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Coral reefs at risk of being wiped out in western Indian Ocean



Some of the world’s most picturesque coral reefs are at risk of being wiped out in the next 50 years, said a report by The Guardian.

The report said: A combination of overfishing and climate change threatens these ecosystems of the western Indian Ocean, putting species, economies and human lives on the line.

A swathe of the world’s coral reefs are at high risk of collapse as climate change and overfishing take their toll.

A team of international scientists found that all the reefs of the western Indian Ocean, an area covering Africa’s east coast as well as islands such as the Maldives, are at risk of ecosystem collapse and irreversible damage in the coming years.

As well as being an ecological catastrophe, a collapse of these reefs would also be a humanitarian disaster for the region, with many residents dependent on the reefs for their food and income.

Dr David Obura, the lead author of the study, says, ‘We’ve known for some time that coral reefs are in decline, but now we know more precisely to what degree, and why. This assessment reaffirms the urgency of the interlinked climate and biodiversity crises addressed by COP26 last month in Glasgow, and COP15 in a few months in Kunming.

‘We need to take decisive action to address both global threats to corals from climate change, and local ones, such as overfishing.’

The study, led by scientists at Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean (CORDIO) was published in Nature Sustainability.

The Indian Ocean is the world’s third largest ocean, spanning from the east coast of Africa to the western shores of Australia.

Due to its position along the equator, it is home to almost half of the world’s coral reefs, primarily around Indonesia, Australia and India.

However, the western half of the ocean still has a significant amount of biodiversity, with countries such as Madagascar, Mozambique and the Seychelles estimated to each have hundreds of species of coral.

These support a wealth of fish, with island nations like the Maldives having over a thousand species found in their waters. Fisheries are incredibly important to the region’s economy to such an extent that if these seas were a country, they would represent the fourth-largest economy in the western Indian Ocean.

The reefs also provide food security for the people that live in the region and provide added benefits as a draw for tourists.

However, the exploitation of the ocean has led the fragile ecosystems found there to the brink of collapse. Fishing from both countries within and outside the region is one of the leading causes, followed by oil extraction and climate change.

To assess the state of these corals, they were assessed using the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Ecosystems. While similar to the red list for animal species which assesses their vulnerability to extinction, it instead asks how close the ecosystem is to collapse.

The answer was that the region’s reefs are perilously close to the edge.

The scientists compiled their report by splitting the reefs across the western Pacific into 11 sub-regions, running north up the east coast of Africa from Kenya to South Africa and east to the island states of the Seychelles and Mauritius.

Each area was assessed individually for its status, allowing the researchers to know the state of around 5% of the world’s reefs.

They found that all sub-regions were at risk of collapse, with reefs around island nations with unique biodiversity, such as the Comoros and the Mascarene Islands, assessed as Critically Endangered.

The same assessment was given for east and south Madagascar, though its north and west coasts were found to be less threatened and judged instead to be Endangered.

The greatest threat to these island reef systems was climate change, which is causing ocean temperatures to rise in the shallow waters in which tropical corals thrive. Rising temperatures put the corals more at risk of bleaching and being unable to recover.

The situation was better on the continental African coast, where the entire stretch was assessed to be Vulnerable. Here, overfishing was found to pose the greatest threat to the reefs.

‘We detected overfishing of top predators on all the reefs from which we had data,’ said co-author Mishal Gudka. ‘These results highlight the need to improve local fisheries management to ensure the health of reef systems and secure sustainable fish stocks, which support jobs for a quarter of a million people in the region.’

The scientists hope that similar assessments will be carried out for the rest of the world’s reefs using the same framework they have, providing a stocktake of the world’s coral. By knowing the state of these ecosystems, the scientists hope that politicians will take the necessary steps to pull coral reefs back from the brink.

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Foreign News

Pope Francis to evict Cardinal Raymond Burke from Vatican




US Cardinal Raymond Burke has been a leader in the Catholic Church for decades (BBC)

Pope Francis is evicting US Cardinal Raymond Burke, an outspoken critic, from his Vatican apartment and revoking his salary.

Cardinal Burke is part of a group of American conservatives who have long opposed the Pope’s plans for reforming the Catholic Church.

A Vatican source told the BBC that Pope Francis has not yet carried out his intention to evict the 75-year-old and the decision is not meant as a personal punishment, the source added. Instead, it comes from the belief that a person should not enjoy cardinal privileges while criticising the head of the church.

Still, the move is “unprecedented in the Francis era”, Christopher White, a Vatican observer who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, told the BBC. “Typically, retired cardinals continue to reside in Rome after stepping down from their positions, often remaining active in papal liturgies and ceremonial duties,” he said. “Evicting someone from their Vatican apartment sets a new precedent.”

White warned that the decision could “provoke significant backlash” and deepen divides between the Vatican and the US church, where there is already “fragmentation”.

Cardinal Burke has yet to respond to the news and the BBC has reached out to his office for comment.

The Pope revealed his plan to act against the cardinal at a meeting with heads of Vatican offices last week. His frustration with US detractors who take a more traditional or conservative view on several issues appears to be coming to a boil.

Earlier this month, he fired Joseph Strickland, a conservative Texas bishop who had blasted his attempts to move the church to more liberal positions on abortion, transgender rights and same-sex marriage. The removal followed a church investigation into governance of the diocese.

A few months before, the Pope told members of the Jesuit religious order in Portugal that there was “a very strong, organised, reactionary attitude in the US church”, which he called “backward”, according to the Guardian.

Tensions with Cardinal Burke, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, have been simmering for nearly a decade, with the American prelate openly criticising Pope Francis over both social and liturgical issues.

“Cardinal Burke’s situation seems to stem from his gradual alienation from the Pope,” said  White. “It appears the Pope perceives Burke as fostering a cult of personality, centred around traditionalism or regressive ideals. This action seems aimed at limiting Burke’s influence by severing his ties to Rome.”

Pope Francis with hand up in front of Vatican building
Pope Francis waves to crowds while leaving St Peter’s Square (pic BBC)

Most recently, the cardinal held a conference called The Synodal Babel in Rome on the eve of the Pope’s synod, or meeting of bishops, last month.

He also joined fellow conservatives in publishing a “declaration of truths” in 2019 that described the Catholic church as disoriented and confused under Pope Francis, saying that it had moved away from core teachings on divorce, contraception, homosexuality and gender. Notably, he disagreed with the Pope promoting Covid vaccines.

Within church politics, he and Pope Francis were at odds over the firing of the head of the Knights of Malta after the order’s charity branch was found to have distributed condoms in Myanmar.

The Pope, in turn, has demoted Cardinal Burke within the church hierarchy or moved him to posts with less influence over the years.

Michael Matt, a columnist for the right-wing Catholic newspaper The Remnant, wrote that the most recent action taken against Cardinal Burke showed that Pope Francis was “cancelling faithful prelates who offer hierarchical cover to pro-life, pro-family, pro-tradition hardliners”. He accused the Pope of putting critics into “forced isolation”.


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Foreign News

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dies aged 100




Henry Kissinger at the State Department's 230th anniversary celebrations in 2019

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has died at the age 100.

He served as America’s top diplomat and national security adviser during the Nixon and Ford administrations.

In a statement, Kissinger Associates, a political consulting firm he founded, said the German-born former diplomat died at his home in Connecticut but did not give a cause of death.

During his decades long career, Mr Kissinger played a key, and sometimes controversial, role in US foreign and security policy.

Born in Germany in 1973, Kissinger first came to the US in 1938 when his family fled Nazi Germany. He became a US citizen in 1943 and went on to serve three years in the US Army and later in the Counter Intelligence Corps. After earning bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees, he taught international relations at Harvard.

In 1969, then-President Richard Nixon appointed him National Security Adviser, a position which gave him enormous influence over US foreign policy in two administrations.


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Rupees 1,500 million allocated for ‘Greater Kandy Urban Development Program’ – State Minister for Provincial Councils and Local Government




State Minister for Provincial Council and Local Government  Janaka Wakkambura participating in a Press Briefing held at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC) on Wednesday (29) under the theme ‘Collective Path to a Stable Country’,  announced that President Ranil Wickremesinghe has allocated Rs. 1,500 million for the “Greater Kandy Urban Development Program” in this year’s budget and that part of the allocation would to be utilized to develop the approach roads to Kandy City.

He also announced that the President had allocated  Rs. 1,000 million to develop tourism by enhancing facilities through the involvement of local government bodies.

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