Monday, 20 October 2014

Up Up and Away in Pakyong (Sikkim)?


The proposed development of Pakyong airport in Sikkim is also not without problems. This would be a high-altitude commercial (with additions for military use) airport which, in theory, would greatly improve the accessibility of the area. Certainly there is general local (but not from the all the people in direct vicinity to the development) enthusiasm for the project. I am uncertain whether it would really bring in the envisioned masses of older and richer tourists (these, one must also say, are not without attendant problems in other parts of the globe). It might well change the nature of the 'Sikkim experience'. The project has involved the construction of 200 foot high retaining walls (said to be already showing signs of bulging at half the proposed height) and pile-driver induced damage to residential and commercial properties in the near vicinity). One must also note that this is an earthquake zone. Currently, the development is delayed by legal challenges and strike action by workers (who appear to want 'danger money').

Is Hydroelectric the Answer for Sikkim?


We have had a look at some the the actual and planed developments along the Teesta river in Sikkim (NE India). This 'green' electricity really isn't so 'green' when you take into account the carbon footprint of making concrete, the likely effects on ecotourism, the displacement of people, effects on rivers downstream, the decimation of unique river fish species etc. Sadly, it appears that some of the engineering companies (apparently often with little prior experience of dam construction) have gone bankrupt but there seems little possibility that the structures and mess they have left will be removed (remediation doesn't seem to be part of the contract in this part of the world). I can't help thinking that the driver in such developments is more for the profits for engineering companies than an expression of a real concern for 'green energy'. The dangers of dam building in an earthquake zone also appear to have been not fully considered.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Solar Versus Hydro Power in India?


It is interesting that the recently elected Indian PM is apparently a solar power enthusiast (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/30/-sp-narendra-modi-india-solar-renewables-energy), although there have been reservations about where he proposes to site them. It is also the case that India is still currently increasing its extraction and use of coal. Given this development, does it suggest that there might be a toning down of the drive to generate hydroelectric power by, for example, damming major rivers in places like Sikkim? Certainly, solar power can be a lot cheaper that hydroelectric (one must also note that the concrete used in dam construction is a major generator of atmospheric carbon dioxide- a so-called 'greenhouse gas'). I suspect, however, that all means (renewable and non-renewable) are likely to be employed to feed India's voracious appetite for electricity. Certainly, economic 'growth' appears to be the obsession. As we are going to Sikkim again this weekend, we might be able to obtain an update.

What About the Next Forty Years?


Disturbing news that the WWF have claimed that the planet has lost half its wildlife over the last 40 years (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/29/earth-lost-50-wildlife-in-40-years-wwf). It's a bit difficult to establish how accurate such a claim is and most of the featured examples seem to be taken from well-documented mammals and birds in reasonably accessible parts of the world. Putting an optimistic slant on things, it could be the case that the losses have been at least partially compensated by increases in smaller, less-remarked species. This, however, seems unlikely to detract from what is clearly a downward spiral. Given the postulated increases in the world human population and the inability to do much that is meaningful about climate change, one can't be in any sense bullish about what will happen to animal diversity over the next 40 years.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

An Ex-Parrot?


It seems that a £260k programme to eradicate the South American Monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) frhttp://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/24/monk-parakeets-parrots-ukom SE England has been largely successful (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/24/monk-parakeets-parrots-uk). The bird is apparently down to its last 50 feral members. The problem of this particular bird is that it apparently builds messy communal nests, often on electrical installations which can produce 'shorts' especially when they become water-logged. About 30% of the birds have been killed and many eggs destroyed but one wonders whether any of the 're-homed' individuals will again escape (this is presumably how the birds came to be in London in the first place). The fate of the equally alien Ring-necked parakeet seems less urgent as it isn't into communal nesting.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Greenpeace Unwelcome in India?


There is a recent report that a Greenpeace worker with a valid visa has been refused entry to India in Delhi  to attend a conference (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/greenpeace). Apparently, the government feel that this organisation is slowing down their rate of economic growth by e.g. campaigning against coal mining in areas where the local human and animal life seem vulnerable. Greenpeace is reportedly being investigated by the Indian security services and contributions to their accounts in that country have been frozen. This appears to be yet another example of tensions between environmentalists and politicians. Thinking of an analogy: Biological DNA is programmed to replicate itself whereas Political DNA is programmed to get itself re-elected. Short-term economic considerations often appear to trump long-term sustainability? The 'life' of a government is much the shorter. Having said that, one must be careful about imposing 'foreign' values  on other cultures.

Friday, 19 September 2014

What Population Increase?


The modellers have been busy again and have decided, contra earlier predictions that were relaxed in assuming a levelling off, that the world population of humans is likely to hit 11bn by the end of this century (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/18/world-population-new-study-11bn-2100). Things can (and do) change but I have felt for some time that numbers of humans on the planet are getting towards the unsustainable end of things. The human population is very demanding in terms of its requirements for water, food, power, space, health care, entertainment etc. Unsurprisingly, most people aspire to the best possible living conditions for themselves, their family and their friends (it's a natural response) but it is difficult to see how other organisms (on which the 'health' or intrinsic beauty of the planet may depend) will fare. What one can do about this gathering problem (other than facilitate contraception) is uncertain but it appears that over-population is back on the agenda.