Earthweek: A Diary of the Planet

Himalayan Melt
The ongoing retreat of Himalayan glaciers due to global warming
threatens to cause acute water shortages for hundreds of millions
of people in Asia, according to a report by the World Wide Fund for
Nature (WWF).
Himalayan Melt

The ongoing retreat of Himalayan glaciers due to global warming threatens to cause acute water shortages for hundreds of millions of people in Asia, according to a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Himalayan glaciers feed seven of Asia’s greatest rivers – the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow rivers – bringing a year-round supply of water to the majority of people living in the Indian subcontinent, parts of China and Southeast Asia. The WWF report says the glacial melt will first cause widespread flooding, which will be followed in a few decades by a decline in river flows.

Mexican Eruptions

Western Mexico’s Volcano of Fire erupted with fountains of lava during the latest in a series of colorful eruptions near Colima. A large volcanic explosion sent clouds of hot gasses cascading down several ravines on the mountain. Ash and rocks from the blast fell in the nearby communities of Mazos and Jalisco.

n Mexico’s famed Popocatepetl Volcano sent hot ash and lava down its slopes, igniting fires near the town of San Nicolas de los Ranchos.

Earthquakes

Two separate quakes that rocked eastern Turkey’s Bingol province damaged hundreds of houses in 24 villages. More than 30 people were injured by the tremors.

n Strong aftershocks continued to rock the Sumatra-Andaman Island aftershock zone as seismologists warned that another major earthquake may soon strike the same area devastated by the Dec. 26 temblor and subsequent tsunami.

n Earth movements were also felt in southern Sumatra, western India’s Maharashtra state, East Java, northern and central New Zealand, islands around the Celebes Sea, Japan’s Hokkaido Island and southeast Iran.

Elephant Poaching

Sudan’s army is being accused of slaughtering large numbers of elephants in the strife-torn south of the country, as well as in other unstable areas of Africa. A report by the British-based Care for the Wild International says Sudanese army and pro-government militias had virtually invaded Garamba National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where “the killing of elephants is out of control.” Esmond Martin, a noted elephant researcher with the group, said: “The poachers are mainly members of the Sudanese army who possess the necessary firearms and ammunition … and have access to government transport to move tusks.” China is said to be the largest importer of illegal tusks despite a ban on ivory trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in 1990.

Tropical Cyclones

Cyclone Ingrid made three separate landfalls during a weeklong passage across northern Australia. After drenching Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula, the storm gathered strength over the Gulf of Carpentaria and ripped the roofs off houses and flung trees into other buildings across the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin. Ingrid’s last landfall flattened the Faraway Bay ecotourism resort on Western Australia’s Kimberly coast.

n Cyclone Willy made an arc around northwestern Australia as a threat mainly to shipping lanes.

n Typhoon Roke roared ashore near the central Philippine city of Tacloban. At least five people died due to the storm’s floods and winds.

Thai Drought

A protracted drought in parts of Southeast Asia has become so acute that it is likely to slow Thailand’s economic growth this year. Thailand is the world’s eighth-largest exporter of agricultural products, and has long been the world’s leading exporter of rice. The interior ministry’s disaster management unit says 63 of Thailand’s 76 provinces are currently suffering from the drought, which is affecting about 9.2 million people. Plans for combating the drought range from diverting more water from the Mekong River before it flows into Cambodia and Vietnam to cloud seeding with a technique patented by Thailand’s king.

Baboon Raids

Pilfering of crops by marauding baboons in eastern Uganda has become so frequent and costly that parents have begun keeping their children out of school to help guard the fields. Officials say that 85 percent of school-age children in the district of Busia are staying home due to the threat of baboon raids on farms and gardens. The speaker of Busia’s local legislature, John Mulimba, told reporters that teachers were also staying at home to guard their crops against the hungry primates. The district is seeking help from the Uganda Wildlife Authority in dealing with the baboons, and farmers are being told they should protect their crops by planting thorny trees around gardens and fields.

– By Steve Newman

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