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Wednesday, October 13, 1999 Published at 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK


Millennium line links rich and poor

On the meridian: Village life in Burkina Faso

By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby

Two leading UK charities and a TV broadcaster have finalised plans for a millennium link-up to encircle the globe.

The idea behind the project, called On the Line, is simple - to connect people living in the different countries traversed by the Greenwich meridian. The brainchild of the Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow, On the Line was founded by the station itself and by Oxfam and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Other supporters are Christian Aid, Voluntary Service Overseas, and the British Council. Countries it links include the UK, France, Spain, Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Togo.

Jon Snow said On the Line, intended to celebrate the similarities and differences of life along the meridian, would illustrate "how people across the world can wake up at around the same time each day but lead vastly different lives".

Fish smokers

Among the projects planned by the scheme, up to 50 communities in the UK and Africa will be connected in Christian Aid's community linking programme.

Fish smokers in Grimsby and Ghana will learn about each other, and allotment holders in Glasgow will meet market gardeners from Mali. In March 2000, the British explorer Martyn Williams will lead a team from the South to the North Pole along the meridian, using skis, bicycles and kayaks.

[ image: OntheLine links Ghana and Grimsby]
OntheLine links Ghana and Grimsby
About 300 schools are linking up along the line from the UK to Ghana, and WWF is providing resource packs that follow the journey of a migrating swallow and illustrate life in the countries it crosses.

And young people in the UK will be eligible for the On the Line millennium awards scheme, which has received a grant of £1.3 million to help local millennium projects focused on the developing world.

The Booker Prize-winning author Ben Okri has written a poem for On the Line, the England and Chelsea footballer Graeme Le Saux plans to travel to Africa with the scheme, and other celebrities supporting it include the BBC Radio 1 disc jockey Zoe Ball.

Images by Oxfam

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