SCIENCE & DEVELOPMENT

Environment & Covid-19 in India

WORLD Environment Day 2020 comes at a unique time this year, right in the middle of perhaps the worst pandemic the world has seen in over a century. Due to lockdowns and other restrictions the world over, pollution of air and water has dropped, bird song has been heard in cities after ages, and wildlife has been making surprise appearances in urban areas. Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are estimated to have declined by around 17 per cent in April 2020 compared to 2019, about half of this due to reduction in surface transport.

US Abandons Open Skies for New Age Space Weapons

WITH the US walking out of the Open Skies Agreement, the US is signalling to the world that it intends to return to days of Pax Americana that existed post Second World War, when it was the sole possessor of nuclear weapons. It has already walked out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002 under George Bush Junior, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) under Trump. The only nuclear arms control treaty that still remains in place, is New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which provides a rough limit and parity on the US and Russia’s nuclear arsenals.

US Declares Vaccine War on the World

DONALD Trump launched a new vaccine war this week, but not against the virus. It was against the world. The US and UK were only two hold-outs in the World Health Assembly on the declaration that vaccines and medicines for Covid-19 should be available as public good, and not under exclusive patent rights.  Having badly botched his Covid-19 response, he is trying to redeem his electoral fortunes in the November elections this year by promising an early vaccine.

LG Vizag Styrene Leak: Corporate-Regulatory Collusion Unabated

THE horrific leak of Styrene vapour from the LG Polymers plant in Vizag in the early hours of May 7, 2020, causing at least 13 deaths and serious injuries to several hundreds of people near the plant, has revived memories of the Bhopal Gas Disaster in December 1984. Like in Bhopal, the LG plant was once in the city suburbs, but dense habitations had been allowed to come up in its vicinity.

US Trade War on China Takes a Corona Viral Turn

THE Trump administration has expanded the trade war against China to now include the Covid-19 pandemic. With more than a million already infected in the US and about sixty thousand dead, Trump’s assertions in February that this is just a small flu has now been replaced by China did it, even talking about making China pay reparations. A part of this is Trump’s dire need to scapegoat someone, or some country, for the US total incompetence in handling the Covid-19 epidemic. But that is not all.

Ethanol from Rice: Let Them Eat Cake!

A FRENCH princess sometime in the 17th or 18th century was told that the peasants were restless and complaining they had no bread. The princess was said to have uttered the legendary phrase, “well then, let them eat cake!” This phrase came to be used to highlight the disregard for the peasants, and lack of understanding of their condition, on the part of the then French aristocracy.

Public Health & Private Profits under Covid-19 Pandemic

DURING an interview with Jonas Salk, the creator of the polio vaccine, CBS newsman Edward R Morrow asked him who owned the patent for the vaccine. “Well, the people, I would say,” said Salk, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” This is what drives science and scientists like Salk, that science must be for public good and not the private profit of companies.

Lockdown: Victory Declarations Premature In the Battle against Covid-19

THE prime minister has now extended the 21-day countrywide lockdown to 40 days, that is, till  May 3.. While doing this, no explanation has been given on what basis the lockdown has been extended, and why for a 21-day period. Instead, in a briefing, the ministry of foreign affairs claimed a significant fall in infections based on certain modelling studies done by the ICMR. The ministry of health and family welfare first denied knowledge of any such ICMR modelling studies, later claimed that this was done by certain other groups.

Indian Grid Survives a Modi 9*9 PM Emergency

THE Indian grid was tested as no grid in the world has ever been by PM’s 9-minute at 9 pm lights off call, on April 5. An unprecedented load reduction to the tune of 27 per cent or 32 Giga Watts took place and came back again, all within a span of 10-12 minutes. No grid in the world has ever seen a plunge and surge of load of this magnitude, so it was indeed a trial by fire for the Indian grid authorities, both state and national, and the generators.

India’s Testing Strategy Has to Change

AS I write this column (April 2), Covid-19 is crossing a million infected cases in the world and nearly 50,000 dead. In India, the total infected cases are more than 2,000, with 51 deaths. It is clear that all countries are affected. It is a matter of time before a set of clusters or hot spots form and Covid-19 takes off in the country. Once it takes off, we are in exponential growth with a doubling rate that very soon makes the numbers look frightening. This is where Wuhan was six weeks ago, Italy entered about 3-4 weeks back and the US is in now.

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