Nearly five months after it was closed due to the covid-19 outbreak, the Vaishodevi temple in Jammu and Kashmir reopened on Sunday morning. In the first week, only 2,000 devotees will be allowed, all from the Union Territory except 100 from outside J&K. All of them have to register online. India’s covid-19 tally is at 25.9 lakh with a single-day spike of 63,490 cases. The recovery rate is up to 72%. For the rest of the national and world news, here’s Mint Lite.
House to go the distance
The Monsoon Session of Parliament is likely to begin end-August or early September, with seating spread across galleries and chambers, large-screen displays and communication consoles to help members participate in debates while keeping distance to prevent covid-19. Each House will convene for four hours a day; Lok Sabha most likely in the morning and Rajya Sabha in the second half. Sheets will separate the officials’ gallery from chambers. The last session was curtailed on 23 March, and Parliament has to reconvene within six months. Opposition parties have been calling for a virtual Parliament. Some nations like Argentina, Brazil and Belgium have passed resolutions to switch to videoconferencing and e-voting, while France and Germany are meeting with fewer members. Australia has cancelled its August session, and Canada plans to introduce remote voting for MPs from September.
Pardon for Snowden
Reversing his earlier stand, US President Donald Trump has said he will “take a look” at pardoning Edward Snowden, a former US intelligence contractor who’s facing criminal charges after revealing in 2013 that the American government spies on its citizens. Snowden, who has been living in exile in Russia since, has said he would like to return to the US if he can be assured a fair trial. At a conference, Trump called Snowden’s situation a “split decision” as public opinion on whether he was a whistleblower or a traitor remains divided. In another interview, he said many felt Snowden was “not being treated fairly”. It’s a shift from his stand during the 2016 campaign when he called him “a total traitor”. The US accuses Snowden of endangering national security, and if he is convicted, he could go to prison for decades. Rights groups earlier made repeated requests to Barack Obama to pardon Snowden but got nowhere.
The journey of food
Consumers are increasingly interested in food safety and traceability. Last week in Shenzen, China, there were reports that chicken wings imported from Brazil had tested positive for covid-19, and Xi’an reported traces on the packaging of Ecuadorian shrimp. While experts say there’s no proof the virus can be transmitted through food or packaging, the pandemic has put the spotlight on hygiene issues, which can be addressed by startups armed with the right technology to track the journey of food, from production to packaging. In India, agritech is still an emerging area. Total investments in agrifood startups for FY2020 stood at $1.1 billion, down 56% from FY2019. But the potential is huge. For more, see Startup Inc.
India comes to the rescue
India has sent a team of specialists and technical equipment to Mauritius to help local authorities deal with the oil spill from a Japanese ship. The MV Wakashio struck a coral reef on 25 July, spilling about 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil and triggering an environmental emergency. About 460 tonnes has been removed so far, largely with the help of local volunteers. Over the weekend, the vessel split into two. The spill is close to two environmentally protected marine ecosystems and the Blue Bay Marine Park reserve. Scientists say the full impact of the spill is still unfolding, but the damage could affect Mauritius and its tourism-dependent economy for decades. Removing the ship is likely to take months. A 10-member team of Indian coast guard personnel trained in oil spill containment measures has been deployed to Mauritius to provide technical and operational assistance, the Indian external affairs ministry said.
China’s sponge cities
For the past 500 years, China has been beset by floods, and 2020 has been a particularly bad year. China’s rapid urbanization is making things worse: former flood plains have become houses and factories, and dams no longer offer enough protection. Now, the government is trying a new approach by building “sponge cities” or districts with features like rooftop gardens, wetland parks, permeable pavements and under-ground storage tanks to absorb or reuse 70% of the rainwater by releasing it slowly into river and reservoirs. Yuelai in Chonqing city, which is at the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers, both of which flooded this year, is one of the pilot sites that’s just being finished. Its Exhibition Center Park is set lower than the surrounding ground to collect rainwater, which is filtered by layers of aquatic plants. Rain falling on rooftops is diverted to nearby parks. It’s an attempt to reverse the march of concrete.
Curated by Shalini Umachandran. Have something to share with us? Write to us at email@example.com or tweet to @shalinimb