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NEWS UPDATE #106


Some of the world’s largest companies have been given 45 days to respond to a complaint that their greenhouse gas emissions have violated the human rights of millions of people in the Phillippines. In a potential landmark case, the Phillippines’ Commission on Human Rights has put 47 “carbon majors” including Shell and BP, on notice.

Swaraj Abhiyan set to jump into political arena
The Hindu
The Swaraj Abhiyan, which was launched last year, is all set to form a political party. Put together by former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and Professor Anand Kumar among others, the party now has its eyes on the city municipal corporation polls, and later the Punjab and Uttarakhand elections. The decision to launch a political party was taken with nearly 93 per cent of the delegates present at a national convention of the Swaraj Abhiyan on Sunday. Of the 433 delegates, 405 voted in favour of launching the party. Lawyer Kamini Jaiswal, journalist Sumit Chakravarty and former Chief Electoral Officer of Uttar Pradesh Noor Mohammad have been appointed as Lokpal of the Swaraj Abhiyan.

States rejected 8 out of every 10 claims for land by tribals last year
Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava, Hindustan Times
Eight out of 10 claims for land title by forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act were rejected last year, tribal affairs ministry data shows. The Opposition is at the crosshairs with Centre in Rajya Sabha over passage of the Compensatory Afforestation Bill, which critics say will further undercut tribal rights and harm environment by introducing government plantations in areas traditionally used by tribal communities. The Forest Rights Act (FRA), in force since 2006, was intended to “undo the historic injustice” towards tribals by giving them legal titles to forestland and resources. A 2015 study by Rights and Resources Initiative, an international coalition working for Indigenous Peoples’ rights, estimated that tribal people have legal title less than 10 per cent of the land they have traditionally used.

Narmada: 45,000 Families Facing Risk Of Submergence, on Satyagraha
National Alliance of People’s Movements
Narmada Jal, Jangal, Jameen Haq Satyagrah starts on the morning of 30th July, 2016 on the banks of Narmada alongside the Mahatma and Kasturba Gandhi Memorial in Badwani district of MP with thousands of displaced people coming together in a peaceful protest against gross injustice meted out to them in the name of rehabilitation for construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat. As soon as the Modi government came to power in 2014, they took a decision to impose illegal submergence by authorizing to complete the dam to its full height of 138.68 meters, denying the Supreme Court’s ruling that any expedition of construction is pre-conditional upon complete rehabilitation of the dam oustees. As the dam construction stands completed with only the final closing of the gates left to be done, more than 45,000 families, mostly adivasis, across a total of 244 villages and the Dharampuri town in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat who are yet to be rehabilitated , face the grave risk of submergence of their farms and households. (Related: Wave Of Panic Across Sardar Sarovar Affected Areas As Water Level Rises)

Scanty rainfall leaves farmers worried
The New Indian Express
After 5 per cent deficit rainfall in June, monsoon continues to play truant in Odisha’s Sundargarh district with 15 per cent less rain in July. This has delayed second stage of paddy farming in many blocks of the rain-fed district. Amid sporadic rainfall with faulty distribution, inter-cultural and transplantation operations have been delayed by a fortnight. Heavy rainfall is required in the next 10 days to arrest the situation from going worse. Only Subdega, Balishankara and Lefripara blocks received excess rainfall in July with 598 mm, 563 mm and 419 mm respectively, while the rest 14 blocks received rainfall below the month’s normal average of 386.4 mm.

Is Maharashtra really serious about coming to the aid of its drought-hit farmers?
Aritra Bhattacharya, Scroll.in
In March, several Maharashtra ministers were quoted in the media as saying that because of drought in several areas in Maharashtra, farmers who took crop loans since 2013-’14 and found themselves unable to repay them, would be permitted to restructure their loans. This would allow these farmers to get fresh loans for the upcoming sowing season, which started in June. Media reports from April and May also suggested the government was restructuring loans for three years. However, the government resolution dated April 26, mentioned that only crop loans from one year – 2015-’16 – would be eligible for restructuring.

Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal: Trouble brewing in Paradise
SANDRP
Karnataka is still reeling from the protests, rasta roko, bandhs, burning effigies, etc., resulting from the anger over the Interim Verdict of Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal[i] (MWDT) of the 27.07.16 which did not allow Karnataka’s Appeal to temporarily lift 7 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) water from Mahadayi Basin into Malaprabha Basin (a sub basin of Krishna basin). Twin cities of Hubali and Dharwad, likely beneficiaries from the diversion, are centers of agitation. Schools and colleges were closed, government offices and buses were burnt, major roads were blocked by protesters. Pro-Karnataka Organizations and even Film stars have joined this protest. Karnataka Home Minister has called on the Prime Minister to look into the decision. Goa, on the other hand, is quietly celebrating this one positive step.

Boats deployed to rescue stranded civilians in Bengaluru
The New Indian Express
Overnight and incessant rains opened a flood of woes for Bengaluru on Friday. Boats were deployed after parts of south Bengaluru were inundated with floodwaters rising up to four feet while traffic jams paralysed the city in the morning and evening. While the city received an average of 52.5mm of rainfall, Bengaluru Urban district recorded the heaviest rainfall of 120 mm in 28 years at Doddathogur. The areas surrounding IT hub, Bannerghatta Road, were the worst-hit as hundreds of apartments were flooded. The fire services department had to press boats to rescue stranded residents and offer them food and water.

Green tribunal raises red flag over Kolkata wetlands
Soumya Sarkar, India Climate Dialogue
How much difference could a foot of water possibly make? For thousands of fishermen and vegetable farmers in the East Kolkata Wetlands, it could mean the difference between a decent livelihood and chronic want. And now the National Green Tribunal is taking an interest, which might yet save the beleaguered Ramsar site. The wetlands in the east of Kolkata are part of a unique ecosystem that thrives on wastewater from India’s third-most populated metro city. It’s the world’s largest organic sewage treatment system that doubles up as a vegetable garden and fishery that supply more than a half of the city’s daily requirement.

Troubled waters in 2 ports in 2 states right next to each other
Amrit Lal, The Indian Express
The coastal stretch in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari district was abuzz once again, with the Centre granting in-principle clearance to a Rs 25,000-crore transshipment harbour project at Enayam, a village 10 km north of Colachel’s fishing harbour. The objective is to attract large ships that now dock at Colombo or Singapore. But early indications are that it will not be a smooth journey for the Colachel project. For, just 35 km away, in Kerala’s Vizhinjam, work has already started on a similar harbour with the same objective. Opposition to the new project is also growing from within Colachel by villagers who fear land acquisition and claim they were never kept in the loop — a day-long hunger strike will be held on July 15 at Puttetti, a hospital town near Colachel. (Related: Fishermen oppose Colachel commercial port project; observe fast)

Indian farmers cotton on to new seed, in blow to Monsanto
Reuters
Thousands of cotton farmers across the north of India, the world’s biggest producer and second largest exporter of the fiber, have switched to the new local variety, spelling trouble for seed giant Monsanto in its most important cotton market outside the Americas. The Indian government is actively promoting the new homegrown seeds, having already capped prices and royalties that the world’s largest seed company is able to charge. Official estimates peg the area planted with the new variety at 72,280 hectares in northern India, up from roughly 3,000 hectares last year.

As Salman Khan Walks Free, Will India Ever Punish All Its Poachers?
Neha Sinha, The Wire
Found across arid landscapes in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, the chinkara evolved specifically to desert conditions and can survive for long periods without drinking water. It is hunted in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and poached illegally in India. Just this Sunday (July 24), reports of chinkara being poached came in from near Nagaur in Rajasthan. “The nature of poaching is changing,” says Sumit Dookia, a wildlife biologist affiliated with an anti-poaching network in Rajasthan. “Earlier it was for bushmeat and local consumption. Now, animals are being poached for feasts in hotels. Some of it is for a tourism and VIP lobby. The fact is it is happening continuously.”

Why 2016 has been a sad year for tigers
Mayank Aggarwal, Live Mint
India takes pride in being home to nearly 60% of the world’s tiger population that lives in the wild, but 2016 has so far been a sad year for the endangered species. The number of tiger deaths reported in the country so far this year is just five short of the figure for all of 2015. According to information provided by minister of state for environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) Anil Madhav Dave in reply to a query in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, 73 tiger deaths have been recorded in India till 20 July since the start of the year. That compares with a total of 78 in all of 2015. Of the 73, seven were natural deaths, 21 because of poaching; 45 cases are still under scrutiny. In 2015, of the 78 deaths, 28 were due to natural reasons, 14 poaching and 36 cases are still under scrutiny. (Related: International Tiger Day: 97% of wild tigers lost in the last century)

Real bite: study finds that dog-wildlife interactions are getting deadlier
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
Dogs may be man’s best friends but for the rest of the animal kingdom, they are carnivores. If that sounds difficult to believe because of your furry friend at home, a recent study found that dogs are a major threat to wild animals both inside and outside protected forest areas. The study, a survey of wildlife researchers, found that 74% reported attacks by dogs on wildlife. Of the total attacks, 35% occurred inside protected areas and 43% led to death of the animal. Spotted deer was the most attacked species – one-third of all reported attacks. Sambar, Blackbuck and Nilgais were victims in 10-14% of the attacks.

Mumbai Development Plan 2034  – On Whose Cost?
Karen Miranda, Countercurrents.org
Like the Dharavi Belt protest the East Indians (natives of Mumbai) also protested at Azad Maidan on 18 July 2016. The East Indians of Mumbai are an ethnic group who fear the development plan will take away their ethnicity and cultural roots. In order to over come this fear they have submitted a signature campaign to the Chief minister of Maharashtra. The rally at Azad Maidan was to ask the government authorities – “Mumbai Development Plan 2034 is benefiting who and on whose Cost ?”

Post-1991, inequality has widened: Jairam Ramesh
The Hindu
The economic reforms that started in 1991 have helped cut poverty significantly even as inequality has widened appreciably, said Jairam Ramesh, Member of Parliament, and author of a book To the Brink and Back: India’s 1991 Story. “Poverty has declined significantly since 1991 while inequality has gone up during the same period. Inequality has become sharper; it has become worse. Inequality in health, inequality in access to education, the inequality in access to public services has certainly gone up after 1991. This is the paradox of reforms,” Mr. Ramesh said, during a panel discussion and interaction on “25th Year of Reforms: A Retrospective of What Happened in June-July 1991” with Mukund Padmanabhan, Editor, The Hindu.

U.N. warns of “race against time” for 23 mln drought-stricken African farmers
Thomson Reuters
Some 23 million farmers in drought-hit Southern Africa need urgent help to prepare for the next planting season with only a few weeks left before it begins, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Thursday. FAO said failure to help farmers in time with seeds, fertilizer and tools would result in a smaller harvest in March 2017, and leave millions of rural families dependent on humanitarian assistance until mid-2018. “We must make the most of this small window of opportunity and make sure that farmers are ready to plant by October when the rains start,” David Phiri, FAO subregional coordinator for Southern Africa, said in a statement.

Scientists caught off-guard by record temperatures linked to climate change
Zoe Tabary, Thomson Reuters Foundation
Record temperatures in the first half of 2016 have taken scientists by surprise despite widespread recognition that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense, the director of the World Climate Research Programme said. The earth is on track for its hottest year on record with June marking the 14th straight month of record heat, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said last week. Temperatures recorded mainly in the northern hemisphere in the first six months of the year, coupled with an early and fast Arctic sea ice melt and “new highs” in heat-trapping carbon dioxide levels, point to quickening climate change, it said. (Related: Scientists have found a perfect illustration of how the climate is spiraling ‘out of control’)

World’s largest carbon producers face landmark human rights case
The Guardian
The world’s largest oil, coal, cement and mining companies have been given 45 days to respond to a complaint that their greenhouse gas emissions have violated the human rights of millions of people living in the Phillippines. In a potential landmark legal case, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), a constitutional body with the power to investigate human rights violations, has sent 47 “carbon majors” including Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, a 60-page document accusing them of breaching people’s fundamental rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self determination”. The move is the first step in what is expected to be an official investigation of the companies by the CHR, and the first of its kind in the world to be launched by a government body.

New Documents Reveal Denial Playbook Originated with Big Oil, Not Big Tobacco
Centre for International Environmental Law
New research by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) not only confirms that the tobacco and fossil fuel industries used a shared playbook, but also suggests that playbook originated not with tobacco—as long assumed—but with the oil industry itself. As evidence mounts of the oil industry’s decades-long campaign of climate deception and denial, its allies have dismissed any parallels to the tobacco industry’s campaign of cancer denial. More than 100 industry documents drawn from the Tobacco Industry Archives demonstrate not only the legitimacy of the comparison between big oil and tobacco, but also reveal direct connections between these industries that go back far earlier than previously thought. (Also read: Oil Lobby Paid Washington Post and Atlantic to Host Climate-Change Deniers at Republican National Convention)

Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Colin Todhunter, Countercurrents.org
Over half the population of the European Union (EU) is overweight or obese. Without effective action, this number will grow substantially in the next decade warns an important new report. ‘A Spoonful of Sugar: How the Food Lobby Fights Sugar Regulation in the EU’, by the research and campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), notes that obesity rates are rising fastest among lowest socio-economic groups. The report argues that more people than ever before are eating processed foods as a large part of their diet. Bad for health, but good for the industry because sugar-rich processed foods have the highest profit margins (unlike fruit and vegetables), and the easiest way to make industrial, processed food cheap, long-lasting and enhance the taste is to add extra sugar as well as salt and fat to products. (Also read: Emails reveal role of Monsanto in Séralini study retraction)

Global trade is not growing slower – it’s not growing at all, finds a new report
Johannes Fritz and Simon Everett, The World Economic Forum
Falling rates of global trade growth have attracted much comment by analysts and officials, giving rise to a literature on the ‘global trade slowdown’ (Hoekman 2015, Constantinescu et al. 2016). The term ‘slowdown’ gives the impression of world trade losing momentum, but growing nonetheless. The sense of the global pie getting larger has the soothing implication that one nation’s export gains don’t come at the expense of another’s. But are we right to be so sanguine? Our argument is not that world trade has stopped. Rather, that according to a benchmark measure of trade volume, world trade isn’t slowing down – it is not growing at all.

Vast wildfires are burning in remote Siberia, far from humans – here’s why we should care
Stefan H. Doerr and Cristina Santin, The Conversation
Satellite images show smoke covering Russia for thousands of kilometres. What is particularly worrying here is some of the fires in Siberia and other boreal regions affect peatlands which are gradually thawing thanks to global warming. This has a knock-on effect on the climate. When they burn deep into the ground peatland fires can release carbon that has accumulated over millennia and turn these peatlands from being net carbon sinks to long-term carbon emitters. So irrespective of discrepancies in reporting of fires in Siberia and the fact that fires are a natural feature of boreal forests, we can expect more fires and more associated greenhouse gas emissions in boreal regions in a warming world. (Related: Melting Permafrost Releases Deadly, Long-Dormant Anthrax in Siberia)

The Power of Indigenous Activists at the Summit of the Climate Justice Movement
John Foran, The Huffington Post
Over 20 Indigenous activists have just completed several weeks of pilgrimage across the U.S. for the “Protect Our Public Lands Tour”. They were all ages, from youth to elders, and came from diverse tribal affiliations. I have been following their travels with fascination, as they sent short reports from the field in spare moments in their grueling travel schedule. This update is from John Foran who has traveled with the Tour from California to Philadelphia and back again. He conveys key moments from the oral testimonies that Tour members gave at the “Clean Energy Summit” in Philadelphia on July 23, 2016.

 

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