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NEWS UPDATE #159


A new report by the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency shows that global greenhouse gas emissions remained largely static in 2016, registering a mere 0.5 per cent increase, but India registered significant rise (4.7 per cent). This comes as a wake-up call for India— the only major emitter to register a significant increase in GHG emissions.

INDIA

9 farmers die in Yavatmal after spraying insecticide on crops
The Hindu
Nine farmers have died after spraying ‘Profex Super’ insecticide on their Bt cotton plantations in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra. The Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban Mission, Maharashtra government’s task force to deal with farm distress, has asked the Central government to intervene in the matter. Kishor Tiwari , VNSSM chief, said, “Nine innocent farmers fell ill and died in hospital after spraying toxic insecticides on their cotton produce to save it from pest attacks. Four other farmers have lost their vision and 70 farmers are undergoing treatment at the government medical college in Yavatmal after spraying the same toxic insecticide.”

How Adani Siphoned Off Rs 14938472484 From India To Tax Havens
GGI News
Details of the alleged 15bn rupee (US5m) 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. (Related: Australian journalists investigating Adani questioned by police)

Global carbon emission remained static in 2016, but India registered significant rise
Shreeshan Venkatesh, Down to Earth
Data published by the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency showed that global CO2 emissions in the year 2016 remained largely static—neither increasing, nor decreasing. Compared to –0.2 per cent growth achieved in the year before, 2016 saw a 0.3 per cent change in CO2 emissions. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a whole, rose by 0.5 per cent, reaching an equivalent of 49.3 gigatonnes of CO2. This comes as a wake-up call for India—the only major emitter to register a significant increase in GHG emissions.

India allows 16 new thermal power plants that violate stricter air pollution standards to come up
Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava, Scroll
Sixteen new thermal power plants that started operations in India between January and June violate the mandatory new air pollution regulations that the environment ministry put in place two years ago. None of them abide by the regulations under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, which require them to cap the emission of pollutants – hazardous oxides of nitrogen and sulphur – below strict prescribed limits. The new rules, notified in December 2015, imposed limits on emissions of poisonous oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, and mercury for the first time. They also tightened the norms for water consumption while putting a tighter cap on permissible levels of emission of particulate matters – tiny particles in the atmosphere that can easily enter one’s lungs. (Also read: Telangana surpasses Gujarat to become top producer of solar energy in the country)

Environment ministry notifies new wetland rules
Live Mint
In a major decision, the union environment ministry notified the new Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017 on Tuesday which prohibit a range of activities in wetlands like setting up and expansion of industries, waste dumping and discharge of effluents. Environmental experts, however, are unhappy as they felt the new wetland rules seriously weakens the existing regulations. The new rules will replace the 2010 version of the rules. (Related: 10 Lakh Chennai Residents At Risk Of Flooding As Govt Allows Ennore Wetlands To Be Converted To Industrial Real Estate)

Niti Aayog Stirs Opposition With Arunachal Mega Dam Proposal
The Wire
The Niti Aayog has proposed a mega dam, on the Siang river of Arunachal Pradesh, which will have the capacity to generate power worth 10,000 megawatts. The proposed dam, as per a press note released by the state chief minister’s office, is estimated to be 300 metre high. However, a day after the news reached the northeastern state, which is known for its strong historical public movements against dams, civil society organisations, particularly from the Upper Siang district, voiced their severe opposition to the proposal.

US exports of tar sands waste are fuelling Delhi’s air pollution crisis
Climate Home
Eight Delhiites die each day from the city’s bad air. In response, the regional government has made efforts to tackle pollution from coal plants and tailpipe exhaust. But any benefits these policies might produce are threatened by skyrocketing imports of a fuel more polluting than coal or diesel. Petroleum coke – known as petcoke – is a high-carbon residue produced during the refinement of heavy oils. In its raw form, the high-carbon fuel can be used as a cheap substitute for coal. Delhi’s environmental authorities say petcoke, cut into coal power station feeds around the capital, is now one of the major sources of smog in the city.

Grey Market: When nearly a million Indian farmers plant ‘unapproved’ GM cotton
Harish Damodaran, The Indian Express
If market and industry estimates are true, Indian farmers have, in the current kharif season, bought and planted about 35 lakh packets of genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds incorporating unapproved “herbicide tolerance” or HT technology. The fact that Indian farmers are now growing HT cotton, albeit illegally, has been officially proved by tests reports from at least two government research institutions.

Government plans to sell stake in ONGC oilfields to private firms
The Indian Express
Nearly 25 years after ONGC’s prime discovered oilfields were privatised, the government is planning to allow private firms to take majority stake in the state-owned firm’s producing oil and gas fields such as Mumbai High. The Oil Ministry plans to approach the Cabinet soon for allowing private firms to take participating interest (PI) in a nomination block, sources privy to the development said. The policy currently allows giving out of PI or a stake to a private company only in the blocks or areas awarded in open auctions under New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) since 1999. However only exploration acreage was auctioned under global bidding in such rounds. All areas prior to that were given to Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and Oil India Ltd (OIL) on a nomination basis.

Two-thirds of India’s terrestrial ecosystems vulnerable to drought, says study
Live Mint
Nearly two-third of the India’s terrestrial ecosystems is not resilient to drought, a new study has revealed. It also says that inability of ecosystems to tolerate water-limited conditions may pose a serious challenge in terms of carbon sequestration, crop production, and food security. The study by Ashutosh Sharma and Manish Kumar Goyal of the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati was published in international journal Wiley: Global Change Biology earlier this month. It facilitates understanding of how ecosystems in different regions of India respond to hydroclimatic disturbances like droughts. (Related: Only six out of 22 river basins in India have potential to cope with climate change threats: study)

Three-fold increase in extreme rain events over central India says, study
Down to Earth
The Indian summer monsoon has changed. Successively unpredictable and volatile monsoons have ratcheted up the spectre of a “new normal” in monsoons- an alternating assault of extreme rain and absolutely none. However, evidence for this change that is underway and its pathways is still being put together. Research published today in Nature Communications goes some way in explaining the newfound extreme nature of our monsoons. The study finds that widespread extreme rain events over central India have increased three-fold in the 66-year period between 1950 and 2015. The study notes a 10-30 per cent increase in rainfall events over the region where more than 150 mm of rain is registered in a day has been occurring despite a general weakening of monsoon circulation.

In State-Level Changes to Land Laws, a Return to Land Grabbing in Development’s Name
The Wire
One of independent India’s landmark legal reforms has failed. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, (LARR) 2013, which replaced the colonial legislation of 1894, was one of the biggest reforms in the arena of land governance. But following the failure of the BJP government’s efforts to amend it through its land ordinances issued after 2014, six states have used constitutional provisions to make new laws. Other states have developed rules under the Act to dilute the rights of landowners and land dependent people in the face of land acquisition. The major reason to undo this law is that it comes in the way of providing land cheaply and quickly to investors. The LARR will go down in history as the law that was brought in by social movements and dismantled by the country’s democratically elected leaders in favour of investors.

India’s Troubling and Official Growth Numbers Are Only the Tip of the Iceberg
Arun Kumar, The Wire
The problem is bigger than what official data indicates. A 5.7% growth rate is not bad compared to what other major economies of the world are experiencing. It is also healthy compared to India’s own 70-year record. So, what is the problem? The 5.7% figure is an estimate of the quarterly rate of economic growth, which is largely based on the data provided by the corporate sector and some other organised sectors of the economy. Data from the unorganised sectors of the economy is not included. The non-agriculture component of this sector contributes to 31% of the GDP. It is this sector that has been hit hard by demonetisation and GST. If almost one-third of the economy is hit hard, the growth rate ought to be far lower than 5.7%. (Related: Layoffs in top listed companies point to gathering growth cloud)

A Successful Protest Against a Chhattisgarh Mine Highlights the Failure of India’s Coal Auctions
The Wire
It had been 16 days since activist Kanhai Patel had last seen a morsel of food. Hundreds of Adivasi villagers in Kosampali, Chhattisgarh sat in rapt attention in their protest tent, watching every move of the Coal India officials attempting to negotiate a truce with tetra packs of juice in hand, so that the coal mine behind them could begin to operate again, after nearly two weeks of being shut. This unusual protest, unfolding in the heart of the Mand Raigarh coalfields that hold 3.675 billion tonnes of coal, is a template for all that has and could go wrong with India’s coal regime.

Indian co all set to buy 50,000 tonnes of “cancerous” asbestos from Zimbabwe thanks to Modi govt “indifference”
Counterview
An anti-asbestos campaign organization has expressed the fear that an Indian company is all to import 50,000 tonnes of the hazardous commodity which allegedly causes cancer. Quoting ‘The Mirror’, a well-known daily newspaper of Zimbabwe, it says that this follows after the Government of Zimbabwe “muscling its efforts to reopen the Shabani Mashaba Mines (SMM)”. A principal supplier of asbestos, the state-run company was shut down amid financial scandals back in 2004, but is likely to “reopen at full capacity employing up to 5,000 workers”, says the Occupational and Environmental Health Network India (OEHNI), underlining, this has happened “because the Indian company has shown keen interest in importing 50,000 tonnes of SMM’s asbestos annually.”

How palm oil from Malaysia fired the Patel agitation in Gujarat
Scroll
Palm oil constitutes the largest chunk of imported edible oils. It is cheaper than other edible oils because of higher per acre yields. With 7.5% import duty, said Thumar, a litre of palm oil costs half the price of groundnut oil. That explains why the market has swung towards palm oil and why Dhirubhai gets a low price for his groundnut crop. In some ways, this is the story of all oilseeds in India. “When 60-70% of the edible oil is imported and just 30-40% is domestically produced, then the imported oil will set the price,” said a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, on the condition of anonymity.

Rally for Rivers Becomes Vasundhara for Vasudev as Government Compels Presence of Students
Shruti Jain, The Wire
“We had orders from the district officer that 100 of our students from class 9 to 12 along with two teachers have to compulsorily attend the ‘Rally for Rivers’ event on September 28. Buses were provided by the government itself to bring us to the venue,” Gopal Lal Baberwal, lecturer at government secondary school in Hirapura told The Wire. Written orders were sent to 24 other government and private schools in the city and the effect was visible at the rally’s venue, the Jaipur Exhibition and Convention Centre in Sitapura, where 3,000 students were made to assemble. The students were not aware of Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s campaign but were told by their teachers that they would get to participate at the event in front of the godman and chief minister Vasundhara Raje.

Civil society criticises Centre’s Global Wildlife Programme, doubts minister’s claims
Down to Earth
Civil society organisations have come out in sharp criticism of a publicised initiative by the Centre, the “Global Wildlife Programme (GWP)” launched on October 2. The GWP is being hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in partnership with the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme to address and curb illegal wildlife trade across 19 countries. Ten civil society organisations working for tribal rights, alleged that claims of community involvement were “made mainly to impress a global audience” and were “far removed from the ground reality of official conservation in India.”

WORLD

Alarm as study reveals world’s tropical forests are huge carbon emission source
The Guardian
The world’s tropical forests are so degraded they have become a source rather than a sink of carbon emissions, according to a new study that highlights the urgent need to protect and restore the Amazon and similar regions. Researchers found that forest areas in South America, Africa and Asia – which have until recently played a key role in absorbing greenhouse gases – are now releasing 425 teragrams of carbon annually, which is more than all the traffic in the United States. This is a far greater loss than previously thought and carries extra force because the data emerges from the most detailed examination of the topic ever undertaken. (Related: Methane emissions from cattle are 11% higher than estimated)

Wind and solar produce three times more energy than IEA admits
Erik Sauar, RenewEconomy
Wind and solar energy have for decades experienced exponential growth and employ millions of people, but according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) statistics they still only constitute about 2% of the world energy supply. How can this be? The answer is well hidden in an error made in a 12-year-old Statistical Manual by the IEA and OECD. As wind and solar continue their growth, this will soon need to be changed. After correction, it will become apparent that wind and solar energy already contribute about three times more to the world’s energy supply than normally reported, and that the shift to renewable energy sources comes much sooner than many decision makers are aware of. (Related: ‘Dodgy’ greenhouse gas data threatens Paris accord)

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.

Momentum building up for a global coal alliance, says WCA CEO Benjamin Sporton
Live Mint
Chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian’s call for a worldwide coal alliance promoting sustainable use of the cheapest source of power over renewable energy which comes with hidden costs is gaining global support. World Coal Association (WCA), a global network of producers and other stake holders, has started talks with governments across the world to take the proposal forward, said Benjamin Sporton, chief executive of WCA. The move comes at a time when the fossil fuel is regaining its status among multilateral lenders as a sector worthy of financing, thanks to US President Donald Trump’s initiative to promote access to affordable sources of energy. (Related: As climate crisis escalates, first Reinsurer stops underwriting certain coal projects)

Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals
The Guardian
Microplastic contamination has been found in tap water in countries around the world, leading to calls from scientists for urgent research on the implications for health. Scores of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations were analysed by scientists for an investigation by Orb Media, who shared the findings with the Guardian. Overall, 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibres. The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates.

GM soy produces less than non-GMO – university study
GM Watch
Monsanto’s Intacta RR2 PRO soybeans are outperformed by non-GM soybeans in the major soy-producing regions of Brazil, according to new scientific study reported in Valor Econômico. Intacta soybeans contain genes for tolerance to glyphosate herbicide and a Bt insecticidal toxin. According to the study, which was carried out by the Center for Advanced Studies in Applied Economics (Cepea) of ESALQ at the University of São Paulo, Intacta soybeans showed an average yield close to that of Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans, the first generation of Monsanto GM seeds. However, both GM crops were outperformed by conventional (non-GM) soybeans, which yielded better and were more profitable for farmers. (Related: Monsanto banned from European parliament)

Catholic church to make record divestment from fossil fuels
The Guardian
More than 40 Catholic institutions are to announce the largest ever faith-based divestment from fossil fuels, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi. The sum involved has not been disclosed but the volume of divesting groups is four times higher than a previous church record, and adds to a global divestment movement, led by investors worth $5.5tn. Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who helped negotiate the Paris climate agreement, hailed Tuesday’s move as “a further sign we are on the way to achieving our collective mission”. (Related: French government to invest 20 billion euros in energy transition)

How six proposed dams on Amazon River could threaten regional food security
Down to Earth
Amazon River basin is not only the largest and the most complex network of river channels in the world, but also one of the last major river systems that are largely unregulated. In order to meet increased demand for electric energy and choose renewable energy over fossil fuels, as many as 277 new hydroelectric dams, including 151 dams with capacities larger than 2 megawatts (MW), have been planned in the western Amazon in the next two decades. How would these dams affect the ecosystem, including floodplains and rainforests? (Related: Controversial hydropower project that led to murder of land defender Berta Cáceres halted as funders forced to pull out)

Gold Miners “Massacre” Uncontacted Amazon Indians
DGR News Service
Public prosecutors in Brazil have opened an investigation after reports that illegal gold miners in a remote Amazon river have massacred “more than ten” members of an uncontacted tribe. If confirmed, this means up to a fifth of the entire tribe have been wiped out. Two miners have been arrested. The killings allegedly took place last month along the River Jandiatuba in western Brazil, but the news only emerged after the miners started boasting about the killings, and showing off “trophies” in the nearest town. Agents from Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, FUNAI, confirmed details of the attack to Survival International. Women and children are believed to be among the dead. FUNAI and the public prosecutor’s office are currently investigating. (Also read: Brazil Backs Off Controversial Plan to Open Amazon Forest to Mining)

Conviction of Dutch timber trader for complicity in war crimes should make industry sit up and think
Global Witness
Dutch timber baron and arms dealer Guus Kouwenhoven was recently sentenced to 19 years imprisonment for illegal arms trading and complicity in war crimes in Liberia and Guinea. This is a rare example of a foreign crook, masquerading as a businessman as they too often do, actually being held accountable for the damage they have wreaked on the African continent. His real notoriety began when, at the behest of his political patron, then president and now war criminal Charles Taylor, he acquired vast forest concessions and set up two logging companies. One of these was Liberia’s largest, the Oriental Timber Company (OTC), which Taylor called his ‘pepperbush’ because it was especially precious to him. And so began Kouwenhoven’s illegal plunder of Liberia’s forests.

Former Australian PM says defence powers should be used to force states to approve mining projects
News.com.au
Tony Abbott has been ordered by senior colleagues to cool it after he seemed to suggest the Army could invade the states which don’t expand natural gas production. The former Prime Minister has said his successor Malcolm Turnbull could invoke “defence powers”, telling Fairfax Media the Commonwealth could then take management of resources from states. His drastic response to warnings of a possible gas shortage next year was an implied criticism of Mr Turnbull’s deal with three major gas suppliers yesterday to ensure potential exports would be used to protect the domestic market from gas scarcities. (Related: Australian states to be penalised for outlawing fracking under Grants Commission plan)

 

 

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