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Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

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ECUADOR LOSES ITS HUMAN RIGHTS FIGHTER
Rosa Elena Amaguana, defender of indigenous people's rights in Ecuador, breathed her last on May 10 in the small town of Pesillo. She was 100. Fondly called Mama Amaguana, she laid the foundation of Ecuador's first farmers' union and Ecuadorian Federation of Indians in 1944.
Down to Earth More than five million people in Burkina Faso will receive free birth certificates as part of a one-year government programme. Applying for a birth certificate in the country, which has one of the lowest per capita income in the world, costs US $1. This discourages many.

Down to Earth Noting improved cooperation between Zimbabwe's coalition partners, the International Monetary Fund (imf) said it would offer technical support to the country, but would not release financial aid until Harare pays its arrears. Zimbabwe owes the imf about US $133 million.

Down to Earth As the civil-war ravaged Liberia works to kick-start its timber industry, it is barcoding all 90 million trees (with electroning tags) in 4.3 million hectares of rainforest to prevent illegal logging. The industry once contributed 60 per cent of Liberia's gdp.

Down to Earth The Lao government has passed a decree, allowing local non-profits for the first time to operate independently.

Down to Earth Iraq's parliament voted to force the government to demand a greater share of water from its neighbouring countries, upstream of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The legislators resolved to block any agreement with Turkey, Iran and Syria that does not include a clause granting Iraq a fair share of water resources.

Down to Earth Beijing plans to hike water price, after the central government postponed the North-South Water Diversion Scheme until 2014 amid environmental concerns. The scheme would have diverted one billion cubic metres of water a year to the arid capital city.

Down to Earth The Philippine government cancelled an order of instant noodle, worth US $9 million, for its school feeding programme following allegations that the noodles had little nutritional value and were overpriced.

Down to Earth Armenian researchers said the Akhurian lake that separates the country from Turkey is getting increasingly polluted with heavy metals and toxic materials, risking the health of people. The lake irrigates 104,000 ha of farmland in both countries.

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Down to Earth The UK plans to install gas and electricity smart meters in every household to ensure an economical way of measuring accurate energy use. The government said the plan would save consumers and energy companies US $3.8-5.5 billion over the next 20 years.

Down to Earth Three British scientists on an expedition to the North Pole abruptly ended their mission on May 13 fearing an early summer ice melt. The team did not find thick, older Arctic ice as scientists had predicted. It found only thinner ice with an average thickness of 1.7 metres.

Down to Earth The morning-after pill will now be available in Spain without prescription or minimum age requirement. The number of abortions in Spain doubled between 1998 and 2007, said the health ministry. Spain also plans to ease the country's abortion laws.

Down to Earth Bulgaria banned smoking in public places from June 2010. It ranks second after Greece in the EU in terms of number of regular smokers.

Down to Earth Peru's government has deployed army to lift a month-long blockade of roads and rivers by indigenous people who are against oil, gas and mining projects in the Amazon rainforest.

Down to Earth The Brazilian government has released US $4.84 billion as agriculture bailout package to help the sector weather the economic meltdown.

Down to Earth The US Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of pesticide carbofuran on food crops saying it poses health risks, especially to children. It causes neurological damage in humans and is lethal for birds.

Down to Earth The world museum in Liverpool, the UK, returned a skull taken from Australia more than a century ago. The skull, believed to be of mixed Aborigine and European origin, is one of three human relics the Australian government has requested from the museum.

Down to Earth The World Health Organization has warned countries, especially the EU, to limit the use of antiviral drugs to only high-risk patients of swine flu to ensure adequate supplies in case the virus mutates and becomes more virulent.

Down to Earth World oil demand will see the sharpest decline, 2.56 million barrels per day, since 1981 as the economy struggles to bounce back, the International Energy Agency said.

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