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A man photographing a landscape in Brazil, where environmental journalism is under pressure. Cesar Okada / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Kaamil Ahmed

A pair of "French spies" had infiltrated India by sea to commit a "treasonous conspiracy," an Indian minister claimed in late November. In reality, they were two visiting journalists, and their mission was an investigation into allegations of illegal sand mining in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. They had merely tried and failed to visit the site of a major mining company through legal means.

Their presence set off alarm bells among some connected to the industry, and the fallout has been significant. It's included a police investigation, a politically fueled propaganda campaign and the arrests of two local translators who had been working for them.

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A whale shark at the Georgia Aquarium. istolethetv / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Endangered whale shark fins were found smuggled into a shipment sent via Singapore Airlines to Hong Kong in May, activist group Sea Shepherd Global announced Wednesday.

The fins from the endangered species were hidden within legal fins in a 989 kilogram (approximately 2,180 pound) shipment that traveled from Colombo, Sri Lanka through Singapore to Hong Kong, which is one of the largest shark fin trading centers in the world, AFP reported.

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Sri Lanken Navy

Sri Lanken Navy divers and wildlife officials saved an elephant that was swept about eight nautical miles (roughly 10 miles) off the coast of Kokkuthuduwai, Kokilai on Tuesday.

The rescue team was able to carefully direct the animal towards the coast with ropes after a 12-hour effort.

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In an abrupt and surprising turn, Sri Lanka has ordered a ban on glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide Roundup, due to concerns the chemical may be linked to a mysterious kidney disease that has killed scores of agricultural workers, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

The announcement came last week after a recent International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health study found glyphosate was the likely culprit for the illness, known as fatal chronic kidney disease of unknown origin (CKDu).

“An investigation carried out by medical specialists and scientists has revealed that kidney disease was mainly caused by glyphosate,” Special Projects Minister S.M Chandrasena told reporters in Sri Lanka. “President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ordered the immediate removal of glyphosate from the local market soon after he was told of the contents of the report.”

The paper, Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka?, did not offer new scientific evidence, however, it did lay out a detailed theory suggesting that the use of glyphosate in areas with heavy metals in the drinking water can lead to CKDu.

The researchers propose glyphosate becomes extremely toxic to the kidneys when it’s combined with “hard” water or metals like arsenic and cadmium, either naturally present in the soil or added externally through the spread of fertilizer.

Roundup is the top selling herbicide in the world, and Monsanto said the newest study is built upon an untested theory instead of hard data.

For more than two years, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has examined the kidney disease that has killed tens of thousands of agricultural workers in Central America, Sri Lanka and India.

In fact, CKDu, a disease which is almost completely treatable in wealthier countries, has killed more people in El Salvador and Nicaragua than diabetes, AIDS and leukemia combined, over the last five years on record, reports Center for Public Integrity.

The legislature in El Salvador approved a ban on dozens of agrochemicals including glyphosate last September, but the proposal has so far not been signed into law.

Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.

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