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NEWS UPDATE #187


HIGHLIGHTS: *India tops global pollution deaths of 9 million a year: Study * 55,000 trees to be axed for second Goa airport *Animals are “legal entity,” Uttarakhand HC rules *Great Indian Bustard close to extinction *All-time heat records set past week *Japan reels from heavy rains; dozens killed, millions evacuated * Heatwave grips North America

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INDIA

India tops global pollution deaths of 9 million a year: Study
The Economic Times
Pollution caused nine million deaths in 2015 – three times more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined – scientists said on Thursday, calling for governments in poor countries to act. India fared worst, with 2.5 million people dying early because of pollution, followed by China with 1.8 million deaths, according to The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, a two-year initiative seeking to highlight the issue. One in six of all deaths worldwide are caused by pollution, and the vast majority occur in developing countries, the report said. (Related: 1) Infographic: India’s pollution capitals 2) Air pollution linked to 3.2 million diabetes cases in a year)

Mumbai’s “inhospitable” slum relocation: 23 deaths at rehab site due to industrial air, water pollution
Counterview
​​Given high level of pollution, residents of Mahul are dying and suffering from serious diseases. ​Mahul was declared inhabitable by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2015, yet the Maharashtra government decided to send poor citizens to Mahul, where the atmosphere is toxic and lacks basic amenities such as hospitals, schools, transport, etc. The minister was also told that life has become miserable after poor residents were shifted here. The state government wants to shift more and more people to Mahul by ignoring all the health and environmental issues at Mahul.

Delhi notifies list of fuels permissible for industrial use
The Economic Times
The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has issued a notification with a list of fuels permissible for industrial use within the NCT of Delhi, a move which has been hailed by the Centre for Science and Environment. All existing industrial units and commercial establishments who are currently using fuels that are not approved under the notification have been asked to switch over to approved fuels within 90 days. “All other fuels will deemed unapproved and so disallowed for use in NCT of Delhi,” the notification read. (Also read: India will get 75 per cent electricity from renewable energy in 2050: Bloomberg)

Goa allows dirty coal handling facility to restart so it can study how bad the pollution actually is
Scroll
Goa’s pollution control agency has decided to allow the JSW group to import coal through the state, less than a year after it filed a criminal case against the company and banned its operations for violating air quality laws. A fresh permit, known as consent to operate, would be issued to the company to handle four million tonnes of coal each year, the Goa State Pollution Control Board announced on June 29. The decision is a setback to the growing public movement against the transport of large quantities of coal through the state. Since last year, several village panchayats have passed resolutions demanding that coal handling be banned in the state. (Also read: 55,000 trees to be axed for second Goa airport)

Ramachandra Guha on the destructive road projects being planned in Malnad, Karnataka
The Telegraph
Over the decades, I have seen the glories of the Malnad, the Ghats, and the coast being steadily chipped away through the destructive hand of man. Hills and forests have been chopped and cleared; rivers polluted or dammed; soils poisoned or washed away. And now even more destruction is on the way. One dubious project is a four-lane highway from Chitradurga to Dharmasthala that will kill more than 50,000 trees. This project is being promoted although there are already two roads linking the major towns in these districts. Other road projects being proposed through the Ghats include a new highway from Thirthahalli to Malpe, another from Sagar to Kollur, a third from Shikaripura to Byndoor. (Also read: Railway gauge conversion threatens Maharashtra’s Melghat Tiger Reserve)

How India Could Cut Irrigation Water By 33%–And Reduce Anaemia, Zinc Deficiency
IndiaSpend
India could reduce the water it uses for irrigation by a third and simultaneously address its persistent malnutrition problem, if it replaced its rice crop with more nutritious and less thirsty cereals, a study of irrigation-water use over 43 years has found.Of the cereals grown in India, rice consumes the most water per tonne of output while delivering the least nutrients–iron, zinc and protein–according to the study published in Science Advances, a global science journal. The suggested replacements for rice are maize, finger millet, pearl millet and sorghum, all of which consume less water per tonne and are more nutritious.

Reality check: Modi govt’s Namami Gange project a non-starter
India Today
Along Varanasi’s ghats, lab tests have found bacterial contamination is now higher than the levels recorded back in 2014 — when the Modi government launched its most ambitious Namami Gange initiative to clean up the river. In its reply to India Today’s RTI application, the Ganga Rejuvenation Ministry has reported a 58 per cent increase in contamination from faecal coliform bacteria in the city’s waterway. More than 2,500 coliform microorganisms in 100 millilitres are considered unsafe for bathing. But Ganga samples collected from Varanasi’s Malviya Bridge showed bacterial contamination almost 20 times higher than the official standards. (Related: A Modi promise not kept: Images reveal how a pure Ganga turns disgustingly brown)

Fact Check: Has the BJP Really Fulfilled Its MSP Promise as It Claims?
The Wire
On July 4, the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre announced the Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for the 2018-19 kharif season. In a tweet, Narendra Modi termed the increase ‘historic’ and claimed that his poll promise had been fulfilled. While the increase in MSPs were substantial for certain crops, has the BJP actually fulfilled the promise that it made to farmers during the 2014 election campaign? To ascertain whether the promise has been fulfilled or not, it is important to understand the costing mechanisms that are used to determine MSP. (Related: 1) MSP formulation based on outdated methodology, inadequate sample size 2) Narendra Modi government’s farm policies off target: study)

India’s “smart” city proposals consider migrant, unskilled population a security threat to urban citizens
Counterview
A new study of by well-known Delhi-based civil rights body, Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), has said that only 8% of India’s total population or 22 per cent of its urban population is likely to benefit from the Government of India’s Smart Cities Mission (SMC) project, which has been initiated in 99 cities from whom proposals have been received. Pointing towards a clear bias against the marginalized communities, the report states, “Of the total proposed investment of Rs 2.04 lakh crore (2,039 billion) in ‘smart cities,’ 80% will be spent on Area-based Development (ABD), i.e. only on specific areas in each city, with only 20% of funds being devoted to ‘pan-city development’.” In fact, it says, “The city area covered by ABD is less than 5% for 49 of the 86 cities for which information is available”, even though it would lead to forced displacement in the name of development. (Also read: Debris “fill up” 44 lakh sq ft wetland in Gujarat’s cultural capital, as Vadodara fares poorly in cleanliness index)

No Fish In ­Water Vapour: In Gujarat, Fishermen Are Suffering Due To Narmada Waters
Outlook
In Gujarat, the last few months have seen a torrent of criticism directed at the manner in which the river’s water is apportioned. The most marginalised stakeholders—farmers and fishermen—complain of major shortages and blame uncompromised supply to industries and splurging on optics during last year’s assembly election campaign while they are left to suffer. This ­criticism didn’t dry up after PM Narendra Modi’s ­seaplane ride from the Sabarmati ahead of the polls. (Also read: At 46%, Gujarat’s rain deficit is second highest in country)

Telangana’s revised District Mineral Foundation Rules to increase political interference
Down to Earth
The Telangana government has recently revised its District Mineral Foundation (DMF) Rules, making the institution dominated by politicians, and ousting provisions for any peoples’ involvement, including of the Gram Sabha. The Rules, which were amended in May-end (and made public in June), have included only Members of Parliament (MP), members of the state legislative assembly (MLA) and legislative council (MLC), in the DMF body. DMF has been instituted under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act or the MMDR Act, 2015. (Also read: Delhi HC stays felling of 16,000 trees for redevelopment projects till further orders)

Kudankulam plant will continue to operate despite failing to set up safe storage for spent fuel
Down to Earth
Failing to build an Away From Reactor (AFR) facility for Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant’s spent fuel in five years as stipulated by the Supreme Court, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) approached the apex court, seeking more time. Simultaneously, environmental group approached the court and requested an order to shut down the power plant until AFR facility is built. However, the court extended the deadline to build AFR to April 30, 2022. In 2013, NPCIL was given five years to build AFR for the power plant’s spent nuclear fuel, which is currently kept within the plant. (Related: India’s Underground Radioactive Waste Disposal site at Gogi in Karnataka?)

Animals Are “Legal Entity,” Have Rights Of Living Person, Uttarakhand High Court Rules
NDTV
In a unique ruling, the Uttarakhand High Court today accorded the status of “legal person or entity” to animals in the state, saying “they have a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.” A division bench of justices Rajiv Sharma and Lokpal Singh bestowed the unique status on animal kingdom while issuing a series of directions to prevent cruelty against animals.”…to protect and promote greater welfare of animals including avian and aquatic, animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/ legal person,” the bench said. (Also read: Five years after Uttarakhand floods, survivors wait for wounds to heal, lessons remain unlearned)

The State’s Violent Response to Tribal Discontent Is Fuelling the Pathalgadi Movement
The Wire
The Munda heartland, a region which produced famous tribal leaders like Birsa Munda and Jaipal Singh, is going through turbulent times. There have been frequent and intense conflicts between villagers and the police, culminating in villagers attacking the house of former deputy speaker Karia Munda, followed by large-scale repression by the police. On Tuesday, June 26, after the police reportedly roughed up a gathering of Munda villagers near Anigarha in Khunti (Karia Munda’s village) about 40 km southeast of Ranchi, the villagers allegedly raided the house of the former Lok Sabha deputy speaker and abducted three security guards – Subodh Kujur, Vinod Kerketta and Siyon Surin.

In Bastar’s Maoist Belt, a Peace Move That’s up for Exploitation
The Quint
Less than six months before Chhattisgarh goes to the polls, efforts have been initiated by some Left-leaning intellectuals, peace activists, non-governmental organisations and civil society and tribal leaders of Bastar to help open channels of communication between representatives of the state government and the Maoist rebels. Even before any formal and structured process to transform the bloody conflict could get underway, there is already a buzz in Chhattisgarh, especially in the troubled Bastar zone, that the BJP government under Chief Minister Raman Singh will show “interest” in any proposed dialogue till such time that Assembly elections, which are due sometime toward the end of this year, are concluded. (Related: Human Rights Lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj Issues Public Statement Against Republic TV Allegations of Maoist Link)

With just one male, Great Indian Bustard perilously close to extinction in Gujarat
DNA
With just one male left, the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) is dangerously losing its fight against extinction. Locals and forest officials, that DNA talked to, confirmed that other than the lone male – a sub adult – they have not spotted a male GIB for almost two years now. In the last census in 2016, the forest department had counted 25 birds in Gujarat, mostly in and around the GIB sanctuary in Kutch and at that point of time, four males had been recorded.

Kerala’s making an ambitious pledge to go organic
PRI
With cancer rates increasing more than 10 percent faster than in the rest of the country, the urgency to become agriculturally self-sufficient and chemical-free started to grow. The ambitious goal is not without challenges. A third of the state’s agricultural land is devoted to export crops like black pepper, turmeric, rubber, coffee and coconuts. Since there is a shortage of farm labor, farmers favor these crops over more labor-intensive vegetables. Kerala’s low birth rate and high literacy rate means there are better paying jobs to choose from besides farming. (Also read: 1) Kerala submits revised recommendations on Kasturirangan Report 2) Kerala is pulling plastic from the oceans to build roads)

TN School Girls Fight Plastic, Send Back 20000+ Waste Wrappers to Manufacturers!
The Better India
In an initiative mooted by the City Corporation that intended to address the issue of packaged consumables with their manufacturing companies through schools, the school girls collected 20,244 wrappers of all the packaged food items that they had consumed in approximately two weeks. They then sent these wrappers back to the respective manufacturers along with a note that said, “We are happy with the taste and quality of your products, but unhappy with the plastic packaging. Please help us savour your products without guilt, by introducing eco-friendly packaging.”

WORLD

Walk or die: Algeria strands 13,000 migrants in the Sahara
AP
Algeria has abandoned more than 13,000 people in the past 14 months, including pregnant women and children, stranding them without food or water and forcing them to walk, sometimes at gunpoint, under temperatures of up to 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit). In Niger, where the majority head, the lucky ones limp across a desolate 15-kilometer (9-mile) no man’s land to Assamaka, less a town than a collection of unsteady buildings sinking into drifts of sand. Others, disoriented and dehydrated, wander for days before a U.N. rescue squad can find them. Untold numbers perish along the way; nearly all the more than two dozen survivors interviewed by The Associated Press told of people in their groups who simply could not go on and vanished into the Sahara.

Japan Reels From Heavy Rains; Dozens Killed and Millions Evacuated
The New York Times
Record torrential rains across western and central Japan unleashed flooding and landslides in several residential areas, killing dozens and triggering weather warnings in four districts of the country. By Saturday evening, at least 51 people were dead and 48 were missing, according to the public broadcaster NHK. More than one million people in 18 districts had been ordered to evacuate their homes and 3.5 million had been urged to leave. The Japan Meteorological Agency reported on Saturday that rainfall in many of the affected areas had reached record levels — with some areas reporting rain two or three times as high as the monthly average for all of July over just five days.

Red-hot planet: All-time heat records have been set all over the world during the past week
The Washington Post
From the normally mild summer climes of Ireland, Scotland and Canada to the scorching Middle East to Southern California, numerous locations in the Northern Hemisphere have witnessed their hottest weather ever recorded over the past week. Large areas of heat pressure or heat domes scattered around the hemisphere led to the sweltering temperatures. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports the heat is to blame for at least 54 deaths in southern Quebec, mostly in and near Montreal, which endured record high temperatures. (Related: 1) 54 dead as record-breaking temperatures rip through North America
2) Thousands without power in Los Angeles after high demand due to heat wave 3) Sinkhole traps truck as UK heatwave takes toll on roads)

Global temperature rises could be double those predicted by climate modelling
The Guardian
Temperature rises as a result of global warming could eventually be double what has been projected by climate models, according to an international team of researchers from 17 countries. Sea levels could also rise by six metres or more even if the world does meet the 2 degree target of the Paris accord. The findings, published last week in Nature Geoscience, were based on observations of evidence from three warm periods in the past 3.5m years in which global temperatures were 0.5-2 degrees above the pre-industrial temperatures of the 19th century.

Red list research finds 26,000 global species under extinction threat
The Guardian
More than 26,000 of the world’s species are now threatened, according to the latest red list assessment of the natural world, adding to fears the planet is entering a sixth wave of extinctions. New research, particularly in Australia, has widened the scope of the annual stocktake, which is compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and revealed the growing range of risks to flora and fauna. Nineteen of the species previously on the list have moved to a higher level of concern. (Related: First test tube rhino embryos could bring extinct species back from dead)

Finally, some good news about Antarctica’s ice
Quartz
The earth is rising in a region of Antarctica at one of the fastest rates ever recorded, as ice rapidly disappears and weight lifts off the bedrock, according to a new study. The findings, which appear in the journal Science (paywall), contain surprising and positive implications for the survival of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), which scientists had previously thought could be doomed because of the effects of climate change. The unexpectedly fast rate of the rising earth may markedly increase the stability of the ice sheet against catastrophic collapse due to ice loss, scientists say.

Baltic Sea oxygen levels at ‘1,500-year low due to human activity’
The Guardian
The coastal waters of the Baltic have been starved of oxygen to a level unseen in at least 1,500 years largely as a result of modern human activity, scientists say. Nutrient run-off from agriculture and urban sewage are thought to be to blame. “Dead zones” – areas of sea, typically near the bottom, with a dearth of oxygen – are caused by a rise in nutrients in the water that boosts the growth of algae. But it is not a problem confined to the Baltic. Earlier this year a study revealed that ocean dead zones have quadrupled in size since the 1950s, and are found the world over in coastal regions of high population, from Europe to North America and China.

Fossil Fuels Account for Lowest Share of U.S. Energy Consumption in More than a Century
Yale Environment 360
Fossil fuels supplied about 80 percent of the energy consumed in the United States in 2017, the lowest share since 1902, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy. Meanwhile, renewable energy accounted for more than 11 percent, its highest share over the same period, the Houston Chronicle reported. The decline in 2017 marks the third consecutive annual drop in U.S. domestic fossil fuel consumption. The trend is driven partly by a decade-long decline in coal use — 40 percent since 2005, and 2.5 percent in 2017 alone.

Executives of palm oil giant Wilmar resign a week after Greenpeace report
Eco Business
The co-founder of the world’s largest palm oil trading company Wilmar International, Martua Sitorus, and Hendri Saksti, Wilmar’s country head for Indonesia, have resigned. The decision was announced on Tuesday, about a week after non-governmental environmental organisation Greenpeace issued a report that exposed Sitorus’ links to Gama Plantation, a palm oil business that Greenpeace accused of destroying rainforest twice the size of Paris in Papua, Indonesia. The allegations come almost five years after the agribusiness giant committed its entire operations worldwide, including subsidiaries and third-party suppliers, to an ambitious ‘no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ (NDPE) policy, responding to increasing pressure from environmental organisations such as Greenpeace International and The Forest Trust. (Also read: Papua New Guinea landowners take up arms against ExxonMobil-led natural gas project)

Climate Change Is Making It Harder to Revive Damaged Land
Mother Jones
Restoration ecologists no longer know how to define success. “The dilemma for the field of restoration is, it’s almost damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” Falk said. “If you try to go back to 1850, it’s just going to be a nonstarter, because the climate has moved on, and lots of other things have moved on. But if you’re not restoring to a reference condition, then are you just sort of playing God and inventing new landscapes?” This identity crisis is global: This year, at conferences from Iceland to Washington state, the Society for Ecological Restoration is grappling with the question of restoration during climate change. (Also read: City forests store rainforest-levels of carbon, study finds)

Pope warns climate change turning Earth into desert, garbage
AP
Pope Francis urged governments on Friday to make good on their commitments to curb global warming, warning that climate change, continued unsustainable development and rampant consumption threatens to turn the Earth into a vast pile of “rubble, deserts and refuse.” Francis made the appeal at a Vatican conference marking the third anniversary of his landmark environmental encyclical “Praise Be.” The document, meant to spur action at the 2015 Paris climate conference, called for a paradigm shift in humanity’s relationship with Mother Nature. (Related: 1) Pope to huddle with environmental leaders, activists 2) Former head of the Church of England says believers must press the Church to pull its money out of fossil fuels)

At Last, the Shipping Industry Begins Cleaning Up Its Dirty Fuels
Yale Environment 360
As more evidence points to the risks of burning bunker fuel, the global maritime industry is embarking on a major overhaul of its fuel supply. Starting January 1, 2020, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will require that all fuels used in ships contain no more than 0.5 percent sulfur. The cap is a significant reduction from the existing sulfur limit of 3.5 percent and is well below the industry average of 2.7 percent sulfur content. Public health experts estimate that once the 2020 sulfur cap takes effect, it would prevent roughly 150,000 premature deaths and 7.6 million childhood asthma cases globally each year.

Govt economic advisor warns British defence planners that growth is ending
Insurge Intelligence
Economic growth isn’t coming back. While some level of growth might continue in coming decades, the boom era of seemingly unlimited material throughput we became accustomed to in the middle of the twentieth century is unlikely to ever return again as we enter a fundamentally new age of diminishing returns. These are the conclusions of a new working paper by leading ecological economist Professor Tim Jackson, Director of the University of Surrey’s Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP). And the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is taking notes.

 

 

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