HIGHLIGHTS: *Global warming to breach 1.5 degree limit: IPCC *170 million Americans drink radioactive water *Seychelles creates huge marine parks *India opens coal mining to private companies *India weighs doubling of protected areas *Jharkhand Tribals Create ‘Independent’ Area Near Ranchi *India’s Rs 6,000-crore plan to recharge groundwater *30 per cent of world’s organic producers Indian
Government Opens Commercial Coal Mining to Private Companies, Coal India Monopoly to End
In a major ‘reform’ in the coal sector since its nationalisation in 1973, the government on Tuesday allowed private companies to mine the fossil fuel for commercial use, ending the monopoly of state-owned Coal India Ltd (CIL). Currently, private sector is allowed coal mining for captive use only. The opening up of commercial coal mining for the private sector is the most ambitious coal sector reform since the nationalisation of this sector, Coal and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said while briefing the media on the decision taken in the Cabinet meeting, adding that big, medium as well as small mines would be offered to private companies for mining. (Also read: Cabinet to vet Rs 48,000 crore KUSUM scheme for solar power by March)
Ecocide by Design? Under Modi, Vacancies At National Green Tribunal Reach 70%
Political apathy in allowing the NGT to function as an effective body started from its inception, but the scale and form of it have intensified in the recent past. The vacancy of judicial and expert members led the Chennai bench to completely shut from January 3, 2018. Things are worse in both Kolkata and the Western Bench in the absence of expert members. No judgment has been passed by the Kolkata bench since November 16, 2017, after expert member P.C. Mishra’s tenure ended.
Hold the celebrations: Marginal increase in India’s forest cover is masking massive deforestation
Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava
Details of the report show that the net gain in India’s forest cover could actually be masking massive deforestation as the areas that have turned green are not necessarily natural forests, but plantations. Data in the report shows that between 2015 and 2017 over 21,000 sq km of standing forests were completely denuded. This is 10 times the area of Delhi and Mumbai put together. However, in the same period, more than 24,000 sq km of completely denuded lands turned green. (Related: 1) Government weighs doubling of protected areas over next few years)
Number of forest fires jump by 38% in 13 years but national policy still lacking
Recognising the threat of forest fires, the government has published comprehensive data on forest fires for the first time in its State of Forest Report 2017. Between 2003 and 2016, the forest fires have jumped by almost 38% from 24,450 to 33,664, in part because of better reporting but also from degradation of forests and dryness of foliage due to rising temperatures. “Over 95% of the fires are caused by humans,” Siddhanta Das, director general of forests, said in a recent interview. Experts believe the threat of forest fires is increasing as the soil is unable to retain moisture, with a warming climate. (Related: The India State of Forests Report 2017 should set the alarm bells ringing)
India’s $230 million plan to stop crop burning that pollutes Delhi falls short of estimates
The Indian government’s plan to spend $230 million over two years to prevent crop residue burning is below the spending estimates of its policy advisors for the task and may do little to cut the air pollution that envelops the capital region of Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet is expected to sign off on the plan as early as this month, three senior government officials involved in the talks told Reuters. The planned expenditure is far less than the $600 million per year that Niti Aayog, a government policy advisory group, estimated last November needed to be spent to prevent farmers from burning the crop waste left over after harvesting. It was not clear if the amount was recommended to the government.
Draft Bill on regulating pesticides could punish farmers who use spurious products, experts fear
The draft Pesticides Management Bill greatly expands on the Insecticides Act of 1968 in defining usage and registration norms and other regulations. It addresses the manufacturing, field usage and disposal of pesticides. It also codifies harsher punishments for manufacturers of spurious pesticides. The Bharatiya Kisan Sangh pointed out that, in its attempt to tighten regulations, the Bill could end up punishing farmers who use spurious pesticides. The Bill says: “whoever uses or causes to use” a pesticide in contravention of its provisions is liable to be imprisoned or to pay a fine up to Rs 5 lakh. It does not define the term “users”. (Also read: Pest attack has killed crops and hopes of 41 lakh farmers in Maharashtra)
Jharkhand Tribals Send Administration Into Tizzy With Creation of ‘Independent’ Area Near Ranchi
Setting off alarm bells for Jharkhand administration, a tribal group in the state has created an independent area mere 35 km from Ranchi, where people are governed by their own laws and have their own system of education and income. This is the same place where last August hundreds of policemen, including SP and DSPs and 50 armed CRPF personnel were held hostage for over 12 hours by tribals, demanding self-rule, besides a ban on outsiders entering their villages. The practice, known in local dialect as ‘Pathalgadi’, in which the tribals have put up hundreds of illegal barricades to demarcate their territories, has been a huge cause of concern for the state.
Over 1.1 mn farmers affected by drought in Chhattisgarh during kharif 2017
Scanty rains during the kharif 2017 had affected over 1.1 million farmers in Chhattisgarh. The opposition Congress members today informed in the Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly that 1104767 farmers from 11297 villages have been affected by drought. In all, 1028657.812 hectares area had remained dry due to short rainfall. The state government accepted the figure and said it was taking all necessary measures to give relief to the farmers. (Also read: 1) How corporate land grab is sought to be legitimized in Chhattisgarh by misusing legal framework 2) With Land Acquisition Act, 2013, pace of land grab has increased vastly: Top Chhattisgarh legal rights NGO)
Death toll of victims of water-borne diseases in Bhadravati village rises to six
One more person, who was treated for gastroenteritis caused by drinking contaminated piped drinking water supplied by the gram panchayat in Maidolalu village in Bhadravati taluk, died on Monday. With this, the death toll from the outbreak of water-borne diseases — cholera and gastroenteritis in the village — has risen to six.
Adivasi Youth Beaten To Death In Kerala
An adivasi youth Madhu (27) was beaten to death by settlers in the Adivasi heartland of Attapady, Kerala, for allegedly stealing food. The murderers took selfies with the victim and posted on social media. He was severely beaten on suspicion of stealing some rice from a provision store. After catching hold of him, the mob severely trashed him and then handed him over to the police. The police who found that he was unwell as he vomited rushed him to Agali government Hospital. However, he fell unconscious even before reaching the hospital. Police officials in Agali said they were in search of seven men. (Also read: Sarpanch escorted by Rajasthan cops beaten to death by sand mafia)
Not enough water in stressed Cauvery to fulfill SC verdict
The Indian Express
Truth is that a major take-away of the order – the setting up of a Cauvery Management Board – might ensure a judicious use of water, but it may not alter the man-made and new climatic realities that have set in the Cauvery delta. As it is, Karnataka had been finding it difficult to ensure the mandatory release of water for Tamil Nadu because of successive years of drought, growing water demands, and significantly depleted base river flows. But the fact that the court verdict doesn’t even take into account the Cauvery delta’s existential crisis or suggest remedies on how to ensure the equitable distribution of water is a big blow to the people living on the delta. (Related: Cabinet approves setting up tribunal to settle Mahanadi water dispute)
Centre prepares Rs 6,000-crore plan to recharge groundwater
Down to Earth
The Centre has formulated an ambitious water conservation scheme to tackle ever-deepening crisis of depleting groundwater level. Rs 6,000-crore Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABY), which is piloted under the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, is awaiting cabinet’s clearance. The objective of this scheme is to recharge ground water and create sufficient water storage for agricultural purposes. This scheme also focuses on revival of surface water bodies so that ground water level can be increased, especially in the rural areas. (Related: NGT notice on industries extracting groundwater in Noida)
Fact Check: Centre’s Claim That There Is No Proven Technology to Reduce Toxic Gas in Power Plants
In November 2017, the environment ministry urged the Supreme Court to push a deadline to cut emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) from thermal power plants to 2022, saying there is no proven technology available for emission control. But indigenous technology developed by a private firm yielded ‘excellent results’ as far back as in June 2012, according to a FactChecker investigation. NOx is a toxic gas that can cause respiratory infections and sicken or kill people after it takes the form of PM 2.5 – airborne particles 30 times finer than a human hair that enter their lungs.
Haryana’s green cover worse than Punjab: FSI report
The Times of India
Haryana has pipped Punjab in taking the dubious distinction of the lowest forest cover in the country with only 3.59% green cover, according to the State of the Forest Report (FSI) 2017. According to the FSI report, Haryana overtook Punjab, which has 3.65% forest cover. Though both states’ ratios are abysmally low when compared to the national target of 33%, experts believe Haryana might fare worse in future FSI reports as it is yet to take protective measures for both the Aravalis and Shivaliks under its jurisdiction. Punjab, however, has started taking some immediate steps to secure the Shivaliks around Chandigarh. (Also read: Should there be road-tunnels under Mumbai’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park?)
Gujarat Water Crisis: They Had Water For Elections…Then What Happened, Ask Farmers
Both states have been governed by the BJP for at least 15 years, but when Madhya Pradesh recently shot down neighbour Gujarat’s request for more water from the River Narmada, nobody was surprised. “Narendra Modi came to my village and said ‘the farmers of Gujarat can harvest gold by using Narmada water.’ That was before the assembly election in December,” said Valji-bhai, a farmer in Saurashtra’s Jamnagar district. “But now that the election is over, instead of getting more water, our existing supply is also being cut off.”
In a first, water rationing in Nainital this winter
The Times of India
In a first in Nainital, the civic administration has started water rationing in winter as well due to the alarming rate of decline of the water level in Naini lake, which is the sole source of water for the residents. As part of the water rationing initiative — which was first started in the summer of 2015 — supply is now being made to different localities in the town at different times of the day. According to the irrigation department, the authorities have decided to implement the water supply rotation scheme in winter too, as the water level in the lake is “declining at the rate of 1.25 inches a day.”
Adani dumps ash on forest land allotted for expansion
The Times of India
At a time when Maharashtra has lost 17 sqkm of forest cover, misuse of forest and revenue land by the country’s third-biggest power plant, owned by Adani Group in Tiroda in Gondia district, has come to fore. In 2014, the Adani Power Maharashtra Limited (APML) was allotted 164 hectare prime forest land, by the state government after following all procedures, for the expansion of the power plant. Wildlife experts had opposed this move as the APML was less than 10 kms from the boundary of Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary.
More than 30 per cent of world’s organic producers are in India
Down to Earth
India has the largest number of organic producers in the world, according to the World of Organic Agriculture Report 2018 published in February. With 835,000 certified organic producers, it is home to more than 30 per cent of total number of organic producers (2.7 million) in the world. Uganda (210,352) and Mexico (210,000) are the second and third largest organic producers. However, when it comes to area under certified organic cultivation, India contributes only 2.59 per cent (1.5 million hectares) of the total area (57.8 million hectares).
Tidal Error: Why Tamil Nadu’s illegal coastal plan is a recipe for disaster
The Government of Tamil Nadu has uploaded what it calls a “Revised Draft Coastal Zone Management Plan.” The “plan” is geared towards protecting errant officials of the Coastal Zone Management Authority from the ire of the National Green Tribunal, rather than protecting the coast and coastal communities. The new draft document, wrongly referred to as a “plan” ignores violations of CRZ 1991, and regularises others that encroached into the intertidal areas by shifting the High Tide Line beyond the violating project boundary. Instead of presenting a conservation plan, the Department of Environment has presented a map that condones past violations, and facilitates a wholesale grab of coastal wetlands. (Also read: 1) ‘Copper plant polluting our water’: 270 held for protesting Sterlite expansion in TN 2) Plastic ban strictly enforced in the Nilgiris)
K.S. Puttannaiah, farmer politician from Karnataka, dies at 68
Every time K.S. Puttannaiah, the 68-year-old legislator from Melukote, rose to speak in the Karnataka legislative assembly, other legislators gave him an uninterrupted audience—a rare courtesy extended to a a farmer leader who represented a little known Sarvodaya Karnataka Paksha (SKP). Known for his vast knowledge in farming, the history of the Cauvery river water dispute and farmer issues in the state, Puttannaiah, with his witty oration and pointed rebuttals, always managed to get vast amounts of time to put forward his views in the legislature.
Petition: Don’t change the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act
The Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act (KPTA) is a wonderful law that protects our state’s green cover, by ensuring that public permission is sought before the government decides to fell trees. Now, lawmakers are attempting to make changes to the KPTA so that they will no longer need permission before chopping down over 50 species of trees. If this amendment goes through, we stand to lose over 800 of Bengaluru’s trees, which provide us shade, purify the air and add to the city’s many charms. (Also read: Aerial mapping of Bengaluru’s solar energy potential takes off) 2) New Citizen Science Initiative to Report Animals Killed by Speeding Vehicles)
Global warming set to breach 1.5 degree limit: IPCC Draft Report
Down to Earth
A leaked version of a the draft of the UN Special Report on 1.5 Degrees, the final version of which is due to be released in the last quarter of 2018, has warned that global warming is set to breach the lower limit for warming of 1.5 degrees set under the Paris Agreement. The report, prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has pointed out that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees is still geophysically possible but would require drastic and rapid reductions in Green House Gas (GHG) emissions by governments which would include a sharp shift from fossil fuels as well as removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. (Related: If the world builds every coal plant that’s planned, climate change goals are doomed, scientists say)
Half of world’s oceans now fished industrially, maps reveal
More than half the world’s oceans are being fished by industrial vessels, new research reveals. The maps based on feedback from more than 70,000 vessels show commercial fishing covers a greater surface area than agriculture, and will raise fresh questions about the health of oceans and sustainability of trawler fishing. The data, published in the journal Science, also shows how fishing declines sharply at weekends, and celebrations like Christmas and Chinese new year.
Stunning Report: 170m Americans Now Drinking Radioactive Water
More than 170 million Americans, or around 52 percent of the entire population, may be at risk of radiation exposure through their drinking water, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), one of the country’s leading water testing organizations. EWG published its findings based on a compendium of data collected from over 50,000 public drinking systems nationwide between 2010 and 2015. The report reveals a shocking trend: much of the nation’s drinking water “contains radioactive elements at levels that may increase the risk of cancer.”
Decline in krill threatens Antarctic wildlife, from whales to penguins
The Antarctic, one of the world’s last great wildernesses and home to animals such as whales, penguins and leopard seals, is being threatened by the plight of an animal just a few centimetres long, according to scientists. Researchers and environmental campaigners warn that a combination of climate change and industrial-scale fishing is threatening the krill population in Antarctic waters, with a potentially disastrous impact on larger predators. (Also read: Dolphin deaths shine light on alarming state of Bangladesh rivers)
Stronger storms mean new ‘category six’ scale may be needed
The increasing strength, intensity and duration of tropical cyclones has climate scientists asking whether a new classification needs to be created: a category-six storm. The Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale currently runs in severity from one to five, with five describing near-total destruction. But climate scientists meeting at a conference in the New Zealand city of Wellington have floated the idea of creating a category six to reflect the increasing severity of tropical cyclones in the wake of warming sea temperatures and climate change.
China is re-assigning 60,000 troops – to plant trees
China will plant new forests covering an area of 84,000 square kilometers, roughly the size of Ireland, in 2018, as it aims to increase forest coverage to 23% of total landmass by the end of the decade, China Daily reported last week. The current forested area stands at 21%. Meanwhile, a separate source in the Central Military Commission said a large regiment of the People’s Liberation Army – in addition to the nation’s armed police force, which has just been absorbed into the commission – have been withdrawn from northern border areas and tasked with a new mission: planting trees. The actual number of soldiers mobilized is said to be over 60,000.
Debt for dolphins: Seychelles creates huge marine parks in world-first finance scheme
The tropical island nation of Seychelles is to create two huge new marine parks in return for a large amount of its national debt being written off, in the first scheme of its kind in the world. The novel financial engineering, effectively swapping debt for dolphins and other marine life, aims to throw a lifeline to corals, tuna and turtles being caught in a storm of overfishing and climate change. If it works, it will also secure the economic future of the nation, which depends entirely on tourism and fishing. With other ocean states lining up to follow, the approach could transform large swaths of the planet’s troubled seas.
One Million Trees Pledged to ‘Trump Forest’ to Offset President’s Anti-Climate Agenda
Trump Forest—a global reforestation project aiming to offset President Trump’s anti-climate policies—has reached 1 million trees after thousands of pledges from around the world. Trump Forest was launched just under a year ago after POTUS announced he was pulling the U.S. from the Paris agreement. “Thanks to you guys, you’ve pledged more than a million trees all over the world to try and offset that ignorance,” Adrien Taylor, one of the three founders of the project, said in a video message announcing the milestone.
13 Youths ‘in a Position of Danger’ Sue Washington State Over Climate Crisis
A group of 13 youths have filed a lawsuit against the State of Washington for breaching its constitutional and Public Trust obligations. Why? Failure to act on climate change. In their suit, filed Friday in King County Superior Court, the plaintiffs, aged seven to 17, say the state, Gov. Jay Inslee, and several state agencies have created and propped up fossil fuel-based energy and transportation systems, thereby fueling greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the climate crisis. In so doing, they have created “unconstitutional conditions”—depriving the young people of their rights to a healthful and pleasant environment, and their rights to life, liberty and property. (Also read: OECD says energy taxes in developed economies too low to fight climate change)
Scientists race to explore Antarctic marine life revealed by giant iceberg
A team of international scientists is due to set off for the world’s biggest iceberg on Wednesday, fighting huge waves and the encroaching Antarctic winter, in a mission aiming to answer fundamental questions about the impact of climate change in the polar regions. The scientists, led by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), are trying to reach a newly revealed ecosystem that had been hidden for 120,000 years below the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula. (Also read: First ship crosses Arctic in winter without an icebreaker as global warming causes ice sheets to melt)
Animals with white winter camouflage could struggle to adapt to climate change
Animals that turn white in the winter to hide themselves in snowy landscapes could struggle to adapt to climate change, research suggests. A new study finds that declining winter snowfall near the Arctic could have varying effects on the survival of eight mammal species that undergo a seasonal colour moult from summer brown to winter white each year. Species most at risk of standing out against the snow include mountain hares, snowshoe hares and short-tailed weasels. Without blending into the background, these animals could find it harder to hunt prey or hide from predators. (Also read: Dramatic decline in Borneo’s orangutan population as 150,000 lost in 16 years)
GM Maize Approved in EU Caused Kidney Disease and Bladder Stones in Rats
A Monsanto genetically modified (GMO) insecticidal maize that has been approved for food and feed use in Europe for seven years was found to cause kidney disease and bladder stones in rats in industry’s own tests, GM Watch reported on Wednesday. Before the maize was approved, several EU member states raised concerns about these results and the implications for food safety. But the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) dismissed the concerns and gave a favourable opinion on the GMO maize. With the usual lack of agreement from EU member states on whether to authorize the maize, the Commission approved it in 2011.
Financial insiders contemplate “imminent” 2018 US stock market crash of up to “50%”
A new analysis published on the website of a London-based think-tank, funded by the world’s biggest banking and financial services institutions, warns that the US stock market is on the brink of an imminent crash that could trigger another global recession. The document forecasts that in 2018, US stock prices are likely to plummet by as much as “forty to fifty percent” — compared to the less than five percent plunge in early February. The document was published weeks before the recent stock market volatility.