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NEWS UPDATE #173


HIGHLIGHTS: *All mining leases cancelled in Goa *Mumbai air quality worse than Delhi’s *SBI wrote off bad loans worth Rs 200 billion in FY17 *Scientists discover 1.6 million tonnes of Mercury found in Arctic *Ozone-layer not recovering over populated areas * German cities to trial free public transport *US to become world’s largest oil producer

INDIA

All Mining Leases Cancelled In Goa, Can’t Operate After March 15: Top Court
NDTV
All iron ore mining leases in Goa have been cancelled by the Supreme Court. A petition had challenged fresh renewal of 89 iron ore mining leases and called for auction. Defending the renewal, the Goa government said the leases were extended till 2020 under law.

3 out of 4 workers in India fall in vulnerable employment category: ILO
Business Today
Apparently it is not just jobless growth that we should be worrying about. Rather, according to a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), a far greater concern is the fact that vulnerable employment is on the rise. According to the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2018 report, while the global unemployment rate is expected to stabilize at around 5.5% over the next couple of years, the significant progress achieved in the past in reducing vulnerable employment has essentially stalled since 2012.

No new coal mines need to be allocated or auctioned beyond current pipeline: Coal Vision Document 2030
The Economic Times
The Coal Vision Document 2030 suggests that no new coal mines need to be allocated or auctioned beyond the current pipeline. According to the document, total capacity of mines allocated and auctioned, including Coal India, SCCL and Neyveli Lignite, as on date is about 1,500 million tonnes per annum at the current rated capacity. In view of the likely demand, there is limited requirement of starting new coal mines except the ones already auctioned or allocated.

Mumbai air quality turns ‘poor’, is worse than Delhi
Hindustan Times
For the first time this season and second time in a year, air pollution levels in Mumbai were worse than Delhi on Sunday. The pollutant measuring indicator – air quality index (AQI) – for Mumbai was 244 (classified as poor), while Delhi recorded 204 during the day that further fell to 183 (moderate) by the evening, according to the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR). Pune and Ahmedabad recorded ‘moderate’ air quality on Sunday.

Environment Ministry adopts a new strategy for river conservation
Mongabay
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change announced a new strategy for river conservation that will look at the river basin as a whole, rather than merely tackling pollution. River basin rejuvenation and management plans will be made for nine selected riverine stretches in the country. The Central Pollution Control Board has identified 302 stretches along 275 rivers in the country that are polluted.

SBI Wrote Off Rs 200 Billion Worth of Bad Loans in FY17
The Wire
The country’s largest lender, the State Bank of India, wrote off bad loans worth Rs 203.39 billion in 2016-17, the highest among all the public sector banks. PSBs had a collective write off of Rs 816.83 billion for the financial year. The data pertains to the period when the associate banks of SBI were not merged with it. PSB’s write-off stood at Rs 272.31 billion in 2012-13, government data showed. The figure has jumped nearly three-fold in five years.

Supreme Court stays Centre’s amendment to NGT appointment rules
Down to Earth
In an order issued on February 9, 2018, the Supreme Court has stayed the Central Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017 (i.e., the Tribunal Rules) which gives the central government complete control over appointment of tribunal members, including the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Henceforth, the terms and conditions for appointment and termination of NGT members will be governed by the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.

SC admonishes Centre for poor affidavit on solid waste management
Down to Earth
Hearing a PIL on Solid Waste Management Rules, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Centre Tuesday for submitting a 845-page affidavit, a document which the Court said was so bulky that the government counsel might not have gone through it. Refusing to take the affidavit on the record, a bench of Justices, Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, termed the affidavit a ‘solid waste’ and added that the court was not a ‘garbage collector.’ The apex court was hearing a case in which it had taken suo-motu cognisance of the death of a seven-year old kid who suffered from dengue in 2015.

Activists Protest Against Westinghouse Officials’ Visit to Andhra Pradesh’s Kovvada
The Wire
Members of a large number of civil society groups from various countries have come together to oppose a planned visit by members of the company Westinghouse Electric to resuscitate plans for the Kovvada nuclear project in Andhra Pradesh. Westinghouse went through bankruptcy proceedings in 2017. A Canadian consortium bought the company from Toshiba last month. The financial crisis at the US reactor maker and its Japanese parent Toshiba Corp. meant that the project faced multiple delays – an agreement between Indian officials from the government and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, Ltd., and Westinghouse was supposed to have been reached by July 2017.

Sainath: Shifting farmers from food to cash crops has been disastrous
Tribune India
Cash crop farmers are much more vulnerable and small farmers cannot take the risk associated with cash crop. When prices come down, you can eat food crop but you can’t eat cotton, rubber or tea. In Kerala, people shifted to vanilla in 2003 as the Mexican vanilla crop was destroyed. The US Vanilla Federation paid them a handsome price. At one point, they were paid $100 per kg. Everybody took to it. Next year, when other countries started producing it, vanilla prices crashed to Rs 70 per kg. This killed a large number of farmers.

Why scientists are baffled about cyclone Ockhi
Down to Earth
For one, Ockhi’s track, or path taken by the cyclone, was a very unusual one. The last time a track like this was witnessed was in 1925. “This is a very unusual path taken by the cyclone. There have been some instances in the past when cyclones had developed on BOB and made their way to the west coast but these usually travel over the peninsula. Only a few have been recorded where the path has been completely over water,” says M Mohapatra, head of the Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre (RSMC) at IMD.

High and Dry: Auli, Himalayan ski destination, remains snowless for fourth consecutive year
The Indian Express
An international skiing race to be held for the first time in India was put off last month because Auli remains snowless. As experts see signs of climate change, The Sunday Express on how a 3,200-metre high mountainside is managing, including with artificial snow

WORLD

Sea level rise is not constant; in fact, it is accelerating each year: study
Down to Earth
Globally, sea level rise, mostly due to the melting of ice sheets, is not happening at a constant rate. A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that the rate of rising sea levels is accelerating. It was earlier estimated that sea levels will rise at a constant rate of 3mm/year. The research conducted by a group of scientists from multiple universities and institutions in the US has found that the sea level is rising at 0.08 mm every year. This means that by the end of the century, sea levels would rise at a rate of 10 mm or more every year.

Mercury rising in the Arctic; scientists discover over 1.6 million tonnes in reserves
Down to Earth
Scientists have found massive amounts of natural mercury stored in Arctic permafrost, described as a “game changer” by Paul Schuster, an American hydrologist who led the research. Analysing permafrost cores collected from Alaska, the scientists estimated the quantum of mercury trapped in Arctic permafrost since the last ice age. Surprisingly, results showed that the northern permafrost soils contain the highest concentration of naturally occurring mercury anywhere on earth. In fact the estimated reserves are so large that it amounts to nearly twice the mercury contained in all other soils, oceans and atmosphere combined.

Ozone layer not recovering over populated areas, scientists warn
The Guardian
The ozone layer that protects people from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation is not recovering over most highly populated regions, scientists warned on Tuesday. The greatest losses in ozone occurred over Antarctica but the hole there has been closing since the chemicals causing the problem were banned by the Montreal protocol. But the ozone layer wraps the entire Earth and new research has revealed it is thinning in the lower stratosphere over the non-polar areas. Reduced protection from cancer-causing UV rays is especially concerning towards the equator, where sunlight is stronger and billions of people live. (Related: Parts of US, Europe and Asia still grappling with problem of high level of ozone pollution)

Melting glaciers will cause water crisis for 700 million people in Asia by 2100: study
Down to Earth
By the end of the century, melting glaciers around the world will result in less water downstream than they do today, especially in summer months, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change. Indus, Brahmaputra and Ganges basins—fed by High Mountain Asia glaciers—are among the major basins projected to experience the largest reduction in glacial run-off and availability of water downstream in the Central Asia. The study projects rise in annual glacier run-off till until around 2050, followed by steadily declining glacier run-off thereafter.

G20 Countries’ Public Coal Financing Reaches Five-Year High
NRDC
In 2017, financing from G20 governments for overseas coal projects reached a five-year high, totaling at least $13 billion in loans, credits, and guarantees. This financial support for coal projects directly undermines G20 climate commitments and ignores the reality that a rapid coal phase out is needed if the world is to reach the 1.5 degree temperature goal under the Paris Climate Agreement. This is the second year in a row that G20 public financing has increased for coal power projects in foreign countries.

US on track to become world’s largest oil producer
Financial Times
The US is poised to become the world’s largest oil producer in 2019, the International Energy Agency said, with stellar output from shale fields offsetting robust demand growth and supply cuts by other producers. US crude output, which is up 1.3m barrels a day compared to last year, will soon pass Saudi Arabia and could overtake Russia by the end of the year to become “the global leader”, the IEA said on Tuesday. (Related: No Drop in U.S. Carbon Footprint Expected Through 2050, Energy Department Says)

US investigator of ivory, rhino horn trade killed in Kenya
AP
Esmond Bradley Martin, a Kenya-based American conservationist whose dogged investigations of the elephant ivory and rhino horn trades over decades were seen as critical in efforts to protect the threatened species, was found stabbed to death in his Nairobi home, Kenyan authorities said Monday. International conservationists were shaken by news of the violent death of Bradley Martin, a distinctive figure known for his shock of white hair and a handkerchief tucked into his jacket breast pocket whose off-beat appearance belied the passion and rigor that he channeled into his work in far-flung parts of the world. He sometimes worked undercover, and at considerable personal risk, while still managing to extract valuable information from traders and dealers.

Vietnam jails activist for 14 years for livestreaming pollution march
The Guardian
A court in central Vietnam has sentenced an activist to 14 years in jail for livestreaming fishermen marching to file a lawsuit against a Taiwan-owned steel plant’s spill of toxins into the ocean.  Hoang Duc Binh, 34, was convicted of abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state, organisation and people, and opposing officers on duty, following a trial on Tuesday by the people’s court in Nghe An province.

A record-breaking number of scientists are running for office this year
Grist.org
To stand up to climate change deniers and protect science, a wave of candidates from science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) backgrounds are running for local and federal office in 2018.More than 60 STEM candidates have announced a bid for federal office, while almost 200 are running for state legislature and another 200 for local school boards, according to 314 Action, a political action committee.

UK crops left to rot after drop in EU farm workers in Britain after Brexit referendum
Independent
British farmers have been forced to leave thousands of pounds worth of vegetables to rot in their fields, because of a drop in the number of farm workers from the European Union (EU). Farmers also fear that a Brexit deal restricting freedom of movement could leave them with even fewer people to help harvest their crops.

Cricket will be ‘hardest hit’ by climate change
ESPN
The report by the Climate Coalition, which studied the impact of climate change on a range of sports, says that recreational cricket is most at threat due to fixture disruption and damage to facilities with the ECB having spent a combined GBP2.6m (USD3.6m) in emergency grants in 2016 and 2017 to help clubs.

Organic food and drink sales rise to record levels in the UK
The Guardian
Sales of organic food and drink in the UK rose by 6% last year to a record £2.2bn, fuelled by strong growth through independent outlets and home delivery which outpaced sales in rival supermarkets. Almost 30% of all organic sales now take place online or on the high street, according to a new report from Soil Association, the trade body which licenses organic products and promotes organic farming.

Microplastic pollution could push whale, shark towards extinction: study
Down to Earth
Flagging off a major concern over microplastics finding their way into the annals of marine species such as manta rays, whale sharks and baleen whales, a new research claims that these species are ingesting these tiny particles of indigestible plastic while swallowing hundreds or even thousands of cubic metres of seawater every day. They are ingesting microplastics either directly from polluted water or indirectly through contaminated prey.

Edinburgh University divests from all fossil fuels
The Guardian
The University of Edinburgh is dumping all its fossil fuel investments, making it the largest UK university endowment fund to be completely free of all coal, oil and gas holdings. The decision was announced on Monday and followed a long student campaign. More than 60 UK universities have now divested from fossil fuels, with the University of Sussex the latest to make the move.

Solar industry lost nearly 10,000 jobs in 2017 in the US
The Economic Times
The U.S. solar industry lost nearly 10,000 jobs last year, led by steep losses in mature markets like California and Massachusetts where installation growth has slowed, according to a new report published on Wednesday. It was the first time employment has contracted in the fast-growing industry since the non-profit research firm The Solar Foundation began tracking solar jobs in 2010.

Europe’s microwave ovens emit nearly as much CO2 as 7m cars
The Guardian
Popping frozen peas into the microwave for a couple of minutes may seem utterly harmless, but Europe’s stock of these quick-cook ovens emit as much carbon as nearly 7m cars, a new study has found. And the problem is growing: with costs falling and kitchen appliances becoming “status” items, owners are throwing away microwaves after an average of eight years, pushing rising sales. A study by the University of Manchester worked out the emissions of carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas responsible for climate change – at every stage of microwaves, from manufacture to waste disposal.

German cities to trial free public transport to cut pollution
The Guardian
“Car nation” Germany has surprised neighbours with a radical proposal to reduce road traffic by making public transport free, as Berlin scrambles to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines. The move comes just over two years after Volkswagen’s devastating “dieselgate” emissions cheating scandal unleashed a wave of anger at the auto industry, a keystone of German prosperity. (Also read: German workers win right to 28-hour week following industrial action)

Three Quarters Of British People Want To Re-Nationalize Utilities
Oil Price
According to a poll taken late last year, 77 percent of respondents in the UK wanted to re-nationalize all of Britain’s energy utilities. In addition, 83 percent of those surveyed wanted to renationalize the water utilities as well. To a degree this seems like a repudiation of Margaret Thatcher’s great privatization experiment of the 1980s. She and her Conservative government privatized large swathes of the economy including the nation’s electric, gas and water utilities. Unlike other industries which could become genuinely competitive, utilities remained monopolies. As a result they required something to protect the public against unlimited corporate pricing power.

Insider trading has been rife on Wall Street, academics conclude
The Economist
The paper examines conduct at 497 financial institutions between 2005 and 2011, paying particular attention to individuals who had previously worked in the federal government, in institutions including the Federal Reserve. In the two years prior to the TARP, these people’s trading gave no evidence of unusual insight. But in the nine months after the TARP was announced, they achieved particularly good results. The paper concludes that “politically connected insiders had a significant information advantage during the crisis and traded to exploit this advantage.”

How a GM giant ‘bought control’ of what millions of Londoners read
Open Democracy
London’s Evening Standard, the city’s flagship free newspaper read by millions of commuters every week, struck a lucrative deal that helped to varnish the reputation of one of the world’s largest agribusiness companies – with readers unaware that the firm was paying for positive coverage, openDemocracy can reveal today. Billion dollar lawsuits the company was facing from farmers in the US were not mentioned in the paper’s coverage, and the ongoing controversy over UK plans to soften post-Brexit rules on GM seeds in farming was also bypassed.

5 billionaires worst hit by the stock market crash
Your Story
Monday brought about the worst fall in US stocks in more than six years, after wage data indicated rising inflation, and hinted at higher interest rates. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 1175 points, and resulted in a global sell-off with worldwide indices crashing. It wiped out $114 billion from the fortunes of the richest. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the 500 richest individuals were severely impacted, with 18 billionaires losing more than $1 billion in a single day.

 

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