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Hundreds of Afghans wounded by landmines in 2007

Landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) have killed and maimed hundreds of people in Afghanistan in 2007, says the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan. These explosive remnants of war left behind by various military factions during the 90s continue to endanger the lives of civilians.

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SAARC Gender Database launched

A comprehensive data pool on gender issues was launched by the SAARC Secretary General at the inaugural of the recent Sixth South Asian Regional Ministerial Conference by UNIFEM at New Delhi. The Gender Database will provide records on violence against women and trafficking in the South Asia region, and on women’s health and HIV/AIDS.

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SEZ fertiliser project makes farmers stakeholders

As the debate on Special Economic Zones (SEZ) continues, a novel idea has been proposed by the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO) to make farmers direct shareholders in an agri-based food processing venture at Nellore, in southern Andhra Pradesh. SEZs are lands earmarked for industrial growth with massive subsidies granted to capitalists.

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Bleak future for shrimp farmers in Bangladesh

Hundreds of thousands of shrimp farmers face uncertainty as some 6,000 shrimp farms and hatcheries in Bangladesh's cyclone-hit southern districts were washed away. The country’s shrimp exports, a major foreign exchange earner, have suffered an estimated loss of US$ 36 million.

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Growing child abuse a cause of concern in Pakistan

Weak law enforcement and a feudal mindset are some of the reasons for growing child abuse in Pakistan, says a report by Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA). The country is also a major hub for the trafficking of children from South Asia to the Middle East and Europe.

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Debt bondage makes children labour at brick kilns

Young children are forced into labour to produce unbaked bricks at nearly 6,000 brick kilns in Pakistan. Despite laws banning forced labour, the country has over 1.7 million bonded labourers, many of them children, says the International Labour Organisation.

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Bhutan all set for elections

Bhutan’s peaceful transition from absolute to constitutional monarchy will be over with the elections for national assembly on March 24. In December last year, the national council was elected. Two new political parties – The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa and the People's Democratic Party – are in the fray.

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Indian toy industry on revival path

Not long ago there was a time when Chinese toys had invaded Indian markets. However Chinese products are no longer seen as safe to play with. Hand-made toys by Indian artisans are now increasingly becoming popular in international market because of their innovative designs, improved quality and safety.

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Bangladesh gets its first biomass plant

First of its kind in Bangladesh, DreamsPower is a 250 KW biomass gasification facility. Using the rice husk, this will generate renewable electricity and is part of a rural electrification project that will benefit hundreds of thousands of people living in villages.

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Amnesty demands impartial enquiry into Nandigram atrocities

In a recent report, Amnesty International India and Human Rights Watch have demanded an impartial enquiry into all acts of human rights violations that took place in the eastern India’s Nandigram area. Local farmers protesting state acquisition of land had clashed with ruling party supporters, leading to a spurt of violence since early 2007.

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UK to double aid to Myanmar

In wake of Myanmar’s humanitarian crisis and demands by various activist groups, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) has announced doubling its humanitarian aid to £18 million over the next three years. Around one-third of the country's poor survive on less than US$ 1 a day.

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Visual chat facility for Afghan prisoners

A new video-telecommunications system jointly set up by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the US government in Afghanistan's capital Kabul has enabled over 600 prisoners currently held by US forces to be in regular contact with their relatives.

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India fears bird flu spread

Veterinary workers are killing thousands of chickens in two infected districts in West Bengal. As fears of bird flu mount in the eastern Indian state, officials are working hard to cull 400,000 birds in order to contain the spread of the avian virus.

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ADB meet faces boycott

Several organisations from South Asia are opposing the Asian Development Bank’s revision of safeguard policies on environment and resettlement of indigenous people. The Peoples Forum Against the ADB has called for a boycott of the ongoing consultation and held a demonstration outside the venue in New Delhi.

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Sri Lanka ceasefire end could hit aid delivery

As the truce between Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger (LTTE) rebels ends on January 16, humanitarian agencies have raised concern over its possible impact on aid delivery. Fresh violence could affect over a hundred thousand displaced people and put at risk the safety of its workers, say agencies.

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Selective consultation irks Indian fishermen

The Indian fishing communities are upset with the Ministry of Environment and Forests on being left out of the consultation process over an Integrated Coastal Zone Management scheme under World Bank guidelines. They say the government is trying to bring in Special Economic Zones, tourist resorts and ports all along India's coastline.

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Human rights group renews boycott call on Burma's gems

Human rights advocates are urging consumers and merchants to shun Burmese gems at the military government's latest auction of precious stones. Human Rights Watch has attacked the gem trade for propping up the military dictatorship and it is felt that western boycotts could significantly hamper the junta’s profits.

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A ‘wasted’ childhood

A study conducted in Pune, a city in western Indian state of Maharashtra, shows that most of the waste-picking is carried out by children. Those who should be spending their time playing and attending schools are forced by circumstances to take up a hazardous profession at a tender age.

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Bangladesh local filter to combat arsenic tainted water

The Sono filter, a local innovation, offers hope to millions in Bangladesh who lack access to safe drinking water. Arsenic contaminated groundwater exists in all but one of the country’s 64 districts, and adversely impacts the health of those who ingest it over long periods.

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Coke verdict: Not safe…safe…not safe

In a rebuttal to the clean chit given by a prestigious body to Coca-Cola, the Centre for Science and Environment has said that in the absence of standards for pesticide residues in colas, soft drinks are still not safe for drinking in India.

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