Vol 2, August 2023 | In hot water

Marine heatwaves have a detrimental impact on the marine ecosystem. They bleach corals and lead to mass fish mortality. Photo: Quintana Beach County Park/Facebook

According to experts, marine heatwaves will have a progressive trend—this means longer durations and increased frequency, with devastating impacts on the ocean’s ecosystems . Read more

Marine heatwaves have a detrimental impact on the marine ecosystem. They bleach corals and lead to mass fish mortality. Photo: Quintana Beach County Park/facebook

On the boil: The unseen risks of marine heatwaves

According to experts, marine heatwaves will have a progressive trend—this means longer durations and increased frequency, with devastating impacts on the ocean’s ecosystems  

After decades of having cast his nets in the Mumbai seas, Kiran Koli is adept at detecting changes in the oceans. The artisanal fisherman from Maharashtra’s Manori Island has been noticing irregularities in the weather and certain changes in the waters for a while now, worried about how this will impact his catch. “We have experienced a decline in fish production due to climate change,” he said, adding that fish tend to go farther away when the water gets too hot.

On the other side of the world, scientists at US’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) joined a long list of researchers expressing alarm at ocean temperatures. Researchers at the Physical Research Laboratory publicised worrying forecasts and produced their experimental ocean heat model. By the end of this month, about half the world’s oceanic area is likely to be exhibiting heatwave conditions. This latest warning is almost a milestone in the gradual increase in marine heat content and the increasing threats of marine heatwaves.

As much as 90% of the heat that is trapped by greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions is stored in the ocean bodies, increasing the ocean heat content (OHC). This is projected to have a devastating impact on the ocean’s ecosystems and biodiversity, adversely impacting the fisheries sector and allied livelihoods such as that of Koli’s.

Tracing the alarming increase in marine heatwaves

A January 2022 study by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, that traced the trend of marine heatwaves between 1982 and 2018, found that “the western Indian Ocean region experienced the largest increase in marine heatwaves (MHWs) at a rate of 1.2-1.5 events per decade,” even though climatologically, it wasn’t the region with frequent heatwaves. While the paper claims a relatively lower rate of increase in MHW events in the Bay of Bengal, a new paper, published last week by researchers from IIT-Kharagpur, that tracked MHWs over the Bay of Bengal from 1982 to 2021, challenges this.

A total of 107 MHW events were identified in this 30-year time span and an increasing trend of 1.11 MHW events/decade was observed. Worryingly though, the paper highlights a stark increase in the frequency of MHWs in the BoB over the past decade. Authors note that if current trends persist, “the BoB will experience heatwaves every month in the next 55–60 years, and it will attain a semi-permanent heatwave state by the end of the century, with extreme temperatures present for more than half of the year.” Interestingly, the paper also shows that while climatic variations like the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) have a positive correlation with the occurrence of MHWs, the effect of background warming of oceans as a result of global warming has become the dominant factor in the temperature spikes and sustained MHW events.

 During 1982–2018, the western Indian Ocean region experienced the largest increase in marine heatwaves at a rate of 1.2–1.5 events per decade, followed by the north Bay of Bengal at a rate of 0.4–0.5 events per decade. Source: pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1794640

MHWs are induced “by increased solar radiation, relaxation of winds, and reduced evaporative cooling” and disrupt the ocean’s ability to cool and sequester carbon. Literature is replete with evidence showing the strong correlation of MHW event frequency and intensity with global warming trends, with a high degree of attribution to anthropogenic climate change. A 2018 study on the global occurrence of MHWs, published in the journal Nature, attributes 87% of the present MHWs to human-induced warming, with the ratio on track to becoming 100% under a 2 degree C global warming scenario.

“Most of today’s marine heatwaves are attributable to anthropogenic emissions leading to temperature rise,” says Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at IITM. A bi-monthly assessment by Mercator Ocean International, an intergovernmental organisation for July 2023, observed heatwaves in the southern Indian Ocean’s southern hemisphere and the Pacific. These occurrences, according to experts, are slated to continue especially in the Bay of Bengal region and across the Arabian Sea.

 “Our (Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute) studies clearly indicate that MHWs will have a progressive trend—more duration and initially more frequency as well,” says Grison George, principal scientist at CMFRI. But because the duration is longer, he claims the number of events will be fewer. This, however, doesn’t soften the blow for communities reliant on fishing.

There is now evidence that the implications of the rising trend of MHWs cannot be seen in isolation to other atmospheric and oceanic circulations that are vital to the subcontinent. Enter the monsoon. The IITM study from early 2022 for the first time elaborated on this impact. “The marine heatwaves in the western Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal are found to result in drying conditions over the central Indian subcontinent. At the same time, there is a significant increase in the rainfall over south peninsular India in response to the heatwaves in the north Bay of Bengal. These changes are in response to the modulation of the monsoon winds by the heatwaves,” the study states.

Source:  pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1794640

 Impact on fishing communities

Researchers at UK’s University of Glasgow have found that in response to global warming, the majority of fish populations across oceans are “relocating towards colder waters nearer the north and south poles.” Illustrating the impact of climate change, the study further found this to be a response to ocean warming, where the fish are moving to deeper waters to stay cool.

“Marine heatwaves have a detrimental impact on the marine ecosystem. They bleach corals and lead to mass fish mortality,” states Koll, adding how this can cause a collapse of marine aquaculture farms.

At a national workshop for strategising the inclusivity of fisherfolk and devising climate change policies and plans, the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) highlighted how the warming of oceans, which has reached 2000 metres, is likely to affect the production of fish. The acidity of water, the report explains, is measured by the pH level. “If the pH value reaches 5 then the fish metabolism decreases drastically, making them sluggish, and affecting their reproduction” and spelling trouble for coastal communities, which are dubbed to be the most vulnerable to “climate-related ocean changes.”

Koli mentions that his community has to remain cognisant of these changes taking place in the ocean. “Our fishing zones are not confined to one particular area, it all depends on the temperature—It (SST) also changes the colour of the water and the kind of fish that are found,” he says. Attesting to this, George says that fishermen have indigenous knowledge, they gauge the changes in the ocean by looking at the water’s characteristics. He says potential fishing zones are also estimated along these parameters, where a technique was developed to “use the remotely sensed sea surface temperature (SST) to identify the locations of fish aggregation”.

“But of late they also say that it’s becoming hard to predict the frequency of these changes,” George says while outlining the need for early warning systems.

Marine heat monitoring in India

In March 2023, when questioned about the government’s plan of action in overcoming the disruption in Indian monsoons due to abnormal oceanic temperature, the MOES replied to the Rajya Sabha that the India Meteorological Department’s monsoon forecast models have incorporated data from the ocean surface temperatures for advance planning and disaster management. 

Roxy says that MHW statistics currently are largely based on sea surface temperatures (SSTs). “We use both satellite measurements of SSTs and ocean observation instruments to detect MHWs,” he says, adding that despite their wide reach, they can only measure surface temperatures. “This is where on-site ocean instruments help, the OMNI (Ocean Moored buoy Network for northern Indian Ocean), RAMA (Research Moored Array for African-Asian-Australian Monsoon Analysis) moorings deployed in collaboration with the US’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and global Argo floats are some of the observation platforms that measure the ocean environment at the surface and through the depth,” he says, pointing out how one of the OMNI moorings detected record-breaking MHWs of 32-34 degrees Celsius. “Satellites cannot monitor these short-term variations at a high resolution.”

This outlines the need for more platforms to detect the MHW signatures closely and below the ocean’s surface.

Agreeing with this, Dr. Srinivas Rao, a scientist with INCOIS, mentions that for accurate measurement, Argo-profiling devices are deployed by mentioning a predetermined depth such as 2,000 metres from the surface. As per the Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Argo is an international project that uses robotic floats that drift below the ocean to collect information of the upper part of the world’s oceans and transmit this data to the satellites.

A 2022 national report mentions that India has deployed 494 floats in total, out of which 83 are active and transmitting data. INCOIS maintains a web-based geographic information system (GIS) site for the Indian Argo Program which monitors the floats’ data and their trajectories. “Argo data are being widely used for many applications to understand the Indian Ocean dynamics, cyclone and monsoon system in relation to heat content, thermosteric component of sea level and validation of ocean general circulation model (OGCM)” the report finds.

Rao says this is used to estimate how much heat content is stored in the ocean. “That parameter gives the inference of cyclone genesis how much energy is stored in the ocean across different seasons.” These conclusions are important to ascertain the impact that MHWs are having on marine biota i.e. the ecosystem and associated organisms.

One such system is the Marine Heatwave Advisory Services by INCOIS, which provides real-time data on MHW intensity and severity in the Indian Ocean, which Rao claims is at a primary stage. “Through climatology, we have average data for over 15 years, and are currently monitoring the locations where there is a difference of 1 degree centigrade,” he says, attributing to how these regions house the probability of a marine heatwave.

Importance of early warning systems

“It is critical to monitor the changes in OHC in order to understand the rate and extent of global warming,” states a chapter on Indian Ocean Warming co-authored by Roxy, where the authors elaborate on how the monitoring of regional variations in OHC can yield key insights into climate variability and change.

Roxy says that warm ocean waters supply the source of energy—the heat and moisture—for the monsoons and cyclones. “MHWs interact and modulate these weather systems. If we do not monitor them closely and integrate this data in the forecast models, then monsoon and cyclone forecasts will be less accurate,” he warns. This will further lead to forecast models failing to simulate the rapid intensification of cyclones in a short time.

In reference to this, George indicates how there are no early warning systems in place currently, so when extreme weather events occur, they severely impact resources and livelihoods. Globally, he adds, the number of warning systems available for MHW is very few. “We have information from the USA where they have come up with a method to provide information on these heatwaves, but we need to adapt these. There are no early warning systems in place as of now, so when such extreme events happen there is a direct impact on the resources and its impacting livelihoods. Globally, the number of warning systems available for MHW is very few.”

“When it comes to ocean heat or MHW, we need to have an understanding of the global circulation system, so we can have early warning systems clearly indicating where the marine heatwaves are generated,” he points out. According to him, we have very few high-resolution models in the northern India ocean that help us generate MHW data.

While granular high-resolution models to predict MHWs are still under development, efforts to produce larger scale models have seen success in recent years. Last year, NOAA scientists produced a global seasonal model to provide targeted warnings with relatively high degrees of confidence. Further development of the science around the causal factors of MHWs and its implications on regional ecosystems, biodiversity, and human populations will likely see louder calls for incorporation into the gamut of global regulatory frameworks and the forums that devise them.

Water level in 146 reservoirs is currently at 113.584 billion cubic metres (bcm), which is 64% of their overall capacity. This is less compared to the same period last year, where storage was at 144.569 bcm.

With El Niño gaining strength, poor monsoon affect India’s reservoirs, agriculture

Despite delayed monsoon this year, India received surplus rainfall in late June and July. But with El Niño gaining strength gradually, deficit rainfall has been predicted. Data indicates that the monsoon season might end with a rainfall deficit of at least 8% — the lowest rains in eight years. 

Data from the Central Water Commission (CWC) shows that scanty rainfall over the past week has aggravated the 79% of the same period’s storage last year and 94% of the ten-year average. Water level in 146 reservoirs is currently at 113.584 billion cubic metres (bcm), which is 64% of their overall capacity. Although there’s been an increase since last week, it’s less compared to the same period last year, where storage was at 144.569 bcm. The ten-year average for this period is 120.916 bcm. 

The Central for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM) has sounded a warning about severe drought in Kerala projecting a rainfall shortage of 90 per cent or greater across all districts in the forthcoming months. The state already witnessed an average rainfall deficit of 45 per cent between June 1 and August 17. Notably, several states, including West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Bihar, have seen rainfall deficits ranging from 20% to 63%, accompanied by low reservoir levels. This has hurt crop yields with nearly 15% drop in pulses sowing in Maharashtra. Farmers in Bihar have been advised by the state agriculture department to consider less water-intensive alternatives like maize. However, among such grim news, Indian farmers have planted 4.3% more land with rice than last year – 36.1 million hectares (89.2 million acres) with rice, up 4.3% on the same period last year.

Invasive species behind 60% of global plant and animal extinctions: Study

According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) invasive species are currently costing the world $423 billion annually and have driven 60% of global plant and animal extinctions. “Invasive alien species have been a major factor in 60% and the only driver in 16% of global animal and plant extinctions that we have recorded, and at least 218 invasive alien species have been responsible for more than 1,200 local extinctions,” said Anibal Pauchard, Chile, co-chair of the assessment.

The study states that the Caribbean false mussel has wiped out almost all native clams and oysters of Kerala which are important for local fisheries, reported the HT adding that the alien species may have travelled to India via ships and later spread by smaller fishing vessels that travel frequently between coastal oceanic waters and the fishing harbours of Kerala. The report backed by 143 IPBES member countries says that the global economic cost of invasive alien species exceeded $423 billion annually in 2019, with costs having at least quadrupled every decade since 1970. In 2019, the IPBES found that invasive alien species are one of the five most important direct drivers of biodiversity loss – alongside changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of species, the climate crisis, and pollution, HT reported.

Himachal Pradesh flooding: 21 of 23 hydel projects face legal action for violating norms, causing flooding downstream

Torrential rains have triggered cloudbursts, flash floods, and landslides in Himachal Pradesh causing colossal damages. Although climate change is expected to have played a role in causing the high precipitation leading to these flash floods, human-induced disasters have also played a hand in such huge losses. The Himachal Pradesh government has found that 21 out of the 23 dams in the state have violated safety norms, and legal action against their management would be taken. The HP State Electricity Board-operated Larji hydropower project in Mandi and Jateon in Sirmaur, and the HP Power Corporation-run Sawra Kuddu project in Shimla and Sainj in Kullu are among the violators. According to the state emergency operation centre, 221 people have died in rain-related incidents since the onset of monsoon in the hill state on June 24 and about 11,900 houses have been partially or completely damaged.

Wildfire rages across Canada’s British Columbia, heatwaves continue to burn Europe

British Columbia has declared a state of emergency with the Canadian province facing the worst wildfire season ever, forcing thousands of evacuation from cities east of Vancouver. The McDougall Creek wildfire has raged across 10,500 hectares above the city of West Kelowna, a city of 36,000 people, 300km east of Vancouver. Evacuations were also being carried out in nearby Kelowna, a city with a population of about 150,000 and further north in Yellowknife with 19,000 people safe from the wildfires. Canada is enduring its worst wildfire season, with more than 1,000 active fires burning across the country. Meanwhile, the worst wildfire in at least four decades has hit the Canary island of Tenerife, burning through 11,600 hectares (29,000 acres) of pine forest and scrubland. More than 12,000 people have been evacuated. The police have confirmed that the wildfire raging on the Spanish tourist island of Tenerife was started deliberately. In addition, heatwave and wildfires continue to burn Europe with the Greek government warning of an extreme risk of fire across the country, while more than half of mainland France has been placed under an amber extreme heat alert.

Karnataka is seeking to reduce the amount of water released to its neighbour citing distress because of inadequate rainfall this year.

Karnataka ordered to increase amount of Cauvery water released to Tamil Nadu

In a meeting on August 28, the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) issued an interim order to Karnataka, asking it to release 5,000 cusecs of water daily to Tamil Nadu for the next 15 days. The order comes after the Supreme Court asked for a report from the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) on whether Karnataka is adhering to the court’s August 11 directive to release 10,000 cusecs of water from the Cauvery river to Tamil Nadu. At the meeting, Karnataka had proposed reducing the amount of water released to Tamil Nadu to 3,000 cusecs, but this was rejected by the CWRC. Karnataka is likely to challenge CWRC’s notice in front of the CWMA. 

Karnataka is seeking to reduce the amount of water released to its neighbour citing distress because of inadequate rainfall this year. Tamil Nadu wants to increase the amount in order to save its standing crops. 

India sets emission limit for green hydrogen production

India set an emission limit of two kilograms of carbon-dioxide for every kilogram of hydrogen produced from renewable sources to be classified as “green”. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy said this limit will bring much-needed clarity to produce green hydrogen in India. The country is aiming for an annual production of 5 million metric tonnes of the fuel by 2030, which is estimated to cut 50 million metric tonnes of carbon emissions.

Rich countries ‘trapping’ debt-ridden poorer nations to rely on fossil fuels: Report

A new report revealed how rich countries are “trapping” poor, indebted countries into relying on fossil fuels. These debt-ridden nations are being forced to invest in fossil fuel projects in order to pay their debts arising due to loans from richer nations and financial institutions, according to the report by anti-debt campaigners Debt Justice. The report’s authors claimed these high debt levels will be a major barrier in phasing out fossil fuels. 

Japan begins releasing Fukushima water into the ocean

Japan’s prime minister criticised Beijing after reports that stones were thrown at its diplomatic missions and schools in China after the former released wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea. Japan began releasing the treated radioactive water on August 24. 

The plan to release the wastewater was approved two years ago, and has been criticised by local fishing groups as well. It was deemed crucial to decommission the plant operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). The first discharge totalling 7,800 cubic metres will contain about 190 becquerels (units of radioactivity) of tritium per litre, which is much below the WHO’s drinking water limit of 10,000 becquerels per litre, claimed Tepco. 

In 2022, AQLI that factored in the annual average PM2.5 levels of 2020, put an average Indian’s life expectancy loss by 5 years in India.

PM2.5 shortening average life expectancy of Delhi residents by almost 12 years

Air pollution is cutting short life of an average Indian by over 5 years and of those living in Delhi by as much as 12 years (11.9) according to the latest study by Chicago University, TOI reported. According to the new Air Quality Life Index released by Energy Policy Institute at University of Chicago the rate of loss of life expectancy is higher when compared to WHO standards of air quality of 5 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) but when compared to permissible Indian standards of pollution of very fine particulate matter (PM2.5) at 40 (µg/m3) the average loss of life years are 1.8 and Delhi average is at 8.5 years.

The newspaper report added that In 2022, AQLI that factored in the annual average PM2.5 levels of 2020, put an average Indian’s life expectancy loss by 5 years in India. The average PM2.5 level was slightly less in 2020 (56.2 µg/m3) compared to 2021 (58.7 µg/m3) due to Covid-linked lockdown.

Stubble burning chokes Madhya Pradesh; Centre focused on Delhi, Punjab and Haryana?

Worsening air quality resulting from crop residue burning is a huge national problem but government programmes and stubble burning data suggest that India’s crop residue management plans are centred around Delhi’s air pollution problem, rather than tackling the problem across the country, reported the Mongabay. The report points out that central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh saw 49,459 cases of stubble burning in the year 2020. The same year Punjab recorded 92,922 cases but since then, Madhya Pradesh has remained second only to Punjab in the number of stubble burning cases

The webportal goes on to report that the central government released over Rs. 3,062 crores from 2018 to 2023 to the state governments of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi for effective management of crop residue but Madhya Pradesh did not receive such financial support from the central government.

Food delivery workers on two wheelers exposed to carcinogens and toxic air: Study

A study conducted in Ghaziabad in the outskirts of Delhi has shown that Food delivery workers  riding on two-wheelers, are breathing in highly polluted air. The workers are exposed to particulate matter and volatile organic compounds at much higher levels than standards set by India’s Central Pollution Control Board and the World Health Organisation, reported Mongabay. The study also found that about 67% of the workers surveyed had no awareness of the adverse impact of pollution on their health. Scientists have urged for improvement of working conditions such as better company policies, provision of protective equipment and regular health check-ups and health insurance.

The scope of the definition encompasses both electrolysis-based and biomass-based hydrogen production methods.

India announces green hydrogen norms, sets emission standards for production

India announced the green hydrogen standard including the emission thresholds for production of hydrogen that can be classified as ‘green’. India defined green hydrogen as having a well-to-gate emission of not more than two kg carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent per kg hydrogen (H2), the ministry said in a statement.

The well-to-gate emission includes water treatment, electrolysis, gas purification, drying and compression of hydrogen, reported the Indian Express. The scope of the definition encompasses both electrolysis-based and biomass-based hydrogen production methods. The ministry of new and renewable energy.will release a detailed methodology for measurement, reporting, monitoring, on-site verification and certification of green hydrogen and its derivatives. 

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) will be the nodal authority for accreditation of agencies for the monitoring, verification and certification for green hydrogen production projects. India’s National Green Hydrogen Mission aims to produce 5 million metric tonne (MMT) green hydrogen per annum with an associated renewable energy capacity of about 125 giga watt (GW) by 2030.

India to set up green ammonia-based energy storage systems to invite bids

India plans to set up green ammonia-based energy storage systems by floating a technology-agnostic tender, reported Moneycontrol adding that India needs round-the-clock renewable energy for which energy storage is essential. Union Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy, RK Singh, said soon India will invite bids for using green ammonia as storage. If that works, India’s dependence on lithium-ion batteries for energy storage will be reduced. Recently India introduced bids for battery energy storage systems (BESS) and pumped storage projects (PSPs),

With the government kicking off its ambitious National Green Hydrogen Mission, the production of green ammonia is going to pick up within the next two to three years. Green ammonia is a derivative of green hydrogen, both of which are called “green” when they are produced purely with renewable energy as electricity. At present, ammonia is primarily used in fertilisers not just in India but also across the world.

Renewable energy capacity addition set to rise 33 per cent per annum: CRISIL

Renewable energy capacity will rise by 33 per cent to about 20 gigawatt (GW) per annum over the current and next fiscal years, according to ratings agency CRISIL.

Gurpreet Chatwal managing director, CRISIL Ratings said in the past two fiscals there has been 15 GW per annum capacity addition supported by a healthy executable pipeline of 50 GW (86% solar and 14% wind) of projects as on March 31, 2023.

Capacity has risen due to several factors including the resolution of the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) issue, the deferral of the requirement to procure modules from the Approved Models and Manufacturers (ALMM) list, falling costs of PV modules  and simplified access to both debt and equity capital, CRISISL study stated. 

Adani gets 2GW SECI manufacturing-linked tender, to set up factory in Mundra

Adani has commissioned a 2 GW solar cell and module factory in Mundra Gujarat, under a manufacturing-linked tender by Solar Energy Corp. of India (SECI). Adani Green Energy secured 8 GW of solar projects under the tender contingent on establishing 2 GW of PV cell and module manufacturing capacity, PV Magazine reported. 

Adani Green Energy said that its associate firm, Mundra Solar Energy, obtained commercial operational date certification from SECI for a solar cell and module manufacturing facility with 2 GW of annual capacity. Adani Green Energy holds a 26% stake in Mundra Solar Energy via its wholly owned subsidiary, Adani Renewable Energy Holding Four Ltd.

China to set standards to dismantle and recycle wind turbines and solar panels

To deal with mounting waste China, the world’s biggest renewable equipment manufacturer, will set up a recycling system for ageing wind turbines and solar panels. China targets to bring total wind and solar capacity to 1,200 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, up from 758 GW at the end of last year, but as older projects are replaced and decommissioned, waste volumes are set to soar, with large amounts of capacity already approaching retirement age, reported Climate Home News. 

China will release new industrial standards and rules detailing the proper ways to decommission, dismantle and recycle wind and solar facilities, the National Development and Reform Commission, said on Wednesday.

The Australian authorities have identified at least five mines of lithium and cobalt for India.

Five lithium and cobalt mines identified in overseas exploration

The collaboration between the Ministry of Mines, state-owned Khanij Bidesh India (KABIL) and Australia’s Critical Minerals Office to secure supplies of critical minerals has met with some success. The Australian authorities identified at least five mines of lithium and cobalt for India, the Times of India reported. KABIL is the joint venture between state-run NALCO, Hindustan Copper and Mineral Exploration Corporation. The government is looking for similar avenues in Chile, Argentina, and Mongolia. Copper and lithium are among the minerals being monitored in these nations. According to officials, India is considering free trade agreements (FTAs) with Chile and Peru while keeping in mind its strategic need to secure key minerals. Additionally, measures are being done to increase processing capacity for these minerals, an industry in which China now holds a dominant position globally. 

EV policy 2.0, among others, on hold in Delhi as transport dept sacks employees

After many of the Delhi transport department’s advisors, consultants, and fellows faced employment termination, important initiatives like the Electric Vehicle Policy 2.0, cab aggregator, and premium bus service programmes have been left in limbo. According to the Times of India, almost 400 employees overall lost their employment, including 50 from the transport department. The appointments were allegedly arranged without the LG’s consent and in violation of the reservation policies. Senior transport department officials stated that stakeholder dialogue for the cab aggregator programme was ongoing. Some of the highlights of the draft scheme to regulate cab aggregators and delivery service providers were mandatory panic buttons in taxis, integration with an emergency response number ‘112’, and phase-wise transition to EVs, etc. Delhi’s transport minister Kailash Gahlot said that while the pace of work could be a little slow due to all these obstructions, the government will not let the public work stop.

Centre extends PLI scheme for vehicles to FY 2028

Centre will extend the Rs 25,938-crore production-linked incentive scheme for the automotive sector by one year, following which the five-year scheme, originally in place from 2022-23 to 2026-27, will be active until 2027-28, reported ET and other news media. Currently automakers can get PLI subsidy for determined sales of Advanced Automotive Technology (AAT) products (vehicles and components) manufactured in India from 1 April 2022 onwards for a period of five consecutive years.The scheme is being extended by one year. As many as 95 companies have been admitted under the scheme that looks to promote local manufacturing of new technology products such as EV through subsidies.

The investment as reported by the applicants (till 30th June 2023) is Rs 10,755 crore. The government has published Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for DVA certification on 27th April 2023. The scheme has two parts: Champion OEM, which will make electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles, and Component Champions, which will make high-value and high-tech components.

Maharashtra: Electricity usage by EVs reaches 14.44 mn units in July

According to Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL), the power usage for electric vehicles in the state rose more than three times from 4.56 million units in September last year to 14.44 million units in July 2023, the Business Standard reported. In March earlier this year, the power usage had reached 6.10 million units. The sale of power for EVs was calculated from 3,214 public and private charging stations across the state. Public as well as private EVs are on a rise in the state. While only four electric buses were sold in 2018, the figure reached 336 in 2022 and 1,399 at the end of March 2023. The sale of EVs in Maharashtra also rose from 4,643 in 2018 to 1,89,698 in 2022 and 2,98,838 as on March 31 this year, where two-wheelers comprise the vast majority of EVs at more than 2.5 lakh.

Revolt returns ₹50.02 cr of FAME-II subsidy to the Centre

Revolt Intellicorp Pvt. Ltd. has returned ₹50.02 crore, including interest, to the Centre as compensation after an investigation revealed that the company had violated guidelines intended to subsidise locally produced electric vehicles. The RattanIndia-owned enterprise made a payout against ₹44.30 cr it had received as subsidy under the FAME-II scheme. Hanif Qureshi, joint secretary, Ministry of Heavy Industries (MHI) told the Economic Times that Revolt is now free to request a subsidy under the FAME scheme, subject to government permission, now that it has paid its dues. 13 EV two-wheeler manufacturers were under investigation by MHI for failing to uphold their localization obligations under the 10,000 crore FAME-II scheme and seven businesses were discovered selling EVs with larger than allowed imported components, violating the FAME regulations. Revolt’s choice to issue a refund contrasts sharply with the stance taken by other defendant corporations who are fighting the government’s assertion.

China’s EV trials: Abandoned vehicles piling at home, consumer challenges in Europe

China, the biggest EV manufacturer in the world, is facing challenges as the playing field is quickly evolving. To begin with, abandoned and obsolete EVs are piling up in Chinese cities. China became a world leader in electric vehicles thanks to a subsidy-fueled boom, but the country’s lots are now teeming with abandoned battery-powered cars. The vehicles were probably abandoned after the ride-hailing firms that owned them went out of business or because they were going to become outdated as more and more EVs with greater features and longer ranges were released by automakers. Moving on to challenges overseas, Chinese brands are facing recognition failure from potential customers and additional costs in Europe. While 8% of new EVs sold in Europe so far this year were made by Chinese brands, up from 6% last year and 4% in 2021, surveys indicate most potential EV buyers in Europe do not recognise Chinese brands. Also, while Chinese EVs (Є32,000) are priced significantly lower than their European counterparts(Є56,000), logistics, sales taxes, import duty and meeting European certification requirements add additional costs. 

Coal's share in power output rose to 66.7% in August - the highest for the month in six years.

Coal share rises to 66.7%: India uses more coal to fight outages in dry weather

India increased the use of coal to generate electricity to stop outages and meet record demand as the country faces driest August in over a 100 years. The output from  hydropower and renewables sources is not enough to deal with the “unusual” spike in the electricity use August, when temperatures are lower due to the annual monsoon that runs between June and September, reported Reuters adding that demand typically peaks in May, when the air-conditioners are turned on and industries operate without rain-related disruptions.

This August power generation surged to a record 162.7 billion kilowatt hours (units), a Reuters analysis of data from the federal grid operator Grid India showed. Coal’s share in power output rose to 66.7% in August – the highest for the month in six years, according to a Reuters analysis of government data. Due to weak monsoon the share of hydro power in overall output dropped 14.8%, compared with 18.1% in the same period last year.

Higher LPG price, lack of awareness deter low-income households to use cleaner fuels: Study

According to a new study, lack of access to LPG cylinders, knowledge of government schemes and high pricing of cylinders are among major deterrents for low-income households to switch from polluting fuels such as biomass to cleaner LPG. The study conducted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with ASAR highlights how rising fuel prices along with the removal of government subsidies make the LPG cylinder unaffordable. Low-income households, therefore, turn to biomass, or use biomass along with LPG. The study suggests that policy interventions could increase awareness about the 5-kg LPG cylinder and provision of flexible payment options such as installment payments through existing SHG networks and local banking systems could be helpful to aid transition. In response to the study, the Centre has said that the ease of access to LPG cylinders has increased since 2014, with the number of LPG bottling plants and distributorships increasing from 187 and 13,896 to 208 and 25,398, respectively, as of July 1, 2023.

Fossil fuel subsidies hit record $1.3 trillion surge: IMF

A new report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has found that despite repeated government pledges to cut back on fossil fuel subsidies, there was a record $1.3 trillion surge in 2022. It looked at both explicit and implicit subsidies for fossil fuels across 170 countries and found explicit subsidies alone had more than doubled since the previous IMF assessment, rising from $500 billion in 2020 to $1.3 trillion in 2022 as governments rushed to mitigate the inflationary impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the spike in demand caused by the economic recovery from Covid-19. IMF also calculated implicit fossil fuel subsidies, which include the cost of things such as undercharging for environmental costs and failing to levy taxes on consumption. The total subsidies rose to $7 trillion in 2022, an increase of $2 trillion compared to 2020.

Ecuador voters reject oil drilling in Amazon’s Yasuni National Park

In a move hailed as historic by environmental activists, voters in Ecuador have passed a referendum to prohibit oil drilling in a protected area of the Amazon rainforest. Almost 60 percent of voters supported the ban on oil development in the Yasuni National Park. The referendum started in 2007, when then-President Rafael Correa announced that Ecuador would refrain from oil exploration in Block 43 if rich nations compensated the poverty-stricken country through establishment of a $3.6 billion fund, equal to 50% of the projected revenue from the block. Home to 610 species of birds, 139 species of amphibians and 121 species of reptiles, the national park was designated by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve in 1989. The park is also a safe haven to Tagaeri and Taromenani who live in voluntary self-isolation and several Indigenous communities.