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NEWS UPDATE #153


More than 70 children have died at BRD Hospital in Gorakhpur, apparently due to a shortage of oxygen in the hospital. If more children die in August in Gorakhpur and floods occur every year during monsoon, then why are we not prepared? Down to Earth magazine’s detailed coverage of India’s worst manmade tragedy this year.

INDIA

Warnings on encephalitis and floods unheeded
Down to Earth
More than 70 children have died at the BRD Hospital in Gorakhpur. The initial reason reported was shortage of oxygen in the hospital. The state officials say that these children had died of natural causes. BRD Hospital is well-known and most probably the only functioning government hospital in the area and children come here when all other treatment has failed. The death of so many children is a norm, they say. Down to Earth’s detailed coverage of India’s worst manmade tragedy this year.

Shadow of Dieselgate: alarmingly high emissions from diesel cars, SUVs on Indian roads
Down to Earth
The stunning results from real-world emissions testing in Indian cars by the International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT), the Indian vehicle testing agency, and International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT)—the same group that had exposed the Volkswagen scandal in the US—show Indian diesel cars are as deviant. This first ever real-world emission testing study rocks the myth of clean diesel cars spawned by the auto industry. This joint study has tested Bharat Stage IV (BSIV) compliant 2015 model of petrol car (Hyundai i20), diesel car (Hyundai i20diesel), and diesel SUV (Mahindra XUV500 W8). (Related:  Guidelines for new pollution monitoring system out)

New draft coastal regulation allows tourism in sensitive zone, poses threat to fishers
Down to Earth
The new draft Marine and Coastal Regulation Zone (MCRZ) notification stands to dilute rules, posing threat to various coastal and fishing communities spread across 3,200 villages on the Indian coastline. The draft issued by issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) allows tourism activities in ecologically sensitive areas and land reclamation for commercial purpose along the coast. States and Union Territory governments are to prepare tourism plans for these regions.

India set to unveil new biofuel policy in bid to cut oil, gas, coal imports -minister
The Economic Times
India will soon announce a new policy to promote biofuels as part of efforts by the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases to cut imports of fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal, a government minister said on Thursday. The government aims to develop a biofuel economy worth 1 trillion rupees ($15.6 billion) in the next two years, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told a conference on renewable energy on Thursday. (Related: Over threefold jump in India’s solar capacity in past two years: Piyush Goyal)

Farming is a risky business: Economic Survey
Live Mint
rom planting crops to finding a market for their produce, farmers in India face an array of risks and mitigating these can raise incomes and profitability in agriculture, said the second volume of the Economic Survey 2016-17 released on Friday. Listing major risks relating to production, weather, crop prices, credit and policy decisions, the Survey said that to manage and reduce risks there is a need to categorize and address them. A “Taxonomy of risks” in agriculture in the Survey detailed the risk factors and suggested ways to address them.

Will India’s recycling sector collapse under the new GST regime?
Down to Earth
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a step in the right direction for India. But the rates on certain goods are a deep cause of concern. These include scrap material. Before GST, there was no tax on scrap material except on e-waste and metals (6 per cent Value Added Tax). Under the new GST regime, all categories of scrap now have a high tax rate of mostly 18 per cent. Every large waste dealer or recycler with sales above Rs. 20 lakh per year has to pay GST every 15 days. But waste in India has a very big chain of dealers as shown below.

63% India urban?: Govt’s midterm Economic Survey seeks to “redefine” criterion citing European satellite methodology
Counterview
Seeking to give a controversial answer to the tangled question being debated especially by India’s urban development experts as to how urbanized India is, the Government of India’s midterm Economic Survey, released last week, has questioned the Census of India data that just 31.2% of the country is urbanized. Even as providing several urbanization criteria existing across the world, the top report, which has been prepared under the guidance of chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian, appears to favour the urbanization definition based on the use of satellite data based of the Global Human Settlements Layer (GHSL) of the Group on Earth Observations at the European Commission.

Cadmium level 169 times higher than is safe found in Chhattisgarh’s Raigarh district, says study
Scroll.in
Cadmium level are 169 times higher than the safety level defined by Canada in the soil around coal mines, thermal power plants and coal ash ponds in Chhattisgarh, according to a study released on Monday. The report by the Community Environmental Monitoring and Dalit Adivasi Mazdoor Sangathan is based on the study of soil, water, air and sediment samples from five locations in Tamnar, a highly industrialised block of Chhattisgarh’s Raigarh district. All the samples were collected in May 2017 and tested in two laboratories in Oregon in the United States.

Guard’s arrest backs up tribals’ claim that many Kaziranga “poachers” were innocent
Survival International
A forest guard in India’s notorious “shoot on sight” Kaziranga National Park has been arrested, after an incident that local people say proves their longstanding claim that many people shot as “poachers” are innocent local people. Three villagers, one from the local Mising tribe, have been tortured and beaten by Kaziranga forest officials after selling cattle at a market. They report that officials took their money, beat them, and threatened to shoot them and claim they were poachers caught in the act.

Tamil Nadu: Villagers claim ONGC pipeline in Nagapattinam district developed fourth leak in 45 days
Scroll.in
An oil and gas leak was allegedly detected at an underground pipeline of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation in Mathirimangalam village in Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam district on Sunday, The News Minute reported. The villagers claimed that this was the fourth time the pipeline had leaked in the past 45 days. Residents of Mathirimangalam village have been demanding that the oil pipeline be replaced, Tamil YB channel Polimer News reported.

Medha Patkar ends 17-day fast in Madhya Pradesh jail; supporters to “take” Narmada oustees’ struggle to new level
Counterview
Following all-round appeal to her, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar and several of her colleagues have ended their 17-day fast, which they had undertaken for the the alleged plan to forcibly evict around 40,000 Narmada dam oustee families of the Narmada dam. Meanwhile, a statement, signed by those who met Patkar and senior NBA activists, said that “any amount of repression by the state cannot suppress the democratic, legitimate and non-violent struggle of the 40,000 Narmada dam affected families, who are determined to take ahead the 32 year old struggle in an intense and sustained way.”

SC notice after Jairam says Finance Act dilutes NGT
The Times of India
The Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre on a petition filed by Congress MP and former environment minister Jairam Ramesh challenging certain provisions of the Finance Act 2017 that “dilute” the NGT Act, 2010. According to Ramesh, the Finance Act gives undue power to the Centre to decide on qualifications, appointment, term of office, salary and removal of the chairperson and other members of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) by overturning the minimum requirements laid down by the NGT Act.

WORLD

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.

Coal Plants Might Be Even More Toxic Than We Thought
Bloomberg
Coal contains from 0.1 percent to 6 percent titanium dioxide, the same chemical that’s commonly used in sunblock, makeup, and paint. This substance has drawn scientific scrutiny in recent years for potential health hazards on the nano-scale. Testing the titanium sub-oxides on zebrafish (the aquatic cousin of lab rats) showed it to be toxic when ingested; the toxicity was significant in tissue not exposed to sunlight. Analogous effects in small-to-large animals, including humans, “are likely to be found,” the authors concluded.

Trump Administration files notice to withdraw from Paris agreement
Down to Earth
On August 4, the Trump administration formally notified the United Nations of its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, explaining that the United States instead plans to work with countries to help them gain access to fossil fuels. The notice comes two months after President Donald Trump delivered a speech at the White House announcing he would abandon the agreement. In August 4’s notice, the State Department said the United States planned to continue to participate in international climate change negotiations and meetings, including the United Nations’ next meetings in November in Bonn, Germany. (Related: How Norway’s oil and gas plans undermine the Paris Agreement)

These Are the Crazy Climate Records from 2016 You Haven’t Heard Much About
Climate Central
By now, we’ve all heard that 2016 was the hottest year on record, and that heat-trapping greenhouse gases hit their highest concentration ever, surpassing 400 parts per million for the first time in nearly 1 million years. But there are other climate change-related records that have flown more under the radar. Several of those records were highlighted Thursday in the annual State of the Climate report, released in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society: For example, during August, ice-free areas of the Barents Sea (north of Norway and Russia) were up to 20°F (11°C) above average, a figure that stunned climate scientists. (Report: Climate change has affected every part of US: government report)

Adani mining giant faces financial fraud claims as it bids for Australian coal loan
The Guardian
Indian conglomerate the Adani Group is expecting a legal decision in the “near future” in connection with allegations it inflated invoices for an electricity project in India to shift huge sums of money into offshore bank accounts. Details of the alleged 15bn rupee (US$235m) fraud are contained in an Indian customs intelligence notice obtained by the Guardian, excerpts of which are published for the first time here. The directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) file, compiled in 2014, maps out a complex money trail from India through South Korea and Dubai, and eventually to an offshore company in Mauritius allegedly controlled by Vinod Shantilal Adani, the older brother of the billionaire Adani Group chief executive, Gautam Adani.

Brazil’s Indians on the march in last ditch effort to stop land theft
Mongabay
Brazil’s Indians were on the march all of last week, carrying out major demonstrations, public meetings and hearings, culminating on 9 August, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. The protests came in response to perceived attempts by the Temer government to delegitimize indigenous land rights assured by the nation’s 1988 constitution — legal maneuvering by the government which most critics say would largely benefit wealthy Brazilians trying to lay claim to traditional Indian lands. (Related: Historic Ruling Set to Decide Future of Brazilian Tribes)

Bolivia approves highway through Amazon biodiversity hotspot
The Guardian
Bolivia has given the go ahead to a controversial highway which would cut through an Amazon biodiversity hotspot almost the size of Jamaica and home to 14,000 mostly indigenous people. President Evo Morales enacted the new law opening the way for the 190-mile (300km) road through the Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park, known as Tipnis, its Spanish acronym . The road will divide the park in two and strip it of the protections won in 2011 when a national march by thousands of protesters ended in clashes with the police and forced the government to change its position.

Global protests erupt against British mining company Vedanta
New Internationalist
Friday 5th August marks the thirteenth Annual General Meeting of British mining company Vedanta Resources, and the thirteenth annual protest against it. Since the company’s London listing in 2003 it has been dogged by protests, legal cases and investigations claiming pollution, human rights abuses and illegalities at its operations. This year a Global Day of Action against the company will include demonstrations in Bhubaneswar and Delhi in India, as well as the Zambian Copperbelt and at the AGM in London itself.

20 Years After The Asian Financial Crisis: Is History Repeating Itself?
Dan Glazebrook, Russia Today
With the western world poised to ramp up interest rates, could it be that we are again on the verge of just such an episode? The parallels are worrying. First of all, just as during the years prior to 1997, the past decade has seen a massive influx of capital into the developing world, exacerbated by the British-US-German-Japanese ‘quantitative easing’ (QE) programmes. (Related: Global Financial Stress Index Spikes Most Since 2011 US Downgrade)

Elon Musk Doubles Down On AI Scare: “Artificial Intelligence Vastly More Risk Than North Korea”
Zero Hedge
In a series of ‘alarming’ tweets on Friday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk warned the world should be more worried about the dangers of artificial intelligence than North Korea. “Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said. “AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.”

Reporters Face 10 Years In Jail If They Mention Fukushima ‘Conspiracies’
Your News Wire
Japanese Prime Minister Abe has warned that any reporter or doctor who publicly discloses the truth about Fukushima will face ten years in jail. Amid the worsening crisis at Unit 2 in the Fukushima Daichi reactor complex, where “unimaginable” levels of radiation are being pumped into the ocean which scientists warn pose a cancer risk to million of Japanese citizens, the government has ordered a complete media blackout on all reports about the dangers this poses to public health. (Related:
Fukushima Scientists: Days Of Eating Fish From The Ocean Are Over)

 

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