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NEWS UPDATE #192


HIGHLIGHTS: *Leading Indian activists arrested in multi-city raids *India to double emissions, but within Paris commitments *Goa may go Kerala way: Gadgil *Northeast losing canopy cover at alarming rate: study *UN-appointed scientists warn of capitalism’s imminent demise *Arctic’s strongest sea ice breaks up for first time on record *Air pollution causes ‘huge’ reduction in intelligence

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INDIA

Activists Arrested In Multi-City Raids For “Maoist Plot”
NDTV
Nine rights activists were searched and five of them arrested today over allegations of Maoist links after sweeping multi-city raids that have been described by many as “absolutely chilling” and a “virtual declaration of emergency”. The raids and arrests were by the Pune police, in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence in January, in which Dalit activists had clashed with upper-caste Marathas. Those arrested include Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, and activists Arun Fereira, Gautam Navlakha and Venon Gonsalves. The raids were carried out in Delhi, Faridabad, Goa, Mumbai, Ranchi and Hyderabad.

India to double emissions by 2030, but within Paris commitments
India Climate Dialogue
‘In 2030, when countries have to take stock of their commitments under the Paris climate agreement, India will double its carbon dioxide emissions from its 2012 levels, but will still be within its intensity pledge, according to a new study by experts from the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and elsewhere. This is because India is starting with a very low base. “India’s 2030 per capita emissions will be below today’s global average and absolute emissions will be less than half of China’s 2015 emissions from the same sources,” says the study, the lead author of which is Navroz Dubash of the CPR.

NGT’s new approach to pending cases raises eyebrows
The Hindu
When Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel took over as chairperson of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on July 9 this year, there were over 3,000 cases pending with the green court. In a bid to tackle the high pendency of cases, Justice Goel disposed of over 100 cases, at the principal Bench in Delhi, in the first month of his tenure, including matter pertaining to air pollution in the Capital. Most of the cases were wrapped up by constituting committees to monitor the issue. Due to lack of appointments in the regional benches, the tribunal started hearing their matters through videoconferencing from July 23. Environmental lawyers, however, said that the NGT’s ‘new trend’ of disposing of cases by setting up committees to monitor issues might not be enough to provide environmental justice.

Kerala floods: What to expect when none of the 61 dams have any emergency plan?
Down to Earth
The state threw open dozens of dams when water reached danger levels, flooding the nearby regions at a much faster rate than expected. Questions have been raised as to why did the authorities wait till the last moment and then open all the gates at one go. While the state now turns its focus on rescue operations and rehabilitation drives as the water level recedes, it is imperative to check if the mistakes that landed the state in such distress were few or several and recent or repetitive. Here are a set of questions, the answers to which will tell us how prepared was Kerala, in fact, the entire country, when it comes to dam safety or floods. This analysis is based on audit reports prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). (Related: 1) Kerala tragedy partly man made: Madhav Gadgil, expert who headed Western Ghats report 2) Goa may go Kerala way, warns ecologist Madhav Gadgil 3) The Gadgil dilemma: Kerala floods a result of governance failures?)

Northeast losing canopy cover at alarming rate: study
Down to Earth
Large swathes of forests in the Northeast are an abode for the Indian elephant. But a new study has warned that parts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh are losing canopy cover at an alarming rate. Researchers from the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun, examined the pace of deforestation in the elephant landscape of the Northeast, covering 42,000 square kilometers in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The historical information about forest cover in the region was collected from the US Army topography maps dating back to 1924.(Also read: Indian Ocean tsunami: Nicobar Islands lost 97 percent of mangrove cover, uncovered unknown species)

India’s Most Polluted City, Kanpur, Not Ready With Clean Air Action Plan
Greenpeace
A Right to Information query has highlighted the immediate need for Uttar Pradesh to expedite its efforts to mitigate air pollution under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). In response to the RTI, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has stated that out of 15 non-attainment cities of Uttar Pradesh, only four cities have got the go ahead on the ground implementation of the clean air action plans. These cities include Agra, Lucknow, Varanasi and Ferozabad. The Central Pollution Control Board has asked the six cities- Allahabad, Anpura, Bareilly, Ghaziabad, Kanpur and Moradabad to revise the action plan.

The Ganga Is Dying and This Sadhu Is on a Fast Unto Death to Save It
The Wire
Swami Sanand thinks the present idea of development is an enemy of the environment and doesn’t think the Ganga can be saved unless the task is given to people who are sensitive towards it. On August 20, 2018, the Uttarakhand high court ordered the state government to ensure that no untreated sewage be dumped in the Ganga. As against the installed capacity of 45 millions litres per day sewage treatment plant (STP) in Haridwar, about double the amount flows into the Ganga untreated. Swami Sanand asks, what were the Pollution Control Board and National Green Tribunal doing till now? (Related: Namami Gange: PM-led body fails to meet even once)

Char Dham Highway Case: SC Overrules NGT, Sends Matter Back to Original Bench
The Wire
The Supreme Court on August 27 ruled against a fresh hearing in the Char Dham Highway case by the National Green Tribunal and ordered that the original bench, which had heard the case over several days, hear the matter over a day and “finally dispose of it”. An NGT bench headed by Justice Jawad Rahim had heard the matter over 14 hearings in which the petitioners had argued against the highway project, pointing out that necessary environmental clearances had not been obtained. On May 31 this year, the bench heard closing arguments by both parties and reserved its judgement. In June, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel took over as chairperson of the NGT and, while the judgement was due, decided to hear the matter afresh.

Supreme Court said no to highway in Jim Corbett but MoEF institute agrees to help clear it
The Indian Express
Raising questions of propriety and conflict of interest, the Union Environment Ministry’s premier research centre Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with National Buildings Construction Corporation Ltd (NBCC) to “help and facilitate…in obtaining necessary approvals” under wildlife and forest laws for a 50-km highway cutting through the core of the Corbett tiger reserve. This, when WII is part of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) which decides on proposals seeking wildlife clearance and provides technical expertise to the Ministry’s Forest Advisory Committees that examine projects for forest clearance.

In a first, National Security Act invoked against sand mining mafia who built dam on Yamuna
The Indian Express
The Gautam Buddh Nagar district administration today passed an order invoking the stringent National Security Act (NSA) against the kingpin of a sand mining mafia who had built a dam on the Yamuna river, obstructing its flow. The order, the first of its kind against the sand mafia, has been passed to press charges under section 3(2) of the NSA against Sanjay Momnathan (48), District Magistrate Brajesh Narayan Singh said. This particular section of the NSA seeks to prohibit bail to any person with a view to prevent them from acting in any manner considered prejudicial to the security of the state or public order, among others.

Data Shows Largest Firms Benefited Most From India’s Corporate Tax Cuts
The Wire
Just more than half of all companies – i.e. 54.32% or 3,30,730 in absolute numbers – reported Rs 14,76,399 crore turnover and a total income of Rs 10,10,993 crore; 2,60,194 companies (42.74% of the sample) reported Rs 6,34,283.38 crore as losses and 17,912 companies (2.942%) reported no profits. The same document notes that Rs 85,026.11 crore were waived in tax breaks for all corporates who had filed returns by November 2017 – a sample of 6,08,836 tax files. Jaitley’s projected figure for revenue forgone for MSMEs in the speech was Rs 7,000 crore.

In a first, a development index in India for sustainable agriculture
The Times of India
For the first time in the country, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is preparing a development index for sustainable agriculture. The announcement was made by ICAR’s secretary Chhabilendra Roul during the 42nd foundation day celebration of the National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning (NBSS & LUP) held in the city on Monday. Speaking to TOI, Roul said that as a pilot project, the development index will be first prepared for Punjab and Haryana. The council’s institutes like National Institute of Agricultural Economic and Policy Research (NIAP) will be initiating the study which is expected to go on for two years.

WORLD

Scientists Warn the UN of Capitalism’s Imminent Demise
Motherboard
Capitalism as we know it is over. So suggests a new report commissioned by a group of scientists appointed by the UN Secretary-General. The main reason? We’re transitioning rapidly to a radically different global economy, due to our increasingly unsustainable exploitation of the planet’s environmental resources. Climate change and species extinctions are accelerating even as societies are experiencing rising inequality, unemployment, slow economic growth, rising debt levels, and impotent governments. Contrary to the way policymakers usually think about these problems, the new report says that these are not really separate crises at all.

Arctic’s strongest sea ice breaks up for first time on record
The Guardian
The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer. This phenomenon – which has never been recorded before – has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and a climate-change driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere. One meteorologist described the loss of ice as “scary”. Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest. (Related: 1) ‘Apocalyptic threat’: dire climate report raises fears for California’s future 2) Climate change is melting the French Alps, say mountaineers)

Drought In Central Europe Reveals Cautionary ‘Hunger Stones’ In Czech River
NPR
A lengthy drought in Europe has exposed carved boulders, known as “hunger stones,” that have been used for centuries to commemorate historic droughts — and warn of their consequences. The Associated Press reports that hunger stones are newly visible in the Elbe River, which begins in the Czech Republic and flows through Germany. “Over a dozen of the hunger stones, chosen to record low water levels, can now be seen in and near the northern Czech town of Decin near the German border,” the AP writes.

New South Wales drought now affects entire state
BBC News
Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), is now entirely in drought, officials have confirmed. A dry winter has intensified what has been called the worst drought in living memory in parts of eastern Australia. NSW produces about a quarter of Australia’s agricultural output. It was officially listed as “100% in drought” on Wednesday. The state and federal governments have provided A$576m (£330m; $430m) in emergency relief funding.

Hawaii endures devastating flooding as Hurricane Lane drops 3rd-highest US tropical rain total
AOL
Record rainfall from Lane triggered devastating flooding and debris flows across Hawaii late this past week. While Lane failed to make landfall on the islands, this did not lessen the storm’s impact on the state. Preliminary rainfall totals of 2-4 feet were reported across the windward side of the Big Island with two locations recording even higher amounts. As of Sunday morning, local time, Mountain View has received the most rainfall with a preliminary total of 51.53 inches. That ranks as the third-highest rain total from a tropical cyclone in the United States since 1950.

French environment minister quits live on radio with anti-Macron broadside
The Guardian
Emmanuel Macron’s climate commitment to “make this planet great again” has come under attack after his environment minister dramatically quit, saying the French president was not doing enough to meet environmental goals. Nicolas Hulot, a celebrity environmentalist and former TV presenter, announced on a radio breakfast show that he was leaving the government over “an accumulation of disappointments” with its measures to tackle climate change, defend biodiversity and address other environmental threats.

Air pollution causes ‘huge’ reduction in intelligence, study reveals
The Guardian
Air pollution causes a “huge” reduction in intelligence, according to new research, indicating that the damage to society of toxic air is far deeper than the well-known impacts on physical health. The research was conducted in China but is relevant across the world, with 95% of the global population breathing unsafe air. It found that high pollution levels led to significant drops in test scores in language and arithmetic, with the average impact equivalent to having lost a year of the person’s education. Previous research has found that air pollution harms cognitive performance in students, but this is the first to examine people of all ages and the difference between men and women. (Related: Breathing Fire: All This Smoke Means Smaller Newborns And More ER Visits)

‘They are taking out a generation of tuna’: overfishing causes crisis in Philippines
The Guardian
Consumers in rich nations increasingly get their protein from seafood, but the rush to cash in has put pressure on fishing crews, driven down the quality of catches and eroded the sustainability of fisheries. Several tuna species are in peril. Bluefin are critically endangered with just 2% of their 1950 biomass left, bigeye recently fell below the 20% level necessary for replacement, and yellowfin are also down more than 70%. Major fishing nations such as Japan and South Korea have tightened restrictions in their coastal waters. But big companies increasingly use foreign-flagged ships and less-regulated overseas ports, particularly in the western and central Pacific.

Europe to ban halogen lightbulbs
The Guardian
After nearly 60 years of brightening our homes and streets, halogen lightbulbs will finally be banned across Europe on 1 September. The lights will dim gradually for halogen. Remaining stocks may still be sold, and capsules, linear and low voltage incandescents used in oven lights will be exempted. But a continent-wide switchover to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is underway that will slash emissions and energy bills, according to industry, campaigners and experts. LEDs consume one-fifth of the energy of halogen bulbs and their phase-out will prevent more than 15m tonnes of carbon emissions a year, an amount equal to Portugal’s annual electricity usage. (Also read: UK fracking push could fuel global plastics crisis, say campaigners)

Researchers weed out a way to identify plants using environmental DNA
Mongabay
Scientists have developed genetic markers to help identify plant species using environmental DNA (eDNA), the traces of biological material (pollen, spores, skin, scales, etc.) that contains an organism’s unique genetic material. Unlike animal DNA, no universal plant DNA markers exist that can be applied across many plant species and still effectively identify specimens to the species level. Researchers focused on one diverse aquatic plant group, pondweeds, which function as effective indicators of water conditions and quality, to make their markers as effective as possible in identifying species from water samples. The team detected five of the pondweed species in samples from a research reserve in Ontario, three of which were new to the reserve, demonstrating that eDNA analysis can detect plant species in water samples, including those not known from earlier studies to be present.

 

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