Thursday October 19, 2017

Climate change: Positive impact on rice, tea in Northeast

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Kolkata: A scientist claimed that climate change was going to “positively” impact rice and tea crops in the Northeast.

According to Chandan Mahanta of the IIT-Guwahati, a modelling study carried out by the institute showed in the next 15 years (till 2030), rice and tea can actually have an advantage from climate change.

“Climate change is going to positively impact rice and tea in at least coming 15 years in the northeast. We have modelled that,” Mahanta said here at the South Asia Water Dialogue, adding that scientists looked at climate data, such as temperature, humidity and precipitation in the region to study the changes on the two important crops.

Explaining the variation, he said: “Sometimes it’s not just the temperature alone but also the rate of change of temperature or the rate of change of precipitation so it is not always very simple to say.”

In addition, the difference in growing times also has an influence.

“Tea is grown at three different times. Even rice is grown at different times. Maybe one particular rice variety may be less affected, others may be more affected,” said Mahanta, a professor of the department of civil engineering.

The Dialogue was organised by Observer Research Foundation in collaboration with the German Embassy.According to Chandan Mahanta of the IIT-Guwahati, a modelling study carried out by the institute showed in the next 15 years (till 2030), rice and tea can actually have an advantage from climate change.

“Climate change is going to positively impact rice and tea in at least coming 15 years in the northeast. We have modelled that,” Mahanta said here at the South Asia Water Dialogue, adding that scientists looked at climate data, such as temperature, humidity and precipitation in the region to study the changes on the two important crops.

Explaining the variation, he said: “Sometimes it’s not just the temperature alone but also the rate of change of temperature or the rate of change of precipitation so it is not always very simple to say.”

In addition, the difference in growing times also has an influence.

“Tea is grown at three different times. Even rice is grown at different times. Maybe one particular rice variety may be less affected, others may be more affected,” said Mahanta, a professor of the department of civil engineering.

The Dialogue was organised by Observer Research Foundation in collaboration with the German Embassy. (IANS) 

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Exclusive : Our Islands Are Vanishing! | Tracing the Inundation of Parali I Island

Looking at the current trend of harmful activities undertaken by humans, the world might have to be ready for losses that we are going to face because of climate change.

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Parali I
India has lost an entire island to erosion. Lakshadweep is no longer an archipelago of 36 islands (Representative image) Wikimedia

New Delhi, September 25, 2017: What if we told you that our landmasses are shrinking and disappearing under water? The earth’s climate is rapidly changing and life is at risk. Human impact on the environment, which first began when our ancestors began to stalk and collect the natural resources. It is now of such intensity that it threatens to radically amend the planet’s ecology – its climate, water, air, and even life.

The highly-dramatized Hollywood fiction film ‘2012’ left deep impressions on our minds, opening us to the possibility of a possible catastrophe. Rising sea levels that submerge complete islands were thought of as a distant possibility of this apocalyptic future. But in the idyllic Indian subcontinent, it seems that the destruction is here already.


The ‘Disappearance’ of Parali I

A report by PTI in early September revealed that the Parali I island, a biodiversity-rich uninhabited island of the Lakshadweep archipelago, has completely vanished due to coastal erosion.

R M Hidayathulla, a PhD scholar from the Calicut University in Kerala, made the revelations in his study titled “Studies on Coastal Erosion in Selected Uninhabited Islands of Lakshadweep Archipelago with Special Reference to Biodiversity Conservation.”

“We can say Lakshadweep now is not an archipelago of 36 islands,” Hidayathulla was quoted as saying.

In the study, Hidayathulla assessed the biodiversity confining to five uninhabited islands in the Lakshadweep archipelago – Bangaram, Thinnakara, Parali I, II and III.

Parali I, part of the Bangaram Atoll, that stretched across 0.032 km2 in 1968, has now eroded to a 100 per cent extent thus, resulting in its complete inundation.

Parali I
A few islands of the Lakshadweep archipelago. Bangaram atoll can be seen here. Wikimedia

Hidayathulla, in his study, has further claimed that a general trend of erosion has been noticed in almost all islands that were studied. Thus, while we have already lost one island, another four stand at risk of similar inundation.

According to distinguished climate expert, Mr Chandra Bhushan, the research by Hidayathulla is one of the few studies carried in India to establish the erosion and complete inundation of an island.

“India’s coasts and islands, which are densely populated, are highly vulnerable,” told Mr Bhushan, who is currently associated with the Centre for Science and Environment as deputy director general.

The Ghoramara village in the Sunderban delta, West Bengal, was the first region of the Indian territory to face the brunt of the rising water levels. More than 50 per cent of the village was inundated in the mid-2000s.

However, erosion of the Ghoramara was never paid much attention to by the media or the government as it was not of immediate economic interest to the larger population.

While Ghoramara continues to shrink and Parali I has already inundated, with another four islands expected to follow the route, our land masses are at risk. But the issue has remained largely ignored.

Reporter Soha Kala of NewsGram brings you an exclusive conversation with Mr Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi where he shares his insight about the fate of the world’s vanishing islands.

“Banishing of Parali I is just the beginning and
We are going to see much more devastation.
The US has just suffered two hurricanes and three are in line.
The Caribbean has been devastated. India has been
experiencing extremely bad weather
. In such a scenario,
The media has been unable to understand and prioritize
the important issues of all times and, therefore, they are
not reporting them.”

 

Media coverage of the world’s vanishing islands’ plight has been comprehensive. Around the world and in a variety of languages, the tiny country Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and several others in the Pacific region have been a topic for discussion in the last few years.

These islands have become the poster child for the impact of the greenhouse effect and global warming, and have definitely provided a definite face to climate change and its repercussions. Journalists have extensively covered the story of Tuvalu’s sea-level rise. The inundation of the Solomon Islands also received due coverage with The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, and The Washington Post being some of the media outlets that reported on the issue.

However, the Indian media is yet to take into account the fate of the Parali I island, with the attention paid to the issue ranging from scanty coverage to mere ignorance.

“I think one of the reasons is because Parali I is an island somewhere in the Indian ocean- out of sight, out of mind. Parali I was not habituated, which means the absence of an economic interest.  And, therefore, it has not been of much interest to the mainstream media,” believes Mr Bhushan.

Mr Bushan agrees that the question NewsGram is raising is absolutely important – Indian mainstream media seems to be losing sight of some of the most important issues of our time. Environment and climate change are one of them.

Why is Sea Level Rising?

Mr Bhushan asserts that the threat of rising sea levels has been previously drastically underestimated. The sea level continues to rise at more than 3 mm per year; a trend Mr Bhushan suggests is only going to hasten because of global warming.

“About two-thirds of the global warming is currently being absorbed by the oceans. As the water warms, it expands and therefore, the sea level rises”, he explained.

Additionally, as the temperatures continue on an upward trend, the glaciers and sea ice continue to melt, which normally increases the sea level.

“Global warming is going to continue and sea levels are going to rise because of the past carbon dioxide emissions, the current emissions and the future projected emissions. Even if we reach net-zero emissions by 2050, which is highly unlikely, we will see the temperature increase of about 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era”, believes Mr Bhushan.

This spiralling trend signals that the low-lying islands and coastal areas will be susceptible to inundation and some islands will vanish.

The list of which has already begun.

“There is a very clear prediction that some of the
important islands of Maldives are going to get
reduced in size or even completely inundated.  Similar things
will happen in Lakshadweep as well as some parts of
Andaman. Also, Bay of Bengal and Sundarbans are
extremely vulnerable. In the worst case scenario, about a third
of Bangladesh will go down.”

 

The Key Drivers of Climate Change

The Earth is home to millions of species. But only one dominates it and i.e Humans.

Our attitudes, inventiveness and practices have a profound impact and have in fact, modified most parts of our planet. Looking at the current trend, it won’t be wrong to say that we are the drivers of several global problems the world is currently facing.

A research by the Australian National University (ANU) had revealed in February that humans are forcing the climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces.

For the last 7,000 years, the principal forces to drive changes in the climate have been astronomical in nature – changes in the orbital parameters and the solar intensity, and the nature and activity of volcanoes. According to Professor Steffen of the Fenner School of Environment and Society and the Climate Change Institute at ANU, these factors when combined drive a rate of change of 0.01 degrees Celsius per century.

However, “human-generated greenhouse gas emissions in the last 45 years have increased this rate of temperature rise to 1.7 degrees Celsius per century,” he said in an official report.

We are not implying that the damage by geological processes or the astronomical forces of the solar system has minimized. But, in comparison to their impact in a mere 45 year period, they are now negligible in comparison to the influence exercised by us.

Such is the destruction caused by humans and this does not cease to stop.

What Can Be Done To Save Our Islands From Vanishing?

Mr Chandra Bhushan believes humanity still has a chance to delay, if not prevent, catastrophic climate change, but time is rapidly running out.

During our conversation with him, the environmental expert highlighted the necessity to immediately undertake coastal and island protection measures- bio-protection being the first line of defense.

He asserted the importance of maintaining healthy mangroves and deciding against mindfully modifying the coastal areas.

Mangroves are known to reduce wave energy as waves travel through them; thus, a healthy practice would be to maintain at least 200 metres of mangrove belts between the embankment and the sea to protect the landmass from eroding.

While this may seem like a practical alternative against erosion, the mangroves themselves are susceptible to erosion when the soil under their root systems is destabilized by wave action.

To counter the damage, seawalls and other man-made protection measures have been built in some areas of the country- the most notable being the sea walls in Marine Drive and in Pudducherry.

Parali I
The sea-wall at Marine Drive, Mumbai. Wikimedia

These concrete structures called tetrapods have been used to reduce the impact of the sea. But if you think these are sufficient to help us wage a war against the strength of Nature, then you should probably reconsider your stand.

The tetrapods in Mumbai require to be replaced annually, or a certain area of the well gets inundated. Similarly, the rising water levels have been eroding the sea walls in Pudducherry as a result of which the walls are collapsing.

Mr Chandra Bhushan told our reporter Soha Kala that all these are temporary solutions till we address the fundamental issue of reversing the global warming. Without this, it will be a losing battle.

He suggested that we look at temporary short-term measures as well as long-term measures to counter the loss of land masses.

“The world today is talking about how to reduce
emission
 but reducing emission is not going to
be sufficient. 

You have to start talking about negative emission
– of 
sucking carbon dioxide from atmosphere and
storing it somewhere.”

Is there nothing that can save our islands from erosion and subsequent inundation?

“As I see, looking at the global trend right now, I am not very optimistic,” said Mr Bhushan.

While we are yet to witness the mainstream media tend to the inundation of Parali I, what is equally upsetting is to see no reaction from the government either.

“Climate change is the gangrene that the
world is 
facing right now. I tell this to everyone,
it is as if you 
have gangrene and the
governments are putting a bandage on it.

They are not thinking about surgery.”

We are currently facing a very grave crisis, the gravity of which has not been sufficiently recognized by the Central government which is yet to release any official statement on the issue. And Mr Bhushan agrees. He told NewsGram that as far as his information, the Indian Government, or for that matter, governments across the world are not serious enough- serious to the proportion of the crisis that we face.

Analyzing the current trend, Dr Bhushan said, “A number of areas will get devastated.  I think the world will have to be ready for losses that we are going to face because of climate change.”

 

 

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India condemns support systems for terrorists in South Asia, expresses concern over North Korea’s nuclear program

Sushma Swaraj’s statement assumes significance as it comes after the unprecedented BRICS Summit joint statement earlier this month in which Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa unequivocally named Pakistan and the terror groups based there

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Sushma Swaraj talks about support systems of terrorists in South Asia
External affairs minister of India, Sushma Swaraj. Wikimedia
  • India on Thursday condemned support systems for terrorists in South Asia while expressing concern over South Asia’s nuclear program
  • Sushma Swaraj’s statement is significant since it comes after the BRICS Summit where many countries unequivocally named Pakistan and the terrorist groups based there
  • Sushma Swaraj also sought cooperation for early conclusion of negotiations and adoption of the India-initiated Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism

New York, Sep 22, 2017:  In an obvious reference to Pakistan, India on Thursday condemned support systems for terrorists in South Asia while expressing concern over North Korea’s nuclear and weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

“The horror of terrorism continues to haunt global peace and security. Terror groups draw sustenance from support systems in South Asia,” Sushma Swaraj said while speaking at the BRICS Ministerial Meeting on the margins of the UN General Assembly Session here.

“They continue to find support and shelter in countries which use terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

“We must condemn efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, sustain and sponsor terrorism against other countries,” she added.

Sushma Swaraj’s statement assumes significance as it comes after the unprecedented BRICS Summit joint statement earlier this month in which Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa unequivocally named Pakistan and the terror groups based there.

“There is need for collective efforts to disrupt terrorist networks, their financing and movement,” she said, calling for terrorist funding, their weapons supply, training and political support to “be systematically cut off”.

Sushma Swaraj also sought cooperation for early conclusion of negotiations and adoption of the India-initiated Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism (CCIT) in the UN Security Council.

On North Korea’s recent offensive military posturing, she said: “The action and rhetoric of North Korea has been a source of growing global concern.”

Also read: Baloch Activist Bugti hails Sushma Swaraj for her speech against Pakistan Atrocities at UN General Assembly

She also touched on climate change and referred to Indian Prime Minister Narendra’s Modi’s suggestion of an alliance between the India-initiated International Solar Alliance and the New Development Bank, a multilateral development bank established by the BRICS nations.

“I hope we can work together to give this ambitious agenda practical shape in coming months,” she said.

The International Solar Alliance, launched at the UN Conference of Parties (CoP) climate summit in Paris on November 30, 2015, by Prime Minister Modi and then French President Francois Hollande, is conceived as a coalition of solar resource-rich countries to address their special energy needs and provide a platform to collaborate on dealing with the identified gaps through a common, agreed approach.

It is open to all 121 prospective member countries falling between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. (IANS)

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India third among the countries that have faced most natural disasters in the last half century, says UN Secretary General

"It is high time to get off the path of suicidal emissions. We know enough today to act"

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UN Secretary General , António Guterres
UN Secretary General, António Guterres. Wikimedia
  • The UN Secretary General has said on Tuesday, that India ranked third among the countries that have faced most natural disasters in the last half century 
  • Guterres listed climate change among the seven global threats needing immediate global action 
  • He called for intensifying the global efforts against terrorism and radicalization 

New Delhi, September 20, 2017: India ranked third among the countries that have faced the most natural disasters in the last half century, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday pleading for unwavering international action on climate change.

In his first speech to the annual high-level meeting of the General Assembly, he said, “It is high time to get off the path of suicidal emissions. We know enough today to act.”

“I urge governments to implement the historic Paris Agreement with ever greater ambition,” he said.

United States President Donald Trump has declared that his country is pulling out of the Paris agreement on combating climate change.

Pointedly, Guterres said, “The United States, followed by China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia, have experienced the most disasters since 1995 – more than 1,600, or once every five days.”

Climate change was among the seven global threats that he listed needing immediate global action.

International terrorism is taking a great toll on the world, he said and called for intensifying the global efforts against terrorism and radicalisation.

“Stronger international cooperation remains crucial,” he said. “Together, we need to make full use of UN instruments, and expand our efforts to support survivors.

But he added, “Experience has also shown that harsh crackdowns and heavy-handed approaches are counterproductive.”

Foremost among the seven perils he listed is the nuclear threat emanating from North Korea.

“Global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War,” Guterres warned. “The fear is not abstract. Millions of people live under a shadow of dread cast by the provocative nuclear and missile tests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

He appealed to the Security council to act unitedly to meet the threat and to all countries to comply with its resolution imposing sanctions.

“Only that unity can lead to the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and — as the resolution recognises — create an opportunity for diplomatic engagement to resolve the crisis,” he said while condemning Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests.

“The dark side of innovation” is another global peril, he said, adding “it has moved from the frontier to the front door.”

Also readWorld Riddled with Genocide, War Crimes and Ethnic Cleaning; ‘We Must Do More’, Asserts UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

“Cyber war is becoming less and less a hidden reality — and more and more able to disrupt relations among States and destroy some of the structures and systems of modern life,” he said.

Genetic engineering has also raised ethical questions that have not been resolved, he said.

The humanitarian crisis from unresolved conflicts and violations of international law that is manifested in the flow of refugees is another peril the world faces, he said.

He mentioned the Rohingya crisis, and said, “The authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations, and allow unhindered humanitarian access. They must also address the grievances of the Rohingya.”

The other threats are the growing inequality among nations and within nations, and human migration.

Emphasising the need for global unity to meet the great perils facing humanity, Guterres said, “We come from different corners of the world. Our cultures, religions, traditions vary widely — and wonderfully. At times, there are competing interests among us. At others, there is even open conflict.”

“That is exactly why we need the United Nations, he said. “That is why multilateralism is more important than ever.” (IANS)