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NEWS UPDATE #143


The Independent reports: India has cancelled plans to build nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations with the price for solar electricity “free falling” to levels once considered impossible. According to analyst Tim Buckley, 13.7GW of planned coal power projects have been cancelled so far this month–in a stark indication of the pace of change.

India cancels plans for huge coal power stations as solar energy prices hit record low
Ian Johnston, Independent UK
India has cancelled plans to build nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations – about the same as the total amount in the UK – with the price for solar electricity “free falling” to levels once considered impossible. Analyst Tim Buckley said the shift away from the dirtiest fossil fuel and towards solar in India would have “profound” implications on global energy markets. According to his article on the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis’s website, 13.7GW of planned coal power projects have been cancelled so far this month – in a stark indication of the pace of change. (Related: Reassess consents for upcoming coal power plants to prevent pollution norm violation)

Solar is now cheaper than coal-based electricity in India, but the math makes no sense
Devjyot Ghoshal, Scroll.in
Solar energy prices are crashing through the floor in India. In the last three months, solar tariffs have dropped by over 25%, with much of the recent action focused around Rajasthan’s Bhadla solar park, a 10,000-hectare facility on the edge of the Thar desert. So, it really should be party time for India’s solar sector – except that it isn’t. Instead, there is real fear that, with such low tariffs, many of the country’s solar projects could turn unviable. (Related: NTPC installs India’s largest floating solar PV plant in Kerala)

Drafted in secrecy, India’s new coastal rules enable more tourism, houses closer to shore
The CPR Namati Environment Justice Program
On March 22, leading national dailies reported that the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011 was being replaced with a new framework called the Marine Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2017. It was clear that a new law was on the anvil, but its contents were not publicly available. The draft notification proposes significant changes to the manner in which coastal zones are to be managed and regulated for a variety of activities. The proposed changes are not only a change in nomenclature with the word “marine” appended to the law, but have far-reaching social and ecological implications.

Tigers in trouble: Environment ministry panel clears Ken-Betwa river-linking project
Mayank Aggarwal, Live Mint
The expert forest panel of the environment ministry has cleared the Ken-Betwa project, India’s first river-linking project, ignoring environmental concerns, including the diversion of around 5,500 hectares from the famous Panna National Park. The expert panel’s approval comes after several months of discussions on the controversial project. Under this, the Ken in Madhya Pradesh will be linked with the Betwa in Uttar Pradesh. The first phase of the project will cost around Rs10,000 crore and is expected to help irrigate about 600,000 hectares of land and provide drinking water to 1.34 million people in the two states, according to government estimates.

In Bundelkhand, Acute Water Shortage and Heat Wave Cause Distress, Forced Migration
Bharat Dogra, The Wire
Bundelkhand region, which is spread over 13 districts of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, has often been in the news due to acute drinking water shortage. As the heat wave intensified and the water crisis peaked in many parts of the region, I spent three days – May 21-23 – travelling to several remote villages of Tikamgarh (Madhya Pradesh), Lalitpur and Jhansi (Uttar Pradesh) to speak to people about their drinking water and related problems.

Lives in Debt: Narratives of Agrarian Distress and Farmer Suicides
Ajay Dandekar & Sreedeep Bhattacharya, EPW
A study in two districts recording high numbers of farmer suicide—Yavatmal in Maharashtra and Sangrur in Punjab—explores the tipping point for this desperate act and finds that in addition to the shame of indebtedness, especially when borrowing from members of the family, several other factors contribute to farmer suicides. These include faulty cropping patterns, rising input costs, aspirational consumption, and the absence of non-farm sources of income.

Droughts getting intense, more frequent in southern states
Down to Earth
This is not the first time the water-rich South India is grappling with drought. In fact, certain parts of the southern peninsula, such as northern Karnataka, Telangana and the Rayal seema region of Andhra Pradesh, suffer from drought almost every other year. But a 2016 trend analysis of droughts between 1901 and 2004 by researchers from the Purdue University, the US, and the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur and Gandhinagar shows that their occurrence and intensity across the region are on the rise since the 1970s. Droughts have particularly become more intense and frequent after 1990, it states.

Remote sensing data shows massive erosion of forests in Kerala
Nidheesh M.K., Live Mint
A new Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, study named ‘Four decades of forest loss: Drought in Kerala’ using remote sensing data pins the blame on eroding forest cover. Between 1973 and 2016, Kerala lost 906,440 hectares (9064.4 sq.km) of forest land, as per the study. Consequently, the forest cover as a percentage of total land area has been reduced from 66.2% to 42.15%. In other words, Kerala has diverted more than 50% of its total forest area for other purposes since 1973 (from when the remote sensing data is available).

Oustees’ massive anti-Narmada dam bullock cart rally, joined by fishermen, women protests absence of rehab sites
Rahul Yadav, Counterview
People displaced due to the Narmada Dam in Gujarat, including farmers, labourers, and potters, took out a bullock carts rally on May 25 in Badwani, Madhya Pradesh, joined by fishmen and women, to protest against the absence of rehabilitation sites, on one hand, and massive corruption in compensation offered to the oustees, on the other.
The bullock carts were turned into a stage after three kilometers’ long rally, from where representative of the valley, Bhagirath Dhangar, Pemalbehen, Shyama Sonavarbi Mansuri, others, talked about “false affidavits” submitted by the Madhya Pradesh government to the Supreme Court about rehabilitation of the oustees having been completed.

Float policy, hand over India’s mining wealth to locals with right to inheritance: Representation to President, PM
Counterview
A high-level meeting of India’s top advocacy group, mines, minerals and People (mm&P), has decided to represent to President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to implement the concept of “intergenerational equity” to make sure that the next generations are equal shareholders of the natural resources. The controversial concept, which is directed against corporate houses and other business interests seeking to mine away the natural wealth, has been coined by Goa Foundation, a Goa-based voluntary organization. The concept states, those who depend on natural resources alone are their rightful owners.

Farmers begin to “oppose” Ahmedabad authority seeking to take away land in the name of urban development
Counterview
Have the farmers around Ahmedabad city realized that their nod to the Gujarat government proposal to turn their agricultural land into urban hotspots was a major mistake? It would seem so, if meetings held by Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Samaj-Gujarat (KSG) with the farmers of two of the villagers situated about 20 km from the city are any indication.

With All Chips Down, Modi Tries Selling A Swadeshi Nuclear Dream To India
Anuj Wankhede, Countercurrents.org
The recent announcement that India will build 10 new Nuclear reactors took observers by surprise. In technical terms, India will set up ten new pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) which are indigenous. Purely from a scientific point of view, this is utter nonsense because of India’s complete lack of experience with this type of reactor. But this article is not about PHWR technology. It is about why this announcement was made and more importantly why now.

Wastewater from tanneries makes farm soil toxic
Umashankar Mishra, India Water Portal
The use of wastewater for irrigation in agricultural lands is a common practice across the globe. But a study by Indian researchers has found that it can also affect the quality of soil and groundwater, and consequently, human health. The researchers studied soil and groundwater samples from farms irrigated by tannery effluents in and around Kanpur city in Uttar Pradesh and found that they were contaminated with heavy metals such as chromium, nickel, cadmium, lead and zinc. They found that many small scale units released their effluent directly into water bodies without any pretreatment.

This dying river in Karnataka is now coming back to life
Subhojit Goswami, Down to Earth
A seven-year-long river rejuvenation project aims at bringing back River Kumudavathi by recharging groundwater. A total of 278 villages, covering an area of 460 sq km, will be benefitted by the project. Water pools and recharge wells have been developed to recharge groundwate. Residents of eight villages have witnessed improved water availability in tanks and lakes ever since the project flagged off in 2013

Haryana government backed a real estate firm that wanted to cut trees in the protected Aravallis
Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava, Scroll.in
Weeks before it issued an order to lift curbs on the felling of mesquite trees in the Aravallis, the office of the Additional Chief Secretary of Haryana had pushed the state forest department to allow a real estate firm to chop trees of the species on a plot of land, despite objections from the local forest staff, documents show. Mesquite (Prosopis Juliflora) is the predominant species in the Aravallis, a hill range that runs through Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi. Cutting of trees without the forest department’s permission is prohibited in parts of Haryana.

Food for thought: India will have 1.7 billion people by 2050. How will it feed them all?
Mohan Guruswamy, Scroll.in
A study commissioned by the agriculture ministry has pointed out that given the current rates of population and income growth, India will have to post a growth of 4.2% per year in cereal production in the decade until 2020 instead of the less than 2% it achieved in the previous decade. The study predicts that with a reasonable rise of 50% in the use of fertilizers, expansion of irrigation and technological improvements, cereal production would be 260 million tonnes by 2020. But with a growing population, accompanied by rapidly growing prosperity, we will witness an exponential rise in demand for food grain, requiring a higher per capita availability.

What Happens When Trees Fall Sick? In Delhi, an Ambulance Comes to Their Rescue
Aparna Menon, The Better India
The tree ambulance owned and operated by the NDMC is a customized vehicle, which can carry pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, a really long pipe fitted onto a motor, which is used to wash the leaves of the trees, and a tall ladder that can help anyone reach right to the top of a 60-foot tree. Trees suffer from various diseases that are generally induced by pests, fungi and insects. Hollowness in the tree trunk is a major issue that almost all old trees have to deal with.

Scoop: Trump tells confidants U.S. will quit Paris climate deal
Jonathan Swan & Amy Harder, Axios
President Trump has privately told multiple people, including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, that he plans to leave the Paris agreement on climate change, according to three sources with direct knowledge. Publicly, Trump’s position is that he has not made up his mind and when we asked the White House about these private comments, Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks said, “I think his tweet was clear. He will make a decision this week.”

Coastal flooding may double by 2030, new study finds
Down to Earth
Coastal flooding will become more frequent as global sea level continues to rise, a new research has found. Scientists have estimated that even small amounts of sea level rise, at 5-10 centimetres, can double the frequency of extreme water level events—and this can happen as soon as 2030. A global-level analysis of rising sea levels was published in journal Nature. Global sea level is currently rising at approximately 3–4 millimetre a year and is likely to accelerate due to ocean warming and land-based ice melt. (Related: Current sea level rise three times faster than what was observed in 20th century)

So much water pulsed through a melting glacier that it warped the Earth’s crust
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post
NASA scientists detected a pulse of melting ice and water traveling through a major glacier in Greenland that was so big that it warped the solid Earth — a surge equivalent in mass to 18,000 Empire State Buildings. The pulse — which occurred during the 2012 record melt year — traveled nearly 15 miles through the Rink Glacier in western Greenland over four months before reaching the sea, the researchers said.

Climate change could deal a blow to carbon storage capacity of forests: study
Down to Earth
In what could be yet another addition to the list of climate change impacts, the researchers from several universities have claimed that there could be a “startling drop” in the amount of carbon stored in the Sierra Nevada mountain range due to the changing climate and wildfire events. The study, which focussed on “potential decline in carbon carrying capacity” of forests, was published in Scientific Reports. About 50 per cent of all human-emitted carbon is absorbed by vegetation and the ocean.

More people heading to court to spur action on climate change, study finds
Oliver Milman, The Guardian
Governments around the world are increasingly being challenged in court to do more to combat the threat of climate change, with litigation ranging from a group’s attempt to stop an airport runway in Austria to a Pakistani farmer suing his government over its failure to adapt to rising temperatures, a new study has found. The lion’s share of the litigation is in the US, but the number of countries with such cases has tripled since 2014.

Kenya’s Ogiek win land case against government
Virginia Vigliar, Al Jazeera
Kenya’s Ogiek, an indigenous minority of hunters and gatherers, have won a historic case against the Kenyan government, close to a decade after they began their legal battle. The African Court on Human and People’s Rights, a continental court established in 2006 by African countries, on May 26 delivered its verdict in Arusha, Tanzania – ruling in favour of the Ogiek and recognising their right to Kenya’s Mau Forest as their ancestral home, and their role in protecting it.

Colombia’s constitutional court grants rights to the Atrato River and orders the government to clean up its waters
Bram Ebus, Mongabay
The Atrato River and its tributaries are among the most polluted in Colombia. Semi-industrialized mining operations with illegal excavators and dredges are one of the main drivers of deforestation in Colombia’s Chocó Department, where the Atrato River lives. In 2014, Colombia’s ombudsman declared a humanitarian emergency in Chocó due to social, economic and environmental problems. Most threats to the environment were imposed by deforestation, active timber mafias and erosion in the Atrato watersheds.

New soy-driven forest destruction exposed in South America
John C. Cannon, Mongabay
Watchdog group Mighty Earth looked at updated satellite imagery from 28 sites in the Cerrado in Brazil and the Gran Chaco and the Amazon in Bolivia. They found evidence of 60 square kilometers of land clearing for soy production since their September 2016 investigation. Bunge and Cargill, the two companies that figure prominently in Mighty Earth’s latest report, argue that they are working to eradicate deforestation from their supply chains.

 

 

 

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