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NEWS UPDATE #103


The Guardian reports: Arctic ice cover in June crashed through previous records to reach an all-time low. The Arctic sea ice extent was a staggering 260,000 sq km below the previous record (2010). That means a vast expanse of ice – an area about twice the size of Texas – has vanished over 30 years.

Bundelkhand: From drought to floods
Anupam Pateriya, Hindustan Times
The two dams, built under Bundelkhand drought relief package in Bilkhura and Sirswaha, were swept away on Thursday. Officials have blamed the use of sub-standard construction material for the damage. The Sirswaha dam was in its last stage of completion. In 2012, the Bitri Murmutu dam was also swept away due to use of sub-standard material in construction. Panna Collector Shiv Naryan Singh Chouhan told HT that he had inspected the spot and the administration had evacuated people from three nearby villages. An inquiry has been ordered into the damage. Life has come to a standstill in the rest of Bundelkhand because of incessant rains for the last four days. (Also read: The drought you didn’t hear about: Villagers in Gujarat know a good monsoon won’t bail them out)

India’s thriving biodiversity: 445 new species added in 2015
Shiv Sahay Singh, The Hindu
The most discoveries were made in the Eastern Himalaya region, which accounts for 19 per cent of the total discoveries. Four species of reptiles, six species of amphibians, 26 species of fishes, three species of wild ginger and three of figs are among the 445 species new to science identified in India in 2015. The figure includes 262 animal species and 183 plant species. Scientists of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) are delighted that all regions in the country have recorded new species while those from the Zoological Society of India (ZSI) are excited that more than 15 per cent of the new species are higher vertebrates. (Related: Govt approves eco-sensitive zone around Jayakwadi bird sanctuary)

NGT notice to Centre on Biological Diversity Act
The Economic Times
A plea alleging that various states and Union Territories have “failed” to give attention to the unique biodiversity of the country prompted the National Green Tribunal today to seek response from the government on the issue. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices to Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), National Biodiversity Authority and State Biodiversity Boards while seeking their reply within two weeks on the issue. The NGT was hearing a plea filed by Pune resident Chandra Bhal Singh seeking implementation of provisions of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and Biological Diversity Rules, 2004. (Also read: Ministry of Environment and Forests relaxes rules for small Rajasthan mines)

Is Karnataka giving green nod to projects in a hurry? Study says very few are rejected
Rohith BR & Jayashree Nandi, The Times of India
Getting environment clearance for any project, be it mining, quarrying or mega constructions, seems to be very easy in Karnataka. While project proponents say this is a positive trend, a recent analysis by Delhi-based EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC), which keeps tabs on India’s environmental, forest and wildlife clearance processes, says all’s not well in the way green nods are being given in Karnataka. The study, which has reviewed minutes of the meetings of project clearance proceedings by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), Karnataka, for the first quarter of 2015, found that on an average 97% of the projects get approved.

Udupi: ‘UPCL expansion a threat to Western Ghats’: Environment activist writes to UNESCO
Daiji World
Balakrishna Shetty from Yellur, who runs a trading business in traffic safety systems in Dubai, has written to the UNESCO, France expressing grave concerns over the damage to Western Ghats, a World Heritage Site, that is likely to be caused by the expansion of Udupi Power Corporation Limited (UPCL) power plant. In a letter addressed to the secretariat of World Heritage Committee of UNESCO, Balakrishna Shetty, who has been actively participating in environment protection activities in his hometown, has pointed out that the ‘coal-based thermal power plant by Udupi Power Corporation Ltd in our village of Yellur of Udupi district in the west coast of India, is posing serious threat not only to the local environment but to the Western Ghats as well. (Also read: 1) Forest panel gives nod to Rs 29,000 crore Odisha power project 2) Thermal power plant plan for Arunachal)

Excise sop may retire 28m old vehicles, cut emission by 30%
The Times of India
Nearly 28 million vehicles , purchased before April 2005, could go off the roads with the government on Thursday proposing incentives to retire old vehicles. Pitching for the Voluntary Vehicle Fleet Modernisation (V-VMP), a concept note, the road transport ministry claimed that the policy has potential to reduce vehicular emission by 25-30 per cent and saving oil consumption by 3.2 billion litres annually. The reduction in oil consumption by new vehicles will help save nearly Rs 7,000 crore in oil import every year, said the concept note. (Also read: Environment panel recommends 20-22% green cess on diesel vehicles)

Capacity for renewable energy in India hits 42,850 mw; surpasses capacity of hydel projects
Kaavya Chandrasekaran, ET Energy World
India’s quest for green energy has crossed a major milestone, with renewable plants, mainly wind and solar, surpassing the capacity of large hydroelectricity projects, which were once the country’s biggest source of electricity and regarded as “temples of modern India”. The total capacity of renewable energy projects expanded to 42,850 megawatts, overtaking hydropower that stood at 42,783 mw, out of the country’s total capacity of about 3 lakh mw on April 30, as per the latest assessment of the Central Electricity Authority.

Who Stole My Dal? The Story Behind Rising Costs of Pulses
Kirti Phadtare Pandey, The Quint
The United Nations have declared 2016 as the Year of Pulses. Ironically, India – one of the major consumers of pulses is facing its biggest supply crunch and pricing crisis where pulses are concerned. Prices of dals (pulses) have shot through the roof and the common man is struggling to put a square meal on the table. India is likely to import about 5 million tonnes of pulses during April-December period of this fiscal, largely by private traders, to boost domestic supply and cool retail prices that have reached up to Rs 200 per kg.  (Also read: Mozambique to grow arhar, urad for Indian consumers)

Why Small Farmers In Tamil Nadu Borrow Money At 60% Interest
Suraj Nair, IndiaSpend
Farmers often require credit at very short notice during a farming season. For instance, given the uncertainty in the arrival of rains in the 2014-15 cropping season in the delta districts of Tamil Nadu, even a slight delay in rainfall would have been enough to prompt farmers to rent a pump-set for irrigation. In such a situation where unforeseen expenses are necessary, it would be most convenient for farmers, especially small and marginal holders, to borrow from informal sources, given the speed and convenience in getting these funds and despite an average annualised interest rate of at least 60% (according to an on-going survey of the informal lending market in the same areas, by the same team of researchers).

Anil Madhav Dave: New environment minister has a tough task ahead
Mayank Aggarwal, Live Mint
After assuming charge on Wednesday, Dave said that he would take forward the work done by his predecessor Prakash Javadekar and would maintain a balance between development and environment—echoing a line that was often used by Javadekar. Striking that balance will be crucial—Dave’s appointment as minister of state (independent charge) for environment, forest and climate change comes at a time when the government is under increasing fire for allegedly diluting environmental laws. (Related: Video: India’s new environment minister reminds us that Ganga isn’t the only river that needs saving)

Swaraj Abhiyan deplores reported move at closing down Ministry of Panchayati Raj
Swaraj Abhiyan
Swaraj Abhiyan expresses deep concern at the reported attempt to fold up the Ministry of Panchayati Raj of the Central government. According to media report, the Ministry may be “closed down and turned into a department under the Ministry of Rural Development”. This appears to be yet another sign of indifferent attitude of the present regime to the idea of panchayati raj. It must be recalled that this government has subjected the Ministry to drastic budget cuts and reduction in its functions. The idea is to empty the ministry of funds and functions so that its closure goes unnoticed. The reported move to convert it into a Department of the MoRD is not just an administrative move; it is a clear political move.

How Climate Change & Abuse of Rivers Is Draining the Kumbh Mela
Soumya Sarkar, The Quint
The Shipra flowed smoothly through the month-long Simhastha Kumbh Mela held at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh until the end of May, holding out the hope of salvation to 60 million pilgrims who gathered on its banks to bathe in its waters. But the clear signs of a dying river and interventions that worsen its condition can no longer be wished away. The situation is starker in the headwaters of the Godavari, where a Kumbh Mela is held as well every 12 years. Ramkund in Nashik, the centre of the great ‘pitcher festival’ last year, dried up in April for the first time in living memory, placing in danger the ancient Hindu ritual of purification in flowing water.

Pilot launched for solar energy to power PHCs, for millions with no access to health centres with electricity
DNA India
In a bid to strengthen the primary health infrastructure in the country, the Indian Council of Medical Research has piloted a programme to power Primary Health Centres through solar energy. Partnering with the think tank Council for Energy, Environment and Water, the country’s apex medical research body has signed an MoU to study if solar can be an effective solution for almost 33 million Indians who have to make do with primary health infrastructure with no electricity at all.

In boost to Paris climate pact, India says it aims to join this year
Reuters
India has agreed to work toward joining the Paris Agreement on climate change this year, India and the United States said on Tuesday, giving a jolt of momentum to the international fight to curb global warming. At a time of heightened tensions in Asia over China’s assertive pursuit of territory, the two countries also pledged to expand military cooperation and outlined principles for cooperation on cyber issues. India’s potential entrance into the agreement this year would help accelerate its enactment, perhaps years ahead of schedule. India is the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the United States.

Arctic sea ice crashes to record low for June
The Guardian
The summer sea ice cover over the Arctic raced towards oblivion in June, crashing through previous records to reach a new all-time low. The Arctic sea ice extent was a staggering 260,000 sq km (100,000 sq miles) below the previous record for June, set in 2010. And it was 1.36m sq km (525,000 sq miles) below the 1981-2010 long-term average, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. That means a vast expanse of ice – an area about twice the size of Texas – has vanished over the past 30 years, and the rate of that retreat has accelerated. Aside from March, each month in 2016 has set a grim new low for sea ice cover, after a record warm winter.

Global warming to blame for hundreds of heatwave deaths, scientists say
The Guardian
Hundreds of deaths in the searing European heatwave of 2003 can be attributed to manmade climate change, say scientists. Researchers calculated that 506 out of 735 heat-related deaths recorded that summer in Paris – the hottest city – were due to global warming. The impact of climate change was less severe in London, where 64 out of 315 deaths were blamed on manmade effects. Scientists arrived at the figures after combining climate model simulations of the 2003 heatwave with a health impact assessment.

Massive mangrove die-off on Gulf of Carpentaria worst in the world, says expert
The Guardian
Climate change and El Niño have caused the worst mangrove die-off in recorded history, stretching along 700km of Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria, an expert says. The mass die-off coincided with the world’s worst global coral bleaching event, as well as the worst bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef, in which almost a quarter of the coral was killed – something also caused by unusually warm water. And last week it was revealed warm ocean temperatures had wiped out 100km of important kelp forests off the coast of Western Australia.

Video: Typhoon Nepartak causes large scale destruction in south eastern China
Scroll.in
Floating cars, broken bridges, and water filled roads. The video above shows drone footage of the devastation caused by typhoon Nepartak in China’s Fujian province. Nepartak hit Taiwan on Friday, travelling from there on to south-eastern China. While Taiwan experienced the full fury of the typhoon, by the time it hit Fujian on Saturday, it had weakened into a strong tropical storm, still powerful enough to cause the damage seen here. Chinese new agency Xinhua reported that at least 6 people were killed, and 8 remain missing. The scale of property loss is much greater, with almost 2000 homes destroyed. The economic loss is estimated at 860 million yuan.

Repeat Oil Spills Turning Peruvian Amazon into ‘Sacrifice Zone’ for Big Oil
Common Dreams
Less than six months after two horrific oil spills in the Peruvian Amazon devastated Indigenous communities and the local ecosystem, yet another spill in the region has been reported. On Friday afternoon, a leak was discovered in the Nothern Peruvian Pipeline—the same pipeline responsible for the earlier spills—that eventually coated over 16,000 square meters of Amazon rainforest in Peru’s northeast Loreto region with crude oil, according to OEFA, the country’s environmental regulator. The pipeline is operated by the state-run corporation PetroPeru. (Also read: 1) Another Environmental Activist Killed in Honduras 2) Thousands Gather to Reject Mining, Fracking, Damming in Mexico)

Ozone layer hole appears to be healing, scientists say
The Guardian
The vast hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica appears to be healing, scientists say, putting the world on track to eventually remedy one of the biggest environmental concerns of the 1980s and 90s. Research by US and UK scientists shows that the size of the ozone void has shrunk, on average, by around 4m sq km since 2000. The measurements were taken from the month of September in each year, when the ozone hole starts to open up each year. The study, published in Science, states that the phase-out of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) chemicals means that the ozone layer is “expected to recover in response, albeit very slowly.” CFCs, once commonly found in aerosols and refrigeration, can linger in the atmosphere for more than 50 years, meaning that the ozone hole will not be considered healed until 2050 or 2060.

Chilcot’s blind spot: Iraq War report buries oil evidence, fails to address motive
David Whyte & Greg Muttit, Open Democracy UK
The long-awaited Chilcot Report was finally released today, examining the UK’s involvement in the Iraq War and occupation. Unfortunately, on the most important question, the report’s conclusions are all but silent: why did the UK go to war?Chilcot takes at face value the Blair government’s claim that the motive was to address Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Most important of these is oil. Buried in deep in volume 9 of the 2.6 million-word report, Chilcot refers to government documents that explicitly state the oil objective, and outlining how Britain pursued that objective throughout the occupation. But he does not consider this evidence in his analysis or conclusions. Oil considerations do not even appear in the report’s 150-page summary.

Is peak oil demand in sight?
McKinsey & Company report
The total demand for liquid hydrocarbons will play out as a tug of war between growth in the petrochemical sector and declining demand from passenger cars. Petrochemical feedstock will drive 70 percent of the growth in demand for liquid hydrocarbons through 2035. Demand for liquids, excluding chemicals, will peak and flatten by 2025 because of a decline in demand from light vehicles. The petrochemicals demand will drive the growth of light end products, a large share of which are not made from crude oil. (Related: Report: The U.S. Has More Oil Than Saudi Arabia or Russia)

Cheap Energy Storage Is Set To Undermine Fossil Fuels
Irina Slav, OilPrice.com
A growing number of companies – from leading utilities such as E.ON and GE to startups like California-based Stem – are working on developing cheaper energy storage solutions aimed at eliminating a challenge that’s been putting a spoke in the wheels of renewable energy for decades. Sensing which way the winds are blowing, some utilities and energy industry majors have not wasted time entering this promising segment. Total bought into Stem last year and acquired French energy storage systems maker Saft. Earlier this month, GE announced the acquisition of a stake in Germany’s Sonnen, a successful peer of Saft. (Related: Morgan Stanley: Battery Storage To Grow Four Times Quicker Than Market Thinks)

American Medical Association warns of health and safety problems from ‘white’ LED streetlights
Richard G. ‘Bugs’ Stevens, The Conversation
The American Medical Association (AMA) has just adopted an official policy statement about street lighting: cool it and dim it. The statement, adopted unanimously at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago on June 14, comes in response to the rise of new LED street lighting sweeping the country. An AMA committee issued guidelines on how communities can choose LED streetlights to “minimize potential harmful human health and environmental effects.” Municipalities are replacing existing streetlights with efficient and long-lasting LEDs to save money on energy and maintenance. Although the streetlights are delivering these benefits, the AMA’s stance reflects how important proper design of new technologies is and the close connection between light and human health.

 

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