• 29/09/2004

An acute water crisis has sparked fears about the survival of thousands of hippos in Tanzania's Katavi National Park. The shortage is being blamed on farmers upstream of the Katuma river diverting water for irrigation purposes. The hippo essentially requires water deep enough to submerge a large part of its body during the day. Or else, the animal runs the risk of severe dehydration given the nature of its skin.

Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong will offer the country's women more incentives to make babies and so tackle the city-state's alarmingly low birth rate. Perks will include longer maternity leaves and improved infant care, on top of cash incentives. The lack of babies became an urgent concern after it was disclosed that the fertility rate had plummeted to a historic low of 1.26 children per woman last year.

The Spanish Parliament has banned smoking in its corridors in advance of a government plan for a smoking ban in all working places across Spain. The parliament is setting an example in a country filled with smoky restaurants, bars and coffee shops. No-smoking zones are scarce in Spain and the pro-smoking lobby is famously tough.

Britons are increasingly worried about genetically modified foods, reveals a survey by a consumer magazine. Of the 1,000 people polled, 61 per cent said they were concerned about the use of GM material in food production. The poll also suggested that more consumers are trying not to buy GM food, while fewer still back GM crops in the UK.

The Indian government has admitted before the Supreme Court that some patients died during clinical trials of genetically engineered drugs, made by two pharmaceutical companies. The trials were conducted without any prior statutory approval. But the government is trying to play down the deaths by saying that the mortality rate is much lower than the accepted norms!

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