Ban on plastic packaging of food, drugs: NGT seeks Centre view

The National Green Tribunal has directed the Centre and various stakeholders to file their submissions on a proposal that there should be a complete prohibition on the use of plastic packaging in food and pharmaceutical formulations of any kind.

The tribunal was hearing a petition seeking restrictions on the use of plastic bottles. File photo.

“It appears that none of the concerned ministries are prepared to take a decision which according to them at one time was need of the hour in larger public interest. Be that as it may, we will proceed with hearing of the matter and take appropriate decision in accordance with law.”

“We direct all the parties before us i.e. Ministry of Health and MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests), CPCB and the Board under the Drugs Act and all the other respondents, stakeholders, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and all the private stakeholders to place a note,” a bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar said.

The tribunal was hearing a petition filed by NGO Him Jagriti Uttaranchal Welfare Society seeking restrictions on the use of plastic bottle and multi-layered, plastic packages or pet bottles by imposing a ban on packaging of carbonated soft drink.

The tribunal slammed the MoEF over its affidavit which had said the ministry deliberated over various aspects of pet bottles packaging of food and food products but concluded that there was no conclusive data available to substantiate any claim.

The green bench deprecated the ministry for filing the affidavit through its Joint Director and said a matter of national importance cannot be handled by an officer of such level.

It also noted the submissions by the NGO which had referred to the minutes of the 70th meeting of the Drug Technical Advisory Board held on August 18.

The NGO contended that it has been clearly established that certain pharmaceutical preparations packaged in PET bottles upon testing showed presence of chromium, antimony, lead, etc at room temperature.

However, various plastic manufacturing firms denied this and said this test was not performed by the “accredited lab” and that too not along with controlled samples. Therefore, no weightage should be given to these findings.

Source: The Hindu

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Bats losing the battle against deforestation in Western Ghats

But researchers hope that remaining forest fragments and wildlife-friendly agriculture could offer a lifeline.

Bats are excellent bioindicators, reflecting the condition of specific environments

A number of bat species are losing the battle against increasing human presence, growing agricultural land use and deforestation in the Western Ghats, says a new study.

The researchers found that while bats do not favour tea plantations, some species can survive in coffee plantations.

To assess the impact of rainforest fragmentation and plantations on bats, a team of researchers from National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, and University of Leeds in Britain surveyed bats in the southern Western Ghats.

The researchers found that several species are having difficulty in the transformed landscape — but also found hopeful signs that remaining forest fragments and wildlife—friendly agriculture could offer a lifeline.

“The Western Ghats region is the eighth most biodiverse place in the world but has the highest human population of any of the biodiversity hotspots,” said professor John Altringham from University of Leeds in Britain.

“Historical land use change and development has left only six percent of the original habitat in the region. By looking at bats which are excellent bioindicators, we are able to learn not only what these changes in the environment mean for bats, but also for wildlife in general,” Prof. Altringham pointed out.

The researchers used geographic information system (GIS) computer modelling to look at the relationships between the presence of 10 different bat species and the features of the habitats in which they were found. The bats were located by a combination of capture and recording of echolocation calls.

The researchers used the information gathered over three years to build ‘habitat suitability models’, to predict what areas would be good habitat for each species across the entire study area.

“Most species preferred forest fragments and the rivers associated with them. No species favoured tea plantations, though a number could make use of them,” lead researcher Claire Wordley from University of Leeds pointed out.

Source: The Hindu

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CCIP will help Odisha in tackling climate change: UK

Affirming support to Odisha in tackling climate change, the UK today said theClimate Change Innovation Programme (CCPI) taken up in six Indian states under a 12 million pound technical assistance would ensure low-carbon and climate resilient development in the state.

“The UK has worked closely with Odisha on helping the state tackle climate change. Our partnership is supporting the state on low-carbon and climate resilient development which is helping the lives and livelihood of people,” British Deputy High Commissioner Scott Furssedonn-Wood said here.

Speaking at a high-level seminar on tackling climate change, he highlighted the UK’s support to Odisha on this important area through implementing models of low-carbon and climate resilient development.

“Just a few months ago, we launched a programme on climate change…CCIP is funded by the UK Department For International Development under 12 million pounds technical assistance and is spread across six states of India, Odisha being one of them,” Furssedonn-Wood said.

The UK looks forward to working closely with the Government of Odisha over the next few years to implement this programme, he said, adding, “we have worked together to develop models for widespread use of low carbon lighting. We have helped to develop fiscal instruments that provide the right incentives to address climate change,” said Scott.

“In all this, we have found the state government and others in Odisha to be excellent partners,” he said.

Noting that climate change poses significant threats to Odisha, he said it was one of India’s most vulnerable states with extreme climatic events like cyclones, floods and droughts, and coastal erosion affecting people’s lives and livelihoods.

They threatened businesses, assets and infrastructure; the availability of food and water and literally every aspect of the economy, he said.

The state recognised that and had already taken innovative steps to address it, he said, adding, Odisha had also seen that access to clean energy was critical to the state’s future prosperity.

The seminar was organised under the CCIP, being implemented through partnership between India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the UK Government Department for International Development (DFID).

Phil Marker, the Regional Programme Manager, described the initial CCIP support areas to Odisha in flood planning, solid waste management and heat islands.

The discussions helped in establishing a roadmap to implement models of sustainable development in Odisha. Key areas for UK’s support to state on climate vulnerability and energy access were also identified, which will help improve quality of life of people.

Source: Zee

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Newly discovered crustacean species named after Sir Elton John

Scientists have discovered a small ‘hitchhiking’ coral reef crustacean species in Indonesia, and named it after English composer and singer Sir Elton John.

Newly discovered crustacean species named after Sir Elton John

While exploring the remote coral reefs of Raja Ampat in Indonesia, Dr James Thomas from the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, Florida, and his colleagues from Naturalis Natural History museum in the Netherlands, stumbled across the crustacean living inside another reef invertebrate in a commensal association (without causing any harm, nor benefit to its host).

In his amazement to the amphipod’s unusual form, Thomas called it L eltoni after composer and singer Sir Elton John.

“I named the species in honour of Sir Elton John because I have listened to his music in my lab during my entire scientific career,” said Thomas.

“So, when this unusual crustacean with a greatly enlarged appendage appeared under my microscope after a day of collecting, an image of the shoes Elton John wore as the Pinball Wizard came to mind,” he said.

Taxonomists, scientists who study and name new species, have the choice to pick names that are relevant to locations, features of the animal, or people the scientist admires.

In an interesting twist L eltoni is now reported from Hawaiian waters as an invasive species, researchers said.

“Several years ago I was contacted by scientists from the Bishop Museum in Honolulu to help identify an unusual amphipod they had collected,” said Thomas.

It proved to be the same species as the one from Indonesia.

The most likely scenario for its introduction into Hawaiian waters was as a hitchhiker inside its host sponge or tunicate that was attached to a large floating drydock transported to Hawaii from Subic Bay, Philippines.

Recent studies by Thomas in the Philippines during a California Academy of Science expedition in 2014 have shown this new species is also found there.

Marine animals can have unknown effects when transported to other ecosystems where they can compete with native species.

In most cases these “invasions” go unnoticed. However, because scientists at the Bishop Museum had established a baseline of species over the years the presence of this invasive amphipod was quickly noted.

“Such studies show the importance of regular environmental monitoring, especially in tropical environments,” Thomas said.

He also pointed out that even though their tiny size, crustaceans such as L eltoni provide crucial information about reef health.

The research was published in the journal ZooKeys.

Source: Zee

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Rare nautilus spotted for first time in 30 years

A US biologist has spotted a rare species of nautiluses, the small, distant cousins of squid and cuttlefish, after a gap of 30 years.

The creature in question is Allonautilus scrobiculatus, a species of nautilus that researchers had previously discovered off of Ndrova Island in Papua New Guinea in 1984.

Nautiluses are an ancient lineage of animal, often christened a “living fossil” because their distinctive shells appear in the fossil record over an impressive 500 million year period.

This recent sighting of Allonautilus indicates that there is still much to learn about these creatures, said University of Washington professor Peter Ward who had recently encountered the species in the South Pacific.

“Before this, two humans had seen Allonautilus scrobiculatus,” Ward said.

“My colleague Bruce Saunders from Bryn Mawr College found Allonautilus first, and I saw them a few weeks later,” Ward noted in a statement released by University of Washington.

Illegal fishing and “mining” operations for nautilus shells have already decimated some populations, Ward said.

This unchecked practice could threaten a lineage that has been around longer than the dinosaurs were and survived the two largest mass extinctions in Earth’s history.

Allonautilus scrobiculatus is notable for the thick layer of slime and hair covering its shell.

Source: Zee

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Grow plants if you want to curb urban heat: NASA

The presence of vegetation in urban areas – along the roads, in the parks and in your neighbourhood – can limit city heat effect to a great extent, says a NASA study.

Grow plants if you want to curb urban heat: NASA

Using multiple satellites’ observations, researchers found that areas in the US covered in part by concrete surfaces had a summer temperature 1.9 degrees Celsius higher than surrounding rural areas.

In winter, the temperature difference was 1.5 degrees Celsius higher in urban areas.

At the human level, a rise of one degrees Celsius can raise energy demands for air conditioning in the summer from five to 20 percent.

“This has nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions. It is in addition to the greenhouse gas effect. This is the land use component only,” said Lahouari Bounoua, research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The urban heat island effect occurs primarily during the day when urban impervious surfaces absorb more solar radiation than the surrounding vegetated areas, resulting in a few degrees temperature difference.

The urban area has also lost the trees and vegetation that naturally cool the air.

“Anywhere in the US, small cities generate less heat than mega-cities,” Bounoua said.

The reason is the effect vegetation has on keeping a lid on rising temperatures.

“The amount and type of vegetation plays a big role in how much the urbanisation changes the temperature,” added research scientist and co-author Kurtis Thome.

As a by-product of photosynthesis, leaves release water back into to the atmosphere in a process called evapotranspiration, which cools the local surface temperature the same way that sweat evaporating off a person’s skin cools them off.

Trees with broad leaves have more pores to exchange water than trees with needles, and so have more of a cooling effect.

“So even though 0.3 degrees Celcius may seem like a small difference, it still may have impact on energy use,” Bounoua said, especially when urban heat island effects are exacerbated by global temperature rises due to climate change.

Understanding the tradeoffs between urban surfaces and vegetation may help city planners in the future mitigate some of the heating effects, the authors noted in a paper that appeared in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Source: Zee

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World Coconut Day to be celebrated on Sept 2

The World Coconut Day-2015, themed ‘Coconut for Family Nutrition, Health and Wellness’, will be celebrated in the city on September 2.World Coconut Day to be celebrated on Sept 2nt Board has said in an official release that around 500 farmers from coconut-growing states of the country are expected to attend the function here. Of the total farmers, around 75 per cent coconut-growers are from Andhra Pradesh.

An exhibition will be held at the venue showcasing the latest technologies in the field coconut sector and various value added coconut products, including Neera.

The Board informed as per the latest statistics of Horticulture division, Ministry of Agriculture, AP occupies the first place in coconut productivity at 14,997 nut per hectare.

The state is at the fourth place in terms of area with 1,21,920 hectares, while in terms of production with 1828.46 million nuts, it is at fourth place in the country, the release said.

Since 1990, the board has been implementing various development schemes in Andhra Pradesh for expansion of area under coconut, improving the production and productivity.

There are 610 coconut producers societies, 49 coconut producer federations and three coconut producer companies present in AP, it said.

During 2015-16, the board has allocated Rs 1284.32 lakh for implementation of various development schemes in AP for coconut.

Source: Zee

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