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Water and climate experts from across Asia are stressing the need to work with nature, rather than against it, to save the continent’s “disappearing deltas,” home to some 400 million people.
Mounting research blames a confluence of rising sea levels driven by global warming and the damming and dredging of key rivers and their tributaries for the rapid sinking and shrinking of Asia’s seven major delta systems, from the Indus in Pakistan to the Pearl in China.
The experts say swelling cities are adding to the pressure by weighing down the deltas and sucking up groundwater. The seven deltas alone host 14 of the world’s 33 megacities, including Bangkok, where the experts are gathered this week, parts of which are sinking by 2 centimeters a year.
Losing the deltas will not only erase some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, experts add, but drive mass migration, deplete vital farmland and disrupt some of Asia’s most dynamic business hubs.
The Pearl River Delta, which empties into the South China Sea past Hong Kong, has been dubbed the “world’s workshop” for its abundance of busy factories. In Vietnam, forecasters say 1 million people will have to leave the Mekong River Delta, the country’s rice bowl, by 2050.
“These are some of the most vulnerable places to climate change and change across river systems, but they are also the home for a number of us who live here, they are also the breadbasket of the world that feeds a number of the countries that depend on them,” said Kavita Prakash-Mani, global conservation director for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
“So while we are worried about numerous ecosystems around the world, we really need to be putting special attention on our delta systems and the wetlands and all the other ecosystems they support,” she added.
The WWF is hosting a three-day forum in Bangkok, which started Wednesday, to help researchers and policymakers from across Asia tackle the problem, learn from each other and brainstorm new and better ways to save the deltas.
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The environmental protection group and others are pushing the idea of “building with nature,” where nature is used to cope with climate change — think mangrove seeding to cushion coastal communities from floods — and development falls in step with the natural world’s rhythms.
“So it’s not just about building high walls and keeping the water out. It is really about restoration — restoring wetlands, mangroves, rivers and enabling them to flow, enabling them to create the kind of deltas that we want, [and] the resilience that comes from that and the protection it will then afford us from rising sea levels. It is one of our best solutions,” said Prakash-Mani.
Anamitra Anurag Danda, a senior visiting fellow on climate change at India’s Observer Research Foundation, said protecting deltas means not only adapting to rising sea levels but taking care of the rivers that feed them.
He said the rivers and tributaries of India’s Ganges Delta, part of the largest delta system in the world, “have been either dammed or barraged, and therefore the sediment that would otherwise have built the delta does not reach the delta.”
Between that and a thirsty city of Kolkata drawing hundreds of millions of liters of water daily out of the ground, the delta lost 16,300 hectares of land in the 40 years leading up to 2009, said Anurag Danda, who also advises the WWF.
He said more sinking and shrinking of the deltas was “inevitable,” and it would mean retreating from some areas to give them time to recover.
But that won’t be practical everywhere.
“It’s not just building with nature,” said Stuart Orr, a WWF freshwater expert. “Of course we need traditional infrastructure as well. But we need to be thinking a lot more intelligently about how we modify our river systems and our delta systems, and allow that new science to creep into our decision-making and investments.”
Tiziana Bonapace, with the U.N. Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific, said better climate modeling, early warning systems and other hi-tech solutions could prove “game changers” in helping the many millions who call the deltas home stay put and stay safe.
She said her office was now working across 15 Asian countries to improve flood forecasting for the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta System, drawing attention to the need for countries to work together.
Seri Suptharathit, of the Center on Climate Change and Disaster at Thailand’s Rangsit University, said the governments of those countries also had to work harder at thinking about the problem and its solutions in terms of generations, rather than election cycles.
“Politics thinks only to four years, but this is 30 years, 80 years. How [do] we ask them to think for the future, for the young generation?” he said.
Should they fail, Seri quipped wryly, guests arriving at any forum on Asia’s sinking and shrinking deltas in Bangkok three or four decades hence may have to make the trip by boat. (VOA)
The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.
Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.
The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.
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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.
"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.
The immune system has to be educated not to attack one's own tissues and organs to prevent autoimmune disease. But pregnancy presents a unique challenge since the fetus expresses proteins found in the placenta as well as proteins whose genetics are distinct from the mother.
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"It was a conceptual leap to link Aire-expressing cells, which are critical for preventing autoimmune disease, to pregnancy," said Tippi Mackenzie, Professor of Surgery at UCSF's Center for Maternal Foetal Precision Medicine.
In the thymus, Aire-expressing cells begin interacting with other immune cells very early in life to teach them what not to attack. The thymus begins to shrink and is nearly gone by adulthood, by which time most immune cells have been educated. But as the thymus shrinks, the population of eTACs in lymph nodes and the spleen expands, the researchers explained.
The study suggests a healthy pregnancy may depend on having these cells around, they added. (IANS/KB)
The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.
Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.
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Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.
"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.
It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.
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This applies to less intense situations too. Dating, for example, can be tricky — especially when it's online or via digital apps, as it often is now.
The study also found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
In celebration of World Emoji Day on Saturday, Adobe's '2021 Global Emoji Trend Report' surveyed 7,000 people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. (IANS/KB)
Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.
Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.
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After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin
Sirisha flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University.IANS
Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk, and other passengers are set to liftoff from west Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space on July 20. Blue Origin announced this week that Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate from the Netherlands, would join the crew.
Oliver is the son of millionaire Joe Daemen, Founder, and CEO of the Dutch investment company Somerset Capital Partners. Blue Origin, however, did not reveal how much Daemen paid for his son's trip to space. Bezos chose July 20 as the launch date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
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The launch site for Blue Origin's first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, from where the firm had launched New Shepard for previous flights. Blue Origin has received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space.
On July 12, Bandla touched the edge of space with three others, including Virgin Galactic's billionaire CEO Richard Branson. Bandla vaulted into space onboard VSS Unity 22. After the successful spaceflight, Branson carried the Indian-American on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space, at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (IANS/KB)