India fails to shield consumers
A 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.
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.
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
childhood 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.
Biodegradable outfits on show in Scotland
biodegradable 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.
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.
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
|Outrage over pilling up garbage in Naples - REUTERS|
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
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.