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October 2018: Monthly Environmental News Roundup

  1. Reduce meat consumption for a better tomorrow – Study reveals

A research on impact of food system on the environment revealed that reduction in meat consumption  by 90% and increase in beans consumption, along with changes to the farming techniques is essential to not only ensure food is available for the 10 billion future population expected, but also to keep the climate change under 2C. Proper education, subsidy for plant-based food, careful fertilizer usage, water storage, food wastage reduction among others could help in this. While food is a personal choice, a global change is required to ensure future generations live on a planet which is not only stable but also ecologically rich.

  1. Go Green Idol immersion in 12 Gurgaon Pandals

Twelve Durga Puja committees came together to have an environment friendly immersion process. Instead of immersing the idol in Yamuna as they generally do, this joint committee decided to make a makeshift pond by digging a pit and filling it with water in the patch of land in Sector 56 given by the councilor. After immersing the idol and removing its frame, they planned to cover it with mud and plant saplings. For the biodegradable materials like flowers, they have planned decomposing using a compost pit.

  1. CDR for keep climate change within 1.5C

Following the Paris Agreement of 2015, based on demand from several countries, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has come up with a report according to which it is possible to keep the climatic variations within 1.5C. Report provides four pathways, each of which requires changes to land, urban& infrastructure, energy and industrial system at a very rapid phase. Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) through natural sinks or technological interventions would be required to achieve negative emissions and bring the global warming to 1.5C, the consequence of which is expected to be far less destructive compared to 2C increase.

  1. Saudi Arabia lends support to boost Solar power in India

Saudi Arabia is supporting a partnership with India to develop latest supply chains, disburse funds and assist new technologies that might help bring down country’s solar power tariff. This comes at the time when India has promoted ISA (International Solar Alliance) to compete with OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) of which the middle-east country is an important member. The Saudi Arabian delegation plans to develop new technologies and fund projects to aid in India’s solar vision. Saudi’s Provident Investment Fund and other companies like Lightsource BP have pledged strategic economic partnerships and investments with India, the solar power developers can make use of this and secure finance at lowest cost.

  1. 1000 crore sq. ft by 2022, IGBC ‘s plan

IGBC, Indian Green Building Council which has around 4700 projects across India covering 640 crore sq. ft is planning to add about 100 crore sq. ft every year to reach their goal of 1000 crore sq. ft by 2022. According to IGBC’s chairman Mr. Suresh, only 10 to 15% of the available civil engineers and architects are exposed to this concept posing a great challenge for this. Even though those who have adopted this have seen good results, the public are of the notion that this is a costly affair and are not ready to adopt it. To take this concept a bigger way, IGBC has planned a flagship event.

  1. 200 projects to be completed by March 2019 – Nirmal Ganga initiative

The Government of India plans to complete around 200 projects for Ghats and crematoria by March 2019 as part of cleaner, free-flowing Ganga initiative says Union Minister Nitin Gadkari. Rs. 22, 374 crore has been set aside for 227 projects including sewage infrastructure, river surface cleaning, bio-diversity conservation, etc. To ensure water quality and sustainable rejuvenation, the government has mandated minimum flow to be maintained at several points and requires hydropower projects to modify their operations accordingly. According to the minister, measures are underway for efficient usage of water from the river.

  1. Transport followed by wind-blown dust major contributors to pollution

A study by SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) has revealed that transport followed by wind-blown dust followed by industry is the major contributor to pollution.  In Delhi there are close to 11 lakh vehicles entering per day but they move at 20-30 km/hr causing lot of emission besides poor vehicle mileage. The Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 and PM pollutants also cause major health hazards. Study shows that while LPG connection has drastically reduced the residential emissions, Municipal solid waste problem is something that needs to be handled.

  1. Plastic Problems in UK

China’s ban on import of plastic waste has caused major impact on England’s ability to collect and recycle plastics costing them up to £500,000 extra per year.  Besides this several international markets have also started closing their doors owing to corruption and fraudulent practices in this industry. Currently UK does not have proper market for low grade plastics and so there is a risk of the plastics not being handled properly. While in countries like Belgium, Netherlands the cost of recycling collections is borne by the retailers and producers, in UK out of the £700m spent by the authorities in waste collection and processing annually, only £73m is contributed by businesses.

  1. Stronger laws, policies needed for cleaner air in UK

As per UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and environment, David Boyd, the UK government has violated the rights of the citizens to clean air and has not taken sufficient measures to tackle the air pollution problem. He said that air pollution and climate change are interlinked and tackling the pollution crisis could help solve the other problem also. While the government claimed that it is taking action to resolve the problem, Boyd feels that it is not enough. He feels that many deaths can be avoided with stronger laws, policies and standards in place.

  1. Good news for cyclists and pedestrians

The Department for Transport (DfT)’s Highway Code review to cover issues related to car-dooring of cyclists, giving cyclists and pedestrians way at side roads, etc is a welcome move. With more motorists taking on to the roads, there have been many incidents involving a motorized vehicle causing pedestrians, cyclists deaths and casualties. The review besides educating the drivers to give way to the pedestrians and cyclists, will also remind them of the potential for harm of their responsibilities. While this initiative from DfT is a good starting point, better cycling infrastructure, protected routes for cycling and walking could be considered once more funds are available.

  1. Brexit and its impact on the research community

Notable Nobel laureates and leading scientists have requested the British government to sign a deal on Brexit. They believe Brexit is stemming flow of ideas between UK and the EU and as a result affecting European and British research. According to them, UK has received more grants with its association with EU than the country itself has invested before Brexit. Also, without freedom of movement, the brightest talents may not find it conducive to immigrate due to visa formalities and Britain might lose its spot in the top three for pioneering research. A government spokesman however opined that Britain is considering all options to employ a modern industrial strategy to ink out an agreement with their EU partners to maintain and expand UK contribution to science research and innovation.

  1. Rodent problem for Seabird colonies

The Tristan albatross is likely to go extinct as super-sized mice is killing millions of sea bird chicks on Gough Island, one of the most important sea bird colonies, in remote UK overseas territory in south Atlantic. Since their introduction in 19th century, the mice have adapted and made bird eggs and chicks an easy prey and minimum 2 million bird chicks lost annually. According to scientists it is important that the invasive mice species be exterminated so that not only the Tristan but also other species like Atlantic petrel and MacGillivray are also saved. It is believed that the birds which spend 10 years in the sea have not been able to react to the threat as it takes a while before their behavioral mechanisms become active, while mice, which are terrestrial have new generations twice every year.

  1. Risky Hydel Power projects in Himalayas

The hydel power sector faced huge losses due to 2015 earthquake in Nepal and about 30 power projects equivalent to 20 per cent of the hydropower capacity was lost with earthquake triggered landslides causing maximum damage. Two years prior, the flooding in Uttarakhand damaged many large and small scale projects amounting to 25 MW damage. The researchers have concluded that the damage caused due to landslides as the outcome of the earthquake is more compared to the quake itself. With more than 600 dams being built in the seismically active Himalayan region, an urgent need to re-evaluate hydropower generation in this region needs to be done and scientists believe that the hydropower potential is overestimated and cost has been underestimated.

  1. Wildlife Crime and consequences

In its toughest ever penalty for wildlife crime a court in Indonesian province, sentenced two men to 4 years in jail for attempting to trade tiger skin. The court had also asked the perpetuators to pay fine or serve additional jail sentences. Condemning the prosecution’s handling of the case, many restated that this illegal trade would continue until the demand of animal parts go un-noticed. There are less than 400 Sumatran tigers in the wild, with about dozen of these endangered tiger species poached by hunters every year. These tiger parts are a sought-after ingredient in Chinese medicine. With frequent cases of poaching rising its head, conservationists maintain that light punishment does not deter the wrong-doers as the risk for committing the crime is outweighed by benefits they receive from trade.

  1. iNaturalist- A nature oriented online platform

iNaturalist, a 10 year old online platform and mobile app has achieved a milestone by helping one million observers identify species of plants and animals around them. iNaturalist supports data sharing and assessment among its users and provides crowd source data for scientists. The program utilizes several smartphone technologies such as camera, clock, GPS to tag pictures geographically and chronologically. Recently, the platform has also added artificial intelligence in its repertoire for identification of common species through a trained computer algorithm that identifies species from uploaded images. The platform has encouraged observers to explore and identify flora and fauna outdoors through organized annual events and expanded its presence through partner institutions based out of different countries.

  1. Mother Mushroom: The case of a deported environmental blogger

Nguyen HgocNhu Quynh, known as Mother mushroom was released by the Vietnam government and deported to Houston with her family after serving 10 years behind bars for conducting anti-government publicity. The reason for this is however unclear.  Quynh gained international attention writing about the controversial Formosa Ha, steel industry which discharged huge amounts of chemicals from a greenfield site in north-central coast. Targeting the government, she supported the fact that fish reserves were killed and many fishermen were left without a living, leading to her arrest. Quynh’s release is expected to re-instill attention outside Vietnam where this development is yet to be publicly disclosed.

  1. Climatic Change: Crisis for serious consideration

President Trump denying climate change has made several declarations unsubstantiated by science. He believes the existing climatic conditions could be reversed through natural phenomena. According to facts, long term average temperatures have only moved northward leading to adverse climatic change. However as per scientific reports, global warming is attributed to deforestation, burning of fossil fuels and industrialization.  Trump administration promised to withdraw from the Paris agreement alleging it to cost 2.7 million jobs and indefinable economic income. Stanford University, on the other hand mentioned that the agreement would benefit the world trillions of dollars. Trump also mentioned that the scientists have a political agenda basing their statements on worsening climate conditions. However, scientists denied that this is a conspiracy against a huge number of researchers working on this topic and that the allegations are baseless.

  1. Ian Kiernan: An extra-ordinary environmentalist

Ian Kiernan, the founder of Australian anti-litter campaign and a prominent environmentalist passed away at the age of 78 after battling cancer. While his supporters deeply miss his guidance and humor, his inspiration has expanded into global success. Clean up Australia mentions that his first clean up event with more than 40,000 volunteers cleaning Sydney shoreline has now grown to 35 million participants in over 130 countries. Kiernan was an accomplished sailor who represented Australia in many races. Apart from receiving awards for his conservation efforts, he was also named the Australian of the year. He has truly left a legacy for the rest of the world to build on.

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