The swollen Mississippi River, already spilling over into wide areas of the Mississippi Delta in the southern US, is dealing a heavy economic blow to commercial and agricultural life, The New York Times said. Tens of thousands of hectares of cropland were inundated in Louisiana when floodgates were opened to ease the flooding threat to New Orleans, Baton Rouge and a major petrochemical zone.
In the state of Mississippi, the river was rising to historic levels as residents hoped that levees would hold, Bloomberg News reported. The Mississippi river system is the largest in the country and – by area -- the third-largest watershed in the world, draining 41% of the continental US.
Japan said it will stabilise and shut down its stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant in six to nine months, as planned, as residents of two more towns left amid concerns about accumulated radiation, the Associated Press said. Recent data showed that the damage to one reactor was worse than expected.
The earthquake that struck the facility in March hit with almost 30% more intensity than it had been designed to withstand, raising the possibility that key systems were compromised even before a massive tsunami followed the quake, Reuters reported. Partial data showed the ground acceleration during the quake exceeded the plant’s design specifications at three of its six reactors.
Brazil’s state energy giant Petrobras will boost production of ethanol as part of a government effort to contain fuel prices, Agence France-Presse quoted energy minister Edison Lobão as saying. Petrobras accounts for 5% of the country’s ethanol production, but by 2017 expects to be the largest producer.
Amid growing public unhappiness over US petrol prices, meanwhile, president Barack Obama directed his administration to ramp up oil production, the Associated Press said. The move entails extending existing leases in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska’s coast and holding more frequent lease sales in a federal petroleum reserve in Alaska. Leases permit exploration but offer no guarantee of finding oil.
Trees in the Arctic region may grow 500 kilometres further north by 2100 as climate change transforms barren tundra and causes sweeping changes to wildlife, a leading expert on Arctic flora and fauna, Aevar Petersen, told Reuters. If that happened, as much as half the tundra from Siberia to Canada could vanish. Changes seem to be occurring much more rapidly than anticipated only a decade ago, he said.
Deep in the jungle of Thailand’s Thap Lan national park, forest rangers and foreign conservationists have been gathering evidence that suggests the single park may have more wild tigers than China does, The Guardian reported. Armed poachers have also been seen via camera traps.
In a display of pollution-free travel, a solar-energy plane made the first international flight powered by the sun, flying from Payerne, Switzerland, to Brussels in 13 hours, Reuters said. A regular Geneva-to-Brussels flight takes about one hour.
China’s ‘new silk roads’ will have huge environmental consequences in Asia and Africa as giant infrastructure projects open up remote areas and build links reaching as far as Europe