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NEWS UPDATE #180


HIGHLIGHTS: *Centre proposes relaxation of CRZ norms *44% probability of below-normal monsoon, reservoirs at 25% of live storage capacity *Farm income drops in 16 states *More than 95% of world’s population breathe dangerous air, major study finds *30% of Great Barrier Reef coral died in ‘catastrophic’ 2016 heatwave *Scientists accidentally create enzyme that eats plastic

INDIA

Centre proposes relaxation of coastal regulation zone norms
The Hindu
The Centre has allowed India’s coasts to be made more accessible to tourism and industrial infrastructure and given individual States considerable leeway to decide how they should plan such development, according to a draft version of the proposed modification to India’s coastal regulation zone plan made public on the Environment Ministry website on Wednesday. The coastal regulation zone, or CRZ, 2011, refers to regions in the proximity of India’s 7000-km-long shoreline where buildings, tourism facilities, industrial projects, residential facilities etc are highly regulated.

MoEFCC releases details of National Clean Air Programme; no clarity yet on emission reduction targets
Down to Earth
What is interesting to note is that while the document mentions emission reduction targets, nowhere does it actually quantify these targets. However, the draft concept note for NCAP released earlier in March, which included the minutes of the meeting held on September 5, 2017, clearly listed specific targets to reduce 35 per cent pollution levels in the next three years and 50 per cent pollution levels in the next five years. These targets don’t find a mention in the concept note.

Take note: there is 44% probability of below-normal monsoon this year
Down to Earth
The first stage forecast of southwest monsoon 2018 by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) is out, and not surprisingly, it has predicted normal monsoon. “Forecast suggests maximum probability for normal rainfall and a low probability for deficient rainfall during the season,” reads the press release issued by the IMD this afternoon. Quantitatively, the monsoon seasonal rainfall is likely to be 97 per cent of the Long Period Average (LPA) with a model error of ± 5 per cent. According to the forecast, there is 42 per cent possibility of normal rain (96 per cent – 104 per cent) and 14 per cent probability of deficient rain, which is below 90 per cent. (Related: 1) Water level in reservoirs now at 25% of live storage capacity; southern, central regions worst affected 2) ‘People are dying, but no urgency shown’: Supreme Court asks Haryana, Delhi to address water woes)

Farm income drops in 16 states and union territories
Down to Earth
A farmer in Delhi earned Rs 14,079 from cultivation in 2012-13, which, in real terms, was 12.6 per cent lower than what he earned in 2002-03, highlights a report by the Centre’s Doubling of Farmers Income Committee. Farm income dip was also registered in West Bengal (4.2 per cent), Bihar (1.4 per cent) and Uttarakhand (3.4 per cent), along with 13 others. A farmer in Delhi earned Rs 14,079 from cultivation in 2012-13, which, in real terms, was 12.6 per cent lower than what he earned in 2002-03, highlights a report by the Centre’s Doubling of Farmers Income Committee. Farm income dip was also registered in West Bengal (4.2 per cent), Bihar (1.4 per cent) and Uttarakhand (3.4 per cent), along with 13 others. (Also read: India must create 8.1 million jobs annually, says World Bank report)

Surat becomes India’s top renewable energy producer across cities
Economic Times
The Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) produces nearly 40MW of green energy from wind, solar and biogas. Another 10MW of energy will be produced in the next 12 months. Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India, had said a couple of months ago that as far as renewable energy is concerned, no other city in the country can match Surat which has set up its own wind power plants and produces 30MW electricity.

Goa mining: HC asks CBI, CVC to examine complaints against MoEF officers
Business Standard
The Delhi High Court today asked the CBI and the CVC to examine complaints seeking a probe into the role of a minister and officers of the Ministry of Environment and Forests for allegedly illegally causing gain to private mining firms and loss to the exchequer while granting them mining leases. It asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to examine the complaint to the agency and communicate the decision to the petitioner, who has approached the court seeking a direction to the CBI and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to conduct a thorough probe into the matter.

China-based multilateral bank keeps out people’s groups from urban consultation ahead of Mumbai annual meet
Counterview
Gujarat’s civil society groups have strongly protested against their exclusion during consultations, currently being held in different parts of the country as part of preparations of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s (AIIB’s) second Annual Governors’ Meeting in Mumbai on June 25-26 in Mumbai. The consultations in Gujarat are to be held in a top Ahmedabad hotel on April 19-20. Formed outside the Bretton Woods framework, which led to the formation of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, AIIB mainly seeks to fund infrastructure projects in the Asia-Pacific region. (Also read: Scam-Hit Louis Berger Bags Mumbai Metro Project as Part of Larger Consortium)

At least 99 pesticides should have been banned in India: Supreme Court
DNA
n an ongoing PIL that seeks Supreme Court’s directions for concrete action on harmful pesticides and their phasing out in India, in its last hearing a month ago, the Court directed the petitioners to make a representation to the “J S Sandhu Committee” within 15 days. The Court further ordered that ‘since the matter is of urgent nature, let the recommendations be finalised by the Committee expeditiously, preferably within 3 months, and if decision is taken to ban a particular pesticide, let it be implemented fifteen days thereafter’. (Related: 1) India under threat from Glyphosate , the world’s most widely used herbicide, says food safety campaigner 2) Without its GM cotton patents, Monsanto may stop doing business in India)

Mumbai, Kerala most affected by marine litter; microplastics pose a major threat
Down to Earth
The seas near Mumbai, Kerala and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are among the worst polluted in the world, according to a new study that mapped marine pollution around the world. Seabirds and fish are severely affected by the marine litter, as shown in the latest analysis by researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany. For the first time, the researchers have compiled 1,237 scientific studies on marine litter into a single, comprehensive database called Litterbase. (Also read: Dumping of construction waste in Mumbai’s Ulhas estuary wetlands angers environmentalists)

Study finds increased concentration of black carbon in Gangotri region during tourist seasons
Down to Earth
In a significant input for the growing debate on global climate change, a study by researchers at the Dehradun-based Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology have found that there is a remarkable increase in the concentration of black carbon in the atmosphere near the pilgrim town of Gangotri in Uttarakhand during the two annual tourist seasons of April to June and during September and October. The study conducted at the all weather real-time black carbon monitoring station at Chilbasa near the Gangotri Glacier, 12 km from the temple town has found that concentration of the aerosol peaked during May.

UCIL Prevents Activist Meeting to Discuss Impacts of Uranium Mining in Kadapa
Dianuke
National Alliance of People’s Movements strongly condemns the high-handedness of the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), a Govt. of India undertaking under the Department of Atomic Energy (headed by the Prime Minister) and the Andhra Pradesh police in misbehaving with activists of Human Rights Forum and NAPM and denying them access to the venue of a public meet yesterday in Kadapa District of Andhra Pradesh by unlawfully detaining them for a couple of hours. The team that was arbitrarily detained on their way to the UCIL (where the meeting was called) and taken to Vemula police station included septuagenarian Dr. Babu Rao; eminent scientist and environmentalist (HRF-NAPM), Adv. Jayasree Kakumani of Human Rights Forum and Rajesh Serupally, NAPM.

World Bank fillip for natural resources of Meghalaya
The Hindu
The World Bank on Monday signed a $48 million loan agreement for revitalising natural resources in Meghalaya through a community-led landscape approach. The project is expected to benefit 1,00,000 people in rural Meghalaya besides building the capacity of some 30,000 youth through access to technology. The Meghalaya Community-led Landscapes Management Project is designed to support the State’s three tribal communities – Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia – in managing its forests and natural resources through customary laws.

Digvijay Singh concludes six-month-long ‘Narmada Yatra’
The Times of India
Congress leader Digvijay Singh today concluded his over six-month-long ‘Narmada Yatra’ along the banks of the holy river in Madhya Pradesh’s Narsinghpur district. Singh, 70, his wife Amrita, and former MPs Rameshwar Neekhra and Narayan Singh Amlabe, along with their several supporters, reached the Barman ghat of the river this morning after covering a distance of nearly 3,300 km on foot. The Narmada is the “oldest” river in India, he had said during his yatra covering 110 of the 230 assembly constituencies in the state, and demanded urgent measures to ensure its revival.

WORLD

Species Threatened as Climate Crisis Pushes Mother Nature ‘Out of Synch’
EcoWatch
The warming of the Earth over the past several decades is throwing Mother Nature’s food chain out of whack and leaving many species struggling to survive, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A paper by ecologists at the University of Ottawa examined 88 species on four continents, and more than 50 relationships between predator and pray as well as herbivores and the plants they eat, and found that food chain events are taking place earlier in the year than they have in the past, because of the warming climate. (Also read: Natural, man-made disasters in 2017 led to economic losses worth $337 billion: study)

More than 95% of world’s population breathe dangerous air, major study finds
The Guardian
More than 95% of the world’s population breathe unsafe air and the burden is falling hardest on the poorest communities, with the gap between the most polluted and least polluted countries rising rapidly, a comprehensive study of global air pollution has found. Cities are home to an increasing majority of the world’s people, exposing billions to unsafe air, particularly in developing countries, but in rural areas the risk of indoor air pollution is often caused by burning solid fuels. One in three people worldwide faces the double whammy of unsafe air both indoors and out.

Poor countries are investing a lot more than rich countries in renewable energy
Quartz
The main reason for investment in renewable energy is to curb climate change, and the historical burden for the carbon emissions now causing climate change lies squarely on the shoulder of the rich world. The US and Europe, put together, have produced more than 40% of all emissions since the industrial era began. But the rich world is no longer doing enough to take its fair share of responsibility. As the chart above shows, poor countries are now investing far more into renewables than rich ones. (Related: Costa Rica’s New President Vows ‘Emancipation’ From Dirty Transport)

Six-fold rise in renewable energy adoption must to keep global warming below 2°C: IRENA
Down to Earth
Though, 167 GW of renewable power infrastructure was added in 2017, about six-fold increase in renewable energy adoption is required to keep global warming below 2°C, says International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) report launched at the Berlin Transition Dialogue on Tuesday. Speaking at the event, Adnan Z Amin, director general of IRENA says that in all probability, share of renewable in energy mix across all countries will exceed 40 per cent, and in few countries the share will even go up to 60 per cent by 2050.(Related: 1) EU Leaders Put Foot Down over Climate, Telling Trump: ‘No Paris Agreement, no trade agreement’ 2) Global body comes into action to map geopolitical impact of renewables)

FAO focuses on heat stress protection measures for agriculture, forestry workers
Down to Earth
A Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report argues for improved labour safety in agriculture, where workers are engaged in back-breaking jobs for long hours in the sun. The study, Managing Heat in Agricultural Work, aims at reducing health complications and fatalities for an estimated 31.8 per cent of the world’s working population in agriculture. The report points out the need to provide decent employment and suitable workplace conditions to workers, an important goal that also finds mention in the Sustainable Development Goals.

8 kids from Florida are suing their state over climate change
Grist
On Monday, eight youth filed a lawsuit against Scott, a slew of state agencies, and the state of Florida itself. The kids, ages 10 to 19, are trying to get their elected officials to recognize the threat climate change poses to their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They are asking for a “court-ordered, science-based Climate Recovery Plan” — one that transitions Florida away from a fossil fuel energy system. This lawsuit is the latest in a wave of youth-led legal actions across the United States. (Related: Colorado Communities File Lawsuit Against Oil Giants for Climate Change Costs)

Great Barrier Reef: 30% of coral died in ‘catastrophic’ 2016 heatwave
The Guardian
Scientists have chronicled the “mass mortality” of corals on the Great Barrier Reef, in a new report that says 30% of the reef’s corals died in a catastrophic nine-month marine heatwave. The study, published in Nature and led by Prof Terry Hughes, the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, examined the link between the level of heat exposure, subsequent coral bleaching and ultimately coral death. The extent and severity of the coral die-off recorded in the Great Barrier Reef surprised even the researchers. (Also read: Illegal fishing and unsustainable tourism is threatening Indonesia’s Komodo national park)

February 2018: 40°F Hotter Than Usual at Arctic Outpost and Climate Scientists Are Freaking Out
Enviro News
In the dark of an Arctic February, when the sun is nowhere to be found, the Danish Meteorological Institute’s (DMI) outpost in Jesup, Greenland (400 miles from the North Pole), just observed record-smashing temperatures, far exceeding what scientists expect to see this time of year, with a high of 43 degrees Fahrenheit (about 6 degrees Celsius). In 2018, the station has already spent 61 hours above freezing; 24 of those hours were on February 25. The previous record stood at 16 hours in 2011, measured through the end of April.

Carbon dioxide from ships at sea to be regulated for first time
The Guardian
Carbon dioxide from ships at sea will be regulated for the first time following a historic agreement reached after two weeks of detailed talks in London. Shipping companies will halve their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 under the plan, brokered by the International Maritime Organization and binding across its 170 member states. The agreement will require a revolution among ships, which are overwhelmingly fuelled by heavy oils at present.

Leaked Proposal Shows Trump Administration Planning to Kill Crucial Protections for Threatened Animals
Mother Jones
Trump’s Department of the Interior is seeking to “revise” key, 40-year-old regulations which currently protect more than 300 threatened plant and animal species listed under the 1973 Endangered Species Act, according to a draft document that quietly leaked last week. According to the proposal, protections won’t end for current threatened species, but rather only future ones. Before a copy of the proposal was leaked last week, several news outlets reported that protections would end for current threatened species, which we now know is not the case. (Related: Trump administration’s revisions to crucial pesticide protections could let minors work with pesticides, again)

Americans waste 150,000 tons of food each day – equal to a pound per person
The Guardian
mericans waste about a pound of food per person each day, with people who have healthier diets rich in fruit and vegetables the most wasteful, research has found. About 150,000 tons of food is tossed out in US households each day, equivalent to about a third of the daily calories that each American consumes. Fruit and vegetables were the most likely to be thrown out, followed by dairy and then meat. This waste has an environmental toll, with the volume of discarded food equivalent to the yearly use of 30m acres of land, 780m pounds of pesticide and 4.2tn gallons of irrigated water. Rotting food also clogs up landfills and releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

How a ‘Toxic Cocktail’ Is Posing a Troubling Health Risk in China’s Cities
Yale Environment 360
The foul air of dozens of fast-expanding cities across China contains cocktails of toxic contaminants unprecedented in the range of pollutants they contain at high concentrations. Now, new research into these swirling maelstroms of gases and tiny particulates suggests that they may be incubating chemical reactions that compound the health effects in ways not seen before – effects that doctors say are cutting five years off the expected lifespan of half a billion people in northern China.(Also read: Fluorinated Chemical Pollution Crisis Spreads in the United States)

Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles
The Guardian
Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles. The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug. (Related: Researchers create super sponge that mops up oil spills)

Japan’s renewable energy puzzle: solar push threatens environment
The Guardian
In the post-Fukushima era, local authorities around Japan are courting private investment in renewables as part of a push to dramatically increase their share of the national energy mix. The project, along with dozens of other large-scale solar farms, is also supposed to help Japan – the world’s fifth-biggest carbon emitter – honour its Paris climate agreement vow to cut carbon emissions by 26% by 2030 from 2013 levels. But while most residents support the Yamakura plant’s construction, in other parts of Chiba prefecture campaigners say the rush to blanket large areas with solar panels has the potential to unleash environmental catastrophes, even as they lower CO2 emissions.

Amazon coral reef would be ruined by planned oil drilling, scientists say
The Guardian
Scientists aboard a Greenpeace ship have discovered a massive and unique coral reef near the mouth of the Amazon, in an area where the French company Total intends to drill for oil. The 1,000km long and 56,000 sq km Amazon coral reef is a biome thought to contain dozens of undiscovered species that environmentalists say would be irreparably damaged if drilling for oil began – a vision at odds with the wish of oil companies hoping to explore the area’s vast estimated reserves.

End of the Road: Are Diesel Cars on the Way Out in Europe?
Yale Environment 360
A small environmental organization has taken on Germany’s powerful auto industry in court and has begun winning limited bans on heavily polluting diesel vehicles. Some analysts say this may be the beginning of the end for diesel automobiles in Germany and the European Union. The case’s potential ramifications are profound and demonstrate the outsized clout of Resch and his organization in their David-and-Goliath battle against Germany’s world-leading automobile industry, which generates 404 billion euros in annual revenues— roughly 20 percent of Germany’s total industrial revenue — and provides nearly 800,000 jobs in Germany alone.

Balkan dam projects could result in loss of one in 10 European fish species
The Guardian
Nearly one in 10 of Europe’s fish species will be pushed to the brink of extinction by a constellation of hydropower plants planned in the western Balkans, new research has found. Eleven endemic species would be wiped out, seven more would be critically endangered, four types of sturgeon would be devastated and the number of endangered species would double to 24, according to the University of Graz report.

Court Rules Poland Broke EU Law with Logging in Ancient Forest
Yale Environment 360
Poland violated environmental laws when it allowed large-scale logging in the ancient Białowieża forest, according to a new ruling by the European Union’s highest court, Reuters reported. The Białowieża is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the last remnants of a primeval forest that once stretched across the European continent. In the final ruling of European Court of Justice (ECJ), released today, the justices wrote that Poland had “failed to fulfill its obligations” to protect the habitats of animals and birds. Two years ago, Poland tripled logging quotas in the forest as a way to combat a bark beetle infestation that the government said endangered human safety.

Top scientist leaves Iran after crackdown on environmentalists
The Guardian
A top Iranian environmental scientist wooed by Hassan Rouhani’s administration to return home from the UK has left Iran amid a crackdown on environmentalists and pressure from hardliners. Kaveh Madani had been persuaded to leave his position at Imperial College London last year to serve as the deputy head of Iran’s environment department. He was seen as a symbol of Rouhani’s efforts to reverse the country’s brain drain, but his decision to step down less than a year later demonstrates the president’s failure to curb the power of the unelected faction of the Iranian establishment that is bent on undermining his policies.

Global debt now worse than before financial crisis, says IMF
The Guardian
The global economy is more deeply indebted than before the financial crisis and countries need to take immediate action to improve their finances before the next downturn, the International Monetary Fund has said. The IMF said a prolonged period of low interest rates had stimulated a build-up of debt worth 225% of world GDP in 2016, 12 points above the previous record level reached in 2009. China was responsible for much of the increase, the IMF said, but noted that developed, emerging market and low-income countries all now looked vulnerable.

50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists To Point Blame At Fat
NPR
In the 1960s, the sugar industry funded research that downplayed the risks of sugar and highlighted the hazards of fat, according to a newly published article in JAMA Internal Medicine. The article draws on internal documents to show that an industry group called the Sugar Research Foundation wanted to “refute” concerns about sugar’s possible role in heart disease. The SRF then sponsored research by Harvard scientists that did just that. The result was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967, with no disclosure of the sugar industry funding.

 

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