There were 1.1 million premature deaths in India due to long-term exposure to pollutants. While China registered slightly higher figures, it has now acted against this hazard—the situation in India, in contrast, is getting worse. The highest number of premature deaths globally due to ozone is also in India. Might all this qualify as genocide?
Pollution & Toxicity
The Third Pole reports: Over 140 million people are eligible to vote as Uttar Pradesh —the land of the Ganga and the Yamuna— goes to polls. Everybody agrees that the poison affects drinking water and irrigation. Still, the apathy is mirrored in town after town in eastern UP. Candidates rarely address it in their campaigns.
Debutant director Aparnaa Singh’s Irada is said to have been inspired by real events –the pollution of groundwater by a chemical manufacturer with the blessings of a state’s ruling party. Set in Punjab, Irada advocates solutions that viewers will be hard-pressed to replicate, but its concerns are timely, character sketches memorable, and its empathy unmistakable.
Alexei Yablokov, the towering grandfather of Russian ecology who worked to unmask Cold War nuclear dumping practices in the Arctic region, died in Moscow last week. Yablokov commanded a broad environmental and political mandate in Russia, founded Russia’s branch of Greenpeace and was the leader of the Green Russia faction of the Yabloko opposition party.
Gary Haq writes: The health impacts of air pollution are well documented; but now, new evidence suggests a link between air pollution and dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, with exposure to poor air quality equivalent to passively smoking six cigarettes a day. Toxic air has been blamed for more road traffic crashes from pollutants distracting drivers.
Catch News reports: Chhattisgarh’s Janjgir-Champa region, once famous for paddy cultivation, is now emerging as the state’s power hub with several power plants coming up in the area during the recent years. While fuelling the state’s economic growth, dust and ash emitted from these power plants are turning thousands of local people blind from cataract.
Former nuclear reactor operator Arnie Gundersen writes: Building nuclear reactors in a trade-off for CO2 reduction creates a toxic legacy of atomic waste. Nuclear power’s proponents claim that we’re smart enough to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, but are too ignorant to figure out how to store solar electricity overnight.
Growing numbers of scientists have asserted that our planet might soon see a sixth massive extinction— driven by the escalating impacts of humanity. Others, such as the Swedish economist Bjørn Lomborg, have characterised such claims as ill-informed. We argue that the jury is in and the debate is over: Earth’s sixth great extinction has arrived.
GM mustard, if approved, will open the floodgates for other such crops making India one of the largest users of GM crops in the world. Given that its agriculture is largely in the hands of MNCs, India will end up bartering its freedom for the benefit of a few and the misery of the rest.
“Producing qualities that may give excellent results in the laboratory may be advantageous for some, but have ruinous effects for others. And the principle of caution is not enough, as very often it is limited to not allowing something to be done, whereas there is a need to act in a balanced and honest way.”
Amita Bhaduri writes: Nuclear plants require enormous amounts of water for cooling and other purposes. The Fatehabad plant will be the first project in the world to be located away from water sources. “The water will not be enough even for normal operations; what if an accident takes place?”, asks Dhanraj Jat, a local farmer.
The agreement has been welcomed because it would slow down what many fear would be an exponential rise in the greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons, what with the increased use of refrigerators, ACs and cars in China and India in the years to come. But, IPCC data suggests we need to keep our excitement in check.
“The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness. It was 25 million years old.” So begins Rowan Jacobsen’s moving obituary for the world’s largest living structure. With 2,900 individual reefs and 1,050 islands, it’s larger than the United Kingdom, and it contained more biodiversity than all of Europe combined.
Robin Delobel writes: The issue is rarely raised, but renewable energies have a heavy environmental impact when the total production chain and overall product life-cycle is taken into account– particularly, the stage of mining the metals needed in their production. In addition, chemical products used in the mining operations often lead to severe long-term pollution.
Whitney Webb reports: Fukushima continues to leak an astounding 300 tons of radioactive waste into the Pacific every day. It will continue do so indefinitely as the leak’s source is inaccessible to both humans and robots due to extremely high temperatures. In other words, Fukushima has contaminated the entire Pacific Ocean in just five years.
Greenpeace reports: India remains committed to one of the most aggressive programmes to build new coal plants (some 600 of them) that the planet has ever seen. Yet, 94% of the coal power capacity currently under construction will be lying idle. What’s more, solar power’s now cheaper than coal power, by the government’s own admission.
The Hindu reports: Air pollution could have killed at least 600,000 Indians in 2012, worldwide because they were exposed to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) that may have aggravated or been directly responsible for cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer according to the WHO. India comes just behind China–which witnessed an estimated 800,000 deaths, says the study.
Nehmat Kaur writes: The National Green Tribunal covered new ground for the ‘polluter pays’ principle by invoking it in two landmark judgments recently. Activists are hopeful that this will help deter corporations from functioning with impunity, under the cover of governmental apathy. The judgments in both cases acknowledged governmental inaction in dealing with environmental damage.
A parallel legal universe, open only to corporations and largely invisible to everyone else, helps executives convicted of crimes escape punishment. In this court, a nation that tries to prosecute a corrupt CEO or ban dangerous pollution can be sued for millions, even billions of dollars for ‘interfering with profits’. A investigative series from BuzzFeed.
Bjorn Lomborg, long known as a ‘contrarian’ environmentalist, recently triggered a heated media debate when he claimed that organic farming cannot provide food security for the world, and even asserted that it is bad for the environment. Here we present Lomborg’s original column in USA Today and a selection of voices that counter his view.