Published: Thursday 15 July 2004

Taiwan-based company Hong You Technology exported 12,000 tonnes of toxic waste to Malaysia last year. The company claims to have been authorised to do so by the Malaysian as well as Taiwanese authorities. But the Taiwan government asserts that the documents used to obtain the export permit were false. If proven guilty, the company will be forced to take back the toxic waste.

UK's health secretary, John Reid, angered campaigners and anti-smoking groups when he observed that smoking is one of the few pleasures left for the poor on sink estates and in working men's clubs. Reid said the middle classes were obsessed with giving instructions to people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and that smoking was not one of the worst problems facing poorer people. The comments put Reid at some distance from UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The German government will urge the European Commission to commence the process of setting limits for exhaust pollutants under the Euro V emission standards, scheduled to become binding for European vehicles in 2010. The commission will be asked not to wait till 2007 and, instead, formulate a relevant directive by the end of 2004. On this basis, the German government would be able offer tax breaks for vehicles that satisfy Euro V standards as of 2005.

The Holland Board of Public Works, a community-owned utility in Holland city in Michigan, USA, will spend US $1,590 to swap mercury-filled thermometers for digital ones to phase out the potentially toxic metal. The trade-in programme is estimated to put 1,000 mercury-based thermometers, containing about 1.4 kilogrammes of mercury, out of use. The sale of mercury thermometers has been banned in Michigan since 2003.

Bhutan's trade ministry and its National Environment Commission (NEC) have collaborated with Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited of India to launch ultra low sulphur diesel (ULSD) in Thimphu. The fuel could go a long way in reducing emission-linked respiratory problems and prove less harmful for the natural environment.

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