International business briefs: Bad monsoon, Evolution breakthrough, Toxic water, Clean air waiver, Russian Kyoto, Hurricane help fund

Indian weather officials this week stated that this year's monsoon is expected to measure 12-14% below normal for the June and September period, mainly due to an El Nino-like weather condition. Monsoon rains had been down by 13% between 1 June and 15 September, and officials said a significant downpour was now unlikely. Around 60% of India's population depend on the farm sector to earn a living and a bad monsoon is bad news for the agricultural industry, which accounts for 22% of the country's GDP.

A study from scientists at Stanford University shows that global warming and genetic diversity are directed linked, by comparing DNA from voles and pocket gophers with ancient DNA from fossilised rodents that inhabited the same area. The results have important implications for wildlife biology and conservation, spokesman said, as well as a subtle message about the potential influence of warming on evolution.

A chlorine alternative used in the US to disinfect public drinking water can produce byproducts far more toxic than those generated by chlorine, according to a study. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now finalising a new rule that will toughen the standards for chlorine byproducts with know health effects – a move which is expected to cause many water treatment facilities to move to chlorine alternatives. The idoacids found in drinking water that were produced by the chemical were found to be toxic to hamster ovary cells.

The US Environment Protect Agency (EPA) has determined that storm-related shortage of gasoline in the Atlantic area require a waiver of certain fuel requirements under the Clean Air Act. Refinery and fuel delivery problems caused by Hurricane Ivan on the Gulf Coast curtailed supplies of the low-sulphur gasoline required in the metropolitan Atlanta area. The EPA is exercising its enforcement discretion to temporarily allow regulated parties to produce, import, distribute and sell gasoline that does not comply with government regulations, in effect until midnight 24 September 2004.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed key ministers to sign the Kyoto ratification documents, according to the WWF. Putin’s move follows a meeting between the president and a group of close advisors last week. Once the ministers have signed the documents, the package will be presented to the Russian parliament. The WWF say the parliament could ratify the Kyoto Protocol within the next few weeks.

And finally, Cable & Wireless announced this week it set up a relief fund to assist victims of Hurricane Ivan. An initial US$1 million is being contributed, and Cable & Wireless employees around the world are making additional private donations to the fund. The funds collected will help provide relief to those most affected and rebuild local communities.

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