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NEWS UPDATE #199


HIGHLIGHTS: *18,000 Maharashtra villages already declared drought-prone Farmers from across India to hold protest rally in Delhi on Nov 30 *Protests force Ladakh motor rally to change course *60% of Earth’s wildlife wiped out since 1970 *Only 23% of landmass survives as wilderness *Research finds large buildup of ocean heat *Petrochemicals lead oil demand growth

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INDIA

Maharashtra: In 182 talukas, 18,000 villages drought-prone
The Indian Express
182 talukas of the state, which have been declared drought-prone by the government on Tuesday, comprise around 18,000 of the total 40,913 villages in Maharashtra. Moreover, the government resolution issued in this regard on Tuesday had replaced the word “scarcity” with “drought” to expedite relief work in these villages. Also, this time, unlike the usual practice, both at the Centre and the state, drought has been declared in October instead of January.

Farmers From Across India to Hold Protest Rally in Delhi on Nov 30
Caravan Daily
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) on Thursday said that farmers from across the country would hold a massive protest in the national capital on November 30 against the policies of the central government. Lakhs of farmers would converge in Delhi on November 29 and join a protest rally the next day from the Ramlila Maidan to Parliament House, AIKSCC leaders said here. AIKSCC is an umbrella organisation representing over 180 farm outfits, which had held a similar protest in November last year.

48 hrs after exposure to Delhi’s air, artificial lung model goes dark
Millennium Post
In quite a shocking illustration of air pollution in Delhi-NCR, the condition of an artificial model of lungs which was placed outside the parking of a private hospital at Karol Bagh on November 3 afternoon has drastically changed. From white to black, the before and after images of the model may essentially be the nature’s way of alarming the citizens about the air that they been inhaling of late. “Within just 48 hours of having been placed outside the hospital, the model, on Monday noon, looked entirely different than what it looked like earlier. Meanwhile, with Diwali just a day away, a state of medical emergency was declared by the doctors in the Capital on Monday.

A decade on, only 40% of Forest Rights Act claims approved
Down to Earth
In the last decade, tribal communities across the country have filed 4.21 million claims to acquire forest land under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA). But, just 40 per cent or 1.74 million of them have been approved, says a status report compiled by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA). The report, which has looked at data on land titles till August 31, says the highest number of claims were rejected or sent back either by the gram sabha or the district-level committee.

Land acquired forcefully for Adani’s Godda power plant
Down to Earth
A recent visit to Jharkhand’s Godda district by a fact-finding team found irregularities like forceful land acquisition, intimidation and even police brutality on the part of Adani group’s functionaries for the company’s 1,600 MW power plant. In 2016, the Jharkhand government signed a MoU with Adani Power Limited to set up the plant in Godda, a part of Santhal Pargana region. It is said that the company plans to supply the power produced in the plant to Bangladesh. According to the company’s social impact assessment report, around 551 hectares (ha) of land spread across 10 villages in two blocks of Godda would be acquired for the project. (Related: Adani’s Tiroda power plant in Maharashtra gets 142 hectares more forest land)

Mumbai: 5,000 fishermen hold protest against draft guidelines restricting their area of operation
The Indian Express
Around 5,000 fishermen gathered at the Sassoon dock on Tuesday to mark a protest against the draft guidelines issued by the directorate general (Shipping) last month, restricting them from fishing between 15 to 35 nautical miles from the coastline in the Arabian Sea. Twenty nautical miles is proposed as a designated traffic corridor for merchant vessels between Gujarat to Kanyakumari as a remedy to mid-sea collision. Members of the Karanja Macchimar Society, which staged the protest, said this would have a huge impact on their business as the restricted corridor is where they find different variety of fish.

High pollution in Yamuna killing fish, Environmentalists alarmed
Dev Discourse
Environment activists and local authorities are alarmed as dead fish have been found floating in the Yamuna at Mathura, apparently due to the discharge of toxic waste into the river. Thousands of dead fish have been seen since Thursday, they said. People who had gone to the ghats for a bath were the first to spot them that day, an activist said. Mathura district magistrate Sarvagyaram Mishra said officials took note the first day this happened and the district pollution control board was directed to pick samples of river water.

At rock bottom: 40% of TN groundwater ruthlessly exploited
The Times of India
An assessment by the public works department reveals that 40% of the firkas (sub-divisions of revenue blocks across the state) fall under the over-exploited and critical categories, where extraction of groundwater is extremely high and calls for immediate intervention by the stakeholders. The micro-level assessment by the state ground and surface water resources data centre as on March 2013 shows there is a 3% rise in the number of firkas in the over-exploitated category, when compared to the previous assessment of 2011. In the red is Chennai, given its burgeoning population.

Community protest in the fragile Ladakh Himalayas forces motor rally to change course
Mongabay
Peaceful protests and requests by local community members in Ladakh Himalayas led to change in routes of a major motorsport rally whose original course ran through fragile ecosystems of the cold desert biosphere. Conservationists argued that the fallout of the rally would disturb Himalayan brown bear activity ahead of its hibernation and would intrude on wetlands that are the breeding sites of the globally threatened black necked crane. Speed driving in the region also kicks up dust that deposit on leaves of plants and generates black carbon aerosols that can spike local temperatures.

Conflict of Interest in KPMG’s Drafting Of Karnataka’s Forest Plan And Coal India’s Vision Plan, Activists Say
HuffPost India
The Karnataka Forest department has asked KPMG, the global financial consultancy firm, to prepare its ‘Vision Document 2030’, a compendium intended to provide a sustainable governance strategy to manage forests and wildlife in the state of Karnataka. KPMG’s appointment, environmentalists say, raises important questions about the organisation’s level of expertise as regards the management of forest resources and wildlife. The other red flag concerns questions of KPMG’s potential conflict of interest — given that the consulting firm was chosen to chalk out a ‘Vision 2030’ for Coal India last year.

India’s first ever container movement on inland waterways starts from Kolkata to Varanasi via river Ganga
Your Story
On October 30, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Nitin Gadkari started India’s first inland waterway cargo container movement from Kolkata to Varanasi on river Ganga (National Waterway-1). The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) marked the first container movement by shipping 16 containers of food and snacks by PepsiCo India – equivalent to 16 truckloads.

India to finance Zimbabwe’s thermal power plant with USD 310 mln loan
Dev Discourse
India on Saturday announced that it would extend a USD 310 million loan to Zimbabwe to finance a rehabilitation project for a thermal power plant that would entail upgrading the station and extending its lifespan. The decision was taken during a meeting between Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa and delegation-level talks between senior officials of the two countries here, T S Tirumurti, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said while briefing media on the deliberations. Hwange is Zimbabwe’s second biggest power plant with an installed capacity of 920 MW. India will also extend additional funds of USD 23 million for the Bulawayo thermal power plant and USD 19.5 million for the Deka pumping and water intake system in Zimbabwe, Tirumurti said.

WORLD

Humanity ‘Sleepwalking Towards the Edge of a Cliff’: 60% of Earth’s Wildlife Wiped Out Since 1970
EcoWatch
Scientists from around the world issued a stark warning to humanity Tuesday in a semi-annual report on the Earth’s declining biodiversity, which shows that about 60 percent of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been wiped out by human activity since 1970. The World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Index details how human’s uncontrolled overconsumption of land, food and natural resources has eliminated a majority of the wildlife on the planet—threatening human civilization as well as the world’s animals. “We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff,” Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF, told the Guardian. (Related: 1) Stop biodiversity loss or we could face our own extinction, warns UN 2) 26,000 more world species in danger of extinction, says International Union for the Conservation of Nature 3) Massive loss of mammal species in Atlantic Forest since the 1500s)

“Horror story” paper reveals just 23 percent of Earth’s landmass survives as wilderness
New Atlas
According to the results of a new paper, only 23 percent of our planet’s landmass exists in a near natural state of wilderness, with the rest having been directly degraded by human activities. Preserving the remaining wilderness regions could be a vital factor in battling climate change and safeguarding our species’ well-being. Humanity’s relentless spread across the face of the Earth has led to a dramatic decline in the quantity and quality of wilderness areas. These natural havens play a number of vital roles. Wilderness-dominated regions are responsible for capturing significant amounts of carbon dioxide. The abundance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is one of the driving factors of global warming.

Startling new research finds large buildup of heat in the oceans, suggesting a faster rate of global warming
The Washington Post
The world’s oceans have been soaking up far more excess heat in recent decades than scientists realized, suggesting that Earth could be set to warm even faster than predicted in the years ahead, according to new research published Wednesday. Over the past quarter-century, Earth’s oceans have retained 60 percent more heat each year than scientists previously had thought, said Laure Resplandy, a geoscientist at Princeton University who led the startling study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The difference represents an enormous amount of additional energy, originating from the sun and trapped by Earth’s atmosphere — the yearly amount representing more than eight times the world’s annual energy consumption. (Related: ‘We’ve never seen this’: massive Canadian glaciers shrinking rapidly)

State of the climate: New record ocean heat content and a growing El Niño
Carbon Brief
Ocean heat content (OHC) set a new record in the first half of 2018, with more warmth in the oceans than at any time since OHC records began in 1940. That’s one of the headlines from Carbon Brief’s latest “state of the climate” report, a quarterly series on global climate data that now includes temperatures, ocean heat, sea levels, greenhouse gas concentrations, climate model performance and polar ice. Global surface temperatures in 2018 are on track to be the fourth warmest since records began in the mid-1800s, behind only 2015, 2016 and 2017. Temperatures in 2018 were near record highs despite a moderate cooling La Niña event during the first half of the year. (Related: Five Category 4+ tropical cyclones have struck U.S. soil in 14 months. This is probably without precedent.)

Ocean floor disintegrating rapdily due to manmade CO2
Down to Earth
cientists have observed that the dissolution of calcium carbonate sediments deep in the sea is happening on such a significant level that the calcite may not be able to regulate enough man-made CO2. A study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences says that manmade carbon emissions are acidifying the ocean so rapidly that the seafloor is disintegrating. An acidic can threaten marine life species such as corals, which are the lifeline for around 1/4th of all marine species. The disintegration at a fast speed is unusual because a foundational chemical reaction that keeps the oceans at pH levels that are conducive to life is being thrown out of whack, explains a news report.

Energy sector’s carbon emissions to grow for second year running
The Guardian
Carbon emissions from the energy sector are on track to grow for the second year running, in a major blow to hopes the world might have turned the corner on tackling climate change. Preliminary analysis by the world’s energy watchdog shows the industry’s emissions have continued to rise in 2018, suggesting that an increase last year was not a one-off. The finding comes as the world’s leading climate scientists issued a landmark report on whether the world can meet a tougher global warming target, of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C. (Also read: 1) ​Petrochemicals to lead future global oil demand growth: IEA 2) Australian government backs coal in defiance of IPCC climate warning 3) Minor earthquakes emerge as major threat to UK fracking)

Childhood obesity linked to air pollution from vehicles
The Guardian
Early exposure to air pollution from vehicles increases the risk of children becoming obese, new research has found. High levels of nitrogen dioxide, which is emitted by diesel engines, in the first year of life led to significantly faster weight gain later, the scientists found. Other pollutants produced by road traffic have also been linked to obesity in children by recent studies. Nitrogen dioxide pollution is at illegal levels in most urban areas in the UK and the government has lost three times in the high court over the inadequacy of its plans. The pollutant also plagues many cities in Europe and around the world. (Related: Clean air is a human right: World Health Organisation)

Cigarette Butts Are The Single Greatest Source Of Ocean Trash, Report Says
All That is Interesting
Plastic straws have dominated people’s minds lately as deadly pieces of plastic that are slowly ruining the environment. However, while plastic straws are detrimental to the health of our planet, a recent study has revealed that a different piece of trash deserves much more of our attention: cigarette butts. According to NBC News, the study revealed that cigarette butts are the single greatest source of ocean trash. These butts contain filters, which on the surface seems completely harmless, but in actuality are causing permanent damage to our oceans and wildlife.

Germany Releases Strategic Fuel Reserve to Cope With Record Drought
Sputnik News
Record-low water levels in the Rhine have severely disrupted oil shipments across the country. The German government has authorized the use of strategic oil reserves in order to mitigate the consequences of a record drought that has hit the Rhine area in the last few weeks. Thanks to the record-low water levels in the river, the nation’s internal deliveries of oil have been severely disrupted, says a report by Phys.org. Months of scarce precipitation and hot sunny weather has driven the water level to such a low mark that German barges have either dramatically reduced their load in order to simply stay afloat or halted their service altogether.

Historic indigenous legal victory against gold mining in the Amazon
Amazon Frontlines
In a lawsuit that will inspire and galvanize many other indigenous communities across the Amazon for years to come, the Kofan of Sinangoe have won a trial against four Ecuadorian ministries and agencies for having granted or attempted to grant more than 30,000 hectares of mining concessions in pristine Amazonian rainforest on the border of their ancestral land without their free, prior and informed consent. The destructive mining operations that were taking place within these concessions threatened not only the Kofan’s lives, culture and health, but also those of the countless communities located downriver.

Adani’s Australia Coal Mine Hit By Another Setback as Korean Banks Rule out Financing
The Wire
Another set of potential financiers have closed their doors on the Adani Group’s proposed controversial Carmichael coal mine project in Australia after representatives of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) people – who are traditional owners of the land on which the mine is proposed to be built – wrote to banks in South Korea to express their reservations about the mine. Three top infrastructure project lenders in South Korea have responded to the W&J representatives’ email and clarified that they have ruled out the possibility of providing financial assistance to the Adani Group for the project.

Human Poop Reveals How Bad the Microplastics Problem Has Become
Inverse
If the Great Pacific Garbage Patch showcases the disturbing amount of trash in our oceans, then human poop illustrates the accumulation of plastic in our bodies. In a new study, scientists’ results hint that when it comes to microplastics, what goes in may not always come out. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic, less than 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) across, that are either manufactured to be tiny or are worn down from larger pieces. Regardless of how they’re formed, they’re small enough that they can collect in some hard-to-reach places. Research, presented on Monday at the 26th United European Gastroenterology Week confirms the sobering fact that microplastics are capable of accumulating in the human intestinal tract.

Diversity is key to forests withstanding drought, research finds
Mongabay
Research published in Nature last week finds that “hydraulically diverse” forests are particularly resilient in the face of drought, which could help inform strategies for restoring forests after they’ve been degraded by wildfires or logging. Hydraulic traits are essentially the mechanisms by which a tree moves water through itself, which in turn help determine the degree of drought stress a tree can withstand before its water-transport system starts to shut down. These characteristics, the researchers write in the study, were found to be “the predominant significant predictors” of drought response across all of the forest sites they studied. (Also read: Fire fundamentally alters carbon dynamics in the Amazon)

Leaked Draft Of New York City’s Big Climate Bill Raises Fears Of Rent Increases
HuffPost
An early draft of New York City’s landmark bill to cut climate-changing pollution from big buildings threatens to trigger rent hikes that could fracture the fragile alliance backing the legislation and upend a historic effort to shrink the carbon footprint of the nation’s largest city. The draft proposal ramps up the timeline for slashing emissions over the next 12 years, but critics say it abandons the special protections for New York’s dwindling stock of rent-stabilized apartments that were set out in August under a first-of-its-kind agreement between the city’s real estate lobby and affordable housing advocates. (Related: New York Sues Exxon Mobil, Saying It Deceived Shareholders on Climate Change)

China to launch ‘man-made moons’ to lower electricity costs
The Hindu
China is planning to launch its own ‘artificial moon’ by 2020 to replace streetlamps and lower electricity costs in urban areas, state media reported Friday. Chengdu, a city in southwestern Sichuan province, is developing “illumination satellites” which will shine in tandem with the real moon, but are eight times brighter, according to China Daily. The first man-made moon will launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan, with three more to follow in 2022 if the first test goes well, said Wu Chunfeng, head of Tian Fu New Area Science Society, the organization responsible for the project.

 

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