How 700 Kerala villagers waded through a dead river, cleansed it and brought it back to life in 70 days | Hindustan Times

Source: http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/how-700-kerala-villagers-waded-through-a-dead-river-cleansed-it-and-brought-it-back-to-life-in-70-days/story-6ZQbllXDeutd7eOsYWYBeN.html

For two decades, the Kuttemperoor river in south Kerala’s Alappuzha district slowly choked under the weight of rampant illegal sand mining and construction sites that dumped tons of sewage on its once-pristine banks. Fish and aquatic life were wiped out, and the once-gurgling river of Rajeevan’s childhood was reduced to a narrow cesspool of festering diseases.

Not anymore. A 700-strong local group of villagers, mostly women, have spent weeks wading through toxic waste, algae and risking deadly water-borne diseases to physically de-silt and clean the river.

After 70 days of back-breaking effort, the results began to show. The 12-kilometre long river now brims with water, the stench is gone and children are playing on its green banks once more.

Straw Wars: The Fight to Rid the Oceans of Discarded Plastic | National Geographic

Source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/04/plastic-straws-ocean-trash-environment/

Small and lightweight, straws often never make it into recycling bins; the evidence of this failure is clearly visible on any beach. And although straws amount to a tiny fraction of ocean plastic, their size makes them one of the most insidious polluters because they entangle marine animals and are consumed by fish. Video of scientists removing a straw embedded in a sea turtle’s nose went viral in 2015.

The plastics industry opposes bans at every turn. Bag manufacturers have persuaded lawmakers in Florida, Missouri, Idaho, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Indiana to pass legislation outlawing the bag bans.

Keith Christman, managing director for plastic markets for the American Chemistry Council, says the industry also will oppose any efforts to outlaw plastic straws.

Bans of individual products often come with “unintended consequences,” Christman argues. Replacement products can cause more environmental harm than plastic products there were banned, he says. In some cases, products advertised as biodegradable sometimes turn out not to be. Worse, consumer behavior sometimes changes. When San Francisco banned Styrofoam products, he says, an audit of litter showed that while Styrofoam cup litter dropped, paper cup litter increased.

“What we really need is good waste management structure in countries that are the largest source of this challenge,” he says. “Rapidly developing countries in Asia don’t have that structure.”

What sets the anti-straw campaign apart from other efforts—and why the anti-straw campaign may succeed—is that activists are not seeking to change laws or regulations. They are merely asking consumers to change their habits and say no to straws.

‘Forest cities’: the radical plan to save China from air pollution | The Guardian

Short article: http://www.businessinsider.sg/stefano-boeri-forest-city-china-2017-4/?

The Air Quality Index, which uses a scale from 0 to 500 (with higher numbers indicating worse pollution), rates Nanjing’s air quality as 132 — a level considered unhealthy for the public, especially those with respiratory disease.

The Italian design firm Stefano Boeri Architetti believes that building towers covered in plants could help the city reduce its pollution. The company recently announced that it will build two skyscrapers that will hold a total of 1,100 trees and 2,500 cascading shrubs on their rooftops and balconies.

Longer article: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/feb/17/forest-cities-radical-plan-china-air-pollution-stefano-boeri

“It is positive because the presence of such a large number of plants, trees and shrubs is contributing to the cleaning of the air, contributing to absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen,’ the architect said. “And what is so important is that this large presence of plants is an amazing contribution in terms of absorbing the dust produced by urban traffic.”

The architect said believed Chinese officials were finally understanding that they needed to embrace a new, more sustainable model of urban planning that involved not “huge megalopolises” but settlements of 100,000 people or fewer that were entirely constructed of “green architecture”.

“What they have done until now is simply to continue to add new peripheral environments to their cities,” he said. “They have created these nightmares – immense metropolitan environments. They have to imagine a new model of city that is not about extending and expanding but a system of small, green cities.”

‘Shocking’ levels of PCB chemicals in UK killer whale Lulu | BBC

Video source: https://www.facebook.com/bbcnews/videos/10154639020352217/

Article and video Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39738582

“Lulu had a level of PCBs of 957mg/kg – and this has put her as one of the most contaminated individuals we have ever looked at.”

Scientists believe Lulu’s age, estimated to be at least 20, may be one reason that the levels of PCBs were so high, because they had built up over the years.

The chemicals have a range of effects. There is evidence that they can impair the immune system. They also affect reproduction, preventing killer whales from bearing young.

It is estimated that there is a million tonnes of PCB-contaminated material waiting to be disposed in Europe.

But getting rid of them is expensive and difficult – they need to be incinerated at more than 1,000C to be destroyed.

Prof Ian Boyd, chief scientific adviser at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said that the issue was very concerning but also complicated.

He said: “The records show PCBs have been declining in concentration in the marine environment, so the regulation we have in place is working.

“It’s just they take a very long time to disappear. Overall I think we are going in the right direction, but it is going to take many more years to get to a point where they are going to disappear entirely.”

World’s worst air has Mongolians seeing red, planning protest | Today

http://www.todayonline.com/world/worlds-worst-air-has-mongolians-seeing-red-planning-protest

Levels of particulate matter in the air have risen to almost 80 times the recommended safety level set by the World Health Organisation – and five times worse than Beijing during the past week’s bout with the worst smog of the year.

Mongolian power plants working overtime during the frigid winter belch plumes of soot into the atmosphere, while acrid smoke from coal fires shrouds the shantytowns of the capital, Ulaanbaatar, in a brown fog. Angry residents planned a protest, organised on social media, on Monday (Dec 26).

The level of PM2.5, or fine particulate matter, in the air as measured hourly peaked at 1,985 microgrammes a cubic meter on Dec 16 in the capital’s Bayankhoshuu district, according to data posted by government website agaar.mn. The daily average settled at 1,071 microgrammes that day.

  • Has pollution reached such high levels where you are from? Will it ever reach such levels?
  • What can be done about it? In this case, the pollution was caused to provide heat in winter.

Cambodia’s villagers lose ground – literally – to Singapore’s expansion |

http://m.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2016/1021/Cambodia-s-villagers-lose-ground-literally-to-Singapore-s-expansion

Singapore is a long way from this remote Cambodian fishing village – nearly a thousand miles across the sea. But as the bustling city-state grows, Koh Sralav and hamlets like it die. All because of sand.

Singapore is expanding; its land reclamation projects make it the largest sand importer in the world. Politically connected Cambodian firms have rushed to meet the demand. Local fishermen, and one of Southeast Asia’s largest mangrove forests, are paying the price.

Sand dredgers have deepened the shallow estuaries around this village by several meters. That has created strong currents which have eaten away at the riverbanks, destroying long stretches of mangrove.

The crabs and fish that once lived among the mangrove roots, the mainstay of most family economies around here, are disappearing.

Questions:

  • How has your hometown/city/country been impacted by the development of its neighbours or other countries?
  • How can the environment be better protected?

An architect figured out how to build houses from plastic waste | Tech Insider

Source: https://youtu.be/uSOh21ooM_E

Other video in source: http://www.businessinsider.sg/homes-built-plastic-bricks-conceptos-plasticos-2016-9/

This one innovation could help resolve two of the world’s biggest issues: homelessness and pollution. Oscar Andres Mendez and his team at Conceptos Plásticos have created a way to take discarded plastic and rubber and create stackable bricks with them. These bricks snap together to create quick and easy housing.

Compare with this house built from plastic bottles:

Source: https://youtu.be/LPxXH7rCSHQ

  • Who might benefit the most from these innovations?
  • How likely are they to become popular?

One Result Of China’s Buildup In South China Sea: Environmental Havoc | NPR

Source: http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/09/01/491395715/one-result-of-chinas-buildup-in-south-china-sea-environmental-havoc

The South China Sea’s disputed waters are claimed by seven countries, and The Hague rulings came in response to a case brought against China by the Philippines. China dismissed The Hague’s decision as “nothing but a scrap of paper.”

The tribunal found that damage to the coral reefs in the Spratly Islands is extensive, spreading for more than 30 square miles. Much of that damage is caused by China’s island-building — turning pristine reefs into permanent military outposts that include massive runways.

However destructive the island-building is, it’s nothing compared to the damage done by the poaching of giant clams, says Carpenter. Chinese fishermen have been destroying entire reefs, he says, by using propellers to try to dredge up and harvest the clams, which appear on the IUCN Red List as a “vulnerable” species.

Even if China were to abandon the artificial islands, he warns, the environment in the area could take decades — if ever — to recover. Tearing down the islands at this point, he says, isn’t the answer, either, and would cause more damage than has already been done.

Some background information from Wiki:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spratly_Islands_dispute

The Spratly Islands dispute is an ongoing territorial dispute between Brunei, China (People’s Republic of China), Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, concerning ownership of the Spratly Islands, a group of islands and associated “maritime features” (reefs, banks, cays, etc.) located in the South China Sea. The dispute is characterised by diplomatic stalemate and the employment of military pressure techniques (such as military occupation of disputed territory) in the advancement of national territorial claims. All except Brunei occupy some of the maritime features.

There has been a sharp rise in media coverage owing mainly to China’s increasingly vocal objection to the presence of American naval vessels transiting the area in order to assert the right to freedom of navigation within international waters.

Most of the “maritime features” in this area have at least six names: The “International name”, usually in English; the “Chinese name”, sometimes different for PRC and ROC, (and also in different character-sets); the Vietnamese, Philippine and Malaysian names, and also, there are alternate names, (e.g. Spratly Island is also known as Storm Island), and sometimes names with “colonial” origins (French, Portuguese, Spanish, British, etc.).[1]

The Spratly Islands are important for economic and strategic reasons. The Spratly area holds potentially significant, but largely unexplored, reserves of oil and natural gas; it is a productive area for world fishing; it is one of the busiest areas of commercial shipping traffic; and surrounding countries would get an extended continental shelf if their claims were recognised. In addition to economic incentives, the Spratlys sit astride major maritime trade routes to Northeast Asia, giving them added significance as positions from which to monitor maritime activity in the South China Sea and to potentially base and project military force from. In 2014, China drew increased international attention due to its dredging activities within the Spratlys, amidst speculation it is planning to further develop its military presence in the area.[2] In 2015 satellite imagery revealed that China was rapidly constructing an airfield on Fiery Cross Reef within the Spratlys whilst continuing its land reclamation activities at other sites.[3][4][5] Only China (PRC), Taiwan (ROC), and Vietnam have made claims based on historical sovereignty of the islands.[6] The Philippines, however, claims part of the area as its territory underUNCLOS, an agreement parts of which[7] have been ratified by the countries involved in the Spratly islands dispute.

  • What do you know of the Spratly Islands’ Dispute?
  • Why might the countries want to claim ownership of these islands?
  • What impact might this dispute have?