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NEWS UPDATE #110


Partha Sarathi Biswas reports: Kishore Tiwari, chairman of a task force constituted by the Maharashtra government, is emphatic in blaming nationalised banks for farmer suicides in the state. “They have no qualms in writing off debts owed by big corporates, but harass farmers to death even for paltry crop loans of Rs 50,000,” he alleges.

Despite ‘normal’ monsoon this year, 37% of Indian districts are short of rain
Abhishek Waghmare, IndiaSpend
After two consecutive droughts, India received normal rainfall – 2% less than the 100-year average – by the end of August 2016, but within that normality, more than a third of the country is short of rain, according to India Meteorological Department data. In 610 of 641 districts for which data is available, 389 districts received normal or excess rain, while 221 received “deficient” or “scanty” rain in the first three months of the four-month-long monsoon season. This means September rainfall will now be important to make up for these widespread deficits. (Related: 1) After a drought year, west Odisha now fears another dry kharif 2) Chhattisgarh slipping into drought again 3) After floods, drought threat looms large over Bihar)

Yes, India has massive income inequality – but it isn’t the second-most unequal country in the world
Mayank Jain, Scroll.in
While unequal distribution of wealth is admittedly a big concern in India, the situation may not be as dire as reported. Far from coming second in the New World Wealth report, India is actually 12th on the list of most unequal countries of the world. Millionaires hold 45% of its wealth – which although significant, is 9% less than the widely reported figure, according to Andrew Amoils, head of research at New World Wealth. Media outlets had misread the numbers put out by his organisation or had assumed that India came second after Russia, Amoils told Scroll.in. (Also read: India ranked 77 in disaster risk index of the world)

Agrarian distress: Farmer suicides and the collapse of cooperative credit institutions
Partha Sarathi Biswas, The Indian Express
Kishore Tiwari, chairman of a task force constituted by the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra to address issues relating to agrarian distress, is emphatic in blaming nationalised banks for the rising trend of farmer suicides in the state. “They have no qualms in writing off debts owed by big corporates, but harass farmers to death even for paltry crop loans of Rs 50,000,” he alleges. Related to this is the phenomenon of the marginalisation of district central cooperative banks (DCCB) and primary agricultural cooperative credit societies (PACS). They accounted for roughly 39 per cent of the total crop loans of Rs 40,581 crore disbursed in Maharashtra during 2015-16, despite their covering 62 per cent of the state’s farmers who had access to institutional credit. Scheduled commercial banks, in contrast, had a lower reach, but had a 61 per share cent of the overall crop loan disbursals.

As two die in protest against Jharkhand power plant, villagers claim police used excessive force
Manob Chowdhury, Scroll.in
Two tribal farmers were killed and 42 were injured on Monday when the Jharkhand police opened fire on a crowd of more than 200 people protesting a thermal plant in Gola in Ramgarh, 40 kilometers from the state capital of Ranchi. The protestors claimed that their crops were being damaged because excessive usage of river water by the power plant run by Inland Power Limited and by the pollution it was causing. The dead were identified as Dashrath Nayak, a 50-year old farmer, and Ram Lal Mahto a farmer who was hit by a bullet in the back as he was grazing cattle nearby. Villagers alleged that the policemen had mistaken him as one of the protestors.

Won’t put a cap on new dams in Uttarakhand, river-linking should go ahead: Anil Dave
Nikhil M. Ghanekar, DNA India
During the union government reshuffle earlier in July, the appointment of Rajya Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh, Anil Dave, came as a surprise to many. Dave organizes ‘Narmada Utsav’ each year and has authored two books on environment. Just two months into his job, new environment minister Anil Dave oversaw passage of the crucial CAMPA Bill in monsoon session and now has to decide several key decisions regarding climate change, dams and river-linking. Dave spoke exclusively to dna on these issues and more. Excerpts.

Horticulture: The new story of Indian agriculture
Sayantan Bera, Live Mint
Small farmers across India reaped a bumper crop of fruits and vegetables in 2015-16 defying a widespread drought. India’s horticulture output crossed a record 283 million tonnes, shows the third advance estimate released by the agriculture ministry on Monday. However, the story is not just about a record harvest during a drought year—primarily due to better access to irrigation—but also a structural change underway in Indian agriculture where farmers are moving toward high-value horticulture crops.

Most people cannot afford fruits and vegetables: ‘Lancet’ study
Live Mint
Three in four Indians are yet to taste the fruits of economic growth—or indeed, its veggies. Recent research published in the British medical journal Lancet calculates fruit and vegetable intake among people of different countries, on the basis of gross national income per person. The research finds that the average global intake of fruits and vegetables is less than required levels—defined as at least two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables per person per day. And affordability is a crucial factor behind the deficient intake.

‘Doom for Punjab’: Paddy yield to be all-time high, good news or bad?
Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times
Thanks mainly to the largesse of 10,000 tubewells and mass switch from whitefly-shadowed cotton, Punjab’s paddy yield is going to be an all-time high of 186-lakh tonnes. What could be worse. The experts are worried that this non-native crop may bring “momentary respite” to farmers but “spell doom for Punjab”. Paddy — never grown over 30-lakh hectares or 94-lakh acres before — has eaten into the area of other kharif crops such as maize, cotton, and basmati. The state’s diversification plan has taken a severe beating.

GM Mustard report was not shared with GEAC members before it was released: Scientist
Jayashree Nandi, The Times of India
A day after the environment ministry released a “Safety assessment report of the sub-committee on GM mustard” which concluded that the transgenic crop has cleared all safety tests and is safe for human consumption, a Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) member and noted molecular biologist, Pushpa M Bhargava said the report wasn’t shared or discussed with GEAC members before MoEF released it on their website.

NGT seeks Centre’s response over Polavaram dam: All you need to know about the project
Firstpost
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the counsel for the environment ministry to submit a status report on the implementation of its stop work order at the Polavaram project, reported The Orissadiary. The Orissadiary reported on Monday that the NGT has asked the Centre to report within two weeks on public hearing and status of the project. The next hearing is on 19 October. The ministry had issued stop work order in 2011 due to non-compliance of the condition for environment clearance, that is by conducting a public hearing in Chattisgarh and Odisha.

CEA seeks removal of 25 mw renewable cap on hydro projects
The Economic Times
All hydro power projects in the country may get renewable status to boost the sector. “We have already written to the committee on measures to expedite hydro projects to remove the 25 mw cap for hydro power projects to treat it as renewable and treat all hydro power projects, including large ones as renewable,” Central Electricity Authority chairman S D Dubey told. If hydro power projects gets renewable status then the 1000 mw Turga pumped storage hydro power project in West Bengal, which already received CEA approval, is likely to get a boost. (Related: Despite Flood Horror, Water Ministry Wants Big Dams in Uttarakhand)

Maharashtra: ‘FRA, PESA have replaced government administration with grassroots democracy’
Vivek Deshpande, The Indian Express
“Forest Rights Act (FRA) and Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act have removed the patronising role played by government administration to usher in real grassroots democracy for the village communities that were earlier subjected to only lip service,” said Nagpur Divisional Commissioner Anup Kumar at a programme in Gadchiroli on Saturday, signalling that the tide had been decisively turned in favour of the village communities, identified in legal corners as Gram Sabhas. The transition looked all the more positive as top government officials have now made a common cause on the subject with FRA and PESA activists. A few years ago, the two were locked in heated arguments over who had the ultimate control over forest resources. The programme settled the debate in the favour of the Gram Sabhas. (Also read: Forest rights being granted in Melghat core under pressure)

Biggest polluters US and China agree to ratify Paris climate deal
The Guardian
The United States and China, the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, have announced they will formally ratify the Paris climate change agreement in a move campaigners immediately hailed as a significant advance in the battle against global warming. Speaking on Saturday, on the eve of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, US president, Barack Obama, confirmed the long-awaited move, the result of weeks of intense negotiations by Chinese and American officials. (Related: G20 reaffirms climate commitments – but dodges deadlines)

Climate change is a racist crisis: that’s why Black Lives Matter closed an airport
Alexandra Wanjiku Kelbert, The Guardian
Today we are saying that the climate crisis is a racist crisis. On the one hand Britain is the biggest contributor per capita to global temperature change. It is also one of the least vulnerable to the effects of climate change. On the other hand, seven of the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change are in sub-Saharan Africa. We’re not saying that climate change affects only black people. However, it is communities in the global south that bear the brunt of the consequences of climate change, whether physical – floods, desertification, increased water scarcity and tornadoes – or political: conflict and racist borders. While a tiny elite can fly to and from London City airport, sometimes as a daily commute, this year alone 3,176 migrants have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean, trying to reach safety on the shores of Europe. (Also read: UK’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn: Why Labour is putting energy reform at the heart of its green agenda)

TPP Would Make Climate Goals ‘Nearly Impossible’ to Reach: Report
Common Dreams
In unsurprising news, a report has found that so-called free trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would make it nearly impossible to reach the goals set out by the Paris climate agreement. If passed, the TPP would impair the treaty’s mission by supporting high-emission industries like fossil fuels and agriculture while suppressing climate action at the national and local levels, according to the report, published Tuesday by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) just days after U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping formally signed the agreement at the Group of 20 (G20) summit.

Linking Alzheimer’s to Pollution, Study Finds ‘Abundant’ Toxic Nanoparticles in Human Brains
Common Dreams
Toxic magnetic nanoparticles from air pollution have been discovered in “abundant” quantities in human brains, according to a new study. The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), is particularly alarming because other research recently raised the strong possibility of a link between such particles and Alzheimer’s disease. Lancaster UniversityThis latest study “suggests that most magnetite found in the human brain, a magnetic iron oxide compound, comes from industrial air pollution.

Deeming Pollution of Earth Sinful, Pope Proposes Climate Action as Sacred Duty
Common Dreams
Pope Francis on Thursday put forth an urgent call for people to actively work to save the environment, proposing that the Catholic Church add such a duty to the list of “seven mercies,” which includes feeding the hungry and visiting the sick, which Catholics are required to perform. Francis described man’s destruction of the environment as a sin,” the Guardian reported. “The modern world has new forms of poverty, Francis said, and thus requires new forms of mercy to address them,” the Washington Post noted. In his speech to mark the church’s World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which the pope created last year, Francis accused humans of turning the Earth into a “polluted wasteland full of debris, desolation, and filth.”

Former Japan PM accuses Abe of lying over Fukushima pledge
The Guardian
Japan’s former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi has labelled the country’s current leader, Shinzo Abe, a “liar” for telling the international community that the situation at the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is under control. Koizumi, who became one of Japan’s most popular postwar leaders during his 2001-06 premiership, has used his retirement from frontline politics to become a leading campaigner against nuclear restarts in Japan in defiance of Abe, a fellow conservative Liberal Democratic party (LDP) politician who was once regarded as his natural successor.

New Study Warns Biofuels May Be Worse for Climate Than Gas
Common Dreams
The Free Press reports: Using U.S. Department of Agriculture cropland production data, determining the chemical composition of crops and accounting for all of the carbon from the plants, DeCicco created a “harvest carbon” factor. Over the past decade, as the consumption of corn ethanol and biodiesel more than tripled in the U.S., the increased carbon uptake by the crops only offset 37 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from biofuel combustion, DeCicco said. Mathematically speaking, “When it comes to the emissions that cause global warming, it turns out that biofuels are worse than gasoline,” he said.

How sun, salt and glass could help solve our energy needs
Kit Buchan, The Guardian
Resembling a fabulous alien metropolis, Crescent Dunes is in fact a highly sophisticated, mile-and-a-half-wide solar power plant – “the next generation in solar energy”, according to Kevin Smith, one of the project’s founders. Smith believes that concentrated solar power (CSP) is not simply a substitute for photovoltaic panels but a potential competitor to conventional fuels. “It’s really an alternative to fossil fuel or even nuclear. You couldn’t power a city with just PV and wind, but you could with CSP, because of the storage capacity.” SolarReserve is already developing cheaper, higher-capacity installations and planning to build similar solar plants in South Africa, Chile and China. (Also read: The new green grid: utilities deploy ‘virtual power plants’)

Do Newly Built Skyscrapers Signal The Top Of The Stock Market?
EWM Interactive
In the market, extreme optimism results in price bubbles. One of the real-life manifestations of extremely positive social mood is the construction of enormous buildings. Market tops and skyscrapers often seem to emerge simultaneously, because both phenomena are the result of the illusion of infinite prosperity. But extreme psychological conditions do not last very long. That is the reason why record-breaking buildings, whose construction starts during a market bubble, are often completed after the bubble’s collapse. The following infographic follows the “Skyscraper Curse” through six different market tops and subsequent crashes over the past century.

 

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