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India alone is home to 7 per cent (21GW) of the global coal project pipeline, which is 56 per cent of South Asia's total, a study showed on Tuesday, with the country moving slowly away from coal at a national level, however considerable progress is being made at the state level. Four countries in South Asia -- Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka -- have previously considered or are currently considering coal. Together, they account for 13 per cent of the global pre-construction pipeline (37.4GW), said a new report by climate change think tank E3G that assessed the global pipeline of new coal projects.
It finds there has been a 76 per cent reduction in proposed coal power since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, bringing the end of new coal construction into sight. The report says Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan are showing leadership in cancelling projects and making political statements that they will no longer pursue new coal power. In India, significant socio-economic headwinds to new coal have led to state-level commitments to no new coal, opening a pathway for national-level progress. Having considered new coal-fired power projects for a number of years, Sri Lanka is now leading the way in South Asia.
India's pre-construction pipeline of 21GW is the second largest in the world. | Wikimedia
The report finds India is moving slowly away from coal at a national level, however considerable progress is being made at the state level. Between 2019 and 2021, public officials from the states of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Karnataka announced their intention to not build new coal power plants. According to a 2019 study, many more states have the potential to move away from new coal power due to a combination of socio-economic and environmental factors, particularly the rapidly increasing cost competitiveness of new renewables.
India's pre-construction pipeline of 21GW is the second largest in the world. India is currently constructing 34GW of new coal capacity, more than the next seven countries combined. This is on top of India's considerable existing operating fleet of 233GW (11.3 per cent of the global total). Yet since 2015, India has seen over 326GW of projects cancelled, including more than 250GW of shelved capacity. This means almost 7GW has been scrapped for every 1GW that has gone into operation. Conditions are now ripe for India's remaining pipeline to not continue into construction, says the report. The cost implications of building new coal are starker in India than in many other countries, with clear evidence that even a country with large domestic coal reserves can struggle to make coal-fired power economically viable. Average coal plant load factors have fallen consistently, from 61 per cent in 2018 to 53 per cent in 2021, making it more expensive to run existing plants and highlighting the folly of building new coal.
Even the under-construction pipeline of coal projects (34GW) faces major stranded asset risk, according to IEEFA's June 2021 study. Stressed and stranded assets are already a reality. | Wikimedia
Meanwhile, renewable tariffs in India are some of the lowest in the world, reaching a record low of Rs 1.99/kWh ($ 0.026/kWh) in December 2020. This is cheaper than the majority of the existing Indian coal fleet, and all the new coal projects. Renewables backed by storage are also increasingly competitive. The report finds India's power distribution companies (discos) are already in dire financial health, with debt expected to touch $80 billion in FY22.
Even the under-construction pipeline of coal projects (34GW) face major stranded asset risk, according to IEEFA's June 2021 study. Stressed and stranded assets are already a reality, for example, the seven-plus coal power units totalling 7410MW that have either been ordered to be liquidated or are heading for liquidation, six of which were in early stages of construction. Most private developers have little appetite for coal and are instead pivoting to renewables, making it increasingly hard to fund new coal projects. Recent analysis also suggests that India may not even need additional coal capacity to meet its future electricity demand and could even begin retiring older coal plants and still meet demand projections. Collectively, lower than expected power demand growth, cheaper renewables, falling load factors, and difficulty in securing finance highlight the headwinds and risks to the continued pursuit of new coal in India, says the report.
While Indian national politics have hesitated to engage in discussion on moving away from coal for multiple reasons, progress is being made at the sub-national level, with several states considering pivoting away from new coal. Senior government officials in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Karnataka have all signalled their intent to not pursue new coal power projects. India's pursuit of coal has typically been justified on energy security, affordability, and development arguments, but new coal does not make economic sense for India anymore. Renewable energy can deliver these outcomes better, quicker and cheaper, and without the negative socio-economic, health, and environmental impacts of coal, concludes the report.
(Article Originally written by Vishal Gulati)(IANS/MBI)
Keywords: Coal, E3G , India, Coal Projects, Coal Power, Pipeline, environment
The same clean air policies that can reduce fossil fuel emissions and help reign in climate change can also add up to five years onto people's lives in the most polluted regions while globally adding more than two years onto lives on average. Over the last year, Covid-19 lockdowns brought blue skies to the most polluted regions of the globe, while wildfires exacerbated by a drier and hotter climate sent smoke to the normally clean skies of cities thousands of miles away. The conflicting events offer two visions of the future. The difference between those futures lies in policies to reduce fossil fuels.
New data from the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) on Wednesday underscored the health threat of a world without policy action. Unless global particulate air pollution is reduced to meet the World Health Organisation's (WHO) guideline, the average person is set to lose 2.2 years off their lives. Residents of the most polluted areas of the world could see their lives cut short by five years or more. Working unseen inside the human body, particulate pollution has a more devastating impact on life expectancy than communicable diseases like tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, behavioural killers like cigarette smoking, and even war.
"During a truly unprecedented year where some people accustomed to breathing dirty air experienced clean air, and others accustomed to clean air saw their air dirty, it became acutely apparent the important role policy has played and could play in reducing fossil fuels that contribute both to local air pollution and climate change," says Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and creator of the AQLI along with colleagues at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). "The AQLI demonstrates the benefits these policies could bring to improve our health and lengthen our lives."
Alarmingly, India's high levels of air pollution have expanded geographically over time. Photo by Maxim Tolchinskiy on Unsplash
According to AQLI's new report, South Asia is home to the most polluted countries on the earth, with Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan accounting for nearly a quarter of the global population and consistently ranking among the top five most polluted countries in the world. According to AQLI, the estimated impacts are even greater across northern India, the region that experiences the most extreme levels of air pollution in the world. The residents of this region, which includes the megacities of Delhi and Kolkata, are on track to lose more than nine years of life expectancy if 2019 concentrations persist.
Alarmingly, India's high levels of air pollution have expanded geographically over time. Compared to a couple of decades ago, particulate pollution is no longer a feature of the Indo-Gangetic plains alone. Pollution has increased so much in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. For example, the average person in those states is now losing an additional 2.5 to 2.9 years of life expectancy, relative to early 2000.
China is an important model showing that policy can produce sharp reductions in pollution in short order. Since the country began its "war against pollution" in 2013, China has reduced its particulate pollution by 29 per cent, making up three-quarters of the reductions in air pollution across the world. China's success demonstrates that progress is possible, even in the world's most polluted countries. In South Asia, the AQLI data reveal that the average person would live more than five years longer if pollution were reduced to meet the WHO guideline.
The benefits of clean air policies are even greater in the region's pollution hotspots, like northern India, where 480 million people breathe pollution levels that are 10 times worse than those found anywhere else in the world. "The bad news is that the greatest impacts of air pollution remain concentrated in South Asia. The good news is that governments in this region are recognizing the severity of the problem and are now beginning to respond," says Ken Lee, the director of the AQLI. "The government of India's National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) is an important step towards cleaner air and longer lives, as is the establishment of the new Commission for Air Quality Management in the NCR."
(Article originally published at IANSlife) (IANS/SS)
Keywords: india, delhi, air pollution, ncap, air quality index
Over the course of the pandemic, interest in gardening has surged as people look for new ways to get outside to nature while being stuck at home.
As residents in Sydney entered into their precious days of spring and the 11th week of lockdown, old green thumbs and novices talked about the important role gardening has played during the pandemic, reports Xinhua news agency.
Wendy Stanford who lives in the Greater Sydney region is just one of the thousands of Australians who have taken to their gardens in new ways during the pandemic.
She told the news agency that during the most recent Sydney lockdown, gardening has become an important part of her life and has given her and her partner something to focus on each day.
"When lockdowns first started, we planted some purple bulbs. We have enjoyed watching them grow every day. Now with spring here we get to see them bloom."
When the local nurseries have been closed, Stanford said she had to adapt by using more local seeds.
"Because we haven't been able to buy new seeds, we have been walking around and finding native trees that drop their seeds, and then experimenting with growing them into plants."
As gardening supply stores have shut down due to health restrictions, Sydneysiders have to come up with new ways to source their seeds.
Sandy, a representative from Happy Valley Seeds, said the seed companies' recent uptick in online sales has been twofold.
"We have seen an uptick at the start of each lockdown. On top of this, all-seed sellers across Australia have increased interest in Spring," he told Xinhua.
Diana Barnes, who runs a website and podcast called Growing Vegetables Down Under, said the benefits of gardening and its role in people's lives have grown especially during the pandemic.
She said during a time when supply chains are stretched, and visiting a supermarket could pose a health risk, gardening has provided an alternative source of fresh food, she said.
"People who were stockpiling seeds were worried we may be cut off from food sources. People also saw a benefit in becoming self-sufficient in some areas," Barnes said.
In her own work, she had noticed an increase in followers asking for guidance for growing edible plants, and a number of seed supply companies have struggled to keep up with the increased demand for seeds.
Besides food security, Barnes thought getting into gardening and doing something in nature will help people maintain good mental health and draw them away from devices.
"It takes you outdoors in the sun and fresh air and this also improves your mood and outlook. It is a great education to pass on to children and everyone is keen to get them outdoors to play in the dirt."
Barnes said anyone can start gardening even if they don't have a backyard. "You can garden anywhere. You just need to adapt to your circumstances." Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash
She said the pandemic had shifted people's priorities. For many people, it has been the first time they have had enough free time to get down into the soil.
"People's lives slowed down as we were told to stay home and so those who have always wanted to start a garden, actually had the time to do it," said Barnes.
In a time where the days can meld into one another and the plodding of routine becomes particularly stark, being able to nurture something can counteract these negative emotions.
"When you plant a seed, tend it, see it sprout, watch it grow, see it start to form the vegetable you eat, you receive a great sense of accomplishment," said Barnes.
Barnes said anyone can start gardening even if they don't have a backyard. "You can garden anywhere. You just need to adapt to your circumstances."
"If you are in an apartment with no balcony, focus on growing leafy crops at the window hydroponically or in small pots with drainage. Leaves like lettuce and baby spinach have shallow roots and can live in small pots."
Gardening takes practice and patience, and there has been no better time to take it up than during a lockdown.
If you don't have any luck the first time, as it occurred to Barnes -- "Just sow more seeds next spring."
(Article originally published at IANSlife) IANS/SS
Keywords: Australia, gardening, lockdown, plants
Two years after it was separated from the parent state of Jammu and Kashmir and granted the Union Territory status, Ladakh is on crossroads over choosing between sustainable tourism and saving the fragile trans-Himalayan ecology.
Tourism has been steadily increasing in Ladakh over the last few decades and with every passing year, created an unviable strain on the local natural resources. While on the one hand, people want more tourists to come; on the other, environmental experts are wary of the negative impact it will have on the local environment.
A few days ago, when a video of a reckless tourist's four-wheeler stuck in the sludge at the shore of the serene Pangong Tso lake went viral on social media, there was a lot of hue and cry from all strata of people from Ladakh, in person, in media and also on the social media.
With its nature's bounty, Ladakh attracts a large number of tourists and the numbers have been increasing by the year. Photo by Steven Lasry on Unsplash
"Ladakh has some beautiful high-altitude lakes, which are not only home to several wildlife but also has rich traditional values and sacredness. Enjoy the peaceful awe-inspiring lakes but please don't pollute them," the president of the International Association for Ladakh Studies and Founder of the Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation Sonam Wangchok had tweeted.
With its nature's bounty, Ladakh attracts a large number of tourists and the numbers have been increasing by the year. Apart from backpackers and regular tourists, Ladakh has attracted bikers from all across India and the world.
On Wednesday, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) opened the highest motorable road in the world at 19,300 feet at UmlingLa Pass in eastern Ladakh, which is set to attract more and more bikers who were attracted earlier to the 18,000+ feet of the Khardungla Pass. This development, many fear, would bring on more tourists, especially the bikers. Pre-lockdown, there were more than 2.7 lakh tourists to this vastly beautiful cold desert.
Just like the viral video about the fancy SUV stuck in the lakeshore, another video of a bunch of bikers kicking the sand dunes in remote Ladakh too drew a lot of criticism. Photo by Kenza Benaouda on Unsplash
Just like the viral video about the fancy SUV stuck in the lakeshore, another video of a bunch of bikers kicking the sand dunes in remote Ladakh too drew a lot of criticism."Sand dunes are an independent eco-system. There are ground-nesting birds, there are lizards, there are scores of insects and other species that are found in the sand dunes of Ladakh. Once the balance is disturbed, the ecological process is disturbed and it can have an impact on the ecosystem services," Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust's Tsewang Namgail said.
Therefore, he said, it is imperative that both locals and tourists need to understand the fragile ecosystem and need to respect the environmental fabric. And then there are others who equally blame the local administration's inefficiency. "It is my sincere request to all tourists visiting Ladakh. Respect the beauty, respect the ecosystem, respect the people. Yes. However, I'd also like to add that the authorities in Ladakh have to do a much better job of enforcing the rules," said Rinchen Norbu Shakspo, a journalist from Ladakh, now based in Bengaluru. Ladakh generally witnesses domestic tourists in May and June with a little less in July each year. Last year saw a stop due to the lockdown but this year, the tourists are back with a vengeance. "Plus, this year, several people from north-west India have parked themselves off Ladakh due to work-from-home system," pointed out social worker Fariha Yusuf.
Yusuf is with the Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG) that has carried out a cleanliness awareness drive regularly along with the administration and also encouraged the administration to compulsorily enforce 'segregation at source' for the municipal solid waste. "Fortunately, the hotels and other local people are complying pretty well. We have also started cleaning the landfill site which is overflowing with all the years of waste. It will take time but at least, a start has been made," Yusuf added.
The Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council is now a powerless body, and all the decisions are taken at the central level. Photo by Rish Agarwal on Unsplash
The change is slow but beginning to happen. On the occasion of the celebration of the second anniversary of the formation of the Union Territory of Ladakh, the Ladakh Tourism department launched an e-bus and also conducted a 'sustainable cleanliness drive' at Skara Spang, a meadow in the neighborhood of Leh.While both the initiatives earned good words for the administration, there are concerns raised for the overall changes happening since last two years. With so much infrastructure planned, concerns are raised towards the processes that will ensure environmental due diligence. For instance, Namgail pointed out a certain Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report prepared for a road-building project in Ladakh.
"One of the EIA reports I saw mentioned, 'There are no trees in the area, so we can go ahead with the project'. This shows a clear lack of understanding about the ecology here," Namgyal said.
Environmentalist Karma Sonam pointed out how the status of UT is being problematic for better environmental administration.
"The Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council is now a powerless body, and all the decisions are taken at the central level. Tourism has been increasing over the years but now it is time to put a check as excessive tourism can be a problem for the environment," he told IANS on phone.
From being part of a large state to being a Union Territory and then from demanding Schedule Six status to now demanding a separate state, Ladakh and Ladakhis have come a long way. Time for this old silk route destination to find its own place again!
(Article Originally Written By: Nivedita Khandekar) (IANS/MBI)
Keywords: Ladakh, Lakes, Sand Dunes, Ecosystem, Environment, Ecology