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Earth News: Week Ending January 12, 2007

Polluted Cleansing
Photo: Popular ... 70 million
people converge on the Ganges
to wash away their sins as part
of the Ardh Kumbh Mela, or
Half Pitcher Festival.
Pictures: Reuters
The waters of the Ganges
River, considered sacred
to those of the Hindu faith,
have become so polluted
that sadhus, Indian holy men, are
warning the faithful not to bathe in
the waterway during an upcoming
religious festival. Thousands of sadhus
demanded that the river be
cleaned up before the next celebrated
bathing day on Jan. 14. The water ...
is so dirty that no one can take a dip.
It is dark red whereas the Ganges used
to be bluish green,. Shankaracharya
Vasudevanand Saraswati, who heads
the main Hindu monastery in the holy
city of Allahabad, told reporters.
Many believe the waters of the
Ganges wash away sins, free bathers
from a continuous cycle of birth and
reincarnation and guarantee immortality.

Fish Farm Escapes
A record number of trout
and salmon escaped from
Norwegian fish farms
during 2006, prompting
wildlife officials and environmental
organizations to warn of a mounting
threat to wild fish stocks in the open
oceans. The Norwegian Directorate
of Fisheries cautions that fish raised
on farms are carriers of parasites such
as sea lice, which can infect wild
salmon and other marine life. The
consequences are dramatic for
salmon,. Norwegian Association of
Hunters and Anglers spokesman
Espen Farstad told public broadcaster
NRK. The farmed salmon invade the
rivers and breed with the wild
salmon, which cannot cope,. he
added. Rasmus Hansson, secretary
general of the conservation group
WWF Norway, said authorities
should publish a list of fish farms that
have failed to prevent farmed fish
from escaping into the wild so buyers
may avoid their products.

Silent Dawn
Thousands of birds have
dropped dead out of the
sky around the Western
Australia beach town of
Esperance during the past three
weeks, leaving wildlife experts baffled
as to the cause. The main victims
have been wattlebirds, yellowthroated
miners and two species of
honeyeaters, but dead crows, pigeons
and hawks have also been found.
Some birds were seen convulsing as
they died. The Department of Environment
and Conservation says it has
almost ruled out disease, and a toxin
is considered the most likely cause of
the deaths. Residents say there are no
songbirds of any type left around the
community, leaving an eerie silence
at dawn due to their absence.

Nicaraguan Ash Plume
Photo: Telica Volcano-
Photo by Jaime Incer, 1991
The first eruption of
Nicaragua's Telica volcano
in two years sent
columns of ash soaring
above the rim of the 3,576-foot
mountain's crater. The country's
national Institute of Territorial Studies
said the eruption was accompanied
by a rise in seismic tremors, and
it advised authorities to be on alert for
additional activity. Telica is located
near Nicaragua's second-largest city
of Leon, in the east of the country.
Yucatan Swarms
Large swarms of locusts
descended on the Mexican
state of Yucatan,
threatening to devour
more than 12,000 acres of vegetation.
The Yucatan Social Development
Ministry said the insects are encountering
optimum conditions for reproduction
in remote forested areas,
where it is virtually impossible to
combat the swarms. Experts fear the
locusts could spread into the nearby
states of Campeche and Tabasco.

Earthquakes
Photo: A helicopter laden with
relief materials arrives at Dillay village,
in the Allai valley of North West Frontier
Province (NWFP) January 14, 2007
Thousands of buildings
were damaged in central
China's Gansu province
by a relatively weak earthquake.
There were no immediate
reports of injuries or fatalities from
the magnitude 4.3 tremor, which was
felt strongly around the provincial
capital of Lanzhou.
A magnitude 6 earthquake
caused buildings to crack in southern
Kyrgyzstan, but no injuries were
reported due to the shaking.
Earth movements were also felt
in northeastern Japan, southern
Spain, the Aleutian Islands, southern
Yukon and neighboring southeastern
Alaska and southeastern Oklahoma.

Whooping Recovery
Numbers of the once critically
endangered whooping
crane have recovered
from only about 15 in the
1940s to a record 237 birds seen this
year in wintering grounds along the
Texas Gulf Coast. Combined with the
number of birds raised in captivity for
reintroduction to the wild, and those
in zoos, the crane population now
numbers 518. The birds were nearly
wiped out by hunting, loss of grasslands
and the draining of wetlands
from the late 1800s until the onset of
World War II. International conservation
efforts during the past few
decades have resulted in a steady rise
in the number of crane births.
Wildlife officials say 45 of North
America.s tallest birds were born last
year alone. U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service biologist Tom Stehn credited
the latest increase in births to mild
weather at the cranes. summer nesting
grounds in northern Canada.s
Wood Buffalo National Park. Full Story


Earth News: A Journal of the Planet
Week Ending January 12, 2007

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