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NEWS UPDATE #170


HIGHLIGHTS: *New York will divest $5bn in fossil fuel-linked money, to sue oil majors over global warming *Air pollution caused 1.1 million deaths in India in 2015 *One-fifth of India consumes water with high arsenic content *It’s snowing in Sahara Desert! *World’s Richest Made Another $1 Trillion in 2017 *World’s biggest wildlife reserve planned for Antarctica


INDIA

Air pollution exposure contributed to some 1.1 million deaths in India in 2015
India Air Quality Blog
Health Effects Institute (HEI) has released a report entitled Burden of Disease Attributable to Major Air Pollution Sources in India (Special Report 21) which provides the first comprehensive analysis of the levels of fine particulate matter air pollution (PM2.5) in India by source at the state level and their impact on health. It is the result of the Global Burden of Disease from Major Air Pollution Sources (GDB MAPS) project, an international collaboration of the Indian Institute of Technology (Bombay), HEI, and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (Seattle, WA). The analysis reports that air pollution exposure contributed to some 1.1 million deaths in India in 2015. (Related: About 75 per cent of total deaths due to PM 2.5 take place in rural India: study)

55 of 77 coal plants in Maharashtra flouting pollution norms
Hindustan Times
Coal-fired power plants in the state will continue to be a major source of pollution, as 55 of 77 units in the state have failed to takes steps to curb toxic emissions from sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx), and particulate matter (PM), revealed an analysis by Greenpeace, a non-governmental organisation (NGO). With thermal power plants rated as the biggest source of SO2 emissions in India, only four of the 22 coal-fired power plants in the state – nine units with a capacity of 2,696 megawatts (MW) – have Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) technology and CFBC Boiler. The FGD technology removes sulphur dioxide from flue gas that is released into the atmosphere after fossil fuel combustion (Related: Win-win: India can save 54,000 crore in power costs and reduce air pollution by replacing expensive coal plants with renewables)

Sikkim allows people to forge fraternal ties with trees
The Hindu
Recently the Government of Sikkim came up with a unique way of preserving trees by encouraging people to forge a relationship of brotherhood or sisterhood with trees through a practice locally known as Mith/Mit or Mitini. A recent notification by the Forests, Environment & Wildlife Management Department, Government of Sikkim titled Sikkim Forest Tree (Amity & Reverence) Rules 2017 states that the “State government shall allow any person to associate with trees standing on his or her private land or on any public land by entering into a Mith/Mit or Mitini relationship.”

Rural indicators point to worsening farm distress
Live Mint
New data released by the government on rural wages, crop prices and sowing of winter crops reveals that rural distress is worsening. Planting of wheat, the main winter crop, between October and early January was 5% lower than a year ago due to lower sowing in Madhya Pradesh by close to a million hectares; area under oilseeds was lower by over 5%. Rajasthan accounted for most of the decline in oilseed cultivation because of 0.7 million hectares lower sowing of mustard. Similarly, data on nominal rural wages, a bellwether for rural demand, is showing sluggish growth. According to the labour bureau, in October 2017, nominal rural wages for ploughing (men) rose 6.6% year-on-year. (Related: 1) Drought triggers large-scale migration in Bundelkhand 2)Stubble burning banned, farmers stumped)

One-fifth of India’s population consumes water with high arsenic content
Moneycontrol
As many as 239 million people in 153 districts of 21 states in India are consuming water containing dangerous levels of arsenic, the government’s reply to a question in the Lok Sabha shows. Information provided by the ministry in the Lok Sabha reveals that 65% of Assam’s population, about 21 million people, is drinking arsenic-contaminated water, the highest in any state, according to an analysis by the Times of India. The number stands at 60% in Bihar and 44% in West Bengal. Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of people in absolute terms, over 70 million, exposed to arsenic-contaminated water.

Govt looks for creating a separate fund for inter-linking of rivers
The Times of India
Expecting to begin construction works of three of its 30 proposed inter-linking of rivers (ILR) projects this year, the Centre is exploring options of creating separate fund for this mega mission which was conceived by the then NDA government under Atal BihariVajpayee in 2003. The water resources ministry has set up an exclusive group for this purpose under existing task force on ILR. The group has already met thrice and deliberated on possibility of creating a separate fund for implementing inter-linking of river projects across the country. (Related: National waterway project fails to take into account the green costs)

Govt to begin infra projects in eco-sensitive zones of Uttarakhand
Hindustan Times
The government will soon start developmental projects in the 100 km long Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone (BESZ) in the upper reaches of Uttarakhand after getting approval from the concerned departments, road transport minister Nitin Gadkari said on Tuesday, a move, activists say, can harm the most pristine section of the national river. The UPA government in 2012 had notified the stretch as no development or ESZ and asked the state government to constitute a monitoring committee to ensue that certain activities allowed in the notification can be conducted without disturbing the local environment.

Cannot evict tribals from tiger reserves without their consent: NCST
Down to Earth
In its latest meeting held on January 2, the National Commission for Schedule Tribes (NCST) has recommended that “no tribal shall be vacated from the forest area until an alternate land is provided to them.” It was also noted that tribals cannot be evicted from Tiger Reserves without their consent. The meeting, chaired by the NCST Chairperson, Nand Kumar Sai, was held to further discuss the issues of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) order rejecting forest rights under Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) in Tiger Reserves.

Wetlands along Maharashtra’s Konkan coast to be declared as eco-tourism destinations soon
Hindustan Times
For better protection of Maharashtra’s wetlands, the state government has begun the process to declare at least one wetland in each district along the Konkan coastline as eco-tourism destinations. Konkan commissioner Jagdish Patil directed collectors from Mumbai Suburban Palghar, Thane and Raigad to survey and select one wetland site each earlier this month. The collectors need to submit the location during the next meeting of the wetland grievance redressal committee (constituted by the Bombay high court (HC) in August 2016) later this month. After preliminary discussions, proposals for each location will be submitted and identified as eco-tourism zones.

Govt proposes allowing all sectors to hire workers on fixed-term contracts
Business Standard
The Union government has issued a draft notification to allow all businesses to offer fixed-term contracts to workers. This will enable industries to hire workers for short-term assignments and terminate their services once the projects are completed. Business Standard had reported on December 27, 2017, that the Ministry of Labour and Employment is contemplating bringing back a proposal to allow flexibility in hiring workers after receiving demands from various quarters of the industry.

Adani Power Plant In Godda Is A Violation Of Paris Climate Agreement—Babulal Marandi
E News Room
In an exclusive interview with eNewsroom, the first chief minister of Jharkhand, Babulal Marandi talked on issues ranging from Adani’s 1600 MW power plant to present Chief Minister Raghubar Das’ involvement in alleged corruption and JVM (P)’s alliance prospect with Jharkhand Mukhti Morcha (JMM)

Goa pollution board summons JSW firm for excess coal handling
Coal News
goa-pollution-board-summons-jsw-firm-for-excess-coal-handling_90628.jpg Image Source: wordpress.com Economic Times reported that The Goa State Pollution Control Board has directed representatives of the South West Port Limited a unit of the JSW Group, to be present before it next week for a hearing in the issue of excess coal handling and consequent air pollution in Vasco. This is the first time the GSPCB has called for a personal hearing. GSPCB member secretary Levinson Martins stated in the notice that “Failure to remain present before the board on the (stated) date and time will compel the board to proceed further in the matter of the said showcause notice without any further notice to you.”

Illegal mining taking place even on govt land: Punjab Minister
The Tribune
Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayats, said today that illegal mining was taking place even on government land. In a press conference called to share achievements of his ministry, he said the mining mafia had not even spared land belonging to the Rural Development and Panchayats Department in Punjab. He said illegal sand mining was taking place on around 3,000 acres located on the banks of two rivers Sutlej and Ravi. He said due to illegal mining, the Department of Rural Development and Panchayats, which was the owner of the land on which illegal mining was taking places, was losing around Rs 100 crore every year. (Related: Two months on, probe yet to start in the case of officer assaulted by mining mafia)

Gujarat seeks more water from dam as Narmada dries up
The Times of India
Amid severe water crisis that could badly hit industrial production in Dahej and affect Narmada river’s ecology, the state government has requested the Centre to increase the discharge in the downstream of Sardar Sarovar dam from the present 600 cusecs to 1,500 cusecs. The Narmada river passing by Bharuch has dried up as little water is being released from the dam, a phenomenon that is being witnessed for the last two years. (Related: Water supply to Dahej, Vilayat industries stopped)

Delhi: Pollution Increases in Yamuna; Water Supply to Remain Affected For Next Few Days
India.com
Water supply in maximum of the Delhi will remain disrupted for next few days due to increased pollution in Yamuna, Delhi Jal Board (DJB) said on Friday. “Due to pollution in Yamuna, water pumping from Wazirabad, Chandrawal, Okhla plants etc. likely to be affected for next few days in North Delhi, Central Delhi, parts of West Delhi, parts of South Delhi, Delhi Cantt and NDMC areas,” DJB was quoted as saying by ANI. Earlier, residents of Delhi in north and central Delhi and NDMC and Delhi Cantt areas faced a similar problem on first two days of the New Year.

How the safety of India’s processed food was compromised by orders from the Prime Minister’s Office
Scroll.in
In this two-part series, Scroll.in details how India’s food safety regime has failed to keep pace with the industry’s enormous expansion. The first part of the series details recent Comptroller and Auditor General’s findings on how between 2012-’16 the authorities allowed the sale of food proven to be dangerous. This second part looks at how, starting 2016, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government has subverted food safety norms under the guise of improving ease of doing business. (Related: For years, India’s food safety regulator has twisted rules to allow sale of unsafe processed food)

Humane Society International-India welcomes govt’s acceptance of non-animal tests for pesticide safety
Down to Earth
In a move that could spare many animals from pain and death in crude 1940s-era experiments, the Registration Committee of the Central Insecticide Board under India’s Ministry of Agriculture has revised its pesticide testing regulations to recognize modern, human cell-based alternatives to rabbit tests for the assessment of eye and skin irritation. This decision comes after more than two years of campaigning by Humane Society International/India and negotiations between HSI/India, members of the pesticide industry and PETA India.


SOUTH ASIA

Central Chinese city on the bank of the Yangtze to close or relocate chemical enterprises
China Daily
Yichang, a central Chinese city on the bank of the Yangtze River, will close or relocate all its chemical enterprises within 1 kilometer of the river and its key tributaries by the end of next year. Vice-Mayor Yuan Weidong also promised to remove those in areas that may damage drinking water resources by the end of 2019 and relocate hazardous-chemical plants located in highly populated areas by the end of this year. He said that 25 of the city’s 134 chemical plants had been shut down by the end of 2017, in answer to the nation’s call for green manufacturing and protecting the 6,300-km-long Yangtze, China’s longest river.

Fears of Environmental Disaster After Oil Tanker Collision off Chinese coast
EcoWatch
The oil tanker that set fire after colliding with a freight ship off the east coast of China may explode and sink, possibly putting the environment and human health at risk, experts warned. The Iranian tanker was carrying 150,000 tons, or nearly 1 million barrels, of condensate crude oil when it collided with the CF Crystal on Saturday. Condensate is an ultra-light hydrocarbon that is highly toxic and much more explosive than regular crude oil. The size of the oil spill from the ship and the extent of the environmental harm are currently unknown but the disaster has the potential to be the worst since the ABT Summer spill off the Angolan coast in 1991, Reuters noted.

Twist in Teesta Tale: Mamata links Bangladesh polluting Mathabanga, Churni rivers with water sharing issue
India Today
The ‘tampering’ of the river courses of the Ganga-Padma system by Bangladesh is becoming a big stumbling block to the long-pending resolution of the sharing of Teesta river waters with India. Although Mamata Banerjee had raised the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi back in May 2017, it’s taken centre stage now with the chief minister insisting a clean-up (by Bangladesh) of the Mathabanga river be made mandatory for resumption of Teesta talks. A distributary of the Padma, the Mathabanga enters India (Bengal) at Gede in Nadia district and after flowing for 19 km splits into the Churni and Ichhamati. The Churni flows for another 53 km before draining into the Bhagirathi Hooghly.

Indus River Canyon declared second Marine Protected Area of Pakistan
The News
The country’s second Marine Protected Area (MPA) has come into being after the Ministry of Climate Change declared the Indus River Canyon, Pakistan’s exclusive economic zone in the Arabian Sea, as one through a notification. The Indus River Canyon MPA comprising 27,607 square kilometres is the second such area in Pakistan after Astola Island, which was notified on June 15, 2017 by the Balochistan government. (Also read: 1) Anti-Pakistan protests in POK over exploitation of water resources 2) Pakistan launches drive against crops grown with wastewater)

Sri Lankan Scientist Slams Biotech Industry over Deadly Kidney Disease Epidemic – Exclusive Interview
Sustainable Pulse
Dr Jayasumana recently released a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health that proposes a link between the world’s number one selling herbicide known as Roundup (aka Glyphosate) and a series of mysterious epidemics of fatal chronic kidney disease of unknown origin (CKDu) affecting several poor farming regions around the world. In Sri Lanka alone CKDu now afflicts 15% of people of working age in the Northern part of the country; a total of 400,000 patients with an estimated death toll of around 20,000. (Related: Shocking Study Shows Glyphosate Herbicides Contain Toxic Levels of Arsenic)


WORLD

‘A really big deal’: New York City’s fossil fuel divestment could spur global shift
The Guardian
New York City’s decision to sever ties with its fossil fuel investments is set to prove a catalyst to other cities in the face of the Trump administration’s staunch support for coal, oil and gas interests, according to several leading economists. On Wednesday, city officials announced that New York was to divest its pension funds of about $5bn in fossil fuel-linked money over the next five years. New York’s total pension fund for its teachers, firefighters and other city workers is worth about $189bn. Bill de Blasio, New York’s mayor, also revealed the city is suing the world’s largest oil and gas companies over their role in knowingly creating dangerous global warming in a two-pronged assault that he said is aimed at “standing up for future generations”.

California Mudslides Kill 17 in Areas Wrecked by Wildfires
EcoWatch
The California mudslides death toll has risen to 17. Southern California, which just endured the largest wildfire in state history, is being bombarded by flooding and destructive mudslides triggered by torrential downpours. The “waist-high” mud destroyed homes, uprooted trees and washed away dozens of cars in Santa Barbara County, CNN reported. Thousands of Californians who were already forced to flee their homes due to last month’s horrific wildfires were also ordered to evacuate over threat of mudslides. (Related: $306 billion—total cost of climate disasters in US in 2017)

Sahara Desert, the hottest in the world, received 16 inches snow last weekend
Down to Earth
For the third time in the last 40 years, and second time in less than two years, the Sahara Desert has its encounter with snow. While the small Algerian town of Ain Sefra received a fleeting shower in December 2016 that created chaos across the area, the snowfall this North African town received this year (on January 7) is much deeper. While the town itself saw an inch or two, the sand dunes on its outskirts were blanketed by more than 16 inches (40cm) snow. Prior to that, snow had not been in this region since February 18, 1979. This happened in that part of the Sahara Desert where summertime temperatures peak 37°C (99°F) and wintertime temperatures get down into the single digit. So, what explains the weather anomaly in the world’s largest hot desert, which is also one of the driest places on earth? (Also read: Australia hit by ‘catastrophic weather’ so hot the roads are melting)

Not just oceans, freshwater bodies are turning acidic as well
Down to Earth
The oceans absorb a substantial amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Along with rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, the world’s oceans have grown more acidic, causing problems for marine life. This much is well known. So far, the problem had only been established in oceans and had not been explored well in freshwater. But now, new research suggests that a similar kind of acidification might be underway in freshwater too. Researchers from the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany found that some freshwater ecosystems that they studied had become more acidic as atmospheric CO2 levels rose. In addition, they also found through tests in the lab that at least one species critical for freshwater ecosystems is detrimentally affected by the increased acidity in ways similar to some marine life.

The World Richest People Made Another $1 Trillion in 2017
Fortune
The richest people on earth became $1 trillion richer in 2017, more than four times last year’s gain, as stock markets shrugged off economic, social and political divisions to reach record highs. The 23% increase on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index (BLOOMBERG, +0.00%), a daily ranking of the world’s 500 richest people, compares with an almost 20% increase for both the MSCI World Index and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. Amazon.com (AMZN, +2.25%) founder Jeff Bezos added the most in 2017, a $34,2 billion gain that knocked Microsoft (MSFT, +1.61%) co-founder Bill Gates out of his spot as the world’s richest person in October.

World’s biggest wildlife reserve planned for Antarctica in global campaign
The Guardian
A global campaign is being launched to turn a huge tract of the seas around the Antarctic into the world’s biggest sanctuary, protecting wildlife and helping the fight against climate change. The huge 1.8m sq km reserve – five times the size of Germany – would ban all fishing in a vast area of the Weddell Sea and around the Antarctic Peninsula, safeguarding species including penguins, killer whales, leopard seals and blue whales. The idea was originally put forward by the EU and is being backed by a new Greenpeace campaign.

For the first time, a major coastal city may run out of water – and ‘day zero’ is looming
Business Insider
South Africa’s Cape Town has been grappling with the worst drought it’s seen in over 100 years, fueled by months of dry weather. The city’s taps are on track to dry up before May 2018. Even travelers to the city, which is home to nearly 4 million people, are being asked to conserve. In October 2017, Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille asked her fellow Capetonians to limit their water use to no more than 87 liters per day. In February 2017, the city released a list of its top 100 water consumers, the Huffington Post reported , hoping to shame people into using less.

German court to hear Peruvian farmer’s climate case against RWE
The Guardian
A German court has ruled that it will hear a Peruvian farmer’s case against energy giant RWE over climate change damage in the Andes, a decision labelled by campaigners as a “historic breakthrough”. Farmer Saul Luciano Lliuya’s case against RWE was “well-founded,” the court in the north-western city of Hamm said on Thursday. Lliuya argues that RWE, as one of the world’s top emitters of climate-altering carbon dioxide, must share in the cost of protecting his hometown Huaraz from a swollen glacier lake at risk of overflowing from melting snow and ice. Decision to hear Saul Luciano Lliuya’s case against the energy giant is a ‘historic breakthrough with global relevance’, campaigners say.

Red Hot Radioactive Wild Boars, Loaded With Chernobyl Fallout, Now Turning up in Sweden
Enviro News
Wild boars (Sus scrofa) loaded with dangerous quantities of cesium 137 have been turning up in tests conducted in central Sweden. Some specimens have been found carrying levels as high as 16,000 becquerels of radioactivity per kilogram of meat — an amount ten times higher than the set safety threshold in that country. Following a massive explosion and ensuing fire on April 26, 1986, a cloud of radioactive isotopes was spewed high into the atmosphere above the Chernobyl nuclear facility in Ukraine. The plume was carried on wind currents and blanketed large areas in Europe. Subsequently, areas spanning Belarus, Austria, Russia, Germany, UK, Czech Republic, Sweden, and Finland were heavily contaminated when the isotopes fell to Earth. Belarus and Austria were hardest hit, but Sweden certainly wasn’t unscathed.

Green sea turtles are turning all-female due to climate change
Quartz.com
The same rising temperatures that are devastating Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are doing something very dramatic to the green sea turtles that are born alongside it: They’re turning them all into females. When a turtle lays an egg, the sex of its hatchling is not yet determined. The sex of most turtles—along with alligators and crocodiles—is determined by the temperature of the sand their egg incubates in. A very narrow and specific temperature range produces a clutch where 50% of the babies are born male and 50% female. A shift by just a few degrees cooler can produce a 100% male clutch. A few degrees hotter can turn the whole clutch female. (Related: Reefs are losing recovery time between bleaching events, experts say)

An Oregon court just dealt local climate action a huge win
Think Progress
The Oregon Court of Appeals dealt one of the most progressive climate policies in the country a major victory on Thursday when it ruled that Portland’s fossil fuel infrastructure ban does not violate the U.S. Constitution. The ban, which was finalized in December of 2016, changed the city’s zoning code to create a new class of regulated land use for bulk fossil fuel terminals, which was defined as anything with a storage capacity in excess of 2 million gallons. Supporters of the fossil fuel ban hope that Thursday’s ruling will send a positive signal to communities that might have been hesitant to enact their own policies for fear of a constitutional challenge from industry.

9th Grade Students Gain the Attention of Scientists After Their Experiment Reveals a Dark Truth About WiFi
Awareness Act
Curious about the shared experience, the group of girls designed an experiment to investigate the impact of wi-fi radiation on living cells. The experiment was enough to open the students’ eyes about their cellphone use and whether or not it is safe to bring their phones to bed at night. “It is truly frightening that there is so much affect, so we were very shocked by the result,” Nielsen stated. “None of us sleep with the mobile next to the bed anymore. Either the phone is put far away, or it is put in another room. And the computer is always off.”

Belize votes to indefinitely end all oil exploration in its waters
Inhabitat
The small Central American nation of Belize has decided to indefinitely end all new oil exploration in its waters. Belize only produces 3,000 barrels of oil a day, in contrast to the 1.5 million barrels that the United States produces each day in the Gulf of Mexico. However, this small but significant action sends a message to other developing countries trying to balance economic development with conservation. Like many developing economies, Belize’s depends on the export of its natural resources. Despite the economic importance of oil exports, the government decided that the preservation of its coral reefs and pristine waters were more important in the long run than petrodollars today. (Also read: Vanuatu bans non-biodegradable plastic to protect ocean life)

 

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