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NEWS UPDATE #109


Pavitra Mohan reports:  In rural India, where 833 million Indians (70%) live, people are consuming fewer nutrients than are required to stay healthy, according to a National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB) survey. On an average, compared to 1975-1979, a rural Indian now consumes 550 fewer calories and 13 gm protein lesser than they used to.

What renewables? 16,372MW thermal capacity gets eco nod
Vijay Pinjarkar, The Times of India
When worldwide focus is on renewable energy, during the last two years from July 4, 2014 to July 26, 2016, 15 proposals to set up 16,372MW thermal power capacity have been granted environment clearance (EC) by the BJP government at the Centre. Gujarat leads the tally with 3,980MW followed by Tamil Nadu (3,732MW), Uttar Pradesh(3,300MW) and Telangana (2,400MW), Andhra Pradesh (1,600MW), Madhya Pradesh(1,320MW) and West Bengal (40MW). “When the Narendra Modi government itself has said additional thermal capacity is not required for next 5-6 years, why is environmental clearance being granted to coal-based plants?” asks Pushp Jain, director of Environment Impact Assessment(EIA) Resources & Response Centre (ERC), New Delhi. (Related: 35% of India’s total thermal power capacity lying unused)

In rural India, less to eat than 40 years ago
Pavitra Mohan, Indian Express
As India’s 70th year of Independence begins, widespread progress is evident, but in rural India, where 833 million Indians (70 per cent) live, people are consuming fewer nutrients than are required to stay healthy, according to a National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB) survey. On an average, compared to 1975-1979, a rural Indian now consumes 550 fewer calories — and 13 gm protein, 5 mg iron, 250 mg calcium and about 500 mg vitamin A lesser than they used to. Children below the age of three are consuming, on an average, 80 ml of milk per day instead of the 300 ml they require. These data explain, in part, why in the same survey, 35 per cent of rural men and women were found to be undernourished, and 42 per cent of children were underweight.

‘60% of groundwater of Indo-Gangetic basin unusable’
Deccan Herald
An international team of scientists found that for groundwater up to a depth of 200 metres,― which represents a volume 20 times greater than the combined annual flow of the Indus, Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers, ― almost 60% of the water is contaminated by arsenic or salt. Of the 30,000 cubic km of groundwater storage estimated in the basin, as much as 23% is estimated to have a salinity greater than 1 gm/litre. A further 37% of ground water contains arsenic in toxic concentration.

NDTV shores up support to save India’s coastline
Nitin Sethi, Business Standard
In a first of sorts, New Delhi Television (NDTV) has filed a petition before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), asking for the Indian coastline to be protected. In its petition before the tribunal, the company that runs one of India’s prominent bouquet of TV news channels, has asked for work to be stopped on all new ports of the country, till the tribunal gives a decision on the case to the coastal environment and livelihoods of coastal communities. NDTV has contended that the innumerable ports being planned across the Indian shoreline could be dangerous for coasts and authorities should make a carrying-capacity assessment before going ahead.

In ‘zero suicide’ district of Maharashtra, farm suicides up by a fourth
Manoj Dattatreya More, The Indian Express
A year ago, the Maharashtra government selected Osmanabad for a “zero-suicide district” plan that aimed to check suicides by farmers. Since then, the number of such suicides has in fact gone up by over a fourth — from 136 between August 2014 and August 2015, to 172 between August 2015 and August 2016, according to officials at the Aurangabad divisional commissionerate that keeps tracks of suicides in the eight districts of Marathwada region.
Across Marathwada, 683 farmers have committed suicide from January 1 to August 15 this year. This is higher by a fifth than the number of suicides in the corresponding period last year, when 574 farmers had committed suicide. (Related: Left high & dry: Marathwada is heading for a drought situation again)

Dry spell casts shadow on kharif prospects
The Hindu
With the rains playing truant, farmers in the rain-fed areas as well as the command areas under the Nagarjunasagar Project (NSP) left canal system in the district are facing piquant situation worried over their kharif prospects. According to sources, the district has received 69.7 mm rainfall so far this month as against the monthly average rainfall of 276 mm, which accounts for a deficit of 67 per cent. The district has recorded excess rainfall in June and registered an overall deficit rainfall of 39 per cent in July. (Related: 1) Insufficient rains pour water on hopes of better yield for farmers in Telangana 2) Drought looming over Raichur for fourth consecutive year 3) 12,000 water sources dried up in Uttarakahand: Study)

Deforestation is reducing rainfall in India: IIT-Bombay study
Priyanka Sahoo, Indian Express
conversion of forest land to crop land has weakened the monsoon in India, a study by a team from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay has found. The team from the Interdisciplinary Program in Climate Studies of IIT-B studied recent changes of land use and found that rainfall received in the North-Eastern and North-Central India has reduced owing to the destruction of forests. “Due to the large-scale deforestation, there has been a significant drop in the amount of rainfall received,” said Subimal Ghosh, a faculty member associated with the study. Ghosh said the conversion of forests to crop lands, particularly in North-Eastern and North-Central India, has reduced the amount of rainfall received in these areas

How much of India’s forest land has been encroached upon?
Dipti Jain, Live Mint
Treacherous forests is a commonly used term. Forest statistics can be equally treacherous. Here’s why. World Bank statistics show that India has managed to increase its forest area by 2.27 percentage points in the last 25 years, which puts it ahead of the global average in afforestation efforts. Behind these rosy statistics is a grim picture. The Forest Survey of India 2015 says that total forest area increased by 3,775 sq. km since 2013. In the same period, 2,511 sq. km of very dense and mid-dense forests were completely wiped out. It is not very difficult to understand why cutting down natural forests and replacing them with planted trees in wastelands or non-forest areas is not quite the same thing.

NGT fines Delta, Adani over Rs 100 crore
Sayan Ghosal, Business Standard
The Principal bench of the National Green tribunal (NGT) today directed Delta Marine Shipping Company (Delta Shipping Marine Services SA and sister concerns) and Adani Enterprises Ltd. to pay Rs 100 crore and Rs 5 crore respectively as compensation for causing damage to the marine environment. The bench, headed by Chairperson Swatanter Kumar made the determination on an application made by Mumbai resident, Samir Mehta for environmental pollution caused by the sinking of Delta carrier MV RAK around 20 nautical miles of the coast of Mumbai while carrying over 60054 metric tonnes of coal for Adani in 2011. (Related: As cases doubled in the National Green Tribunal, the court cut delays by half)

Javadekar withdrew 2% cess on industrial projects near sanctuaries, national parks
Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava, Hindustan Times
Former environment minister Prakash Javadekar had in November last year withdrawn an advisory that charged 2% cess on industrial projects coming up near national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, documents accessed by HT revealed. In the absence of any framework to make industries pay for damage on wildlife, 77 projects have been cleared since Javadekar’s intervention and 66 have done so without paying. The Union environment ministry issued an advisory to states last October charging 2% cess on projects coming up near wildlife areas for implementing the ‘Impact Mitigation Plan’, but withdrew it within a month.

Illegal Reactor Experiments At The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant
VT Padmanabhan, Countercurrents.org
This article is in three parts. Part-I traces the history of uprating experiment at KKNPP by analyzing the performance of the reactor during December 2014 and August 2016, which reveals there were 188 successful uprated days. Part-II deals with the safety codes, regulatory guidelines and practices of power uprating laid down by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Russian agencies, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) of India and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). This part also contains a detailed description of uprates done in Russia. Part-III describes some of the serious events at KKNPP-1 prior to and during the uprate experiment and defects of select equipment, failure of which can initiate an accident or prevent the mitigation of an accident.

India’s only solar cooperative receives first payment for selling surplus power
Priya Talwar, Down to Earth
Six months after India’s first solar cooperative was formed, its farmer members received their first initial payment of Rs 36,005 for selling 5,097 units of power to the local power distributor, Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Limited (MGVCL). At a function organised by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI)—a Colombo-based organisation which supported the project­— on August 29, six farmers of Dhundi village in Gujarat’s Kheda district were given the payment for generating power for 80 days. They started supplying power from May 10. The cooperative—called the Dhundi Saur Urja Utpadak Sahakari Mandali—was also given a bonus for ‘water conservation’ (Rs 1.25 per unit) and ‘green energy’ (Rs 1.25 per unit) by IWMI-Tata Water Policy Program.

No violations of Air Act in polluted Delhi. This and more shocking NCRB data
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
The number of environmental crimes in India fell by 12% from 5,846 in 2014 to 5,156 in 2015. The data is released annually by the National Crime Records Bureau, which compiles information from state bureaus, which, in turn, compile it from police stations where crimes are first registered. Environmental crimes are those offences that are filed under any of the following five laws – Indian Forests Act, 1927, Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.

RK Pachauri finally replaced as Chancellor of TERI University
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
RK Pachauri’s last major association with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has ended. He has been replaced as Chancellor of TERI University by Ashok Chawla, the former finance secretary. Chawla was earlier named the Chairman of TERI. Earlier this year, students of TERI University had written a letter to the university administration refusing to accept degrees from Pachauri at their convocation. In response, Pachauri went on a long leave.

Mumbai gets its maiden public bike share programme
The Hindu
Public bike share programmes, which helped major cities around the world fight traffic problems and reduce pollution, made a debut on Monday, August 15, in Mumbai with a project to rent out bicycles starting in the north eastern suburb of Ghatkopar. “This is a small experiment where we are starting with 20 bicycles which will be operating across five dedicated depots,” Kisanrao Gopale, the man behind the project supported by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai said. The Corporation has given space for the cycling depots at five different places witnessing large footfalls on an experimental basis. People will have to pay Rs. 5 per journey, which is less than bus transport and also the “share rickshaws” unique to the city.

Leading insurers tell G20 to stop funding fossil fuels by 2020
The Guardian
Three of the world’s biggest insurers have called on G20 leaders to implement a timeframe for ending fossil fuel subsidies when they meet in China this week. The G20 has already committed to phase out “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption” over the “medium term”. In May, the G7 nations pledged to achieve this by 2025. When the leaders of the 20 largest economies meet in Hangzhou on Thursday and Friday, they must commit to an end to assistance for fossil fuel companies within four years, said a joint statement from insurers Aviva, Aegon and Amlin. (Also read: Letter signed by 154 Australian experts demands climate policy match the science)

Greenland’s ice sheet is in danger. Here’s what we’re seeing on the frozen landscape.
Tauhid Chappell, The Washington Post
Greenland is melting — and has been for quite some time. The arctic island has already lost 1 trillion tons of ice between the years of 2011 and 2014, according to a recent satellite study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Earlier this year, Greenland logged its highest June and April temperatures ever recorded. The melt continues to be a problem for the frozen landscape. So, our energy and environment reporter Chris Mooney and senior video journalist Whitney Shefte headed out to document the changes firsthand, tagging along with a scientific team conducting research on the diminishing ice sheet. (Also read: Win for Climate Protection as Obama Creates World’s Biggest Marine Sanctuary)

Human-caused climate change has been happening for a lot longer than we thought, scientists say
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post
A new paper is challenging our understanding of how long human-caused climate change has been at work on Earth. And the authors say their findings may question existing ideas about how sensitive the planet is to greenhouse gas emissions — with potentially big implications for our global climate policy. The new study, just out on Wednesday in the journal Nature, suggests human-caused, or anthropogenic, climate change has been going on for decades longer than existing temperature records indicate. Using paleoclimate records from the past 500 years, the researchers show that sustained warming began to occur in both the tropical oceans and the Northern Hemisphere land masses as far back as the 1830s — and they’re saying industrial-era greenhouse gas emissions were the cause, even back then.

Storing carbon underground may be safer than we thought
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post
A new study has addressed at least one of the concerns associated with carbon storage: its safety. In the past, critics have suggested that carbon dioxide stored underground may be able to corrode the rock layers above it and eventually escape, a possibility that’s been supported by some modeling and laboratory studies. This would be bad for the climate, of course, but some environmental and public health advocates have also worried that escaped carbon dioxide in large volumes could damage the water or air quality of nearby communities. But the new study suggests that such concerns may be overblown.

First offshore tidal turbines in the world deliver electricity to the grid in Scotland
BBC News
Turbines installed off the coast of Shetland could herald a “new era” in tidal energy, according to the company running the project. Tidal energy specialist Nova Innovation said they were the first offshore tidal turbines in the world to deliver electricity to the grid. Two 100kW turbines have been installed so far in the Shetland Tidal Array at Bluemull Sound. Edinburgh-based Nova Innovation said tidal energy was a “long-term source” of predictable renewable power, with the turbines generating to full power across all tidal conditions.

Total Societal Collapse: What The Media Isn’t Telling You About Venezuela
Shaun Bradley, TheAntimedia.org
Life in Venezuela now consists of empty grocery stores, record rates of violent crime, and widespread shortages of just about everything. The economic and political conditions have been deteriorating for years, but recent stories coming from this once-rich nation are astonishing. The average person spends over 35 hours a month waiting in line to buy their rationed goods, and even basics like toilet paper and toothpaste are strictly regulated. The fiasco began when the price of oil collapsed and sent Venezuelan finances into chaos. The oil-dependent nation, despite its imposing government policies, couldn’t prevent the fallout. The current problems are further compounded by rampant corruption throughout the Venezuelan government.

Has China reached Peak Oil?
The Wall Street Journal
China’s struggling oil sector has entered a challenging new phase: long-term decline of its domestic production. Oil production in China likely peaked last year at around 4.3 million barrels a day, according to new data and interviews with industry executives. The development has significant implications globally, including the potential for higher crude prices over time as China steps up imports to meet rising demand at home. “The turning point that we’ve been searching for, for years, is happening now,” said Kang Wu, vice chairman for Asia at energy consultancy FGE. As an oil producer, he said, “China is entering long-term stagnation and decline.”

Oil Price Spike Inevitable As New Discoveries Hit Seventy-Year Low
Nick Cunningham, OilPrice.com
The oil industry only discovered about 2.7 billion barrels of new supply in 2015, a tiny fraction of the annual average for the past fifty years. The dismal result was one of the worst performances from the oil industry in decades. 2016 could be even worse. The 2015 figure is about one tenth of the annual average dating all the way back to 1960, according to Wood Mackenzie. Shockingly, 2015 saw the least amount of oil discovered in a calendar year since 1947. But with the massive spending cuts extending into 2016, this year the industry is on track to discover even lower volumes. As of the end of July, the global oil industry has only reported 736 million barrels of new oil discovered.

 

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