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NEWS UPDATE #88


Nihar Gokhale reports: Rainfall across India in March has been 300-500% higher and often were accompanied by hailstorms. As a result, winter crops across six Indian states – Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra – stand destroyed. Rain and the accompanying hail has damaged upto 60% standing winter crops across the country.

As we debated nationalism, our Rabi crop fell flat
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
Rainfall across India in March has been 300-500% higher and often were accompanied by hailstorms. As a result, winter crops across six Indian states – Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra-stand destroyed. Rain and the accompanying hail has damaged upto 60% standing winter crops across the country, according to several estimates, although, an official assesment is yet to be mage.

Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor to displace 20,000 families, cut 12,000 trees
Ashwin Aghor, Catch News
The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious pet project, is expected to uproot more than 12,000 trees and nearly twice as many families in the Thane and Raigad districts of Maharashtra. The 1,483 km-long stretch between Navi Mumbai’s Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) and Dadri in Uttar Pradesh requires industrial zones to be developed at strategic locations. Promises of increased productivity and employment from the estimated $90 billion mega infrastructure project, touted to be one of the largest in the world, appear to have found few takers in villages along the route.

Rio Tinto’s diamond mine in MP up for green clearance
Business Standard
The Forest Advisory Committee, the statutory authority of the environment ministry, is slated to appraise the Rs 2,200-crore diamond mine project of Rio Tinto in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday for forest clearance. The mine falls in a tiger corridor connecting two protected parks and has been identified by the government as an inviolate area — a forest too dense and valuable to be mined. At least one village in the region has also rejected the proposal to mine their traditional forestlands falling in the mine area under the Forest Rights Act.

‘Dams and sugarcane have conspired to reduce Marathwada to rack and ruin’
The Hindu
Economist and former member of the Maharashtra State Planning Board HM Desarda says, “It is a hoary agrarian axiom that sugarcane, that notorious water-guzzler, is ecologically unsuited for arid climes. Yet, since the creation of Maharashtra as a State in 1960, the political class, from Yashwantrao Chavan to Sharad Pawar, has used it as a powerful instrument for building its voter base. For instance, Latur, which witnesses water wars daily, has no less than five sugar factories spread across 54,000 hectares around a 20-km radius. Of the 200-odd sugar factories in the State, more than 60 are located in the parched Marathwada. A single hectare of sugarcane crop uses 30 million litres of water.”

Quenching Our Thirst: Vasundhara Raje op-ed in The Times of India
India’s water policy makers must remember Einstein’s warning: “Make things as simple as possible not simpler.“ Water’s fault lines ­ lifeline vs livelihood, ground vs surface, property rights vs negative externalities, urban vs rural, demand vs supply management, and source vs resources ­ require complex policy and political tradeoffs that often leave everybody unhappy. India is a groundwater civilisation ­ water is a common pool resource but its extraction is interpreted as a private right under the Indian Easements Act of 1882 ­ and we need social and economic solutions to combine with today’s largely technical perspective.

Farmers Tax Exempt—So Is Company With Rs 215-Cr Profit
Charu Bahri, IndiaSpend
It’s reasonably well known that income from agriculture attracts no tax in India. What isn’t quite as well known is that of more than 400,000 taxpayers claiming exemption for agricultural income in the assessment year 2014-15, the biggest were seed giant Kaveri Seeds—it claimed Rs 186.63 crore exemption and made a profit of Rs 215.36 crore before tax—and multinational Monsanto India, which claimed Rs 94.40 crore as exemption from agricultural income and earned Rs 138.74 crore profit before tax.

Changing nature of forests in India
Pandurang Hegde, Deccan Herald
The annual ritual of releasing the forest report claims a marginal increase in the forest cover, but it hardly addresses the reality of the changing nature of the forests in the country. The last patches of green cover can be found only in the hill regions of Himalaya, Western Ghats, and central part and in the eastern region. Unfortunately, these are the regions rich in mineral and water resources that attract large scale mining companies and dam building activity to harness water. The conflict over the use of forest resources is escalating to high pitch leading to civil war like situation in central and eastern India.

Corbett tigers are getting poached at an alarming rate
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
In one of the biggest poaching cases in recent years, five tigers have reportedly been killed in the last few months in forests around Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. The poaching took place despite the Uttarakhand Forest Department being tipped off in advance. With this, the number of poaching and tiger part seizures for 2016 have climbed to 19. This is huge, compared with the 25 cases that were recorded in 2015.

Dry-land birds wing it to ‘wet’ Kerala
S. Gopikrishna Warrier, India Climate Dialogue
At least 36 species of dry-land birds have been spotted in India’s coastal state of Kerala, known for its sultry weather, indicating a change in weather pattern, rapid urbanisation and deterioration in habitat. The state, where ornithologists have spotted bird species such as steppe eagle and red-headed bunting normally found in dry-lands, has been sizzling since mid-February this year. The government has been debating whether it should declare the state drought-affected and people, used to a sweaty environment, are being dry-roasted under a blazing sun. A few cases of heat stroke have been reported with the temperature touching 40 degrees Celsius in Palakkad and 39 degrees Celsius in Kannur districts.

More than 90% of Bengaluru’s lakes are polluted or encroached
Aarti Kelkar – Khambete, Scroll.in
India has had very little to celebrate on World Wetlands Day this year as it has lost its wetlands at an alarming rate of 38% in just a decade (1991-2001). Additionally, there continues to be a regulatory vacuum around wetlands, because of which they continue to be ungoverned and unprotected. Nowhere is it more apparent than in the city of Bengaluru, once famous for its beautiful lakes created by Kempe Gowdas and the Wodeyars of Mysore and then the British. The wetlands in the city are now dying a slow death thanks to rapid growth and urbanisation resulting in encroachment and discharge of sewage and industrial effluents.

Electric Buses Earn 82% More Profit Than Diesel Daily
Deepa Padmanaban, IndiaSpend
Electric buses generate 27% more revenue and 82% more profits than diesel buses per day, according to an Indian Institute of Science (IISc) study evaluating electric vehicles for urban transport. The findings have special significance because primary mass transit in Indian cities is provided by 150,000 diesel buses, held responsible for contributing to urban smog and carbon emissions that are warming the planet.

Alarm in Bangladesh after yet another coal ship catastrophe in the Sundarbans
Scroll.in
Pollution in the largest mangrove forest in the world became front page news yet again in Bangladesh as a large ship carrying over 1,200 tonnes of coal sank in the southern Shela River on Sunday. This is the third vessel to have capsized in less than two years in the ecologically sensitive region, and the issue has caused intense anger among environmentalists. “We may not see immediate impact of these accidents, but in the long run, recurrence of such mishaps will eventually destroy the forest,” said Abdullah Harun Chowdhury, professor of environmental science at the University of Khulna.

World’s largest hydropower project planned for Tibetan Plateau
The Third Pole
Eleven hydropower stations are planned on the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) river, three along the middle reaches from Sangri to Gyaca, and nine on the gorge up to the Great Bend, with total generating capacity of 60 gigawatts. Work started on the Zangmu Dam – one of the three planned on the Sangri-Gyaca section – in 2010 and this is expected to be generating electricity this year. There are also plans for about 65 gigawatts of hydropower development on the major tributaries of the Yarlung Tsangpo.

Climate change warnings for coral reef may have come to pass, scientists say
The Guardian
After almost two years of coral bleaching, with some reefs bleaching twice and possibly three times since 2014, scientists have said that dire predictions of global coral decline made almost two decades ago may now be manifest. The rolling underwater heatwave has now arrived upon the Great Barrier Reef, with mass die-offs expected along the northern quarter of the world’s preeminent coral ecosystem. Professor Nick Graham of Lancaster University said the devastation worldwide was probably now on the same scale as the worst ever bleaching on record, which occurred during 1997-98 and wiped out 16% of the world’s reefs in a single year.

James Hansen’s Climate Bombshell: Dangerous Sea Level Rise Will Occur in Decades, Not Centuries
Common Dreams
Dr. James Hansen, the former NASA scientist who is widely credited with being one of the first to raise concerns about human-caused global warming, is a co-author of a new report predicting that the world will undergo devastating sea level rise within mere decades—not centuries, as previously thought. The report, published Tuesday in the open-access journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, paints an even bleaker picture of the planet’s future, positing that continued high fossil fuel emissions will “increase powerful storms” and drive sea-level rise of “several meters over a timescale of 50 to 150 years.”

Meltdown Earth: the shocking reality of climate change kicks in – but who is listening?
James Dyke, The Conversation
The year 2014 was the warmest ever recorded by humans. Then 2015 was warmer still. January 2016 broke the record for the largest monthly temperature anomaly. Then came last month. February didn’t break climate change records – it obliterated them. There are sure to be more climate records broken this year… But we treat them as we treat new fashions, phones or films. More novelty, newer features, more drama. We seem unable to understand that we are driving such changes. Record breaking changes that will ultimately break our civilisation, and so scatter all that we obsess and care about.

New Arctic Battlelines Drawn as Industry Exploits Fragile Seas
Common Dreams
Scientists have reported that the Arctic is currently warming at nearly double the global average rate, which is one of the key factors driving an unprecedented level of ice sheet loss.
These newly-open waters have seen a surge in industrial activity, including fishing and shipping, which heretofore have been left largely unregulated, according to green groups. Greenpeace on Wednesday released an investigation which found that industrial fishing fleets are increasingly moving into Arctic waters, particularly the previously ice-covered Barents Sea, off of Norway.

How Forest Loss Is Leading To a Rise in Human Disease
Jim Robbins, Yale Environment 360
A growing body of scientific evidence shows that the felling of tropical forests creates optimal conditions for the spread of mosquito-borne scourges, including malaria and dengue. Primates and other animals are also spreading disease from cleared forests to people.

Eat less meat to avoid dangerous global warming, scientists say
The Guardian
Growing food for the world’s burgeoning population is likely to send greenhouse gas emissions over the threshold of safety, unless more is done to cut meat consumption, a new report has found… The research, led by scientists at the Oxford Martin School, found that shifting to a mostly vegetarian diet, or even simply cutting down meat consumption to within accepted health guidelines, would make a large dent in greenhouse gases. Adhering to health guidelines on meat consumption could cut global food-related emissions by nearly a third by 2050, the study found, while widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet would bring down emissions by 63%.

New Biofuels Alternative Could Upend Oil Markets
OilPrice.com
The MIT project turns emissions from power stations, steel mills, garbage dumps, and other waste gas producers into liquid fuels using engineered microbes. Garbage dumps have been used for a while now to produce electricity, but that process requires burning the gas itself, which is not always economical. The process is also criticized by environmentalists for adding to global warming. What differentiates MIT’s approach is that the gas produced by emissions sources is used for liquid fuels that in theory can substitute for conventional crude in transportation needs.

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