Current Affairs : Environment
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  • A snow leopard was spotted at a height of about 4,000 metres in Lippa-Asra wildlife sanctuary in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. The rare sighting was captured by a camera-trap installed by the state wildlife department.
  • The camera trap was installed in May this year, along with eight others at selected sites in the sanctuary after a preliminary survey.
  • It was only last year that the snow leopard improved from 'endangered' to 'vulnerable' in terms of conservation status. The recent findings have ascertained that snow leopards are inhabiting new areas.
  • "We heard about the presence of the elusive big cat from the shepherds and villagers, but could scarcely believe what they saw as we were analysing the results of what showed up on the monitor (of the camera-trap)," said Divisional Forest Officer, Kunal Angrish.
  • During the survey, two brown bears were snapped through another camera-trap placed inside the sanctuary at an altitude of about 3200 m.
  • Apart from these highly protected Schedule 1 species, presence of 53 species of birds was also recorded in the sanctuary during the survey.
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  • State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has made oil and gas discoveries in Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal that may potentially open up two new sedimentary basins in the country, the firm's director for exploration has said.
  • ONGC had previously opened six out of India's seven producing basins for commercial production. It is in the process of adding the eighth by putting Kutch offshore on the oil and gas map of India.
  • "The seventh basin was opened way back in 1985. We are looking at adding three more basins in next five years time," ONGC Director (Exploration) Ajay Kumar Dwivedi said.
  • The firm has found gas deposits in a block in Vindhyan basin in Madhya Pradesh that is now being tested, he said adding that the find is at 3,000-plus meters.
  • ONGC has drilled four wells after the discovery and will now hydro-frack it by the end of the year to test commerciality of the finds.
  • Similarly, an oil and gas discovery has been made in a well in Ashok Nagar of 24 Parganas district in West Bengal, he said adding that one lakh cubic meters per day of gas flowed from one object that was tested.Now, the firm would go for appraisal of the find, only after which commercially exploitable reserves could be established.
  • Dwivedi said the company is on the way to putting the Kutch offshore discovery to production. This would make Kutch India's eighth sedimentary basin. Cauvery was the last Category-I producing basin which was discovered in 1985.
  • ONGC had made a significant natural gas discovery in the Gulf of Kutch off the west coast a few months back, which it plans to bring to production in 2-3 years, he said.
  • India has 26 sedimentary basins, of which only seven have commercial production of oil and gas. Except for the Assam shelf, ONGC opened up for commercial production all the other six basins, including Cambay, Mumbai Offshore, Rajasthan, Krishna Godavari, Cauvery, and Assam-Arakan Fold Belt.The discovery in Kutch offshore may hold about one trillion cubic feet of gas reserves.
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  • Ambitious action on climate change could contribute an extra $26 trillion to the world economy by 2030, international experts said on Wednesday, urging nations and businesses to step up their engagement.
  • The economic benefits offered by a shift to a low-carbon economy have been "grossly" underestimated, according to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, a think tank grouping former heads of government and top economic and business leaders.
  • "Bold action could yield a direct economic gain of $26 trillion through to 2030 compared with business-as-usual. And this is likely to be a conservative estimate," the commission's annual report found.
  • Dynamic action on climate could also generate "over 65 million new low-carbon jobs" by 2030 and avoid over 700,000 premature deaths due to air pollution, it said. But policymakers were "not taking sufficiently bold action to escape the legacy economic systems," the study found, warning that the window for change was narrow.
  • "We are at a unique 'use it or lose it' moment. Policymakers should take their foot off the brakes and send a clear signal that the new growth is here," said the commission's co-chair Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's former finance minister.
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  • A NITI Aayog constituted group of experts has urged the government to set up a dedicated mission to salvage and revive spring water systems in the country’s Himalayan States given their vital importance as a source of water for both drinking and irrigation for the region’s inhabitants.
  • Spanning States across the country’s north and northeast and home to about 50 million people, the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) has been heavily reliant on these natural groundwater sources, that are under increasing threat from the urbanisation caused by a constant push for development and climate change.
  • “Almost half of the perennial springs have already dried up or have become seasonal and tens of thousands of villages are currently facing acute water shortage for drinking and other domestic purposes,” the group noted in its report titled ‘Inventory and Revival of Springs in the Himalayas for Water Security.’
  • “Almost 60% of low-discharge springs that provided water to small habitations in the Himalayan region have reported clear decline during the last couple of decades,” the report’s authors, who included experts from the Department of Science and Technology, noted.
  • Shimla crisis - The extent of the crisis plaguing the mountainous region was recently evident when more than half a dozen districts of Himachal Pradesh and the State capital Shimla faced a severe drinking water crisis this May after major water sources either went fully or partially dry.
  • While poor water management was said to be the key cause, according to State authorities, they also attributed reduced snowmelt and depressed flow from springs as contributors to the crisis.
  • Also, with almost 64% of the cultivable area in the Himalayas fed by natural springs, they are often the only source of irrigation in the region.
  • The report noted that there were also multiple sources of pollution in springs and these were due to both geogenic, or ‘natural’ causes and anthropogenic, or man-made, ones.
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  • Cigarette butts are among the most abundant types of human-produced garbage in the world’s oceans.
  • Most of the roughly 5.5 trillion cigarettes manufactured globally every year contain a plastic-based filter, made of cellulose acetate, according to the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project.
  • Those filters can take decades to decompose after the cigarette butt has been discarded. As the plastics break down, the chemicals can be consumed by wildlife.
  • According to environmental researchers cited by NBC News, scientists have found traces of these chemicals in roughly 70% of seabirds and approximately 30% of sea turtles.
  • “More research is needed to determine exactly what happens to all of that. The final question is what impact these microplastics and other waste have on human health,” Nick Mallos, director of the Trash Free Seas campaign for the Ocean Conservancy, told NBC News.
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  • Time is running out to save the Paris Agreement, UN climate experts warned 4 sep at a key Bangkok meeting, as rich nations were accused of shirking their responsibility for environmental damage.
  • The six-day UN conference opened with an urgent plea from delegates to finalise a "rule book" governing the Paris Agreement, the most ambitious global pact yet, to address the impacts of climate change.
  • The rule book will have guidelines for the treaty's 197 signatories on how to provide support to developing countries worst affected, and manage the impact of climate change. If nations cannot reach an agreement by a December summit in Poland known as COP24 the Paris Agreement, carved out in 2015, will be at risk.
  • "The credibility of the process... is at stake," Michal Kurtyka, president designate of COP24, said at the opening of 4 sep's meeting.
  • "We are not moving as swiftly as we can," he added. "We need concrete propositions and solutions now."
  • Money is at the heart of issue. The Paris Agreement has promised $100 billion annually from 2020 to poor nations already coping with floods, heatwaves, rising sea levels and super storms made worse by climate change.
  • Developing countries favour grants from public sources and demand visibility on how donor nations intend to scale up this amount.
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  • In an effort to clean the Ganges, Germany is providing a soft loan of euro 120 million (Rs 990 crore approximately) to India to strengthen sewage water treatment infrastructure in Uttarakhand, Charge d'Affaires Jasper Wieck said 30 August
  • Elaborating on the work done by the German Embassy, Wieck said the project would focus on extension and replacement of sewerage system (around 360 kilometres) including complete house connection, construction of sewage treatment plants of around 15 million litres per day (mld).
  • The initiative also includes construction of 13 sewage pumping stations."The purpose of the project is to reduce the inflow of untreated waste water in River Ganga and, thus, to improve the water quality of the river," Wieck said.
  • In 2015, the German government to India committed an interest subsidised loan of up to euro 120 million through German Development Bank KfW for financing investments such as construction of sewerage network and sewage treatment plants.
  • He added that the German development agency GIZ has prepared a 'Ganga Box', aimed to target schools-going children and inform them about the river.
  • Vikarant Tyagi, a project coordinator with GIZ, said the concept 'Ganga book' was planned on the lines of 'Danube Book' when the cleaning of the European river was undertaken.
  • The Ganga book would have information mythological, socio-cultural, economic importance about the river and suggestions to avoid pollution, like not dumping plastic in the water body.
  • "The aim is to bring change in the behaviour of people towards the river. We have piloted this projected in a government school in Uttarakhand and plan to do replicate it across the state," Tyagi said.
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  • Nasa is set to launch the most advanced laser instrument of its kind in to the space next month, to measure the changes in the heights of Earth's polar ice in unprecedented detail.
  • The Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) will measure the average annual elevation change of land ice covering Greenland and Antarctica to within the width of a pencil, capturing 60,000 measurements every second.
  • "The new observational technologies of ICESat-2 - a top recommendation of the scientific community in Nasa's first Earth science decadal survey - will advance our knowledge of how the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica contribute to sea level rise," said Michael Freilich, from Nasa's Science Mission Directorate in the US.
  • ICESat-2 - which is scheduled to be launched on September 12 - represents a major technological leap in our ability to measure changes in ice height.
  • Its Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) measures height by timing how long it takes individual light photons to travel from the spacecraft to Earth and back.
  • "ATLAS required us to develop new technologies to get the measurements needed by scientists to advance the research," said Doug McLennan, ICESat-2 project manager at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center.
  • ATLAS will fire 10,000 times each second, sending hundreds of trillions of photons to the ground in six beams of green light.
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  • IBM 29august said it has partnered with a host of organisations, including Invest India, Wipro, and IT body Nasscom for its ‘Call for Code’ initiative that aims to build global solutions for disaster management.
  • Announced in May this year, ‘Call for Code’ is a global initiative where IBM is the founding member along with American Red Cross and United Nations Human Rights Organisation.
  • “2017 has been the costliest year ever for natural disasters in the Indian sub-continent. At the same time, India has the second largest developer community with 3.5 million developers a community with great potential to create innovative solutions,” Seema Kumar, Country Leader, Developer Ecosystem and Startups at IBM, said.
  • IBM intends to harness this potential by giving the developers access to tools, technologies, free code, and training with experts that will strengthen the efforts towards mitigating disasters, she added. Kumar said the partners have played a crucial role in this year’s Call for Code initiative by validating the IBM’s shared vision of helping humanity tackle natural disasters.
  • Floods have wreaked havoc across the states this year, with Kerala being the latest. Hundreds have lost their lives, while thousands have been rendered homeless. More than 7.8 lakh people are estimated to be in relief camps.
  • The winning team of the ‘Call for Code’ programme will receive a cash prize of USD 200,000, long-term open source project support from the Linux Foundation, an opportunity to pitch the solution to a venture capitalist as well as an opportunity to deploy the solution with an IBM corporate services team.
  • During a keynote address at the VivaTech Conference in Paris, IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Rometty had called on the technology industry to help build a better future, committing IBM technology and USD 30 million over 5 years in the annual ‘Call for Code’ global initiative.
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  • Air pollution not only harms the heart and lungs, a new study indicates it affects the brain so much that people, especially the elderly, could struggle for words or to complete simple maths
  • Long-term exposure to air pollution severely affects cognition skills, according to the joint study by Yale and Peking Universities and published in the reputed Proceedings of National Academy of Science (PNAS) journal.
  • “The study found significant reduction in verbal and maths skills of people exposed to air pollution over a long duration,” said a release sent by the Washington based International food policy research institute that conducted the study along with Yale and Peking universities.
  • “The effect was more pronounced among men than women and worst among the elderly,” it added. Nearly 32,000 Chinese were surveyed between 2010 and 2014 and their short- and longterm exposure to air pollution was calculated.
  • One of the main authors, Xiaobo Zhang, said the decline was steeper for verbal scores than maths scores.
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  • Scientists have discovered that beluga whales and narwhals go through the menopause -- taking the total number of species known to experience this to five.
  • Aside from humans, the species now known to experience menopause are all toothed whales -- belugas, narwhals, killer whales and short-finned pilot whales.
  • Almost all animals continue reproducing throughout their lives, and scientists have long been puzzled about why some have evolved to stop.
  • The new study, by the universities of Exeter and York and the Center for Whale Research, suggests menopause has evolved independently in three whale species (it may have evolved in a common ancestor of belugas and narwhals).
  • "For menopause to make sense in evolutionary terms, a species needs both a reason to stop reproducing and a reason to live on afterwards," said first author Dr Sam Ellis, of the University of Exeter.
  • "In killer whales, the reason to stop comes because both male and female offspring stay with their mothers for life so as a female ages, her group contains more and more of her children and grandchildren.
  • "This increasing relatedness means that, if she keeps having young, they compete with her own direct descendants for resources such as food.
  • "The reason to continue living is that older females are of great benefit to their offspring and grand-offspring. For example, their knowledge of where to find food helps groups survive."
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  • The government on 24 August announced the country’s first wind power project connected to the Inter-State Transmission System was commissioned 24 August by Ostro Kutch Wind Private Ltd in Gujarat.
  • State-owned Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) had conducted the first auction of wind power projects in February last year in which tariff of Rs 3.46 was discovered, much lower than the feed-in tariffs in vogue at the time.
  • Companies placed bids for 1,000 MW capacity of projects to be connected on ISTS where power generated in one resource-rich state could be transmitted to other renewable deficient states. Five firms including Mytrah, Inox, Ostro, Green Infra and Adani won the bids.
  • “As a part of this bid, Ostro Kutch Wind Private Ltd was issued letter of award on 5 April 2017 for 250 MW, with commissioning period of 18 months. A part capacity of 126 Mw, located in Bhuj (Gujarat) was commissioned by Ostro on 24 August 2018 ahead of schedule,” the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) said in a statement.The energy generated from this project is being purchased by Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and UP.
  • According to the official statement, the first auction also signified a major shift from the earlier regime of state-specific feed-in-Tariff (FiT) model to a Pan-India, market-driven mechanism. “This 126 MW ISTS project marks the beginning of capacity additions in wind power based on market discovered tariffs, in line with the government’s plan of 175 Gigawatt renewable energy by 2022,” the statement read.
  • Beginning with this tender, SECI has brought out five tenders for wind power projects of cumulative capacity of 7,250 Mw, of which 6,050 Mw capacity has been awarded. Apart from SECI and NTPC, state agencies of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat have also brought out bids and awarded projects based on tendering.
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  • The Maharashtra government has appointed Bollywood actor Raveena Tandon as the brand ambassador of the city-based Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).
  • Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar made the announcement on 22 August."I would like to welcome Raveena ji as the brand ambassador of SGNP. She is an environmentally-conscious citizen and a respected member of the community. She can help spread awareness among citizens," Mungantiwar said in a statement issued here.
  • He said SGNP is a vast treasure of flora and fauna in Mumbai city and it also provides water to a major part of the city.
  • The actor met Mungantiwar at his residence to discuss the 13 crore tree-plantation drive and her contribution to help achieve a greener Maharashtra, the statement said.
  • As the brand ambassador, Tandon will help the state forest department to create awareness about its various initiatives, like the 50 crore tree plantation drive, eco-tourism in SGNP, conservation of leopards in SGNP, among others.
  • Tandon described it as an honour to serve as the brand ambassador of SGNP."I used to visit Sanjay Gandhi National Park as a kid and now to be chosen as its brand ambassador is a great honour," she said.
  • "Spreading awareness is very important in conservation of the environment and I am pleased to collaborate with Sudhir Mungantiwar ji and the Maharashtra Forest Department in all their initiatives for a greener Mumbai," Tandon added.
  • A programme to welcome Tandon as the brand ambassador will be held in the first week of September when the new website of SGNP and a Jan Dhan-Van Dhan shop will also be inaugurated.
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  • India on 17 august banned the import of pet coke for use as fuel, but said shipments for use as feedstock in some industries was allowed.
  • Usage of pet coke, a dirtier alternative to coal, in the energy-hungry country has come under scrutiny due to rising pollution levels in major cities.
  • “Import of pet coke is allowed for only cement, lime kiln, calcium carbide and gasification industries, when used as the feedstock or in the manufacturing process on actual user condition,” the Directorate General of Foreign Trade said.
  • As the world's largest consumer of pet coke, India imports over half its annual pet coke consumption of about 27 million tonnes, mainly from the United States. Local producers include Indian Oil Corp, Reliance Industries and Bharat Petroleum Corp.
  • India is the world's biggest consumer of petroleum coke, which is a dark solid carbon material that emits 11 per cent more greenhouse gases than coal, according to the CarnegieTsinghua Center for Global Policy.
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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 10August asserted that biofuels will help boost farm income, aid India's energy security and create jobs, in a cleaner environment.
  • Speaking at an event to mark the World Biofuel Day, Prime Minister Modi said the government's focus was to make the village economy stronger.
  • Be it Pollution from the burning of stubble in farms, bio wastes and garbage in the village, or disposing bad crops unfit for use, biofuels are the answer to all these issues.Government's biofuel programme is converting these waste to wealth.
  • Biofules have synergies with various Government initiatives, including enhancing farmers' incomes, and Swachh Bharat.On World Biofuels Day, Prime minister released Biofuels Policy 2018 booklet.
  • Addressing the gathering he said Biofuels can help reduce import dependency on crude oil. They can contribute to a cleaner environment, generate additional income for farmers & boost rural employment.
  • The Prime Minister also launched the digital platform the “Pro Active and Responsive facilitation by interactive and Virtuous Environment Single window Hub” 'Parivesh' launched by environment Ministry.
  • Through this portal, environmental clearances for forest and climate related issues will be done easily. He also gave clearance to the first project which is being built in Odisha via Parivesh
  • Government plans to set up 12 modern biofuel refineries across the country. Nearly 1.5 lakh new employment opportunities will be generated once this is achieved
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  • Trying to tackle climate change by replacing forests with crops for bio-energy power stations that capture carbon dioxide could instead increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, scientists said.
  • Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) power stations are designed to produce energy and store the resulting carbon dioxide (CO2) in bedrock deep underground.
  • However, a study led by the University of Exeter in the UK suggests that converting large land areas to growing crops as biomass for BECCS would release so much CO2 that protecting and regenerating forests is a better option in many places.
  • "The vast majority of current IPCC scenarios for how we can limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius include BECCS," said Anna Harper from the University of Exeter. "But the land required to grow biomass in these scenarios would be twice the size of India," said Harper, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Communications.
  • This motivated the researchers to look at the wider consequences of such a radical change in global land use. They used a cutting-edge computer model of global vegetation and soil and presented it with scenarios of land-use change consistent with stabilising the climate at less than 1.5 degrees Celsius and two degrees Celsius of global warming.
  • The researchers warn that using BECCS on such a large scale could lead to a net increase of carbon in the atmosphere, especially where the crops are assumed to replace existing forests. "In some places BECCS will be effective, but we have found that in many places protecting or regenerating forests is much more sensible," said Tom Powell, from the University of Exeter. How well BECCS works depends on factors such as the choice of biomass, the fate of initial above-ground biomass and the fossil-fuel emissions offset in the energy system - so future improvements could make it a better option.
  • "Our paper illustrates that the manipulation of land can help offset carbon dioxide emissions, but only if applied for certain quite specific locations," said Chris Huntingford of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. "To meet the climate change targets from the Paris agreement, we need to both drastically reduce emissions and employ a mix of technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere," Harper added.
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  • Our planet is at the risk of entering an irreversible 'hothouse' condition - where the global temperatures will rise by four to five degrees and sea levels may surge by up to 60 metres higher than today - even if targets under the Paris climate deal are met, a study warns.
  • According to the researchers, keeping global warming to within 1.5-2 degrees Celsius may be more difficult than previously assessed.
  • "Human emissions of greenhouse gas are not the sole determinant of temperature on Earth," said Will Steffen from the Australian National University.
  • "Our study suggests that human-induced global warming of two degrees Celsius may trigger other Earth system processes, often called "feedbacks," that can drive further warming - even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases," said Steffen, lead author of the study published in the journal PNAS.
  • "Avoiding this scenario requires a redirection of human actions from exploitation to stewardship of the Earth system," he said. A team of scientists showed that even if the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement are met, there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call "Hothouse Earth" conditions.
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  • has a new highest point. The Scandinavian country's highest peak lost its title this week because record heat has been melting away the tip of a glacier that sits atop the , experts say.
  • A month ago, the mountain's southern peak held the title, soaring to 2,101 metres above sea level. On 31 july after weeks of high temperatures, it was 2,097 metres high - only 20 centimetres, or about six inches, taller than the north peak, said Professor Gunhild Rosqvist, head of the near the mountain.
  • By 1 August enough had melted to take it below the critical height, Rosqvist said, handing the northern peak the crown. "We can estimate the melt rate based on temperature measurements. We know that it has melted because it is very hot," she said. "We are going to measure again later this summer when the melting stops. In a month, we'll know how bad it is."
  • The shrinking peak is symbolic of climate change that also brought marked shifts for animals and vegetation, she said, and badly affected the region's reindeer herders.
  • July was the hottest on record in many parts of Sweden, with drought and some of the worst forest fires the country has seen. Even if the northern peak is higher when the mountain is measured at summer's end, the southern tip is likely to grow again in winter.
  • The peaks could then take turns as Sweden's highest point over the next few years. The southern peak was first measured in 1880, when it stood at 2,123 metres. Its height has varied from year to year, growing in colder years and shrinking in warmer ones. But since 1995, it has shrunk almost a meter a year, with few exceptions, the newspaper 'Dagens Nyheter' reported.
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  • Europe sweltered Saturday in intense heat with temperatures hitting near-record highs of 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) in Portugal, while elsewhere high temperatures melted the or saw police dogs fitted with shoes.
  • The heatwave was expected to reach its peak on Saturday, said Paula Leitao of the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA). In Monchique in the south, a forest fire raged on two fronts, aided by "a temperature of 46 degrees but a real feel of 50 degrees" and very little humidity in the air, Victor Vaz Pinto, head of rescue operations in the district, told local media.
  • So far, close to 740 firefighters helped by 10 water-dropping planes and helicopters were working to put it out, according to Vaz Pinto and the civil protection agency.
  • In Lisbon, authorities have closed playgrounds and called on people to avoid picnics and outdoor activities. Refuges for homeless people have also opened earlier in the day to allow them to take shelter from the crushing heat. In southern Spain, the heat continued to pound the tourist city of Cordoba reaching 44 C.
  • The soaring mercury has already claimed the lives of three people this week. A middle-aged man in Barcelona, who media said appeared to be homeless, was found collapsed on a street 3 August and taken to hospital where he later died of heatstroke, Catalonia's civil protection agency said in a statement.
  • Two other men - a roadworker in his 40s and a 78-year-old pensioner tending to his vegetable garden - also died from heatstroke this week. In Vienna, police dogs due to patrol a tournament were fitted with special shoes.
  • Police said that even if temperatures were not excruciatingly hot, reaching just 34 degrees Celsius on 4August the dogs would have to spend hours walking on surfaces asphalt beach volleyball authorities closed certain sections of highways where the heat had melted the asphalt. The central city of Zwolle, meanwhile, started cutting the branches of some 100 poplar trees
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  • The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) released six young bison into the wilds of the North Caucasus on 2 August as part of a program to restore wild populations in the region.
  • The bison, all between two and three years of age, come from diverse backgrounds so as to increase the diversity of the gene pool. Two males and one female come from the Oka Nature Reserve in Russia's Ryazan Region, and another three were brought from Sweden.
  • The efforts, which began in 1996 in collaboration with the North Ossetia ministry of natural resources, have seen the bison population increase threefold.
  • The release comes days after the WWF released two unique mountain leopards into the wilderness nearby, but the director of WWF in the Russian Caucasus, Valery Schmunk, said that bison is too big a prey for the leopards and the two endangered populations will not stand in each others way to recovery.
  • "This is done to diversify the genetic status of the population. As you know, at the beginning of the 20th century, they were practically extinct in nature," he said. "We can say that the program is working out successfully because in the beginning of the 2000's there was little more than 30 bison in the wild, and now there are almost 90.
  • "The problem in the preservation of broad-leaved forests is that there are practically no large-hoofed fauna in this wilderness. This way, by reintroducing the bison, we help preserve and restore these broad-leaved forests," he added.
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  • Concentration varies with rice variety and stage in crop cycle; samples collected from North 24 Parganas district
  • A recent publication by researchers at the School of Environmental Studies (SOES), Jadavpur University, reveals not only rise in arsenic contamination of paddy plants from ground water in West Bengal, but also that concentration of ‘arsenic accumulation’ depends on the variety of paddy and its stage in the crop cycle.
  • The study titled ‘Arsenic accumulation in paddy plants at different phases of pre-monsoon cultivation’, published earlier this year in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Chemosphere, highlights the processes and dependencies of arsenic trans-location in rice from contaminated irrigation water.
  • Samples for the study were taken from the Deganga block in the State’s North 24 Parganas district, an area that’s worst affected by ground water arsenic contamination.
  • The study found that arsenic contamination in paddy was higher than in previous studies.
  • The study shows that arsenic uptake in the paddy plant reduces from root to grain, and that its concentration is related to the variety of the rice cultivated. The study was carried out on two commonly consumed rice varieties Minikit and Jaya and the latter was found to be more resistant to arsenic.
  • “The highest concentration was observed in the initial or vegetative state in the first 28 days. It reduced during the reproductive stage (29-56 days) and again increased in the ripening stage,” Tarit Roychowdhury, Director, SOES, and corresponding author of the publication told The Hindu.
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  • India has been designated as a nodal centre for preparing flash-flood forecasts by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
  • That means India will have to develop a customised model that can issue advance warning of floods in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand, according to Dr. Madhavan Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • On the sidelines of the Earth Sciences Foundation Day, Dr. Rajeevan said the IMD would be working to customise a weather model, developed by the United States and donated to the WMO, to warn of flash floods at least six hours in advance.
  • Six hours before - A test version of this, according to Dr. Rajeevan, was being tried out by the IMD, and that was able to give a flood warning about an hour in advance. Using a combination of satellite mapping and ground-based observation, this system called the Flash Flood Guidance System aims to provide forecasts six hours in advance.
  • Like India, several southeast Asian countries depend on the monsoon and are prone to its vagaries. The proposed model would provide forecasts by computing the likelihood of rainfall and the soil moisture levels to warn of possible floods, he said. Though Pakistan was among the list of countries that would benefit from the forecast, it had refused to participate in the scheme, Dr. Rajeevan added.
  • While the science to warn of floods could be developed, India was yet to work out how exactly it would warn countries of potential inundation. India currently has a warning system for tsunamis that also doubles up a warning system for several Asian countries.
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  • Forests in tropical regions could soon become a source of greenhouse gases, contributing to global warming rather than helping to counteract it, according to research.
  • Loss of trees to agriculture or livestock in tropical regions and the impact of climate change is limiting the forests' ability to absorb carbon dioxide, a study shows.
  • This could make it impossible to meet the main goal in the Paris Agreement of 2015, which seeks to limit the global temperature rise to 2C compared with pre-industrial levels.
  • Researchers estimate that tropical forests currently take in as much carbon from the atmosphere through growth as they generate through deforestation the loss of forest to commercial activities and degradation the removal of trees for timber or fuel.
  • Tropical forests are at risk of becoming a major source of emissions in coming decades as climate change accelerates and deforestation continues, driven by agriculture, animal grazing and mining in South America, Asia and Africa.
  • Loss of forest to deforestation and degradation, mainly in tropical regions, accounts for about one-fifth of recent human-made greenhouse gas emissions, scientists say. Currently, an equivalent amount of CO2 is absorbed by the remaining forests. This is aided by increased levels of carbon in the atmosphere, which makes it easier for trees to grow.
  • If deforestation and degradation were to stop and forests allowed to recover, they would once again help to absorb significant greenhouse gas emissions, researchers add.
  • It is hard to predict the fate of tropical forests under current conditions, scientists say. Climate change will cause higher temperatures and droughts, killing more trees, but at the same time higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will aid tree growth.
  • Predicting the outcome could be helped by more field experiments and by countries sharing their data, to take advantage of observations from forthcoming satellites.
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  • The study is the first to show natural selection due to hurricane Tropical lizards have a stick-to-itiveness in high wind that puts TV weather reporters to shame. Now we know why, thanks in part to a high-powered leaf blower.
  • Under tropical storm-force winds, the lizards lounged. As the wind speed cranked up, they still held on, although it got tougher. Even at 102 mph (164 kph), the lizards grasped the pole with two clingy front feet while their tails and back legs flapped in the wind like a flag.
  • “All the lizard needs is an inside out umbrella and the image would be perfect,” study lead author Colin Donihue said. But there’s only so much a little lizard can take. At 108 mph (174 kph), it was flying lizard time. Don’t worry. No lizard was harmed in the lab test.
  • The lizards’ secret weapon to surviving hurricanes? The survivors had 6 to 9 percent bigger toe pads, significantly longer front limbs and smaller back limbs, compared with the population before the storm, according to a study published on July 25 in Nature. The study is the first to show natural selection due to hurricane, Donihue said.
  • By coincidence, Donihue and colleagues had been measuring and studying lizards just before the storms blew into the Turks and Caicos Islands last September. They returned several weeks later to see if there was a difference in the surviving population.
  • They found that the survivors were a bit lighter overall despite the bulked-up front. Key were those toe pads they are at most about half the size of a pencil’s eraser Donihue said. It also explains why island lizards have bigger toe pads than inland Central American lizards, a difference that had baffled scientists.
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  • CSMCRI experts promise to help preparation of salt substitute from plant: official Blessed with the abundant crop of Salicornia, a plant that grows in salty marshes in the mangrove wetlands, the State government has intensified the efforts to tap commercial benefits from the plant through cultivation as well as extraction of the substitute to salt with low sodium content.
  • Recently, the State government has documented the presence of the Salicornia along the coastline of Krishna district, exploring the possibilities to extract the salt substitute through various methods.
  • “In principle, the experts at the Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI), Gujarat, have expressed consent to provide all the scientific and technical support for cultivation and preparation of the salt substitute from the Salicornia.
  • The CSMCRI experts will be roped in the project to adopt better eco and scientific methods,” a State government official associated with the project told The Hindu. In Krishna district, the Salicornia plant is being grown naturally along the coastal belt wherever the mangrove wetland is surviving. Majority of the Salicornia fields are falling in the reserve mangrove forest under the State Forest Department, necessitating the need of approval from the forest authorities for cultivation and procurement of the plant.
  • Eco-development - “The State government’s idea is to constitute eco-development committees through which the cultivation and procurement will be done without any disturbance to the existing land pattern. The area, including Machilipatnam and Nagayalanka mangrove covers, is blessed with the abundant quantity of Salicornia that is left unexplored commercially,” added the official on condition of anonymity.
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