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China to ban water-polluting paper mills, oil refineries

Written By kom nampultig on Kamis, 16 April 2015 | 22.33

BEIJING: China will ban water-polluting paper mills, oil refineries, pesticide producers and other industrial plants by the end of 2016, as it moves to tackle severe pollution of the country's water supply.

The long-awaited plan comes as the central government steps up its "war on pollution" after years of industrial development that have left one-third of China's major river basins and 60 percent of its underground water contaminated.

Growing public discontent over the environmental degradation has led to increasing scrutiny of industrial polluters. China's largest energy company China National Petroleum Corporation

last month agreed to pay 100 million yuan ($16 million) in compensation after it was accused of leaking benzene into the water system in Lanzhou in northwest China.

But experts say much more needs to be done to protect China's scarce water resources.

"Water is the bottleneck to China's industrial development. Coal miners and factories located in western regions are suffering from water shortage, and if their discharge of dirty waste water is not treated, the pressure will increase," said Alex Zhang, president of McWong Environmental Technology, a United States-based water technology company.

The new plan - published by the State Council, China's cabinet - aims to raise the share of good quality water, ranked at national standard three or above, to more than 70 per cent in the seven major river basins, and to more than 93 percent in the urban drinking water supply by 2020.

Impact on water will become a key consideration in future industrial expansion, said the cabinet, adding that it will restrict building of petrochemical and metal smelting factories along major river basins.

"We will fully consider the capacity of our water resources and environment, and determine city planning, project location, population and industrial output according to water reserves," it said.

China currently controls water usage by allocating volume permits to each province, and requests for additional water for new projects will be refused in regions already exceeding their allocated quotas, said the cabinet.

The government is targeting a cap on overall water consumption at 670 billion cubic metres by 2020, and wants to cut agricultural water use by more than 3.7 billion cubic metres by improving irrigation efficiency by 2018.

Tiered pricing for residential water users will be rolled out nationwide this year to encourage conservation. Non-residential users will be charged progressive fees for overshooting quotas under a plan to enter into force by 2020.

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Apple invests in China solar project, US forest conservation

PALO ALTO: Apple is expanding its environmental efforts by investing in a new Chinese solar power project and preserving 36,000 acres of "sustainable'' timberland in Maine and North Carolina.

The initiatives come as the tech giant this year met a self-imposed goal of powering all its U.S. operations with renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions _ initiatives that have won high marks from environmental groups like Greenpeace.

On Thursday, Apple announced a new focus on using paper from trees harvested under environmentally sound conditions. It's also promising to use more renewable power overseas, where Apple relies heavily on contract manufacturers _ and where a top executive acknowledged the company can do more.

"It's important to us to tackle climate change everywhere we are,'' Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president for environmental initiatives, told The Associated Press. ``When you talk about China, you're talking about manufacturing partners. We're looking to bring the same innovation there. This is the start.''

The new solar project in China has a capacity of 40 megawatts, which is smaller than some projects Apple has announced in the United States. By comparison, Apple is spending $850 million for rights to nearly half the output of a 280-megawatt solar facility planned for construction south of Apple's Cupertino, California, headquarters. That project will produce enough energy to power all of Apple's California offices, a computer center and 52 retail stores.

Still, the Chinese project will produce more than the amount of energy consumed by Apple's 19 corporate offices and 21 retail stores in China and Hong Kong, Jackson said. She added that Apple uses renewable energy for 87 percent of the power at its facilities worldwide.

That figure, however, doesn't include substantial power consumption by contract manufacturers. With the new project in China, Apple is looking to improve its own operations first.

"Before we go somewhere else and start asking and eventually requiring clean energy, you want to make sure you show folks how to do it,'' said Jackson, who was U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator during President Barack Obama's first term.

Jackson declined to say how much Apple is investing in the plant, which is being built in partnership with U.S. energy company SunPower and four Chinese firms. Although China is known for heavy reliance on coal, its government has set aggressive goals for solar, wind and hydroelectric power.

Meanwhile, Apple pledged an unspecified amount of money for a Virginia-based nonprofit, the Conservation Fund, to purchase two large tracts of timberland on the East Coast. The Conservation Fund will resell the land to commercial interests under legally binding terms that require future owners to preserve the forest and follow environmentally sound principles for cutting and replanting trees.

Larry Selzer, the group's chief executive, said that will protect the forest while keeping it in the hands of private owners who pay taxes and create jobs. Selzer said he'll use proceeds from reselling the land to buy and protect additional tracts.

Apple won't necessarily buy paper made from trees on that land, but Jackson said the investment will increase the supply of sustainable wood fiber. She said the two tracts would produce about half the non-recycled wood fiber used in Apple's product packaging last year.

That would put Apple halfway toward its goal of obtaining all its non-recycled paper products from sustainable timber. Apple wouldn't say how much paper it uses, but it says two-thirds of its paper packaging comes from recycled material. In the last three months of 2014, Apple sold more than 100 million iPhones and other gadgets, most in cardboard boxes.

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Centre appoints task-force to help build consensus on river inter-linking

Written By kom nampultig on Rabu, 15 April 2015 | 22.34

NEW DELHI: The Centre has set up a task force to look into various contentious issues relating to inter-linking of rivers. Role of this panel of experts will be to forge a consensus among states that are not on the same page over the plan to link rivers across the country.

The move comes in the backdrop of recent controversy over sharing of water between Maharashtra and Gujarat through two inter-linking of river (ILR) projects and emerging differences among other states over the plan.

The task force, headed by B N Navalawala (ex-UPSC member and one of the advisers to the Gujarat chief minister), will work towards speedy implementation of the inter-linking of river projects.

"Apart from examining the existing links (30 ILRs) that are laid out as per the National Perspective Plan under both Himalayan and Peninsular components, the task force will also consider alternative plans in place of infeasible links in the present plan", said an official statement of the ministry of water resources.

The statement clearly indicates that the Centre would be ready to consider alternatives so that the states agree for transferring water from surplus zones to deficit zones. Environmentalists have also been opposed to the idea of ILR, arguing that the move will be a disaster for ecology.

The task force, comprising water experts and senior officials of different ministries, will facilitate interlinking of intra-state and intra-basin rivers. It will recommend the "time schedules" for completion of feasibility studies and detailed project reports (DPRs) of all the links and their "implementation schedule".

Various means of funding mechanisms for the inter-linking of rivers will also be examined by the panel comprising of Sriram Vedire, adviser in the ministry of water resources; Prodipto Ghosh, former environment secretary; A D Mohile, former chairman of the Central Water Commission (CWC); M Gopalakrishnan, former member of the CWC and advocate Virag Gupta.

"The task force will also provide guidance on norms of appraisal of individual projects in respect of economic viability, socio-economic, environmental impacts and preparation of resettlement plans", said the statement.

As far as actual implementation of the ILR projects is concerned, only three out of 30 such projects have, so far, got the Centre's nod. The states opposed to the ILRs are mainly Odisha, Kerala, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and couple of those in the northeast. Except Punjab, the states which are opposed to the ILRs are all ruled by non-NDA parties.ILR projects is concerned, only three out of 30 such projects have, so far, got the Centre's nod. The states opposed to the ILRs are mainly Odisha, Kerala, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and couple of those in the northeast. Except Punjab, the states which are opposed to the ILRs are all ruled by non-NDA parties.

Sharing of water had, however, recently become controversial between two BJP-ruled states as well when Gujarat last week demanded that Maharashtra agree to share more water from the Tapi River if it wants more from the proposed Damanganga-Pinjal link which will supply water to Mumbai.

Gujarat's demand came after the Maharashtra assembly had to be adjourned after the Opposition there disrupted proceedings over the agreement of water sharing under the Damanganga-Pinjal and the Par-Tapi-Narmada link projects.

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Scientists find a 'deeply' safe way to dispose n-waste

LONDON: Scientists have suggested a new way of safely disposing high-emission nuclear waste -- burying it deep down into the earth. The concept, called deep borehole disposal, has been developed primarily in England but is likely to see its first field trials in the United States next year.

"Deep borehole disposal is particularly suitable for high level nuclear waste, such as spent fuel, where high levels of radioactivity and heat make other alternatives very difficult," said professor Fergus Gibb from University of Sheffield.

"Much of the drilling expertise and equipment to create the boreholes already exists in the oil and gas and geothermal industries," he added.

All of England's nuclear waste from spent fuel reprocessing could be disposed of in just six boreholes five km deep, fitting within a site no larger than a football pitch, scientists suggest.

If the trials are successful, the US hopes to dispose of its 'hottest' and most radioactive waste -- leftover from plutonium production and currently stored at Hanford in Washington State -- in a deep borehole.

Gibb and co-researcher Karl Travis said that around 40 per cent of the waste currently stored at the US site could be disposed of in a single borehole.

Fundamental to the success of deep borehole disposal is the ability to seal the hole completely to prevent radionuclides getting back up to the surface.

Gibb has designed a method to do this -- to melt a layer of granite over the waste, which will re-solidify to have the same properties as natural rock.

The waste within the borehole must be surrounded with specialist cements able to handle the temperatures and pressures at that depth, the researchers said.

DBD has limited environmental impact and does not require a huge site: the holes are a maximum 0.6m in diameter and can be positioned just a few tens of metres apart, the scientists said.

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Ban on old diesel vehicles may not be enough to clean up Delhi air

Written By kom nampultig on Selasa, 14 April 2015 | 22.34

NEW DELHI: Banning old diesel vehicles may not be enough to address severe air pollution in Delhi. Other countries have been imposing higher taxes, excise duties and registration costs to discourage people from buying diesel vehicles. They have also introduced low-sulphur diesel to clean up vehicle emissions.

Experts say National Green Tribunal's order will get diesel vehicles that are more than 10 years old off the road but do nothing about new vehicles that flout fitness norms.

A recent analysis by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) shows diesel cars aren't allowed in Beijing. And unlike India, where diesel costs about Rs 10 per litre less than petrol, China doesn't have differential pricing for the two fuels. Sri Lanka deters use of diesel cars with several-fold higher duties on them compared with petrol cars. It also uses taxation to discourage car imports.

Don S Jayaweera, chairman of National Transport Commission in Sri Lanka, recently made a presentation in Delhi on how Sri Lanka managed to discourage diesel vehicles. It registered 4,371 hybrid cars to its fleet as against 178 diesel cars and 2,099 petrol cars in 2015. In 2014, it added 23,287 hybrid, 2,846 diesel and 12,226 petrol cars.

The French government, which is considering making Paris diesel-free by 2020, doesn't allow diesel cars to run on severe smog days. With its focus on reducing CO2 emissions, European countries promoted diesel cars for many years, but they have had to pay a price in terms of high levels of PM2.5 (fine, respirable particles) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Civil society organizations recently took United Kingdom to court for breaching safe standards for nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

In India, diesel is not subsidized anymore, yet it remains cheaper than petrol because of lower taxes. This serves as an incentive to buy diesel cars. Between 2001 and 2015, there was a seven-fold increase in diesel vehicles in Delhi. Environment Pollution Control Authority chief Bhure Lal said diesel and petrol should be priced at the same level.

Diesel vehicles emit seven times more PM 2.5 and five times more NOx than petrol vehicles. "One BS III diesel vehicle is equivalent to seven petrol vehicles in terms of pollution. I hope NGT's orders will push the government to bridge the price difference (between fuels). The annual tax on private diesel vehicles can be increased to create a clean transport fund used for superior quality fuel or public transport," said Vivek Chattopadhyay of CSE's Clean Air Programme.

SP Singh, senior fellow and coordinator of The Indian Foundation for Transport Research and Training (IFTRT), said heavy vehicles entering Delhi are not checked for pollution. A 2012 rule prohibiting goods carriers that do not meet at least Euro IV norms from moving within the NCR was never enforced. "I strongly feel that new diesel vehicles should not be registered in Delhi," said Singh. Chattopadhyay said the government should enforce superior emission norms-BS V and BS VI-to reduce the difference in emissions from diesel and petrol engines.

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Music: Will climate change give us the blues?

VIENNA: Climate change is predicted to intrude into almost every area of life -- from where we live, to what we eat and whom we war with.

Now music can be added to the list. That's the unusual idea put forward by British researchers Tuesday, who say the weather has powerfully but discreetly influenced the soundtrack to our lives.

And tastes in songs are likely to change as the climate shifts. Fancy listening to the Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun" when you are grinding out yet another long, sweaty heatwave?

"These assumptions we have about certain weather being good and certain weather being bad, like sun being good -- that might change," researcher Karen Aplin of the University of Oxford told AFP at a European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna.

In Europe, "people are like: 'Oh, yes!' when it's summer," she said. "But if it's going to be 40 degrees (Celsius, 104 degrees Fahrenheit) every summer for 10 years... that might change how people feel about the weather and the emotions they link to it."

Aplin and five other scientists combed through databases of more than 15,000 pop songs, finding statistical backing for the assumption that our moods are strongly swayed by the weather.

These emotions, in turn, are expressed in the music that artists compose and what the public likes to hear.

The team looked at some of the most popular English-language songs, mainly from the United States and Britain, from the 1950s to today -- drawing heavily from an online karaoke website.

They searched song titles, band names and lyrics for references to weather.

"We found about 800," said Aplin. Of the 500 greatest songs of all time, as listed by Rolling Stone magazine in 2011, a whole seven percent were weather-related.

Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the most prolific in this category.

The sun was referenced most often, followed closely by rain, although "pretty much all types of weather came up", said Aplin.

The seasons and wind or breeze were third and fourth most popular, while "frost" and "blizzard" were at the bottom of the list.

Love and relationships were unsurprisingly the biggest single category for weather metaphors -- "Ain't no sunshine when she's gone," crooned Bill Withers, while Billie Holiday lamented the "Stormy weather" after a breakup.

"What we found about pop music was that the lyrics can be used very clearly to link the weather to a particular emotion, and usually the sun is positive and rain is negative," said Aplin.

An exception was some Country and Western songs, which "talked about rain as a positive thing: it brings crops and food," said the atmospheric physicist who also plays double bass in an orchestra.

The researchers were intrigued to find that in the 1950s, an active decade for hurricanes, more music was written about wind and storms.

This highlights the potential for a shift in musical themes if climate change brings ever-more frequent extreme weather events, as predicted.

Chirpy songs about sunshine and gentle summer breezes could get elbowed in favour of darker, more dramatic fare.

Based on present carbon emission trends, say climate scientists, worsening droughts, floods and storms as well as rising seas are waiting for us a few decades from now.

"Under climate change, the type of weather people are influenced by to write might change," said Aplin.

"You might find more songs about severe weather because that is more part of people's live, or a backdrop to their lives, than the weather we have now."

The research paper, which Aplin said had been accepted to appear in the Royal Meteorological Society publication "Weather" in May, will have an online link to the list of songs compiled so far, with an open invitation for people to add to it.

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Rajasthan's efforts for greenery commendable: Javadekar

Written By kom nampultig on Senin, 13 April 2015 | 22.33

UDAIPUR: Rajasthan would soon be turned into a "green state" with the development of more biological parks such as Sajjangarh, said the Union environment and forest minister Prakash Javadekar on Sunday during inauguration of the first biological park at Sajjangarh.

He also appreciated the state government's efforts in the spheres of environment and water conservation. Rajasthan's glorious past and its people are well-known for their love towards forests and natural resources. The Bishnoi community had even laid its life for the noble cause and, therefore, the state remains ahead in the country in environment care, he added.

Revealing the Centre's plan for production of clean energy, the Union minister said that as per Modi's ambitious 1.75 lakh mega watt clean and green energy production project is proposed for Rajasthan which includes 1 lakh MW solar power generation, 60,000MW of wind energy, 10,000MW bio-energy and 5,000MW mini water energy production.

The minister lauded the state government for taking hasty steps for Lake Conservation Act and said that the move will go a long way in conservation of water resources which will play a vital role in turning the desert land into a green land.

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China to surpass US as top cause of modern global warming

OSLO: China is poised to overtake the United States as the main cause of man-made global warming since 1990, the benchmark year for U.N.-led action, in a historic shift that may raise pressure on Beijing to act.

China's cumulative greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, when governments were becoming aware of climate change, will outstrip those of the United States in 2015 or 2016, according to separate estimates by experts in Norway and the United States.

The shift, reflecting China's stellar economic growth, raises questions about historical blame for rising temperatures and more floods, desertification, heatwaves and sea level rise.

Almost 200 nations will meet in Paris in December to work out a global deal to fight climate actions beyond 2020.

"A few years ago China's per capita emissions were low, its historical responsibility was low. That's changing fast," said Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo (CICERO), who says China will overtake the United States this year.

Using slightly different data, the U.S.-based World Resources Institute think-tank estimated that China's cumulative carbon dioxide emissions will total 151 billion tonnes for 1990-2016, overtaking the U.S. total of 147 billion next year.

The rise of cumulative emissions "obviously does open China up to claims of responsibility from other developing countries," said Daniel Farber, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley.

In a U.N. principle laid down in 1992, rich nations are meant to lead in cutting greenhouse gas emissions because their wealth is based on burning coal, oil and natural gas since the Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century.

Emerging nations, meanwhile, can burn more fossil fuels to catch up and end poverty. But the rapid economic rise of China, India, Brazil and many other emerging nations is straining the traditional divide between rich and poor.

SHARED BLAME

"All countries now have responsibility. It's not just a story about China -- it's a story about the whole world," said Ottmar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and co-chair of a U.N. climate report last year.

India will overtake Russia's cumulative emissions since 1990 in the 2020s to rank fourth behind China, the United States and the European Union, according to the CICERO calculations.

China surpassed the United States as the top annual emitter of carbon dioxide in around 2006 and now emits more each year than the United States and the European Union combined. Per capita emissions by its 1.3 billion people are around EU levels.

Beijing says the best yardstick for historical responsibility is per capita emissions since the 18th century, by which measure its emissions are less than a tenth those of the United States.

But stretching liability so far back is complicated.

Should heat-trapping methane gas emitted by rice paddies in Asia in the 19th century, now omitted, count alongside industrial carbon emissions by Europe? Should Britain be responsible for India's emissions before independence in 1947?

Lawyers say it is difficult to blame people living today for emissions by ancestors who had no inkling that greenhouse gases might damage the climate.

"I feel very uneasy about going back more than a generation in terms of historic responsibility," said Farber, arguing that Berlin could hardly be blamed if someone died by setting off a rusting German World War One landmine in France.

All governments are now working out plans for a climate summit in Paris in December that will set targets for 2025 or 2030. Beijing set a goal last year of peaking its rising emissions around 2030, perhaps before.

"China is acting. It has acknowledged its position as a key polluter," said Saleemel Huq, of the International Institute for Environment and Development in London.

And historical responsibility is at the heart of talks on solving the problem.

The U.N. panel of climate scientists estimated last year that humankind had emitted 1.9 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide since the late 19th century and can only emit a trillion more before rising temperatures breach a U.N. ceiling of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

Any fair formula for sharing out that trillion tonnes, or roughly 30 years of emissions at current rates, inevitably has to consider what each country has done in the past, said Myles Allen, a scientist at Oxford University.

"Until people start thinking about blame and responsibility they are not taking the problem seriously," he said.

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GTA introduces eco-friendly cars for tourists in hills

Written By kom nampultig on Minggu, 12 April 2015 | 22.33

DARJEELING: Aimed at providing better infrastruture to the tourists to the hills, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) today introduced three battery powered cars.

The eco-friendly cars, plying along the most frequented 2-km route from Darjeeling Mall to the Zoo, is aimed at projecting a tourist-friendly image of the picturesque Hills to the domestic and foreign tourists.

The battery backed vehicles that have been brought from Bangalore will provide conducted tour ride to the tourists from the Gorkha Ranga Manch Bhawan along the Mall stretch till the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park (PNHZP) also known as Darjeeling zoo.

"We have started the service from today keeping the tourists in mind. However, the locals can also take the ride if they want. Since the vehicle will be operated by batteries, it becomes environment friendly," GTA Chief Executive Bimal Gurung said.

Another vehicle has been allotted for Kalimpong where it will run in and around the Dello area. "We have given one such vehicle to Kalimpong. There it will run from Dello and its surrounding area covering a radius of 10 to 15 km," said Gurung.

Initially the idea behind inducting the cars were to provide some sort of travelling options for the aged and differently-abled persons who walk through the Mall to reach their homes and offices or for leisure.

However, now the service has been extended to the tourists who walk from Chowrastha, the Hill's popular promenade to the Darjeeling zoo and even locals can avail it.

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10 air pollution monitoring stations in city exceed national average

BENGALURU: That long wait at the Silk Board junction for the signal is not only delaying you but also slowly killing you, adding pollutants to your lungs. For, the air pollution at the junction on Hosur Road is 146% higher than the national permissible limit.

The Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM), an indicator of pollutants in the air, measured at the junction a few weeks ago was 246 g/m3 (microgram per cubic metre air).

However, if you thought other areas are safer you would be disappointed. At least 10 out of the 13 areas in the city, where the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) monitors the ambient air quality, have exceeded the national limit for RSPM, which is 100.0 g/M3. This includes the ever busy Mysuru Road, Whitefield and Peenya Industrial area.

Vamana Acharya, chairman of KSPCB, told STOI that the Silk Board junction is a clear example of how slow vehicular movement can cause pollution. "Vehicle engines continuing to burn fuel are a big worry for us on such stretches. Same is the case with Mysuru Road and Whitefiled. In fact, 40 per cent of air pollution in the city is because of vehicular emissions followed by road dust (12 %), industries (12 %), diesel and other generators (8 %) and remaining from burning of garbage like materials etc," he said.

According to him, though the RSPM level at the Silk Board junction is not the highest in the country, the fact that it exceeds the national permissible limit is damaging enough. "We measure the pollutants emanating from vehicles as PM 2.5 (fine particular matter) and these pollutants are so minute that they enter the lungs of human beings and cause health problems easily. It's high time we brought in strong regulations to tackle the menace," he added.

KSPCB monitors the ambient air quality of Bengaluru city at 13 locations under the National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP) covering industrial areas, mixed urban areas and sensitive areas. Monitoring is done twice a week 24 hourly at uniform intervals for RSPM, SO2 and NO2. The levels of SO2 and NO2 are within the national limit thankfully.

Where do we go?

Ten locations in city have exceeded national limit for RSPM, which is 100 g/m3

Silk Board junction: 246

Victoria Hospital: 244

AMCO Batteries Point on Mysuru Road: 228

Graphite India locality in Whitefield: 220

Yeshwanthpura Police Station: 218

KHB Industrial Area in Yelahanka: 177

RO at Peenya Industrial Area: 164

DTDC House on Victoria Road: 192

Gymkhana in Peenya Industrial Area: 123

Indira Gandhi Children Care Institute near Nimhans: 122

*All figures in g/m3

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