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NEWS UPDATE #198


HIGHLIGHTS: *EU approves sweeping ban on single-use plastics  *Spain to close most coal mines; Canada passes carbon tax *Yemen in danger of massive famine *Great Barrier Reef forecast warns of coral-death this summer *India Tax data shows shocking increase in corporate concessions * Ganga more polluted under Modi’s watch *75,000 tribals oppose Statue of Unity

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INDIA

15% India is undernourished, as Rs 50,000 crore food goes waste
Counterview
Poverty and hunger are common features of India. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) has further exposed this truth in a report prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) . The report said, “India is ranked 100th out of 119 countries, and has the third-highest score in all of Asia – only Afghanistan and Pakistan are ranked worse.” The report further said that at 31.4, India’s GHI of 2017 is at the high-end of “serious” category, and is one of the main factors pushing South Asia to the category of worst performing region, followed closely by Africa south of Sahara.

Income Tax Data Shows Shocking Increase in Corporate Concessions
News Click
There is a shocking reality that the new data reveals – something not being talked about by the Modi govt. It is this: corporate taxes as a share of GDP have declined in this period. Corporate taxes made up 3.89% of the GDP in 2010-11 dipping to 3.41% of GDP in 2017-18. This is a result of the hugely business friendly policies implemented by the Modi govt, adding on to the previous govt.’s concessions. The bonanza given to corporate bodies flows from concessions and rebates and cuts and exemptions from various taxes and duties that the finance ministry under Jaitley has been doling out year after year.

Almost Rs 4,000 Crore Spent, but the Ganga Is More Polluted Under Modi’s Watch
The Wire
The Ganga has not become any cleaner under the Modi government. In fact, the river’s contamination levels have increased at many places since 2013, even though Rs 5,523 crore was released for cleaning the Ganga between 2014 and June 2018. Of the funds released, Rs 3,867 crore has already been spent. According to information provided by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), an organisation under the ministry of environment, forest and climate change, the amount of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) in the Ganga river was very high in 2017. Information also reveals that the quantity of Dissolved Oxygen (DO) is continuously decreasing at most places.

Statue of Unity: About 75,000 tribals to oppose unveiling by PM Modi, no food to be cooked in 72 villages
Financial Express
As the BJP governments, both at the state and the Centre, gear up for the unveiling of the tallest statue in the world — “Statue of Unity” of Sardar Patel — by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31, thousands of tribals in villages near the site are bracing for a major showdown against the project. Local tribal organisations said as many as 75,000 tribals adversely affected by the Statue of Unity project would oppose the Prime Minister and the unveiling of statue at Kevadia in Narmada district.

Scientists develop transgenic rice that can grow under high salinity, drought
Down to Earth
A group of researchers from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and University of Illinois have developed transgenic rice that promises to generate high yields even under conditions of high salinity, high temperature and drought. The scientists hit upon the idea while studying a wild rice variety, Pokkali, grown in coastal regions of Kerala. When they tried to figure out its ability to survive and thrive in highly saline environment, it emerged that it had very high level of a gene, OsIF. Tests showed that the plant expressed the gene four times more than in traditional plants. (Also read: 1) Using new AI algorithm, IIT-Bombay to reduce damage caused by natural disasters in India) 2) This gel can protect farmers from toxic pesticides)

Glyphosate, its formulations banned in Punjab
Down to Earth
The secretary, Department of Agriculture, Punjab ordered on October 23, 2018 that the herbicide glyphosate would now be regulated in the state. The department has taken the step based on reports of adverse health effects of this chemical. PGIMER in Chandigarh has also provided evidence that the chemical is harmful. The order points out that the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee of India has approved the use of this chemical only in tea plantations and in non crop areas. Since tea is not grown in the state and non-crop area is also minimal, there is no reason for sale of the product in Punjab. (Related: 1) Why Toxic Pesticides That Killed 3 Farmers In 2 Months Are Still In Use In Maharashtra 2) Bombshell New Study Calls For Ban On Pesticide Family Tied To Brain Damage In Kids)

Why DowDuPont stopped GM maize trials —‘Many States did not give the go ahead’
The Hindu BusinessLine
DowDuPont recently withdrew its application for carrying out biosafety trials of transgenic maize variety because it failed to get permission from many States, said KV Subbarao, South Asia leader of Corteva Agriscience, DowDupont’s agri division, on Wednesday. To get the approval, it has to complete four years of on-farm trials. The fourth year’s trial has to be carried out on “broad number of geographies as India has got diverse climatic conditions”, he said. “But we had approvals only from selective one or two States,” the Corteva official told reporters on the sidelines of an agricultural summit here.

NGT okays Pragati Maidan redevelopment despite lacking statutory clearances
Business Standard
In a precedent setting order, the National Green Tribunal gave the go-ahead to the redevelopment of ITPO complex at Pragati Maidan, Delhi. The nod came despite the fact that the project had taken off without statutory clearances under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. The project had not secured these two statutory clearances even on the date of the judgement by the principle bench of the tribunal lead by its chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel on October 24. (Also read: NHAI’s road project may cost Gurugram its green lung – the Aravali Park)

Proposed Khurja coal power plant overpriced, uncompetitive and another threat to Delhi’s air qualit
IEEFA India
A report published today by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) evaluating Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC)’s proposed Khurja coal power plant in India finds the plant would push up the cost of electricity and increase air pollution at a time when the country’s renewable energy options are cheaper, accessible and more sustainable. Released at an energy roundtable in Delhi this morning, the report The Khurja Thermal Power Project: A Recipe for an Indian Stranded Asset recommends the proposed Khurja coal power plant be cancelled. (Also read: No coal, Karnataka’s thermal power plants on verge of shutting down)

467 hectares of Yavatmal forest land given to Reliance
The Times of India
Maharashtra government has on Monday finally given a go ahead to the diversion of 467.5 hectares of reserved forest land for cement plant of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group roposed to be set up in Zari Jamni tehsil of Yavatmal district. M/s Reliance Cementation Pvt Ltd had been pursuing the project for setting up the plant and initially got support from the then Congress chief minister Ashok Chavan in 2009.

Rs. 31,000 Crore Needed To Rebuild Flood-Hit Kerala: UN Report
NDTV
Kerala will need about Rs. 31,000 crore for recovery and reconstruction following the century’s worst floods, according to a UN report. UN resident coordinator in India Yuri Afanasiev presented the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Thiruvananthapuram today. This is the first time the UN has prepared such a report in India. The report assessed the damage caused due to the devastating floods in the state in August and divided the expenditure required into several categories.

How Modi, Rupani want Gujarat to be exclusive abode of Asiatic lions
The Week
The gamekeepers of Gir report that lions are dying at the rate of one a day due to protozoa infections and a canine distemper virus which had killed a third of East Africa’s lions a few years ago. This has caused a hue and cry for shifting a few cats to safer zones, but Chief Minister Vijay Rupani would hear none of that. Green dragons elsewhere may make a hue and cry, or a mew and roar, but for once Modi and Rupani are getting support from even Congressmen in Gujarat. Look at what arch foe Ahmed Patel has written to Modi—get more vets, build more lion dens and pull down tourist dens, enlarge Gir’s buffer by 10km, and launch a Project Tiger-like programme. Not a word about lending or sending a few cats to MP.

WORLD

European parliament approves sweeping ban on single-use plastics
The Guardian
The European parliament has overwhelmingly backed a wide-ranging ban on single-use plastics in an effort to tackle pollution in seas, fields and waterways. Under the proposed directive, items such as plastic straws, cotton swabs, disposable plastic plates and cutlery would be banned by 2021, and 90% of plastic bottle recycled by 2025. Described by the European commission as a clampdown on “the top 10 plastic products that most often end up in the ocean”, the proposed legislation passed 571 votes to 53. (Related: Microplastics found in human stools for the first time)

Yemen In ‘Clear And Present Danger’ Of Massive Famine After Years Of Violence
NPR
The United Nations’ humanitarian chief warned a month ago that war-torn Yemen was on the brink of a “massive loss of life” — a famine-fueled catastrophe that may spell the complete collapse of an already failing country. Since then, he says the dire situation has only gotten worse. “The toll is unbearably high,” Mark Lowcock told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday. “The immune systems of millions of people on survival support for years on end are now are literally collapsing, making them — especially children and the elderly — more likely to succumb to malnutrition, cholera and other diseases.”

Great Barrier Reef forecast warns entire system at risk of bleaching and coral death this summer
The Guardian
Mass bleaching and coral death could be likely along the entire Great Barrier Reef this summer, according to a long-range forecast that coral experts say is “a wake-up call” for the Australian government. The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) has forecast a 60% chance that the entire Great Barrier Reef will reach alert level one, which signals extreme heat stress and bleaching are likely. The forecast period covers November 2018 to February 2019 and the risk extends to the southern Great Barrier Reef, which escaped the mass mortality seen in the middle and northern parts of the reef in 2016 and 2017. (Also read: Hawaiian island erased by powerful hurricane: ‘The loss is a huge blow’)

Lawsuit alleges ExxonMobil deceived shareholders on climate change rules
The Guardian
New York is suing the oil giant ExxonMobil in a lawsuit that claims the company engaged in a “longstanding fraudulent scheme” to downplay the risks posed to its business by climate change regulations. The legal action, launched by New York state attorney general Barbara Underwood, alleges that ExxonMobil deceived its investors by hiding the true extent of its financial exposure to laws aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Exxon provided “false and misleading assurances” to shareholders that it had factored in climate regulations and that its vast reserves of oil and gas weren’t at major risk of being left as stranded assets, New York’s lawsuit claims. (Also read: Whitehaven Coal: activist shareholders to force vote on climate strategy)

Not a single cool month in the last 628 months
Down to Earth
In April 2017, scientists from Climate Central—an international association of scientists and journalists reporting and researching climate change—released a stunning chart depicting a month by month temperature rise since 1880. “There has not been a cool month in 628 months.” Climate Central crunched enormous amount of data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) into a stark one-page chart that showed months with higher temperatures than the baseline of average global temperatures between 1881 (coinciding tentatively with the Industrial Revolution) and 1910 in red colour.

Spain to close most coal mines in €250m transition deal
The Guardian
Spain is to shut down most of its coal mines by the end of the year after government and unions struck a deal that will mean €250m (£221m) will be invested in mining regions over the next decade. Pedro Sánchez’s new leftwing administration has moved quickly on environmental policy, abolishing a controversial “sunshine tax” on the solar industry, and announcing the launch of Spain’s long-delayed national climate plan next month. Unions hailed the mining deal – which covers Spain’s privately owned pits – as a model agreement. It mixes early retirement schemes for miners over 48, with environmental restoration work in pit communities and re-skilling schemes for cutting-edge green industries. (Also read: Landmark court decision protects New Zealand reserves from mining)

Canada passed a carbon tax that will give most Canadians more money
The Guardian
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that under the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, Canada will implement a revenue-neutral carbon tax starting in 2019, fulfilling a campaign pledge he made in 2015. The federal carbon pollution price will start low at $20 per ton in 2019, rising at $10 per ton per year until reaching $50 per ton in 2022. The carbon tax will stay at that level unless the legislation is revisited and revised. This is a somewhat modest carbon tax – after all, the social cost of carbon is many times higher – but it’s a higher carbon price than has been implemented in most countries. (Also read: International Energy Agency says energy sector’s carbon emissions to grow for second year running)

Fracking at Lancashire site paused after seismic event detected
The Guardian
Fracking operations in Lancashire have been shut down after seismic activity was detected. The move came a little more than a week after the process was restarted in the UK for the first time since it was banned in 2011. Cuadrilla Resources, which is carrying out the operations at its Preston New Road site, confirmed it paused work early on Tuesday as a precaution because of the microseismic event, which was measured at a magnitude of 0.4 and within the limit allowed by UK authorities. (Also read: Former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams joins UK call for mass civil disobedience on climate change)

Huge reduction in meat-eating ‘essential’ to avoid climate breakdown
The Guardian
Food production already causes great damage to the environment, via greenhouse gases from livestock, deforestation and water shortages from farming, and vast ocean dead zones from agricultural pollution. But without action, its impact will get far worse as the world population rises by 2.3 billion people by 2050 and global income triples, enabling more people to eat meat-rich western diets. This trajectory would smash critical environmental limits beyond which humanity will struggle to live, the new research indicates. “It is pretty shocking,” said Marco Springmann at the University of Oxford, who led the research team.

Over 120 groups from around the world declare large scale forest biomass energy a dangerous ‘delusion’
Global Forest Coalition
A loud chorus of civil society organisations representing hundreds of thousands of people around the world has come together to release a new statement expressing concern over the use of forest biomass for renewable energy. The groups are concerned that biomass is a societal delusion for climate change mitigation and increased their commitment to working collectively for real solutions that protect and restore forests. The statement concludes with, “Subsidies for forest biomass energy must be eliminated. Protecting and restoring the world’s forests is a climate change solution, burning them is not.”

‘Democracy is Over’: Colombian Court Rules Community Referendums Cannot Block Mining, Oil Projects
Telesur TV
Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled in favor of a Mansarovar Energy, a transnational oil and natural gas company, and against Indigenous communities in the municipality of Cumeral Thursday. The judgment, however, has far-reaching consequences since it will limit Indigenous communities from using popular consultations or referendums to block extractive industry projects & programs in their territories. Mansarovar Energy, a Colombian-based company backed by India’s ONGC and Chinese oil firm Sinopec, presented a request for legal protection before the Constitutional Court, calling on it to overrule a decision by a local court of the department of Meta that had given the green light for a popular consultation that effectively halted the extraction of oil in the municipality of Cumeral.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro scraps pledge to quit Paris climate deal
Reuters
Right-wing Congressman Jair Bolsonaro’s decision marks a surprising about-face for a candidate who enjoys strong support from Brazil’s powerful agribusiness lobby and has called conservation efforts a threat to Brazilian sovereignty. Speaking at a news conference in Rio de Janeiro, Bolsonaro also said he that he wanted to work with the United Nations to deal with a large influx of Venezuelan refugees in Brazil’s north. He said he did not want conflict with the neighbouring country, whose socialist government he has repeatedly criticized.

Bayer Stock Crashes After Monsanto Cancer Verdict Upheld By Judge; Analyst Estimates $800 Billion In Future Liability
Green Med Info
Growing uncertainty about whether San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos would rule in favor or against Bayer’s appeal of the Monsanto Cancer Verdict was resolved Tuesday morning as the judge upheld the jury’s decision that the glyphosate-based weedkiller (aka Roundup) sold by Monsanto caused a California man’s terminal cancer and that Monsanto intentionally hid its dangers. The news quickly spread and caused an immediate crash in Bayer’s stock value, sending a powerful message to the Agrochemical industry that they are legally and financially responsible for the adverse effects caused by their unscrupulously marketed products.

Another giant has left us: the Sumatran rhino is extinct in the wild
Lifegate
According to Environment Minister Masidi Manjun, there are no Sumatran rhinos left in the wild in the Malaysian state of Sabah. About 50 rhinos lived there in 2008, five years later there were only ten individuals left, and today they’re likely to be extinct. The decline of this species is mainly linked to two factors: poaching for rhino horns (the horn actually doesn’t have any medical properties, contrary to many people’s beliefs), and habitat loss due to deforestation, mainly carried out to make place for oil palm plantations and human settlements.

Asian elephant herds lack clear matriarchs, strict hierarchies: new study
Mongabay
The differences between Asian and African elephants may be the result of their ecological environments, the team posits. The researchers think that stable ecological conditions in Sri Lanka make it easier for Asian elephants to make their own movement decisions without having to rely on very experienced individuals to know where to go or how to avoid predators. But as habitats continue to shrink and elephants are forced into smaller areas where they cannot avoid each other, their weak dominance hierarchies may result in greater conflict between individuals, the researchers think.

Iran charges five wildlife activists with capital offences
The Guardian
Five environmentalists have been charged in Iran with national security crimes punishable by death, in a development the UN environment head said was deeply troubling. The activists from the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation were arrested in January alongside at least four other people, and face allegations of spying, which human rights campaigners and Iran’s own government say are unfounded. Concerns about environmental challenges, including water shortages, were a trigger for nationwide protests that began early this year before taking on a wider political dimension. They came as Iran faces its worst drought in modern times.

Swamped with plastic waste: Malaysia struggles as global scrap piles up
Reuters
Hundreds of sacks filled with plastic waste from the United States, Britain, South Korea and Spain spill onto the streets of an industrial zone in Pulau Indah, an island town just an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur and home to Malaysia’s biggest port. The stench of burning plastic and fumes from nearly a dozen recycling factories wafts through the neighborhood, even as more container-loads of plastic waste are unloaded. Pulau Indah – ironically, the name means “beautiful island” in Malay – is one of many towns in Malaysia where illegal plastic recycling factories have popped up in recent months as the Southeast Asian nation became the top choice for plastic waste exporters from around the world.

Former Monsanto Executive Picked by Trump to Lead Wildlife Agency
EcoWatch
President Donald Trump said he will nominate a former Monsanto executive to head the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Associated Press reported Tuesday. Aurelia Skipwith, who Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger called “a darling of corporate special interests,” worked at the agribusiness giant for more than six years. She has since worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of the Interior (DOI).

The Pentagon Is Building An Army Of Insects To ‘Protect Crops’
Disclose.tv
The Pentagon has been researching for a program with the title of “Insect Allies”. The program has the intention of creating insect armies that defend crops; however, they could also be used as a biological weapon with the Pentagon not denying they have the potential for dual use. Researchers at the Max Planck Institution for Evolutionary Biology have criticized the program. They believe that the knowledge that has been gained from the research along with the program is limited in the ability to be able to enhance agriculture in the US. They also don’t believe it could be used in response to any national emergency. Researches believe that the program “may be widely perceived as an effort to develop biological agents for hostile purposes and their means of delivery.”

 

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