Vol 2, Feb 2024 | Against the flow

Sikkim Urja’s dam in Chungthang village, three months after it collapsed in October 2023. Photo: @sunitarora/X

This is a two-part series on Sikkim’s failed dam ambitions and its implications on India’s new hydel push. In Part 1, CarbonCopy retraces the events of October 3, 2023, when the Teesta river washed away the Urja dam in Sikkim. Ignoring environmental risks in the planning stage, however, had already sealed the dam’s fate years before it was built. Read more

Chungthang village, three months after Sikkim Urja’s dam collapsed. Photo: @sunitarora/X

Teesta disaster: How not to build a dam

This is a two-part series on Sikkim’s failed dam ambitions and its implications on India’s new hydel push. In Part 1, CarbonCopy retraces the events of October 3, 2023, when the Teesta river washed away the Urja dam in Sikkim. Ignoring environmental risks in the planning stage, however, had already sealed the dam’s fate years before it was built

Late last year, chickens came home to roost in Sikkim.

On the night of October 3, 2023, the Teesta river punched through Sikkim Urja’s dam at Chungthang. At 1,200 MW, Teesta III was the biggest hydel power project in the state—and one of the few privately-owned dams to come up in India since the private sector was allowed into the sector in the 2000s.

Blame for the incident was quickly pinned on a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF)—the South Lhonak Glacial Lake, 60km upstream from Chungthang, had burst its banks. In the days that followed, however, a clutch of other contributory failures came to light. The government of Sikkim, the Union environment ministry, and National Environment Appellate Authority had dismissed locals’ concerns (including fears about GLOFs) and okayed the project.

Both dam-builders and regulators continue to dismiss risks from environmental factors. In tandem, the country’s emphasis on early warning systems continues to be weak.

This was seen in the Chamoli disaster of February 2021. Only after that did NTPC speak about setting up an early warning system. Similarly, in the days following the Chungthang collapse, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) belatedly said it would expedite work on early warning systems. The CEA, too, belatedly released guidelines for slope stability

Risks like GLOFs and policy responses like early warning systems, however, are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Instances like Teesta III and NTPC’s Rishiganga, which was washed away in Chamoli, show that India’s dam approval process is failing to plan around environmental risks. The costs run deeper than what early warning systems alone can handle. 

For this reason, it’s useful to take a closer look at the events surrounding the collapse of Teesta III. Hardwired into its demise are larger lessons on how to not build a dam.

How the Teesta III broke

Neither the state government nor the dam builder had prepared for what happened on the night of October 3. Sikkim hadn’t installed an early warning system at the lake. It learnt about the breach only when an outpost of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), about 8 km from the lake, issued an alert saying water levels in the Teesta were rising fast.

As for Teesta III, even after being alerted, it was slow to respond. ITBP’s alert reached Gangtok by 10:30 PM, as The Print reported. By 10:50 PM, Chungthang had been informed. Even by 11:30 PM, however, its floodgates hadn’t opened more than 20-25%. Ten minutes later, waters were flowing over the dam. Another ten minutes later, it had been washed away.

Its failure to open gates fully—despite having forty minutes to do so—flagged deeper problems. “A dam of this size does not involve mechanical spillways,” an engineer with the Central Water Commission had told Indian Express. “This (inability to open floodgates) has raised questions about dam maintenance since spillways are electronically controlled and are not supposed to require manual intervention,” wrote the newspaper.

The dam’s design itself came in for criticism. Despite Sikkim getting torrential rainfall—and despite the paucity of rainfall data—its spillways were too small. That was not all. “The Teesta III project is a rock-filled concrete dam, which is structurally more vulnerable to flooding compared to a concrete dam,” Himanshu Thakkar, convener of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), told Sunday Guardian. “Teesta V, which is further downstream, was also seriously damaged, but not washed away, partly because it’s a concrete dam.”

But the GLOF wasn’t the only reason Teesta III broke. In the mid-2000s, Sikkim saw a hydel power boom where the state government, aided by the Union government, handed out hydel power concessions to untested companies. Athena Projects, which built Teesta III, was one such firm.

Even as untested companies flooded the sector, India didn’t boost its capacity to monitor dam construction, dam safety protocols or disaster management systems. In the case of Teesta III, not only did locals’ warnings about GLOFs go unheard, the Sikkim government, the CWC and the CEA didn’t ensure either early warning system or adequate spillway capacity. Thereafter, as Thakkar said, “National and State Dam Safety Organisations do not seem to have checked if the gates of Teesta III were properly operating.” 

The beginning of the end

It’s easy to understand why hydel planners were attracted to the Teesta. “(The river gathers) strength and megawatts of energy as it cascades from a high of around 5,200 mtrs where it is born to 300 mtrs, the height at which it exits Sikkim, a mere 175 km downstream,” writes Summit Times’ Pema Wangchuk in The Birds Have Lost Their Way, an anthology of the Gangtok-based daily’s reportage on hydelpower and climate change.

The first flush of official interest came in 1974, when the centre pegged Sikkim’s hydroelectric potential at 3,735 MW. The ball, however, started rolling only in 2001 when the Central Electricity Authority identified 21 large projects in Sikkim, all adding up to 3,193 MW. Thereafter, when the Prime Minister’s 50,000 MW hydropower initiative was launched, “Pre-feasibility reports for 10 projects were prepared.”

That was in 2003. In May 2004, those plans were annexed by the state government. The Sikkim Democratic Front, led by Pawan Chamling, had returned to power. Shortly thereafter, as Current News reported in 2012, a committee set up by the state power department, headed by secretary DD Pradhan, suggested all hydel projects above 25 MW be developed as PPPs. The state government would take 26% equity in these projects; and pay for that equity from the revenue it garnered from its sale of free power from each project. 

By the end of 2006, Sikkim had signed no less than 24 letters of intent—mostly with private firms—for hydel projects adding up to a combined installed capacity of 4,694 MW, all slated for completion by 2012. 

These developments mirrored those underway elsewhere in India. Arunachal Pradesh, too, signed more MoUs than the Centre’s projections. In both states, the talk was about “hydro dollars” transforming the state. Arunachal said dams would contribute as much as ₹8,000 crore to its annual income. In Sikkim, Chamling pegged annual income from dams, from 2015 onwards, at ₹900 crore.

These promises of transformation would, however, be undone by its own actions.

Mind the gaps

Dams come with well-known costs and risks. On the first, we have costs like submergence, forest loss, displacement, and changes in river flows. On the second, we have risks like GLOFs, cloudbursts, and vulnerability to construction delays which results in expensive, unviable power.

For this reason, even as Sikkim embarked on its 4,000 MW hydropower push, it needed to build administrative capacity—to oversee dam construction, operations, and disaster management. The fact that almost all private dam-builders were relatively inexperienced and were ergo subcontracting dam-building out further underscored the need for such state capacity.

That didn’t happen. “There is no competent body in the state that can deal with such gigantic projects,” Mahendra P Lama, JNU professor and chief economic advisor to the current government of Sikkim, told this writer. “And yet, the then-chief minister (Chamling) wanted an abrupt increase in hydel power capacity from hardly 60 MW to hundreds and hundreds of MW in such a fragile river system.”

These projects consequently enjoyed wide latitude on critical decisions—in their choice of contractors, the size of spillways, the quantum of environmental flows and maintenance schedules. They enjoyed this leeway at a time climate change was accelerating glacial melting and making cloudbursts more frequent.

On the night of October 3, Sikkim paid the price. Gaps in both Teesta III’s safety protocols and the state’s disaster management systems showed up. Not only did Teesta III fail to open floodgates, NHPC’s Teesta V project further downstream was taken by surprise as well. In 2014, NHPC, too, had dismissed any risk from GLOFs for projects in the Teesta basin.

Around 1:30 AM, almost two hours after hitting Teesta III, floodwaters reached this dam. Astonishingly, despite Gangtok knowing about the GLOF by 10:30 PM, Teesta V couldn’t open two gates because of “lack of time,” an engineer at the dam told The Print. Once the flood hit, five of its spillways were washed away.

A week after the GLOF, the death toll stood at 30. Over a hundred had been injured. Another hundred were missing. More than 1,000 houses had been damaged. So were dams downstream. About 14 bridges—and parts of the national highway connecting Sikkim to the rest of India—had been washed away. The damage extended beyond Sikkim, reaching into cities and villages in West Bengal. 

The questions write themselves. Why was a neophyte firm, new to the task of dam-building, given the tender to build Sikkim’s biggest dam? Why did the state disregard locals’ warnings about GLOFs—and the need to oversee dam-building (and operations) by the private sector?

The answer extends beyond Teesta III, or the Teesta basin, or Sikkim itself. Over the past 20 years, the thinking behind dam-building in India has mutated from developmentalist to something far more speculative. This political economy, as the second part of our series will describe, is creating new arrangements of winners and losers from India’s hydel pushes. 

Read the second part here.

With the summer expected to be more severe this year, some 7,082 villages across Karnataka and 1,193 wards, including in Bengaluru Urban district, are vulnerable to drinking water crisis.

Drought in over 90% districts in Karnataka, state reports farmer suicides, water theft

Karnataka is grappling with drought in 223 of 236  talukas,  there’s little water for drinking and irrigation. Distressed farmers are committing suicide. The situation could be similar in a number of states, including Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and even some of the eastern and northern states, reported Sandrap. Bengaluru in 1961 had 262 lakes, of which only 81 remain. The rest have been claimed by the real estate business for making housing layouts; the Bengaluru Development Authority and BBMP have been held responsible for levelling over 100 lakes directly and indirectly.

The report adds that the Winter Rainfall at the all-India level for the period January 1, 2024 to February 25, 2024 is already 31% below normal. There is the role of global warming and El Nino in this and these factors are going to persist at least till the end of Indian Summer. With the summer expected to be more severe this year, some 7,082 villages across Karnataka and 1,193 wards, including in Bengaluru Urban district, are vulnerable to drinking water crisis in the coming months as per a assessment made by the government as of February 10. 

The state imposed Section 144 near Bhadra Canals after 1,000 million cubic feet (tmc ft) of water released from the reservoir starting from the night of February 5, to supply drinking water to the urban areas of Haveri and Gadag districts, failed to reach the intended location where the jack well was situated. This was because there are over 20,000 pump sets installed along the canals, which are being used to lift water illegally. Additionally, some villagers have constructed illegal check dams using sandbags, further obstructing the supply of water to the Haveri and Gadag districts.

Bangladesh experienced 185 extreme weather events between 2000 and 2019: ICCCAD report

According to report climate change impacts in Bangladesh between 2000 and 2019, Bangladesh experienced 185 extreme weather events, making it the seventh most vulnerable country to climate change. In June 2023, temperatures surpassed 40°C during a prolonged heatwave. Tropical cyclones have ripped through coastal communities, costing on average 0.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) per year.

Even with accelerated climate action, continued warming and more extreme weather will stress adaptation efforts in Bangladesh, making it harder to protect lives and livelihoods. By the end of the century, even under a very low-emissions scenario, Bangladesh could see a further 0.8°C of warming compared with 1981–2010, and heavier rainfall could increase peak river flow by 16% relative to 1971–2000, raising the risk of flooding.

Currently, the government of Bangladesh spends approximately 6–7% of its annual budget on climate adaptation, about 75% of which comes from domestic sources. However, scaling up adaptation measures as outlined in the National Adaptation Plan (2023–2050) will require seven times the current spending.

Study: 33% to 68% of the global land surface will experience a significant change impacting plant growth 

At least one-third of the global land surface will experience a significant change in “phytoclimate” – a term used for the climate conditions that underpin plant growth – by 2070 under global warming, a new study says. The research takes a new approach to looking at how climate change could affect land ecosystems by mapping not only expected changes to climate, but also how these changes could affect plants, which underpin animal communities. It forecasts that 33% to 68% of the global land surface will experience a significant change in phytoclimate by 2070 under a low and high emissions scenario, respectively. “Phytoclimates without present-day analogue are forecast to emerge on 0.3-2.2% of the land surface and 0.1-1.3% of currently realised phytoclimates are forecast to disappear,” the researchers add.

China may miss climate targets in 2025

According to new study based on state data, China is at risk of missing key climate targets for 2025 and needs to make record cuts in fossil fuel use and maintain record renewable energy investment to get back on track.

The Bloomberg report added that rapid growth in electricity demand and below-average rainfall boosted demand for coal last year, alongside the rebound from the government’s zero-Covid policy boosting demand for oil, it adds. China is  “off track on all its core 2025 climate targets”, despite clean energy now being the biggest driver of the country’s economic growth.

According to AP, China will now need “even sharper pollution cuts” to reduce emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 18% through to 2025, as pledged in its 14th five-year plan. China is at risk of missing other targets, including reducing energy intensity, limiting the growth of coal power and boosting the share of clean electricity in the grid, the article noted. China has pledged to bring its CO2 emissions to a peak by 2030, and to net-zero by 2060, reports 

Antarctica sea ice reaches alarming low for third year in a row

According to the latest data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, the amount of floating sea ice around Antarctica has fallen below 2m sqkm for the third year in a row, the Observer reports, adding that this threshold had not previously been crossed since satellite measurements began in 1979. The paper says: “The latest data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center confirms the past three years have been the three lowest on record for the amount of sea ice floating around the continent. Scientists said another exceptionally low year was further evidence of a ‘regime shift’, with new research indicating the continent’s sea ice has undergone an ‘abrupt critical transition’.

The latest melting season in Antarctica, which takes place in the southern hemisphere summer during December, January and February, was more than a month longer in some areas of the continent.

Trees may not slow climate change as much as previously thought

Citing a new study, the Times reported that almost a third of the carbon-reducing cooling effect of planting trees is offset by changes to atmospheric chemistry and the amount of sunlight reflected back into space. The paper quotes study lead author Dr James Weber saying: “We’re not saying trees are bad. We’re saying trees have a part to play, but we need to think about how they affect the whole Earth system…Trees are not a substitute for carrying on as we are. We need to cut emissions at the same time.” It adds: “The implication, he said, is that countries may have to decarbonise their economies more deeply rather than banking too much on tree-planting.”

The researchers modelled two scenarios. In one, little is done to tackle climate change besides tree planting. In this case, the avoided warming from forests absorbing CO2 was reduced by 23%-31% when the other forest effects were taken into account. In the second, more optimistic scenario, strong action is taken to reduce further warming. In this case, the avoided warming was reduced by 14%- 18%, the new scientist reported.

The Apex court has issued an interim order to go back to its 1996 ruling to identify forests in the country.

SC order to go by 1996 definition of forests a good move, but not ambitious enough: Experts

In a win for environmentalists and forest communities, the Supreme Court, on February 19, directed states and Union Territories to adhere to the 1996 definition of ‘forest’—which referred to the dictionary definition of forest—and put a stay on the 2023 amendment to the Forest Conservation Act (FCA).

The 2023 amendments to the FCA, 1980, were challenged in petitions filed by a group of retired Indian forest officers and former bureaucrats, and the NGO Vanashakti. They argued that the 2023 amendment had “substantially diluted” the definition of forest, narrowed the Act’s scope and had allegedly resulted in 1.97 lakh sqkm of land getting excluded from forest area. Many experts believe that 2023 amendments would open up huge chunks of forests for commercial interests. 

So, earlier this week, the Apex court issued an interim order to go back to its 1996 ruling to identify forests in the country. However, experts said that going back to the generic definition of forests is not an ambitious move. 

Centre has no details of states’ reports on deemed forests: RTI

The Centre, in a reply to RTI, said the Union environment ministry does not have details of the state expert committee reports which identified so-called deemed forests in every state following Supreme Court’s 1996 order in TN Godavarman Vs Union of India matter, reported the HT.

Retired IFS officer, former principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) Kerala, Prakriti Srivastava who filed the plea told the newspaper that  SC has said that all state expert committee reports on forests identifying all categories of forests including unclassed forests as per the Godavarman judgment are to be compiled by the MoEFCC within two weeks and georeferenced also as per the 2011 Lafarge order in the 202/ 96 Godavarman case. These geo-referenced maps of all forests have to be put in the public domain by 15th April 2024. 

Shrivasta said when he sought these reports under RTI, he was told that the information is not available with the Ministry. Shrivastava told the newspaper: “This is shocking when the Ministry has stated before the Joint Parliamentary Committee that the SEC reports have been taken on record and the amended Act will be applicable to the land also. It is really horrifying that the Ministry has made such false assurances which have resulted in changing the conservation regime of the country through the amended Act without even examining the State Expert Committee reports! Considering the few poor quality SEC reports that have been seen by us, it is to be seen what the next steps of the Ministry will be in pursuance to the SC order of today,”

Asia Pacific region’s 2030 SDG goals facing 32-year delay

The Asia Pacific region is severely lagging behind on its UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ​​a new report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) found. The report found only 11% of the 116 measurable SDG targets (out of the total 169) are on track. In the current scenario, the Asia Pacific region will meet only one-third of the SDG targets by 2030, and will complete its goals by 2064—which adds up to a 32-year delay in completing these goals. The climate action SDG is at the bottom of this list, according to the report, and needs most work. The reason for this, the report said, was that most initiatives under this SDG have either stalled or been reversed. 

Goa govt joins hands with World Bank for blended climate finance facility

The Goa government partnered with the World Bank on a blended finance facility that aims to boost the state’s climate resilience. Under this facility, Goa’s environment department signed an MoU with National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) and the Power Finance Corporation (PFC). The government aims to collaborate with these institutions to initiate sustainable climate action. 

Mumbai recorded the highest deterioration with a 30% rise in Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 levels during 2022-23 winter season in India. Photo: Vishal Bhargav/Flickr.

La Nina pushed air pollution up 30% in Mumbai?

A rare triple dip La Nina episode, a phenomenon triggered by climate change, set off a peculiar air quality trend in the 2022-23 winter season in India. The period was characterised by improved air quality in North India and increased pollution levels in Peninsular India, according to the research.

As per the report, Mumbai recorded the highest deterioration with a 30% rise in Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 levels. It was followed by Coimbatore recording an increase in PM 2.5 levels by 28%, and Bengaluru and Chennai recording a rise of 20% and 12% respectively. “In North India, Ghaziabad recorded the most significant improvement with a reduction of 33%, which was closely followed by Rohtak and Noida with a reduction of 30% and 28%, respectively,” 

Ganga water unsafe even for bathing, says Bihar govt report on river pollution

According to the Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) almost all major rivers passing through Bihar are unsafe even for bathing, reported HT. The BSPCB survey based on sample checks at 98 points of the rivers, including Ganga, Sone, Kosi and Bagmati, in 27 districts showed excessive presence of faecal coliform bacteria in water. Water sample of Sirasia river at Raxaul yielded presence of around 2,40,000 most probable number (MPN)/100ml. The World Health Organisation (WHO) norms stipulate that river water with more than 1,000MPN/100ml faecal coliform bacteria should not be used even for irrigating crops, as uncooked agricultural produce could make people vulnerable to various kinds of diseases.

According to DTE, the pollution levels stem from release of untreated sewage and contaminated wastewater into rivers, including the Ganga in Patna and other urban areas, the report said. At Gandhi Ghat in Patna, the presence of faecal coliforms was discovered to be 36 times higher than the prescribed criteria. Six sewage treatment plants (STP) installed as part of the highly publicised Namami Gange project are not operating at full capacity. Although the installed STPs have the capacity to treat 350 MLD, the daily discharge in Patna exceeds 700 MLD. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its report, highlighted that the treatment capacity of STPs in Patna is insufficient to handle the effluent discharge. 

Include ‘super pollutants’ methane and black carbon in NDCs says UNEP chief

The Climate and Clean Air Conference 2024, ahead of the sixth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), urged nations to phase-out short-lived climate pollutants, or “super pollutants”, such as methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons. “By addressing short-lived climate pollutants, the world can deliver climate action, improve air quality and human health,” said Inger Andersen, the UNEP’s executive director, in Nairobi, Kenya.

Phasing out super pollutants can reduce air pollution. Protecting crops from pollutants like tropospheric ozone will also boost food security. Global action to reduce black carbon can provide co-benefits of public health protection and climate change mitigation. But stronger global action on air pollution is beginning to eliminate both cooling and warming aerosols and unmasking the warming already committed from high carbon dioxide concentration. This can lead to new heat extremes.

Andersen urged countries to include ‘super pollutants’ such as methane and black carbon in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). “Include super pollutants in NDCs as they are being renewed. Finalise methane roadmaps and implement them quickly. And, crucially, find new ways to finance action,” said Andersen. The financing required for methane abatement must increase by a minimum of 3.5 times by 2030, Andersen stated. 

CMS COP14: International light pollution guidelines for migratory species announced

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species and Wild Animals (CMS) prepared International Light Pollution Guidelines for migratory species. CMS COP14, which ended in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand noted that natural darkness has conservation value equal to clean water, air and soil, DTE reported. The guidelines say that birds in marine and terrestrial habitats can be affected by lights from as far as 15 km away, causing disorientation, attraction and collision. Birds may starve when artificial lighting disrupts foraging, and fledgling seabirds may not be able to take their first flight if their nesting habitat never becomes dark.

Artificial light can disorient flying migratory birds, diverting from efficient migratory routes or even collide with infrastructure. Migratory shorebirds may avoid roosting sites, which have high proportion of lights and increase their vulnerability to predation due to visibility.

In India, large-scale solar installations dropped 50.8% in 2023—from 11.7 GW in 2022 to 5.8 GW last year.

India’s solar capacity additions fell by 44% in 2023 due to delays

Solar installations in India dropped 44.1% in the calendar year (CY) 2023, with a capacity of 7.5 GW added against 13.4 GW in 2022, according to Mercom India’s Q4 & Annual 2023 India Solar Market Update. Large-scale solar installations dropped 50.8% in 2023—from 11.7 GW in 2022 to 5.8 GW last year. Large-scale solar installations constituted 77.2% of the total annual capacity additions, while rooftop solar made up the remaining 22.8%.

Mercom added that module price drops in Q3 led to increased orders, but grid compliance and last-minute connectivity issues due to new regulations caused project commissioning delays. The Centre has avoided imposing penalties for project commissioning delays to acknowledge that completed projects are facing challenges in adhering to the new regulations for connectivity. The government aims for larger project numbers and feels high penalties and low tariffs could lead developers to abandon projects, Mercom reported.

World’s biggest solar company Longi Green warns West not to cut out Chinese suppliers

Citing industry experts, Financial Times reported that the price of solar panels “produced without Chinese involvement in countries like the US would be ‘double’ [their current cost]”. Dennis She, vice-president of Chinese solar manufacturer Longi Green Energy Technology, said that increasing imports from China would create more  “downstream” jobs, such as in construction of new solar developments, as well as engineering, design and installation, the interview notes. “Kill[ing] most of the jobs from the downstream to protect 1% [of the European jobs in solar manufacturing] – it doesn’t make sense,” the Financial Times quotes She as saying. According to research by Wood Mackenzie, the newspaper adds, “China is set to continue to lead solar technology and dominate more than three-quarters of the world’s solar…manufacturing capacity” for at least three more years. Concerns in western countries about China’s “unfair trade practices” have led to the Chinese solar industry “expanding its manufacturing footprint closer to offshore customers,” it says. She noted that Longi is increasingly “trying to work with countries”, including through local joint venture partners, to set up more solar production capacity and avoid geopolitical risk.

Tesla to set up rooftop solar panel plant, asks Indian govt for subsidies

Electric carmaker Tesla approached the India government requesting subsidies as it plans to set up rooftop solar panel manufacturing plants in India. A selected partner will help Tesla to set up the plant in the country, while the latter will deploy its technology and sales expertise, reported the Mint, adding that the project coincides with the central government’s efforts to harness solar energy to light up 1 crore households by providing 300 units free electricity through an investment of ₹75,000 crore.

According to reports, the company also plans to invest $3 billion to set up a small car manufacturing unit in the country and follow up with $15 billion more into the battery ecosystem over a five-year period. 

India initiates anti-dumping probe into imports of solar glass from China, Vietnam 

Acting on allegations of Indian manufacturers, the Indian government initiated an anti-dumping probe into imports of certain solar glass from China and Vietnam, the Hindu reported. The Commerce Ministry’s investigation arm Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) is probing the alleged dumping of ‘Textured Tempered Coated and Uncoated Glass’ made or from China and Vietnam.

The product is also known by various names such as solar glass or solar photovoltaic glass in the market parlance. An application has been filed by Borosil Renewables Limited (country’s biggest glass manufacturer) on behalf of the domestic industry for the probe and the imposition of appropriate anti-dumping duty on imports.

Conflict on Red Sea trade route spike solar module prices by 20%

The Israel-Palestine war disrupted the Red Sea trade route resulting in as much as a 20% jump in solar module prices as the supplies are shipped from Asia to Europe. The route that carries 12% of the world’s seaborne trade. Mercom reported that since mid-November, heightened hostilities from Houthi militia targeting vessels passing through the Red Sea have resulted in fleets avoiding the key trade route. The Red Sea connects to the Suez Canal—the shortest sea route between Asia and Europe.

According to reports, half of UK exporters say attacks in the Red Sea are disrupting business. The British Chambers of Commerce says 55% of exporters report higher shipping costs and delays. The rebel group claims to be targeting vessels with links to Israel in an effort to show solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli bombardment in Gaza.

The funding will cover various sectors, including electric vehicles, battery storage, and sustainable food systems.

Previously accused of greenwashing, HSBC partners with Google to deploy $1 bn in climate tech financing

HSBC Bank and Google Cloud partnered up to offer financial support to businesses that are committed to improving efforts to mitigate climate change through technology. As per the agreement, HSBC will try to finance businesses that the US tech giant hand-picks to be a part of its Google Cloud Ready-Sustainability (GCR-Sustainability) initiative. The programme’s objective is to support users as they travel through the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) spheres. HSBC will allocate funding to selected companies under its commitment to invest $1 billion in early-stage climate technology ventures. These cover various sectors, including electric vehicles, battery storage, and sustainable food systems, by 2030. 

In late 2022, two HSBC commercials were prohibited by the UK’s advertising watchdog in 2022 for providing “misleading” information on the company’s efforts to combat climate change. According to the watchdog, HSBC’s advertisements “omitted material information” from the posters.

Chinese engineers develop a rechargeable calcium-oxygen battery that operates at room temperature

A proof-of-concept calcium-based battery that can survive 700 charge cycles at ambient temperature has been created by a group of Chinese engineers. The researchers have attempted to develop a useable, rechargeable, calcium–oxygen-based battery. Lithium is currently the industry standard for rechargeable batteries used in consumer goods. However, due to its scarcity and problems (poor ageing, need to avoid overcharging), scientists have been searching for a good substitute. Calcium is 2,500 times as abundant as lithium.

Previous studies have indicated that the combinations of calcium and oxygen have the best energy density among calcium-based batteries. The Chinese team developed a novel kind of liquid electrolyte that is capable of using both calcium and oxygen in order to make this function. This involved the use of a two-electron redox process and specific proportions of materials. The end product was a battery that, at normal temperature, could be charged and refilled up to 700 times. Although they admit that the battery is still insufficiently efficient to be used in commercial devices, they intend to keep working to see if they can make it better.

Tata Motors slashes prices of EV cars by ₹1.2 lakh

Tata Motors, the industry leader in electric passenger vehicles, has reduced the price of two of its electric vehicle (EV) models by as much as ₹1.2 lakh. This is the first time an Indian automaker has made such a cut. The extended range Nexon.ev now starts at ₹16.99 lakh, saving customers up to ₹1.2 lakh on the pricing. The base model of the Tiago.ev now starts at ₹7.99 lakh, a price decrease of up to ₹70,000. The choice was made, according to Tata Passenger Electric Mobility Ltd. (TPEM), since raw material costs were lower. Given that the cost of battery cells has decreased and that this trend is expected to continue in the near future, the company said that they have decided to pass on the benefit to their customers. 

Inverted perovskite solar cell with antimony-doped tin oxides achieves 25.7% efficiency 

Researchers in Singapore have built an inverted perovskite PV device with a p-type antimony-doped tin oxides (ATOx) interlayer that reportedly reduces the efficiency disparity between small and large-area perovskite cells. Their results suggested that ATOx could be a suitable substitute for nickel oxides (NiOx), which are widely utilised as a hole transport medium. According to the researchers, ATOx-using devices effectively reduce the efficiency disparity between small and large-area perovskite cells. Compared to the widely utilised NiOx, ATOx provides a combination of higher efficiency, stability, and scalability as a transport medium.

Since the invasion started, UK-based companies BP and Shell have profited by a total of $94.2 billion (£75 billion).

Ukraine invasion: Oil majors make $281 billion in profits

An international NGO called Global Witness claimed that since the Russia-Ukraine conflict began in February 2022, the oil “super-majors” have profited $281 billion (£223 billion). Five of the biggest listed oil firms in the world: BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and TotalEnergies have seen profits of more than a quarter of a trillion dollars. This is after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused a sharp rise in energy costs and household bills. Since the invasion started, UK-based companies BP and Shell have profited by a total of $94.2 billion (£75 billion). According to the NGO, this would be sufficient to pay for all household electricity costs in Britain for a period of 17 months. Since the second quarter of 2022, Shell has generated $58.9 billion (£47 billion) in earnings, while BP has made $35 billion (£28 billion) since the fight began. The three main US and European corporations, TotalEnergies, ExxonMobil, and Chevron, have earned a combined profit of about $187 billion (£148 billion). The analysis revealed that the largest players in the fossil fuel industry stand to gain the most from the conflict in Ukraine, even in the event of a draw. 

Coal India to bid for three critical minerals mines

Coal India Ltd (CIL) plans to bid for three blocks in critical minerals auctions conducted by the country’s mines ministry this month, Reuters reported. The country launched the first part of its critical minerals auction in November 2023, which has been estimated to raise about ₹450 billion ($5.42 billion) overall with companies like Ola Electric and Shree Cement expressing interest. CIL plans to get a block from the government for exploration and once lithium reserves are proved, the PSU would go for mining, one official said. 

Qatar to increase LNG export capacity in bet on Asian demand

Following the discovery of substantial new gas reserves, the Gulf nation of Qatar intends to expand its capacity for producing LNG in an effort to meet the rapidly rising demand from China and other Asian countries, the Financial Times reported. According to an announcement on Sunday, the action, which follows projected output increases that have been revealed in recent years, will result in an almost 85% increase in the company’s entire production capacity from present levels before the end of the decade. The Gulf state is placing a wager with these plans that the fuel’s robust demand would endure, with Asian economies moving away from coal in an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Coal ministry asks for over 600 freight trains anticipating high demand during summers

Anticipating a spike in the demand for electricity this summer, the Union coal ministry requested Indian Railways to run 600-650 goods trains daily to transport coal to power plants from May to August. The coal ministry has requested that the Indian Railways guarantee sufficient availability of goods trains to carry coal, according to a top source in the railway ministry. According to the official, Indian Railways plan to add 80–100 goods trains, or 4,000–4,500 wagons, by April in order to haul coal. According to the ministry, an additional 3,000 wagons or 60 goods trains might be allocated for the transportation of coal in the event that demand increases.