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NEWS UPDATE #124


Aesha Dutta reports: The Forest Advisory Committee approved proposals to divert over 4,300 hectares of forest land— mostly for mining. With this the total area of forest land approved for diversion in 2016 is 10,000 hectare. The actual diversion of forests, however, is much larger, as these are the projects involving more than 40 hectares.

A new way to target activists in Chhattisgarh: Charge them with exchanging old notes for Maoists
Raksha Kumar, Scroll.in
On December 25, seven members of the Hyderabad-based civil rights body, Telangana Democratic Front, were arrested by Chhattisgarh police. The group included three lawyers, an independent journalist and three research scholars from Osmania University. The police charged them with assisting the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and claimed to have recovered demonetised currency notes worth Rs 100,000 from them.

More than 10,000 hectare forest land diverted in 2016
Aesha Datta, The Hindu BusinessLine
The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) on Monday approved proposals to divert over 4,300 hectares of forest land — mostly for mining purposes. With this the total area of forest land approved for diversion in 2016 is 10,000 hectare. Till August, the FAC had recommended diversion of 4,108 hectare; in November it considered proposals to divert 7,419 hectare; while in the latest meeting it approved diversion of 4,377 hectare. The actual diversion of forests, however, is a much larger figure, as these are the projects involving more than 40 hectare of land.

India plans nearly 60% of electricity capacity from non-fossil fuels by 2027
Michael Safi, The Guardian
The Indian government has forecast that it will exceed the renewable energy targets set in Paris last year by nearly half and three years ahead of schedule. A draft 10-year energy blueprint published this week predicts that 57% of India’s total electricity capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027. The Paris climate accord target was 40% by 2030. The forecast reflects an increase in private sector investment in Indian renewable energy projects over the past year, according to analysts.

The government releases rosy data on wheat sowing – but no one knows who has collected it
Manas Roshan, Scroll.in
Across villages in Budaun and Bareilly – two districts in Western Uttar Pradesh that Scroll.in visited – farmers said only about 70% of sowing was complete… But officials in the agricultural department denied demonetisation had dampened rabi sowing. The Union Ministry of Agriculture’s weekly crop statistics since November have consistently painted a similar picture of normalcy for the country: steadily rising estimates of the sown area of wheat, with the difference between this year’s acreage and the five-year average narrowing down to just one percentage point.

Cheap wheat imports will reverse success of green revolution: M.S. Swaminathan
Sayantan Bera, Live Mint
Renowned agriculture scientist and architect of India’s green revolution, M.S. Swaminathan has rapped the Centre for abolishing the import duty on wheat, saying cheap imports will put the clock back on sustaining the wheat revolution. “Cheap imports cannot be at the expense of domestic farmers,” Swaminathan said over phone from Chennai, adding, “presently there is no integrated approach which balance the problems faced by farmers and consumers.” On 8 December, the Centre abolished the 10% import duty in a bid to tame rising prices. The move came even as farmers were planting wheat in the ongoing winter or rabi crop season. (Related: Farmers’ union demands rollback of decision to scrap wheat import duty)

Rice stubble based Rs 2500 crore projects to yield cleaner fuel, check pollution in North India
Prashant Krar, The Economic Times
Rice stubble, a cause of air pollution due to open field burning, is set to catalyze investment of Rs 2400 crore in a string of biomass based energy projects and ethanol manufacturing facilities in Haryana and Punjab. While domestic oil marketing companies, Hindustan Petroleum CorporationBSE 1.95 % Limited and Indian Oil CorporationBSE 2.50 % Limited, are setting up bio-ethanol manufacturing facilities in Punjab and Haryana respectively, Germany based, bio fuel firm Verbio AG has proposed $ 15 million investment to set up bio- CNG manufacturing plant in Haryana. (Related: NGT Bans Waste Burning in Open Areas Across the Country)

India is 50% urban, Govt of India’s 33% estimate based on stringent classification: World Bank-supported report
Rajiv Shah, Counterview
A new high-profile report supported, among others, by World Bank, has said that the Government of India estimate that the country’s urban population, 420 million or 33% of its total population in 2015, undervalues the “true extent” of urbanization in the country. The report, titled “Better Cities, Better Growth: India’s Urban Opportunity”, blames this on India’s official classification of urban areas as being “more stringent than in most other countries”, pointing towards “long delays in the redrawing of municipal boundaries for fast-growing new areas on the edges of existing metropolitan areas.”

The Government Has Made a Welcome Shift in Sanitation Policy that Will Help Develop Indian Cities
Shubhagato Dasgupta, The Wire
Over the last couple of months, the Ministry of Urban Development has started telling state governments and cities that improving faecal sludge management is an important alternative to traditional sewerage systems and waste water treatment for urban sanitation. At a recent workshop, the ministry announced that it will encourage cities to adopt alternative approaches to citywide sanitation, including faecal sludge management strategies under the its flagship urban development schemes – the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and the SMART cities schemes.

How India lobbied Moody’s for ratings upgrade, but failed
The Hindu
India criticised Moody’s ratings methods and pushed aggressively for an upgrade, documents reviewed by Reuters show, but the U.S.-based agency declined to budge citing concerns over the country’s debt levels and fragile banks. Winning a better credit rating on India’s sovereign debt would have been a much-needed endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic stewardship, helping to attract foreign investment and accelerate growth.

Modi government cuts MSP of seven minor forest produce items
Nidhi Sharma, The Economic Times
The Modi government has slashed the minimum support price of seven of the 11 products covered under minor forest produce collected by tribals in remote forest areas. The decision comes three years after the previous Congress-led UPA government fixed the MSP for these products for the first time. “The decision had to be taken because MSPs had been fixed on the higher side and needed to be rationalised. From now, the prices would only increase,” Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram told ET.

The lid on illegal sand mining in TN might finally be lifted (but perhaps for the wrong reasons)
M. Rajshekhar, Scroll.in
Income-Tax Department officials raided the house of Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao on Wednesday morning where they seized Rs 30 lakh in cash in new, post-demonetisation currency notes, according to the Hindu. Later in the day, Central Bureau of Investigation sleuths also arrested Shekar Reddy, one of the biggest sand miners in the state. Reddy had hit the headlines about 10 days ago after an Income Tax raid on his houses unearthed 177 kg of gold and Rs 130 crore in cash, Rs 34 crores of which was in new notes.

Lack of environmental concern “endangers” Narmada dam’s 48,000 ha catchment area in Madhya Pradesh
Counterview
In a letter to the Union environment secretary, well-known social activist Medha Patkar has apprehended that thousands of hectares (ha) of catchment area in the upstream of the Narmada dam in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat still remain “untreated”, putting villages and towns situated next to the river in peril if the dam’s reservoir is filled up to the brink.

NGT stays tree felling for Yettinahole project
ERC India
The New-Delhi based Principal Bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) has stayed the felling of trees at Yettinahole river diversion project site until further orders, on Monday. The Tribunal, headed by chairperson Justice Swathantra Kumar, took serious note of reckless chopping of trees at the project area in Sakaleshpur taluk. The complainant K N Somashekar had challenged the state and Centre’s order on granting clearance for felling trees to KNNL (Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd) by filing an appeal before the NGT.

China to levy environment tax to fight pollution
Deccan Herald
Battling recurring pollution enveloping its cities, China has passed a new law to levy environment tax on polluters, specially on heavy industries. The Environment Tax Law was adopted by the legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee which concluded its meeting here yesterday. However, carbon dioxide, one of the major contributors to global warming, is not included in the levying list. (Also read: Shanghai water supply hit by 100-tonne wave of garbage)

New Study Shows Major Molecular Differences between GMO and Non-GMO Corn
Sustainable Pulse
A unique new study published Monday in the scientific journal Nature has used molecular profiles to reveal major differences in composition between a GMO corn and its non-GMO parent. These findings question industry and regulatory position of “substantial equivalence” and have serious safety implications. The new peer-reviewed study led by Dr Michael Antoniou at King’s College London describes the effects of the process of genetic engineering on the composition of a genetically modified Roundup-resistant GMO corn variety, NK603.

No findings in Indian probe into fraud against Adani Group, coal project to net huge taxes: Australian minister
Counterview
The Australian government has brushed aside fresh allegations being made in the country’s media on multiple financial crime and corruption probes Adani Group of companies for “siphoning” money offshore and artificially inflating power prices at the expense of Indian consumers, as nothing but “faking news”.

Climate change driving birds to migrate early, research reveals
Nadia Khomami, The Guardian
Migrating birds are responding to the effects of climate change by arriving at their breeding grounds earlier as global temperatures rise, research has found. The University of Edinburgh study, which looked at hundreds of species across five continents, found that birds are reaching their summer breeding grounds on average about one day earlier per degree of increasing global temperature. The main reason birds take flight is changing seasonal temperatures and food availability.

Madrid bans half of cars from roads to fight air pollution
The Guardian
Madrid has ordered half of most private cars off the roads on Thursday to tackle worsening air pollution, a first in Spain. The restrictions will operate between 6.30am and 9pm and will be re-evaluated daily depending on pollution levels. The city council said in a statement: “vehicles with even-number registration plates will be allowed to drive around on even-number days and cars with odd-number registration plates on odd-number days”.

Climate change will stir ‘unimaginable’ refugee crisis, says military
The Guardian
Climate change is set to cause a refugee crisis of “unimaginable scale”, according to senior military figures, who warn that global warming is the greatest security threat of the 21st century and that mass migration will become the “new normal”. The generals said the impacts of climate change were already factors in the conflicts driving a current crisis of migration into Europe, having been linked to the Arab Spring, the war in Syria and the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency.

Fossil footprints give glimpse of how ancient climate change drove the rise of reptiles
Richard Butler & Andrew Jones, The Conversation
After lying largely forgotten in a museum for decades, a set of fossilised footprints have revealed a new glimpse of the world when reptiles began taking over from amphibians as the dominant land animals. Using cutting-edge technology, we have been able to identify the creatures that probably made the footprints over 300m years ago. This gives us a snapshot of what was happening as reptiles started diversifying and began the process that would see them become the dominant form of vertebrate life on land.

The Syrian Seed Bank That Keeps Going Despite The War
Courtney Fullilove, The Wire
For more than four years, the headquarters of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in the Syrian town of Tal Hadya has been occupied by the anti-Assad groups Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham. ICARDA is one of 15 major international agricultural research centres, and the site of a seed bank housing some 150,000 samples in temperature-controlled vaults. Periodic bulletins have assured the public that ‘the seeds are safe’ in the midst of conflict, duplicated at seed banks outside the country.

Has tight oil put ‘peak oil’ to rest? Not so fast: Fuel for Thought
Hellenic Shipping News
Just 10 months ago the IEA saw tight oil peaking in 2020. It now believes lower drilling and production will see tight oil continue growing through 2035. Impressive oilfield efficiency gains, however, won’t go on forever and will be stymied as high-yielding shale sweet spots dry up, a scenario likely by the mid-2020, according to the IEA. The scale of the remaining technically recoverable US tight oil resources is also a big unknown and ranges anywhere between 30 and 120 billion barrels. (Also read: Long Vehicle Life Means Oil Consumption Won’t Change Suddenly)

 

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