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NEWS UPDATE #104


Dinesh Sharma writes: The National Water Framework Bill is a framework for legislation and executive actions related to water. It talks of “Right to Water for Life”, but the terminology used is vague. So while right to water is being offered, it’s not absolute but will be defined by the government from time to time.

Rain check: How has this year’s monsoon treated India so far?
Vinita Govindarajan, Scroll.in
Though its onset was delayed by a week, the Southwest monsoon that started on June 8 – the summer monsoon that goes on till about September – picked up pace and intensity as a heavy congregation of rain clouds moved up from Kerala and coastal Karnataka to gather over Central India. Torrential rain continues to lash several districts of western Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and the monsoon is also steadily marking its presence across northern and north-eastern districts of the country. In the week ending July 6, most Indian states had received normal or above-normal rainfall – parts of the North East and Gujarat received deficient rain, according to data from the Indian Meteorological Department. (Also read: Andhra Drinking water crisis worsens, storage enough for 15 days)

Religious events can’t be prohibited in name of environment: National Green Tribunal
The Indian Express
The National Green Tribunal today allowed some individuals to buttress their contention that holding of religious and cultural events at the Yamuna riverbed cannot be prohibited by bringing such activities under ambit of environmental laws. They have been allowed to be impleaded in the matter in which the panel is examining the issue of damage to the flood plains of the river allegedly caused due to the holding of cultural extravaganza by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) in March this year. The application came before bench headed by NGT Chairman Swatanter Kumar which listed the issue for August 10.

In Muddy Waters: The National Water Framework Bill
Dinesh C Sharma, India Legal
The National Water Framework Bill is not a law by itself but a framework for specific legislation relating to water, as well as executive actions. It talks of “Right to Water for Life”, but the terminology used is rather vague. It says that “every person has a right to sufficient quantity of safe water for life within easy reach of the household regardless of, among others, caste, creed, religion, community, class, gender, age, disability, economic status, land ownership and place of residence, provided that the precise quantity of safe water for life shall be determined by the appropriate government from time to time”. So while right to water is being offered, it is not absolute but will be defined by the government from time to time. Water has been dubbed a “common heritage of the people of India” for everyone to use but “subject to reasonable restrictions”. (Related:  Draft water bill proposes ‘water for life’ for all)

GM mustard fraud and hazards exposed in special GEAC meeting
India GM Info
Avowing to step up their resistance against any possible approval of GM mustard in India, farm activists, scientists and others who made detailed presentations to GEAC today in a specially convened meeting of the regulatory body, presented fresh evidence to drive home their point about the fraud and hazards of GM mustard. One of the key points raised by the team today includes the fact that all the three GMOs being considered for approval are Herbicide Tolerant with serious ecological and health implications, apart from socio-economic. They were shocked that the applicant chose not to present them as HT GMOs to the regulators, and this, they pointed out, had a direct bearing on risk assessment of these GMOs. (Also read: Scientist Who Discovered That GMO’s Cause Tumors Wins Lawsuit)

Indian Civil Aviation Ministry plans 146 MW of solar power generation at airports​
Airport-technology.com
The Indian Civil Aviation Ministry is planning to build 146MW of solar power generation capacity at airports across the country. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has already installed solar power plants that provide a total capacity of 5.4MW at 16 airports. Indian Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said the solar projects have so far produced 5.1 million energy units, thereby reducing carbon emissions by 4,600 metric tonnes. Additional solar power plants, with a capacity totalling 24.1MW, are expected to become operational at 11 Indian airports by December.

Plantations, CAMPA loom large over community rights in Odisha
Sanghamitra Dubey, Down to Earth
The plight of Burlubaru is shared by many other Kutia Kondh villages where the forest department is continuing to forcibly plant commercial tree species in the land cultivated by them, including shifting cultivation land. In another nearby village, Paikpada, the department has cut down Sal trees from 25 ha, which falls within the traditional boundary of the village. The village has received rights for cultivation over part of the 25 ha and was almost through its claim-filing process over its traditional boundaries when the plantations were carried out. After carrying out the plantations, the forest department has been putting up boards to declare that the plantations have been carried out under CAMPA or MGNREGA.

Climate change: When past presents itself
Manu Moudgil, India Water Portal
Summers get hotter, rains decline and crops fail. The conflict between people increase and migration in search of better lands and skies begin. Sounds familiar? We are not talking about Marathwada here. This is how the lives of our ancestors played out thousands of years ago. The Harappan or the Indus Valley Civilisation experienced climate change, but they responded better to it than we are doing now, says a new study by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagur, published in Nature recently.

Unesco adds three Indian locations to its World Heritage Sites list
Scroll.in
Sikkim’s Khangchendzonga National Park on Sunday became the latest Indian addition to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s list of World Heritage Sites. Chandigarh’s Capitol Complex and the ruins of Nalanda Mahavira in Bihar were added to the list earlier, at the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee underway in Istanbul. With these three additions, India now has 35 sites on Unesco’s noted list. These include 27 cultural sites, seven natural ones and one mixed site.

Huge swaths of Russia’s forests are ablaze during what may be a record fire season
Andrew Freedman, Mashable
It is fire season in Siberia, which means vast tracts of boreal forests are ablaze. As occurred in 2015, smoke is turning skies a bright orange across eastern Russia, China and other downwind areas. The past few years have seen huge conflagrations in this region, due to a combination of forest management practices, firefighting policies, human-caused global warming and shorter-term weather fluctuations. These fires are a significant contributor to climate change, since when these forests burn they release planet-warming greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. They are also a potential accelerant of the Arctic sea ice’s rapid melt, since soot from forest fires that far north can be transported northeastward and deposited on sea ice in the Arctic. (Related: Amazon could face intense wildfire season this year, Nasa warns)

A marine heatwave has wiped out a swathe of Australia’s undersea forest
Scroll.in
Kelp forests along some 100 km of Western Australia’s coast have been wiped out, and many more areas damaged, by a marine heatwave that struck the area in 2011. The heatwave, which featured ocean temperatures more than 2℃ above normal and persisted for more than 10 weeks, ushered in an abrupt change in marine plant life along a section of Australia’s Great Southern Reef, with kelp disappearing to be replaced by tropical species. As reported in the journal Science, five years on from the heatwave, these kelp forests show no signs of recovery.

Greenland’s Contribution to Sea Level Rise Doubled During 2011-2014 — Larger Melt Pulses on the Horizon
Robert Scribbler
According to a new report, the Greenland Ice Sheet lost one trillion tons of water due to melt during the four-year period from 2011 through 2014. That’s about double the typical rate of loss during the 1990s through mid-2000s. Subsequently, Greenland’s contribution to sea-level rise also doubled. As a result, Greenland alone contributed 0.75 mm of sea-level rise every year during the 2011 to 2014 period. Bear in mind, the study focuses on Greenland only. Those numbers don’t include thermal expansion from the world’s warming oceans. Nor do they include an increasing amount of melt from Antarctica. Nor do they include large volumes of melt coming from the world’s rapidly disappearing mountain glaciers. Together, all of these in total are pushing sea levels higher by around 4 mm per year during the 2011 through 2016 period. That’s about 1 mm more per year than the 1993 to 2009 period. But the greater additional contribution appears to be coming from melting glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica.

Threats to protected areas jeopardize global freshwater supplies
Sophie Bertazzo, Conservation.org
Where does our water come from? For nearly two out of three people on Earth, part of the answer is protected areas upstream from our homes. A paper published in the June edition of Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems presents a picture of the threats facing fresh water supplied by protected areas, and what that means for the billions of people who depend on it. In this interview, Ian Harrison, the paper’s lead author, co-chair of the Freshwater Task Force of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas and Conservation International’s senior manager of freshwater science and policy, explains why it’s crucial that we reduce threats to freshwater ecosystems by improving management of protected areas.

Pacific Islands Nations Consider ‘Pioneering’ Treaty to Ban Fossil Fuels
Common Dreams
Pacific Island nations are reportedly considering the world’s first treaty to ban fossil fuels, which would require signatories to work toward renewable energy targets and prohibit any expansion of fossil fuel mines. The leaders of 14 nations on the front lines of climate change are considering the treaty after an annual summit in the Solomon Islands known as the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF). The treaty would establish a “Pacific framework for renewable energy” and require “universal access” to clean energy by 2030. It would also bind leaders not to approve any new coal or other fossil fuel mines nor provide subsidies for extraction or consumption.

You’ll Never Believe How Cheap New Solar Power Is
Joe Romm, Climate Progress
Globally, solar has doubled seven times since 2000, and Dubai received a bid recently for 800 megawatts of solar at a stunning “US 2.99 cents per kilowatt hour” — unsubsidized! For context, the average residential price for electricity in the United States is 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. Solar energy has been advancing considerably faster than anyone expected just a few years ago thanks to aggressive market-based deployment efforts around the globe. Since it’s hard to keep up with the speed-of-light changes, and this is the fuel that will power more and more of the global economy in the near future, here are all the latest charts and facts to understand it.

Popularity of Big Hydropower Projects Diminishes Around the World
Keith Schneider, Circle of Blue
By no means have the nations of Africa, Asia, and South America completely lost their affection for big dams. Multi-lateral banks, like the World Bank and the China Development Bank continue to pour $US billions into projects to dam rivers in Africa, Asia, and South America. But the level of investment in big water-powered electricity projects has been flat for much of the last decade, and is now being overwhelmed by financing for renewable energy, led by wind and solar power. Last year, according to the United Nations Environment Program, newly opened hydropower projects supplied 22,000 megawatts of generating capacity. In contrast, international developers opened 118,000 megawatts of wind and solar generating capacity. Investors in hydropower globally spent $US 43 billion in 2015 compared to $US 285.9 billion spent on wind, solar, and other renewable sources of electricity.

Shipping air pollution causes 24,000 deaths a year in east Asia – study
The Guardian
A boom in shipping is aggravating air pollution in China and other nations in east Asia, causing thousands of deaths a year in a region with eight of the world’s 10 biggest container ports, scientists have said. Ship traffic, often overlooked compared to cars and factories that are far bigger causes of smog, has more than doubled off east Asia since 2005 and some pollution from the fuel oil of ships wafts inland, scientists said on Monday. The Chinese-led study estimated that sulphur dioxide, which generates acid rain, and other pollution from ships caused an estimated 24,000 premature deaths a year in east Asia, mainly from heart and lung diseases and cancer.

Buzz Kill: How the Pesticide Industry Blocks Bee Protections in the U.S.
Tiffany Finck-Haynes & Christopher D. Cook, Friends of the Earth
There’s a nationwide buzz in the air about saving bees and other pollinators, but the pesticide industry has been working hard to silence this growing call for reform. Bees, vitally important to food production, are dying at unsustainable rates — an unprecedented average 30 to 40 percent of all honeybee colonies each year. In the face of this growing crisis, a new investigation by Friends of the Earth, Buzz Kill: How the Pesticide Industry is Clipping the Wings of Bee Protection Efforts Across the U.S. has found that the pesticide industry is stifling urgently needed reforms that would help these essential pollinators survive and rebuild their numbers. (Also read: Hillary Clinton Backs Monsanto’s Case  That To Be Anti Monsanto Is To Be Pro Global-Warming)

Brazil: 25 Buildings Occupied in Mass Indigenous Mobilization
Earth First! Journal
“CPI [Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry] wants to take our land and our territories, not just to criminalize FUNAI [National Indigenous Foundation];,and that has greatly increased violence against us–indigenous communities–and we cannot let CPI be greater than our force and our rights. We are going to fight against CPI; rights are not to be negotiated; rights must be respected,” said Sonia Guajajara, indigenous leader, in a collective interview with the Chamber of Deputies, after 25 FUNAI buildings were simultaneously occupied throughout Brazil. In just the last month, there have been two registered attacks by armed groups against the Guarani Kaiowá tribe in Mato Grosso do Sul. On July 14, four people were gravely injured and one died at the hands of farmers. On July 11, three other people were shot at and died, as well. (Also read: Activists Delay GM Mosquito Release in Cayman Islands)

Latest Leak Shows How TTIP Puts US-EU Clean Energy Goals in ‘Mortal Danger’
Common Dreams
A new leak provides further confirmation that the pro-corporate TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the U.S. and European Union would result in “a giant leap backward in our fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground.” As the 14th round of TTIP negotiations started in Brussels on Monday, the Guardian reported that the latest draft of the agreement “could sabotage European efforts to save energy and switch to clean power.” The draft energy chapter obtained by the Guardian “shows that the EU will propose a rollback of mandatory energy savings measures, and major obstacles to any future pricing schemes designed to encourage the uptake of renewable energies,” wrote reporter Arthur Nelson.

The Little-Known Fund at the Heart of the Paris Climate Agreement
Oscar Reyes, The Wire
The original vision for the Green Climate Fund, set out in its founding charter, was that National Designated Authorities, or NDAs — government bodies with a responsibility to consult widely about national climate plans — should be key to shaping the fund. But these were sidelined in the tortuous process of negotiating the fund’s basic rules of operation, and in their place a series of other partners — dubbed “accredited entities” — have taken over that key role. Most controversially, the Green Climate Fund has also signed up Deutsche Bank, HSBC, and Credit Agricole as partners, despite their record as leading fossil fuel financers and role in crashing the global financial system.

Energy Is The Reason Europe Is Still Backing Erdogan
Irina Slav, Oil Price
A lot of people in Europe are wondering why political leaders on the continent seem to be ready to agree with whatever Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says, and do anything he demands. Many resent Erdogan’s hand-twisting approach to the migrant crisis and worry about Turkey turning into a dictatorship, plain and simple. Now, the attempted coup by the Turkish military over the weekend has become the latest event to highlight Turkey’s major role in the global energy market and the implications of any political shakeup in the country for this same market.

New York’s remodelled Governors Island has built-in climate change defense
The Guardian
On Tuesday, a remodelled Governors Island will be unveiled to the public. The 172-acre fragment of land, a seven-minute ferry ride from the southern tip of Manhattan, now has an undulating park covering the southern portion of the island that aims not only to be aesthetically pleasing but also to provide a blueprint for how New York can cope with the ravages of climate change. The finished Hills area, a selection of four raised areas, the highest peak being 70ft, provides a series of defenses against rising seas and future flood, with barely a seawall to be seen.

Drought triggers ‘austerity’ root system in grass crops
Mark Kinver, BBC News
Grass species of crops adopt an “austerity” strategy and limits the development of its root system during times of drought, a study has revealed. The results offer an insight into the little understood biology of roots and could help breeding effort to improve drought tolerance, say scientists. Many of the world’s key food and energy crops belong to the grass family and are often grown in drought-prone areas. “What we were really surprised to see is that under drought stress conditions, there is a fairly simple but dramatic change in the structure of the root system,” said lead author Jose Dinneny, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science, based at Stanford University, US. “If you imagine a grass plant growing in the field, at the base of the plant – the part that interacts with the soil – there are a large number of these specialised roots (crown roots) that penetrate into the soil,” he told BBC News.

 

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