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NEWS UPDATE #85


Sukumar Muralidharan reports on Catch News: This year’s economic survey is a catalogue of crises. For one thing, it records that the situation in agriculture has been dismal on account of two successive years of poor monsoons. This is only the fourth time in 115 years that such a misfortune has hit the Indian economy.

This year’s economic survey is a catalogue of crises
Sukumar Muralidharan, Catch News
Once the veneer of good cheer is penetrated, it is a catalogue of crises on many dimensions. For one thing, it records, the situation in agriculture has been dismal on account of two successive years of poor monsoons. This is only the fourth time in 115 years that such a misfortune has hit the Indian economy. Another aspect in which the current conjuncture refers back to the mid-1960s is in being the first time since then that both exports and imports have fallen in aggregate value terms. (Also read: Economic Survey backs hybrid seeds in boost for GM food)

MP stares at drought, water crisis
Times of India
Madhya Pradesh is staring at a drought-like condition for the second consecutive year if revenue department reports from districts are any indication. Revenue data reaching here from various districts hints that dry conditions may bring water scarcity in many parts of the state from April to June this year. As the state is on the verge of another drought, far-flung areas of more than 40 districts have reported water shortage with hand pumps and underground water sources drying up much before the onset of summer. (Also read: Food and Water Most Needed in Drought-Affected Bundelkhand)

Quota Stir: An Agrarian Crisis Is Why Haryana’s Jats Are Hurting
Mayank Mishra, The Quint
Diminishing clout of farmers in regions of Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh has led to their political marginalisation. High participation of Jats in agriculture not translating into increased participation of youth in private sector. Shrinking size of landholding combined with rise in input costs adding to the existing farm distress. In the wake of uncertainty in the farming sector, farmers looking up to government jobs as a permanent source of income.

Bangalore: Thirsting for long-term solutions
Rasheed Kappan, Deccan Herald
A deadly double trouble stares Bengaluru City straight in the face this summer. Drying up fast, the Cauvery reservoirs might barely meet the city’s rising water demand. But an acute power crisis threatens to derail BWSSB’s contingency plans till June, pushing Bengalureans to the edge.

Is the worst over for rural economy?
Mayank Mishra, Business Standard
After months of stagnation, rural wages have started inching up, albeit marginally. Coinciding with the renewed push for the rural employment guarantee scheme in the second half of 2015, rural wages have shown a marginal uptick since August. It remained flat between December 2014 and July 2015. In August last year, jobs provided under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) rose 35 per cent compared to a year ago. (Also read: Digital Agriculture Market Platform to Launch in April, Says PM Modi)

India bee populations are collapsing under environmental strain
Climate Change News
A lethal combination of climate change and human interference is helping to wipe out colonies of the giant honeybee2s on which many plants and trees in India depend for their survival. The precise cause of colony collapse disorder (CCD) is not known, but researchers say that the loss of the bees will become disastrous for the whole ecosystem if it is not tackled. (Also read from The Guardian, UK: Decline of bees poses potential risks to major crops, says UN)

Key weather phenomena to follow in 2016
Akshay Deoras, Down to Earth
As 2015 was the second consecutive year of below normal monsoon rainfall, all eyes will be on the monsoon of 2016. But other meteorological phenomena will occur too, which should not be underestimated as they would have the potential to take a heavy toll. The intensity of weather events generally doesn’t repeat on yearly scales. For example it isn’t necessary for 2016 to be a below-normal monsoon rain year just because 2014 and 2015 were. But learning from past weather events definitely helps in preparing better for the next impacts.

Satellite data: India had worse air pollution than China in 2015
Greenpeace Energy Desk
People in India are breathing more toxic air than people in China for the first time this century, a new analysis of NASA satellite data has revealed. In the new Greenpeace Clean Air Action Plan report, author Lauri Myllyvirta used data from NASA satellites to chart the average resident’s exposure to air pollution. Last year China’s ‘war on pollution’ led to a record-breaking improvement in the country’s air quality, but the smog in India just continued to get worse. (Also read: New Delhi car ban yields trove of pollution data)

Is the Government Trying to Pull a Fast One With its Solar Power Promises?
Kannan Kasturi, The Wire
The government’s announcement of massive solar energy targets therefore appears to be an impetuous decision. States will be unwilling to allow high penetration of solar energy into their grids considering its cost and the problems of addressing its variability. That is why the central government is all set to force the issue by increasing renewable purchase obligations. The new tariff policy states that solar electricity must constitute 8% of non-hydro power consumed by every utility by 2022. (Also read: US blocks India’s solar power plan)

India’s own climate model in the offing
SciDev.Net
By the end of 2016 India will have its own climate assessment model, enabling the country to participate in the next Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment (sixth assessment) by contributing its own model simulations and results. India will also be capable of generating high resolution climate change scenarios for the entire South Asian region, says Rajeevan Madhavan Nair, the new secretary in India’s ministry of earth sciences. He shares with SciDev.Net plans to improve monsoon forecasting which is vital for agriculture on the sub-continent.

How India Can Drop (At Least) 120 Future Power Plants
Charu Bahri, IndiaSpend
As India struggles to balance responsibilities as the world’s fourth-largest polluter with the aspirations of 1.25 billion people, 300 million of whom are without grid electricity, the design of its buildings offers a notable opportunity to cut energy use. Enforcing the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), an energy-saving code designed for commercial establishments, in residential buildings, could reduce residential energy consumption up to 57% and curtail rise in consumption to 300% over 2005 levels, over the same period.

Why the Modi Government Needs a Transparent Environmental Policy
Nitin Sethi, Business Standard
The NDA government came to power promising greater accountability and transparency in higher echelons of government. But, on issues of environmental rights and attendant public interests it has instead worked in stealth mode on one too many occasions. It is secretively deciding important policy issues that impact large sections of society. The impact of some of these policies are also likely to be irreversible once unleashed. The lack of information on these occasions has only ensured lack of public engagement beyond that by vested interests. As a result the people are being handed a fait accompli. At times even the final decisions come to be known from information trickling out in media rather than being announced and justified boldly by the government.

Decision Makers Have Greater Responsibilities Than Stock Market Indices: An Interview with New Greenpeace Head Ravi Chellam
Atul Dev, The Caravan
It seems clear to us that government agencies have been trying to shut down Greenpeace, one way or the other, for the past several months. But it isn’t just this government, or just here in India even. If you look at governments around the world in general, they are often intolerant of being challenged, especially when we examine economic growth, or challenge development—both of which are only vaguely defined. What is growth? For whom is this development? What are its costs and who bears them? These questions are seldom probed beyond the rhetoric.

Study Reveals Scary New Facts About Sea Level Rise
Climate Progress
A new study from scientists at Harvard and Rutgers Universities has been sweeping the internet, and for good reason: it shows, quite alarmingly, that the planet’s seas have been rising much faster than we thought. Specifically, previous research had stated the seas rose about two-thirds of an inch per decade between 1900 and 1990. But with the new study, that rate was recalculated to less than half an inch a decade. Both old and new research say that since 1990, the ocean has been rising at about 1.2 inches a decade, meaning the gap is much wider than previously thought.

Carbon emission cuts only way to save coral from acid seas: study
Reuters
Corals under threat from acid seas can only be saved by deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, scientists said on Wednesday, and engineering the chemistry of sea water around coral reefs was only possible on a very small scale. In a U.S.-led study, scientists mixed chemicals into a lagoon, cut off from the sea at low tide, at Australia’s One Tree Island to locally reverse the global trend of acidification that makes it harder for corals to build their stony skeletons. Their study, the first to isolate the impact of acidification from other damaging factors such as rising temperatures and pollution, warned that “technical challenges … would probably make it infeasible at anything but highly localized scales (for example, protected bays, lagoons).”

Fossil fuel use must fall twice as fast as thought to contain global warming – study
The Guardian
Climate scientists have bad news for governments, energy companies, motorists, passengers and citizens everywhere in the world: to contain global warming to the limits agreed by 195 nations in Paris last December, they will have to cut fossil fuel combustion at an even faster rate than anybody had predicted. According to the study, all previous estimates of the quantities of carbon dioxide that can be released into the atmosphere before the thermometer rises to potentially catastrophic levels are too generous. Instead of a range of permissible emissions estimates that ranged up to 2,390 bn tons from 2015 onwards, the very most humans could release would be 1,240 bn tons.

Climate activists threaten to shut down world’s major coal sites
The Guardian
Climate activists will use direct action to try to shut down major fossil fuel sites across the world in May, including the UK’s largest opencast coal mine in south Wales. The dozen international sites facing civil disobedience from the Break Free 2016 campaign span the globe from the US to Australia and South Africa to Indonesia. Coal is the most polluting fossil fuel and scientists estimate that 80% of current reserves must remain in the ground in order to avoid dangerous climate change. The UK government intends to phase out coal burning by 2025 but the International Energy Agency still forecasts growth in the global demand for coal.

Why oil under $30 per barrel is a major problem
Gail Tverberg
Decision makers thought that peak oil could be fixed simply by producing more oil and more oil substitutes. It is becoming increasingly clear that the problem is more complicated than this. We need to find a way to make the whole system operate correctly. We need to produce exactly the correct amount of oil that buyers can afford. Prices need to be high enough for oil producers, but not too high for purchasers of goods using oil. The amount of debt should not spiral out of control. There doesn’t seem to be a way to produce the desired outcome, now that oil extraction costs are high.

World economy stands on the cusp of another crash, warns former Bank of England chief
The Telegraph UK
Former Bank of England Governor Lord Mervyn King has warned that the world is on the cusp of another crash because regulators’ have failed in their attempts to reform the financial system in the wake of the last crisis. “Another crisis is certain, and the failure…to tackle the disequilibrium in the world economy makes it likely that it will come sooner rather than later,” Lord King says in his new book, the exclusive serialisation of which starts in The Telegraph this weekend. Since the last crisis, “governments and regulators have been hyperactive at the national and international level” but “bankers and regulators have colluded in a self-defeating spiral of complexity”, he claims.

France Is Paving Its Future with Solar
Natalie Shoemaker, Big Think
France plans on pulling its weight post-Paris climate talks, at which 195 nations made a commitment toward building a zero-emission economy. The country has started by laying down 621 miles of solar panels to supply 5 million people across France with renewable energy. Other countries have been testing the idea of solar roadways through solar bike paths. These small-scale projects operate as a pilot program to see if installing photovoltaic cells would be profitable on larger roads. These real-world trials examine potential losses in solar absorption from blockage from pollution, passing cyclists and pedestrians, and weather.

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