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Calls for Action at U.S. - India Energy Partnership Summit in DC; Extreme Heat in hits Ahmedabad

Grace Gill Qayoumi

Posted May 21, 2013

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India Green News is a selection of news highlights about environmental and energy issues in India

May 14 – 20th, 2013

Climate & Energy

India needs clean, affordable sources of energy: PM

Access to clean, reliable and affordable sources of energy is a major policy priority for India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said.

"The scale of energy challenges in India requires not just investments, but also innovation in how we produce and consume energy," Singh said in a message to the Fourth US-India Energy Partnership Summit.

"Access to clean, reliable and affordable sources of energy is a major policy priority for India, which seeks to pursue economic growth of eight to 9% per year in a sustainable manner. This is imperative to give all our people a life of equity, opportunity and prosperity," Singh said.

His message was read out by the Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao during the two-day conference organised by TERI in association with Yale University.

"In recent years, through the India-US Energy Dialogue, our bilateral co-operation has made remarkable progress in seeking solutions to the energy challenges of our times," Singh said in his message to the conference.

The conference is being attended by two of his Cabinet Ministers -- M Pallam Raju and Farooq Abdullah - and was addressed by Al Gore the former US Vice President and Daniel Poneman, the Acting Energy Secretary.

Abdullah said it is time for action and not signing memorandums.

Noting that India is at the new threshold of growth, Abdullah said India is an energy deficient nation and called for more collaboration with the United States in the renewable energy sector.

India needs massive investment in the renewable energy sector which is estimated to be between USD 60-70 billion in the next five years.

In her remarks Rao urged the US Government to approve the export of US shale gas to India.

This is a win-win proposition for both sides - ensuring energy security for India and revenue supply to the US.

The Department of Energy is expected to soon take a decision on this.

Rao said the India-US energy dialogue focuses on critical areas of social development, adding that the potential is immense.

"I know for the fact that so much progress is being made in this relationship," she said.

The two countries are also developing a joint strategy of clean energy development.

Richard Levin of the Yale University said the need for collaboration between India and the US in clean energy is ever more important today.

"Urgency is greater than ever," he said adding that there is need to move away from fossil fuels in order to save the planet.

(The Business Standard, 05/14/13)

Power Minister feels the heat of the Sun

Claiming zero performance by Delhi on its renewable energy targets, Greenpeace activists on Wednesday picketed outside the residence of Delhi Power Minister Haroon Yusuf.

Highlighting Greenpeace report, “Powering Ahead with Renewables: Leaders and Laggards”, the activists blocked the Minister’s residence by placing solar panels at the entrance and chained themselves to it. They later met Mr. Yusuf and sought a commitment from him on the policy on renewables energising Delhi.

They claimed that though the Minister “accepted the solar panels (presented by them), he was non committal on a timeline for a strong policy on renewables. He, however, agreed to forward the Greenpeace report and recommendations to the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission for future action”.

The solar panels, with which the activists protested, displayed a message asking the Minister to “Switch on the Sun”. “The 2.3-kW panels can light up Mr. Yusuf’s house meeting most of its energy demands. The activists handed over the panels to Mr. Yusuf to emphasise that he should look at using solar energy to supply power to Delhi homes and commercial establishments using their rooftops,” a statement by Greenpeace later said.

However, the rights group was critical of the Delhi Government’s handling of the renewable energy issue. “Power Minister Haroon Yusuf has no plans to deal with the electricity crisis. He has hardly enunciated as to how he intends to deal with the gap in demand and supply of electricity in the Capital… Meeting renewable target could have staved off the power cuts that residents in various colonies in Delhi are facing,” said Greenpeace India energy campaigner Anand Prabhu Pathanjali.

The Greenpeace report had earlier underlined the performance of all the States on their renewable energy target under the RPO mechanism. The mechanism, introduced by Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, guides State electricity regulatory bodies to set targets on renewable supply in energy mix. However, the compliance under it is not mandatory and only seven out of 29 States have met their targets.

“Delhi achieved 0.01 per cent of the target showing lack of political will,” a Greenpeace statement said, adding that “Delhi’s peak deficit during 2011-12 was around 77 million units along with substantial load shedding throughout the city and its suburbs, these could have been avoided if Delhi had even taken up its insignificant RPO target of 3.4 per cent seriously”. Mr. Pathanjali added: “Greenpeace believes that renewable energy is the key to energy independence and access to quality electricity supply in all the areas of Delhi. The Government should earnestly take steps to improve its performance on use of renewables in the Capital to deal with the increasing demand and uncertain supply from conventional sources.”

(The Hindu, 05/16/13)

Acting DOE chief: US not backing down on Indian solar practices

Acting Energy Department (DOE) Secretary Daniel Poneman said the Obama administration is not backing down from requests that India eschew solar policies that it says might violate international trade rules.

At issue are Indian requirements that solar energy firms buy all inputs from domestic producers. The subcontinent says that will help grow its solar industry, but the U.S. contends local-content requirements are outlawed by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“At this point our view is, we are in a discussion with India. Our views on … local content are clear, and we’re hoping we can work through this,” Poneman told The Hill on Tuesday after speaking at the U.S.-India Energy Partnership Summit in Washington, D.C.

Poneman was fresh off a one-on-one meeting with India New and Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah, in which Poneman said his counterparts discussed a range of renewable energy issues.

The solar topic is of particular importance to India as it strives to provide power to millions that lack it and stabilize an electric grid prone to blackouts. The government also sees it as a way to promote job creation through developing a domestic industry.

But the U.S. in February asked the WTO to start a dispute settlement process regarding India’s program, which aims to bring 20,000 megawatts of solar power online by 2020.

The U.S. says the program's local-content requirements flout free trade rules. It contends India’s policies restrict U.S. exports of solar thin film technologies, which “currently comprise the majority of U.S. solar exports to India,” according to the U.S. Trade Representative.

Some insiders expect the U.S. Trade Representative to call for a formal WTO panel to investigate India’s local-content rules in the coming months.

In a speech at Tuesday’s conference, Poneman said the U.S. and India must work together to enhance solar energy “in a way that is not impinging on trade.”

But green groups — including the Sierra Club, and Greenpeace — have pushed back against the Obama administration’s criticism of India’s local-content requirements.

The environmental organizations say the local-content policies would foster an Indian solar industry with greater buy-in amongst it citizens.

That, they say, would promote more widespread solar adoption to help displace coal-fired generation — which is growing rapidly in India — and, in turn, limit greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate climate change.

Ilana Solomon, trade representative with the Sierra Club, told The Hill last week that WTO blocking buy-local rules have thwarted developing clean-energy industries in other nations.

“I think that’s really a problem in the climate crisis,” Solomon said.

(The Hill, 05/14/13)

US paves way for shale gas export to India, despite missing FTA

Opening up the prospects of export of shale gas to energy starved India, the US granted conditional authorization to export domestically produced liquefied natural gas (LNG) to nations that do not have Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with it.

In a decision, which has major implications for India, the Department of Energy announced that that it has conditionally authorized Freeport LNG Expansion, LP and FLNG Liquefaction, LLC (Freeport) to export domestically produced LNG to non-FTA countries from Freeport Terminal on Quintana Island in Texas.

Given that the companies from countries like China, Japan and Britain have already have an overwhelming stake in this Texas company, India is unlikely to benefit immediately from this grant of license.

But the decision paves the way for India, which does not has a FTA with the US, to get its companies seek similar licenses for import of much needed gas from the United States in large quantities from other terminals.

The existing federal law generally requires approval of natural gas exports to countries that have an FTA with the United States.

For countries that do not have an FTA with the United States, the Natural Gas Act directs the Department of Energy to grant export authorizations unless the Department finds that the proposed exports "will not be consistent with the public interest."

In its 132 page order, the Department of Energy said that the proposed exports are likely to yield net economic benefits to the United States.

"We further find that granting the requested authorization is unlikely to affect adversely the availability of natural gas supplies to domestic consumers or result in natural gas price increases or increased price volatility such as would negate the net economic benefits to the United States," it said.

Freeport facility in Texas, the Department of Energy said, is conditionally authorized to export at a rate of up to 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day (Bcf/d) for a period of 20 years. The Department granted the first authorization to export LNG to non-FTA countries in May 2011 for the Sabine Pass LNG Terminal in Cameron Parish, Louisiana at a rate of up to 2.2 Bcf/d.

(The Indian Express, 05/18/13)

Poor Bear Brunt of Climate Change, Claims Social Activist

Sustainable development that mitigates the impact of climate change for India’s poor can only be achieved by the devolution of the Indian government, stated prominent social activist Sunita Narain at a March 27 lecture at Arizona State University.

“Getting the model of development right so that everyone has access to health care, water and energy supplies is only achievable when the government is de-centralized,” Narain told India-West in an interview after the lecture, which was organized by ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

The director general of the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, Narain has received numerous accolades for her work, including the Padma Shri – India’s highest honor – in 2005. In 2007, Narain was named by Time magazine as one of India’s 15 most influential people. Foreign Policy magazine has thrice named Narain one of the world’s best intellectuals.

“Climate change is already hurting the world’s most poor and vulnerable,” stated Narain, explaining that rainwater – a major resource for India’s largely agrarian population – has been inconsistent, with more rainfall, but for a fewer number of days.

“Farmers are very desperate today. This is their livelihood; it is the only thing they know. And we can send them to cities to get jobs, but the urban sector doesn’t have the ability to absorb all those people,” stated Narain.

India has about 600 million people involved in farming-related activity, and more than three-quarters of its population live in rural areas, relying on rain-fed agriculture and fuel from forests, according to World Bank data. The Oakland, Calif.-based Pacific Institute last year released research conducted in India by Meena Palaniappan which concluded that a two-degree Celsius temperature fluctuation could lead either to drought or flooding due to varying rainfall amounts. Scarcity of water supplies was equally acute for the urban and rural poor in India, stated Palaniappan, in an interview with India-West, when the study was released.

“We cannot afford a two-degree fluctuation in temperature,” Narain told India-West, noting that India’s poor have no forecast or insurance systems in place.

Government must be reorganized to let local people have control of their resources, including ponds and aquifers, she stated. An early warning or forecasting system for weather must be made available, along with systems for storing rainwater as it falls.

Narain stated emphatically that India’s resources are often diverted from the poor in rural India to the middle-class and wealthy in urban India.

“Unrest will grow as the poor see their needed resources being taken away,” said Narain, citing the Naxalite rebellion, which has grown out of disputes over control of forested areas.

Since 1982, Narain has worked with CSE under the direction of renowned environmentalist Anil Agarwal, who founded the organization. Besides the organization’s focus on climate change and water access issues, CSE is active in air pollution and food safety issues.

In a CSE blog post, Narain noted: “For the poor, the environment is not a matter of luxury; it is not about fixing the problems of growth, but of survival. It is fixing growth itself.” 

“They know that when the land is mined and trees are cut, their water source dries up or they lose grazing and agricultural land. They know they are poor. And they are saying, loudly and as clearly as they can, that what others call development will only make them poorer. It is an open challenge to the development paradigm that we know today,” stated Narain.

(IndiaWest, 05/13/13)

Environmental Health & Governance

City Bakes at 44.2 degrees

AHMEDABAD: The city was the hottest place in the state as it scorched at 44.2 degrees on Saturday and there is a little hope for any respite as the sun is likely to bake on Sunday as well.

The climb of the mercury remained continuous as the temperature slowly and steadily rose from 43 degrees a few days back to 44.2 degrees on Saturday which was a good two degrees above normal.

State capital Gandhinagar too was hot at 43.4 degrees, while Amreli in Saurashtra recorded 43.1 degrees.

Doctors said that people need to be extremely careful with their hydration as exposure to such extreme heat can catch them unawares and cause heat stroke.

"Prevention is always better than cure. People should take electrolyte drinks, lemon juice and buttermilk regularly to remain hydrated. People with diabetes, hypertension and heart disease should take protective measures as they are more prone to infections and kidney malfunction because of dehydration," said critical care specialist Manoj Vitthlani.

He said that high grade fever, muscle pain, vomiting and lose motions are all symptoms of a heat stroke and a physician should be consulted. "Pregnant women can easily be targeted by heat and should shun exposure to extreme heat".

Ophthalmologist Dr Manish Raval said that people are also prone to eye disorders and should take preventive measures. "Ocular allergies particularly in young get aggravated which cause redness, itching and watering. Patients may attribute this to high temperature. Anti allergic drops help in treating this," said Dr Raval. 

With swimming becoming a favourite sport to beat the heat, people must wear swimming goggles because chlorine in water aggravates the dryness and infected water can cause worst kind of eye infections.

(The Times of India, 05/19/13)

India Calls for Water Security at Global Meet 

Underlining the importance of water conservation, India today said achieving food and energy security for economic development would not be possible without ensuring water security.

"Sensitising all the stakeholders, for the imperative need for water conservation and its efficient use, and building consensus on the path to be followed, to achieve water security is an important challenge," Union Minister for Water Resources Harish Rawat told the Second Asia Pacific Water Summit being held in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.

Talking about water security, Rawat said it was inextricably linked to other goals like food and energy security.

"Water security, food security and energy security are necessary for economic growth and social stability. These are highly inter-related: food production requires water and energy; water extraction and distribution requires energy; and energy production requires water," Rawat said.

"Food prices are also highly sensitive to the cost of energy inputs...Water security is not merely a water sector issue, but also a multi-sectoral need," he added.

The minister reiterated India's commitment to provide clean and safe water for drinking and sanitation. "India is celebrating 2013 as 'Water Conservation Year', which put greater emphasis on creating public awareness, for efficient use of water and its conservation," Rawat added.

He also said greater emphasis was needed on rehabilitation of natural drainage system and implementation of water security plans.

"Developing water efficient systems in various sectors, particularly in agriculture, is a priority area of water governance, and an important goal in India's National Water Mission," the minister said.

The two-day summit, being attended by Heads of Governments, policy makers, researchers, scientists, NGOs and entrepreneurs among others has the theme "Water security and Water-related Disasters Challenges: Leadership and Commitment".

(The Business Standard, 05/20/13) 

Ministry of environment and forests' bans dolphinariums in country

BANGALORE: India's Ministry of Environment and Forests has banned Dolphinariums in the country. The Humane Society International/India has applauded the ministry's action of protecting marine animals and termed it 'progressive'. 

In the strongest stance yet opposing the development of dolphinariums in India, the federal Ministry of Environment and Forests has issued a ban, which says 'state governments are advised to reject any such proposal' that comes forward. Humane Society International/India has encouraged different states to adhere to the policy. 

C Samyukta, wildlife campaign manager for HSI/India said: "We are overjoyed that the ministry has enacted a ban on keeping dolphins in captivity for entertainment. The science shows captivity is not in the best interests of marine animals. Now, all states in India must follow the ministry's policy and forbid the development of dolphinariums."

For the past several years, HSI/India has worked with FIAPO, CPR Environmental Education Centre, Blue Cross of India, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Earth Island Institute and others to bring about this important change in India's policies.

There is widespread opposition to dolphinariums in India from animal-protection groups, and also the Animal Welfare Board of India and other federal government groups, such as The Central Zoo Authority. In January, the AWBI issued a directive deeming dolphinariums unlawful under the country's 1960 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Most recently, the fisheries department in Punjab ordered all offices in the state to comply with the AWBI directive.

(The Times of India, 05/20/13)

For more news on the issues we care about, visit our India News archive or read our other International blogs.




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