Covid-19 vaccination: Health Ministry answers frequently asked questions (FAQs)


The Centre has come out with detailed frequently asked questions (FAQs) on Covid-19 vaccination, in an attempt to answer many questions that are being asked by the general public.

Here are the answers to the questions on Covid-19 vaccination:

Should you avoid alcohol after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine?

The Health Ministry says that as per experts “there is no evidence of alcohol impairing the effectiveness of the vaccine”.

A healthcare worker prepares to administer a vaccine at a private hospital in New Delhi. (AP Photo: Altaf Qadri)

Claims on social media suggested the Covid-19 vaccine could affect female fertility. Is it true?

The Health Ministry says rumours or social media posts suggesting Covid-19 vaccines could cause infertility “are not true and totally baseless”.

“None of the available vaccines affects fertility. All vaccines and their constituents are tested first on animals and later in humans to assess if they have any such side effects. Vaccines are authorised for use only after their safety and efficacy are assured,” the ministry says.

What are the precautions one needs to take after receiving the vaccine?

The Health Ministry has assured that both the vaccines are safe but in “case of any discomfort or complaint”, the beneficiaries are advised to visit the nearest health facility or call the health worker whose phone number is given in the CoWIN SMS received after vaccination.

What medications should be avoided before taking the Covid-19 vaccine and for how long?

The Health Ministry says there are no such instructions: One can take one’s regular medication uninterruptedly. Just inform the vaccinator about the medicines you consume.

Senior citizens after receiving the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine at Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

The Health Ministry has advised caution in vaccinating persons with a history of bleeding or coagulation disorder. How does a person know if he/she has a coagulation disorder? What tests can be conducted?

The Ministry has said that in a few bleeding disorders, like haemophilia, persons should take the vaccine “under the supervision of their treating physician”.

Also, patients who are admitted to hospital or ICU and have bleeding problems “should delay the vaccination till they are discharged”.

However, several people with heart and brain disorders are on blood thinners like aspirin and anti-platelet drugs “can continue with their medicines and have the vaccines”, and that vaccines are absolutely safe for this category.

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If I suffer from hypertension, Diabetic Mellitus, Chronic Kidney Disease, heart disease or lipid disorders, can I safely take this vaccine?

Overall, the vaccine is safe and efficacious in adults with comorbidity, the Health Ministry has said, adding that the maximum benefit of getting the Covid vaccine ‘is for those who have such comorbidities”.

“However, if you are concerned for any specific reason, please consult your doctor,” it has recommended.

The health advisory also states that those with immunity issues should be cautious about taking the vaccine. What are the markers of ‘immunity issues’?

The Health Ministry says immune issues are of two types: one, immunosuppression due to any disease such as AIDS, and people on immunosuppressant drugs such as anti-cancer drugs, steroids; second, immunodeficiency in people who suffers from some defect in the body’s protective system such as congenital immunodeficiency.

“Currently, available Covid vaccines do not have any live virus and therefore individuals with immune issues can have the vaccine safely. But the vaccine may not be as effective in them,” the Health Ministry has said.

It also emphasised that this category of patients “should inform the vaccinator about the medicines they consume and if they are suffering from any known immune issues”. “The vaccinator should have a record of one’s medical condition,” the Health Ministry has said.

Registration for the Covid-19 vaccine drive, in Ahmedabad. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

Is the vaccine contraindicated in a person with chronic diseases?

Chronic diseases and morbidities like cardiac, neurological, pulmonary, pulmonary, metabolic, renal and malignancies, etc. are not contraindicated, the Health Ministry has reiterated.

“In fact, the benefit of Covid vaccines to reduce the risk of severe Covid disease and death is for those who have these co-morbidities,” it said.

If I had Covid-19 and was treated, should I take the vaccine?

The Health Ministry has said that “development of immunity or duration of protection” after Covid-19 exposure is not established; therefore it is recommended to receive the vaccine even after Covid-19 infection. “Wait for 4-8 weeks after recovery from Covid symptoms before getting the vaccine,” it has recommended.

I have an allergy to a specific drug. Can I get vaccinated?

The Health Ministry has listed the category of persons with a history of immediate or delayed onset anaphylaxis or allergic reaction to pharmaceutical products, food items, injectable therapies – as a contraindication. Therefore, this category is not advised to take the vaccine.

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Hong Kong ombudsman accuses authorities of inadequate monitoring of high-demand vaccines




Hong Kong’s ombudsman has accused authorities of inadequate monitoring of high-demand vaccines following an investigation into their quality, after fake human papillomavirus (HPV) shots were found at two clinics in 2019.The findings prompted the watchdog to urge the government to ensure transparency of information once Covid-19 vaccines became available in the private market and also prevent any counterfeit or parallel imported vaccines from entering the local market.“Investigation by the…

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Welcome Steps To Return Jammu And Kashmir To Full Economic, Political Normalcy: US


US welcomed steps taken by New Delhi to return J&K to full economic and political normalcy

Washington:

The United States on Wednesday welcomed the steps taken by New Delhi to return the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to full economic and political normalcy consistent with India’s democratic values.

State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said the US, at the same time, continues to follow developments in Jammu and Kashmir closely.

The US policy with regard to Kashmir has not changed, Price told reporters at his daily news conference.

“We welcome steps to return the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to full economic and political normalcy consistent with India’s democratic values. As we’ve said before, Secretary (of State Tony) Blinken has had a couple opportunities to speak to his Indian counterpart, both bilaterally and in the context of the Quad,” Price said.

The Quad, comprising India, the US, Australia and Japan, is aimed at ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific, a region that has witnessed increasing Chinese military assertiveness in the recent years.

The US has important relationships with India, as well as Pakistan, the spokesperson said, adding “these relationships stand on their own in our view.”

“They are not a zero-sum proposition when it comes to US foreign policy. We have productive, constructive relations, and productive and constructive relationships with one does not detract from the relationship we have at the other. It does not come at the expense of the relationship we have with the other,” Price said.

“When it comes to India, we have a global comprehensive strategic partnership, and we’ve talked about that. When it comes to Pakistan, I addressed this the other week: We have important shared interests in the region. And we will continue to work closely with the Pakistani authorities on those shared interests,” he said in response to a question.

The US continues to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern, Price said. “Of course, we’ve continued to call for a reduction of tensions along the Line of Control (LoC), returning to that 2003 ceasefire,” he said. 

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Biden vows to defend allies from China in security guidance


NEW YORK — U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday laid out his immediate vision for America’s role in the world, where the challenge of “an increasingly assertive China” is front and center, as his administration works to develop a long-term strategy.

The 24-page interim national security strategic guidance, which mentions China and its government some 20 times, “lays out the global landscape as the Biden administration sees it, explains the priorities of our foreign policy and specifically how we will renew America’s strength to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of our time,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said hours before the report’s release.

The guidance reiterates ideas key to the administration’s foreign policy vision such as revitalizing democracy, investing in American competitiveness, as well as strengthening U.S. alliances. 

On the military front, it states “our presence will be most robust in the Indo-Pacific and Europe,” noting that the global posture review currently underway will reflect those priorities.

China is now “the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system,” Biden said in the document, citing changes in the distribution of power across the world over the years.

“We will position ourselves, diplomatically and militarily, to defend our allies,” the U.S. president said, vowing to support China’s neighbors and commercial partners against coercion and challenge China’s human rights abuses and unfair trade practices. 

“We will support Taiwan, a leading democracy and a critical economic and security partner, in line with longstanding American commitments,” Biden said. 

Washington must also work alongside its partners to “establish the new rules and practices that will allow us to seize the opportunities that advances in technology present,” Biden said in the document, which is heavy on promoting democratic values over Beijing’s authoritarian ones.

The interim guidance, aimed at aligning relevant U.S. agencies’ actions while multiple foreign policy reviews are underway, signals that the new administration’s foreign policy priorities will center on countering China much like its predecessor, though the two might differ in their approaches.

With a new global security landscape in mind, “our vital national interests compel the deepest connection to the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the Western Hemisphere,” Biden noted, vowing to ensure that “America, not China, sets the international agenda.”

Apart from NATO, Australia, Japan, and South Korea, listed as among Washington’s core alliances, Biden also vowed to deepen Washington’s partnership with India, New Zealand, as well as Singapore, Vietnam, and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states.

Earlier Wednesday at the State Department, Blinken promised that “wherever the rules for international security, and the global economy are being written, America will be there.” 

“We’re always better off at the table, not outside the room,” Blinken said in his first major speech since taking office.

The U.S. was seen as ceding leadership to China in certain areas including in trade with Asian countries, after it withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership under former President Donald Trump, and on climate change after it pulled out of the Paris Agreement.

The U.S. rejoined the climate accord on day one of Biden’s presidency but the administration remains mum on whether it would rejoin the TPP-11. Washington was also left out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the Asia-Pacific region’s largest trade pact which includes China.

Biden’s interim security guidance also foregrounded the urgent need for the U.S. to retain its edge in advance technology, where “global leadership is up for grabs.”

Retaining America’s lead in the tech sector will involve robust investment in research and development as well as a sound immigration policy to attract top-notch talent, according to the document.

The Biden administration has promised to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into funding R&D in areas including artificial intelligence and clean energy, and recently signed an executive order to secure supplies deemed crucial to the U.S. such as semiconductors and rare-earth minerals.



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Father of molestation victim shot dead by accused in UP’s Hathras


The victim had lodged a case of molestation of his daughter two and a half years ago

Lucknow: A 50-year-old man was allegedly shot dead in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district by an accused out on bail in a case of molestation lodged in 2018 against the victim’s daughter, police said on Tuesday.

“The incident took place in Nozarpur village of Sasani area in Hathras on Monday afternoon when the daughters of Ambrish Sharma (50) had gone to a temple, where the wife and aunt of accused Gaurav Sharma were present. The women had heated arguments with each other after which both Gaurav and Ambrish also reached there,” Hathras Superintendent of Police Vineet Jaiswal said.

 

Both Gaurav and Ambrish also had an argument after which the accused called some members of his family and shot Ambrish in a fit of rage, the SP said.

Ambrish was rushed to the hospital where he was declared brought dead, the SP added.

According to an FIR lodged by the victim’s daughter, however, the incident took place in their family potato field.

The Hathras SP said the FIR was registered against Gaurav Sharma, Lalit Sharma, Rahitash Sharma, Nikhil Sharma and two others. Out of them, Lalit has been arrested while the main accused Gaurav is absconding.

In the FIR, it was alleged that the girl was there in her family potato field with her father Ambrish when Gaurav came in a white car with his accomplice and asked Ambrish to take back the case lodged against him.

 

“Before my father could say anything, he opened fire on him. We rushed him to the hospital, where he died,” the girl said in the FIR.

The victim had lodged a case of molestation of his daughter two and a half years ago against Gaurav, who was jailed. Gaurav, then, came out on bail after a month and he had animosity with Ambrish since then, the SP added.

Taking note of the incident, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered strict action to be taken against the accused and directed officials to invoke provisions of the stringent National Security Act (NSA) against them.

Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav alleged that women in UP have lost hope of justice from the state government.

 

“After ‘Hathras ki beti’, murder of a father who had complained of molestation of his daughter has taken place. UP’s women have not just lost hope from the government, they have stopped seeking justice from it,” Akhilesh said in a tweet in Hindi.

“Enough of the atrocities on women, this time the BJP is out,” he added. Akhilesh also tagged a video of a girl, said to be the victim’s daughter along with his tweet.

In the video, the girl is heard saying, “Please give me justice… please give me justice. First, he molested me and now he has shot my father. He had come to our village. There were six-seven people. My father had no enmity against anyone. His name is Gaurav Sharma, he is a dog…”.

 

Meanwhile, a war of words has started between the ruling BJP and the Samajwadi Party over the political background of the main accused.

The state BJP has alleged that the main accused is from the SP with Gaurav Sharma running his social media pages with the name ‘Gaurav Songra’.

The BJP pointed to a Facebook post on February 27 in which Gaurav asked people to attend a farmers’ meeting convened by Yadav on March 3 in Aligarh.

“The accused is an SP leader and was out on bail and pressuring the victim’s family to withdraw the case. No such element will be spared in the present regime,” BJP spokesman Manish Shukla said.

 

BJP MLA from Lambhua, Deomani Dwivedi took to Twitter on the matter and termed the Samajwadi Party as “Apradhwavi Party” (criminal party).

He also put up a picture purportedly of Gaurav from the Facebook page in which he is inviting people for a kisan mahapanchyat in Aligarh.

Samajwadi Party spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary rejected the charges of the BJP .

“Gaurav is not a leader of the Samajwadi Party but that of the BJP. There are photographs of Gaurav with BJP leaders to prove this,” Chaudhary said.

When asked if Gaurav has ever been with the Samajwadi Party, Chaudhary said he has no information about it.

In September last year, a 20-year-old Dalit woman died after being raped by four men in an incident that had shocked the entire nation. She later died due to her injuries at a hospital in Delhi and the police came under widespread criticism over the handling of the case and a late-night funeral of the victim where the family said they were not allowed.

 

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Thailand Increases Speed Limits to Cut Road Crashes


By: Robby Ramakant

For years, Thailand has been notorious for having some of the world’s most dangerous traffic, with road deaths the highest in Southeast Asia. Some 59 people die per day on Thai roads, with only four other countries in the world more dangerous, all in Africa. Some 32 of every 100,000 Thais die on the highways. Across Western Europe, the…

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India v England: Zak Crawley says winning final Test would cap ‘unbelievable’ winter


Crawley averages 37.16 from 11 Tests

Victory over India in the final Test would cap an “unbelievable” winter for England, says opener Zak Crawley.

England trail 2-1 heading into the fourth Test in Ahmedabad – which starts on Thursday – having beaten Sri Lanka 2-0 in January.

India thrashed England by 10 wickets inside two days in a low-scoring third Test last week.

“There’s definitely a way back. We’re only one game down,” said 23-year-old Crawley.

“We still have loads of confidence in our ability.

“It’s an unbelievable winter if we can pull off wins in four out of the six Tests.”

England won the first Test by 227 runs before losing the second by 317, with both games played in Chennai.

They were bowled out for 112 and 81 in Ahmedabad as they failed to reach 200 for the fifth consecutive innings.

Although India collapsed to 145 all out on the second morning, they chased 49 to complete victory shortly into the final session.

“They’ve got great players in their side and they’ve struggled for runs as well,” said Crawley.

“It’s not like they’re scoring millions and we’re scoring none. It’s been a pretty low-scoring encounter, especially in the last game.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan said England batted “like rabbits in headlights” after they were dismissed in 49 overs on the first day in Ahmedabad despite Crawley’s 53.

The Kent batsman was bowled first ball of the second innings by slow left-armer Axar Patel, who shared 18 wickets in the match with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. They have a combined 42 wickets in the series.

Crawley suggested England may change their approach with the bat in the final Test.

“If the pitch looks like it’s going to be just as tricky and plays the same way, with one skidding and one turning, then perhaps we need to be a bit more proactive,” he said.

Meanwhile, England captain Joe Root says he expects to have a full squad to select from in Ahmedabad despite some sickness among the touring party.

Everyone was able to train on Tuesday even though several members of the squad and some coaching staff have been ill with stomach issues unrelated to Covid.

England are expected to recall spinner Dom Bess on Thursday for a game they have to win.

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Mumbai’s 12 police zones to fine 1,000 maskless people per day


50 per cent of the fine collected from mask rule violators will be used for police welfare activities and the remaining will be given to BMC

Mumbai: In a bid to intensify the crackdown on people not wearing masks, Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh has asked the city police force to collect fine from at least 1,000 such violators per day in each zone, an official said on Wednesday.

Mumbai is divided into 12 police zones and the city police are authorised to collect a fine of Rs 200 from people not wearing masks, as mandated under COVID-19 norms.

 

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the metropolis, Singh has asked the city police force to take strict action against those not wearing masks in public places, the official said.

He said Singh recently asked all senior inspectors to improve the performance of their respective police stations and achieve the zonal target of 1,000 such cases per day.

The Mumbai police are making efforts to increase the awareness among citizens about containing the spread of COVID-19, city police spokesperson S Chaitanya said.

“The idea behind setting the target of 1,000 cases for each zone per day is to sensitise people about following guidelines issued by the government about wearing mask and maintaining physical distance in public places,” he said.

 

The official said 50 per cent of the fine collected from mask rule violators will be used for police welfare activities and the remaining amount will be given to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

Since the enforcement of lockdown in March last year, the city police have so far registered cases against 57,692 people under Indian Penal Code Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) for violating various COVID-19 prevention norms, another official said.

Out of these people, 25,947 were arrested and later released on bail, he said.

Since April 18 last year, 10,490 people were penalised for not wearing masks in public places, he added.

 

On Tuesday, Mumbai reported 849 new cases of COVID-19, raising the tally to 3,27,619.

The city has so far reported 11,476 deaths due to the disease, as per official figures.

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Crude oil prices could come under short-term pressure


There are unmistakable indications that the relentless rise in crude oil prices — especially seen in February — may be ending at least for the time-being.

On the one hand, major producers represented by OPEC+ adhered to the output cuts agreed upon and the US shale output was impacted by freezing cold.

On the other, demand received a boost with easing of lockdown restrictions. Investors waiting for such an opportunity increased their net long positions in the market.

The current week is expected to be a crucial time for the energy market as OPEC+ is scheduled to meet on Thursday to chalk out the future course of action in terms of the alliance’s strategy.

Already Brent has declined by $3 to $63 a barrel, while WTI has gone below the psychological $60-a-barrel level. In other words, much of the positive news so far has already been priced-in, while supply-demand expectations in the second and third quarters are sure to weigh in on the group’s discussion.

OPEC’s output

A major trigger for the February rally was lower production by OPEC to the extent of 8,70,000 barrels a day led of Saudi Arabia; but some producers cut production smaller than agreed. There is now expectation that many producers in the alliance would step up production in the months ahead. In the event, nothing can prevent Saudi Arabia to ramp up output. Russia, too, will produce more.

In the event, as much as 1.3 million barrels a day additional oil can come into the market in April. In the US, oil rig count has now crossed 300 and shale output is expected to be ramped up to take advantage of the lucrative prices. Norway, too, is raising its oil output.

Price outlook

At the same time, although improving, demand conditions are still fragile, especially in the western economies. All this will have an unsettling effect on the market. By implication, crude oil prices will be capped to the upside in the short-term. Financial investors holding long positions will, of course, be watching this market for signs that may suggest it’s time to exit.

Any decline in crude oil will be good news for India whose dependence on imported crude is at an alarmingly high 80 per cent. Rising petroleum and diesel prices have fanned inflationary tendencies in the country with hapless consumers the worst sufferers.

Brent crude could trade in the $58-62 a barrel range over the next 2-3 months, on current reckoning, providing a small relief to importing countries.

The author is a policy commentator and commodities market specialist. Views are personal

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Asian Scientist Magazine’s February 2021 Roundup


AsianScientist (Mar. 2, 2021) – On February 11, Asian Scientist Magazine marked the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day dedicated to recognizing the invaluable scientific contributions of women across the world. Our top stories for February not only celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), but also reveal the complex gender-based perceptions through which they must navigate.

As the quest for COVID-19’s origins continue, our other highlights detail how researchers have found SARS-CoV-2 relatives in Southeast Asia. Another surprising discovery? A tiny mouse once thought to be extinct in the wake of the Philippines’ Mt Pinatubo catastrophic eruption. Meanwhile in India, expeditions have revealed the extent of microplastic pollution in the Ganges river basin—a first step in understanding and managing oceanic microplastic.

If you missed out on the latest scientific breakthroughs from Asia, here are five pieces from February 2021 to bring you up to speed.

  • Attracting Singapore’s Girls And Women Into STEM

    In Singapore, women make up less than 30 percent of local researchers and engineers. To examine local perceptions of girls and women in STEM careers, Asian Scientist Magazine, in collaboration with international market research firm YouGov, surveyed 1,064 Singapore-based respondents.

    Overall, parents of children under 18 believed that boys and girls were equally suited to science and technology subjects. However, more respondents perceived ‘hard science’ subjects like advanced mathematics as better suited for boys and humanities subjects like literature and art as more suitable for girls.

    Despite uneven perceptions, respondents were mostly supportive of initiatives like elevated media visibility, career talks and scholarship schemes to increase the interest of young girls in STEM. Such initiatives are a step in the right direction towards gender parity in Singapore’s STEM ecosystem.

  • Celebrating Women Scientists From Asia

    Last February, we also highlighted the many achievements of trailblazing women in STEM across the region. Consider Professor Jackie Ying, head of the NanoBio Lab at Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), who was elected to the prestigious US National Academy of Engineering for her pioneering work developing nanostructured materials, nanomedicine and diagnostic devices to improve human health.

    Meanwhile, synthetic chemist Professor Kyoto Nozaki from the University of Tokyo was recognized with the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women In Science Award for her work in designing molecular catalysts to manufacture molecules useful in medicine and agriculture. Elsewhere, up-and-coming researchers Dr. Khongorzul Dorigotov from Mongolia and Dr. Imalka Munaweera from Sri Lanka were conferred the OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World.

  • Scientists Rediscover ‘Extinct’ Philippine Mouse

    When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, the area’s unique fauna was thought destroyed along with their lush forest habitat. Twenty years later, Field Museum researcher Mr. Danilo “Danny” Balete and his team ventured to Mt. Pinatubo to discover the fate of its biodiversity. To their surprise, they documented 17 species living on the mountain including bats, rodents and mammals like pig and deer.

    Once thought extinct, the most abundant species turned out to be the Pinatubo volcano mouse—demonstrating the ability of small native mammals to tolerate disasters like volcanic eruptions. Amid the arid landscape, the researchers also found promising signs of regrowth. As Mt. Pinatubo continues to recover, the forests will return along with other resilient mammalian species that once called it home.

  • Southeast Asian Bats And Pangolins Harbor SARS-CoV-2-Related Coronaviruses

    During the 2003 SARS outbreak, coronaviruses 99 percent identical to the SARS-CoV virus were identified in civets. However, the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 remain elusive.

    Recently, researchers discovered a virus named RacCS203 in a colony of Rhinolophus acuminatus bats in Eastern Thailand with 91.5 percent genome similarity to SARS-CoV-2. While these findings suggest that the virus emerged from bats, evidence of related coronaviruses have also been found in pangolins. Aside from Thailand, SARS-CoV-2-related coronaviruses have also been observed in China and Japan—supporting the notion that SARS-CoV-2 relatives may be widespread across East and Southeast Asia.

  • Mapping Microplastics Along The Ganges River Basin

    Thousands of people flock to the sacred Ganges River daily to bathe, fish and partake in religious rituals. Despite warnings of high pollution levels, the surrounding river basin still remains the one of the most heavily populated in the world.

    In 2019, an international research team embarked on two expeditions to map the microplastics generated by human activities. Microplastics were identified in 71.6 percent and 61.5 percent of pre-monsoon and post-monsoon samples respectively. Of the microplastics found, over 90 percent were fibers, with clothing materials like rayon and acrylic as the most abundant—reflecting the impacts of increasing human activity along the rivers.

    The team concluded that up to three billion microplastics are likely released from the river basin every day. With this information, researchers can better understand how pollution in major river systems contribute to oceanic microplastics.

  • ———

    Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Illustration: Oi Keat Lam and Shelly Liew/AsianScientist.
    Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.


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