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NEWS UPDATE #113


Scroll.in reports: India will ratify the Paris agreement on climate change today, after President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the deal. The move was originally announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said the government had chosen Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary for the occasion. The Union cabinet had approved the move on September 28.

Five People Killed In Police Firing On Protesting Villagers Against Coal Power Plant In Jharkhand
Countercurrents.org
Jharkhand Police opened fire on protesting villagers against the forcible land acquisition for a thermal power plant being built by NTPC in district Hazaribagh, Chirdudih area. The firing has left five people dead, 12 critically injured and nearly 50 injured. There is a curfew in the area, outsiders can’t go and many missing are yet to be traced. The protests against the NTPC plant have been going on since 2010, when the project was announced.

India ratifies Paris climate change agreement
Scroll.in
India joined the Paris climate change agreement on Sunday by depositing its instrument of ratification to the United Nations in New York. President Pranab Mukherjee had given his assent to the deal on Saturday. The move was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 25, who said the government had chosen the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi for the occasion. The Union cabinet had approved the decision on September 28. (Related: Paris deal ratification not linked with NSG membership: Environment minister)

Farmer organisations across the country protest against GM mustard
Scroll.in
Farmer groups across the country on Sunday protested against the government’s conditional approval for the commercial development of genetically modified mustard. Groups from Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh held dharnas, fasted and adopted resolutions not to use genetically modified crops. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, an apex body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, had in September declared that a variety of GM Mustard developed at Delhi University was safe for human and animal health. It has invited public comments on its biosafety report until October 5.

Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan announce new political party Swaraj India
Scroll.in
The Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav-led Swaraj Abhiyan announced Swaraj India, a new political party, on Sunday, PTI reported. In July, Yadav had said the outfit would form the party to provide an “alternative political vehicle” in the country. “We were never secretive about going political,” Yadav had said after the concluding session of the Swaraj Abhiyan’s national convention on July 31, according to PTI. Ninety-three percent of the delegates present at that meeting had supported the formation of a new organisation. However, Yadav had clarified that Swaraj Abhiyan would continue to exist after the formation of the new outfit, with the two functioning independently of one another.

Marathwada swings from droughts to excess rainfall
Prerna Kapoor, Live Mint
Marathwada, which has been in news for a crippling drought for the last four consecutive years, is facing the problem of excess rainfall this season, threatening to damage crops and homes. The region received 217% of excess rainfall from 15 to 21 September, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). Fairly wide spread rainfall is expected on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. While Latur received 350% more rainfall than its long-period average, Parbhani, Osmanabad and Hingoli received excess rainfall of 294%, 207% and 205%, respectively.

Beyond farming: Rural and Restless
Shubhangi Khapre , The Indian Express
At the heart of the Maratha unrest is an agrarian crisis stalking Maharashtra’s rural countryside, stemming from shrinking landholdings over time and magnified by the back-to-back droughts and price crash — whether of
sugarcane, cotton and soybean or onion and milk — over the last two years. Coupled with the overall bleak jobs scenario and inability to cope with the high cost of education in private professional colleges, it has stoked discontent amongst the community that is being reflected in the spontaneous street actions now.

Asbestos: more than 50 nations have banned it. Why is India refusing?
Vishakh Unnikrishnan, Catch News
More than 50 nations, including all members of the European Union (EU), have banned all forms of asbestos, which the World Health Organization (WHO) says kills at least 1,07,000 people annually. In India, however, asbestos-mining is banned by law and trade in asbestos waste including dust and fibre, is also banned. But the process of banning trade, manufacturing and use of chrysotile or white asbestos, is still held up in court.

Ken-Betwa River Link-up Approved, Tiger Reserve to Be Submerged
Nitrin Sethi, Business Standard
The Ken-Batwa inter-linking of rivers has got nod from the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife. The panel headed by the Union Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave has agreed to submerge more than 100 square kilometres of one of the country’s prime tiger habitats, the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, for the project that the NDA government had put its weight behind. In a meeting held on August 23, the standing committee chaired by Dave cleared the project after some deliberations. Business Standard reviewed the minutes of the meeting, which are yet to be made public. Dave, immediately upon taking charge as the union environment minister, and well before the project had received mandatory clearances, had repeatedly said that India should go ahead with at least one inter-linking of river project to assess its consequences.

Essar damaging India’s first marine national park, Gujarat fishermen tell NGT
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
The National Green Tribunal has admitted a case against Essar Group’s upcoming port project in Salaya, Jamnagar district, Gujarat, on the grounds that it is affecting the ecology of Gulf of Kutch Marine National Park as well as mangroves and coral reefs in the vicinity, besides endangering the livelihoods of over one lakh fishermen. The Gulf of Kutch is the country’s first Marine National Park, notified in 1982, and known to support coral reefs and several endangered marine species, such as the dugong. The case, filed by the Salaya Fishermen’s Association and 10 individual fishermen working near the proposed port at Salaya village was admitted by the NGT’s Western Zone bench in Pune on 21 September.

Pollution from India and Nepal is spreading to Tibet
Wang Yang, Scroll.in
In the past, the remoteness and high elevation of the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau was believed to protect the vast expanse of land from the chronic pollution that haunts the densely populated regions of China and South Asia. It was thought that the world’s highest mountain range would act as a barrier to stop pollution from reaching the higher glaciated peaks. But new research from scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences show pollution is spreading over the world’s highest mountain range and across central Tibet. The team recorded major spikes in pollution this April on the northern slopes of Everest, and traced the source back to Nepal and northern India. 1) United Nations close to landmark deal to curb airplane emissions) 2) India Wants Aviation Carbon Cap to Follow Paris Pact)

Bangladesh is Building a Dirty and Expensive Coal Plant Next to the World’s Largest Mangrove Forest
Shahzad Uddin, The Wire
A controversial new coal power plant being built in Bangladesh is already running out of friends. Environmentalists worry it will spell disaster for the world’s largest mangrove forest, while locals worry about pollution and being driven from their homes. The vast majority of Bangladeshis have been critical of the project since its inception in 2010. Even the business case seems to be falling apart, as costs mount and international investors pull out. So why is it still being built? Rampal, a 1320MW coal power station, will be big enough to provide around 10% of the country’s electricity generation. It’s scheduled to be operational from 2020.

Air Pollution Skyrocketing Worldwide in ‘Public Health Emergency’: WHO
Common Dreams
More than 90 percent of people on the planet live in places where air pollution levels are dangerously high, and millions of people are dying as a result of the exposure, according to new research from the World Health Organization (WHO) released Tuesday. Using an air quality model based on satellite data and other ground and air monitors in 3,000 locations, the WHO found (pdf) that fully 92 percent of people worldwide live in regions where the pollution exceeds the organization’s safety limits. (Related:  Toxic breath: 3 Indian cities among the world’s most polluted & more you need to know)

The Arctic is being utterly transformed — and we’re just starting to grasp the consequences
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post
It’s the fastest-warming part of the planet — and the impacts will be felt far, far afield. Among many other assorted impacts, the rapidly melting Arctic is expected to flood shorelines as Greenland loses ice more and more rapidly (it contains some 20 feet of potential sea level rise), further pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as permafrost thaws, and become a global heat sink as a once ice-covered ocean exposes more and more dark water. No wonder, perhaps, that on Wednesday, the outgoing Obama administration convened top science policymakers from 25 other Arctic and non-Arctic nations, as well as representatives of Arctic indigenous peoples, in a first-ever Arctic Science Ministerial to coordinate study of what the consequences will be as the Arctic heats up much more rapidly than the more temperate latitudes or the equator.

Carbon Tracker Analysis: ‘Renewables are Already Outcompeting Fossil Fuels’
Victoria Seabrook, DeSmog blog
Clean technologies are already cheaper, on average, than the incumbent fossil fuel technologies, and the advantage is widening, argued Anthony Hobley, chief executive of Carbon Tracker. Renewables are already outcompeting fossil fuels,” Hobley told an audience of investors, asset management firms, energy analysts, climate experts, fossil-fuel sector and policy makers on 14 September in London.

US Study Confirms Rapid Increase of Methane Emissions by Oil and Gas
Andrew Nikiforuk, The Tyee
Another U.S. scientific study has confirmed that methane emissions from oil and gas activity are increasing more rapidly than previously estimated, and that these increases were happening at the same time that the North American shale gas boom and related fracking frenzy took off. The latest study, one of several major scientific papers on growing global methane emissions published this past year, found that methane venting and leaks from oil and gas activity stabilized in the early 1980s and ‘90s and then dramatically escalated between 2000 and 2008.

Bees added to US endangered species list for the first time
The Guardian
Seven types of bees once found in abundance in Hawaii have become the first bees to be added to the US federal list of endangered and threatened species. The listing decision, published on Friday in the Federal Register, classifies seven varieties of yellow-faced or masked bees as endangered, due to such factors as habitat loss, wildfires and the invasion of non-native plants and insects. Pollinators like bees are crucial for the production of fruits, nuts and vegetables and they represent billions of dollars in value each year to the nation’s agricultural economy, officials said. (Related: Study indicates big loss of North American birds)

Global Investors to Big Food: Cut Meat to Avoid ‘Protein Bubble’
Common Dreams
Citing the environmental and public health risks of factory farming, a $1.25 trillion coalition of multinational investors has called on 16 global food corporations—including Kraft Heinz, Nestle, Unilever, Tesco, and Walmart—to cut their reliance on meat and diversify into plant-based sources of protein. The campaign launched Monday is backed by a new briefing from the FAIRR (Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return) Initiative and responsible investment organization ShareAction, entitled, The Future of Food: The Investment Case for a Protein Shake-Up.

These researchers think we’re nearing ‘peak car’ — and the consequences could be dramatic
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post
On Thursday the Rocky Mountain Institute — an energy-focused think tank known for its boldness in predicting technological change — released a truly sweeping report on the future of vehicles. And if it’s right — something that, to be sure, can be questioned — then we would be on the verge of an energy and technology transformation to rival the sudden decline of the coal industry. The institute certainly isn’t the first to suggest self-driving cars are something special. Uber and Lyft are already exploring self-driving robotaxis. Apple, Google, and Tesla are also in the game. But what’s striking is the optimism about a real technological transformation that could arrive from the merger of two vehicle trends — automation and electrification — and the idea that it could happen quite fast, with major consequences for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

Scientists Uncover Surprising Source of Carbon Storage Hidden in Plain Sight
Kristen Satre Meyer, Ensia
Agroforestry — integrating trees into cropland or pastureland — is often discussed as a promising strategy for helping to ease the threat of climate change because trees are particularly good at sucking carbon dioxide from the air and socking it away for the long term. However, most global and regional calculations of carbon capture and storage, including those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ignore farm forests. That could change, thanks to a new study published in the scientific journal Nature that takes a look at trees on agricultural land and quantifies the powerful role they play in sequestering carbon.

Monsanto licenses CRISPR technology to modify crops — with key restrictions
Stat News
Agriculture giant Monsanto has licensed CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing technology from the Broad Institute for use in seed development, the company announced on Thursday, a step that will likely accelerate and simplify the creation of crops that are resistant to drought or have consumer-pleasing properties such as soybean oil with fats as healthy as those in olive oil. But the deal comes with restrictions that speak to the startling power of CRISPR, as well as widespread public anxiety about genetically modified crops: Monsanto cannot use it for gene drive, the controversial technique that can spread a trait through an entire population, with unknown consequences.

UN warns next global financial crisis may include huge debt defaults
Russia Today
If the global economy enters a new economic crisis it may lead to epic debt defaults, according to trade economists at the United Nations. “As capital begins to flow out, there is now a real danger of entering a third phase of the financial crisis which began in the United States housing market in late 2007 before spreading to the European sovereign bond market,” the annual report of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Following the 2008-2009 crisis, developing countries faced a huge influx of cheap credit. The process was heated by quantitative easing programs in the developed nations.

 

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