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NEWS UPDATE #89


The Centre has proposed modification of green laws to impose a fine up to Rs 20 crore on major environment violators, who would also have to pay a daily fine of Rs 1 crore if the damage continues. Another green law will prevent violators from taking shelter under a legal cover for non-payment of fines.

Fine up to Rs 20 cr likely for green violators
Deccan Herald
The Union Environment Ministry has proposed modification of two green laws to impose a fine up to Rs 20 crore on major environment violators, who would also have to pay a daily fine of Rs 1 crore if the damage continues. Amendments have also been proposed for a second green law to do away with the common practice of violators taking shelter under a legal cover for non-payment of fines.

Struggle Of Caurem Village In Goa And State Repression
Vasudha Sawaiker, Countercurrents.org
Ravindra Velip and other villagers were arrested on the 22nd March, 2016 for protesting against illegal mining operations at the tribal village of Cavrem in South Goa. The Villagers were protesting against the illegal transportation of ore from TC Nos 6/61, 59/51 and 12/53 in Village Panchayat Caurem-Pirla, which was destroying all evidence of illegal ore extraction before inventory is carried out by the Government, or independent agencies. On 23rd March, while in Judicial Custody, Ravindra Velip was attacked by at least 4 persons, blindfolded and gagged, and beaten up and kicked mercilessly.

Second season of severe drought: Distress from dry spell in several states
The Economic Times
The contiguous arid region of southern Maharashtra, Karnataka, western Telangana and Andhra Pradesh is facing a second season of severe drought, even as the rest of the country has managed to sow some crop in the October to December rabi season. Of the four states, Karnataka, with the second largest arid zone after Rajasthan, is the worst hit and has gone to the Centre seeking a bailout of more than Rs 1,400 crore. (Also read: Famine-hit Bundelkhand in distress; chapati-salt becomes the staple food)

Middlemen in crisis
The Indian Express
The ongoing agrarian crisis has spread beyond farmers to consume even arhtiyas or grain commission agents, as a report in this newspaper from Punjab has shown. The number of arhtiya suicides may not be anywhere close to those by farmers, but they do suggest a certain trend. When prices of commodities, be it basmati rice or cotton, were good, farmers planted with gusto. Equally, there were those willing to advance money to them to plant against delivery of the harvested crop. It is precisely this role that the arhtiyas performed — extending credit to farmers as well as aggregating their produce on behalf of processors, exporters and other large buyers in return for a commission fee charged on the purchase price. (Also read: Unemployment, water crisis forcing tribal migration)

Why women are worst hit by India’s farm crisis
Soutik Biswas, BBC News
“The widows are the worst affected. Single women face discrimination in patriarchal village households anyway. If they are widowed, they are often thrown out, deprived of their land, and their children’s future is jeopardised,” says Kishore Tiwari, a prominent farm activist heading a government panel to curb suicides. Mr Tiwari reckons 60% of some 10,000 farm widows in the Vidarbha region have received no compensation. What’s keeping them going are dozens of non-profit and self-help groups networked to NGOs like Kisan Mitra (Farmer’s Friend) which are counselling the widows, offering soft loans, making them aware of their property and legal rights and protecting them from sexual harassment.

Drought hits Indian coal plants and expansion plans
REnew economy
Despite the Indian Government’s determination to double or even triple domestic coal production, the power sector is now being hit by water scarcity – with a new report warning the crisis could get far, far worse. A little over a week ago the operators of the 2100 megawatt (MW) coal-fired Farakka power station in West Bengal shut down five of the six turbines due to lack of water. A few days later the 500 MW sixth unit was shut down as well. There wasn’t even enough water to supply the taps for workers at the plant or the adjoining township. (Also read: $1tn could be wasted on ‘unneeded’ new coal plants, report warns)

India set to face water scarcity by 2025, govt tells Parliament
DNA India
India is faced with the alarming prospect of facing water scarcity in 10 years’ time, or by 2025, the government has said citing a study by a consulting firm in the water sector. In his reply to a question in Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Water Resources Sanwar Lal Jat on Friday said that consulting firm ‘Everything About Water’ (EA Water) has concluded that India’s demand for water is expected to exceed all current sources of supply and the country is set to become water scarce by the year 2025.

How non-compliance is condoned: A short story
The Environment ministry as well as the citizen-led committees have found large scale and conclusive evidence of violation of environment regulation by the Adani group in their Mundra Port and SEZ Ltd and the Waterfront Development Project. Kanchi Kohli reports on why both the projects are still moving ahead. (Also read: The coast is clear for corporate polluters)

Four extensions later, India coastal management plan still in tatters
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
Modi government’s ‘maximum governance’ has come to a screeching halt on India’s 7,517-kilometre coastline. On 31 January, India’s coastal zone management plan – the key to what can, and cannot, be allowed along the shore – expired. The government has still not renewed it. In the absence of a plan, coastal regulatory bodies have been unable to approve or reject clearances to any development up to 500 metres from the shore, an area that is known as the “coastal zone” and governed by special regulations.

From Bhopal to Kodaikanal
EPW
When the annals of corporate accountability, culpability and negligence in India are compiled, the erstwhile Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) is sure to top the list. But not far behind will be Hindustan Unilever (HUL). On4 March, HUL reached an out-of-court settlement with 591 of its former employees from the now defunct thermometer plant in Kodaikanal. The very fact it did is an acknowledgement that the workers were exposed to occupational hazards, something it had stubbornly denied for over a decade. The story of these two large multinationals, and their refusal to be held accountable, has followed a similar trajectory.

3,500 Sikh Orgs Celebrate Sikh Environment Day
Sikh Net
Over 3500 Sikh Gurdwaras and institutions took part in celebrating the Sikh Environment Day (SED) on March 14 all across India and all over the world. SED has been popularized by the Washington based organization EcoSikh since 2010 and this year’s focus was to go organic. This day marks the New Year in the Sikh calendar and the Gurgaddi Diwas (enthronement day) of the sixth Guru, Sri Guru Har Rai Ji, who is remembered in Sikh history for his deep sensitivity to nature, its preservation and the well-being of animals. He maintained an extensive herbal garden for medicinal purposes in Kiratpur Sahib in Punjab.

Why did poverty decline in India ?
India Environment Portal
This World Bank paper uses panel data to analyze factors that contributed to the rapid decline in poverty in India between 2005 and 2012. The analysis employs a nonparametric decomposition method that measures the relative contributions of different components of household livelihoods to observed changes in poverty. The results show that poverty decline is associated with a significant increase in labor earnings, explained in turn by a steep rise in wages for unskilled labor, and diversification from farm to nonfarm sources of income in rural areas. Transfers, in the form of remittances and social programs, have contributed but are not the primary drivers of poverty decline over this period. (Also read: Why is the IMF afraid of questioning India’s GDP numbers?)

India, China led investments in renewable energy in 2015: United Nations
The Economic Times
India and China led developing countries in investments made in renewable energy in 2015, when for the first time commitments in solar, wind and other renewables capacity by emerging economies surpassed those by wealthy nations, a UN-backed report has said. The report ‘Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016’ by the UN Environment Programme said the developing world including China, India and Brazil committed a total of USD 156 billion in new renewables capacity last year.

Melting permafrost could blow world’s remaining carbon budget
The Third Pole
As negotiations continue, the world is divided between developed nations – who have consumed much of the carbon space already – and developing countries who want burn the remaining budget to develop their economies. But amid this fight, the world has missed a stark point: the remaining carbon budget maybe much smaller than previously thought. This is because the world is sitting on a time bomb as frozen soil, known as permafrost, begins to melt, releasing potentially vast amounts of additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. (Also read:  Global warming taking place at an ‘alarming rate’, UN climate body warns)

Turning Point in Climate Fight as AGs Unite to Target Exxon Crimes
Common Dreams
In a move many are hailing as a “turning point” in the climate fight, 20 U.S. state Attorneys General on Tuesday launched an unprecedented, multi-state effort to investigate and prosecute the “high-funded and morally vacant forces” that have stymied attempts to combat global warming—starting with holding ExxonMobil and other industry giants accountable for fraud and suppression of key climate science. “Everyone is impacted by climate change, which means everyone has a stake in these investigations,” said 350.org executive director May Boeve. “A trial of ExxonMobil and the fossil fuel industry would be even bigger than the cases against Big Tobacco.”

How the World’s Biggest Polluters are Two Trade Deals Away from Steamrolling Climate Protections
Common Dreams
A new report from the Sierra Club reveals just how many fossil fuel corporations the two pending trade deals—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—would allow to undermine commitments made under Paris climate agreement and efforts to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The report explains that the TTIP and TPP “would more than double the number of fossil fuel corporations with the power to challenge U.S policies in unaccountable ISDS tribunals.

Cuba’s sustainable agriculture at risk in US thaw
Miguel Altieri, Scroll.in
President Obama’s trip to Cuba this week accelerated the warming of US-Cuban relations. Many people in both countries believe that normalizing relations will spur investment that can help Cuba develop its economy and improve life for its citizens. But in agriculture, US investment could cause harm instead. If relations with US agribusiness companies are not managed carefully, Cuba could revert to an industrial approach that relies on mechanization, transgenic crops and agrochemicals, rolling back the revolutionary gains that its campesinos have achieved.

Falling afoul of IPR? Giant corporations suing poor farmers from developing countries, says UN report
Firstpost
Giant agricultural corporations are seriously impacting the right to food of women, especially in developing countries like India by increasingly suing farmers for breaching patent laws, a UN expert said. “These big companies are suing farmers because the farmers are using (patented seeds) without the permission (from agricultural corporations) or (are not) buying the particular seeds. This is a very serious issue and millions of dollars the corporations are taking from the farmers because they (farmers) are no longer owning the seeds,” said Hilal Elver, UN special rapporteur on the right to food on Tuesday in Geneva.

District Court Rules World Bank Can’t be Sued
Corporate Crime Reporter
A federal district court in Washington, D.C., ruled last week that the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private lending arm of the World Bank Group, has absolute immunity and thus cannot be sued in the United States. Fishing communities and farmers represented by EarthRights International (ERI) filed suit against the IFC last year over the destruction of their livelihoods and property and threats to their health caused by the IFC-funded Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant in Gujarat, India.

Debt, defaults, and devaluations: why this market crash is like nothing we’ve seen before
The Telegraph UK
Although a 75pc oil price collapse should represent an unmitigated positive for the world’s fuel thirsty consumers, the sheer scale of the price rout is already imperiling the finances of producer nations from Nigeria to Azerbaijan, and is now threatening to unleash a wave of bankruptcies across corporate America. It is the prospect of this vicious feedback loop – where low oil prices create financial tail risks that spill over into the real economy – which could now propel the world into a “full blown crisis”.

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