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August 2018: Monthly Environmental News Roundup

1.Did you know when lights are turned on, you consume water?

Yes, despite the increase in the usage of renewable resources, most of our electricity comes from nuclear or thermal where it is not just the fossil fuels, natural gas, etc that is consumed, a lot of water is also used. Fuel used, the method adapted and the cooling technique determine the water requirement for electricity generation. As per a 2012 review for one megawatt-hour electricity, between 0 to 60,000 gallons of water could be used.

Water used in the cooling tower to condense steam, is sent back to the environment, but the chemical contamination and hot water’s effect on wildlife are concerning factors. While cooling water is not a requirement for hydropower, solar and wind, water for hydropower is apparent. This makes a stronger case to use solar and wind power which not only cut the greenhouse gases but also the water usage.

  1. Can India meet 94% solar roof top target in 4 years?

With only 6% of its 40,000 MW rooftop solar power capacity target achieved so far, the question is: Are 4 years sufficient to achieve the rest? The critical rooftop solar capacity focuses on residential, commercial and industrial needs.

30% subsidy and rebate for injecting excess power back to the grid, has failed to lure the small electricity bill paying residences who find the equipment, installation to be costlier and the paperwork to be very time consuming.

While Industry and commercial users as well as those in installation business seem interested, the policies and regulations are blocking them. Furthermore they can only inject a proportion back to the grid. Besides customer loss, efforts for infrastructure upgrade and expenditures make this an unexciting option for discoms.

To achieve solar rooftop target, the government has to come up with some model that removes any upfront expenditure for the owners while enabling utilities to install as well as earn revenue from rooftop installations.

  1. India’s solar power usage, plastic reduction efforts praised – UN Environment chief

Erik Solheim, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in an interview appreciated India’s efforts towards solar power usage and plastic reduction.  He also remarked the development of southern Indian states to be fastest in the world and also cited the world’s first all solar powered airport in Cochin, Kerala wherein the 30MWp capacity solar power plant is anticipated to be increased to 40MWp by September 2018 with 60 million units per annum power potential. He also mentioned India’s promise to ban one-use plastic bags by 2022.

He appreciated the other countries including China, African countries for their wildlife protection initiatives. Indonesia was praised for deforestation reduction efforts. He noted Kenya, Eritrea, Rwanda, Chile’s pledge for action against plastic. He welcomed the companies supporting the noble cause.

He emphasized worldwide more such initiatives are needed which would provide opportunities to people while protecting the planet.

  1. GMO crops and bee killing insecticides no longer banned

The ban on the genetically modified (GMO) crops and bee killing insecticides’ usage has been reversed by Trump’s administration. The Obama era prohibited use of pesticides or neonics found to kill wild bees and other pollinating insects while also restricting the biotech crops like soyabean, corn that resisted the insects.

Mr. Greg Sheehan, Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director justified this reversal saying it is not only needed for farming production increase but also to ensure sufficient forage for migratory birds. While stating that with human expansion, wildlife habitat elimination is bound to occur, he asked the wildlife managers to find ways to ensure best food resources and conditions for wildlife to persist, are available in the available places.

Withdrawal from the Paris agreement and Clean Power Plan are other instances of Trump government dismantling the Obama environment legacy.

  1. Obama era ban rescinded

The Obama era ban on bee killing pesticides and cultivation of genetically modified crops like corn, soya beans in the wildlife refuges was reversed. Environmentalists deem this would be a threat to pollinating insects and wild bees, and though some farming was permitted, the refuges were not meant for industrial agriculture.

Of 560 refuge units, this reversal applies to over 50 refuges. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Greg Sheehan said the move is required for desired farming practices as well as to guarantee forage for migratory birds, including geese and ducks.

  1. No more elephant rides or safaris on elephants in Uttarkhand

In a major setback to the private resort owners the Uttarkhand High court banned the elephant rides, safari and any other commercial use of elephants in Uttarkhand. The animals would be taken over from their owners and sent to Rajaji National park temporarily, to be medically treated as required. The owners are to provide explanation for breaching the Wildlife protection Act, 1972 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

Additionally the court has also restricted the number of private and commercial gypsys to enter the Corbett, Kalagarh and Rajaji National Parks. To ensure minimum disturbance to wildlife, only100 such vehicles with valid permits could operate in a day.

While environmentalists and wildlife activists welcome this, it is a setback for gypsy owners, private resort owners, elephant safari organizers.

  1. Environmental performance Index 2018 – India ranks 177 drops 36 points

From 141 in 2016 India is now at 177 out of 180 in the Environmental performance Index of 2018, dropping by 36 points. Mr. Mahesh Sharma Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate change has attributed this to the arbitrary change in parameter weightages and different methodologies used. He said that these rankings are not comparable; for instance the EPI 2016 weighed Air quality at 0.3, in 2018 is at 0.65.

This rejection is not unprecedented. In 2016 similarly, the Central Pollution Control Board rejected WHO’s ranking of 20 most polluted cities wherein 10 Indian cities featured. The claim was ethologic, demography and personnel immunity (sic) of India are incomparable to international practices and that WHO had used random conversion factors.

  1. Penalty for non-recycled plastic packaging

With around 25% plastics being recycled presently, France has taken a vow to use only recycled plastics all over the country by 2025. Over the last 10 years, plastic production has skyrocketed over 40% worldwide especially due to packaging. As one amongst their numerous upcoming initiatives, including the deposit refund for plastic bottles, the French government has planned a penalty for usage of non-recycled plastic packaging material. While the cost of products with non-recycled plastic packaging could rise by up to 10%, the products with recycled plastic packaging could go down by up to 10%. Additionally trash dump in landfills could incur more taxes while recycling could lower it.

Non-compostable single-use plastic bags are already forbidden. Some supermarket chains have also decided to stop plastic straw sales in the forthcoming months. To sharply cut down single-use plastic objects, European commission has also laid rules necessitating alternate materials usage and incentives for business.

  1. 100GW solar energy capacity by 2022

RK Singh, Power and New and Renewable Energy Minister informed that with 23.12GW already installed and 10GW in progress and tenders called for 24.4 GW, India is comfortably placed to meet its 100GW solar energy capacity by 2022 target. He also said that the government is working diligently with SECI, NTPC and several states, union territory administrations, governments and agencies to achieve the target. As of July 2017, Karnataka followed by Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are the toppers to install solar energy capacities.

India’s solar power potential is assessed at 748GW by NISE and for every MW land requirement is 4-5 acres.

Statistics show from 4.59 billion units in 2014-15, the solar energy output has proliferated every year to 25.87 billion units in 2017-18.

  1. Sustainable Development crucial says RK Singh

Emphasizing the importance of renewable energy for sustainable development, Power Minister RK Singh informed the government’s plan to come out with 25GW single bid and additional renewable bids to tap Ladakh’s 35GW solar potential. The minister who is confident of achieving the 175GW renewable target before 2022 urges the states to: provide subsidies to the discoms, stop the passing of 15% losses to tariff in the law. Mr. Singh also spoke about the government’s initiatives for electrification of the households.

Stressing the importance of sustainable development, he mentioned the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) core- water, energy and green energy and spoke about the challenge of making drinking water accessible to the entire nation.

To increase the SDGs usage in business, NITI Aayog has entered into a partnership with CII, wherein CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development would service CII’s activities in this partnership.

  1. J35’s touching story calling for help

Grieving orca named J35 that carried its calf’s carcass on its head for over 2 weeks finally abandoned it and got back to normal routine. It’s alarming that there hasn’t been a single surviving calf in the past 3 years in the southern region and this calf that died soon after birth is no different. These long lived killer whales, should start reproducing soon, else it would not be long before the last one dies.

Deafening sonar and boat noise and lack of quality Chinook salmon catch are said to be the reason for the orca’s plight. Pollution being the main factor in deteriorating the catch quality, dams and fishing add on to reducing the quantity of Chinook available in the Pacific north-west.

This emotional story of J35 is yet another call for USA and Canada to take fastened efforts to restore wild salmon and save these killer whales from becoming extinct.

  1. Goa could be next Kerala if action not taken warns ecogolist

While life is slowly getting back to normal in flood battered Kerala, renowned ecologist Madhav Gadgil has warned the same could be Goa’s plight if no proper action is taken. Implementation of environment norms has been sloppy in the State where the illegal mining and other profit driven activities are on the rise, he noted.

The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) reports provided by the iron ore mining companies contain false information, he complained. For instance, the report does not cover the hydrological impact of mining, presence of streams in plains, etc.

In 2011, Gadgil headed Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) in its report had previously recommended to curb mining, quarrying, inappropriate use of land besides asking to classify many Western Ghats regions to be ecologically sensitive.

  1. Cigarettes – Not just health hazard, environmental hazard too

Worldwide countries are taking efforts to reduce ocean pollution by curbing usage of plastic bags, straws, packaging materials etc. Yet the cigarette butts which account to one third of the ocean contaminants collected and the single most collected item for 32 consecutive years has hardly got the attention it requires. 5.6 trillion Cigarettes are made worldwide every year while it takes over a decade for the plastic in its filter to decompose. The threat of the plastic and tobacco to foul the entire food chain is undisputed, but their complete impact is still under investigation.

Tobacco companies in addition to finding ways to reduce ocean pollution, are trying alternatives to the plastics used, but are yet to be successful. Some chemists feel the lack of pressure and necessary push, to be reasons for not pursuing such initiatives seriously.

California Assemblyman Mark Stone however feels that the realization of environmental and health hazard of this little toxic bomb and public momentum to ban cigarette filters is gaining.

  1. SCARY TRUTH – Arctic’s thickest ice melting

Melting of Arctic ice owing to global warming may not be new, but this one is definitely terrifying. The ‘last ice area’ to north of Greenland, with the thickest and oldest ice that stood strong even during peak summers has started melting. This happened not once but twice already this year. While discussions are on to determine the Arctic zone to withhold the longest, there is no denial that this is the scariest ice breaking till date.  The recent unusual temperature rises that has left Arctic Ocean to the winds’ mercy has sent the ice moving away from the coast. This icebreaking which is not only a serious threat to the species living in that region is becoming irreversible with ice melting faster than the rate at which it can form.

  1. Mission Go green to South Pole

A huge plastic pile, remains of their joint cooking venture became an eye-opener for the Dutch couple Edwin and Liesbeth ter Velde, from Zaandam.  They succeeded in making their home waste free, but didn’t want to stop there.

Recycled small plastic products or art work didn’t interest this couple who built their own solar powered truck made from recycled plastic.

To spur people world-wide towards zero-waste lifestyle they set off on their Clean2Antarctica mission, on August 27th. Though the first part would be covered by air and sea, once in Antarctica even at low temperatures around -30C, they plan to go with zero heating on their truck.

The extreme cold conditions is no roadblock for this high spirited couple who are determined to pass their message that besides being good for sustainability, going green is an excellent gift to oneself.

  1. Fracking undermines fight against plastic

According to Daniel Carey-Dawes, campaigner at Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), UK’s push for fracking would not only damage its landscape, pollute its water, air and cause human health hazard, it would impair the government’s fight against plastic plague that is harming the cities, country side and the oceans.

Thanks to the local opposition and local authorities, there are no fracking wells operational as yet, but the government’s proposal to remove these controls preventing shale wells would have disastrous consequences.

While reiterating its resolve to reduce plastics, a government spokesperson mentioned there is no link between plastic production and shale gas exploration. However the revealing from the shale gas industry and American Chemistry Council clearly affirm Shale gas to be the reason behind the boom in plastics in the US.

  1. ISTS connected India’s first wind power project commissioned

Ostro Kutch Wind Private Ltd commissioned India’s first wind power project connected to Inter-State Transmission System (ISTS) in Gujarat. Ostro is one amongst the five companies to be awarded 1000 MW capacity projects by State-owned Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) and it has already commissioned 126 MW capacity. In a first of its kind, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and UP are purchasing the energy from this, paving way for a Pan-India market driven mechanism.  State agencies of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat are also following suit by calling for bids and allotting projects.

  1. Hurricane Lane attack

President Donald Trump declared State of emergency in Hawaii as Hurricane Lane has potential of causing record damage and serious destruction to life and property in the state. With the hurricane passing dangerously close to the islands, the conditions are anticipated to worsen. Coastal flooding, power breakdown, downed trees, beach erosion and considerable travel disruptions are expected and people are advised to be prepared.


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