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Government Actions this week

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India working up blueprint to implement NDCs

India is getting its act together on planning and sharing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) under the leadership of the low key Harshvardhana.
The environment ministry envisages a multidimensional action plan on reducing emissions, which includes specific targets for energy emissions, renewable technologies, green cover expansion, etc. Such specific targets are always beneficial as they provide a specific target for the bureaucracy to deliver. Targets that are explicit and easy to measure are more likely to be achieved.



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SC seeks Centre’s response on steps taken against Chinese firecrackers

The Madras high court had called for a stop on Chinese made firecrackers, but did that stop anything?
A range of rulings have curtailed the sale of firecrackers across India. These range from fewer licenses to even outright banning them in some parts. Chinese made firecrackers were banned because they reportedly cause more harm.  But, the fact is that these actions affect employment both in production and in subsequent steps down the value chain.  Firecrackers are a great employment generator and substitutes for polluting firecrackers can be found. 
 



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As UDAY Slowly Fizzles Out, Power Demand Still Remains Weak

Lower than expected power demand leads to excess power generation capacity in India.
The Indian economy is going through a massive structural shift.  The demonetization and the GST may well have further contributed to it.  And there is a growth slowdown.  All these developments have led to lower than expected electricity demand.  Moreover, many power plants, have significant unused capacity.  This is a short-term phenomenon no doubt but it has led to utilities slowing down on signing fresh agreements with new power plants and renegotiating old ones.



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Coal India To Buy Coal Mines In Australia

Coal India, the public sector monopoly did not find coal in Madagascar, so it’s buying mines in Australia.
Why would anyone invest in Coal Mines at this juncture?   Coal is being used less and less across the developed and developing world.  Therefore, it would be better to purchase coal rather than buy coal mines.  Public Sector managers typically have a very short horizon and politicians appear to know no better.  Buying Coal mines does not make economic or financial sense.  But who can convince Coal India?



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Civic body washes hands off Ghazipur tragedy

The Ghazipur Landfill tragedy where garbage slid down onto the road causing mayhem and death, has been termed as Bad Luck by the municipality. 
Luck is the only thing that Indian citizens can depend upon in these times of urban governance failure.  But East Delhi’s Mayor believes that luck just did not do its job! No municipal officer will be punished for the mismanagement.



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NGT asks 4 states to show cases of farmers

A group of farmers complained to the National Green Tribunal that the government was only passing orders.
The executive is supposed to not merely ‘order’ citizens but also create the right conditions for citizens to take the desired action.  The latter function is something that independent India’s government and its employees are not very good at.  The NGT now wants proof that the governments of Punjab, Haryana, and UP are doing something and not merely passing orders on paper.



Initiatives


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MIT Students Create A Brick That Could End Pollution From Brick Kilns

MIT students develop a brick making technology that needs no heat!
However, it does need the refuse that comes out of paper mills.  Given the large amount of carbon ash, biomass, garbage, and plastics etc. that are available, brick making should have been an easy business in India.  All of these inputs are available sometimes at a low price and with sensible regulation could also be priced negatively (supplier pays the user to pick up).  The over-dependence on topsoil-high-heat input bricks needs to be done away with.



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Brick kilns shifting to cleaner technology, but progress is slow

Brick Kilns around Delhi are converting to a technology that would reduce coal consumption by 20 percent.  20%? That’s good, but is that all?
Why are hot temperatures necessary to make bricks? Why is expensive and valuable topsoil the most commonly used input for something as dead as a brick? Or Why can brick kilns not be electric or gas based? And why can governments not provide direct incentives for developing and moving to a truly low pollution technology?
 



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‘Tragedy of Commons’ in Nagaland

Corruption and environment degradation go together and Nagaland is suffering too.
Bad roads across India are known for corrupt officers and contractors.  Poor quality roads degrade fast, create road dust, and reduce vehicle speeds and result in consequent pollution.






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