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NEWS UPDATE #182


HIGHLIGHTS: *Farmers To Stop Supplying Vegetables, Grains, Milk To Cities Across India For 10 Days *Only 20% of live water storage in reservoirs *50,000 farmers protest bullet train, expressway *SC rejects Monsanto plea *Costa Rica to ban fossil fuels *World’s largest insurer Allianz divests from coal *Tourism responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions

Click on headlines to read reports

INDIA

Despite The Constitution Of A Panel To Probe Deaths, Jharkhand’s Hunger Crisis Is Likely To Worsen
Caravan
Since September last year, Jharkhand has witnessed at least seven deaths, across various districts. In each case, the families alleged that the deaths occurred as a result of starvation. Probes by the state government concluded that in each case, the cause of death was not starvation but an unrelated illness. Yet, fact-finding studies by independent researchers in Jharkhand, and the ground-level reporting for this story, have revealed a desperate lack of food in the households where these deaths took place, and indicated towards the truth of the claims of the concerned families.

Farmers To Stop Supplying Vegetables, Grains, Milk To Cities Across India For 10 Days From June 1: Kisan Mahasangh
Outlook
The Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, an umbrella body of 110 farmers’ organisations, today said it would not supply farm products such as vegetables, grains and milk to cities across india for 10 days from June 1 in protest against ‘the anti-farmer policies’ of the Central government. A nation-wide Bharat banch would be held on June 10 till 2 pm, the group’s leaders, including former BJP minister Yashwant Sinha, told the media here. (Related: 1) Peasant outfits seek special session of Parliament to pass farm-oriented bills 2) Farmer unrest surfaces in MP again as garlic prices plunge)

India enters summer with 20% of live water storage in its reservoirs
Down to Earth
The average live water storage in all 91 water reservoirs in India is 20 per cent and the water levels of 77 of them are at 40 per cent or less, says the latest bulletin of Central Water Commission, a monitoring agency for water levels of the reservoirs in the country. The amount of water in these reservoirs has been steadily declining, shows an analysis of the past three months’ data. According to the report released by Central Water Commission on May 10, the water level in 77 reservoirs has dipped to 40 per cent or less height compared to the full reservoir level (FRL). Just 7 days ago, this number was 73. (Related: Conserving natural resources: Irrigation water may be charged 2) Government announces month long drive to deepen water bodies in Gujarat)

India giving rice and wheat production vast support, U.S. tells WTO
Reuters
India is supporting its rice and wheat farmers with payments that are far higher than the amounts allowed by the World Trade Organization, the United States said in a statement published by the WTO on Wednesday. “It appears that India provides market price support (MPS) for wheat and rice vastly in excess of what it has reported to the WTO,” the U.S. statement said. “India’s apparent MPS for wheat appears to have been over 60 percent of the value of production in each of the last four years for which India has notified data. Its apparent MPS for rice appears to have been over 70 percent.” Anything over 10 percent would break WTO rules, it added. India has made reform of agricultural subsidies a major negotiating issue at the WTO in the past five years. (Also read: 1) How the government quietly scaled back its ambitious plans to reform fertiliser subsidies 2) Cabinet decision: Rs 1,600-crore aid to cane growers amid rising dues of sugar mills)

After ‘biggest Maoist encounter’, commandos, fear and troubling questions stalk Gadchiroli villages
Scroll
On April 22, the police claim, they were tipped off about a “Maoist camp” in the forests. They ambushed the guerrillas and killed 16 of them. The following day, they killed another six Maoists about 80 km to the south at Rajaram Khandla in the Jimalgatta forests. On April 24, they recovered 15 bodies from the Indravati river. These bodies, the police alleged, were of other Maoists killed on April 22. Subsequently, three more bodies were found in the river. So, in all, the police claimed to have killed 40 Maoists. The Maoists contested this claim, saying only 25 “are recognised by us and 22 of them were party cadre.” The three recognised non-cadres were ordinary villagers, they said in a statement that was issued on April 26 but reached the media on May 5. About the rest of the people killed, the statement did not say anything.

We have never seen anything like this before: dust storm victims in Rajasthan, UP
Down to Earth
“People have even reported motorcycles and sheep flying into nearby villages,” J P Singh, chief programme manager of Lupin Foundation in Bharatpur told Down To Earth. His organisation is working closely with village communities on restoration efforts in the region. “Dust storms, which are common in the region, carry very little rain with them. But this was different. There was heavy rain and hail which caused the damage along with strong winds,” says Punit Verma, programme coordinator at Lupin. “Nobody had seen such strong winds in the region before. The thunderstorm on April 11-12 had wind speeds of 130 km/hr, but this was much higher,” he adds. (Related: New normal: series of intense, widespread storms in less than a week; 19 states brace for more)

India’s government is slowly killing its pollution rules to benefit thermal plants
Scroll
As India becomes infamous for having some of the most polluted cities in the world, the Union government has made another attempt to subvert its own rules brought in to curtail air pollution. In December, the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre had allowed all existing thermal power plants in the country to release pollutants in violation of the legal limits for up to five more years. Now, three months later, the government has decided to exempt even under-construction plants from meeting the legally-binding pollution standards till up to five years, documents reviewed by Scroll.in show. (Related: National Electricity Plan revised to make room for more coal 2) Gondwana Ispat Ltd, director convicted in coal scam case)

50,000 farmers protest bullet train, expressway
The Hindu
The 1.5 kilometres from Sagar Naka to Paar Naka in Dahanu was a river of red on Thursday. More than 50,000 farmers from over 60 villages in the Thane-Palghar district in red caps and sari, waving red flags, protested against the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train and the Mumbai-Vadodara expressway and the loss of over 1000 acres of agricultural land and houses. The rally was followed by a public meeting at Dahanu beach.

Supreme Court rejects Monsanto plea on seed patent order
Live Mint
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay a 2 May Delhi high court order which held that plant varieties and seeds cannot be patented under Indian law by companies like Monsanto Inc., and that royalties on genetically modified (GM) technology would be decided by a specialized agency of the agriculture ministry. 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 GM variant which resists the bollworm pest, was decreed to be unenforceable in India. (Also read: Popular Beer and Wine Brands Contaminated With Monsanto’s Weedkiller, Tests Reveal)

Spent fuel will be stored at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant site itself: NPCIL
The Hindu
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) plans to hold the spent nuclear fuel from the two units at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) at the site itself till the ‘away from reactor’ (AFR) is ready. According to a status report submitted by the NPCIL to the AERB last December, the revised schedule for the completion of construction of the AFR is April 2022. In the report, the NPCIL said the spent fuel assemblies (FA) would have at least five years of cooling in the fuel pool prior to the transfer from the pool to outside the reactor.

Illicit sand miners brutally murder police constable in Tamil Nadu
The Hindu
A Special Branch constable was brutally murdered by illicit sand miners near Nanguneri in the district in the early hours of Monday after he tried to arrest them for illegally lifting sand from the Nambiyar riverbed. Police said S. Jegadish Durai (33), of Chinthamani near Moolaikkaraipatti under Nanguneri sub-division, on getting alert from his informers about illicit sand mining at Pondicherry, a small hamlet on Nambiyar riverbed in the early hours of Monday, went to the spot on his two-wheeler. (Related: 1) REVEALED: How Tamil Nadu Officials Made Up A Report To Aid Illegal Sand-Mining) 2) Failed to prevent illegal sand mining in Rajasthan:Government to SC)

Cheap renewable energy is killing India’s coal-based power plants
Quartz
Renewable energy prices in India are crashing, leaving coal-based power plants in the country financially unviable in their wake. Over the last year, wind and solar power tariffs have fallen to a record low of around Rs2.4 per unit, much lower than the average of Rs3.7 per unit at which analysts say coal-based power is currently being sold on India’s power exchanges. As a result, coal-based power plants are falling out of favour with power distribution companies (discoms). Last financial year, for the first time, India added more power capacity from renewable sources than coal.

Massive exercise underway to map air pollution sources in Delhi
Down to Earth
A group of scientists and students are braving heat and dust this summer in the national capital to map all possible sources of air pollution, so that by winter this year we can get a fair idea of different sources of pollution in the city. Ground level data about emissions from as many as 26 different sources of pollution is being collected throughout the city, as part of a three-month campaign to prepare an emission inventory. Many new sources, which were earlier not taken seriously or ignored, will now be quantified. The emission inventory campaign has been mounted run by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) Pune under the Ministry of Earth Sciences. (Related: WHO Report: Why South Indian Cities Sit Pretty While North Breathes Toxic Air)

The Ganga is leaving Patna’s ghats
The Third Pole
The Ganga, which is already in bad shape due to increasing pollution and decreasing water, is now also swiftly moving away from its banks in Patna, the capital of the Indian state of Bihar. No serious scientific attempt has been made to deal with this crisis, warned experts and activists, while at the same time an ambitious project Ganga-Pathway project – to build an 20.5 kilometre elevated road in the river to ease traffic problems – is underway, posing a new threat. In some places, the river has been shifted after work started, but by the time it is finished, the river will have completely moved away from the city.

Microbeads-laden soaps and gels toxifying water bodies
The Hindu
Liquid soaps and shower gels laced with microbeads, or plastic beads smaller than 0.2 mm that help peel off dead skin are finding their way into water bodies adding to the toxic, plastic broth. In May 2017, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) issued a notification and added ‘non-biodegradable polymeric microbeads’ to the ‘List of raw materials generally not recognised as safe for use in cosmetics’. Earlier, it had a clause for household detergents: “The material shall not contain any microbeads or other synthetic abrasive material.” While the law exists on paper, soap, creams and gels containing these microbeads are available off the shelf and online.

Himachal’s Kashang hydroelectric project works awarded without clearances, says CAG
Down to Earth
A recently tabled CAG audit report on Himachal Pradesh PSUs has indicted Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd for grave violations of environmental and public consultation laws. During audit scrutiny of records related to 195-MW Integrated Kashang Hydroelectric project in June 2017, CAG auditors found that “the work for stage II and III was awarded (September 2010) without obtaining no objection certificate from local panchayat and receipt of approval for diversion of forestland” for non-forest purposes. After Rs 146.72 crore have been spent on the erection of electro mechanical equipment for stage II and III of the project, the work has been held up after the National Green Tribunal imposed a stay on it for not obtaining an NOC from local panchayats as per prescribed procedure, adds CAG audit. (Also read: NEEPCO’s Kameng project in Arunachal fails pre-commission trial)

Patanjali plea in court: Swadeshi firms need not share revenue with farmers
Business Standard
Should ‘Swadeshi’ companies have to share with farmers the huge profits and benefits they derive from selling India’s bioresources as their ‘herbal’ and ‘ayurvedic’ products? Or are only ‘foreign companies’ required to provide monetary and non-monetary benefits to the people who grow, protect and conserve India’s biodiversity? Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali conglomerate, with a self-declared annual revenue of more than Rs 100 billion, contends that state authorities do not have the power to collect such a levy from it.

National Forestry Research Plan to focus on climate change
Down to Earth
The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), an autonomous body under the government of India that looks after forestry related research and education, is going to release the second National Forestry Research Plan (NFRP) this year, according to S C Gairola, director general of ICFRE. The plan is made every 20 years and the last plan was formulated in 2000. “The plan guides the scientific research in the area of forestry. It acts as a blueprint for the advances in forestry sciences,” says Rajiv Pandey, senior scientist at Forest Research Institute. According to media reports, the plan will focus on climate change. (Related: Western Ghats forest cover vital for Tamil Nadu’s South-West monsoon rainfall, study finds)

‘Kaziranga no orphan to be adopted’: Assam fumes over sanctuary’s inclusion in Adopt a Heritage plan
Scroll
The inclusion of Assam’s Kaziranga National Park in the Union government’s Adopt a Heritage scheme has not gone down well with many of the state’s activist bodies and communities living around the reserve forest. The Union tourism ministry scheme, which provides for the “development, operation and maintenance of world-class tourist infrastructure” of tourist sites by private companies, includes three other monuments in Assam. While no company has yet been formally signed up to adopt any of these sites, a Guwahati-based travel company has submitted an expression of interest. (Related: National Authority Threatens to Cut Project Tiger Funding for Kaziranga)

New species of shieldtail snake discovered in Western Ghats
Down to Earth
Scientists have discovered an entirely new species of shieldtail snake from the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu, which differs from other members of its group as it has a broader and longer head and more number of scales on its belly, according to a recent report published in the journal Zootaxa. Scientifically named Uropeltis bhupathyi, the new snake species is presently only known to exist in the Anaikatty hills of Tamil Nadu which is dominated by a deciduous type of vegetation. Scientists have named the newly discovered species as Bhupathy’s shieldtail snake in honor of Dr Subramanian Bhupathy who was a noted Indian herpetologist.

Enforce rules to eliminate single-use carry bags: Centre to states
Times of India
Being the global host of this year’s World Environment Day (June 5) with ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ as its theme, the Centre has written to all states and Union Territories (UTs) to undertake a massive campaign against use of single-use plastics and enforce rules to ensure elimination of plastic carry bags of less than 50 microns in thickness. Though the Centre had banned polythene bags below 50 microns in thickness across the country in 2016, most states have so far failed to enforce it amid resistance from small businesses and vendors. (Also read: National Green Tribunal orders manufacturers to display the lead content in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes)

SC sets aside NGT’s order quashing EC granted to Adani-Hazira port
The Economic Times
The Supreme Court has set aside the National Green Tribunal order quashing the environmental clearance (EC) granted in 2013 to Adani-Hazira Port Pvt Ltd (AHPPL) for development of port activities at Surat. A bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan also directed that Rs 25 crore, which the AHPPL had deposited pursuant to NGT’s January 2016 order, be refunded to the company. The apex court passed the order after it was apprised that the matter was settled between the parties and the fishermen have also been paid adequate compensation. (Also read: Kalpasar can’t be implemented, is a non-starter: Gujarat BJP’s “tallest” intellectual on ambitious Rs 55,000 cr project)

WORLD

Costa Rica to ban fossil fuels and become world’s first decarbonised society
Independent
Costa Rica’s new president has announced a plan to ban fossil fuels and become the first fully decarbonised country in the world. Carlos Alvarado, a 38-year-old former journalist, made the announcement to a crowd of thousands during his inauguration on Wednesday. “Decarbonisation is the great task of our generation and Costa Rica must be one of the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first,” Mr Alvarado said.

World’s largest insurance company Allianz divests from coal
350.org
The world’s largest insurance company, Allianz announced that it will pull the plug on investments in coal companies and increase investments in wind energy. Allianz is one of the largest financial institutions in the world. It’s estimated that the decision will result in a shift of €4 billion. As of September, more than 400 institutions managing $2.6 trillion had made divestment commitments. In the lead-up to the climate negotiations, that number is now approaching 500 institutions including major investors such as Allianz and the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund. (Related: Greenpeace declares victory as Belgian bank KBC ends its coal investments)

Tourism responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, study finds
Carbon Brief
Worldwide tourism accounted for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions from 2009 to 2013, new research finds, making the sector a bigger polluter than the construction industry. The study, which looks at the spending habits of travellers in 160 countries, shows that the impact of tourism on global emissions could be four times larger than previously thought. The findings suggest that tourism could threaten the achievement of the goals of the Paris Agreement, a study author tells Carbon Brief.

Dam collapse kills at least 38 in Kenya; flood situation in East Africa remains grim
Down to Earth
At least 38 people have been killed in Kenya’s Rift Valley after a dam collapsed following weeks of torrential rain, which has also forced hundreds from their homes. Water reportedly burst through the banks of the Patel Dam in Nakuru County on Wednesday night, washing away hundreds of homes. Around 38 bodies have been recovered and many people are reported missing. About 40 people, who were rescued from the disaster-hit region, have been taken to hospital. (Also read: China-backed Sumatran dam threatens the rarest ape in the world)

Bonn climate talks: key outcomes from the May 2018 UN climate conference
Carbon Brief
Each year, the Bonn “intersessional” falls midway between the annual conferences of parties (COPs), held in November or December, where ministers arrive to hammer out political disagreements. This year’s intersessional is particularly important as December’s COP24, in Katowice, Poland, must finalise the Paris “rulebook” – the operating manual the deal needs when it enters force. However, after slow progress in Bonn, negotiators agreed to another week of talks to be held in September in Bangkok. Bonn also marked the opening of the Talanoa Dialogue. This allows countries to informally take stock of progress towards the Paris Agreement’s goals, without any sense of judgement. (Related: Bonn climate meet ends amid concern over lack of urgency in accelerating negotiations)

Climate change aid to poor nations lags behind Paris pledges
The Guardian
Finance for poor countries to help them reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and deal with climate change is lagging behind the promises of rich countries, an Oxfam report finds. While taxpayer-funded finance has increased, and the private sector has stepped up with some initiatives, the amount raised could still fall short of the goal of providing $100bn a year to the developing world by 2020. The 2015 Paris agreement on climate change re-stated the $100bn financial target, but Oxfam says the taxpayer-funded finance from rich countries in 2015-16 stood at about $48bn, or nearly half the amount promised for 2020. (Related: Development banks ‘not aligned’ with Paris Agreement goals: report)

Whitley awards for nature conservation 2018 winners – in pictures
The Guardian
Six conservationists have been recognised for their work with local communities to protect threatened wildlife and habitat around the world. The prestigious awards, known as the ‘green Oscars’, are made annually by the Whitley Fund for Nature, and provide winners with funding to scale up their projects.

Ozone pollution can damage wheat crop
Down to Earth
Air pollution is not only injurious to human health, but also to plant life. Scientists from Banaras Hindu University have found that most wheat cultivars developed after the year 2000 are more sensitive to damage due to ozone, a byproduct of air pollution. This can affect wheat productivity under field conditions. On the ground, ozone is produced by reaction of nitrites and volatile organic compounds released in abundance by automobiles and industries. There has been a rise in ozone levels since the industrial revolution and the levels are projected to increase further.

Pakistan’s first national water policy – historic or mere electioneering?
Third Pole
In April, the chief ministers of Pakistan’s four provinces approved the country’s first national water policy – after over a decade of wrangling and consultations. With a large and growing population, and some of the least amount of water per person in the world, Pakistan already faced huge challenges – made worse by climate change, population growth, climate change, abysmal mismanagement of water and disputes between provinces and with neighbouring countries. The lack of a national policy made tackling these issues that much harder. (Also read: Rural Pakistanis Take to Solar After Power Cuts Deepen)

Six Virunga park rangers killed in Congo’s DRC wildlife sanctuary
The Guardian
Five rangers and a driver have been killed in an ambush in Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A sixth ranger was injured in the attack on Monday that took place in the central section of the vast reserve, known globally for its population of rare mountain gorillas. The loss of life was the worst in the history of the national park, where more than 170 rangers have died protecting animals over the last 20 years. (Also read: Maasai herders driven off land to make way for luxury safaris, report says)

Kenyan government ordered to pay 5,000 fishermen Sh1.7 billion for environmental lapse 
Standard Media
The Government has been ordered to pay 5,000 fishermen Sh1.7 billion for failing to consider the environmental harm caused by the Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport Corridor project in Lamu. In a verdict that could portend a big win for Lamu Island residents, the High Court also ordered the State to return the Sh2.5 trillion Lapsset corridor project to the National Environment Management Authority for re-evaluation and report back the findings to the court within a year.

Scientists Confirm Florida-Sized Dead Zone in the Gulf of Oman
Yale Environment 360
In April, the chief ministers of Pakistan’s four provinces approved the country’s first national water policy – after over a decade of wrangling and consultations. With a large and growing population, and some of the least amount of water per person in the world, Pakistan already faced huge challenges – made worse by climate change, population growth, climate change, abysmal mismanagement of water and disputes between provinces and with neighbouring countries. The lack of a national policy made tackling these issues that much harder. (Also read: ‘76% of Lake Victoria’s endemic biodiversity at risk of extinction’)

Amazon River Dolphins face extinction risk: Study
Down to Earth
A recent study conducted by Brazilian researchers has warned that freshwater dolphins found in the Amazon River Basin are “dying off fast”, and may face extinction unless they are more vigorously protected against fishing. The primary reason for the decrease in numbers is the dolphins’ use of flesh and blubber as bait for catfish, which have become widely available commercially. Killing the dolphins endangers their survival, particularly since the females bear a single calf on average every four to five years.

Palm oil producers are wiping out orangutans – despite multinationals’ promises
The Guardian
Even the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – the industry body charged with ensuring registered companies trade only in oil that has not come from deforestation – is failing spectacularly. Just over a week ago, Greenpeace exposed massive rainforest destruction in Papua allegedly caused by palm oil companies that are subsidiaries of a current RSPO member. Buying from them were big multinationals including Unilever, Nestlé, Pepsico and Mars. The companies concerned have responded by saying they are taking Greenpeace’s claims seriously and taking appropriate action. But if Greenpeace’s assertions are correct, no company can claim the palm oil it uses is 100% “sustainable”.

Paris to decide fate of ‘mega’ gold mine in forests of French Guiana
The Guardian
Controversial plans for an open-pit gold mine have split the French overseas territory in South America. The territory has attracted shallow artisanal mining of its gold-rich soil for more than 150 years. Now, multinational companies are eyeing up deeper, untouched gold reserves. Opponents warn of pollution and biodiversity loss, while local officials point to its potential economic benefits. But ultimately the decision will be made thousands of miles across the Atlantic.

Another problem with China’s coal: Mercury in rice
Down to Earth
Mercury pollution is a problem usually associated with fish consumption. Pregnant women and children in many parts of the world are advised to eat fish low in mercury to protect against the adverse health impacts, including neurological damages, posed by a particularly toxic form of mercury, methylmercury. But some people in China, the world’s largest mercury emitter, are exposed to more methylmercury from rice than they are from fish. In a recent study, we explored the extent of this problem and which direction it could go in the future.

Predators are re-colonising old habitats, finds study
Down to Earth
A new study by US scientists has found that large predators are recolonising habitats from which they were once wiped out due to conservation efforts. By synthesising data from recent scientific studies and US government reports, the scientists found that alligators, sea otters, gray wolves, mountain lions, orangutans and bald eagles, may now be as abundant or more abundant in “novel” habitats than in traditional ones. (Related: Dutch rewilding experiment sparks backlash as thousands of animals starve)

We examined 885 European cities’ plans to tackle climate change – here’s what we found
The Conversation
In the most comprehensive survey to date, we collaborated with 30 researchers across Europe to investigate the availability and content of local climate plans for 885 European cities, across all 28 EU member states. The inventory provides a big-picture overview of where EU cities stand, in terms of mitigating and adapting to climate change. The good news is that 66% of EU cities have a mitigation or adaptation plan in place. The top countries were Poland – where 97% of cities have mitigation plans – Germany (81%), Ireland (80%), Finland (78%) and Sweden (77%). In Finland, 78% of cities also had a plan for adapting to climate change. But only a minority of EU countries – including Denmark, France, Slovakia and the UK – have made it compulsory for cities to develop local climate plans.

California poised to be first U.S. state to require solar panels on new homes
The Guardian
California is set to require solar panels on new homes and low-rise apartment buildings starting in 2020, the first such mandate in the country and the state’s latest step to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The commission estimates solar panels would boost construction costs for a single-family home by roughly $10,000. But consumers would get that money and more back in energy savings, according to the commission. California has positioned itself as the nationwide leader on clean energy, pushing for more electric vehicles on the roads and fewer emissions from residential and commercial buildings. (Also read: 1) Trump White House quietly cancels NASA research verifying greenhouse gas cuts 2) Seattle County Files 11th U.S. Climate Liability Lawsuit Against Big Oil 3) 17 States Sue U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Over Auto Emissions Standards Rollback 4) Another blow for California gas — judge rejects proposed pipeline)

 

Russia’s Akademik Lomonosov joins the fleet of floating nuclear power plants on our oceans
New Atlas
Last weekend, Russia’s floating nuclear power plant, the Akademik Lomonosov, was towed out to sea for the first time, beginning its voyage from St Petersburg to Murmansk, where it will be eventually loaded up with nuclear fuel and started up sometime in 2019. The reveal of this mammoth and imposing floating structure was unsurprisingly widely criticized, with Greenpeace calling it a “floating nightmare” and a potential “Chernobyl on ice.” Of course, Rosatom, the Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation, suggests its design, dubbed a Floating Nuclear Thermal Power Plant (FNPP) is safe and well-prepared for any potential disasters.

World’s Largest Greenhouse Reopens to Safeguard Earth’s Rarest and Most Threatened Plants
EcoWatch
The world’s largest Victorian greenhouse will reopen its doors Saturday after a five-year, £41 million ($55 million) restoration effort. The Temperate House, first opened to the public in 1863, is located in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, about 30 minutes from central London. The greenhouse is home to 10,000 plants from 1,500 species native to Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific Islands, including some of the rarest and most threatened.

Poor land use can cost the world $23 trillion by 2050
Down to Earth
India loses 23 hectares of dryland to drought and desertification every minute. Credit: Moyna
The world will lose $23 trillion by 2050 due to land degradation, warns a United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) review. In comparison, only US $4.6 trillion, a fraction of the predicted losses, will be required to rectify what is one of the biggest threats to the environment. Land degradation due to drought and desertification affects about 1.9 billion hectares of land and 1.5 billion people globally. Everyone is affected by degradation as land provides us many ecosystem services such as food, shelter and livelihood. In the next 25 years, land degradation may lead to a decline in global food production by up to 12 per cent, which might trigger a rise in food price by 30 per cent.

From Australia to El Salvador to Vietnam, the environment is finally getting its day in court
Down to Earth
Justice systems around the world face obstacles to settling environmental cases quickly and fairly, whether from corruption, drawn-out trials or judges who lack understanding of environmental issues. Specialized environmental courts have emerged as an important defense against human-caused destruction of the environment. In 2009 there were only 350 of these specialized court systems in the world. Today there are at least 1,200 in 44 countries.

Oil at $75: five factors driving the price
Financial Times
Oil prices have risen as high as $75 a barrel for the first time in four years. But what has driven the rally and will it continue? The simplest reason for the rise in oil prices is that markets have tightened markedly over the past 18 months. Inventories of crude that had built up during the glut of 2014-16 have largely been worked off because of strong demand driven by a booming global economy and supply cuts by Opec and Russia. Here are the five key areas to watch.

 

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