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May 2019: Monthly Environmental News Roundup

1. Shorter work weeks to deal climate crises

Findings based on OECD and UN data reports in a research paper reveal that people across Europe will have to work fewer hours to avoid climatic heating and decarbonization of the economy. Research shows UK, Sweden and Germany workers will have to move to nine-hour weeks to check on 2C heating and prevent climate breakdown. The paper focuses on industrial emissions but does not consider environmental benefits of reducing work hours due to less commuting and fewer goods produced and resources consumed. There is growing support for the new Green new deal initiative in Europe and US which aims at accelerated decarbonisation of nation while creating secure and sustainable jobs.

2. From Dump to Dumpfree – Ljubljana’s story

Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia is the first European capital to commit to go zero-waste, a dramatic turnaround when 15 years ago, the city’s trash went to landfill. Realising this approach to be expensive, space consuming and resource wastage the city altered its course. In 2013 it started collecting biodegradable waste and segregated materials from households by distributing separate collection bins and scheduled retrieval. Today, it recycles 68% of total waste and its landfills receive 80% less rubbish. 95% waste are turned to recyclable materials, biowaste is turned into compost, natural gas is used for electricity.  Zero waste stores, innovative waste reuse are emerging trends in the capital.

3. First time in centuries, stork breeding reported in wild

Wild storks nesting on top of an oak tree in Knepp estate in Sussex could be the first to successfully breed in the wild after many centuries. The Knepp estate is close to Storrington, a west Sussex village known as homestead of white storks. The birds have not been believed to have bred here since 1416. Birds with clipped wings brought from sanctuaries across Europe were introduced in large fox-proof open topped enclosures three years ago hoping that these would attract wild migrating storks, which has occurred. These have played an important role in history, culture and folklore across Europe and Greeks considered nesting storks as foreshowing good luck.

4. End of the road for plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds

In an attempt to reduce litter and environmental impacts, UK government confirmed that plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds will be banned from sale and use in England from next April. Surveys have found waterways swarming with plastic and usage of these items putting wildlife at risk. Available Alternatives include paper straws, biodegradable products in stirrers and buds. The EU is also phasing out plastics in various forms soon. Social campaigners seek producers of bags, balloons, packets, containers, etc to take responsibility for the pollution caused by their products.

5.  Environmental clearances grant process simplification

NDA government before elections proposed key changes to the environmental impact assessment notification. In the beginning of its first term it introduced a number of measures to simplify process of granting environmental clearances under the environment protection act (1986), striving to provide a time-bound delivery through consistent processes.  The proposal has drawn criticism from environmentalists for diluting the spirit of EPA. As one of the outcomes the NDA addressed a lacuna of reduced financial, technical and human capacity of pollution control boards that have stagnated over time by providing online monitoring of individual industrial units. The mechanism however is yet to display reliable results. The re-written notification brings into one place all the piecemeal regulatory fine-tunes the government has made over 5 years.

6. RWH: A bold initiative to save rain water in Hyderabad

According to HMWSSB, Hyderabad could save up to 185 million gallons of rainwater to recharge its dried groundwater levels using 60,000 cubic meters of volume of Rain water harvesting (RWH) pits over the year. The RWH pits were built in open spaces in mutual agreements with Resident welfare association to maintain them and desilting, cleaning and fixing them might be a huge task the water board is not in complete control of. HMWSSB  plans an initiative to include 5000 volunteers to clean and monitor these and is focusing on sensitising and creating awareness and building more pits in large numbers to reap benefit. Experts are sceptical about plans made but action not being taken and feel government should encourage work commencement and implementation.

7. Wind, solar energy procurement task given to SECI

Following the lack of response to  Tamil Nadu State power utility tender of procuring 500 MW each of grid connected solar and wind power projects and also to get better prices, Tangedco (Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation) has handed over this task to SECI (Solar Energy Corporation of India). Mercom, the renewable energy consultancy firm says Tangedco’s tarnished reputation over prolonged payment delays kept the developers away. However it welcomes this move as opening of more development opportunities in the state. Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers’ Association challenged the wind tender stating the tariffs fixed to be too high.

8. $995000 grant supporting sustainable procurement framework rollout in Ethiopia.

African Development Bank managing Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) has approved $995000 grant for enabling sustainable procurement framework rollout for IPPs in Ethiopia. This grant aims to encourage private investments into hydropower projects and strengthen the capability of government to undertake projects in the hydro pipeline. The Ethiopia Renewable Energy Program aided by this SEFA grant is in line with country’s Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II) and with National Electrification Plan targeting universal energy  by 2025.

9. Validation of Gambia’s 2019 Animal Health Bill

Department of LiveStock Services, DLS and several institutions and stakeholders dealing in animal welfare and protection validated Gambia’s 2019 Animal Health Bill. Dr. Abdou Ceesay, the Director General of DLS expressing his satisfaction and thanking the DLS staff for their commitment in getting the document finalized said this would enable the country to produce good document guaranteeing animal health. He also thanked African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources, AU-IBAR for funding the validation. He also mentioned that they will continue sensitizing the farmers on the new document.

10. No less than 47 million openly defecate in Nigeria

In a 2 day media dialogue entitled “Clean Nigeria”, aimed to engage and enlighten people on Water Sanitation and Hygenie, WASH related issues and implications of open defecation Bioye Ogunjobi, UNICEF’s, WASH specialist said that no less than 47 million Nigerians openly defecate, where majority i.e. 53.9% of them are from the North-Central region. Mr. Ogunjobi also disclosed that percentage of Nigerians not having access to basic drinking water services and basic sanitation are 36% and 58% respectively. He mentioned that 11% Nigerians suffered cin and the diarrhoea is the second largest killer disease in Africa.

11. Detergents and other compounds found in milk

Raids conducted in a dairy plant run by Pure Dairy Solutions in Uttar Pradesh revealed chemical compounds like detergents mixed with milk and sold in market. Elsewhere in the state such raids on dairy plants revealed presence of detergents, urea, starch in milk supplied to the market. Last year in a huge dairy farm in Patiala 323 bags of skimmed milk using chemicals was recovered. In Delhi also, many samples tested were found to be adulterated. Consumers ought to be careful of detergents, white paint, caustic soda, refined oil, glucose commonly used in adulterated milk and related products.

12. Algeria the place where Malaria was discovered is free from it.

Algeria the place where Malaria was discovered is free from it and becomes the third African country to eliminate one of the leading killer diseases in the world. Argentina with no recorded cases for 3 years in a row became the second country after Paraguay in Americas to get rid of the disease. Since 1955, 38 countries were declared malaria free by WHO, but the fight stalled as the mosquitoes became resistant to the drugs. After Mauritius and Morocco, Algeria now becomes the third African country to be malaria free. Venezuela is the country with the maximum malarial cases.

13. UK funding £33m for climate change resilient super crops.

In a bid to alleviate hunger from developing countries, about  £33m of the UK aid funding would be spent on research for developing crops enriched with essential vitamins and minerals and resilient to climate changes. The biofortified crops developed with UK aid support are on display at Chelsea Flower Show. These super crops  use conventional plant breeding and agricultural science for enhancing plant nutrients. Climate and nutrition smart technologies like these are expected to improve the livelihoods of people, especially women and girls.

14. Companies push for Carbon tax

In what could be the largest business group gathering in a decade, representatives of over 70 companies met US lawmakers and pushed for carbon emissions tax to fight climate change. Many democrats have embraced the Green New Deal and Senator Chris Coons, a democrat, hopes a bipartisan bill to be introduced soon to put carbon fee. In the house, a bill to return dividend on carbon fee revenues to taxpayers has been introduced. Achieving carbon fees seems to be difficult as no Republicans in Senate have publicly supported it so far.

15. Drinking water scarcity in Leh

Owning to fast falling groundwater levels, dry tube wells and drinking water scarcity, from May beginning, public health engineering department has curtailed water supply to only 2 hours in morning and evening in and around Leh. Erratic weather conditions, climate change, lesser snow fall year on year are said to be reasons for this situation. Hotels, guest houses with modern facilities which consume more water seem to be depending on water tankers. Less water usage, rain water harvesting, having artificial glaciers and minimizing natural spring water usage are few small steps that could help Leh overcome this crisis.

16. Angola and Portugal sign Biodiversity MoU

To promote, coordinate and guide scientific research in biodiversity through universities, Angola and Portugal signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The National Institute of Biodiversity and Conservation Areas of Ministry of Environment, INBAC and Center for Research on Biodiversity and Genetic Resources of Portugal, CIBIO signed this agreement. Aristofanes Romao da Cunha Pontes, INBAC director general said this is to promote Angola, a biodiversity rich country with ecosystem knowledge to have permanent scientific research support. To ensure biodiversity health, he also advised fighting practices like burning parks, forests, game meat consumption etc.

17. School children skip lessons to teach us one.

Hundreds of thousands of school children from over 110 countries world over walked out of their lessons to strike, protesting the increasing climate crisis. In 2018 Greta Thunberg, a teenager protested outside Sweden parliament and since then more and more children are participating in such protests worldwide to draw attention of lawmakers and demanding urgent action to avoid catastrophic breakdown. Thumberg and leading youth strikers have called for the adults to join the protests and stage a global strike on September 20.  

18. Labour to make global climate emergency core in school curriculum

Many young people are taking part in series of climate strikes and one of their demands is to have the national curriculum reformed and ensure ecological crisis as educational priority. In response to this, Labour has promised to review the school curriculum and provide new focus on knowledge and skills required for the world shaped by climate change and better equip the young generation for green technology future jobs. Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary said that Labour government would make sure climate crisis is educational priority and young people are taught the ecological and social impact of it.

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