March 2014

Aerosols can enhance monsoon rains: study


Interest in examining how aerosols affect climate

Monsoon rains over India could increase if desertification leads to more dust from West Asia and North Africa swirling into the air, suggests a research report being published in Nature Geoscience.

There has been growing interest in examining how fine particles in the atmosphere, known as aerosols, affect the climate.

However, much of this research has looked at particles generated by human activity, especially the role of soot.

Natural aerosols

But natural aerosols, such as sea-salt and dust, are far more abundant than human-produced ones, remarked V. Vinoj, who is currently with IIT Bhubaneswar.

The research appearing online in Nature Geoscience was carried out by him with Philip J. Rasch's group at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the U.S.

Analysing observational data, Dr. Vinoj and his colleagues found that monsoon rainfall during June, July and August over central India was strongly correlated with aerosol levels over West Asia, North Africa and the Arabian Sea.

Global climate model

The scientists turned to a global climate model, the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM5), to simulate what effect different types of aerosols would have on the monsoon rains.

When dust was removed altogether, the correlations between the central Indian rains and West Asian aerosol levels disappeared.

The simulations also showed that when West Asian dust levels dropped, rains over central India decreased within a week.

The dust acted by absorbing radiation from the sun and heating the atmosphere.

High levels of dust over West Asia and North Africa lowered atmospheric pressure in land regions to the north and west of the Arabian Sea, the scientists said.

Band strengthened

That low-pressure band strengthened moisture-laden winds that fed the Indian monsoon.

Activists cry foul over Centre’s Pulicat proposal

 Activists, ecologists and fisherfolk have raised objections to a proposal of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to reduce the mandatory Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) around the fragile Pulicat lake from 10 km to two km.

The ESZ is a buffer zone around any sensitive eco-system in need of protection where certain activities including setting up of heavy industries are prohibited — depending upon the category — to protect the ecology from irreversible damage.

In the case of Pulicat lake, activists charge that the reduction of the buffer zone around the lake from 10 km to two km was for the development of upcoming port at Dugarajapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. Perturbed, various organisations working for protecting fishermen’s livelihoods and conservation have sent petitions to the MoEF demanding the proposal be immediately dropped.

P. J. Sanjeeva Raj, an ecologist, who has worked in the vicinity of the lake for the past 60 years, said that oil pollution from the ships, chemical pollution from companies and sewage will have a lasting impact on the lake. “Water pollution cannot be stopped, the salinity levels will change,” he cautioned.

“Once the pollution begins, you cannot reverse the process and the lake cannot be restored to its pristine state. Ports and industries should not be allowed to come up near the ecologically-sensitive and ancient lagoon, he said.

Pulicat lake is a fragile wetland ecosystem supporting lakhs of birds, including flamingos — the flagship species — during migratory seasons during the winter months. The lagoon also directly or indirectly supports about 70,000 families of fisherfolk in 50 villages.

Almost 10 years on from Asian tsunami: what’s happening to coastal fishing villages?

 ALMOST TEN YEARS have passed since the small fishing villages in Tamil Nadu, southern India, became part of one of the largest natural disasters in living memory.
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake struck off the west coast of Sumatra on 26 December, triggering a series of a deadly tsunamis that resulted in death and destruction across 14 countries. The tragic event remains the third-largest earthquake ever recorded: with a magnitude of 9.1–9.3, it was so powerful it caused the Earth itself to vibrate by 1cm.
Unthinkable destruction
On the ground, the damage was unimaginable: an estimated 230,000 people were killed and 1.69 million displaced. India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand were the areas hit hardest.
Humanitarian workers overwhelmed by the scale of the tragedy tackled damaged infrastructure, water shortages and sanitation problems, while the desperate search for the dead and wounded continued. Displacement, overcrowding, and unclean conditions in the tropical climate caused the threat of disease and infection to rise – with cholera, dysentery, diphtheria, typhoid and hepatitis A and B levels spiking.
In the aftermath of the intimidate humanitarian effort, the economic and social cost of the disaster began to be calculated. The impact to national and local economies was immense, with infrastructural damage and production stalls. But the most badly affected groups, by far, were coastal fishing communities.
Focus: Kanyakumari district
In the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, southern India, villagers who depended on fishing as a way of life saw their homes and livelihoods wiped out in a single event. Among the most poverty-stricken people in the entire world, communities had no way of meeting the cost of replacing their homes, never mind repairing the nets and boats their income relied on.

Environment ministry wants independent regulator to assess projects

 New Delhi: The environment ministry has recommended the creation of an independent regulator that will evaluate projects seeking environment clearances.
The approval itself will be granted by the ministry.
The ministry’s move comes in response to a direction from the Supreme Court on 6 January asking the government to create an environment regulator at the national and state levels by 31 March.
The regulator, the court added, would evaluate projects that come to the ministry for clearance, be responsible for monitoring the compliance of these projects with regulations, and imposing penalties on defaulters.
The government will submit its recommendations in an affidavit to the court, which will hear the ongoing case on the creation of a regulator by the end of the month, according to an official in the ministry who asked not to be identified.
The move to keep the regulator independent is consistent with the way regulatory bodies are structured across other areas.
The stock market, telecom and insurance regulators all operate with a certain level of autonomy from their parent ministries.
The creation of a regulator is expected to make the process of evaluating projects for their environmental impact much more transparent.
Analysts point out that this will address part of the problem—the other part, approvals from the ministry, remains mired in controversy. The ministry’s approach has ranged from the obstructionist (which means no approvals are granted) to accommodating (which means all approvals are granted) with no middle ground.
Ritwick Dutta, an environmental lawyer, said that the most important issue is the structure of the regulator that the environment ministry is proposing.

Climate Change Unites Fishermen in Kutch and Sundarbans

 By PTI - KOLKATA Published: 04th March 2014 10:24 AM Last Updated: 04th March 2014 10:45 AM
Separated geographically by hundreds of miles, the drylands of Kutch in Gujarat and the wetlands of Sundarbans are bound by similarities in the effect climate change has on the farmers and fishermen, research has found.

Being conducted by UK-based research body STEPS Centre, the study on climate-induced uncertainties takes the perception of people into account, which is often overlooked in scientific reports and policy dialogues.

"Our research shows that the vulnerabilities related to livelihood and work-related hazards are similar in nature in both Kutch and Sundarbans as a result of climatic shocks," University of Sussex's Lyla Mehta, the convener and the brain behind the project, said.

She said that the tale of a farmer or a fisherman, whether in Kutch or Sundarbans, is no different in nature, both affected by changing rainfall patterns and increase in incidences of storms and cyclones, although they are markedly contrasting ecologically.

Kutch, a dryland in western Gujarat, is known for scarcity and ecological uncertainty while Sundarbans in West Bengal is an archipelago of islands hit hard by an increase in floods, storms, salinity and erosion caused by rising sea-levels.

"There has always been good years and bad years for farmers and fishermen in both these places, but now climate change has added another layer of uncertainty, especially with the changing rainfall patterns and repeated climate shocks such as cyclones, floods and droughts," Barun Kanjilal said.