Press on Environment and Wildlife
Protests over Union Carbide Factory (August Week 3 (2005)) To mark the 63rd anniversary of the "Quit India Movement," four organizations representing survivors of the 1984 gas tragedy in Bhopal launched the "Accept Responsibility for Bhopal or Quit India" campaign, against American multinational Dow Chemical, current owner of Union Carbide Corporation. Hundreds of broom wielding women from 18 localities whose ground water have been poisoned by Union Carbide's chemical waste, held a rally outside the abandoned Union Carbide factory. Goldman award winner Ms Rashida Bi of Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Sattioneary Karmachari Sangh demanded (The Pioneer, Wednesday, August 10, 2005) that Dow Chemical clean up the hazardous waste. Dow should also pay compensation for the health and property damages caused by this toxic contamination, she added. The leader pointed out that while Union Carbide Corporation continues to abscond Indian courts, it also continues to sell its products in India through a Mumbai-based company called Mega Visa: Marketing Solutions Ltd. This could not be possible without the connivance of the Government of India she said. Leaders of the survivors at the rally declared that they would not allow government scientific agencies to move hazardous chemical wastes from the factory for burning in an incinerator or burial in a landfill. They said that both these disposal technologies would further poison the environment and affect the health and lives of people in Gujarat and in Pithampur. They asserted that multinationals such as Union Carbide arid Dow Chemical are profiting through poisoning the environment and damaging the health and lives of ordinary people. The speakers said there was need for revival of the spirit of the Quit India Movement for the second battle - the battle for freedom from the domination and pollution by multinationals.
A biodiversity park coming up at DU (August Week 3 (2005)) Delhi University will soon get its very own mini biodiversity park. A five-acre untended land is being shaped into undulated bio-park to draw various species of butterflies, insects, birds and small animals. The land is surrounded by the university's hostels and is centrally located. The university School of Environmental Studies has assigned the job onto their grand oldman, former pro vice chancellor CR Babu. "We will construct a sloping meadow so that the rain water doesn't stagnate, flows down to the wetland. The water level is about a foot at present, as the time will wear on, it will fill up. A few fingerlin fishes will be released to draw birds. Who knows, you might even see a few migratory ones, choosing to hibernate here," Babu said (Times of India, Tuesday, August 15, 2005). Already about 40 tall tree families, comprising 500 species, have been planted round the envisioned boundary of the park. With planned undulations shaping in time into towering woodland, strollers will find pleasant canopies all around the five-acre park. About 150 species of avenue trees have been planted at ideally located spots. The mini bio-park has been envisioned in the Revised Master Plan of Delhi. Future and current students, who are the targeted beneficiaries of the park, will get a first-hand education on how life-forms grow in woodlands and biodiversity be created.
Pythons born at Delhi Zoo (August Week 3 (2005)) For the first time in its history, two python eggs have hatched at the Delhi Zoo here. "The eggs hatched early this past week and the zoo's first python babies are healthy and doing fine. They were spotted as soon as they hatched and were taken away from their parents," said Zoo director B.S. Bonal (The Hindu, Tuesday, August 15, 2005). The zoo houses about eight pythons that have been rescued from various parts of the Capital and this is the first successful breeding that the zoo has witnessed so far, despite the fact that it has been home to several reptiles over the years. "We feared that the parents would harm the babies and thought it best to remove them. The baby reptiles were at risk of being eaten alive by their parents or even other larger pythons. Which is why it was important that we separated the babies as soon as they hatched," he added. However, while there is much celebration at the birth of these pythons, the zoo officials are also worried about the slow pace at which their reptile house is being constructed. "We are worried at the pace at which work is being carried out for construction of the reptile house. The Centre for Environment Education had been entrusted with the task of building the reptile house and work was to be completed by July this year. However, we are disappointed that we have not been able to open the same for the general public despite having promised it," said Mr. Bonal.
India loaded with non-biodegradable waste (Issue of the week, August Week 2 (2005)) Two articles appeared last week in two different newspapers which point to the grim management scenario of country’s non-biodegradable wastes. Read on to find out more -
The Pioneer, Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Storm-water drains choked with ubiquitous plastic carry bags are partly responsible for Mumbai's woes. The Environment Ministry's ban on manufacture and use of small plastics carry bag has gone unheeded, not just in Maharashtra, but also in most parts of the country. The deluge of 100-cm rainfall on a single day is unprecedented. But Mumbai's storm water drainage choking with accumulated plastics waste, making the floods unmanageable, is an old story. In June 1998, the Bombay Municipal Corporation passed a resolution to ban plastics carry bags only to vacate it in less than two days. The then Mumbai Mayor said no plastic bags meant putting out of work those engaged in the plastics recycling industry. Environmentalists had accused the city administration of wilting under the pressure of the plastics industry, which has a sound base in Mumbai. India's plastics consumption is one of the highest in the world. Yet, precious little has been done to recycle, re-use and dispose of plastic waste. The carry bags that are callously littered at every public place have low economic value and are not picked up by rag-pickers. About 500 flimsy polythene bags make a kilo and fetches about Rs 12, if the bags are soiled the value is even less. Without being picked up, most of the poly-bags end up in drains and block flow of water. The Environment Ministry has banned manufacture and use of plastics carry bags less than 8 inches X 12 inches in size 20 micron in width. The bigger the bag, higher will be the cost. This will discourage the use as the consumer will have to pay for the cost. The thicker and larger bags will also draw the rag-picker to retrieve these from garbage since the collection will fetch a higher price. The ministry has also asked State Governments to register all plastics manufacturing unit, so that these can be regulated. However, the implementation of the order has been tardy, evident from the large number of polythene bags strewn in every major town and city. Justice Ranganathan Mishra Committee, set up by the Environment Ministry in 2001 to look at the issue of plastic wastes, had asked the Government to do more. The committee wanted the Government to ask the plastic industry to take the responsibility of recalling and recycling plastic wastes through 400 collection centers across the country. The committee wanted the Government to levy a plastics tax of 25 paise per bottle which could be reimbursed at these collection centers. The plastic waste could then be recycled for laying roads and in the construction industry. This would make the poly-bags become dearer and would not be easily misused, recommended the committee. However, the proposal did not find favour with the Government. Environmentalists said, "in absence of a long-term Government policy, we are unable to get rid of poly-bags." "When sewerage is blocked, municipal corporations and State pollution control boards only pass the buck. Corporations just throw up their hands when it comes to handling the enormous quantity of plastics waste. If states (like Himachal Pradesh, Goa and Delhi) ban recycling, the trade goes underground. We cannot tackle the issue if disposal of plastic is seen in isolation, not taking into account production and usage," said Ravi Agarwal of Toxics Link. He called for a comprehensive policy including collection incentives and where plastics industry is part of the solution. Besides choking drains, plastics are highly toxics. When burned they release cancer-causing gases. Lying in the garbage, polythene bags also find their way in gut of cattle, asphyxiating the animals. Mumbai crisis serves as a grim reminder that unless our plastic waste is taken care of, we cannot dream to emulate Shangai.
Hindustan Times, Thursday, August 04, 2005
You may soon have to think twice before consigning your old computer or mobile phone to the dustbin. What’s more, you may have to ask the manufacturer to take it away or ensure that the civic agency throws it in e-waste recycle bins. Those failing to follow the code could be fined under municipal laws. Manufacturers would be accountable under Environment Protection Rules, 2003. These are some of the measures the Environment Ministry is considering to deal with the growing menace of electronic waste in the country. An estimated 15 lakh computers and 30 lakh mobile phones are disposed of every year in India. “Computers, mobiles and other electronic items generate hazardous e-waste like lead, brominated flame retardants and chromium which can cause cancer,” says Ravi Aggarwal of Toxics Link, the NGO which helped the Environment Ministry in preparing the working paper on e-waste. There is another problem: India has more to deal with than just the waste generated at home. The Environment Protection Authority of Britain recently said 23,000 tonnes of e-waste was dumped in India, China and Pakistan. “We checked 40 billings of mix metal scrap at different ports and found that in 90 per cent cases, e-waste from Europe was coming to India through the Middle East,” says Aggarwal. The Environment Ministry, however, denies such claims. The ministry has begun the process to assess the ground-level situation. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recently conducted a survey of 10 cities. It covered electronic items like computers, mobile phones, video games, chips, refrigerators and television sets. “We want to know the average life of electronic equipment in Indian homes and how they are disposed of,” said a CPCB official. Dr Prodipto Ghosh, secretary, environment and forests, says: “We will attempt to promote recovery to whatever extent possible — be it the reuse of entire equipment or its parts. We will also be promoting recycling of all possible components and materials. Only the remainder — which is absolutely unusable — will be sent to dedicated landfill sites for hazardous and toxic wastes.”
CCMB plans a gene and semen bank for vultures (August Week 2 (2005)) Endangered vultures will soon grow in numbers in Indian forests. Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology ( CCMB) has developed a standard method to determine fertility status of the nature’s formidable scavengers. The finding will ensure regular preservation of vulture genes and semen in frozen condition in the CCMB’s Laboratory for Culture of Endangered Species ( LACONES) for breeding purposes. The CCMB has also carried out certain sexing methods of vultures which will stop the bird from going extinct in near future. The standard has been accepted for publication in the reputed reproductive biology journal ‘Biology of Reproduction’. The study so far is the first of its kind in the world and the project is being jointly funded by the CZA and department of biotechnology. The CCMB will complete the Vulture project by the end of 2007. Its genome bank, LACONES-set up to preserve frozen genes, semen and other genetic material of endangered species-has already stored genetic material of about 40 species. LACONES has been promoted by the CZA in collaboration with departments of science and technology and biotechnology, Andhra Pradesh department of forests and wildlife and wildlife and central scientific and industrial research council has a national programme for biotechnological intervention in issues relating to fauna and birds.
High fluoride levels in groundwater of Guwahati (August Week 2 (2005)) A study carried out by a research group has revealed high levels of fluoride in the groundwater of certain localities of Guwahati. There is a strong possibility that unless appropriate action is taken, a large number of people would be exposed to serious heath risks. It is a well-established fact that fluoride in drinking water can have toxic effects. While excess fluoride could lead to dental or skeletal fluorosis, lack of fluoride may also cause health problems. “High fluoride concentration has been found in the southeastern plains of the city. The eastern part of the southeastern plains was found to have highest fluoride concentration,” it was noted in the paper ‘Hydrogeochemical study of ground water fluoride contamination: A case study from Guwahati city, India,’ published in the Asian Journal of Water, Environment and Pollution. The final results of the study underlined the fact that fluoride concentration peaked in the foothills and followed a decreasing trend away from the hills. At places the concentration of fluoride was as high as 10 mg/liter. A survey conducted by the researchers sought to ascertain the presence of any industrial activity releasing significant amount of fluoride as industrial waste. However, such sources were found to be absent. Referring to the methodology adopted in the study, a member of the research group told The Assam Tribune that more than forty samples were obtained from the localities, which include Bamunimaidan, Basisthapur, Birkuchi, Bonda, Chandmari, Matgharia and Noonmati. The samples were analyzed for fluoride content in an environmental lab by SPADANS method. For further verification, the samples were retested in an ion selective electrode system. The test results matched each other. Their findings have led the researchers to suggest that the potability of ground water having high fluoride content should be tested. They favor the Brahmaputra as a better source of urban water supply than fluoride-contaminated ground water. As a practical measure, they have recommended identifying water sources having fluoride content beyond the permissible limit and posting warning signs on such sites.
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