Public hearing details for Nirma Cement Plant held at Padhiarka, Mahuva Dist, Bhavnagar.

As the World Day to Combat Desertification is being observed on Tuesday, the government says it has launched a full-scale project on sustainable land management (SLM) to combat desertification. The programme is being implemented for a period of two years from 2008 to 2009 to protect and restore ecosystem and essential ecosystem services that are key to reducing poverty.

Farmers along the Gujarat coast should have been rejoicing at the prospect of a timely monsoon. Instead, they have suddenly become gloomy after unnaturally aggressive high tides have filled their fields and ponds with saline seawater. Many fear a drinking water crisis as their ponds, meant to store fresh rain water, are now brimming over with saline water. Farmers say they may not be able to cultivate anything for years together as their fields have become saline.

Speakers at a discussion meeting on Monday called for protecting the coastal ring embankments immediately to ensure safe livelihood of marginal farmers and fishermen in the region. They also demanded immediate repair of the damaged embankments to save the lives of marginal people, saying that most damaged portions of the embankments were hindered mainly by the owners of saline water shrimp enclosures.

People in almost all the villages under Dakope upazila in Khulna are suffering acute crisis of drinking water in the current summer. Water of all the tube wells excepting a few in the upazila are not safe for drinking as it is contaminated with arsenic and contains high salinity, local people said. Besides, most of the pond sand filters (PSF) installed by the Department of Public Health Engineering remain inoperative, worsening the situation, they said.

Agricultural experts and scientists at a conference demanded that a permanent National Commission on Soil and Water Salinity (NCSWS) should be constituted to coordinate the Research and Development (R&D) work on salinity being carried out presently by different provincial and national institutes.

Salinity is the acute problem of Pakistan as 26 percent of the irrigated agricultural area is affected with this menace, Director General, Ayub Agricultural Research Institute, Dr Muhammad Rashid told a two-day international conference on "recent techniques for abating soil and water salinity," here on Thursday. He told agricultural scientists and those from Oman and Australia in his keynote address on "management of salt affected soils and brackish water" that salinity was global problem and out of 230 million hectare irrigated land of the world, 45 million hectare was salt affected.

A recent study conducted on the stunted growth of mangrove vegetation in the Sundarbans spells doom for Kolkata and parts of south Bengal in the event of a major storm like hurricane Sidr. The study comprising compilation of data regarding salinity, tidal amplitude, turbidity coupled with quantum of dissolved oxygen in the local river water points a warning finger towards the city and the unsuspecting inhabitants living in and around it.

Disasters often help science researchers to understand natural phenomenon closely, and the Asian tsunami is no different.

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