News Wrap


Coal provides about 40 to 60% of India’s energy. It will remain the country’s primary energy source until 2030. Since the 2015 summit of the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations, there is a growing call to phase out fossil fuels. USA and others have also vowed to vote against fossil fuel energy projects to developing countries, when multilateral development banks are voting on them. But the USA produces at least 35% more coal than India. Carbon is being taxed in India, both explicitly and implicitly. Coal tax has quadrupled to Rs 200 ($3) a ton since 2014. This has resulted in an implicit carbon tax of $2 a ton of CO2 on domestic coal. This may not be enough to cover all the social costs of carbon use. In response to the fall in the oil price, the Union Government of India has eliminated subsidies on petrol and diesel and increased taxes. The substantial indirect tax on carbon has been a positive price on carbon emissions. Local governments are increasingly aware of the domestic social costs of rising carbon related pollution viz health, accidents and congestion. India is committed to an ambitious renewable energy programme, increasing renewable capacity from 35 gigawatts presently to 175 gigawatts by 2022. With population rising from 1.2 billion to 1.5 billion by the middle of this century, India is pursuing aggressive expansion of industry and energy production to lift an estimated 300 million people out of poverty. With economic growth at 8.5% a year, India’s carbon and other green house gas emissions will reach 9 billion megatons by the end of the next decade.

Rain Fury in Chennai
Unprecedented rains in 100 years pounded Chennai and its suburbs in the first week of December 2015, leaving more than 250 people dead, over 50,000 displaced and about 30,000 hectares of cropland ruined. Urban planners in Chennai have not paid sufficient attention to hydrological data. Almost all the flood hit localities in and around Chennai are linked to ill-planned and haphazard construction. The new International Airport is built on the flood plains of the Adyar River. The Koyambedu Bus Station is in a flood prone area. The Mass Rapid Transit System is built over the Buckingham canal. The IT Corridor and a Knowledge Corridor and the Old Mahabalipuram Road where IT Companies have their offices are unsafe during heavy rains. The Chennai Master Plan 2016 acknowledged that water-ways and flow channels are encroached upon with constructions. Tanks have been developed into residential neighbourhoods. The geology in certain areas is not conducive for water infiltration. During heavy rains or a cyclone, the lakes and ponds release the excess water into the ocean. Areas are flooded, when such channels are blocked. The DMK and AIADMK have ruled Tamil Nadu alternatively since 1967, giving permission to builders and real estate agents to build houses and offices on water bodies.

Law and Justice Party
The Law and Justice Party, Poland’s conservative opposition, recently won Poland’s Parliamentary Election with more than a third of the vote. The party made strong gains in all major cities and won all but two regions, securing 37.6% of the vote, with the ruling Civil Platform second on 24.1%. Returning to power after eight years, the party has scored the biggest victory for a single party, in terms of seats, since Poland shed communism in 1989. The presence of three smaller parties in parliament will not weaken the decisive swing towards Law and Justice’s brand of social conservatism, mixed with left leaning economics. The Law and Justice Party favours a sharp increase in public spending and a larger role for the state in the economy. It also wants the central bank to launch a cheap lending programme over a period of six years, to support economic growth in Poland. There are plans to reap new revenues from 2016, with a tax on bank’s assets.

Jade Trade
A 12-month investigation by Global Watch has revealed Myanmar’s secretive $30 billion jade trade is controlled by notorious military leaders and drug lords, who maintain an exclusive grip on the lucrative gemstone business. The Report was released end October 2015. Myanmar’s jade business may be the biggest natural resource heist in modern history. The value of Myanmar’s jade production is around $30 billion (2014). The massive business is controlled by former generals, drug barons and men with guns. Hiding behind obscure companies and proxy owners, these elites cream off vast profits, while local people suffer terrible abuses.

Forest Fires
The forest fires raging across Indonesia are responsible for up to half a million cases of respiratory infection. The resultant haze has covered parts of Malaysia and Singapore. Tens of thousands of hectares of forest have been on fire since August 2015, as a result of slash and burn. Farmers view the method as the fastest way to clear land for new plantations. Palm oil has the highest production in Indonesia. Fires are frequently lit to clear the land, with the resulting haze an annual headache. The prolonged dry season of 2015, and the impact of El Nino have made the situation far worse. The daily emissions from the fires have surpassed the average daily emissions of the entire US economy. The fires have caused the air to turn a toxic sepia colour, in the worst hit areas of Sumatra and Kalimantan, where levels of pollutant standard index have pushed towards 2000. Anything above 300 is considered hazardous.

Vol. 48, No. 30, Jan 31 - Feb 6, 2016