News Wrap


Samples in February 2016, showed a spike in the amount of radioactive tritium being discharged from Indian Point Energy Centre, (Ossining, New York, USA, Ref : Red Indian), into the ground-water, near homes along the Hudson River. The governor of the state has ordered several state agencies to carry out an inspection of the nuclear plant, just 45 miles north of midtown Manhattan. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission also sent inspectors. The energy centre at Indian Point opened over 50 years ago. Over the last year alone, Indian Point has suffered several major malfunctions, covering pump and power failures, a transformer explosion, radiation leaks, a fire and an oil spill. All these accidents demonstrate that Indian Point can no longer operate safely. The licenses for Indian Point’s two reactors expired in 2013 and 2015. There would be a net reliability ‘‘need’’ of 500 mega watts, if Indian Point was to shut down in summer 2016. Thanks in part to increases in solar power installations, down state load forecasts have dropped by about 500 mega watts.

Tibetan Crane
The black-necked bird or Tibetan crane is unique to Asia. It has already disappeared from Vietnam and can be found only in parts of China, India and Bhutan, besides its main breeding grounds on the Tibetan plateau. A hydroelectric project in India’s eastern Himalayas will be destroying a winter habitat of the Tibetan crane. The vulnerable bird is regarded by local Buddhists as the reincarnation of the sixth Dalai Lama. New Delhi is going ahead with the constructing of the 780 mega watt Nyamjang Chhu Hydro Electric Project, one of the dozen planned in India’s north-eastern Arunachal Pradesh state, despite protests from indigenous Monpa people. The hydro-electric projects are totally destroying natural habitats. A number of black-necked cranes migrate every winter, from Tibet to the flood plains of the Nyamganj Chhu river in Arunachal Pradesh state. The Monpa tribe is a 45,000 strong Buddhist community congregated around the Tawang Buddhist monastery. The arrival of the revered Tibetan cranes is keenly awaited by the Monpas. The sighting of the birds, is treated as a sign of good fortune by the Monpas. If the birds do not come, the Monpas fear a catastrophe.

Low Productivity
Possessing the second most arable land in the world, India has more arable land than China. But it has very low productivity of crops per acre. Compared with China and other South Asian countries, for paddy and other crops, India remains far behind. Growing fragmentation of holdings and their decline in size leads to low productivity. High rural poverty causes high population pressures on small holdings. Such pressures can be reduced by consolidation of land holdings, by leasing, urbanisation and the acquisition of rural lands for the purpose, with adequate compensation. Along with low consumption levels and vast numbers of poor people, India has massive unemployment and under employment. Growth in production of physical goods from agriculture and industry has been modest since 2011. At constant prices, agriculture grew annually from 2011 at 1.5%, 4.2%, –9.2% and 1.1% (2014). Over these years, industry grew at 3.6%, 5%, 5.9% and 7.3% (2014). Manufacturing grew at 6%, 5.6%, 5.5% and 9.5% (2014).

Compared to the global average of 6000 cubic metres, per capita availability of fresh water in India has declined sharply from 3000 cubic metres to 1123 cubic metres, over the past fifty years. Dams on rivers have robbed some rivers of their usual water flow, while diverting the course of others. Urban-effluents have also destroyed the potability of river water. 55% of India’s total water supply is now groundwater. Growing water intensive crops and using techniques like flooding, for paddy have further depleted ground water. Over 60% of irrigation comes from ground water.

Chilcot Report
United Kingdom’s Chilcot Report into the Iraq War has delivered an ‘‘absolutely brutal’’ verdict on the mis-management of the occupation of Iraq. Tony Blair, the then Britain’s Prime Minister offered British military support to the American president at the time, George W Bush, a year before the 2003 invasion. The former head of M16, and other intelligence chiefs are criticised for failing to prevent Downing Street from putting a ‘‘gloss’’ on the intelligence that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, which led to the claim in the ‘‘dodgy dossier’’ that the former Iraqi leader could attack British targets at 45 minutes’ notice. Britain did make a ‘‘mess’’ of the aftermath in Basra and large areas of southern Iraq after invasion. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office despatched inexperienced personnel to run the civilian administration in Iraq, with inadequate resources. There were serious ‘‘mistakes’’ by senior generals running Basra and Iraq’s southern provinces, ‘‘where the British army really misjudged and had to be rescued by the Americans’’. The decision to disband the Iraqi army was not accompanied by a reconstruction plan, leaving Iraq in chaos, where extremists could thrive. The Americans kept the British diplomats in Washington in the dark, over plans for the post-invasion period. The report’s findings on the disastrous handling of the Iraq occupation has re-opened the debate about Britain and America’s responsibility, for enabling the creation of ISIS. The 2.6 million words report has taken seven years for publication. The report is less than half on the Iraq invasion build-up and more than half on the aftermath.

Protests in Tunisia
Dissent in Tunisia’s Arab spring of 2011, was propelled with the death of a young protester, a market trader who set himself ablaze in Sidi Bouzid. Even though Tunisia’s democracy has endured, prosperity has not come. Unemployment now stands at 15%, higher than the 12% at the time of the revolution. According to the International Labour Organisation, joblessness among young people is double the national average, at 32%, which rises to 40% in rural areas. Violence and unrest in Tunisia since mid-January 2016, have injured dozens of police officers and protesters. The unrest carries echoes of Tunisia’s Arab Spring Revolution in December 2010, which overthrew former President Zineal-Abidine Ben Ali. National unrest and skirmishes between police and protesters have resulted in curfew in the impoverished suburbs of Tunisia, Kasserine, one of Tunisia’s poorest cities and eight more towns and cities. Even hundreds of officers have staged protests outside the presidential palace to demand a pay rise.

Coral Quest
Japan is growing as island in a bathtub. The Okinotorishima island (or ‘‘distant bird island’’) is a remote storm racked atoll in the Philippine sea, where two outcrops pretrude at high tide. While China says it is a no island, merely a rock, Japan regards the atoll is its southern most point. Climate change is raising the sea level, and along with Typhoons are killing the corals on the atoll. Japan is on a quest to regrow the reef. In a greenhouse at the Deep Seawater Research Institute, on the island of Kumejima, a bathtub is full of baby coral growing on iron plates. Workers are growing the baby corals in this laboratory for a year to be finally transported back to the atoll. This makes a 200-mile exclusive economic zone around Okinoto-risma, and thus greater control of the Phillipine sea, which is a strategic asset beyond even the natural resources that might lie beneath the surface.

China is dredging military bases out of the ocean. It has stepped up its construction of runaways in the South China sea, since president Xi Jinping visited Washington in September 2015. Two runaways have been completed on Subi Reef and Mischief Reef, which join a newly operational landing strip, on a third reef called Fiery Cross, in the contested waters. China’s test flights have been landing on Fiery Cross Reef, since January 2016. The new islands reclaimed by China in the South China sea, are artificial.

Vol. 49, No.9, Sep 4 - 10, 2016