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US to submit plans to fight global warming; most others delay

Written By kom nampultig on Minggu, 29 Maret 2015 | 22.33

OSLO/WASHINGTON: The United States will submit plans for slowing global warming to the United Nations early this week but most governments will miss an informal March 31 deadline, complicating work on a global climate deal due in December.

The US submission, on Monday or Tuesday according to a White House official, adds to national strategies beyond 2020 already presented by the 28-nation European Union, Mexico, Switzerland and Norway.

Together, they account for about a third of world greenhouse emissions. But other emitters such as China, India, Russia, Brazil, Canada and Australia say they are waiting until closer to a Paris summit in December, meant to agree a global deal.

"It's not the ideal situation," said Niklas Hoehne, founding partner of the New Climate Institute in Germany which tracks submissions, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

In 2013, the United Nations invited INDCs by March 31, 2015, from governments "ready to do so" - the early, informal deadline was meant to give time to compare pledges and toughen weak ones.

Late submissions complicate the Paris summit because it will be far harder to judge late INDCs.

"The earlier the better," said Jake Schmidt, of the US National Resources Defense Council. "It allows people to look at each others' targets and judge whether or not they pass muster."

The White House official noted that both the United States and China already outlined plans last year, saying: "That adds up to a fantastic running start."

The United States plans to cut emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Mexico on Friday became the first emerging economy to make a pledge, saying its emissions would peak by 2026. Developing countries set less strict goals than developed states since they need to burn more energy to grow their economies.

Mexico's plan "certainly should create incentives for developed countries to come in," said Jennifer Morgan, of the World Resources Institute, noting rich nations are meant to lead.

The UN Climate Change Secretariat will compile by November 1 submissions made by October 1.

It says it is already clear that INDCs will fall short of emissions cuts needed to limit temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, a UN ceiling to avert floods, desertification, and rising seas.

"We expect many more countries to submit INDCs over the coming days, weeks and months," said Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the secretariat.

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Taj Corridor now an animal graveyard, garbage dump

AGRA: The Taj Corridor, a vast wasteland situated along the Yamuna river and lying between two world heritage monuments, the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, has now been reduced to a dumping ground for garbage and an unofficial burial ground for animals.

Foreign tourists have taken numerous images of bloated camels, swollen and stinking donkeys, dead dogs and heaps of fish bones along a stretch that is now a visually ugly sight and mars the scenery between the two great monuments visited by millions round the year.

"The Taj Corridor is an example of how we hardly care for our heritage and the tourism," a bitter Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, told IANS.

"Such an ugly sight near the world's most beautiful monument can be repulsive and nauseating," NRI Rajesh Kumar told IANS.

Despite the 2006 Supreme Court directive to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to green the wasteland, neither the Uttar Pradesh forest department nor the ASI has made any move to clear the debris and turn the area into a green lung. Once at the centre of a huge political furore, the ill-conceived Taj Corridor brought down the Mayawati government in 2003 on charges of corruption. The Supreme Court in the same year stayed construction on the site.

Agra Development Foundation President and eminent lawyer K.C. Jain told IANS: "In December 2005, the apex court constituted a committee of experts to give its recommendations. In February 2006, on the basis of this report, the Supreme Court directed the ASI to present a plan of action. Since then the matter has been hanging, despite promises by former tourism minister Ram Naik and present Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma."

"It is not our responsibility to clean up the area. We will ask the municipal authorities and send them a notice," the regional office of the UP Pollution Control Board said.

A district official told IANS: "The Taj Corridor is court property and we cannot interfere till the stay is lifted."

The Agra Development Authority officials said they had put up an iron gate to regulate the movement of undesirable elements. The gate, however, always remains open and there is no one there to look after the incomplete corridor which has become a dumping ground of municipal waste.

"The real fear is that dreaded diseases could break out as carcasses are lying scattered around, inviting mosquitoes and parasites," tourist guide Ved Gautam told IANS.

The Rs.175 crore ($3.5 million) project was to be built on a platform, raised from scooped-up silt of the river, and was to comprise an amusement park, malls and commercial shops, also walkways through the dense wilderness to let tourists take a leisurely stroll on moonlit nights, according to the National Projects Corp Ltd., which was assigned the task.

The corridor was to begin from Khan-e-Alam, close to the Taj Mahal, and end two kilometres towards the city behind Agra Fort. It was to be later extended to allow tourists to reach Etmaddaula and Ram Bagh across the river. For three months, hundreds of tractors, earthmovers and other machines worked round the clock to dig out silt and deposit it on the riverbank to create a new platform.

Conservationists raised a hue and cry, saying that the corridor would endanger the monument. Allegations of large-scale corruption surfaced, and the central government ordered the work to be suspended in 2003. The scandal involved the allotment of large tracts of state government land along the proposed corridor to a private builder for a song.

Some people in Agra still feel the project was a victim of politics. Some say the project could genuinely boost tourism as it was strategically located between the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.

"The previous NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government used it as an excuse to settle scores with Mayawati in 2003," activist Shravan Kumar Singh told IANS.

"It might even help save the dying Yamuna river once people start coming to the lush green lawns of the corridor. A rethink with an open mind is called for," environmental activist Rajan Kishore told IANS.

"Now that a platform has already come up, it can be cleaned up and used for various social and cultural activities. Even a night bazaar could come up. Hotels can be roped in as well. The army unit stationed nearby and in the fort can be asked to supervise things. We need to innovate and improvise rather than keep complaining," Kishore added.

Be that as it may, the last word has yet to be said on the corridor.

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Extreme winter not a result of climate change: Study

Written By kom nampultig on Sabtu, 28 Maret 2015 | 22.33

WASHINGTON: Contrary to popular belief, cold snaps like the ones that hit the eastern United States in the past winter are not a consequence of climate change, says a new study.

The results, published in the Journal of Climate, showed that global warming actually tends to reduce temperature variability.

Repeated cold snaps led to temperatures far below freezing across the eastern United States in the past two winters. Parts of the Niagara Falls froze, and ice floes formed on Lake Michigan.

But scientists at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and the California Institute of Technology in the US led by Tapio Schneider, professor of climate dynamics at ETH Zurich, found that the extreme winters were not a result of climate change.

They used climate simulations and theoretical arguments to show that in most places, the range of temperature fluctuations will decrease as the climate warms.

So not only will cold snaps become rarer simply because the climate is warming. Additionally, their frequency will be reduced because fluctuations about the warming mean temperature also become smaller.

However, Schneider noted that "despite lower temperature variance, there will be more extreme warm periods in the future because the Earth is warming".

Using a highly simplified climate model, they examined various climate scenarios to verify their theory.

It showed that the temperature variability in mid-latitudes indeed decreases as the temperature difference between the poles and the equator diminishes.

Climate model simulations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed similar results: as the climate warms, temperature differences in mid-latitudes decrease, and so does temperature variability, especially in winter.

Temperature extremes will therefore become rarer as this variability is reduced. But this does not mean there will be no temperature extremes in the future, the researchers added.

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Environmental laws being reviewed to give more teeth: Prakash Javadekar

HYDERABAD: The Centre is reviewing all environmental laws with an aim to give them more teeth and hand severe punishment in cases of encroachment and violation, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said on Saturday.

Speaking to PTI here, Javadekar said two Forest Acts, and one each in environment protection, air, water and bio-diversity govern the whole environmental regime.

"We are reviewing all these laws to make people participatory in it ... make them more meaningful and give more teeth. Instances of violations and encroachments will be severely punished," he said.

The minister said the government will come out with draft laws after completing the review work, he said.

Earlier, interacting with joggers at KBR Park here, Javadekar said India is currently faced with the problem of shrinking space and limited resources.

"We (India) are just 2.5 per cent of the world's land mass, and we are 17 per cent of the (global) human population and 70 per cent of cattle population. It's a huge pressure on land resources," he added.

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Four leopards die in Tripura zoo

Written By kom nampultig on Jumat, 27 Maret 2015 | 22.33

AGARTALA: Four common leopards have died in Tripura's Sepahijala wildlife zoo and sanctuary since Monday due to Felina babesiosis, a tick-borne malaria-like illness, an official said here on Friday.

"All the four common leopards died in the zoo. We have held an emergency meeting with KK Sharma (an official at the College of Veterinary Science, Guwahati) and taken all precautionary measures to ensure the safety of other animals," said zoo director Krishna Gopal Roy.

"We have tested the blood samples of the dead leopards in two government-run laboratories in Agartala and confirmed that the animals died due to Felina babesiosis," Roy told IANS over phone.

The official, however, said that all the 13 endangered Clouded Leopard in the zoo were healthy and the wildlife experts and doctors were looking after them very carefully.

Wildlife experts felt that the infection from the first common leopard, which died on March 23 due to the infection, is believed to be transmitted through mosquito bites.

"We have taken all kinds of measures to control further spread of the disease at the zoo and follow the advice of experts and guidelines of the Indian Veterinary Research Institute," added Roy.

He also said that two common leopards, rescued from Kaziranga National Park in Assam by NGO Wildlife Trust of India will be brought here soon.

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Norway joins race of rich nations to submit their action plans for a global climate deal

NEW DELHI: Joining race of rich nations including Switzerland and European Union (EU) countries in submitting their respective 'climate action plans' well in time, Norway on Friday submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UNFCCC promising to cut at least 40% of its greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030 compared to 1990 level.

Norway's INDC is at par with the EU's promise but less than that of Switzerland that promised to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030 from its 1990 level. Switzerland was, in fact, the first country that had submitted its climate action plan to the UN body.

Norway, however, promised that the country will consider taking a commitment "beyond an emission reduction of 40% compared to 1990 levels" if it can contribute to a global and ambitious climate agreement in Paris..

Quoting country's climate and environment minister Tine Sundtoft, Norway's official statement said, "We need more international cooperation to meet the climate challenge. A collective delivery for Norway and the EU on climate change is a step in the right direction.

"Both Norway and the EU have high ambitions on climate, and view climate measures in the context of long term transition to low emission societies. By linking our climate efforts, we can achieve better results".

The country also noted that the solution with the EU means that the 40% emission reduction will be implemented in Europe, without the use of international market mechanisms outside of the EU and Norway.

"If it can contribute to a global and ambitious climate agreement in Paris, Norway will consider taking a commitment beyond an emission reduction of 40% compared to 1990 levels, through the use of flexible mechanisms under the UN framework convention, beyond a collective delivery with the EU", said the country's climate and environment minister, adding "It is important that the Paris climate agreement includes market based mechanisms. By using the market, countries can raise ambitions collectively".

The EU had in its INDCs, submitted early this month, pledged that this group of 28 countries would work to reduce domestic emission of greenhouse gases by 40% from their 1990 level by the year 2030.

Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom are 28 member countries in the EU.

Besides, the EU had also committed for a regular review and strengthening of its mitigation commitments consistent with a long-term goal to curb emissions.

Under the INDCs, all countries are expected to submit their 'nationally determined contribution' in terms of their mitigation (emission cut) and adaptation goals well in advance ahead of the Paris climate talks, scheduled for December, where a new climate deal is expected to be signed.

India is also preparing its INDC. Though the country was initially expected to submit its plan in June, officials here do not willing to commit on any time-frame. Even the environment and climate change minister Prakash Javadekar did not prefer to commit on any timeline when he was asked by TOI a few days ago about India's plan. He had said that India was preparing its INDCs and it would submit it "well in time".

It is expected that all the countries will submit their 'climate action plans' before October 1 so that a final report can be prepared before the beginning of the Paris climate talks in December when the world would, hopefully, arrive at a new global climate deal.

The new climate agreement will come into effect in 2020 and will work for keeping a global temperature rise this century under 2 degrees C.

Submitting its INDC to the UNFCCC, Norway's official statement said, "To have a successful outcome of the Climate Conference in Paris, it is important that countries submit their contributions on emission reductions well in advance of the meeting, and that they are ambitious. Our target is well in line with the emission reductions that are needed to meet the two degree target".

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Study sounds SOS on river pollution

Written By kom nampultig on Kamis, 26 Maret 2015 | 22.33

NEW DELHI: At a time when the country's national river Ganga has caught the attention of policymakers, a new report of India's key pollution watchdog -Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) -has noted that the number of polluted river stretches in the country increased from 150 to 302 in the past over five years, indicating how other rivers too are victims of constant neglect.

A total of 532 townscities fall along the polluted stretches of different rivers across the country. In comparison, the Ganga river basin states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal have 118 such stretches.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi will review the Centre's action plan to rejuvenate the river Ganga in a high-level meeting on Thursday, he and his Cabinet colleagues including water resources minister Uma Bharti can hardly afford to ignore the crisis facing other rivers. It is expected that Modi, ex-officio chairman of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), would try to deliver a message across the nation about other rivers as well. Although the meeting on Thursday is meant to review the `Namami Gange' schemes of the government, the Centre is keen to replicate the best practices of Ganga rejuvenation plan to clean up other rivers of the country in due course.

Chief ministers of Uttarakhand,UP ,Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal are expected to attend the meeting in their capacities as members of the NGRBA that has been monitoring planning and execution of all schemes relating to Ganga rejuvenation.

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Activists protest against Yamuna pollution

AGRA/MATHURA: Activists gathered along the banks of the Yamuna here to demand an early clean up of the river that is the lifeline to millions in northern India.

Dozens of people offered special prayers on the river bank and sought the cleaning of the ghats and the demolition of illegal structures along the river.

Music maestro Acharya Jaimini said in Vrindavan that concretization of the river banks was proceeding at an alarming pace.

In Agra, a meeting of the activists demanded to know what happened to the huge sums of money spent on supposedly cleaning the 1,376-km river.

"Thousands of crores of rupees have gone down the drain in the past two decades," activist Shravan Kumar Singh moaned.

The activists demanded a "white paper" on all the expenditure incurred by Uttar Pradesh and central authorities on cleaning the river.

One activist, Anand Rai, said the treatment plants along the river bank were not working and all the sewage of Agra was flowing directly into the river.

"It is a criminal offence to pollute community water resources, but the UP Pollution Control Board officials are sleeping," Rai said.

Abhinaya Prasad of Adhar, an NGO, drew attention to the heaps of leather cuttings from shoe units piled up along the river bank, polluting the water.

Chandra Kant Tripathi, registrar of the Central Hindi Institute in Agra, suggested construction of new ghats along the river and monitoring of the treatment plants.

"If the river survived and was restored to good health, Agra will see a revival from the present decadence and degeneration," he added.

"Right now everyone is dumping polythene bags and all the waste into the river which is bad. The River Police formed some years ago is nowhere to be seen," said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Heritage Society.

The Yamuna originates at Yamunotri in Uttarakhand and merges with the Ganga in Allahabad.

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HC seeks Centre's action plan to curb air pollution in Delhi

Written By kom nampultig on Rabu, 25 Maret 2015 | 22.33

NEW DELHI: Observing that air pollution in the national capital was "terrible", Delhi High Court today directed the Centre as well as an amicus curiae to prepare an action plan with suggestions to address the issue.

A bench of justices B D Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva said effects of air pollution in Delhi were clearly visible and no monitoring stations were required to show that it was "terrible".

"Particulate matter, benzene, sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) are the culprits. Now we need to find out why it is happening and the remedial measures that need to be taken," it said.

Justice Ahmed also said that while judges interested in an issue are not supposed to hear it, he was hearing the matter despite being a "victim of air pollution in Delhi".

The bench had taken suo motu cognizance of the issue after taking note of a report that said Delhi was the most polluted city in the world.

Perusing a report filed by amicus curiae Kailash Vasudev, the bench noted that particulate matter (PM) was the highest contributor to bad air quality in the city as it had far exceeded the standard levels of 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

In some areas, PM was found to be 400, the court noted and said the levels of the pollutant were "out of control".

The other "culprits", SO2, NO2, CO and benzene, a carcinogen, were products of vehicular and airplane emissions which were found to be high in areas like R K Puram, IGI Airport, Civil Lines, Karol Bagh and other congested areas.

It also asked whether Delhi Pollution Control Committee was concerned over the terrible pollution levels as even the Ridge area showed very bad air quality.

One of the reasons cited by the amicus for increase in air pollution in Delhi was the reduction of forest cover to 15 per cent and fewer notified green areas.

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Development of country while protecting environment possible: Javadekar

MUMBAI: Union minister of state for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar today said the Centre will strive to implement the developmental projects in the country without damaging the environment.

Sharing the government's plan for balanced growth at an interactive session on 'Balancing Environment with Development' here, he said on one hand we will take forward the agenda of development and on the other, we have taken the pledge of protection of the environment.

Javadekar dispelled the notion that development and environment are two opposites and expressed his government's commitment to undertake development while protecting the environment, an official release said this evening.

He said his government had approved several projects which were pending for environmental approval.

"With a clear vision, use of technology and involvement of the people, we will bring about positive development in the country," Javadekar said.

By 2025, the government will implement the River Improvement project, wherein all the rivers will be cleaned and improved, he said.

This project will start with the Ganga River Improvement project, Javadekar said and expressed confidence that by 2025, energy efficiency would be increased by 20 to 25 per cent.

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