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NEWS UPDATE #125


The Guardian reports: A breakthrough in the race to make useful products out of planet-heating CO2 emissions has been made in southern India. A plant at the industrial port of Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu is capturing CO2 from its own coal-powered boiler and using it to make baking soda. Crucially, the technology is running without subsidy.

Jharkhand’s decision to allow the use of tribal land for non-agricultural purposes could lead to mass displacement
Jitendra, Down to Earth
The Jharkhand government has achieved what even the British rule could not—complete alienation of the tribal population from their land. Recent amendments passed by the Jharkhand Legislature, allow use of tribal land for non-agricultural purposes by the government, which led to widespread protests. There were three incidents of police firing in Ramgarh, Hazaribagh and Khunti districts in August and October, in which eight people were killed and over 20 injured. The Amendments regularise the Ordinances and are waiting President’s assent to become a law.

Supreme Court seeks list of companies with over Rs 500 crore debt
Scroll
The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to provide it with a list of companies that are more than Rs 500 crore in debt. A bench of the court, led by former chief justice of India TS Thakur, also asked the government for “empirical data” on cases pending in debt recovery tribunals for the last decade, PTI reported. There are more than 70,000 cases involving over Rs 5 lakh crore currently pending before debt recovery tribunals, with many of them pending for more than ten years, the Centre had informed the court.

Is the government manipulating agriculture data?
Jitendra, Down to Earth
The Centre’s claim of 94 million metric tonnes (MT) (2015-16) of wheat production, good sowing acreage and success of agriculture insurance scheme is not in sync with reality as government’s own data do not match agriculture ministry’s claims. The data related to increased acreage, bumper production and success of agriculture insurance scheme has been raising several questions instead of answering queries. (Also read (from Down to Earth):  How is Centre making skewed projections to show success of agri-insurance scheme?)

Evidence from Vidarbha: Psychological first aid prevents suicide among farmers
Menaka Rao, Scroll
A suicide prevention programme in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region involving community health workers has reduced the prevalence of depression and suicidal tendencies in the area covered, said a study published in Lancet Psychiatry on Thursday. The Vidarbha Stress and Health Programme or VISHRAM, which was implemented over 18 months from September 2014 to October 2015, used community health workers for the first line of treatment, instead of trained psychiatrists and counsellors.

Indian firm makes carbon capture breakthrough
The Guardian
A breakthrough in the race to make useful products out of planet-heating CO2 emissions has been made in southern India. A plant at the industrial port of Tuticorin is capturing CO2 from its own coal-powered boiler and using it to make baking soda. Crucially, the technology is running without subsidy, which is a major advance for carbon capture technology as for decades it has languished under high costs and lukewarm government support.

Govt’s vendetta against NGOs
Deccan Herald
The number of non-government organisations (NGOs) operating in India has plunged from 33,000 in 2015 to 13,000 this year. The shocking shrinking in NGOs numbers has to do with the Home Ministry cancelling licences of some 20,000 NGOs on the grounds that they were violating provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010. The number of cancelled licences can be expected to increase in the coming months.

Mining should be barred in 40% of India’s forests: Forest Survey report
Nitn Sethi, The Business Standard
Over Forty per cent of India’s existing forest cover should be kept safe from mining of all sorts, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) has calculated based on parameters the government set for it to secure green areas of the country. The report, submitted in August 2016, has not yet been acted upon by the Union environment, forests and climate change ministry, while it continues to give piece-meal approval to proposals for mining coal and other minerals across the country.

India set to lose world’s 2nd largest fish producer spot? As catch dwindles, exports face tough times
Rajesh Ravi, The Finacial Express
Seafood exports from the nation are passing through a tough phase due to dwindling catch from capture fisheries and tougher quality inspection in importing countries. India is the second largest fish producer in the world after China and accounts for nearly 6 % of global fish production. During financial year 2015-16, India exported 9,45,892 tonne of seafood worth Rs 30,420.83 crore ($4.7 billion) as against 10,51,243 tonne valued at Rs 33,441.61 crores ($5.5 billion) in FY 15. The decline in volume stands at 10%, rupee realisation at 9% and dollar realisation at 15%.

NGT notice to MoEFCC, MoUD for diluting construction norms
The Economic Times
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Principal Bench at Delhi, on Monday issued notice to ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) and ministry of urban development (MoUD) for dilution of laws for buildings and constructions. The notice was issued in an application filed by Pushp Jain, director, EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC), who is associated with protection of environment, forest and wildlife for over 35 years.

Goa elections: Civil society asks people to support candidates insisting on people’s control over mining
Ashok Shrimali, Counterview
Goa’s civil society is all set to make the idea of intergenerational equity in mining, which seeks to promote the idea that people own minerals in common, with the government being merely a trustee, a major issue in the Goa state assembly polls, scheduled for February 4.

Vulnerability hits Gujarat’s Narmada-based canal network, adequately price, manage water: CM aide Navalawala
Counterview
A top Gujarat government water resources official, who has been aide to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has warned that Gujarat’s Narmada-based canal network has been “reduced to be vulnerable”, underlining it does not even have the “buffer for 15 days” for supplying water, making its “closures for maintenance” almost an impossible task. (Also read: Why Does Vapi in Gujarat Continue to Be Critically Polluted?)

How Delhi Knew What To Do To Fix Its Air Pollution in 1997 – But Didn’t Act
Sarath Guttikunda, The Wire
In 1997, the environment ministry released a white paper on Delhi’s air pollution that outlined major sources, their potential strengths to control emissions and a multi-sectoral action plan for the next five years (through 2002). It was during this time that buses, auto-rickshaws and taxis began to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) and small industries, including brick kilns, were relocated to just outside the city’s boundaries.

Rhinoceros: a successful conservation story in India
IANS
From a population of barely 75 in 1905, Indian rhinos numbered over 2,700 by 2012, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India), a global wildlife advocacy. The Indian rhino was moved from its status of endangered (since 1986) to vulnerable in 2008 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This was after a survey in 2007 by the IUCN Asian Rhino Specialist Group, which estimated that there were close to 2,575 one-horned rhinos in the wild, spread across parts of India and Nepal, with India being home to 2,200 rhinos, or over 85 per cent of the population.

Death of a naturalist
Jairam Ramesh, The Hindu
Peter Jackson’s death last month in England after a prolonged and sad illness went virtually unnoticed in this country. This is a pity given his lifelong association with India and his two signal contributions to nature conservation, one in Haryana and the other in Gujarat.

China Leaves U.S. in Dust With $361 Billion Renewable Energy Investment
Nika Knight, Common Dreams
China on Thursday announced that it will invest $361 billion in renewable energy by 2020. The investment will create over 13 million jobs in the sector, the National Energy Administration (NEA) said in a blueprint document that lays out its plan to develop the nation’s energy sector during the five-year 2016 to 2020 period. The NEA said installed renewable power capacity including wind, hydro, solar, and nuclear power will contribute to about half of new electricity generation by 2020.

Growing mega-cities will displace vast tracts of farmland by 2030, study says
The Guardian
Our future crops will face threats not only from climate change, but also from the massive expansion of cities, a new study warns. By 2030, it’s estimated that urban areas will triple in size, expanding into cropland and undermining the productivity of agricultural systems that are already stressed by rising populations and climate change. Roughly 60% of the world’s cropland lies on the outskirts of cities—and that’s particularly worrying, the report authors say, because this peripheral habitat is, on average, also twice as productive as land elsewhere on the globe.

Rich countries told to shut coal plants by 2030 to save climate: report
Live Mint
Rich countries must close all their coal-fired power plants by 2030 to have a chance of holding global warming to tolerable levels, a report from an environmental research group said. China would have to phase out the most polluting fossil fuel by 2040 and the rest of the world by 2050, according to climate analytics, a Berlin-based non-profit that is studying how nations can meet the emissions goals they agreed at United Nations talks in Paris last year.

Scientists are Saving Climate Data; This Is Why it Matters
Brian Kahn, Climate Central
In recent days, efforts have sprung up to archive climate data on federal sites. They’ve been spurred by fears that the Trump administration could take a hostile stance toward climate science and that budget cuts could make data less accessible. While the administration hasn’t said it’s going to erase or curtail access to climate data, appointments to the Trump transition team and the views of his cabinet nominees have set alarms bells ringing. And with good reason. The data that NASA, EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey and countless other federal agencies collect is essentially the bedrock of scientific enterprise.

Japanese company replaces office workers with artificial intelligence
Justin McCurry, The Guardian
A future in which human workers are replaced by machines is about to become a reality at an insurance firm in Japan, where more than 30 employees are being laid off and replaced with an artificial intelligence system that can calculate payouts to policyholders. The firm said it would save about 140m yen (£1m) a year after the 200m yen (£1.4m) AI system is installed this month. Maintaining it will cost about 15m yen (£100k) a year.

 

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