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NEWS UPDATE #189


HIGHLIGHTS: *Study finds genetically modified ingredients in 32% of India’s food products *7 deadly pesticides world has banned used in India *SC slams Centre for extending thermal emission deadline *Sonam Wangchuk conferred with Ramon Magsaysay Award *Just 13% of the world’s oceans untouched by human impact *An international delegation talked Vietnam out of nuclear power

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INDIA

Villagers fear famine-like situation in Himachal’s Bara Bhangal as they run out of food-stock
Himachal Watcher
Over 800 villagers and 400 shepherds in Bara Bhangal village in Baijnath Tehsil of Kangra district are facing a threat of starving to death, as the district administration has not supplied ration to the area since August 2017. Not only the humans but also their livestock is also at risk as shepherds are not receiving salt for animals, which is a necessity. As per the locals, the region was disconnected from rest of the district after a gigantic landslide in April 2018 that obstructed the pathway from the side of Kangra. A patch of about two to three kilometres is covered with debris and rocks.

CSE study finds genetically modified ingredients in 32% of food products
Down to Earth
In a first-of-its-kind study in India, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) tested 65 food products available in the market for genetically modified (GM) ingredients. To its horror, CSE found GM genes in 32% of the products; almost 80% of them imported. Over the past six months, CSE researchers analysed 65 food products that are likely to contain soyabean, corn, rapeseed (canola) or cottonseed oil in some form or the other. These are the crops whose genetically modified variants are grown on 99 per cent of the area under transgenic food crops in different parts of the world, and are used in everyday food like cooking oils, breakfast cereals, ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat foods, infant formula and protein supplements. (Also read: Thanks to Monsanto’s reckless practices, Bt toxins in adulterant cottonseed oil may be seeping into your samosas)

Study identifies 7 deadly pesticides world has banned used in India
The Economic Times
Recent deaths of farmers due to pesticide poisoning in Yavatmal and other districts of Maharashtra have opened up a debate over the rationale of using all such pesticides in India which are either banned or restricted elsewhere in the world due to their high toxicity. Against the backdrop of the Maharashtra incidents, the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment on Wednesday came out with a list of seven extremely or highly hazardous pesticides which continue to be used in India despite these being banned in many countries. The think tank questioned the central committee, headed by IARI scientist Anupam Verma, which had in 2015 reviewed the use of these pesticides but preferred not to ban them immediately. (Related: In a first-of-a-kind study, pesticide residue detected in urine samples of children in Hyderabad 2) Lens on antibiotic makers disposing untreated effluents)

Farmers March to Express No Confidence in Govt, Stopped a Kilometre From Parliament
The Wire
In a show of strength on July 20, farmers from several states, under the banner of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), marched in New Delhi to “express no confidence in the Narendra Modi government”. The protestors alleged that the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance at the Centre has reneged on all its election promises made to farmers and has attempted to mislead farmers on the issue of minimum support price (MSP). Farm leaders from across the country were also joined by several political leaders including members of parliament. (Related: 1) Why firms love crop insurance more than farmers 2) Study Finds Farmers in India Worse off Due to Government Policies 3) 1, 092 farmers commit suicides in Maharashtra in 5 months)

New deadline for thermal plants: SC asks if health of people ‘irrelevant’; slams Centre, Power Ministry
The New Indian Express
The Supreme Court today slammed the Centre and the Ministry of Power for extending till 2022 the deadline for thermal power plants across the country to adhere to emission norms and asked whether the health of people was “irrelevant” to the government. A bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta termed the situation “hopeless” and said authorities have no will to implement the emission norms due to which citizens were facing the severe ill-effects of air pollution. Referring to a Ministry of Power affidavit, the bench said it was quite clear that the ministry had no intention to reduce the pollution caused by thermal power plants and even the deadline of 2022 would not be met.

National river projects lag target by up to 99%, cost up by Rs 50,000 crore: CAG
The Times of India
Administrative delays, poor contract management and lack of monitoring has led to cost escalation of more than Rs 49,800 crore in five national projects undertaken by the central government under river development and Ganga rejuvenation. A comptroller and auditor general (CAG) report, tabled in Parliament on Friday, has reviewed five ongoing national projects and found that the physical progress of these projects are far below target, with the shortfall ranging from 8% to 99% in some cases. The CAG has come up with the report after reviewing the performance of National River Projects for the period 2008-17. (Related: 1) Ganga water between Haridwar and Unnao unfit for drinking, bathing: NGT 2) 5 major Irrigation Projects Nowhere Near Completion Even After an Expenditure of Over Rs. 13,000 Crores: CAG 3) India’s water footprint 200 per cent higher than China)

A major breakthrough in scaling up agroecological farming in Karnataka
La Via Campesina
After the much publicised commitment of the State of Andhra Pradesh to scale up ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’ among small holder farmers, its neighbouring state Karnataka too has announced its resolve to propagate this model. The announcement by the Karnataka government, came after the Chief Minister and his team met up with officials implementing the ZBNF program in Andhra Pradesh alongside members of the ZBNF movement in Karnataka – Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), Mahamaitree Alliance, and others on Monday (25 June). KRRS, a prominent voice of the state’s farmers, is also a member of the international peasant movement La Via Campesina. (Also read: Karnataka is now India’s leading state for renewable energy)

Sonam Wangchuk conferred with Ramon Magsaysay Award
Greater Kashmir
Wangchuk, 51, won the award for his contribution in harnessing nature, culture and education for community progress. Wangchuk is being recognised for “his uniquely systematic, collaborative and community-driven reform of learning systems in remote northern India, thus improving the life opportunities of Ladakhi youth, and his constructive engagement of all sectors in local society to harness science and culture creatively for economic progress, thus setting an example for minority peoples in the world,” the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation said in its citation for the winner.

Maharashtra may have most biodiversity heritage sites in India by year-end
Hindustan Times
By the end of 2018, Maharashtra may become the only state in India to have the highest number of biodiversity heritage sites (BHS) to its name. The Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board (MSBB) has proposed two more biodiversity heritage sites – an eight-hectare area in Vidarbha and 266 acres of the Landorkhori Reserve Forest in Jalgaon district. Once these are approved by the Centre, there will be six BHS in Maharashtra. BHS are locations with biological, ethnic and historical value that have fragile ecosystems. To strengthen biodiversity conservation, these areas are marked as heritage sites under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. The first and only BHS in Maharashtra at present is the six-hectare forest patch, Glory of Allapalli, in Gadchiroli district.

Over 30% Chennai coast shrinking due to sea erosion: Study
The Times of India
A report by city scientists on shoreline changes has revealed that more than 30% of the coast in and around Chennai is shrinking due to sea erosion. While the shoreline towards the north of the city is retreating, the beaches on the southern part are expanding. The report on the National Assessment of Shoreline Changes by National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) for the 7,500km Indian coastline will be released by minister of earth sciences Harsh Vardhan on Friday.

Working with authorities to restart Tuticorin plant, says Vedanta
Financial Express
Vedanta Ltd has said that it is working with regulatory authorities to fast-track restart of operations at its copper plant in Tuticorin. The Tamil Nadu government had in May ordered permanent closure of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper unit in the state after 13 people among protesters, demanding its shutdown on environmental concerns, were killed in police firing. The company’s Annual Report said it is working with the relevant regulatory authorities to expedite the restart of the operations of the plant. (Also read: Environment ministry report exposes illegality in TN power plant’s ash pond construction)

Pathalgadi movement: Chattisgarh govt’s undermining of tribal rights, PESA Act provisions led to resistance
FirstPost
Alok Shukla, convener of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, said Premnagar was a prime example of how PESA is circumvented in Chhattisgarh. In the last few years, the government has converted almost 70 gram panchayats into Nagar Panchayats. The Pathalgadi movement across 200 villages in Jharkhand has thrown light on the state government’s indifference towards implementing PESA in securing tribal rights. Shukla said that in Chhattisgarh, tribals needed a movement like Pathalgadi. He added that the government was trying to ignore the real issues behind Pathalgadi by terming it as a movement related to religious conversions, external elements and Maoist supporters. (Related: Looking for Modi: Incomplete houses, broken toilets, Adivasi anger in one district of Madhya Pradesh)

More than 60 stone quarries are illegally operating in Karbi Anglong adjoining KNP: RTI activist Rohit Choudhury
Time 8
nvironmentalist and RTI activist Rohit Choudhury has written to the chief secretary of Assam alleging that rampant illegal operation of stone quarries/mining in the Karbi Anglong hills is still being carried out within the area of Kaziranga National Park by violating the Supreme Court’s Order. The SC had banned quarries in a radius of 10 kilometers within the boundaries of KNP through an order on December 4, 2006. Choudhury further claimed in his complaint letter that more than 60 stone quarries are illegally in operation in Karbi Anglong hills adjoining Kaziranga National Park & Tiger Reserve, which are dangerously damaging the future and very survival of Kaziranga National Park at the landscape level. (Also read: Massive sand mining racket busted in Gujarat’s Amreli)

Shut since November, with Rs 3,000 crore spent, what is the future of Mumbai’s monorail project?
Scroll
After spending more than Rs 3,000 crore of public money on the project so far and amassing several crores of rupees as losses, what is to become of the monorail tracks that snake through 19.5 km of the city? The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority claims the monorail will be functional by 2019. But it has not yet settled disputes with former operators Larsen & Toubro and Scomi Engineering and is still struggling to find a new operator to run the complete line. (Also read: Unchecked growth in Bhiwandi and Thane raises questions of flood risk)

Analysis of Himalayan tree rings shows decline in summer monsoon for the last 180 years
Down to Earth
The circulation of the monsoon in India has been changing. Fewer days of rain are coinciding with more days of extreme rainfall in several parts of the country. Of late, there has been a thrust to untangle monsoon variabilities but one of the major hurdles is in constructing a historical record of the monsoon. In a new study that analysed tree rings from the Himalayan foothills, researchers have found that the Indian summer monsoon has been undergoing a gradual reduction for the last 180 years. (Related: Climate change may increase rainfall intensity in India: Report)

WORLD

Earth’s resources consumed in ever greater destructive volumes: Study
The Guardian
Humanity is devouring our planet’s resources in increasingly destructive volumes, according to a new study that reveals we have consumed a year’s worth of carbon, food, water, fibre, land and timber in a record 212 days. As a result, the Earth Overshoot Day – which marks the point at which consumption exceeds the capacity of nature to regenerate – has moved forward two days to 1 August, the earliest date ever recorded. To maintain our current appetite for resources, we would need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths, according to Global Footprint Network, an international research organisation that makes an annual assessment of how far humankind is falling into ecological debt. (Related: The energy used in our digital consumption is set to have a bigger impact on global warming than the entire aviation industry)

Almost all world’s oceans damaged by human impact, study finds
The Guardian
Just 13% of the world’s oceans remain untouched by the damaging impacts of humanity, the first systematic analysis has revealed. Outside the remotest areas of the Pacific and the poles, virtually no ocean is left harbouring naturally high levels of marine wildlife. Huge fishing fleets, global shipping and pollution running off the land are combining with climate change to degrade the oceans, the researchers found. Furthermore, just 5% of the remaining ocean wilderness is within existing marine protection areas. (Related: Fish lose sense of smell and ability to find food as climate change turns oceans to acid)

Slowdown of Atlantic conveyor belt could trigger ‘two decades’ of rapid global warming
Carbon Brief
A slowdown in the Atlantic Ocean current bringing warm water up to Europe from the tropics could trigger “a period of rapid global surface warming”, a new study suggests. The research, published in Nature, says that a recent weakening of the “Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation” (AMOC) is coming to an end, but will stay at a “prolonged minimum” for the next two decades. This would see relatively low levels of heat uptake in the Atlantic Ocean, thus boosting rising temperatures at the Earth’s surface. (Related: Scientists detect a human fingerprint in the atmosphere’s seasonal cycles)

Indian monsoon cleans pollution at home but spreads it to other parts of the world, finds a study
Scroll
It is a phenomenon that is too familiar to North India in the winter, thanks to the accompanying respiratory ailments, headaches and allergic reactions. Yet, come monsoon, the brown cloud disappears. What happens to the pollutants in the rainy season? A question that puzzled researchers for two decades has now been answered. Scientists from Germany and Cyprus have discovered that the Southwest monsoon (also called the Indian monsoon) cleanses a large chunk of pollutants that collect in the atmosphere. But it is not all benign – the monsoon also spreads pollution from South Asia to other parts of the world (Related: Study finds climate determines shapes of river basins)

UN Pact Acknowledges Climate Migration for the First Time
EcoWatch
The final draft of a UN compact on migration published July 11 recognized the existence of climate refugees specifically for the first time, The Thomas Reuters Foundation reported Thursday. The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration acknowledged climate change as a cause of migration, both due to extreme weather and “slow onset events” like drought after various advocacy groups pushed for the addition. “It’s the first time the international community has recognized that migration and displacement can be caused by climate change disasters and has made specific commitments on how to address that,” Walter Kaelin from the Platform on Disaster Displacement told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Southeast Asian deforestation more extensive than thought, study finds
Mongabay
Researchers analyzed a suite of satellite imagery products and found much greater deforestation than expected since 2000 in the highlands of Southeast Asia. Much of the 82,000 square kilometers (31,700 square miles) they estimate to have been developed into croplands in the region’s highlands reflects previously undocumented conversion of forest, including primary and protected forests, to agriculture. The findings contrast with previous assumptions about land-cover trends currently used in projections of global climate change and future environmental conditions in Southeast Asia. (Also read: Mangroves and their deforestation may emit more methane than we thought 2) Temer’s deforestation policies put Paris goals at risk, scientists warn)

Gene-edited plants and animals are GM foods, EU court rules
The Guardian
Plants and animals created by innovative gene-editing technology have been genetically modified and should be regulated as such, the EU’s top court has ruled. The landmark decision ends 10 years of debate in Europe about what is – and is not – a GM food, with a victory for environmentalists, and a bitter blow to Europe’s biotech industry. It also marks a setback for UK scientists who took advantage of a legal grey area to of gene edited camelina crops, augmented with Omega-3 fish oils. (Related: 1) Genetically modified babies given go ahead by UK ethics body 2)  Potential DNA damage from CRISPR has been ‘seriously underestimated,’ study finds)

Tour de France interrupted by farmers’ protest, police tear gas
Teesri Jung
A protest by local farmers has brought stage 16 of the Tour de France to a halt as bales of hay were thrown on to the road on the route from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon and police tear gas blew into the faces of some of the riders. The gas was used on Tuesday to disperse the protesters but it ended up blowing in the direction of the peloton, which led to the race being stopped at the 187 km-to-go point. A Reuters picture showed a police officer spraying an isolated demonstrator with what appears to be pepper spray while she was sitting on the ground.

Rising global meat consumption ‘will devastate environment’
The Guardian
Rising global meat consumption is likely to have a devastating environmental impact, scientists have warned. A new major analysis suggests meat consumption is set to climb steeply as the world population increases along with average individual income, and could play a significant role in increasing carbon emissions and reducing biodiversity. The average amount of meat consumed per person globally has nearly doubled in the past 50 years, from around 23kg in 1961 to 43kg in 2014. The increase in average individual meat consumption means total meat production has been growing at a much faster than the rate of population growth, increasing four or fivefold since 1961. (Related: Meat and dairy companies to surpass oil industry as world’s biggest polluters, report finds)

Red flags abound as a warming Arctic opens up to shipping
Mongabay
Ship traffic through the Arctic is expected to increase dramatically as global warming renders a growing proportion of the region ice-free. Conservationists warn that the higher number of vessels raises the risks of pollution, oil spills, and disturbances to marine mammals from propeller noise. They propose a slate of regulatory measures that could help mitigate the anticipated impacts, which could then be extended to other vulnerable maritime regions.

DRC set to reclassify national parks for oil, open rainforest to logging
Mongabay
An investigation by Greenpeace finds that since February, DRC’s environment ministry has handed over control of three logging concessions in Congo Basin rainforest to Chinese-owned logging companies. Two of these concessions are located in a massive peatland – the largest in the tropics – that was discovered last year. Fourteen more concessions are expected to be awarded to companies in the coming months. The DRC government is also reportedly planning to declassify large portions of Salonga and Virunga national parks to allow oil exploration.

An international delegation talked Vietnam out of nuclear power
Beyond Nuclear International
Vietnam had been planning to build 14 nuclear reactors, with the first provided by Russia. But on November 22, 2016 the country abruptly canceled its nuclear energy plans. This occurred shortly after an international delegation visited officials and presented them with the “road map” below. Originally titled, Nuclear Power in Vietnam: challenges and alternatives, this article was based on scientific information, experiences from Germany, Japan and South Africa, and two workshops on “Nuclear power development in Vietnam and worldwide”, organized in Hanoi in early October 2016 . This is a deterrence road map that every country considering a nuclear power program should read.

Cover-up: Jakarta hides foul river with giant net before Asian Games
The Guardian
The Jakarta city government has come under fire for buying a giant nylon net to cover up a polluted and foul-smelling river weeks before the Indonesian capital hosts the 2018 Asian Games. The Sentiong River, which twists alongside the athletes’ village in Kemayoran in central Jakarta, is so polluted it is known by locals as kali item or the black river. The administration installed a 600 by 20 metre black mesh net earlier in July to minimise the putrid stench and unsightly view.

Fossil fuel industry spent nearly $2 billion to kill U.S. climate action, new study finds
Think Progress
Legislation to address climate change has repeatedly died in Congress. But a major new study says the policy deaths were not from natural causes — they were caused by humans, just like climate change itself is. Climate action has been repeatedly drowned by a devastating surge and flood of money from the fossil fuel industry — nearly $2 billion in lobbying since 2000 alone. This is according to stunning new analysis in the journal Climatic Change on “The climate lobby” by Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert J. Brulle. (Related: 1) New York’s Global Warming Suit Against Oil Companies Tossed 3) Chevron Suffers Major 8-0 Defeat in Ecuador’s Constitutional Court Over Landmark Pollution Judgment 3) Youth Climate Change Activists Marched on Washington, D.C.)

Republican lawmaker pitches carbon tax for USA in defiance of party stance
The Guardian
A Republican lawmaker has proposed that the US introduce a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, in a departure from the party’s decade-long hostility toward any measure aimed at addressing climate change. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, considered a moderate GOP member of Congress, said a carbon tax would avoid “saddling young Americans with a crushing environmental debt” and expressed his belief that “this bill or legislation similar to it” will become law one day. Curbelo’s bill has virtually no chance of becoming law, however, due to the serried ranks of Republicans in Congress who instinctively reject any sort of government intervention, particularly taxes, to help stem the increasing heatwaves, floods, fierce storms and social upheaval caused by a warming planet. (Related: 1) Lawsuit challenges Trump’s massive offshore drilling sale in Gulf of Mexico 2) US govt fans struggling coal industry by rolling back pollution regulations)

EU-China Summit brings agreements on climate change and emissions trading
Government Europa
The agenda for the summit covered many topics across the breadth and depth of the relationship between the EU and China, and highlighted a number of areas where greater participation and collaboration could have a positive impact. These topics included the circular economy, investment, oceans, clean energy, climate change and emissions trading. The results of the summit include a number of agreements covering these priority areas, such as a partnership agreement on oceans aimed at improving international governance, combating illegal fishing, and exploring the potential for business and research opportunities in the realm of clean energy technologies. (Related: U.S., Chinese scholars say cooperation is key to combatting climate change)

Rising Temperatures Linked to Slightly Higher Rates of Suicide in U.S. and Mexico
Yale Environment 360
The relationship between climate change and mental health has been an active — and occasionally contentious — area of research in recent years. Now, a new study has found a link between above-average temperatures and small increases in suicide rates in the United States and Mexico. The research, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that a 1-degree Celsius (1.8 F) increase in average monthly temperatures was associated with a 0.68 percent increase in the monthly suicide rate in the U.S., using county-level data from 1968 to 2004, and a 2.1 percent increase in Mexico, using municipality-level date from 1990 to 2010.

How Laws to Protect Biodiversity Backfired on Scientists Trying to Save It
The Wire
Laws made to safeguard the world’s diverse flora and fauna from exploitation have backfired, according to a recent report signed by 172 people from 35 countries. The legal fences around biodiversity research are so strong that it even thwarts basic research and international collaborations. The remedy, the signatories have argued, is a separate agreement to ensure fewer restrictions on academic research. These country-specific laws stem from the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD), a treaty signed by 196 countries that came into effect in 1993. The goals of the treaty were to conserve biological diversity, ensure development that leads to sustainable use of these resources and ensure any benefits that arise from using these resources are shared fairly.

America may not have the tools to counter the next financial crisis, warn Bernanke, Geithner and Paulson
CNBC
A decade after the 2008 recession, the policymakers who countered it on its front lines are worried that the U.S. may not be adequately armed for the next economic crisis. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury Secretaries Timothy Geithner and Henry Paulson fear Americans may have forgotten the lessons of the financial crisis. Geithner was quoted by AP as telling an audience. “We let the financial system outgrow the protections we put in place in the Great Depressions and… made the system very fragile and vulnerable to panic.” (Related: The 3 Richest Americans Hold More Wealth Than Bottom 50% Of The Country, Study Finds)

Dubai’s Economy is melting like a Glacier in the Desert
Modern Diplomacy
Exactly on December 12, 2016, I wrote an article predicting that Dubai is going to see its economic fall. I even gave the dates that it may happen by 2018. Here we are in 2018 and Dubai’s economy has started to melt like an ice cone in a hot summer day near Jumeirah beach. Let’s examine how? Dubai is a city where I have lived for several years. Established and ran businesses in. I understand the economic environment and its financial structure. The financial structure is connected to its economic structure in the strangest manner, a phenomenon not found in many cities of the world. The phenomenon of “I OWE YOU and will pay you later”.

 

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