SC defines ‘green’ cost for projects built on forest land (October Week 1 (2005))
Major newspapers gave prominence to the fact that for the first time, the apex court has put in place a system to evaluate—and collect—the environmental cost of any project in forest land. Until now, the cost included just that of trees felled. But in
a 70-page judgment, the Supreme Court has ordered that projects be charged Net Present Value (NPV): value of benefits from a forest, including oxygen production, biodiversity, carbon absorption and flood and drought control.
The only projects exempted will be government hospitals, dispensaries, non commercial government ventures like schools, water tanks, sewers.
The NPV collected will go to a national corpus that will audited by the CAG and used for preserving forests, not necessarily in the state where the project is coming up. This is over and above the current system of compensatory afforestation—paying for trees
cut and getting new ones planted.
NPV is already being charged by four states Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Haryana. More than Rs 300 crore has been collected so far and is lying with the courts with no clarity on what to do with the money.
These states calculated NPV at Rs 5.80 lakh per hectare to Rs 9.20 lakh. New rates will now depend on the type of forest land, location, density of the forest, distance from urban area.
The plea that public sector projects of NHPC or Powergrid be exempted has been turned down by a three-member bench headed by Justice Y K Sabharwal who delivered the judgment after a continuous three-day hearing on an omnibus forest case.
A three-member expert committee will decide on the NPV, one of the members will be Kanchan Chopra, forest economist from the Institute of Economic Growth. The team has one month to identify and define parameters on the basis of which value can be ascribed to
different categories of forest land in different bio-geographical zones.
Bio-fuel is ideal source of power for Farmers (Issue of the week, September Week 4 (2005))
The first step towards production of bio-diesel was taken on Tuesday when Jatropha saplings were planted by the state agriculture minister Ashok Bajpai in village Baikuan of district Lakhimpur, (U.P) reports Times of India .
With this, the state government has decided to plant Jatropha on a large-scale. The state government has initiated the project on a 25-acre land in technical collaboration with the National Botanical Research Institute and Biotech.
Bajpai said that Jatropha would be cultivated for producing bio-diesel. While this will strengthen the financial condition of farmers, it would also come in handy for utilisation of barren and sandy land.
BIOFUELS for transportation may have grabbed everyone's imagination, but their use in power generation cannot be ignored as it holds significant potential for rural development. Prof U. Shrinivasa of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Indian Institute
of Science, Bangalore, says that biofuels, particularly oil from pongamia trees, can be used in the rural areas for power generation, in pump sets, and tractors. This would help to insulate farmers from the increasing prices of petroleum products, reports
the Hindu Business Line
Pongamia trees are common in farms, because they are leguminous and help to fix nitrogen in the soil and the leaves are used as green manure. The seeds have multiple uses — for extracting oil, which is used in leather tanning and soap making, and the oil cake
is used as manure. Since the trees are on the farm, the oil could be available for as low as Rs 3-4 a litre, which is the cost of crushing the seeds for oil.
According to Mr M. Rajagopalan, Head-Industry Captive Sales, Wartsila India Ltd, using bio-oils for generating power holds significant potential for rural development. It can be a source of quality and environment friendly power in the rural areas, enable agro-based
industries and generate employment.
This option would be easier to implement than using biofuels for transportation, which requires high-cost facilities for processing the raw oil to fuel. Also, the fuel quality would have to be standardised and this would call for extensive regulation and monitoring.
Industry estimates peg biofuel prices just a few rupees lower than diesel.
But for power generation the raw oil from the seed can be used directly. This would mean a significantly lower cost.
Power from bio-oil fuelled generators would be a renewable energy source without the disadvantages of other renewable sources such as wind or solar power, he said. Wind power is seasonal, its plant load factor is low at about 35 per cent and can only be available
in areas with wind potential. Solar power technology is yet to take off. But bio-fuels can be used in power generators that offer efficiencies comparable with conventional systems, in terms of cost and efficiencies.
For instance, the thermal efficiency of a coal plant is about 30 per cent while that of a bio-oil powered unit is 60 per cent. A bio-oil unit would cost Rs 3.5-4 crore a MW to set up, against Rs 5 crore for a wind farm, Mr Rajagopalan said.
Even at current levels of productivity of jatropha and pongamia, bio-oils are attractive, and in the coming years the output per hectare is sure to rise several fold with the intensity of research going into biofuels.
In Africa, the productivity of jatropha is several times higher, he said.
The benefit it would offer rural areas is that the fuel for bio-oil units can be produced by the farmer and used for captive power generation or supplied to larger power generation facilities of any capacity.
Wartsila itself specialises in such equipment that run on residual fuels such as furnace oil or LSHS (Low Sulphur Heavy Stock) and are proven to run on bio-oils. They range from 1.8 MW to 16 MW and any number of units can be set up for large capacities. These
facilities can power local industries or where connectivity is available feed the grid.
This would mean decentralised power production or, as the industry calls it, distributed generation. It would do away with transmission and distribution losses and high-cost infrastructure. It would catalyse rural and agro-based industries. But to make this
a reality, the Government will have to support this on a par with other renewable energy investments such as those extended to wind power.
Kaziranga National Park (KNP) (September Week 4 (2005))
The Sentinel reported a three prong strategy to save Kaziranga National Park (KNP). KNP Director NK Vasu said that the Park authorities held a meeting in the first week of this month to moot the formation of a coordination committee to ensure formulation
of the three-pronged strategy to end the element of uncertainty threatening the centenary park.
It may be mentioned here that the Brahmaputra has been eroding vast stretches of the KNP every year. The devastating floods of 1987 and 1997 claimed large tracts of park land. Therefore, erosion control has gained paramount importance for the survival of the
Park, Vasu said.
With erosion on the northern side, the need has arisen for the extension of the Park towards the south. The KNP Director said that there is a plan to add a 98 square-kilometre area to the Park in the Karbi Anglong Hills. This has become essential as the population
of the animals, including that of rhinos, elephants, Asiatic buffaloes and deer, has increased over the years, he added.
In addition to this, the National Highway has to be monitored all along so that the animals do not get run over by speeding vehicles while crossing the road, the KNP Director said.
Pheasant breeding project suffers setback (September Week 4 (2005))
The prestigious project for breeding of the highly endangered western tragopan species suffered a further setback when another chick died at the Sarhan pheasantry on Friday, reported The Tribune.
With this three of the four chicks bred for the first time at the pheasantry have died. All chicks were born to the same pair in two clutches.
While Mr B.L. Negi, the Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife), Sarhan, refused to confirm or deny the death of the chick, sources in the department said that the chick, which sustained an injury on one of its legs last month, had died.
Over the past two months four birds have died. Besides three chicks, an adult pheasant also expired but it had completed the average life span.
It is a project of global importance as Sarahan pheasantry is the only one of its kind in the world having the rare birds in captivity. “Tragopan melanocephalus” for the zoologists, the rare pheasant is placed high on the Red Data Book of the International
Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN) listing the highly endangered species. The survival of the species depends on success of the breeding programme being pursued by the department since 1991.
It took 15 years to have a successful breeding, thanks to the guidance of Mr John Corder, conservation breeding expert from the World Pheasants Association, who had been making regular visits to monitor the programme.
However, it appears that the department lacks the requisite expertise in captive rearing which is as much a specialised as breeding. The success of the Rs 4.93 crore breeding project is very much in doubt now.
Besides the lone surviving chick, the pheasantry still has three pairs of the rare bird but the breeding programme is in doldrums. The department will have to have fresh look at the programme and ensure that trained staff was deployed for such projects. Failure
of the project could deprive the state of similar projects which are in the pipeline.
Three deaths in three days at Gir sanctuary (September Week 4 (2005))
Marauding poachers have killed off most Indian tigers and now lions in Asia’s only preserve for the king of the jungle are mysteriously keeling over the dying.
Two lions and a lioness are reported to have died since Saturday in different parts of the Gir sanctuary and its surrounding areas, reports Times of India.
A lioness died during treatment on Sunday. Junagarh conservator of forests Bharat Pathak said the postmortem revealed that the death was caused by “toxic effect”. The department was waiting for a detailed analysis from the Forensic Science Laboratory before
committing on the issue, he added.
A 14-year-old lion was found dead in Jamwada area of Akolwadi rrange. Confirming this, deputy conservator of forest (Junagadh west) Ram Kumar said the lion had completed its life span. “This lion had undergone treatment four times in the past one year. It was
last treated on June 15 and then released into the jungle.”
Study of Rivers Long Overdue (September Week 4 (2005))
In M.P, the nine rivers and 11 cities situated on their banks have been included under the environment improvement programme under the 10th Five-year Plan. For this the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests has chalked out River Conservation Scheme.
The Environmental Planning and Coordination Organisation (EPCO) has been assigned the responsibility of preparing the detailed report of the scheme. The state government has made a provision of Rs 3 crore for this purpose. Central Chronicle reported this development.
The Tribune reported a proposed study of the catchment area of Sutlej.
Concerned at recurring breakdown of the country’s largest hydroelectric venture, the 1500-MW Nathpa Jhakri project, due to excessive silt in Sutlej, the Union Ministry of Environment has decided on a comprehensive study to map environmental status of its catchment.
The objective of the study is to prepare an environmental status report of the Sutlej catchment and to identify related issues ,besides suggesting measures to resolve the problems. The ministry has sanctioned Rs 27 lakh for the study to be conducted by the
state’s Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board in collaboration with the Central Pollution Control Board.
It is the first study of its kind to be taken up by the Union Ministry, which plans to replicate it in other catchments as environmental degradation has affected most of the important rivers.
Total catchment area of the river upstream the Nathpa dam from where the water of the river is diverted for the project is 49,820 sq km of which 36,900 falls in Tibet and the remaining 12,920 sq km in Himachal Pradesh. The extent to which the river has been
affected due to the ongoing environmental degradation could be judged from the ever-increasing level of silt. The Nathpa Jhakri project was designed for a maximum silt level of 5,000 ppm (parts per million) on the basis of data as per which the silt content
was likely to exceed this limit only for four days in a year. However, in the very first monsoon after the project was commissioned the silt content has surpassed the permissible limit on 53 days from June 24 to August 31.
The study will help generate authentic environment related data which will help engineers in planning future projects on the river. The composite view of environmental status mapping and conservation priorities of the catchment will also be useful to environmental
regulators to have a neutral opinion in decision making while granting clearances to development projects.
The user agencies such as agriculture, forest, wildlife, Hydropower, Industry and Tourism departments of the state will be taken into confidence while conducting the study which will also enable the government to evolve the strategies for conservation of catchment
and sustainable development.