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Play now 28 mins


28 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 18 December 2009

Rinderpest, also known as cattle plague is about to be declared a thing of the past. That will make it only the second disease, after small pox, to be vanquished.
Rinderpest is a viral disease with the potential to destroy whole herds of cattle and domestic buffalo. It has hit hard several times during human history. Now a global eradication programme looks to have finally got rid of it. Jon Stewart speaks to Juan Lubroth, the Chief Veterinary Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organisation at the United Nations, who has been coordinating the effort.

A major change is needed in the way we manage rivers and waterways, and in particular floodplains – according to researchers writing in the journal Science. Dr Jeff Opperman, Senior Advisor for Sustainable Hydropower at the Nature Conservancy in the USA and colleagues say that using floodplains the way that nature designed them could yield, environmental and economic benefits. That could mean removing levees and planning dam projects carefully.

We also hear this week about times when floods can have a beneficial impact. Monsoon flooding of rice paddy fields in Bangladesh can remove arsenic from the crop. Arsenic is found naturally in the groundwater in Bangladesh – and when that water is used in farming, the poison can accumulate in rice and have harmful effects on human health and on the plant itself. Yields are between 20-30% lower when there is arsenic in the soil. Linda Roberts from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich joins us on the programme to tell us about her research.

192; that is how many countries sent delegates to Copenhagen to take part in talks which could ultimately save the planet. The majority of the world's governments believe that climate change is a threat – and they've been aiming for a deal to curb the growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the planet's largest polluters is Russia, but only a minority of people there will be worrying about the outcome of the talks. In fact, according to one official, a popular opinion is that Russia is a rather cold country, and that warming it up slightly wouldn’t do any harm!

Katia Moskvitch from the BBC's Russian Service joins us in the Science in Action studio to tell us what scientists, politicians and the public think about the environment.

Nigeria's severe power crisis continues to cripple many economic and social activities. Factories and businesses have been forced to shut down – and over many years that has led to millions of workers losing their jobs, increasing the rate of unemployment in the country. Many have resorted to the use of private generating sets as the main source of power – bypassing the public electricity supply.

One alternative source of power that Nigeria is experimenting with is solar energy. It's a potential green solution to the power problem, but will the technology become popular enough to provide the answer to Nigeria's dilemma. BBC reporter Bilkisu Babangida sent us his report.

And finally a little Christmas science – with some shiny holiday ornaments on an icy mission. A team from Bristol University in the UK are using bright orange Christmas tree decorations to help figure out what's happening to Greenland's Ice Sheet.
The BBC's Jonathan Amos, who is at the American Geophysical Union meeting in California, tells us more about the story.



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    Science Hour

    Science news and highlights of the week from BBC World Service. The Science Hour is a weekly…

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    Science in Action

    New developments in science and science news from around the world, weekly from BBC World Service.

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