Published: Tuesday 15 February 1994

Violin-makers may soon have to use plastic instead of rare hardwoods, according to the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society, UK. Supplies of pernambuco, used to make violin bows, and impigo, used in clarinets and oboes, are falling to crisis levels. Wind instruments, however, pose the biggest problem as customers are prejudiced against the use of plastic.

Asian Rare Earth -- controlled by the Mitsubishi Kasei group of Japan -- won an appeal against a court judgement that found it guilty of emitting radioactive waste during its operations near Ipoh in northern Malaysia. The Malaysian supreme court said an Ipoh judge had "erred" while accepting evidence of a growing number of cases of leukaemia, infant deaths and congenital disease in the factory's vicinity.

A giant New Zealand company, Fletcher Challenge, is developing the radiata pine, which it hopes will solve the depletion of the world's natural forests and increasing shortage of timber. The company has signed agreements with environmentalists in the country saying it will not cut down natural forests to plant radiata pine, but will use farmland prone to soil erosion.

Texaco faces a $1 billion lawsuit for damages resulting from the firm's contamination of the Ecuadorean rainforest. The suit filed by members of various indigenous groups alleges Texaco knowingly used defective technology that resulted in the contamination of their drinking water.

Electricity can soon be bought in the UK using "smart cards" -- a device similar to credit cards. The bigger users of electricity can already choose their suppliers and 100 kw users such as leisure centres and small factories will be able to do so in April. In 1988 the 1 kw users -- mainly household consumers -- will be able to select their suppliers.

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