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21 ponds dug up for elephants in Odisha

Written By kom nampultig on Kamis, 24 April 2014 | 22.33

CUTTACK: To quench the thirst of elephants and other wild animals during summer, the forest department has dug 21 water bodies in Athagarh forest division at a cost of Rs 64.5 lakh.

Among these are 17 ponds, measuring 40mx30m, dug at a cost of Rs 2.5 lakh each while Rs 5.5 lakh has been spend on digging four ponds measuring 50mx50m and 3 metres deep.

"We completed digging of ponds on a priority basis as the temperature has been rising over the past few days. The bigger ponds are meant for bathing of elephants," said divisional forest officer of Athagarh Arun Mishra.

Last year, forest officials had dug nine ponds, but most of these have dried up.

There are 131 elephants in the forest division and the water bodies will ensure that the animals do not venture into nearby villages.

"In the last one year, the forest department has paid Rs 72 lakh as compensation to villagers in the division for crop and property damaged by elephants. Hence, we are trying our best to create water and fodder facility inside the forest, so that the tendency of elephants to explore human inhabited areas becomes lesser," said the DFO.

Apart from elephants, the division is home to wild boars, deer, bears, peacocks, bats and different species of birds. The forest officials have also taken up bamboo and banyan plantations in the deep forest to create fodder for pachyderms.

Officials informed that regular inspection of water bodies is also being carried out.

"Our teams are keeping a watch on newly-dug water bodies, if any of them dries up then immediately we will dig some more. We want to ensure that elephants and other animals face no problem due to water scarcity," said a forest official.

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Climate change likely to make climbing Everest riskier

WASHINGTON: Scientists have claimed that climbing Mount Everest is becoming less predictable and possibly more dangerous, as climate change brings warmer temperatures that may eat through the ice and snow on the highest peak in the world.

Nepal was left reeling when a sudden ice avalanche slammed down onto a group of Sherpa guides on Friday and killed 16 in the deadliest single disaster on Everest.

While it is impossible to link any single event to long-term changes in the global climate, scientists say the future will likely hold more such dangers in high-altitude regions, Fox News reported.

There is nothing to prove the icefall was behaving unusually on Friday. But scientists say mountaineers should assume that everything is now in flux.

What makes the situation so risky, scientists say, is the uncertainty itself.

While scientists are sure things are changing, they're not entirely sure how. Much of the evidence is anecdotal, and there isn't enough data or decades of scientific observation to draw solid conclusions.

Rigorous glacier studies have only begun in the Himalayas in the last decade, and no one is studying snow patterns on a large scale, Nepalese glaciologist Rijan Bhakta Kayastha at Kathmandu University said.

Meanwhile, as global temperatures have gone up 0.75 degrees C (1.4 degrees F) in the last century, according to the International Panel on Climate Change, studies show the Himalayas warming at a rate up to three times as high.

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60% of China underground water polluted: Report

Written By kom nampultig on Rabu, 23 April 2014 | 22.33

BEIJING: Sixty% of underground water in China which is officially monitored is too polluted to drink directly, state media have reported, underlining the country's grave environmental problems.

Water quality measured in 203 cities across the country last year rated "very poor" or "relatively poor" in an annual survey released by the ministry of land and resources, the official Xinhua news agency said late Tuesday.

Water rated "relatively" poor quality cannot be used for drinking without prior treatment, while water of "very" poor quality cannot be used as a source of drinking water, the report said.

The proportion of water not suitable for direct drinking rose from 57.4% from 2012, it said.

China's decades-long economic boom has brought rising environmental problems, with large parts of the country repeatedly blanketed in thick smog and both waterways and land polluted.

Pollution has emerged as a driver of discontent with the government, sparking occasional protests.

China's environment ministry last week estimated that 16% of the country's land area was polluted, with nearly one fifth of farmland tainted by inorganic elements such as cadmium.

Premier Li Keqiang announced in March that Beijing was "declaring war" on pollution as he sought to address public concerns, but experts warn that vested interests will make it difficult to take action.

Many Chinese city-dwellers already avoid drinking tap water directly, either boiling it or buying bottled supplies.

Residents of the western city of Lanzhou rushed to buy mineral water earlier this month after local tap water was found to contain excessive levels of the toxic chemical benzene, state media reported at the time.

A subsidiary of the country's largest oil company, China National Petroleum Company, was blamed for the incident after oil from one if its pipelines leaked into the water supply.

The Lanzhou government also came under fire for reportedly failing to notify locals of the pollution for several days after becoming aware of it.

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In Spiti, hydro power projects seen as threat to fragile ecology

TABO (LAHAUL-SPITI): "At last they entered a world - a valley of leagues where the high hills were fashioned of the mere rubble and refuse from off the knees of the mountains... Surely the Gods live here. Beaten down by the silence and the appalling sweep of dispersal of the cloud-shadows after rain. This place is no place for men." This was what Rudyard Kipling had said about Spiti Valley in his book Kim. But now same valley is facing threat from the proposed hydro power projects which has left tribals restless.

To save their valley from being plundered by hydro power projects, tribals in a meeting of gram sabha held recently have decided not to give NOC to the project being proposed in their area. They already have approached state government and National Commission for Schedule Tribe on the issue.

In a gram sabha held in Tabo on April 7 last year tribals had passed the resolution to stop the 104 MW Lara-Sumte hydro project. In the resolution villagers had submitted that execution of project in cold desert would result into global warming and would result into faster melting of glaciers on which natural water resources of area depends.

After informing the local authorities about the decision of gram sabha, tribals under the banner of Shamas Sangarsh Samiti had also met National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, Vice-Chairperson, Ravi Thakur who also happens to be the MLA of Lahaul-Spiti on february 25 this year.

In his letter written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Chief Minister Himachal Pradesh, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, Vice-Chairperson, Ravi Thakur has stated that construction of dams and power projects definitely will destroy the cultural, ecological, environmental, economic and political environment and equilibrium of the district which is presently being enjoyed by the indigenous tribals of the area. Thakur has also requested them not to grant any permission for the construction of dams over the Spiti river.

Sanctioning of project at around 10500 feet height has left tribals worried as project is coming despite one man committee of then Additional Chief Secretary (Forests) Avay Shukla, appointed by green bench of high court to monitor the impact of hydro power projects on environment in his report submitted in 2010 recommending that sanctioning of projects above a height of 7000 feet requires a more detailed examination by the experts in the fields of hydrology, geology, forestry, environment and zoology.

In his report Shukla had said that this committee is strongly of the view that the government's present practice of indiscriminately allotting hydel projects all over the state without any consideration to their impact on the larger environment-which mere environment impact assessments (EIAs) and environment management plans (EMPs) cannot address- is short sighted, unplanned and could result into serious depletion of the state's natural resources in the long run.

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Antarctica was once as warm as Florida, California

Written By kom nampultig on Selasa, 22 April 2014 | 22.33

WASHINGTON: Parts of Antarctica, one of the coldest places on Earth, were as warm as today's California coast about 40 million years ago with temperatures as high as 17 degrees Celsius, a new study has found.

Researchers also found that the polar regions of the southern Pacific Ocean once registered 21st-century Florida heat.

The findings underscore the potential for increased warmth at Earth's poles and the associated risk of melting polar ice and rising sea levels, the researchers said.

Led by scientists at Yale University, the study focused on Antarctica during the Eocene epoch, 40-50 million years ago, a period with high concentrations of atmospheric CO2 and consequently a greenhouse climate.

Today, Antarctica is year-round one of the coldest places on Earth, and the continent's interior is the coldest place, with annual average land temperatures far below zero degrees Fahrenheit.

The new measurements can help improve climate models used for predicting future climate, according to co-author Hagit Affek, associate professor of geology & geophysics at Yale.

"Quantifying past temperatures helps us understand the sensitivity of the climate system to greenhouse gases, and especially the amplification of global warming in polar regions," Affek said.

By measuring concentrations of rare isotopes in ancient fossil shells, the scientists found that temperatures in parts of Antarctica reached as high as 17 degrees Celsius during the Eocene, with an average of 14 degrees Celsius, similar to the average annual temperature off the coast of California today.

Eocene temperatures in parts of the southern Pacific Ocean measured 22 degrees Celsius, similar to seawater temperatures near Florida today, researchers said.

Today the average annual South Pacific sea temperature near Antarctica is about zero degrees Celsius.

These ancient ocean temperatures were not uniformly distributed throughout the Antarctic ocean regions ? they were higher on the South Pacific side of Antarctica ? and researchers say this finding suggests that ocean currents led to a temperature difference.

"By measuring past temperatures in different parts of Antarctica, this study gives us a clearer perspective of just how warm Antarctica was when the Earth's atmosphere contained much more CO2 than it does today," said lead author, Peter MJ Douglas, now a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology.

"We now know that it was warm across the continent, but also that some parts were considerably warmer than others. This provides strong evidence that global warming is especially pronounced close to the Earth's poles," Douglas said.

The finding was published in the journal PNAS.

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Earth Day 2014 with 'Green Cities' theme celebrated around the world

WASHINGTON: More than a billion people around the world celebrated Earth Day on Tuesday with the theme 'Green Cities' calling for transformation in the public transportation systems to make them more accessible, convenient, and clean fuel-run.

The celebrations of the 44th edition of Earth Day also called for switching over to electric, hybrid, and other eco-friendly vehicles, the Earth Day Network reported.

Earth Day was first mooted by US senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970 after an oil spill incident in Santa Barbara, California.

Twenty million people across the US rallied then for the protection of the environment.

By the end of 1970, the US Environmental Protection Agency was established, and efforts to improve air and water quality gained political traction.

Earth Day is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and is celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.

The Earth Day Network's India Programme has its headquarters in West Bengal state's capital Kolkata.

The network in India organises workshops to provide environmental education and training for sustainable livelihood development among the youth.

The Earth Day Network also works very closely with the municipal corporations of major metropolitan cities in India to ensure that public parks and gardens are well maintained.

The network, in partnership with Rotary International, has launched 'Green Magic' which aims to plant 10 million trees across India.

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Biofuels from corn less beneficial than reported: Study

Written By kom nampultig on Senin, 21 April 2014 | 22.34

NEW YORK: Biofuels from corn residue may be less beneficial than previously thought as a study has found using corn crop residue to make ethanol and other biofuels reduces soil carbon and can generate more greenhouse gases than gasoline.

Corn stover — the stalks, leaves and cobs in cornfields after harvest — is generally considered a ready resource for cellulosic ethanol production.

The researchers used a supercomputer to estimate the effect of residue removal on 128 million acres across 12 corn belt states in the US.

The team found that removing crop residue from cornfields generates an additional 50 to 70 grams of carbon dioxide per megajoule of biofuel energy produced (a joule is a measure of energy and is roughly equivalent to 1 BTU).

They also found the rate of carbon emissions is constant whether a small amount of stover is removed or nearly all of it is stripped.

"If less residue is removed, there is less decrease in soil carbon, but it results in a smaller biofuel energy yield," Adam Liska, an assistant professor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln in US said.

To mitigate increased carbon dioxide emissions and reduced soil carbon, the researchers suggested planting cover crops to fix more carbon in the soil.

The study appeared in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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Kolkata's citizens pitch in to make their city green

KOLKATA, From reclaiming parks and open spaces to promoting carpools and empowering rag-pickers to manage waste, denizens of this eastern metropolis are pitching in to make the city green.

As the uninviting reality of climate change becomes clear coupled with growing urbanization, smart solutions aimed towards boosting sustainable communities is the need of the hour.

Take for example the "Ragpickers Turn Entrepreneurs" initiative, one of the 24 case studies compiled in an e-book "Pathways to Green Cities - Innovative Ideas from Urban India" by the Earth Day Network (EDN), the global organiser of Earth Day on April 22 each year.

The book was launched here recently at the Oxford Bookstore.

With 2014 themed on green cities, waste management occupies a crucial place for urban ventures.

How about some figures to get a perspective on the enormity of the problem?

An estimated 5,372 tonnes of solid waste is generated in Kolkata every day and 7.4 percent of the trash is waste paper.

The organization, South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE), through its "Resolve: Trash to Cash" venture, empowers poor ragpickers, particularly women, to transform trash into artistic treasures, including paper mache products, according to Amrita Chatterjee of Research and Communication, SAFE.

Through workshops, slum dwellers were taught the the utilization of waste papers, thereby providing them a means of livelihood. This entrepreneurial venture is expected to reduce poverty level by 27 percent and protect the ragpickers from exposure to hazardous waste of dumps.

Meanwhile, the urban youth of the city is busy promoting car sharing among school goers to ease traffic congestion and mitigate air pollution, courtesy the EDN's "Backseat Buddies" campaign.

"In the first phase of Backseat Buddies, the campaign included 70,000 students in 33 schools; 7,000 played an active role in implementing 'Backseat Buddies'," said Abhirup, the ambassador of this project from Frank Anthony Public School, Kolkata.

In Kolkata, around 65 per cent of the arterial roads are choked by bumper-to-bumper traffic, often limiting travel speeds to as low as 20 km/hr.

Data shows 50-75 percent fuel will be saved if three people commute in one car while 1.66 metric tonnes of carbon is emitted each year by vehicles in India.

Carpools not only help conserve fuel, money as well as encourage bonding and friendship among the children as they travel together, said Abhirup.

Another facet of green cities is parks and open spaces that help stabilise the urban biodiversity (flora and fauna) and provide a place for people to mingle, which is fast becoming a luxury nowadays.

Efforts by the Kolkata-based Center for Contemporary Communication (CCC), Kolkata and NGO Nature Mates, have ensured the retrieval of some areas and prevent other parklands from being urbanized.

"Green spaces, like parks etc. provide eco-system services and offer a rich urban bio-diversity to exist. Due to pollution bio-diversity order is affected and more and more concretization spoils the greenery of our city," said Tapati Ghosh, president, CCC.

So far, 514 spaces have been investigated and a Kolkata Park Dictionary was launched in 2011 by the organization and is trying to increase the number of species in green areas through butterfly gardens and other such themes.

However, state director of World Wildlife Fund, Saswati Ghosh cautioned about the proportion of cutting and felling trees in the city which is markedly higher than the parks and open spaces.

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People for Animals rescues 17 spotted doves

Written By kom nampultig on Minggu, 20 April 2014 | 22.33

IMPHAL: Intensifying its drive against poaching in Manipur, People for Animals (PFA), Thoubal, rescued at least 17 spotted doves from three poachers in Imphal East district. The three poachers were arrested and remanded to four days' police custody by a local court on Friday.

The birds feature in Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which lists endangered wild animals, said a statement issued by the animal rights group.

Acting on prior information, PFA members on Thursday reached the Wangkhei Thambalkhong area in Imphal East district where they found the poachers handling the birds using huge nets.

"We immediately surrounded the area and succeeded in rounding up the three poachers-Md Salam (56), Md Sameer (20) and Md Amu (38)," said the statement signed by the body's managing trustee L Biswajeet Meitei.

"We found 18 spotted doves, including a dead one. Shockingly, the birds had been stripped of their feathers," it added. While the accused were handed over to Porompat police in Imphal East, the rescued birds were provided necessary medical treatment, the statement read.

On Friday, the poachers were remanded to four days' police custody, the statement said and added that the trio would be produced before the chief judicial magistrate on Monday.

PFA, Thoubal, filed a separate petition asking for permission to provide care to the birds at its temporary animal shelter enclosure in Thoubal till they were fit to be released. The petition was granted.

"Pigeons and doves feed mainly on fleshly seeds and they play an important role in forest ecology by dispersing the seeds of fruiting trees and shrubs in their faeces," the statement added.

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Plants that regulate sprouting tackle climate change well

LONDON: Plants with the ability to regulate the timing of germination in response to environmental cues are more likely to spin off new species and are better at dealing with weather threats from climate change.

Plants whose seeds put off sprouting until conditions are more certain give rise to more species, a study said.

Plants whose seeds have since lost the ability may be prone to extinction under future climate change, especially if the timing of sprouting is no longer in tune with their environment, said Rafael Rubio de Casas from Universidad of Granada in Spain.

Seed dormancy may help plants colonise new environments by preventing new arrivals from sprouting under conditions or at times of year when the probability of seedling survival is low, said the study.

For the study, the researchers analysed seed dormancy data for more than 14,000 species of trees, shrubs, vines and herbs from across the globe.

"Having the capacity to fine-tune their development to the environment seems to be crucial for diversification," de Casas noted.

The results suggest that even the earliest seeds had this ability, said the study that appeared in the journal New Phytologist.

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