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NEWS UPDATE #101


Kumar Sambhav Srivastava reports: The Centre has scrapped a rule that prevented the government from allowing industrial plantation in naturally forested areas, a move that will allow private players to enter forest management. The change reflects in the new draft national forest policy 2016, made public last week to replace the one formulated in 1988.

Govt tweaks green rules to let in private players
Kumar Sambhav Srivastava, Hindustan Times
The Union environment ministry has scrapped a rule that prevented the government from allowing industrial plantation in naturally forested areas, a move that will allow private players to enter forest management. The change reflects in the new draft national forest policy 2016, which was made public by the ministry last week to replace the one formulated in 1988. The almost-three-decade-old policy disallowed private parties from plantation or any other activities in natural forests, saying these “serve as a gene pool resource and help to maintain ecological balance”. This clause has been done away in the draft, allowing the government, which has been managing forests for over a century, the elbow room to invite private companies and individuals to enter protected green areas. (LATEST: Centre says the draft National Forest Policy it had made public was a mistake)

Sorry state of Indian wildlife – these numbers will tell you why
Sourjya Bhowmick, Catch News
To maximise profit, we are racing to perdition. And we are doing it by cutting down forests and indiscriminately killing animals. World Environment Day (WED), marked on 5 June, is also observed as ‘people’s day’. A day when you ideally do something to take care of Mother Earth. But as our fate is, it might have well been another day of ruining environment. Ironically, WED 2016 was themed – ‘Go Wild for Life’ and focused on illegal trade in wildlife. Here are a few numbers which show the plight of wildlife in India. (Also read: India’s protected areas are just 4.79%. Secure them at all cost: Belinda Wright, Executive Director, Wildlife Protection Society of India)

Forest dept to allow Aravallis to grow forest cover on its own
Ipsita Pati, Hindustan Times
Taking a cue from the pre-monsoon showers, the forest department is planning to start a natural regeneration model to increase the green cover in the Aravallis. This has come at a time when the state is suffering from dearth of forest and the government is under pressure from green activists to increase the forest area. Though every year, a large number of saplings are planted in various areas of the city, the survival rate of the saplings is not high. So, with a view to manage the forest cover properly, the officials have come up with an innovative idea — to restrict movement of man and animals in certain areas and allow natural growth of forest with minimum intervention of forest officials. (Also read: Centre moots ‘green tax’ to address forest woes)

63 percent of rural India do not have drinking water source
The New Indian Express
More than half of Indian households did not have a source of drinking water at home – 63 per cent in rural India – and a fifth of rural households walked more than 500 m to get drinking water, according to 2011 Census data. In Odisha, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, more than 35 per cent of rural households walk the 1/2-km distance. One in four rural households spends more than half an hour walking to a water source, according to the Indian Human Development Survey (IHDS II), which surveyed 42,153 Indian households.

Westinghouse shifts nuclear project from Gujarat: Should Andhra Pradesh be Dumping Ground?
DiaNuke
As a result of concerted public opposition in the Prime Minister’s home State of Gujarat,Toshiba Corp’s Westinghouse Electric seems to have now decided to relocate its proposed nuclear power project (6x1000Mwe capacity) at Mithi Virdi in Gujarat to a site in Andhra Pradesh. The breakthrough comes ahead of a June 7-8 visit by the Indian Prime Minister to the US. Kovvada-siteWhile the people of Gujarat deserve commendation for forcing Westinghouse to shift its project away from their State, this move implies that Andhra Pradesh will soon get converted into a potential nuclear disaster zone without any tangible benefits to the people.

GM mustard stays off the table in India, activists allege trial data was rigged
Priscilla Jebaraj, Scroll.in
No final decision was taken on the GM mustard approval by the GEAC on Monday, according to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The GEAC, which is a body of government-appointed experts chaired by an Additional Secretary in the Ministry, is expected to conduct further risk assessment analysis. This is the first time the government is considering commercialisation of a transgenic food crop after the previous United Progressive Alliance government slapped an indefinite moratorium on BT brinjal six years ago.

India’s top cities ranked for climate vulnerability
SciDev Daily
Jaisalmer, a popular tourist destination in the desert state of Rajasthan is the city most socio-economically vulnerable to climate change in India, while Pune in Maharashtra state, famed for its research institutions, is the least vulnerable, according to a new study. Carried out by the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) and published March in Taylor & Francis Online, the study ranked 11 Indian cities by developing an overall vulnerability index (OVI) based on the weightage given to infrastructure, technology, space, and social and financial aspects. Jaisalmer topped the list with an OVI of 6.5 while Pune rated 3.7.

India is on course to become the world’s most populous country with 1.6 billion people by 2050
Prachi Salve, IndiaSpend.com
India is on course to becoming the world’s most populous country by 2050, with 1.6 billion people, up from 1.2 billion in 2011. If the country has to curb its population growth, a higher survival rate of its children is important, an IndiaSpend analysis of government data indicates. In other words, when more children survive, women tend to have fewer children, which increases the survival rates of those children (see table below). In some states, however, where that correlation is not apparent, it has been found that female literacy levels correlate with having fewer children and higher survival rates for those children.

India’s Economy Needs to be Fortified Against a Potential Global Financial Meltdown
Smiran Bhandari, The Wire
The experiences of the past two years also reinforce the role and importance of global factors in our domestic economy. With the advent of financial technology, economies are getting more and more interconnected and intertwined with every passing day. This phenomenon is making economies increasingly vulnerable to financial shocks which can emanate from a different part of the globe. In August 2015, stockmarkets all over the world went into a downward spiral post the Yuan devaluation by Chinese authorities. The Indian policy framework should be fortified in such a way that the potential damage from global financial problems are contained and limited.

Urban masses will drive consumption in India (with a little help from big, fat Indian weddings)
Mayank Jain, Scroll.in
The key driver of India’s consumption story in the next decade will be the Urban Masses – comprising the urban poor and educated blue collar workers – with a little help from the Indian propensity to hold big, fat weddings, said a Goldman Sachs report released on Wednesday. This is quite different from how the growth story developed in neighbouring China, where the urban middle class propelled consumption. The report titled, The Indian Consumer Close-Up, points out that India’s growth story hinges on an increase in consumption of quality goods across classes. The driving force will be the Urban Mass – a cohort of 129 million people – earning an average of Rs 2 lakh a year.

Chennai May Just Be Masterminding its Next Flooding Disaster
Nityanand Jayaraman, The Wire
Every time Chennai gets flooded, this river or that tank is blamed for behaving badly. The Adyar and Cooum rivers, and the Poondi and Chembarambakkam tanks, have silently borne the brunt of the blame apportioned for floods over the last century. The city’s northernmost river Kosasthalaiyar has largely escaped the accusing glare of indignant city administrators. Not for long, though. In a rare display of cooperative federalism, city, state and central governments are now actively working to change that. In the coming years, if things go per Chennai’s second ‘masterplan’, Kosasthalaiyar will be able to grab its share of disaster time headlines.

Odisha gets its 1st 100% solar-powered village
The Times of India
ctober 2 this year marked a life-changing transition for the 350-odd dwellers of Baripatha, a tribal village about 25 km southwest of Bhubaneswar. It made history by becoming the first village in the state to be powered entirely by solar energy. Many solar projects elsewhere in the country have floundered and failed but Baripatha is different. Its model is low-cost, low-maintenance and community-owned – elements that are missing in other solar-powered projects. “This model can be replicated all over Odisha to provide power to its nearly 3,900 villages,” says senior IPS officer Joydeep Nayak, the prime mover behind this initiative.

People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) gets the First Praful Bidwai Memorial Award
SACW
The first Praful Bidwai Memorial Award has gone to the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI), which was set up in 2014 by noted Mumbai-based journalist and commentator, Palagummi Sainath. According to the award citation, PARI is being recognised for recording and documenting rural India in all its diversity: “Bold in conceptualisation and innovative in methodology, it uses the tools of digital communication, the practice of data storage, and the principles of good journalism to capture the layered realities of a region that is home to over 800 million people speaking in an estimated 700 languages.”

Rising Tide of ‘Politically Acceptable’ Killings Spells Danger for Environmentalists Worldwide
Common Dreams
Environmental activists are being murdered for their work in record numbers, a new report finds, as 2015 saw a stunning 185 people killed—more than three people each week—for resisting destructive industries and the exploitation of land and water. The report from U.K.-based human rights group Global Witness, titled “On Dangerous Ground,” found that “[a]s demand for products like timber, minerals and palm oil continues, governments, companies and criminal gangs are exploiting land with little regard for the people who live on it.” The 2015 death toll marked a 59 percent increase from 2014, and represented more than double the number of journalists killed for their work that same year.

Coral bleaching event now biggest in history – and about to get worse
The Guardian
The coral bleaching event sweeping the globe and destroying vast tracts of valuable coral reef is now officially the most widespread in recorded history, and is likely to continue for an unprecedented third year, according to the US weather agency. For the coming four months, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration says its forecasts show warm ocean temperatures are expected to cause bleaching in the northern hemisphere, including around Hawaii, Micronesia, the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico. Coral in every major reef region has already experienced severe bleaching. About 93% of the reefs on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have been affected, and almost a quarter of the reef on the 2,300km stretch is now dead.

Forget about peak oil … here’s the real reason Saudi Arabia is selling its oilfields
Neal Kimberley, South China Morning Post
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, announced in April by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the first phase of which, the National Transformation Plan, was approved last week by the cabinet in Riyadh, envisages a huge diversification of the Saudi economy away from its dependency on oil production over the coming decades. But as Riyadh looks out to 2030 it also has to factor into its calculations that major energy-consuming economies, including China, are ploughing money into efforts to develop dependable sources of clean energy. (Also read: New dawn: Chinese scientists move step closer to creating ‘artificial sun’ in quest for limitless energy via nuclear fusion)

Norway And The US Sign An Agreement In Violation Of The Rio Declaration
Anandi Sharan, Countercurrents
The United States and Norway this week announced they would offset the greenhouse gas emissions from their aviation industry by buying voluntary emission reduction credits from reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in tropical forests. The plan would violate the Rio Declaration in two ways. By continuing to emit greenhouse gases from their aviation industry, Norway and the US are damaging the environment of other countries that are suffering temperature rise due to climate change. This is the first violation. And by planning to buy voluntary emission reduction credits from developing countries they are depriving those countries of the sovereign right to exploit their own resources, and are violating the Declaration a second time.

“Less Meat, Less Heat”: China’s Plan to Drop Meat Consumption Gets Praise
Common Dreams
Climate advocates are praising the Chinese government’s new dietary guidelines designed to cut meat consumption in half—which would reduce the country’s livestock-related carbon emissions by 1 billion tons by 2030. Li Junfeng, director general of China’s National Center on Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, said that if China’s population of 1.3 billion took up the new guidelines, released once every 10 years, “it is expected that the livestock industry will transform and carbon emissions will be reduced.” The average person in China currently eats 63 kilograms (138 lbs) of meat every year, which amounts to 28 percent of the world’s meat. (Also read: 15.5% Drop in China Coal Production Shows Transition Gaining Speed)

Rajshahi: the Bangladesh city that took on air pollution – and won
Emma Graham, The Guardian
Once, Rajshahi’s sweltering summers were made worse by a familiar problem on the Asian subcontinent: windows would have to be shut, not because of the wind or monsoon, but because of the smog. Then suddenly Rajshahi, in Bangladesh, hit a turning point so dramatic that it earned a spot in the record books: last year, according to UN data, the town did more than any other worldwide to rid itself of air particles so harmful to human health. (Also read: A Tiny Pacific Nation Takes the Lead on Protecting Marine Life)

What Are The Long Term Consequences Of The Brexit
James Stafford, Oil Price
The fundamentals of supply and demand for crude oil will not appreciably change due to a Brexit. Unless the UK’s decision to leave Europe sparks wider economic malaise or lasting financial turmoil, the effects on oil could be fleeting. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that the UK’s decision to leave Europe leads to more votes in other European countries to follow in Britain’s footsteps, which will spark more economic volatility. “This could be a new Lehman moment,” Saker Nusseibeh, chief executive at Hermès Investment Management, told The Wall Street Journal. (Also read: The Real Brexit “Catastrophe”: World’s 400 Richest People Lose $127 Billion)

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