Livelihoods, Ecology and Climate Change, 15th September 2018

A concept you learned in middle school math could save us from climate disaster

The world has around 3 million (30 lakh) buses.

Most run on diesel and compressed natural gas. The global fleet of electric buses now totals around 385,000 vehicles – and 99% of those are in China.

China is adding a London-sized electric bus fleet every five weeks

Every five weeks, 9,500 brand new electric buses take to the roads in China.

That’s the equivalent of the entire London bus fleet, says a new report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

NDTV News: US to miss Paris climate pact target by a third: Report.

Economic Times: Can the trapped Paris Climate Agreement be rescued?

Our dangerous indifference to the world’s richest ecosystem: Natural wetlands

Did you know that wetlands cover more than 12.1 million kilometres worldwide? Wetlands are a vital source of life. Still, wetlands are grossly misunderstood and dangerously underappreciated.

The world’s wetlands support 1 billion livelihoods. They provide fresh water. They deliver 266 million jobs. They’re an important source of food, that feeds 3.5 billion people.

The Carolinas’ toxic stew: Florence approaches a region rife with Superfund sites, chemical plants, coal ash — and thousands of industrial hog farms with lagoons filled with pig waste.

Hurricane Florence is a climate change triple threat

If we don’t act on climate change, the destruction potential of slow-moving storms such as Harvey and Florence will only get worse.

Climate change means Hurricane Florence will dump 50% more rain

Japan and climate change – leader turned laggard

In 1997, Japan was at the forefront of climate action. Today, it’s a laggard hyper-actively financing coal in Asia. Just as bad, it has ambitions to build 40 new coal-fired power plants at home, on top of 100 existing ones.

With Europe working toward minimum cuts of 40% in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels) by 2030 and China aiming for non-fossil power to account for more than 50% of total power generation by the same date, Japan needs to sharpen up its act or risk getting left behind in terms of efficiency and technology, as well as the environment.

Fortunately, many of the country’s largest corporations are pursuing a low-carbon future.

Sustainable construction could be a solution to India’s plastic waste crisis.

In India, 15,000 tonnes of plastic are dumped in the streets everyday due to unsuitable recycling alternatives But guess what? India could construct buildings from recycled plastic and solve its plastics crisis

The study, in partnership with colleagues from Goa Engineering College India, demonstrated that replacing 10 per cent of sand in concrete with plastic waste could simultaneously solve a national sand shortage and reduce the growing amounts of rubbish on the streets.

UN warns climate change is driving global hunger

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization warns that climate change is driving world hunger.

1 in 9 people worldwide go hungry. That is 821 (over 82 crores) MILLION. Yet there is enough food to feed EVERYONE.

A drying Ganga could stall food security and prevent achieving SDGs

A study forecasts that in the absence of interventions, groundwater contribution to Ganga river’s water flow would continue diminishing in the summer for the next 30 years.

The dwindling of Ganga river would severely affect water available for surface water irrigation, with potential future decline in food production. This decline in river flow also has implications for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Experts, not associated with the study, also pointed to the combined blow of surface and groundwater misuse has beleaguered the Ganga river basin. Agricultural inefficiency is a chink in the chain, they say, when it comes to sustainable water use.

A women’s group in Ladakh is fighting to save the region’s environment, help conserve water

Women’s Alliance of Ladakh, which had earlier enforced a plastic ban, is now encouraging farmers to go back to traditional practices owing to water scarcity.

Opinion: Why Are Himalayan and North Eastern States staring down the barrel of a water crisis? 

The recent NITI Aayog’s recent report titled, ‘Composite Water Management Index’ (CWMI)’ showed a dismal performance of the Himalayan and North Eastern states on water use and conservation. Why are Himalayan and North Eastern states staring down the barrel of a water crisis? WaterAid India’s Nirma Bora tries to answer in this article in NDTV. 


The frequency of extreme weather events is increasing, and the Kerala floods point to a key tension in India’s disaster relief framework.

Women farmers suffer due to unequal land rights

Although they are often the actual cultivators, the lack of land rights among women farmers in Odisha has resulted in chronic distress because they are unable to get government loans or compensation over crop loss.

Google Earth Voyager’s website – (computing resource intensive)

Explore sea level rise and the fate of coastal cities, now featured on Google Earth’s Voyager website. 

Livelihoods, Ecology and Climate Change, 8th September 2018

“They’re easy to overlook, and often hard to find, but urban trees are every bit as important to cities as water, sewer and transportation systems.”   


Heads of state must intervene to fix climate process

Former UN climate chief Yvo De Boer says trust underpinning global negotiations can only be restored at the highest political level. He says climate action is faltering because of “the perception that rich nations have not met their ‘obligations’”

“We cannot build a tower of ambition on a bedrock of broken promises,” he says, and outlines his views on what needs to be done for trust to be rebuilt. …

Bangkok Bulletin: UN calls for more time

The UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa wrote to governments on Thursday to let them know that the Katowice COP24 would start a day earlier than scheduled – on 2 December. “An early opening of the session will provide an opportunity to make the best use of the time available to finalize negotiations,”

1.50C carbon budget

One of the key findings in an upcoming report from the UN science panel, IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is worrying climate spin doctors in Bangkok.

The IPCC will publish a special report in October on the tougher 1.50C temperature target, which will set the tone for Katowice.

A key question is: what level of emissions will tip the world over the 1.50C threshold? There is a range of estimates of that “carbon budget” and the judgement of which to foreground has big political implications. As Climate Home News reported, that choice changed between the first and second drafts, with no explanation.

If the scientists pick a low number, it kills vulnerable communities’ hopes of staying within the safer limit. If they go high, it implies the 20C outer edge of ambition is achievable without further effort – not an easy message.

(Climate Home News email bulletin of 6th September)

Armed with faded copies, four diplomats write the rules of the Paris climate deal

A journey from 5°C to 2°C

5°C is the temperature increase above pre-industrial levels we are heading for if we follow our path of limited or no climate policy. 2°C is the temperature increase above pre-industrial levels that most countries around the world have agreed would prevent dangerous climate change.

There will be climate impacts at 2°C, but we believe we can manage them. This journey will describe how the energy system must change if we go from 5°C to 2°C.

So is getting to 2°C feasible?

– Yes, says Peters.

– But only in the models.

The models that take us to a world where global warming is limited to 2°C, are much too optimistic, according to Glen Peters at CICERO (Center for International Climate Research).

Summer sees heat and extreme weather

The summer of 2018 was marked by heat, floods, drought and fire. A trend which is consistent with climate change. WMO (World Meteorological Organization) summary is here. 

You’ve heard of outsourced jobs, but outsourced pollution? It’s real, and tough to tally up

Over the past decade, both the United States and Europe have made major strides in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions at home. That trend is often held up as a sign of progress in the fight against climate change.

But those efforts look a lot less impressive once you take trade into account. Many wealthy countries have effectively “outsourced” a big chunk of their carbon pollution overseas, by importing more steel, cement and other goods from factories in China and other places, rather than producing it domestically.

Don’t be fooled: Weather is not climate

Weather is affected by climate

…Because of this, many people are nervous when talking about extreme weather events in a climate context. But a changing climate can “load the dice” on weather, making certain kinds of extreme event more likely. For example: the amount of water vapor that the atmosphere can hold increases with temperature. Heat it up by 1° F, and the moisture content increases by about 3 percent. The result? More intense rainstorms. Similarly, heat waves happen more often when the planet as a whole gets warmer.

‘Archived’ heat has reached deep into the Arctic interior, researchers say 

Arctic sea ice isn’t just threatened by the melting of ice around its edges, a new study has found: Warmer water that originated hundreds of miles away has penetrated deep into the interior of the Arctic.

That “archived” heat, currently trapped below the surface, has the potential to melt the region’s entire sea-ice pack if it reaches the surface, researchers say.

Greenhouse gases are bubbling up in Arctic lakes

From Bad to Worse. The bad news: Global warming is thawing Arctic permafrost. And that’s releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The really bad news: It’s happening faster than we previously thought.

That’s the conclusion of a NASA-funded research project undertaken by researchers from the University of Alaska. They published their study in the journal Nature Communications on August 15.

Tropical forests are flipping from storing carbon to releasing it

Illegal logging and land seizures are driving this ominous yet overlooked scientific trend.

Mismanaged plastic waste

Mismanaged plastic waste is defined as “plastic that is either littered or inadequately disposed. Inadequately disposed waste is not formally managed and includes disposal in dumps or open, uncontrolled landfills, where it is not fully contained. Mismanaged waste could eventually enter the ocean via inland waterways, wastewater outflows, and transport by wind or tides.”

From 1950-2015 the world produced ~8.3 billion tonnes of plastics. Where did it go?

– 55% straight to landfill

– 30% still in use

– 8% incinerated

– 6-7% recycled.

Of 5.8 billion tonnes no longer in use, ~9% recycled. and 

90% of plastic polluting our oceans comes from just 10 rivers.

UN treaty would protect high seas from over exploitation

These waters, defined as the open ocean far from coastlines, are threatened by deep-sea mining, over-fishing and the patenting of marine genetic resources.

Over the next two years, government representatives aim to hammer out a binding agreement to protect them against over-exploitation.


Rainfall anomalies and flooding of the Siang

India’s traditional wisdom in coping with extreme weather

In large parts of the subcontinent where floods or droughts are annual or recurring events, people in rural areas have evolved location-specific strategies to deal with the disasters and unusual weather.

Gujarat’s water crisis rooted in years of misplaced priorities

West Bengal, where erosion leads to land loss

2018 State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report

New National Wildlife Action Plan from WII (Wildlife Institute of India)

You may download from website

Livelihoods, Ecology and Climate Change, 1st September 2018



Yes. “A 20 cm rise in sea-level (global warming) could make Kolkata vulnerable.

Today at least we have a shock absorber in East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW).

Tomorrow, with EKW gone, Kolkata may disappear.



Low lying Chennai was protected from rising waters by wetlands.

Then Chennai built real estate over its wetlands. Less than 30 of 650 water bodies remain.

Result: Chennai’s 2015 floods was one of the worst in memory. Displacing hundreds. Causing 2 $+ damages.

So when someone argues ‘It is only a flyover’, don’t be fooled.

This could be the beginning of the end.

(In public interest by Trisys)

A global environmental threat made in China

From large-scale dam-building to unbridled resource-exploitation, human activity is causing serious damage to Himalayan ecosystems. While all the countries in the region are culpable to some extent, none is doing as much harm as China.

Desertification and desert control along the Brahmaputra in Tibet

Flash floods and glacier melting and glacial lakes can cause Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) that carry moraines to the lower part of the river and the river bed becomes shallow. Stone, mud and sand cover a vast area along the river. The areas covered by moraine and sand along the Brahmaputra River from Tibet to Assam are expanding every year.

Assam DGP asks Karbi Anglong district SP to act against illegal stone quarrying and mining.

Finally, can ardent activists look forward to some positive action?…

Tackling Food Waste in a Hungry Nation

India is one of the largest food producers in the world. But thanks to food waste, crores go hungry.

Destabilising nature of interstate water wars

The often bitter battles between States in sharing of river waters pose a serious threat to India’s federal polity.

The World

On climate change and carbon dioxide removal

The one proven low-cost carbon dioxide removal technology is the tree. Reforestation is the most effective approach.

Climate change: local efforts won’t be enough to undo Trump’s inaction, study says 

Onus still falls on national governments to cut emissions to stave off worst impacts of climate change, Yale researchers say.

John McCain’s climate change legacy

“I do believe that Americans, and we who are policymakers in all branches of government, should be concerned about mounting evidence that indicates that something is happening.” — John McCain discussing climate change.

Survey reveals 70% of Americans favour the environment over economic growth

The climate opinion map, published earlier this month, depicts estimates of the percentage of Americans, aged 25 and over, who have particular beliefs, attitudes and policy preferences on global warming. The information comes from a large national survey dataset of 22,000 people which was collected between 2008 and 2018.

‘Apocalyptic threat’: dire climate report raises fears for California’s future

State wide assessment, which comes amid summer of extreme wildfires, warns of deadly cost if climate change is not stopped.

South Asia’s Hotspots 

A new World Bank report, South Asia’s Hotspots, finds that average temperatures in the region have increased in the last sixty years and will continue rising. Eight hundred million South Asians are at risk to see their standards of living and incomes decline as rising temperatures and more erratic rainfalls will cut down crop yields, make water more scare, and push more people away from their homes to seek safer places.


Livelihoods, Ecology and Climate Change, 25th August 2018


Fury of floods: shall we learn some lessons

Extraordinary tragedy in Kerala has brought into sharp focus the persistent, pervasive and profound neglect of drainage, waterbodies, conservation of catchment areas, excessive denudation of forest, and several other areas of resource management. With environmental clearance further relaxed by the Ministry of Forest and environment, such disasters are likely to recur more often and widely. The human deaths are most tragic but animal deaths are no less tragic. Let me enumerate the factors which are well known but needs restatement responsible for floods: having excessive rains in western ghat area is not extraordinary. In 1924, the rainfall was almost double but the loss was much less. Why has damage increased with less intense rainfall? The western ghats have been denuded and devastated with unbridled exploitation through mining. Gadgil Committee had suggested conservation measure which were ignored by everybody including civil society. His report was seen as anti-development. The chickens have come to roost now.

The damage in the catchment area can be easily seen through ISRO maps. The filling up of tanks and urban water bodies can also be mapped block by block through similar maps. The frequency of landslides, the turbidity of river water due to soil erosion and various other blockages of drainage can be mapped and quantified.

The point is clear: the persistent neglect of desilted tanks and cleaned up drainage channels is bound to precipitate floods with even lesser rain in future. This is a countrywide problem but Kerala is a special case because it receives already very heavy rainfall both at the time of onset and recession of monsoon.

The landslides and damage to the road are no less serious. Some of this will have a cascading effect. While rainfall cannot be managed, but its consequences can be. Post-flood several other adverse consequences for human, animal and environmental health are going to follow. The shallow water wells have been polluted by the flood, a lot of them will need cleaning and treatment. The carcass of animals which died due to floods will cause serious environmental and health problems. Collection of these carcasses and safe disposal would need a time-bound strategy. Use of DDT and such other persistent organic pollutants will be disastrous for the environment. They will further pollute the future generation through the breast milk of the mothers.

The damage to the buildings poses a challenge of disposing debris properly. The widely prevalent unfortunate practice of dumping waste in low lying areas will further clog the drainage channels. The floods will become more frequent.

The biodiversity in the western ghats helped in slowing down the flow of water and thus the rate of erosion. Higher the denudation and mining, greater the erosion and siltation of rivers and tanks and thus higher the overflow. The system of tanks all along the rivers acted as a buffer. Maharashtra recently witnessed hiring JCBs by self help groups and other NGOs to desilt the tanks before rain. The results have been extremely impressive. Kerala will have to create new rituals to take similar steps to ensure lesser fury of floods and minimal damage to property and people. Many infections will spread after flood and preventive medication for human and animal use are imperative. Rivers have dumped a lot of waste that we had put in them back into our backyards. Cleaning up of all these wastes without creating more problems requires careful thinking and application of technology and innovations in handling them.

The loss has been extraordinary and the Honey Bee Network expresses deep condolence to all the bereaved families. We feel equally sorry for the livestock and pets lost during flood. We will in fact be very disappointed if no lessons are learnt, no course correction takes place in the future policy of managing resources, drainage, conservation and sanitation. We are very optimistic that Kerala will show the way for the future transformation.

The author is founder of Honey Bee Network & visiting faculty at IIM-A

Kerala shows how floods are changing

…The crisis is a timely reminder that climate change is expected to increase the frequency and magnitude of severe flooding across the world. Although no single flood can be linked directly to climate change, basic physics attests to the fact that a warmer world and atmosphere will hold more water, which will result in more intense and extreme rainfall…

Remote sensing data shows massive erosion of forests in Kerala

Between 1973 and 2016, Kerala lost 9,06,440 hectares of forest land, more than 50% of the present forest cover, according to an Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc) study…

Kerala flood lesson for Assam: Experts

The similarity is a network of dams in the “control of other States” surrounding both the States

…‘Flood-experienced’ Assam can learn a lesson from the Kerala deluge to avoid large-scale disaster, say water resources and ecology experts in the Northeast. The experts have found a similar pattern to recurrent floods in Assam – up to four times a year between April and October – and Kerala’s worst flood in 100 years that has claimed 357 lives so far.

The most worrying similarity is a network of dams in the “control of other States” surrounding Kerala and Assam.

“We have had Kerala-like floods albeit on a smaller scale because of hydropower projects in neighbouring States and in adjoining Bhutan. Assam has been rain-deficient by 30% this year, but Golaghat district experienced flash flood due to the release of excess water by the Doyang dam in Nagaland,” Partha Jyoti Das, a water resources specialist, told The Hindu…

…Arunachal Pradesh too is wary of the impact of big dams. “The river Siang (one of three that meet to form the Brahmaputra downstream) has suffered from dams and other constructions in China upstream,” Pasighat-based green activist Vijay Taram said…

India Needs To Fix Its Flawed Water Equation

…A recent European Commission report counted more than 2 crore (200 million) boreholes in India, up from tens of thousands in the 1960s. The water table is falling on average by 0.3 meters and by as much as 4 meters in some places. Some farmers in these parched states now need to dig 300 feet (91 meters) for water, compared to five feet (1.5 meters) in the 1960s, according to research by a local government scientist. They have been drilling wells deep beneath the tilled soil into the volcanic rock — 700 feet, 800 feet, even 900 feet down. Lately, though, many farmers drill wells and find nothing at all. In some severely affected areas, bore wells as deep as 500 meters (1,640 feet) have all gone dry. The underground water level has dropped so much that there is no water at all…

India’s new compensatory afforestation rules dilute rights of forest dwellers

Forest dwellers and tribal communities may no longer play a key role in management of their forests as the new Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Rules dilute the powers of the Gram Sabhas (village councils).


Climate Change: in simple barcodes, Australia, other countries and globally

This is Australia’s climate bar code 1910-2017. The darkest blue is the coldest year, the darkest red the warmest. If there was no trend, the bars would be random…

Annual global temperatures from 1850-2017…

Australian prime minister ousted

As prime minister Malcolm Turnbull stepped down this week, he warned the ruling coalition had been captured by ideologues who made it tough to get any agreement on climate and energy policy. Roll on next year’s federal election.

On Monday, prime minister Turnbull had admitted he could not get support in his party for electricity carbon targets, weak though the proposals were. By Friday, he had been ousted.

His successor, Scott Morrison, infamously brandished a lump of coal in parliament last year. He’s no tree-hugger.

It could have been worse for the climate. Morrison narrowly defeated a candidate, Peter Dutton, who raised the alarming prospect of Australia quitting the Paris Agreement. That risk has receded.

USA and Coal

The Trump administration revealed its replacement for the US Clean Power Plan, which allows more coal pollution. It justifies the change by ignoring the cost of climate change to the rest of the world and barely valuing the impact on future generations, NYT’s Brad Plumer explains. Think Progress looks at likely legal challenges to the new rule. Miners are grateful for the support but hold no illusions about the industry’s ultimate demise, reports E&E’s Zack Colman from West Virginia.

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Arctic’s strongest sea ice breaks up for first time on record

The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer.

This phenomenon – which has never been recorded before – has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and a climate-change driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere.

One meteorologist described the loss of ice as “scary”. Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest.

FAO Projections

In 2012, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said we would need to produce 60% more food by 2050. FAO’s baseline was 2005-07: they meant 60% more than in 2005-07. We’ve increased production a lot since then. 1/

60% was a price-weighted-average of all foods, with much of the cereal growth being required for meat growth. The increased production of cereals was reckoned to be 46%. But since cereals have already grown by 24%, we’re a good part of the way there already. 2/

Many people are still saying that we need to increase food production by 60%, ignoring growth in production in the last decade. Hunter et al (2017) calculate that growth in cereal yield could actually slow down and we’d still reach the goal.   3/

FAO’s forecast is based primarily on growth in population and in improvement in living standards. That is, more people overall and more middle-class people, who will demand meat. 4/

By saying we ‘must’ increase food production by this much amounts to setting this as a hard constraint, a bottom line that over-rides other considerations. 5/

Hunter et al say this faulty interpretation of the forecasts “fosters a produce-at-all-costs mentality, which may exacerbate existing environmental challenges by increasing the use of fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, and tillage.” 6/6

(Interestingly, developed and developing countries today have similar rates of food waste, but for different reasons. Countries that become richer won’t necessarily reduce their food waste).

World Water Week

Based at Colombo, International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is a non-profit, scientific research organization focusing on the sustainable use of water and land resources in developing countries.

Whereas, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) organised World Water Week (WWW – this year from 26-30 August), is a key annual focal point for discussion of global water issues. This year the theme is Water, ecosystems and human development.

In an attempt to reach beyond the walls of World Water Week and engage a wider water conscious audience, SIWI will be broadcasting a number of events live on Vimeo and Facebook throughout the week. 

Carbon Pricing 2018

Discover more about the growing momentum for carbon pricing worldwide with the “State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2018” report. Download: 


Livelihoods, Ecology and Climate Change,18th August 2018

 “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.”

“All economic activity is dependent upon that environment and its underlying resource base of forests, water, air, soil, and minerals. When the environment is finally forced to file for bankruptcy because its resource base has been polluted, degraded, dissipated, and irretrievably compromised, the economy goes into bankruptcy with it.”

— Gaylord Nelson (Beyond Earth Day — Fulfilling the Promise, 2002)

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP)

For information and data on issues such as weekly issue, hydro power, dams, monsoon, flood, drought, inter linking of rivers, interstate river water disputes, irrigation, rivers, sand mining, wetlands, lakes, water bodies, water options, ground water, pollution, urban waters, water, agriculture, energy option, South Asia, South East Asia, China, rest of the world, climate change and environment.

Water scarcity and per capita water consumption

A country is considered to be suffering from water scarcity when availability is less than 10 lakh (1 million) litres per capita per year. Discuss the issue at Global Water Security Conference. Register for Conference – 

Mumbai: Miners drowning for sand despite govt crackdown

Raghunath Bartade watched helplessly as his brother was dragged off the sand-mining boat, his leg tangled in the anchor rope and his arms flailing as he sank into the murky creek near Mumbai.

Moments earlier, Raghunath and Babban Bartade had been dredging sand by hand from the bottom of the creek — an often deadly trade that fuels India’s booming construction industry, and continues despite an official crackdown.

Sikkim is carbon neutral 

Preliminary report of a unique study on climate inventory by the Sikkim govt. has found the state to be carbon-neutral. Sikkim’s forests sequester more carbon than state’s total carbon emissions. But then, the dense coverage of forests in Sikkim is well known. Final report in 6 months.

Sikkim Gets IoT-based real-time Landslide Warning System

After successfully commissioning India’s first real-time landslide warning system in Kerala’s Western Ghats, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham is now readying the second installation in Sikkim to guard against rainfall-induced landslides in the Sikkim-Darjeeling belt. The project is jointly funded by the Ministry of Earth Sciences and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham for which the Union ministry had granted Rs. 5 crore.

It will monitor a densely populated area spanning 150 acres around the Chandmari village in Sikkim’s Gangtok area. This area has seen landslides in the past, the first one being reported in 1997.

Arunachal Govt to terminate 100 more hydropower projects

ITANAGAR, Aug 16 – Strictly sticking to the slogan ‘perform or perish’, the Arunachal Pradesh Government has decided to terminate 100 more hydroelectric projects allotted to various private developers, days after terminating 15 project with a total generating capacity of 1,586.4 MW of power.

“We have taken a bold decision to terminate those hydropower projects where the performance is very poor. We have decided to hand such projects over to the PSUs as per mutual terms and conditions. Till date we have cancelled 15 hydropower projects and 100 more hydroelectric projects are in the process of termination,” disclosed Chief Minister Pema Khandu, in his Independence Day address at the Indira Gandhi Park here on Wednesday.

Ten years after the catastrophic Koshi embankment breach

 A dammed history of the Kosi in Bihar. 3 part series on the successful/unsuccessful attempts at taming the transboundary river. Whether mindful of natural designs or not is a whole discussion in itself.

Part 2 – While most Nepalese blame the 2008 breach on India, Nepal itself has started to construct a massive amount of embankments throughout the country, these enjoy popularity across various social groups, but it is unclear if they are a lasting good.

Part 3 – The heavy sediment load in the Koshi remains one of its biggest challenges, and while a number of options have been put forward – from check dams to hydropower projects – India and Nepal remain wedded to the idea of embankments

When will farmers achieve economic independence?

 For a country living in a ‘ship-to-mouth’ existence when food came directly from the ship to feed the hungry millions, India’s turnaround in the past 71 years to achieve food self-sufficiency remains the cornerstone of global history. For a country that was born in the backdrop of the Great Bengal Famine in 1943, to be saddled with unmanageable food surpluses – food grains, pulses and milk — in the past two years explains the long strides taken to accomplish what was once considered to be mission impossible…

…The decline in farm incomes explains the reasons behind the growing farm unrest. In the five years period – between 2011-12 and 2015-16 – the average farm incomes had risen by less than half a percent every year, at 0.44 per cent to be exact, says a study by Niti Aayog. According to another report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), farm output prices have remained frozen for two decades. Farmers have been deliberately paid 15 per cent less so as to ensure that the food inflation remain under control. As if this is not enough, Economic Survey 2016 tells us that the average farm family incomes in 17 States of India, or roughly half the country, average to Rs 20,000 a year. This means less than Rs 1,700 a month.

Climate change multiplies harmful marine heatwaves

The number of days marked by potentially destructive ocean heatwaves has doubled in 35 years, and will multiply another five-fold at current rates of climate change.

…Coral reefs — which cover less than 1% of the ocean’s surface but support a quarter of marine species — are especially vulnerable to warming waters.

…Apart from destroying Marine heatwave may also affect the ocean’s ability to soak up greenhouse gases.

To date, oceans have absorbed more than 90% of the extra heat generated by manmade climate change. Without that sea-water sponge, air temperatures would be tens of degrees Celsius higher.

It is already known that global warming slows the transport of the carbon absorbed by microorganisms at the ocean surface to the ocean floor, where it can safely remain for millennia.

Marine heatwaves do not affect that “carbon cycle” process, but could make things worse by damaging shallow-water ecosystems that also store CO2.

“That damage can lead to the release of the carbon,” said Frolicher.

Weather extremes and climate change

A full media briefing video, transcript, and multiple fact sheets to help one cover wildfires, weather extremes, and climate change in appropriate scientific context.

FAO report on forests and climate change

Forests are more than just trees. When managed sustainably they stablilise our climate.

Judge dismisses youth climate change lawsuit in Washington state

In his ruling, the judge made clear that “anthropogenic climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas emissions poses severe threats.” However, the state’s constitution doesn’t include a right to a clean environment, he wrote.

The state judge wrote that climate change poses urgent threats, but that it should be solved by the executive and legislative branches, not the courts.

What is FAO fish’s Global Record?

What is FAO fish’s Global Record is a repository of vessels involved in fishing operations. What does it do? Makes data public to help fight Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing. What do we need? States’ commitment to share comprehensive and up-to-date information.

Science alone won’t save the Earth. People have to do that.

We need to start talking about what kind of planet we want to live on. “Let’s start talking about the better future we want, and less about the future we don’t.”

Towards building resilient communities and ecosystems

On the occasion of World Honeybee Day, celebrated every year on the third Saturday of August, it is significant to note that India is the world’s sixth largest producer of honey. Over 2.5 lakh farmers in India are involved in beekeeping or ‘apiculture’ as a business, as per the data of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).

…In fact, experts like Dr. Shantanu Jha, Professor, Agricultural Entomology, of the Bidhan Chandra Krishi Vishwavidyalaya in West Bengal say that India has potential to maintain least 20 crore (200 million) bee colonies, which could provide employment to 215 lakh people. However, the current reality of the beekeeping or apiculture industry in India is a far cry from this. According to the data of the KVIC, India at present has only 25 lakh (2. 5 million) bee colonies. So far, only 1.25 per cent of the potential has been realised.

Challenges of apiculture

The reason for the divergence between potential and reality is rooted in several challenges that apiculture faces in India. As the majority of those involved in beekeeping are small and marginal farmers they lack the capacity to invest in marketing infrastructure. Second, the beekeepers often lack training in managing their bees. Third, beekeepers in rural areas find it difficult to reach consumers beyond their village.

Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR), in light of the above potential and the challenges, has taken steps in Jharkhand to promote apiculture and thereby boost livelihoods and incomes of the local community.

One such beneficiary under the programme is Sudarshan Besra (35), who practices beekeeping in Sidhu Karanjtoli village in Jharkhand’s Murhu block. He narrates his story to us:

He says “My father practiced beekeeping as a profession and I too continued this tradition, but I had only 20 boxes and lacked know-how in the technical aspects of beekeeping. The boxes are used for breeding bees. Four years ago in 2014, I received some training in beekeeping from a Ranchi-based non-governmental organisation. This inspired me to expand my beekeeping business. However, for this I needed more boxes so that I could breed more bees.   In February 2018, when I came to know that WOTR provided assistance to farmers who wished to take up apiculture, I requested assistance in this regard. It was a great help when WOTR gave me 103 boxes to help in this regard. Each box costs around Rs. 2,500 of which I had to contribute Rs. 250 per box. Besides, one of my sisters also received training from WOTR in making candles from bees wax.”

Livelihoods, Ecology and Climate Change, 11th August 2018

“Trees are the Earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven”

Rabindranath Tagore

In urban  planning, one deals with redevelopment of existing areas and new urbanisation around the periphery of the existing town or city.

In the former, planners using the principle of densification, aim to knock down existing structures, and create new structures which increase the population density in the area. This redevelopment is responsible for clearing existing trees and greenery. This reflects bad planning.

In new urbanisation, one can use satellite imaging for appropriate zoning of your constructions so as to mitigate loss of valuable fertile soil and green cover. This minimises the impact of emissions which contribute to global warming. Satellite imaging is a vital tool for urban planning.

Densification involves costs and benefits which have to evaluated sensibly.

Planning densification without sacrificing vital green cover should be the guiding light. Unfortunately this did not happen in the Sarojini Nagar and Kidwai Nagar redevelopments undertaken by NBCC (India) Limited.

Every redevelopment which involves densification at the cost of green cover in a congested city is a clear no, no…as it aims at one level to giving  scarce real estate in the city to outsiders which is incorrect as the driving force is profiteering from real estate sacrificing green cover.

In a city like Delhi, where air quality is poor, reduction in existing green cover impacts air quality for all citizens. The cost of this on public health is huge.

What more is there to add…Delhi has woken up to the wisdom of green cover late. The City is still not willing to regulate vehicles on the basis of carrying capacity of the cities roads.

(Guest Blog)

Rohini Nilekani dreams of making invisible water visible

The capricious nature of groundwater has resulted in so much exploitation and overuse that we now have a consistent crisis. Presenting a roadmap for groundwater governance and information transparency using technology.–Making-invisible-water-visible.html

This Man Is Helping Farmers Fight Both Dry Spells and Water Logging with a Unique RWH Technology (‘Bhungroos’)

Lake Authority not ready to take responsibility: CM

Can the Karnataka State Lake Development Authority (KSLDA) independently manage and restore 35,000 lakes in the state?

Lessons from Kolleru Lake

Kolleru is India’s largest fresh water lakes at over 90,000 hectares. It hosts upto 189 species of birds, which arrive in the thousands each year – some coming from as far as Siberia.

Unrestricted aquaculture turned the ecosystem into a prawn-only parade, forcing the water to turn saline. The prawns required manure to grow, and this seeped into the water – turning it into a nutrient soup that supported algae but smothered other life forms. Locals started buying their water in sachets as non-locals made a killing. Soon enough, even the prawns raised here became toxic.

It is a textbook case in environmental mismanagement.

India’s water crisis is hitting women hardest

Nearly 16.3 crores of India’s population of 130 crores lack access to clean water close to home – the most of any country in the world, according to a report this year by the Britain-based charity Water Aid.

On an average, a rural woman walks 5 kilometres to 20 kilometres (3-12 miles) a day just to fetch water, according to estimates by campaigners.

Apart from the physical strain of collecting water, women also suffer from the emotional stress of managing with little water, and maintaining menstrual hygiene, said Ranjana Kumari, Director of Advocacy, Centre for Social Research.

The burden is greater with the Clean India Mission, which aims to end open defecation in rural areas by installing toilets.

“But many of (the toilets) do not have running water, leaving the additional task of getting water for them to women,” she said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has acknowledged the severity of the water crisis and promised more resources to tackle it, including cleaning up the Ganges river, which makes up 40 percent of total replenishable groundwater resources.

There is little time: by 2030, water demand is projected to be double the supply, implying severe scarcity for hundreds of millions.

“Demand is increasing, access is getting more difficult, yet the infrastructure has not improved,” Kumari said.

“Women are bearing the brunt of it.” 

Lessons from an Agriculturally Advanced State

In 1970-71, Punjab had 1.92 lakh tube wells which increased to 14.14 lakh by 2015-16. As a result, groundwater level in different districts declined between 6-22 meters during 1996-2016.

How India Could Cut Irrigation Water By 33% – And Reduce Anaemia, Zinc Deficiency 

India could reduce the water it uses for irrigation by a third and simultaneously address a persistent malnutrition problem, if it replaced its rice crop with more nutritious and less thirsty cereals, a study of irrigation-water use over 43 years has found.

Rice, which consumes the most water by tonne of output while delivering the least nutrients–iron, zinc and fibre–could be replaced with less thirsty and more nutritious maize, ragi (finger millet), bajra (pearl millet) or jowar (sorghum). To reap these benefits, however,

India must replace rice and wheat with healthier alternative cereals in its public distribution system, which provides subsidised food grain to the poor, the study said.

Information helpline improves local governance in Nuh villages

An information center in Nuh district (of Haryana state) that lags in economic and social development has created awareness about government schemes and entitlements, and has empowered villagers to claim their rights

Air Pollution in 20 cities

Air Pollution Knowledge Assessments (APnA) city program – 20 city reports online 

Earth entering “hothouse state”

Earth at risk of entering ‘hothouse’ state from which there is no return, scientists warn climate (change) scientists ‘In the context of the summer of 2018, this is definitely not a case of crying wolf… the wolves are now in sight’.

Solar India and Solar China

Even after reaching its 2020 solar target 3 years early, China continues to power ahead, installs 24.3 GW of new solar in 1st half 2018 (more than Italy or India’s total solar capacity)

Kolkata City and Global Warming

Global warming poses an urgent threat to Kolkata, a river delta city of 1.4 crores. The city’s natural defenses are being lost.

On Climate Change, Water and Food Security

If weather changes wrought by climate change destroy crops or we run out of water, we will literally die.

The Myth of Self-Governance in Scheduled Areas Needs to Be Dispelled

Since the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act was passed in 1996, it has remained a dead letter in Gujarat.

Livelihoods, Ecology and Climate Change, 4th August 2018

31st July was World Rangers Day

Tourist magnet Ladakh facing water scarcity

For 75-year-old Tsering Angdo, today’s Ladakh is entirely different from the world of his childhood in the cold Himalayan desert. Earlier, according to Angdo and his fellow Ladakhis, water from the melting snow and glaciers would be enough to cater to the needs of the locals. But, with lower snowfall and warmer summers, some of the glaciers have vanished altogether, while others are melting faster than before. This is happening at a time when the region has become extremely popular with Indian tourists, thanks to some recent Bollywood movies.

“Now, we get a lot of domestic tourists. And the number of tourists is increasing every year. There has to be a limit,” Angdo observes though he doesn’t know what the limit could be. “We have started facing severe water scarcity in Leh because this place gets flooded with tourists”. “The government and the experts should determine how many tourists should come to Leh.” Angdo hopes Ladakh will not be spoiled like other tourist places in the Himalayas, such as Manali and Shimla.

Opinion: Focus on small hydropower in Jammu and Kashmir

The Indus River has immense hydropower potential which has mostly remained untapped. The geographic location of the state of Jammu and Kashmir gives it a unique advantage to harness hydropower from the three major rivers of the Indus.

The primary reason why the state has been unable to use its water resources for bridging its energy deficit is lack of finances.

Any water infrastructure development on the Indus River in the state is guided by the Indus Waters Treaty signed between India and Pakistan in 1960 with the World Bank as the guarantor. The treaty reserves the western rivers; the Jhelum, Chenab, and Indus for Pakistan except for specific use by India for various purposes including irrigation, domestic use, run-of-river hydropower generation and other non-consumptive uses subject to the conditions of design, water storage and other features clearly set out in the treaty

Usually established by the community, micro-hydropower projects (MHPs) work more or less like the big power corporations that supply power to cities. Like them, the MHPs come with their own power generation source and operate autonomously.

They can typically generate between five to 100 kilowatts (KW) of power. Most MHPs have a shelf life of up to 20 years. This can be extended if they are properly serviced, maintained and operated.

MHPs low cost, near-zero emissions, and ability to be dispatched quickly to meet peak electricity demand have made them a valuable renewable energy source worldwide.

But installing an MHP is far easier than ensuring its smooth running. Firstly, as water flows decrease in winter so does electricity generation, finally coming to a complete halt during the peak winter. Secondly, repairing broken MHP means downtime because of transporting heavy parts to workshops elsewhere. The third down side of the MHPs is their vulnerability to extreme weather events like floods.

Walk along the Ken river to find a world you didn’t know was there


This is based on 600 km long KEN YATRA in three different phases by the two authors from South Asian Network of Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) and Veditum (another NGO) respectively.

We tried tracing the river on a map using satellite data for cues, moving upstream from an established point of identity: Chilla ghat, the confluence of the Ken with the Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh. However, this exercise proved difficult and led us astray multiple times, especially in the upper catchment area. It was only later, when walking along the river, did we realise that this was because almost all of Ken’s tributaries have a larger discharge than the Ken itself.

Everyday conversations often miss out on the important role of tributaries and groundwater as vital components of a river’s health.

This has assumed significance when the Government of India was trying to expedite the construction of multiple small and large dams in the Ganga basin, including the proposed Daudhan dam on the Ken, a part of the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project.

Our walk in the upper regions of the river were largely through dried stretches, where we would regularly come across bridges and check dams with no water to be found. We also noticed the sudden appearance of pools of water in the same dry channel, sometimes so large as to be confusing. Although we couldn’t understand how the pools had come to be, the locals were familiar with them as well as had names.

These pools are called dabradabri or dabran, depending on their size and number. We were told that these pools were filled by underground springs, a phenomenon we had only read about until then. This was river science in action, the relationship between groundwater and rivers playing out in front of our eyes. Captured surface water that had filtered through layers of earth over time was now feeding the river, sustaining life when people were thinking about the imminent summer.

In some places, these springs were venerated, protected to the extent that their water could be used only if it overflowed. In other places, the pools had tens of pipes jutting out like tentacles, sucking out all that the ground could provide. Changing cropping patterns (from millets to relatively water-intensive crops like wheat and paddy) and the demand for higher acreage under cultivation (i.e. cutting down of old forests and occupying scrub lands) makes this an alarming situation because it will further stress aquifers that seem to have already reached their breaking point.

However, the same people who had had multiple points of view about protecting the river didn’t know nearly enough about the proposed Ken-Betwa river-linking project, which if approved would have a drastic effect on riparian communities.

The world’s drinking water quantity

If you could create a giant cube and pack into it all the drinking water in the world, that cube would fit nicely into the city of Bangalore. All of the waters in the world’s rivers, lakes, and wetlands are only a fraction of that, fitting inside a cube with a side of only 13 km.

(Credit: )

Village youth in Western Ghats enrich sacred grove

A bunch of passionate young men are saving big trees uprooted in the Sahyadri Mountains by transplanting them at their village’s sacred grove. And that’s just one part of their conservation work…

Online shopping means cutting billions of trees

In a developed country, according to their environment protection agency, e-commerce packaging accounts for 30% of solid waste generated. India is…, read more at:

Climate change feedback loop in action

As temperatures rise, Earth’s soil is ‘breathing’ more heavily. This ‘soil respiration’ process releases 5 times more CO2 than human activity and is up 1.2% between 1990 and 2014, further warming the planet.

While that may not seem like a big change, such an increase on a global scale, in a relatively short period of time in Earth history, is massive.

Wilderness is rare in Earth’s oceans

Just a sliver of ocean classed as wild is within marine protected areas.

Only 13% of the oceans now classified as wilderness, that is, free from pollution, fishing and commercial shipping.

 European Union and China Ocean Partnership

On 16th  July, the European Union has signed a unique ocean partnership agreement with China. Two of the world’s largest ocean economies will work together to improve the international governance of the oceans in all its aspects, including by combating illegal fishing and promoting a sustainable blue economy.

Chile enacts historic ban on plastic bags

Chile enacts historic ban on commercial use of plastic bags, first in the Americas, because a plastic bag takes seconds to make; is used for less than half an hour, and then takes 400 years to biodegrade.

Recycling won’t solve plastic pollution

NATGEO facts on plastic pollution

Droughts, heatwaves and floods: How to tell when climate change is to blame

Germany’s national weather agency is preparing to be first in the world to offer rapid assessments of global warming’s connection to particular meteorological events.

2nd to 7th December 2018. Namati Legal Empowerment Leadership Course, 2018 at Budapest Hungary

The drum beats of rural India

10th August is International Youth Day.