MoU to Promote Environmental Awareness

DAMASCUS, (ST) - Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs signed recently a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the field of the protection of the environment and promote environmental awareness between the two ministries for the implementation of joint programs aimed at the social and environmental dimensions.

The note includes promoting the integration of the environmental dimension in the civil action by supporting the establishment of civil environmental communities and setting up an environmental committee in the civil organizations and communities that carry out environmental awareness field campaigns dealing with the importance of preserving and protecting the environment and the sustainability of natural resources. 

The note also includes the implementation of the working sessions of the citizens, especially young people in the centers of temporary residence and the affected areas about the basic knowledge and skills to be provided to promote and protect the environment, the application and dissemination of interactive environmental activities in cooperation with associations and civil society aimed at raising environmental awareness among young people and children in the affected areas and temporary accommodation centers.
The memo stated that environmental competitions for youth and adolescents will be held  in the field of painting, theater and crafts, recycling and preparation of training manuals and guidelines, posters, magazines and awareness brochures about environmental health issues to reduce the negative effects of the current crisis in Syria, in addition to supporting the implementation of initiatives and activities of the environmental community for youth and adolescents in cooperation with associations and civil society organizations and the participation of individuals and activities of the local community within the affected areas and temporary accommodation centers and strengthen the capacity of employees of the two ministries in the field of the protection of the environment and promote environmental awareness.
Under the memo,  a joint coordination committee, comprising representatives from the ministries, will be formed to map out the necessary work on the preparation of action plans for development of executive programs for each of the areas covered by the memorandum of understanding. 

Minister of State for the Environmental Affairs, Dr. Nazira Sarkis, confirmed that community participation is one of the basic tools needed for the advancement of society and improve the lives of individuals socially, economically and environmentally through voluntary effective actions in supporting all efforts by government agencies and private organizations aimed at the development of society and the reduction of negative reflexes on the environment caused by the current crisis in Syria.
Dr. Sarkis showed that the environmental NGOs play an important role in the activation of community participation in development issues, especially the environment and the protection of its natural resources through the dissemination of environmental awareness among all segments of society.

For her part, Minister of Social Affairs, Dr. Kinda Al Shammat, explained that the ministry gives the environmental issues a priority, especially in centers of temporary residence indicating the need to work on the principle of environmental awareness through partnerships with government agencies, including the Ministry of the Environment in order to promote environmental awareness in our society and the implementation of activities aimed to deepen the environmental education on the principle of active citizenship to keep our society and our environment.

Sh. Kh.

2232 persons affected by bad weather

More than 2000 persons from Gampaha, Kandy and Matale districts have been affected by heavy rains during the past two days, the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) said.

In Wattala, 2212 persons from 479 families are affected from flash floods while 331 persons are presently housed in temporary shelters. Strong winds and heavy rains and lightning have affected about five families in Akurana, Gangawata Koralaya, Deltota, Doluwa in Kandy and Laggala in Matale, DMC said.

During the last 24 hours, Colombo recorded 70.1 mm rainfall followed by Katunayake with 69.3 mm, Ratmalana with 37.8mm and 22.3 mm in Vavuniya.

 The Meteorology Department said that due to atmospheric disturbances in the vicinity of the country, rainy weather is expected during next few days.

The department requested public to be vigilant about heavy rain, lightning and strong winds during thundershowers.

Source: sundaytimes


New Excavations in Sweden Indicate Use of Fertilizers 5,000 Years Ago

Researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have spent many years studying the remains of a Stone Age community in Karleby outside the town of Falköping, Sweden. The researchers have for example tried to identify parts of the inhabitants' diet. Right now they are looking for evidence that fertilisers were used already during the Scandinavian Stone Age, and the results of their first analyses may be exactly what they are looking for.

Using remains of grains and other plants and some highly advanced analysis techniques, the two researchers and archaeologists Tony Axelsson and Karl-Göran Sjögren have been able to identify parts of the diet of their Stone Age ancestors.

'Our first task was to find so-called macrofossils, such as old weed seeds or pieces of grain. By analysing macrofossils, we can learn a lot about Stone Age farming and how important farming was in relation to livestock ranching,' says Axelsson.

Another aim has been to collect animal bone material -- or simply 5,000 year old food remains. The researchers know that pieces of bones from cattle, pigs and sheep can be found at the site.

'By studying the levels of isotopes in the bones, we can for example find out where the animals were raised, which in turn can give important information about their role in trade,' says Sjögren.

The results of the first grain analyses have now been presented, and besides revealing that both barley and wheat were farmed at the site, they point to elevated levels of the isotope N15 (nitrogen 15). The elevated levels may indicate that fertilizers were used in the area of Karleby already 5,000 years ago.

'We will continue our analyses both in the field and in the lab, and are hoping to find more macrofossils. Hopefully we'll find some weed seeds, as they may help confirm that fertilizers were indeed used since the type of weeds found in a field can signal whether fertilizers or some other method was used,' says Axelsson.

Source:Science daily


National Environmental Observatory in Lattakia

LATTAKIA, (ST) -The Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs recently launched the National Environmental Observatory Project in Lattakia. A presentation was made about the observatory project and the project that had been done in the Great Northern River.

Director of Studies Department at the ministry, eng  Mahmoud Haider, said to reporters that the Observatory, which was launched at the national level, will work to accomplish an integrated environmental map for Syria and specific maps and to every governorate and databases for all activities that occur within the framework of sustainable development.

He noted that the observatory includes a collection of digital maps for all aspects of pollution in addition to satellite images, pointing out that a team, composed of all central departments in the governorate, is now rehabilitated for this purpose.

“A range of applications related to environment maps and databases will be accomplished, whereas an integrated study about the Great Northern River has been done in the form of digital maps and databases as constituents of the environmental observatory concerning water resources in Latakia and a study will be conducted about all water sources in the governorate and completed as required,” eng. Haider clarified.

For his part, Director of Agricultural and Environmental Studies at Remote Sensing Association, Dr. Yunus Idris, explained that the importance of the study of the Great Northern River is to bring out the situation of the basin, undulations of the ground, the morphological situation and the mechanics of sewage discharge, industrial, economic and tourist installations and olive presses.

The aim of the National Environmental Observatory, which was initiated in September last year, at the central level in Damascus is to unify the environmental work and continue building  databases and develop data bank to be able to store environmental projects carried out in the ministry, publish the results among bodies concerned according to an agreed system, ensure the safety of networking between the ministry and sub-districts and other institutions concerned in addition to training and rehabilitation of a team of technicians and engineers from the departments of Environmental Affairs in the rest of the governorates.

Sh. Kh.

'Living fossil' coelacanth genome sequenced

Researchers sequenced the genome of the coelacanth: a deep-sea fish that closely resembles its ancestors, which lived at least 300 million years ago.

The study found that some of the animal's genes evolved very slowly, giving it its primitive appearance.

The work also shed light on how the fish was related to the first land-based animals.

The coelacanth has four large, fleshy fins, which some scientists believe could have been the predecessors of limbs.

It had been suggested that this fish was closely related to early tetrapods - the first creatures to drag themselves out of the ocean, giving rise to life on land.

But the study, published in the journal Nature, suggested that another fish called the lungfish, which also has four limbs, had more genes in common with land-based animals.

The coelacanth can reach up to 2m-long and is found lurking in caves deep beneath the waves.

It was thought to have been extinct for millions of years, until it turned up in a trawlerman's net off the coast of Africa in 1938.

Its ancient appearance has earned it the title "living fossil" - but it is so elusive, that it has been hard to study.

To find out more, an international team of researchers sequenced the coelacanth's genome, which contained nearly three billion DNA bases,according to the BBC.

Professor Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, from the University of Uppsala in Sweden and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in the US, said: "What we can see is that while the genome as whole changes, the protein-coding genes - that make the living fish - are much more stable and much more unchanging.

"And if you think about it, this might be correlated to the fact that the coelacanth lives in a rather extreme and stable environment.

"It lives several hundred metres down in the ocean, and it may also be in an environment where it doesn't have a lot of competitors. So maybe it adapted to that environment a long time ago and it doesn't have a huge need for change."

The researchers also used the study to try and solve the long-standing question of whether the first tetrapods were more closely related to the coelacanth or the lungfish.


They compared DNA profiles of both of these fish with modern land-based animals, including mammals, birds and lizards.

"We selected 251 genes that were very similar in all these genomes so we could build this picture of how closely related these species were," Prof Lindblad-Toh explained.

This study is not the only one attempting to understand the coelacanth.

Since the fish was rediscovered in the 1930s, only a few hundred have ever been found, many of these dead caught up in trawls.

Scientists from the French organisation Andromede Oceanology are working with the Natural History Museum in Paris to attach acoustic tracking devices to the fish in order to study their behavior and capture 3D moving images of their fins as they swim.