safety mechanism: The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the world's apex body responsible for the safety and security of shipping, has adopted the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic organisms. The decision was taken during a meeting in London from February 9-13. But the treaty will come into force only a year after 30 countries, representing 35 per cent of the world's shipping tonnage, have ratified it. Invasive aquatic species that travel to new environments by ships' ballast water or other carriers are one of the four greatest threats to the world's oceans (see: 'It's a pogrom out there', Down To Earth, February 29, 2004).
stubbing out tobacco: India has become the seventh country to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which aims to curb tobacco-related deaths and diseases. The FCTC has to be ratified by at least 40 countries before it can be implemented. It lays down rules regarding advertising, sponsorship, packaging and labelling, health warnings, restrictions on smoking in public places and controlling illicit trade in tobacco products. Advertising of tobacco products will be banned in India from May 1, 2004, onwards with the coming into force of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003.
punitive powers: In a step that would strengthen democracy at the grassroots, panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir have been given powers to act against government servants who neglect their duties. The state government is also planning to hand over the control of various developmental works to these local bodies in the next two years. "In rural areas, the panch and sarpanch will be authorised to inspect government institutions to check the attendance of employees," revealed Peerzada Mohammed Sayeed, the state's minister for rural development.
bird flu in tibet: Bird flu, which has claimed 20 lives in eight Asian nations since its outbreak in December 2003, has reached Tibet. China's national avian influenza reference laboratory in Beijing confirmed that the highly pathogenic H5N1 viral strain was isolated in Tibet's capital Lhasa. Tibet shares a long border with India, which has not reported any case of bird flu so far.
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