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June 2017 Environment

  • Coral reefs hit by major heat stress
    Nearly three-quarters of the world’s most majestic coral reefs have suffered severe and repeated heat stress in the past three years, a United Nations report found. The report, prepared for the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Centre by a group of coral scientists, found damage in 21 of 29 reefs on the organization’s list of World Heritage sites, or 72 percent, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. 

    That is the broad time span of a global bleaching event, which ran from 2014 through 2017 and hit the Great Barrier Reef in two successive years, causing devastating levels of coral death. 

    World Heritage sites are considered “of outstanding value to humanity,” according to UNESCO. They range from Stonehenge to the pyramids to Greenland’s most dramatic fjord, but also include many marine areas containing particularly extensive coral reefs. 

  • India matches the world in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels
    The first-ever picture of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration over India shows that it is way above the safety mark and in line with what has been observed in other parts of the world. 

    Since the 1950s, scientists have been measuring the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere at observatories such as Mauna Loa in Hawaii and since the 1990s, using satellite images. 

    It’s generally been agreed that for every million gas molecules in the atmosphere, anything beyond 350 carbon dioxide molecules, is considered unsafe. 

    These concentrations are likely to trap enough heat to trigger extreme climate events the world over and it would become progressively harder, and costlier, to suck out the excessive CO2. 

    In 2015, the global average was 400 ppm, according to reports from Mauna Loa. In India, that year, according to a report published in the latest issue of Current Science, the average CO2 level was 399 parts per million (ppm). 

    However, at Cape Rama, a coastal station in Goa, where CO2 levels have been monitored for over a decade, the level shot up to 408 ppm. The findings, based on readings from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) — a NASA satellite to monitor the environment — reveal that pockets of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh saw CO2 concentrations hover much higher between 405 ppm and 410 ppm. 

    Southern India and the western coast saw concentrations between 395 ppm and 400 ppm while the central and northern regions registered between 400 and 405 ppm. 

  • Rising ocean levels could lead to 2 bn climate change refugees by 2100: Study
    A research study has warned that one-fifth of the world's population, about two billion people, could become climate change refugees by the year 2100 due to rising ocean levels. 

    Researchers said, those who once lived on coastlines will face displacement and resettlement bottlenecks as they seek habitable places inland. 

    Charles Geisler, professor at Cornell University in the US said, the future rise in global mean sea level probably would not be gradual. According to a UN report, Earth's escalating population is expected to top nine billion people by 2050 and climb to 11 billion people by 2100. Feeding that population will require more arable land even as swelling oceans consume fertile coastal zones and river deltas, driving people to seek new places to dwell. According to the study, about 1.4 billion people could be climate change refugees by 2060. 

  • Ozone recovery may be delayed by rise of paint stripper chemicals
    The restoration of the globe’s protective ozone shield may be delayed by three decades if fast-rising emissions of a chemical used in paint strippers and pharmaceuticals is not restricted, warns a study. 

    Researchers have warned that due to the recent increase in an unregulated ozone-depleting substance in the environment, the recovery of Antarctic ozone levels can be delayed by five to 30 years, depending on emission scenarios. 

    The findings suggest that a previously ignored chemical called dichloromethane may be contributing to ozone depletion and should be looked at to improve future ozone predictions. 

    The Antarctic 'ozone hole' is expected to fully recover sometime between 2046 and 2057. 

  • World’s first carbon dioxide absorbing plant launched in Zurich
    The world's first commercial plant for capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air opened, refueling a debate about whether the technology can truly play a significant role in removing greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. 

    The Climeworks AG facility near Zurich becomes the first ever to capture CO2 at industrial scale from air and sell it directly to a buyer. 

    Developers say the plant will capture about 900 tons of CO2 annually — or the approximate level released from 200 cars — and pipe the gas to help grow vegetables. While the amount of CO2 is a small fraction of what firms and climate advocates hope to trap at large fossil fuel plants, Climeworks says its venture is a first step in their goal to capture 1 percent of the world's global CO2 emissions with similar technology. To do so, there would need to be about 250,000 similar plants. 

  • United States among least polluting nations on the planet
    In the most recent WHO report on air pollution, the United States was listed as one of the countries with the cleanest air in the world, significantly cleaner in fact than the air in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the UK, Japan, Austria and France. 

    While France and other G7 countries lamented the U.S. exit from the Paris climate accord, America’s air is already cleaner than that of any other country in the G7, except Canada with its scant population. 

    Following standard practice, the WHO measures air pollution by the mean annual concentration of fine suspended particles of less than 2.5 microns in diameter. These are the particles that cause diseases of all sorts and are responsible for most deaths by air pollution. 

    According to the WHO, exposure to particulate matter increases the risk of acute lower respiratory infection, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. 

    The report, which analyzed the “annual median concentration of particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of 2.5 µm or less (PM2.5) for both urban population and rural and urban population” found that the United States was one of the most pollution-free nations in the world. 

    The annual mean concentrations of particulate matter in the air range from less than 10 to, over 100 µg/m3, the report states. At the very low end of the spectrum, the United States has a concentration of just 8, while China has a concentration more than seven times higher at 59, India at 66, Egypt at 101 and Saudi Arabia with the worst air pollution at 127. 

    The WHO report is corroborated by a series of other such studies on air and water pollution. 

    In a recent list of the 25 cleanest cities in the world, the only country to boast three cities among the cleanest on the planet was the United States of America, with Chicago coming in second place, Honolulu coming in fourth, and Portland, OR, coming in sixteenth. Unsurprisingly, no cities from China, Russia or India made the list at all. 

    Similarly, another list of the 15 most polluted cities in the world featured three cities from China, three cities from Saudi Arabia, and a whopping seven cities from India. No U.S. city made the list. 

    A third list, ranking the ten cleanest and ten most polluted cities in the world, placed two U.S. cities on the list of cleanest cities on the planet. The list of the most polluted cities in the world was led by two cities from China followed by two more cities from India. Two Russian cities also made the list. Again, no U.S. cities were found here. 

    Current levels of carbon dioxide concentration in the environment are substantially lower than they have been during earlier periods in the planet’s history. Without human intervention, the concentration of CO2 has climbed as high as 7,000 parts per million (ppm) in prior eras, whereas at present the concentration is just over 400 ppm. While the United States must remain vigilant to keep the level of real, dangerous pollutants to a minimum, it may take some consolation in the fact that among G7 nations, it has the cleanest air of all. 

  • Union Cabinet approves 2 % interest subsidy on short term farm loans
    The Government has approved two percent interest subsidy on farm loans and additional three percent for timely repayments. 

    The approval was given for short term crop loans to farmers for the current year. A decision in this regard was taken during a Cabinet meeting in New Delhi. 

    The scheme will apply to short term crop loans upto three lakh rupees and the rate will be four percent. The decision involves a total expenditure of 20,339 crore rupees in the current financial year. 

  • Cabinet clears the legislation to deal with bankruptcy
    A proposal to introduce a Bill in Parliament for setting up a Resolution Corporation to deal with bankruptcy in banks, insurance companies and financial entities received Cabinet go-ahead on 14th June. 

    The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017, which aims to instill discipline in financial service providers in the event of a financial crisis by limiting the use of public money to bail out distressed entities, was approved by the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

    The proposed Bill will provide for a comprehensive resolution framework to handle any bankruptcy situation in banks, insurers and financial sector entities. The Bill when enacted will pave the way for setting up of the Resolution Corporation. 

    It would also lead to repeal or amendment of resolution- related provisions in sectoral Acts as listed in Schedules of the Bill. 

    The Resolution Corporation would ensure the stability and resilience of the financial system, protecting the consumers of covered obligations up to a reasonable limit and public funds to the extent possible. 

  • India tops global remittance-receiving list
    India has claimed the top spot among the remittance-receiving nations, surpassing China. The United Nations, in its report, said Indians working across the globe sent home 62.7 billion US dollars last year. 

    The 'One Family at a Time' study by the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development said, about 200 million migrants globally sent more than 445 billion dollars as remittances in 2016 to their families. 

    Remittance flows have grown over the last decade from 296 billion in 2007 to 445 billion dollars in 2016. It has risen at a rate averaging 4.2 per cent annually. The study is the first-ever of a 10-year trend in migration and remittance flows over the period 2007-2016. 

    It said 80 per cent of remittances are received by 23 countries, led by India, China, the Philippines, Mexico and Pakistan. 

  • Medical devices park opened in Sangareddy district of Telangana
    Medical Devices Park was inaugurated in Sultanpur village of Ameenpur Mandal of Sangareddy on 17th June. The place is located very near to state capital Hyderabad. Patancheru is the largest industrial colony in Asian continent

    The park was inaugurated by ministers K.T. Rama Rao and Harish Rao. The park will strengthen Hyderabad ecosystem for medical and technological innovation and manufacturing. Firms manufacturing 14 medical devices related to ultrasound scans, implants for orthopaedic, neurological, dialysis etc. were given allotment letters on 17th June. 

    The facility will be working very closely with IIT- Hyderabad for medical technology utilisation for alloy works, plastics and medical electronics along with biotech like DNA protein and reagents. IIT-H will provide expertise in terms of image, voice and data processing. 

    The medical devices park will have research and manufacturing units so that there is constant update in technology. The park is located on over 250 acres of land and is a short distance from the Rajiv Gandhi International airport. 

    The park has developed facilities for support innovation, research and development and industrial scale manufacturing along with a dedicated support ecosystem of warehouses, logistics, electricity, waste and waste management. 

    With maximum medical devices being imported, the costs are very high but with manufacturing within India there is a possibility of reduction in costs, ultimately bringing down healthcare expenses. 

  • Railways aiming at one-third reduction in emission by 2030
    Going green, the Indian Railways is stepping up efforts to reduce emission by 33 per cent in the next 10-12 years through sustained energy efficiency measures and maximum use of clean fuel. 

    Promoting low carbon mass transportation system, the Railways will be using 5 per cent bio diesel and CNG/LNG for traction while stepping up use of renewables up to 10 per cent of its energy needs by 2030. 

    Besides, state-of-the-art energy efficient locomotives and regenerative braking system will be the order of the day for the Railways to reduce emission level considerably. 

    The Indian Railways is 12 times more energy efficient in freight traffic and three times more in passenger traffic compared to roadways, said a senior Railway Ministry official involved with green initiatives undertaken by the public transporter. 

    Use of renewable sources of energy will be promoted for which a big target has been set to achieve 1000 Mw of solar power and 170 Mw of wind power installed capacities. While about 20 Mw of solar power plant on roof top has already been commissioned, wind power of 36 Mw has been commissioned. 

    In order to reduce carbon footprint, a low carbon growth strategy has been adopted to reduce emission intensity by 33 per cent by the year 2030 with 2005 as the base year by improving traction fuel and energy efficiency

    On the water front, the national transporter has decided to recycle water and promote rain water harvesting systems and revival of water bodies across the country. There is a concerted efforts for increasing forest cover on railway land. The target of tree plantation on rail land is 5 crore trees in the next three years. 

    Railways have also commenced recycling of solid waste and generating energy from it. Fitting bio-toilets in its entire 55,000 strong fleet of coaches by 2019 is another green initiative of the Railways. 

  • United Nations warns of Clean Water Shortages by 2050
    United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that by 2050 global demand for fresh water is projected to grow by more than 40%. A Quarter of the world's population will live in countries with a chronic or recurrent lack of clean water. 

  • Himalayan sediments made 2004 tsunami more severe: study
    Sediments from the Himalayas may have aggravated the severity of the catastrophic 2004 Sumatra earthquake that caused a massive tsunami to claim over 250,000 lives in the Indian coastal regions and other countries, a new study has found

    Researchers found that the sediment that eroded from the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau over millions of years was transported thousands of kilometres by rivers and in to the Indian Ocean. It became sufficiently thick over time to generate temperatures warm enough to strengthen the sediment and increase the severity of the Sumatra earthquake in on December 26 in 2004. 

    The 9.2 magnitude earthquake, generated a massive tsunami that devastated coastal regions of the Indian Ocean. The earthquake and tsunami together killed more than 250,000 people making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in history. 

    According to the researchers, the same mechanism could be in place in the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the Pacific Northwest coast of North America, as well as off Iran, Pakistan and in the Caribbean. 

    The research team sampled sediment and rocks from the tectonic plate that feeds the Sumatra subduction zone for the first time. From a research vessel, they drilled down 1.5 kilometres below the seabed, measured different properties of the sediments, and ran simulations to calculate how the sediment and rock behaves as it piles up and travels eastward 250 kilometres toward the subduction zone. Scientists found that water between the sediment grains was less salty than seawater only within a zone where the plate boundary fault develops, some 1.2 to 1.4 kilometres below the seafloor. 

    The discovery will generate new interest in other subduction zone sites that also have thick, hot sediment and rock, especially those areas where the hazard potential is unknown, said Andre Hupers of the University of Bremen in Germany. The research was published in the journal Science. 

  • Temperature could rise by 0.3°C, says UN
    The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate pact could “in a worst case scenario” add a 0.3 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures over the 21st century, the UN said on 2nd June. 

    The head of the World Meteorological Organisation’s atmospheric research and environment department, Deon Terblanche, underscored, however, that the likely impact of U.S. President Donald Trump’s widely-condemned decision remains far from clear. Under the Paris deal agreed in 2015, world nations vowed steps to keep the worldwide rise in temperatures “well below” two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.


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