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NEWS UPDATE #152


The Indian Express reports: Despite a series of steps to contain non-performing assets, public sector banks wrote off a record Rs 81,683 crore worth of bad loans in the financial-year ended March 2017, a jump of more than 41 per cent over the previous year’s write-off amount of Rs 57,586 crore, finance ministry data shows.

INDIA

Non-performing assets: Govt-run banks write off record Rs 81,683-crore bad loans in FY17
Sunny Verma, The Indian Express
Despite a series of steps to contain non-performing assets (NPAs), public sector banks (PSBs) wrote off a record Rs 81,683 crore worth of bad loans in the financial year ended March 2017, a jump of more than 41 per cent over the previous year’s write-off amount of Rs 57,586 crore, as per the finance ministry data. Even as the amount of loans written off has been rising steadily in the past five years, their combined profitability deteriorated sharply during the same period, as NPAs spiked and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)-mandated asset quality review forced them to make higher disclosures of non-performing loans.

India coal growth has slowed significantly since 2015
Greenpeace
After years of historic coal growth, India has been witnessing a dramatic slowdown in consumption since 2015, according to an Energydesk analysis of official data. Over the past two years the country’s coal use has increased by an average of just 2.2%, a sharp fall from the previous 10 years when annual growth average was over 6%. These figures would represent record-low growth for this century were it not for 2011, when coal consumption rose by less than 1% — though growth topped 7% the following year.

Telangana: Sircilla villages up in arms against sand mining as trucks crush two
The Indian Express
Residents of several villages in Sircilla, a newly created district in Telangana, are up in arms against police and district administration over sand mining in the area after sand-laden trucks were involved in several accidents in the past one month. Two persons have been killed and at least 18 injured in separate accidents in the area. Sircilla is represented in the Assembly by K T Rama Rao, Minister for IT, Municipal Administration and Urban Development, and Panchayati Raj, and son of CM K Chandrashekar Rao. Opposition parties Congress and Left have alleged that the government was targeting Dalits involved in the anti-mining protests. (Related: Supreme Court fines illegal miners in Odisha, directs fund to be used for tribal benefit in mining districts)

Ground water authority might expand areas where water-guzzling industries can operate
Mridula Chari, Scroll.in
The Central Ground Water Authority has drafted new guidelines to regulate the use of groundwater across the country. If these get approved, water-guzzling industries such as packaged drinking water and paper manufacturers could be allowed to drill for water even in areas identified as facing a groundwater crisis. The draft does away with the special attention that is paid to the water-guzzling industries in the existing regulations and treats them like all other industries. In addition, the draft shrinks the area identified as facing a groundwater crisis and where consequently stricter regulations apply. It also explicitly states that it will not regulate agricultural use of groundwater. (Also read: Centre to form tribunal on Mahanadi water dispute: Official)

Proposed Amendments to Environment Protection Act Could Legalise Violations
The Wire
The ministry has launched a two-pronged plan to substantially alter the kinds of action against violators of the Environment Protection Act (EPA), and its various notifications and rules related to impacts assessment, coastal regulation or waste. The first is the short-term notification to legalise the backlog of violations. The second is a new amendment Bill to the EPA that nearly negates the concept of environmental violations. Through the former, the ministry has provided a backdoor entry to projects that started operations before being fully assessed as per the environmental approval process. Through the amendment, the ministry plans to treat violations of the law attracting criminal prosecution as environmental management errors that damage the environment. The government plans to extract monetary fees for such damages.

Narmada Valley Hunger Strike Attacked: Medha Patkar And Four Others Arrested
Countercurrents.org
In response to Indefinite fast led by 11 Sardar Sarovar Dam affected people and Medha Patkar in Chikhalda, Dhar District, Madhya Pradesh, India, Govt of Madhya Pradesh send police forces in thousands and attacked the peaceful meeting going on there around 6 PM Today. There was no attempt to talk to the protesters sitting on fast against the illegal and unjust drowning and forceful eviction of more than 40000 families in Narmada Valley residing there without complete and just rehabilitation. (Related: 27,147 Narmada dam affected families yet to be rehabilitated, NBA estimates ahead of Aug 8 Apex Court hearing)

New wetlands committee to address complaints in 48 hours
The Times of India
Members of the newly formed Wetland Grievance Redressal Committee recently met in the city. It was decided to deal with complaints linked to wetlands destruction within 48 hours. The committee was formed based on the directive of the Thane district collectorate dated April 17, 2017, and is headed by a Naib Tehsildar rank official for the protection of wetlands in Navi Mumbai and Konkan regions. (Also read: Tamil Nadu deploying artificial reefs to save sinking islands)

There Could Be 300,000 Jobs For Indians In Solar, Wind Projects By 2022
Mukta Patil, IndiaSpend
Over 300,000 Indians could find jobs in the wind and solar industry over the next five years if the country works towards its 2022 target of 160 GW. Currently, wind and solar together account for almost 14% of India’s installed power capacity. Over the next three years alone, the sector can generate jobs for about 80,000 Indians. The industry employed over 21,000 people in India in 2016-2017 and is expected to employ an estimated 25,000 people more in 2017-18, according to an analysis by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), a not-for-profit research organisation based in New Delhi, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a nonprofit.  (Related: Technology to generate electricity from water without any energy ready for takeoff)

WORLD

Global Ocean Circulation Appears To Be Collapsing Due To A Warming Planet
Forbes
Scientists have long known about the anomalous “warming hole” in the North Atlantic Ocean, an area immune to warming of Earth’s oceans. This cool zone in the North Atlantic Ocean appears to be associated with a slowdown in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), one of the key drivers in global ocean circulation. A recent study published in Nature outlines research by a team of Yale University and University of Southhampton scientists. The team found evidence that Arctic ice loss is potentially negatively impacting the planet’s largest ocean circulation system. While scientists do have some analogs as to how this may impact the world, we will be largely in uncharted territory.

Japan Calls For Denuclearized World On 72nd Anniversary Of Hiroshima
NPR
On Sunday, Japan marked 72 years since the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, destroying a portion of the city and its inhabitants, and heralding the end of World War II. About 50,000 people, including representatives from 80 nations, gathered for an annual ceremony at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park Sunday, reports The Japan Times. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for global cooperation to end nuclear weapons.

Fossil fuel subsidies are a staggering $5 tn per year
The Guardian
A study was just published in the journal World Development that quantifies the amount of subsidies directed toward fossil fuels globally, and the results are shocking. The authors work at the IMF and are well-skilled to quantify the subsidies discussed in the paper. Let’s give the final numbers and then back up to dig into the details. The subsidies were $4.9 tn in 2013 and they rose to $5.3 tn just two years later. According to the authors, these subsidies are important because first, they promote fossil fuel use which damages the environment. Second, these are fiscally costly. Third, the subsidies discourage investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy that compete with the subsidized fossil fuels. Finally, subsidies are very inefficient means to support low-income households.

Study finds human influence in the Amazon’s third 1-in-100 year drought since 2005
The Guardian
Part of it has to do with land-use changes. That is, human changes to the land surface such as deforestation. Another part is related to warming from greenhouse gases. It is clear that land-use changes can affect drought. As farmers deforest, for instance, they convert woodlands and forests into agricultural land. This changes not only the darkness (reflectivity) of the land, but it also impacts the transfer of water to and from the atmosphere (evapotranspiration).

Pentagon study declares American empire is ‘collapsing’
Nafeez Ahmed, Insurge Intelligence
An extraordinary new Pentagon study has concluded that the U.S.-backed international order established after World War 2 is “fraying” and may even be “collapsing”, leading the United States to lose its position of “primacy” in world affairs. The solution proposed to protect U.S. power in this new “post-primacy” environment is, however, more of the same: more surveillance, more propaganda (“strategic manipulation of perceptions”) and more military expansionism. (Also read: US federal department is censoring use of term ‘climate change’, emails reveal)

America’s Rainforest Could Be on the Chopping Block
Defenders of Wildlife
The Tongass National Forest is often referred to as “America’s Rainforest.” It is our nation’s largest national forest and the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world. At 17 million acres, it is roughly the size of West Virginia and contains the largest remnants of intact old-growth forest habitat in North America. In its Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis Project, the Forest Service is proposing to log an estimated 200-million board feet of old-growth forest over the next 10 years. This colossal liquidation of forests on Prince of Wales Island would destroy thousands of acres of high-quality wildlife habitat in the Tongass.
(Related: Yellowstone Grizzly Officially Off Endangered Species List)

Eco-Sabotage: Two Women Admit to Sabotaging Dakota Access Pipeline
DGR News Service
Two activists have come forward and admitted to multiple acts of eco-sabotage against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Spring 2017. Several of these incidents had been previously hidden from the public. Much of the sabotage took place with minimal equipment and training, and during broad daylight. The women have come forward in the hope that others will support and be inspired by their actions. They have currently been arrested on a lesser charge, and the FBI is investigating.

Indigenous Win Fight Against Massive Dam Project In Brazil
DGR News Service
Indigenous activists shut down construction of a massive dam project in Brazil for four days in July and received assurances from officials that their demands for halting construction of the dam, prior consultation, land rights and return of sacred funerary urns would be met. The Munduruku activists had occupied the São Manoel hydroelectric dam site on the Teles Pires River that borders the states of Pará and Mato Grosso in the Brazilian Amazon. The São Manoel project is part of a larger effort to create a complex of five hydroelectric facilities in Brazil.

Forest fires rage across Indonesia as dry season begins
Greenpeace
Forest fires are once again sweeping across Indonesia, with academics warning that the blazes, which have become an annual event since the mid-1990s, have become the “new normal”. So far five Indonesian provinces have declared emergencies as result of forest fires, according to officials. Satellite images collected by Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Authority showed 170 hotspots in the country at the end of July, with the regions of East Nusa Tenggara, West Kalimantan and the province of Aceh in northern Sumatra the worst affected.

Road projects threaten Sumatra’s last great rainforests
Mongabay
One of the last and largest remnants of tropical rainforest in Asia is under threat from multiple road development plans. This forest complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (TRHS), is located on the spine of the Bukit Barisan Mountain Range in Indonesia’s main western island, Sumatra. Occupying 2.5 million hectares (9,652 square miles), the site comprises three national parks: Mount Leuser, Kerinci Seblat and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Parks.

Harsh sentence for blogger may haunt Vietnam’s environmental movement
Mongabay
On June 29 of this year, Quỳnh was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “conducting propaganda against the state.” The decision was met with shock, both within Vietnam and abroad. Members of local Facebook groups that rarely discuss Vietnamese politics shared the news of Mother Mushroom’s punishment widely. Many saw it as unfair treatment towards a woman who was simply trying to highlight environmental problems in Vietnam.

Government loan to Adani could be tainted by interference, economists say
The Guardian
A group of prominent economists have told a Senate inquiry the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (Naif) is “sorely wanting” on transparency, accountability and its track record for public disclosure, and called on it to make major changes to the way it operates. In a submission to the Senate inquiry into the governance and operation of Naif, the group discusses the potential $900m loan to Adani for a rail link to its proposed Carmichael coalmine as a case study, and raises serious concerns about the way the body operates.

Scientists Use Google Earth and Crowdsourcing to Map Uncharted Forests
EcoWatch
Current technology enables computers to automatically detect forest area through satellite data in order to adequately map most of the world’s forests. But drylands, where trees are fewer and farther apart, stymied these modern methods. To measure the extent of forests in drylands, which make up more than 40 percent of land surface on Earth, researchers from UN Food and Agriculture Organization, World Resources Institute and several universities and organizations had to come up with unconventional techniques. Foremost among these was turning to residents, who contributed their expertise through local map-a-thons.

 

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