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NEWS UPDATE #200


HIGHLIGHTS: *Study links groundwater exploitation to India’s carbon emissions spike *Farmers suffer as states yet to declare drought *3 reports sound alarm on ocean-warming *G20 nations still led by fossil fuel industry: Report *Montreal Protocol assessment reveals healing ozone *69 of the richest 100 entities on the planet are corporations *Giraffes given ‘critically endangered’ status

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INDIA

After locals go firecracker crazy on Diwali, Delhi becomes world’s most polluted city: Report
Hindustan Times
Air pollution levels skyrocketed in New Delhi and left the capital shrouded in toxic smog as millions of people set off firecrackers on Wednesday evening for Diwali. The air quality index, or AQI, hit 980 at 4:30 am Thursday, according to website AirVisual, which monitors air pollution around the world. The levels surged as people violated an order of the Supreme Court and burst firecrackers before and after a two-hour window set for the purpose. Readings below 50 are considered safe, while anything above 300 is considered hazardous. The air quality is just about as bad as it was in 2017 a day after Diwali, when levels exceeded 1,000, roughly ten times worse than the air pollution in Beijing. (Related: 1) Toxic Air Killed More Children Under 5 Indoors In 2016 Than Outside : WHO Study 2) Conventional solutions to check air pollution in Asia-Pacific insufficient: UN 3) China builds the ‘world’s largest air purifier’ standing 328 feet in a bid to tackle smog)

Groundwater exploitation linked to rise in India’s carbon emissions: study
Down to Earth
Over-extraction of groundwater is a major environmental challenge in many parts of India. It is not only leading to rapid decline in groundwater reserves but also contributing to India’s carbon emissions, a new study has warned. Billions of liters of groundwater pumped out every year contributes to carbon emissions in two ways – emissions released due to the pumps used for extracting water and carbon dioxide released due to bicarbonate extraction. Most of the groundwater reserves or aquifers contain sand, gravel, clay, and calcite. Hydron ions react with calcite and create bicarbonate and calcium. When groundwater is exposed to the atmosphere, carbon dioxide is released while calcite is precipitated.

Farmers suffer as states yet to declare drought
Down to Earth
More than a month after the India Meterological Department (IMD) declared that 255 districts of the country recorded deficient (-59 to -20 per cent) or scanty (-99 to -60) rainfall, many state governments are yet to declare drought in their respective states. These districts account for 31 per cent of all districts in India where drought has been declared on the pretext of a deficit Southwest monsoon. According to data from IMD, the Southwest monsoon season showed a 9 per cent deficit in rainfall in the country between June 1 and September 30, 2018. More than 50 per cent of the districts in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh and Goa received deficient rainfall.

Centre approves Operation Green pilot in 8 states
Down to Earth
Nine months after announcing ‘Operation Green’ to provide the rightful price to farmer producers, the Union government has prepared guidelines to implement the operation. The scheme was devised to contain the annual price distress of tomatoes, onion and potatoes in regions with high production. The Expenditure Finance Committee approved the proposal with some suggestions on how to pool funds. With an allocation Rs 500 crore by the Centre, the deadline of the scheme is March 2020. The Union Ministry of Food Processing and Industries has prepared the guidelines.

Cyclone Gaja live analysis: 10% of world’s cyclonic storms put 1/3rd of Indians at risk
Down to Earth
India is exposed to 10 per cent of the world’s tropical cyclones according to the National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project. Tropical cyclones are a general breed of storms which also include hurricanes and typhoons. This is the highest number for any country in the world. In fact, approximately 76% of the total loss of human lives from cyclonic storms have occurred in India and Bangladesh, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Also, according to the project, one third of India’s population is at risk of cyclones.

Tick, tock, it’s a naphtha bomb floating off Kochi
The New Indian Express
A time bomb that has been ticking for almost six months off the Kochi coast now faces the threat of a short trigger in the shape of cyclone Gaja. About 3,000 tonnes of naphtha that is highly combustible has been floating only 12.2 nautical miles from the Kochi coast aboard Nu Shi Nalini, a vessel that has been abandoned by its crew in the high seas, tapered by a rotting anchor that may well be rusting away. If Gaja were to wreak havoc, then it would decimate parts of Thoppumpady, Vallarpadam and Vypeen Islands.

Monsoon 2018 Overview: Serious Anomalies Hidden by Macro Figures
SANDRP
2018 becomes fifth year in a row when India’s south west monsoon has been below normal. In the beginning of monsoon season, Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecasted rains to be normal with rainfall equal to 97 percent of the long term average. However at the end of the season the overall rainfall turned out to be 91 percent, with deficit of 9 percent at national level. However, as we see in this overview, the situation as move from national to local figures, is much different, mostly much worse.

Draft report for UN: India set to meet 2 of its 3 Paris Agreement goals
Business Standard
nder the Paris Agreement, India has made three commitments. India’s greenhouse gas emission intensity of its GDP will be reduced by 33-35 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Alongside, 40 per cent of India’s power capacity would be based on non-fossil fuel sources. At the same time, India will create an additional ‘carbon sink’ of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of Co2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. The report indicates that India is well on way to achieve the target for emission intensity of the economy and share of non-fossil fuel-based power capacity. In fact, at current rates of improvement on both fronts, India could achieve these targets ahead of the 2030 deadline. But the country has so far not been able to make a smooth start towards the target for increasing India’s forest cover in order to create an additional carbon sink.

India has three of the world’s 50 nitrogen emission hotspots
Down to Earth
South Africa’s Mpumalanga province emits the highest amounts of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air, says a new Greenpeace analysis based on satellite data. It is home to a cluster of a dozen coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of more than 32 gigawatts owned and operated by Eskom. Out of 50 hotspots identified by Greenpeace, 10 are in China, eight in the Arab world, four in the EU and three each in India, the US and DR Congo. The three in India are Delh-NCR, an area that falls in both Sonbhadra in UP and Singrauli in MP and another Talcher-Angul in Odisha. This includes 10 power plants and industrial clusters in China, 14 megacities with very high transport-related emissions, including Santiago de Chile, Tehran, Dubai, London and Paris as well as places in Congo and Angola where crop residue is burned.

Clamour for implementing Gadgil panel report gets louder
The Hindu
In the wake of floods and landslips reported in Kerala and Kodagu district in Karnataka, the clamour for implementation of the recommendations of the Madhav Gadgil committee on conservation of the Western Ghats has grown. The Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan, an NGO, in association with groups involved in environment conservation, has decided to launch a campaign in States where the Western Ghats spreads itself — Kerala, Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat, and in Puducherry — to mobilise public opinion on the matter. A meeting will be held in Shivamogga city on November 18 to chalk out modalities of the campaign in which the ecologists from the Western Ghats region will take part.

10 Indian workers die in Gulf nations per day, for each $1 billion remitted 117 deaths occur
Counterview
A recent Right to Information (RTI) intervention and research of proceedings in Parliament has revealed that between 2012 and mid-2018 more than 24,570 Indian workers died in in six Gulf countries, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This works out to an average of more than 10 deaths per day. A further analysis by Venkatesh Nayak, well-known RTI activist, who made the plea to the Ministry of Exernal Affairs (MEA), suggests that for every US$ 1 billion they remitted to India during the period there were at least 117 deaths of Indian workers in Gulf countries.

Will the inauguration of Ganga navigation destroy the river’s ecology?
Down to Earth
A number of river experts that Down To Earth spoke to agree that the government’s claims that inland water transport would be cheap are exaggerated. “Inland water transport is not so cheap. Not when we have options like the railways. It is true that roadways can be costly. But one must remember that roads also provide last mile connectivity. In case of inland waterways, the expense incurred to transport goods to the moored vessel will ensure that the end amount will be almost equal to transporting goods by road all the way,” says Shripad Dharmadhikary, a researcher at Pune-based non-profit Manthan Adhyayan Kendra. “Certainly, inland waterway transportation is not going to be cheap as we are being made to believe,” says the “Waterman of India”, Rajendra Singh.

Avni: A wanton killing
Pritish Nandy
The tigress Avni’s home was Pandharkawada in Yavatmal district. Pandharkawada is a small forest being rapidly encroached upon by the locals as well as those who come in search of lime, coal and dolomite. For a mere Rs 40 crore, almost 500 hectares of the forest was given away (you could say almost gifted) by the government to Anil Ambani, currently much in the news for the Dassault offsets. Ambani was to set up a cement plant there. The plant, of course, got promptly sold off-lock, stock and barrel to another business house for Rs 4,800 crore, thus benchmarking the land’s actual value. While Avni and her mate were planning a family, which would have in turn grown the tiger population in the forest, several industrial groups were also eyeing the land (Related: 1) 3 tiger cubs mowed by train in Vidarbha forest 2) Maharashtra government diverts 88 hectare of tiger land for industry)

Opposing Beer Factory, Villagers Guard Trees In Dhenkanal
Odisha TV
Call it their love for nature that an entire village has now come forward to save a forest in Dhenkanal. Moreover, the villagers mostly women are now guarding the trees inside Jhinkargadi forest where the Odisha government wants to set up a beer factory. According to sources, the proposed beer factory is expected to come up on 600 acre of forest land. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had laid the foundation stone for the project through video conferencing on November 3. Though the construction work was scheduled to begin on November 8, it had to be stopped because of the protest by villagers.

Auroville red-flags proposed four-lane NHAI bypass
The Hindu
Auroville has flagged serious concerns over the potential havoc that a proposed four-lane highway bypass of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) could wreak on the five decades of reforestation and environmental regeneration work that has transformed a once-barren plateau into a bountiful bio-region. The Auroville community, which recently celebrated the golden jubilee of its founding by Mirra Alfassa, spiritual associate of Sri Aurobindo, and has about 2,500 residents from 50 nations across the world, is particularly worried that the NHAI alignment for the proposed road will virtually “destroy the work carried out by Auroville over the last 50 years in environmental reforestation and regeneration work and the peaceful atmosphere it strives to establish.”

WORLD

3 reports sound alarm on warming oceans
CBS News
In climate circles, what really sounded the sirens recently were three separate reports that show the oceans are warming at a staggering rate. One study published in the scientific journal Nature concludes that the oceans are absorbing 60 percent more heat than previous estimates from the U.N.’s International Panel on Climate Change. The study calculates that over the past 25 years, the oceans gained energy equivalent to more than 5 billion Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. “What makes the result robust is that it actually agrees with the top of the range estimates based on temperature, which is indeed 60 percent higher than what IPCC published,” said the lead author of the study, Laure Resplandy of Princeton University. (Related: 1) Climate change is making hurricanes even more destructive, research finds 2) Is Warming Bringing a Wave of New Diseases to Arctic Wildlife?)

G20 nations still led by fossil fuel industry, climate report finds
The Guardian
Climate action is way off course in all but one of the world’s 20 biggest economies, according to a report that shows politicians are paying more heed to the fossil fuel industry than to advice from scientists. Among the G20 nations 15 reported a rise in emissions last year, according to the most comprehensive stock-take to date of progress towards the goals of the Paris climate agreement. The paper, by the global partnership Climate Transparency, found 82% of energy in these countries still being provided by coal, oil and gas, a factor which has relied on an increase of about 50% in subsidies over the past 10 years to compete with increasingly cheap wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. (Related: 1) World has no capacity to absorb new fossil fuel plants, warns IEA 2) UN Environment convenes world’s insurers to assess intensifying climate change impacts in bid to protect communities and economies)

Australian students plan school strikes to protest against climate inaction
The Guardian
Hundreds of students around the country are preparing to strike from school because of what they say is a failure by politicians to recognise climate change as an emergency. They’ve been inspired by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish student who has been sitting outside the parliament in central Stockholm to draw attention to the fears younger generations hold about the global climate crisis and the failure of countries to take urgent action. Fourteen-year-old Milou Albrecht, a year 8 student at Castlemaine Steiner school in Victoria, her classmate Harriet O’Shea Carre, and 11-year-old Callum Bridgefoot from Castlemaine North primary school, started by protesting last week outside of the offices of their local representatives. (Also read: Federal judge blocks Keystone XL pipeline, saying Trump administration review ignored ‘inconvenient’ climate change facts)

Montreal Protocol assessment reveals healing ozone, untapped potential for climate action
UN Environment
The latest Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion reveals a healing ozone layer, global warming reduction potential, and options for more ambitious climate action. The quadrennial review from the Scientific Assessment Panel of the Montreal Protocol will be presented here at the 30th Meeting of the Parties to this historic accord. Its findings confirm first and foremost that actions taken under the Montreal Protocol have led to long-term decreases in the atmospheric abundance of controlled ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) and the ongoing recovery of stratospheric ozone. Evidence presented by the authors shows that the ozone layer in parts of the stratosphere has recovered at a rate of 1-3% per decade since 2000.

Sea salt around the world is contaminated by plastic, studies show
The Guardian
Sea salt around the world has been contaminated by plastic pollution, adding to experts’ fears that microplastics are becoming ubiquitous in the environment and finding their way into the food chain via the salt in our diets. Following this week’s revelations in the Guardian about levels of plastic contamination in tap water, new studies have shown that tiny particles have been found in sea salt in the UK, France and Spain, as well as China and now the US. Researchers believe the majority of the contamination comes from microfibres and single-use plastics such as water bottles, items that comprise the majority of plastic waste. Up to 12.7m tonnes of plastic enters the world’s oceans every year, equivalent to dumping one garbage truck of plastic per minute into the world’s oceans, according to the United Nations. (Related: Stemming the Plastic Tide: 10 Rivers Contribute Most of the Plastic in the Oceans)

69 of the richest 100 entities on the planet are corporations, not governments, figures show
Sharing.org
Top corporations continue to accrue revenues far in excess of most governments, figures compiled by Global Justice Now show. Comparing 2017 revenues, 69 of the top 100 economic entities are corporations rather than governments. The top 10 corporations – a list which includes Walmart, Toyota and Shell as well as several Chinese corporations – raked in over $3 trillion last year. When it comes to the top 200 entities, the gap between corporations and governments gets even more pronounced: 157 are corporations. Walmart, Apple and Shell all accrued more wealth than even fairly rich countries like Russia, Belgium, Sweden.

Bolsonaro’s deforestation of the Amazon has already begun
Climate Home News
Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon jumped almost 50% during the three month electoral season that brought Jair Bolsonaro to power, according to preliminary official figures. That means the forest lost 1,674 sq km from August to October, an area more than double the size of New York City. The main culprit was the conversion of forest to pasture. The largest increase was in the border area between Acre and Amazonas states. The deforestation increase there, compared with the same period in 2017, was 273% and 114%, respectively. Deforestation usually increases in Brazil’s electoral years, amid promises from local politicians they will open up protected land or make environmental legislation more flexible if elected.

EU moves to protect large carnivores
BBC News
The EU is to allow farmers to receive full compensation for any damages caused by attacks from protected animals like lynxes, wolves and bears. Other expenses including installing electric fences or acquiring guard dogs to prevent damage will also be fully reimbursed. The EU says the move will help protect large predators in areas where they have come into conflict with humans. Campaigners hope it will limit the need for culls.

Giraffes at risk of extinction as they are given ‘critically endangered’ status for first time
The Telegraph
Giraffes are at risk of extinction with some subspecies now listed as ‘critically endangered’ for the first time. The latest International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species has placed the Kordofan and Nubian giraffes just one stage from extinct in the wild, with fewer than 4,650 animals left. The Reticulated, Thornicroft’s, and West African giraffes and are also listed as endangered or vulnerable. And although Masai giraffes are yet to be assessed, numbers have plummeted in recent years and conservationists expect they will soon be added to the red list. Only the Angolan giraffe – which lives in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe is out of danger. (Also read: 1) Campaigners welcome China U-turn on rhino and tiger products 2) Koalas numbers in “terminal decline”)

Chocolate giant Cadbury ‘still pushing orangutans towards extinction by wrecking habitat for palm oil’
The Independent
The maker of Cadbury chocolate bars, Oreo biscuits and Ritz crackers is accused of destroying tens of thousands of hectares of orangutan habitat in just two years for palm oil. Suppliers to food giant Mondelez have destroyed 70,000 hectares since 2016, analysis by Greenpeace International claims, pushing the primate further towards extinction. The areas razed to the ground include 25,000 hectares of habitations in Indonesia that are home to the critically endangered orangutan. Mondelez, which is one of the world’s biggest buyers of palm oil, uses it in many of its most popular products, including Cadbury and Roses chocolates, Oreos and Ritz crackers. (Related: 1) UK defies EU over Indonesian palm oil trade, leaked papers show 2) ‘Bleeding’ vegan burger arrives on UK supermarket shelves)

Philippines rejects contaminated South Korean waste
Financial Times
Environmental activists and government officials in the Philippines are demanding that South Korea take back a shipment of garbage falsely declared as plastic, in the latest sign of a growing backlash in south-east Asia against imports of waste that used to be recycled in China. The Philippine government has vowed to take action on the 5,100 tonnes of rubbish that arrived at a container terminal on the southern island of Mindanao in July. The waste, which was impounded by customs officials, was declared as “plastic synthetic flakes” but was found to contain rubbish including batteries, bulbs, used dextrose tubes, electronic equipment and nappies. (Related: China’s Singles’ Day online discount sales bonanza saw bargain-hungry buyers spend over $38 billion, leaving an estimated 160,000 tonnes of packaging waste)

Seychelles launches world’s first sovereign blue bond
Down to Earth
The Republic of Seychelles, an archipelagic nation consisting of 115 granite and coral islands, has launched the world’s first sovereign blue bond—a pioneering financial instrument designed to support sustainable marine and fisheries projects. The bond was announced by the country’s Vice-President at the Our Ocean Conference in Bali on October 29. The business case for a sovereign blue bond was initially identified through support to Seychelles from the International Sustainability Unit of the UK’s Prince Charles.

There will be an oil shortage in the 2020s, Goldman Sachs says
CNBC
An oil shortage is coming says Goldman Sachs, because firms cannot fully invest in future production. Global oil majors are increasingly looking to invest in lower-carbon areas of the energy sector, as they react to pressure for cleaner energy, both from government policy and investors. “In the 2020’s we are going to have a clear physical shortage of oil because nobody is allowed to fully invest in future oil production,” Michele Della Vigna, Head of EMEA Natural Resources Research at Goldman Sachs told CNBC Friday.

Fertility in 91 countries insufficient to maintain population: study
Down to Earth
Even as the world’s population grew by 87.2 million people annually from 2007 to 2017, 91 nations are not producing enough children to maintain their current populations, shows a new study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). Part of the annual Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, the findings say that 91 countries, including Singapore, Spain, Portugal, Norway and South Korea, along with Cyprus, have a total fertility rate (TFR) of lower than two. TFR is a summary measurement representing the average number of children a woman would deliver over her lifetime. In 2017, the lowest TFR was in Cyprus, where on average, a woman would give birth to one child throughout her life.

Hundreds of birds dead during 5G experiment in The Hague, The Netherlands
Health Nut News
About a week ago at The Hague, many birds died spontaneously, falling dead in a park. You likely haven’t heard a lot about this because it seems keeping it quiet was the plan all along. However, when about 150 more suddenly died- bringing the death toll to 297- some started to take notice. And if you are looking around that park you might have seen what is on the corner of the roof across the street from where they died: a new 5G mast, where they had done a test, in connection with the Dutch railway station, to see how large the range was and whether no harmful equipment would occur on and around the station. (Also read: Even an hour of screen time can affect mental health of 2-year-olds: study 2) Diesel pollution stunts children’s lung growth, major study shows)

A Fifth of China’s Homes Are Empty. That’s 50 Million Apartments
Bloomberg News
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s mantra that homes should be for living in is falling on deaf ears, with tens of millions of apartments and houses standing empty across the country. Soon-to-be-published research will show roughly 22 percent of China’s urban housing stock is unoccupied, according to Professor Gan Li, who runs the main nationwide study. That adds up to more than 50 million empty homes, he said. The nightmare scenario for policy makers is that owners of unoccupied dwellings rush to sell if cracks start appearing in the property market, causing prices to spiral. The latest data, from a survey in 2017, also suggests Beijing’s efforts to curb property speculation — considered by leaders a key threat to financial and social stability — are coming up short.

 

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