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NEWS UPDATE #131


Down to Earth reports: As conflict and instability continue, the food security situation in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin is deteriorating. Some 7.1 million people are now severely food insecure across the four countries. Among them are 515,000 children, who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Not just Delhi: These six Indian cities have an air pollution problem worse than
Mayank Jain, Scroll.in
Even as Delhi government has sprung into action on January 1 to improve the air quality by regulating the number of cars of the streets, other Indian cities are breathing equally foul air, government data shows. The National Air Quality Index network was announced last year by the government as an official reporting standard for air pollution levels that would allow for comparisons across cities. The data from government’s monitors in cities such as Patna, Raipur, Agra and Varanasi reveals that pollution levels are off the charts in many cities.

‘Kerala facing worst drought in 115 years’
The Hindu
Kerala is faced with a drought situation of a scale unprecedented in the last 115 years of recorded history, with the monsoons failing one after the other during the year just past. Rainfall in the southwest monsoon season was 34 per cent less than normal while that during the northeast monsoon was 61 per cent below normal. Water levels in major reservoirs add up to only 41 per cent of capacity, when it should have been 60 per cent. (Related: Bengaluru may soon go thirsty as massive drought looms over Karnataka)

All industrial units must have primary sewage treatment plants within three months, says SC
Scroll.in
The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered all industrial units to set up primary effluent treatment plants within three months or face power disconnection, PTI reported. The apex court also ordered local administrations to set up common sewage treatment plants within three years. Industrial units and state governments were directed to keep the National Green Tribunal apprised of the progress made.

In Tamil Nadu, Sixteen Years Of Sand Mining Loot Officially Termed ‘Illegal’
Sandhya Ravishankar, The Wire
The committee has pointed out that an excess of almost 34 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of raw sand has been mined by a group of miners including VV Mineral, Transworld Garnet India – both owned by S. Vaikundarajan – as well as by Beach Minerals Company, Beach Minerals (Sands) Company and M. Ramesh and K. Thangaraj during the period spanning 2000-01 to 2007-08. In the same period, close to 9 lakh MT of garnet, around 8 lakh MT of ilmenite, 3,500 MT of zircon and 1,350 MT of rutile have also been mined, transported and stored. According to the committee, these figures are over and above the legal amount allowed to be mined by miners.

Coimbatore: Nearly 500 held for protesting Narendra Modi’s unveiling of Isha Foundation statue
Scroll.in
Police arrested almost 500 protestors on Friday when they tried to stage a demonstration against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unveiling of a controversial 113-foot Shiva statue in Coimbatore, PTI reported. Officials said some agitators released black balloons to express their dissent over alleged environmental violations committed by the event’s organiser, Isha Foundation, during the ceremony. Protestors also chanted slogans against Modi, for his “failure to protect the interests of farmers and tribals”, police said.

In this Bundelkhand Village, a Cry for Food, not Development
Neha Dixit, The Wire
In 2012, Bilharka was chosen as one of the 10,000 villages under the Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Samagra Gram Vikas Scheme, the flagship scheme of the Samajwadi Party government to ensure basic amenities in the most backward villages of the state. In these last five years, twelve farmers have committed suicide–but that is only one of the problems. Narain, a fifty year old farmer says, “There has not been any crop yield in the last four years. This is the reason why we have to take a loan of at least Rs 50,000 for extra fertilisers to make the soil more fertile.” Puttilal, another farmer adds, “Roughly, the overall debt on the village is close to R 13 crore, an average of Rs 13 lakh per family.” (Related: ‘Subsidy-lickers’: BJP MLA from Madhya Pradesh says honest farmers don’t commit suicide)

Andhra project to “submerge” 11,200 acres of revenue, 6,600 acres of forest land; 70,000 to lose livelihood: Report
Counterview
A fact-finding committee has estimated that 11,200 acres of revenue land of 127 villages, apart from 6,600 acres of forest land, would be submerged in Andhra Pradesh as a result of the proposed Rs 4,910 crore Chintalapudi Lift Irrigation project. Also displacing 16 adivasi villages, the team has further estimated that 70,000 people would lose their livelihood “entirely or partially”.

India may have to import milk in five years: Increasing pressure on pastures leads to sharp shortage of fodder
Counterview
Would India, which boasts of having the largest cattle population of the world, be forced to import milk in the next four years, thanks to increasing shortage of fodder supply? It would seem so, if a recent investigation on “rising pressure on land” leading to reduction pastures is any guide.

Corbett Tiger Reserve workers get the nod to kill armed poachers
Kavita Upadhyay, The Hindu
The Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) on Tuesday issued shoot-at-sight orders against poachers. But the orders were to be carried out only for “self-protection against poachers carrying arms,” CTR director Parag Madhukar Dhakate said. A five-day anti-poaching operation was initiated on Tuesday following information about suspected movement of poachers. harp shooters have been placed at vantage points and 388 camera traps set up across the reserve. Two drones, night vision equipment and 150 forest department workers would be used in the operation, he said.

Explain Bellandur lake fire: NGT to govt
Deccan Herald
The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday issued notices to the Karnataka government and its agencies for Thursday’s fire at the Bellandur lake. The principal bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar said, “We are surprised at the apathy prevailing in the functioning of the statutory bodies and the state government.” The government has conceded the fire broke out because of municipal waste being dumped in the lake, the tribunal said.

What the Ola, Uber Strike Tells Us About the Nature of ‘Informal’ Exploitation
Akriti Bhatia, The Wire
Who said that the theories of classical political economy have become outdated? In fact, as the recent Ola and Uber driver strikes show us, the theory of surplus value has never before been so animate and sophisticated. For the past week, thousands of Uber and Ola drivers have been demanding better benefits, accident insurance, relaxation in working hours and higher pay. How did things get to this point, considering how benign and wonderful the ‘uberification’ of the economy seemed to many barely a year ago?

India to have a climate change budgetary supplement from next year
Nitin Sethi, Business Standard
From next year, India will start climate budgeting, a practice to account for budgetary measures that support climate change-related actions across the country. Quite along the the lines of gender budgeting, the government will also prepare a supplementary report to go with the main budget documents accounting for how much money India is annually investing on climate change. The government has also begun groundwork for a detailed and granular greenhouse gas emissions inventory which will be generated annually in order to meet one of India’s climate change commitments.

Anthropocene Math in the Age of Trump: Humans Are Running Out of Time to Save the Climate
Nika Knight, Common Dreams
As the Trump administration and Republicans in power in Congress set to work destroying environmental regulations, scientists have added urgency to the resistance with a simple new equation that shows the staggering effect human activity has had on the climate. Their findings? Humans have altered the climate 170 times faster than natural forces. In fact, the equation revealed that industrial societies pack the same climate punch as an asteroid strike.  Professor Will Steffen of the Australian National University and Owen Gaffney of the Stockholm Resilience Centre devised the “Anthropocene equation” and published their findings in The Anthropocene Review Friday. (Also read: Trump Named Climate Villain Number One in Landmark Youth Suit)

Nigeria hunger crisis deepens, spills over into Lake Chad Basin
Down to Earth
As conflict and instability continue, the food security situation in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin is deteriorating. Millions of families dependent on farming, livestock and fishing for their food and livelihoods are at great risk.
Some 7.1 million people are now severely food insecure across the four countries. Among them are 515,000 children, who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. With the next planting season starting in May, and with scarcity of animal fodder and water points during the lean season, it is crucial that crop seeds, tools and livestock support reach families, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says. The present crisis involves Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

Fukushima Aborts Latest Robot Mission Inside Reactor; Radiation At “Unimaginable” Levels
Zero Hedge
Two years after sacrificing one robot, TEPCO officials have aborted their latest robot mission inside the Fukushima reactor after the ‘scorpion’ became unresponsive as it investigated the previously discovered hole where the core is believed to have melted. A “scorpion” robot sent into a Japanese nuclear reactor to learn about the damage suffered in a tsunami-induced meltdown had its mission aborted after the probe ran into trouble, Tokyo Electric Power company said Thursday. As Phys.org reports, TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, sent the remote-controlled device into the No. 2 reactor where radiation levels have recently hit record highs. (Related: Concerns Grow About A Nuclear “Incident” In Europe After Spike In Radioactive Iodine Levels)

Highest-ever solar capacity added in 2016, claims report
Down to Earth
A report overviewing the solar sector shows positive trends in the industry based on higher solar production than ever before. In 2016, 70 gigawatt (GW) of solar power capacity was added, breaking previous year’s record of 50 GW. The capacity added takes the global solar power generation to nearly 300 GW. The report says that solar costs are now so low that industrial-scale solar plants are providing cheaper power than new fossil and nuclear power. Electricity prices from new coal power stations could rise to Australian $160 per megawatt hour, while solar parks are around $110 per megawatt hour, the report claims.

New study shows significant impact of Chinese dams on Mekong
The Third Pole
Large dams on the Mekong River in China’s Yunnan Province have considerable impacts on downstream river flows, new research by myself and colleagues at Aalto University in Finland and published recently in the Journal of Hydrology has shown. The Mekong originates in China where it is known as the Lancang, before flowing through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. China has built a cascade of six hydropower dam projects on the upper reaches of the Mekong River.

Superbugs pose alarming threat to public health: EU report
Rajeshwari Sinha, Down to Earth
Antimicrobial resistance is a serious threat to public and veterinary health, a report by European Food Safety Authority and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has reaffirmed. The report accesses the level of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in bacteria from humans, animals and food. Mapping the geographical extent of resistance, the report finds that countries in northern and western Europe have lower resistance levels than those in southern and eastern parts.

Chemicals banned in the 1970s have been found in the deepest reaches of the Pacific Ocean, a new study shows
BBC News
Scientists were surprised by the relatively high concentrations of pollutants like PCBs and PBDEs in deep sea ecosystems. Used widely during much of the 20th Century, these chemicals were later found to be toxic and to build up in the environment. The results are published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Scientists solve ocean ‘carbon sink’ puzzle
Carbon Brief
The oceans are a hugely important “carbon sink”, helping absorb CO2 emissions from human activities. Without them, CO2 would accumulate more quickly in the atmosphere, raising temperatures more quickly. A new study, published in Nature, finds that recent changes in circulation patterns in the world’s oceans are playing a key role in how much CO2 they take up. Weakening circulation patterns have boosted how much CO2 the oceans absorb since the 2000s, the researchers say, but there’s no guarantee that this will continue into the future. (Also read: Drastic cooling in North Atlantic beyond worst fears, scientists warn)

The 20th Century Saw a 23-fold Increase in Natural Resources Used For Building
Heinz Schandl & Fidolin Krausmann
The volume of natural resources used in buildings and transport infrastructure increased 23-fold between 1900 and 2010, according to our research. Globally, there are now 800 billion tonnes of natural resource ‘stock’ tied up in these constructions, two-thirds of it in industrialised nations alone. This trend is set to continue. While industrialised countries have lost some momentum, emerging economies are growing rapidly, China especially. If all countries were to catch up to the per capita level of the industrialised nations, this would quadruple the amount of natural resources tied up in the built environment. (Related: Watch: The world is actually running out of sand, and there’s not much we can do about it)

Global Economic Growth Is All About China… Nothing But China
Chris Hamilton, Econimica blog
Since 2000, China has been the nearly singular force for growth in global energy consumption and economic activity.  However, this article will make it plain and simple why China is exiting the spotlight and unfortunately, for global economic growth, there is no one else to take center stage.  To put things into perspective I’ll show this using four very inter-related variables…(1) total energy consumption, (2) core population (25-54yr/olds) size and growth, (3) GDP (flawed as it is), and (4) debt. (Related: Data Fraud At Chinese Province Suggests Local GDP Numbers As Much As 20% “Overcooked”)\

 

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