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NEWS UPDATE #186


HIGHLIGHTS: *Starvation deaths continue in Jharkhand *India eyeing 100GW solar-capacity *Uranium ‘widespread’ in India’s groundwater *Global warming: 800 million at risk in in South Asia – World Bank *Norway pledges £12m to fight global forest crime *UN: 40 million Americans living in poverty *One football pitch of forest lost every second in 2017, data reveals

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INDIA

Starvation deaths continue in Jharkhand amidst government’s denial and lack of action
Countercurrents
Over the past ten months, at least 12 persons have succumbed to hunger in Jharkhand. Instead of taking action against functionaries whose lapses have led to these deaths and measures to improve the situation of food security in the state, Jharkhand government has denied hunger as the cause of any of these deaths and absolved itself of any blame. Instead, the State Food Minister, Mr. Saryu Roy, has made a series of fallacious claims and accusations against activists who are highlighting the gross violations of right to food in Jharkhand. (Related: Nearly a Third of India’s Adivasis Fear Being Framed for Maoist Activities, Finds Study)

Slow and weak: 42% of India records rain deficit despite welcoming monsoon a month ago
Down to Earth
Almost a month after the onset of the southwest monsoon, 290 districts—more than 42 per cent of the country—have received deficient and largely deficient rainfall. Out of the 290 districts, 164 received deficient rainfall (-20 per cent to -59 per cent) and 126 received largely deficient rainfall (-60 per cent to -99 per cent). In June 2016, only 87 districts had reported largely deficient rainfall. Overall, the country’s monsoon rainfall was eight per cent below normal till June 20. The year before that, 186 districts reported deficient (150) or largely deficient rainfall (36). (Also read: Crop residue burning in North affecting rest of India too: study)

India speeds up environmental approvals in industry, alarms activists
Reuters
India is fast-tracking environmental clearances for projects like power plants and coal mines in a bid to propel growth, setting off alarm bells among environmentalists and affected residents who say the decisions are being made too quickly. In a country where state machinery typically moves slowly, the environment ministry under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has slashed the average time taken to grant clearances to 170 days from 600 days, said two government sources with direct knowledge of the matter. (Related: Industries need not share their emission data with you)

Sadhguru, Baba Ramdev back reopening of Vedanta-owned Sterlite plant in Tuticorin; Tamil Nadu ignores duo’s plea
FirstPost
Jaggi Vasudev, popularly known as Sadhguru, has come out in support of Vedanta-owned Sterlite copper plant in Tuticorin. He tweeted his support, saying “lynching large businesses is economic suicide”. Baba Ramdev, on Monday, had also supported Vedanta after meeting with Vendanta’s executive chairman Anil Agarwal and his wife in London. Ramdev blamed “international conspirators” to be behind the protests at the Tuticorin plant which killed 13. Advocating against the plant’s closure, he said industries are the temples of development for the nation. (Related: 1) After 13 deaths in Sterlite protest, UK Opposition wants Vedanta delisted from London Stock Exchange 2) IAPL Condemns The Arrest Of Advocate Vanchinathan)

Petroleum ministry allowing oil and gas companies to carry out exploration in reservoir areas
News Click
The BJP-led NDA government is offering a bonanza to companies engaged in oil exploration and production (E&P) by allowing them to access contiguous reservoir areas beyond the oil and gas blocks originally contracted to them. The immediate and major beneficiary of this change — will be Vedanta Cairn Oil & Gas, as its Rajasthan block in Barmer district has contiguous reservoirs with significant hydrocarbon potential beyond the contract area. The move is also likely to benefit tother major producers of oil and gas, such as Reliance, and the public-sector ones like ONGC and Oil India. (Also read: Adani Group wants oil ministry to lift ban on LPG exports)

Uranium ‘widespread’ in India’s groundwater
SciDev
Excessive withdrawal of groundwater across India is not only lowering the water table, it is also contaminating water with uranium. According to a study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, uranium contamination is “an emerging and widespread phenomenon”. It analysed aquifers in 16 of India’s 29 states, focusing on western Rajasthan and Gujarat where uranium concentrations are higher than the WHO’s safe limit of 30 micrograms per litre. India is the world’s largest user of groundwater pumped up through borewells. The World Bank reports that more than 60 per cent of irrigated agriculture and 85 per cent of drinking water depend on the resource. (Also read: 80% groundwater in Punjab’s Malwa unfit for drinking)

India eyeing a new monster 100GW solar-capacity goal
Ars Technica
India’s energy minister R.K. Singh suggested that the country is considering issuing a tender for 100 gigawatts of solar energy. PV Tech confirmed the report, which added that the tender could be tied to solar panel-manufacturing buildout. In 2015, India set a goal to reach 100GW of solar capacity as part of its larger aim of 175GW of renewable energy in general by 2022. This latest 100GW tender would be for a 2030 or 2035 target. The existing goal is ambitious, so a stretch goal further into the future is even more so. The country’s current total solar capacity is just 24.4GW, according to The Economic Times.

India eyes coal reserves in Indonesian Papua
Catch News
India is looking to get in on the ground floor of coal mining in previously unexploited deposits in Indonesian Papua. The details of an Indian mining project in Papua are still being negotiated — what India will get in return for financing surveys is said to be a sticking point — but the Indonesian government is keen to explore energy resources in the country’s easternmost provinces. Rights activists fear the launch of a new mining industry could deepen tensions in a region where existing extractive projects have damaged the environment and inflamed a long-running armed conflict. (Related: Australian indigenous group hid more than $2m in payments from Adani mining giant)

India’s sustainable energy superheroes shine at the Ashden Awards
Mongabay
Three organisations from India have been selected as sustainable energy heroes at the international Ashden awards. The Chhattisgarh State Renewable Energy Development Agency (CREDA) which uses solar to change the way health centres in the state operate, Ecozen Solutions which specialises in portable solar cold rooms for farmers and Shuttl which is tackling pollution caused by traffic congestion in some of India’s busiest cities, are among this year’s winners.

Unresolved conflicts characterize environmental nod to 70 of 75 projects involving 7.28 lakh ha land: Study
Counterview
A recent research study has said that of the “75 cases of conflict over land use change” involving 7,28,673 hectares (ha) “officially transferred through environmental clearance process”, in as many of 70 conflicts have remained unresolved even today. The projects have been chosen out of a list of environmental clearances granted to 14,498 projects, uploaded on the Union environment ministry’s website as of October 2017. Most of the land use changes carried out for satisfying the demand for “developmental” needs relate to infrastructure expansion and industrial acceleration, and urbanisation.

River rafting, other water sports banned in Uttarakhand, HC cites environment, safety
Hindustan Times
The Uttarakhand high court has banned paragliding, and white water rafting and other water sports until the administration puts in place a policy to regulate them in a move aimed at safeguarding both the environment and people engaging in these activities. The court’s decision comes as a jolt to adventure tourism and water sports in the Himalayan state. A division bench of justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh ordered the ban in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Rishikesh-based social activist Hari Om Kashyap. (Also read: In a first, Madras High Court sets up ‘Environmental Fund’)

From 2019, buy vehicle in Bangalore only if you have parking space
The Times of India
The transport department has decided to implement its earlier proposal to restrict registration of new vehicles in Bengaluru city limits if there’s no parking facility. Transport minister DC Thammanna said before taking such a harsh step, the department will launch an awareness drive for a year to persuade people to use public transport or go in for carpooling. After a year, the department will restrict vehicle registration.

Plastic ban in Maharashtra comes into effect
The Economic Times
The ban on plastic will come into effect from today across the state of Maharashtra. The state government, in a notification on March 23, had clamped down on the use of plastic in a bid to fight pollution caused due to its extensive use. The notification banned manufacturing, use, sale, distribution and storage of plastic materials such as bags, spoons, plates and other disposable items. The ban also includes packaging material and thermocol. However, plastic used for packaging of medicines and drugs, milk and handling of solid waste is exempted from the ban. (Related: 1) Confusion, deception, anger & losses on Day 1 of plastic ban 2) Pune civic body enforces plastic ban, collects Rs 3.69 lakh on the very first day)

Around 17,000 trees to be cut in South Delhi for redevelopment of central govt accommodations, activists protest
FirstPost
Nearly 17,000 grown trees would be chopped off for redevelopment of central government accommodations in South Delhi, according to an official. The trees would be cut in various areas, including Nauroji Nagar, Netaji Nagar and Sarojini Nagar, an official with the Forest Department said on the condition of anonymity. Around 11,000 trees would be cut just in Sarojni Nagar, the official said. (Also read: As many as 10,000 to 15,000 trees in the Amrabad Tiger Reserve may soon face the axe for road project)

Nagarjunasagar dam loses 25 per cent storage
Deccan Chronicle
The Nagarjunasagar dam has lost as much as 25 per cent of its storage capacity due to the accumulation of silt over the years. The dam was built to hold 408.24 tmc ft of water. The Central Water Commission (CWC) which examined the dam using remote sensing techniques found that the capacity had dropped to 312 tmcft, a fall of nearly 100 tmc ft. Deforestation in the Krishna catchment area and urbanisation are said to be some of the reasons for increasing silt in the dam.

Karnataka may soon see private wildlife reserves
The New Indian Express
arnataka may soon have its own private wildlife reserves around Bandipur/Nagarhole/BRT or Kali/Bhimgad or Bhadra Tiger Reserves. While forest officials explain that this is to give more space to wildlife in a shrinking area and reduce man-animal conflicts, wildlife activists have decried the idea saying this is nothing but providing a back-door entry to resort owners and realtors owning land on the fringes of protected areas. In this regard, the draft rules, which have been formulated, is being taken up for discussion and finalization in the coming week. (Also read: Elephants back in Bannerghatta corridor after closure of mines)

Kerala’s climate refugees increase as the sea eats into the coast
Mongabay
Hundreds of families in Kerala’s coastal villages have lost their houses because of coastline erosion over the last five years. Constructing sea walls has been Kerala’s main defence against the drastic erosion. However, it has proven to be a failure and experts feel that these walls can in fact have an adverse effect. Natural remedies, more studies on sustainable solutions and a focus on rehabilitation of affected communities are currently needed to deal with the issue of coastal erosion.

After Maharashtra, AIKS planning farmers’ long march in Delhi
The Times of India
After the “successful long march” of farmers in Maharashtra, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) is now planning to hold a similar rally in the national capital to demand a special session of Parliament to discuss agrarian crisis. In a meeting of the central office-bearers of the AIKS in Delhi today, the farmers’ organisation said such a move was necessary to make the government aware of the plights of the cultivators. Talking about the plight of the farmers, the AIKS alleged that the last four years thoroughly exposed the NDA government as being the “most anti-farmer, anti-worker, pro-corporate in independent India”.

Karnataka: New wonders in rivers of Western Ghats
Bangalore Mirror
Providing details about the new species Rajeev Raghavan said, “Pethia sahit is described from the Hiranyakeshi, a tributary of the Krishna river in the Western Ghats. The new species is syntopic — and shoals together — with Pethia longicauda, a species found recently from the same river. The common name for the species is Prakash’s Barb named after Prakash Tambe, a local resident, who helped the team in the field surveys leading to the discovery of the new species. The species is found in two localities, Ghatkarwadi and Gavse-Ajara, located in the upstream catchments of the east-flowing Hiranyakeshi in Ajara, Kolhapur District of Maharashtra.” (Also read: 1) How fresh water fish species in Pune rivers are being ‘murdered’ by effluents
2) Fish in Lakshadweep tweak feeding habits to deal with coral bleaching)

Fact-check: Did India fall 45 places in Global Hunger Index rank from 2014 to 2017?
Alt News
A downward trend in hunger index score indicates improvement and the above graphs show that the hunger index score had a slight downward trend from 2012-2014 in line with the global fall in hunger trend. However, from 2015-2017, based on the GHI scores, no improvement seems to have been made by India in giving its citizens two square meals. While India has not fallen 45 places in the Global Hunger Index, our rank continues to be dismal relative to other countries. In 2014, we stood at 99 and in 2017 our rank is 100. (Also read: Bamboo can generate 516.33 million man days of work in India every year, study says)

WORLD

One football pitch of forest lost every second in 2017, data reveals
The Guardian
The world lost more than one football pitch of forest every second in 2017, according to new data from a global satellite survey, adding up to an area equivalent to the whole of Italy over the year. The scale of tree destruction, much of it done illegally, poses a grave threat to tackling both climate change and the massive global decline in wildlife. The loss in 2017 recorded by Global Forest Watch was 29.4m hectares, the second highest recorded since the monitoring began in 2001.

Global Warming in South Asia: 800 Million at Risk, says World Bank
The New York Times
Climate change could sharply diminish living conditions for up to 800 million people in South Asia, a region that is already home to some of the world’s poorest and hungriest people, if nothing is done to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, the World Bank warned Thursday in an ominous new study. The study looked at all six countries of South Asia, where average annual temperatures are rising steadily and rainfall patterns are already changing. It concentrated on changes in day-to-day weather, rather than sudden-onset natural disasters, and identified “hot spots” where the deterioration is expected to be most severe. (Also read: 688 billion cubic metres: India’s water withdrawals for agriculture is the highest in the world, says World Bank Report 2) UK households urged to conserve water as heatwave continues)

World’s oldest green fund sees first budget cut in 27 years, hurting least developed countries the most
India Climate Dialogue
Industrialised countries will cut funding for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) from USD 4.4 billion in 2014 to USD 4.1 billion for the four-year budget from 2018. The main reason is that the US government has pledged to slash its contribution by almost half, from USD 546.25 million it paid in 2014 to USD 273.2 million. This is a serious setback because GEF has been one of the world’s major sources of green funding for developing countries. It has given USD 17.9 billion to support a whole range of projects that combat climate change, restore degraded farmlands, protect biodiversity, clean up toxic chemicals, reduce the amount of poisonous mercury in the environment, tackle wildlife trafficking and so on.

Norway pledges £12m to global fight against forest crime
The Guardian
The Norwegian government has announced a pledge of 145m kroner (£12m) to help fight forest crime such as illegal tree clearances. The money will be shared by Interpol, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Rhipto Norwegian Centre for Global Analyses, which collects data on illegal logging. The funds will allow Interpol to expand its dedicated taskforce from six to 15 detectives. The size of the fund may be small in comparison with the $50 to $150bn-a-year scale of forest crime, but for those trying to maintain the canopies of the Amazon, Congo and Papua New Guinea, the move is one of many steps needed to address a major driver of deforestation. (Also read: Congo’s Virunga National Park closes until 2019 due to violence)

U.N. report: With 40M in poverty, U.S. most unequal developed nation
UPI
A study for the U.N. Human Rights Council has concluded 40 million people in the United States live in poverty — and more than half of those live in “extreme” or “absolute” poverty. The 20-page report by Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, says U.S. policies benefit the rich and exacerbate poverty. The report cites vast numbers of middle-class Americans “perched on the edge,” with 40 percent of the adult population saying they would be unable to cover an unexpected $400 expense. (Related: Farmers in America are killing themselves in staggering numbers)

World’s largest palm oil trader linked to rainforest destruction twice the size of Paris
GreenPeace
A new Greenpeace International investigation has revealed that Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil trader, is still linked to forest destruction for palm oil almost five years after committing to end deforestation. An area twice the size of Paris has been destroyed by Gama, a palm oil business run by senior Wilmar executives and members of their family. Photos and video taken by Greenpeace International on a recent flyover show active deforestation in two Gama concessions in Papua, Indonesia.

Deepwater Horizon disaster altered building blocks of ocean life
The Guardian
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster may have had a lasting impact upon even the smallest organisms in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists have found – amid warnings that the oceans around America are also under fresh assault as a result of environmental policies under Donald Trump. Lingering oil residues have altered the basic building blocks of life in the ocean by reducing biodiversity in sites closest to the spill, which occurred when a BP drilling rig exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers and spewing about 4m barrels of oil into the Gulf.

Deluge of electronic waste turning Thailand into ‘world’s rubbish dump’
The Guardian
At a deserted factory outside Bangkok, skyscrapers made from vast blocks of crushed printers, Xbox components and TVs tower over black rivers of smashed-up computer screens. This is a tiny fraction of the estimated 50m tonnes of electronic waste created just in the EU every year, a tide of toxic rubbish that is flooding into south-east Asia from the EU, US and Japan. Thailand, with its lax environmental laws, has become a dumping ground for this e-waste over the past six months, but authorities are clamping down, fearful that the country will become the “rubbish dump of the world”. The global implications could be enormous. (Related: China’s Plastic Waste Ban Will Create a Huge Issue For the World)

How China’s solar subsidy cut could lead to a global solar boom
Unearthed
It may seem counterintuitive, but the Chinese government’s recent decision to slash major financial support schemes for solar power could end up boosting the industry’s global prospects. The move, announced at the beginning of June, sent shockwaves through the industry, with 20GW of planned solar capacity (50% more than the UK’s total solar capacity) suddenly expected to be scrapped. In the medium-term, however, it could lead to a glut of cheap Chinese panels fuelling a solar boom in neighbouring nations, especially India, and a significant fall in panel prices.(Also read: British Petroleum buys UK’s biggest electric car charger network for £130m)

 

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