Time lauds Delhi environmentalists (March Week 3 (2006))
Sunita Narain and Bhure Lal, credited with cleaning up Delhi's air and help build the world's cleanest transport system, are among top environmentalists worldwide whose efforts have been highly commended by the Time magazine.
The magazine notes it was a lawsuit filed by Narain, Director of the Centre for science and Environment, in mid-1990s to force Delhi's buses, taxis and rickshaws to convert to cleaner compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel that set the ball rolling with the Supreme
Court largely ruling in her favour.
"But busmakers and oil companies, supported by government ministers, objected loudly. So the court formed a committee led by Lal and Narain, to enforce its judgment," Time writes.
And it was largely due to their fight that the last diesel bus had left Delhi by December 2002 and 10,000 taxis, 12,000 buses and 80,000 rickshaws were powered by CNG.
Recalling the days when they began the struggle, Narain, told the magazine that air pollution was taking one life per hour.
"The capital was one of the most polluted on earth. At the end of the day, your collar was black and you had soot all over your face. Millions had bronchitis and asthma," Lal, who was then a senior government administrator said.
They do not claim to have slowed the global warming but their efforts have attracted advice from as far away as Kenya and Indonesia, according to Time.
"Delhi leapfrogged. People noticed," Narain said.
SOURCE : The Indian Express, Monday, March 27, 2006
Medha seeks rehabilitation of displaced (March Week 3 (2006))
Leading social activist Medha Patkar’s fight against the construction of the Narmada Dam and the demand for complete rehabilitation of those affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project received support from 10 MPs belonging to different political parties on
Friday. These MPs urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to “intervene and reverse the illegal decision of the Narmada Control Authority to raise the height of the dam”.
Ms Patkar, in the Capital with hundreds of affected tribal families, has been demanding the stopping of the “illegal dam construction” at Sardar Sarovar, full rehabilitation measures, including land-for-land for affected families, besides a complete review
of the draft of the National Policy for Rehabilitation of Project Affected.
Meanwhile, talking to The Tribune, Ms Patkar, who led the dharna at the Shram Shakti Bhavan, the headquarters of the Ministry of Water Resources here, said the entire decision to raise the height of the dam had been based on false action-taken reports.
“It is obvious from documents that resettlement and rehabilitation of thousands of families below 110 and 122 metres is not yet complete and false ATRs have been submitted,” she said, adding that the ATR that said that families had rejected the land hence cash
had to be given and became the basis for clearing the dam height was also not true.
Demanding immediate stop to the dam construction at Sardar Sarovar, she said till date as many as five crore had been displaced due to various dam projects in the country.
“Surely there are better ways to ensure development in the country,” she said, demanding a clear-cut policy for the rehabilitation of all those who were displaced due to development projects, whether urban or rural, in the country.
The NAC had not taken various movements and organisations into confidence when the modified draft policy with amendments was forwarded to the Prime Minister, she said demanding the consent and not just consultation of the gram sabha in an affected village as
a pre-condition for any project.
“Those who lose land for a development project, whether irrigation or mines or infrastructure, should be compensated with land. It should not just be limited to an irrigation project.
SOURCE : The Tribune, Monday, March 27, 2006
Village women save big cats (March Week 3 (2006))
Tiger conservationists in the country have found assistance from local women of areas around some of the tiger reserves. These determined women are giving a tough fight to tiger hunters and poachers.
Vasant Sena in the Periyar tiger reserve is just one example of how women can help check poaching and hunting of big cats.
The Vasant Sena, that was formed a couple of years ago with only six women, now has 100 members. These women patrol the forest reserve to keep hunters at bay. Even during the festivals the patrolling continues.
The Kalakad-Mundanthurai reserve in Tamil Nadu is witnessing a similar drive. The local women in the Kanha wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh do more than just patrolling. They also assist people in availing financial help under schemes run by the Centre
and the State government to keep them away from hunting/poaching.
SOURCE : Deccan Chronicle, Monday, March 27, 2006
Thermal Power Plants cause Smog and Haze (Issue of the week, March Week 2 (2006))
The Indian Express published details from a joint study conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur (IIT-K) and the George Mason University in USA recently puts thermal power plants in the dock for causing air pollution leading to dense fog,
smog and haze.
Based on NASA’s satellite data, the results of the research were carried by the leading international journal, Geophysical Research Letters published by the American Geophysical Union, on Tuesday.
‘‘These coal-based power plants use thousands of tonnes — upto 40,000 tonnes per day — of very low-grade coal with 30-45 per cent ash content, which is a major source of carbon emission in the air,’’ said Professor R P Singh of the department of civil engineering
at IIT-K, a co-author of the research paper.
Uttar Pradesh alone has 35-40 such thermal plants, all located around the Gangetic basin. According to Singh, the Gangetic basin and South India together account for more than 89 plants with over 100-MW capacity. Some of them even produce over 2000-MW of electricity.
As per the law, these plants need to use ‘‘electrostatic precipitator filters’’ to restrict emission of carbon particles in the atmosphere. But it is not sure whether these filters are effective enough to control the emission.
‘‘It is also suspected that the concerned authorities don’t ever check these filters or get them replaced from time to time,’’ said Singh.
While the density of power plants is high along the Gangetic basin, the Himalayas and Vindhyachal mountains also act as a barrier, leading to accumulation of pollutants in the area.
‘‘Due to this, the region suffers dense haze, fog and smog. These then lead to poor agricultural production, health hazards and depletion of ozone layer over the sub-continent. While this affects the whole of the Indian population, the 600 million people living
in the region are especially hit,’’ said Singh. The brick kilns concentrated in the basin add to the carbon emission.
Singh pointed out that while the Japanese government had banned such power plants, India, on the other hand, was planning to set up five more thermal plants.
The research also counters the perception that biofuel-cooking in UP and Bihar, beside automobile emissions, are responsible for the air pollution.
Giving details of the studies taken up in the last five years, Anup Krishna Prasad, a PhD student and co-author of the research paper, pointed to the comparitive data provided by NASA on the emissions caused by power plants and other sources.
‘‘It was shocking to find that the emission from power plants was more than the total of various other emissions,’’ he said.
Emission data for around 89 power plants collected during the research indicated that the plants in UP and Bihar were emitting maximum pollutants as compared to plants in South India due to the lower topography and wind pattern in the Gangetic basin.
Prasad added that the Panki power plant, located around 4 km from the IIT-K campus, has an adverse effect not only on the institute but the whole of the city. ‘‘The combustion of 3,300 tonnes of low-grade coal daily leads to concentration of carbon for upto
30 km. The problem becomes more severe during winter,’’ he said
Brown Cloud over Bihar (March Week 2 (2006))
As NASA’s Terra satellite images of northern India began to unravel on his computer, Larry Di Girolamo knew he had seen nothing like the thick brown cover of soot and dust draping one state maximum—Bihar.
‘‘It’s shocking how Bihar stands out in the images,’’ Girolamo, associate professor of atmospheric sciences, University of Illinois, told The Sunday Express. ‘‘Some days it’s much worse, or it’s better. But it always looks hazy. I am stunned.’’
From his faraway lab, Larry could tell Bihar’s electoral campaigners a thing or two they need to know about peoples’ issues there.
‘‘Sometimes we find such a pollution pool localised over a city,’’ he says. ‘‘But this covers an entire, densely populated state!’’ Could the airborne particles affect Bihar’s rainfall patterns, agriculture and damage lungs? An indicator of the possibility
is that ‘‘most pollution resides very close to the surface, less than one km in altitude.’’
Lead author of this 2001-2004 study published in Geophysical Research Letters last month, Larry estimates that the worst swathe looms over 300 kms x 550 kms of the state—‘‘seven times worse than global winter averages.’’
‘‘We have to be concerned of a direct health impact,’’ agrees co-author V Ramanathan, director, Centre for Atmospheric Sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, California. ‘‘This study confirms the problem.’’
The haze is suspected to have sources in old-fashioned kitchens burning wood and cow dung on smokey stoves, but scientists have not ruled out diesel and vehicular emissions as the cause. The immediate worry, says Ramanathan, is that the pollution could prevent
‘‘10-20 per cent sunlight’’ from hitting the ground.
‘‘We are probing how these particles affect sunlight and rainfall,’’ says Ramanathan, currently studying atmospheric brown clouds over South Asia.
At The Energy and Resources Institute—part of a South-Asian Atmospheric Brown Cloud project—director-general R K Pachauri wants more answers. The Bihar haze is estimated to hover at one to three km altitude. ‘‘There’s a world of difference between one and three
km,’’ he says. ‘‘We need to investigate its health effects, how much is inhalable.’’
‘‘Our studies using satellites show that man-made pollution is highest in winter,’’ says S K Satheesh, assistant professor, Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at Bangalore’s Indian Institute of Science, and advises ‘‘urgent investigations.’’ In the
paper, the team—including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the National Centre for Atmospheric Research—demands a study of Bihar’s climate and health changes.
But it’s a struggle.
‘‘Over the past few months, I have had a hard time getting reliable, relevant health statistics out of India,’’ Larry confesses. His first advise, distribute modern stoves.Meanwhile the cloud flits over Bihar, spilling into West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and the
Bay of Bengal.
Hunting of wild boars, blue bulls allowed (March Week 2 (2006))
Under pressure from the lobby of hunters, the Punjab Government has allowed hunting of endangered species of blue bull and wild boars. A notification in this regard was issued by the government on March 6, reports The Tribune.
The state Minister for Forests, Mr Hans Raj Josan, when contacted, admitted that the notification had been issued for issuing permits for hunting the said species of animals in the state. As per the notification, hunting has been opened even in the ecologically
sensitive kandi forest of the area.
As per the notification, the permit for hunting would be issued by the respective SDMs after receiving a resolution from the village panchayat, stating that the said species of animals were damaging their crops. The permit would be valid for two months, the
Interestingly, the government has kept the forest and the Wildlife Department out of the procedure for issuing permits for hunting.
Earlier also the government had initiated the move to open hunting under pressure from the lobby of hunters surrounding the Chief Minister. However, the move was stalled as the department did not have census of the animals for justifying hunting.
After that a hurried census of the animals was carried out by the Wildlife Department. As per the census, there are 8,000 blue bulls and 14,000 wild boars in the state. However, some of the members of the Wildlife Advisory Board, while speaking on the condition
of anonymity, said the number of animals projected in the census was exaggerated.
They alleged that there were about 12,000 villages in Punjab. Wild boars existed largely in the Kandi areas comprising about 3,000 villages. If the census of the department was believed to be true, there should be four wild boars per village in the Kandi area.
The boars should be seen roaming about in the forests. But the fact was that it was still very difficult to locate the animal in the forests.
Mr Sukhdeep Singh Bajwa, former Wildlife Warden, who caught an SDM in the poaching case, described the government move as unfortunate.
Environmentalists have flayed the government move. They have alleged that as per the forest survey of India report the forest cover in the state has gone down by 80,000 sq hectares. If the forest area has gone down to such an extent, how can you expect the
animal population to grow to such a proportion that hunting can be justified.