IT HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA,
GREAT JOB MR. PARMAR
it is good to eat as many as vegetables and fruits (totally vegetarian), but my aurvedic doctor asked me to stop eating every...
Three-day rains flooded Krishna; warnings not heeded
DEATH AND destruction caused by the flood in north Karnataka and the Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh could have been averted had the governments and district administrations taken warnings of a “historic flood” seriously. In the first week of October, the flood killed over 200 persons and displaced over two million. A subsequent breach in the river canal in Andhra Pradesh on October 7 took the death toll to 269. “This is the biggest flood in the Krishna (flow reached 2.5 million cus - ecs) in 100 years. The catchment area received all this rain in three days,” said Dinesh Kumar, Andhra Pradesh relief commissioner. The expected maximum flow in the river is 1.6 million cusecs. It had been raining sporadically for 10 days in the two states, before a cyclonic pressure in the Bay of Bengal caused heavy rains in the Krishna’s catchment on the night of September 28. It continued for three days. The 900 mm rainfall received in the catchment areas on the three days was more than the average annual rainfall in Andhra Pradesh—812 mm. The authorities were caught unawares by the late arrival of the southwest monsoon that prevails between June and August. The Central Water Commission (CWC) received information there could be floods in the Tungabhadra, which merges with the Krishna after Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh. The CWC engineerin- charge at Kurnool, B Chandran issued two “historic flood level warnings” to the district collector on October 1; they were ignored, said CWC sources. On September 30, water level in Srisailam reservoir in Kurnool district was near full. Had the authorities begun discharging water from Srisailam to Nagarjunasagar from September 30, the reservoir could have received more water and the flood averted, said T Hanumantha Rao, former engineer-inchief of Andhra Pradesh. Gates of Srisailam and Nagarj unasagar dams were lifted on October 3. Besides Kurnool and Mantralayam cities, 500 villages along the Krishna and its tributaries, the Tungabhadra and the Kundu, in Andhra Pradesh were inundated. In Karnataka alone over 177,400 people in 14 districts were displaced. The two states estimate crop and pro - perty damage at Rs 32,000 crore.
6.3 QUAKE HITS BHUTAN: An earthquake struck eastern Bhutan on September 21, the eve of Blessed Rainy Day, a national holiday celebrated to mark the end of rains and beginning of the harvest season in the country. The 6.3 magnitude quake left 15 dead and thousands homeless. Tremors were also felt in Bangladesh, India and Tibet. The epicentre of the quake was 180 km east of the capital Thimphu, in Mongar district, identified as an earthquake-prone area by a seismic hazard map prepared by scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee in India. Landslides blocked the national highway and farm roads at several places. The eastern part of the country was cut off from the rest of the world. According to media reports, this is one of the strongest earthquakes Bhutan experienced in the past decade. Replying to queries on Bhutan’s disaster preparedness, prime minister Jigme Thinley, in a televised interview, said unless countries take initiatives to tackle climate change, such events would be frequent. Relief operations are underway. —Sonam Tshering
Chengara land struggle ends
Protestors say hunger forced them
ABOUT 2,000 landless families on protest for two years at a rubber estate in Kerala’s Chengara village, demanding cultivable land, called off their stir on October 5 following assurance from chief minister V S Achuthanandan. Under the settlement, 1,432 of the 1,738 families, most of them dalits who have been living inside the plantation, would get cultivable land and financial help to build houses. Each of the 27 landless Scheduled Tribe families would get one acre (0.4 ha) land and Rs 1.25 lakh; the landless Scheduled Caste families and the others would receive smaller plots and less cash. The struggle began on August 4, 2007 when the families entered the rubber estate of Harrison Malayalam Plantation Private Ltd, pitched tents and settled there. They had said the rubber farm had encroached upon 2,000 ha of forestland and said they too needed land. “We are not satisfied with the settlement,” said Laha Goplan, who led the struggle. “We were pressurized to accept the agreement. It is not easy for the families to survive on hunger for long,” Gopalan said while adding they would not vacate the estate until they get the land. ■
Black Rose leaks oil
Paradip port floats global tender
for clean-up operation
Rose that sank off the Paradip port in Orissa on September 9 when it ran into rough weather. The China-bound vessel, bearing a Mongolian flag, was loaded at Paradip with 23,847 tonnes of iron ore fines. It also had 924 tonnes furnace oil and 50 tonnes diesel. Fishers noticed patches of oil slick and dead fish along the seashore on September 21. Sumant Biswal of Orissa Marine Fish Producers Association said the spill poses a threat to 100,000 people along the port who depend on fishing; it could contaminate the state’s entire 480km coastline. Paradip Port Trust (PPT) chairperson, K Raghuramaiah, denied any fish casualty and said, “People might have bought dead fish and put on the beach”. An inspection report by Orissa state pollution control board said oil patches were found along seven kilometres of the shoreline; a large-scale oil spill cannot be ruled out. The scientists estimate 1-1.5 tonnes of oil might have escaped from the vessel and directed the port authorities to take urgent measures. PPT officials floated a global tender on September 23 after the vessel’s owner in Singapore, Black Rose Maritime Shipping Ltd, refused to clean the oil or remove the wreckage. PPT sources said since the ship was not insured, the Protection and Indemnity Club, a global association of ship owners who contribute money for such clean-up operations, is not helping. PPT plans to file a lawsuit against the company. Green groups, including Greenpeace, have called for an urgent clean-up because Olive Ridley turtles would soon start arriving at Gahirmatha, 15km from Paradip, for nesting. The iron ore fines, now settled on the seafloor, would affect the marine organisms, they said. ■
Indian born US scientist, Venkat - raman Ramakrishnan, shared this year’s chemistry Nobel Prize with U S researcher Thomas E Steitz and Ada E Yonath of Israel for their studies on the structure and functions of the ribosome. Ribosomes are responsible for converting information codes in the DNA into proteins that control the chemistry of all living organisms. Ramakrishnan who is working as a senior scientist at Cambridge in the UK and the two other researchers used a method called Xray crystallography to map the position of each and every atom in the ribosome to provide insights into life at the atomic level. They generated three-dimensional models to show how different antibiotics bind to the ribosome. Scientists now use these models to develop new antibiotics that block the function of bacterial ribosomes (without functional ribosomes, bacteria cannot survive) to cure infections. Ramakrishnan was born in 1952 in Chidambaram, temple town of Tamil Nadu. He studied physics at the Baroda University and moved to the US for higher studies.
European Union dithers on emission cuts; Kyoto Protocol under threat
THE climate change meet held in the Thai capital, Bangkok, between September 28 and October 9 was inconclusive. Negotiating countries failed to arrive at a consensus on even a single issue in the run-up to the final summit at Copenhagen in December where the second phase of commitments on emission reductions will be decided. Rich countries led by the US were determined to bury the Kyoto Protocol and sought framing a new declaration. The US said it would not ratify Kyoto Protocol; the European Union suggested parts of Kyoto Protocol could be accommodated in a new legal instrument. Japan, the other major party to Kyoto Protocol, too expressed reservations about continuing under the Kyoto regime. Yu Qingtai, the chief negotiator for China said there is a concerted effort to end the Kyoto Protocol and that this would nullify past efforts. “This is no way to conduct negotiations,” he said. Developing countries including India insisted developed countries finalize their reduction targets under Kyoto protocol and that US should be asked to make comparable reduction targets under a long term commitment. Shyam Saran, Indian prime minister’s special envoy on climate change said, “The Annex I countries are coming down to a much lower level of obligations. We will not sign any such deal.”
Banarasi Saree gets brand protection
To help 1.2 million handloom weavers and artisans of Uttar Pradesh
IT WILL now be difficult to pass off imitation Banarasi sarees as genuine ones. The Indian government has given a Geographical Indication (GI) certificate to the silk and brocade sarees woven on the handlooms of Varanasi and adjoining five districts in Uttar Pradesh. Only silk brocade sarees made in these areas can be legally sold as Banarasi saree. The certificate was issued on September 4 by the Chennai-based GI registry office. The certificate, given to select products that are specific to an area and have unique qualities, is expected to give relief to an estimated 1.2 million weavers and artisans. They have been suffering losses for more than a decade due to influx of fake Banarasi sarees woven on power looms in China and Indian cities including Lucknow. If a genuine lowrange Banarasi saree costs Rs 2,000, an imitation costs just Rs 500. Most orders were going to the power looms; weavers were employed just 10 to 15 days a month and paid just Rs 50-Rs 60 a day, said Lalchand Ram, president of the Benares Bunkar Samiti. The authentic Banarasi sarees are woven in Varanasi, Azamgarh, Mirzapur, Chandauli, Jaunpur and Bhadohi districts. “The weavers take 20 days to weave one saree; the power looms make them in one day but the finesse is missing. This marred the reputation of the Banarasi,” said Ram. Now there will be guaranteed employment and good wages, he said. The Samiti is working with over 1,300 weavers of two blocks in Varanasi district. They have the backing of a UK non-profit Find Your Feet (FYF). The Samiti applied for the GI status in 2007. Savitri Sharma, director of FYF, India, said, “We now need to approach weavers of other districts and tell them how they will benefit. We also need to get back the weavers who left saree weaving and became migrant labourers.”
Supreme Court asks polluters to
pay for river cleaning
THE Supreme Court, on October 6, slapped a Rs 55 crore fine on the garment dyers of Tirupur and Karur districts in Tamil Nadu. They were discharging effluents into the Noyyal river that contaminated groundwater and damaged agricultural land downstream. While upholding a Madras High Court order against the industrialists, the apex court reiterated the principle of polluters pay under the Indian environmental laws. Tirupur and Karur comprise the cotton garment-manufacture and export hub of the country. The bench comprising chief justice K G Balakrishnan and B S Chauhan passed the order while dismissing an appeal by the industry association against the high court order of 2006 that asked them to pay the fine. The sum was to be used for cleaning and de-silting the river and paying damages to affected farmers. The Ayacutdars Protection Association, a civil society group, were the petitioners. “This is probably one of the worst pollutions of our time…It has taken the Supreme Court two and half years to give the order; the case was adjourned ten times. It astonishes me that throughout the period, the court simply forgot the principle of polluter pays,” said Rajiv Dhawan, counsel for the civil society group. He said the farmers have suffered losses on all fronts and an entire irrigation system has been rendered useless. The Tirupur Dyers Association claims to have spent Rs 7.5 crore on reservoir cleaning and Rs 14.5 on farmers’ compensation. “We have built 20 common effluent treatment plants (CETPs). These will start operating soon,” said S Swamiappan, president of the dyers’ association. The industry body had deposited a sum of Rs 25 crore in the Madras High Court on the directions of the apex court. The balance penalty amount has to be paid within three months. ■
Andhra government identifies
1,400 ha in wildlife sanctuary
A MEMORIAL planned for former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, has become controversial. The proposed memorial site is inside the Gundla Brahmeswara wildlife sanctuary in Kurnool district where Reddy died in a helicopter crash on September 2. The sanctuary is next to the Srisailam tiger reserve; both are part of the 9,500 sq km Nallamala forest area. The memorial—YSR Smruthi Vanam—will cover 1,400 hectares and cost Rs 3.15 crore. It will comprise two stupas at the entrance and the crash site and an animal-breeding centre. “The construction activity will affect the wildlife there. Once completed, the memorial will attract visitors. This would lead to more human activity,” said Ashok Kumar, vice-chairman of Wildlife Trust of India, in a letter to the Andhra Pradesh forest department. C Siva Sankara Reddy, the state’s principal chief conservator of forests, said the memorial has been notified in an area outside the sanctuary though inside the forest. “All activities there will be forest and wildlife related,” he said.
Sapli will submerge 5,138 ha in
Maharashtra to water 600 ha
THE MAHARASHTRA government’s decision to revive a 40-year-old proposal for a dam on the Kayadhu river has led to widespread protests in the Hingoli district where villages will be submerged. People from over 20 villages said they would boycott the legislative assembly polls on October 13. They alleged the project is contract driven. Earlier this year, they had boycotted the parliamentary elections. Farmers came to know about the proposed dam in 2006 when a local newspaper published an advertisement inviting companies to bid for the project. Gangamai Industries and Construction Ltd was selected to execute the Rs 365 crore irrigation dam. The company soon offloaded construction material and started building sheds. This set off a series of protests. The villagers formed the Sapli Dam Sangharsh Samiti. Nandkishor Toshniwal, president of the Samiti, said there was no need for the dam. “The Sapli dam will irrigate only 600 hectares (ha) of fields but will submerge 5,138 ha; 14 villages will go completely under water and six will get submerged partially,” Toshniwal said. The existing Kalamkonda lake, wells and tube wells irrigate more than 2,200 ha of land; the proposed dam will water just 600 ha. Toshniwal said the Samiti plans to approach the central government to stop the project. Villagers said they were unwilling to spare their fertile agricultural land for the dam. “In rabi season, we get 15 quintals wheat per acre (0.4 ha). In the kharif season, the cotton yield is 10 quintals per acre and pulse yield, 15 quintals,” said Madhavrao Chothmal, a farmer of village Chafnath. Kailash Patange, a farmer from Digras village, said that 15 acres of forestland would also get submerged. The state government is yet to obtain clearance from the Union environment ministry and the rail ministry (the railway station in Nandapur village will go under water along with the village). Executive engineer of the Upper Penganga project, Hemant Solge, said clearances will be obtained.
But government falters in the first phase
AGARTALA, the first city in the northeast to switch to vehicles run on compressed natural gas (CNG), will convert 80 per cent of its vehicles to CNG mode by 2015. The Tripura Natural Gas Company Ltd (TNGCL), a division of Gas Authority of India Ltd, is implementing the plan. Pabitra Kar, MLA and chairman of TNGCL said the plan was made keeping in view deteriorating air quality in the city. The state government has already stopped registering petrol and diesel vehicles on the advice of TNGCL, he said. At present 26,000 vehicles (out of registered 98,765) run on CNG. They are mostly autorickshaws and private cars. None of the government vehicles has converted to natural gas though chief minister Manik Sarkar had announced all state owned vehicles would run on CNG by March 2008. Transport minister Manik Dey said the decision could not be implemented as “it costs Rs 45,000 to install the CNG kit in a car”. He also said the three CNG outlets in the city were not enough. TNGCL officials said the CNG outlets would be increased provided the existing vehicles convert to CNG use. Tripura State Pollution Control Board chairman Mihir Deb could not confirm whether air quality in Agartala has deteriorated. He said there was no air quality data available since 2001. He said there was not enough manpower to monitor air quality continuously. He said recent studies in a select area, however, had shown that all pollutants were within permissible limits. A non-profit, Association for Research on People and Nature (ARPAN), accused the government of not complying with the June 2009 order of the Supreme Court for phasing out old vehicles. Records show that vehicles registered in the1970s are still plying and causing pollution, said ARPAN’s president, A K Nath. He said the organization has filed a petition in the high court to stop old vehicles from plying.
CIC says disclosing details do not
harm interest of companies
The Bombay Environment Action Group (BEAG) had filed a right to information (RTI) application with the Port Trust in 2008 asking for details of the project report and other documents pertaining to construction of an offshore container terminal for handling shipping containers. The Port Trust gave most of the information but refused to share details of the agreement with construction company Gammon India saying this would breach confidentiality of the business plans of private parties. BEAG’s first plea before the appellate authority was rejected. The non-profit then appealed to the CIC. The full bench of the CIC sought the opinions of the comptroller and auditor general and the Planning Commission before arriving at the decision that disclosing agreements do not harm the competitive interest of parties. “The ruling is welcome. Many of the public-private partnership (PPP) projects are of vital public importance and large sums are invested in them,” said Arvind Kejriwal of the non-profit Parivartan. The ruling will prevent state and central government from giving the excuse of third party clause to deny information, said Pankti Jog of the nonprofit Janpath in Gujarat. The third party clause says that information can be refused when that information belongs to a third party, the information has no larger public interest or its disclosure harms the interests of the third party, usually a private company. “In Gujarat this clause has been liberally interpreted to refuse all information where private companies are involved,” said Jog. She gave the instance of an RTI application being rejected when information was sought about industries being allowed to expand in marine protected area. The Gujarat High Court upheld the state’s interpretation of the clause. But the Kerala High Court has interpreted the clause differently. The court said for information to be denied, it has to be intimately private to a person and should have no public interest. In the case of companies, the clause is applicable only if disclosure will affect their competitive interest, said Kejriwal.
Gaurav Gupta, director of The Climate Project India—founded by USA’s ex-vicepresident
AL GORE—spoke to SUMANA NARAYANAN on the green jobs fair he helped
organize in Delhi last month
On reasons for organizing a green jobs fair The fair is about creating means of living and going beyond it to reduce climate change impact. Everyone knows what being green means but people are hazy about implementing green projects like power from renewable sources, rainwater harvesting and green buildings. Look at the construction business in India. It is growing fast and the number of buildings will double in the coming decades. We need to make these more sustainable. But very few have the required training and the skills. For example, how many architects and builders know how to build with hollow blocks? Just a handful. It is estimated that global investment on green initiatives in India will be USD 150 billion in the next decade; but there is no workforce capable of absorbing this investment. On what the fair hopes to achieve The job fair concept can be compared to the IT revolution—it was not brought about by Nandan Nilekani or Azim Premji but by NIITs that started computer classes and trained people for the industry. If we could do this in the field of environment, it would open so many job avenues. For example, 900,000 jobs are open in just the biogas sector if we could train people to install biogas units. It would be labour intensive but a notch above the kind of labour jobs available now. Similarly, electricians trained to hook up solar panels, would have an edge. Besides, any job can be made green— accountants can relearn to do balance sheets to factor in depletion of natural resources. This can set new standards for corporate accounting. The fair is just a symbolic event. We plan to get together educators, bureaucrats and the private sector to think out a green curriculum. On green rating of companies so that prospective employees can make informed choices The Climate Project India does not rate companies; it’s very difficult to quantify a company’s green credentials. Many companies are good at greenwash. All we want is that people should think how they could make their jobs more green; this will have a trickle-down effect. Say, if a person wants to joint the power sector and a company has both coal and renewable energy sections, we could encourage people to opt for the latter. If more and more people prefer to work in the renewable energy sector, they will work to make it a viable area; the company too may then focus on it more.
Farmers’ ire forces Maharashtra to return land before polls
AS ASSEMBLY polls near, Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan announced the scrapping of the special economic zone (SEZ) in Pune district that farmers have been opposing. The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) was to develop the SEZ in collaboration with the videocon group of industries. On August 25, Chavan said titles to the land, identified for acquisition, would be returned to the farmers. The rollback on SEZ is being seen as a move to appease farmers who are angry with the Congress-NCP government for taking away their land to develop industries. Farmers of four villages in Pune district of Maharashtra voted out the NCP member of Parliament Vilas Lande from their constituency (Shirur) in the Parliamentary elections earlier this year. “Violent protests by villagers and fear of losing a seat in the upcoming assembly elections are what prompted the chief minister to change the decision,” said Sampat Kale of Pune-based non-profit National Centre for Advocacy Studies that recently organized a public audit of SEZS in Raigad (see ‘SEZ who? Not the farmers’, Down To Earth, September 30, 2009). “Once the SEZ was proposed, entire land in the four villages was transferred to the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation. This meant farmers could neither sell their land nor develop it for any other purpose,” said Kale. Videocon chairperson Venugopal Dhoot said the company has now been given alternative land in Saswad taluka in the district. The state government had proposed Videocon SEZ in early 2007. It required 1,821 hectares from villages Wagholi, Kesnand, Bakori and Lonikhand. Farmers opposed the SEZ from the outset. They agitated at the district collector’s office in April 2007 and attacked Videocon employees who visited Wagholi for measuring land the next month. The protests forced the government to stay the proposed SEZ in November 2007. Over 200 SEZs have been proposed in the state of which 44 are in Pune district. The cancellation of Wagholi SEZ has set in motion demands to scrap SEZs in other areas too. Farmers of 45 villages in Raigad have demanded scrapping of the Reliance SEZ in their area. They had voiced their disapproval during a referendum organized by the state government
Families want land in SEZ area
FOLLOWING years of agitation by families who would be dislocated by the Mihan SEZ in Nagpur, the Maharashtra government announced in September it will give the ousted people developed land that is 12.5 per cent of the land acquired. It also offered them the option of cash compensation and transfer of development rights (TDRs) which the displaced family can sell to the developer at the market rate without paying stamp duties. The government amended the Project Affected Persons Rehabilitation Act, 1999 through an ordinance on August 29, 2009 to make cash compensation and TDRs possible. The rates for the cash compensation and TDR are yet to be announced by the government. Before the amendment the law allowed only relocation of families affected by a project. There is a sense of victory among families affected by the Mihan SEZ which was earlier known as the Nagpur Cargo Hub. “This is the first rehabilitation package of its kind in the state. It will set a precedent for other SEZs in future,” said Baba Dawre, leader of the Cargo Prakalpagrasta Samiti under which the affected families are organized. The families are unhappy though; the government order does not provide land within the SEZ. “How can the affected families be said to benefit from the project if they are not allowed any stake in it?” Baba Dawre demanded. “Under the SEZ Act oustees cannot be given land inside the SEZ,” Subhash Chahande, chief engineer with the Maharashtra Airport Development Authority, the body which governs the Mihan SEZ, said. The affected families have declared they will settle for nothing less than 12.5 per cent developed land within the SEZ, and will not vacate their villages till this demand is granted by the government.
The Bombay High Court on October 1 set up a committee to record the noise levels from helipads in Mumbai. Awaz Foundation, a non-profit, had filed a public interest petition challenging Brihan mumbai Municipal Corpora - tion’s decision to allow rooftop helipads in the city.
NO RELIEF FOR AMBANI SEZ:
The Supreme Court on October 5 dismissed a petition by Navi Mumbai SEZ Private Limited, seeking tax relief for its economic hub. The court asked the Bombay High Court to decide the case in three months. The Maharashtra government has asked the company, promoted by Mukesh Ambani aide Anand Jain, to pay non-agricultural taxes for 4,680 ha.