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NEWS UPDATE #108


Down to Earth magazine reports: The Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain range and the Tibetan Plateau is referred as the ‘Third Pole’, which directly supports 120 million people through irrigation systems. Recent findings suggest that temperatures there have increased by 1.5 °C in the last 50 years and 509 glaciers have disappeared in the last 50 years.

Farmer suicides up 40 per cent in a year, Karnataka shows sharpest spike
Deeptiman Tiwary, The Indian Express
Farmer suicides in the country spiked by over 40 per cent between 2014 and 2015. While 2014 saw 5,650 farmer suicides, the figure crossed 8,000 in 2015, government sources told The Indian Express. Maharashtra, according to sources, continues to witness the highest number of farmer suicides. The state saw an 18 per cent jump between 2014 and 2015 — from 2,568 to 3,030. Telangana, which came in at second place in 2015, recorded over 1,350 farmer suicides, up from 898. But the state that registered the sharpest jump is Karnataka — from 321 in 2014 to more than 1,300 in 2015, the third-highest among all states.  (Related: 31% rural households indebted, paying heavy interests despite various govt schemes: Panel)

Most states did not follow Supreme Court’s order on drought: survey
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
The drought in 2015-16 affected nearly one-third of India’s population. These are the government’s own numbers, which it revealed to the Supreme Court. The SC, which was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Swaraj Abhiyan on drought relief, delivered a historic judgement on 13 May, asking for a slew of measures for ensuring food security and employment guarantee. A recent survey of drought-hit regions in the country, however, finds that most states have not followed the SC orders. States have failed on all fronts – providing distress employment, cheap foodgrains, and meals to children. The survey was conducted by ActionAid India in June. (Also read: 1) Rain deficit can push Karnataka to worst water crisis in 40 years 2) Declare Tamil Nadu as drought-hit state: Farmers 3) Seven killed in Madhya Pradesh flood; Ganga flows above danger mark in UP)

Bottled water market growing faster than carbonated drinks in India, mirroring global trend
The Economic Times
Bottled water is growing much faster than carbonated drinks in India, mirroring a global trend as consumers go off sugary beverages, said researcher Euromonitor. Packaged water grew 23-25% in year to March, more than twice the rate at which sodas grew. In the current year, bottled water sales in the US are forecast to topple soda sales in absolute terms for the first time. PepsiCo’s water business in the US grew by double digits in first quarter of 2016 while its carbonated soft-dri ..

Why Former Environment Minister Javadekar’s Parting Gift to Unilever is Illegal
Nityanand Jayaraman, The Wire
On December 29, 2015, former minister of state for environment Prakash Javadekar added another act to demonstrate how he won’t allow environmental concerns or due process to hinder the “ease of doing business”. Javadekar’s letter is problematic at many levels. First, by demanding an end to deliberations on the proposed clean up standard, it suggests that discussions till date are complete and comprehensive and that nothing new can be added at this stage. Second, by endorsing the recommendation of CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) as one with “all scientific basis”, it seeks to dismiss the concerns of Kodaikanal residents and environmentalists as unscientific nonsense.

NGT issues bailable warrants against state representatives for failure to appear
Sayan Ghoshal, Business Standard
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday issued bailable warrants of Rs 10,000 each against resident commissioners of states Gujarat, Karnataka, Manipur, Mizoram, Odisha, Punjab, and Tripura, and Union Territories Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry, for failure to appear before it despite notices. The NGT Bench, headed by Chairperson Swatanter Kumar, had previously issued notices to the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), the National Biodiversity Authority and the state biodiversity boards while entertaining an application seeking proper implementation of the Biological Diversity Act, 2000, (the Biodiversity Act) and National Biological Diversity Rules, 2004, (the Rules) by concerned authorities.

Art of Living ‘destroyed’ Yamuna floodplains, 10 years needed to restore
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
Art of Living Foundation’s (AOLF) World Cultural Festival, held in March 2016, has “not just damaged”, but “completely destroyed” the Yamuna floodplains, a seven-member expert committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has said. The panel has submitted a report, stating that the festival caused irreversible losses to the biodiversity and soil quality of the floodplains. “Most of the ecosystem functions of natural wetlands have been completely lost,” the report states, adding that at least 10 years of monitoring will be required to fully restore the floodplains.

Gujarat minor mineral rules “ignore” farmers’ and tribals’ rights: People’s groups represent to government
Counterview.net
The new draft Gujarat Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 2016, seeks to give unfettered powers to “reserve any area not already held under any mineral concession for undertaking mining operations”, allowing these to to be taken by a government company or corporation owned or controlled by it” for mining. It says, the only obligation for the government would be to issue a notification in the Official Gazette, specifying “the boundaries of such area and the mineral or minerals in respect of which such areas will be reserved.”

No more pesticides: How Kerala’s kitchen-garden revolution is taking on tainted veggies
Haritha John, The News Minute
For the last few years, Kerala has seen a lot of debate on the influx of pesticide-sprinkled vegetables from neighbouring states. Malayalis saw the media, government institutions, social groups and even political parties carry on a sustained campaign against such tainted veggies. In parallel, a silent revolution unfolded in the backyards, terraces, poly-houses, road-sides and even in the balconies of Kerala homes, with small scale organic farming undertaken by ordinary housewives and husbands and even school children.

​Narmada Bachao Andolan Completes 31 Years Of Struggle
Countercurrents.org
The Narmada Bachao Andolan movement which started 31 full years ago in India, led to a discourse and push for an alternate, least destructive development model which would bring prosperity to even the poorest Indian living in the remotest, least developed part of the country. The three decades long movement began by questioning the development model created around the Sardar Sarovar Dam being constructed on the Narmada River. This mega project would result in the displacement of lakhs of self sufficient tribals, farmers, fisher-folks, potters, artisans, etc.; submerge lakhs of hectares of fertile and irrigable farm land and rich forests plus permanently cause salinity and therefore create deserts in the presently fertile and productive areas in the Narmada valley. The project would drown one of the oldest civilizations in the world without even time to study it first.

The world’s largest beach cleanup has cleared more than 4 million pounds of trash
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post
What began as a small group of concerned citizens taking action has spiraled into the largest beach clean-up effort in the world — and in less than a year, it’s cleared millions of pounds of debris from the shoreline bordering India’s most populous city. The clean-up effort focuses on Versova beach, a one-and-a-half-mile strip of coastline in western Mumbai facing the Arabian Sea. Historically noted for its prevalent fishing culture, the area has more recently become known for the vast amounts of garbage littering its sandy shore. But now, an ongoing initiative spearheaded by residents of Versova is making steady progress at cleaning up the shoreline.

509 glaciers in ‘Third Pole’ disappeared in last 50 years
Down to Earth
The region encompassing the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain range and the Tibetan Plateau in Central Asia is referred as the ‘Third Pole’ because it has the largest ice storehouse after north and south poles. Disturbing global warming trends have become evident in this equally remote polar region covering 100,000 sq km with some 46,000 glaciers. Recent findings suggest that temperatures there have increased by 1.5 °C in the last 50 years and it is more than double the global average. According to a rough estimate, the water that flows from the Third Pole directly supports 120 million people through irrigation systems. (Related: July was hotter than any month globally since records began)

What the Earth’s frozen burps tell us about global warming
Graham Readfearn, The Guardian
“When the earth burps, Law Dome records it,” says Australian climate scientist Dr David Etheridge. Law Dome is a special spot in eastern Antarctica where scientists have been drilling down into the continent’s long-frozen surface to pull out cores of ice. Trapped in the ice cores are bubbles that give a record of the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere going back tens of thousands of years. New analysis of those bubbles by a group of Australian, British and Italian scientists could have just given an answer to a crucial question. As the Earth gets warmer, how will the planet’s soils and plants react? Will they start to “burp” too much CO2 and, if so, how much? (Also read: Dazzling blue lakes are forming in Antarctica — and they’ve got scientists worried)

A luxury cruise ship sets sail for the Arctic, thanks to climate change
Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney, The Washington Post
The once forbidding Arctic region, home to polar bears and ice-covered seas, has melted enough that this summer it’s open not only for shipping but high-end tourism. The proof lies in the Crystal Serenity cruise, a luxury tour of the Arctic that promises to carry passengers through the storied Northwest Passage and across the roof of the world. The controversial cruise was scheduled to set sail Tuesday from Seward, Alaska, and dock 32 days later in New York City. It’s a journey that will mark the first case of mega-scale tourism in one of last virtually untouched landscapes left in the world.

Green Party candidate Jill Stein calls for climate state of emergency
The Guardian
Dr Jill Stein called for a national state of emergency to be declared over the rapidly worsening effects of global warming, during a campaign swing through New York. Promoting her party’s Green New Deal – an agenda designed to address the interconnected problems of climate change and the economy – Stein said the still uncontained Blue Cut fire in California and the record flooding in Louisiana were ample evidence of the worsening effects of climate change.

The coral die-off crisis is a climate crime and Exxon fired the gun
Bill McKibben, The Guardian
ast swaths of coral were bleached this spring, much of the damage done in a matter of weeks as a wave of warm water swept across the Pacific and west into the Indian Ocean. The immediate culprit was clear: the ongoing rise in global ocean temperatures that comes from climate change. But that’s like saying “he was killed by a bullet”. The important question is: who fired the gun? We know the biggest culprits now, because great detective work by investigative journalists has uncovered key facts in the past year. The world’s biggest oil company, Exxon, knew everything there was to know about climate change by the late 1970s and early 1980s. Its scientists understood how much and how fast it was going to warm, and how much damage that was going to do.

Amazon Fires Threaten To Wipe Out Uncontacted Indigenous People
Survival International, Countercurrents.org
Forest fires are raging in an indigenous territory on the edge of the Brazilian Amazon, threatening to wipe out uncontacted members of the Awá tribe. Small groups of neighboring Guajajara Indians were forced to spend days attempting to contain the blaze in the absence of government agents, until an Environment Ministry-led fire-fighting operation began last week. Forest fires started by loggers destroyed over 50% of the forest cover in the territory in late 2015. The Environment Ministry has stated that the situation is “even worse this year.”

Nearly two decades of data reinforce concerns that pesticides are really bad for bees
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post
New research has provided some of the strongest evidence yet that pesticides can do serious, long-term damage to bee populations. And the findings may help fuel the ongoing debate about whether certain insecticides should be permitted for agricultural use at all. Using 18 years of data collected on more than 60 bee species in England, the researchers found that species foraging on pesticide-treated crops have experienced much more severe losses than species foraging on other plants. The study provides some of the first evidence that the effects of neonicotinoid exposure can scale up to cause major damage to bees.

Media Silence And The Agrochemicals Industry: The Slow Poisoning Of Health And The Environment
Colin Todhunter, Countercurrents.org
It’s an all too common tale of dirty deeds, shady deals and propaganda. Rosemary Mason’s recent open letter to journalists at The Guardian outlines how the media is failing the public by not properly reporting on the regulatory delinquency relating to GM food and the harmful chemicals being applied to crops. Much of the media is even (unwittingly) acting as a propaganda arm for big agritech companies.

Sticker Shock: The Soaring Costs Of Germany’s Nuclear Shutdown
Joel Stonington, Yale Environment 360
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2011 decision to rapidly phase out the country’s 17 nuclear power reactors has left the government and utilities with a massive problem: How to clean up and store large amounts of nuclear waste and other radioactive material.

Elon Musk leads Tesla effort to build house roofs entirely out of solar panels
The Guardian
A new venture spearheaded by Elon Musk will create house roofs made entirely of solar panels, in a sweeping expansion of Tesla’s clean energy ambitions. Tesla has finalized a $2.6bn deal to buy solar power company SolarCity to produce solar “shingles” – photovoltaic material that would be fashioned into the shape of a house roof. “I think this is really a fundamental part of achieving differentiated product strategy, where you have a beautiful roof,” Musk said. “It’s not a thing on the roof. It is the roof.” Musk is chief executive of Tesla and is also the chairman and largest shareholder of SolarCity, whose chief executive is Musk’s cousin, Lyndon Rive.

People really do pay attention to climate change — when Leonardo DiCaprio talks about it
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post
Do celebrities matter? The answer — modern, big data approaches are showing — is pretty clearly “yes.” Earlier this year, a team of researchers documented that when Charlie Sheen told the world that he had HIV, media attention to the virus — which had been in long decline — spiked massively. And now, many of the same researchers are back with another demonstration. They find that when Leonardo DiCaprio used his Oscar speech earlier this year to exhort action on climate change, tweets and Google searches about the topic were enormous and, at least in the case of tweets, appear to have set a new record based on analyses between 2011 and the present.

US agency to lift ban on funding human–animal hybrids
Sara Reardon, Nature
Since September 2015, researchers have been banned from receiving funding from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) for adding human stem cells to animal embryos, creating blends called chimaeras. But a proposal by the NIH released on 4 August would lift the funding moratorium, except for certain situations. It would also set up a panel to review the ethics and oversight of grant applications. The new rules shorten the developmental window during which human cells can be introduced into non-human primate embryos, disallowing it before the stage of development in which the central nervous system begins to form. This is intended to limit the number of human cells that would make up the chimaera’s brain. They also prohibit breeding animals that contain human cells, so as to prevent a human-like embryo from growing in a non-human womb or the birth of an animal that is more humanized than its parents.

 

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