…

Malaysia seizes 300kg of pangolin scales

13 Jun

Malaysian customs officers have seized almost 300 kilograms of pangolin scales being smuggled through the main airport, officials said on Tuesday.The 288-kilogram (635 pound) haul was found at Kuala Lumpur International Airport last Friday in 12 boxes …

Japan zoo celebrates birth of panda cub

12 Jun

A Japanese zoo celebrated the first birth of a baby panda in five years Monday, with the tiny cub small enough to fit in the palm of a human hand.Eleven-year-old mum Shin Shin gave birth just before noon, officials at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo said in a stateme…

Hong Kong activists dress as sharks to protest finning

10 Jun

Dozens of activists Saturday dressed in bloody costumes sprawled outside one of Hong Kong’s most popular restaurants linked to the sale of shark fin soup to protest against the killing of the marine predators.The southern Chinese city is one of the wor…

Ailing white tiger put down in Singapore Zoo

8 Jun

A rare white tiger involved in the 2008 killing of a zoo worker has been put down after suffering from skin cancer and joint degeneration, the Singapore Zoo said Thursday. Omar, who would have turned 18 in September, or the equivalent of 88 in human ye…

Pence hails new NASA astronauts as ‘best of us’

7 Jun

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday hailed 12 new NASA astronauts as “the best of us,” after they were selected from a record-breaking pool of more than 18,000 applicants.The seven men and five women who will be part of the US space program as it pr…

Obama praises US cities, states, for climate change stand

7 Jun

Former US president Barack Obama praised US states and cities for maintaining measures against climate change in a fresh jab at his successor’s decision to quit the Paris accord.Addressing a crowd of 6,000 in Montreal Tuesday, he argued that his admini…

Czech scientists see growing risk of asteroid hitting Earth

6 Jun

The risk is growing that Earth will be hit by an asteroid from a meteor stream known as the Taurids, Czech astronomers said on Tuesday.

The astronomers, from the Czech Academy of Sciences, drew their conclusion after analysing 144 bolides — large meteors that explode in the atmosphere — from the Taurids and detecting a new branch with at least two asteroids measuring 200-300 metres (220-330 yards) in diameter.

“Most probably, the branch also includes many undetected asteroids which are dozens of metres in diameter or larger,” the Czech academy said in a press release.

“Hence, the danger of a crash with an asteroid grows markedly once every few years that the Earth encounters this stream of inter-planetary material.”

The new branch comprises objects moving together around the Sun, and the Earth encounters it once every few years for a period of about three weeks.

“During this period, the probability of a collision with a larger object (of about dozens of metres in diameter) is markedly higher,” the Academy said.

The asteroids are very fragile, but when they are this large they may penetrate deep into the atmosphere and pose a real threat of collision with Earth, it added.

The study urges further research to obtain “a better description of this real source of potentially hazardous objects large enough to cause a local or even continental disaster.”

The paper is available on the Astronomy & Astrophysics website (https://www.aanda.org/component/article?access=doi&doi=10.1051/0004-6361/201730787) pending publication in its renowned journal.

Exit has ‘galvanized’ US support behind Paris accord

5 Jun

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord has unwittingly “galvanized support” for American action to limit global warming, Canada’s environment minister said Monday.In an interview with AFP, Environment Mini…

Skin cure fad driving Myanmar elephant poaching surge: WWF

5 Jun

Myanmar’s wild elephants are being poached in record numbers with at least 20 killed this year due to surging demand for their hide, WWF said Monday, warning the species is facing a “crisis”.Hunters are increasingly targeting mothers and calves, using …

India shows off space prowess with launch of mega rocket

5 Jun

India’s most powerful homegrown rocket to date is set to launch Monday, another milestone for its indigenous space programme that one day hopes to put a man into orbit.The 43-metre (140-foot) rocket is scheduled to lift off just before 5:30 pm (1200 GM…

Iran says Trump’s climate pact withdrawal will isolate US

4 Jun

Iran on Sunday joined the international chorus of criticism against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, saying it would further isolate the United States. “The withdrawal of the United States from the Paris a…

African Union offers full support for UN climate deal

3 Jun

The African Union (AU) on Saturday joined the chorus of disapproval at US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the landmark Paris climate deal, expressing its full support for the initiative.The current head of the regional grouping, Guinea…