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NEWS UPDATE #179


HIGHLIGHTS: *India 100th on global hunger index *India Spends Record $18 Billion to Develop Roads as Elections Loom *Blow to Monsanto on Bt cotton seed technology patent *Ganges river flow could more than double *Satellite study says Spain, Morocco, India, Iraq at risk as reservoirs shrink *Gulf Stream current at its weakest in 1,600 years

INDIA

India 100th on global hunger index, trails North Korea, Bangladesh
The Hindu
India has a “serious” hunger problem and ranks 100th out of 119 countries on the global hunger index — behind North Korea, Bangladesh and Iraq but ahead of Pakistan, according to a report. The country’s serious hunger level is driven by high child malnutrition and underlines need for stronger commitment to the social sector, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said in its report. India stood at 97th position in last year’s rankings. “India is ranked 100th out of 119 countries, and has the third highest score in all of Asia — only Afghanistan and Pakistan are ranked worse,” IFPRI said in a statement. (Related: India Is The Nation Of The Most Unemployed In The World: Labour Bureau Statistics)

Forests burn across India as temperatures rise
India Climate Dialogue
The beginning of summer in India has arrived with a spate of forest fires across the country. Fires are raging in the dry deciduous forests of southern and western India. Sporadic fires have begun in the sub-tropical forests of the Himalayas as well. Even as the weathermen predict a scorching summer, 22 patches of forests are burning in the hilly state of Uttarakhand in northern India. The state made headlines in 2016 when 3500 hectares of forests were charred in a major fire outbreak. In the western state of Maharashtra, 1,500 forest fires were recorded in the past six weeks. Nearly a score of people have been killed in a massive forest fire in Tamil Nadu recently.

India Spends Record $18 Billion to Develop Roads as Elections Loom
Bloomberg
India invested a record 1.16 trillion rupees ($18 billion) in the financial year ended March, to develop highways and improve road connectivity across the nation, according to a statement from Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration spent 44 percent more than a year ago on building roads. The government plans to construct 83,677 kilometers (52,005 miles) of roads by 2022 to boost economic growth and employment, under its $106 billion Bharatmala infrastructure development plan.

Supreme Court pulls up Centre for not using Rs 90,000 crore meant for environment
Down to Earth
The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the Centre for not using around Rs 90,000 crore assigned for environment restoration. The apex court also upbraided the government for not utilizing this Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) fund for the right purpose. “It is very clear that the amount was used for purposes, other than what it was entrusted with. How far you want the court to go? We trusted the executive but they say they will do whatever they want,” the bench, comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, was quoted as saying in media reports. (Related: If passed, new forest policy will benefit private sector and hurt local ecology: experts)

Is Modi Govt Making a Backdoor Attempt at Amending UPA’s Land Acquisition Law?
The Wire
On March 15, the Lok Sabha passed the Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill, 2018 amending the existing Specific Relief Act, 1963 with only a voice vote and without any debate owing to the ongoing logjam. If passed by the Rajya Sabha, this legislation will alter fundamental principles of property law in India by forbidding courts from granting injunctions in contracts involving infrastructure projects. (Also read: Centre amends Plastic Waste Rules, but misses out on strengthening implementation)

Tourism scores over ecology, livelihoods as India’s coastal law is amended yet again
Scroll
Since June 2014, the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2011 – the legislation that governs the use of coastal space in India – has been subject to a review, over 10 amendments and circulars and the threat of being replaced by a new Marine Coastal Regulation Zone Notification. The review and draft Marine Coastal Regulation Zone Notification advocated opening up the coasts to more tourism and two of the amendments granted relaxations to beach resorts, hotels and shacks. The latest step in this direction came on March 6, when the Centre issued an amendment, which allows projects that have started construction without obtaining coastal regulation zone clearance to apply for post-facto approval by June 30.

India’s investment in renewable energy down by 24%, Modi’s target of 175GW by 2022 not achievable: UN report
Counterview
A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report has regretted that India’s investment chart in renewable energy has been “oscillating in the $6-14 billion range since 2010 – still not reaching the sort of levels that would be required for that country to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious goals for 2022” — 175 gigawatts (GW). Prepared jointly by UNEP’s Economy Division, Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the report, “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018”, says, this has happened even as China’s global investment in renewables, excluding large hydro last year, “alone representing 45%, up from 35% in 2016.”

Fertiliser industry gets new pollution norms after almost 3 decades
Down to Earth
The Indian fertiliser industry is set to implement new pollution norms notified by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in December 2017. So far the industry had emission norms only for urea and phosphatic fertiliser plants but the notification has specified emission norms for ammonia, ammonium nitrate and calcium ammonium nitrate, complex fertilisers and nitric acid plants for the first time in 29 years. The industry emits major air pollutants such as particulate matter, gaseous NH3, oxides of nitrogen, sulphur and carbon dioxide.

Delhi HC blow to Monsanto on patent for Bt cotton seed technology
Live Mint
Plant varieties and seeds cannot be patented under Indian law by companies like Monsanto Inc., and any royalties on genetically modified (GM) technology will be decided by a specialized agency of the agriculture ministry, the Delhi high court ruled on Wednesday. As a result, the patent held by Monsanto, through its Indian arm Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech Ltd (MMBL) over its Bollgard-II Bt cotton seed technology, a genetically modified variant which resists the bollworm pest, was decreed to be unenforceable in India.

Ganges river flow could more than double; says new study
Financial Express
Examining how climate change could raise food insecurity risk across the world, researchers have projected that the flow of the Ganges river could more than double at 2 degrees Celsius global warming, with floods putting food production at risk in countries like India. “Climate change is expected to lead to more extremes of both heavy rainfall and drought, with different effects in different parts of the world,” said study co-author Richard Betts, Professor at the University of Exeter in Britain. “Such weather extremes can increase vulnerability to food insecurity,” Betts added.

Maharashtra Farmer Drinks Poison, Names PM Modi In Suicide Note
NDTV
A 50-year-old debt-ridden farmer in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district committed suicide by drinking poison on Tuesday, blaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling NDA government in his suicide note. Shankar Bhaurao Chayre, from Rajurwadi village in Yavatmal district, among the worst-hit in the country due to the agrarian distress, also sought help for his family in the suicide note. Nearly 12 hours after the incident, the family refused to take over his body from the Vasantrao Naik Medical College Hospital morgue for last rites. (Related: Record government expenditure on MGNREGS underlines rural distress)

Mumbai-Nagpur Super Expressway likely to claim 2 lakh trees
DNA
The number of trees required to be chopped for the construction of the 704-km-long Mumbai-Nagpur Super Expressway may reach around 2 lakh. The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) in a Right To Information (RTI) reply to DNA informed that 1.73 lakh trees are to be chopped for a stretch of around 624-km whereas the count for the remaining 80-km stretch is still ongoing. In the RTI reply to DNA, MSRDC revealed that 2,811 trees on forest land and 32,990 on non-forest land will be chopped in Nagpur region followed by 51,579 trees on forest land and 56,900 trees on non-forest land in Amravati region. (Also read: Maharashtra Nature Park Society resolution: Maintain status quo, no change to basic nature, form of park)

Tendu finds no takers; no contractor turns up for auction in Maharashtra
Down to Earth
On March 30, 2018, 86 gram sabhas in Korchi taluka of Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra organised an auction for tendu leaves. The auction brought together more than 500 women and men from these gram sabhas. However, the day-long wait was in vain as no contractor turned up for the auction. These gram sabhas have called for re-auctioning on April 4, 2018. The year before saw a first-of-its-kind tendu revolution in India, when 140 gram sabhas in three talukas of Gadchirolli district organised themselves into a collective and auctioned tendu leaves independent of any external support—non-profits or government.

Adani Group’s Jharkhand Power Plant Would Not Help Bangladesh but Prop Up its Australia Coal Project, Claims Sydney NGO
News Click
The Adani group’s proposed 1,600 megawatt power project in Jharkhand is an expensive and risky project meant to “prop up” its controversial Carmichael coal mine in Australia at the cost of Bangladesh, the Sydney-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has claimed in a report. The Godda thermal power plant is being implemented in Jharkhand’s north-eastern Godda district by Adani group firm Adani Power (Jharkhand) Limited, which will supply the entire electricity produced by it to Bangladesh under a 25-year power purchase agreement with that country’s power agency.

Forest officials, smugglers in Uttarakhand’s Champawat illegally sold precious trees in last 6 years, reveals report
Firstpost
Forest officials, in connivance with smugglers operating across the sensitive Champawat range in Uttarakhand (bordering Nepal), logged and sold the precious forest produce in the last six years. The voluminous inquiry report submitted to the state’s Environment Minister Harak Singh Rawat on 5 March shows that forest officers, including the top brass, were involved in the racket that targeted pine and sal (Shorea robusta) trees, known for their immense commercial values and sold at a much higher price in the international market.

Telangana set to generate 5000MW solar power by 2019
The Times of India
Telangana is set to cross the 5000 MW solar power generation capacity by 2019 , more than the 1300 MW installed capacity at present. This, officials said, was because the state adopted a distributed development model which is supported by the Centre. Under this system, solar project developers are offered opportunity to develop units based on the demand-supply situation with minimal operational losses. The renewable energy capacity of the state will touch 3000 MW by this year end as projects which have been tendered and are under execution, are expected to be commissioned as per schedule.

Compensation to over 700 households destroyed by Manipur Hydro Electric Project pending
News Click
Members of the former Loktak Development Authority (LDA) in Manipur have been implicated in a Rs 224 crore scam and the chief accused among them is the former CM O Ibobi Singh. The others are project engineers, Ch. Gojendro Singh and Th. Ibobi Singh. The scam is related to the clearing of biomass from the iconic Loktak Lake. The Lake is known for its floating biomass, locally called ‘phumdis’. These phumdis consist of such dense organic matter that they resemble floating islands. The uniqueness of this natural phenomenon made Loktak Lake a designated wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1990. In 1993, it was listed in the Montreaux Record.

‘Every house has a sick person’: Why people in Tuticorin are opposing Vedanta’s copper smelter
Scroll
A copper smelter of Sterlite Copper, a unit of Vedanta, one of the world’s largest mining and metals conglomerate. Set up in 1996, it lies at the edge of Tuticorin town and has the capacity to produce 4,38,000 tonnes of copper anodes per annum, or 1,200 tonnes a day. Sterlite plans to expand it into the world’s largest smelter in a densely populated area. Over 4.6 lakh people live in eight census towns and 27 villages within a 10-km radius of the plant, according to the project’s Environment Impact Assessment report of 2015. (Related: Vedanta got clearance for Tamil Nadu copper smelter by misrepresenting its location, activists say)

UnileverSettles, but must still clean up its mercury mess
Jhatkaa.org
Three years ago, we joined hands with activists to take on Unilever, the multi-billion dollar corporation responsible for mercury poisoning in Kodaikanal. We fought this campaign tooth and nail. And in the end, 591 factory workers were compensated — a HUGE victory. But the campaign is not over. In a shocking display of double standards, Unilever is refusing to commit to a world-class clean-up of the soil mercury contamination in Kodaikanal.

Goa’s parched Pissurlem at mining companies’ mercy
The Times of India
The blue barrels outside every house, be it large or dingy, are testimony to one of the worst imprints left by mining in Pissurlem village of Sattari taluka. Open cast iron ore mining in and around the village means that large amounts of water accumulates at the base of the mining pits. As far as 65-year-old Dhaku Panshekar can recollect, his family and neighbours have always lived out of water stored in barrels waiting outside their home. These barrels are brimmed every morning with water supplied through tankers by mining companies operating in the village. (Also read: Bombay HC questions District Mineral Foundation administration in Goa, identifies loopholes in state law)

A K Ghosh, voice of people of Sundarbans, passes away at 81
Down to Earth
The founder-director of Society for Environment and Development, Dr Asish Kumar Ghosh, who passed away at the age of 81 on Monday morning in Kolkata, was known for asking tough questions and nudging the conscience of those who shy away from taking environment seriously. A renowned environmentalist and a Fulbright scholar, Dr Ghosh did an extensive research on the effects of climate change and extreme weather events on the lives of people in the Sundarbans. After 2009 Cyclone Aila wreaked havoc in the Sundarbans, he launched several projects to help the affected people. Much of the revival of traditional paddy seeds that grow in brackish water is attributed to him and his organisation

500 litres of water enough for this bio-toilet to serve a family of five for 15 years
Down to Earth
With an aim to “provide a solution to the commoners”, a research team from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur has developed a bio-toilet that can not only serve its obvious purpose but also recycle waste water and generate energy from waste. One toilet will just require 500 litres of water once and it can function for the next 15 years when used by a family of five.

WORLD

Satellite early warning system says Spain, Morocco, India and Iraq at risk as reservoirs shrink
The Guardian
Shrinking reservoirs in Morocco, India, Iraq and Spain could spark the next “day zero” water crisis, according to the developers of a satellite early warning system for the world’s 500,000 dams. Cape Town recently grabbed global headlines by launching a countdown to the day when taps would be cut off to millions of residents as a result of a three-year drought. Drastic conservation measures have forestalled that moment in South Africa, but dozens of other countries face similar risks from rising demand, mismanagement and climate change, say the World Resources Institute (WRI). (Also read: 400% rise in number of floods since 1980; droughts, forest fires doubled since then)

Gulf Stream current at its weakest in 1,600 years, studies show
The Guardian
The warm Atlantic current linked to severe and abrupt changes in the climate in the past is now at its weakest in at least 1,600 years, new research shows. The findings, based on multiple lines of scientific evidence, throw into question previous predictions that a catastrophic collapse of the Gulf Stream would take centuries to occur. Such a collapse would see western Europe suffer far more extreme winters, sea levels rise fast on the eastern seaboard of the US and would disrupt vital tropical rains. The new research shows the current is now 15% weaker than around 400AD, an exceptionally large deviation, and that human-caused global warming is responsible for at least a significant part of the weakening. (Also read: Underwater melting of Antarctic ice far greater than thought, study finds)

A North American Climate Boundary Has Shifted 140 Miles East Due to Global Warming
Yale Environment 360
In the late 1800s, geologist and explorer John Wesley Powell first described a clear boundary running longitudinally through North America along the 100th meridian west that visibly separated the humid eastern part of the continent from the more arid western plains. Now, 140 years later, scientists have confirmed that such a sharp climatic boundary exists and that it is slowly shifting east due to climate change — a change that scientists say could have significant implications on farming in the region. (Also read: 1) Rise in Mountain Plants Linked to Climate Change 2) Marine Heatwaves Now Longer, Hotter and More Intense)

New satellite to spot planet-warming industrial methane leaks
The Guardian
Methane leaking from oil and gas facilities around the world – a major contributor to global warming – is set to be spotted from space. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has announced it aims to launch a satellite called MethaneSAT by 2021 to scan the globe and make major leaks public. That information will then enable governments to force action, EDF hopes. Building and launching the satellite will cost tens of millions of dollars, but EDF says it has already raised most of the money. (Also read: 1) Cracked Undersea Pipeline Caused Deadly Oil Spill in Indonesia 2) BP claims an oil spill off Australia’s coast would be a ‘welcome boost’ to local economies)

International Energy Agency accused of undermining global shift from fossil fuels
The Guardian
The global shift from fossil fuels to renewables is being undermined by the very organisation that ought to be leading the charge, according to a scathing new critique of the International Energy Agency (IEA). Governments across the world rely on IEA projections to set energy policies, but the agency’s figures – which are influenced by the oil industry – are pushing them off track to reach the targets of the Paris climate agreement, says the report.

French police fire teargas to expel anti-capitalist squatters
The Guardian
French police have used teargas in an attempt to clear anti-capitalist squatters from the site of an abandoned airport project. About 2,500 riot police made a pre-dawn raid in Notre-Dame-des-Landes to evict about 250 activists. The squatters have for 10 years to prevent the airport from being built, but refused to leave after the earlier this year, saying they sought to construct an alternative way of life. An eclectic group of anti-capitalists, eco-warriors and squatters, known as Zadists, joined a handful of farmers on the site in 2008.

Colombia Supreme Court Rules that Amazon Region is “Subject of Rights”
CELDF
The Colombia Supreme Court of Justice declared that the Amazon region in Colombia possesses legal rights. The case was filed on behalf of twenty-five Colombian youth, accompanied by the organization Dejusticia, who sued for their environmental rights against the Colombian government. The Court declared that the “Colombian Amazon is recognized as an entity, a subject of rights” which include the right to “legal protection, preservation, maintenance and restoration.” The Supreme Court’s decision builds on the precedent set in November 2016, when Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled that the Atrato River possessed legal rights to “protection, conservation, maintenance, and restoration.”

New Zealand puts brakes on search for oil in bid to go green
The Washington Post
Signaling its commitment to a clean energy future, New Zealand’s government announced Thursday it won’t issue any more permits for offshore oil and gas exploration. The move won’t affect existing permits for exploration or extraction, meaning the industry is likely to continue in the South Pacific nation for several more decades. Still, the move is a change in direction after voters last year elected the liberal government led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. That followed nine years of conservative leadership under a government that favored expanding the industry. (Also read: End of Govt-funded irrigation in New Zealand a huge win for rivers and for people power)

World’s first electrified road for charging vehicles opens in Sweden
The Guardian
The world’s first electrified road that recharges the batteries of cars and trucks driving on it has been opened in Sweden. About 2km (1.2 miles) of electric rail has been embedded in a public road near Stockholm, but the government’s roads agency has already drafted a national map for future expansion. Sweden’s target of achieving independence from fossil fuel by 2030 requires a 70% reduction in the transport sector. (Also read: Scientists suggest a giant sunshade in the sky could solve global warming)

The ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ Is Ballooning, 87,000 Tons of Plastic and Counting
The New York Times
In the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, hundreds of miles from any major city, plastic bottles, children’s toys, broken electronics, abandoned fishing nets and millions more fragments of debris are floating in the water — at least 87,000 tons’ worth, researchers said Thursday. In recent years, this notorious mess has become known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling oceanic graveyard where everyday objects get deposited by the currents. The plastics eventually disintegrate into tiny particles that often get eaten by fish and may ultimately enter our food chain. (Also read: Drug Waste Flushed Into World’s Freshwater Ecosystems to Rise 65% by 2050)

Palm Oil Banned by Major UK Supermarket
EcoWatch
The UK supermarket Iceland has announced it will remove palm oil from all its own brand products by the end of the year due to the belief there is no such thing as “sustainable” palm oil. Increasing demand for palm oil is still having devastating effects on wildlife, habitats and people where it is grown, and sustainable palm oil schemes are failing to mitigate these impacts. The supermarket is the first major UK supermarket to make such a move. (Also read: Nestlé’s Plastic Initiative Called ‘Greenwashing’ by Greenpeace)

Green-haired turtle that breathes through its genitals added to endangered list
The Guardian
It sports a green mohican, fleshy finger-like growths under its chin and can breathe through its genitals. The Mary river turtle is one of the most striking creatures on the planet, and it is also one of the most endangered. The 40cm long turtle, which is only found on the Mary river in Queensland, features in a new list of the most vulnerable reptile species compiled by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Fate of Canada’s 3,500 coal-power workers, and more, at stake with new ‘just transition’ task force
ACW
Trudeau government is poised to launch Canada’s first federal task force on a “just transition” for workers affected by policies intended to mitigate climate change. In this case, it’s the government’s plan to virtually eliminate traditional coal-fired electricity generation by 2030, which may put up to 3,500 coal miners and power workers out of work in several provinces. The task force announcement comes more than a year after the government declared its intention to phase out coal in November 2016. (Also read: Google workers demand end to company’s involvement in drone murder)

Mobil Knew: CEO Discusses Links Between Fossil Fuels and Climate Change in 20-Year-Old Footage
EcoWatch
“We are not in anyway saying that greenhouse gases can be dismissed as a risk, or that climate change associated with the build-up of greenhouse gases can be dismissed on a scientific basis as being a non-event.” These words in themselves are not surprising—they are a basic statement of scientific fact. But their source is. They were spoken by then-CEO of Mobil Lucio Noto in 1998, one year before the company merged with Exxon. The new company would go on to put at least $16 million towards funding climate-denying advocacy groups and think tanks between 1998 and 2005. (Related: Shell Knew Fossil Fuels Created Climate Change Risks Back in 1980s, Internal Documents Show)

Britain offers millions in cash to bury its radioactive waste
DW
Britain is again hunting for a suitable site to store its highly radioactive nuclear waste after a previous attempt was blocked by residents. Rural areas could be given cash if they house the underground facility. After the British government failed to convince residents in Cumbria, it has restarted its search to find a suitable underground site. And this time, local communities across England and Wales are being offered large cash incentives — as high as 2.5 million pounds (€2.9 billion or $3.5 million) per year — to house the facility.

Global Debt Hits Record $237 Trillion, Up $21TN In 2017
Zero Hedge
According to the Institute of International Finance – perhaps best known for its periodic and concerning reports summarizing global leverage statistics – as of the end of 2016, in a period of so-called “coordinated growth”, global debt hit a new all time high of $217 trillion, over 327% of global GDP, and up $50 trillion over the past decade. Now, according to its latest quarterly update, the IIF has calculated that global debt rose another $4 trillion in the past quarter, to a record $237 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2017, and more than $70 trillion higher from a decade earlier, and up roughly $20 trillion in 2017 alone.

 

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