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Clean Energy News Vol. 12, Number 21, July 18, 2012

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Clean Energy News
Vol. 12, Number 21, July 18, 2012
CE News is a free weekly e-mail publications that features news, information and events related to clean energy, clean air and climate change. CE News is published by Clean Energy Nepal. For more information on our campaign please visit www.cen.org.np
Headlines
•    Climate change ‘takes its toll’ on snow leopards
•    Calamity in the gardens
•    Mango production down by 90 % in Surkhet
•    Hydro project illuminates villages
•    Enter short filmmaking competition
•    Fertilizing oceans with iron dust helps sink carbon: study
•    Green streets can cut pollution, says study
•    Lakes Harmed From Global Warming
•    Angela Merkel: With Climate Change, 'Time Is Of The Essence'
•    Link Of The Week
•    Did You Know?
•    Media Watch
•    QUIZ Of The Week #  519
•    Answer Of Quiz Of The Week # 518


Local News
Climate change ‘takes its toll’ on snow leopards
Agence France Presse
Nepal’s elusive snow leopards, thought to number just 500 in the wild, are under threat from warmer and wetter weather in the Himalayas that is reducing their habitat, a new study says.
Changing weather patterns are pushing forests further into the leopards’ territory and they could lose 40 percent of their hunting grounds by the end of the century, scientists from environmental group WWF have concluded. “Loss of alpine habitat not only means less room for snow leopards, but also has the potential to bring them closer to human activities like livestock grazing,” said WWF snow leopard expert and study co-author Rinjan Shrestha.
“As grazing intensifies and the leopards’ natural prey decline, they could begin preying more heavily on livestock, resulting in increased retaliatory killings.” Experts believe just 500 adults survive in Nepal’s Himalayas, and few can claim ever to have seen the secretive, solitary animal sometimes referred to as a “mountain ghost”. The animal lives in high alpine areas, above the tree line but generally below 5,000 metres, where they are able to stealthily track their prey, usually wild goat-like ruminants, deer, boars and some smaller mammals.
 “If the tree line shifts upward, as our research predicts it will, we’re looking at the snow leopard faced with diminishing options for where it can live,” said Jessica Forrest, a WWF scientist and another author of the study, published in the latest issue of Biological Conservation. The scientists used computer climate models and on-the-ground tracking of snow leopards’ movements in the Nepalese Himalayas and its other known habitats.
They envisaged a worst-case scenario of the big cat’s 20,000 square km territory being reduced to 11,700 sq km by the end of the century.
 
Calamity in the gardens
By Biplav Bhattarai,Chetan Adhikari
The ongoing year has been marked by grievances pouring in from all over Nepal with regards to the rising temperatures and erratic rainfall patterns that most of the country has witnessed of late. Among the sufferers are the tea-producing districts of Ilam and Jhapa, where complaints to do with the impact of extreme weather conditions on production have been especially pronounced this time. High heat and inadequate rainfall means that tea-production has fallen drastically in comparison to the year before.
“It’s gone down by more than half,” says Uttam Pradhan of the Gorkha Tea Estate in Fikkal VDC, Ilam. He explains that despite a decent yield during the first flush—the harvesting carried out in mid-March following spring rains—production set to decline soon after. “Temperatures in the region were constantly high, the rains didn’t come in time, and the crops remained thirsty,” Pradhan adds.Another tea garden at Godak VDC produced only 22 kgs of tea leaves and buds this year—a sharp downtrend considering the harvest was close to 700 kgs last year. And the situation is reiterated in more than 85 percent of tea gardens in these parts of Ilam, where massive declines have been recorded. Aside from lack of moisture, the hot weather has caused pests and plant diseases to thrive in the gardens, and tea-growers in both Ilam and Jhapa have recently been grappling with vermin infestation. An instance of this was seen in the Ilam Tea Factory in Panchakanya VDC, where this season, only 15,000 kgs of tea-leaves were processed per day, compared to 26,000 kgs in previous years. “Unfavourable weather conditions and persistent pest invasions have caused our output to slump dramatically,” says Dharma Dahal, a representative of the factory.
Given that farmers themselves do not possess much knowledge or information on pesticides, and there are no experts available to guide them, it has become increasingly difficult to control the endemic, leaving many feeling helpless against the forces of nature. A tea farmer from Pathariya in Jhapa says that he, along with other tea-growers, generally buy pesticides according to the kind of symptoms exhibited by the crops. “Sometimes, in trying to get rid of the vermin, these pesticides end up ruining our plants instead,” he says. Tea producers are demanding that the government provide them with necessary technical assistance in times of crisis such as this. “At least one technician should be appointed in every tea estate across the country if the industry is to survive,” says Chattra Bahadur Giri, who owns the Giribandhu Tea Estate in Birtamod, Jhapa. A sense of desperation has come over tea farmers in Ilam and Jhapa, as the calamity has begun to hit the quality of the tea and consequently, the market itself. Factories that have been exporting tea outside the country are also found struggling to maintain quality and compete in the international market. The government’s inaction in bailing out the tea industry is pointed out bitterly by growers as being responsible for the waning market and profits. Gobinda Kumar Agrawal, who bought nearly 15 hectares of land near Prithvinagar in Jhapa a decade ago to start a tea farm is today straining to keep his business afloat. “We’ve been hit by both pestilence and the effects of climate change in recent times, but the authorities don’t seem to care.”
In defence, Indra Adhikari, chief of the Nepal Tea and Coffee Development Board Regional Office at Birtamod, says that demands made by tea producers in Eastern Nepal—particularly regarding the appointment of technicians—are unreasonable given the understaffed and under-resourced state of the office at the moment. Farmers, however, aren’t buying what they believe is a cop-out, and are already predicting the death of a once-thriving industry if support isn’t immediately provided. According to Parwat Dangi of the Parakhopi Small Tea Farmers’ Cooperative, many tea growers have now switched to paddy farming so as to eke out a living.
 
Mango production down by 90 % in Surkhet
Mango production has decreased by 90 per cent in Surkhet district this year, according to the District Agricultural Development Office.
Chief of office Durga Dutta Basaula said that generally mango trees bear more fruits in every alternative year. With the decrease in production, this year a huge quantity of mango is imported to the district from Nepalgunj and Birgunj, and even from India. Last year, the district witnessed a heavy growth in mango production and exported to other districts too but this year the situation was just opposite, Basaula said.
Farmers in eastern part of the district including Ramghat, Chhinchu and other VDCs are engaged in mango production commercially. Farmers said that storms coupled with hailstorms too slashed the mango production in the district this year. Similarly, the office said that paddy production is likely to decrease this year. Paddy plantation is yet to be done in over 80 per cent land due to delayed monsoon and lack of chemical fertilizers.
Chief of Agricultural Inputs Company Limited Lainsingh Bogati said that the district has no sufficient supply of DAP chemical fertilizer though urea is available to some amount.
 
Hydro project illuminates villages
By Prakash Baral
While many parts of the country are reeling under power shortage, people in the Dhorpatan area in Baglung are enjoying an uninterrupted flow of electricity.
Three hundred and thirty eight households in Chaurikharka, Pakhathar and Kalimati in the area have availed of 40 kilowatt power generated from the local Garpa River. Gham Bahadur Bhandari, chairman of the local electricity users’ group, said local people contributed labour worth Rs 2 million for the mini hydropower constructed with a total budget of Rs 7.62 million. The Dhaulagiri Community Resource Development Centre invested in the project with the help of the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre. “Electricity has been generated from Local River. We contributed labour to illuminate our village,” said Dil Maya Chhantyal, a local resident. The villagers, who used to illuminate their houses by burning pinewood earlier, have availed of the electricity in various ways.
Bhandari said local people have initiated efforts to run computer training classes and start other facilities such as setting up rice mills with the power supply. Basanta Kumar Shrestha, chairman of the Baglung Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the number of tourists visiting Dhorpatan can be increased once under-construction lodges in the area are illuminated by electricity. Similarly, construction work to generate 50 kilowatt electricity from the Bhuji River in the area is also under way.
 
Enter short filmmaking competition        
 Youth Engagement in Sustainability (YES) Nepal, Association of Youth Organization in Nepal (AYON), and Storycycle together are organizing a short filmmaking competition to be held among various schools, colleges and universities of Nepal.
“We’re encouraging young amateur filmmakers to share their eco-friendly stories with us and make a 5-minute short film on the theme “I am Youth because…..,” said Arjan Parajuli, Vice President of YES Nepal. He also informed that the films are set to be judged by a group of experts working in the audio and visual field and that the best three films will be awarded and screened on the International Youth Day on August 12, 2012.
To participate, the applicant must be a student registered with any school, college or university in Nepal and shouldn’t be linked with any media or production house. Along with the submission of the short film, an entry fee of Rs 100 must also be submitted. The final product must be uploaded on www.storycycle.com by August 6, 2012.
International News
Fertilizing oceans with iron dust helps sink carbon: study
By Alister Doyle
Dumping iron in the seas can help transfer carbon from the atmosphere and bury it on the ocean floor for centuries, helping to fight climate change, according to a study released on Wednesday.
The report, by an international team of experts, provided a boost for the disputed use of such ocean fertilization for combating global warming. But it failed to answer questions over possible damage to marine life. When dumped into the ocean, the iron can spur growth of tiny plants that carry heat-trapping carbon to the ocean floor when they die, the study said. Scientists dumped seven metric tonnes (7.7 tons) of iron sulphate, a vital nutrient for marine plants, into the Southern Ocean in 2004. At least half of the heat-trapping carbon in the resulting bloom of diatoms, a type of algae, sank below 1,000 meters (3,300 ft).
"Iron-fertilized diatom blooms may sequester carbon for timescales of centuries in ocean bottom water and for longer in the sediments," the team from more than a dozen nations wrote in the journal Nature. Burying carbon in the oceans would help the fight against climate change, caused by a build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that scientists say is raising temperatures and causing more floods, mudslides, droughts and higher sea levels. The study was the first convincing evidence that carbon, absorbed by algae, can sink to the ocean bed. One doubt about ocean fertilization has been whether the carbon stays in the upper ocean layers, where it can mix back into the air. A dozen previous studies have shown that iron dust can help provoke blooms of algae but were inconclusive about whether it sank. Large-scale experiments with ocean fertilization using iron are currently banned by the international London Convention on dumping at sea because of fears about side-effects.
"I am hoping that these results will show how useful these experiments are," lead author Victor Smetacek of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany told Reuters. "It's a crying shame, honestly," he said of the moratorium, which he said meant that even small-scale experiments were too complex and costly for researchers. He said that ocean fertilization should be overseen by the United Nations and should not be eligible for carbon credits under U.N. treaties. He said private companies should not be allowed to run experiments so that proper oversight can be ensured. Ocean fertilization is one of several suggested techniques for slowing climate change known as "geo-engineering". Other possibilities include reflecting sunlight with giant mirrors in space.
"Most scientists would agree that we are nowhere near the point of recommending ocean iron fertilization as a geo-engineering tool," Ken Buessler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the United States wrote in a commentary in Nature. But he added that many thought that bigger and longer experiments were needed to see if the technology worked. "If the 50 percent figure for algal bloom biomass sinking to the deep ocean is correct then this represents a whole new ball game in terms of iron fertilization as a geo-engineering technique," said Dave Reay, a senior lecturer in carbon management at the University of Edinburgh who was not involved in the study. "Maybe such deliberate enhancement of carbon storage in the oceans has more legs than we thought but, as the authors acknowledge, it's still far too early to run with it," he said. Smetacek said the publication had been delayed since 2004 partly because of problems in checking that the 150 square km (60 square miles) patch of ocean where the iron was dumped - an eddy in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current - had not mixed with waters outside. The experts said that the input of iron was similar to that found after the melt of icebergs in the oceans - iron concentrations in coastal regions tend to be much higher.
 
Green streets can cut pollution, says study
By Mark Kinver, Environment reporter, BBC News
The creation of "green walls" in urban areas could cut pollution by up to 30%, scientists have suggested.
UK researchers say more trees and other vegetation at street level would clean air in areas that are normally exposed to higher pollution levels. Plants in towns and cities have been shown to remove nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM), both of which are harmful to human health. The findings appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
"Up until now, every initiative around reducing pollution has taken a top-down approach, [such as] scrapping old cars, adding catalytic converters, bringing in the congestion charge - some of which have not had the desired effect," said co-author Rob MacKenzie from the University of Birmingham. "The benefit of green walls is that they clean up the air coming into and staying in the street canyon," Prof MacKenzie observed. "Planting more [green walls] in a strategic way could be a relatively easy way to take control of our local pollution problems." Street canyons refer to the effect created by high buildings lining a street, preventing much of the pollution escaping. Previous studies have shown that greening urban spaces can cut pollution, but only by about 5%. This study suggests that strategic placement of vegetation in street canyons can cut air pollution by up to 30%. Green walls, consisting of climbing plants such as ivy, built on billboard-like structures could act as air pollution filters, the team said. Nicola Cheetham, head of environment (surface transport) for Transport for London (TfL), welcomed the findings. "Our own research, conducted by Imperial College London, shows the ability of different plants to trap particulate matter," she said. Ms Cheetham added that TfL had just installed its second green wall in the capital to help mitigate the pollution associated with heavy flows of urban traffic.
The team reached their findings about the effectiveness of green walls by using a computer model that showed the effect of street canyons trapping air at street level and the accumulation of pollution. The model also showed that street trees were effective filters, but only in less polluted streets and provided the trees' canopies did not result in the pollution being trapped at ground level. Co-author Tom Pugh, from Lancaster University, said one of the challenges of greening urban areas was ensuring the plants were able to survive in the projected change in conditions.
Anne Jaluzot from the co-ordinating group Trees and Design Action Group told BBC News that councils were planting too many small trees that did nothing for biodiversity, flood prevention or pollution control. She said they should concentrate on finding space for a smaller number of very big trees. She also said money was being wasted on designer green walls - vertical planting systems. "These green walls often look great, but they're unsustainable because of the high maintenance costs and need for fertilisers. "Councils and developers would often be better to simply cover a wall with ivy and other creepers," she said.
 
Lakes Harmed From Global Warming
As average temperatures across the globe have ticked up, toxic blood-red algae are thriving in central European lakes—according to a new study out of the University of Zurich.
In a report published in Nature Climate Change, Swiss researchers assert that the warmest winters the country has seen in the past 40 years hampered the seasonal die-off of Burgundy blood-red algae, a photosynthetic bacterium that has bloomed en masse recently. The microorganisms’ metabolism results in the accumulation of toxic waste that can compromise the quality of the lake water. In addition, the dying blooms consume vast quantities of oxygen, resulting in the reduction of oxygen content for the fish living that inhabit the same lake. Scientists involved in the research also pointed to the levels of oxygen, phosphorous, and nitrogen in the lakes as the reason why the algae are flourishing. These levels were affected greatly by human activities, particularly the area’s civic sewage system, over the course of the last century. Clean-up efforts have reversed much of this damage, yet the toxic algae continue to thrive.
“The problem today is that mankind is changing two sensitive lake properties at the same time, namely the nutrient ratios and, with global warming, water temperature,” explains Thomas Posch, a limnologist from the University of Zurich, who based his study on 40 years’ worth of data. The Zurich Water Supply, which systematically removes the organism and its toxins from the lake water, worked in collaboration with Posch to determine that the blood algae they see has developed increasingly denser blooms over the past 40 years. The research team said the main reason for the algae’s aggressive takeover is the increasing temperatures throughout central Europe. A key negative pressure on the bacteria occurs in the spring, when the entire lake that has cooled during the winter begins to thaw. After the lake thaws, brisk winds trigger the cycling of the warmer surface water and cooler deep water. If the turnover of surface water is complete, many algae die off in the deep waters of the lake as they cannot withstand the higher pressure that exists there. Another positive effect of this turnover is the transportation of fresh oxygen to the deep waters where the lake’s fish typically reside.
However, because global warming causes warmer temperatures at the water surface and the central European winters were increasingly becoming too warm, the lakes have not been able to turn over fully as the temperature difference between the surface and depths posed a physical barrier. The results are larger oxygen deficits in the lake’s deeper waters and an inadequate decrease of the Burgundy blood-red algae blooms.
“Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing a paradox. Even though we thought we had partly solved the nutrient problem, in some lakes global warming works against the clean-up measures. Therefore, we primarily need cold winters with strong winds again,” says Posch. Despite the mild winters of recent years, the past winter’s lower temperatures and heavy storms allowed the lake water to completely cycle through, resulting in a reduction in algae.
 
Angela Merkel: With Climate Change, 'Time Is Of The Essence'
Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Monday that global warming will accelerate at a dramatic rate unless leaders reach a deal on limiting greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.
After marathon talks in Durban last December, countries agreed to forge a new deal by 2015 that would for the first time force all the biggest polluters to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Critics said at the time, however, the plan was too timid to slow global warming. "Time is of the essence," Merkel told an international conference in Berlin, where delegates from more than 30 countries are preparing for a major UN climate conference at the end of the year in Qatar.
Attendees are discussing how to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. Merkel's comments came a day after Germany's Environment Minister questioned the country's ability to reach its own climate goals, in an interview with newspaper Bild am Sonntag. These include introducing 1 million electric cars and reducing energy usage 10 percent by 2020. As of the beginning of 2012, only 4,541 electric cars were in use, according to the German Federal Motor Transport Authority. (Reporting by Samuel Frizell and Andreas Rinke, editing by Jane Baird)
Link of the Week
Cycle Lane on widened road
Did you Know ?
According to a recent report by the International Energy Agency, the U.S. has seen the greatest reduction in carbon dioxide pollution within the past six years in comparison to any other country, even as global carbon dioxide pollution has reached record highs. “CO2 emissions in the United States in 2011 fell by 92 Mt (million tonnes), or 1.7%, primarily due to ongoing switching from coal to natural gas in power generation and an exceptionally mild winter, which reduced the demand for space heating,” the IEA writes on its website. “US emissions have now fallen by 430 Mt (7.7%) since 2006, the largest reduction of all countries or regions.

Media and Event Watch
Every Monday 8:30 pm on Nepal FM 91.8 MHZ “Climate Change Mero Bhawisya Mero Chaso”
Every Sunday at 7:30 am on Radio Sagarmatha 102.4 MHz "Batabaran Dabali"
Every Monday at 5:30 pm (re-telecast every Tuesday 11 am) on ABC Television “Climate Change
Every Alternate Friday at 2 PM on ENPHO Hall – “Green Discussion” Organized by Clean Energy Nepal, Nepalese Youth for Climate Action anGrnd Green Youth Network
Every Friday on The Himalayan Times “THT Green Plus”
Environment Cycle Radio F.M.104.2Mhz (ECR FM)
 
QUIZ of the Week # 519
The Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD) has enforced new rules regarding the management of the public and private sector school buses. As per the new rules, the school buses will have to enter the respective school premises by 9 in the morning after picking up students and return back by 4:30 in the afternoon after dropping them. Currently over ……………………. school buses play on the Kathmandu Valley roads, according to the MTPD.
a)    4200
b)    3200
c)    1200
d)    200

While sending your answer please mention “Quiz of the week#” in the subject line and please send your answer in cenews@cen.org.np

One lucky winner will get an attractive prized from Clean Energy Nepal.
 
Answer of the week # 518
The investment potential in energy efficient and renewable energy projects in the country´s industrial sector stands at Rs ……………………… billion, according to the latest report published by the International Finance Corporation, an investment arm of the World Bank.
a)    1.6

Heerakaji Maharjan
Isha Dhakal
Rakesh Guragain
Usha Khatiwada
Arbin Shrestha

Heerakaji Maharjan is the lucky winner for this week. Please contact the CEN office within a week with your identity card.

Congratulation to the Winner and thanks to all participants.

 
 

Prepared by: Suman Udas and Pabitra Basnet
Edited by: Bhushan Tuladhar

Clean Energy Nepal (CEN) is an independent, not-for-profit organization working in the field of Energy and Environment.

CEN: 140 Bublbule Marg, Thapagaon, Kathmandu, Nepal. Tel: 977-1-44464981