Published: Monday 30 June 2008

fuel price
India fails to shield consumers

Down to EarthA pressed Indian government raised petrol and diesel prices by 10 per cent on June 4, curbing losses to its state-owned refiners but stoking inflation and risking a political backlash. Petrol and diesel prices are now dearer by Rs 5 and Rs 3 a litre, while the price of an lpg cylinder has gone up by Rs 50. The hike triggered protests across the country, with communist and opposition parties demanding a rollback. It is also feared to increase the inflation rate by 0.5 or 0.6 per cent. But the government says the move was "inevitable" since India imports 75 per cent of its crude oil requirements. International crude oil price hit us $139 a barrel on June 6--over 70 per cent higher than previous year's price level.Asian nations like Indonesia and Malaysia have also raised their regulated domestic fuel prices.

trade bloc
South America unites

twelve South American nations signed on to form the Union of South America Nations (unasur) at a summit held in Brasilia, Brazil, on May 23. Modelled on the eu, the treaty unites two free-trade areas, the Mercosur and the Andean, and aims to boost political integration in the region. Leaders hope it will help them represent regional issues in world forums. The union's headquarters will be located in Quito, Ecuador; the parliament will be in Cochabamba, Bolivia; while its bank, the Bank of the South, will be in Bogota, Colombia. A common currency is already being considered. Signed by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela, the treaty needs to be approved by national congresses of each nation before coming into force in 2009.

Arctic power struggle

five Arctic Ocean-bordering nations met in Ilulissat, Greenland, on May 28 to discuss the impact of climate change on the polar region and how to divide its untapped rich resources. The Arctic Ocean summit, the first such meeting among Russia, the us, Canada, Norway and Denmark, was aimed at easing recent territorial tensions as each seek to extend their sovereignty over the rapidly melting and increasingly accessible Arctic region (see 'Global warming spoils', Down To Earth, September 30, 2007). "The race for the North Pole has been cancelled," said the ministers who pledged to resolve the issue following international law and work for an "orderly settlement" of any possible overlapping of territorial claims. They, however, vowed to block any "new comprehensive international legal regime to govern the Arctic Ocean" in line with the Antarctic Treaty.

pollution control
Bengal gives in to business

the West Bengal government has given in to the unwillingness of petroleum dealers to sell fuel only to those with pollution under control (puc) certificates. The 'no- puc- no-fuel policy' was aimed at mandating fuel pumps to check puc certificates of diesel vehicles before selling them oil. The government withdrew it on May 28, just a week before it was to take effect. The suspension came following requests by petroleum dealers who termed it "illogical". The notification was based on the premise that diesel vehicles turned away by fuel pumps would be forced to undergo regular pollution checks.

Child obesity levels off in US

Down to Earthchildhood obesity in the us may be stabilizing after a rise during 1980-1999 to an epidemic proportion. A national health survey found no significant change in the obesity rate during 1999-2006. Researchers say the stabilization is because of campaigns and improved school food. Some say it is too early to decide if child obesity has levelled off.

alternative fashion
Biodegradable outfits on show in Scotland

Down to Earthbiodegradable outfits were on show at a recent gardening exhibition in Edinburgh, Scotland. Fashion students designed a range of clothing using biodegradable fabrics such as bamboo, hemp and potato starch, which they say can be worn and then thrown on a compost heap. Though the use of hemp in clothing is not a new concept, the organizers say the recent breakthroughs in textile technology have improved the quality of hemp cloth dramatically and have given it the look and feel of linen.

goa sez
Centre refuses to denotify Goa SEZ

in a letter to the Goa government, the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry has said there is no provision to denotify the already notified sezs. The ministry's refusal came to light during a hearing of the complaints filed by the affected sez developers at the Mumbai High Court (Goa bench) on June 2. The Goa government decided on December 31, 2007 to scrap all sezs in the state following protests (see ' sez scrap', Down To Earth, January 31, 2008). It issued "stop work" orders to three sez developers--Cipla, Raheja and Peninsula--on January 10. The developers claim their projects have required clearances and they have made huge investments. The court has asked the government to take a decision within two weeks.

post quake
Floods imperil quake-hit China

chinese defence forces have built a spillway to drain the lake formed by landslides resulting from China's May 12 earthquake (see 'Rude after-shock', Down To Earth, June 1-15, 2008). The landslides blocked the Jiangjiang river and formed a huge lake at Tangjiashan. Over 1.3 million people are in areas that could be inundated if the natural dam, forming the quake lake, breaks. Authorities have evacuated 250,000 people from low-lying areas and hope the 397-metre-long spillway will help drain the lake in a controlled way. Thirty five quake lakes have been formed in Sichuan province.

WTO pans US farm subsidy

the us lost an appeal against a wto ruling on its cotton subsidies. The appeal body, wto's top court, has asked the us to bring its measures in conformity with international trade rules. The ruling clears the way for Brazil to impose us $4 billion in sanctions on us imports. Meanwhile, the group of 20 developing nations, including India, China and Brazil, has criticized the new us Farm Bill saying that it would allow higher farm subsidies to many other commodities and will be an obstacle to the Doha round of global trade talks.

Clash over Naples dump

Down to Earth  
Outrage over pilling up garbage in Naples - REUTERS  
instead of cleaning up filled waste-disposal sites in Naples, Italy's third largest city, the government has vowed to force open new trash dumps in the city. The decision provoked protests as over 10,000 demonstrators on June 1 barricaded the streets leading to Chiaiano, a Naples suburb, where one of the trash dumps, with an estimated capacity of 700,000 tonnes, will come up. Though local authorities have agreed to conduct a feasibility study on the project, the government says the dump will come up whatever the study's findings.

Nigeria declares power emergency

nigeria, the eighth largest exporter of oil, plans to declare a state of emergency in the power sector. Talking on a tv programme recently, President Umaru Yar'Adua said the country can't generate enough electricity to meet its domestic demand until 2015. "The three gas-fired power plants are unable to generate electricity since Nigeria has sold all its natural gas for with international oil companies needs to be renegotiated over seven years," he said. Since 1999, the government has spent us $16 billion on power sector, but six power stations are lying unfinished.

Uganda bars politicians from handling grants

  Down to Earth
  Down to Earth
  Down to Earth
fearing end of grants, Global Fund's coordinating agency in Uganda has issued strict disbursement rules and asked politicians not to take part in managing grants. The international funding body finances Uganda's hiv/aids programmes. Speaking in Parliament, Kihumuro Apuuli, head of the Uganda aids Commission, said that under the new guidelines, the fund will be given directly to ministries through accounting officers and that "no politician will touch the money." The guidelines come a year after the Global Fund terminated two grants to Uganda, for malaria and tuberculosis, for unsatisfactory performance.

food aid
Mugabe uses food aid as political tool

zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, on June 5 ordered all foreign and local aid agencies to suspend food-aid operations in the country, accusing them of campaigning for the opposition. The move has spelt disaster for 4 million Zimbabweans dependent on food aid, says the un. Earlier, at the un food summit in Rome, Mugabe accused western nations of using aid to interfere in its internal politics. The move has drawn flak from leaders across the world who say Mugabe is using the government's own food aid as a political tool by providing it only to members of his party, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, or requiring others to give up their voter cards. Mugabe faces opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in a presidential runoff on June 27.

ozone depletion
Albuterol inhaler taken off in US

us health officials are urging patients using Albuterol asthma inhalers to switch to alternative inhalers since they won't be available after 2008. Albuterol inhaler contains chlorofluorocarbon (cfc), an ozone-depleting chemical, to propel the drug into the lungs. The move is part of the country's attempt to gradually phase out products containing cfcs as mandated by the us Clean Air Act and an international treaty, the Montreal Protocol. The us Food and Drug Administration suggests to switch to inhalers with hydrofluoroalkane.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.