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Showing posts from February 3, 2017

Chennai oil spill: half a dozen turtles die, fishermen fear losing livelihood (downtoearth)

In the wee hours of January 28, two cargo ships collided in the off suburban Ennore near the city of Chennai. The accident took place when ‘M T BW Maple’ of Isle of Man was leaving the Kamarajar port after emptying Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and M T Dawn, Kanchipuram, loaded with petroleum oil lubricant (POL) was on its way to Ennore.

Scale of the problem

Four days later, hundreds of Coast Guard men, engineering students and fishermen were seen using their hands to clear the oil spill in the sea. They resorted to manual cleaning after Chennai Metro Water’s super suckers failed to pump out the thickening sludge. On February 2, at least 1,000 volunteers were employed for physically removing blobs of oil deposited along the beaches.

Besides iconic Marina Beach, the oil spill spread some 34 km till Vettuvankeni in the south due to wave action and the southern current.

Loss of marine life and livelihood

According to reports, about 40 tonnes of oil sludge has been removed from the Ramak…

When will India be able to control pollution ? (downtoearth,)

Many journalists have been asking the question: What will India's environment look like in the 21st century? Since India is already one of the most polluted countries in the world, an important question is: Will India ever be able to control pollution and, if so, when?

Most of the Indian rivers, especially the smaller ones, are today toxic drains: Sabarmati, Bhadar, Yamuna, Damodar, Chaliyar, Betwa, Noyyal, Bhawani, to name just a few. Groundwater, a major source of drinking water, is also becoming polluted and most of it is drunk without any treatment. But lets talk in some detail about air pollution.

Air pollution in Indian cities is also growing by leaps and bounds. The Central Pollution Control Board (cpcb) has just released the air quality data for 1997 for 70 cities and what does it show? That Shillong is the only town in India where the air quality in terms of suspended particulates -- the most threatening air pollutant in Indian cities was clean round the year and there w…

Investment in walking, cycling must to prevent road accidents, fight climate change (downtoearth,)

A UN Environment report says people are at great risk every time they travel due to the lack of investment in safe transport options. Some 1.3 million people die each year on the roads and almost half of them are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

Investment in walking and cycling infrastructure can save lives, reverse pollution and reduce carbon emissions, the report adds.

“People are risking their lives every time they leave their homes,” Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment, said. “But it isn’t just about accidents. Designing transport systems around cars puts more vehicles on the road, increasing both greenhouse gas emissions and deadly air pollution. We must put people, not cars, first in transport systems.”

Compared to high-income countries, more people die in low-to middle-income countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America due to road accidents. As the global population is heading towards nine billion, there is a need to design mobility for people instead of mobi…

‘Lost continent’ found lurking under Mauritius (hindu, )

Scientists have confirmed the existence of a “lost continent” under the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius that was left over by the breakup of the supercontinent, Gondwana, which started about 200 million years ago.

The piece of crust, which was subsequently covered by young lava during volcanic eruptions on the island, seems to be a tiny piece of ancient continent, which broke off from the island of Madagascar, when Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica split up and formed the Indian Ocean.

“We are studying the breakup process of the continents, in order to understand the geological history of the planet,” said Prof. Lewis Ashwal from University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.

By studying the mineral, zircon, found in rocks spewed up by lava during volcanic eruptions, Prof. Ashwal and his colleagues have found that remnants of this mineral were far too old to belong on the island of Mauritius.

“Earth is made up of two parts — continents, which are old, and oceans, which are ‘…

Researchers employ laser light to speed up electronics (hindu, )

Indian part of team that generated very high frequency current in solid material

A researcher from India has taken the first definitive step to produce high-speed electronic devices that can operate one million times faster than modern electronics.

At the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, Manish Garg and other researchers used laser light to generate very high frequency electric current inside a solid material. The electrons were found to be moving at a speed (frequency) close to 1015 (one million billion) hertz; the best achievable speed in modern transistors is only 109 (one billion) hertz. The results were published in Nature.

Conventionally, the motion of electrons (conductivity) is achieved by applying voltage. But Dr. Garg and others controlled the motion of electrons inside the solid material by using laser pulses.

“Light waves are electromagnetic in nature and have very high oscillation frequency of electric and magnetic fields. This ultra-high freq…

First among allies? (Hindu.)

The pressing urgency of post-Brexit trade agreements is forcing the British government into a closer embrace of the Trump administration despite protests

The visits of U.S. presidents to Britain have often been accompanied by public protest. In 1982, when Ronald Reagan visited, tens of thousands of people gathered to protest against his nuclear policy. In 2003, thousands turned out against George W. Bush, reflecting strong public opposition to the war in Iraq, and the strategy of the U.S. President and then British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Still, the public outcry being seen since the extension of an invitation for a state visit to President Donald Trump is unprecedented. At the time of writing, nearly 1.8 million people — U.K. residents and citizens — had signed a petition calling for the state visit not to take place, while thousands took part in demonstrations across the country to oppose the visit, and stand against the travel bans and halting of the refugee programme brought i…

A season to repair relations ( hindu )

It’s time for a comprehensive, open dialogue between India and China to promote communication and connectivity in diverse spheres and preserve the peace on our shared borders

The Chinese Ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, recently put forward some suggestions for improvement of bilateral ties between China and India. The suggestions are timely since relations between the two Asian giants have looked tired and worn in recent months. The voices from the gallery have been worrisome. China’s obduracy on India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) bid, its incomprehensible stand on the listing of known terrorist-progenitor Masood Azhar under the U.N. Security Council’s 1267 Committee, the deployment of Chinese military and engineering assets in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are all pointers to a complex and tension-riddled relationship.

Absence of trust

On the CPEC, the Prime Minister himself, speaking at the Raisina Dialogue in New …

H-1B visa in the spotlight (Hindu.)

There are disconcerting signals from the Trump White House and Capitol Hill of likely changes to the H-1B non-immigrant visa programme in the U.S. for skilled workers in tech jobs. Indian IT firms have been among the top recipients of the 65,000 such visas made available annually via a lottery system, in some years garnering well in excess of 80% of them. However, President Donald Trump, driven by his campaign promise of “Buy American, Hire American”, now has this “specialty occupation worker” visa in his crosshairs. Shares in Indian IT majors took a nosedive last week when an unconfirmed draft executive order leaked to U.S. media houses appeared to call for reform of immigration rules for skilled foreign workers that would raise the salary eligibility for such visas to $130,000, reverse the extensions granted by the Obama administration to the Optional Practical Training programme for foreign graduates in the U.S., and institute a rigorous monitoring system for companies employing L…