No more neglect: Mongolia says rangelands are a global priority

April 12, 2019 by  
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When most people think of conservation , they often picture the large, hallmark mammals (think pandas) or key ecosystems like coral reefs and rainforests. Few people think about or even understand rangelands as a priority for land restoration, even though rangelands cover more than 50 percent of all land on earth. In March, Mongolian community-conservation leaders persuaded the United Nations to acknowledge the importance of rangelands and commit to global action to fill glaring gaps in data. As a result of their efforts, the United Nations adopted a resolution to recommend an official “Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists” and to center rangeland restoration within the already declared Decade of Ecosystems Restoration (2021-2030). In Mongolia, leaders have also submitted a “Rangeland Law” to parliament, which would ensure that herders have legal land rights and are named the primary protectors of their land. What are rangelands? The International Center for Agriculture Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) defines rangelands as land that is covered with grass and shrub species and used as a primary source for livestock grazing. Rangelands are also recognized for their ability to provide other environmental services, including carbon sequestration, eco-tourism opportunities, biodiversity, ranching and mining. Related: Less fertilizer, greater crop yields and more money — China’s agricultural breakthrough ICARDA estimates suggest that nearly 50 percent of all land surface is considered rangeland, which includes grasslands, savannas and marshes. Why is Mongolia on the forefront? Herding has been a defining part of Mongolian culture and tradition for more than 4,000 years . Up to 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product comes from sheep, cattle and other livestock. However, economic, environmental and migration changes have caused much of Mongolia’s rangelands to become degraded. The United Nations reports that nearly 57 percent of all rangeland in Mongolia is degraded and 13 percent is so degraded that it is believed to be impossible to restore. Despite this, Mongolia still has some of the world’s last remaining natural grasslands, and people there are committed to preserving these diverse ecosystems and their traditional way of life. “If nothing is done now, we face the danger of losing this beautiful land, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of nomadic herder families,” said Enkh-Amgalan Tseelei , a sustainable rangeland expert from Mongolia. Research shows that indigenous and local communities are some of the most effective stewards of natural land. However, these same groups rarely have legal land rights, making them vulnerable to dislocation and exploitation. According to the World Resource Institute’s  land mapping tool , indigenous and collectively-managed lands store about 25 percent of the world’s above-ground carbon , which means land restoration in these areas is essential to reducing climate change , and that indigenous people are the rightful leaders. We don’t know enough about rangelands The UN resolution aims to elevate awareness, earmark funding and increase collaborative action to improve the  protection and restoration of rangelands. The resolution also amplifies the role of community leadership and traditional management practices. Most critically, however, the resolution calls for increased research, pointing to major gaps in current scientific knowledge about the “status, conditions and trends in rangeland, pastoral land and pastoralism.” Another UN report from March suggests that current data on agriculture and livestock within rangeland regions and societies are insufficient to inform effective policy. The report, “A case of benign neglect: Knowledge gaps about sustainability in pastoralism and rangelands,” recommends further collection and disaggregation of data to highlight different needs and opportunities for locally based, sustainable management. For example, the report warns that some governments have misconceptions of rangelands and even consider them to be “forgotten” or “barren.” Seemingly environmentally progressive programs have implemented afforestation projects — meaning large  tree  planting initiatives — in rangelands. This can actually devastate rangeland biodiversity and have a negative impact on existing carbon sequestration. Pastoralism and marginalization Nearly 500 million people are considered pastoralists, yet these communities are among the most marginalized societies in the world. Herding, nomadic and pastoral groups face challenges such as land degradation, biodiversity loss, vulnerability to climate change, low investments, inequity, low literacy, inadequate infrastructure, lack of access to markets, lack of legal ownership and exodus of youth. Related: One of the last remaining communities still farming like the Aztecs If March is any indication of the next few years — and hopefully the next decade — pastoralists might have the attention, investment and collective action needed to make meaningful advancements in land restoration and community management. Deputy Director General of Integrated Sciences at the International Livestock Research Institute, Iain Wright, praised the efforts of governments and partners so far. “In my 35 years’ experience working on rangelands and pastoralists, this is the first real progress I am seeing,” Wright said. “The lack of data up to now has been critical, and this report forms one of the building blocks in getting this issue into the political and international agenda.” Via UN Environment Images via Jeanne Menjoulet , Ludovic Hirlimann , Sergio Tittarini ,  Christopher Michel , and Paulo Philippidis

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No more neglect: Mongolia says rangelands are a global priority

Restaurant UNDERs handcrafted tableware celebrates natural materials

April 12, 2019 by  
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When Snøhetta designed the spectacular concept for UNDER, the world’s largest underwater restaurant located along a rocky Norwegian shoreline, the renowned architecture firm wanted to reference the local landscape in all aspects of design, including the tableware. That’s why the Norwegian brand MENT was chosen as the main supplier for the design and manufacturing of the tableware for the restaurant’s 18-course menu. Founded by sisters Ingvild and Sidsel Forr Hemma, the Fåberg-based design brand designed a unique series of bowls, plates, mugs and other items all crafted by hand from natural materials and Norwegian minerals. Since June 2018, MENT has worked in close collaboration with UNDER head chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard to design, research, test and produce products evocative of the restaurant’s overall concept of celebrating nature, craft and sustainable sourcing. “Getting to work with such a thought out concept — and implementing it further in our design has been incredibly inspiring!” the designers said in a press statement. “For this project, MENT have made items in porcelain, stoneware, wood and clay, and in most products the colors used are made from Norwegian minerals. All items are handmade in MENTs workshop at Fåberg.” For the 18-course menu, MENT created approximately 500 products with 17 different unique designs that include bowls, plates, water jugs, toothpick holders, coffee and tea mugs, a milk-and-sugar set and large snack bowls. Several of the designs also vary in size, material and color. The tableware gets its earthy colors from iron pigments processed from natural magnetite sourced from the area of Nordland in Norway. The color and shapes of the products take inspiration from the Norwegian coast — from the different seaweed, sand and coastal rocks — defined by beautiful textures and a color palette of browns, grays and greens. Related: Europe’s first underwater restaurant opens its doors in Norway Because all of the tableware is handmade and created with natural magnetite with techniques that “are impossible to control,” each product has its own unique features. Although UNDER has already opened to the public, MENT will continue to work in collaboration with the restaurant and the head chef. + MENT Images via MENT

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Conchs in the Bahamas could be extinct in 10 years

January 24, 2019 by  
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The Bahamas is famous for its large conch population, but some studies claim that could change significantly over the next decade if the archipelago doesn’t start enforcing its laws and introduce stricter regulations. Overfishing has devastated many of the Bahamian conch communities, and it is making reproduction so difficult, the sea slug could be extinct within 10 years. This would be devastating to Bahamian tradition and culture, not to mention the economic impact on the fishing industry. According to the Matador Network , about 9,000 fishermen, which is about 2 percent of the population, depend on the conch fishery. These sluggish sea creatures move too slowly to mate in just pairs. Instead, it’s safer for them to mate in groups, with at least 50 others nearby. But many of the Bahamian conch communities are below critical levels. Related: 60% of wild coffee species are now threatened with extinction The conchs in the Florida Keys suffered the same fate more than four decades ago. Back in 1975, the once abundant conch population went extinct because of overfishing. Now, the Bahamas are facing the same problem, because the nation has some of the most lenient fishing regulations in the Caribbean. However, the Bahamas’ Department of Marine Resources announced on January 13 that it would be ending exports and increasing its regulatory staff in an effort to protect the conchs . There could be some push-back according to Shelly Cant-Woodside, the director of science and policy for the Bahamas National Trust. “We’re not used to regulations or enforcement,” Cant-Woodside told National Geographic . Because the conch industry is the only source of income for many residents of the Bahamas, they might not welcome new restrictions. Right now, the fishermen can legally fish adult conchs after they have had enough time to reproduce. But the Bahamas’ Department of Marine Resources will enforce this rule more strictly by recommending a mandatory minimum shell thickness. Biologist Any Kough said that the new recommendation is encouraging, and it is a “clear sign” that the department is aware of the troubles the conch population is facing in the Bahamas. Via Matador Network and National Geographic Image via Briana Baud

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Twenty aims to dramatically reduce the waste of household products

November 28, 2018 by  
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Dubai Design Week — an annual event celebrating and promoting design and creativity — took place earlier this month, with imaginative minds from all over the world competing for the coveted Progress Prize at the Global Grad Show. This year’s winner, Twenty, sets out to cut down the environmental costs of packaging and shipping household products, like shampoos or cleaners, by offering dry capsules and reusable containers — just add water , and the items are ready for use. Considered to be the largest creative festival in the Middle East, Dubai Design Week takes place at venues throughout the city, with the central hub of the festival being in the Dubai Design District. The competition’s coveted Progress Prize celebrates the next generation of design talent while recognizing the impact of design on society and the environment . Related: How to decode confusing labels on common household cleaners This year, the competition announced Twenty — designed by Mirjam de Bruijn from the Design Academy Eindhoven in The Netherlands — as the winner of the Progress Prize for a collection of dehydrated household products designed to reduce waste and unnecessary emissions by eliminating water content. Judges chose Twenty from 150 selections that came from all over the world, which they then shortlisted to 11 finalists. Since most everyday cleaning products contain at least 80 percent water, Twenty proposes to eliminate the waste and simplify production and transportation with a capsule that you can put into a bottle, add water and then shake to create a cleaning liquid that is just as effective as a store-bought option. “I designed Twenty for people like myself who really want to be sustainable but also have busy lives and need products that are simple, economical, easy to use and fit into their lifestyle,” said de Bruijn. She added that she wants Twenty to be the new standard in household cleaning products, and she is working closely with the university to refine the product while talking to producers and retailers to adopt the perfect strategy for bringing it to market. Brendan McGetrick, the director and curator of the Global Grad Show, said that Twenty is exceptional because it is based on a smart analysis of something that we all need and take for granted. + Twenty Images via Twenty

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Studio Roosegaardes laser light art tracks floating space waste in the sky

October 12, 2018 by  
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A dazzling neon green light show is illuminating the night skies in Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde’s latest large-scale art installation, the Space Waste Lab Performance. Created as part of the Space Waste Lab , the performance uses real-time tracking information to render the space waste floating above our heads visible with bright green LEDs that follow the movement of the drifting waste. The series of live installations kicked off on October 5 in the Dutch city of Almere and aims to call attention to the problem of space waste as well as sustainable upcycling solutions. According to Studio Roosegaarde, there are currently more than 29,000 items of space waste  — approximately 8.1 million kilograms worth — floating around the earth. Classified as objects greater than 10 centimeters, the waste comprises anything from parts of broken rockets to chipped-off satellite pieces. The drifting junk poses a danger to current satellites and can disrupt digital communications, however there is no clear plan on how to fix the growing issue. In response, the Dutch design studio launched Space Waste Lab with support from the European Space Agency to bring attention to the issue and find ways to upcycle the waste into sustainable products. The Space Waste Lab Performance that launched early this month marks the first phase of the living lab. Created in compliance with strict safety and aviation regulations, the large-scale light show uses cutting-edge software and camera technology to track pieces of drifting space waste in real time with high-powered, neon green LEDs that project a distance of 125,000 to 136,000 miles. “I’m a strong believer in cooperation between technologists and artists,” said  ESA Director Franco Ongaro about Space Waste Lab. “Artists not only communicate vision and feelings to the public but help us discover aspects of our work which we are often unable to perceive. This cooperation is all the more important when dealing with issues like space debris, which may one day impact our future and our ability to draw maximum benefits from space. We need to speak in different ways, to convey not just the dry technological aspects of technology, but the emotions involved in the struggle to preserve this environment for future generations.” Related: Daan Roosegaarde unveils mind-expanding 295-foot SPACE installation in Eindhoven Space Waste Lab will be open to the public at Kunstlinie in Almere until January 19, 2019 and is complemented by the “Space @ KAF” exhibition next door. The Space Waste Lab Performance will be exhibited after sunset on the nights of October 5 and 6; November 9 and 10; December 7 and 8; and January 18 and 19, 2019. The surrounding street and commercial lights will be turned off at those times to enhance the experience. Phase 2 of the program begins after January 2019 and will study ways to capture and upcycle space waste. + Studio Roosegaarde Via Dezeen Images via Studio Roosegaarde

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Studio Roosegaardes laser light art tracks floating space waste in the sky

Maya Bay closes following extensive environmental damage from tourists

October 11, 2018 by  
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The Thai beach that Leonardo DiCaprio made famous in his 2000 movie The Beach is closing indefinitely thanks to the damage caused by millions of tourists . Maya Bay, one of the most popular destinations in the world, is a small beach with silky sands and crystal blue water surrounded by cliffs on Ko Phi Phi Leh island. But over the years, it has sustained such massive environmental damage from pollution that authorities have closed it for at least a year. The movie may not have been a hit for DiCaprio, but the film’s location became so popular for tourists that up to 5,000 people and 200 boats visited each day. Thai authorities had originally announced they would close Maya Bay for four months. They have extended the plan to at least a year because of the extent of the destruction. Litter, boats and sunscreen have caused so much pollution, it has destroyed over 80 percent of the coral around the bay. Related: University of Queensland wants to drop “bommies” on the Great Barrier Reef “We have evaluated each month and found out that the ecological system was seriously destroyed from tourism of up to 5,000 people daily,” said Songtam Suksawang, the director of Thailand’s national parks department. “It’s very difficult to remedy and rehabilitate because its beach was completely destroyed as well as the plants which cover it.” He added that there had been evidence of damage to Maya Bay for years, but the government was reluctant to close it down because of the amount of annual revenue it generates — 400 million baht (about $12.3 million). Thailand’s department of national parks, wildlife and plant conservation has said it will not lift the tourism restriction until the ecosystem “fully recovers to a normal situation.” According to The Guardian, this is a relief for local environmental activists who had argued that closing for just four months wasn’t enough. It will take years for the reef to be fully restored, because coral only grows about half a centimeter each year. Worapoj Lomlin, Maya Bay park chief, said the parks agency has already planted more than 1,000 corals to help rehabilitate the reefs, and the team will continue to expand the project. Via The Guardian Image via Joan and Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi

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Dilapidated garage turned into gorgeous tiny art studio

August 14, 2018 by  
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When artist Sue Prue moved in with her boyfriend, she decided to make full use of an old, run-down garage in the backyard by turning it into a tiny studio . The 270-square-foot space was compact, to say the least, but with a little design savvy, the ambitious couple managed to create a gorgeous, light-filled art space. Although the initial plan was to renovate the old garage in the backyard, it was in a sad state – beyond repair and full of rats. These issues prompted the design duo to demolish the old structure completely. Inspired by the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) trend in the area, Sue worked with specialists in ADU design to create a new tiny space that would meet her needs. Related: Former chicken coop transformed into a backyard artist’s studio in Berlin At just 270 square feet, the studio is quite compact, but it’s also big on style. The exterior of the structure is clad in a neutral beige siding with olive-hued trim. A pleasant sitting area surrounds the entrance, creating a seamless connection between the indoor and outdoor space. A set of double glass doors lead into the white-walled interior.  Concrete flooring , natural light and exposed wooden beams give the space a fresh, modern aesthetic. The interior is designed to be as space-efficient and sustainable as possible. It includes the reclaimed wood wall in the kitchen, which also has plenty of space for storage. The ornate black-and-white tile in the bathroom provides another artistic touch. As an experienced Art Director, the Berkeley-based Prue has a keen eye for design. In an interview with Apartment Therapy, she reveals that she filled the space focusing on a design theme that was “happy, colorful, modern, [and] mid-century-esque.” She found many of the items at flea markets, while others are more upscale purchases. + Sue Prue Via Apartment Therapy Images via Sue Prue

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TransCanada natural gas pipeline explodes in West Virginia

June 8, 2018 by  
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An explosion rocked a TransCanada pipeline in Moundsville, West Virginia and the surrounding community yesterday. Locals said it felt like a tornado and sounded like a freight train, and they could see flames from around 20 miles away, EcoWatch reported. TransCanada said in a statement they do not yet know the cause of the explosion. (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = ‘https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v3.0’; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); Early alarm this morningOn trebble run on fish creek Posted by Ruby Mason on Thursday, June 7, 2018 A natural gas pipeline exploded in West Virginia’s Marshall County, located right in the midst of the huge Utica and Marcellus shale formations, Reuters said . No employees were at the site when the pipeline ruptured around 4:15 a.m. EST, and the fire was at least a mile away from the closest home, Marshall County director of emergency management Tom Hart told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette . BREAKING: More pictures from a viewer of the explosion. Viewers are calling in and telling us it felt like a tornado hit their house when this happened @WTRF7News pic.twitter.com/akYwSgED7j — Tessa DiTirro (@TDiTirroWTRF) June 7, 2018 Related: The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought The pipeline, called Leach XPress, was placed into service at the start of this year . At that time, TransCanada CEO Russ Girling referred to it as “truly a best-in-class pipeline” and said the company looked forward “to many years to safe, reliable and efficient operation on behalf of our customers.” @MarshallCoWVOEM sent me this picture. This is the site of the pipeline rupture as it was burning off @WTRF7News pic.twitter.com/VINnMiq44G — Tessa DiTirro (@TDiTirroWTRF) June 7, 2018 TransCanada said after the event, which they referred to as the Nixon Ridge Pipeline Incident, “emergency response procedures were enacted and the segment of impacted pipeline was isolated. The fire was fully extinguished by approximately 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. There were no injuries involved with this incident.” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said officials from the U.S. Forestry Service and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection were on the site. This picture sent to me from a viewer in Short Creek, WV. Perspective: this is 20 MILES or more away, over a half hour drive! @WTRF7News pic.twitter.com/yAmFJUnKmO — Tessa DiTirro (@TDiTirroWTRF) June 7, 2018 Hart told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette other companies were on the scene too — some operate pipelines just a few hundred feet away from the ruptured pipeline. He said some of those companies turned off the flow in their own pipelines, and that natural gas well operators shut down wells close by. This is drone footage from @MarshallCoWVOEM Director Tom Hart says this is at the end of Nixon Ridge near Fish Creek. The explosion left a crater. The DEP estimates 10 acres are affected @WTRF7News pic.twitter.com/QXTOsWBvNg — Tessa DiTirro (@TDiTirroWTRF) June 7, 2018 The event could impact around 1.3 billion cubic feet per day of gas service — Reuters reported that one billion cubic feet of gas could power around five million American homes. Via EcoWatch , the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  and Reuters Image via Depositphotos

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TransCanada natural gas pipeline explodes in West Virginia

Kilauea lava boils away Hawaii’s largest freshwater lake in just a few hours

June 8, 2018 by  
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Hawaii’s largest freshwater lake is gone. Lava from Fissure 8 boiled away Green Lake, a source of freshwater for the Big Island , in about five hours. A white plume of steam resulted, and lava has filled the former lake. Hawaii's largest freshwater lake is the latest casualty from the Big Island's Kilauea volcano. Steam billowed up from Green Lake in Kapoho as lava flow evaporated its placid waters within a few hours. https://t.co/5mFaN5owro pic.twitter.com/Em1JMZ41n9 — CNN (@CNN) June 7, 2018 The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in a June 2 status report : “At 10 a.m., lava entered Green Lake within Kapoho Crater producing a large steam plume. By 1:30 p.m. the steam plume had ceased and by 3 p.m., a Hawaii County Fire Department overflight reported that lava had filled the lake and apparently evaporated all the water .” Related: Hawaii’s Kilauea is creating its own weather Green Lake was a popular swimming location, and was once around 200 feet deep, CNN reported . Hawaii Community College geography lecturer Drew Kapp told CNN affiliate KHNL/KGMB, “I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never even heard of anything like that happening before.” Kapoho Bay, known for tide pools, was totally filled by lava earlier this week, according to CNN. Reuters reported Kilauea has now been erupting for more than one month, and Hawaii County mayor Harry Kim said around 600 homes are destroyed. The homes were located in Leilani Estates, Vacationland and the Kapoho Beach Lots. Around 2,500 people have been displaced. This event has been the Kilauea Volcano’s most destructive eruption in the modern era, according to Kim. Reuters said thousands of earthquakes have occurred during the eruption; most have been of relatively small magnitude. In the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s most recent update at time of writing, lava fountaining from Fissure 8 continues, with the lava reaching around 170 to 200 feet in the air. None of the other fissures are active. Pele’s hair and volcanic glasses are falling downwind of Fissure 8 and accumulating in Leilani Estates, and volcanic gas emissions are still high. + Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Via NPR , Reuters  and CNN Image via U.S. Geological Survey

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Kilauea lava boils away Hawaii’s largest freshwater lake in just a few hours

Uranium-contaminated groundwater found throughout India

June 8, 2018 by  
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A new study from Duke University reports that uranium contamination in groundwater from aquifers is common in 16  Indian states. While much of the uranium contamination is natural in its origin, groundwater-table decline and nitrate pollution from agriculture also contribute to the widespread public health problem; high levels of uranium in drinking water have been linked to chronic kidney disease. “The results of this study strongly suggest there is a need to revise current water-quality monitoring programs in India and re-evaluate human health risks in areas of high uranium prevalence,” study co-author Avner Vengosh told Phys.org . “Developing effective remediation technologies and preventive management practices should also be a priority.” The research team gathered its data from 324 wells in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat, as well as 68 previous studies on groundwater geochemistry in the same areas. Uranium is often found naturally in rocks , which, under varying environmental conditions, allows it to more easily seep into surrounding water. Much of the gravel, clay and silt that are found in India’s aquifers were brought there through the weathering of the Himalayan mountains, the rocks of which contain high levels of uranium. As India’s aquifers are over-harvested to support agricultural industry, oxidation of these rocks enable uranium to escape and contaminate its surrounding environment. Related: 26,000 tons of radioactive waste sits at the bottom of Lake Powell Although the World Health Organization has established an interim safety standard for uranium content in drinking water , a similar regulation has not been adopted by the Bureau of Indian Standards’ Drinking Water Specifications. “One of the takeaways of this study is that human activities can make a bad situation worse, but we could also make it better,” Vengosh said.”Including a uranium standard in the Bureau of Indian Standards’ Drinking Water Specification based on uranium’s kidney-harming effects, establishing monitoring systems to identify at-risk areas and exploring new ways to prevent or treat uranium contamination will help ensure access to safe drinking water for tens of millions in India.” + Duke University Via Phys.org Images via Nithi Anand (1, 2)

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Uranium-contaminated groundwater found throughout India

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