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NEWS UPDATE #98


Madhavan Nair Rajeevan, secretary of the Union ministry of earth sciences, tells Nitin Sethi in an interview, “We did an analysis of observational data of temperatures in different parts of the country. We found that the frequency of heat waves is increasing in the key April-June season. Duration of the heat waves is also increasing.”

Activists launch Jal Hal campaign in parched Bundelkhand
Zee News
Despite a Supreme Court directive to provide the people of drought-hit regions five kg of sudsidised food grain per person and employment opportunities, no such measures are visible on the ground here. Taking serious note of the crisis, four NGOs have got together to learn first-hand about the gravity of the situation and to make people aware of the apex court’s directions. The campaign being run by the NGOs Swaraj Abhiyan, Ekta Parishad, National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) and Jal Biradari (water conservationists) is called ‘Jal Hal Yatra’.

How water inequality governs drought-hit Maharashtra
Abhishek Waghmare, IndiaSpend.com
A resident of Pune, Maharashtra’s second-most developed city, uses five times as much water as his or her counterpart in Latur, the district worst affected by drought in the south-central Marathwada region. That’s the extent of water inequality in Maharashtra, one of India’s most developed states, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of statewide water use, characterised by disproportionate availability and consumption of water across regions, crops and consumers. The coastal region of Konkan – occupying a tenth of the state’s landmass and home to 14% of its population (excluding Mumbai) – contains more than half of Maharashtra’s water, according to government data.

Trend of intensive rain is increasing: Madhavan Nair Rajeevan
Business Standard
Heat waves are set to intensify and stretch longer, Madhavan Nair Rajeevan, meteorologist and secretary of the Union ministry of earth sciences, tells Nitin Sethi in an interview. Excerpt: “We did an analysis of observational data of temperatures in different parts of the country. We found that the frequency of heat waves is increasing in the key April-June season. We found that frequency is increasing – that means the number of heat waves. Duration of the heat waves – the total number of days during which heat waves occur – is increasing. And, the maximum duration of heat waves is also increasing. When a heat wave comes it normally persists for 4-5 days. That too is set to increase.”

‘SC hiked relief in 6 out of 10 cases of land acquisition’
Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava, Hindustan Times
The Supreme Court (SC) has increased the compensation amount in every six out of 10 cases of land acquisition where the compensation awarded for land by the government was challenged by the landowners. In several cases, the final award decided by the court was as high as 10 times of the original award, indicating how niggardly the governments have been compensating the landowners for their land. The findings have come out from an analysis of all reported SC judgements dealing with land acquisition cases across the country between 1950 and 2015, carried out by the New Delhi-based think tank Centre for Policy Research (CPR).

For the first time in history, India will not have power deficit situation in FY17
The Economic Times
India has, for the first time in history, declared that it will not have a power deficit this year, a situation officials say is an outcome of the current government’s initiatives to resolve burning issues like fuel scarcity. The country will have a surplus of 3.1% during peak hours and 1.1% during non-peak hours during 2016-17, latest data from the Central Electricity Authority shows. This is the first time that the country has declared a year of no shortage though many regions have had power surplus for shorter periods.

Forest min seeks bar on 417 coal blocks, coal min says choose 49
Business Standard
Of the 835 coal blocks surveyed, the environment ministry’s Forest Survey of India (FSI) has found that mining would have to be partly restricted in 417 to safeguard the rivers. The coal ministry has objected to this and asked that the partial ban of mining should be limited to only 49 coal blocks. In order to pare down the list of restricted coal blocks, the coal ministry has asked the environment ministry to once again dilute the inviolate forest area policy, which has been in the works since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government came to power.

Westinghouse to relocate planned nuclear plant to Andhra Pradesh, officials say
The Times of India
Toshiba Corp’s Westinghouse Electric will relocate a planned project to build six nuclear reactors in India, said officials, bringing the first deal stemming from a US-India civil nuclear accord struck over a decade ago closer to reality.
The six AP-1000 reactors would be built in Andhra Pradesh, after the original site proposed for the multi-billion-dollar project, in Gujarat, faced local opposition. The breakthrough comes ahead of a June 7-8 visit by Modi to Washington, where he will be hosted by President Barack Obama for a final summit before the US presidential election in November, and will address both houses of Congress.

Perfect recipe for disaster: Jairam criticises Kerala govt’s move to push Athirappilly project
Firstpost
Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Monday criticised Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s move to push the long pending hydro-electric project at ecologically sensitive Athirappilly in the state, terming it a “perfect recipe for ecological disaster”. The former Environment Minister’s remarks came a day after Vijayan backed state Electricity Minister Kadakampally Surdendran who said that the new CPI(M)-led LDF government would implement the project proposed across Chalakkudy river in consultation with environmentalists and their organisations. “Athirappilly project is a perfect recipe for ecological disaster which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will wreak on Kerala and the country,” Ramesh told PTI. (Also read: Kadar tribespeople seek legal recourse against Athirapally hydel power project)

Candidate Modi made big promises to farmers. Has PM Modi kept any?
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
Backtracking exemplifies, in general, the Narendra Modi government’s dealing with farmers. Over its two years in power, the regime has found itself across the fence from farmers on many issues – a draconian land acquisition ordinance which it was compelled to withdraw, a sudden supply crunch in urea fertiliser, a proposal to introduce genetically-modified mustard. On the last issue too, it had to backtrack after BJP’s own farmer organisations objected. Even in the three budgets presented by the Modi government, a steep drop in agricultural budget in the second year had to be clumsily restored in the third with an accounting gimmick.

India releases first ever national disaster management plan
Down to Earth
India’s first disaster management plan in history hopes to “make India disaster resilient, achieve substantial disaster risk reduction and significantly decrease the loss of life, livelihoods and assets.” The plan was released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 1, 2016. Prepared by the National Disaster Management Authority, the plan spells out the roles of all tiers of the government, including panchayats and urban local bodies. It identifies crucial parts of disaster management such as early warning, information dissemination, medical care, fuel, transportation, search and rescue, evacuation, among others.

Antarctic: melting glacier portends apocalypse within 100 years
Catch News
One of the worst nightmares of global warming is the rise in sea levels, caused by the melting of ice at the North and South Poles. Now, a study conducted in Antarctica shows we are speeding towards this apocalypse. The study, published on 18 May in the journal Nature, reveals that the Totten Glacier in eastern Antarctica is “fundamentally unstable”, and will retreat up to 300 km within the next century. This will spill unprecedented amount of water into the oceans and raise sea levels by nearly 3 metres, concludes the study conducted by a team of scientists from Imperial College, London, and institutes in Australia, New Zealand and the US. (Also read: Rising sea levels will put 40 million Indians at risk from coastal flooding by 2050: UN report)

NASA Satellite Finds Unreported Sources of Toxic Air Pollution
NASA
Using a new satellite-based method, scientists at NASA, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and two universities have located 39 unreported and major human-made sources of toxic sulfur dioxide emissions. A known health hazard and contributor to acid rain, sulfur dioxide (SO2) is one of six air pollutants regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Current, sulfur dioxide monitoring activities include the use of emission inventories that are derived from ground-based measurements and factors, such as fuel usage. The inventories are used to evaluate regulatory policies for air quality improvements and to anticipate future emission scenarios that may occur with economic and population growth.

2015 Saw Renewable Energy Boom, Led by Developing Nations
Common Dreams
Renewable energy boomed in 2015, a year that saw fossil fuel prices plummet and ended with a historic climate agreement hammered out in Paris. In fact, investments in renewables such as wind and solar were more than double the amount spent on new coal and gas-fired power plants in 2015, according to the Renewables Global Status Report (pdf) from REN21, an international non-profit. An estimated 147 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power capacity was added in 2015—the largest annual increase ever—while renewable heat capacity and biofuels production also increased. Indeed, the world now adds more renewable power capacity annually than it adds (net) capacity from all fossil fuels combined, the report states.

How Rapid Urbanisation is Changing the Profile of Wildlife in Cities
The Wire
Rapid urbanisation poses challenges for sustainable development and public health. But the picture looks even grimmer for animals. Urbanisation is a new selective force that is changing the composition of animal communities tremendously. During the process of urbanisation some animal species will disappear from the newly urbanised habitat. For example, birds that feed on specific natural food sources will fly to other areas to search for food. Species that cannot move as fast as urbanisation is expanding will disapaear. aBut parallel to this other species, such as crows and doves, will move into the city or increase in density. Thus urbanisation also filters bird communities.

How Rising CO2 Levels May Contribute to Die-Off of Bees
Yale Environment 360
More than 100 previous studies have shown that elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide decrease the nutritional value of plants, such as wheat and rice. But the goldenrod study, published last month, was the first to examine the effects of rising CO2 on the diet of bees, and its conclusions were unsettling: The adverse impact of rising CO2 concentrations on the protein levels in pollen may be playing a role in the global die-off of bee populations by undermining bee nutrition and reproductive success. “Pollen is becoming junk food for bees,” says Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Research Service in Maryland and lead author of the study. The study itself concluded that the decline of plant proteins in the face of soaring carbon dioxide concentrations provides an “urgent and compelling case” for CO2 sensitivity in pollen and other plant components.

Microplastics killing fish before they reach reproductive age, study finds
The Guardian
Fish are being killed, and prevented from reaching maturity, by the litter of plastic particles finding their way into the world’s oceans, new research has proved. Some young fish have been found to prefer tiny particles of plastic to their natural food sources, effectively starving them before they can reproduce. The growing problem of microplastics – tiny particles of polymer-type materials from modern industry – has been thought for several years to be a peril for fish, but the study published on Thursday is the first to prove the damage in trials.

Most coral dead in central section of Great Barrier Reef, surveys reveal
The Guardian
The majority of coral is now dead on many reefs in the central section of the Great Barrier Reef, according to an underwater survey of 84 reefs, in the worst mass bleaching event to hit the world heritage site. An average of 35% of coral was now dead or dying in the northern and central sections, according to the surveys. But in good news for tourists and the tourism industry, only 5% of coral has died on reefs south of Cairns. The in-water mortality studies followed earlier aerial surveys, which found that 93% of the Great Barrier Reef had been affected by bleaching.

The Global Monetary System Has Devalued 47% Over The Last 10 Years
Paul Brodsky, Macro-Allocation.com
The last line of Table 1 shows gold price changes adjusted for the relative importance of currencies, as determined by GDP. It implies that the global monetary system has been devalued against gold by 46.88% over the last ten years (1/1.8824), which was in line with the MSCI ACWI World equity index over this time.) One who produced a good or service anywhere in the world over the last ten years would have been wise to save the fruit of his labor in gold terms.

International oil discoveries lowest since 1952, IHS says
Fuel Fix
Outside of the U.S. energy boom, the oil industry discovered the least amount of crude in 64 years, as the oil-market crash forced drillers to make deep cuts to exploration budgets, research firm IHS says in a new report. The group estimates 2.8 billion barrels of oil were discovered last year, the smallest amount on record since the industry began its surge of exploration for oil around the globe after World War II… “We’ve seen four consecutive years of declining oil volumes, which has never happened before,” said Leta Smith, a researcher at IHS Energy, in a written statement.

Highlighting Contrast with Clinton, Sanders Vows Nationwide Ban on Fracking
Common Dreams
On the campaign trail in California, Bernie Sanders hit the White House and his presidential rival Hillary Clinton over their stances on fracking, telling reporters this week that opening up Pacific waters to oil and gas extraction would be “disastrous.” Sanders criticized federal regulators for clearing the way for offshore fracking to resume in California, just days after the U.S. Department of the Interior released a pair of studies that found it would have no environmental impact. “Make no mistake: this was a very bad decision by the federal government that will not be allowed to stand if I have anything to say about it,” Sanders said during a news conference in Spreckels in Central California. (Also read: Passing Ban, Scottish Parliament Declares: ‘No Ifs, No Buts, No Fracking’)

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