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NEWS UPDATE #148


Enviro News reports: Seaborne cesium 134, the so-called “fingerprint of Fukushima,” has been detected on US shores for the first time, researchers from the WHOI, a crowd-funded science seawater sampling project. It has been monitoring the radioactive plume making its way across the Pacific from the demolished Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in eastern Japan.

Surge in 2015 Pulse Prices Was a Result of Cartelisation
The Wire
When prices of dal or pulses kept rising through the early summer of 2015, this was initially seen as a natural fallout of adverse weather conditions. Yes indeed, there was a scam. In fact, documents seized in October-December 2015 by officials in the income tax (IT) department in the Ministry of Finance and a subsequent appraisal report based on these records reveal that there was an insidious game at play, more than just the simplistic hoarding of pulse stocks at the wholesale or retail levels. ()Also read: Insurance companies have not paid 83% of farmers’ claims)

NTPC bets $10 billion on coal power despite surplus, green concerns
The Economic Times
India’s state-run power utility plans to invest $10 billion in new coal-fired power stations over the next five years despite the electricity regulator’s assessment that thermal plants now under construction will be able to meet demand until 2027. In the first phase, India’s biggest power producer, NTPC , plans to build three new plants with a combined capacity of more than 5 gigawatts (GW), nearly double the capacity of those currently being phased out, five senior company officials said. (Related: Clean energy jobs see sharp spike in India)

Expert committee meets to review projects in violation and grant environment clearance
Down to Earth
The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEF&CC), recently met to give recommendations on clearances for violating industries. This was the first such meeting held to consider environment clearance (EC) for industries that were already in violation, following a notification by the environment ministry. Normally, EC is taken before starting the project, but the ministry’s notification allowed a one-time opportunity to violating projects to apply for clearances. The meeting for violation-appraisal was held on June 22. (Also read: Green activists oppose Finance Act 2017, say it curtails NGT’s independence)

Narmada dam at full height to submerge another 10 lakh trees, 86,300 hundred plus yrs old: Villagers protest
Counterview
A new movement has begun in Narmada valley, with facts coming to light that in all 10 lakh trees would be submerged along with 192 villages and one town, Dharampuri, with the Narmada dam’s height reaching 138.64 metres, the full reservoir level. According to an expert spot survey, in the 38 villages where the 10 lakh trees would be destroyed, 86,300 trees are more than 100 years old.
The Narmada BachaoAndolan (NBA), the top anti-dam organization fighting for the dam oustees’ cause, organized demonstrations against destruction of trees in Badwani town, as also in the district’s Aad to valda, Jangarva, Bagud and other villages.

Something More Dangerous than Police Atrocities is going on in #Kathiramangalam. ONGC knows, but will not tell you
Ippodhu
Plagued by groundwater contamination due to the existing well, villagers feared that the rigs were meant for exploring coal-bed methane that would make the already bad situation worse. ONGC denies that the rigs are meant for CBM exploration, but given ONGC’s opaque functioning, no-one can blame villagers for not believing the company. But let us not let the CBM controversy take centre-stage. Let us focus on the pipeline leak and what is not being said about it. Let us focus on what the “oil” that leaked is and can do, and what ONGC should do but is not doing. The properties of the “oil” and ONGC’s silence and inaction are far more dangerous than the police batons. (Also read: Quarrying suspended in Navi Mumbai’s Parsik Hill as authorities review mining lease )

57 “extra-judicial” deaths in Kaziranga, Assam, in 2014-16: Blanket immunity to forest cops under AFSPA blamed
Counterview
Facts have come to light suggesting that there have been 57 cases of extra-judicial killings in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP), Assam, over the last three years, as against 106 over the since 1996. The recent deaths include 27 in 2014, 23 in 2015 and 7 in 2016. Ironically, not a single forest staffer has been killed in “encounters” since 1985. Bringing this to light, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), the apex body of a large number of mass organisations across India, has alleged that these facts raise “some crucial questions about the official claims that all the killings are of poachers in cross-fire.”

Rains and Houses submerging in water: Assam Flood Assessment
News Aur Chai
Heavy rains, floods and houses submerging in water. Time to move on from Bangalore rains to Assam floods. The natural habitat is dying and the villages have been submerged under the water. With over 19 lakh people relocated from their homes, the conditions only seem to be worsening by the day. Not only the people. The last report cited that at least over 31 were killed among the people in the 23 districts of Assam. (Also read: A farm crisis is slowly brewing in Assam – and farmers are staging protests to draw attention to it)

Watch: Why Farmers in Nevali, Maharashtra Are Accusing the Navy of Land Grab
The Wire
On June 22, villagers in Nevali and Bhal in Maharashtra protested against takeover of land by the Indian Navy. The protests soon turned violent, with police cars being burnt and rubber bullets being used on the villagers. With most of the villagers either arrested or absconding, life in these areas has come to an abrupt halt with no clear solution in sight.​(Also read: Satyagrah in Jharkhand for sovereignty in schedule areas)

Uttarakhand against living person status to rivers
India Water Portal
On the grounds that the Ganga and the Yamuna are interstate rivers, the Uttarakhand government has sought a stay from the Supreme Court on the living person status conferred to the two rivers. Earlier this year, the high court had given living status to the rivers and made three government officials, including Uttarakhand chief secretary and the advocate general, their guardians. This has irked the state government which says that the state officials could be held responsible in case of a disaster or a mishap in these rivers.

Ground water levels declining fast in Maharashtra
The Indian Express
Data from wells has shown that 70 per cent of the wells being monitored showed a decline in water levels in Maharashtra. The study compared pre-monsoon water level data for 1,487 wells selected from across Maharashtra with the decadal mean between 2006-2015. This study indicated a decline in ground water levels in 70 per cent of the wells monitored. The national average of the decline in water level is around 66 per cent.(Also read: Karnataka approves Rs30 crore cloud seeding project after deficient monsoon rains)

Just 20% of India’s city sewage is treated; urban areas’ groundwater “to turn into” contaminated aquifers
Counterview
A recent Government of India report has delivered stiff warning that groundwater resources in growing urban centres are likely to become “contaminated as much by residual contaminants from erstwhile agricultural activities and poor rural sanitation as by contamination from more current haphazard waste-water disposal.” Pointing out that “only 33% urban Indians are connected to a piped sewer system and 13% – roughly 50 million urban Indians – still defecate in the open”, the report, prepared by a committee headed by India’s foremost water resources expert Dr Mihir Shah, says that “large parts of the modern cities remain unconnected to the sewage system as they live in unauthorised or illegal areas or slums, where state services do not reach.”

Mystery around “missing” 52,000 acres deepens as Gujarat’s bhoodan committee declares it has no land
Counterview
Six months after the Gujarat High Court judgment sharply criticizing the state government and the Gujarat Sarvodaya Mandal (GSM), also known as Bhoodan Samiti, for failing to oversee what happened to thousands of acres of land received during the Bhoodan movement of Vinoba Bhave, a top GSM insider has declared that as of today it has “no land.”

Record 66 million trees planted in 12 hours in India
Climate Action Programme
Around 1.5 million volunteers planted more than 66 million trees in just 12 hours as part of a record-breaking environmental campaign. The volunteers planted an average of 44 saplings each along the Narmada River in the central state of Madhya Pradesh on Sunday 2 July. The previous record was also set in India, when volunteers in Uttar Pradesh state set a world record by planting over 50 million trees in one day in July 2016. (Related: Watch: Protests Force Delhi Environment Minister to Stop Tree Cutting)

Pune NGO wins UN prize for sustainable farming model
The Hindu
Swayam Shikshan Prayog, a city-based NGO, has been awarded the United Nations Development Programme’s Equator Prize for devising an ecologically sustainable agriculture model to combat the adverse impacts of drought. It is the only Indian organisation to win the award, making the cut from more than 800 nominations across 120 countries. Fifteen projects from organisations across Africa, Asia and Latin America won the award in recognition of innovative solutions to tackle poverty, and environment and climate challenges. Initiatives from Pakistan and Kazakhstan won recognition for the first time. (Also read: Sonam Wangchuk, the Engineer who inspired Aamir Khan’s role in ‘3 Idiots’ gets international award)

‘Landslide Victory’ for Climate as G20 Leaders (Minus Trump) Affirm Paris Accord
Common Dreams
Following contentious negotiations that extended into the final day of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, 19 of the 20 world leaders present—the one outlier being U.S. President Donald Trump—affirmed in a statement (pdf) on Saturday their “strong commitment” to combating climate change and called the guidelines laid out in the Paris climate accord “irreversible.” In addition, the official communique included language acknowledging Trump’s decision last month to withdraw the the U.S. from the Paris agreement—a move that was widely denounced as “stupid and reckless.” (Related: 1) Trump’s alarming environmental rollback: what’s been scrapped so far 2) Trump’s administration pursues radical expansion of offshore drilling)

Carbon Dioxide Set an All-Time Monthly High
Climate Central
With May in the books, it’s official: carbon dioxide set an all-time monthly record. It’s a sobering annual reminder that humans are pushing the climate into a state unseen in millions of years. Carbon dioxide peaked at 409.65 parts per million for the year, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It’s not a surprise that it happened. Carbon dioxide levels at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii peak in May every year. (Related: 1) Major correction to satellite data shows 140% faster warming since 1998 2) Iranian city soars to record 129 degrees: Near hottest on Earth in modern measurements)

Siberian Wildfire Can Be Seen From Space as Earth’s Boreal Forests Burn at Unprecedented Rates
EcoWatch
Images captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite this week show wildfire smoke blanketing large swaths of Siberia’s boreal forests. The space agency notes that at least 27,000 hectares (100 square miles) burned in the Irkutsk Oblast region of southern Siberia and another 27,000 hectares burned in neighboring states and regions. The massive blaze, which started in late June, is yet another example of how the effects of climate change has dramatically impacted the uppermost Northern Hemisphere. (Also read: Scientists stunned by Antarctic rainfall and a melt area bigger than Texas)

Climate Change Could Disrupt Food ‘Chokepoints’
Climate Central
International trade in food relies on a small number of key ports, straits and roads, which face increasing risks of disruption due to climate change, a report said. Disruptions caused by weather, conflict or politics at one of those so-called “chokepoints” could limit food supplies and push up prices, the study by British think-tank Chatham House warned. Almost 25 percent of all food eaten around the world is traded on international markets, the report said.

It’s Finally Here: Radioactive Plume From Fukushima Makes Landfall on America’s West Coast
Enviro News
Tillamook County, Oregon — Seaborne cesium 134, the so-called “fingerprint of Fukushima,” has been detected on US shores for the first time researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) said this month. WHOI is a crowd-funded science seawater sampling project, that has been monitoring the radioactive plume making its way across the Pacific to America’s west coast, from the demolished Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in eastern Japan. (Also read: The UK’s Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant is £1.5bn over budget and a year behind schedule, EDF admits)

France to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040
The Guardian
France will end sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 as part of an ambitious plan to meet its targets under the Paris climate accord, Emmanuel Macron’s government has announced. The announcement comes a day after Volvo said it would only make fully electric or hybrid cars from 2019 onwards, a decision hailed as the beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine’s dominance of motor transport after more than a century. (Also read: Norway bans public procurement of palm oil biofuel)

Germany Breaks Record: Produces 35% of Electricity From Renewables so Far This Year
EcoWatch
Germany has broken another renewable energy record but officials say there’s still room for improvement. The German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE) reported Sunday that the combined share of renewable energy in the electricity, transport and heating sectors was 15.2 percent in the first half of 2017, up from 14.8 percent during the same period last year.  For the electricity sector alone, renewables supplied a record 35 percent of the country’s power in the first six months of 2017, about a 2 percent increase from 2016’s numbers. To compare, renewables accounted for only 15 percent of the United States’ total electricity generation in 2016. (Also read: Victory: Irish Lawmakers Ban Fracking)

China Has Officially Started Building The World’s First ‘Forest City’
Science Alert
The world’s first ‘Forest City,’ created to fight pollution, is now under construction in Liuzhou, Guangxi Province, China. Designed by Stefano Boeri Architetti, a team that develops green projects all around the world, the futuristic Forest City will be home to a community of about 30,000 people. It will be covered in greenery, including nearly 1 million plants of more than 100 species and 40,000 trees that together absorb almost 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide and 57 tons of pollutants, and produce approximately 900 tons of oxygen annually. (Related: As Beijing Joins Climate Fight, Chinese Companies Build Coal Plants)

Ghana is mortgaging a Forest to China for $15bn: Who cares about climate change, REDD+?
3 News
Ghana is at a point of mortgaging the Bauxite deposit in the Atiwa forest and Nyinahin for the People’s Republic of China for some he Atiwa Range forest Reserve measuring 23,663 ha is part of an ecosystem known as the Upper Guinea Forest. The Atiwa Range is only one of two such forests left remaining in Ghana. Not only is the Atiwa Range important in biological diversity but it also provides the headwater for three major river systems, the Ayensu, Densu and Birim rivers.

Oil giants admit potential spill could have 30% chance of hitting Amazon reef
Greenpeace
The controversial offshore oil drilling project in the mouth of the Amazon river could pose significant risk to the mysterious nearby coral reef, according to documents filed by Total and BP. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for drilling blocks shared by the European oil giants claims there is an up to 30% chance that a prospective spill could reach the reef, a unique and largely undocumented ecosystem home to hundreds of species. (Related: 72 percent of the world’s most majestic coral reefs have been hit by major heat stress since 2014)

Earth’s wildernesses are disappearing, and not enough of them are World Heritage-listed
Down to Earth
Earth’s last intact wilderness areas are being rapidly destroyed. More than 5 million square km of wilderness (around 10% of the total area) have been lost in the past two decades. If this continues, the consequences for both people and nature will be catastrophic. Predominantly free of human activity, especially industrial-scale activities, large wilderness areas host a huge range of environmental values, including endangered species and ecosystems, and critical functions such as storing carbon and providing fresh water. (Related: Religious leaders launch interfaith rainforest initiative)

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