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NEWS UPDATE #158


France proposes a new omnibus global pact on environment, but many countries are wary. The country has proposed that all 193 member countries of the United Nations adopt a new, overarching and legally-binding global agreement on environmental issues that it has drafted. Meanwhile, the 30-year-old ozone layer treaty has a new role: Fighting climate change.

INDIA

Farmers’ Rights Activist Akhil Gogoi Arrested Under National Security Act
The Wire
Farmers’ rights activist Akhil Gogoi was rearrested by the Assam police on September 25 under the National Security Act (NSA). On September 13, the state police slapped the charge of sedition on Gogoi, president of the influential Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), and thereafter arrested him from his Golaghat residence. Gogoi, a vocal critic of the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Assam, was accused by the state police of instigating the public to take up arms against the government at a rally held in Moran town near Dibrugarh on September 12.

Over 100 nations back India-China plan on farm subsidies before WTO meet
Live Mint
More than 100 countries have backed a joint proposal by China and India for eliminating the most trade-distorting farm subsidies of $160 billion in the US, the European Union, Japan, Canada, Norway, and Switzerland among other nations at the upcoming World Trade Organization’s 11th trade ministerial summit in Buenos Aires, said people familiar with the development. But Argentina, which is hosting the summit beginning on 10 December, warned that the China-India proposal is a recipe for the breakdown of the Buenos Aires meeting, said a person who asked not to be named.

Missing in the panel set up to frame India’s new mineral policy: Adivasis, ecologists, civil society
M Rajshekhar, Scroll
For a body set up in response to a Supreme Court judgement flagging endemic corruption, environmental damage and unequal distribution of gains from mining, the KR Rao Committee’s composition is remarkable. It has joint secretaries from the ministries for coal, finance, shipping, road transport, mining and environment but no one from tribal affairs. It has no ecologists. Nor does it have anyone from civil society.

Modi’s Saubhagya scheme to provide 40 million electricity connections: Some hype, some confusion
Scroll
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the “Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana” or the Saubhagya scheme to provide electricity connections to Indians who do not have them. On the fact of it, this did not seem startlingly new. Under the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojna launched in July 2015, the central government already gives subsidies to states to provide free connections to people living below the poverty line. Besides, the Deendayal Yojna was a revised version of the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government had announced in 2005. Under that programme too, the central government gave a subsidy to states to provide free electricity connections that the poor.

Are Niti Aayog measures to boost agriculture old wine in a new bottle? Check out what is on its agenda
Financial Express
The TYAA basically talks of action for (1) increasing productivity of land and water; (2) reforming agri-markets on the lines of e-NAM; (3) reforming tenancy laws; and (4) relief measures in the event of natural disasters. There is nothing new, and nothing wrong, in these recommendations as they have already been made by committees cited above. The TYAA, however, does not prioritise policy actions, nor does it talk about the role of trade policy in agriculture, or reforming the massive system of food and fertiliser subsidies. Nevertheless, the hard question is whether the government is ready to bite the bullet?

Rs 389-crore Bihar dam collapses ahead of inauguration; low-lying areas inundated
Down to Earth
A part of a dam in Bhagalpur’s Kahalgaon city collapsed on Tuesday, hours before it was to be inaugurated by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. According to reports, the wall of the dam collapsed when water from Ganga River hit it after the pump was switched on for the trial run. The overflowing water inundated areas in NTPC Township and civil areas, including the residence of Kahalgaon civil judge and several other homes of low-lying areas. The dam, which was built at an estimated cost of Rs 389.31 crore, is part of the Gateshwar Panth Canal Project planned to improve land irrigation system in the region. (Related: Less than 10 per cent of dams have emergency action plans in case of floods: CAG)

Panel to study proposal to draw water from Western Ghats rivers to Bengaluru
Deccan Herald
Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) is assessing the feasibility of getting water from Western Ghats rivers to quench the city’s thirst. BWSSB has set up a special committee to assess proposals to get water from Western Ghat rivers — Sharavathi, Yettinahole and Netravathi. The committee is headed by BWSSB engineer Ravindra. The city already gets 1,375 mld from Cauvery. BWSSB distributes water across 575 sqkm of the city at an average of 120 lpcd (litres per day per capita).

India third in nuclear power installations: study
The Hindu
India is third in the world in the number of nuclear reactors being installed, at six, while China is leading at 20, the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2017, released this month, shows. The number of nuclear reactor units under construction is, however, declining globally for the fourth year in a row, from 68 reactors at the end of 2013 to 53 by mid-2017, the report says.

Reliance Industries jumps five places to No. 3 among world’s top energy companies
Scroll
Reliance Industries Ltd has jumped five notches to take the third spot among the world’s biggest energy companies in Platts’ latest rankings. State-owned firm Indian Oil Corporation broke into the top 10 and was ranked seventh in the list – rising from 66th in 2015 and 14th in 2016. The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation was placed 11th this year, gaining nine positions since last year. Coal India Ltd, the world’s largest coal producer, was the only Indian company to have slipped in the ranking this year – to 45 from 38 in 2016.

An alien fish is wreaking havoc in the Krishna river after it was linked to the Godavari
Scroll
The linking of the Godavari and the Krishna rivers in Andhra Pradesh, which was inaugurated last year, seems to have led to an unforseen problem. Fishermen in Guntur district’s Tadepally village on the banks of the Prakasam Barrage, which straddles the Krishna, are complaining that a species of fish, hitherto never seen in the river before, was damaging their nets and scaring away other fish. Consequently, they say their catch, and earnings, have dropped.

Sikar farmer agitation: How the CPI(M) created a ‘red island’ in Rajasthan
Scroll
Starting from September 1, for 13 days, farmers across Rajasthan’s Shekhawati region had protested for better prices, loan waivers and a let up in the strict rules that now govern the trade in farm animals. Across the districts of Sikar, Jhunjhunu and Churu, farmers sat in protest in the main markets, surrounded government offices and blocked roads. On September 14, the Rajasthan government, responding to the scale of the stir, gave in and accepted the demands. The movement led by the CPI(M)’s farmer body, the All India Kisan Sabha, was given little attention by the national media. Yet, its impact over North Rajasthan meant that the state government was forced to yield. (Also read: Left groups launch national-level movement to demand policy changes)

End in sight for India’s notorious human safaris
Survival International
Notorious “human safaris” in India’s Andaman Islands may soon stop, after the authorities announced that a new sea route around the islands will soon open. The new route will keep tourists off the infamous Andaman Trunk Road, which was built illegally through the forests of the isolated Jarawa tribe. The road brings a daily invasion of hundreds of tourists into the heart of the Jarawa reserve, who treat the Jarawa like animals in a safari park.

GST on minor forest products Sal plates and Sabai ropes reduced from 18% to 5%
Down to Earth
Taxation on minor forest products Sal leaf plates and Sabai grass ropes has been reduced under the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime from the initial 18 per cent to 5 per cent. On September 1, the Chief Minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik had written to the Union finance minister Arun Jaitley urging him to reduce the tax rate on Minor Forest Produce (MFPs). Both Sal leaf and sabai grass are MFPs that tribal communities depend on, for their sustenance. In Odisha alone, 1.5 million people earn their livelihood by collecting Sal leaves.

A village island in Kerala is about to vanish
Reji Joseph, Down to Earth
Mundrothuruthu or Munroe is an island village in Kerala’s Kollam district, which is located at the confluence of the Ashtamudi lake and the Kallada river. With a total area of just 13.4 sq km, this island, comprising eight tiny islets, is inhabited by about 13,500 people. Due to the ferocious tidal waves, these islets are fast submerging and are about to vanish from the map. Already, over 430 families have abandoned their homes and fled to the opposite shore.

Study Asserts Climate Change Could Make South Asia Uninhabitable in Our Lifetime
Futurism.com
Elfatih Eltahir, a professor at MIT, recently published new research in the journal Science Advances that shows how, by the end of the century, areas in South Asia could be too hot for humans to survive there. In a Skype interview from Khartoum, Sudan with CBC News, Eltahir said, “The risk of the impacts of climate change in that region could be quite severe.” Eltahir and his colleagues analyzed this projected situation under two conditions: a “business-as-usual” model and a model in which we increase our efforts to mitigate emissions. The team concluded that the “business-as-usual” model was not only most likely, but would yield unlivable conditions by the year 2100.

WORLD

France proposes a new omnibus global pact on environment, but many countries are wary
Scroll
If the turmoil caused by the United States stepping back from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was not enough, France has proposed that all 193 member countries of the United Nations adopt a new, overarching and legally-binding global agreement on environmental issues that it has drafted. French president Emmanuel Macron is going to “launch” the proposed Global Pact for Climate Change at a summit on the sidelines of the ongoing session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. The summit is expected to be attended by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. (Also read: The 30-year-old ozone layer treaty has a new role: Fighting climate change)

Climate change is impacting all aspects of life on Earth: new study
Mongabay
Of the 94 ecological processes reviewed in the study, over 80 percent showed signs of distress in response to less than 1°C rise in global average temperature, the researchers found. These changes not only disrupt interactions between species, but impact people’s health and well-being too, the researchers warn. To combat the negative effects of climate change, the study stresses on recognizing the role of large, intact natural ecosystems, and urges policy makers and politicians to accept the impacts of climate change, and take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions. (Also read: Fake News: No, 30,000 scientists have not said climate change is a hoax)

Energy World Rocked as China Cuts Coal Imports, Aims for Fossil Fuel Car Ban
Robert Scribbler
Recently, China made two major policy moves that have rocked the global energy markets. The first was its recent closing of terminals to coal imports — which may result in a net reduction of imported coal by 10 percent during 2017. Since July, China has closed approximately 150 smaller facilities to coal imports. After imposing tougher restrictions on coal imports, China’s second major policy move involves a recent statement that it will declare a ban date for all fossil fuel based vehicles. During the weekend of September 10th, Xin Guobin, China’s industry and information technology vice minister, announced that China would set a deadline for car makers to stop selling vehicles that run exclusively on diesel and gasoline.

The unprecedented drought that’s crippling Montana and North Dakota
The Guardian
While much of the country’s attention in recent weeks has been on the hurricanes striking southern Texas and the Caribbean, a so-called “flash drought”, an unpredictable, sudden event brought on by sustained high temperatures and little rain, has seized a swathe of the country and left farmers with little remedy. Across Montana’s northern border and east into North Dakota, farms are turning out less wheat than last year, much of it poorer quality than normal.

First-in-the-Nation Lawsuit Seeks Recognition of Rights for the Colorado River
DGR News
Denver, Colorado–In a first-in-the-nation lawsuit filed in federal court, the Colorado River is asking for judicial recognition of itself as a “person,” with rights of its own to exist and flourish. The lawsuit, filed against the Governor of Colorado, seeks a recognition that the State of Colorado can be held liable for violating those rights held by the River. The Plaintiff in the lawsuit is the Colorado River itself, with the organization Deep Green Resistance – an international organization committed to protecting the planet through direct action – filing as a “next friend” on behalf of the River.

A chemical meant to save plants is actually killing them—and it’s spreading
Popular Science
This time of year, the landscapes across states like Nebraska, Missouri, and Arkansas are commanded by verdant fields of billowing corn and low-slung bushes growing soy. The crops’ successes can be attributed to the soils and the rains, of course. But for better or worse, we’ve also got synthetic fertilizers made from natural gas, insecticides designed to stop voracious critters, and weed killers like 3,6-dichloro-2-methoxybenzoic acid (better known as dicamba) to thank for the bounty. But the relationship between plant and chemical has grown volatile. According to research out of the University of Missouri, dicamba is has harmed more than 3 million acres of soybeans in more than 1,400 separate incidents, across 20 states. Are we planting the seeds of our own demise?

Greenpeace report: Big Western brands polluting oceans with cheap plastic in Philippines
Straits Times
Western consumer giants are polluting oceans by selling products packaged in cheap, disposable plastic to Filipinos, Greenpeace has claimed – naming Nestle, Unilever and Procter & Gamble among the worst offenders. The environmental group ranked the Philippines as the “third-worst polluter into the world’s oceans” after China and Indonesia in a report released Friday in Manila. Single-use plastics from products sold by conglomerates, such as bags, bottle labels, and straws, stood out during a week-long Greenpeace clean-up campaign held on Manila Bay this month, it said.

Chevron’s ‘Amazon Chernobyl’ case moves to Canada
Intercontinental Cry
After perpetrating what is probably the worst oil-related catastrophe on Earth — a 20-thousand hectare death zone in Ecuador, known as the “Amazon Chernobyl” — Chevron Corporation has spent two decades and a billion dollars trying to avoid responsibility. In 2011, indigenous and peasant villagers won a $9.5-billion compensation judgment in Ecuador. Chevron, despite accepting jurisdiction in Ecuador to avoid a U.S. jury trial, refused to pay. The company sold its assets in Ecuador to avoid seizure, left the country, and threatened the victims with a “lifetime of litigation” if they pursued compensation. The 30,000 plaintiffs, however, have not given up. The case now moves to Canada, where Chevron holds assets, and where the victims hope, at last, to gain justice.

Over 1500 indigenous communities in danger of losing their land
Intercontinental Cry
Each winter, with the first frost, the shepherds of the Suyay Leufu Lof descend from the mountain range, herding goats towards the fields in the plains. The community has inhabited these lands for many generations; but, they lack title deeds. A group of businessmen claim this land as their own. In May of this year, the Mapuche managed to stop a court-ordered eviction relying on the protection afforded by the Indigenous Territorial Emergency Law, which suspends eviction proceedings and establishes the territorial survey of more than 1,500 communities across Argentina. The period of validity of the Law expires on November 23, 2017. If it is not extended, many of these communities will be left unprotected and many could lose the lands where they have been living since time immemorial.

Adani’s Abbot Point coal spill contaminated wetlands, report finds
The Guardian
A Queensland government report has confirmed coal from Adani’s Abbot Point contaminated nationally significant wetlands during Cyclone Debbie but there appeared to be “no widespread impact”. But Adani will be forced for the first time to monitor indefinitely the environmental health of the Caley Valley wetlands after the coal spill in March, when cyclonic rainfall overwhelmed the port’s storage ponds.

Dolphins recorded having a conversation ‘just like two people’ for first time
The Telegraph
Two dolphins have been recorded having a conversation for the first time after scientists developed an underwater microphone which could distinguish the animals’ different “voices”. Researchers have known for decades that the mammals had an advanced form of communication, using distinctive clicks and whistles to show they are excited, happy, stressed or separated from the group. But scientists have now shown that dolphins alter the volume and frequency of pulsed clicks to form individual “words” which they string together into sentences in much the same way that humans speak.

 

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