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July 2019: Monthly Environmental News Roundup

1. WTO advocates for India against US on Renewable Energy Incentives

A series of US renewable energy incentives violated International Trade rules, according to the World Trade Organisation. The WTO has ruled in favour of India against the case. The ruling panel said that the US measures are inconsistent with certain provisions as specified by GATT and claimed that they have invalidated the benefits ensuing to India under the Agreement. India deemed the measures to be discordant with the global trade norms because of their reduced accommodating nature towards imported products as compared to like domestic products. The ruling transpired at a time when both the countries are at dispute pertaining to various affairs.

2. The developed World responsible for most of the Climate Change situation today: India

Replying to the opposition’s claims, the Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar vocalized the Government’s intent to take up issues of developing countries not meeting their commitments towards aiding the developing nations to reduce emissions, financially and technologically. He also expressed the firm stand that the Government will not bow down to the developed world while talking about Climate Change. He also highlighted the major role India had played in the Paris Climate Summit. There was a mention of various technical plans of the Government with regards to reducing emissions and creating an additional forest and tree cover. The opposition, however, deemed the Government’s efforts as insufficient and demanded that action happen at the grassroot level.

3. The North Atlantic Right Whales among the most threatened species in the world!

The Canadian Officers have uncovered the death of five critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, as a result of which, commercial fishing has been closed for 16000 square kilometres by Transport Canada. Amongst the found dead whales was a forty-year old female, known to the known by the name of Punctuation, who likely died in a collision with a ship and a nine-year old male, known as Wolverine, whose reason for death is unidentified. More autopsies are under way. The tracking of these whales through aerial and marine surveillance has been augmented by the Canadian Government. The total population weighs up to 413 after this month’s deaths and seven new calf births.

4. Coal Side-lined; Renewable Energy in Heed

This April proved to be a renewable energy friendly month, not only because of low electricity demand, but also relatively high wind energy. For the first time ever in US history, coal furnished less electricity than the clean energy sources. Renewables such as wind, solar and hydroelectric dams yielded 23 percent of the month’s electricity whereas coal was left at 20 percent. Bloomberg reported that coal’s numbers were actually down in April because several coal plants were being serviced. Despite all, coal is likely to surface as the second biggest source of electricity after Natural Gas in US, however, it may not be able to hold the position for long. Moreover, natural gas also proves to be a worrying development towards the climate crisis.

5. Petition filed in NGT; Noida to pay Rs. 1 crore penalty

52 million litres per day untreated sewage is being dumped into drains in Noida, harming the environment immensely, CPCB Report said. The CPCB learned this during an inspection conducted on NGT directions, as per a plea filed by a Noida resident. All agencies of Delhi and UP held a meeting on March 20 and inspected major drains while submitting the report on April 18. The penalty on Noida has been imposed under Section 5 of the environment (Protection) Act 1986. According to CPCB, the capability that Noida possesses of treating the sewage is 216 MLD but it only treats 152 MLD. The CEO of the Noida Authority has ensured to submit an Action Plan to CPCB.

6. New Subglacial lakes added to the World’s Icescape

Using aerial imaging tools, researchers have mapped fifty-six lakes under Greenland’s Ice Sheet. Lead Author Jade Bowling from Lancaster University said that this study for the first time allowed to understand where lakes form under the Greenland’s Ice Sheet, which is important to ascertain their impact on the overall subglacial hydrological system. Subglacial lakes form below the ice sheets and aid in the elevation of Global Sea levels. On research, it was confirmed that the range of the lakes was 0.2 to 5.9 kilometres and that they were mostly found under slow-moving ice, away from the interior. The lakes below Greenland’s Ice Sheet differ from Antarctica’s as they are mostly stable and small, however, the researchers believe that a warming climate may cause these lakes to become active.

7. Can Factory Emissions be stopped from contributing to the Climate Crisis?

UK’s biggest Carbon Capture Project to block thousands of tonnes of factory emissions from contributing to the climate crisis by utilising them to aid in making certain chemicals used in antacid, eyedrops and Pot Noodle. This work will be initiated by the Chemical Plant in Cheshire, which block 40000 tonnes of carbon from the air every year, which is equivalent to 22000 cars being removed from the roads. The owners of the plant are a division of the Indian-owned Tata Conglomerate. The trapped Carbon Dioxide could be piped into underground storage facilities and can also be purified to make products.  The move will highly assist in creating job opportunities as well.

8. 50% hike in Eel Smuggling across Europe

Eels are in high demand in China and several other East-Asian countries while about 350 million of them are being trafficked from the European Union, thus, establishing it as the gravest wildlife felony in terms of the number of creatures trafficked. Eels have been classed as endangered with increasing threat by overfishing and illegal fishing along with pollution. Eels were once the staple food for poor people and they have an unusual lifecycle taking as long as two decades to reach sexual maturity. Europe has been developing the technology to track the DNA of such trafficked eels to tackle the problem.

9. A new innovation ‘Fit-Pack’ could replace the existing Beer Packaging

Beer Maker Grupo Modelo with an unwavering commitment to the environment, is following an environment-friendly interlocking beer can design to do away with the need for plastic pack rings. Each can will have a thread on the top and bottom so that one can could be fitted into another. It is believed to be strong enough to hold up 10 cans in a single column. This design also won the Bronze Lion Award recently. Plastic is a global problem which need to be addressed. Ranero, Marketing Vice President of Grupo Modelo’s Parent Company, says that they have mapped out all the issues relating to the implementation of the design and are working diligently to overcome them.

10. Emissions from Aviation; UK and EU Accused

The UK and EU Governments have not uncovered their policies to tackle emissions from Aviation and thus seem to have violated International obligations. According to Carbon Brief, as much emissions have been released that if Aviation were to be a country, it would be the sixth biggest emitter in the world. UK and EU have violated the Aarhus Convention which talks about the right of everyone to receive environmental information held by the Public authorities. The coalition of NGOs who have reported this have decided on raising their complaint in a meeting of the Working Group of members of the Geneva Convention. Air transport companies can reduce the carbon emissions by using biofuels.

11. Vanuatu Safeguarding its future: Disposable Nappies Banned

The government of Vanuatu, suffering disproportionately from the climate and ecological emergency, replied to the uproar among the country’s parents saying that it had no choice but to ban disposable nappies. They also highlighted the fact that plastics find their way into the water and the food chain eventually and ends up being consumed by the people. This has been classified as one of the toughest single-use plastic ban. The ban was announced after research by the Commonwealth Litter Programme which showed disposable nappies contributing a lot to the total weight of the waste generated. Vanuatu has also banned various other single-use plastic items like cups, plates, food containers, flowers etc.

12. Ammonia concentrations above critical level in UK

More than 60% of UK’s land area is harmed by the rising (85%) concentrations of ammonia and nitrogen, ideally set to protect lichens, mosses, liverworts and similar plants. The situation in Northern Ireland is even worse at 88%. Considering particularly sensitive sites, England is worst hit. The pollution, flowing into waterways and in the air, can have devastating effect on the plant and animal life. Studies have also shown grasslands losing species which is having a negative impact on the insects and the fungi. Experts and activists have been insisting for urgent government action to curb this rise. Halving the agricultural emissions of ammonia could prevent at least 3000 deaths. Even rural areas are highly affected.

13. Tapi River Clean-up juxtaposed by Former UN Environment Chief

Former UN Environment Chief Eric Solheim exclaimed that plastic waste is a great impediment to tourism and hence joined the Tapi river clean-up in Gujarat. Solheim, stepping on the land of Gujarat also praised Mahatma Gandhi for his dedication. He also took chance to emphasize the importance of cleaning the beaches, sharing his experience from Ghana. The students who joined the delegation said that it would take quite an effort to clean up the river and that they would like to do their bit. Solheim concluded by saying that rapid economic development is possible and that with recycling of plastic waste, both prosperity and preservation of nature can be achieved.

14. Tender Specifications for Solar Manufacturing revised; Aim to attract more Investors

Solar Energy Corporation India has recently issued a request for a selection notice for Solar Power developers. Four projects in total have been put up for bidding and a company can bid for one or all four. Any capacity up to 1.5 GW Solar Power Projects can be quoted. The developers will be allowed to set up a solar power plant parallel with a manufacturing facility. Further addition to the tender is regarding manufacturing wherein several bids can be submitted by the companies for setting up different manufacturing units. Along with that, the expansion of existing manufacturing facilities can be done anywhere in India. The latest global tender would close in August 2019.

15. Clean-up crew grappling with clearing away Abandoned Tents and Human Waste on Mount Everest

The record number of climbers jamming the Mount Everest has significantly increased, thus, leaving the clean-up crew struggling. Everest is full of garbage like the oxygen cylinders, ropes, etc. but this year saw an estimated 700 climbers, leaving the Sherpas involved in the clean-up drive shocked. There have been a lot of tents littering the South Col, the highest camp and the high winds at this altitude have disbanded the tents and trash everywhere. It becomes quite difficult to bring down such things as big and heavy as tents. The climbers, while descending, are fatigued and are struggling to breathe and therefore, end up leaving the heavy tents behind.

16. 8 Crore LPG connections to be furnished under the PM Ujjwala Yojana

The Ministry of Petroleumand Natural gas has had a 100-day agenda which is to pull off the target of issuing 8 crore LPG connections. Since 90% of households receive LPG connections, the Oil Marketing Companies (OMC) have been asked to improve the quality of service and delivery. The initial target was to proffer 3 crore connections to BPL families; however, it was increased to 8 crore households by May 2020. The OMCs have been solicited to come up with a mechanism, maybe through an app to cater to the complaints and keep a check on the correct delivery mechanism. The distributors have also been asked to provide incentives for refilling so as to increase their sales.  

17. New Change in the Tenders for Manufacturing-linked Solar Scheme by SECI

The SECI has been repeatedly postponing the deadline for receiving the bids, however, now they have revised the bidding requirements. The latest tender aims at setting up 6 GW of Solar Plants, rather then 2 GW of manufacturing units. The scheme, foundationally, initiated in 2018 to boost the domestic solar manufacturing industry. The revised Tender has had a variety of changes in the terms and conditions pertaining to the requirements. The timeline for setting up the manufacturing unit has also been amplified to 36 months in comparison to 30 months earlier.

18. Parallel increase in Air Pollution and Hypertension in Women in India

It has been found that increased subjection to indoor air pollution in India can heighten the risk of hypertension in women. Researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, Spain have studied the Indian association wherein the air pollution and hypertension are reckoned to increase. The systolic and diastolic blood pressure of the participants have been measured and their annual residential exposure has also been estimated. A survey was also answered by the participants. Based on the findings, almost half of the participants were identified as hypertensive. The association observed was weaker in men. This increase in hypertension is regardless of the fuel being used.

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