South Asia

Published: Saturday 15 March 2008

Yellowing disease strikes Sri Lanka's coconuts: Coconut trees in Sri Lanka's Southern province have been affected by a yellowing disease, said plantation industries minister D M Jayaratne in parliament recently. The disease is caused by a group of extremely small parasitic bacteria, phytoplasma, which probably came through a shipment of ornamental palms that were not quarantined before entering the island. The disease turns the leaves yellow and causes fruits to drop prematurely. The whole crown of the palm also falls, leaving a bare trunk, say experts from the Coconut Research Institute, Lunuwila. Authorities have burnt more than 10,000 infected coconut trees to contain the bacteria. The institute has declared a 3-km wide buffer zone along Weligama coast in Matara district and is studying the bacterium to ensure the disease does not spread to other crops.

A word of concern for Bangladesh's Jumma tribals: A group of prominent citizens of Bangladesh has expressed its 'grave concern' for the Jumma tribals of Chittagong Hill Tracts after a fact-finding trip to the region. The situation in the hills is frightening and might explode anytime, they said at a press conference on February 11. The Jumma tribes have suffered decades of violent repression at the hands of the Bangladesh military. The government moved thousands of Bengali settlers onto their land. The government signed a peace accord with the Jummas in 1997, but has failed to fulfil its commitments. Instead, arrests and torture of Jummas have escalated in the name of curbing extortion and militant activities, the group said in its report.

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