June 2019: Monthly Environmental News Roundup

1. Avoiding Interference of Highways in Wildlife:

According to the new circular to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) the construction of highways through ecologically sensitive areas like wildlife centuries and national parks so that there is minimal interruption in wildlife. To ensure this, any such construction should be done after taking clearance from NHAI and NHIDCL.

If any other bypass/route is available even if longer should be constructed to avoid any disturbance in national parks and sanctuaries.

2. Preventing England Rivers from drying up by implementing Ban on Hosepipe:

Water level in various rivers of south east England has reached below or severely below the normal levels. Last summer’s heatwave and dry winter has worsened the situation.

To prevent the worsening of current situation various groups have written to the chief executive of Environment agency to ban the hosepipe. But the spokesman of agency considers that this decision will be premature as the condition of rivers is not at critical level.

3. Agreement among G20 Countries to tackle Ocean plastic waste:

In a meeting held in Japan, all the G20 countries have agreed to control the plastic waste been produced that has been chocking the seas.The progress would be reported every year. The attention would be given to microplastics that can easily go in to food chain and would be having the worst effect.

As only about nine percent of plastic is being recycled, the long-term solution would be to produce less and use less. Countries like China have already banned import of plastic.  So, all countries including developed and emerging economies are working hand in hand to tackle the situation.

First meeting of G20 countries is supposed to be held in Japan this November.

4. Divers as Saviors of Oceans:

A total of 633 divers have set the Guinness world record by diving deep in to the sea and staying under water for about 15 minutes and collecting the debris from sea floor.

The drill was performed near the Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier in Florida.

The amount of litter collected has not yet measured but approximately 1600 pounds of lead fishing weights have been retrieved.The previous record for underwater cleanup was set in the red sea in Egypt in 2015.

5. Seattle’s Green Fleet “Cleaning Garbage with Garbage”:

Seattle is touching new heights in managing waste. Seattle public utilities and waste management have officially gone green. Seattle along with Recology have designed “GREEN FLEET” waste management vehicles that operates via electrical energy, renewable natural biogas emitted from landfill trash, diesel and vegetable oil, soybean oil. There is hope of getting 200 trucks by 2020.

The use of renewable gas will decrease the omission of nitrogen oxides and greenhouse effect along with a considerable decrease in noise pollution created by regular garbage trucks.

6. Gujarat’s War Against Air Pollution:

Gujarat has introduced Emission Trading Scheme to control air pollution and is following cap and trade program. This targets the emission control for Particulate Matter pollutants in Surat’s industrial belt.

The government has decided to allocate permits to companies specially the one prone to emission of huge amount of particulate matter. To expend this project there are multiple challenges that must be considered:

The allocation of permits should be corruption free and transparent. Auction based system can be followed but consideration should be given to smaller and medium enterprises.

Initially high cap should be put to make the industries adapt to the tightening environment. To make sure that small industries are also getting benefited the cap should be reduced every year. Highly polluting industries should be identified (like India’s coal power plant) and should be included under this program.

7. Greenland Melting at an Alarming Rate:

Nearly half the surface of Greenland ice sheet has started melting that is not usual for this time of year. The temperature of Greenland is recorded to be rising 10-20 degree Celsius above normal.

Due to increasing temperature there in spike in melting of ice sheet and as a result 45 percent of ice sheet surface has been melting. Ice sheet is usually covered by snow that increases mass and reflects sunlight known as albedo effect. Due to lower accumulation in winter and scorching summer these ice sheets have become weaker. Wildfire soot and black carbon particleshave led to more absorption of sunlight worsening the situation.

Arctic is warming twice as fast as compared to the rest of the world. Due to this if ice sheets completely melts away it would lead to rise in sea level by 24 feet.

8. Air Pollution in India Causing Decrease In Life Span:

Air pollution and the deadly diseases caused by it have become the third highest cause of deaths in India.

The Combined exposure to outdoor particulate matter, ozone and household air pollution in south east Asia has caused a reduction in life expectancy by 2.6 years. As it causes chronic diseases such as Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, ischemic heart disease, diabetes, dementia, infertility, bladder cancer, abdominal organs, liver problems.

The ultrafine particles of pollutants can penetrate to the cellular level so potential risk to each organ of the body.

9. Plastic particles in Food Chain:

In a recent study of small number of foods and drinks it has been estimated that humans ingest around 50,000 particles of microplastic per year. Actual number might be on the higher end as only few food samples were used in study.

Few of these microparticles are small enough to penetrate the human tissues and might release toxic substances in lingterm. It might lead to stimulaton of an immune reaction.

Plastic litter gets disintegrated in small microplastic particles and gets incorporated in air,soil, rivers and even oceans. The microplastic pollutnts from air gets inhaled and have potential to cause irreversible health hazard. Saying no to plastics can control the situation up to some extent.

10. England 71% Short of Targeted Tea Plantation:

England government has set a target of planting trees in 5000 hectares to combat with climate change crisis but only 1420 hectares were planted. According to Committee on climate changes around 1.5 billion of trees would be needed by 2050 suggesting that15% of the crop land has to be used for planting trees and growing plants to obtain fuel.

Farmers In England are not getting enough support from government for tree plantation. The woodland trust claims that if the get enough government support the target of 17% tree cover is achievable. More trees in country can ensures zero emission along with providing timber, reducing floods and protecting wild life. To address these environment priorities new environmental policies are must.

11. $20 Million Penalty for Carnival Cruise for Environmental Crimes:

Carnival corporation agreed to pay a penalty of $20 million for environmental violation such as dumping plastic waste in the ocean. Along with this a fine of $10 million per day will be imposed if they fail to restructure the corporate compliance efforts.

 Miami based carnival has polluted Bahamian waterswith plastic mixed food wastes.

Carnival has a long history of polluting water bodies by dumping plastic wastes and oily discharges from ships, but they have never improved their policies and continue to destruct the ecosystem.

The Caribbean princess Ship has illegally dumped the oil waste straight in the ocean and has tried to hide it from the investigators.

12. Violation of Court Orders Obtained by BP:
Greenpeace activists are found to oppose court orders by sending their ships to join the protest. Greenpeace has done it repeatedly and illegally. Around 40 people have been arrested for continuing protest at the rig. Transocean a US oil contractor owns the rig. The rog blew up in 2010 killing 11 oil workers. After that the protest has started and everyday people are getting arrested for the same.

13. Special Devices to Explore the Melting Patterns of Greenland Ice Sheet:

UK scientists havedevisedCryoegg to study the behavior of meltwaters that runs beneath the ice.Cryoegg is basically a 1.2 kg, 120mm diameter sphere with three sensors for temperature, pressure and conductivity. It also contains a radio to transmit data from thick sheets of ice.

The meltwaters act as lubricant for the flow of glaciers and can lead to increase volume of ice going to oceans. This might lead to increase in sea levels by 7m.

The Cryoegg can record the activities going on beneath the thick sheets of ice hence giving a clearer picture of extent of negative impacts.

Currently the two locations of the project are EGRIP site in northeast Greenland and Responder site at store Glacier in west.

14. Airbus All Set to Adapt Hybrid System by 2035:

Airbus is focusing on reduction of its carbon footprints, that is the reason they are about to bring hybrid electric airliners in next fifteen years. They are planning to start with the smaller single asile propulsion system and will consequently move to the size of A321neo.

If successful, this might lead to about 75% reduction in CO2 emission. Currently airbus has successfully made a hybrid engine that can develop 2 megawatts of pawer. This type of engine might get mounted at the back of the plane to charge a battery as well as producing its own thrust.

The main aim of airbus is towards zero emission aircrafts. But to achieve that first hybrid system should be developed and completely functional. As the main source of power will shift towards electrical energy the craft design should also concentrate towards propulsion. Many other countries like Israel are also working toward development of hybrid and fully electric smaller aircrafts.

15. Ban on Dolphin and Whale Captivity in Canada:

A bill known as Free Willy has been approved in Canada that says the breeding and captivity of cetaceans such as whales and dolphins is now punishable with $200,000 fine. The bill will exclude the injured or licensed for scientific research mammals.

Marine land at Niagara Falls that owns 61 of these animals has opposed the bill. But the park has enough number of beluga whales that there would be no loss of jobs. Vancouver aquarium also had cetaceans in captivity. Supporters have celebrated the historical decision of Canada government.

16. Bee and Butterflies in Danger in Ireland:

The National Biodiversity Date Centre has claimed decrease in population of bees including bumble bee in short span. Along with this there is found to be long term decrease in population of butterflies.

This report indirectly indicates the changing attitude towards wildlife protection. There are around 52 indicators that point out the causes of this change in biodiversity. The progress can be seen in around 31% of the indicators. This data can in turn be used for making policies and setting goals for restoring the biodiversity. Along with this it can also tell the effectiveness of policy. This type of data can also increase awareness level in people. According to NBDC director when the biodiversity is under pressure it becomes more important to set such indicators.

17. Air Pollution in Brussels:

Millions of people are getting affected by air pollution. These people have no idea that the air they are breathing is of very low quality. This lack of awareness is because of low number of monitoring stations.

Particulate Matter (PM) increases drastically making air polluted and harmful as these fine particles can penetrate up to cellular level. These can increase risk of heart and lung diseases including lung cancer.

Due to very less interest of public bodies in the field people are completed to use their own particulate matter sensors. The data generated from these sensors makes the tacklingof the situation easier. These devices help to understand when and where the sir pollution is increasing or decreasing. The impact of Citizen science project that includes use of private particulate matter sensors is commendable and the government wants to use it to its full potential to tackle the increasing air pollution.

18. Sunlight and Air as Fuel:

Carbon neutral fuels are integral part of aviation and marine transport.

The Carbon dioxide that is released after combustion of these fuels along with water can be converted in to syngas i.e. a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The only thing required for this conversion is solar energy.

The syngas thus obtained can be converted in to kerosene, methanol, hydrocarbons. This type of thermochemical process requires entire range of solar spectrum and high temperature to ensure high efficacy. The mini refinery at the roof of ETH Zurich can produce one deciliter of fuel using this process. The project needs to be made more economical so that it can be used at industrial level as well.

The whole process can be divided in to three conversions broadly: First is extraction of CO2 and water from the air. Secondly, thermochemical conversion using solar energy. Finally, liquefaction of water and CO2 into hydrocarbons inside solar reactor concentrating solar radiations by a factor of 3000.

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