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The future Pacific Island children want

© Neena Bhandari, Inter Press Service

For 13-year-old Karen Semens, growing up on Pohnpei -- one of the four main island states in the Federated States of Micronesia, which comprises of more than 600 islands in the western Pacific Ocean -- the main challenge is being a girl. “In our culture, girls don’t have the same rights and opportunities nor do they get credit and recognition for their achievements as boys do. This prevents us from speaking our minds. For example in family meetings, only men make the decisions. I would like all girls to be treated as equals and have a say in decision making,” the 8th grade pupil from the Ohmine Public Elementary school in Pohnpei, tells IPS.

Bushfires Hasten the Death Knell of many Australian Native Animals and Plants

© Neena Bhandari, Inter Press Service

The chatter of cockatoos and lorikeets has given way to an eerie silence in smoke enveloped charred landscapes across south-eastern Australia. The unrelenting bushfires have driven many native animal and plant species to the brink of extinction and made several fauna more vulnerable with vast swathes of their habitat incinerated. As many as 13 native animal and bird species may become locally extinct following the devastating bushfires, according to an initial analysis by national environment organisations, including the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Australia.

Australia’s Bushfires Bring Mounting Pressure to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

© Neena Bhandari, Inter Press Service

As nature’s fury wreaked havoc across Australia, reducing to ashes all that came in its way – people, flora, fauna, picturesque historic towns and villages once popular with local and overseas tourists – it was unlike anything the country had witnessed before. The staggering scale and intensity of the devastation could best be summed up as apocalyptic. Bushfires, not uncommon in Australia’s vast woodland, scrub or grassland areas, started early in September with summer still few months away (December – February), igniting a fresh debate on the country’s woeful record on climate change. 2019 was the country’s driest and hottest year on record with the temperature reaching 1.52 °C above the long-term average.

New way to stop falciparum malaria transmission

© Neena Bhandari,

Australian scientists have successfully blocked the deadliest malaria parasite —- Plasmodium falciparum — in its transmission stage, paving the way for developing preventative therapies to stop the spread of the disease. Lead researcher Justin Boddey from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and University of Melbourne says, “We have built on our previous studies, where we identified in the P. falciparum parasite an enzyme called plasmepsin V, an enzyme essential for the parasite to grow inside red blood cells. We showed that if you inhibit the enzyme’s activity then you can kill the parasites as they are growing in red blood cells.” The new findings, published 18 December in Cell Reports, show that plasmepsin V is also essential in a subset of parasites called gametocytes (sexual form of the malaria parasite) that transition to infect the mosquito.

Global disasters linked to warming Indo-Pacific oceans

© Neena Bhandari,

Rapid warming of the Indo-Pacific Ocean is impacting global rainfall patterns and corresponding weather, which may be linked to East Asian floods, African droughts and frequent California fires, according to a study published in the journal Nature on 27th November. Lead author and climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune (India), Roxy Mathew Koll says, “The Indo-Pacific warm pool, a region between the eastern Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean, with ocean temperatures generally warmer than 28 degree Centigrade, has been warming since the 1900s. But during 1981-2018, it has expanded to double in size at the rate of about 400,000 per year or the size of Thailand or Spain”.

Australia’s ‘Quit Nukes’ Campaign Targets Superannuation Funds

© Neena Bhandari, InDepth News Analysis

A new campaign is encouraging Australians to urge their superannuation funds to exclude nuclear weapons producers from their investments, consistent with the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which has been ratified by 33 states and needs another 17 ratifications to become enforceable under international law – 90 days after the fiftieth instrument of ratification. A joint initiative of the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) and International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the Quit Nukes campaign is an Australian project that works in collaboration with Pax, the producers of the annual ‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb’ report, which documents the global financing of nuclear weapons.

The invisible people

© Neena Bhandari, The Week

Australia is a sought-after destination for Indian students, travellers and skilled migrants from India, but it is a little-known fact that Indians also come here to seek asylum. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), population statistics based on data received from the Australian government, 51 asylum seekers from India in Australia were found to be refugees in 2018. Many of them are waiting to be resettled; others have been waiting for their asylum claims to be processed, some for six years or more, in Australia’s offshore immigration facilities in the Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru.

What does the future hold for Australia’s biggest urban park?

© Neena Bhandari, Foreground Magazine

Greater Western Sydney has one of the fastest growing populations in Australia. Currently home to 1.9 million people, the region’s population is projected to reach three million by 2036. This population growth and related development poses potential challenges to the preservation of what is the largest urban parkland in Australia, the Western Sydney Parklands (WSP). The 5280-hectare Western Sydney Parklands area stretches 27 kilometres from Quakers Hill to Leppington, running through the local government areas of Blacktown, Fairfield and Liverpool. It is 25 times the size of Centennial Park in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, and similar in scale to the Lee Valley Park in London (United Kingdom) and Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto (Canada).

 We South Asians are made up of hundreds of identities and we must fight to protect all of them: Fatima Bhutto

 © Neena Bhandari, Press Trust of India 

Acclaimed Pakistani author Fatima Bhutto, who believes the way to combat fundamentalists is to celebrate the co-existence of more than one culture, says South Asians are made up of hundreds of identities and we must fight to protect all of them. The 36-year-old granddaughter of the late Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto delivered the closing address at the Sydney Writers’ Festival on May 5. She speaks to Neena Bhandari/PTI about her latest book "The Runaways", what drives young people to become radicals, how the violence and turbulence in Pakistan during her growing up years taught her to be brave and why western countries must take responsibility for their citizens who have been convicted.

ऑस्ट्रेलिया में एशियाई मूल के छात्रों के साथ क्यों होता है यौन शोषण?

© Neena Bhandari, BBC Hindi

रिया सिंह (बदला हुआ नाम) रोज़ाना की तरह सिडनी सेंट्रल स्टेशन से अपनी यूनिवर्सिटी जा रहीं थीं. जैसे ही वो पहले से भरी हुई यूनिवर्सिटी बस में चढ़ीं एक पुरुष कर्मचारी ने उन्हें धक्का देना और सहलाना शुरू कर दिया. "बीस मिनट की यात्रा के दौरान ये सब चलता रहा. मुझे बहुत बुरा लगा लेकिन मैं डरी हुई थी. मुझे पता नहीं था कि क्या करूं, किसके पास जाऊं. मैंने इस बारे में किसी को नहीं बताया क्योंकि मैं नहीं चाहती थी कि मेरे अभिभावकों को कुछ पता चले, वो शायद समझते भी नहीं. ये ऐसी बात भी नहीं थी कि मैं अपने छोटे भाई से साझा कर सकूं. मैंने अपनी सबसे क़रीबी दोस्त से इस बारे में बात की, वो भी नहीं समझ पाई कि क्या किया जाए." 2017 में ऑस्ट्रेलियन यूनिवर्सटी में यौन हमलों और यौन उत्पीड़न पर ऑस्ट्रेलियाई मानवाधिकार आयोग ने एक राष्ट्रीय रिपोर्ट प्रकाशित की थी. इस रिपोर्ट का नाम था- चेंज कोर्स. ये घटना इस रिपोर्ट के आने से कुछ दिन पहले की ही है.

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It was never in Jamsetji Tata's ken

© Neena Bhandari, Business Standard, India

ImageThe Tata Group of companies has made big forays into Australia, investing and expanding in various sectors from mining to information technology. Historically too, remote though it may now be, Tata Steel has a connection to the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, which contains 50,000 tonnes of steel. Close to 80 per cent of the steel used in the bridge, spanning 1,650 ft (503 metre), was made by Teesside Company Dorman Long, which became part of British Steel Corporation after World War II. In 1999, British Steel merged with a Dutch company, Hoogovens, to become Corus. In 2007, Corus was bought by Tata Steel.

Tata Steel has had an office in Brisbane since 2000. The original name was Tata International, since deregistered. The principal business activity has been procurement of steel-making raw material in Australasia, predominantly metallurgical coal, for the steel operations in Jamshedpur. “These volumes have continued to grow and are now in the millions of tonnes. Additionally, Tata Steel Resources was tasked with identifying investment opportunities in metallurgical coal mines and made its first overseas coal mine investment in Carborough Downs, central Queensland, in 2005 with a five per cent equity stake. We are now actively identifying new investment opportunities to the increasing metallurgical requirements for the steel mill expansions in India for the next 10 years and beyond,” Bryan Granzien, chief executive officer, Tata Steel Resources Australia Pvt Ltd, said.

Sydney breaks bread with Sangrur - the wheat link

© Neena Bhandari, Business Standard, India

ImageWheat collaboration between Australia and India is likely to be extended, after experiments combining strengths in each other’s varieties show rising promise.

India and Australia are collaborating on research to enhance the volume and quality of grown wheat. The five-year bilateral programme on marker-assisted wheat breeding concludes in May 2012 but is set to be extended.

It has been exploring molecular technologies, management practices and more heat-tolerant cultivars, to face the challenges of climate change. India and Australia are particularly vulnerable to increasing temperatures, warns a leading Australian wheat scientist.

"In Australia, wheat is rain-fed and will be adversely affected by the combined impact of higher temperatures and drought. In India, increasing temperature linked with lowering water tables would mean farmers will be unable to irrigate with the current frequency. This will result in difficult production conditions and reduction in total yield,” says Richard Trethowan, director, A Watson Grains Research Centre, University of Sydney. India is the second largest producer of wheat and Australia seventh in the world. India produces all its consumption; Australia is the second largest global exporter of wheat and, so, a major contributor to global food security.

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