Sunday, 28 June 2015

Unnatural Disaster: How Global Warming Helped Cause India’s Catastrophic Flood

The flood that swept through the Indian state of Uttarakhand two years ago killed thousands of people and was one of the worst disasters in the nation’s recent history. Now researchers are saying that melting glaciers and shifting storm tracks played a major role in the catastrophe and should be a warning about how global warming could lead to more damaging floods in the future.

The boulder in the foreground saved the historic Kedarnath Temple from destruction in the 2013 flood.

Two years ago this month, a flood devastated the Himalayan village of Kedarnath, India, the destination of half a million Hindu pilgrims annually. The town sits 11,500 feet up in a tight valley. Sharp, snowy peaks tower on three sides and a stone temple sits at one end. The flood — which occurred on June 17, 2013 — was India’s worst disaster in a decade. Several thousand people drowned. The deluge tore apart dozens of bridges, swept away miles of paved roads, and carried off herds of livestock. 

Government officials, scientific researchers, and media commentators soon speculated about the cause of the flood and about why so many people had died. They pointed to the early and heavy monsoon rains. They railed against poorly built homes, unregulated development along the Mandakini River that runs through Kedarnath, and soil erosion caused by thousands of pilgrims trekking on foot and on donkeys to reach this remote town in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.

All these factors contributed. Yet in the two years since the flood, scientists studying with the care and intensity of forensic investigators have added another key cause: global warming. In recent papers, they conclude that melting glaciers and shifting storm tracks may soon set off more catastrophic floods in mountainous regions of India and adjacent countries. Atmospheric scientists say that in northern India the intense rains that preceded the disaster are extremely rare. But they have discovered that an unusual collision of weather systems steered storms over Uttarakhand and locked them in place, pouring rain down for days. Long-term changes in weather patterns are making such collisions more likely, a development that some scientists believe is caused by global warming. Global warming has is also melting glaciers all over the Himalayas, including one perched above Kedarnath. Some researchers say that had the glacier remained healthy, heavy rain alone would not have destabilized a gravel bank that collapsed, releasing a destructive pulse of debris-filled water.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

GM Cotton Does Not Increase Profits for Indian Farmers – Oxford University Experts

Posted on Jun 10 2015 - 11:44pm by Sustainable Pulse

Experts from Oxford University in the UK have released a study in the Nature journal stating that there are no increased profits for Indian farmers who grow Bt cotton in non-irrigated areas.

Carla Romeu-Dalmau, Liam Dolan and their colleagues at Oxford University, compared the economic impact of growing native Asiatic cotton (Gossypium arboreum L.) with that of growing American Bt (GM) cotton (Bt Gossypium hirsutum), which has been engineered to contain bacterial genes that make the crop resistant to insect pests.

They found that farmers in the Indian state of Maharashtra spent more money to produce Bt cotton than native cotton, even though Bt cotton generates higher yields.

The authors also looked at farming Bt cotton under different conditions, and found that the GM cotton grown under rain-fed conditions has similar economic benefits to the same cotton grown using irrigation. Although Bt cotton gives higher yields with irrigation than without, growing it under these conditions costs more and eats into profits.

Farmers should bear in mind a range of factors, including expenses and water availability, when choosing which crop to plant, the authors suggested.