Press on Environment and Wildlife
Writers protest against mining (August Week 4 (2005)) Writers U.R. Ananthamurthy and Poornachandra Tejaswi, wildlife biologist and researcher Ullas Karanth and two others have written to all legislators in Karnataka urging them to help stop mining by Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd. (KIOCL) in the Kudremukh National Park according to the Supreme Court order. They have said that the 2001 order of the Supreme Court has taken note of the biodiversity of the park and the disastrous consequences of mining low grade iron ore in an area that experiences 7,000 mm of rainfall annually. They said the loss to humanity if the park is to vanish can never be assessed. Apart from the wealth of flora and fauna that have made the Western Ghats, of which the park is a part, one of the 18 global ecological hotpots, it is a travesty that mining is being carried on in a place that happens to be the birthplace of the Bhadra, Tunga, Netravathi and the Hemavathi. The scientific analysis accepted by the State Government noted in 2002 that mining in the park generated 2.2 lakh tonnes of silt, which has been allowed to flow and settle in the Bhadra and the reservoir. Accumulation of silt in the left bank of the Bhadra reservoir has affected many farmers and villagers depending on water for irrigation and drinking. The Supreme Court has taken all these factors into consideration, and on a petition by K.M. Chinnappa of Wildlife First Trust ordered in October 2002 that mining should be stopped by this December 31. Despite knowing this, the Government has been entertaining requests to intervene and appeal to the Supreme Court for reviewing its orders, they said.
World Environment Court proposed (August Week 4 (2005)) Various organisations, especially those engaged in anti-Cola campaigns, stressed the need of "World Environment Court". At a function held at Pallath Raman Memorial Hall at Fort Kochi on Tuesday, Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha leader CK Janu emphasised the need for such a court which would have a panel of experts from various fields including environment. Ms Janu inaugurated the seminar, organised in connection with the 'Coca-Cola - Pepsi Quit Kerala' campaign. In her inaugural speech Ms Janu criticised the UDF Government and the judicial system to protect the rights of the sidelined local communities. "The authorities failed to protect the rights of these communities on natural resources," the tribal leader said (The Pioneer, Wednesday, August 17, 2005). Analysing the situation members of various organisations who participated in the seminar stressed the need for a new judicial system to protect the environment and the native communities. "The World Environment Court will function on international level and will coordinate with other similar national activists' organisations," Mr Majeendran, an activist of National Alliance for Peoples Movement, (NAPM), which organised the seminar said. The seminar concluded that joint efforts were needed for setting up environment court. Majeendran added that the new organisation would not be a common NGO and it would not receive foreign funds. "It will be a congregation of those protesting organisations which stand for common men's genuine issues. Representatives of Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha, Rashtriya Mahasabha, Farmers Relief Forum, Plachimada Solidarity Samithy, Kerala Matsya Thozhlali Federation participated.
Greenpeace concerned with e-waste problem (August Week 4 (2005)) Concerned at India fast turning into a dumping ground for hazardous wastes, Greenpeace has asked the government to formulate standards for disposal of electronic waste (e-waste) — a new addition — and totally ban its import. The Central Pollution Control Board has constituted a national working group to address the issue. Releasing a report of its scientific analysis of waste waters, ashes, soils and sediments from electronic waste recycling yards in India and China, Greenpeace said toxic chemicals, including heavy metals, were released in the workplace and surroundings during each stage of recycling, resulting in environmental pollution and a serious threat to human health. Advocating recycling in a safer and contained environment, it has suggested that corporate houses also take responsibility by adopting Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and stewardship provisions, which make the manufacturers responsible for treatment and disposal of their products as well as for selection of material to promote waste minimisation. Samples collected from and around recycling facilities at Seelampur, Jafrabad, Shastri Park, Mayapuri, Burari and adjoining areas of Delhi establish that lead, cadmium, acids and organic contaminants were being released into the environment because of inadequate waste management practices. The report "Toxic Tech: Recycling Electronic Wastes in China and India" was released after the European Union directive on waste from electrical and electronic equipment came into effect. The directive, which regulates the handling of e-waste in the EU region, has yet to be implemented in many countries and India and China have been left to deal with the waste not only from the EU but also the United States. A huge quantity of electronic waste reaches India illegally under the garb of recycling.
Coca-cola ordered to stop production at Plachimada (August Week 4 (2005)) The Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB) has directed Coke to ‘‘stop production’’ at its Plachimada plant in Palakkad district with immediate effect. The plant had been in the eye of a storm with environmental protection crusaders demanding its closure for about three years, alleging that the plant was polluting and over-exploiting groundwater, thereby depriving locals of drinking water. In its order, the PCB said the company’s reply to its July-1 notice seeking a clarification on the source of cadmium in the sludge discharged by the plant was not satisfactory. ‘‘Although the company admits that cadmium is present in the sludge, no explanation has been offered about its source. It was detected by the board that due to cadmium in the effluent as well as the sludge, the groundwater in the vicinity was found contaminated,’’ the order said. The board also said that despite specific instructions to provide drinking water facility to people in the affected areas as per the directive of the SC Monitoring Committee, the company had not done it. The board also charged the company with failing to install reverse osmosis system for better effluent-treatment. While issuing the order, the PCB rejected the company’s written argument terming the board’s earlier notice as ‘ultra vires,’ prejudicial and amounting to judicial indiscipline. The PCB held that no person, institution, establishment or company had got the right to pollute drinking water as declared by the SC and the Kerala HC.
India’s first river-linking project to take off soon (August Week 4 (2005)) Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh will sign an agreement for the execution of a Rs 2000-crore Ken-Betwa link project in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi on August 25. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Babulal Gaur and his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Mulayam Singh Yadav will ink the agreement. This will be the country's first of the 16 river water transfer link projects identified by the Centre under peninsular rivers development component in deference to the wishes of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for interlinking of rivers to check recurring floods and droughts to ensure all round development. Chief Minister Babulal Gaur, expressing gratitude to the Centre for the clearance of the project said (The Hindu, Monday, August 22, 2005) `It has come as a gift to me on the completion of my first year in office.'' He said the project promises multi-objective development of water resources like irrigation, flood control, hydro-power generation, drinking water and fisheries. "The scheme provides for a water grid for Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and interlinking canal backed by as many storage places as possible." He said the sharing of costs between the two states was being worked out. Besides generating 72 MW of power, the project would irrigate about five lakh hectares of land in Raisen, Vidisha, Chattarpur, Tikamgarh and Panna districts of the state. The project also envisages an earthen dam at Dhaudhan near Panna to store and divert Ken waters to meet Betwa near Jhansi. Mr Gaur added that another project linking Parbati with Kalisindh and Chambal would also be finalised shortly.
Another Yamuna? (Issue of the week, August Week 3 (2005)) The Gomti is under threat. And the 28 lakh Lucknowites — who consume 460 liters of water everyday — are looking at the frightening possibility of a severe outbreak of water-borne diseases. Reason: The River might soon have more toxic untreated waste from sugar mills, paper mills and liquor distillaries that dot its banks. Moreover, it also has tonnes of household garbage and sewage that flows down the 495 nullahs everyday. The worst news of all — neither the Lucknow Jal Sansthan, nor the mills, are ready to incur the huge costs required to treat the water which would make it fit for drinking. The Lucknow Jal Sansthan has already written a series of letters to the Sugar Cane Department, the Pollution Control Board and the district administration, drawing their attention to the high density of molasses and other wastes dumped into the river. Most of these untreated wastes are being dumped at Sitapur and Lakhimpurkheri. One such letter specifically mentioned a chemical test, which showed that the Sugar Mills in Hargaon, Biswa, Ramgarh, Ajwanai, Kamlapur and Mahmoodpur were releasing their solid waste in the river. The Sansthan quoted a report of the Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, which talks about the increasing anoxic condition of the Gomti water. Translated, this means a fall in the oxygen levels in the water, resulting in native flora and fauna of the river perishing. ‘‘The wastes from sugar mills are polluting the water of Gomti. The water turns red when they release the molasses. Please do the needful immediately to stop this flow of molasses in the river,’’ the letter said. The district administration forwarded the letters to concerned departments as a routine matter. But all the industries junked the report, saying it did not hold water. The Sitapur District Sugarcane Department politely rejected the laboratory tests and said that nothing alarming was found on physical verification. Sources say none of the mills have a treatment plant — a mandatory requirement. ‘‘A treatment plant needs to spend a huge amount of money on to convert the solid waste to liquid and then tonnes of chlorine is required per week to purify it before flushing it out. But a tonne of chlorine costs Rs 12,500. Bleaching powder is equally costly. Obviously, their profit margin would slide if they incur this recurring cost,’’ reasoned an officer. But the Sansthan is also complaining about the costs it has to bear to treat the water. ‘‘Since all the waste flows down to Lucknow, the Jal Sansthan’s budget goes up, as we need more chlorine and bleaching powder to clean the water’’ the letter said. So far as residential wastes are concerned, the Pollution Control Board holds that it is due to the poor sewerage system. Rajiv Kumar Bajpai, Executive Engineer, Lucknow Jal Sansthan, said: ‘‘We need money for sewerage treatment. Earlier, there were sewage pumping stations to pump wastes in Gomti sewage farm. But with the development of the Gomtinagar area, it has stopped functioning’’ (The Indian Express, Tuesday, August 09, 2005).
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