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DateLine Sunday, 19 August 2007

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Television - what it does to your child

In the good old days, the family was the most important influence in a child's life, but research now suggests that television is not far behind. Television can both educate and entertain us, but it does harm too.

Here are some of the findings of the American Academy of Paediatrics on the impact of television. Studies show that TV viewing may lead to more aggressive behaviour, less physical activity, altered body image, and increased use of drugs and alcohol. But high-quality, non-violent children's shows can have a positive effect on learning.

However, for younger children, it's a different story. The first two years of life are especially important in the growth and development of a child's brain. During this time, children need good, positive interaction with other children and adults to develop good language and social skills. Learning to talk and play with others is far more important than watching television.

Until more research is done about the effects of TV on very young children, the American Academy of Paediatrics does not recommend television for children younger than two years of age.

In another study done by Robert Hancox at the University of Otago in New Zealand, with nearly 1000 children born in Dunedin, in 1972 and 1973, the conclusions were: children who watched the least TV - especially between the ages of five and 11 - had the highest probability of graduating from university by the age of 26, regardless of IQ or socio-economic status.

Those who watched the most TV, more than three hours per day, had the highest chance of dropping out of school without qualifications.

Frederick Zimmerman and Dimitri Christakis at the University of Washington in Seattle, found that children who watched the most TV before the age of three performed poorest on reading and mathematics tests at ages six and seven.

Concerned parents should think twice before placing their child in front of the TV, as the standards of many local TV programmes which are aired have dropped drastically.


Herb cultivation programme

Four thousand less-developed villages have been selected by the Ministry of Indigenous Medicine to carry out a herb cultivation programme. This group herb farming system was initially introduced to the village of Kumbukgolla in the Medawachchiya area recently.

Through this programme implemented by the Ministry with assistance from the Ayurvedic Department, Samurdhi beneficiaries who are facing severe poverty, are selected to cultivate herbs.

They will be guided and instructed by ayurvedic authorities to carry out cultivation in lands coming under the Ministry of Indigenous Medicine.

All requirements such as saplings and fertiliser will be provided by the Ministry, while each family engaged in cultivation will be paid Rs. 400 per day. The produce will be bought by the Ayurvedic Drugs Corporation and the income will also be divided equally among the group members.

The pilot project at Kumbukgolla has been provided with 25 acres of land. The project, if successful, will annually save about Rs. 200 million in foreign exchange which is used to import herbal products annually for the manufacture of Ayurvedic medicine.


Textbooks on time

Some of you may have experienced difficulties at the beginning of a new school year due to the non-availability of school textbooks. There have been many instances when school textbooks had been distributed to students many days after the commencement of the first term. There have also been occasions when students had received textbooks after the first term.

These setbacks are expected to be solved with the moves being made by the Ministry of Education to distribute textbooks before the commencement of next year's first term. The Education Publication Commission of the Ministry has been advised by the Education Minister to distribute textbooks to every student by next January.

An officer has also been appointed to ensure the smooth distribution of books throughout the country. Distribution will be carried out by the Zonal Education Office under the supervision of the Provincial Educational Office and the Education Publication Commission. The security forces have been entrusted with the task of distribution in the North and East.


Monument for Olympics

Most Asians are excitedly awaiting the Beijing Olympics next year. It's special this time as the most important sporting event in the world is being held in our own continent. The whole continent, including Sri Lanka, is getting ready for this monumental event.

As a means of marking the Beijing Olympics, the Urban Development and Sacred Area Development Ministry and the Urban Development Authority (UDA) are planning to put up a monument for the Olympics at Parliament Junction, Battaramulla.

The goal is to fasten urban development activities in Sri Lanka parallel to the Olympics. The UDA has also arranged a mobile programme under the theme 'Olympic Sithuvili'.

The monument will bear a design of four lions belonging to the Yapahuwa era and also other historical facets of the country. A computerised electronic clock will be set up on top of the monument which is estimated to cost nearly Rs. 2.5 million. Construction work is expected to be completed by August 8, 2008 and its opening is scheduled on the day on which the Olympic ceremony commences.

Through this project, the Ministry and the UDA intends to provide schoolchildren, university students and rural folk an understanding about how an Olympic festival could assist a country in its development drive.


India may have just 1,500 tigers

India may have just 1,300 to 1,500 tigers left - less than half of the number believed to exist five years ago - conservationists say. The final results of a state-by-state census are expected in December, but at a recent conservation meeting, a noted Indian tiger expert put the number of the cats left in the country at 1,500 or fewer.

"The indications are that the present tiger population in India is between 1,300 and 1,500," said conservationist Valmik Thapar in New Delhi.

Thapar said both wildlife experts and government officials were in agreement on the figure, a sharp drop from the 3,700 tigers believed to live in India in 2002.

Other wildlife experts, however, said the final figure from the new tally, which uses technology such as camera traps rather than relying on pug marks (paw prints) as past surveys did, was likely to be close to the one given by Thapar.

AFP


Water summit in December

The first Asia Pacific Water Summit (APWS) will be held in the Japanese city of Beppu in December. Forty nine governments in the region have already expressed interest in the event.

It's being organised by the Asia Pacific Water Forum (APWF), an independent, non-profit, non-political network launched in September last year at the headquarters of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila, Philippines.

The Forum aims to get the support of governments, international donor and development agencies and civil society groups to help achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the number of people without access to clean water and improved sanitation by 2015.

A WHO-UNICEF report has revealed that 655 million people in the region still lack access to safe drinking water, while 1.9 billion lack access to basic sanitation. The Asia-Pacific region accounted for 80 per cent of the total global deaths due to water-related disasters between 2001-2005, according to the international disasters database.

'Asia Water Watch 2015', the ADB report of last year estimated that eight billion dollars needs to be invested annually on water and sanitation in the region in the coming decade to achieve the MDG target by 2015.


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