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France ditches plans for controversial west coast airport

Activists on the 1,600-hectare rural site say they have developed it into a utopia of organic farming and political debate.

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Edouard Philippe

The French government on Wednesday formally abandoned decades-old plans for a controversial new airport on the west coast that became a site of resistance for environmental activists.

In a keenly awaited announcement, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the divisions unleashed by the proposed new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes near the city of Nantes made it impossible to proceed.

“The project cannot go ahead in a climate of bitter opposition between two sides of the population that are nearly equal in size,” he said, adding: “The project is therefore abandoned.

The decision ends years of debate over a project first mooted in the 1960s — but sets the stage for a possible standoff with environmental activists who have been occupying the airport site for the past decade.

Activists on the 1,600-hectare rural site say they have developed it into a utopia of organic farming and political debate.

Philippe gave them until the spring to leave voluntarily, after which they would be evicted.

“We will put a stop to the no-go zone which has flourished in this area for nearly 10 years,” he said.

Nature

On the moon, water water everywhere and not a drop to drink (yet)

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Moon image captured by lander Vikram

WASHINGTON : The moon lacks the bodies of liquid water that are a hallmark of Earth but scientists said on Monday lunar water is more widespread than previously known, with water molecules trapped within mineral grains on the surface and more water perhaps hidden in ice patches residing in permanent shadows.

While research 11 years ago indicated water was relatively widespread in small amounts on the moon, a team of scientists is now reporting the first unambiguous detection of water molecules on the lunar surface. At the same time, another team is reporting that the moon possesses roughly 15,000 square miles (40,000 square kilometers) of permanent shadows that potentially could harbor hidden pockets of water in the form of ice.

Water is a precious resource and a relatively plentiful lunar presence could prove important to future astronaut and robotic missions seeking to extract and utilize water for purposes such as a drinking supply or a fuel ingredient.

A team led by Casey Honniball of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland detected molecular water on the lunar surface, trapped within natural glasses or between debris grains. Previous observations have suffered from ambiguity between water and its molecular cousin hydroxyl, but the new detection used a method that yielded unambiguous findings.

The only way for this water to survive on the sunlit lunar surfaces where it was observed was to be embedded within mineral grains, protecting it from the frigid and foreboding environment. The researchers used data from the SOFIA airborne observatory, a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a telescope.

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“A lot of people think that the detection I’ve made is water ice, which is not true. It’s just the water molecules – because they’re so spread out they don’t interact with each other to form water ice or even liquid water,” Honniball said.

The second study, also published in the journal Nature Astronomy, focused upon so-called cold traps on the moon, regions of its surface that exist in a state of perpetual darkness where temperatures are below about negative 260 degrees Fahrenheit (negative 163 degrees Celsius). That is cold enough that frozen water can remain stable for billions of years.

Using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, researchers led by planetary scientist Paul Hayne of the University of Colorado, Boulder detected what may be tens of billions of small shadows, many no bigger than a small coin. Most are located in the polar regions.

“Our research shows that a multitude of previously unknown regions of the moon could harbor water ice,” Hayne said. “Our results suggest that water could be much more widespread in the moon’s polar regions than previously thought, making it easier to access, extract and analyze.”

NASA is planning a return of astronauts to the moon, a mission envisioned as paving the way for a later journey carrying a crew to Mars. Accessible sources where water can be harvested on the moon would beneficial to those endeavors.

“Water is not just constrained to the polar region. It’s more spread out than we thought it was,” Honniball said.

Another mystery that remains unsolved is the source of the lunar water.

“The origin of water on the moon is one of the big-picture questions we are trying to answer through this and other research,” Hayne said. “Currently, the major contenders are comets, asteroids or small interplanetary dust particles, the solar wind, and the moon itself through outgassing from volcanic eruptions.”

Earth is a wet world, with vast salty oceans, large freshwater lakes and ice caps that serve as water reservoirs.

“As our closest planetary companion, understanding the origins of water on the moon can also shed light on the origins of Earth’s water – still an open question in planetary science,” Hayne added.

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India

Local factors main reason for Delhi’s air pollution woes, what has AAP govt done: BJP

The AAP government in Delhi has often blamed stubble burning in states like Punjab and Haryana for air pollution in the nation capital during this time of the year.

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Delhi Pollution

New Delhi, Oct 18 : The BJP on Saturday said local factors are the main reason behind air pollution in Delhi and accused the city government of trying to shift the blame to the Centre with its suggestion that stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana is the leading factor.

BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma said at a briefing that the air quality index in the national capital had improved on Friday despite the contribution of stubble burning to PM 2.5, increasing from Thursday’s six per cent to 18 per cent.

This conforms with the finding of a 2015 IIT Kanpur study which stated that the main factors contributing to the air pollution in Delhi are road dust (38 per cent) vehicular pollution (20 per cent) and domestic sources (12 per cent).

“This means 70 per cent of Delhi’s air pollution woes are due to local factors. Why does the Delhi government then always look towards Punjab and Haryana to shift the blame of pollution management on the central government,” Sharma asked.

While the Delhi government allocated a meagre Rs 52 crore for environment out of its budget of 65,000 crore, the central government earmarked Rs 1,600 crore this year to tackle air pollution in the Delhi-NCR and stubble burning, she said.

“The burning question in the issue of burning of stubble is what has the Punjab government done to deal with the problem? And more importantly what has the chief of the always alleging party (AAP) and the government of Delhi done to control the environment pollution troubling all of Delhi during coronavirus times,” Sharma asked.

The central government has also constructed eastern and western peripheral expressway, closed Badarpur and Panipat thermal power plants, switched from BS4 to BS6 fuel, backed innovation of Pusa decomposer for crop residue and subsidised electric vehicles to deal with the issue.

The Delhi government has done little except making empty allegations and claims, she said.

“When Delhi government allocates a meagre Rs 52 crore in its a 65,000 crore budget for environment, spends nil from the Rs 787 crore from the environment cess it received in 2017, has only three hired road vacuum cleaning machines, but spends upwards of Rs 73 crore on advertisements and self promotion within the months of July and August only, it is clear where CM Arvind Kejriwal’s priorities lie,” she said.

Claiming that the maximum incidents of stubble burning in 2019 came from Sangrur, she said it is the Lok Sabha constituency of AAP MP Bhagwant Mann and five out of its nine assembly seats have AAP MLAs.

“What have they done,” she asked.

The AAP government in Delhi has often blamed stubble burning in states like Punjab and Haryana for air pollution in the nation capital during this time of the year.

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Cities

Delhi air pollution: NGT directs UP to keep vigil on illegal brick kilns

The Additional District Magistrate of Baghpat has also filed further reports stating that the brick kilns which are operating have been closed.

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Delhi Pollution Air Quality
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New Delhi, Oct 17 : The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Uttar Pradesh authorities to keep a vigil on illegal operation of brick kilns in Baghpat district to protect the air quality of Delhi-NCR. Baghpat district has one of the most polluted air in the country.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board’s data, Baghpat district is recording ‘very poor’ air quality and stands at the fifth position in one of the most polluted cities after Kurukshetra, Muzaffarnagar, Bhiwadi and Greater Noida.

NGT Chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel passed the order after hearing petitions for remedial action against illegal operation of brick kilns in Baghpat where about 600 brick kilns are illegally operating.

“The concerned authorities in State of UP may keep a vigil against illegal operation of brick kilns so as to protect the air quality in the NCR,” stated the bench also comprising judicial member S.P. Wangdi and expert member Nagin Nanda and slated the matter to January 11, 2021.

The Tribunal observed that since there was an injunction issued by it in another matter — Utkarsh Panwar vs. Central Pollution Control Board, the “brick kiln activities could not have been allowed by an order of the Chief Secretary which was mentioned before the Tribunal.”

The Additional District Magistrate of Baghpat has also filed further reports stating that the brick kilns which are operating have been closed.

The order came in the backdrop of a massive spike in the air pollution in Delhi. The pollution reaches a crescendo every winter, when pollution from smoke emanating from stubble burning and other sources combine with the suspended water droplets in the lower atmosphere to form a thick blanket of noxious smog.

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