Bioplastics not an eco-friendly alternative to plastic: study

Bioplastics — often promoted as a climate-friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastics — may lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study.

The study from the University of Bonn in Germany, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, suggests that shifting to plant-based plastics could have less positive effects than expected.

Bioplastics — often promoted as a climate-friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastics — may lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Bioplastics are in principle climate-neutral since they are based on renewable raw materials such as maize, wheat or sugar cane. These plants get the CO2 that they need from the air through their leaves. Producing bioplastics therefore consumes CO2, which compensates for the amount that is later released at end-of-life. Overall, their net greenhouse gas balance is assumed to be zero. Bioplastics are thus often consumed as an environmentally friendly alternative.

However, at least with the current level of technology, this issue is probably not as clear as often assumed. This is because the production of bioplastics in large amounts would change land use globally. This could potentially lead to an increase in the conversion of forest areas to arable land. However, forests absorb considerably more CO2 than maize or sugar cane annually, if only because of their larger biomass.

Concerns over the increased use of plastics:

Plastics are usually made from petroleum, with the associated impacts in terms of fossil fuel depletion but also climate change. The carbon embodied in fossil resources is suddenly released to the atmosphere by degradation or burning, hence contributing to global warming.

This corresponds to about 400 million metric tonnes of CO2 per year worldwide, almost half of the total greenhouse gases that Germany emitted to the atmosphere in 2017. It is estimated that by 2050, plastics could already be responsible for 15% of the global CO2 emissions.

Main advantages of bioplastics:

  • They can reduce our carbon footprint.
  • Less consumption of non-renewable raw materials.
  • A reduction of non-biodegradable waste, which contaminates the environment.
  • Increased energy savings in terms of production.
  • Fewer harmful additives such as phthalates or bisphenol A.
  • No adverse change to flavour or scent in food stored in bioplastic containers.
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Hold public meeting in Polavaram affected areas: SC to Centre


The Supreme Court, hearing a petition on the status of Polavaram multi-purpose project, ordered the Centre on November 29 to hold a public hearing in the project affected area in Odisha and Chhattisgarh. The Centre replied saying it was ready to appoint an independent agency to conduct the same.

The SC bench, led by Justice Madan B. Lokur, also said that the project will only move forward after the public hearings are held. The court was hearing a petition filed by the non-profit Readiness for Empowerment through Legitimate Action (RELA) and the Odisha government.

The Polavaram project was accorded national status in 2014 in the Andhra Pradesh Bifurcation Act and its design was changed. The petitioner had told the court that since the dam design has been changed and new components were added, it’d require a new environmental clearance.

Polavaram Project is a multi-purpose irrigation project. The dam across the Godavari River is under construction located in West Godavari District and East Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh state and its reservoir spreads in parts of Chhattisgarh and Orissa States also.

The project is multipurpose major terminal reservoir project on river Godavari for development of Irrigation, Hydropower and drinking water facilities to East Godavari, Vishakhapatnam, West Godavari and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh.

The project is likely to displace over 1.88 lakh people across 222 villages and so far, 1,730 persons in six villages have been rehabilitated by the government.

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Leaders Call for Increased Ambition at Climate Vulnerable Summit

The Climate Vulnerable Summit, convened by the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), an international cooperation group of developing countries on climate change, called on governments around the world to raise the ambition of their climate targets by 2020 to keep global warming to the 1.5°C limit and save vulnerable nations. The Summit was the first intergovernmental Summit to take place entirely online.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum is an international cooperation group of developing countries tackling global climate change.

The CVF was founded by the Maldives government before the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, which sought to increase awareness of countries considered vulnerable.

United Nations agencies collaborate in implementing activities linked to the CVF with the UNDP, the lead organization supporting the forum’s work.

The CVF was formed to increase the accountability of industrialized nations for the consequences of global climate change.

Afghanistan, Nepal, and Bhutan are its members, whereas India is one of the observer states.

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Biggest coral reseeding project launches on Great Barrier Reef

Scientists have launched the largest-ever attempt to regenerate coral on the endangered Great Barrier Reef by harvesting millions of the creatures’ eggs and sperm during their annual spawning.

The researchers said on Wednesday (Nov 28) they plan to grow coral larvae from the harvested eggs and return these to areas of the reef which have been badly damaged by climate-related coral bleaching.

This is the first time that the entire process of large-scale larval rearing and settlement will be undertaken directly on reefs on the Great Barrier Reef.

Coral along large swathes of the 2,300-kilometre (1,400-mile) reef have been killed by rising sea temperatures linked to climate change, leaving behind skeletal remains in a process known as coral bleaching.

The northern reaches of the reef suffered an unprecedented two successive years of severe bleaching in 2016 and 2017, raising fears it may have suffered irreparable damage.

Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their color. Corals can recover if the water temperature drops and the algae are able to recolonize them.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometers over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometers. The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps. It was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.

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UN Environment commits to support a sustainable blue economy

Aiming for a better planet and a sustainable economy, UN Environment, together with over 100 delegations, presented various commitments at the first global conference on the sustainable blue economy that took place in Nairobi, Kenya this week.

Cognizant of the potential of cross-cutting policies to drive a sustainable blue economy, UN Environment committed to lead global partnerships to map, assess and value ecosystem services. With this knowledge, different sectors that rely on oceans can make well-informed and sustainable decisions that allow both people and the seas to benefit.

With various discussions around the urgent need for effective waste management taking place at the conference, UN Environment committed to strengthening global partnerships on marine litter, nutrient management and wastewater based on the principles of circularity.

About the Blue Economy Conference

This is the first global conference on the sustainable blue economy co-hosted in Nairobi, Kenya by Canada and Japan. Held from November 26 to 28, 2018 the conference brought over 4,000 participants from around the world captured concrete commitments and practical actions that can be taken today to help the world transition to the blue economy.

About UN Environment

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

Major Highlights:

Sagarmala Programme

It has identified 600 plus projects entailing a huge investment of $120 billion (nearly Rs. 8 lakh crore) by 2020.

It saves India $6 billion per annum in logistics costs besides creating 10 million new jobs and boosting port capacity by 800 Million Metric Tonne per Annum (MMTPA) to an overall 3500 MMTPA.

Coastal Economic Zones (CEZs)

It is developed with a proposed investment of $150 Million per location.

It will become a microcosm of the blue economy, with the growth of industries and townships that depend on the sea and contribute to global trade through sea connectivity.

It also focuses on the development of coastal communities and people through skill gap analysis, skill development centers to train coastal communities in the sustainable use of ocean resources, modern fishing techniques, and coastal tourism.

Several green initiatives were taken in the coastal regions like 31 MW of captive solar power generation at various ports, installation of oil spill response facilities, and

Study to identify ways to re-use wastewater at ports.

Important Role of Private Sector

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) took lead in 2016-2017 by establishing a task force to develop a business model on India’s engagement in the blue economy sector.

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NGT to fine thermal plants over fly ash

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed penalties of up to ₹5 crore on thermal power plants that have not fully disposed of the fly ash they generated.

According to an NGT order published on Monday, the “environmental damages” for not meeting the 100% fly ash disposal criterion will have to be deposited with the Central Pollution Control Board in a month, failing which these power plants will have to pay interest of 12% per annum.

The order is significant because of the high contribution of fly ash to air and water pollution and its impact on crops being grown in villages around these plants.

Fly ash is a major source of PM 2.5 (fine, respirable pollution particles) in summer. It becomes airborne and gets transported to a radius of 10 to 20 km. It can settle on water and other surfaces. Fly ash contains heavy metals from coal, a large amount of PM 2.5 and black carbon (BC). Proper disposal of fly ash is still not happening in many places.

Fly ash, the end product of combustion during the process of power generation in the coal-based thermal power plants, is a proven resource material for many applications of construction industries and currently is being utilized in manufacturing of Portland Cement, bricks/blocks/tiles manufacturing, road embankment construction and low lying area development, etc.

At present, 63% of the fly ash is being utilized and the target is for 100% utilization of the fly ash. There is a need for education and awareness generation.

Road contractors and construction engineers need to know the benefits of using fly ash in construction.

Measures need to be taken to reduce the cost of construction of roads using fly ash by way of the tax structure, subsidies, and transportation services.

Besides, there is a need to prevent the ash from coming to the power plant by washing the coal at its place of origin. The government should also come out with a policy to encourage fly ash use in cement plant.

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Lancet urges response to heat wave exposure surge

Indian policymakers must take a series of initiatives to mitigate the increased risks to health, and the loss of labor hours due to a surge in exposure to heat wave events in the country over the 2012-2016 periods, the Lancet Countdown 2018 report recommends.

From 2014-2017, the average length of heat waves in India ranged from 3-4 days compared to the global average of 0.8-1.8 days, and Indians were exposed to almost 60 million heat wave exposure events in 2016, a jump of about 40 million from 2012, the report released

From 2014-2017, the average length of heat waves in India ranged from 3-4 days compared to the global average of 0.8-1.8 days, and Indians were exposed to almost 60 million heat wave exposure events in 2016, a jump of about 40 million from 2012.

A recent report has placed India amongst the countries who most experience high social and economic costs from climate change. Overall, across sectors, India lost almost 75,000 million hours of labor in 2017, from about 43,000 million hours in 2000.

The agriculture sector was more vulnerable compared to the industrial and service sectors because workers there were more likely to be exposed to heat.

The India Meteorological Department had reported that from 1901 to 2007, there was an increase of more than 0.5°C in mean temperature, with considerable geographic variation, and climate forecasts by research groups project a 2.2-5.5°C rise in temperatures in northern, central and western India by the end of the 21st century.

Important recommendations (Lancet Study):

Identify “heat hot-spots” through appropriate tracking of meteorological data.

Promote “timely development and implementation of local Heat Action Plans with strategic inter-agency coordination and a response which targets the most vulnerable groups.”

Review existing occupational health standards, labor laws and sectoral regulations for worker safety in relation to climatic conditions.

Heatwave is considered if maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C or more for Plains, 37°C or more for coastal stations and at least 30°C or more for Hilly regions.

Following criteria are used to declare heat wave:

  • Based on Departure from Normal:
  • Heat Wave: Departure from normal is 4.5°C to 6.4°C.
  • Severe Heat Wave: Departure from normal is >6.4°C.

Based on Actual Maximum Temperature (for plains only):

Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥ 45°C

Severe Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥47°C

To declare heat wave, the above criteria should be met at least in 2 stations in a Meteorological sub-division for at least two consecutive days and it will be declared on the second day.

Higher daily peak temperatures and longer, more intense heat waves are becomingly increasingly frequent globally due to climate change.

India too is feeling the impact of climate change in terms of increased instances of heat waves which are more intense in nature with each passing year and have a devastating impact on human health.

Health Impacts of Heat Waves: The health impacts of Heat Waves typically involve dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke.

Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing morbidities are particularly vulnerable.

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Preliminary findings of Inclusive Wealth Report 2018

UN Environment and partners will present the preliminary findings the third Inclusive Wealth Report and an Inclusive Wealth Index on the margins of the UN Environment Finance Initiative Global Roundtable in Paris.  The full findings of which will be released in coming weeks show that while overall global wealth is rising, the increase for many countries comes at the expense of environmental assets, such as water, clean air, forests, and biodiversity.

The Inclusive Wealth Report (IWR) is a biennial effort led by the UN Environment to evaluate the capacities and performance of the nations around the world to measure the sustainability of economy and wellbeing of their people.

An inclusive wealth index is a tool assessing a nation’s ability to look after its wealth in a way that is sustainable and safeguards its future generations. While GDP measures the size of a country’s economy, inclusive wealth index focuses on stocks of manufactured, human and natural capital.

The Index provides important insights into long-term economic growth and human well-being. The Index measures the wealth of nations through a comprehensive analysis of a country’s productive base and the country’s wealth in terms of progress, well-being, and long-term sustainability.

Highlights of the report:

The Inclusive wealth (IW) in 135 countries was higher in 2014 compared to the level in 1990 and the global growth rate of IW was 44% over the indicated period, which implies an average growth rate of 1.8% per year. However, during the same period, the global GDP growth per year was 3.4%, which is close to twofold of the annual growth rate of growth in IW.

The biennial report finds The Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Malta as the nations that have had the most economic growth. The report also revealed that carbon damage is relatively larger in high-income countries.

Performance of India:

India too sails in the same boat, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation had said last month in a report on environment accounts. It had revealed that India’s economic growth took a toll on its natural assets like forests, food, and clean air. It had added that when the average growth rate of gross state domestic product (GSDP) during 2005-15 for almost all the states was around 7-8%, 11 states registered a decline in their natural capital.

The report comes after the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report said that the world has just 12 years left to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The health of an economy is drawn from the health of the environment. Therefore, to make the right choices that will keep us on a sustainable path, we have to be able to properly measure our progress. The report will equip policy-makers with the right numbers so that they can make the right decisions to deliver results for generations to come. These reports remind the world about how important sustainable use of natural resources is.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. Its mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

The World Meteorological Organization and UN Environment established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. UN Environment is also one of several Implementing Agencies for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol, and it is also a member of the United Nations Development Group.

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‘India may face an intense and increased water deficit next year’

Water deficits will increase and intensify in India in 2019, says the latest edition of Global Water Monitor & Forecast Watch List (November 2018). It represents the regions which are likely to encounter significant water anomalies in the next few months. The results showcase that exceptional water deficits occur throughout Gujarat in the west and severe to exceptional deficits from Madhya Pradesh through Karnataka, as well as in Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, and India’s far northeast.

The findings are based on ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). The model analyses global water anomalies using observed temperature and precipitation.

Highlights of the report:

The forecast predicts severe to exceptional surplus water for regions including Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Mizoram. Moderate to severe deficits were forecast for Bihar.

From February through April, deficits in India are expected to moderate overall and some regions in the country’s eastern third will normalize. However, intense deficits will persist throughout Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh and along the Tungabhadra River through Karnataka.

The forecast for the final months — May through July (2019) — indicates primarily moderate deficits in India and pockets throughout the region. Some surpluses are expected in Jammu and Kashmir, northern Pakistan, along the Gandaki River in central Nepal, and pockets of Tamil Nadu.

The 12-month forecast through July 2019 indicates exceptional (greater than 40 years) water deficits in Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh.

Though this September’s extreme heat was unrelated to El Niño — which usually introduces warm dry conditions — El Niño is being blamed for low rainfall during the June-to-September monsoon season. The monsoon rain deficits have caused drought-like conditions in almost a third of Indian districts and added stress for the farmers.

The report also notes that India’s coffee production is expected to fall to its lowest in five years due to flood damage to plantations in southern states such as Kerala and Karnataka. India exports about three-quarters of the coffee it produces, and flood damage has been reported in all key producing areas of the country. The future forecast will help visualize the impact and intensity at a large scale.

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Dissolve Central Water Commission to save Ganga: Experts

The Central Water Commission should be disbanded, experts and activists said at India River Week (IRW)-2018. This will be one of the many demands in the Citizens Report from IRW-2018 for rejuvenation of the Ganga.

According to the experts, the panel has too much on its plate and it needs to go for a better regulatory framework. “It is a body which is doing multiple jobs—collecting data, making policies, giving technical and financial approvals to various projects, monitoring and what not. It is not capable of doing all this,” Ravi Chopra, head of Dehradun-based People Science Institute, said.

Long- and short-term measures to save Ganga (Experts views):

For restoring the e-flows, all proposed projects in the Ganga River Basin should be canceled. The construction of all projects in the headstreams of the river should also be canceled.

Among medium-term measures, old dams should be decommissioned. The inland waterways and riverfront development projects should be withdrawn as they are harming the Ganga.

An autonomous institute for the Ganga should be established rather than a one controlled only by the government.

On the policy front, a national river policy and a separate national urban water policy to govern the urban use of water resources should be put in place.

No use of machinery to extract sand and other boulders from the riverbed should be proposed.

To improve the base flows, improve upon crop pattern and better irrigation methods.

Other suggestions include- reducing groundwater extraction from the Ganga, promoting rainwater harvesting, ensuring better functioning of existing sewage treatment plants in the Ganga basin (to ensure clean river), comprehensive Ganga law on the lines of the draft given by late GD Agarwal, establishing protected zones in origin stretches of all major rivers and tributaries (for biodiversity conservation), teaching ecology in all science and engineering curricula across the country and studying of climate change impacts on the Ganga, among many others.

Central Water Commission is a premier Technical Organization of India in the field of Water Resources and is presently functioning as an attached office of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India.

The Commission is entrusted with the general responsibilities of initiating, coordinating and furthering in consultation of the State Governments concerned, schemes for control, conservation, and utilization of water resources throughout the country, for purpose of Flood Control, Irrigation, Navigation, Drinking Water Supply and Water Power Development. It also undertakes the investigations, construction, and execution of any such schemes as required.

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