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Third Pole weekly news roundup – 6 March

This week’s roundup includes: deadly avalanche in Afghanistan – donors pull out of Sunderbans coal project – India the most vulnerable country to river flooding – thirsty Yaks forced to climb higher in warmer winters

On Sunday a deadly avalanche killed 200 people in northern Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, in what was the worst avalanche in over three decades, the Wall Street Journal reported. Afghan troops have been struggling to provide relief to remote mountain villages.

Norwegian donors will pull out of the controversial Rampal coal powered plant in the Sunderbans due to “unacceptable” environmental risks, according to the Prothom Alo news website. The India-Bangladesh joint venture threatens the world’s largest mangrove forest and important dolphin sanctuary.

India, Bangladesh and China – the three countries that share the Brahmaputra river  – are the most vulnerable to flooding from rivers, with an increasing number of people threatened because of climate change and economic development in low-lying regions, a study from the World Resources Institute said on Thursday, as reported by Reuters. In India and 4.8% of the country’s population are exposed to the risk of inland flooding, compared with 3.5% for Bangladesh and 3.3% for China.

Nuclear fears

Fears grew over a nuclear plant to be built by a Chinese company outside Karachi, Pakistan’s major port city, the Tribune reported. The nuclear reactors will stand less than 40 km from Karachi’s densely populated metropolis of 20 million residents and are based on new designs never been used or tested anywhere else. Last month Chinese officials confirmed that Beijing is involved in at least six nuclear  projects in Pakistan and is likely to export more, according to the Diplomat.

As China’s community party prepared for its annual parliamentary session this week, a documentary about the country’s smog became a hit sensation, but was later removed by Chinese censors. Premier Li Keqiang said his government would strictly enforce environmental laws and punish polluters against the backdrop of growing public concern about toxic air, water and soil.

Yak dilemma

Warmer temperatures are forcing female yaks to climb to higher altitudes on the Tibetan plateau, shows new research published this week by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Qinghai Forestry Bureau. Female yaks are climbing higher to steeper slopes in search of the snow they need to produce milk and feed their young, leaving male yaks behind. The research was carried out in the remote Keke Xili reserve on the Tibetan plateau where temperatures are rising more than double the global average.