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July 2018: Monthly Environmental News Roundup

Important Environmental News From Around the World

  1. Equinor-Masdar Offshore Wind Farm Fully Set-Up and Functional

The instalment of the world’s first floating wind farm has been completed by Norway’s Equinor in Scotland. Electricity generation had already been initiated at the 30-MW farm in October 2017 to outstanding results. Equinor and its project partner Masdarare had also installed a battery storage system to it, a first for an offshore wind farm. Termed Batwind, the project is in line with the company’s goals to create energy storage solutions. Using the partnering firm’s Younicos’s ‘Y.Q’ software, the battery recognises optimum storage capabilities of the grid, including the best time and duration for storing energy.

  1. UAE-Iceberg Project – Solving UAE’s Water Woes

In a bid to provide clean drinking water to its citizens, a firm in the UAE has launched the website for its project to bring an iceberg to the country. It will initiate a pilot project near the Perth or Cape Town coast of Australia. It is currently developing its systems to reduce ice-loss by melting during the transportation, minimise costs and make the water accessible to customers.  Named the UAE-Iceberg Project is expected to benefit the environment and also aid the economy through glacial tourism.

  1. India Plans Exploration and Extraction of Moon’s Helium-3

Indian Space Research Organisation will launch a rover on the moon’s unchartered southern territory, to hunt for water and abundant reservoirs of helium-3 – the raw-material for nuclear energy. India will joins the likes of US, China, Japan, Russia and private players like Musk, Bezos and Richard Branson working on exploring the moon, with a proposed budget of 125 million US dollars. It follows India’s successful Chandrayaan mission. The non-radioactive Helium-3 is highly desirable as a safe nuclear energy alternative.  Currently limiting itself to exploration, ISRO is confident that it will also eventually mine and transport the isotope to earth and contribute to creating lasting clean energy systems.

  1. Sings of Underground Water Lake Found on Mars

Researchers at Bologna’s the National Institute of Astrophysics are optimistic that they’ve found an underground liquid water lake, approximately 1.5 Km beneath the surface at its South Pole. They are treating it as a discovery of life on Mars, considering that many microorganisms on earth can also survive the extremely cold temperatures approaching -68 degrees, like on Mars’s South Pole.  They have based their conclusions on the area’s high ‘dielectric permitivity’ similar to that of any material holding water. It could be a significant finding in establishing the possibility of some kind of life on Mars.

  1. Oregon Student Finds a Natural PET Disposal Tool: Bacteria

Morgan Vague, a student of Reed College, Oregon has discovered Bacteria that can break down and digest the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, without any harm to the environment. Three out of 300 bacteria she tested not only digested PET, but also created no harmful by-products in the process. Her discovery could be a big boost to clean and viable disposal methods for used plastics like PET used daily by the consumers worldwide but difficult to dispose of.  Jay Mellies, her supervisor, is hopeful that they’d find a method to speed-up this process to boost its efficiency as PET disposal method.

  1. IUCN Red List Reveals More Extinct and ‘Endangered’ Species

IUCN’s Red List was again expanded to include more accurate information on the number of extinct and endangered natural species. Stream toads, Bartle Freres, Jamaican hutias, Great Mascarene flying foxes among others were added as ‘endangered’ species. Six more species were added as ‘extinct’, totalling 872. Scientists cautioned against ignoring biodiversity depletion as it has a direct impact on the earth’s ability to recycle and cleanse its natural water bodies, air, food systems and stabilising of weather. IUCN head Craig Hilton-Taylor appealed to the global community and advocated for biodiversity conservation pacts similar to the Paris Agreement.

  1. SHELL Backs Shifting Forward Ban on Petrol Cars

Oil and gas conglomerate Shell has expressed support for shifting forward from 2040 the ban on sale of new petrol and diesel automobiles in UK. The company’s CEO, Ben van Beurden, advocated for UK to move faster in adopting electric automobiles over the present 14,000 cars, since numerous Asian and African countries were bound by circumstances shift slowly, postponing the worldwide switch to clean energy. Beurden also opined given the setback to both manufacturers and petrol stations due to the ban, bringing it forward to a fixed date will greatly aid companies in making timely decisions regarding their infrastructure, investments and future plans.

  1. Crop Residue Burning Pollutes More than One State’s Air

A NASA scientist working with two scholars urged for an end to crop residue burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. They conducted a study to assess difference in air quality during and at different times around crop residue burning activity, utilising NASA’s MODIS satellite data. The study concluded that apart from greenhouse gases, burning residue also emitted black carbon, which is borne away by winds to other states too like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Odisha etc. Pertinently, it pointed out that unlike smaller stubs left by manual harvesting, present-day mechanised harvesting left behind bigger stubs, burning which now causes more pollution than earlier.

  1. Macron Strives for an Environment-Friendly Investment Framework

Following the USA’s exit from the 2015 Paris Agreement, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, has initiated efforts to join six sovereign funds in designing an investment outline to support the environment. If formed, the funds will ask companies seeking their investment to follow those guidelines, including reduction of their carbon footprints. The President’s team hopes this framework will soon encourage similar practices in financial corridors worldwide. The President’s counsels are optimistic that Macron’s experience in investment banking and the growing knowledge that climate risks affect business opportunities greatly will convince the funds that the initiative is has a strongly leadership and viability.

  1. Fate of Indian Floating Solar Stations Hangs in the Balance

While land-based solar-stations in India witness a steady progress, floating stations severely lag behind due to non-availability of Indian-made floats. The high costs and transportation logistics involved in importing these extremely lightweight but large-sized floats from Europe or China is inhibiting the popularity of floating solar-power stations in areas with low land availability. Despite companies like TATA, NTPC, JSW and some foreign firms looking to increase their involvement in the field, supported by encouraging attitudes of U.P. and Maharashtra governments, proposed floating solar-stations are yet to get profitable bids in India.  The largest station currently is NTPC’s 100-KW Kayamkulam plant.

  1. The Nilgiri Tahr Faces Danger of Habitat Loss

Climate Change is severely affecting the surviving 2,500 Nilgir Tahrs, the agile goats of the Indian Western Ghats according to a study published in the Ecological engineering magazine. While there’s some cause for hope as the Tahr’s habitats in Kerela’s Chinnar, Eravikulam and Parambikulam were found strong enough to survive climate deterioration for a long time, unfortunately, habitats in Tamil Nadu, like K.M. Tiger Reserve, didn’t fare as well. The study estimates that they would lose approximately 60% of their habitat during 2030s and ahead, especially due to local extinction. The report also stresses on the immediate need for a conservation and plan.

  1. Climate Change Threatens Survival of Heritage Churches in UK.

UK’s National Churches Trust has warned that climate change will not only affect natural environment, but also harm man-made heritage like the country’s historical churches. The centuries old church buildings with intricately decorated towers, tall spires, and stone and woodwork, are at risk of deterioration from more frequents storms, heavy rainfall, and termites. Scotland has observed a 20% increase in rainfall since the 1960s, overburdening the churches’ old drainage systems. The extreme wet and dry patterns are also distressing the buildings, along with the danger of pest infestation. Deductions in heritage funds have increased the churches’ dependence on the Trust’s grants to combat these threats.

  1. Norway’s Success Shows the Way Ahead for Plastic Bottle Recycling

The Norwegian organisation, Infinitum, has become a pioneer in plastic bottle recycling. The system involves levying environmental tax on produces. The rate of decrease in the tax is proportionate to the amount of bottles recycled, and waived off completely on recycling 95%. Customers are paid 10-25p on each bottle to encourage recycling over dumping. Infinitum’s unit near Oslo has had many international visitors from China, India, Belgium etc., including national leaders like UK’s environment Minister, coming to learn about its success. 97% of Norway’s plastic bottles and cans are now recycled, with not even 1% polluting the environment. 

  1. Inadequate Checks Leave UK Recycling Export in Landfills

Lacking enough units to recycle its annual plastic waste weighing around 22 tons, U.K. exports it to be recycled. An Audit report, however, revealed that the waste is being dumped in landfills Turkey, Malaysia etc. UK producers have to follow a 1997 regulation for them to recycle the packaging they produce. However, the report alleges that not enough is being done to curb export of infected or low-grade, material not of recyclable value. As a result, while on-paper figures depict around 64% plastic sent abroad, in reality, not all of it is recycled, ending up in landfills and harming the environment.

  1. Study Reveals Global Recycling of Pollution Causing Vehicles

A new study by CSE, Delhi, has revealed the annual downward movement of approximately 40 million aged vehicles form higher-income countries to lower-income countries. High-income countries prefer selling them to scrapping them to maximise profits. These aged vehicles emit toxic substances harmful to the environment and inhibit lower-income countries from meeting climate-protection goals. Led by India and Japan, this ‘market’ exploits demand and poor regulations in importing nations. To address the issue, India, already burdened with 20 million scrap-worthy vehicles since 2015, has prohibited importing vehicles non-compliant with its emissions standards. Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh etc. have also levied taxes and age-limits on import.

  1. Vehicles non-compliant with BS-VI to Be off Roads by 2020

To curb environmental pollution and recover the 28,000 crores already invested, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, on 23rd July, revealed before the Supreme Court its decision to prohibit sale of BS-VI non-compliant vehicles from April 2020. Registration would be allowed till May-end and of BS-IV vehicles till March 2020. It submitted that equalizing petrol and diesel prices for private vehicles to curb diesel pollution was not feasible economically. Amicus curiae also alleged that vehicle manufacturers preferred exporting BS-VI complaint vehicles than selling in India and delaying their availability in Delhi compared to a projected roll-out in Agra and seventeen NCR districts by 2019.

  1. Massive Dholera Project to Harness India’s Solar Energy Capacity

The single-location Solar Park with a capacity of 5000-MW proposed to come up at Gujrat’s Dholera Special Investment Region, is close to becoming a reality as the first tender for 1000-MW is expected to be issued in August 2018. To be developed by Gujarat Power Corporation, GETCO, GUVNL and the SECI, and spread over 11,000 hectares, the project is expected to cost around Rs 25,000 crores. It would tap into India’s massive solar power capacity, already being exploited through nationwide installations on free land. Aided by decreasing solar-panel costs, India has already achieved 20-GW out of the World Bank’s 2022 target of attaining 100-GW capacity.

  1. Revitalizing the Great Barrier Reef with Recycled Coral

The Queensland and Australian governments have sponsored a pilot-test run by Queensland University researchers, to undo the damage of global warming on the Great Barrier Reef’s capability to self-resuscitate after events like coral bleaching. The researchers intend to speed-up coral growth by artificially mimicking the natural phenomenon whereby dead coral pieces collect on the sea bed, binding together to form steady bomboras on which new corals grow. The coral pieces would be wrapped in natural fibre and placed strategically by the researchers. From here on, the natural production of crustose coralline algae would start, enticing coral larvae.

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