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At least 24 people have lost their lives, nearly 500 million animals have perished and more than 12 billion acres of land — an area as large as Denmark — has turned to cinders as bushfires have ravaged large parts of Australia.

The fires, among the worst in the country’s history, have been raging since September and show no signs of abating.

Bushfires are actually a part of Australia’s ecosystem. Many plants depend on them to cycle nutrients and clear vegetation. In fact, eucalyptus trees in Australia depend on fire to release their seeds. But all this usually happens during a few weeks in late January-February, when the country is at its driest.

The prolonged blaze this year has coincided with Australia’s harshest summer. Parts of the country recorded their highest recorded temperature in December. Then, longer-term factors have been at play. Much of Australia is facing a drought that is a result of three consecutive summers with very little precipitation. This, according to climate scientists, is unprecedented

Australia is home to nearly 250 animal species, some of them like the koalas and kangaroos are not found elsewhere. But the region also has the highest rate of native animals going extinct over the past 200 years. The fires will aggravate this situation.

The fires have also caused a drop in the bird, rodent and insect populations. These creatures are the building blocks of the ecosystem and the fall in their population is bound to have long-term impacts. In Australia’s bushfires lie a warning about the complex ways in which climate variables interact.


Nankana Sahib is a city of 80,000 in Pakistan’s Punjab province, where Gurdwara Janam Asthan (also called Nankana Sahib Gurdwara) is located.

The shrine is built over the site where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, was believed to be born in 1469. It is 75 kms to the west of Lahore, and is the capital of Nankana Sahib district.

The city was previously known as Talwandi, and was founded by Rai Bhoi, a wealthy landlord. Rai Bhoi’s grandson, Rai Bular Bhatti, renamed the town ‘Nankana Sahib’ in honour of the Guru. ‘Sahib’ is an Arabic-origin epithet of respect.

Besides Gurdwara Janam Asthan, Nankana Sahib has several important shrines, including Gurdwara Patti Sahib, Gurdwara Bal Leela, Gurdwara Mal Ji Sahib, Gurdwara Kiara Sahib, Gurdwara Tambu Sahib — all dedicated to stages in the life of the first Guru.

There is also a Gurdwara in memory of Guru Arjan (5th Guru) and Guru Hargobind (6th Guru). Guru Hargobind is believed to have paid homage to the town in 1621-22.

The Janam Asthan shrine was constructed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, after he visited Nankana Sahib in 1818-19 while returning from the Battle of Multan.

Until Independence, Nankana Sahib’s population had an almost equal number of Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus, which since Partition has been predominantly Muslim.


The Great Indian Bustard (GIB), is one of the heaviest flying birds, and is found mainly in the Indian subcontinent. Barely 150 of these birds are estimated to be surviving now globally. However, a major conservation effort launched about four years ago is bringing a ray of hope.

Since June last year, nine GIB eggs collected from the Desert National Park in Jaisalmer where a conservation centre has been set up, have hatched, and the chicks are reported to be doing well. This is the largest number of hatchings reported within a six-month frame by any GIB conservation programme in the world, say officials.

The GIB is known to eat insects, harvested foodgrains, and fruit. “The uncontrolled use of pesticides and insecticides in farms has badly hit their food habitat,

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, are working to save the GIB. The Ministry has allotted special funds to the tune of Rs 33 crore, a part of which was used to set up the incubation and chick-rearing centre in Jaisalmer.

According to the WII report, the bird was once abundant in Kutch, Nagpur, Amravati, Solapur, Bellary, and Koppal districts in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka.

Globally and in India, high voltage power lines are a major threat to the GIB, the WII report says. The bird has poor frontal vision, which restricts it from spotting power lines early. “…About 15% of the population (dies) due to the power lines in Jaisalmer alone. This, in comparison to the natural cause of deaths contributed only 4% to 5% cases,” the report says.


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