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NEWS UPDATE #141


From The Times of India: India’s central biotech regulator, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee on Thursday cleared the genetically modified (GM) Mustard for commercial cultivation and recommended its approval to the environment ministry. The GM mustard, developed by a Delhi University institution, is only the second food crop which got its clearance from the central regulator.

INDIA

Mustard set to be India’s first GM food, gets regulator nod
Vishwa Mohan, The Times of India
India’s central biotech regulator, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), on Thursday cleared the genetically modified (GM) Mustard for commercial cultivation and recommended its approval to the environment ministry. The fate of this transgenic variety of oil-seed will now be in the hands of the MoS environment Anil Madhav Dave who may either accept it, reject it or sit over the file till the Supreme Court takes its call on a pending application on the matter. The GM mustard, developed by a Delhi University institution, is only the second food crop which got its clearance from the central regulator. The GEAC had earlier in 2010 cleared the Bt Brinjal but the decision was not accepted by then environment minister Jairam Ramesh. Currently, only Bt Cotton – a non-food GM crop – is commercially cultivated in the country.

Indian solar power prices hit record low, undercutting fossil fuels
The Guardian
Wholesale solar power prices have reached another record low in India, faster than analysts predicted and further undercutting the price of fossil fuel-generated power in the country. The tumbling price of solar energy also increases the likelihood that India will meet – and by its own predictions, exceed – the renewable energy targets it set at the Paris climate accords in December 2015. India is the world’s third-largest carbon polluter, with emissions forecast to at least double as it seeks to develop its economy and lift hundreds of millions of citizens out of poverty.

Renewables to account for entire new power capacity in 10 yrs: Ajay Mathur, DG, TERI
The Economic Times
Energy think-tank TERI recently published a report that said India has a ten year window to completely shift to renewable sources of power. In an exclusive interview with Debapriya Mondal, TERI Director General Ajay Mathur explains how will India’s energy mix look like in a decade from now and shares a perspective on some of the latest energy efficiency initiatives by the government. (Related: Government considering winding up unsafe coal mines: Piyush Goyal)

Rich-poor divide in India widening as economy grows: Report
Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
As India’s economy grew rapidly, the inequality between the richest and the poorest rose, the number of landless farmers increased and employment generation was lowest in 2015, says a new report examining 25 years of India’s economic liberalisation. Pointing that distribution of growth gains have not been equitable, the India Exclusion Report 2016 says the post-1990 growth was up to three times of the levels in the first four decades since Independence but the rate of poverty reduction slowed down from 0.94% per annum during 1981-1990 to only 0.65% between 1990 and 2005.

River Narmada declared a ‘living entity’
The Times of India
The one-day special session of Madhya Pradesh assembly was adjourned sine die on Wednesday, after passing a resolution to declare river Narmada as a living entity by majority of voice vote. The resolution introduced by environment minister Antar Singh Arya stated that river Narmada is the lifeline of Madhya Pradesh and the government is compelled to protect the legal rights of the river as a living entity.(Related: Sardar Sarovar Dam Affected People Are Being Threatened Of Brutal Eviction)

1500 Mumbai slum houses “cleared” for luxury hotel’s approach road, mangroves removed: Fact-finding team
Counterview
A fact-finding team consisting of scholars from prominent Mumbai-based institutes has suggested that insistence on an “approach road” for a proposed luxury hotel being constructed by prominent builders could be the main reason behind the recent demolition of nearly 1,500 slum-dwellers’ houses in the in Ambedkar Nagar basti at Cuffe Parade, Colaba. Quoting locals, and based on circumstantial evidence, the team’s report, says, it found how the local corporator, BJP’s Makarand Narvekar remained apathetic” towards the demolition, which took place from May 3 to 7.

Unfazed By Censure, Maharashtra’s Polluting Factories Make Its Rivers The Filthiest In India
Raina Paul & Prabhpreet Singh Sood, IndiaSpend
Maharashtra, the state with India’s biggest economy, also has the highest number of polluted river stretches in the country. And, at 161, it also has the most number of cities and towns along polluted stretches, according to a 2015 report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Of the 156 locations where the CPCB has set up its monitoring units on the 49 rivers and tributaries in the state, 153 do not meet the water quality criteria, according to the CPCB. The MPCB has issued more than 5,300 show-cause notices to erring factories between 2011 and 2017.

Damage to Yamuna floodplains: Found no violation by AOL, DDA tells NGT
The Indian Express
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on Thursday admitted before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that while conducting a site visit in March this year, they found “no violations” to the conditions they had put down before the Art of Living (AoL) while granting permission for the World Culture Festival last year. The AoL also released a statement highlighting DDA’s admission, which said, “The Delhi Development Authority today admitted before the NGT that there was no violation by Art of Living. All conditions for the permissions were adhered to.”

Letter to Gujarat CM: Frustrated farmers see govt gameplan, agree with anti-dam NBA, “waters meant for industry”
Counterview
Khedut Samaj Gujarat (KSG), the upcoming non-political farmers’ organization, has threatened state chief minister Vijay Rupani that if the work for providing Narmada waters via minor canal No 4B of the Dholera region south of Ahmedabad fails to begin within a week, its farmers would begin a major protest dharna in the state capital. In a letter to Rupani, KSG leader Sagar Rabari has said, the farmers of Dholera region, where the state government recently planned special investment region, are upset by the refusal of the officialdom to tell them whether the “promise” to provide Narmada waters to their agricultural fields in Dholera. In fact, Rabari’s letter says, the farmers are beginning to see that the anti-dam Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) saw through the government gameplan years ago when it said that Narmada dam was not being built for farmers, and its water would go to industries and industrialists.

Indian scientists develop transgenic rice that can withstand drought
Bhavya Khullar, Down to Earth
A group of Indian, Chinese, and Canadian scientists have developed transgenic rice that gives high yields even under severe water deficit. The new rice variety has been developed by transferring a gene from a common plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, into a variety of Indian rice called samba mahsuri. This gene is known to be involved in pathways controlling growth and development. Arabidopsis thaliana is a flowering plant widely used for research purposes but it has no agronomic value as such.

Udaipur’s Gati Gaum Becomes Rajasthan’s First Internationally Certified Organic Village
Udaipur Times
Previously renowned for its lovely farms, lively fish market and electrifying Gavari ceremonies, Jaisamand’s Gati Village has now become a local pioneer in the global organic farming movement. India’s national accreditation body, the APOF Organic Certification Agency (AOCA) has just certified Gati as Rajasthan’s first fully organic farming community covering all its 290 farm families and their village fields. Since AOCA approval is globally recognized, Gati crops and products can now all be marketed internationally with this prestigious organic validation.

Smart city project: Chandigarh to get bicycle sharing system
Hillary Victor, Hindustan Times
Aiming to promote use of bicycle and provide an alternative transport system, Chandigarh smart city limited (CSCL) has called for an expression of interest to introduce public bicycle sharing system. It is a move under smart city project and the authorities have planned to buy 10,000 bicycles for 600 busy points in the city. The residents will be commuting from one point to another by cycles, which will have GPRS system. A control room will be set up to monitor the movement of cycles. The expression of interest has to be sent by February 22.

Uranium Exploration in Meghalaya’s Villages Continues Unabated Without Local Sanction and Despite Troubling Health and Environmental Concerns
Dilnaz Boga, Caravan Magazine
In March 2017, I travelled to four villages in Meghalaya to speak to their residents about the effects of uranium-ore exploration. While Domiasiat village was an exploration site in the 1990s, I also visited Nongjri village, which had an active exploration site at that time. The two other villages, Nongtynniaw and Mawthabah, contained waste materials from exploration and residue tailings. Norman, the Domiasiat village chief, said that, between 1990 and 1992, the river’s fish had become “diseased.” The “fish were alive but their flesh was spoilt,” he told me. “In our small village,” he continued, “we witnessed deaths of mothers due to excessive bleeding during pregnancy, stillbirths and deformed babies.”

Fluoride Contamination Cripples a Thousand Children in Assam
Azera Parveen Rehman, the Wire
Over a thousand children below the age of five have been crippled by fluorosis in the last five-six years in Hojai, in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam. The most pronounced symptoms are bent legs and crooked teeth. The culprit? Fluoride-contaminated water. According to an official survey, fluoride levels in water above the permissible limit of 1 mg/litre has been found in 11 districts in the state – putting an estimated 356,000 people at risk. Experts warn that the numbers will rise if appropriate steps are not taken on an emergency basis.

WORLD

Planet could breach 1.5C warming limit within 10 years, but be aware of caveats
Graham Readfearn, The Guardian
New research published in a leading scientific journal suggests that the world might have already reached the 1.5C target – or at least one definition of it (some senior scientists disagree with some of the assumptions in the paper – read on for those important caveats). Published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the research looks closely at the influence of a mechanism in the climate known as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). “The IPO is like the long-term version of El Niño – it’s like El Niño’s uncle,” says Ben Henley of the University of Melbourne and the research’s lead author. (Related: Slow-freezing Alaska soil driving surge in carbon dioxide emissions)

Rich nations unwilling to respect UNFCCC principles at Bonn talks
Vijeta Rattani, Down to Earth
Negotiations on Day 5 of the climate talks at Bonn were overshadowed by developed countries taking a non-cooperative stance on various issues including Global Stocktake (GST), transparency framework, loss and damage and others. Developed countries argue that means of implementation, a component of Global Stocktake, should be presented in the light of collective efforts. Developed countries not interested in including loss and damage within the ambit of Global Stocktake. Speaking on equity, India on Day 5 elaborated that it largely relates to the right of development and eradication of poverty.

RCEP will hurt local industry and allow workers’ exploitation, says civil society
Jitendra, Down to Earth
Negotiations over a proposed free trade agreement, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), will have severe impacts on the state of agriculture and manufacturing industries in India, and may allow for exploitation of workers and natural resources in India, civil society representatives say. The 18th round of negotiations on RCEP is being held in Manila, Philippines among 16 countries that account for 50 per cent of the global population and 29 per cent of the world’s GDP. Civil society representatives say that the agreement in being discussed secretively. “In the past four years and to this day, no text has been made available to members of the public, parliamentarians, civil society or media,” says Dharmendra Kumar, director of India FDI watch, a Delhi-based non-profit.

Tunnel Collapses at Nuclear Facility Once Called ‘an Underground Chernobyl Waiting to Happen’
Adam Clark Estes, Gizmodo
Managers at the Hanford Site in Washington State told workers to “take cover” Tuesday morning after a tunnel leading to a massive plutonium finishing plant collapsed. The emergency is especially worrisome, since Hanford is commonly known as “the most toxic place in America,” with one former governor calling it “an underground Chernobyl waiting to happen.” Worrisome might actually be an understatement. The Deparment of Energy declared a state of emergency at the site.

Indigenous groups, activists risk arrest to blockade logging in Malaysia
Rod Harbinson, Mongabay
In their fight for the rights of peninsular Malaysia’s native people, the Orang Asli, an alliance of women are making waves in the country’s highly conservative society as they support the efforts of communities and activists trying to stop logging of the region’s forests. The women represent a variety of fields and organizations and are speaking out and even risking arrest in their struggle for the forests and the communities that depend on them. The Temiar indigenous peoples are resisting deforestation by setting up road blockade camps in local forest reserves. By March 2017, three blockade camps had reportedly been torn down by forestry police, but the Temiar vowed to set up more.

Philippines bans new open-pit metal mines
Keith Schneider, Mongabay
The Philippines has banned new open-pit gold, copper and silver mines, Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Regina Lopez announced April 27. Lopez cited the need to protect biodiversity, evidence of injuries to communities and water supplies, and violations of environmental law by the mining industry. Since taking office in July, Lopez has lauched an aggressive campaign to force the mining industry to improve its practices. The ban could be one of Lopez’s last acts in office; on May 3, she faces review from a legislative committee that includes people linked to the mining industry.

Seismic Testing to Begin in Atlantic Ocean in Push for Offshore Drilling
Eco Watch
The Interior Department announced it is moving forward with seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean following President Donald Trump’s executive order last month to aggressively expand offshore drilling in protected areas off the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.  “Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean, firing intense blasts of compressed air every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks to months on end,” Dustin Cranor, Oceana’s senior director of U.S. communications, told EcoWatch. “These blasts are of special concern to marine life, including fish, turtles and whales, which depend on sound for communication and survival,” Cranor said. (Related: US signs treaty to protect Arctic, giving some hope for Paris agreement)

‘Our country will vanish’: Pacific islanders bring desperate message to Australia
Ben Doherty, The Guardian
The i-Kiribati man is in Australia delivering his message about the reality of climate change in his country, and of its immediacy. Each discussion, he says, is like a drop of water, adding to the one before it, slowly building understanding of the existential threat to his people and place. “Climate change is not something off in the future, it’s not a problem for later. We are living it now,” he says.

Top UK fund manager divests from fossil fuels
The Guardian
One of Britain’s biggest managers of ethical funds is to dump £20m of shares in fossil fuel companies in one of the biggest divestments so far because of climate change. Shares in BHP Billiton, the Anglo-Australian mining giant, will be among those sold by BMO Global Asset Management’s range of “responsible” funds, which manage £1.5bn of assets. They were previously known as the “stewardship” funds, the first ethical funds launched in Britain. The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, played a crucial role in the divestment, as president of BMO’s responsible investment council.

Sugar industry secretly paid for favorable Harvard research
Melissa Bailey, Stat News
As nutrition debates raged in the 1960s, prominent Harvard nutritionists published two reviews in a top medical journal downplaying the role of sugar in coronary heart disease. Newly unearthed documents reveal what they didn’t say: A sugar industry trade group initiated and paid for the studies, examined drafts, and laid out a clear objective to protect sugar’s reputation in the public eye. That revelation, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, comes from Dr. Cristin Kearns at the University of California, San Francisco, a dentist-turned-researcher who found the sugar industry’s fingerprints while digging through boxes of letters in the basement of a Harvard library.

Global trends in climate change legislation and litigation
Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP)
Nations around the world have adopted more than 1,200 laws to curb climate change, up from about 60 two decades ago, which is a sign of widening efforts to limit rising temperatures shows this study by the London School of Economics. This report summarises key trends in climate change legislation and litigation. It is the sixth stock-take in a series of global Climate Legislation Studies that dates back to 2010.

 

 

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