(TMU) — India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the 14th Conference of Parties (CoP) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on Monday.
During opening remarks, Modi declared the “time has come” for “the world to say goodbye” to single-use plastic, calling on world leaders to follow India’s lead in banning the plastic.
“My Government has announced that India will put an end to single-use plastic in the coming years,” Modi said.
As India gears up to take over the presidency of the CoP, the prime minister said the country “looks forward to making an effective contribution.”
During an Independence Day speech given on August 15, Modi urged citizens and government agencies to “take the first big step” in freeing India of single-use plastics. The prime minister, who is leading efforts to eliminate single-use plastics by 2022, announced a ban on six items on October 2 of this year, the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth.
Those six items include plastic bags, straws, cups, plates, small bottles, and some sachets.
“The ban will be comprehensive and will cover manufacturing, usage and import of such items,” an anonymous official said.
The sweeping ban is expected to cut India’s annual consumption of plastic by five percent. The country’s current consumption is estimated to be about 14 million tonnes—over 30 billion pounds.
Modi’s announcement—and his urging of world leaders to heed India’s example—comes at a time where worldwide concern about plastic pollution is growing rapidly.
India, a country that has been plagued by a trash epidemic for years, is suffering under the unsightly and potentially toxic weight of single-use plastic. According to the Economic Times, the problem is an “all-too familiar sight: an unofficial landfill spread out over an acre and rising several metres high, its base strewn with recently-discarded plastic cups, polybags, wrappers, packaging material and other detritus of our daily lives. This plastic pile, like other similar piles lying by our roadsides or accumulating in empty lots or choking up water bodies.”
Not only are single-use and other plastics ending up in large unsightly piles, just this week a new study published in Science of The Total Environment says plastic is now taking the form and shape of pebbles that look exactly like the real thing. Earlier this year, Gregory Wetherbee, a US Geological Survey researcher, found multicolored microscopic plastic fibers in rainwater. These discoveries come after the near constant stream of disturbing headlines detailing marine animals and birds found dead tangled in plastic waste or with stomachs full of a host of plastic debris.
The prime minister also discussed India’s attempts at combating land desertification by addressing issues of forest coverage and water scarcity, saying:
“Between 2015 and 2017, India’s tree and forest cover increased by 0.8 million hectares. When we address degraded lands, we also address water scarcity. We have created ‘Jal Shakti Ministry’ to address important water-related issues.”
But according to Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, there is no upcoming ban on single-use plastic expected in India, as reported by Hindu Times.
At a Monday press conference Javadekar clarified that the prime minister did not say “ban” but rather said “goodbye” to single-use plastic, adding that starting on October 2, India “will begin an attempt to collect all that waste. Nearly 10,000 tonnes of plastic waste remains uncollected.”
Several of India’s states already have laws dealing with single-use plastic on the books but, according to Hindu Times, they aren’t enforced due, in part, to the costs for collecting and recycling plastic waste.
However, Former Environment Minister and current Union Minister Harsh Vardhan, said on World Environment Day last year:
“We make a solemn pledge that by 2022, we shall eliminate all single-use plastic from our beautiful country. Our beloved Prime Minister Shri Modi ji has envisioned a new India by 2022—an India of our dreams which shall be clean, poverty-free, corruption-free, terrorism-free, casteism-free … and most of all … which will be a global superpower. This India of our dreams shall also be single-use plastic free.”
India argued for a resolution at the United Nations Environment Assembly in March to phase-out single-use plastic worldwide by 2025. Environmental groups accused the US of blocking this and other ambitious global goals at the conference in Kenya, resulting in a final statement including the far less concrete phrasing of “significantly reducing single-use plastic by 2030.”
Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral
A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.
Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.
It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.
The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.
Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.
While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.
“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”
“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.
It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.
“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.
The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.
“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.
The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.
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Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History
For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.
Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.
However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.
Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.
The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.
To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.
The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.
“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”
“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.