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Showing posts from February 2, 2017

Deforestation leads to weakening of summer monsoon, says study (downtoearth,)

A new study has attributed the weakening of the Indian summer monsoon rainfall (ISMR) between June and September to changes in land use and land cover. The effect is more pronounced in north and northeast India during August and September.

Deforestation results in a decrease in evapotranspiration (transfer of water from land to the atmosphere via evaporation and transpiration), which constitutes the recycled component of precipitation. This component assumes extraordinary significance in north and northeast India during the latter half of the monsoon (August to September), when nearly 20-25 per cent of the rainfall received is recycled.

“The recycled component is important in north and northeast India because monsoonal winds in this region are internally circulated due to the presence of the Himalayas,” says Subimal Ghosh, associate professor at the Department of Civil Engineering in IIT Bombay and one of the authors of the study. Moreover, evapotranspiration is less pronounced durin…

The message in the median (Hindu.)

The fiscal prudence is timely, but the Budget lacks measures to revive the economy

The Union Budget for 2017-18 has been presented against the background of a difficult international environment spiced with growing protectionism, poor investment climate in the country due to the stressed balance sheets of corporate and banking sectors, and severe distress caused by the demonetisation move. The quick estimate of national income released by the Central Statistical Organisation showed that even while the impact of the demonetisation is not considered, the growth rate of all sectors except agriculture and public administration were slowing down. The Economic Survey estimates that the decelerating in growth due to the demonetisation is a quarter to half percentage point. With much of the cancelled banknotes returning to the banking system, the hope of a windfall has evaporated and yet, there were considerable expectations that the Budget would initiate measures to revive the economy.

A pr…

Politics trumps ideology (Hindu.)

The macroeconomic credentials of the Budget are quite impressive. The highlight is a greater than 25% increase in capital spending and a substantial increase in the transfer to the States

Stating that the Budget represented the philosophy of his government to ‘Transform, Energise and Clean’ India, the Finance Minister has presented a Budget that is in many ways quite impressive. As the details were not out even on the Finance Ministry’s website at the time of writing, it is not possible to evaluate it fully in the sense of being able to assess whether the Minister’s claims on revenue expectation, and therefore the deficit, are credible. However, the budgetary allocations are intelligent and do add up to a reasonable vision of what the economy needs at the moment. In fact, after having presented three quite lacklustre Budgets in a row Mr. Jaitley appears to have learned on the job. His presentation was businesslike and knowledgeable and specific about the interventions that he had in …

'Fight to save Aizawl's river in legends (downtoearth)

How is the Chite river threatened?

We have been involved with the restoration of the Chite river since 2009. The growing population has been encroaching upon the origin as well as the floodplains of this small river. The most disturbing trend is the encroachment near the river's origin. If there is no timely intervention, it could lead to the death of this river. Although the Chite is a small river and not used for irrigation or for drinking water, its importance lies in the sentimental value attached to this river.  

Could you elaborate what you mean by sentiment attached with this river?

The Chite is the most popular river in Aizawl, capital of Mizoram. In the 1960s and 70s, we as youngsters would bathe in its waters. We didn’t have any other source of enjoyment at that time. Poet Rokunga has composed many poems and songs about this river. According to a legend, a young boy Fiara Tui was often troubled by his cruel step-mother. In the spring one year, water was scarce. People w…

'ISRO's nanosatellites can become a global system for navigation' (downtoearth)

In 2016, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) created an independent Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) for national applications. This system, NavIC, has seven satellites which provide positioning, navigation and timing service over India and its neighbourhood. However, to expand the coverage to entire earth, efforts are needed. Vibha Varshney talks to Vinod Kumar, deputy project director, AOCS (Attitude and Orbit Control System), control dynamics and simulation group of the ISRO on the sidelines of 104th Indian Science Congress on what can be done to make NavIC a global navigation system.

Can you make NavIC a global system?

The seven satellites that are part of the system are placed above 35,786 km from the Earth’s surface called geostationary earth orbit. So far, the NavIC signal is available only in India and in its neighbourhood covering 1,500 km. It is proposed that multiple nanosatellites can be launched at low earth orbit which would work in collabor…

Relevance of Gandhian environmentalism (downtoearth)

In the post-Gandhian era, environmental problems surfaced at a breakneck speed with large-scale and indiscriminate industrialisation leading to environmental hazards and degradations. Mahatma Gandhi’s critique of modernity reveals his concern about the emergence of a social order that exploits nature for short-term gains. He had written widely about the need for human beings to exercise restraint with respect to the use of natural resources. His “counter-thinking” is now increasingly becoming a mainstream thought with greater awareness of the environmental problems.

Troubled by unrestricted industrialism and materialism, Gandhi had foreseen a time when the resources of the earth will not be enough to meet the growing demands of the people. On the 69th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Down To Earth tries to understand the man and what value his vision brings to the contemporary discourse on environment conservation.

Understanding Gandhi

GANDHI's Vision and Valuesis meant…

Air-polluting chemicals travel across continents, pose greater risk of cancer: study(downtoearth,)

Some pollutants travel much farther than what earlier global climate models had predicted. According to findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition online, organic aerosols can amplify global human exposure to toxic particles by proving a shield. Hence, pollutants last longer in the atmosphere, which means global lung cancer risk from a pollutant caused by combustion is much higher than estimated earlier.

The study was done by scientists at Oregon State University (OSU), the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Peking University.

"This work brings together theory, lab experiments and field observations to show how viscous organic aerosols can largely elevate global human exposure to toxic particles, by shielding them from chemical degradation in the atmosphere," said PNNL climate scientist and lead author Manish Shrivastava.

Pollutants released during fossil fuel burning, forest fires and bio-fu…

Honduras emerges as most dangerous country for environmental activists (downtoearth,)

Honduras is the deadliest country in the world for environmental activism. A probe by international watchdog, Global Witness, says more than 120 activists have been killed since 2010 for opposing the destruction of natural resources. In March 2016, well-known activist Berta Cáceres, was assassinated inside her home after being followed and threatened for long. The recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, Cáceres was a leading land rights defender.

In a shocking revelation, the Global Witness report names the president of the country’s ruling party, Gladis Aurora López, as one of the high-ranking politicians implicated in crackdowns on land defenders. It also urges the United States to review its support in the form of pumping huge amounts of dollars into Honduras despite human rights violations.

In majority of the cases involving threats and killings, attackers are not held accountable. As several members of indigenous communities point out in the report, they roam a…

A fine balance (Hindu.)

Coming within three months of the Central government’s purge of high-value currency notes that has dampened economic activity, particularly in the informal sector, it was imperative that Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley soothed frayed nerves with Budget 2017-18. It was equally critical that he provided a glimpse of a larger plan to prevent regeneration of black money, the original intent behind the demonetisation of ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes. He has managed to do both to a fair degree, without resorting to the easy options of blatant populism or spending his way out of trouble in a slowing economy. Apart from funding the sops announced a month ago by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for vulnerable sections of society, the Finance Minister has done his best to further ease the pain of people most impacted by the adverse effects of demonetisation. The tax rate for small and medium enterprises with an annual turnover of up to ₹50 crore, which are the bulwark of job-creation but end up paying…

Australian PM insists on refugees deal, which Trump terms 'dumb' (Hindu.)

News report details a tense exchange between the President and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during their first telephone call as national leaders.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has insisted that a deal struck with the Obama administration that would allow mostly Muslim refugees rejected by Australia to be resettled in the United States was still on, despite President Donald Trump dubbing the agreement “dumb” and vowing to review it.

The conflicting messages came hours after The Washington Post published a story detailing a tense exchange between Mr. Trump and Mr. Turnbull during their first telephone call as national leaders.

The newspaper reported that during the call, an angry Trump dubbed the agreement “the worst deal ever” and accused Mr. Turnbull of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers” — a reference to Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, U.S. citizens born in Kyrgyzstan who set off two bombs at the 2013 Boston marathon.

Mr. Turnbull declined to comment on the …