South Asia

Published: Sunday 31 July 2005

Lost and found: As many as 35 new amphibian species, 50 new snail species, 16 new crabs, seven new lizards and an as yet unknown species of mouse deer have been discovered in Sri Lanka, the country's Wildlife Heritage Trust (WHT) announced recently. But 19 amphibian species earlier found in Sri Lanka have become extinct, primarily because of loss of habitat.

In a report, based on a decade-long study, WHT says: "The ravages of habitat loss in Sri Lanka's once rain-forested wet zone have been severe, and there is a compelling argument for intensive conservation management of the surviving forest." Highlighting the government's insensitivity towards protecting the animals, WHT's Rohan Pethiyagoda was quoted as saying, "I wish they had been affected by the tsunami because then we would have got some foreign assistance for conservation." This tropical island nation, with the world's highest number of frog species, has also seen their fastest extinction.

Killer weather: The heatwave that claimed hundreds of lives in India and Bangladesh killed nearly 200 people in Pakistan. The delayed monsoons finally hit the country's central parts on July 4-5, 2005, claiming more lives: 15 people died in Multan and Lahore in the first rains.

The heatwave caused many parts of the country to face their highest temperatures in over a decade. Punjab and Sindh provinces were the worst hit. Attock in Punjab recorded a maximum temperature of 49 degree Celsius, while the mercury touched the 48 degree Celsius mark in Multan. Very high temperatures were also reported from Rawalpindi, also in Punjab. Hundreds of people took ill due to heatstroke, fainting and suffering dehydration and gastroenteritis. "There have been lot of cases of heat-stroke and dehydration reported from the 6,000 hospitals and health units we have in the province," a Punjab health official was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, flash floods, caused by the flooding of the Kabul river in Afghanistan, destroyed several paddy and maize fields and left thousands of people marooned in the country's North West Frontier Province.

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