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NEWS UPDATE #188


HIGHLIGHTS: *Monsoon plays truant in food bowl of India; rainfall deficit increases *Farmers’ Body Announces Nationwide Stir Against Modi Govt’s MSP ‘Betrayal’ *Land Acquisition Wrench in Modi’s Bullet Train Project *Telangana clamps down on glyphosate *Heatwave sees record high temperatures around world *Ireland votes to become world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels

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INDIA

Is the government in a pre-election haste to revamp green laws?
Mongabay
In the last year of its tenure, the Indian government is making a dash to undertake a complete overhaul of the country’s major environmental laws related to fragile coast, forest and air pollution. Experts warn against the haste as they point out that these changes will be the guiding documents for environmental regulations for the next two decades. Environmentalists sense an urgency in the efforts. They state that the idea is only to benefit businesses and not protection of the environment. (Related: From RTI to dam safety, highly contested Bills to be tabled in Parliament’s monsoon session)

Monsoon plays truant in food bowl of India; rainfall deficit increases
Down to Earth
Monsoon is yet to smile upon the states in the Indo-Gangetic plain, almost 45 days after it reached the country. States such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana recorded deficient rain (20-59 per cent below normal) from June 1 to July 11. Last week, between July 5-11, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar recorded largely deficient rain (60 per cent and above). While Central and Peninsular India have seen 20 per cent and 34 per cent excess rainfall in the last week—July 5-11—northwest and east & northeast India recorded 63 per cent and 49 per cent deficit, respectively. (Related: 1) North East reels under floods despite recording highest rain deficit in the country 2) In just six days, Mumbai received 25% more rain than the 40-day average)

Farmers’ Body Announces Nationwide Stir Against Modi Govt’s MSP ‘Betrayal’
The Wire
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), a coalition of over 180 farmer organisations across the country, has termed the announced hike in minimum support prices (MSP) a ‘historic betrayal’, and not a ‘historic increase’ as the Narendra Modi government has claimed. The group has announced a series of agitations over the next four months to express its dissatisfaction. Calling the government’s claim the ‘MSP dhokha of the Modi government’, the AIKSCC plans to put forward two bills in the monsoon session of parliament beginning on July 18 – the Farmers Freedom From Indebtedness Bill and the Farmers Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Price For Agricultural Commodities Bill. (Related: Crop insurance shocker: Maharashtra farmers receive meagre Rs 1 to Rs 5 as compensation)

Sterlite Asks Employees To Report Back To Work; Forms ‘Twitter Response Force’
Swarajya
Over a month and a half after its plant in Thoothukudi was sealed on Tamil Nadu government’s orders, Sterlite Copper’s CEO Ramnath through an email directed all its employees to report to the its quarters, The Hindu has reported. A company spokesperson said Sterlite wanted to ensure that the employees do not sit idle for long and that the time would be utilised for logistics, procurement, marketing, PR and other aspects of the business. Biometric attendance machines were installed to record the attendance and vehicles were arranged to pick up the employees from their homes for the assembly. The activities would be held at the ‘clubhouses’ within the quarters.

From compulsory consent to no consultation: How the government diluted Adivasi rights to forestlands
Scroll
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has drafted new rules that dilute the rights of Adivasis and other forest dwellers to independently decide how their traditional forestlands are used. The new rules, formulated in February, give the forest bureaucracy across the country the power to grow plantations on the traditional lands of Adivasis and other forest dwellers without their prior consent or even consultation in most cases. (Related: 1) Tribal affairs ministry opposes Centre’s draft National Forest Policy for its ‘privatisation thrust’ 2) Gujarat is misusing forest laws under garb of ‘sustainable’ development)

A Himalayan Price Is Being Paid for Government Bid to Widen a Pilgrim Route
The Wire
The Chardham yatra to Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath is considered one of the holiest pilgrimages for Hindus. However, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has gone about improving their connectivity in an ungodly manner. The MoRTH has come up with an ambitious project to build a two-lane express highway connecting these four dhams. Work on this extended 900-km project, which passes through 529 landslide-prone areas, has proceeded without the mandatory environmental impact assessment (EIA). (Also read: Across Tamil Nadu, the State Is Busy Arresting and Intimidating Protesters)

Indian government should not use water crisis to justify river linking
Ashok Swain, Down to Earth
India has already built more than 5,700 large dams, which has displaced approximately 16-20 million people. In spite of building all these dams, more than 50% of India’s arable land is still monsoon dependent. In this context, the worry is how the government is going to use the dire predictions of the NITI Ayog report on water scarcity. Since Narendra Modi became the prime minister, there has been a renewed focus on building large dams and diverting water from one river to another within the highly controversial river-linking scheme. It is very likely that NITI Aayog’s report will be used by the Modi government to push this agenda further.  (Also read: Dam safety bill: a lot of focus on structural safety, but hardly much on operational aspects)

After Farmers, Godrej Group Throws Land Acquisition Wrench in Modi’s Bullet Train Project
The Wire
Land acquisition woes for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship bullet train project are far from over, with Godrej Group joining the ranks of parties raising issues. Over the last few months, protests over land acquisition have been restricted to local farmers and tribals. The project’s implementation is scheduled to start in January 2019. If land acquisition is not completed on time, project implementation could get delayed and escalate cost estimates, according to experts.

With Goa’s MLAs Set to Ask for Mining Lease Extensions, the Politician-Miner Nexus Comes Full Circle
The Wire
A delegation of members of legislative assembly (MLAs) from Goa are headed to Delhi on Monday. They will plead with the Centre for an ordinance to retrospectively amend a 1987 Act, so that existing mineral leases get automatic extension for another 20 years (till 2037). In effect, this is a plea by Goa’s ruling politicians to regularise illegal mining from November 23, 2007 till date – the amounts recoverable from Goa’s miners likely exceed Rs 1,00,000 crore – and to hand over another tranche of public money valued at another Rs 1,00,000 crore to the same illegal miners, instead of getting the state the best value through public actions. (Also read: ‘Goa is drowning like Mumbai’: Monsoon flooding is the cost of runaway development, say residents)

Telangana clamps down on use of glyphosate to curb HT cotton
Business Line
In a bid to curb the illegal use of herbicide tolerant cotton (or Bt3), the Telangana government has put severe restrictions on the use of glyphosate, a controversial herbicide, in the State. It has asked the pesticide dealers not to sell the herbicide, which is used in HT cotton crops, without a recommendation slip from the relevant Agriculture Extension Officer. A Government Order has warned that any violations will be dealt with severely. The herbicide-tolerant cotton, or HT cotton, is a third generation biotechnology developed by Monsanto which lets the cotton plant to withstand the herbicide sprays intended to kill the weed.(Also read: High-level committee blows the lid off illegal cotton seed business 2) After Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, now Himachal Pradesh and Odisha have reined in on thermocol and plastic)

Delhi to have tree wall around it to shield it from dust storms
The Indian Express
The national capital Territory of Delhi is to have a wall of nearly 31 lakh native trees encircling it soon to shield it from frequent dust storms coming from Rajasthan and enveloping and choking it. A senior official of the Union Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change told PTI-Bhasha that various agencies of the Union and Delhi governments have already begun the work of planting nearly 31 lakh saplings of various native species on its three sides to rid Delhi of the malady of frequent dust storms from its western neighbour.

Benzene pollution level 5000% higher, is life threatening in Mumbai’s industry-intensive Mahul rehab site
Counterview
More than hundred people have already died in Mahul over the last three years because of pollution. Most of them became ill after being forcibly relocated here and contracted illness from extreme pollution, becoming incurably sick, and some eventually died. More and more people are complaining that they have contracted severe illnesses after moving to Mahul due to unacceptably high levels of pollutions. Mahul is among one of the most industrially-dense locations in Maharashtra. Three of the nation’s oldest and largest refineries, one of the largest fertilizer producing complexes of Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers Ltd (RCF) and Tatas’ thermal power turbine units, are all located here. .(Also read: Modi Govt yet to Act on Alleged Corruption in Uranium Contracts, Hounds Whistleblower Instead)

Supreme Court imposes penalty on states for failing to comply with its orders on solid waste management
Down to Earth
The Supreme Court, in its order on July 10, expressed disappointment over the sorry state of affairs of solid waste management in majority of the states with no effective systems in place for processing and disposal. A bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta referred to the recent apex court order on the powers of the Delhi government and Lieutenant Governor and asked them to apprise the court on whose responsibility it is to clear three “mountains of garbage” (landfill sites) at Okhla, Bhalswa and Ghazipur in the national capital. India generates 62 million tonnes of waste every year, of which only 20 per cent is processed. Majority of the cities have systems that focus entirely on collection and disposal. (Also read: PCMC, AMC to face criminal charges for releasing untreated industrial effluents into Pune’s rivers 2) Probe dept officials’ role in illegal sand mining: HC to Punjab Police)

Kerala’s altered conservation law will decimate its paddy fields and wetlands, critics say
Scroll
The Kerala Assembly last week passed a bill to make it easier to reclaim paddy fields, wetlands and “unnotified land” for infrastructure development projects. The bill makes 12 amendments and adds two new provisions to the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, which was enacted in 2008 to conserve ecologically sensitive paddy fields and wetlands. When the amendment bill moved by the Left Democratic Front regime was put to vote on June 25, it was criticised by opposition lawmakers. They said it will further shrink the state’s paddy fields and cause widespread environmental damage.

Isha Foundation flouted norms: CAG
The Hindu
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has found that Isha Foundation, Coimbatore, had continued construction at its headquarters in an elephant habitat/corridor without obtaining a no objection certificate from the Hill Area Conservation Authority (HACA). Despite issuing two notices in 2012, and returning the NOC request in February 2013, the State Forest Department did not take any follow-up action to stop further construction. Instead, the Coimbatore District Forest Officer, when re-approached by Isha in 2017, forwarded it to the Principal Chief Commissioner of Forests with a recommendation to grant HACA permission.

Vidarbha simmers over man-tiger conflicts this summer
Mongabay
With many incidents of man-tiger conflict in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra in central India, there is simmering anger against the official machinery. The number of tigers has been steadily increasing and their habitats have been getting continuously fragmented. Many of the conflicts have happened outside forest areas in farmers’ fields. The human-wildlife conflict becomes worse when there are sub-adults moving out, trying to establish their territories. (Related: 9 human-animal conflicts every day in Bandipore, Nagarhole National Park)

The staggering rise of India’s super-rich
The Guardian
Men like Mallya and Modi were members of India’s expanding billionaire class, of whom there are now 119 members, according to Forbes magazine. Last year their collective worth amounted to $440bn – more than in any other country, bar the US and China. By contrast, the average person in India earns barely $1,700 a year. Given its early stage of economic development, India’s new hyper-wealthy elite have accumulated more money, more quickly, than their plutocratic peers in almost any country in history. (Related: India has more billionaires today, but also more inequality. Is there a connection?)

Tourist magnet Ladakh facing water scarcity
India Climate DIalogue
Climate change and booming tourism, coupled with modern practices such as people using water to flush toilets instead of traditional dry toilets, are wreaking havoc in this high-altitude desert where the average elevation is 11,000 feet (more than 3,300 metres) above sea level and temperatures swing between minus 35 degrees Celsius in winters to plus 35 in summers. Annual precipitation in the region, mostly in the form of snowfall, is less than four inches. Earlier, water from the melting snow and glaciers would be enough to cater to the needs of the locals. But, with lower snowfall and warmer summers, some of the glaciers have vanished altogether, while others are melting faster than before.(Also read: Hyderabad to host ‘Global Water Security Conference’ in October)

WORLD

Heatwave sees record high temperatures around world this week
The Guardian
Record high temperatures have been set across much of the world this week as an unusually prolonged and broad heatwave intensifies concerns about climate change. The past month has seen power shortages in California as record heat forced a surge of demand for air conditioners. Algeria has experienced the hottest temperature ever reliably registered in Africa. “What’s unusual is the hemispheric scale of the heatwave,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “It’s not just the magnitude in any one location but that high temperatures are being seen over such a large area.” (Also read: 1) This year’s global hurricane boom could go into overdrive, says US’ National Weather Service 2) Permafrost and wetland emissions could cut 1.5C carbon budget ‘by five years’)

2017 was the second worst year on record for tropical forests
Vox
Given forests’ importance, new data from the University of Maryland released on Global Forest Watch, a forest monitoring site, is alarming: 2017 was the second-worst year on record for tropical forest loss. Some 39 million acres of trees, an area the size of Bangladesh, were destroyed. That’s about 40 football fields of trees lost every single minute. 2017 turned out to be only slightly better than 2016, which was the worst deforestation year to date due mainly to an El Niño-related drought and the major spike in fires it caused in Brazil.

Ireland votes in favour of law to become world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels
Independent
Ireland has voted to be the world’s first country to fully divest public money from fossil fuels. The Irish Parliament passed the historic legislation in a 90 to 53 vote in favour of dropping coal, oil and gas investments from the €8bn (£6.8bn) Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, part of the Republic’s National Treasury Management Agency. The bill, introduced by Deputy Thomas Pringle, is likely to pass into law in the next few months after it is reviewed by the financial committee. (Related: 1) Ireland becomes the fourth EU country to ban fracking) 2) Norway’s oil fund sells out of Warren Buffett-owned utility owing to use of coal)

Church Of England To Divest From Oil Firms That Don’t Fight Climate Change
Oil Price
The Church of England voted on Sunday to divest from oil and gas companies after 2023 if it finds them lacking in tackling climate change. The Church of England’s General Synod adopted a motion with 347 votes in favor to 4 against, with 3 abstentions “to assess companies’ progress by 2023 and disinvest from any companies not on track to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement.” “Today’s decision … will allow us to continue to push for real change in the oil and gas sector and use engagement, our voting rights and rights to file shareholder resolutions to drive the change we want to see,” a spokesperson for the Church of England said. (Also read: Banking Giant Standard Chartered Takes Stand Against Mine Waste Dumping)

Extinction is a natural process, but it’s happening at 1,000 times the normal speed
The Conversation
The most regular counter argument contends that we should not worry about extinction, because it is a “natural process”. First of all, so is death, but it does not follow that we meekly surrender to it (especially not prematurely or at the hands of another). But secondly, fossil records show that current extinction levels are around 1,000 times the natural background rate. They are exacerbated by habitat loss, hunting, climate change and the introduction of invasive species and diseases. Amphibians seem particularly sensitive to environmental change, with estimated extinction rates up to 45,000 times their natural speed. Most of these extinctions are unrecorded, so we do not even know what species we are losing.

Krill Fishing Companies Agree to No-Take Zones in the Antarctic
Pew Trusts
Krill are the lifeblood of the Antarctic. Nearly every species in the Southern Ocean is connected in some way to these shrimplike crustaceans. Krill are also a critical carbon sink, locking up the carbon equivalent of the emissions from 35 million cars a year. Soon this linchpin species will receive extra protections in the most valuable forage grounds for the penguins, seals, and whales that depend on them. The Association of Responsible Krill harvesting companies (ARK), which represents 85 percent of the krill industry in the Antarctic, committed this week to stop fishing in large coastal areas around the Antarctic Peninsula.

Genetically modified babies given go ahead by UK ethics body
The Guardian
The creation of babies whose DNA has been altered to give them what parents perceive to be the best chances in life has received a cautious green light in a landmark report from a leading UK ethics body. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics said that changing the DNA of a human embryo could be “morally permissible” if it was in the future child’s interests and did not add to the kinds of inequalities that already divide society.

Methane Is Giving Noctilucent Clouds a Boost
Wunderground
A rarely-seen type of cloud at very high altitudes appears to be getting more common as a result of human-produced climate change, but it’s not high temperatures that are forcing the shift. Instead, a modeling study released this month finds that the increasing reports of noctilucent (night-shining) clouds can be explained by ever-larger amounts of water vapor produced from methane. The study, published this month in Geophysical Research Letters, uses computer modeling to investigate the impression that noctilucent clouds are occurring more often.(Also read: Ageing satellites put crucial sea-ice climate record at risk​)

New research calculates full carbon cost of oil palm cultivation in Indonesia’s forests
Mongabay
Researchers found that each hectare of rainforest converted to oil palm monoculture creates 174 tons of carbon emissions, most of which will find their way into the atmosphere and contribute to global climate change. After oil palm is harvested, the amount of biomass returned to the soil to feed living organisms underground can be 90 percent lower than in a functional, healthy rainforest. Since the soil in oil palm plantations is repeatedly cleared and treated with pesticides, very little natural litter like dead leaves and wood goes back into the ground. The research team said that their findings show that figures used by bodies like the IPCC and the RSPO to calculate the carbon cost of oil palm cultivation should be updated and that belowground carbon losses must be accounted for. (Also read: Revealed: Paper giant’s ex-staff say it used their names for secret company in Borneo)

Native Americans who protested Dakota Access get handed the longest prison sentences
ThinkProgress
Among the hundreds of people arrested in North Dakota for protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Native Americans faced the most serious charges. More than two years after the protests began, federal judges are now handing down lengthy prison sentences to the protesters. One of the Standing Rock activists, Red Fawn Fallis, was sentenced Wednesday for her role in a shooting incident during the protests. As part of a plea deal, the 39-year-old will serve the longest prison term of any Dakota Access protester: four years and nine months in federal prison for one count of civil disorder and one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon. (Related: Rights not ‘fortress conservation’ key to save planet, says UN expert)

‘Disaster’: half a million hectares of forest bulldozed in Great Barrier Reef catchment
The Guardian
More than half a million hectares of forest was cleared in the Great Barrier Reef catchments over four years – an area more than twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory. Official environment and energy department data shows that 596,000 hectares of forest was cleared between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2016. Labor’s environment spokesman, Tony Burke, said “land clearing of this scale should never have been permitted”.“It’s a destruction of habitat and a disaster for the Great Barrier Reef,” Burke said.

‘Like losing family’: time may be running out for New Zealand’s most sacred tree
The Guardian
New Zealand’s oldest and most sacred tree stands 60 metres from death, as a fungal disease known as kauri dieback spreads unabated across the country. Tāne Mahuta (Lord of the Forest) is a giant kauri tree located in the Waipoua forest in the north of the country, and is sacred to the Māori people, who regard it as a living ancestor. The tree is believed to be around 2,500 years old, and is 13.77m across and more than 50m tall.

300+ Mammal Species Could Still Be Discovered, Scientists Say
EcoWatch
It’s hard to believe that with only seven great ape species on the planet—Tapanuli, Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, eastern and western gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos—a species could have gone undiscovered until 2017. But, in fact, new research shows that many mammals still fly under the radar. The olinguito, a carnivorous member of the raccoon family, wasn’t discovered in Colombia and Ecuador until 2013. The Burrunan dolphin was found in the waters off Australia in 2011. In a new study published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, Molly Fisher and other researchers at the University of Georgia used a predictive model to conclude that 303 mammals have yet to be discovered. (Also read: After a 400-Year Absence, A Rare Ibis Returns to European Skies)

Software beats animal tests at predicting toxicity of chemicals
Nature
Machine-learning software trained on masses of chemical-safety data is so good at predicting some kinds of toxicity that it now rivals — and sometimes outperforms — expensive animal studies, researchers report. Computer models could replace some standard safety studies conducted on millions of animals each year, such as dropping compounds into rabbits’ eyes to check if they are irritants, or feeding chemicals to rats to work out lethal doses, says Thomas Hartung, a toxicologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Mountains Of Trash Piling Up On US Shores After China Stops Taking It
Zero Hedge
Mountains of trash have been collecting at US recycling facilities shores after China stopped accepting “contaminated” materials from facilities across the country. Last year, China accounted for over half of the scrap metal purchases exported by the United States, while for decades they have been buying up US recycling by the ship-full after US sorting facilities bale up paper, cardboard or plastics to be crushed and transformed into raw materials for industrial purposes. Since 1992, China and Hong Kong have taken in approximately 72% of global plastic waste according to a study in the journal Science Advances. Since January, however, Beijing stopped accepting most paper and plastic waste in accordance with new environmental policies. (Also read: CFC-11 is banned and depletes ozone layer, still China uses it)

Financial crisis warning sign is flashing red
Financial Times
Arguably, the most important price to watch in financial markets for an early-warning sign is the price of the dominant economy’s debt. This is best measured from the US interest rate term structure, which is popularly summarised by the slope of the yield curve between the yields on 10-year US Treasuries and the Federal Reserve’s short-term policy rates. flat or inverted yield curve is widely interpreted to signal upcoming business recession and widespread disruption across emerging markets, by damaging the rapacious appetite of US consumers and shutting off the flows of cross-border capital. Therefore, what should we make of persistently flattening national yield curve slopes over the past year and the recent media claims that the notional “G4 yield curve has just inverted”? (Related: World debt hits record high of USD 247 trillion in Q1)

60% European water bodies highly polluted: study
Down to Earth
A majority of Europe’s rivers, lakes and estuaries are highly polluted with chemicals and other pollutants, a pan-European study has found. The study, titled “European waters—assessment of status and pressures 2018”, has been prepared by the European Environmental Agency (EEA), a European Union (EU) body. It is the second such EEA report since 2012. It evaluated 130,000 waterways in Europe between 2010 and 2015, using data collected from over 160 river basin management plans. It found that only 40 per cent of lakes, rivers, estuaries and coastal waters studied met ecological standards.

“Thanos Did Nothing Wrong”? 1000s Embrace The Population Control Philosophy Of Marvel’s Most Twisted Super-Villain
The Economic Collapse Blog
“Thanos did nothing wrong” has become one of the most common mantras on the Internet in recent days, and it just sparked one of the biggest events in Reddit history, but most people still don’t understand what all of the commotion is about. So let me try to break it down very simply. In the most recent Avengers movie, the story centers around a super-villain named Thanos that intends to wipe out half of all life in the universe. He does not want to do this just to be evil, but rather his plan is to get population growth under control so that those that remain will be able to enjoy happy, sustainable lives.

Workspace company WeWork will no longer serve meat at events or expense meals with it
The Guardian
WeWork, the real estate company that rents out and manages office space, has announced that they will no longer hold any staff events that include meat, and that staff will not be able to expense any meals that include poultry, pork or red meat. In an email to staff, WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey also said that WeWork’s upcoming Summer Camp event, a music and food festival which is only open to WeWork members, will not serve any meat options. (Also read: Starbucks Joins the Growing Movement to Ban Plastic Straws)

 

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