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NEWS UPDATE #176


HIGHLIGHTS: *Water level in 91 reservoirs at 36% of total live capacity *Indian govt calls for studies on climate change goals *Arctic has warmest winter on record *UN to recognise human right to healthy environment *Coke, Nestle Near Ownership of World’s Second Largest Aquifer *Latin American countries sign legally binding pact to protect land defenders

INDIA

Historic Victory For Farmers Of Maharashtra
Countercurrents
The farmers in Maharashtra won a historic victory after 50,000 farmers threatened to siege the state assembly. The Devendra Fadnavis government of Maharashtra has agreed to the demands of protesting farmers. A committee has been set up, which will consider all aspects of their demands, which includes loan waiver, free electricity and a higher price for their produce.The government has given its acceptance in writing, said state minister Chandrakant Patil, after a delegation of farmers met government representatives this afternoon. Mr Fadnavis said the Chief Secretary will do the follow up. (Related: India’s deepening farm crisis: 76% farmers want to give up farming, shows study)

In a tea garden in Assam, 19 deaths in one month leave workers scared and confused
Scroll
According to government records, as many as 19 people, including a two-year-old girl, died between February 3 and March 6. Twelve of these deaths took place in the period between February 12 and 24. Residents insist that the number of deaths is even higher, and the official records do not reflect at least two other deaths in the same period. It is not clear what caused the deaths.

Water level in 91 reservoirs at 36% of total live capacity; southern states most affected
Down to Earth
The water level in 91 major reservoirs across the country is at 36 per cent of total live storage capacity, according to Central Water Commission official statement. As of March 01, 2018, there was 57.684 billion cubic metres (BCM) of water in the reservoirs. It is noteworthy that the level has dipped by 7 per cent in last one month (69.887 BCM water in the reservoirs as dated on Feb 1, 2018). The current level of water storage is 89 per cent of the storage of corresponding period in 2017 and 91 per cent of storage of average of the last 10 years. (Related: This summer, most parts of the country will experience intense heat waves)

Govt calls for studies on climate change goals
Live Mint
Nearly two and half years after declaring a comprehensive list of goals to tackle climate change post 2020, the environment ministry has called for a series of studies from research organizations to develop a roadmap for the effective and efficient implementation of these goals. In the run-up to the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015, countries across the world outlined these climate actions, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). In October 2015, India too announced its INDCs promising a series of actions across the sectors. (Related: 1) ISA summit: PM Modi suggests turning to Vedas to combat climate change 2) UN centre on climate change in India on the cards, says UNDP country chief)

Govt to overhaul its air pollution strategy to cover regions across India
Live Mint
The Indian government is now set to undertake a major overhaul of its strategy with a National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) which includes setting up of nearly 600 new air quality monitoring stations covering regions across India including rural areas as well. A draft concept note of NCAP was prepared by Harsh Vardhan led Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). The note was accessed by Greenpeace using a Right to Information (RTI) application which made it public on Monday. (Related: Govt Admits: Toxic Air in 13 Southern Cities. At Least 26 More With Unsafe Air)

Environment ministry notifies rules to regulate the use of persistent organic pollutants
Live Mint
The environment ministry has notified new Regulation of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) Rules, 2018 which ban the manufacture, trade, use, import and export of the seven toxic chemicals listed under the Stockholm Convention. The Stockholm Convention aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of all intentionally produced POPs found in industrial chemicals and pesticides. India signed the Convention in May 2002 and ratified it in January 2006. POPs are organic chemical substances—toxic to both humans and wildlife—which once released into the environment remain intact for years on end. (Related: Does the Government Really Need a New ‘Pesticides Management Bill’?)

Adani Mundra project: First, Rs 200-crore fine cancelled. Now, officials find company did no wrong
Scroll
In 2013, the environment ministry under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government decided to impose a penalty on the Adani Group’s waterfront development project at Mundra in Kutch, Gujarat, of Rs 200 crore, or 1% of the project cost, whichever was higher, for damaging the environment and breaking laws. Records reviewed by Scroll.in show that five-and-a-half-years later, environment ministry officials have internally reported that the project did not violate any regulations or cause any damage to the environment. The officials have said so without awaiting results of the studies that the ministry ordered to assess any damage.

As states publish draft coastal management plans, activists say they are illegal and incomplete
Scroll
As states prepare new Coastal Zone Management Plans that are long overdue, communities and environmentalists in many of these states are concerned. They say crucial details have been omitted in the draft plans, hindering effective public participation in the process. On February 27, activists from the Coastal Resource Centre held a meeting in Chennai where they alleged the draft plan uploaded by the Tamil Nadu government on its website on February 19 inviting public comments was illegal and incomplete. (Related: Conflicts break out as institutes take over coastal lands)

100 gram sabhas in Odisha’s Kalahandi district to assert rights on bamboo, kendu
Down to Earth
As the harvesting season for bamboo and kendu leaf approaches in Odisha, tension is building between the forest-dependent communities and the forest department. In Kalahandi district, around 100 Gram Sabhas are planning to assert their rights over bamboo and kendu leaf despite legal curtails. Despite legally given rights on Minor Forest Produce (MFP) like bamboo and kendu under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA), communities have encountered constant roadblocks in enjoying these rights.

NGT issues notice to Gujarat on plea against destruction of mangroves
The Hindu
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued notices to Gujarat and Centre after a plea claimed that mangroves in Kutch district were being cleared by Deendayal Port Trust. A Bench headed by judicial member Jawad Rahim on Wednesday issued show cause notices to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the Gujarat State Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) and the State Forest Department.

Yogendra Yadav launches MSP satyagraha
The Hindu
Swaraj Abhiyan president Yogendra Yadav launched a nationwide MSP satyagraha to expose the ground realities of minimum support price (MSP) implementation, by conducting a public hearing at the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) yard in Yadgir on Wednesday. Around 250 farmers, leaders and APMC officials were present. The protesting leaders pointed out that the very purpose of mandi-to-mandi satyagraha was to unearth the harsh realities of MSP implementation at the ground level and bring it to the notice of the people and Union and State governments.

Illegal GM Soybean: Farmers’ body demands CBI probe into GEAC inaction
Down to Earth
After inaction over four months on complaint of growing illegal genetically modified (GM) soybean in Gujarat, farmer organisation, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) demands CBI probe against biosafety regulatory body Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) along with a case of treason against officials. It also demanded ban on Glyphosate—herbicide sprayed on GM crops. BKS claims that it is carcinogenic. Meanwhile, GEAC has denied receiving any complaint by farmers or civil society body.

Scientists in Bihar identify bacteria that can naturally treat arsenic in groundwater
Down to Earth
While a number of researches conducted earlier have established that arsenic contamination can be treated by certain bacteria, a group of researchers in Patna-based Central University of South Bihar (CUSB) have for the first time identified the bacteria present in the Gangetic plains that could naturally treat arsenic present in groundwater. The research was conducted with water samples being collected from hand pumps of 12 habitations in Bihar’s Bhojpur and Patna districts. The sites selected had arsenic value ranging from 0 to 100 ppb (parts per billion) against the permissible limit of 10ppb.

India processes 24 per cent of solid waste generated: Govt data
The Times of India
Nearly 24 per cent of the solid waste generated in the country was being processed as on January 31, according to data presented by the government in Parliament. Out of over 1.43 lakh tonnes per day (tpd) of solid waste generated across the country, only about 33,800 tpd (or 23.73 per cent) was being processed as on the last day of January, the housing and urban affairs ministry data showed.

Survey: India’s youth not aware of climate change, environmental issues
Hindustan Times

The Hindustan Times-MaRS Monitoring and Research Systems Youth Survey 2017, reveals that more than 74% of people between the ages of 18 and 25 are not aware of how greenhouse gases cause global warming. Renewable energy is a mystery to 70.9% of the respondents and 63.4% cannot explain why bio-degradable waste is important. Sustainable practices are limited to switching off lights at home and avoiding use of “plastic bags as far as possible.”

Okhla waste plant has no takers for tonnes of compost
The Indian Express
The Okhla waste composting plant, which earned Rs 25 lakh as carbon credits from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2013, can find no takers for the compost it produces. Speaking at a roundtable discussion on ‘Managing Delhi’s Solid Waste’ under the Delhi Matters series, South Delhi Municipal Corporation chief engineer Umesh Sachdeva said the plant produces close to 40 metric tonnes of compost per day, but has not managed to find many people willing to use it.

UN spotlight on Kerala’s energy-positive campus
The Hindu
The Energy Management Centre (EMC), an autonomous institution under the Kerala government, has grabbed the global spotlight for its energy-positive campus, located at Sreekaryam in the State capital. The ‘Global Status Report 2017′ published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has listed the EMC campus as one of the recent achievements in the deployment of key technologies for energy-efficiency in buildings. The 40,000-square foot building is the only one from India to figure in the list, along with five other projects worldwide. (Also read: Why Activists Want IMA’s Waste Treatment Plant in Palakkad to Be Shut Down)

 

WORLD

UN moves towards recognising human right to a healthy environment
The Guardian
It is time for the United Nations to formally recognise the right to a healthy environment, according to the world body’s chief investigator of murders, beatings and intimidation of environmental defenders. John Knox, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, said the momentum for such a move – which would significantly raise the global prominence of the issue – was growing along with an awareness of the heavy toll being paid by those fighting against deforestation, pollution, land grabs and poaching.

Arctic has warmest winter on record: ‘It’s just crazy, crazy stuff’
The Guardian
The Arctic winter has ended with news that is worrying even the scientists who watch the effects of climate change closely. The region experienced its warmest winter on record. Sea ice hit record lows for the time of year, new US weather data revealed on Tuesday. “It’s just crazy, crazy stuff,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, who has been studying the Arctic since 1982. “These heat waves – I’ve never seen anything like this.” (Also read: Microplastic pollution in oceans is far worse than feared, say scientists)

Coke, Nestle Near Ownership of World’s Second Largest Aquifer
Mint Press News
A concerted push is underway in South America that could see one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water soon fall into the hands of transnational corporations such as Coca-Cola and Nestle. According to reports, talks to privatize the Guarani Aquifer – a vast subterranean water reserve lying beneath Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay – have already reached an advanced stage. The deal would grant a consortium of U.S. and Europe-based conglomerates exclusive rights to the aquifer that would last over 100 years. Named after the Guarani indigenous people, the Guarani Aquifer is the world’s second largest underground water reserve and is estimated to be capable of sustainably providing the world’s population with drinking water for up to 200 years.

World’s great forests could lose half of all wildlife as planet warms – report
The Guardian
The world’s greatest forests could lose more than half of their plant species by the end of the century unless nations ramp up efforts to tackle climate change, according to a new report on the impacts of global warming on biodiversity hotspots. Mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds are also likely to disappear on a catastrophic scale in the Amazon and other naturally rich ecosysterms in Africa, Asia, North America and Australia if temperatures rise by more than 1.5C, concludes the study by WWF, the University of East Anglia and the James Cook University. (Also read: Mangrove deforestation may be releasing more CO2 than Poland, study finds)

As Residents of Lahore Choke on Air Pollution, Pakistani Officials Dawdle
The Wire
Even outside of Lahore’s wintertime smog season, the city’s 11 million inhabitants inhale high levels of PM 2.5 — particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less that can enter the respiratory tract and lodge itself in the lung’s tiny air sacs, where it prevents gases from being exchanged. From there, the pollutants enter the bloodstream or remain trapped in the alveoli of the lungs, triggering emphysema, lung disease, stroke, heart disease, cancer, and even death.

Chinese panda park to be twice the size of U.S.’ Yellowstone national park
The Guardian
The Bank of China has pledged at least 10bn yuan (£1.1bn) to create a vast panda conservation park in south-west Sichuan province, the Chinese forestry ministry has said. The Sichuan branch of the central bank signed an agreement with the provincial government to finance the vast national park’s construction by 2023. The park aims to bolster the local economy while providing the endangered animals with an unbroken range in which they can meet and mate with other pandas in order to enrich their gene pool. The ministry said the park will measure 2m hectares (5m acres), making it more than twice the size of Yellowstone national park in the US. (Related: New study shows over a third of protected areas in Asia are severely at risk of losing tigers)

Latin American countries sign legally binding pact to protect land defenders
The Guardian
Officials from 24 Latin American and Caribbean states have signed a legally binding containing measures to protect land defenders, almost two years to the day since environmental leader Berta Cáceres was killed in her home in Honduras. Last year , 60% of them in Latin America. The new treaty obliges states to “guarantee a safe and enabling environment for persons, groups and organisations that promote and defend human rights in environmental matters”.

Monsanto says its pesticides are safe. Now, a court wants to see the proof
The Guardian
A federal court hearing in San Francisco will turn a public spotlight on to the science surrounding the safety of one of the world’s most widely used pesticides, a weedkilling chemical called glyphosate that has been linked to cancer and is commonly found in our food and water, even in our own bodily fluids. As the active ingredient in Monsanto’s branded Roundup and hundreds of other herbicides, glyphosate represents billions of dollars in annual revenues for Monsanto and other companies, and is prominently used by farmers as an aid in food production.

Rain or shine: new solar cell captures energy from raindrops
The Guardian
A solar panel that can generate electricity from falling raindrops has been invented, enabling power to flow even when skies cloud over or the sun has set. Solar power installation is soaring globally thanks to costs plunging 90% in the past decade, making it the cheapest electricity in many parts of the world. But the power output can plummet under grey skies and researchers are working to squeeze even more electricity from panels. The new device, demonstrated in a laboratory at Soochow University in China, places two transparent polymer layers on top of a solar photovoltaic (PV) cell. When raindrops fall on to the layers and then roll off, the friction generates a static electricity charge. (Related: Look, no lithium! First rechargeable proton battery created)

China’s giant 200-foot chimney sucks in pollution, spews out clean air
Digital Trends
A new project in Xi’an, one of the nation’s most severely polluted cities, aims to help — courtesy of an enormous 200-foot chimney. Unlike most chimneys, however, this one won’t add to the levels of air pollution, but rather act as an outdoor air purifying system, filtering out noxious particulate matter and blowing out clean air into the sky. The chimney is designed to remove particles termed PM2.5, referring to particulate matter with an ultra-fine mass of less than 2.5 micrometers. This is known to be very dangerous to individuals and can increase age-specific mortality risk, particularly from cardiovascular causes.

Real cost of Fukushima disaster will reach ¥70 trillion, or triple government’s estimate: think tank
The Japan Times
A private think tank says the total cost of the Fukushima disaster could reach ¥70 trillion ($626 billion), or more than three times the government’s latest estimate. In a study Saturday, the Japan Center for Economic Research said costs of dealing with the heavily damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. could rise to between ¥50 trillion and ¥70 trillion. In December, the government estimated the costs would reach roughly ¥22 trillion.

Nuclear fusion on brink of being realised, say MIT scientists
The Guardian
The dream of nuclear fusion is on the brink of being realised, according to a major new US initiative that says it will put fusion power on the grid within 15 years. The project, a collaboration between scientists at MIT and a private company, will take a radically different approach to other efforts to transform fusion from an expensive science experiment into a viable commercial energy source. The team intend to use a new class of high-temperature superconductors they predict will allow them to create the world’s first fusion reactor that produces more energy than needs to be put in to get the fusion reaction going.

Smartphones would be environmentally the most destructive device by 2020: study
Down to Earth
Of all the information and communication technologies (ICT), smartphones and data centres will prove to be the most damaging by 2040, says a recent study. They focussed on the carbon footprint of consumer devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, desktops and data centres and communication networks as early as 2005. What they found was more than they had expected. The findings not only showed that software is driving the consumption of ICT, but also that ICT has way more impact on emissions than the researchers’ expectations and that most emissions come from production and operation.

Stephen Hawking’s Final Warnings Urged World to Halt Climate Change
EcoWatch
In his last years, Hawking used his platform to warn that human activity is causing irreversible planetary damage and that we must take action to halt climate change. “Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it’s one we can prevent,” Hawking said in May. Hawking frequently denounced climate change deniers, and even offered to pay their trip to Venus to illustrate the impact of greenhouse gases on a habitable planet.

 

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