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Farmer protests, groundwater depletion, and a radioactive village
Farmer protests, groundwater depletion, and a radioactive village

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Farmer Protests, Groundwater Depletion, and Jharkhand’s Radioactive Village

Good morning. Rewinding last week, we are looking at farmer protests, attack on a journalist, the National Green Tribunal pulling up law violators, a radioactive village in Jharkhand, COVID updates, and other stories.

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Rural

Photo credits: Hindustan Times

A farmer protest amid the pandemic

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana are defying prohibitory orders to protest against three central laws made public through ordinances on June 5.

So what’s the protest about? 

The ordinance states that farmers are allowed to trade products outside, “ the physical premises of market yards run by market committees formed under the state APMC Acts” and such trade “can be conducted in any place of production, collection, and aggregation of farmers’ produce including (i) farm gates, (ii) factory premises, (iii) warehouses, (iv) silos, and (v) cold storages.”

The farmers believe that this will lead to an end in the Mandi system and will result in the selling of the products below the MSPs.

Read more on the farmer protests.

A special gift for students in Tamil Nadu

A government school teacher in Tamil Nadu’s Perambalur district spent Rs 1 lakh from her savings to buy her students 16 smartphones and SIM cards amid the lockdown.

The teacher did this to ensure that the students could attend online classes like the students in private schools.

Tamil Nadu schools have been shut for over five months and the state government declared all students as ‘pass’ for their final exams and the new session enrolment began two weeks ago.

Read more on this.

A kitchen garden in Gujarat helps 2000 families feed 7500 others

The program started by a Gujarat-based NGO Utthan is aiding rural communities in Gujarat’s four districts to grow their food which is chemical-free. The food is grown at home and helps them meet their nutritional needs despite the financial crunch.

The ‘Gardens of Hope ~ Emergency Kitchen Gardens’ is a unique initiative as it sees each family growing vegetables and sharing it with three other landless families.

The NGO distributed kits to over 2,500 families across 53 villages who agreed to the sharing policies. Now, more than 7,500 families are getting access to vegetables such as bitter gourd, bottle gourd, pea, cluster beans, okra, and more.

Read more on this initiative.

Extreme rains lead to more farmer suicide than droughts: study

A combined study by Columbia University and McGill University has found that heavy rains are more associated with farmer suicides than dry conditions.

The study analysed around 9,500 suicides between 2001 and 2013 in randomly selected rural areas. The results showed that the suicide rate increased by 18.7 percent in extremely wet conditions.

Read more on the study.

Jharkhand journalist beaten up by police

Journalist Anand Dutta was beaten up by the police on Saturday at Morabadi Maidan while buying vegetables. He was slapped and abused in public by a senior police inspector who later took him to the police station and allegedly thrashed him. He was released after local reporters approached the police department.

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The Press Club of Ranchi has now asked the Senior Superintendent of Police to press charges against the accused SSI, and SSP has ensured of conducting an investigation.

Anand works as a freelance journalist and has written for several publications such as The Print, News Click, Firstpost, and more.

Read more on this attack.


Environment

The 2020 California wildfire season is on-going, with 7,718 fires, burning 3,175,523 acres. In early September 2020, the combination of a record-breaking heatwave, along with hard winds and a dry beginning of the year, and even a pyrotechnic device used in a gender reveal party has led to the growing active fires. 80% of fires in California’s wildfire history are said to have been caused by humans. Nine people, including a 16-year-old boy, have been confirmed dead. For a summary and unreal + disheartening images of a red dystopian sky, check out this video by DW here

Groundwater depletion and sustainable development 

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) to stop granting ‘general’ permission for withdrawal of groundwater by commercial entities, in an order on July 20, 2020. Usually, industries need to obtain a no-objection certificate to extract groundwater from the NGT, which clarified that “any groundwater extraction permission should be for specific times and a specified quantity of water, and not in perpetuity.”

OCS (overexploited, critical, and semi-critical) areas amount for 1,968 units in all, and around 80,000 industrial units run in these areas. Since 2015 the NGT has issued several orders to the Center to assess water-carrying capacity and draft unit-wise plans, however, the Center has not provided any reports on its efforts to control industrial expansions in this. India’s rate of groundwater extraction rate is the highest in the world and was ranked 120 in the water quality index, out of 122 countries, in 2018.

To read more about the problem of groundwater depletion and how the NGT and CGWA have been at loggerheads, read this article by The Wire Science. 

35 buildings in Jharkhand constructed without environmental clearance

The NGT has also directed ongoing construction in Jharkhand that has been started without obtaining prior environmental clearance (EC) to be stopped. The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of all structures need to be completed for construction to resume. 35 major structures which have been constructed without EC. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has also recommended compensation of about Rs 49 crore for the assembly building and around Rs 80 crore for the high court building, two of which were built without the EC. 

Read more in this report.  

Indian projects in the Maldives under scrutiny 

India’s investment in the Maldives is coming under increased scrutiny. A sea-bridge has is in the works to connect four islands: the capital city of Malé, the residential island Villingili, the industrial and waste-processing island Thilafushi, and Gulhifalhu. The project, however, is deemed by many to damage marine habitats and lead to large-scale sedimentation in the coral reefs in Gulhifalhu. 

An EIA of the Gulhifalhu port found that the project could cause “loss and/or degradation of coral reef ecosystems and temporary degradation of marine water quality” in the construction stage. No EIA on the sea-bridge has been undertaken. The proposed construction has been compared to the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, where after the bridge was opened, debris and waste were left in the lagoon, destroying corals and causing a decline in fisheries

To read more about India’s role, China, and the Maldives, read this report by Omkar Khandekar for LiveMint. 

24×7 wildlife helpline

The forest and wildlife department have in the works a ‘green’ helpline, through which people could connect to authorities when they saw an animal in distress. Then they either resorted to searching the internet or calling the police. The helpline would also allow people to register complaints regarding offences regarding illegal cutting or pruning of trees. 

September: Butterfly month

For some lighthearted news: the month of September is Butterfly Month, and India is host to nearly 1,400 species. Ifoundbutterflies is organising a week, from September 14-20, for talks, quizzes, and butterfly counting across India. There is also a poll for the people to pick a butterfly as the national butterfly, which you can find here. The poll will conclude on October 8. Go have some fun, eh? 


Health

Photo credits: Luca Catalano Gonzaga

Cases have nearly hit a lakh a day now <write Monday numbers>

Data mismanagement and COVID

A study published by Indian Journal of Medical Research on the first national sero surveillance (i.e. the level of a pathogen in a population, as measured in blood serum) to estimate the prevalence COVID, conducted in May, shows that nearly 8.56 lakh cases were present in the 233 districts that were deemed as having a ‘zero-caseload’ at the time, cementing that fact that cases have been under-reported in the country. The study covered 15 districts that were zero-case at the time. The cause of this was shown to be a lack of testing facilities, under testing and no follow-ups on contact tracing. 

Additionally, by May-June, it is estimated that roughly 65 lakh people were already exposed to COVID, when the official number on the 15th of May was 85,940. For every confirmed case detected, there have been 80-130 missed cases. These missing cases include asymptomatic, mild or severe cases and deaths. 

Read more about this report here. To read the report in its entirety from IJMR, follow this link

Vaccine updates

Animal trials of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin have shown to be successful and have “remarkable immunogenicity and protective efficacy” in the first phase of the clinical trials. 

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The mild panic that was caused by Oxford’s vaccine trials being paused can now fade – trials are back on track. While the condition of the patient wasn’t officially released, the New York Times has info on it being transverse myelitis – an inflammation of both sides of one section of the spinal cord.

China has started phase I trials of human tests for its nasal spray vaccine. Preclinical studies have shown that the nasal vaccine can reduce lung damage among mice and hamsters with the coronavirus as per Science and Technology Daily reported. 

Lungs in trouble 

A release from Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) in Hyderabad stated that the country’s first double-lung transplant took place on a COVID patient suffering from sarcoidosis. He received lungs from a brain-dead person in Kolkata. Read all about it here

With COVID having been around for ten months so far, more information is coming out about how the body responds to the disease after one has been cured. Research led by Cambridge University has found that 1 in a 100 patients hospitalised with COVID developed a ‘punctured lung’, aka pneumothorax, where damaged lung tissues get punctured, leading to the air from the lungs leaking and gathering in the cavity between the lung and chest walls, which then leads to a lung collapse. Data from 16 hospitals was collected and the prevalence of the condition was found at a rate of 0.91 percent.

The UNC School of Medicine laboratory in North Carolina has also released some slightly terrifying coloured images showing just how intense the infection of the airways that supply the lungs can be, especially with a high viral load. You can check the pictures out here

Jharkhand’s radioactive village

In the village Bango, adjacent to the Jaduguda uranium mine in Jharkhand, people’s lives and deaths highlight the effects of uranium mining. Operations began in 1967 and continue, with the ‘tailing ponds’ being the main point of contact people have with uranium.  A tailing pond is an area where leftover material is stored after the excavated ore is treated. People argue that the ponds have led to groundwater and river contamination, and the mining operation, on the whole, has hit their local economy through deforestation. A 2003 study by Tata Institute of Social Sciences highlighted that 18 percent of women in the region suffered miscarriages/stillbirth between 1998 and 2003. 

Read the story of this village through an exceptional piece of photojournalism by Subhrajit Sen for Mongabay India.

Gujarat left gasping for breath 

The Gujarat government issued a notification to regulate the supply and circulation of medical oxygen after a scarcity in COVID hospitals in Ahmedabad and Vadodara. The Ministry has suggested that oxygen for industrial usage be capped and diverted for medical use, as was done in Maharashtra. Hospitals also say that the price of oxygen has been increased by the vendors. 

Read about how the vendors and hospitals are handling this issue here. 


.LIFE

A weekly list of what we have been reading.


That’s all for this week! Stay safe, and see you next week

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