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NEWS UPDATE #145


From Carbon Brief: The world added a record amount of energy from renewable sources in 2016 and global coal use fell again, according to the 2017 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, released this week. This helped to keep global CO2 emissions flat for the third year in a row, even as energy demand rose.

INDIA

‘Nightmarish’ Situation Around Mandsaur, Say Activists Who Tried to Visit
The Wire
A group of civil society activists and organisations, who made an effort to meet farmers in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur but were stopped by the police, have alleged that the situation in the region is “nightmarish” and one of “shocking anarchy”. The delegation that was trying to meet the farmers included Yogendra Yadav, Swami Agnivesh, Medha Patkar, Avik Saha and Kalpana Parulekar. However, they were stopped in Ratlam and no one was allowed to go further. (Related: Mahapanchayat of farmers in MP next month: Yogendra Yadav)

Not everyone gets a monsoon: Tamil Nadu is still reeling from the worst drought in 140 years
Vinita Govindarajan, Scroll.in
There was a sharp decline of 41.5% in the area sown in the state in 2016-2017. And according to a report in The Times of India, paddy procurement in the same period fell even more drastically by 84.4%, more than double the decline in cropping area. At the same time, the news report said, other paddy-growing states such as Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Haryana showed an overall increase in paddy procurement – which rose 6.7% from 304.1 lakh tonnes to 324.8 lakh tonnes in the past year. So, why has Tamil Nadu suffered this steep fall in paddy procurement?

RBI: Just 12 accounts responsible for 25% of Rs 8 lakh crore bad debt with banks
The Times of India
The RBI today identified 12 accounts each having more than Rs 5,000 crore of outstanding loans and accounting for 25 per cent of total NPAs of banks for immediate referral for resolution under the bankruptcy law. Without naming the defaulters, the Reserve Bank said the lenders will be asked to initiate insolvency proceedings to recover the dues. The banking sector is saddled with non-performing assets (NPAs) worth over Rs 8 lakh crore, of which Rs 6 lakh crore is with public sector banks (PSBs). (Related: How 15,080 profitable Indian companies paid no tax in 2015-’16)

Stringent punishment for polluting Ganga
Swait Bansal, India Water Portal
The draft bill prepared by a panel led by retired Justice Giridhar Malaviya has proposed seven years in jail and a fine of up to Rs 100 crore for anyone who pollutes the Ganga river. The major offences include blocking the river’s flow, quarrying its banks and constructing jetties without permission. The panel has also recommended declaring an area within 1 km of the Ganga and its major tributaries as “water saving zones”. The draft bill has been sent to the experts’ committee to seek opinion and will be discussed with Ganga basin states before the final draft comes out.

$15 billion worth of coal power plants are on sale in India but nobody wants to buy them
Devjyot Ghoshal, Quartz.com
Billions of dollars worth of coal-fired power plants are on the block in India but no one seems to want to touch them with a bargepole at the moment. Although an exact number is hard to find, analysts estimate that up to 30,000 megawatts (MW) of thermal power capacity may be up for grabs as debt-laden Indian companies look to trim the fat and focus on profitable businesses. Going by a conservative price of between Rs5.5 crore and Rs6 crore for each MW, according to Rupesh Sankhe, senior analyst at brokerage Reliance Securities, the combined worth of these projects is well over a staggering Rs1 lakh crore (more than $15 billion). (Related: UP govt cancels 7,040 Mw of stalled power projects)

Desertification has increased in 90 per cent of states in India
Down to Earth
According to the State of India’s Environment 2017: In Figures book published by the Centre for Science and Environment, report, nearly 30 per cent of India is degraded or facing desertification. Of India’s total geographical area of 328.72 million hectares (MHA), 96.4 MHA is under desertification. In eight states—Rajasthan, Delhi, Goa, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh—around 40 to 70 per cent of land has undergone desertification. More to it, 26 of 29 Indian states have reported an increase in the area undergoing desertification in the past 10 years.

The chemical that caused 400 schoolchildren in Delhi to be hospitalised is not considered hazardous by the government
Ishan Kukreti, Down to Earth
A day after India opposed the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance at the Rotterdam Convention on May 5, a chemical leak at the Tughlakabad Inland Container Depot (ICD) in South Delhi led to the hospitalisation of more than 400 people living in its vicinity who complained of burning eyes and dizziness. Most of them were children from a nearby school. While the accident has prompted the Delhi government to issue show cause notice to the Customs Department and ICD authorities, the fact is 2-chloro-5 (chloromethyl) pyridine does not figure in the list of hazardous chemicals that are regulated under various laws in the country.

Setback to Essar? Green Tribunal appoints committee to ascertain “destruction” to Gujarat’s eco-sensitive zone
Counterview
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Pune Bench, has appointed a three-member court commission comprising of three Government of India officials to ascertain the environmental destruction, if any, caused by the Essar Bulk Terminal Ltd to the Salaya Marine National Park and Sanctuary, situated in the Gulf of Kutch, Gujarat. One of India’s topmost corporate houses, Essar has been setting up what it calls “a world-class marine infrastructure project with a state-of-the-art material handling facility at Salaya”, with the capability of handling 20 million metric tonnes per annum (MMTPA) of cargo. (Also read: Ahmedabad farmers realize: They were mistaken in allowing urban authority to put up town planning shemes)

NGT terminates chairmen of pollution control boards in 10 states
Ikshaku Bezbaroa, Down to Earth
Cracking the whip on 10 State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) for ad-hoc appointments, the National Green Tribunal has ordered the termination of Chairpersons of these regulatory authorities. The concerned states are Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Rajasthan, Telangana, Haryana, Maharashtra and Manipur. The order was given last week by the principal bench of the NGT, chaired by Justice Swatanter Kumar.

Units 5, 6 at Kudankulam nuclear power plant to cost Rs 50,000 crore
The Economic Times
The fifth and the sixth unit of India’s largest nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu will cost about Rs 50,000 crore to build with half of it being funded by Russia as loan. The project will take seven years to start generating electricity, Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) Chairman and Managing Director S K Sharma told PTI here.

Denied forest rights, Himachal Pradesh villagers take to awareness campaigns
Ishan Kukreti, Down to Earth
On June 5, Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh echoed with slogans like “Van Adhikar Kanoon Lagoo Karo (implement the Forest Rights Act, 2006) and Hamare Gaon Mein Hamara Raj (self-rule in our village). On the occasion of World Environment Day, a public meeting of close to 1,000 people from various villages in Kinnaur was held at Ambedkar Bhavan. A press release issued by the KVASS highlights the fact that though FRA was implemented all over the country in January 2008, including Himachal Pradesh, 2,614 individual and 54 community claims made under the FRA in 2009-10 were rejected by the District Forest Officer (DFO) in 2015.

WORLD

New BP data shows emissions flat in 2016 with record rise in renewables; coal use drops drastically
Carbon Brief
The world added a record amount of energy from renewable sources in 2016 and global coal use fell again, according to the 2017 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, published earlier this week. This helped to keep global CO2 emissions flat for the third year in a row, even as energy demand rose. Global coal use fell by 53Mtoe (1.4%) and is now 4% below the 2014 peak. Meanwhile, coal production fell by a record 231Mtoe (5.9%), as massive output declines continued in the US and China worked to reduce overcapacity and combat air pollution.(Related: International Energy Agency: World can reach ‘net zero’ emissions by 2060 to meet Paris climate goals)

Historic Heat Wave Sweeps Asia, the Middle East and Europe
Dr. Jeff Masters, Wunderground.com
The last week of May 2017 and first week of June brought one the most extraordinary heatwaves in world history to Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The mercury shot up to an astonishing 53.5°C (128.3°F) at Turbat, Pakistan on May 28, making it Earth’s hottest temperature ever recorded in the month of May—and one of Earth’s top-five hottest reliably-measured temperatures on record, for any month. Both Pakistan and Oman tied their all-time national heat records for any month during the heat wave, and all-time national heat records for the month of May were set in Iran, Norway and Austria. International weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera details the great heat wave in this guest post. (Related: India’s rising temperatures are already deadly, study shows)

Earth’s rain belts may shift farther north, claims study
Down to Earth
There’s a possibility of the Earth’s rain belts and dry zones shifting more towards northern hemisphere, claims Aaron Putnam and Wallace Broecker—researchers with the University of Maine and Columbia University. They have conducted a study of the past to make predictions about rainfall patterns in coming years. The research highlighted three observations. Firstly, tropical rainfall will increase. Secondly, the Earth’s rain belts and dry zones will shift north. Finally, the first two scenarios will occur at the same time. It means we can expect stronger monsoons while dry areas will become drier. (Related: Rain-bearing low cloud cover decreased significantly in last 50 years: study)

Climate change may be choking the ocean’s oxygen supply, study shows
Mic Smith, Mongabay
A new study analyzed data on dissolved oxygen in the global ocean since 1958 from the World Ocean Database, the most comprehensive collection of ocean observations. The study attributes the declining oxygen levels primarily to a combination of changes in ocean circulation, mixing, and biochemical processes resulting from ocean warming. The declining oxygen levels could have dire ecological consequences, particularly in areas with naturally low oxygen levels.

Even a small rise in temperature increases chances of heat wave deaths, says new study
Bhavya Khullar, Down to Earth
A new study has found that the mean temperature in India has risen by half a degree Celsius over a period of 60 years. This corresponds to 146 per cent increase in the probability of deaths due to heat waves. This means that even moderate increases in mean temperatures may lead to large increases in heat wave-related deaths, notes the study conducted by researchers from the Indian Institutes of Technology in Delhi and Bombay, along with the University of California and Boise State University, USA. Based on the findings, researchers have urged the government to put in more efforts to build resilience among vulnerable populations in regions with severe heat waves

UNESCO publishes first status report on ocean sciences around the world
Down to Earth
Ocean sciences are led by a small number of industrialised countries although collecting data and taking the measure of the ocean’s health is a global priority considering the economic and environmental stakes involved, according to the Global Ocean Science Report, compiled by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. The Report advocates increased investment into research and calls for greater international scientific cooperation. (Related: Asian nations make plastic oceans promise)

Have scientists stumbled upon the brain of a plant?
Down to Earth
Scientists at the University of Birmingham have shown groups of cells in plant embryos that function in ways similar to the human ‘brain’, allowing it to assess environmental conditions and determine when seeds will germinate. In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on June 6, scientists have shown that this ‘decision making centre’ of a plant called Arabidopsis contains two types of cells. One type prefers seed dormancy or inactivity while the other promotes germination. These two groups of cells communicate with each other by moving hormones, which is a mechanism comparable to that used by our own brains when we decide whether or not to move.

Will Asia’s new ‘clean, green’ infrastructure bank live up to its early promises?
Helena Wright, E3G.org
The newly established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is the world’s newest development bank. With a total capital of $100 billion, it has the potential to be a game changer. Launched with the mission of being “lean, green and clean”, the China-led bank is emerging as a potential competitor to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The eyes of policymakers, scientists and citizens are now firmly on the new bank and the path it chooses to take, because phasing out coal power stations will be crucial for the world to deliver on the Paris Climate Agreement.

Of mice, Monsanto and a mysterious tumor.
Carey Gillam, Environmental Health News
It’s been 34 years since Monsanto Co. presented U.S. regulators with a seemingly routine study analyzing the effects the company’s best-selling herbicide might have on rodents. Now, that study is once again under the microscope, emerging as a potentially pivotal piece of evidence in litigation brought by hundreds of people who claim Monsanto’s weed killer gave them cancer. Glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s branded Roundup products, is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and is applied broadly in the production of more than 100 food crops, including wheat, corn and soy, as well as on residential lawns, golf courses and school yards.

Overabundance of a protein one of the causes of Parkinson’s disease: study
Rakshan Kalmady, Down to Earth
Overabundance of a protein called alpha-synuclein has a key role in Parkinson’s disease, which affects more than 10 million people worldwide, says a study. The study done by researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate School (OIST) and is supposed to be published in Journal of Neuroscience says that overabundance of the protein in neuron play crucial role in development of the disease—the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. (Related: Measles is back: cases reported in countries that had eradicated the disease)

Grand Canyon at risk as Arizona officials ask Trump to end uranium mining ban
The Guardian
A coalition of influential officials in Arizona and Utah is urging the Trump administration to consider rolling back Obama-era environmental protections that ban new uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. They argue that the 20-year ban that came into effect in 2012 is unlawful and stifles economic opportunity in the mining industry. But supporters of the ban say new mining activity could increase the risk of uranium-contaminated water flowing into the canyon. Past mining in the region has left hundreds of polluted sites among Arizona’s Navajo population, leading to serious health consequences, including cancer and kidney failure.

Nestlé Competition for the Guarani Aquifer Threatens Guarani Land Rights
Luke Nguyen, intercontinental Cry
Just three years ago, the Swiss transnational food and drink company Nestlé established a zero-tolerance policy on land grabs. But if the company practices what it preaches, it needs to get out of Guaraní lands and waters. The Guarani Aquifer is the largest underground aquifer in the world and the third largest underground water reserve in the world. The Aquifer, named after the Guarani indigenous people, lies underneath a huge region of land that stretches across Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.(Also read: 1) UN Condemns Brazil’s “Attack” On Indigenous Peoples 2) Landmark Victory for the Ogiek Delivered by the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights)

On Nuclear Waste, Finland Shows How It Can Be Done
Hnery Fountain, the New York Times
If all goes well, sometime early in the next decade the first of what will be nearly 3,000 sealed copper canisters, each up to 17 feet long and containing about two tons of spent reactor fuel from Finland’s nuclear power industry, will be lowered into a vertical borehole in a side tunnel about 1,400 feet underground. As more canisters are buried, the holes and tunnels — up to 20 miles of them — will be packed with clay and eventually abandoned.

Has lithium-battery genius John Goodenough done it again? Colleagues are skeptical
Steve LeVone, Quartz.com
Researchers have struggled for decades to safely use powerful—but flammable—lithium metal in a battery. Now John Goodenough, the 94-year-old father of the lithium-ion battery, is claiming a novel solution as a blockbuster advance. If it proves out, the invention could allow electric cars to compete with conventional vehicles on sticker price. The improbable solution, described in a new paper from Goodenough and three co-authors, has drawn intense interest from leading science and technology publications.

 

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