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Common Dreams reports: For the first time, solar power is becoming the cheapest form of electricity production in the world, according to new statistics from Bloomberg. While unsubsidized solar has occasionally done better than coal and gas in individual projects, 2016 marked the first time solar power has out-performed fossil fuels on a large scale.

How long before the demonetisation drought dries up India’s villages?
Ashok K. Singh, Daily O
Winter is the time of migration from and to villages. Some migrate at this time of the year to places that offer better employment opportunities and enhanced wages. Some also head back home to lend hands to their families in sowing and harvesting. But this year there is only reverse migration. Workers having lost jobs in the cities. Self-employed, lower middle classes having lost their businesses are returning to their villages. (Related: #Notebandi Frontlines: Onion Rates Halve, Farmers Have No Cash, Can’t Go Cashless)

The top 10% of wage earners in India earn nearly 43% of total wages, finds ILO
Shobhita Dhar, The Times of India
The latest Global Wage Report (2016/17) published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reveals income disparities rife in countries across the world. In most countries wages climb gradually and then jump sharply for the top 10% and, even more, for the highest-paid 1% of employees. For example, the top 1% earn about 15 times as much as the bottom 10% in Viet Nam, but 33 times as much in India. In Europe, the highest-paid 10% receive on average 25.5% of the total wages paid to all employees in their respective countries. In South Africa and India, the lowest-paid 50% receive, respectively, just 11.9% and 17.1% of all wages paid out.

North India, the world’s most-polluted region, faces a conundrum
Live Mint
Data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) shows that northern India witnessed about 36% more fires in 2016, compared with last year, according to Pawan Gupta, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Earth Sciences Technology and Research in Greenbelt, Maryland. India accounted for 14 of the 30 worst polluted cities in the world, according to WHO data on urban pollution released in May. (Related: 1) Punjab crop burning produced around 9000 tonnes of PM2.5: Report 2) Modi’s Varanasi most toxic city of India, has zero good air days: Govt of India’s top pollution watchdog)

India to halt building new coal plants in 2022
Karl Mathiesen, Climate Home
India needs no extra coal power stations until at least 2027, according to the government’s latest draft National Electricity Plan. The plan, released by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) for public consultation, makes no room for further generation capacity beyond the 50GW coal fleet that is under construction. The plan covers two five-year periods beginning in 2017 and 2022. The first period allows for the completion of those plants already being built. But after that, the CEA is planning for zero new thermal power generation before 2027. (Related: NTPC to replace 11 GW of inefficient plants with Rs 50,000 crore investment)

VIDEO: More than 300 Adivasi children lost their lives in Malkangiri: the govt must declare an emergency
India Resists
More than 300 Adivasi children have died in Malkangiri in the past two months of Japanese Encephalitis, official figure says 110 but local activists say the number is much higher.

Water level in 91 major reservoirs reduces
Down to Earth
The water level in 91 major reservoirs of India as of December 15 was at 62 per cent of their total storage capacity or 98.32 billion cubic metre (BCM), a statement by Ministry of Water Resources said. The current storage measures low when compared to last year’s level and the average of previous 10 years. The water level was at 127 per cent of the storage for corresponding period last year while the 10-year-average level stands at 98 per cent of total capacity.

Soon a single tribunal for all inter-state river disputes
Amitabh Sinha, The Indian Express
The government has decided to constitute a single tribunal for resolving all the inter-state river water disputes while subsuming all the existing ones. Currently, there are eight such tribunals in the country and the need for one more tribunal has emerged after a new dispute has arisen between Odisha and Chhattisgarh over Mahanadi river water. Along with this, the government is also planning a specialised data agency which it had envisaged while proposing a new National Water Commission in place of the existing Central Water Commission (CWC) and Central Ground Water Board (CGWB).

Maharashtra government to hand over 1,000 hectare forest land for Jigaon dam
The Indian Express
Maharashtra government has finally decided to hand over 1,055.64 hectares of forest land to state Water Resources Department for the Jigaon dam project in Buldhana district. The project, conceived in 2000, became controversial because of allegations of corruption. Former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and MLC (then with NCP) Sandip Bajoria are named in a petition before Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court which alleges misappropriation of funds in the project.

Hey India, know what’s in your water?
While the government and corporates are pumping funds into the Swachh Bharat mission to ensure every Indian has access to a toilet by 2019, but many seem to be oblivious and ignorant to what happens after the flush. In a reply to a question raised in the Lok Sabha about treatment of sewage, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change replied stating that “nearly 37,000 million litres per day (mld) of untreated sewage water from urban areas flows into rivers across the country because of the wide gap between sewage generation and treatment capacity”. (Related: Peenya effluent getting into Bengaluru’s veggies, says study)

How fluorosis is crippling India and needs urgent attention
Richa Taneja, NDTV
Fluorosis, a disabling disease, is caused by drinking fluoride contaminated water. In India, more than one lakh villages and over 10 million people stand to face disability due to high fluoride content in water. Fluorosis affects children and women the most. Pregnant mothers are most vulnerable to this disease.

Bio-piracy: Govt of India lenient, doesn’t support litigations, as it would affect foreign investment: Study
A just-published study has revealed the Government of India (GoI) has not been supporting litigations arising from violating National Biological Diversity (DB) Act, 2002, pointing towards how the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), the country’s watchdog for implementing the Act, has been at the “receiving end” for most of the litigations.

Gujarat salt cultivators’ forest rights in Little Rann of Kutch not recognized: Agariyas tell Indian People’s Tribunal
Pankti Jog, Counterview
Disappointed with the Gujarat government’s reluctance to recognize their seasonal user rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, over the Wild Ass Sactuary of the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK), agariya salt cultivators of the region have strongly represented their case before the Indian People’s Tribunal, which took place in New Delhi on December 15-16, 2016.

World Bank “Pauses” Arbitration on Indus Waters Treaty, Urges India-Pakistan to Talk
The Citizen
The World Bank has announced a “pause” in arbitration between India and Pakistan on the construction of matters arising out of the Indus Waters Treaty, calling on both countries to “to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements”. It has urged them to sort out their differences and problems by January 2017.The World Bank made it clear that it was pausing the processes initiated by both the countries for arbitration in the interests of the Treaty, to ensure that it was safeguarded.

Sun Solution Rises as Solar Fast Becoming World’s Cheapest Electricity Source
Common Dreams
For the first time, solar power is becoming the cheapest form of electricity production in the world, according to new statistics from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) released Thursday. While unsubsidized solar has occasionally done better than coal and gas in individual projects, 2016 marked the first time that the renewable energy source has out-performed fossil fuels on a large scale—and new solar projects are also turning out to be cheaper than new wind power projects, BNEF reports in its new analysis, Climatescope.

This Melting Glacier in Antarctica Could Raise Sea Levels By 11 Feet
Grennan Milliken, Vice
Greenland’s hulking glacier and the Arctic Sea ice are now marked by their rapid melting. And the western Antarctic ice sheet has garnered a lot of attention recently, too. But while scientists were fretting over the western side of Antarctica, the eastern Antarctic ice sheet has been melting too. Australian researchers braved treacherous sea conditions to collect data on the melting Totten Ice Shelf there, which holds up a body of ice that would cause over 11 feet of sea level rise, if it melted. Their findings are published in the journal Science Advances. (Related: 1) The Arctic just had its hottest year on record ‘by far,’ scientists say 2) Shrinking mountain glaciers are ‘categorical evidence’ of climate change, scientists say)

Smog engulfs area home to 460 million citizens as Northern China sees worst air pollution of 2016
orthern China’s 23-city air pollution red alert has become the most serious air pollution episode of the year, affecting a population equivalent to that of the US, Canada and Mexico combined. Approximately 200 million citizens across six provinces are experiencing “hazardous” levels of smog, and a further 260 million seeing “heavy” pollution (see Map 1).[1] In the last 24 hours, a total of eight cities, including two provincial capitals, experienced “off the charts” pollution.

Threat Of A Hacking Attack On Nuclear Plants Is Growing: UN
The “nightmare scenario” is rising for a hacking attack on a nuclear power plant’s computer system that causes the uncontrolled release of radiation, the United Nations’ deputy chief warned Thursday. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told a Security Council meeting that extremists and “vicious non-state groups” are actively seeking weapons of mass destruction “and these weapons are increasingly accessible.” Non-state actors can already create mass disruption using cyber technologies – and hacking a nuclear plant would be a “nightmare scenario,” he said.

This is not normal – climate researchers take to the streets to protect science
The Guardian
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and for scientists, these are desperate measures. Tuesday in San Francisco’s Jessie Square, approximately 500 people gathered for a ‘rally to stand up for science.’ Many of the attendees were scientists who had migrated to the rally from the nearby Moscone Center, where some 26,000 Earth scientists are attending the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference this week. This was an unusual activity for scientists to participate in; after all, they’re often accused of remaining isolated in the ivory towers of academia. (Related: Did Trump Just Make Peace With The Renewables Lobby?)

Global Network of Mayors Join Forces to Combat Climate Change and Inequality
Cat Johnson, Shareable
Cities around the world face the effects of climate change and wealth inequality. To address these pressing, global issues many mayors are stepping up as powerful, and vital, voices for creating low carbon, healthy cities that address climate as well as social issues. At the recent C40 Mayor’s Summit in Ciudad de México, which was the largest group of local leaders fighting climate change since COP21 in Paris, mayors gathered to advance a shared agenda, share knowledge, and increase the visibility of climate solutions in cities.

CRISPR heavyweights battle in US patent court
On 6 December, lawyers for the university laid out its claim to the gene-editing tool called CRISPR–Cas9 during a hearing at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) — and drew intense, sometimes sceptical, questioning from the three judges who will decide the fate of patents that could be worth billions of dollars. Berkeley and its rival, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are each vying for the intellectual property underlying CRISPR–Cas9, which is adapted from a system that bacteria use to fend off viruses.

Corporation fined record £2m for sewage leak on the UK’s Kent beaches
The Guardian
Southern Water has been fined a record £2m for flooding beaches in Kent with raw sewage, leaving them closed to the public for nine days. The Environment Agency called the event “catastrophic”, while the judge at Maidstone crown court said on Monday that Southern Water’s repeat offending was “wholly unacceptable”. The company apologised unreservedly, as it did when fined £200,000 in 2013 for similar offences.

Who Won The 2016 Oil War?
Tsvetana Paraskova, Oil Price
Heading into the New Year with oil prices above US$50, both OPEC and the U.S. shale industry are claiming victory in the latest oil war battle—and both expect to benefit from higher prices, but there can really only be one winner here. The oil price crash of 2014 has left OPEC scrambling to offset declining revenues while trying to maintain their much-coveted market share. The price bust – the consequence of a shale boom and the pump-at-will policy of that very same OPEC despite the global oil glut – has sent the U.S. shale patch trying to adapt to lower crude prices by slashing investments and costs and scaling back production.

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