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NEWS UPDATE #155


Pavitra Mohan reports on IndiaSpend.com: In rural India, where 833 million Indians (70%) live, people are consuming fewer nutrients than before, despite higher economic growth. On average, compared to 1975-’79, a rural Indian now consumes 550 fewer calories and 13 gm protein, 5 mg iron, 250 mg calcium and about 500 mg less vitamin A.

INDIA

Floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal kill 1,200 and leave millions homeless
Independent
At least 1,200 people have been killed and millions have been left homeless following devastating floods that have hit India, Bangladesh and Nepal, in one of the worst flooding disasters to have affected the region in years. In the eastern Indian state of Bihar, the death toll has risen to more than 500, the Straits Times reported, quoting disaster management officials. The paper said the ongoing floods had so far affected 17 mllion people in India, with thousands sheltered in relief camps. (Related:
Bangladesh eliminates post-flood disease deaths)

India lost 1.5 million jobs in the aftermath of demonetisation
Quartz India
The historic note ban in 2016 took its toll on jobs in India, says a report. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, a think-tank that tracks business and economic data, believes that 1.5 million jobs were lost in January-April 2017, a likely result of demonetisation.  “The estimated total employment during the period (Jan-April 2017) was 405 million compared to 406.5 million during the preceding four months, September-December 2016…This is the total employment in the country, including organised and unorganised sectors, and agricultural and non-agricultural sectors,” said Mahesh Vyas, managing director & CEO of CMIE, in his report. (Related: Nearly 99% of demonetised notes back in the system, says RBI’s annual report)

Rural India is eating less than it did 40 years ago
Pavitra Mohan, IndiaSpend.com
As India’s 70th year since Independence begins, widespread progress is evident, but 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 survey. On average, compared to 1975-’79, a rural Indian now consumes 550 fewer calories and 13 gm protein, 5 mg iron, 250 mg calcium and about 500 mg less vitamin A. Despite higher economic growth, malnutrition levels are almost twice as high in South Asia as compared to Sub Saharan Africa.

Environment ministry panel exempts public hearing for companies seeking coal mine expansion
Down to Earth
In a bid to facilitate the government’s plan to increase coal production to 908 million tonnes by 2019-20, the Environment Assessment Committee (EAC) has consented to a proposal of Coal India Limited (CIL) to avoid public hearings in the process of getting environment clearance (EC) for coal project-expansions. The decision will enable fast-tracking decision on environmental clearance for coal projects seeking a capacity expansion of 40 per cent. The EAC is an expert body that gives recommendations to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on matters of project clearance. (Related: First tender for coal utilisation scheme fails with zero bids)

1.5 million tribals in Odisha hit by 18% GST on Sal leaf
Down to Earth
The fallouts of the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime that intended to simplify taxation in India, have become evident weeks after it was imposed on July 1. Sal Leaf, a minor forest produce (MFP) that forest-dwelling communities can collect and trade, has been taxed 18 per cent. Tribal communities in Odisha whose sustenance depends on collection of Sal leaf and making plates out of them, are directly affected. According to experts working on the issue, around 1.5 million people depend on collection of Sal leaves for sustenance.

Uttarakhand is building a dam over an area larger than Chandigarh – and people are protesting
Hridayesh Joshi, Scroll.in
Pancheshwar is not just the biggest dam to be planned in Uttarakhand but also a commitment made by India to Nepal under the 1996 Mahakali Treaty. The long-pending project got a fillip when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Nepal in 2014. A Pancheshwar Development Authority was set up consequently to finalise the project. The project is expected to submerge 11,600 hectares of mountain area – a land mass larger than Chandigarh (11,400 hectares) – in five seismic zones. Of this area, 7,600 hectares would lie in the three districts of Uttarakhand and the rest in Nepal.

Meet the Mega-Project That Goans Fighting ‘Dirty Coal’ Are up Against
Nidhi Jamwal, The Wire
Apart from Jindal, Adani Ports & SEZ Ltd. has planned a coal handling terminal at the existing berth 7 of the MPT, at an estimated cost of Rs 400 crore. The minimum capacity of the coal terminal is 4.61 MT per year, expandable to 10 MT/year. Thousands of Goan fishers have one strong message for the Indian government. If the Union environment ministry permits the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT), a government-owned port located near Vasco, to dredge its channel and expand its berths for handling coal, it will be the end of the livelihoods of local fishers, who say they will then have no choice but to take their own lives.

Scientists slam study linking farmer suicides with climate change
Darryl D’Monte,  Indian Climate Dialogue
Academics in India and the US have taken strong exception to a recent study by Tamma Carleton of the University of California, Berkeley, which links farmers’ suicides in the country to rises in temperature due to climate change. “Temperature does have an influence on agriculture but it is secondary to water. Ours being a tropical country the crops grown are adapted to high temperatures. However, there will be yield losses due to heat stress primarily in rabi (winter) season,” B. Venkateswarlu, Vice Chancellor of Vasantrao Naik Marathwada Krishi Vidyapeeth in Parbani in eastern Maharashtra, which has seen a spate of these suicides in recent years, told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

NITI Aayog bats for water conservation, groundwater banking
Live Mint
India’s federal policy think tank NITI Aayog has advocated a series of steps to conserve water and battle water stress in the country, including the concept of groundwater banking. The plan also advocated that all linear projects such as road, power lines and rail projects that cut through forests “incorporate mitigation measures at all stages of planning, construction, and maintenance” as that will allow projects to go ahead without cutting off migration corridors that are essential to prevent species from going extinct. (Related: NITI Aayog’s three-year action plan on agriculture raises hope as well as concerns)

Court orders prosecution of industrial unit at Eloor
Deccan Chronicle
A first of its kind criminal case has been registered against an industrial unit at Eloor in Ernakulam  district for violation of  Air Act.  The judicial first class magistrate court in Kalamassery ordered to prosecute Thriveni Carbonics (P) Ltd for the offence committed punishable under Section 37 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, based on the petition of Eloor resident and green activist K.M. Prasad.

Allahabad HC Slams Government For Permitting Felling Of Thousands Of Trees For Ramdev’s Food Park
Outlook
The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday expressed strong dissatisfaction over the Uttar Pradesh government’s offer of “adequate compensation” to a Noida resident on whose land thousands of trees are likely to be felled for a proposed food park of Ramdev’s Patanjali Yog Sansthan. A division bench comprising justices Tarun Agarwala and Ashok Kumar remarked “the government cannot justify its act of cutting down of trees on the basis that it will give adequate compensation to an affected individual”.

Explainer: How allegations of Adani overpricing power equipment imports could affect consumers
Scroll.in
Last week, on August 22, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence Adjudicating Authority, KVS Singh, struck down the proceedings of the department against the Adani group for alleged over-invoicing power generating equipment. A committee of Chief Commissioners of Customs – Ahmedabad and Mumbai – will review the adjudicating authority’s order and take a final call on it. This is yet to happen. What is the link between power producing companies importing equipment to the price a citizen pays for electricity? (Related: Adani mining giant faces financial fraud claims as it bids for Australian coal loan)

New method developed to remove harmful drugs from wastewater
Down to Earth
Hospital wastewater which includes drugs is a major environmental problem. A group of researchers from Belgium and India have developed a novel method of treating wastewater to get rid of such harmful substances from hospital waste. Wastewater may include cytostatic drugs such as cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide used for cancer treatment. The presence of such drugs in hospital waste not only pollutes environment but can also harm human health as these drugs often don’t break up easily. The cytostatic drugs are known to cause severe and irreversible damages to human body. The concentration of these drugs is high in the wastewaters of hospitals specializing in cancer treatment. Researchers have developed a slurry photocatalytic membrane reactor which involves a filtration process similar to the one used to purify drinking water.

WORLD

This Is How Much Water Hurricane Harvey Is Dumping On Houston
IFL Science
Hurricane Harvey is set to be one of the most devastating natural disasters in American history. At the time of writing, it has fortunately claimed few lives, but its storm surge and its sustained, unprecedentedly concentrated rainfall have both triggered a powerful flood the likes of which the Lone Star State has never seen before. It’s difficult to visualize just how much water is being deposited on Houston though. Every day, the estimates keep increasing for this “one-in-1,000 year” event. The latest is that about 56.8 trillion liters of water (15 trillion gallons) have fallen on Houston, but it’s predicted that this will total 75.7-94.6 trillion liters (20-25 trillion gallons) of water will have descended by the time Harvey dissipates. (Related:  What made the rain in Hurricane Harvey so extreme?)

Breakthrough Could Help Predict a Catastrophic Loss of Ocean Oxygen
Oceans Deeply
The ocean is losing oxygen due to nutrient pollution and the climate change effects of rising water temperatures and decreased mixing of marine layers. Deoxygenation expands hypoxic “dead zones,” killing off fish, including commercial species such as shrimp, and disrupting the ocean ecosystem. Studying elements like thallium could be a key to answering questions about how quickly deoxygenation has occurred in the past and how fast it might occur in coming decades and centuries. “We are just now starting to use thallium isotopes,” said Ostrander. “As we continue to apply the tool, our estimates will be more refined.”

First tanker crosses northern sea route without ice breaker
BBC News
A commercial LNG tanker has sailed across the colder, northern route from Europe to Asia without the protection of an ice-breaker for the first time. The specially-built ship completed the crossing in just six-and-a-half days setting a new record, according to the tanker’s Russian owners. The 300-metre-long Sovcomflot ship, the Christophe de Margerie, was carrying gas from Norway to South Korea. Rising Arctic temperatures are boosting commercial shipping across this route.

Pesticides linked to birth abnormalities in major new study
Independent
High exposure to pesticides as a result of living near farmers’ fields appears to increase the risk of giving birth to a baby with “abnormalities” by about 9 per cent, according to new research. Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, compared 500,000 birth records for people born in the San Joaquin Valley between 1997 and 2011 and levels of pesticides used in the area. The average use of pesticides over that period was about 975kg for each 2.6sq km area per year. But, for pregnant women in areas where 4,000kg of pesticides was used, the chance of giving birth prematurely rose by about 8 per cent and the chance of having a birth abnormality by about 9 per cent. (Related: This miracle weed killer was supposed to save farms. Instead, it’s devastating them)

Chile rejects iron mine to protect penguins
BBC News
The Chilean government has rejected plans for a billion-dollar mining project because it would disrupt sea life, including endangered penguins. A Chilean company, Andes Iron, had wanted to extract millions of tonnes of iron in the northern Coquimbo region as well as building a new port. Ministers said the project did not provide sufficient environmental guarantees. Coquimbo is close to the islands which form Chile’s Humboldt Penguin Reserve. The area is home to 80% of the world’s Humboldt penguins as well as other endangered species, including blue whales, fin whales and sea otters.(Related: Armed men destroy two dozen logging trucks in Chile indigenous dispute)

Indigenous group seizes Peru oil field facilities
Warrior Publications
Indigenous people living on Peru’s largest oil field concession have seized some facilities operated by Frontera Energy Corp. demanding that the government apply an indigenous rights law before signing a new contract with the Canadian company, a tribal chieftain said on Tuesday. The so-called prior consultation law, passed in 2011, requires the government to seek input from indigenous people before approving any development plans that might affect them. (Related: Brazilian court blocks abolition of vast Amazon reserve)

Switzerland landslide: Are the Alps melting?
BBC News
The village of Bondo had a narrow escape. The four million cubic metres (141m cubic feet) of mud and rock which thundered down the mountain ended up just centimetres from people’s homes. That wasn’t just luck. Bondo has a concrete barrier to protect it from the full force of a landslide, and the river bed in the Bondasca Valley has been widened in the hope of channelling landslides away from populated areas. But the size of Wednesday’s slide was a shock, and some scientists are now warning that the alpine regions can expect more events like this in the future.

Kenya Enforces World’s Toughest Law Against Plastic Bags
EcoWatch
Kenya is taking its new plastic bag ban very seriously. Starting Monday, anyone who manufactures, sells or even carries a plastic bag in the East African country could be slapped with a fine of up to $38,000 or get sent to jail for up to four years. It took the Kenyan government three attempts over the past 10 years to finally pass the ban, which is considered as the world’s toughest, according to Reuters. Government officials say that non-biodegradable items harm the environment, use up valuable resources and can impact human health.

Scottish tidal power station breaks world record for electricity generation
Independent
A tidal power station in the Pentland Firth between mainland Scotland and Orkney has broken the world record for electricity generation, the company behind it has announced. The tidal flows between the Atlantic and the North Sea could potentially power nearly half of Scotland’s entire electricity needs, according to a study by engineers from Oxford and Edinburgh universities. However the exploitation of this extraordinary power source has only just begun. (Related: Wind power costs could drop 50%. Solar PV could provide up to 50% of global power)

Daring U.S. pipeline sabotage spawned by lobster boat coal protest
Reuters
Pipeline sabotage by environmental activists that shook the North American energy industry this week had its roots in a 2013 protest off Massachusetts, when two men in a 32-foot lobster boat blocked a 40,000-ton coal shipment to a power station. Three years on, Jay O‘Hara and Ken Ward, the activists involved in the “Lobster Boat Blockade”, helped mastermind Tuesday’s audacious attempt to shut five major cross-border pipelines which can carry millions of barrels of crude from Canada’s oil sands region to the United States.(Related: Trump’s Lawyers Sue Greenpeace Over Dakota Pipeline, Making Jaw-Dropping Accusations)

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