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Nikhil Dey & Aruna Roy writes: The cynical attitude towards the MGNREGA is an example of how policymakers are deliberately — by squeezing funds and subverting the legal mandate of the law — causing immeasurable misery and suffering. Through the fund squeeze, the government has consciously crippled the MGNREGA’s ability to help people facing drought.

India heading towards becoming major agricultural importer after two failed monsoons
The Economic Times
Green Revolution? Think again. India is heading towards becoming a major agricultural importer after two failed monsoons. The country has started shopping around the globe for stuff it exported until last year.

Starving MGNREGA
Nikhil Dey & Aruna Roy, The Indian Express
As India faces the onslaught of another severe drought, and water, food, and employment dry up, the government will claim that it is doing its best to cope with the adversity. But, given the facts, that will be a patently false statement. The cynical attitude towards the MGNREGA is an example of how policymakers are deliberately and knowingly — by squeezing funds and subverting the legal mandate of the law — causing immeasurable misery and suffering to people. Through the fund squeeze, the government has consciously crippled the MGNREGA’s ability to help people facing drought.

How Indian Cities Are Being Shorn Of Trees
Deepa Padmanaban, IndiaSpend
* Kolkata’s tree cover fell from 23.4% to 7.3% over 20 years; built-up area up 190%. By 2030, vegetation will be 3.37% of Kolkata’s area. * Ahmedabad’s tree cover fell from 46% to 24% over 20 years; built-up area up 132%. By 2030, vegetation will be 3% of Ahmedabad’s area. * Bhopal’s tree cover fell from 66% to 22% over 22 years. By 2018, it will be 11% of city’s area. * Hyderabad’s tree cover fell from 2.71% to 1.66% over 20 years. By 2024, it will be 1.84% of city’s area. These are the findings of a new Indian Institute of Science study that used satellite-borne sensors, compared images over decades and modeled past and future growth to reveal the rate of urbanisation in four Indian cities.

Modi’s Plan to Clean Up World’s Worst Air Resisted by Indian Power Generators
Rajesh Kumar Singh & Anindya Upadhyay, Bloomberg
India’s effort to clean up the world’s worst air is facing resistance from power producers who say the government is asking them to spend too much and revamp old plants too quickly. The nation’s first steps to limit toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants may cost 2.5 trillion rupees ($37 billion) and will take longer than the two-year deadline set by the government, according to the New Delhi-based Association of Power Producers, a lobby group of non-state power generation companies. “There are financing challenges, implementation challenges, administrative challenges and regulatory challenges,” said Ashok Khurana, APP’s director general. “The two-year deadline is just impractical. It’s impossible.”

Instead Of Migrant Politics, Why Climate Change Must Take Center Stage In Assam
Syed A. A. Farhan, Youth Ki Awaaz
Assam is not directly affected by the rising sea levels due to climate change. It does, however, bear the brunt of the changes in Bangladesh. The effects of climate change are slated to cause extreme weather conditions due to increased cyclonic activity in the Bay of Bengal. Already, the flow of migrants between Assam and Bangladesh is considered to be the largest in the world. While the Congress focuses on job creation and promises innovation centers, the BJP has decided to make the issue of illegal immigrants in Assam a major poll bank concern.

How Monsanto Found An Able Adversary in the Sangh Parivaar
Naren Karunakaran, The Times of India
The Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) -an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological fount of the Modi government -which lobbied hard and helped skewer agribusiness multinational Monsanto with a price control regimen recently on genetically modified (Bt) cotton seeds is girding up for a long battle ahead. It is now pushing the government to create a network of six new agriculture universities entirely focused on organics implying that the existing research and extension network is compromised. Genetically modified (GM) crops do not figure in its grand plans for the future although the BKS makes it clear that they are not against science, as some would put it, and that they are only keen on a robust regulatory regime to ensure safety and environmental concerns are upheld.

Mumbai BJP asks cricket board to shift IPL matches out of Maharashtra because of drought
The Mumbai unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party has asked the Board of Control for Cricket in India to shift Indian Premier League cricket matches out of the state because of prevailing drought conditions, reported PTI. In a letter, city BJP Secretary Vivekanand Gupta said more than 70 lakh litres of water will be needed to maintain the grounds for the 19 matches scheduled to be played at Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur between April 9 and May 29.

Hill women no longer panic over water scarcity
India Together
In many parts of rural India, women spend most of their time walking long distances to collect water for their household’s needs. Nitin Jugran Bahuguna visits the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand where the women no longer have to worry about fetching water from long distances thanks to an intervention that has brought potable water right to their doorstep. (Also read: Report on a similar initiative in Maharashtra’s Mhaswad)

Protein rich western diets are unsustainable: Global Food Policy report
Live Mint
Climate change will continue to have a negative impact on agriculture, and every year about 12 million hectares of land is degraded because of drought and desertification, said a new report released on Thursday. It added that global agriculture accounts for a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions, and climate-ready crops that are water-efficient are key to feeding the growing population. The Global Food Policy Report 2016 by the International Food Policy Research Institute also came down heavily on animal protein rich Western diets, which it said were unsustainable and impacting the environment. Beef production requires four times more land than cattle for every unit of protein, and beef is seven times more resource-intensive than pork and poultry, the report said.

A Nightmare Is Unfolding in the Great Barrier Reef
Maddie Stone, Gizmodo
This week, marine biologists dropped some horribly depressing news: the Great Barrier Reef is dying. The world’s largest reef is in the midst of a widespread coral bleaching event, and scientists aren’t sure whether it will fully recover. Over the past few days, Terry Hughes of James Cook University has led aerial surveys of more than 500 reefs from Cairns to Papa New Guinea, including the most pristine sections of the Great Barrier Reef. Everywhere Hughes traveled, he was met with a nightmarish scene—the ghostly white remains of a once vibrant ecosystem. All told, Hughes estimates that 95 percent of the northern Great Barrier Reef is “severely bleached,” marking the worst such event on record.

Is Climate Change Putting  World’s Microbiomes at Risk?
Jim Robbins, Yale Environment 360
Researchers are only beginning to understand the complexities of the microbes in the earth’s soil and the role they play in fostering healthy ecosystems. Now, climate change is threatening to disrupt these microbes and the key functions they provide.

Judge Approves Historic $20 Billion Settlement for 2010 BP Oil Spill
Common Dreams
A federal judge in New Orleans on Monday gave final approval to a historic $20 billion settlement in the years-long legal battle over the 2010 BP oil spill that killed 11 workers and devastated coastal communities in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Associated Press, the settlement includes “$5.5 billion in civil Clean Water Act penalties and billions more to cover environmental damage and other claims by the five Gulf states and local governments. The money is to be paid out over a 16-year period.” The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) estimated that it will cost BP as much as $20.8 billion, while the company says other related expenses, such as cleaning efforts and various other settlements, will exceed $53 billion.

Amid Climate-Fueled Food Crisis, Filipino Forces Open Fire on Starving Farmers
Common Dreams
Police and army forces shot at about 6,000 starving farmers and Lumad Indigenous people demonstrating for drought relief in the Philippines on Friday, ultimately killing 10. The farmers and Indigenous people had been blockading a highway in the Cotabato province for four days in a desperate plea for government aid, after this winter’s record-breaking temperatures produced a three-months-long drought that has destroyed their crops and now threatens their lives. The demonstrators were asking the government to provide 15,000 sacks of rice to ease the hunger crisis. Provincial governor Emmylou Mendoza has refused to engage the protesters.

Report: Health Impacts from Climate Change a ‘New Kind of Threat’ (with No Easy Cure)
Common Dreams
Climate change is a serious threat to public health, particularly for pregnant women, children, communities of color, and low-income people, a government report issued Monday has warned. The report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment finds that rising temperatures in the coming years will bring along with them the increased risk of: death from heat stroke, particularly in the summer months; chronic and acute respiratory issues; vector-borne illnesses like the West Nile virus and Lyme disease, as well as the new emergence of new pathogens; chemical toxins in the food chain; and mental health consequences of being exposed to climate disasters—among a litany of other risks.

Adani’s Carmichael mine is just not going to happen
Michael West, Sydney Morning Herald
Adani is not going to happen; the construction, that is, of the leviathan Carmichael mine, the world’s largest thermal coal mine in the hinterland of the Great Barrier Reef. Much is the wailing and gnashing of teeth at the move by the Queensland government to approve the project but this approval is entirely political. It is all about the appearance of commitment to jobs, jobs that will never occur unless the coal price doubles, and it is about the government not getting bashed up by the opposition for being anti-jobs and abandoning its election commitments.

UK Emissions Lowest since the 1920s as Renewables Overtake Coal
Simon Evans, Carbon Brief
UK CO2 emissions fell to their lowest level since the 1920s last year as renewables generated more electricity than coal for the first time ever, provisional statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) show. The figures, showing a 4.1% reduction in CO2 emissions between 2014 and 2015, confirm Carbon Brief analysis published last month, which estimated a 4.3% fall. DECC also reports a 3.3% reduction in UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.

Wall Street’s Retreat From King Coal
The New York Times
JPMorgan Chase announced this month that it would no longer finance new coal-fired power plants in the United States or other advanced nations, joining Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley in retreating from a fuel that provides about one-third of the nation’s electricity and accounts for about one-quarter of the carbon emissions that feed global warming. Cleaner and cheaper natural gas is fast becoming the preferred investment, a blunt marketplace reality that is sure to weaken coal’s grip on the planet as much as moral and environmental concerns. Last week’s announcement by Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, that it may have to seek bankruptcy protection, just as three other major coal producers have done recently, provided a dramatic confirmation of this trend.

What Low Oil Prices Really Mean
Bernhard Hartmann & Saji Sam, Harvard Business Review
Nobody really knows what oil prices will be in the future, but we think countries and companies should prepare for oil to hover around $50 per barrel for the foreseeable future. Historically this wouldn’t be shocking at all. In fact, today’s oil prices that we think of as low are actually near the real average price of a barrel of oil for the last 150 years: $35 (2014 US dollar reference year). What is surprising though, is the fundamental shift we think is happening. The current low oil price environment is not an “oil bust” that will be followed by an “oil boom” in the near future. Instead, it looks as if we have entered a new normal of lower oil prices that will impact not just oil and gas producers but also every nation, company, and person depending on it.

Unfolding The World’s Biggest Oil Bribery Scandal
Nick Cunningham, Oil Price
Last week, a sweeping investigative report published by The Huffington Post and Fairfax Media put a little known Monaco-based company, Unaoil, at the center of a wide-ranging bribery scandal that involved dozens of corporate giants from around the world. The article calls it the “world’s biggest bribe scandal.” The Huffington Post and Fairfax Media published a bombshell report on the bribery empire setup by Unaoil, a company based in Monaco. The report alleges that “Unaoil and its subcontractors bribed foreign officials to help major multinational corporations win contracts” in a variety of countries including Iraq, Kazakhstan, Iran, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and many more countries in Africa, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union.

Go wild to protect food security, says study
BBC News
More needs to be done to ensure wild relatives of our key food crops are conserved for future generations, a study has said. Researchers are concerned the genetic diversity of these vital plants are not being adequately stored in gene banks. They say characteristics such as drought or heat resilience could be lost forever unless action is taken to preserve these genetic traits. The findings have been published in the journal Nature Plants. An international team of scientists found that “the diversity of crop wild relatives is poorly represented in gene banks”. In their assessment, they identified more than 70% of 1,036 wild relatives of 81 important food crops as a high priority for further collection.

“Another Crisis Is Certain”, Warns Former Bank Of England Chief
Zero Hedge
“The global economy risks becoming trapped in a low growth, low inflation, low interest rate equilibrium,” BOE governor Mark Carney warned, in a speech at the G20 summit in Shanghai. “For the past seven years, growth has serially disappointed—sometimes spectacularly,” he added. That’s a bit of unwelcome “truthiness” from one of the world’s most powerful central bankers and it comes as his predecessor, the incomparable Mervyn King, warns that a new financial crisis is “certain.”

How Ocean Noise Pollution Wreaks Havoc on Marine Life
Richard Schiffman, Yale Environment 360
Marine scientist Christopher Clark has spent his career listening in on what he calls “the song of life” in the world’s oceans. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he explains how these marine habitats are under assault from extreme—but preventable—noise pollution.

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