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Boris Backs Out, Tesla Autopilot Crash, Whale Of A Prank

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SPOTLIGHT: MIXED GREEN FEELINGS

Even as we’ve been consumed by a news cycle that includes wars, elections and the biggest European reorder after World War II, our planet is quietly waiting for some attention. Nature reveals that pledges taken by countries during the Paris COP21 climate summit may need a big boost “to maintain a reasonable chance of meeting the target of keeping warming well below 2 °C.” Researchers have found that the Earth is still facing a temperature rise of 2.6 °C to 3.1 °C by the end of this century, even if countries comply with their climate change commitment. The consequences of not taking enough action on this front are grave, not least for the Adélie penguins in Antarctica, whose population is in dramatic decline.


Still, there are some pockets of good news. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto agreed Wednesday to a wide-scale energy and climate plan, vowing among other things to generate half their electricity using clean sources by 2025, Bloomberg reports.


That’s not the only promising bit of news coming out of Canada on climate. Science magazine reports that the ozone layer over the Antarctic has finally started to heal thanks to measures taken after the 1989 Montreal Protocol. Better late than never.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY & WEEKEND



BORIS JOHNSON HALTS BID TO BE UK PM

Former mayor Boris Johnson, one of the most vocal campaigners advocating for Britain’s exit from the European Union and a major contender to become Britain’s prime minister, abruptly dropped out of the race. Home Secretary Theresa May is now the bookies’ favorite to win the Conservative Party leadership, BBC reports. At least one newspaper was letting loose on the front page with all the drama.


AUSTRIAN ELECTION RESULT OVERTURNED

Austria’s highest court ordered a rerun of the recent presidential election because of irregularities in counting postal votes. In May, Norbert Hofer of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party was narrowly defeated by former Greens leader Alexander van der Bellen. Fresh elections will take place in September or October.


â€" ON THIS DAY

Which came first: the Tour de France, or the SOS distress signal? Find out here, in your daily 57-second shot of History.


FATAL CRASH OF TESLA CAR ON AUTOPILOT

U.S. federal highway safety regulators are investigating the death of a driver whose Tesla Model S car was on autopilot when it rammed into a truck in Florida. The case is raising broader concerns about the safety of the emerging self-driving automobile technology.


TURKEY DETAINS SUSPECTS

The three suicide bombers who killed at least 44 people at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport have been identified as citizens of Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Turkish officials report. Ankara, which has blamed the attack on terror group ISIS, arrested 13 suspects yesterday. Although jihadists from these countries are active in Syria and Iraq, it would mark their first major attack on a Western target.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

The similarities between the sugar and tobacco industries are many, Servan Pec writes for Swiss daily Le Temps: “Neither market is transparent. ... Big Tobacco has been able to turn this opacity to its advantage. By coordinating the incorporation of the tax in price hikes, tobacco companies managed to maintain their sales and revenue. Additionally, food giants and tobacco companies like Philip Morris, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Imperial Tobacco gained market shares in developing countries, where health campaigns are not as advanced. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Danone, Nestlé, and other soda, ice cream, and candy manufacturers are very aware that the crackdown on sugar will eventually prove successful. They have therefore adapted their products to include water, fruit juice, and other light products without added sugar.”

Read the full article, Is Sugar The New Tobacco?


HINDU HACKED TO DEATH IN BANGLADESH

A Hindu temple volunteer was hacked to death in Muslim majority Bangladesh today, the latest in a series of killings by suspected Islamist terrorists. Shyamananda Das was walking along a highway when three men on a motorcycle fatally attacked him. Last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death in a rice paddy field.


$10,000

The amount offered to a Cameroonian family in reparations after a car in a motorcade carrying U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Powers killed a 7-year-old child who had darted onto the road. The U.S. State Department, UN, aid organizations in the area and Cameroon’s government chipped in to make the payment.


MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Delhi Grind â€" India, 1994


VERBATIM

“These sons of whores are destroying our children. I warn you, don’t go into that, even if you’re a policeman, because I will really kill you,” Rodrigo Duterte said about drug traffickers in front of a crowd of about 500 people at a Manila slum after he was sworn in as president of Philippines. “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”


â€" MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH

JULY FOOLS’ DAY

People in the French city of Rennes woke up to a whale-sized mystery, discovering the body of a sperm whale by the side of the river, right in the middle of the city. While specialists were busy explaining the effect of fishing and climate change on the behavior of cetaceans, Le Mensuel de Rennes reveals that it may all be part of a large-scale environment-related art installation.

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Green

Ecological Angst In India, A Mining Dumpsite As Neighbor

Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?

The mining dumpsite is situated just outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat

Sukanya Shantha

BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.

The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.

This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.

Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.


"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.

Can you trust environmental officials?

For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.

This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.

It could have sunk because of the rain.

After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.

The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.

"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.

"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.

Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

A questionable claim

That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.

"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.

He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."

Living in pollution

The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.

"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.

He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.

The mining work should have been stopped long ago

Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.

The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.

In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.

The mine has affected the landscape around the villages

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

Resisting lignite mining

The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.

The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.

They were dependent on others' land for work.

Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.

In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.

The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.

"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.

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