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NEWS UPDATE #193


HIGHLIGHTS: *Floods in Assam, Nagaland and U.P. *SC Stays construction in all states pending Solid Waste Management policy *Govt claims India restored 9.8 million hectares of degraded land since 2011 *NGT forms panel on potable groundwater *Thousands march across US to protest environment crisis *Scientists calculate ‘point of no return’ for dealing with climate change

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FLOOD UPDATE

In Flood-Hit Nagaland, 50,000 People Cut Off
NDTV
The government is sending a team of ministers to Nagaland today after Chief Minister Niephiu Rio took to social media last week urging the nation for help to rebuild the damaged infrastructure due to floods, heavy rain and landslides last month. Twelve people have reportedly died and over 3,000 families have been displaced. About 50,000 people in Nagaland in over 530 villages have remained cut-off for a month after road communications were snapped. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with Mr Rio on Saturday and assured all possible support to the flood-ravaged state.

How the Doyang Hydroelectric Project Flooded Assam and Nagaland
The Wire
Two weeks ago, waters of river Doyang – a tributary of Brahmaputra – were released from the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO)’s dammed project to produce 25 megawatts of electricity, which inundated close to 10,000 hectares. Nearly 1,00,000 people living around the project in both Nagaland and Assam were affected, with some of the areas getting flooded for the first time. While locals from both the states say that no prior warning was issued by NEEPCO, the dam authorities say that both Assam and Nagaland were notified about the release of the water. (Related: Assam floods: 225 animals dead in Kaziranga National Park)

27 Uttar Pradesh Districts in Grip of Floods
The Weather Channel
As widespread rains lashed the state for the better part of this week, several rivers were flowing above the danger mark. More than 30 deaths were reported from across UP since Monday with the Ganga, Ghaghara, Ramganga, Sharda and Kuwaun overflowing in several districts. On Thursday, CM Yogi Adityanath inspected the flood-ravaged areas of Sitapur, Basti, Gonda and Barabanki and announced that villagers settled along the banks of the flood-hit rivers would be settled in safer areas. “Families will also be given benefits under the Prime Minister Awas Yojana,” he said. (Also read: Flood threat looms large over Patna after Madhya Pradesh releases water from Bansagar dam; officials put on alert)

Rains wash away Himachal highway four-laning
Tribune India
Three years of efforts of four-laning in the first phase of the national highway in Himachal Pradesh between Parwanoo to Solan towns have again virtually been washed away this monsoon — with less than 10 per cent of the 39-km long, newly-laid road motorable in one stretch. Motorists say the maximum damage to the road is on a 30-km stretch between Parwanoo and Kumarhatti, where over 20 km is either badly damaged or piled with boulders and muck due to frequent landslides.

High alert issued in Kerala after rat fever claims 12 lives
India Today
High alert has been issued in Kerala after 12 people have died in the flood-hit state due to leptospirosis since August 1. There are 372 confirmed cases of the rat fever have emerged in Kerala while there are 719 suspected cases since August. Leptospirosis, or rat fever, transmits from animals to humans and the risk of getting it is high during floods. With Kozhikode reporting the maximum number of cases, a special isolation ward has been opened at the Kozhikode Medical College hospital. (Related: 1) After devastating floods, water level in Kerala rivers fall 2) Kerala floods: Dams cannot provide relief if it rains like this in Kerala again, says CWC director 3) Kerala landslides: GSI advocates land use and zoning regulations 4) Alarmed by Kerala floods, NGT bars further reduction in Western Ghats ESAs)

INDIA

SC Stays Constructions in All States and UTs Till They Frame Solid Waste Management Policy
News 18
All states and union territories, including BJP-ruled Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand, cannot have any construction activity until they frame a solid waste management policy. The Supreme Court on Friday stayed construction activities in these states, Chandigarh, and in all other states where the governments have failed to frame policy on solid waste management. “In case the States have the interest of the people in mind and cleanliness and sanitation, they should frame a policy in terms of the Solid Waste Management Rules so that the States remain clean. The attitude of the States/Union Territories in not yet framing a Policy even after two years is pathetic, to say the least,” said a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur.

India restored 9.8 million hectares of degraded land since 2011
Mongabay
India recently released its progress report on The Bonn Challenge, revealing that it has brought an area of 9.8 million hectares of deforested and degraded land under restoration since 2011. India has committed to restoring 21 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. India’s made the pledge in 2015 and this progress report is a first from any of the Bonn Challenge countries. The report reveals that there was a sudden decrease in the area being restored after 2012-13 but in 2016-17 the area being restored increased in comparison to the past years. It also cautions against the use of exotic species of plants for restoring the degraded land.

Agricultural Loans Worth Rs 59,000 Crore Went to 615 Accounts in One Year
The Wire
Government banks handed out Rs 58,561 crore to 615 accounts in agricultural loans in the year 2016. On average, each account has been given over Rs 95 crore in agricultural loans. This information was revealed by the Reserve Bank of India in response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by The Wire. Agricultural loans incur lower interest rates as compared to other common loans, and they are also given under fewer preconditions than the average loan. These changes were made to make it easier to give loans to small and marginalised farmers. At the moment, farmers are given agricultural loans at the interest rate of 4%.

Pest responsible for food crisis in Africa reaches Karnataka
Mongabay
The fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), an exotic pest from the Americas, has been reported for the first time in India, from maize fields in Karnataka. Since the pest is not from India, it does not have any natural predators here. The species is tough, resistant to regular pesticides and can fly long distances in the adult stage. The species invaded Africa in 2016, and has been causing widespread devastation since. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research – National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources is working with officials from the Karnataka state agriculture department to plan the way forward. (Also read: Pink bollworm pests reach Maharashtra’s Yavatmal early this year, adding to farmers’ distress)

GM mustard impact on soil not to be studied
The New Indian Express
A committee under the union environment ministry has decided to drop the requirement of conducting a study on the impact of GM mustard on soil microflora, with activists saying the decision has been influenced by crop developers. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the environment ministry considered the application related to “Environmental release of Transgenic Mustard Hybrid DMH-11”.

NGT forms panel on potable groundwater
The Hindu
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has constituted a monitoring committee to finalise an action plan to enhance availability of potable groundwater. A Bench headed by NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel constituted the committee to “monitor the situation for six months with a view to enhance the availability of groundwater by adopting suitable measures, check contamination and take a final call on the plans for proper utilisation of treated effluents”. (Also read: Cabinet clears ₹1,600-crore mission to map coasts)

By the Numbers: New Emissions Data Quantify India’s Climate Challenge
World Resources Institute
India has ambitious climate change targets. However, existing inventories of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions don’t cover recent years and lack clarity about methodologies and data sources, hampering the design of effective climate policies. The GHG Platform India, a collective civil-society initiative, documents GHG emissions at a more granular level. The data is also more recent than other available offerings. The analysis is for the years 2005 to 2013. 2005 is the base year for India’s Paris pledges; 2013 is the most recent year for which reliable data for key economic sectors exist.

Delhiites Breathed Poor To Severe Quality Air For 398 Days Out Of 703 Days In Last Three Years
India Times
Delhi witnessed an improved air quality this year as compared to 2016 and 2017. The air quality hovered between satisfactory or moderate on the air quality index (AQI), according to data released by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Monday. It stated that between 120 days were designated between poor and severe and a sharp spike in particulate emissions was recorded in June. Out of a total of 703 days, poor to severe air quality was observed in the national capital for 398 days, considered over a period of three years.

New Ganga clean-up law plans armed force, prison terms & fines
The New Express
An armed Ganga Protection Corps (GPC) whose personnel will have powers to arrest those who pollute the river; treating a slew of actions — from obstructing the flow to commercial fishing — as cognizable offences that may attract a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh. These are among the measures in the draft Bill prepared by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation which has sought opinion of various stakeholders.

41 Oil Blocks To Vedanta Is Corporate Bonanza, While ONGC Is Bled Dry
News Click
So the Indian government held the first auction of oil and gas exploration blocks in the country in eight years — under the new and very ‘liberalised’ Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP). The Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) announced the results on 28 August. And Vedanta — a multinational resource extraction conglomerate with worldwide infamy for its flagrant violations of human rights and environmental as all manner of other laws as also for its persecution of workers and the general loot of resources, from Odisha to Zambia, with the latest case being in Thoothukudi— was awarded 41 out of 55 blocks on offer.

Gujarat land Bills cleared by President
The Hindu
President Ram Nath Kovind has given assent to two land amendment Bills in Gujarat that proposes to allot surplus agriculture land, meant for landless farmers, to industries and civic bodies. The two bills are the Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling (Amendment) Bill 2015 and the Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling (Amendment) Bill, 2017. Gujarat Congress had opposed the legislations, alleging that surplus agriculture land acquired during land reform days in 1960s that are meant for landless and marginal farmers will be handed over to industrialists. (Related: Adani Group got land at cheapest rates in Modi’s Gujarat)

Adani power plant gets 142 hectares more forest land
The Times of India
The state government on Friday finally gave a green signal to divert 141.99 hectares forest land near Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR) for country’s third largest power plant Adani Power Maharashtra Limited (APML) in Tiroda in Gondia district.
The said land in Kachewani and Mendipur villages is equivalent to roughly 103 football fields and is barely 8-9km from Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR). Of the 141.99 hectares, 24.06 hectares is protected forest (PF) and 117.93 hectares is zudpi jungle. (Also read: 1) Jharkhand villagers ask why should they lose land for Adani project supplying power to Bangladesh 2) Mumbai builder allowed to build golf course and a residential project on a large water body surrounded by mangroves)

Experts raise red flag over mega greening drive in Delhi
India Today
As many as five lakh saplings were planted in Delhi on Saturday, said the AAP government on its day-long greening drive, kick-started by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal amid much fanfare. But this did not impress a group of top environment experts. On the same day, they said they were “astonished” by the government that is “facilitating” the destruction of the city’s tree cover due to “selective and limited” implementation of green laws. Experts at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) said the government must first revive the Delhi Tree Authority (DTA) constituted in 2007 to protect and expand greenery.

Gujarat: Fishing licence suspended as ‘Brahmins object’, fishermen move High Court
Indian Express
The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the state government on a petition moved by an association of fishermen for revoking the suspension of their fishing contract licence. Their licences are under suspension as per the order of Sabarkantha district collector following representation by a group of Brahmins and also in view of a public interest litigation (PIL). The petition mentions that this year on February 2, the contract for fishing was suspended because “certain persons belonging to Brahmin community had raised objection against fishing in Pratapsagar lake on the ground that their religious feelings would be hurt if fishing activity is permitted in the lake.”

Yogendra Yadav detained for six hours in Tamil Nadu, arrested after he says will meet farmers
The Indian Express
Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India Party was detained by Tamil Nadu police for nearly six hours on Saturday, and was subsequently formally arrested later in the evening, within an hour of his release, during his visit to Tiruvannamalai district. Yadav was visiting the district to meet party representatives and some farmers’ families who were ostensibly affected by the land acquisition for the proposed Chennai-Salem greenfield corridor project. Around 10 am, as Yadav and his party members were heading to Naniyendhal village in Tiruvannamalai district, after meeting villagers in Athipadi, police officials intercepted their vehicles and took them in custody.

Make Cooling Panels From Farm Waste Instead Of Burning It And Fouling Delhi Air: A Scientist’s Solution
IndiaSpend
Green Screen, a US start-up co-founded by Daniel Cusworth, proposes a solution by converting the farm waste that is usually burned into cooling panels that can protect the poor in the Delhi urban agglomeration from extreme summer heat. The screens, expected to cost no more than Rs 350 ($5) per piece measuring just under one square metre–or about half the size of a standard door–will be made with a new material technology that involves using a natural binding agent, such as certain kinds of fungi, to convert crop stubble into a moldable substance.

WORLD

Progress slow at UN climate change conference in Bangkok
Greenpeace International
As UN climate talks in Bangkok wrapped up on Sunday ahead of COP24 in Katowice in December, Greenpeace East Asia Global Climate Political Advisor Taehyun Park made the following statement: “These talks have been beset with tension and parties have wrestled with reaching a balanced proposal on the Paris rulebook. Progress has slowed, leaving the heavy lifting for COP24. A leadership deficit is the root cause of this slow pace and needs to be immediately addressed. The upcoming California Climate Summit, New York UN Climate Week and Pre-COP must now be leveraged to unlock contentious issues like finance and differentiation.

Nearly Every Ecosystem on the Planet Will Be Transformed By Climate Change
Yale Environment 360
If nations fail to rein in their greenhouse gas emissions, nearly every terrestrial ecosystem on the planet — from forests to grasslands to marshland —will undergo “major transformations” that will completely change the world’s biomes, warn a team of 42 scientists from around the globe in the journal Science. This will have consequences for everything from food and water security to public health. The researchers, led by geoscientist Connor Nolan of the University of Arizona, examined fossilized evidence from nearly 600 locations around the world of how ecosystems changed at the end of the last deglaciation. (Related: ‘Archived’ heat has reached deep into the Arctic interior, researchers say)

Rise for Climate: thousands march across US to protest environment crisis
The Guardian
Tens of thousands of people took part in marches and other events across the US on Saturday, calling for a swift transition to renewable energy in order to stave off the various perils of climate change. The Rise for Climate protests was spearheaded by what organizers called the largest ever climate march on the US west coast. The march, which snaked through the heart of San Francisco, came ahead of a climate change summit in the city next week that will gather mayors and business leaders from around the world. The march comes days before world leaders, researchers and activists arrive in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit, organized by the UN and Governor Jerry Brown. (Related: New California Wildfire Closes Miles of Major Freeway)

Wheat genome unravelled: can help in dealing with climate change
Mongabay
Two hundred scientists from 73 research institutions in 20 nations, including India, have sequenced the genome of bread wheat, the world’s most widely cultivated crop. India is the world’s second largest wheat producer. This will pave the way for development of wheat varieties with higher yields, enhanced nutritional quality, improved sustainability and varieties that are better adapted to climate challenges. Major challenges to wheat productivity in future in India will pertain to enhancing yields by 2050 and accelerating the breeding of climate-resilient wheat varieties. In a separate study, researchers have also shown that the impact of ozone pollution on wheat yield is at a comparable level to pressures from other stresses in some areas of India. Also, the area of highest ozone impacts on wheat production, coincide with an area with high levels of heat stress. (Related: Rise in insect pests under climate change to hit crop yields, study says)

Scientists calculated a ‘point of no return’ for dealing with climate change – and time is running out
Business Insider
The goal of the Paris Agreement was to ensure global temperatures didn’t rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. If temperatures hit that point, we’ll be more likely to see the worst projected effects of climate change, including rising seas, severe storms, extreme heat, drought, and fires. The world needs to transition to renewable energy fast if we don’t want temperatures to rise that much, according to a new study. In that study, the authors calculated a “point of no return” for acting on climate – and it’s soon (Related: World leaders who deny climate change should go to mental hospital – Samoan PM)

Myanmar dam breach displaces thousands
DW
Heavy monsoon rains have caused a dam to overflow in central Myanmar, displacing tens of thousands. Rescuers were working through the night to help people trapped in homes half submerged under water. More than 50,000 people in central Myanmar were forced to evacuate their homes on Wednesday after heavy seasonal rains caused a dam to overflow. The Swar Chaung dam spillway, which regulates the release of water, collapsed due to heavy seasonal rain, causing water to flood the rural flatland region of Bago.

Amazon mangroves ‘twice as carbon rich’ as its rainforests
Carbon Brief
The vast mangroves of the Amazon store twice as much carbon per hectare as the region’s tropical forests, new research shows. The relatively understudied ecosystem also stores 10 times more carbon than Amazon savannahs – a type of grassy plain with sparsely populated trees, according to the study. However, the wetlands face threats from deforestation and climate change, the researchers say. Introducing more measures to protect mangroves will be key to preserving its large carbon store, they add. (Also read: In Win for Marine Life, California to End Drift Gillnet Fishing)

France becomes first country in Europe to ban all five pesticides killing bees
The Telegraph
France will take a radical step towards protecting its dwindling bee population on Saturday by becoming the first country in Europe to ban all five pesticides researchers believe are killing off the insects. The move to ban the five so-called neonicotinoids has been hailed by beekeepers and environmentalists, but cereal and sugar beet farmers warn it could leave them all but defenceless in protecting valuable crops against other harmful insects. (Also read: Lawyers in Monsanto Roundup Lawsuit “Only 10% of What We’ve Got” Was Divulged at Trial; Much More To Come)

As Mexico Was Busy Celebrating World Cup Win, Gov’t Approved Water Privatization Decrees
Telesur
As Mexicans celebrated a historic win against World Cup defending champions, Germany, Mexico’s federal government of Enrique Peña Nieto has cleared the way for the extraction of water in 300 areas, making up 55 percent of Mexican surface water, by companies within the mining, fracking and oil industries for the next 50 years, a move that is being described by some as “water privatization.” The new 10 presidential decrees, published on June 5, lift 295 out of the 756 decades-long prohibitions on extracting water from previously protected basins, which coincide with areas where mining, fracking and other extractive activities are planned.

Botswana poaching spree sees 90 elephants killed in two months
The Guardian
Ninety elephant carcasses have been found in Botswana with their tusks hacked off, in what is believed to be one of Africa’s worst mass poaching sprees. Most of the animals killed were large bulls carrying heavy tusks, Elephants Without Borders said on Tuesday. The discovery was made over several weeks during an aerial survey by scientists from Elephants Without Borders and Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks. (Also read: Eight bird species are first confirmed avian extinctions this decade)

Scientists get ready to begin Great Pacific Garbage Patch cleanup
The Guardian
A team of scientists and engineers will on Saturday begin an ambitious cleanup of plastics in the Pacific Ocean targeting a stretch of water three times the size of France known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A 600m-long floating barrier will be launched off the coast of San Francisco and, powered by currents, waves and wind, will aim to collect five tonnes of plastic debris each month. The marine apparatus known as System 001 is the brainchild of the Dutch inventor Boyan Slat who founded The Ocean Cleanup at the age of 18 in 2013. (Also read: 1) Invasive Species Are Riding on Plastic Across the Oceans 2) Australian government’s reef monitoring stalled during crisis bleaching event as funds dried up)

Cigarette Butts—Not Plastic Straws—Are The Worst Contaminant of Oceans, According to New Study
Fortune
Plastic straws are the target du jour of corporations, retailers, and even states and cities. Everyone from Marriott and Hyatt to Starbucks and McDonald’s are implementing their own plastic straw bans. But according to a new report from NBC News, the source of our collective energy may be misplaced. The report suggests that the biggest man-made contaminant of the world’s oceans is not plastic straws, or even plastic bags, but cigarette butts. (Also read: Animal husbandry is contaminating China’s water and has been linked to turning lakes bright green, a phenomenon known as eutrophication)

Groundbreaking ‘spinning’ wind turbine wins UK Dyson award
The Wire
A ‘spinning’ turbine which can capture wind travelling in any direction and could transform how consumers generate electricity has won its two student designers a prestigious James Dyson award. Nicolas Orellana, 36, and Yaseen Noorani, 24, both MSc students at Lancaster University, have created the O-Wind Turbine which – in a technological first – takes advantage of both horizontal and vertical winds without requiring steering. Conventional wind turbines only capture wind travelling in one direction, and are notoriously inefficient in cities where wind trapped between buildings becomes unpredictable, making the turbines unusable. (Related: 1) World’s largest offshore windfarm opens off Cumbrian coast) 2) BBC issues internal guidance on how to report climate change)

STUDY: After Natural Disasters, Whites Accumulate Wealth While People of Color Lose It
Color Lines
Black and Latinx people in the United States disproportionately live in areas that tend to be hit by natural disasters such as floods. A new study shows that they are not just geographically disadvantaged in the face of climate disasters, but also economically disadvantaged. The journal Social Problems released “Damages Done: The Longitudinal Impacts of Natural Hazards on Wealth Inequality in the United States” last week (August 14). The study sought to investigate how families’ personal wealth was affected by natural disasters and related recovery efforts.

JP Morgan’s top quant warns next crisis to have flash crashes and social unrest not seen in 50 years
CNBC
J.P. Morgan’s top quant, Marko Kolanovic, predicts a “Great Liquidity Crisis” will hit financial markets, marked by flash crashes in stock prices and social unrest. The trillion-dollar shift to passive investments, computerized trading strategies and electronic trading desks will exacerbate sudden, severe stock drops, Kolanovic said. Central banks will be forced to make unprecedented moves, including direct purchases of equities, or there could even be negative income taxes. Timing of when this next crisis will occur is uncertain but markets appear to be safe through the first half of 2019, he said. (Related: 1) Fueled by debt and years of easy credit, America’s energy boom is on shaky footing 2) Wealthy Americans have stepped up investment in New Zealand as doomsday escape plan)

Ottawa Professor Blasts The US Military For “Owning The Weather” For Military Use
Collective Evolution
Princess Basmah Bint Saud, humanitarian and daughter of King Saudi, compared geoengineering science and programs to weapons of mass destruction, arguing that their implementation is like setting off a bomb without the nuclear explosion. You can read more about that here. David W. Keith, a professor at Harvard University and chairman of Carbon Engineering, when asked about the spraying of these heavy metals into the atmosphere, of which millions of tonnes would have to be used, he said: “You may end up killing many tens of thousands of people a year as a direct result of that decision.”

Massive drought or myth? Scientists spar over an ancient climate event behind our new geological age
Science
Many scientists say, however, that the “4.2-kiloyear event” was neither a global drought nor fixed to that moment in time. “The whole idea of defining the subdivision of the Holocene with a break at 4.2 seems a bit baseless,” says Raymond Bradley, a climatologist at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Jessica Tierney, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, says ICS, following the lead of some paleoclimate scientists, mistakenly lumped together evidence of other droughts and wet periods, sometimes centuries away from the 4200-year-old event, to mark the beginning of the Meghalayan.

 

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