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Author: Nikhil M Ghanekar

DNA Special: Centre’s air action plan in line with court order

Centre’s 12-point draft Air Action Plan — prepared by a task force under the Prime Minister’s Office — is not in conflict with anti-pollution measures approved by the Supreme Court (SC) and National Green Tribunal (NGT), CK Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) told DNA. Mishra said that the action plan to tackle pollution in Delhi-NCR was in fact based on the template provided by the courts.A task-force set up under the chairmanship of Nripendra Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister released its own 12-point draft action plan earlier this week to seek public suggestions and comments. “This is an action plan, where we have decided on certain focus issues after discussion. Whatever has been said by NGT or earlier by the Supreme Court is sacrosanct, and we are implementing that,” Mishra told DNA.Authorities in Delhi are currently bound by court orders to implement emergency anti-pollution measures as per two different action plans. One is the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) prepared by the SC-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, and the other is a graded plan NGT formulated in a judgment earlier this week. These action plans have come in the wake of toxic smog episodes that Delhi experienced in the winter of 2016 and 2017. Pollution levels at some pockets in Delhi were 13-14 times than the normal limit, which could even make a healthy person unwell.Mishra added that the draft plan will be fine-tuned keeping in mind the existing action plans, and Centre would continue to implement them even as its own plan is being prepared. “Court’s mandate is the overarching direction we are following. These are some of the issues we have picked up from the discussions and court’s mandate. We have also made it open to the public, largely because if there is some innovative idea we have not thought of, let people tell us.”The Centre’s 12-point action plan has sought to focus on tackling broad issues such as crop stubble burning, curbing industrial pollution, solid waste management, curbing dust pollution, enhancing public transport and reducing road congestion. It includes measures such as curtailment of Nitrogen Dioxide from power plants in a time-bound manner and creation of a dashboard for monitoring the most polluting industries.Even as the Centre seeks to curb pollution from thermal power plants, it has already allowed them 16 new power plants to emit sulphur and nitrogen pollutants above permissible limits, relaxing its December 2017 deadline to limit emissions.Point of focusThe 12-point action plan seeks to focus on tackling issues such as crop stubble burning, curbing industrial pollution, solid waste management, curbing dust pollution, enhancing public transport and reducing road congestion.

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Vidya Balan: It has to be something like Ijaazat with Shah Rukh Khan
Here’s how “well-behaved” Shashi Kapoor was different from Raj Kapoor & Shammi Kapoor, writes Shobhaa De
Bigg Boss 11: Shilpa Shinde rebukes Akash Dadlani for touching her inappropriately
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Once again, monkeys are dubbed ‘vermin’ in Himachal Pradesh

The Centre has once again declared rhesus macaque monkeys as ‘vermin’ in ten districts of Himachal Pradesh, thus allowing the state forest department to cull them for preventing crop loss, conflict with humans, and property loss. The fresh notification, brought out by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), will be valid for an year and will be applicable only in non-forest areas.MoEF&CC had issued a similar notification in May 2016 that expired after one year. Himachal Pradesh forest department, though, did not cull a single monkey between 2016 and 2017, its senior officials told DNA. In Bihar and Uttarakhand, too, they had issued similar notifications, declaring nilgai and wild boars as vermins in the respective states.After the 2016 notification became void, Virbhadra Singh-led government sent a fresh proposal to the environment ministry seeking to declare monkeys as vermin again. The proposal was accepted after due appraisal, a ministry official said. The issue of crop losses caused by monkeys was also poll issue in the recent assembly elections. In their electoral campaigns both the Congress and the BJP had promised farmers of appropriate action.”We have issued a fresh notification, it is not an extension of the old one. Apart from Himachal Pradesh, Bihar had also sought renewal of the notification to declare Nilgai as vermin but their proposal has not been accepted. They are yet to provide impact studies. Uttarakhand has not sought any order to declare wild boars as vermin again,” said a senior ministry official on the condition of anonymity.When asked as to why the state government sought a fresh notification when no monkey was culled, GS Goraya, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Head of Forest Force, Himachal Pradesh, said, “Though we did not cull any monkey, we reached out to farmers to create awareness and have succeeded to an extent in curbing the solid waste issue. Open dumping of food waste is the main attraction for monkeys.” He added, “Culling is also difficult as religious sentiments are attached with monkeys. Unless any Panchayat passed a resolution to cull monkeys, we do not want to cull them.”According to Goraya, of the total population of 2.5 lakh around 1.26 lakh monkeys have been sterilized since 2006, of which 50 per cent are females.Animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi who had moved Supreme Court against the earlier orders of Centre, said, “Conflict with wild animals is a direct result of mismanagement of forests. The forest department has waste tens of crores of public funds on counterproductive sterilization and now they they want to kill the same sterilized monkeys.”ELSEWHEREIn Bihar and Uttarakhand, too, MoEF&CC had issued similar notifications, declaring nilgai and wild boars as vermin in the respective states.

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Vidya Balan: It has to be something like Ijaazat with Shah Rukh Khan
Bigg Boss 11: Shilpa Shinde rebukes Akash Dadlani for touching her inappropriately
Bigg Boss 11: Hiten Tejwani gets evicted from Salman Khan’s show
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MoEF panel turns down clearance for Rasuli iron mine in Chhattisgarh

The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has not recommended forest clearance for the Rasuli iron ore mine of Navbharat Fuse Co Ltd in Kanker, Chhattisgarh, as the mine falls in very dense forest area in the Bailadila mountain range.FAC is an apex panel of the MoEF&CC that appraises projects that seek diversion of forests for non-forestry purposes. The mining project required diversion of 220 hectares of pristine forest land rich in biodiversity.During its meeting on December 20, the FAC noted that the state government, which had allotted the mine in 2009, had conveyed to the company its rejection of the proposal and even the ministry’s regional office did not recommend clearance upon site inspection. On these grounds, the FAC decided against recommending the project for clearance under Forest Conservation Act, minutes of the FAC meeting showed.The Rasuli iron ore mine was one among 10 leases that the state government had allotted to private companies in 2009. The mine had a reserve of 9.4 million tonnes of iron ore that was to be provided for captive use in the company’s sponge iron plant in Jagdalpur. The company had retained the mine under section 10A (2) (c) of the amended Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act.The FAC noted that the forest land proposed for diversion is part of a stand-alone hill range running north to south. “The overall landscape of the area indicates area proposed for lease constitutes the part of extension of Bailadila mountain range. The extension of the said mountain range runs over a distance of more than 100 km in Dantewada, Bijapur, Kanker, Balod, and Rajnandgaon districts of Chhattisgarh…the area has high landscape integrity value,” the FAC minutes stated.The average density of the forest is approximately 0.7 to 0.8 SDI, and it is estimated that more than 90,000 trees stand across 220 hectares. “Removal of such a large number of trees over an area of 220 ha will certainly have an adverse impact on the local environment. The area proposed under the lease forms the immediate catchment of local nallah…opening of the area and removal of the trees will also disturb the existing water regime of the area,” the minutes added.Why not allowed The Rasuli iron ore mine of Navbharat Fuse Co Ltd in Kanker, Chhattisgarh, as the mine falls in very dense forest area in the Bailadila mountain range. The average density of the forest is approximately 0.7 to 0.8 SDI, and it is estimated that more than 90,000 trees stand across 220 hectares.

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LS passes bill which redefines bamboo, allows for its felling

The Lok Sabha, on Wednesday, passed the Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which will omit bamboo from the definition of trees and allow felling of bamboo grown in non-forest areas and transported without permits.The amendment will replace the Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, that was promulgated on November 23. The easing of transit process will allow for smooth interstate movement of bamboo, the Centre had said.The Bill was passed following nearly two hours of discussion which saw Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan explain the need for the amendment to the British-era Indian Forest Act, 1927 and parry apprehensions on its potential misuse.The chief contentions against the amendment were voiced by MPs from Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Revolutionary Socialist Party’s NK Premachandran and TRS MP Konda Vishveshwar Reddy.The MPs asked why the central government had hastily promulgated an ordinance on the issue when Parliament was scheduled to convene in December.They also raised issues regarding safeguards to check pilferage of bamboo on forest land. “If bamboo has been taken outside the purview of trees, how will it continue to be forest produce. My apprehension is that this move will be misused on forest land,” Premachandran said.

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MoEF defers clearance for Indo-Nepal project

After a Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change sub-committee raised issues regarding the project affected people and environmental impact assessment report of the Pancheshwar dam, an expert appraisal committee (EAC) of the ministry has deferred green clearance of the project. Last month, the EAC on hydroelectric projects had asked a sub-committee to visit the site of the dam project in Uttarakhand. The sub-committee visited the project site on November 24 and found that issues regarding the modalities of rehabilitating displaced villages were unresolved and thus asked for more information from the project authority.The Pancheshwar multipurpose project is a joint venture of India and Nepal that involves construction of a 315-m tall rock-fill hydropower dam across Mahakali River, 2.5-kms downstream at the confluence of Mahakali and Saryu River. The project would have a total installed capacity of 5,040 MW with the inclusion of a smaller 240MW hydropower dam.After interacting with Champawat officials and project affected people, the sub-committee informed the EAC that a uniform criteria should be adopted for enumerating the project affected in holistic ways. It said that villagers staying below or at 680-m full reservoir level (FRL) shall be displaced and villages located just above at 681-m FRL shall not be displaced.Even as the sub-committee has said that there was no opposition to the project it made no mention of local protests during the statutory public hearings that posed questions on safety, employment and ecological concerns.The EAC also deliberated on objections of civil society. It played down concerns regarding seismic vulnerabilities faced by the region. “Observations such as “a seismically uncertain context” are alarmist because seismic activity is always uncertain. Nothing can be 100 per cent risk free,” the minutes of the meeting stated.

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Ganga cleaning funds lying unspent, says CAG

The Centre’s flagship Namami Gange project has been marred by poor financial management and implementation woes in the past three years, a performance audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has revealed. The CAG’s audit, that covered 87 projects worth Rs7,992.34 crore, found that only eight to 63 per cent of the funds were spent between 2014-15 and 2016-17 in comparison with the revised estimate.Out of Rs6,705 crore earmarked during 2015-16 and 2016-17, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), the project’s nodal implementing authority, could spend only Rs 1,665.41 crore. This was less than a quarter of the expected year-wise release of funds. “Thus, financial targets set under the Namami Gange Programme were not achieved,” the CAG report said.The report also said that the project was lagging on the rural sanitation front. Except Uttarakhand, the other four states -Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal -could not achieve the target of construction of 100 per cent individual household latrines as of 31 March 2017.The national auditor said that multilateral implementation and poor planning were some of the chief reasons for funds lying unutilised with the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), which is the nodal implementing authority for cleaning the national river. As a result of poor planning and missing of deadlines, large quantities of untreated sewage continues to pollute Ganga across towns and cities along the main stem of the river.”We found that NMCG prepared its budget without any annual action plan. Further, the budget files at NMCG did not contain the details of planned activities and their estimated cost. Thus, NMCG did not follow the prescribed procedure for preparation of budget,” the CAG’s audit report said.As per the target dates, award for the work of all the sewage treatment plants (STP) was to be completed by September 2016, the CAG noted. The NMCG though, is yet to finalise and approve detailed project reports (DPRs) for projects totalling 1,397 MLD capacity as of August 2017. NMCG also informed CAG that there was a sewage treatment capacity gap of 2,109 million litres per day in 106 towns along in the five basin states along Ganga.During its audit of the human resources, the CAG found that except 16 government employees, contractual employees occupied all positions in NMCG and the organization was short on manpower. There was a 44 per cent shortfall and despite an approval from the Union Cabinet, the sanctioned strength has not been increased from 58 to 111.Namami Gange has been a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and of his two Lok Sabha constituencies is Varanasi, which is situated on the banks of the Ganga.MANPOWER CRUNCHDuring its audit of the human resources, the CAG found that except 16 government employees, contractual employees occupied all positions in NMCG was short on manpower.

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PMO asks NITI Aayog to examine Isha Foundation’s river revival plan

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) have constituted separate committees to examine Isha Foundation’s draft policy to revitalise rivers that was submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October. This information was revealed by the MoWR in reply to a Right to Information application filed by Noida-based environmental activist Vikrant Tongad. DNA has reviewed the RTI response and also confirmed it independently with Ministry of Water Resources.The PMO has constituted a group under the Chief Executive Officer, Niti Aayog, to examine the issue while MoWR has formed a committee under the National Institute of Hydrology chairman Sharad Kumar Jain. The group headed by Niti Aayog CEO will consist of respective secretaries of MoWR, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change( MoEF&CC), Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Rural Development, and Agriculture Ministry.The non-profit Isha Foundation led by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev ran a month-long Rally for rivers campaign across the country. Jaggi Vasudev campaigned across states along with volunteers for rejuvenation of rivers through afforestation. The draft policy submitted to the Centre has recommended, among other things, that there should mass plantation on 1km of land on either side of rivers.MoWR has noted in its preliminary reply to the PMO that “plantation is an important component for revitalising rivers, but it cannot be the sole activity.” The Ministry also said that the feasibility of the move needs to be examined in detail after ascertaining the present land-use pattern and in discussion with stakeholders, mainly the farmers.MoWR has also sought inputs and recommendations from concerned ministries on the NGO’s plan. So far only the environment ministry has replied, a senior official from the ministry said. Environment ministry officials could not be reached for comment.”As this requires in-depth work, the ministry is constituting a committee for detailed examination of the book and its recommendations,” the ministry added in its response to the PMO.CAMPAIGN SO FARIsha Foundation led by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev ran a month-long Rally for rivers campaign across the country. The organisation also submitted a draft policy to the Centre with recommendations. It suggests that there should be mass tree plantation on 1km land on either side of rivers.

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Double damages for tribals’ resettlement, tiger authority told

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In view of its directive in March asking states to halt settlement of tribal rights inside tiger reserves, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has sought detailed reports from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) on the voluntary relocation and rehabilitation of tribals. The commission, senior officials said, wants to examine and verify on ground NTCA’s claims of ‘voluntary relocation.The reports were sought during a hearing NCST Secretary Raghav Chandra had held to examine NTCA’s March directive which said that pending formulation of guidelines to notify ‘critical wildlife habitats’, tiger bearing states should freeze settlement of tribal rights inside tiger reserves. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change was to formulate the guidelines in 2007.Chandra had informed NTCA during the hearing that its order was in violation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and should be kept in abeyance. Chandra also told NTCA that no tribal should be displaced till the guidelines are prepared.According to the minutes of the hearing, NTCA officials informed NCST that the compensation paid to tribals willing to move out of tiger reserves was being reworked with the concurrence of Ministry of Finance. NCST Secretary Raghav Chandra asked NTCA to consider raising the compensation to Rs 20 lakh per family from the existing Rs 10 lakh as the existing amount is insufficient. He said that CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) funds lying with the Centre could be used to settle tribals from the core or critical tiger habitats.As per law, tribals can either avail the cash compensation or they can be resettled and rehabilitated with the aid of the forest department.Chandra was also of the opinion that in case of relocation of tribal people from protected areas and tiger reserves, each tribal family should be provided land up to four hectares or area under occupation by tribals, whichever is less, adjoining the protected area, minutes of the hearing show. In case land of similar nature is not available, then double the area of occupation of eight hectares whichever is less should be provided for relocation and rehabilitation of tribals from protected areas and tiger reserves, the NCST secretary added.”The entire cost towards relocation or rehabilitation should be borne from CAMPA. This exercise of cash compensation should be carried out within a period of three years, failing which forest rights should be conferred immediately,” the minutes stated.The environment ministry had sought identification of critical wildlife habitats or inviolate forest areas when the Forest Rights Act (FRA) was passed, to maintain areas free of human interference. The FRA, meanwhile, mandates settling of the rights of forest dwelling communities living inside tiger reserves and even critical wildlife habitats. The relocation of tribals from such areas has to be done on a voluntary’ basis, only after settling their rights and taking their consent.WHAT FRA saysForest Rights Act (FRA) mandates relocation of tribals from tiger reserves and other critical wildlife habitats on a voluntary basis, after settling their rights and taking their consent.

Order freezing tribal rights in tiger reserves violates FRA, NCST tells tiger authority

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) controversial directive from March this year asking states to stop settlement of tribal rights inside tiger reserves violates the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and should be thus kept in abeyance, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) told NTCA in a meeting.The NTCA, under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), had said in the directive to 17 tiger bearing states that the rights settlement should be halted as the guidelines to notify ‘critical wildlife habitats’ were not formulated. This was the responsibility of MoEF&CC, and the guidelines that were to be prepared in 2007 are still pending.The NCST had taken cognizance of news reports on the NTCA directive and its secretary held a meeting with NTCA’s senior officials. It told the NTCA Member Secretary, Debabrata Swain, that a legal process cannot be halted because of the pending guidelines, and asked the authority to not displace tribals till they finalize the guidelines. The NCST chairman, Nand Kumar Sai, is also expected to convene a meeting on this issue in December.Critical wildlife habitats are essentially areas inside national parks and sanctuaries that have to be kept inviolate, free of human encumbrance. But, the Forest Rights Act (FRA) mandates settling of the rights of forest dwelling communities living inside tiger reserves, and even critical wildlife habitats. The relocation of tribals from such areas has to be done on a voluntary’ basis, only after settling their rights and taking their consent.According to official estimates, as many as 45,000 families still live in the core or critical tiger habitats.”We told them that they should not allow displacement until they have cleared the critical wildlife habitats guidelines with us. We informed them that this needs closer understanding and scrutiny and the commission has made it clear in discussions that this (directive) is in violation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA),” said Raghav Chandra, Secretary, NCST.NTCA were directed to fast track the process of formulating the guidelines. According to NCST officials, NTCA sought two to three years of time to complete this process. This was outright rejected and NTCA was told that the settlement of rights of cannot be halted because of a pending matter and they would have to to prepare the guidelines in a time-bound manner. NTCA member secretary Debabrata Swain could not be reached for comment.

Inland waterway terminal at Haldia gets green nod

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The proposed Inland Waterways terminal at Haldia, West Bengal, has been accorded Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearance subject to specific conditions regarding protection of Gangetic dolphins and marine biodiversity. The proposed Haldia terminal on National Waterways-1 (NW- 1) will facilitate the bulk transportation of material and products through barges.The final CRZ clearance for the project came nearly six months after the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on Infrastructure Development and Coastal Regulation Zone recommended it for clearance on May 11.The Rs 516 crore project partially falls under the CRZ-IB, CRZ-II and CRZ-IVB zone and according to the EAC, the terminal’s construction will have impacts on aquatic flora and water quality. In its clearance, the environment ministry has directed that 2% of the project cost or 10.32 crore has to be spent for marine and coastal biodiversity protection and conservation measures by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI). West Bengal Coastal Zone Management Authority has to monitor implementation of these measures every six months.Further, IWAI has to commission a study on Gangetic Dolphin habitats and formulate roadmap for its conservation with a time bound manner, within two years, the ministry said. For protection of marine ecology, the ministry has directed IWAI to ensure that mudflats around the project site should be conserved with specific focus on waders. Waders are a group of birds that feed in wetlands and mudflats.The IWAI’s Haldia terminal project is an integral part of the larger Jal Marg Vikas Project on River Ganga that involves development of the 1,620-kms long National Waterway-I between Allahabad and Haldia. In December 2016, in December 2016, Mumbai-based ITD Cementation India Limited won the bid for construction of the terminal and the work was awarded this year on June 30.According to the Ministry of Shipping’s release in September 2016, the terminal has already received an estimated cargo commitment of 5.92 million tons per annum. The Haldia terminal will be developed within the Industrial Zone of Haldia Dock complex and will include jetty, berth, storage sheds, roads green area, administrative building, silos and other allied facilities.

Cabinet approves proposal to harvest bamboo on private lands

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’s (MoEF&CC) proposed amendments in the Indian Forest Act (IFA), 1927, that will allow bamboo grown on non-forest areas to be felled and transported without permits, sources said. MoEF&CC has received various representations to free bamboo on private lands from the permit process, but experts said that this move may be open to misuse as it does not involve Gram Sabhas in the permit process.The amendment of the Act’s Section 2(7) effectively means that bamboo will be no longer considered a tree in non-forest areas, as it is currently defined, thus exempting its harvest without permissions. Sources said that the decision was taken to push for bamboo plantation on private lands and ease regulatory restrictions on inter-state movement of bamboo.Bamboo grown on forest areas though, will continue to be covered under the ambit of Forest Conservation Act, 1980, thus requiring felling and transit permissions.The proposed amendment to ease bamboo harvesting on private land has been pushed ahead even as the the entire Indian Forest Act itself is being overhauled. Last year, MoEF&CC had set up an expert panel to rework the Act and sources privy to developments said that the process is in the drafting stage.The amendments also comes in the backdrop of letters that MoEF&CC wrote to states, urging them to free bamboo grown on private lands from the regulatory regime. In May this year, Director General of Forest Siddhanta Das, wrote one such letter, pointing out that states can exempt bamboo on non-forest areas using Section 41 of the IFA.”Many states have raised the issue that since bamboo is defined as a tree, it attracts the provisions of the felling and transit regulations of respective states and hence bamboo needs to be excluded from the definition of tree…I would like to reiterate once again to exempt all bamboo growing on non-forest area from transit regime using powers granted to states,” Das said. DNA has reviewed a copy of this letter.Das had also mentioned in this letter that the ministry had received suggestions from many quarters seeking exemption of felling and transit permits for bamboo grown on private lands. Das and Environment Secretary CK Mishra were not available for comment.Delhi-based environmental lawyer Sanjay Upadhyay said that this amendment leaves open scope for misuse. “Do we have the mechanism to identify whether the bamboo is from forest or non-forest areas. It is regressive step in the sense that is liable to be misused if Gram Sabhas are not made the nodal body for providing adequate safeguards to protect the resource.”

Farmers hold protest march in Delhi, demand loan waiver

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The winter session of Parliament may have been delayed, but on Monday morning, thousands of farmers from across the country trooped onto Parliament Street to participate in what was dubbed as the ‘Kisan Mukti Sansad’. There was legislative business to be carried out, speakers announced, to address PM Narendra Modi’s unfulfilled promise of 50% profit margin over input costs and a loan waiver for the crippling debt farmers are facing due to unfavourable market prices and misplaced policies.For the Kisan Sansad, farmers affiliated to 184 organizations in 25 states of the country came together under the umbrella of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) after finishing a 10,000-km yatra.Past noon, the stage was set for a ‘Parliament’ session of women-only members. Speaker Medha Patkar convened the assembly. Pooja More, 24, one of the youngest Panchayat members from Morgaon, Beed was the first to take the mike. “Thousands of farmers have committed suicides and 50,000 are in Maharashtra alone. Vidarbha and Marathwada have become graveyards for farmers. Those making tall claims in long speeches are fooling the farmers,” More thundered. Over 50 widows from Marathwada region were also present. By evening, the Sansad tabled two draft Bills related to issues of remunerative pricing and loan waivers. These Bills would be sent to the Centre and all political parties, urging them to take it up on the floor of the Parliament. “Modiji, who had assured farmers they would get 50% profit over the input costs, has deceived them. Now he says they will double the income, but how will this happen? Incomes have not doubled but the debt has,” Shetti told DNA.

NGT refuses to set aside green clearance for Amaravati capital

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a relief for the Andhra Pradesh (AP) government, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday declined to set aside the environmental clearance (EC) for building of the new capital city Amaravati and allowed the project to go ahead, subject to set of stringent conditions for environment protection. The verdict was passed by a three-member bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar after hearing a batch of pleas that challenged the project on environmental grounds and the project’s EC. The pleas had said the Capital city would harm the fertile agricultural lands in Krishna and Guntur districts and put at peril the floodplain and wetland ecology.The green court refused to set aside the EC after it was convinced that the new Capital would not harm the floodplains and wetlands. The bench also noted that the project had reached a stage of ‘fait accompli’ and thus demolishing the project would come at a huge financial, environmental and human cost. In the conditions it stipulated, the Tribunal directed the AP government to not alter the course of the Krishna river, its flow pattern or natural storm water morphology and also restrained them from altering the pre-existing embankments. The NGT constituted two-committees, one supervisory and one for implementation to enforce these conditions.The Amaravati capital city area was planned following bifurcation of the erstwhile unified Andhra Pradesh. Under the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2014, Hyderabad will be the joint Capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for a period of ten years. The Capital city area is located on the border of Guntur and Krishna districts and will be spread over 217.33 square kilometers of area. It will consist of 24 revenue villages and part of Tadepalli Municipality falling in Guntur district, covering Thulluru, Manglagiri and Tadepalli mandals.The state government has notified an area of about 7068 sq. km for capital region and 122 sq. km as Andhra Pradesh capital city.In other conditions, the Tribunal said that the project proponent shall conduct a comprehensive study on hydro-geomorphology for effective management of water retention ponds, reservoirs, storm water drains and overall water conservation.It also directed the state government and concerned authorities to include rain water harvesting, use of solar energy and treated grey water for non-potable purposes as part of its building bye-laws. It has also specifically asked the state government to prepare a climate change mitigation plan to achieve carbon neutrality, as stated in the EC, within six months.The capital city’s forest cover of about 251 acres has to be preserved as its green lungs and it cannot be used for making a park or for recreational activities, the Tribunal added.The Tribunal appointed supervisory committee will comprise of officials from Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, officials from AP state government, scientists from National Institute of Hydrology and Indian Institute of Science among others. This committee has been directed to meet once every three months while the implementation committee will every month and submit a report to the Tribunal every six months.

Govt advances BS-VI fuel rollout by 2 yrs in Delhi to combat smog

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Central government advanced on Wednesday its deadline to roll out the much cleaner Bharat Stage (BS)-VI compliant auto fuel by April 1, 2018 — instead of April 1, 2020 — in Delhi to control severe air pollution levels in the city and its adjoining areas.The next-generation fuel is equivalent to Euro-VI and will reduce sulphur emissions by 80%, compared to the existing BS-IV fuel standards. But the two-stage leapfrog to implement the world’s toughest vehicle emission standards is also likely to spike prices of vehicles.The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas said that it took the decision in consultation with public oil marketing companies (OMCs) and has asked them to examine the possibility of introducing BS-VI fuel in the whole of National Capital Region — that also includes parts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan — from April 1, 2019.”Currently, we are supplying BS-IV fuel, and earlier we had decided to jump to BS-VI by 2020. But, looking at the current state of Delhi, the Centre has decided to provide BS-VI fuel by 2018. This will lead to a positive change,” said Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.According to the ministry, the oil refineries would have to spend Rs 80,000 crore for the switch. Vehicular emissions and illegal crop stubble burning have been causing air pollution in Delhi-NCR.The Centre’s decision was welcomed by environment groups such as Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and Greenpeace and the automobile industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).”It is a good, proactive move and it will have its impact. If you are bringing clean fuel, it will bring optimal efficiency in existing emission systems. Though the full benefit will come only when the advanced emissions control system is introduced in vehicles,” said CSE’s Anumita Roychowdhury.SIAM said the move will help the auto industry fully migrate to manufacturing only BS-VI vehicles from April 2020 when the cleaner fuel will be available across the country.In April this year, the Supreme Court banned registration and sale of vehicles that were not BS-III compliant. But the automobile industry was saddled with a stock of 8 lakh BS-III vehicles worth Rs 20,000 crore. Auto makers sought a modification in the court order and were allowed to sell their stock.

NGT slams Amarnath shrine board over lack of amenities

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Days after setting a cap of 50,000 devotees a day at Vaishno Devi for their safety and security, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) pulled up the Amarnath shrine board on Wednesday for lack of proper infrastructure and facilities for pilgrims. It also constituted an expert panel, headed by Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), to visit the shrine and report back an action plan to improve the existing facilities.”You have allowed shops on path near the shrine. There are no proper facilities for toilets. Do you even know how humiliating this is for women? Why have you not provided proper infrastructural facilities for pilgrims? You are giving priority to commercial activities over pilgrims. This is unfair. The sanctity of the shrine has to be maintained,” said a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar. The bench was hearing a plea filed by environment activist Gauri Maulekhi.The bench directed the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board to submit a report by the first week of December on compliance of the Supreme Court’s directions, passed in 2012. Further, the bench directed that the expert panel’s report should address the issues of waste management, declaration of a silence zone near the shrine and establishment of eco-friendly toilets. Srinagar-based Centre for Research and Development Policy has said that over 2,500 metric tons of solid waste is generated annually along the Lidder river.The green court also expressed displeasure on the non-compliance of directions passed by the Supreme Court, which had passed similar orders on improving security of pilgrims visiting the holy site in light of casualties. In 2012, Justice Kumar was also part of the Supreme Court bench that passed directions on the issue and had constituted a high-level committee to suggest measures for improving amenities.The Amarnath shrine is one of the holiest sites for Hindus with a Shiva Linga inside a cave that is covered in snow except during summer months. Pilgrims undertake the annual 40-day Amarnath Yatra on foot, horses or are carried by porters to the cave that is located in a gorge at the end of Lidder Valley at a height of 3,888m, 46 km from Pahalgam and 14 km from Baltal. This year, 2.6 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine.

NGT’s tough talk forces Kejri govt to back down

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Questioning the scientific rationale behind the Delhi government’s review plea, which sought exemption for women motorists and polluting two-wheelers under the Odd-Even car rationing scheme, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) refused to modify its previous order that permitted the car rationing without exemptions. The NGT said when the two-wheelers also contribute to high levels of pollution in the city, why should they be exempted?The NGT’s tough line of questioning prompted the Delhi government to withdraw its review plea. It then filed a fresh plea before the Tribunal, seeking implementation of Odd-Even scheme in neighbouring states.”Give us one scientific reason for allowing two-wheelers? Why can’t you run buses for women? Why don’t you take positive steps? Why should we exempt anybody? If they (two-wheelers) are not polluting, we will allow them,” a three-member bench, headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, said. It was hearing a batch of petitions, seeking to curb air pollution.The NGT also ordered that industries that were involved in manufacture of essential services, commodities, and eatables were exempted from the prohibitory orders it had passed on November 9. It also clarified that industries that were complying with pollution norms would be allowed to operate upon verification by authorities.The Tribunal modified its orders after industries such as the All India Rice Manufacturers Association pleaded relief and said that since operations were shut, paddy procured for rice production was getting wasted.After the pollution levels breached the severe category, the NGT passed an order on November 9, with a slew of directions, including a prohibition on construction activity and industries.The Tribunal, however, refused to provide relief to others, observing that pollution levels were still unacceptable. “In light of these hazardous values, which are bound to create environmental and health hazards, it is not possible for this Tribunal to vary the order dated November, 11, 2017 and its judgment dated November, 10, 2016 at this stage,” the bench said.It further directed the Delhi government and civic bodies to identify an area that is highly polluted and sprinkle water using appropriate equipment to control the particulate matter pollution.During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand told the bench that work on the Eastern Peripheral Expressway construction had been stopped after NGT’s order. The Tribunal thus modified its order in that regard and allowed the work to continue, with a rider that the senior most officer of the National Highway Authority of India would file an undertaking on Wednesday to assure that there would be no dust pollution.

Notice to hospital linked to minister

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At a time when Delhi is battling toxic smog, Kailash Healthcare Limited, linked to Union Minister of State for Environment Mahesh Sharma, has been served a notice by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) regarding violation of its orders.The tribunal, on Tuesday, sought a response on a plea that has accused the hospital authorities of illegal construction, encroachment on a green belt plot, violation of NGT orders, and dust pollution in Noida, Sector-71, right besides a police station. Uma Sharma, the minsiter’s wife, is the chairman of Kailash Healthcare.According to the plea, filed by environmental activist Vikrant Tongad, a private hospital was being built on a plot marked as a ‘utility and facility’ in the Master Plan. But three months ago, the company encroached an adjacent green belt plot and felled over 10-year-old trees. The plea stated that the hospital’s construction was violating the NGT orders on dust pollution control at building sites and extraction of groundwater.Based on these primary grounds, Tongad has sought removal of the encroachment and compensation for damaging the green belt and alleged violation of the tribunal’s orders. It has also sought directions to stop extraction of groundwater and action for alleged illegal felling of trees.In an order dated December 4, 2014, the tribunal had directed that builders had to ensure that dust does not fly outside the plot, by raising wind breakers of appropriate height.In an earlier order, dated January 11, 2013, the NGT had restrained the builders from using groundwater in Noida and Greater Noida, the plea stated.Tongad told DNA that the plea was filed after he had already filed a complaint with the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) against dust pollution. Acting on his complaint, the UPPCB members visited the hospital site and found that there was no provision of sprinkling water or tarpaulins to cover the construction material, as ordered by the NGT.The UPPCB conveyed this to Dynacon Private Limited, the project developer, and asked it to comply with the NGT orders. The tribunal has ordered that those not complying with its directions on dust pollution control should be penalised.DNA’s calls and messages to Sharma, seeking his response on the issue, went unanswered. The Kailash Healthcare Limited runs a 325-bed super specialty hospital in Sector 27, Noida, and a 250-bed multi specialty hospital in Greater Noida, according to its website. It also runs hospitals in Behror, Rajasthan, Jewar and Khurja, Uttar Pradesh, Karkardooma, Delhi, and Dehradun in Uttarakhand.

Only 50,000 pilgrims allowed at Vaishno Devi a day: NGT

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>To ensure safety of pilgrims, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ruled on Monday that only 50,000 devotees would be allowed to visit the Vaishno Devi shrine each day in Katra, Jammu. The tribunal also directed authorities to gradually phase out use of horses and ponies from the old path and open the new path to the shrine from November 24, to be used only by pedestrians and battery-operated cars.“The new path, which was constructed at a cost of Rs 40 crore, should be positively opened to public by November 24. No further time will be granted and, in default, appropriate action will be taken against the concerned authorities,” the bench said. Further, the bench also directed that a fine of Rs 2,000 should be imposed for littering in Katra town. The Vaishno Devi shrine is one of the most revered Hindu pilgrimage sites in the country and sees an annual footfall of over a crore. A three-member bench of the NGT, headed by chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, ordered the cap on pilgrims while hearing a plea by animal and environment activist Gauri Maulekhi.

Green ministry panel defers nod for Indo-Nepal hydel project

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The environmental clearance for the Rs 33,108-crore Pancheshwar hydroelectric dam project in Uttarakhand, proposed to be the world’s second tallest at 315 metres, has been deferred.The expert appraisal committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said in its meeting on October 24 that pending submission of supplementary impact studies wildlife and environment, the wildlife clearance and a site visit, decision on the project should be deferred, official minutes show.The project is a joint venture between India and Nepal conceived under the Mahakali treaty signed in 1996. It involves construction of a 315-metre tall rock-fill hydropower dam across Mahakali River, 2.5-km downstream of the confluence of Mahakali and Sarju River and would have a total installed capacity of 5,040 MW with the inclusion of a smaller 240MW hydropower dam.The project requires a total of 9,100 hectares of land and area of 7,600 hectares, while 31,023 families will lose their land. The EAC said it would require to study the environmental impact assessment report for the Nepal portion of the project to get a holistic view. It also directed the project proponent to obtain wildlife clearance as the project was located 300 metres from the Ascot Wildlife Sanctuary.

Behind crisis, failure of 2nd-generation reforms

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On July 28, 1998, in the matter of MC Mehta versus Union of India, the Supreme Court (SC) delivered a historic judgment, ordering conversion of commercial vehicles operating in Delhi into Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fuel mode to curb the Capital’s pollution crisis and protect the right to life. Despite initial sluggishness on part of the then Delhi government administration, the order was implemented, ushering in a marked improvement in air quality.At the the time of SC order, the annual average suspended particulate matter (SPM) level, was 378 ug/m3 (mirogram/cubic metre) in Delhi according to Delhi economic survey report, a critical level, as per Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) past SPM standards.SPM can be characterised as particulate matter that is up to 100 micrometer in thickness.It was only from 2000 that CPCB began monitoring respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM/PM10) Today, CPCB monitors PM10 and PM 2.5 that are inhalable particles smaller than 10 micrometers and PM 2.5 respectively in size. A human hair has a thickness of 70mm micrometers.Between 1998 and 2017, the pollution levels have spiralled to unprecedented levels. In 2016, the annual mean respirable suspended pariculate matter levels (PM10) level was 268, against the standard of 60 ug/m3 (microgram/cubic metre). At some places like Anand Vihar, annual average of PM10 was a stunning 468 ug/m3.Behind the cold statistics of pollution levels lies the story of how Delhi pollution went from good to bad and now ugly.The crisis has unfolded with the failure of successive governments in Centre, Delhi and also NCR authorites in implementing the second-generation of reforms that have been once again driven by the SC with the aid of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA).These second generation of reforms include, among others, reducing vehicular load, developing integrated public transport, reducing emissions from non-conforming industries and curbing dust pollution.To add to that, it has been seen that judgments of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that ordered a ban on old petrol and diesel vehicles, penalized dust pollution, biomass burning and banned stubble burning have all been flouted.Environmentalist and senior advocate MC Mehta feels that there is simply a greater lack of political will in taking proactive steps. “The time has come for a paradigm shift. The SC has played the role of a saviour and pushed the governments again and again. But now this is not just a policy matter, but a matter of action. If we cannot save the Capital of this country, what hope do other cities have?” he asks.

How to make air poisonous!

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On Tuesday when the Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi clocked 468 in the most severe category — anything above 100 is considered unhealthy — a state of public health emergency was declared by the Indian Medical Association (IMA). With a steady rise in Delhi’s pollution levels over the years, the contributing factors making the air dangerous have also increased. Vehicular and industrial emissions remain at the core of this dire situation.Rapid urbanisation has fuelled the spreading of dust and burning of waste, releasing particulate matters — fine particles — which cause heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, and respiratory illnesses.However, before the Supreme Court (SC) and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) took cognizance of the new sources of pollution, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) had raised an alarm about the slide in the gains from the switch to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fuel for commercial vehicles.Beginning April 2003, the EPCA submitted reports to the SC and the state governments. The top court-appointed body documented and emphasised that while the SC’s orders “stabilised run away pollution”, pollution levels were rising, and that “there cannot be a let-up in the city’s effort”.The second-generation reforms, as elaborated by the EPCA, comprised a multi-pronged approach that included new mass-emission standards, in-use standards for two-wheelers and cars, tighter pollution under control (PUC) norms, bringing parity between diesel and petrol prices, by-passing of goods traffic, integrated public transport system to reduce vehicular congestion, gas-based fuel in power plants and prohibition on pet coke and furnace oils.With the exception of leapfrogging to the Bharat Stage-VI emissions technology, ban on the polluting pet coke and furnace oils and an environment compensation charge on trucks, a large part of the second-generation of reforms remain stuck on the ground. The EPCA member and Centre for Science and Environment director general Sunita Narain said that while the SC has given significant orders on discontinuing registration of Bharat Stage-III vehicles, three or four big objectives are yet to be achieved. “We have been asking for restraints on vehicles through public transport and parking policy… but nobody is moving on it and Delhi has fewer buses than before,” said Narain.The EPCA is also doing a fresh survey of commercial traffic at Delhi checkposts to improve the enforcement of turning away traffic from entering the city. Narain added that the management of dust, garbage, and waste burning are governance issues that require boots on the ground. “The EPCA cannot do it, the government needs to do it, there is a need for political will.”In 2014, in its report on ‘priority measures to reduce air pollution and protect public health’, the EPCA once again detailed before the SC the continuing slide in the fight against the crisis.It highlighted that particulate matter (PM) 10 levels had reduced by 16 per cent between 2002 and 2007, a period when the CNG transition kicked in and plateaued. Then, particulate levels increased “dramatically” by 75 per cent.’Between 2002 and 2012, vehicle numbers shot up by 97 per cent, contributing enormously to the pollution load, the report said.To put things into perspective, between 1998 and 2017, Delhi’s motor vehicle population rose from 32.10 lakh in 1998 to 1.05 crore in May 2017. In Delhi alone, the urban cover rose from 62.35 per cent in 2001 to 75.09 per cent in 2011, according to official data.With the SC order that green cess be levied on diesel cars, its sale has shown a dip to some extent, as per industry data. But now, stubble burning has become one of the biggest external factors contributing to Delhi’s toxic air.Across Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, over 20 million tonnes of paddy straw is burnt between October and mid-November, releasing plumes of smoke that travel over to Delhi-NCR with winds. While the NCR states had banned stubble burning through notifications, the NGT too passed a judgment in 2015, detailing measures to prevent the practice.The implementation, though, has failed to a great extent. Nearly two years since its order, the NGT pulled up Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh on Thursday for having failed to curb the practice of crop stubble burning, and sought detailed reports from the states. The Punjab government, though, has submitted to the green court that compared to 2016, there have been 29,000 fewer instances of stubble burning.According to senior advocate MC Mehta, “The government had no clear policy to battle pollution, neither in the past nor now. It is the SC that has played a major role in the public interest and come to our rescue. Not just metros, but towns are also suffering and that is the next big challenge.”Contributing factorsDelhi’s motor vehicle population rose from 32.10 lakh in 1998 to 1.05 crore in May 2017.Vehicular pollution contributes to over 20 per cent of the overall air pollution. Across Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, over 20 million tonnes of paddy straw is burnt between October and mid-November, releasing plumes of smoke that travel over to Delhi-NCR with winds.

Finally, env min wakes up to city’s plight

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on Thursday constituted a seven-member committee, headed by the environment secretary, to continuously monitor short-term and long-term solutions to air pollution. The ministry woke up to Delhi’s public health emergency of toxic pollution haze three days after the air quality remained in the ‘severe’ category, leading to shutdown of schools.The decision to constitute the committee was taken during a review meeting chaired by environment secretary, CK Mishra, and it would have to draw up a new plan to tackle pollution and ensure its enforcement. The committee will comprise of the Environment Secretary, Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology, Additional Secretary of NITI Aayog, Chief Secretary of Delhi, Chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), and a representative of the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy. The review meeting was also attended by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) chairperson Bhure Lal and member Sunita Narain.Even as MoEF&CC constituted the committee, its inaction and shifting of responsibility to state governments has come under criticism. While the Capital’s air quality has consistently gone from bad to worse during winters, the MoEF&CC is yet to come up with an overarching plan. In fact, the ministry has relied on a 42-point action plan from 2015 to drive its ‘monitoring’ of measures to curb pollution.The 42-point action plan was first introduced during the tenure of Prakash Javadekar and spelled out short, medium, and long-term directions to Delhi and NCR states. After Delhi witnessed record pollution levels in 2016 soon after Diwali, Javadekar’s successor (Late) Anil Dave, too, issued the same set of directions. The only addition made was that the Centre asked CPCB and State Pollution Control Boards to jointly inspect 17 categories of highly-polluting industries in NCR for compliance of emission standards.Further, in September this year, Environment Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan reiterated the same set of directions, during a meeting with chief secretaries and senior officials of Delhi and NCR states.Speaking to DNA, Environment Secretary CK Mishra said, “The meeting was largely to see if the directions we issued to the Delhi government, Haryana government and to Uttar Pradesh, are being implemented or not. We are trying to work on a mechanism to ensure proper implementation.” He added, “We really need to have a CPCB that is more effective in getting things implemented , we need to back them up with certain kind of power.

As Delhi pollution spirals, NGT to take stock of its past orders

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With air pollution in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) spiralling out of control, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) will on Thursday hear the case on stubble burning and a clutch of petitions on air pollution.In both matters, the NGT has passed detailed orders in 2015 and 2016 respectively and it has sought details on what action has been taken to implement these orders by the state governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.Most of the NGT’s orders though, whether its banning stubble burning and providing alternatives to farmers or rolling out specific measures during severe levels of pollution, have not been implemented. ALSO READ ‘Delhi is choking sir’: Kejriwal asks for meeting to find solution, Punjab CM says not a matter for inter-state discussionIt will be two years now since the Tribunal passed a detailed order on providing alternatives to farmers for managing crop stubble. It had ruled that that states would provide “machines, mechanism, and equipment or its cost to the farmers to remove, collect and store straw.” But, early in October when the pollution begins rising, it was all but clear during the proceedings in NGT that the stubble burning was not going to halt. On October 4, the NGT had pulled up Punjab government for failing to provide financial aid and machinery to farmers for environmental friendly disposal of crop stubble.Farmers from Punjab impleaded themselves in the matter and had clearly informed NGT that without the necessary machinery, halting crop burning was going to be difficult since it was the fastest and most economical way for them to manage the stubble.In the backdrop of the peak pollution levels, the NGT had once again sought to know on Wednesday what had the state neighbouring Delhi did to not just stop crop residue burning but also halt industrial activity. ALSO READ Delhi air can kill many, warns top AIIMS doctor According to government scientists, the current state of pollution has been caused due to smoke from stubble burning and unfavorable meteorological conditions.The case on stubble burning has been filed by environment activist Vikrant Tongad as a contempt petition and the one on air pollution has been filed by advocate Vardhaman Kaushik, in whose case the NGT banned petrol vehicles older than 15 years and diesel vehicles older than ten years.

J’khand irrigation project gets nod for felling over 3 L trees

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The North Koel irrigation project in Jharkhand that got a renewed push under the NDA government has got an in-principle forest clearance for felling of 3.44 lakh trees and submergence of 1,007.29 hectares of forest inside the Palamau Tiger Reserve. The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recommended the in-principle approval with 14 general and standard conditions that included, among others, compensatory afforestation over double the diverted forest land and at least 1,000 plants per hectare. It also sought strengthening of wildlife corridors connected to the tiger reserve.The project has already received wildlife clearance from the National Board for Wildlife subject to specific conditions that include plans to mitigate adverse impact on wildlife and preparation of a wildlife management plan.The Palamau Tiger Reserve is the lone reserve in Jharkhand under Project Tiger and has seen its tiger population dwindle from 42 in 2005 to three in recent times. Local activists have raised concerns that the renewed push for completion of the project would lead to yet another round of displacement of tribals. Meanwhile, conservationists have cautioned that the submergence and loss of biodiversity could affect the long-term sustainability of the forest. According to official records, the Kutku range is currently home to wild boars, barking deer, golden jackals, elephants, bears and tigers that are seen there occasionally.Work on the irrigation project had first commenced in 1970s and got a fresh push from the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Water Resources in 2015. The project was to originally submerge part of the tiger reserve’s core. But, in a meeting in August 2016 held under the chairmanship of PMO principal secretary Nripendra Misra and Jharkhand and Bihar governments, it was decided to reduce the project dam’s full reservoir level.The North Koel project was sanctioned at a cost of Rs 30 crore. Till now, Rs 780 crore has been spent to complete construction of a dam over North Koel river in Latehar district and a barrage in Palamu district. The project, though, is not yet fully operational as the dam gates have not been installed. At present, this partially completed project is irrigating 56,000 hectare of land in Bihar and Jharkhand during Kharif season.

Save our tigers, Cambodia tells India

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With an eye on reviving their extinct tiger population, a high-level delegation of the Cambodian government made a two-day visit to Panna Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, in October end to study its successful tiger reintroduction programme.Cambodia’s population of Indochinese tigers has become functionally extinct, with no breeding population left, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) had declared in April 2016. The south-east Asian country is currently looking to rope in India as partner to seek technical cooperation in their still nascent project to revive tigers, hence this visit assumes significance.Following the visit, the Cambodian government may soon write to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, seeking technical co-operation.The high-level delegation of 18 comprised among others, Svay Sam Eang, Governor of Mondulkiri province, ministers of tourism and environment, and top forest department officials. The visit came close on the heels of an Indian delegation’s visit to Mondulkiri forests in September. The Mondulkiri province in the eastern plains landscape of Cambodia is home to a vast forest expanse of 4,249 sq km, which was the last place tigers were seen in the country.According to officials from PTR, the Cambodian delegation was taken around various ranges of the Panna forest and were introduced to functioning of ground staff and monitoring of radio-collared tigers. There are 11 radio collared tigers in Panna and the PTR staff tries to track most of them on a daily basis using radiotelemetry equipment.”They wanted to see first-hand the landscape of Panna and specifically how our staff works round the clock to monitor tigers inside PTR. I believe they took away a lot from their visit on the professionalism of forest staff since their conservation is largely drive by non-profit organisations,” said SP Yadav, assistant secretary general, Global Tiger Forum, an intergovernmental international organisation.After a near wipeout of Panna’s tigers in 2009, a first-of-its kind tiger reintroduction programme was started. This involved translocation of female tigers from Kanha and Bandhavgarh to Panna. Today, there are 26 adult tigers in PTR.The delegation was also informed about the camera-trap monitoring methods that help in maintaining a photographic database of individual tigers inside PTR. “We have nearly 200 camera traps across the 542 sq km of the reserve. Along with the reintroduction programme, informing them about how we are sustaining the population was of equal interest to them,” said Vivek Jain, field director, PTR.Independent experts said the Cambodian delegation’s visit was a step in the right direction, irrespective of whether the south-east Asian country requires India to share a tiger for repopulating their forests. “Since Panna and Mondulkiri share a similar latitude, it was a positive step to assess our landscape. They need to first focus on setting their house in order in terms of establishing proper prey-base, which is low right now,” said K Ramesh, scientist, Wildlife Institute of India.A 2013 WWF study on tiger reintroduction in Cambodia stated that though Malayan and Amur tigers are closest genetic relatives of Indochinese tigers, their habitat and prey base do not match. Moreover, the Bengal tiger shares similar habitat and prey assemblage to Cambodia’s tigers, which made India and Nepal ideal to source tigers from.Tracking big catsThe Cambodian delegation was taken around the Panna forest and introduced to monitoring of radio-collared tigers. There are 11 radio-collared tigers in Panna and the staff tries to track most of them using radiotelemetry equipment.

Judicial activism due to poor legislation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Judicial activism in environmental matters has come about because of a dearth of legislation and shoddy implementation of existing laws, Justice Madan Lokur of the Supreme Court (SC) said on Saturday. He said the SC has been literally pushed into environmental jurisprudence because of absence of legislation.”The fact of the matter is that judicial activism has had to come about as there has been no option for the judiciary but to be active because of certain circumstances, absence of clear laws, absence of implementation, or shoddy implementation,” Justice Lokur said.Speaking in the context of sustainable development, the senior judge was critical of the government’s policies on environmental protection, specifically the afforestation schemes. “Over the last several years, SC’s green bench has been passing orders, as a result of which huge amounts, running into thousands of crores, have been collected by the government. Now where has that money gone? Certainly, it has not gone for the improvement of the environment, because over the last so many years, we have been seeing degradation of the environment,” Justice Lokur said.This lament on the lack of expenditure on afforestation drew a sharp retort from Union Minister for Human Resources and Development Prakash Javadekar, who was speaking at the valedictory function of the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) International Conference on Environment.”India is the only country in the world that has taxed its coal at a rate of $6 or Rs 400 per tonne. It is a strong action. And Lokurji, we have a good account of how we have collected that money and used it for renewable and climate-friendly action. So, it is not diverted anywhere. We have a robust plan. It is in the public domain,” Javadekar said.The minister was sharing the dais with Union Minister for Railways and Coal Piyush Goyal and Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court R Subhash Reddy.Meanwhile, dwelling on the legislations, Justice Lokur said: “We have laws in India but as far as the environmental legislation is concerned, we don’t have the kind of laws or the kind of statutes that one would expect while dealing with a large number of problems.”He added that a lot of it is subordinate legislation, which is carried out through notifications and rules, and thus there was a need for the Parliament to look into various environmental issues. “But, I think the courts alone cannot bear the burden. I think the governments must bear the burden and I think, as citizens of this country, all of us must learn from lessons in the past,” Justice Lokur said.Earlier, during his address, NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar opined that instead of seeking a monetary compensation for cutting trees and forests, planting of trees and afforestation should be a conditional precedent to felling of trees.What Justice Lokur said‘Judicial activism has come about because of absence of clear laws, implementation or shoddy implementation’ ‘Govt collected thousands of crores of rupees as result of orders passed by SC’s green bench. Where’s that money?’

Congress is getting unprecedented response in Gujarat: Rajiv Satav

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rajiv Satav, a 43-year-old first-time MP from Hingoli in the Marathwada region, is a promising face of the Congress, both in Maharashtra and in Parliament. He is the one of the secretaries in charge of the upcoming Assembly elections. DNA spoke with him on the party’s fortunes in the Gujarat elections and how they plan to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Excerpts:Gujarat has been under the BJP rule for 22 years now, the longest for any party in the state. How do you plan to stop the party?The most important part is that in 2014 Lok Sabha elections if you see, Modiji insisted and always praised the Gujarat model, he claimed that he had done a miracle in Gujarat and he wanted to repeat that across India. But, on the ground in Gujarat, there is nothing. The government hospitals are not working properly, there are no doctors, there are no medicines. If you visit the schools, there are no teachers, they are on fixed pay for the last 15 years. That is not the case in Maharashtra and other states. The claims of Modiji about the Gujarat model are not at all real.’Vikas Gando Thayo Chhe’ was not coined by Congress, but the youth of the state, so the battle is between the BJP and the people of Gujarat, and we are representing the people who are claiming that there is no development on the ground.What is your key poll plank in the state?We have a very clear line — if we come to power, we will immediately announce a farm loan waiver. We are not seeking votes against the failure of the BJP. What we are saying is, we have not been in power for 22 years, and the people have seen how the BJP has fared in those decades. Almost one generation has come off age in this period. If we come to power, we will waive farm loans, create jobs and also take up the issues of traders.In the last two years, there have been agitations by Patidars and Dalits. How is Congress tapping into their resentment?If you see closely, most communities are unhappy with them because they have not heard them and addressed their issues. We have reached out to these groups and communities with the assurance that we will look into their issues with genuine concern and deliver.What do you have to say on the EC’s decision to defer announcement of Gujarat poll schedule?In the last 20 years, both states have gone to polls simultaneously. There was no credible reason to defer the announcement of schedules for the Gujarat polls. It was done only to allow the Prime Minister and the state government to make poll-related announcements.Even though there has been resentment in some quarters, the Prime Minister remains popular. How are you countering this?This is not an election of Mr Modi but it is about Vijay Rupani. It is a state election and we are fighting for the development of Gujarat and we are working on that premise that Gujarat has not delivered. Our fight is with the state leadership.

Pollution woes: Non-metro cities on respirator too

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The onset of winter is yet to begin but Delhi has already begun to choke. The Capital’s air-quality index has already entered the very poor category and is expected to be in severe range in the coming days.While the judiciary, executive and even citizens have swung into action to fight Delhi-National Capital Region’s (NCR), pollution woes across India’s non-metropolitan cities remain equally grave.Data from the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) continuous and manual air-quality monitoring stations show that from September till now, cities across north, northwest and few in southern India have experienced bad air days for most of the days, as particulate matter (PM) pollution has exceeded the safe limits.Days when the air quality exceeds pollution norms are categorized as ‘bad air days’. Also, pollution levels begin to deteriorate from September onward as monsoon begins to recede.The problem is particularly acute in North India and especially along the Indo-Gangetic plains as factors such as meteorological conditions, crop residue burning, industries and vehicular emissions deteriorate combine to worsen the air-quality. CPCB data shows that Amritsar, Rohtak, Patna, Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur, Moradabad, Jaipur and Visakhapatnam saw PM pollution in the poor to severe category between September and now, even before winter peaks.”Due to severe road congestion, dust and vehicular emission are two of the biggest sources of pollution in Varanasi. We have only one automatic air-quality monitoring station and five manual monitoring stations”, said AK Singh, regional officer, Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board. PM 2.5 is particulate matter that is smaller than 2.5 microns while PM10 is particulate matter smaller than 10 microns.The recent data affirms CPCB’s past findings that non-metro cities and those with million plus population are breathing equally bad air. In fact, a CPCB study carried out in 2015 and released last year had revealed that people in 41 Indian cities with a million plus population breathed bad quality air during 58% of the days when the ambient air was monitored.”We are exceeding norms of PM pollution on most days, excepting the monsoon season,” scientists from the pollution regulator CPCB said.They added that curbing pollution in non-metro cities is one of their key focus areas and that installation of more automatic monitoring stations is the first step in that direction.Currently, there are 40 operational automatic and air-quality monitoring stations and over 300 manual ones across towns and cities.Up in smogNumber of days when PM10/PM2.5 levels crossed the prescribed standard between September 1 and October 18 (Total of 48 days) PM10 is Particulate matter smaller than 10 micron and PM 2.5 is particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micron) These particles are so small that they can get into the lungs and bloodstream, potentially causing serious health problems.Safe limit: 100 microgram/metre cube Source: CPCB

With CRZ nod pending, Shipping Min flags award of work for Haldia terminal by IWAI

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Ministry of Shipping (MoS) has flagged concerns regarding the award for work for Haldia multi-modal terminal even as a final order on Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance is pending. In an advisory sent in August, the MoS told the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), that it should have waited for a formal orders on CRZ clearance from Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) before it awarded work for the Rs.516 crore Haldia multi-modal terminal. MoEF&CC’s expert panel on infrastructure and CRZ recommended for the project clearance on May 11.As per procedure, the recommendations of the expert panel are processed by the minister for approval or rejection.The IWAI had to seek CRZ clearance as the Haldia terminal site falls within the CRZ area. The West Bengal State Coastal Management Authority appraised the project on January 10 and recommended it to Centre for clearance on January 24. According to the MoS, in December 2016, Mumbai-based ITD Cementation India Limited won the bid for construction of the terminal and the work was awarded this year on June 30.The Haldia terminal is part of the larger Jal Marg Vikas Project on River Ganga, which involves developing the 1-620kms-long National Waterway-I (NW-I) between Allahabad and Haldia. According to a MoS release from September 2016, the terminal has already received an estimated cargo commitment of 5.92 million tons per annum.The Shipping ministry’s advisory to IWAI comes in the wake of its on-going dispute with MoEF&CC over the need of environmental clearance (EC) to dredge River Ganga for navigation of vessels on NW-I. In July, DNA reported that on the recommendations of an expert committee, the MoEF&CC had told IWAI in June that maintenance dredging for NW-I could not be exempted from the ambit of EC. It said that the exemption could not granted since the whole project itself had not obtained EC under the Environment Impact Notification (EIA), 2006, and its amendments.The committee, which deliberated on the issue, had also recommended that the EIA notification should be amended to include ‘inland waterways, jetties and multi-modal terminals under the list of items that need a prior EC to bring more clarity on such projects.IWAI declined to comment on the issue. DNA mailed queries to the office of Secretary, MoS and an a response through an under-secretary, the ministry stated, “Ministry of Shipping in its letter dated August 21 has suggested to IWAI that it should have waited for the formal orders from the MoEFCC and IWAI was requested to obtain the formal approval of MoEFCC. IWAI in its letter dated August 22 has informed that the matter has been taken up with MoEFCC.”MoEF&CC officials could not be reached for a comment.

Despite stubble burning ban, implementation tardy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It is that time of the year when Delhi-National Capital Region’s (NCR) air starts getting acrid, enveloped in a heady mixture of vehicular emissions, fly-ash, road dust, industrial pollution and biomass burning. It is also a time when biomass burning, especially burning of agricultural residues, commonly known as stubble burning, reaches its peak in a 15-day period, starting from October. Even as the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi in December 2015, almost two years later, its implementation remains largely ineffective.With no long-term solution at hand, Punjab and Haryana’s farmers, where the problem is most acute, have begun burning of paddy straw in their fields in defiance of NGT’s orders and government actions. The decision of the farmers is dictated by economics and the inability of the state governments to provide alternatives, as was ordered by the NGT.In its December 2015 judgment in the Vikrant Tongad vs Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, the NGT had laid out a clear roadmap for the states to provide alternatives to farmers in curbing and eventually stopping the practice of stubble farming. It had ruled that that states would provide “machines, mechanism and equipments or its cost to the farmers to remove, collect and store straw.”One of the machines to be provided was ‘happy seeder’, that cuts and disperses the paddy straw in the field and sows the wheat crop. The NGT had ruled that those with less than two acres of land should be provided it for free while those with two-five acres of land holding and more than five acres, the cost would be Rs.5,000 and Rs.15,000 respectively.The green court’s orders though, are far from thorough implementation.Farm leaders from Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) told the NGT last week that much of its directions remained on paper and the agriculture department had barely provided incentives and machinery to dispose off paddy straw. “We do not want to burn the paddy straw, but it is a financial burden to use anything other than burning. We have a very short time window to dispose off the paddy straw between the harvest and next round of sowing. The small and marginal farmer cannot afford to pay Rs.6,000 or more per acre for managing the farm stubble,” Onkar Singh Agaul, General Secretary, BKU(Rajewal) told DNA.The crop cycle in Punjab and Haryana and use of modern machinery to harvest paddy straw are two of the biggest reasons why stubble is burnt. According to Centre for Science and Environment, mechanized paddy harvesting leaves behind 10 to 30cms of straw on the fields and burning it is the cheapest form of disposal.Further, the NGT had also ordered the state governments to provide farmers with market linkages for use of paddy straw as fuel in biomass-based power plants and as raw material in manufacturing straw and fibre boards. But, as per the farm unions, there is little provision for transporting the paddy straw, which has led the farmers to once again prefer burning it.The green court’s prohibition on the farm fires is based on established scientific data that shows that biomass burning is one of the deadliest forms of air pollution.The burning of paddy straw emits trace gases such as Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and Nitrogen Oxide. “When paddy straw is burnt, it releases large amounts of particulate matter and gases that travel southwards to Delhi-NCR due to winds and result in build-up of peak pollution. The problem is acute during winters because paddy straw has very little use as animal feed, as opposed to wheat stubble burnt during summer, which is widely used in animal feed. If there is economic value to the paddy straw, it will bring down the practice of burning it,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy and head of air pollution and clean transportation programme, Centre for Science and Environment.Paddy straw burning also generates a large amount of black carbon particles, that speed up melting of Himalayan glaciers. In 2013, international scientific journal ‘The Cryosphere’, published a study by Indian scientists from the Divecha Center for Climate Change and the Snow & Avalanache Study Establishment, which revealed that agricultural fires from the Indo-Gangetic plains and Pakistan generated a large amount of black carbon and due to the winds, it migrates in a northerly direction at times. This, the study said, significantly affects accumulation areas of glaciers.

Give incentives to Punjab farmers: NGT tells govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday pulled up the Punjab government for failing to provide financial aid and machinery to farmers in environment friendly disposal of crop residue, which is one of the major causes of air pollution in North India and Delhi-NCR. The Tribunal directed the Punjab government to provide a solution for the farmers after consulting them and asked the state’s counsel to take instructions from the Chief Secretary on providing financial incentives to farmers for stubble management.”The government has not been able to provide alternatives in time. Take a whole village and show that it can be done. You give them proper time and make arrangements simultaneously for the harvesting process. It is your Chief Minister’s constituency, you should be more than happy to help the farmers. If you put them under financial losses and ask them to do environmental work, how will you do it?,” the bench said.The Tribunal asked the state to consider if the state can provide direct monetary incentive to the farmers in return for putting a stop to crop burning. “You need to get involved with them and take them into confidence. If they want, allow them to also engage private agencies,” the bench added. Meanwhile, counsel for Punjab government submitted that following the Tribunal’s orders they are running a pilot for paddy straw management in Kalar Majri village, Patiala, across 390 acres.A three-member NGT bench, headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, was hearing a plea filed by environment activist Vikrant Tongad, pertaining to stubble burning across Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Along with vehicular pollution and firecrackers, widespread stubble burning has been attributed as one of the major causes for the record lows in air quality seen last winter before and after Diwali in Delhi-NCR.On Wednesday, hundreds of farmers from Punjab and Haryana, affiliated to the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) also turned up at the NGT as the farmers union had filed an intervention in the stubble burning plea. The union’s President Balbir Singh Rajewal submitted to the bench that the state had provided alternatives only on paper as they have never met with actual farmers. Rajewal stressed that financial burden already mounting, burning still was the cheapest solution for stubble management.”The machinery needed for managing stubble costs lakhs of rupees. It costs us Rs.6,000 per acre to manage the crop stubble and it is not feasible at all,” Rajewal informed the bench. IG Kapila, the counsel for the farmers said, “The state government is using the NGT’s orders to scare the farmers about penal action against them. It is also misleading them on the machinery available at their disposal.”Tuesday’s hearing happened a day after Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s meeting with Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Radha Mohan Singh. The Punjab CM sought central aid to farmers for tackling the crop burning issue and demanded Rs.100 per quintal as a bonus for sound management of paddy straw.‘JUST ON PAPER’On Wednesday, hundreds of farmers from Punjab and Haryana, affiliated to the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) also turned up at the NGT as the farmers union had filed an intervention in the stubble burning plea.
The union’s President Balbir Singh Rajewal submitted to the bench that the state had provided alternatives only on paper as they have never met with actual farmers.

Nitin Gadkari gets UP, MP to settle Ken-Betwa row

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Centre has managed to resolve the dispute between Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Madhya Pradesh (MP) on sharing waters from the Ken-Betwa river-linking project.The two states have agreed in principle to stick to the proposed water sharing formula as mentioned in the 2005 tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Centre and the two state governments, top officials at the Centre and of both state governments confirmed.An official of the MP government also added that the Centre was positive to their demands to include three smaller water management projects – Kotha barrage, Lower Orr and Bina Industrial Complex – in Phase-I. The official though did not confirm whether this has been finalised as the final agreement is under process.The impasse ended after Union Minister for Water Resources Nitin Gadkari held high-level talks with MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Gadkari told DNA that the Centre has arrived at a solution that will protect the interests of both states, which is agreeable to them in in-principle.”We have accepted some demands of Madhya Pradesh (government) and found a solution that is amenable to both states. This has been worked out to meet their expectations and protect their interests and I can say that both are satisfied. I cannot go into more details as the final agreement is still being worked out,” Nitin Gadkari told DNA.The dispute arose a few months back when MP government wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) seeking an increase in the share of their water from the river linking project that proposes transfer of water from Ken River basin into Betwa River basin for irrigation and drinking water purposes.The MP government also sought inclusion of Phase-II projects; Kotha barrage, Lower Orr and Bina Industrial Complex in Phase-I. The inclusion of these three components in the Phase-I would mandate fresh appraisals before the environment ministry, which would delay the project. The PMO directed both states to resolve the issue at the earliest after UP opposed reduction in its water share.Meanwhile, officials from the Uttar Pradesh government said their primary concern was maintaining their share of water, as per the 2005 agreement. They added that inclusion of other components in MP would not be an issue as long as Uttar Pradesh’s share was not reduced.In view of the grant of environmental and Stage-I forest clearance for the project and resolution of deadlock between the two states, the project will now have to go for Cabinet clearance after the final agreement is worked out.The 2005 MoU on the Ken Betwa river linking project was signed by former MP Chief Minister Babulal Gaur, former UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, then Union Minister for Water Resources.The proposed water sharing, as per the agreement, says that the gross water availability at the proposed Daudhan dam would be 6188 million cubic metres (MCM). Of this, MP requires 2266 MCM upstream. With regeneration taken into account, the net water availability would be 4364. Of this, 1687 MCM would be distributed to MP and 1700 MCM would go to UP.

First drainage master plan in 40 years ready

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi does not receive rainfall comparable to Mumbai or Chennai, but a heavy spell for an hour is enough to inundate major traffic junctions and residential areas. There are over 300 major waterlogging hotspots in the city.Delhi has 426.55 km of natural drainage and a cumulative length of 3,311.54 km of engineered stormwater drains. There are 201 natural drains in three major basins of NCT of Delhi. But most storm drains have turned into open sewers, choking the flow of water and resulting in waterlogging. Several natural drains are dotted with encroachments.The problem is, Delhi continues to rely on a nearly four-decade-old drainage master plan made in 1976. The Indian Institute of Technology Delhi’s (IIT-D) drainage master plan, prepared for the Delhi government, addresses all these issues and more.The IIT-D team carried out multiple simulations on effective management of drainage system after collecting data from 11 government agencies. “Using rainfall data, we conducted simulations to see the impact on flooding. The points and locations that get waterlogged were included. We quantified the volume of water that needs to be drained. If the capacity is not in place, they have to change that or they have to change the incoming volume,” says Professor IIT-D professor, AK Gosain”The current practice of puncturing sewer lines and draining sewage into storm drains to deal with blockages should be stopped. DJB should use latest mechanisms such as super suckers for de-clogging sewer lines,” the draft drainage master plan says.Gosain says part of the plan’s implementation will start soon.

NGT paves way for Chardham highway project

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has paved the way for the NH-34 stretch of the PMO’s ambitious Chardham highway widening project, that will connect Uttarakhand’s holy sites, as it disposed of a plea that alleged that the project was violating provisions of Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone. In an undertaking, the Uttarakhand state government and the Border Roads Organisation assured the green court in an undertaking that the project would be carried out with due compliance of laws in force, especially the Bhagirathi notification of December 2012.They further stated that during the project implementation, they would ensure that no muck is thrown either into the river, water bodies or in the forest or green area down the hill. The NGT bench, headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, said that in view of the statements made, the application is disposed of. The bench added, “We make it clear that in the event, there is violation of any law or breach of the statement as made before the Tribunal, the applicant would have the right to approach the Tribunal, in accordance with law.”In 2012, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change brought out a notification declaring a 100-km, 4179-sq km area between Gaumukh and Uttarkashi as an eco-sensitive zone to provide it legal protection from environmental degradation. Mining, major development works and large hydel projects are prohibited in the eco-sensitive zone, as per the notification.The plea before the NGT’s chairperson bench was filed by Uttarakhand local Birendra Singh Matura and others. It had raised an alarm about mountain blasting and felling of thousands of trees in the Bhagirathi river valley for widening of National Highway-34. One of the related petitions in the matter also pertained specifically to a nine-km stretch in Bhairon Ghati on the Uttarkashi to Gangotri route. It had said that debris were being dumped into the river valley during the road widening. In fact, during a hearing on May 4, the state government had admitted that BRO dumped muck on the fragile hill slopes.On December 27, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the all-weather Chardham highway project at Dehradun ahead of the Uttarakhand state assembly elections. The project involves developing and widening 900-km of national highways connecting the holy Hindu pilgrimage sites of; Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri at an estimated cost of Rs.12,000 crores. The roads will be widened from 12m to 24m and the project will involve construction of tunnels, bypasses, bridges, subways and viaducts.

Centre to decide minimum ecological flow of Ganga

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Centre will soon decide on the minimum environmental flow that needs to be maintained in River Ganga between Gaumukh and Haridwar. A three-member expert body constituted by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation presented a draft policy paper on the issue to officials from Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh on September 11. The ministry has now sought comments from the states on the draft policy paper.The three-member expert body consists of Sharad Jain, Director, National Institute of Hydrology, Nityanand Rai of Central Water Commission and Professor AK Gosain, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. Jain and Rai are also a part of the environment ministry’s expert appraisal panel that clears or rejects river valley and hydroelectric projects.According to top officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, once the e-flow is finalised, the existing hydropower projects in the upper reaches of Ganga, such as Maneri Bhali and Vishnuprayag, may have to reduce their power generation. Maneri Bhali Stage-I is the oldest project commissioned on Bhagirathi river, one of the two headstreams of Ganga, and has an installed capacity of 90MW. The proposed hydel projects, meanwhile, may have to incorporate design changes if they had not accounted for minimum e-flow, top officials said. There are nearly 100 dams proposed on Bhagirathi and Alaknanda, with a total capacity of over 6,000 MW.Environmental flow is the amount of water essential for the river to perform its ecological functions at a given time; it also social and cultural significance. The final outcome of the policy paper will thus have an impact on a host of things ranging from the government’s flagship Namami Gange project, existing and proposed hydel dams in Uttarakhand and irrigation facilities across Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. Aviral Dhara (continuous flow) is one of the key components of the Namami Gange project.

Creating the right environment

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After terming it a ‘roadblock ministry’ under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance government has set about changing the face of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to one that enables ‘ease of business’ while attempting to maintain sustainable development. While the jury is out on the ‘sustainable development’ aspect, over the last three years, the ministry has certainly gone about revising and overhauling the regulatory regime of environmental governance.This trend has continued as the ministry is in the process of ushering in more crucial changes to central environmental legislations such as Environment Protection Act, Coastal Regulation Zone notification, 2011, and is also on the cusp of approving commercial cultivation of a genetically modified crop for the first time.Ease of businessAt the heart of wholesale changes made in environmental regulations during the last three years has been the mantra of ‘Ease of Business’. This has translated into relaxing norms under several key environmental regulations and streamlining of the crucial project-clearance process, to cut down delays. In 2014, under Prakash Javadekar, the ministry moved at a rapid pace to introduce a flurry of policy tweaks to facilitate development and industry.Foremost among these changes was the streamlining of the clearances processes through an online system, an initiative that was introduced under former environment minister M Veerappa Moily just prior to the regime change. It decided to grant general approval to border road projects within 100 km of Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the India-China border. Besides, general approval was enough for forest clearances in 117 Left Wing Extremist districts, which was done to boost infrastructure in these conflict zones.On the policy level, the Environment Ministry embarked upon an overhaul of almost the entire regulatory framework of environmental governance that has existed in the country in the past three years. In 2014, it constituted a high-level committee led by former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian to review and recommend specific amendments to Environment Protection Act, Forest Conservation Act, Indian Forest Act, Wildlife Protection Act, Water Pollution Act and Air Pollution Act.Key among its recommendations is the creation of the new umbrella law and replacing the National Green Tribunal with district level administrative tribunals. While the ministry began with some changes based on the recommendations, its pace slackened after the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Forest asked to scrap the report.”The Prime Minister’s Office issued a host of directions to streamline clearances which included reducing recommendations for studies by expert committees that appraise projects, to cut delays. Further, there were also specific directions that expert bodies need not put additional riders on projects while granting clearances,” a senior ministry official said on condition of anonymity.Policy shiftsFrom specific changes that were introduced in the project appraisal procedures, there are also overarching changes that are in the pipeline as the ministry moves ahead. The Coastal Regulation Zone notification, 2011, that regulates development on coasts is set to be changed and MoEF&CC came out with a new draft notification a few months back. The draft notification provides for easing construction close to the high-tide line in line with development norms of municipal corporations.Further, even as the House panel recommended scrapping of the TSR Subramanian report, NITI Aayog said that the Subramanian committee’s key recommendation to create an umbrella law on environment should be implemented. The Subramanian committee report had said that the umbrella law should create — Environmental Laws Management Act (ELMA) — to enable creation of the institutions NEMA (National Environment Management Authority) and SEMA (State Environment Management Authority).The ministry is also in the process of amending the Environment Protection Act, 1986, the keystone environmental protection legislation in the country to increase environmental costs for pollution up to Rs 1 crore, reportedly, without judicial action.Commenting on the MoEF&CC’s regulatory changes, environmental policy experts said that the ministry has stuck to its ‘ease of business’ mantra unabashedly.”Right from achievements to notifications, the ministry has stated up front this mantra to align with the overarching agenda of development. This has manifested through the numerous changes made in environmental regulations,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal research director, Centre for Policy Research — Namati, environment justice programme. Kohli added, “Other than that, the ministry has also tried to regularise environmental violations either through monetary penalties or through post-facto clearances.”Big-ticket decisionsIn recent months, some of the big-ticket decisions of the MoEF&CC have come under scrutiny and also faced legal challenges. The ministry’s decision to recommend the Ken-Betwa river linking project was faced with some internal resistance and is currently awaiting a final nod on forest diversion and environmental clearance.In the weeks and months ahead, the MoEF&CC is also facing one of the biggest decisions on the issue of Genetically Modified Mustard crop. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has recommended commercial cultivation of the crop and now the final decision lies at the door of the environment minister.The commercial cultivation of the GM Mustard crop has faced intense protests from farmers who have questioned the fundamental need for such a crop. They have expressed concerns about its yield claims too.What the government has donePolicy revisions to enable business projectsThe NDA constantly termed the environment ministry as a ‘roadblock’ ministry during UPA’s regime, due to perceived delays in appraisal of big-ticket projects. After coming to power, the NDA government set about undoing the ‘delays’ by introducing a series of wholesale changes in regulatory and statutory bodies and through policy revisions.Overhauled major environmental ActsThe government sought an overhaul of six environmental laws: the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980; Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972; Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981; and the Indian Forest Act 1927 and constituted a high-level committee under former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian to recommend changes to these laws.New drafts and amendmentsThe ministry though has continued with its stance on amending key laws. It has brought out a draft of the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification to ease construction near coasts. It has brought out a draft of Wildlife Protection Act, a new draft Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031 and is also mulling over major changes to the Environment Protection Act.Waste management normsThe ministry overhauled several statutory rules and regulations that dictate the management of waste in the country and brought in new pollution norms for several key industry sectors. Key among these rules were Solid Waste Management Rules, Electronic-waste Management Rules (E-waste), Plastic Waste Management Rules, Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules and Hazardous and Other Waste Management Rules. These rules came into effect by April 2016.Demarcate and notify ESZsDuring the UPA regime, the demarcation and notification of Eco-Sensitive Zone or ESZs around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries was pending for several years. ESZs are the buffer areas around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries and allow regulated development.The NDA contended that pending notification, projects that fell in 10-km radius of the ESZs had to be approved by the National Board for Wildlife clearance and the Supreme Court too. It initiated the demarcation and notification process seeking proposals from state governments. Over 600 proposals were received and out of them 423 ESZs have been notified till March 2017.Shortcomings and challengesProject TigerOne of the major schemes of the ministry, the budget for Project Tiger has shrunk by Rs 30 crore to Rs 345 crore this year. Though the tiger population has seen a 30 per cent rise — from 1,706 to 2,226 — the threat of poachers has sustained over the last three years. In fact, 2016 saw 122 tiger deaths, the highest in the past five years. Government data and independent analysis attribute the rise in deaths to infighting among tigers due to fragmented habitats and poaching.Pollution controlIn the past three years, the country’s apex pollution watchdog — CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) has been in the thick of things due to the alarming pollution levels in Delhi-NCR and due to the Namami Gange project. While CPCB has increased air pollution and water pollution monitoring stations, it has not led to effective curbing of pollution on the ground. Experts have rued that the pollution laws lack teeth to initiate impactful civil and criminal penalties.Monitoring of projectsMonitoring of conditions stipulated in environmental clearances and enforcement of environmental norms is one of the biggest sore points for the Ministry of Environment and Forest. Former Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had acknowledged this several times and so did his successor, the late Anil Dave. At the root of this problem is lack of field staff across the ministry’s ten regional offices and weak enforcement of laws by Central Pollution Control Board.Shortage of staffEven as the clearance process of big-ticket development projects is centralised, regional offices hold the key in following up on the compliance of environmental norms and conditions stipulated in environmental clearances. In a recent audit, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had said in March that once projects are granted, there is widespread non-compliance of general and specific conditions imposed in the environment clearances (EC). Also, to monitor defaulting companies, regional offices are not well-equipped, the CAG had noted.Polluters go unpunishedUnder current legislations, maximum civil penalties for pollution and environmental violations is Rs 1 lakh. There have been next to no instances of the MoEF&CC initiating civil and criminal proceedings against polluters. MoEF&CC has also taken a stance of moving away from closing down industries.Dilution of lawsWholesale changes in regulations and laws has largely been criticised from within and outside the ministry. Civil society and environmental activists have now termed the ministry as a ‘clearance’ ministry rather than one that protects the environment and natural resources.

NTCA opposes plan to subsume under bigger wildlife body

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has strongly opposed a proposal to subsume itself and its flagship Project Tiger scheme under the ambit of an overarching National Wildlife Conservation Authority (NWCA) aimed at conservation of the habitats of all animals.An evaluation committee of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) had recommended the idea of NWCA last year in a report on the performance of 12 Plan schemes. Following NTCA’s opposition to the proposal, the ministry has currently shelved the plan, top officials said.Following a review of NTCA’s fund allocation, habitat and conservation issues, the ministry’s evaluation committee, headed by senior economic adviser Anandi Subramanian, had recommended that NTCA should be renamed NWCA to widen its scope and include all wildlife and habitat conservation schemes under it. “Such convergence will avoid pitfalls associated with the current delineation of activities under each scheme,” the evaluation committee had said.Expressing its disagreement with the recommendations, the NTCA has said that instead of diluting an existing “success story”, the ministry needs to strengthen other wildlife schemes. The new proposal, it said, would be a generalised approach and would not make any impact with regard to tigers, as it stems from an administrative and economic point of view.”The species specific approach of Project Tiger is highly technical and has stood the test of time. This successful, pioneering venture should be retained as such without its merger with any other scheme,” the NTCA said. It suggested that rather than a unified authority, there is a need for projects to conserve flagship species from other habitats, such as Project Lion and Project Snow Leopard.

CPCB guidelines on landfill monitoring

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>To tackle the pervasive problem of odour emanating from landfill sites, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has brought out the first-of-its-kind guidelines on odour monitoring and management in urban landfill sites. The guidelines are significant as it signals that the top pollution control authority is finally taking cognisance of the impact of odour on environment and human health, and also because it is based on a study at Ghazipur landfill site.The study found the presence of odorous compounds such as ammonia, mercaptan, hydrogen sulphide and Butyric acid at the landfill. Last week, a collapse at the Ghazipur landfill had killed two persons.The guidelines have delved into several aspects of odour, ranging from its impact on health to providing a roadmap to remedial measures and prevent odour.The CPCB’s detailed report and guidelines said that the olfactory cells are linked to the areas of the brain that control emotions and memory processes.Offensive odours therefore have an impact on the health and well-being of humans depending on the duration of exposure.”At sufficiently high concentrations, odorous compounds may have a direct effect on human health. Also, an individual’s health may suffer indirectly due to stress associated with odour impact,” the CPCB report said.Anxiety, vomiting, headache, nausea, restriction in outdoor activities, discomfort to elders and children and lack of sleep are some of the effects of exposure to odour from landfills. The high presence of ammonia can cause of irritation in lungs while prolonged exposure can cause chronic bronchitis.The CPCB selected the Ghazipur landfill for the study because of the concentration of fish market, chicken market, slaughter house, a dairy — all emit significant odour — around it.The CPCB guidelines say thorough planning of landfills is essential for preventing odour while decentralised processing of waste can reduce odour. It will be mandatory to develop green belts around landfill sites and buffer areas between the sites and urban settlements, as per the guidelines.”Capping of areas having potential odour generation with suitable cover shall be adopted. For waste utilisation process, where on-site sorting of waste is required, use of properly designed closed system with vents for emitted gases should be adopted,” the guidelines say.The CPCB also said there was a need to create and maintain a baseline data on odour which would help in legislative norms. It added that like air pollution, there is a need to continuously monitor odour.CAPPING THE STINKThe CPCB, for the first time, issues guidelines to monitor odour at landfill sites
The guidelines are based on a study on the impact of odour at Ghazipur landfill

NGT’s clean-up orders caught in land crunch

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi’s piling and crumbling mess of garbage has occupied a fair amount of the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT)time. The dangers posed by the landfills to people living around them were brought to the notice of the NGT.The NGT has dealt with two petitions on waste management. The first petition, filed in 2015 by the Centre for Wildlife and Environmental Litigation, sought closure of the Capital’s three overflowing landfills at Bhalaswa, Okhla and Ghazipur. This was disposed off as the Delhi High Court, too, is hearing the matter.During the hearing of this plea, the NGT issued directions for segregation of waste and reduction of the mounds of garbage, but they could not be implemented as there is no land for landfill sites.During the hearing, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) pointed out the dangers posed by the landfills. It had said that all three landfills were commissioned before the Municipal Solid Waste Rules, 2000, were notified, and that their design was not as per the the rules.The South and North Corporations informed the DPCC that the landfill sites were being continued at the risk of human lives.The second and ongoing petition was filed by environment activists Almitra Patel and Kudrat Sandhu on issues of solid waste management in the country.For Delhi-specific waste management issues, the NGT directed the Union Environment Ministry to form four sub-committees to inspect bulk waste generators.

Ken-Betwa river linking: Nitin Gadkari to sit down with Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Adityanath to break deadlock

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The resolution of a deadlock between Madhya Pradesh government and Centre on the Ken- Betwa river linking project over MP’s fresh demands to widen the scope of the project is going to be the foremost priorities of Nitin Gadkari, who took charge of Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) from Uma Bharti on Monday. Gadkari is going to soon sit down with Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath to sort out the impasse over the project, highly placed sources said.At the heart of the impasse is Madhya Pradesh government’s decision to withhold their no-objection certificate (NOC), which is mandatory for the project work to begin. The Chouhan-led MP government wants MoWR to include Kotha barrage, Lower Orr and Bina complex irrigation projects in Phase-I of the Ken-Betwa link. As per the original plans of the National Water Development Agency, these projects will be executed in Phase-II of the interlinking of rivers. Additionally, the MP government has also demanded a reworking of the original 2005 water sharing agreement with UP.The MP government escalated the issue and wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to consider their demands. “The demand to include projects from a later stage in Phase-I will upset the entire project as the primary phase itself has not taken off. These projects are also yet to be appraised for central clearances,”sources from MoWR said.Besides the pending NOC from MP, the project has not received the final environmental clearance and clearance for the forest diversion. Also, the wildlife clearance granted by the National Board for Wildlife is being scrutinized by the Supreme Court’s Centrally Empowered Committee, sources said. Conceived under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA-I government, the Rs.18,000 crore Ken-Betwa river linking project aims to transfer water from the Ken river basin in Madhya Pradesh to Betwa river basin in Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh for irrigating over 6 lakh hectares of farmland. The project has faced bitter criticism from country’s leading environmentalists and even hydrologists as the project involves construction of Daudham dam inside the core area of Panna Tiger reserve. A total of nearly 10,000 hectares of forest would be lost including over 5,000 hectares from Panna tiger reserve core area.The tiger reserve is home to more than 30 tigers, leopards, sloth bears, endangered vultures and a dense forest.

Cabinet reshuffle | BJP promised another ministership to Shiv Sena, did not deliver: Sanjay Raut

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sunday morning’s Cabinet reshuffle that inducted nine new faces and elevated four ministers with an independent charge to Cabinet posts has made it clear that all allies have been left out in the cold.Shiv Sena, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) biggest and oldest ally has hit out at the government expansion and party leader Sanjay Raut did not mince any words to express displeasure.Raut hit out at the BJP and said that they did not keep their promise of allocating one more ministership to the Sena.“They had promised another ministership, but they have not given,” Raut said.He was quick to add, “There was never any discussion and hence there is no question of discussion of happening on this ahead. Shiv Sena did not demand anything, has never demanded anything.”“This is an expansion of BJP and not NDA. If it was, then NDA allies would have been taken ahead together. This is a thoroughly a BJP expansion, with induction of people that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants, what the party wants or what the RSS wants…some of them have been given entry into the council of ministers, some have been left out. Thus, we don’t need to react much on this,” said Raut speaking to DNA.Sunday’s cabinet reshuffle ceremony also saw Sena’s Anant Geete, their lone minister in NDA government, skip the event. Raut clarified that his party had not sent out any diktat to skip the event.“Anant Geete is a minister and I don’t know about his protocol, but I will say that our party did not give any instructions or orders to boycott the swearing in,” Raut saidWhen asked if BJP’s decision to keep Sena out from the reshuffle was because other allies, too, were left out, Raut said, “Don’t compare Shiv Sena with JD(U). Nitish Kumar had broken away, abusing and cursing them NDA. He had said that I will not take NDA’s support even if I am on the brink of getting finished.”

Finance Act: MoEF seeks to fill NGT vacancies under revised Rules

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has sought applications for filling vacancies to the posts of judicial members and expert members in National Green Tribunal (NGT) with a revised eligibility criteria under the new Rules of Finance Act, 2017. The moves comes even as the Supreme Court has issued notice to Centre over a plea challenging the constitutional validity of the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities Rules, that dictate the appointments to Tribunals.The ministry has invited applications to fill five vacancies to the post of judicial members and seven vacancies to the post of expert members in NGT.The new Rules have received severe criticism from the law fraternity for diluting the judiciary’s role in appointment to Tribunals and many even termed it as an overreach of the executive. MoEF&CC had originally invited applications in February, but after notification of the Rules under Finance Act, the ministry has re-issued invitation with a revised eligibility criteria.As per the new Rules, a person is qualified to apply for the post of a judicial member if he or she is qualified to be, a judge of a High Court; or has held a judicial office for at least ten years. Contrary to this, the NGT Act, 2010, mandated that only a judge of the Supreme Court or a judge of a High Court or a Chief Justice of a High Court could become a judicial member of NGT.Currently, there are only seven judicial members, of which four are sitting on principal bench in Delhi while the rest head the regional benches at Chennai, Bhopal and Kolkata respectively. The new Rules also whittled down the eligibility criteria for expert members.While the NGT Act mandated that an expert member had the minimum qualification of a degree in Master of Science (physical sciences or life sciences) with a doctorate degree or Masters degree with fifteen years of experience in the relevant field, the new Rules requires the applicant to just have a degree in science with experience of 20 years in relevant fields. Currently, there are six expert members in NGT, of which three are sitting on the principal bench while the rest are from Kolkata, Bhopal and Chennai benches.”By diluting the eligibility criteria, the ministry is also diluting delivery of justice. Now even an advocate can become a judicial member, instead of a Supreme Court or High Court judge,” said Ritwick Dutta, environmental lawyer.

15 years on, scribe’s son awaits justice for father

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Watching the scenes of mob rampage by Dera Sacha Saudha unfold in Panchkula, Sirsa and other parts of Haryana on Friday evening, Anshul Chhatrapati could not help but recollect his father, journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati’s expose of the alleged illegal activities in the Dera and rape by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. In his Sirsa-based paper, Poora Sach (Whole Truth), Ram Chander had done a story in 2002, alleging the Dera-head, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, of raping two sadhvis, based on the anonymous letter of one of the sadhvis. Months after that expose on October, Ram Chander was shot on October 21 right outside his home at point blank range, allegedly by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s associates. He died on November 24.Fifteen years later, Anshul, who continued running his father’s paper till 2014, is still awaiting justice for his father’s death. The case is slated for a final hearing on September 16 in the same CBI court, Panchkula, that convicted the ‘godman’ on charges of rape on Friday.”In 2002, my father ran a series of stories on the rape accusations against Dera chief, Dera’s illegal activities and the suspicious elements it harboured. He had made it quite clear that the Dera and its activities had made Sirsa and parts of Haryana a tinderbox. Instead of indulging in vote-bank politics, if political parties and state governments had investigated the Dera, this kind of rampage would not have happened,” Anshul said. The struggle to get his father’s murder investigated and then to the court was a slow and arduous one for Anshul. “When we realized that the police was shielding the Dera, we moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court in January 2003 to seek a CBI investigation of the crime. It has taken 14 years for the case to reach a point of culmination. Since my father ran a local paper, several people from the community helped me immensely. Even senior lawyer Rajinder Sachar helped us in the matter when the CBI investigation was challenged in Supreme Court,” Anshul said.Even as the Dera chief has appeared in two movies this year, on August 19, he did not show up for the last hearing on the Ram Chander case before the CBI Court on medical grounds. He submitted a report to the court of his back pain.The Dera chief’s conviction for raping a sadhvi has infused hope in Anshul for a positive outcome in his father’s case. “I am hopeful about a favourable outcome. It will be worth the wait.”

Govt resumes clearance of Saranda cases

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Under a moratorium of sorts for the past four years, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has resumed appraisal and clearance of iron ore mining projects in the Saranda forest division, Jharkhand, home to rich Sal forests, vast reserves of iron ore and over 200 elephants.In light of the findings of Justice MB Shah inquiry commission on illegal mining in Saranda, MoEFCC had frozen the clearance process for mines in the region and even clearances granted prior to the commission’s findings. The findings also prompted the Central Bureau of Investigation to initiate a probe into the forest clearances granted for private mining companies.Based on Shah commission’s findings, MoEFCC commissioned two major studies, one to assess the carrying capacity of the forest for annual ore production and one on wildlife management.The ministry recently accepted recommendations from these studies and finalised a mining plan for the Saranda region, official documents confirmed. This plan does not include ‘go, no-go zones’ and appraisal of projects would be done on a case-to-case basis, Ajay Narayan Jha, secretary, MoEFCC told DNA.Following this plan’s approval, the ministry’s statutory expert body, Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), has already given an in-principal approval for Steel Authority of India’s (SAIL) Jhillingburu – I mine that will require 210.56 hectares of forest. The FAC has granted approval with general, standard and specific conditions including a condition to place the project before the National Board for Wildlife for a wildlife clearance as it is located in the core of Singhbum elephant reserve.”The state government shall ensure that various mines are worked in such a way that the required elephant corridors and vegetation zones are maintained without any disturbances,” one of the specific conditions said.

NGT cracks whip on 5-star hotels for flouting waste norms

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday slapped heavy compensation, ranging from Rs 3-7 lakh, on some of the plushest hotels in the city for flouting Municipal Solid Waste norms, and stated that if the norms are flouted again, these establishments will be shut down.The list of hotels included Taj Palace, Taj Vivanta, and Holiday Inn among others. A two-member Bench, headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, slapped the fines after reviewing the recommendations of an expert body, which had inspected the state of waste management by bulk generators, such as hotels, hospitals, colleges, and railway stations. Delhi generates as much as 14,100 metric tonnes of waste every day, as per official reports.The Bench was hearing the Almitra Patel matter, regarding implementation of the Municipal Solid Waste Rules, 2016, and its directions have come after a warning was issued in April.The tribunal imposed an environment compensation of Rs 7 lakh each on Taj Palace, Taj Vivanta, and Zorba Entertainment Private Limited in Gurugram. It imposed a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each on Ginger Hotel near New Delhi station, GK Motel Private Limited, Metropolitan Hotel, and the Lalit Hotel. Crowne Plaza in Mayur Vihar has to pay Rs 4.5 lakh, while Holiday Inn and Golden Palms Hotel have to pay Rs 3 lakh each.The Bench also ordered all errant hotels to install sewage treatment plants (STPs), if not installed already, and to ensure their operation. Also, they are to install anti-pollution devices within two weeks.The NGT had formed an expert committee that comprised representatives from Environment Ministry, Ministry of Urban Development, Director General of Health Services, Medical Council of India, Delhi Development Authority, Central Pollution Control Board, all municipal corporations of Delhi, Railways, and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.The expert committee formed sub-committees that inspected establishments across the four municipal corporation limits. The sub-committees found that though the hotels had provided for two-bin system in kitchens, they had failed to provide similar bins in guest rooms.”Most hotels are failing in effective segregation of waste in two bins. Every hotel and banquet hall should provide regular training to kitchen and other staffers on segregation of solid waste in separate bins at the point of generation,” the report stated.The NGT had directed the expert committee to inspect all five-star hotels, hospitals with more than 200 beds, cooperative group housing societies with over 300 flats, markets, shopping malls with a built-up area of over 50,000 sqmts, and colleges with hostels accommodating more than 500 students in Delhi. The matter has now been listed for August 17.

Elephant population study: 27,312 elephants across 23 states

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There are 27,312 elephants across 23 states in the country, a preliminary assessment of the first-ever All India Synchronised Asian Elephant Population Estimation revealed. The elephant population is concentrated largely in the Southern region and Northeast region, making up for over 22,000 elephants. Karnataka alone is home to 6,049 pachyderms, the highest in any state. Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Dr Harsh Vardhan released the preliminary results on Saturday, World Elephant Day.The first cut estimate of elephant population is based only on direct count method, which involves direct sighting and counting of elephants in sample grid blocks, officials associated with the exercise said. Finer details on densities in specific habitats and regions are awaited in the final report. Though the estimation exercise is to undergo complete analysis of statistics, the preliminary numbers are lesser by 3,000 compared to the 2012 estimation. The 2012 estimation had found out that there were a little over 30,000 elephants across 16 states.Professor Raman Sukumar, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and a lead collaborator on the project, however, said, “The current numbers should not compared with the 2012 population estimate as the methods were different. We adopted a uniform methods this time while the previous exercise saw states using different methods.”He added, “We have a stable population. But the real challenge is to maintain safe and clear passages for elephants. There are 101 critical elephant passages in the country.The 2017 elephant estimation exercise was carried out using the direct and indirect method, between November 2016 and May 2017. The direct method involved direct counting of elephants using the sample block counting, in grids of 4-6 sq.kms each. Additionally, elephants are also counted at spots such as salt licks and water holes. The dung-decay method, though, falls in the indirect category. As elephants are difficult to spot in dense forests, their dung comes in handy, which is found more commonly. Dung piles were assessed in a period of three-four months to study its decay rate. As per studies, elephants defecate 15-16 times a day on an average and this data is used in the mathematical formula to estimate elephant density.The dung density figure is multiplied by its decay rate and divided by the normal defecation rate. This, according to experts, throws up the density of elephants in a sample size area of 5-6 sq.kms which is used to extrapolate their density for the larger forest area.

Delhi panel contradicts NGT, says AoL event wasn’t held on Yamuna wetlands

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There was no evidence of compaction of soil neither were any wetlands seen prior to and after the Art of Living Foundation’s event in March 2016 on the Yamuna floodplains, a Delhi Development Authority (DDA)-led three-member panel submitted to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday. Last week, the NGT’s principal bench had directed the DDA to form a three-member committee and submit an action plan to restore the Yamuna floodplains. The Tribunal had also said that the action plan should refer to the recommendations of an expert committee it had appointed to assess the damage at the Yamuna floodplains.The three-member panel’s observations though, were directly in contradiction to the observations of the expert committee. “The land where the function of AoL was held is fully covered with grass along with some saplings and seedlings of various tree species here and there. This kind of grass and natural regeneration of seedlings is not possible on compacted soil. No significant size of wetland or water body was noticed by the committee in the area used by AoL,” the panel report said. It added that from Google Earth images, it was evident that no wetland or water body was seen prior to the event.The report of the three-member panel was prepared by Principal Commissioner, Horticulture, DDA, Chief Engineer, Irrigation Department, Delhi government, and Chief Engineer, Yamuna Irrigation Department, Uttar Pradesh.The NGT-appointed expert committee, though, had said in its report that wetlands were filled up during preparations for the event. “About 75 hectares were impacted due to levelling and consolidation and compacting…wetlands have to be de-silted and the compacted area has to be de-compacted,” the expert committee had said in April. They had said that Rs 42 crore was required for physical and biological rehabilitation of the floodplains.

J’khand dam to eat into land for tiger habitat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has cleared the construction of the incomplete Kutku Mandal dam, as part of the North Koel irrigation project, that will submerge and fragment over 1,000 hectares of forests and 15 villages inside Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR), Latehar district, Jharkhand. After the Ken-Betwa river linking project in Panna, Madhya Pradesh, this is the second big project NBWL has recently cleared inside prime tiger habitat. The project has been in the works since the 1970s, but got a renewed push from the Centre and the Prime Minsiter’s Office from 2015 onwards.A substantial portion of the Kutku dam was built till 1997, but it came to a halt after intense protests by local tribal communities against the impending displacement.The project will submerge 116 sq km of Palamau habitat out of a total of 1,129 sq km. The reserve has seen its tiger population dwindle from 42 in 2003 to a mere 3, owing to grossly weak staff strength and strikes caused by Left-wing extremist groups. Conservationists fear that the situation would worsen after the submergence.While recommending the wildlife clearance, the NBWL said that the loss of tiger habitat has to be compensated by adding the adjoining government land into the tiger reserve. “The core area should be expanded suitably to cover adjoining uninhabited buffer zone or other forest areas to strengthen conservation measures, as proposed by the state wildlife board in its site-specific wildlife management plan for mitigation of impacts due to Mandal dam,” minutes of the NBWL meeting stated.NBWL noted that the project reservoir will fragment the tiger reserve and compel tigers, elephants and other wildlife to shift their route of dispersal through villages, which could lead to serious man-animal conflict. To prevent it, it has asked the state government to explore resettlement of some of the 13 revenue villages outside the tiger reserve through voluntary resettlement.”Villages willing for resettlement should be provided special financial and social development packages that go beyond the standard National Tiger Conservation Authority package for tiger reserves. In addition, sufficient funds should be provided to Palamau Tiger Reserve for dealing with human-wildlife conflicts,” the NBWL meeting minutes said.It also asked the state government to provide a comprehensive package to tribal families from 15 villages that still reside inside the tiger reserve. It added that for the trees that will be cut or submerged, ten times more should be planted and raised in the landscape of the tiger reserve, in tune with the management plant. The trees though, have to be planted outside the core area, the NBWL said.

Iceberg four times the size of Delhi, breaks away

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A gigantic iceberg, nearly four times the size of Delhi, broke off from a crucial ice shelf in West Antarctica on Wednesday, scientists confirmed. The iceberg, touted as one of the largest ever recorded, weighs one trillion tonnes and is spread across an area of 5,800 square-kilometer, with a thickness of 350metres. A National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellite captured the separation of the iceberg, that occurred between Monday and Wednesday.The breaking off of the iceberg, known as ‘calving’, was imminent and the scientific community worldwide had observed a developing rift in the ice-shelf known as Larsen C. Scientists had begun studying this ice-shelf closely after the collapse of Larsen A shelf in 1995 and Larsen B in 2002. Scientists have said that the calving of the iceberg has reduced the size of the Larsen C ice shelf by twelve per cent.Researchers, who were part of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) expedition team from India, explained that this was a typical process of calving of ice shelves, which is a natural phenomenon that may be accelerated due to global warming. “The intrusion of warm ocean water coupled with warm air-circulation chips away at the ice-shelves. When the warm water comes into contact with the shelf, it creates slopes eventually resulting in breaking away of icebergs,” said Navin Pandey, a Ph.D.scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Pandey was part of a 15-member NCAOR team that visited Maitri and Bharti, the two Indian research stations in Antarctica.Pandey added, “Even though the development is definitely a matter of concern, we also need to study whether calving is happening in other parts of Antarctica too. As far as the iceberg that is floating right now is concerned, its impact will depend on how soon it comes into contact with warm ocean waters.”Thuptsan Angchuk, another Ph.D scholar from JNU, who had visited Antarctica in 2014, said that the continent has also seen ice rising in some parts. He added, though, that the volume of the iceberg is quite serious. “The huge volume of this iceberg is serious because formation of ice of similar volumes takes a lot of time. This will lead to sea-level rise ahead,” said Anghcuk. Angchuk, too, visited the Indian research stations in Antarctica as part of NCAOR’s expedition.With inputs from agenciesTHE LARSEN ICE SHELFScientists had begun studying Larsen after the collapse of Larsen A shelf in 1995 and Larsen B in 2002
Larsen C is the largest section of the shelf and the recent calving has reduced its size by 12 per cent

NGT bans nylon, synthetic manjha across India

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday passed a judgment imposing a total ban on nylon or any synthetic manjha, including the ones coated with non-biodegradable substances due to its threat to birds, animals, humans as well as the environment. The green court also directed all state governments and union territories to ban import of any synthetic manjha and nylon thread in any part of the country.The NGT, however, made a clear distinction and emphasized that it had not banned use of traditional cotton manjha or kite string for kite flying during festivals and for recreational activity. It even added that traditional cotton kite strings, coated with powdered glass, could be used as the glass was coated using adhesives which reduced its sharpness.An NGT bench, headed by its chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, pronounced the judgment on a plea filed by Khalid Ashraf, Smt. Rani and non-profit organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Family members of Ashraf and Smt.Rani were fatally injured after a razor sharp nylon kite string slit their throat.The NGT asked chief secretaries of all states to enforce the prohibition of manufacture and use of nylon kite string and also inform district collectors and superintendent of police for compliance. In case of violations, authorities have been ordered to take action under the provisions of the Environment Protection Act, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and Wildlife Protection Act.The bench observed: “The ill-effects of these hazardous nylon strings have created havoc everywhere… At all levels, stringent measures have been initiated to curb the damage caused by nylon, plastic string.”It noted that the nylon strings were made of monofilament or fishing line from a single fibre of plastic.”Most monofilaments are non-biodegradable and can last for hundreds of years depending on environmental conditions. It is because of the fact that the monofilament is thin and clear that it is difficult for birds and animals to see and they are easily brushed up against it and get entangled,” the judgment noted.Injuries and lacerations to pedestrians and motorists is often reported during mass kite-flying occasions such as Makar Sankranti in western India and in Delhi on Independence Day. There have also been cases where children flying kites with nylon strings have suffered fatal electric shocks after their strings came in contact with high tension power lines.”This prohibition on the use of synthetic and nylon manja is a lifesaving step and now we must press on until all dangerous manja is banned,” Nikunj Sharma, Lead-Public Policy, PETA, said.

Elephant population study: Answer lies in the dung

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Forest staffers and volunteers across India recently finished mammoth field studies to estimate elephant population, last done in an ad-hoc way in 2012. The secret of their numbers, though, lies in the dung of these gentle giants. For the first time, the Environment Ministry and State Forest Departments are carrying out a thorough scientific estimate, aided in chief by the ‘dung decay method’, which is used the world over.Officially called the ‘All India Synchronized Asian Elephant Population Estimation’, the field exercise, carried out by Project Elephant of the Environment Ministry, began in November last year and ended in May.At 35 locations in the country, beginning November, teams of foresters and volunteers sampled and recorded dung piles, during a space of 10-15 days each. This was used to assess dung density. After a gap of a few months, when the direct counting exercise began, the dung piles were revisited to assess their decay rate. After assessing dung density and its decay rate, the third element of elephant defecation rate comes into play.”As per studies, elephants defecate 15-16 times a day on an average and this data is used in the mathematical formula to estimate elephant density. The dung density figure is multiplied by its decay rate and divided by the normal defecation rate. This throws up the density of elephants in a sample size area of 5-6 sq.kms which is used to extrapolate density for a larger forest area,” said Raman Sukumar, Professor, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.THE MAMMOTH STUDYAs per the last study of 2012, the population of elephants is estimated to be between 29,000 and 30,711. Besides these wild elephants, around 3,500 elephants are in captivity.
Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh are home to nearly 40 per cent of the country’s jumbo population with more than 12,000 elephants.

‘Environmental clearance of landfill sites important’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The union environment ministry has made it clear to urban development ministry that solid waste disposal sites and landfill sites would not be exempted from environmental clearances, keeping in view the activities involved and the tendency to locate them close to natural habitats. AN Jha, secretary, environment ministry had clarified on this issue earlier this week in a letter to Durga Shankar Mishra, secretary, ministry of urban development.Earlier, in February,the urban development ministry had requested the environment ministry to revisit the process of prior environmental clearances for solid waste management treatment and processing facilities. In reply to this request, Jha said that an expert committee of environment ministry examined this request and submitted its recommendations last month. He said that the activities such as converting waste to energy, refuse derived fuel (RDF) and composting need a prior environmental clearance before setting up a new landfill site.”If the activities of incineration, RDF making and waste to energy plant are proposed along with the new site of solid waste disposal or landfill, it is advisable to obtain an integrated prior environmental clearance for these projects,” Jha said.He added that exempting solid waste management projects from the purview of environmental clearances would not be appropriate as, “it has been seen that locating a landfill site is a contentious issue and there is a tendency to locate them near forests, rivers, ponds, wetlands and low lying areas which are ecologically sensitive sites that require proper environmental management.” “I believe this will expedite the achievement of the objectives of Swachh Bharat Mission,” Jha added.The environment ministry’s clarification is crucial in view of the Centre’s plans under Swachh Bharat Mission to set up many more waste management sites in collaboration with urban municipal bodies. In fact, as per the new Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules, 2016, cities with a population of 10 lakh or above have to set up a waste processing facility by 2018 while census towns with a population of less than 10 lakh have to set up a common regional sanitary landfills by 2019.As per official estimates, a massive 62 million tonnes of waste is generated annually in the country. Of this 30 per cent, nearly 20 million tonnes, is left uncollected, 31 million tonnes is dumped in landfills and 11.9 million tonnes is treated.

Will Centre abolish tribunals, asks Supreme Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The proposed bid to slash the number of tribunals on Tuesday caught the attention of the Supreme Court which cited media reports and asked whether the Centre was planning to abolish quasi-judicial panels. The NDA government has recently proposed to bring a law to slash the number of tribunals from present 36 to 18.”Is the government going to abolish the tribunals? The media reports say so,” a bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who was representing Maharashtra government in an appeal filed against an order of the National Green Tribunal.”Time has come that such gimmicks should be stopped. They (government) should rather wind up the Tribunals. We should not accept these changes and we need to stress that environment is part of the Article 21 of the constitution,” said MC Mehta, senior advocate.”Some of the provisions in the rules are drastic and draconian, such as the one regarding removal of the NGT chairperson. This is an attack not only on NGT but also other Tribunals, this is a death knell for all Tribunals,” said senior advocate Sanjay Parikh.Last month, the NDA-led government had published the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities Rules that effectively shrunk the role of judiciary in appointments in Tribunals and also diluted minimum eligibility criteria for becoming chairperson and judicial members of NGT. The Rules do not make it mandatory for the NGT chairperson to be a sitting judge of SC or Chief Justice of HC, as was the stated criterion under the NGT Act, 2010.

Expert panel extends clearance for Tehri project

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Environment Ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on river valley and hydroelectric projects has recommended a three-year extension to the validity of the environmental clearance (EC) for the Vishnugad-Pipalkoti hydel project in Chamoli district. The EAC’s recommendation, though, comes even as the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT’s) principal bench imposed a Rs 50-lakh environmental compensation in April on the project proponent Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) for illegal muck-dumping in the Alaknanda river.The Vishnugad-Pipalkoti hydel project is a 4x111MW capacity project on the Alaknanda river, near Helong village. According to THDC, Rs 1,187.54 crore has been spent on the project till now. THDC has filed a plea before the NGT to modify its order, and the next hearing is on July 3.In its detailed judgement, the NGT had noted that disposal of muck not only polluted the river and harmed aquatic health, but also violated the EC granted to the project. The EC had stated that muck should be disposed of above the high-flood level.The minutes of the EAC meeting, though, did not make any mention of the NGT judgment and the environmental compensation it imposed. The minutes were reviewed by DNA.THDC also submitted a letter to EAC for the appraisal meeting and said that the muck generated from the construction of the project is being dumped at designated muck disposal sites along with detailed muck disposal plan. It added that presently it had deployed 20 dumpers for disposal of muck that were installed with GPS. Curiously, THDC did not make any mention of the NGT’s fine in its letter and as per the minutes, seem to have concealed the fact that it in their judgement, NGT had directed them to fit the dumpers with GPS.The Matu Jan Sangathan, a non-profit organization, that was the petitioner in the NGT case had written a letter to the EAC, detailing the need for a relook at the project in light of the NGT judgement and also due to what it claimed to be serious ecological damages to neighbouring villages due to dam structures.

Now, post-facto green clearances for projects

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Environment Ministry is all set to begin appraisal of the projects that have violated green norms for granting them post-facto clearances. The move is aimed at giving a much-needed boost to the real-estate and infrastructure sectors and also help the state governments in clearing projects at a faster pace.The ministry has constituted an expert panel to adjudicate on projects that have begun work without prior environmental clearances and related studies. It notified the panel on Tuesday under provisions of the Environment Protection Act, and it would have a term of three-years to appraise and regularise projects involved in environmental violations, procedural lapses and non-compliance.If the panel concludes that any project will cause environmental degradation, it would be closed down. On the basis of environmental damage assessed or financial benefit the project proponents have derived, the panel will also recommend a remediation action plan.The 11-member panel will be chaired by SR Wate, former director of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, and comprises one ministry scientist, environmental scientists, engineers and marine biologists.”The Central Government has established an arrangement to appraise the projects, which have started the work without taking prior environmental clearance and such cases have been termed as cases of violation,” the notification said.The constitution of the panel comes three months after the ministry issued a notification, opening a six-month, one-time, window for those project proponents who had not obtained environmental clearances before beginning work. As per this notification, these project proponents, across all categories and sizes, will be allowed to send in their proposal to the ministry till September 14, 2017.The ministry officials said that they have received more than 276 applications till June 8 for appraisal, under the six-month window, of which majority are from the real-estate sector. The constitution of the panel and the notification allowing a six-month window hinge upon orders of the Jharkhand High Court and National Green Tribunal (NGT). A Jharkhand HC order dated November 28, 2014 and the NGT’s order dated July 7, 2015 quashed two office memoranda (OM) of the environment ministry, dated December 12, 2012 and June 27, 2013. These orders allowed for granting environmental clearances to regularize projects that have violated green norms.The Jharkhand HC’s order held the December 2012 OM as void and said that any action against violations would be an independent and separate activity. The NGT quashed both OM’s and ruled that under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2006, applying for an environmental clearance before starting work was mandatory and the ministry’s orders could not supersede a superior legislation.While the environment ministry’s move will largely bring relief to housing projects, applications have also come from irrigation sector, mining sector, pharma sector and industries too. A large chunk of the projects belong to Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Of 91 applications that have been submitted for environmental clearance, 37 are from Maharashtra while of the 185 applications seeking terms of reference (ToRs) for their projects, 119 are from Tamil Nadu. ToRs specify the environmental and impact assessment studies that are needed before executing a project.

Crop damages plan withers in Agri Min

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An environment ministry proposal from May last year, seeking inclusion of crop damages caused by wildlife, especially elephants, under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) is stuck in the agriculture ministry since then.The delay prompted AN Jha, Secretary (Environment Ministry), to write to Agriculture Secretary Shobhana K.Pattanayak in April to fast-track the inclusion of ‘wildlife crop depredation’ within the ambit of PMFBY. DNA has reviewed a copy of the letter.Environment ministry data showed that in 2014-15, compensation worth Rs 34.5 crore was paid as crop damage caused by elephants by Central and state agencies.The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana provides for insurance cover against crop loss caused by natural calamities. Farmers have to pay 2% premium for all Kharif crops and 1.5% for all Rabi crops while in the case of annual commercial and horticultural crops, 5% premium has to be paid.In his letter, Jha highlighted that “crop depredations by wild animals are causing immense hardships to farmers near forest areas and it is also an important reason for retaliatory killing of wild animals. In view of these facts, a proposal was sent to your ministry to bring crop damage caused by wild animals with the ambit of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.” Jha added.Multiple senior officials at the agriculture ministry, including Pattanayak, did not respond to calls and messages from DNA.The environment ministry has noted that there have been growing instances of crop depredations by wild animals.MAN VS BEASTThe Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana provides for insurance against crop loss caused by natural calamities
The environment ministry says there have been growing instances of crop depredations by wild animals

Cyclone Mora to turn severe in 24 hours, bring heavy rainfall in Bengal, Northeast

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The deep depression over east-central Bay of Bengal has intensified into a cyclonic storm Mora and over the past six hours, it moved north-eastward with a speed of 14 kmph and lay centred over east-central Bay of Bengal, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in its cyclone bulletin on Monday morning. The cyclone storm is about 750km south-southeast of Kolkata and 660km south-southwest of Chittagong and is likely to intensify into a severe cyclonic storm during the next 24 hours. According to IMD, it is very likely to move north-northeastwards and cross Bangladesh coast near Chittagong around May 30 forenoon and not make landfall in India. “Based on present conditions we can say that the cyclone storm is likely to transform into a severe cyclonic storm and pass closer to the eastern coast of Bangladesh, near Chittagong. It will not make landfall in India. We will only see heavy to very heavy rainfall in the range of 70-110mm as a result and fishermen from Bengal have been warned not to venture into the sea due to squally winds,” said Ganesh Kumar Das, Scientist D, Area Cyclone Warming Centre, IMD, Kolkata.The IMD added in its bulletin that Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal are likely to see heavy to very heavy rainfall. The storm will result in squally winds with speeds reaching 40-50 kmph gusting to 60kmph along and off Andaman Island and adjoining seas during next 48 hours.As per the current forecast and tracking, the storm is going to turn into a severe one between Monday and Tuesday and by May 31, it would become a deep depression. Winds would gust at a speed of 100-130kmph when it turns into a severe cyclonic storm, IMD said.

Relaxed norms for real estate and tourism proposed in draft coastal rules

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Centre, as part of its new coastal rules, has proposed to ease tourism and real-estate development, construction of coastal roads, and delegate greater powers to local planning authorities for realty development, a draft of the Marine Coastal Regulation Zone (MCRZ) notification has revealed.The new MCRZ notification, which is yet to be finalised, will replace the existing CRZ notification, 2011, which presently regulates all activities along the over 7,000 km long coastline of the country. These changes are in line with recommendations of the Shailesh Nayak committee, that was tasked with reviewing the 2011 notification in 2014.DNA has reviewed a copy of the seven-page draft MCRZ notification that was accessed under Right to Information Act, by non-profit organisation Centre for Policy Research.While the draft notification has not proposed to alter the fundamental classification of coastal regulation zones, the high-tide line (HTL) or low-tide line (LTL), it has used a new methodology to map the HTL and LTL’s which is yet to be revealed. The 2011 notification categorises coastal areas as CRZ-I, II, III and IV based on their vulnerabilities and the existing development. The draft MCRZ notification has retained this classification, though, it has reduced the ambit of prohibited activities in MCRZ-I, II and III.For instance, in the MCRZ-I zone, which is the intertidal zone that includes ecologically sensitive areas, the draft notification proposes to allow sewage treatment plants, coastal roads, national interest projects and infrastructure, tourism related facilities such as walkways and stilts.Interestingly, the draft notification said that it would allow reclamation for coastal roads. This exception has come in the backdrop of environment ministry’s approval for the coastal road in Mumbai. This proposed change would now also allow other states to reclaim land for coastal road projects without seeking special permissions.For MCRZ-II zone, which are urban built-up areas near the coasts, the draft says the development shall be regulated by local authorities as per prevailing local laws, and the state governments will be required to prepare coastal zone management plans (CZMP).In MCRZ-III, that are relatively lesser developed areas close to coasts, the draft proposes to allow dwelling units for local inhabitants including fishermen, basic infrastructure. Marketing facilities too will be provided with 50 metres buffer from HTL.The populated areas that are in MCRZ-III areas can be declared as MCRZ-II if the concered state governments prepare the CZMPs of the said area incorporating all requisite environmental safeguards, disaster management facilities and carries out environmental and social impact assessments….& ANALYSISAt the heart of the Centre’s push to replace the existing notification is a long-standing demand from states such as Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka to ease the coastal norms to make way for more real-estate and tourism development. While in 2011, the United Progressive Alliance replaced the notification’s 1991 version, it had stayed away from relaxing the norms.

After bout of deliberations, Ken-Betwa link gets nod for forest clearance

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After a round of deliberations on easing certain riders and modifying conditions over the course of two recent meetings, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of Environment Ministry has finally recommended the Ken-Betwa river linking project for forest clearance. The proposal will now be forwarded to the new Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan for approval even as it is being scrutinised by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court.The proposal has already received nod for environmental clearance. The National Board for Wildlife has accorded it wildlife clearance as wel. The controversial project proposes to transfer water from the Ken river basin in Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR), Madhya Pradesh, to Betwa river basin in Uttar Pradesh, for irrigation. The project will submerge 6,017 hectare of pristine forest, much of it in PTR. It will have large scale impact on wildlife there.In its last meeting on May 16, the FAC gave a final recommendation for the project after settling pending issues pertaining to hydrology, conservation of vultures, gharials, and relocation of villages from PTR. “After careful consideration of additional facts placed before it by the expert committee…the FAC recommends the proposal…as per specific recommendations,” stated the minutes of the May 16 FAC meeting.The FAC had formed a sub-committee of seven members in its previous meeting in April, and based its final approval after scrutinising the sub-committee’s report.According to the minutes of the meeting, as reviewed by DNA, the FAC agreed to not persist with the demand to reduce height of the project dam by 10 metres. It also asked the National Water Development Agency, the project proponent, to identify non-forest area measuring about 4,000 hectare adjoining PTR from revenue and private land and add it to PTR as compensation.Further, the FAC has asked the Bombay Natural History Society to prepare an action plan for conservation of vultures, and asked the Wildlife Institute of India to prepare a species recovery programme for conservation of gharials.

North Koel project: No waiving of compensation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Despite the backing of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Environment Ministry’s expert panel on forest clearances has rejected the Jharkhand and Bihar governments’ plea to waive compensation for diverting over 1,000 hectares of forest land as part of the North Koel irrigation project, Ministry documents show. The North Koel irrigation project, when operational, would submerge 1,165 hectares of land in Palamu tiger reserve, which is home to tigers, bisons and elephants. The expert panel has also asked the state governments to find suitable land for compensatory afforestation.The North Koel project, work on which began in the 1970s, has got a renewed push from the PMO and Water Ministry. As a result, the Water Ministry is pursuing pending environmental clearances for the project. As part of this renewed push to obtain clearances, the PMO held a meeting, under the chairmanship of Nripendra Misra, with the Jharkhand and Bihar governments. In this meeting, it was decided that the dam’s full reservoir level would be reduced to minimise the submergence area inside Palamu tiger reserve. In the same meeting, the states also decided that since it will be difficult to find a contiguous chunk of land for compensatory afforestation, an exemption should be sought.While appraising the Jharkhand government’s request, the expert panel, called Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), of the Environment Ministry observed that the project would lead to permanent loss of forest land and habitat of tigers and other wildlife. It thus recommended that the Net Present Value (NPV), the amount to be paid for diversion of forest land inside the national park, cannot be waived off.The FAC also said that compensatory afforestation should be done over twice the forest land diverted, provided the degraded forest land identified for this purpose is in the corridors of Palamu tiger reserve. “The state government, however, shall make the best efforts to identify the maximum possible amount of encumbrance-free, large patches of non-forest land either adjoining or in the immediate vicinity of the Palamau tiger reserve to offset habitat loss due to submergence,” the FAC added.NORTH KOEL PROJECTThe project, work on which began in the 1970s, has got a renewed push from the PMO and Water Ministry.
As a result, the Water Ministry is pursuing pending environmental clearances for the project.

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