HIGHLIGHTS: *Groundwater in 16 States found to be contaminated by uranium *How India’s environment ministry compromised thermal power plant norms *India’s pre-election changes to green laws draw criticism *India’s new flash-flood warning system could be life-saving *Climate change could push Earth into irreversible ‘hothouse’ state, says study *Global wind & solar capacity surpasses 1 Terawatt
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15 Maoists Killed In Encounter With Security Forces In Chhattisgarh
15 Maoists were killed on Monday in an encounter with security forces in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district. The gunfight took place in the morning in a forest area in south Sukma, around 500 km from Raipur.
Till now 15 bod ies have been recovered, and a large number of firearms has also been seized from the encounter site. An area committee member, who had a bounty of Rs. five lakh, has also been arrested, along with a female Maoist.Earlier this month, Maoists had released a pamphlet claiming that they lost 247 of their cadres in encounters with security forces over the last two years. (Related: Nearly a Third of India’s Adivasis Fear Being Framed for Maoist Activities, Finds Study)
Popular lawyer-activist in Uttara Kannada brutally murdered, cops yet to make arrests
The News Minute
Popular lawyer and activist Ajit Nayak was murdered on Friday night in Dandeli, a small town in Uttara Kannada. His murder has triggered demonstrations and protests in Dandeli and nearby towns. Ajit, who was very vocal about various environmental causes like the rejuvenation of the Kali River, was returning home from his office in JN Road at around 9:30 pm when he was attacked by an unknown number of assailants, who used sharp weapons to hack at him. At this point, the police suspect his activism to be the cause of the attack. Ajit was the president of the Dandeli Taluk Horata Samiti and an active campaigner in the Kali Bachao Andolan, a movement to safeguard the Kali River from damming, industrial pollution and rampant sand mining.
Groundwater in 16 States found to be contaminated by uranium
The Hindu Business Line
Aquifers in as many as 16 States in the country are contaminated by uranium, whose presence in drinking water has been linked to chronic kidney disease by several studies, a recent study has shown. More importantly, uranium doesn’t figure on the list of contaminants monitored under the Bureau of Indian Standards’ drinking water specifications. The main source of this contamination is natural, but groundwater depletion by extensive withdrawal of water for irrigation and nitrite pollution due to the excessive use of nitrogenous fertilisers may be exacerbating the problem, said the study. (Related: High uranium in Indian aquifers: where, why)
India’s pre-election changes to green laws draw criticism
In the final year of its tenure, the Indian government is making a dash to revamp the country’s major environmental laws meant to protect forests, coasts and wildlife, and tackle air pollution. Environmentalists say that the hasty changes seem to have been proposed in quick succession to avoid wider and detailed consultations with all concerned stakeholders. They also allege that the proposed changes to existing environmental laws are not focused on protecting and conserving the environment, but aim to ease the growth of industries — a promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi just before the 2014 general elections.
‘Govt trying to start 5 river inter-linking projects in FY19’: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari
The government is trying to start work on five river inter-linking projects in the current fiscal and secure financial assistance from the World Bank and the ADB for the Rs 2 lakh crore project, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said today. “We are making efforts that work on all these five projects starts by March in the current financial year itself,” the Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation said during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha. Gadkari further said a cabinet note has been moved seeking to accord recognition to it as a National Project. (Also read: 1) Kerala: Judicial probe into Adani port pact winds up hearings even before revised terms are notified) 2) Ports do not need eco clearance: Gadkari cites Constitution)
India just pushed its booming solar industry into chaos
After months of rapid growth, India’s solar energy sector is staring at a round of policy and legal uncertainty, and tariff hikes. On Monday (July 30), the Narendra Modi government notified a 25% safeguard duty on imported solar panels for a period of two years. The duty, typically imposed during import surges, is meant to protect domestic manufacturers. It is now bound to hike solar power tariffs in India since around 90% of panels the sector uses are made in China and Malaysia. But there’s more to it than just tariff hikes, as the duty imposition followed a petition filed by Indian solar panel makers. (Also read:1) World’s first thermal battery plant to be inaugurated by Andhra CM 2) Govt loses gas migration arbitration against Reliance industries and partners)
Land acquisition, securing environmental clearances begin for 10 Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors in India
Pre-Project activities like Land Acquisition and Environmental Clearance are in full swing for the construction of the ambitious project of setting up 10 indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs). Tenders have also been issued for procurement of equipment. The Indian Government is aiming to increase the country’s total nuclear power capacity to 22,480 MW by the year 2031. The announcement for the 10 PHWRs was made by the Indian Government in June 2017 and it will be an impetus for the Indian nuclear industry, whose order books had been empty for the last decade. The public sector undertaking Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) will be setting up these PHWRs, for which administrative and financial sanction has already been granted by the government. (Also read: India has become the first south Asian nation to get U.S.’ Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) status – expected to boost high-technology product sales to India, particularly in civil space and defense sectors)
How The Modi Government Used A Legal Loophole To Escape Environmental Scrutiny Of The 900-Kilometre Char Dham Highway Project In Uttarakhand
The MoRTH argued before the tribunal that the Char Dham project was not one single 900-kilometre stretch, but a series of 53 individual projects, none of which exceeded 100 kilometres in length or 40 metres in width. It thus claimed that no section of the project required an EIA. According to documents filed by the ministry in the case, the work length varies from 0.7 to 39 kilometres, with an average of 25 kilometres. As a justification for the fragmentation, MoRTH said that “none of these works are continuous and are separated by 16 bypasses.” (Also read: How environment ministry compromised on norms for thermal power plants)
New flash-flood warning system in India could be life-saving
To improve preparedness for flash floods, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) is working on a guidance system that will predict the possibility of flash floods up to six hours in advance and alert disaster relief forces as well as residents. The Flash Flood Guidance System (FFGS) will use existing satellites and on-ground equipment to track real-time rainfall in any part of the country. Since the soil’s ability to absorb rainwater influences the probability of flash floods, the early-warning system will use data like soil moisture, temperature, saturation, and the topography of the land, to assess the likelihood of flash floods ahead of time. (Also read: Feeling the heat: Study provides insights into the temperature trends in India)
National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) with multiple timelines to clean air in 102 cities to be released on August 15
The Times of India
The Centre will come out with a comprehensive plan around August 15, to reduce air pollution in 102 cities across the country in a time-bound manner. The plan, the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), will have three timelines to gradually reduce pollution and bring it down by 70-80% from current levels in the next 10 years. Under the timelines, air pollution in these cities- Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Allahabad, Varanasi, Kanpur, Jaipur, Patna and Hyderabad among others – will be reduced by 35% in the next three years, 50% in the next five years and 70-80% (as much reduction as possible) in the next 10 years. (Also read: 1) Bengaluru hosts first meeting of C40 Air Quality Network of global 14 cities 2) Pioneering experiment to fight air pollution from crop burning via fungi)
FSSAI in denial mode, won’t ban processed foods that tested positive for GM
Down to Earth
Days after New Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment came out with a report confirming the presence of genetically modified (GM) ingredients in food items available in Indian markets, the CEO of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Pawan Agarwal has shirked the responsibility of fixing the issue saying that the government body can’t do anything about a report given by a ‘private organisation’. Ten civil society organisations, under the banner of Indian For Safe Food (IFSF), staged a protest outside the office of FSSAI in New Delhi today (August 7), pleading the authority to act and at least ban those 21 samples from sale in India which were tested positive for GM.
About 400 proposed infrastructure projects will destroy tiger corridors: report
Down to Earth
Expansion of linear infrastructure like roads, railways and power lines in Central Indian and Eastern Ghats tiger landscape is fragmenting natural landscapes and severing wildlife corridors, according to a new report on tiger connectivity by the Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT). The WCT analysed 399 out of 1697 proposals for linear infrastructure submitted to the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) post-July 2014. “In an overwhelming number of cases—345 (86 per cent)—the user agency has denied the requirement of ‘wildlife clearance’,” observes the report. (Also read: To conserve tigers, 2 villages in Jharkhand to be relocated)
Mumbai-Pune In 20 Minutes? Maharashtra To Start Construction Of Hyperloop From December
Settle into a pod in a vacuum tube, fasten your seat belt and whizz across to Pune from Mumbai in 20 minutes. Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra’s chief minister, believes the regular inter-city traveller will be able to do—and afford—this by 2024. By the end of 2018, construction is set to begin on a 15-km test track for the Mumbai-Pune hyperloop. For the uninitiated, the hyperloop is a still-untested high-speed mass transportation concept floated by American entrepreneur and innovator Elon Musk. It involves building a near-perfect vacuum tunnel or tube, a railway track and a vehicle that floats above the track using magnetic levitation. (Also read: 1) A People’s Critique on Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (Bullet Train) 2) Bullet train feasibility report omits top chapters on project cost, is shrouded in secrecy: Land rights movement 3) Salem expressway will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Union government tells High Court in defence of project)
75% of municipal garbage in India dumped without processing
Barely 35,600 metric tonnes (MT) or a quarter of the 1.43 lakh MT of garbage generated every day in Indian cities gets processed. The remaining three-quarters about 1.1 lakh MT are dumped in the open. Only eight of 35 states process more than half the daily garbage generated in their cities and not one has achieved 100% processing. State-wise data on the website of the urban affairs ministry shows that states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand don’t process even 10% of their municipal garbage while Arunachal Pradesh and Dadra & Nagar Haveli don’t process municipal garbage at all. Jammu & Kashmir processes a mere 1%.
Groundwater in five Tamil Nadu districts contaminated by heavy metals: Study
The New Indian Express
Groundwater in five districts of Tamil Nadu is contaminated by heavy metals like lead, cadmium and chromium which are beyond the permissible limits of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), a study by the Central Groundwater Board has revealed. The board which regularly monitors groundwater quality of shallow aquifers on a regional scale, once a year, has found that groundwater in Dindigul, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram contains lead above 0.01mg per litre. Dindigul has more than 80 tannery units in and around the city and also possesses chromium above 0.05mg per litre which is above the BIS limit.
United Phosphorus loses 22-year-old defamation case against Sanctuary Asia
Down to Earth
In a major victory for environment and those who safeguard it, United Phosphorous Ltd. (UPL), one of India’s largest agro-chemical and pesticide manufacturers lost a 22-year-old defamation case it had filed against journalists of Sanctuary Asia for reporting on the environmental damage caused by its chemicals and pesticides units in Gujarat’s Vapi industrial area and the consequent adverse impact on the once-pure Daman Ganga river. The article was commissioned by Sanctuary Features (then Divisions of Advertising Concessionaires Pvt Ltd) and published by Newstime, Hyderabad.
Race to contain destructive march of armyworm as pest spreads to India
A crop-chomping caterpillar that has devastated food stocks across Africa has now arrived in southern India, and scientists warn the insect could spread throughout Asia to become a major threat to global food security. The voracious fall armyworm, which was first spotted on the African continent two years ago and has since cost billions of pounds in crop losses, is best known for gnawing on maize but eats an additional 186 plant species, including sorghum and soya beans (Also read: Shifting antibiotic resistance patterns noted in wintering Egyptian vultures in Rajasthan)
Pay gap: Top executives earn 3000 times that of the median employee
At its highest, the gap between median and top executive pay translates into the latter earning 3150.69 rupees for every one rupee earned by his median employee. And this is not a one-off. There are at least seven top executives among listed companies who earn more than a thousand times the compensation of their median employees. The median employee falls in the middle of the compensation hierarchy. There are an equal number of employees who earn more, and an equal number whose pay is lower.
Shepherd from Karnataka builds 14 ponds on barren hill, turns his village green
The New Indian Express
Eighty-two-year-old shepherd Kamegowda may be illiterate, but he has been able to do what most so-called educated and environmentally conscious persons only wish they had done. He is credited with greening an entire hillside at Daasanadoddi village in Malavalli taluk of Mandya district, an effort that took him four decades and culminated in 14 ponds being developed and maintained by him. These ponds are filled with water all year round — even during the scorching summers. (Also read: Deccan Development Society organises first of its kind festival of uncultivated food crops.in Hyderabad)
Preserving nature: go green and grab ‘green royalty’
The New Indian Express
Immaterial of whether they are cultivated or not, farmlands and paddy fields in Ponnani will bring in profits! The innovative project – ‘Green Royalty’ – is set to make Ponnani municipality the first civic body in the state that pays landowners for fields, ponds and groves. Aimed at promoting agriculture and retaining ecosystems, ‘Green Royalty’ features monthly payment for farmers. Owners of paddy fields, ponds and groves will be paid for nature preservation. “Farmers deserve financial support as they feed us,” Municipal chairman C P Mohamed Kunhi told Express. (Read: Kerala State Electricity Board aims to generate 500 MW electricity from rooftop solar plants)
Gandhi too was close to tycoons whose practices were under question: Activist-researcher to Modi critics
Even as stating that Gandhi’s association with industrialists can’t be compared with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s because “Gandhi was not in the government”, well-known activist-researcher Nandini Oza has, in a controversial article, taking issue with Modi critics, said that the Mahatma’s relations with India’s tycoons wasn’t just limited to accepting donations. Pointing out Gandhi kept supporting at least two of the top industrial houses – Tatas Birlas – during the freedom movement despite their repressive ways, Oza insists, “Gandhi was close to even those industrialists whose practices were under question.” (Related: Not afraid of being seen with any industrialist, says PM Modi as he launches projects worth Rs 60,000 crore at Lucknow)
Domino-effect of climate events could push Earth into a ‘hothouse’ state
A domino-like cascade of melting ice, warming seas, shifting currents and dying forests could tilt the Earth into a “hothouse” state beyond which human efforts to reduce emissions will be increasingly futile, a group of leading climate scientists has warned. This grim prospect is sketched out in a journal paper that considers the combined consequences of 10 climate change processes, including the release of methane trapped in Siberian permafrost and the impact of melting ice in Greenland on the Antarctic. (Related: 1) 2018’s global heat wave is so pervasive it’s surprising scientists 2) Last year was warmest ever that didn’t feature an El Niño, report finds 3) California’s Death Valley Will Have the Hottest Month Ever Recorded on Earth)
Global Heatwave is Symptom of Early Stage Cycle of Civilisational Collapse
The extreme weather events of the summer of 2018 are not just symptoms of climate breakdown. They are early stage warnings of a protracted process of civilisational collapse as industrial societies face some of the opening symptoms of having already breached the limits of a safe climate. These events are a taste of things to come on a business-as-usual trajectory. They elicit a sense of how industrial civilisational systems are vulnerable to collapse due to escalating climate impacts. And they highlight the urgent necessity of communities everywhere undertaking steps to achieve a systemic civilisational transition toward post-capitalist systems which can survive and prosper after fossil fuels. (Related: 1) Temperatures in Spain and Portugal could exceed 48 degrees — breaking all-time Europe record 2) The world’s hottest rain – at 119F – fell in a small California city last month 3) Deaths due to heat wave likely to increase by up to 2000%)
Ecosystems across Australia are collapsing under climate change
To the chagrin of the tourist industry, the Great Barrier Reef has become a notorious victim of climate change. But it is not the only Australian ecosystem on the brink of collapse. New research, recently published in Nature Climate Change, describes a series of sudden and catastrophic ecosystem shifts that have occurred recently across Australia. These changes, caused by the combined stress of gradual climate change and extreme weather events, are overwhelming ecosystems’ natural resilience. (Also read: Scientists spot collapse of world’s biggest king penguin colony)
Global wind & solar capacity surpasses 1 Terawatt
The total combined capacity of wind and solar energy surpassed the historic 1 TW milestone by the end of June, according to new figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, well surpassing analyst expectations. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) published the news this week based on their up-to-the-date database of renewable energy projects, revealing that by the end of June there was a total of 1,013 GW worth of combined wind and solar capacity around the world. Written another way, that’s 1 million MW, or a billion kW. Hence the trillion watts, or terawatt. (Related: 1) In 2018, nearly as much coal capacity has been shut down globally as has been added 2) 5,500 UK churches switch to renewable energy 3) This revolutionary carbon-neutral energy plant turns waste into electricity with little or no harmful byproducts)
Study Finds New Reason to Ban Plastic: It Emits Methane in the Sun
The proliferation of plastic pollution has led to concerns over its impact on marine life and human health as the toxins it absorbs and emits move up the food chain. Now, a new study reveals yet another potential plastic hazard: It releases greenhouse gasses. The study, published in PLOS One Wednesday, found that some of the most common plastics in the environment release the greenhouse gasses methane and ethylene when exposed to sunlight. While the amounts released by the plastics are small, researchers are concerned that the scale of plastic production and waste means they could still contribute to climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions over time.
California fire explodes in size over weekend, is now 2nd largest in state history
Catastrophic wildfires continue to ravage California, as one blaze nearly doubled in size over the weekend to make it the second largest in the state’s history. No one has been injured in the Mendocino Complex Fire, which consists of two fires — the Ranch Fire and the River Fire — burning around Clear Lake, in Northern California. Combined, they form the biggest blaze that California firefighters are currently battling. Exhausted firefighters across the state are trying to contain 17 major fires that are burning in hot, dry and windy conditions. (Related: Smoke from western US fires has been linked to asthma attacks and heart problems and has contributed to a decline in air quality)
Scientists urged to take a stand against BBC’s false balance on climate change
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s decision to have climate science denier and UKIP supporter Philip Foster on to debate a (non-climate) scientist about whether or not humans have caused climate change immediately drew much ire. The response to the BBC broadcast was largely down to Rupert Read, a philosopher at UEA and former Green party candidate for Cambridge, who is now chair of the Green House thinktank, tweeting that he’d been asked to go on but “said NO” after he was told the show’s plan. “When it was described to me what it was going to be – just a straight back and forth debate between myself and a climate science denier – I thought this was time to say ‘no’”, he told DeSmog UK. (Related: Extreme silence: How the U.S. media have failed to connect climate change to extreme heat in 2018)
Unsurvivable heatwaves could strike heart of China by end of century
The deadliest place on the planet for extreme future heatwaves will be the north China plain, one of the most densely populated regions in the world and the most important food-producing area in the huge nation. New scientific research shows that humid heatwaves that kill even healthy people within hours will strike the area repeatedly towards the end of the century thanks to climate change, unless there are heavy cuts in carbon emissions. “This spot is going to be the hottest spot for deadly heatwaves in the future,” said Prof Elfatih Eltahir, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, who led the new study. The projections for China’s northern plain are particularly worrying because many of the region’s 400 million people are farmers and have little alternative to working outside. (Also read: Exposé of illegal CFC-11 in China tops Montreal Protocol agenda in Vienna)
Air pollution linked to changes in heart structure
Air pollution is linked to changes in the structure of the heart of the sort seen in early stages of heart failure, say researchers. The finding could help explain the increased number of deaths seen in areas with high levels of dirty air. For example, a report last year revealed that people in the UK are 64 times more likely to die from the effect of air pollution than people living in Sweden. Such premature deaths can be linked to including , and coronary artery disease. They found that exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5 and PM10 particles, is linked to an increase in the size of two of the chambers of the heart, the left and right ventricle. PM particles are commonly emitted by motor vehicles, among other sources. (Related: Toxic air to blame for lung cancer; no longer just a smoker’s disease)
95% of World’s Lemur Population on Edge Of Extinction
Ninety-five percent of Earth’s lemur population is threatened, experts warned this week, underscoring their unfortunate position as the world’s most endangered primates. Of the planet’s 111 known lemur species and subspecies, 105 can be provisionally evaluated as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable, a group of primate specialists convened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) determined. “This is, without a doubt, the highest percentage of threat for any large group of mammals and for any large group of vertebrates,” Global Wildlife Conservation’s chief conservation officer Russ Mittermeier, said in a press release. (Related: These six species are about to be sacrificed for the oil and gas industry in the U.S. 2) Chimp sanctuary created by World Bank threatened by World Bank-backed dam 3) As the wild population of red wolves falls to just 40 animals, captive breeding may be their last chance for survival)
Welsh river study reveals ‘troubling’ decline of riverine wildlife
One of the longest-running studies of streams in the world – the minute study of 14 brooks that tumble through a remote Welsh mountain landscape – has exposed a troubling loss of riverine wildlife. Ecologists working on the Llyn Brianne Observatory project in mid Wales, which has been in operation for almost 40 years, have flagged up the disappearance and decline of invertebrates from the streams. Steve Ormerod, a professor of ecology at Cardiff University’s school of biosciences, who has personally studied the 14 streams for 34 years, characterised the loss of freshwater organisms as a “hidden tragedy”. (Also read: Methane uptake from forest soils has ‘fallen by 77% in three decades’)
The Laos disaster reminds us that local people are too often victims of dam development
This is not the first time that a hydropower project in Southeast Asia has been in the spotlight. It again raises questions about the benefits of such projects for local communities, considering the risks to which local people are exposed. Not only do large developments interfere with ecosystems, but they often affect local communities even in the absence of catastrophe. This was indeed the case for the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy project, which had already cost many villagers their land and livelihoods before disaster struck. (Related: 1) Important milestone for major U.S. dam removal and river restoration effort 2) Residents force Uttarakhand hydro developer to abandon hearing)
Indonesia forest assessment casts an optimistic light on a complex issue
Indonesia, home to the world’s third-largest span of tropical rainforest, has published its first ever report on the state of its forests.
The reckoning is largely positive, highlighting declines in both the deforestation rate and forest fires in 2016 and 2017, thanks to policies spurred by devastating blazes in 2015. Chief among these is a program banning the clearing of peatlands and ordering plantation companies to restore and conserve areas of peat within their concessions. However, the rate of progress on the peat protection program, as well as community forest management reform, remains slow and underfunded. Experts also warn that the progress recorded over the past two years aren’t necessarily sustainable.
Rising seas could knock out the internet — and sooner than scientists thought
From severe coastal flooding to unusually destructive hurricanes, climate change-related sea level rise is being blamed for some big environmental ills. Now comes a new worry: Rising seas could flood the underground cables that carry the internet, potentially causing widespread outages. Seawater is likely to submerge more than 4,000 miles of internet cable in the U.S. and engulf more than a thousand data centers that house servers, routers and other hardware, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Oregon said in a paper presented July 16 at an internet conference in Montreal.
Newly Elected President of Mexico to Ban Fracking
Mexico’s president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he will end the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, once he enters office on Dec. 1. “We will no longer use that method to extract petroleum,” the populist politician said Tuesday at a press conference, as quoted by the Associated Press. This is a setback for the energy industry that has eyed Mexico’s shale-rich Burgos Basin in the north, DeSmog reported. It was only less than a year ago when Mexico’s national energy ministry opened the onshore portion of the Burgos Basin for natural gas exploration and development by private companies.
Apple becomes world’s first trillion-dollar company
Apple became the world’s first trillion-dollar public company on Thursday, as a rise in its share price pushed it past the landmark valuation. The iMac to iPhone company, co-founded to sell personal computers by the late Steve Jobs in 1976, reached the historic milestone as its shares hit $207.05, the day after it posted strong financial results. Apple’s share price has grown fourfold since Tim Cook replaced Jobs as chief executive in 2011. The company hit a $1tn market capitalisation 42 years after Apple was founded and 117 years after US Steel became the first company to be valued at $1bn in 1901. (Related: 1) Visualizing How The 50 Largest US Companies Are Connected 2) The greedy ways Apple got to $1 trillion)