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Author: Nikhil M Ghanekar

Linear projects: A rising threat to our forests and wildlife: Fauna

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier this month, on December 5, locals at Hojai in Assam’s Nagaon district witnessed a distressing incident. A speeding Kanyakumari-Dibrugarh Vivek Express rammed into three elephants, killing them. It included two pregnant elephants, who delivered stillborn calves. Only 12 days later, two adult elephants and a calf were killed when a train hit them 125kms away from Guwahati, again in Nagaon district. These two accidents along with another one on December 6 took the life of eight elephants in December alone.The accidents in Assam and the rise in proposed linear projects such as highways, railway line doubling, power transmission lines and canals once again bring to attention how perhaps certain developmental projects pose the biggest threats to our forests and wildlife. A deeper look into projects that have been both, proposed and cleared, reveals that they will pass through some of our most dense forests that are home to rich biodiversity, varied wildlife and are precious sources of freshwater in fast warming climate. In 2016, some crucial linear projects that will fragment our forests, were cleared or have made their way towards being cleared.Wildlife corridors under threatFor instance, in March, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), chaired by the Prime Minister, cleared conversion of the 227-km long Gondia-Jabalpur line from narrow gauge to broad gauge. Of this 227km, 77km will pass through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, considered one of the most crucial in the country for it allows tigers from two different source populations and gene pools to move to newer territories.In Eastern India, the Indian Railways has approved expansion of the 156km long Sambalpur-Angul railway line, that already fragments Satkosia-Ushakoti-Badrama elephant and tiger landscape.Conservationists and wildlife activists have argued that while large linear projects should be avoided in forests and wildlife habitats, there is also an acute lack of standardized environmental safeguards.Lack of willIn the case of National Highway – 7 widening, that will pass through the Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor and the Pench tiger reserve, the National Highway Authority of India was dragged to court to have them construct environmental safeguards such as underpasses and overpasses for safe wildlife passage.The NH-7 case illustrated that government agencies were unwilling to initiate expenditure on environmental safeguards to prevent wildlife casualties, until courts ordered them to. Following this case, the union ministry for environment, forest and climate change commissioned the Wildlife Institute of India to prepare guidelines on incorporating environmental safeguards in linear infrastructure. The ministry also commissioned this report with a view to ensure speedy clearances for linear projects.The guidelines were made public in October and suggested minimum engineering solutions such as elevated ramps and sections should for wildlife to cross highways and fencing in case of railways. The guidelines though, do not have to be followed mandatory, as they have not been notified.Environmentalists have also questioned these guidelines. “I don’t think these guidelines will be followed because the project developers always try to go for safeguards that will be least expensive. We need to put in place a conservation fund for linear projects and project proponents ought to involve environmental experts at the start of the project and not at the clearance stage. These projects are fragmenting and damaging valuable forest resource,” said Anish Andheria,, President, Wildlife Conservation Trust, a non-profit organisation working in 110 protected areas across 19 states.Other conservationists said that the current dispensation has junked an earlier decision of the environment ministry to stop new roads in protected areas. “The NBWL, in its previous term, had recognised linear infrastructure as one of the major threats to forests and wildlife. This prompted formulation of guidelines that said that no new roads will be constructed in protected areas. Why were those guidelines junked? asks Prerna Bindra, conservationist and former member of NBWL standing committee.Upcoming projects passing through forests and protected areasProposed linear projects waiting for wildlife and forest clearance:Dedicated freight corridor passing through Gautam Buddha Sanctuary, home to leopards, bears and chitalCasterlock-Kulem railway line doubling and Tinaighat – Castlerock railway line doubling in Dandeli wildlife sanctuaryHubli-Ankola railway line will pass through Western Ghats forests, Bedthi conservation reserve at Yellapur and buffer region of Anshi Dandeli Tiger ReserveBarkhera-Budni third railway line construction in Ratapani wildlife sanctuary. Project will take up 104.75 hectares of the sanctuary

Uttarakhand sticks to Bhagirathi ESZ plan despite being temed ‘destructive’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Despite being termed as “destructive” for water resources by the union ministry, the Uttarakhand government has stuck to its zonal master plan of the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) that proposes to open up the fragile area for hydropower projects above 2 MW, mining, and roads. The last pristine stretch of Ganga flows through this ESZ.At a meeting on Thursday with the union ministry for water resources, and union ministry for environment and forest, a posse of Uttarakhand officials justified these projects and objected to water ministry’s reservations.The meeting was convened as per National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) directions which asked water resources secretary Shashi Shekhar to sit down with Uttarakhand government and environment ministry to find a way ahead on the contentious zonal master plan. Members of the ESZ expert monitoring committee and two environment ministry officials were also present during the meeting. The Tribunal is hearing a plea on effective implementation of the Bhagirathi ESZ and on compensation for victims of 2013 Uttarakhand disaster.During the meeting, Uttarakhand chief secretary S.Ramaswamy and power secretary Umakant Panwar submitted to Shashi Shekhar that they were not in agreement with the water ministry’s opposition to the hydropower projects and riverbed mining as it will hit investments. According to sources present at the meeting, Uttarakhand officials said that there was little anthropogenic pressure on the resources and even population density was low, thus making it ideal for hydropower projects.They argued that small hydropower projects are ‘white’ projects that are non polluting in nature. The state government wants Centre to allow ten hydropower projects of 82MW total capacity. In August, the environment ministry agreed to consider these projects for approval and also allowed riverbed mining up to 2m depth and road construction on steep slopes.But, DNA reported last week that these decisions were termed “disastrous” by Shashi Shekhar in a letter to the secretary, environment ministry, as they were against the provisions of the ESZ notification.Pointing out to the restrictions on road building on steep slopes and riverbed mining, the officials also said in the meeting that “special rules” were being applied to Uttarakhand, sources added. To this, expert committee member Ravi Chopra said that the restrictions were in place since the stretch of Ganga between Gaumukh and Uttar Kashi is sensitive.Responding to the state government’s submissions, water resources secretary Shashi Shekhar said that in the present form the zonal master plan is in violation of the ESZ notification and any amendments could only be done only with the approval of the union cabinet and the Parliament. Interestingly, the environment ministry, which has agreed to consider Uttarakhand government’s proposal to allow ten hydropower projects in the ESZ did not make any submission during the meeting.”The zonal master plan violates the ESZ notification and the Uttarakhand government never wanted to prepare this master plan. There is no rationale in studying the impact of hydropower projects as the notification does not allow for such kind of development,” said Mallika Bhanot, member, ESZ expert monitoring committee.

Government relaxes coastal norms for Ambedkar memorial

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Statue off Mumbai’s coast, the Centre has paved the way for construction of Dr.Bhimrao Ambedkar memorial at the defunct Indu Mill in Parel. The union ministry for environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) has amended the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification, 2011, to insert a relaxation that will allow Maharashtra government to change land use for construction of the memorial.The amendment’s timing is of consequence as it will allow the BJP-led government to begin work on the memorial just weeks before the Election Commission imposes the Model code of conduct for the Mumbai civic polls and municipal body polls in other major cities such as Pune, Nasik, Amravati, Nagpur and Solapur. It also comes more than one year after the PM laid the foundation stone for the memorial last October, thus helping the government to expedite work and attract voters from backward castes.The relaxation for the memorial has been inserted under the Rules laid down for CRZ-II areas, specifically those in Mumbai. “Construction of memorial in the honour of Bharat Ratna Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in Mumbai on Indu 6-Mills land shall be allowed with change in land use from industrial to construction of memorial in accordance with applicable Town and Country Planning Regulations”, said the new item added in the notification.The Ambedkar memorial is to be built on 12 acres of land in Indu Mill and the amendment frees up 5.5 acres of CRZ-II affected land that can now be taken over by the Maharashtra government.

West Delhi school kids move NGT for more green cover

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Aggrieved by the poor air quality due to industries and lack of green cover that is affecting their health, six teenagers from Mundka-Kirari suburbs in West Delhi have moved the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to seek an increase in green cover and to oppose proposed expansion of industrial activity. The six teenagers — aged between 12 and 16 years — attend schools in the Mundka-Kirari industrial belt and their petition was admitted by the Tribunal last week.The industrial belt in question is spread across eleven municipal wards of Mundka, Nangloi Jat West, Nilothi, Pratap Vihar, Nithari, Kirari Suleman Nagar, Prem Nagar, Sultanpur Majra, Sultanpuri South, Pooth Kalan and Nangloi East. The petition claimed that pollution emitted from industries in this belt is severely affecting the health of “more than 1 lakh children studying in these schools,” and that several students are suffering from breathing problems, especially during winters.Quoting results from the Centre for Science and Environment pollution test of the area, the petition said that PM 2.5 level for 24 hour average was found to be 556 µg/m3, which was 3.8 times higher than rest of Delhi. The petitioners point out that even as the area is already facing poor air quality, the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation has proposed to use 147 acres of vacant land for more industrial activity.“Of the 4,626 acres of land in 11 municipal wards, a mere 1 per cent is green whereas 1,400 acres or more than 30 per cent is an industrial area, 62 per cent is a residential area and rest is commercial area. As the area is already highly polluted… it is submitted that no further development of industries should be permitted in the area until existing pollution levels are brought down to permissible levels,” the petitioners prayed.Local residents also approached the Delhi Chief Minister’s office and the Delhi Development Authority with 5,000 signatures to convert the 147 acres into a biodiversity park, the petition claimed. Dewan Singh, a member of the Mundka Kirari Harit Abhiyan, Spoke to DNA said, “There are more than 50 schools in this area and whenever children go out for recreation, they are affected by the industrial pollution.”

Top municipal and state officials will face prosecution for violating waste rules: NGT

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a significant order on municipal solid waste rules (MSW), 2016, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) principal bench has said that top officials of state governments and municipal bodies shall be liable for prosecution if they violate the rules and orders of the Tribunal on its enforcement.It has also asked all state governments and union territories to prepare an action plan within a month, to enforce the new MSW Rules, 2016 and directed environment ministry to consider phase out of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic used in packaging.The NGT’s detailed 89-page judgment of a four-member bench, headed by justice Swatanter Kumar, was passed on Thursday while hearing the petition of Bengaluru-based veteran environment conservationist Almitra Patel, who had sought directions on effective management of solid waste across the country. The Tribunal’s judgment brought down curtains on a 20-year-old petition, that was initially filed as writ in the Supreme Court and was later transferred to the Tribunal in 2014.Patel’s petition led to the formulation of the first Municipal Solid Waste Rules in 2000 that were overhauled in 2016 by the environment ministry. Speaking to DNA, Patel said, “I am happy that they are finally planning on directing phase out of short life PVC’s, stationary, flex-banners etc, which ends up burning on the footpath or in the landfills. Burning them releases dioxins.”She added, “The country needs political and administrative will that has been lacking for 16 years since the 2000 Rules. So, I am waiting to see if the threat of contempt makes any impact.”The Tribunal’s verdict revealed that no municipal corporation has ever physically verified the quantum and quality of waste generated in any district of any state or even a city. “They have proceeded with a presumptive figure that per-capita generation of MSW is nearly 450 grams per day in major towns while per capita MSW generated from small towns is 200-300 grams per day,” it said.It added, “The Central Pollution Control Board report for the year 2014- 15 has revealed that out of 7935 urban local bodies (ULBs), as per 2011 census only 389 ULBs have established compost, vermi-compost sites.” This means that 92 per cent of ULBs are dumping its solid waste in open areas without treatment.On the issue of the piles of waste accumulating at landfills, the Tribunal has directed that landfills should be subjected to ‘bio-stabilisation’, which means that the mounds of waste have to be upturned at regular intervals for composting.It also attempted to deal with the contentious issue of tipping fees, which are paid to contractors who collect and transport waste in cities. It said that tipping fee paid to the operator of the landfill facilities or contractors should also be based on the functioning of waste treatment along with the weight of the solid waste.

Iron out your differences first: Tribunal to ministries

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday directed the Union ministries of environment and water resources to sit down and resolve their differences on the issue of Zonal Master Plan for the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone. The three-member principal bench, headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, refused to listen to the reservations of water resources ministry, and instead directed them to come back only when the issue between the two ministries was resolved.“On Monday, the ministry of water resources will be meeting with the ministry of environment and the Uttarakhand Government to clarify objections and deficiencies of the Zonal Master Plan, submitted by the state,” said justice Kumar. “In the next meeting, the matter should be finalised and the ministry of water resources should specify the way forward. The applicant will also be present in the meeting.”The directions of the bench came after counsel for water resources ministry said that they had certain objections regarding the Zonal Master Plan that need to be addressed.As per ministry sources, the revised Zonal Master Plan on Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone is simply a compilation of activities of all departments of the Uttarakhand Government rather than scientific studies.Meanwhile, Colin Gonsalves, counsel for the petitioner said to the bench that the Zonal Master Plan is actually a plan for commercial activity. Gonsalves also pointed that the secretary, union water resources ministry Shashi Shekhar has made scathing remarks regarding the Zonal Master Plan and the plans of the environment ministry to permit 10 hydropower projects in the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone.A letter written by Shekhar to his counterpart in the environment ministry, questioned the plans to consider approving 10 hydropower projects and river-bed mining up to two metres depth in the eco-sensitive zone.The projects, the secretary said, signal the impending environment disaster in the eco-sensitive zone. The Bhagirathi eco-sensitive area was notified in 2012 to protect the 100kms Gaumukh to Uttar Kashi stretch of Bhagirathi, spread across 4,179 sq kms.

Why exempt buildings from green clearance, asks NGT

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Questioning the exemption granted to building and construction projects of a certain size, from seeking environmental clearance, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued a notice to the union environment ministry on Wednesday, seeking an explanation.Earlier this month, the ministry finalised a notification that merged green clearances for construction projects spread over 20,000 square metres to 1,50,000 sq m with building approvals.The notification entrusted urban local bodies with ensuring environmental compliances, too.The ministry’s notification was challenged by the Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity. During the hearing the three-member principal bench of NGT directed Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to take “clear instructions” on the Environment Impact Assessment notification and reasons for exempting building and construction projects from environmental clearance.The matter will be heard next on January 4, 2017. In the meantime, development and construction projects will be subject to orders of the Tribunal. The petitioners argued that a subordinate piece of legislation was superseding a statute, as it took away powers of Pollution Control Boards and Committees to grant consent to establish and operate construction projects under the Air Act and Water Act.The petition also said that construction projects were included in the ambit of environment ministry as urban local bodies had failed to ensure compliance of environmental norms such as rain water harvesting, solar water harvesting and solid waste management.Thus, the petitioner has prayed for the notification to be set aside as it circumvents provisions of Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 and Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Uma Bharti’s ministry damns Ministry of Environment and Forests’s Ganga projects

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The differences between the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Ministry of Water Resources was revealed in a letter sent by Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar to his environment ministry counterpart.Dated October 13, the letter, which has been accessed by DNA, has Shekhar pointedly questioning his MoEF counterpart on why had his ministry permitted 10 hydro projects and mining to come up in the Bhagirathi valley. These projects, he said, would dilute the Bhagirathi Eco Sensitive Zone, located in the upper reaches of the Ganga. The Bhagirathi eco-sensitive area was notified in 2012 to protect the 100 km Gaumukh to Uttar Kashi stretch of Bhagirathi, spread across 4,179 sq.kms.In his letter, Shekhar said, “Permitting large scale activities like hydro power projects, construction works, mining etc. will severely compromise the environmental concerns and its sensitivity and will have far reaching environmental consequences in the days to come.”Shekhar added that throwing open this eco-sensitive area for hydro power projects would signal, “impending environment disaster in the ecologically sensitive area.”It is not the first time the Ministry of Water Resources have taken up this issue. Sources say that that following Shekhar’s letter, Water and Ganga Minister Uma Bharti, too, spoke to her counterpart Anil Dave and expressed her concern on plans to allow dams in the eco-sensitive area. These sources added that despite repeated reminders to the MoEF but so far nothing has been resolved.Speaking to DNA, Shekhar said, “You cannot shove in anything through the back door, this is a fundamental mistake and it is illegal. They need to realize that this is the last pristine and free-flowing stretch of the Ganga.”The letter comes in the wake of the MoEF’s meeting on the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone in August. In that meeting, the Uttarakhand state government had sought relaxations in activities allowed in the 4,179 sq km eco sensitive area. The state government argued that since 10 hydropower projects with a cumulative capacity of 82MW were approved before the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone was notified in 2012, they should be approved for construction.In the minutes of the meeting, it was stated that the “MoEF & CC could consider inserting a transitional clause to permit the 10 HEP’s (hydro power projects) which were approved prior to the date of notification.” Along with plans to permit hydro power projects, the MoEF said that river-bed mining up to 2m depth could be allowed in the eco-sensitive area.The MoEF is defending its decisions on grounds that the projects will be approved only after a carrying capacity study is done by scientists. “The Uttarakhand government presented the Zonal Master Plan, but it has defects and requires a lot of changes. We will look into all aspects before approving hydro power projects in the eco-sensitive area,” said Amita Prasad, additional secretary, MoEF.Meanwhile, the water ministry has panned the Zonal Master Plan. “It is (Zonal Master Plan) is fundamentally wrong because it is not prepared by experts. We have prepared a draft joint affidavit to be submitted in the NGT that has been sent to the environment ministry. We should have experts visit the ESZ,” said Shekhar.Currently, the NGT is hearing an ongoing matter on the issue pertaining to Zonal Master Plan of the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone.

Panel report on forest fire in Uttarakhand raps govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More than six months after Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh witnessed massive forest fires, neither the Union Environment Ministry nor the two state governments have estimated the loss of wildlife due to the fires, a report by the parliamentary panel on environment and forests has said. The report also said that the state governments have grossly underestimated the monetary loss due to the fires. It also recommends that the environment ministry devise a national policy to prevent and mitigate forest fires.Earlier this year in Uttarakhand, fires affected 4,000 hectares of forest land across 13 districts, killing nine and injuring 17. April and May saw some of the worst instances of these fires as needles of Chir Pine, that are prone to fires, aggravated the situation.While examining the subject, the parliamentary panel was informed that the state forest departments are still assessing loss to wildlife and their habitat. The panel said, “committee is at loss to understand why Zoological Survey of India and Botanical Survey of India, which are also arms of the MoEF did not take up any studies on loss of biodiversity of the forest fire affected areas. Even the MoEF&CC (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) did not take any initiative in this regard.”Forest fires in India are mainly ground fires and affect the understory plants and shrubs that provide food and forage. This loss often results in wildlife moving away to areas where food, water and shelter are available. Fire can cause temporary loss of food and shelter and animal populations may shift to adjacent unburned areas, the report added.The panel also noted that both hill states recorded a significant rise in forest fires. Compared to 672 fires in 2015, Himachal recorded 1545 instances of fires this summer that affected 13,000 hectares causing an estimated loss of Rs 1.53 crore. In Uttarakhand, 2074 instances of fires were recorded as opposed to 412 in 2015. These fires affected 4433 hectares with an estimated loss of Rs 46.5 lakh.

NGT orders national ban on ‘manja’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In an interim order passed on Wednesday, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned nylon and glass-coated cotton kite strings or manja across the country in view of its threat to humans, animals, and birds. The nationwide ban will be in place till the next hearing on February 1, 2017, which means that the sale of nylon or Chinese manja, synthetic manja, and cotton manja coated with glass will not be permitted during Makar Sankranti. Kite-flying enthusiasts though, will be able to use cotton kite strings.While passing the order, the principal bench, headed by NGT chairperson justice Swatanter Kumar, has directed the Manja Association of India to submit a detailed report on the adverse effects of the kite strings to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). On the basis of that report, CPCB will submit its recommendations to the Tribunal for a long-term solution on the issue.The principal bench, headed by NGT chairperson justice Swatanter Kumar, passed the interim order while hearing the petition of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The non-profit organization had sought a ban on use of harmful manjas on grounds that the sharp manjas have caused deaths in many parts of the country and every year low-flying kites and manjas cause injuries to hundreds of birds.Besides pointing out the fatal consequences of getting lacerated by manjas the PETA petition also said that the nylon, metal, plastic, and synthetic manjas are non-biodegradable and pollute the environment and also cause electricity supply disruptions when they come in contact with power cables. In 2014, the union environment, forest, and climate change ministry too issued an advisory to chief secretaries of all states and union territories to initiate action with regard to use of manja, the PETA petition mentioned. The advisory had stated that, “kite flyers who use such strings endanger birds such as pigeons, crows, owls, kites, and vultures”, that are threatened species.During Wednesday’s hearing, PETA’s counsel senior advocate Sanjay Hegde informed the bench that the High Courts of Allahabad, Jammu and Kashmir, and Rajasthan had previously issued directives banning use of manja in their respective states.

Varanasi, Allahabad did not have single good-air day in ’15: study

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While Delhi has been in the spotlight as the world’s most polluted city, Varanasi and Allahabad did not record a single good air-quality day in 2015, a new study revealed on Monday. It also found a total absence of any action plan to tackle pollution and that there was only one air-quality monitoring station in Varanasi. The study, based on Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data, showed that the holy city and Allahabad had zero good-air days, out of the monitored 227 and 236 days, respectively. A good-air day is one when the air-quality index is below 50. The report, prepared by the Centre for Environment and Energy Development (CEED), IndiaSpend and Care4Air, brought out the severity of air pollution in the Indo-Gangetic plains, home to 11 coal-fired power plants. “The key industrial hotspots of Uttar Pradesh, starting with Ghaziabad, bordering Delhi, to the district of Sonbhadra, bordering Madhya Pradesh, which produces close to 10 per cent of India’s coal-fired electricity, are all located on the Key Ganges river basin,” the report pointed out. The Purvanchal region of UP has close to 11 coal-fired thermal plants that produce nearly 12,000 MW of energy. Aishwarya Madineni, the lead author of ‘Varanasi Chokes’, released on Monday, said that compared to Delhi, the absence of air-quality data and functioning monitoring stations was glaring. “CPCB monitors the PM 2.5 quality while UP Pollution Control Board manually monitors PM 10 levels. There were huge gaps as data was missing for several days,” Madineni told DNA. PM2.5 and PM10 levels are fine, but lethal pollutants directly enter the human bloodstream and cause upper respiratory diseases.

Villagers club leopard to death in Mandawar village

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A tense drama unfolded for nearly three hours on Thursday morning in Mandawar village, 30 km from Gurgaon, as a leopard, which had strayed into the village and injured nine people, was clubbed to death by a mob of hundreds.Forest guards were among those injured by the leopard and they were taken to the Sohna civil hospital. Residents of Mandawar, located at the foothills of Aravallis, spotted the 2.5-year-old leopard around 8 am after it was found crouching under a cot.While some immediately locked themselves up in their homes, several others pursued the wild cat with sticks, rods and axes. The villagers were quick to make a distress call to the Gurgaon Forest Department, and a team of nearly 10 was dispatched to the spot to tranquillize and capture the leopard.”The leopard did not attack anyone immediately. First it moved around the village, moving away from residents. It entered a cattle shed and later hid beside a nearby farmhouse. As the villagers closed in, it entered a nullah. By this time, the mob had grown in numbers and the leopard dashed towards them. Even our staff was beaten up by the villagers,” said MD Sinha, Conservator of Forests, Gurgaon circle.The leopard clawed at people and bit a few as it ran and climbed houses in the village. Soon, residents of neighbouring areas too joined and the Forest Department could not control the large mob. According to sources, as the leopard was about to attack one villager, the mob struck it on its head with axes and large sticks. It was overpowered and the spotted cat died on the spot.”Since the mob was out of control, there was no clear line of sight to aim the tranquillizer at the leopard. We also had difficulty retrieving the leopard’s body as villagers surrounded it,” added a forest official at the spot. The leopard’s body was sent for a post-mortem to the Sultanpur National Park and it was cremated soon after. The Forest Department has registered a case against unknown persons for killing the leopard, which is listed as a Schedule I endangered species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.Encroachment of forest land and increasing human habitation near the Bandhwari-Mangar Bani forest of Aravallis are posing a threat to leopards, forest officials said. “While human life is certainly more important, we also need to curb the pressure on this dense and contiguous forest stretch,” added Sinha. The Bandhwari to Damdama forest, including Mangar Bani, is spread across more than 5,000 hectares on a 30-km stretch. While this stretch is home to an estimated 30 leopards, the Gurgaon forest circle confirmed through camera trap images the presence of five leopards in Gurgaon.

Heavy metals, pesticides in Ganga, CPCB tells National Green Tribunal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday asked the Centre to give a note detailing the state of river Ganga in the past and how it has deteriorated now. The tribunal’s directions came after the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) submissions that the water of the holy river, between Haridwar and Kanpur, contains heavy metals and pesticides.The NGT’s four-member principal bench, headed by justice Swatanter Kumar, was hearing the Ganga pollution matter filed by MC Mehta. Justice Kumar said, “Today, its (river Ganga) water at Haridwar is full of pollution. There was a time when people used to drink Ganagajal and store it in their house for years. Faith in Ganga was not a myth it was a tested fact, we are talking of a river which is respected by millions across the nation.”The bench said that the note should contain scientific information on ‘what Ganga was’ and ‘what Ganga is’ with regards to quality of the river, its aquatic life, pollution levels, drains, coliform levels and also religious sentiments attached with the river. A total of 14 heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, chromium, cobalt and selenium were found in Ganga water on Haridwar-Kanpur stretch.The tribunal also asked the tannery industries of Kanpur to submit their stand on using recycled water and whether they can shift to another place. “Are you prepared to accept recycled water from CETP (Common Effluent Treatment Plant). You will have to pay for that water; drinking water and borewell cannot be used. Also, what is your view on shifting? What will be your contribution to the CETP, both capital and maintenance wise?,” said justice Kumar. Jajmau is the tannery hub in Kanpur and as per a CPCB report, the fecal coliform is ten times higher than prescribed standards. Of the 764 grossly polluting industries on the Haridwar-Kanpur stretch, 415 are from the tannery sector.ACCORDING TO CPCBWater sample test said that 33 drains release effluents into Ganga on the Haridwar-Kanpur stretch, of which 21 carry domestic sewage and 12 carry industrial and domestic sewage. At Chhoiya drain, water samples tested by CPCB contained arsenic, DDT, chromium and other pesticides. A total of 14 heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, chromium, cobalt and selenium were found in Ganga water on Haridwar-Kanpur stretch.

Land conflict: 32 lakh face severe hardship

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Land conflicts, largely related to infrastructure projects, have impacted an estimated 32 lakh people in the country and land disputes have stalled 5,780 projects as of October 2016, two new reports on land related disputes revealed on Wednesday. One report related to land conflicts and the other one related to land disputes and stalled investments, analysed 289 ongoing land conflicts and found that it covered an area of 12 lakh hectares and were spread across 185 districts of the country.The 5,780 projects stalled are those that were ones announced after 2000. The proportion of stalled projects where the investment is greater than Rs 100 crores is 17 per cent. The reports were prepared by Rights and Resources Initiative, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Bharti Institute of Public Policy. Ground research, government records and the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy were the major sources for the report.As per the report, several districts across Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Uttarakhand have more than 10 stalled projects whose worth is Rs 10,000 crore.

Cash crunch halts Maratha march to Delhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Union government’s move to demonetize Rs500 and Rs1,000 currency notes has put a spanner in the march of Marathas, literally. A silent protest march, planned by the community at Jantar Mantar, on November 20, to support the demand for Maratha reservation in Maharashtra, has been postponed indefinitely. The organisers said following demonetization they are facing serious logistical issues that have impeded their preparations.Given the cash crunch at the moment, a few of the core organisers met late on Monday evening and eventually decided to call off the protest on November 6. “In the wake of demonetization, we are facing a money crunch and that will affect preparations for accommodating people coming to Delhi, payment to vendors who have made publicity material and those providing logistics at Jantar Mantar,” said Pradip Patil, one of the organisers and a goldsmith.Since many of the organisers belong to the goldsmith community, they have also been busy in taking care of their books following demonetization.According to the organisers, a total of Rs8 lakh has already been spent on the protest and they are going to face losses as thousands of t-shirts, caps and flags have been already been made and paid for. Also several banners about the silent march have been put up at Old Rajinder Nagar, Karol Bagh, Chandni Chowk, Paharganj, Daryaganj and Nizamuddin Railway station.The silent march at Jantar Mantar on Sunday was to be attended by nearly 25,000 Marathas residing in Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. “Nearly 10,000 people were to attend the protest from Maharashtra and since everyone is currently facing a problem to withdraw cash, it would have been difficult for them to travel at this time. Providing accommodation was also an issue that we were facing after Centre’s announcement,” said another organiser who did wish to be named.The Maratha community had decided on agitating in Delhi in September as a show of support for the silent protests that took Maharashtra by storm. The silent protests in Maharashtra were triggered following the alleged gruesome gang-rape and murder of a 15-year old Maratha girl in Kopardi, Ahmednagar district. Apart from demanding death penalty for the accused in the case, the community is demanding reservation and amendments in the Atrocities Act.In more than 40 protests, that began in August in Aurangabad, lakhs of people have participated and nearly a third of the protestors are college going girls and women. The rallies being organized in Maharashtra have been unprecedented and unique. Even as lakhs have come out there is no sloganeering, no violence and rallies have been maintained cleanliness too. This has made it difficult for the BJP-led state government to crack down on the protests.

Impact of human activity on extreme weather events on rise

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Anthropogenic climate change had an increased impact on the occurrence of several extreme weather events recorded between 2011-2015, especially those involving extreme high temperatures, a scientific assessment by World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has revealed. According to WMO, the impact of human induced climate change on such events has increased by a factor of 10. Though not all extreme events bear a stamp of anthropogenic climate change, several of them have a direct relation to it while some have an indirect relation, which manifest in increasing its risks.”The influence of climate change on the daily lives of people has been clear due to the multiplication and intensification of extreme events, including heatwaves to record rainfall and damaging floods,” said P.Taalas, Secretary-General, WMO.In India, the 2013 Uttarakhand flood disaster and the 2015 heat wave were the two biggest extreme weather events which killed over 8,000 people, the WMO noted. While the report does not attribute a direct relation between anthropogenic climate change and the Uttarakhand disaster, it has said that the largest human impact has been on rising occurrences of extreme heat, as seen during the 2015 heat wave.The 2015 Indian sub-continent heat wave that killed over 4,000 in India and Pakistan was the worst heat wave globally in the past five years, the report said. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US, assessed 2015, a strong El Niño year, as the world’s driest year over land since 1993″The most consistent influence of anthropogenic climate change has been on the rising occureence of extreme heat varying from a duration of few days to a full year. In some studies, the probability of the observed event has increased 10 times or more as a result of human induced climate change.”The 2015 heatwave, though shorter in duration than previous ones, was more intense and saw temperatures rise to nearly 50 degree Celsius. Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha were the worst hit states. The WMO noted that, “although temperatures near or above 45°C are not uncommon at the that time of year (summer) in many parts of interior India, such temperatures during the 2015 pre-monsoon region in extended to near coastal regions that do not normally experience such extreme heat, including Andhra Pradesh in Eastern India, where the heat was also accompanied by very high humidity.”In terms of casualties, the worst single short-period event of the 2011-2015 period was Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines in November 2013. The death toll for Haiyan (Yolanda) was estimated at over 7,800 people, with 4.1 million people displaced.

Trump cloud looms over main segment of Marrakech talks

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After a week of negotiations, some of them heated, on laying down rules to implement the Paris Climate agreement, the business end of the Marrakech International Climate conference is going to begin November 15, as heads of states and environment ministers will join the conference.Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Anil Dave, is slated to speak at the conference on Wednesday. The high-level segment will proceed under a cloud of uncertainty regarding the Paris deal’s future as Donald Trump, who has publicly called for pulling out of the deal, was elected the next President of the United States of America.In the first week of the conference, which began on November 7, sessions were held to discuss issues such as climate finance, reporting of climate action and accounting of climate finance. The conference will conclude on November 18.According to sources present at the Marrakech conference, the first week has seen differences emerge over funding for adaptation and the mood is gloomy after Donald Trump’s election. Climate adaptation is about taking measures to reduce the adverse impact of climate change, especially in Island countries and coastal towns, which are some of the worst affected due to climate change induced natural calamities and freak weather events.In meetings on adaptation funds, developed countries have hinted that they do not want to continue with this fund, even as it was clearly mentioned in Paris treaty that this fund will continue.”This fund is functioning very well. NABARD is a member and is able to receive money from it. Smaller projects are being funded. But developed countries don’t seem keen on extending that. There were also discussions on loss and damaged mechanism and they did not go in the right direction,” said Harjeet Singh, Global Lead on Climate Change, Action Aid.Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network, South Asia said, “Developed countries want to only take care of mitigation and not adaptation. They do not want to know challenges involved in adaptation. Since the term compensation was dropped from the Paris treaty for loss and damage due to climate change, developed countries do not want to discuss finance issues. But developing countries are fighting hard to keep it on board.”Though no country has put out any official word on scepticism regarding Paris treaty’s future, there is palpable concern that even if Trump does not cancel the Paris agreement, he may push non-implementation. “Theoretically, there is a lock-in period of four years before US is able to pull out of the treaty. Despite the anxiety, countries are not letting it affect the agenda at hand,” added Singh.”The US has committed $3 billion for the Green Climate Fund over the next three years and if Trump decides to not finance it, who will fill the void?, added Vashist.

Delhi pollution: In a first, NGT passes orders to tackle ’emergency’ like situation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a significant order to crack down on air pollution in case of an ’emergency’ like situation, the National Green Tribunal’s chairperson bench has issued specific actions that Delhi and neighbouring states should follow. This is the first time that the NGT or any court issued directions for emergency situations. The directions will be applicable to Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. It has also passed a series of other directions to tackle air pollution.According to the NGT order, whenever pollution of PM10 and PM2.5 (particles smaller than 10 micrometers and 2.5 micrometers diameter) reaches a severe level of 431 and 251 respectively, the following measures should be taken. 1. Helicopters should sprinkle water in the Delhi-NCR region, especially in those areas where pollution levels are in excess of prescribed standard limits.2. States shall immediately provide happy seeders or other such machines in agriculture fields for removal of agriculture residue and incentives should be provided to farmers to sell their paddy straw to biomass plants, industries and board making unit.3. State governments shall issue orders to all companies, plants and public undertakings to discharge CSR responsibilities and collect agriculture residue from farm fields by providing farmers with monetary support and financial incentives.4. In emergency situations, stone crushers should be directed to shut down.5. If thermal power plants, hot mix plants and brick kilns are found to be emitting pollution more than prescribed standards during an emergency situation they should be shut down temporarily till they reduce level of emissions.6. In emergency situations, all construction and demolition activities and transportation of construction material should be halted temporarily.7. Government schools and municipal schools should be provided air purifiers.8. NGT has ordered constitution of an interstate Central committee and also state committees to enforce their orders on vehicular pollution, dust pollution, solid waste burning and paddy straw burning. The Central committee has to prepare an action plan for environmental emergency as well as prevention and control of pollution.9. Each state committee in their first meeting has to notify one district where land use of agriculture is high and make it a model district for implementing orders to stop crop burning.10. All the five state governments have to begin vacuum cleaning of roads to prevent dust pollution and mixing of dust and vehicular pollution. Gradually, states should completely move towards mechanical cleaning of roads.11. NGT also ordered that Delhi should strictly enforce their existing order on deregistering diesel vehicles older than ten years and petrol vehicles older than 15 years. Other states have also been ordered to consider ban on old diesel and petrol vehicles.

Pollution levels back to Diwali days

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It could have been mistaken as an aftermath of an intense dust storm or even a dystopian future. But, on Saturday, Delhi resembled both. The Capital woke up to a sun diminished behind a shroud of acrid air that refused to clear off through the day and evening. While some thought that the worst was behind them after Diwali, air quality was as bad, if not worse, on Saturday.Pollution of particulate matter smaller than 10 (PM10) and 2.5 (PM2.5) micrometers, respectively, soared as the day progressed and touched a peak of 17-18 times above the safe limit.The alarming levels of pollution prompted the Centre to convene another meeting with neighbouring states on Monday. The earlier meeting was on Friday. After the Union Environment Secretary met top officials from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, Environment Minister Anil Dave is now slated to meet Environment Ministers from these states.On Saturday, there was a slight drop in daytime temperatures and still wind exacerbated concentration of pollutants and led to a ‘smoke haze’ condition. According to the Indira Gandhi International Airport’s Met office and the Met department’s regional weather centre, visibility dropped to a low of 200m on Saturday morning, though it was not worse than 50m recorded earlier this week.When visibility is less than 1 km and relative humidity is less than 75%, it is reported as smoke haze or dust haze, depending on the type of pollutants. At Safdarjung, the maximum visibility during the day was 400 m and at Palam it was 700 m.Usually, it has been seen that PM2.5 and PM10 levels peak early morning and reduces gradually. But, on Saturday, particulate matter remained high early morning and soared mid-day, real-time pollution data showed. At Mandir Marg, Punjabi Bagh, RK Puram and Anand Vihar, PM10 levels soared beyond 1000 micrograms/metre cube (ug/m3), reaching a peak of 1,700 ug/m3 at Mandir Marg and Anand Vihar between 2pm and 4pm. This was 17 times the same limit of PM10, 100ug/m3.Similarly, PM2.5 levels peaked mid-day and were 12 times above safe limit. At Mandir Marg, PM 2.5 levels touched 820 ug/m3, while at Punjabi Bagh and RK Puram, it was above 795 ug/m3 and 770 ug/m3, respectively.Many scientific studies have indicated that there is a close, quantitative relationship between exposure to high concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 and increased mortality and disease conditions. PM2.5 poses several health hazards upon inhaling as they are able to penetrate into lungs and enter the bloodstream.It can also cause short-term eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, running nose and shortness of breath. Doctors also claim that exposure to PM 2.5 is associated with increased rates of chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function and increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease. Met officers, though, said that conditions may improve after Monday.”We expect improvement in air quality after Monday as a change in wind pattern will facilitate dispersion of aerosols,” said a Met officer from the Regional Weather Forecasting Centre, Delhi.(With inputs from Neetu Chandra Sharma)

Paris climate agreement kicks in, focus shifts to Morocco

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Days before the upcoming Marrakesh climate change conference in Morocco, the historic Paris climate agreement will enter into force on Friday. Following negotiations, major greenhouse gas emitters such as United States, China and India domestically ratified the Paris agreement. The European Union, comprising 28 members, followed suit. 55 countries representing 55 per cent of global emissions ratified the agreement, thus fulfilling the legal criterion. A total of 94 countries, out of 197 that participated in the agreement, have ratified it, accounting for 66 per cent of global emissions.While the Paris agreement is due to be implemented after 2020, the conference at Marrakesh will be held to decide upon the procedure to implement and fix timelines for scaling efforts in reducing emissions earlier. The rapid enforcement of the Paris agreement will enable countries to hold the first meeting of Parties to the Paris Agreement in Marrakesh, Morocco. This will include only those countries that have already ratified the agreement.Energy transformation, assistance to cope with climate induced disasters and funding for clean technology will be some of the topics of discussion at the conference. “The conference will be about sorting out details to implement the Paris agreement. Issues such as pre-2020 action and green climate fund and rules of implementation will be key. A heated discussion is expected on the green climate fund issue between developed and developing economies,” said Harjeet Singh, International Climate Policy Manager, Action Aid.Developed countries have already released a ‘roadmap’ on the $100 billion per year Green Climate Fund which has copped criticism from developing economies for cases of double accounting and flow of funds.“In Marrakesh, the focus will be on the more finer aspects and procedures. An institutional structure will have to be put in place to take the Paris agreement forward,” said Chandra Bhushan deputy director general, Centre for Science and Environment. There will also be a discussion to review the ‘loss and damage’ mechanism which provides a structure for helping small island countries and other vulnerable ones to deal with climate change impacts by financing them.

Green tribunal admits review plea against Vizhinjam port

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Admitting a review plea against the environment clearance (EC) for Vizhinjam International Sea Port, the chairperson bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued notices to union environment ministry and the Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited, the implementing agency for the project. They have to reply to the green court’s notice in two weeks. The Rs.6,000 crore port is to be built by Adani Ports. Earlier on September 2, the NGT had disposed off the petition challenging the port’s EC and said that the port was crucial for economic development of Kerala and the country. It had also formed a seven member expert body to map the shoreline changes in the port area.The petition’s thrust was to highlight that the port site is an “area of natural beauty” and was accorded protection under the CRZ notification, 1991, and the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Plan (KCZMP). In the review petition filed before the NGT, the petitioners have pointed out contradictions in the court’s two earlier orders in the same matter. The contradictions pertain to what the NGT said about their jurisdiction over subordinate legislations such as the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification. In 2014, the NGT bench had said that it has “complete and comprehensive trappings of a court and within the framework of the provisions of the NGT Act and the NGT can exercise the limited power of judicial review to examine the constitutional validity/vires of the subordinate/delegated legislation.” But, later it said in its September 2 judgement, “Since CRZ notification 2011, is in the nature of delegated subordinate legislation under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, this Tribunal does not have power to question validity of such notification nor add or insert any words in it.” The NGT’s observation in September 2 judgement was in the context of the petitioner’s contention that the amended CRZ notification of 2011 had omitted ‘areas of natural beauty’ from CRZ-I category, thus taking away the protection accorded to such areas. The review petition has also pointed out that the proposed port site, an area of natural beauty, was also accorded protection under the old KCZMP, which is still valid as the new plan is not approved. The NGT’s September 2 judgement came as a relief for Adani Ports and Kerala government as it is touted as a counter to the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka that was built with the help of the Chinese. The port is to be completed in three phases and the Centre has promised a viability gap funding of Rs.800 crore to build the port. The first phase is to come up in 66 hectares of land to be reclaimed from the sea. Adani Ports did not respond to an e-mail query sent by DNA.

Farmers fear the impact of genetically modified mustard

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Gurmukh Singh, 52, from Batala in Gurdaspur owns 12 acres of land of which he grows Mustard on four acres. An organic farmer, he saves seeds from his produce for each sowing cycle. Like his fellow farmers in Batala and many others from different parts of Punjab, Singh is miffed with the Centre. The rush to appraise and clear commercial cultivation of the genetically modified (GM) Mustard has brought him to Jantar Mantar in Delhi on Tuesday, to join hundreds from across the country who are demanding that there should be no commercial cultivation of GM Mustard.”What is this hurry for? We have never had a GM food crop in any field across the country and suddenly they (Centre) want to clear this (GM) Mustard crop. There is no guarantee that it will not harm pollination, honeybees or that it will ensure high yield,” said Singh. Major farm unions such as Bharatiya Kisan Union, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, All India Kisan Sabha and Swadeshi Jagran Manch had joined organizations such as Greenpeace India, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture to reject the proposal to commercially cultivate GM Mustard.The campaign is reminiscent of the one against Bt Brinjal, another genetically modified food crop that was eventually not cleared for commercial cultivation by the United Progressive Alliance.The union environment ministry’s lack of transparency in making crucial documents related to health impact of GM Mustard was another talking point among protesting farmers at Jantar Mantar. Beant Singh, 40, a Mustard farmer from Mehma Sarja, Bathinda said, “Farmers in Punjab were not even aware that confined field trials of GM Mustard were carried out in the state. If the Centre is so confident that the crop will not have any impact on human and animal health, why are they unwilling to make its bio-safety document public.”Farmers from Rajasthan, the country’s top Mustard producing state said there was no way they would allow cultivation of GM Mustard even if the Centre clears it. “We have read and even seen that Bt Cotton farmers are now facing issues regarding pest attacks. Also, how will we save seeds if we start growing a hybrid crop,” said Jagdish Sharma, from Morla, Tonk.Farm union leader Rakesh Tikait of Bharatiya Kisan Union demanded a larger debate on the issue. “The way Centre wants to commercialize this is wrong. There is no discussion, no debate and no transparency. We will not let this happen. Centre should also begin labeling of imported GM products so that people are aware of GM products,” Tikat told DNA.Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11) or GM Mustard was developed by Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants with funding from National Dairy Development Board. It is currently being appraised by the environment ministry’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee. The hybrid’s research was headed by Dr.Deepak Pental, ex-vice-chancellor of Delhi University and director of the Centre for Genetic Manipulation. Pental has claimed that GM Mustard will increased yield by 20-25 per cent and reduce India’s import dependency for edible oil.Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch has staunchly opposed GM Mustard.

New norms for infra in forests

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The union ministry for environment, forest and climate change (MoEF&CC) will soon come out with uniform national policy guidelines on road, railway and other linear projects that pass through wildlife habitats to ensure their speedy clearances and also reduce the impact they have on forests and endangered wildlife.Speaking to DNA, environment minister Anil Dave said, “Yes, there is a policy under process on this issue and we will definitely have uniform guidelines that can be applied across the country.”SS Negi, director general of forests said the policy guidelines, which are under process, will be discussed at length during the on-going ministry conference with state wildlife and forest chiefs. “The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) will present a draft on this issue and also incorporate the views of states,” said Negi. DNA had recently reported that more than 1200 passenger and goods trains pass through sensitive wildlife habitats across the country, posing threat to elephants, tigers and leopards.A ministry note on this issue, while acknowledging that new projects of any kind are avoided within or near wildlife areas, also said that “location specificity or inevitability sometimes warrant appropriate mitigation measures for counter balancing negative impacts on habitat.”Presently, the MoEF&CC recommends ‘mitigation measures’ for linear projects on a case to case basis. Mitigation measures refer to specific conditions stipulated by the environment ministry while clearing linear projects that hamper wildlife habitats. In the case of highway projects, the ministry has in the past asked for building underpasses to ensure smooth movement of animals.The ministry’s move comes in the light of instances where clearances for linear projects got delayed after getting mired in court cases. In the recent past, the MoEF&CC’s National Board for Wildlife cleared the controversial National Highway -7, (NH7) widening project between Maharashtra and Nagpur. The widened highway will cut through the crucial Kanha-Pench tiger corridor. Activists had dragged the road ministry and environment ministry to court on this issue and both had to eventually agree to build overpasses and underpasses on the highway to facilitate movement of animals.The wildlife board also cleared the Sevak Rongpo railway line that will pass through Mahananda wildlife sanctuary. Under the National Democratic Alliance government, the environment ministry has cleared linear projects such as new railway lines, doubling of railway lines, widening of national highways, canals and power transmission lines despite opposition from within the ministry on several occasions.

Coal has a big role to play in fighting climate change: Benjamin Sporton

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A global network of the coal industry, the World Coal Association (WCA) promotes the industry’s relevance to economies and engages countries for sustainable use of the fossil fuel. On the sidelines of its conference in Delhi, WCA’s chief executive Benjamin Sporton spoke to DNA regarding prominence of coal in India’s present and future energy plans and Paris deal. Excerpts from the interview.Your report had mentioned last year that India’s coal consumption is only going to increase. But in the wake of Paris ratification, do you think your assessment will differ?
India, along with 18 other countries actually identified a role for high-efficiency low emission (HELE) coal fired power generation as part of its climate commitments that it made in the lead up to Paris, in their INDC’s. These countries said we are going to use coal, therefore we are going to focus on the role for HELE and help reduce emissions. Quite to the contrary of saying that because of Paris agreement, coal does not have a role to play, I think it makes it clear that it does and that modern, low-emission coal technologies have an important role to play as a part of the Paris agreement.In terms of HELE, in your assessment, do you think Indian companies have moved on that technology on a pace that is ideal. Because not many companies are equipped with super-critical technology.Most of the power plants use the older sub-critical technology. When we look at the power plants planned in the future about half of them will use HELE technology, and the other half will be sub-critical technology. But I know that the government is quite clear in its view that no new power plant should be built unless it is using the high-efficiency technology. So, I think, the clear pathway is to move towards this technology in India and elsewhere in the world. In places like India, they probably need support to make that happen and there is a role of the international community to come in and help with the financing.The world has to come forward and help India to use clean coal technology, how will that pan out? We have already seen that WTO ruled against India in the solar energy case.We should be looking for international mechanism to help India to use coal in the most efficient way possible. One of the things that the World Coal Association has talked about is an idea for a platform to accelerate coal efficiency. The idea is we help the countries with regulatory systems, finance to deploy new technology. I think for those countries that have identified a role for having technology in the climate plan that they submitted in the lead up to Paris, there is a very good argument that we are moving towards CoP 22 in Marrakech.How does WCA come into the picture here?WCA put out this idea last year to accelerate coal efficiency and we ran a workshop in Indonesia. It brought together technology providers, financiers and others to look at a roadmap for a more efficient coal technology and I will like to do a similar thing next year in India. We have been in preliminary talks with Essar, Adani, NTPC, all power generators. We talked to investors too, to get a better picture of how new technologies can be deployed.As far extraction is concerned, obsolete methods are still being used. As an industry body, how will you engage companies here to stop unsafe practices?For WCA members, safety is the number one priority, it is the first thing CEOs and members think about while starting work. A lot of good practices can be shared from our member companies to learn about safety. We have got the two largest Chinese companies as WCA members, and over the last decade we have seen there has been incredible improvement in mine safety in China.

Frequent extreme rain behind rising incidents of floods in 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Nearly 150 events of extremely heavy rainfall of more than 200mm each, occurred during this year’s southwest monsoon between June and September, indicating the high frequency of such events, a post-monsoon report of India Meteorological Department (IMD) revealed. These extremely heavy rainfall events triggered large-scale flooding and flash floods across the country, killing hundreds across the country. India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) categorizes rainfall between 64.5mm and 124.4mm as heavy rain while rainfall between 124.5 mm and 244.4mm is categorized as very heavy rainfall. The extreme rainfall events were concentrated in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, parts of Rajasthan, Konkan region and western Maharashtra. The trend of these events occurring in shorter durations is becoming more frequent and intense, leading to incidents such as the Mahad bridge collapse. In August this year, a colonial era bridge on the Mumbai-Goa bridge national highway collapsed as strong currents in Savitri river flowing beneath it shook its foundations and plunged two transport buses and private vehicles in it, killing over 20. This incident was triggered following intense downpour upstream in Mahabaleshwar, where Savitri river originates. In fact, the data that has come from IMD’s report shows that there were five extremely heavy rain events in the hill-town of Mahabaleshwar between July 29 and August 6. Meteorologists and weather scientists said that many recent studies have indicated that there has been a rise in heavy and extreme rain events in India and even globally. Anthropogenic climate change has been cited as one of the chief reasons behind this rising trend. “With rising temperatures, the water bearing capacity of atmosphere increases and more moisture is drawn from the oceans. The result is sudden precipitation and this phenomenon has been documented globally,” said KJ Ramesh, director-general, IMD.According to IMD’s analysis of rainfall data between 2009 and 2013, Odisha, Konkan, Goa, Coastal Karnataka, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala have all witnessed heavy rainfall days for more than 20 days during the monsoon season. Odisha, Konkan, Coastal Karnataka Sikkim, Assam and Meghalaya recorded an average of 70 heavy rainfall events in that period.“The seasonal monsoon data has also shown that the number of light to moderate rainfall days is declining since 1980’s, compared to the years before that,” added Ramesh.In its report, the IMD has also reflected on its monsoon forecast, that was off-mark. The IMD had predicted that the monsoon will be 106% or above-normal in the June-September period, but the actual monsoon turned out to be 97% or normal. “Prior to June, most of the climate forecasting models were indicating high probability for the development of La Niña during the second half of the monsoon season, which was supposed to favour normal to above normal rainfall over India.However, that did not happen,” the report said. The opposite of El Nino weather phenomenon wherein warmer than usual Pacific waters trigger droughts in South Asia, La Niña usually brings heavy rainfall in South Asia. The report added that with La Niña not developing against the expectation of global El Niño/ La Niña forecast and below normal rainfall during June and August, due to unfavorable phases of intra-seasonal activity, caused the most of the operational forecasts to overestimate to the actual rainfalls.

Threshold noise levels at airports reduced

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The country’s existing busy airports will now have to follow stricter noise pollution norms and airport operators will have to model noise for upcoming airports. The Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has come out with draft noise standards for airports, reducing the existing threshold for noise limits. The draft notification has also issued guidelines on taking into account noise pollution during the time of environment clearances.The revised standards come in the wake of National Green Tribunal’s recent order to monitor noise limits at the Delhi International Airport. Residents of Vasant Kunj, Bijwasan and Indian Spinal Injuries Centre had moved to the NGT alleging noise violations and its impact on health. Following NGT’s orders, civil aviation ministry ordered the country’s busy airports to monitor noise levels.Presently, airports follow the Noise (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, which categorises airports as ‘industrial zones’, where the noise limits are 75 decibels (dB) during the day and 70 dB during the night.But, for existing busy airports such as Mumbai and New Delhi, MoEFCC’s new draft standards has brought down the limits to 70 dB for day and 65 dB for night. For ‘other existing airports and upcoming or new airports’, the standards are 65dB for daytime and 60dB for night time. For airport operations and noise standards, day time is categorised as the period between 6am and 10pm, while night time is categorised between 10pm and 6am. The specified limits exclude the aircraft landing and take-off noise as that breaches the 100dB mark. Aircrafts generate maximum noise during take-offs and landing and the noise levels depend on the kind of engines they use.Experts though said that already, implementation of existing standards is not practical, and even the new standards will be difficult to enforce. “It is difficult to implement these conditions and impose flying restrictions to reduce noise as most commercial flights that land in the night account for valuable business,” said Dr Satish Pande, Director, Ela Foundation and ornithologist. Ela foundation has worked with the Mumbai airport operator GKV to study bird-hits.Besides revising the noise threshold, the ministry’s draft notification has said that new airports should undertake noise modeling and also consult with the Union Ministry of Urban Development to ensure proper land-use planning. “Any upcoming airports noise modeling shall be conducted by airport operators and results should be discussed during environment clearance with MoEFCC to ensure the proper land use planning and controlled developments by MoUD and concerned state development authorities, with regards to residential, institutions and commercial facilities and other sensitive areas in the airport noise zone,” the notification said.The notification has also asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to review the noise standards every three years. Furthermore, all airports will have to make public the noise mapping details of current and future aircraft movement on the websites of Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, MoUD and MoEFCC.In addition to regulation of noise, the notification has advocated for developing sound resistance in buildings and constructions. “Development authorities shall mandate all the building, facilities and projects of residential, hospital and institutional facilities to take noise mitigation measures through proper buildings design and construction and material use.”

NGT puts brakes on DDA’s unified by-laws for Delhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The chairperson bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has put brakes on the implementation of the Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) ‘Unified Building Bye-Laws’ that sought to merge green clearances for constructions in 20,000 sq.m to 1,50,000 sq.m with building approvals. The bye-laws were brought out on the basis of a notification of the union ministry for environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) that exempted building projects in 20,000 sq.m to 1,50,000 from green clearance for ‘ease of business’.DDA’s bye-laws were notified with the prior concurrence of the MoEFCC and even before the ministry’s draft notification the basis of DDA’s bye-laws had come into effect. The environment ministry’s notification and DDA’s subsequent bye-laws had drawn severe criticism from environmentalists, who accused the authorities of diluting environmental processes.The unified bye-laws were challenged before the NGT by non-profit organisation Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity on grounds that the DDA’s bye-laws and environment ministry’s notification were in contravention to the Environment Impact Assessment notification, 2006.The petitioner had also contended that urban local bodies do not possess the technical expertise or knowledge to evaluate environmental impact caused due to the building and construction activities. After hearing the matter from April, the NGT disposed the application in an order that was made public last week. It asked the union environment ministry to consider objections of the applicant. Whereas, the DDA informed NGT that though the unified building bye-laws have been notified, the chapter on environment conditions for sanctioning building plans would not be put into practice till the union environment ministry give its approval and concurrence.DDA’s counsel Rajiv Bansal told DNA, “The unified bye-laws will not be made effective till modalities to implement them are approved by the union environment ministry.”As per the EIA notification, 2006, building and construction projects between 20,000 sq.m to 1,50,000 sq.m are appraised by the State Expert Appraisal Committees, that comprise of technical experts, independent experts and environmental experts. One of the key contentions of the applicant was that union environment ministry had failed to fulfill its statutory responsibilities and was in fact, transferring powers to urban local bodies. This, the petitioner said, creates a situation of conflict of interest as all the powers have been vested with the same authority right from grant of approval to monitoring the compliance.The application also highlighted that the urban bye-laws had not addressed the issues of clearance to constructions that would be situated in sites with endangered ecology and endemic flora and fauna. For instance, in the bye-laws, there is no specific consideration for projects situated in ecologically sensitive areas like national parks, sanctuaries, forests and other protected areas.

How 1,200 trains running through India’s protected areas pose grave danger to its sensitive wildlife

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More than 1,200 passenger and freight trains crisscross through some of the country’s most sensitive wildlife habitat, particularly protected areas and corridors in central and eastern India that are home to critically endangered tigers and elephants amongst other animals, reveal government figures.Highlighting the scale of threat to wildlife and their habitat from the vast Indian Railways network, amongst the largest in the world, information accessed through a Right to Information (RTI) query shows that these trains run multiple times a week, some of them every day.The Mascot quite ironically is Bholu, the guard elephantWhile passenger trains run daily or more than four times a week, the schedule for weekly trains varies from week to week, the data shows.
ALSO READ After NH-7, Gondia-Jabalpur rail line doubling allowed through Kanha-Pench tiger corridorThe Indian Railways – whose mascot quite ironically is Bholu, the guard elephant — is divided into 16 major railway zones. With the exception of a few, several routes cut through wildlife areas without speed restrictions, information from the ministry of environment shows.The heavy traffic takes its toll. According to the environment ministry’s landmark Project Gajah, trains passing through wildlife habitats and corridors killed 150 elephants between 1987 and 2010. Given that many serious accidents have occurred after that, the fatalities may have well crossed 200, environmentalists estimate.
ALSO READ NBWL clears road widening through sanctuary in Kanha-Achanakmar tiger corridorBesides elephants, there is poor documentation of tiger, leopard, bear and even reptile deaths caused by trains.“I am shocked. Remember, we are talking of barely 5 per cent of India – and even these ‘protected’ areas, are heavily stressed with various anthropogenic pressures… We cannot afford to further expand the railway network in PAs (protected areas), and critical wildlife corridors., It has a human cost too, in terms of escalating conflict, economic loss, safety issues,” Prerna Bindra, wildlife conservationist and former member of the National Board for Wildlife’s standing committee, told DNA.​Mapping damage potentialAn analysis of the data on railway routes in wildlife habitats throws up a worrying picture. A bulk of railway traffic is concentrated in wildlife habitats that are already shrinking and facing considerable fragmentation. This includes the central Indian landscape which is considered the most important source of meta-population among tigers, the eastern landscape, which is home to several elephant corridors, the Western Ghats, the Gir lion sanctuary and the east-northeast region of West Bengal and Assam.
ALSO READ Elephant deaths on tracks: Jairam Ramesh to take up matter with railwaysUnder the South East Central Railway (SECR) zone in Central India, seven railway routes run a total length of 166 km. These routes pass close to or skirt the edges of Nagzira, Navegaon and Tadoba tiger reserves in Maharashtra. In Madhya Pradesh, they pass through the Kanha, Pench and Bandhavgarh forest ranges, and even through the Achankmar forest in Chhattisgarh.To get a sense of the fragmentation of wildlife habitat, consider this: tiger populations that have grown in protected areas use the wildlife corridors to disperse to neighbouring habitats. The vast central Indian landscape is connected through major corridors such as Kanha-Pench, Pench-Satpura-Melghat and Kanha to Navegaon-Nagzira-Tadoba-Indravati that are spread across 1,09,400 sq.km. These tiger corridors have been officially mapped by the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Wildlife Institute of India. In fact, of the 227-km Gondia to Jabalpur line, a 77-km section between Balaghat-Nainpur cuts through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor.The other concentration is seen eastwards, under the South Eastern Railway zone spread across West Bengal and Jharkhand, and under the East Coast Railway across Odisha. More than 700 trains pass through wildlife habitats in these states, which also explains the high elephant casualties. These regions are also home to tiger reserves in Palamu in Jharkhand, Buxa in West Bengal and Satkosia and Similipal in Odisha.
It doesn’t end here In March this year, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) cleared the conversion of the 227-km Gondia-Jabalpur line between Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh from narrow gauge to broad gauge. The Indian Railways has also approved expansion of the 156 km Sambalpur-Angul railway line in Odisha that already fragments the Satkosia-Ushakoti-Badrama tiger and elephant landscape. Additionally, the National Board for Wildlife has cleared the new Sevok Rongpo new broad gauge line in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri under the North-Frontier Railway.According to experts, while wildlife deaths are a symptom of the threat posed by railway tracks, the larger worry is the lack of safeguards and increasing fragmentation of rich forests and wildlife habitats.“No new roads or railways projects have any consideration for wildlife. The saddest part of the development is that we are willing to spend thousands of crores on infrastructure projects but not a fraction of them on underpasses and overpasses for wildlife. Even the NBWL does not have the guts to object,” said P.K. Sen, former head of Project Tiger.

MoEF issues notices to top gutkha, pan masala companies for use of plastic in sachets

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cracking down on 20 top gutka and pan masala companies for non-compliance of Supreme Court orders and Plastic Waste Management Rules, (PWM) 2016, the environment ministry has issued notices to them, directing them to prohibit use of plastic in packaging their products. The ministry’s directions, reviewed by dna, has asked manufacturers of Gurkha, Tobacco and Pan Masala to immediately stop using plastic material in any form to follow strict compliance of Supreme Court’s directions and provisions of PWM Rules. Under Rule 4(f) of the PWM Rules, 2016, plastic material is not to be used for sachets that store, pack and sell gutka, tobacco and pan masala.”The brand owners of the units manufacturing gutka, tobacco and pan masala shall have the overall responsibility for implementation of these directions. The compliance report for the aforesaid directions and the provisions of the rules shall be submitted to the ministry within 30 days,” the ministry’s directions said. The union environment ministry can issue directions under section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, for closure. Prohibition or regulation of any industry, operation or process or for stoppage and regulation of the supply of electricity or water or any other service.The ministry has issued these directions to top gutka, tobacco and Pan Masala manufacturing companies such as Vimal Pan Masala, Dharampal Satyapal Group, Rajshree Pan Masala, Manickchand Pan Masala, Pan Parag and Goa Pan Masala.In a 2010 order, the Supreme Court had restrained manufacturers of gutka, tobacco and pan masala from using plastic material in sachets of gutka, tobacco and pan masala. These orders were not followed and later, in 2011, a contempt petition was filed regarding disobedience of Supreme Court’s orders on use of plastic in gutka industry. The SC had then directed the environment ministry and other concerned agencies to ensure implementation of the its orders by all manufacturers across the country.

Cabinet clears ratification of Paris climate deal, opposes capping emissions from aviation sector

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared ratification of the historic Paris climate agreement fulfilling the first and most important domestic step in ratification of the deal. The cabinet approval comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Kozhikode on Sunday that India will ratify the deal on Gandhi Jayanti, October 2.Briefing the press here on Wednesday union minister for human resources and development Prakash Javadekar said, “India has been a big player in climate negotiations and with the ratification, India will be playing decisive part in bring the Paris agreement into force. India’s push will help the deal’s ratification soon and it will become irreversible course of action for humankind. It is a common resolve to keep the temperature rise below two degree Celsius.”The Paris deal will come into effect in post-2020 and will be enforced after at least 55 countries, that contribute to 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, officially ratify it. So far, 61 countries, accounting for 48% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have ratified the deal. With India ratifying the deal on October 2, the numbers will go up to 51% as India accounts for 4.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, pushing the Paris deal closer to coming into effect. The European Union, which accounts for 12.10% of global greenhouse gas emissions is expected to join the deal in the first week of October, taking the Paris deal beyond the 55% global emissions threshold.Following cabinet clearance, India will now have to deposit the legal instrument of ratification at the United Nations Headquarters legally join the deal. “Since October 2 is a Sunday, we have already requested the United Nations to keep its office open so that we can complete the remaining legal procedures,” Javadekar added.India’s decision to ratify the Paris deal before the next UN climate change conference in Marrakech, Morocco, was a climb down from its earlier stand where it had indicated that it will not join the deal before 2016. It had hedged ratification of the deal to leverage a seat in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. But, with strong indications that the European Union is set to join the deal in October, India seems to have changed its position to avoid getting left behind in the deal’s ratification on time. When dna asked Javadekar about the change in India’s stance, he said, “We had never declared a specific date for ratification of the Paris deal.”During Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, it was also decided that India will oppose the International Civil Aviation Oragnization (ICAO)’s proposal for carbon emission tax on the civil aviation sector. The ICAO is currently meeting in Montreal to reach a deal on capping emissions from the aviation sector. “During the Brazil, South Africa, India, China (BASIC) meeting earlier this year, we had reached a conclusion being developing economies, capping emissions from the aviation sector won’t be appropriate.” The global aviation industry accounts for 2% of carbon emissions globally.

Cabinet approves ratification of Paris climate deal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared the historic Paris climate agreement fulfilling the first step in ratification of the deal. The cabinet approval comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Kozhikode on Sunday that India will ratify the deal on Gandhi Jayanti, October 2.Briefing the press, union minister for human resources and development Prakash Javadekar said, “India has been a big player in climate negotiations and by ratifying the Paris deal we have played a decisive part in bringing the historic deal into effect.” Following cabinet clearance, India will now have to deposit the legal instrument of ratification at the United Nations headquarters to legally join the deal.”Since October 2 is a Sunday, we have already requested the United Nations to keep its office open so that we can complete the remaining legal procedures,” Javadekar added.The Paris deal will come into effect in 2020 and will be enforced after at least 55 countries, which contribute to 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, officially ratify it. So far, 61 countries, accounting for 48% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have ratified the deal. With India ratifying the deal on October 2, numbers will go up to 51% as India accounts for 4.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. India has declared that it will scale up share of its non- fossil fuels in its energy to 40%.India’s decision to ratify the Paris deal before the next UN climate change conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, was a climb down from its earlier stand where it had indicated to not join the deal before 2016. It had hedged ratification of the deal to leverage a seat in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. But, with strong indications that the European Union is set to join the deal in October, India seems to have changed its position to join the deal to become a part of those countries who helped to bring the deal into force.When dna asked Javadekar about the change in India’s stance, he said, “We had never declared a specific date for ratification of the Paris deal.”

India will ratify Paris climate deal on October 2: Narendra Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his speech at the BJP council meet in Kozhikode on Sunday, said India will ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change on October 2. “India will ratify the decision on October 2 – the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.” The announcement comes as a surprise as earlier in September, during the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, India had signalled that it may not ratify the climate deal before 2016 due to “domestic processes”.During the Paris climate conference in 2015, India committed to scale up its non-fossil fuel share to 40% and aimed to reduce emission intensity or emission per unit of gross domestic product by 33-35% by 2030. With Modi’s announcement, India, the world’s 4th largest emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for 4.1% of global emissions, is now set to join the US, China and Brazil in ratifying the deal.The Paris deal will come into effect in 2020 and will be enforced after at least 55 countries, which contribute to 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, officially ratify it. So far, 61 countries, accounting for 48% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have ratified the deal. The European Union, South Africa, Australia and Japan are yet to ratify the deal. Sources said the EU is likely to take a final call on the ratification date in the first week of October.While several countries require the approval of the executive and Parliament for ratifying international agreements or treaties, in India, the power lies solely with the executive. An approval from the Union cabinet will seal the deal on the Paris agreement. Once the cabinet approves it, India will have to physically deposit the instrument of ratification to legally join the Paris agreement.Following PM Modi’s announcement, environment, forest and climate change minister Anil Dave said, “India will stand by the commitments made in Paris and we are taking a big step in that direction by deciding to ratify the Paris deal. If globally temperatures rise above the 2 degree-Celsius mark, island countries like Tuvalu will be the first to submerge. PM Modi has made this decision keeping in mind the aspirations and welfare of the country and its people,” said Dave.Commentators lauded India’s decision to join the deal in 2016. “The decision will reflect well on India’s leadership in the global climate negotiations,” said Harjeet Singh, International Climate Policy Manager, ActionAid.India aims to reduce emission intensity or emission per unit of gross domestic product by 33-35% by 2030, from the 2005 levels. Ahead of the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, India had committed to reduce its emissions intensity by 20-25%, and the environment ministry said that it has already achieved a 12% reduction.In 2015, India announced a paradigm shift in its renewable energy production targets and decided to scale up the target of renewable energy capacity to 175 GW by 2022. Of this, 100 GW would come from solar energy, 60GW from wind energy, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro-power.India signed the Paris agreement on April 22 along with 170 other countries.The Indian government had hinted that it will use the ratification of Paris deal as leverage for membership in the exclusive Nuclear Suppliers Group. In NSG meeting in June, China snubbed India’s chances to get a seat in NSG.During the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, US and China jointly announced the ratification of the Paris deal. But, India did not follow suit.Russia (7.5% of global emissions), Japan (3.79%), and Germany (2.56%) are yet to join the deal.President Barack Obama ratified the deal through an executive order using the sole-executive agreement instead of getting it passed through Congress. But, if Donald Trump, who is a climate change denier, is voted to power, he can revoke US’ ratification of the deal.

NBWL clears road widening through sanctuary in Kanha-Achanakmar tiger corridor

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a move that is likely to see opposition from wildlife conservationists, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has cleared widening of a 14km stretch of state highway in Chhattisgarh that will cut through 20 hectares of the Bhoramdeo wildlife sanctuary, which also happens to be an integral part of the Kanha-Achanakmar tiger corridor. The road will pass through the Chilphi-Rengakhar-Salhewara stretch. The road widening proposal was earlier referred to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) as per Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 to seek their comments on the project’s impact.NTCA, in consultation with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and state officials had opposed the road widening and had in fact recommended to the ministry that the proposal should be rejected. But, during the NBWL’s last meeting, the Chief Wildlife Warden, Chhattisgarh said that the road widening and upgradation is important in view of left wing extremism and rural connectivity. According to the minutes of the meeting, WII director VB Mathur said that the widening will increase traffic, leading to adverse impacts on tiger and dispersal of other wildlife. It was also pointed out that the National Highway 12A runs parallel to the proposed road beyond the Bhoramdeo sanctuary.Despite the opposition from NTCA, the NBWL decided that that proposal should be cleared, subject to mitigation measures, which primarily includes building of under passes for movement of wildlife. The wildlife officials from Chattisgarh cited the precedence of the National Highway-7 case, which, too, was cleared by NBWL after National Highway Authority of India was pressured to build underpasses and overpasses for tigers moving in the Kanha-Pench corridor. It was decided that 10 under passes and related structures should be built for passage of wildlife, especially tigers.The Bhoramdeo wildlife sanctuary in Kawardha close to the Chhattisgarh-Madhya Pradesh is one of the crucial link in the Kanha-Achanakmar tiger corridors and has been deemed as vital by NTCA itself. According to studies, the sanctuary is reportedly home to four tigers, though it is not yet clear if use it as their home territory. “Kanha-Pench-Achanakmar is like one landscape with a single meta population of tigers ital for genetic exchange. Forest corridors protect wildlife against vagaries of nature and anthropogenic pressures. When tiger numbers grow, they need more territory and these corridors come to their aid to move out. Since Bhoramdeo is abutting the Kanha tiger reserve, it is vital for wildlife,” said Jyotirmoy Jena, wildlife biologist, World Wildlife Fund.

After Ken-Betwa river project, concerns raised over upcoming power plant near Panna tiger reserve

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even as concerns have been raised about the ecological impact of Ken-Betwa river linking project, an expert panel of the union environment ministry has flagged concerns about the impact of National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC) Barethi power plant project on forests around Panna tiger reserve and the Khajuraho UNESCO heritage site, Madhya Pradesh. The Rs 18,000 crore Barethi super thermal power project’s Stage-I is up for appraisal before the ministry’s expert panel on thermal projects for environmental clearance. The project proposes to set up 4x660MW of thermal power plants in Chattarpur district, Madhya Pradesh. The ministry’s expert panel has deferred recommending the project for clearance as it is not satisfied with pending issues related to environmental protection, emissions from the power plant and the impact of the project on Ken River. While deferring the project, the panel stated clearly that the project’s stage-II is not feasible. “Considering the ecological sensitivity of the area, the expert appraisal committee recommended that no further thermal expansion of the project may be permitted in future at the site.” It added, “NTPC shall study the feasibility of installation of non-conventional power plants in the area meant for Stage-II within six months and approach the ministry.” Since the project lies at the distance of 12kms from the Panna Tiger Reserve, the expert panel had asked NTPC to seek recommendation or comments from the National Board for Wildlife. But, NBWL only appraises projects that are in close vicinity of national parks or sanctuaries or are in a radius of 10-km from a protected area. The member secretary of the expert panel thus informed that NBWL’s permission won’t be required.
ALSO READ A trip to the Panna Tiger Reserve The panel had also said that emissions from the plant may harm the red stone used in Khajuraho. But, as per an impact study by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute on this issue, it was concluded that the project will not have any adverse impact on the Khajuraho temple, which is located 23.8 kms from the project site.

Monsoon heading for a ‘normal’ performance: IMD

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The country’s long-period monsoon rainfall for the June to September period is heading for a ‘normal’ performance, in contrast to India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) annual forecast, said KJ Ramesh, director-general, IMD, on Monday. In April this year, IMD, the country’s state-run weather forecasting agency had said that the country is likely to receive above-normal rainfall, with a quantitative forecast of 106 per cent and an error margin of +/- 5. But, with just ten days before monsoon comes to a close, the countrywide monsoon deficit stands at 5 per cent.”Our assessment shows that long-period monsoon rainfall is likely to be in the normal range. One more spell of monsoon rainfall is likely to occur across Odisha, Jharkhand and neighbouring regions due to a low-pressure area,” said Ramesh. The IMD categorizes rainfall in the 96-104% long-period average range as normal and rainfall between 104-110% of LPA as above normal.Ramesh added that the neutral condition of La Nina weather phenomenon resulted in subdued rainfall during August. “As per our forecast, the La Nina weather phenomenon was going to strengthen at the end of August, resulting in excess rainfall during September. But, La Nina remained neutral and we witnessed a lean phase in August,” added Ramesh.The opposite of El Nino weather phenomenon wherein warmer than usual Pacific waters trigger droughts in south Asia, La Nina usually brings heavy rainfall in South Asia. According to IMD, Kerala, Coastal Karnataka, Central and Eastern Gujarat, parts of Assam and Uttar Pradesh have received below normal rainfall.

Cauvery committee asks Karnataka to release 3,000 cusecs water daily from Sept 21 to Sep 30

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Under the Supreme Court’s mandate, the Cauvery Supervisory Committee (CSC) on Monday directed Karnataka to release 3,000 cusecs of water daily from its reservoirs to Tamil Nadu from September 21 to September 30. The CSC meeting was chaired by Shashi Shekhar, secretary, Ministry of Water Resources and included top bureaucrats from both states as well as top officials from the Central Water Commission.Shashi Shekhar said that there was in-depth discussion on the claims of both states and Karnataka’s officials vehemently opposed release of water owing to the shortage of drinking water. “There was no consensus during the meeting, but as per SC’s mandate, taking into account interest of both parties, the rainfall deficiency, daily inflow, drinking water requirements and needs of summer crops in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka was directed to release 3,000 cusecs of water,” said Shekhar.Monday’s meeting was convened exactly a week after the CSC met on the request of Tamil Nadu. During the meeting last week, both states were asked to provide comprehensive data of the last 29 years on rainfall, flow of river and abstraction of water to arrive at a decision on scientific information.Even as the CSC has ordered release of 3,000 cusecs of water, Karnataka is not in agreement with the decision. The state government has the option of appealing against CSC’s order as it is not a judicial pronouncement. While CSC has directed release of water between September 21 and September 30, SC had ordered September 12 that Karnataka should release 12,000 cusecs of water till September 20.Shekhar added that during scrutiny of last month’s rainfall data, it was known that rainfall is 65 per cent below normal in the Cauvery basin. Further, for a long-term solution to the water sharing dispute, both states agreed that a real-time water level monitoring system should be devised. “Our proposal for real-time monitoring of rainfall, water flow and use was acceptable to both states. Central Water Commission will prepare proposal for this system which will be taken up for approval in the next meeting in October. Also, the CSC has decided to meet every month from February onwards,” added Shekhar.Following SC’s September 5 order directing Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu, the state witnessed rasta roko’s, arson, violence and targeting of vehicles and also individuals hailing from Tamil Nadu. The protests also saw death of two persons in Bengaluru during police firing.

Bihar: Enormous discharge of water into Sone, Ganga, leads to worst flood since 1975

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A sudden discharge of 11.67 lakh cusecs (cubic foot per second) of water into Sone river from Indrapuri barrage in Rohtas district triggered one of the worst floods in Patna since 1975 and also affected ten other districts of Bihar that are situated on the banks of river Ganga, killing 13 people, authorities from the state said. The Sone river is a right bank tributary of river Ganga and the two meet in Maner, Patna district. Along with Patna, Bhagalpur, Buxar, Vaishali, Samastipur, Khagaria, Bhojpur, Begusarai, Lakhi Sarai, Munger and Katihar districts were affected. Nine deaths were reported from Bhojpur, while two each were reported from Bhagalpur and Vaishali, the state disaster management authority said.The enormous discharge of water in Bihar marooned nearly 50,000 people in Patna alone and 10,000 had to rescued as water from Ganga rose above the danger mark and entered homes, residential colonies and buildings situated on the riverbank. Early on Sunday morning, the Ganga was flowng at Dighaghat in Patna at 52.12 m while the Sone was flowing at 53.7 m in Maner. Besides Sone and Ganga, Burhi Gandak and Kosi are in spate at Khagaria and Balsara and Kulsera respectively, officials saidOfficials from the Bihar disaster management authority said that water had to be released from Indrapuri barrage as Madhya Pradesh opened the gates of Bansagar Dam while Uttar Pradesh discharged excess water from Rihand dam, following incessant rains. The hevay rainfall in MP killed 7 people while in Uttar Pradesh, 11 were killed as mud houses collapsed after heavy rainfall and floods have affected people in 23 districts.”Water had to be discharged from the Indrapuri barrage and that caused a spate in Sone and Ganga. This is certainly a situation that has not been seen in a long time. We have alerted the Army and Air Force to be on standby and will use their help if the situation worsens,” said Vyasji, principal secretary, disaster management department, Bihar.As of now, five teams of National Disaster Response Force and six teams of State Disaster Response Force have been deployed. The state has also put 1,000 country boats into action to add to the inflatable boats used by NDRF and SDRF.NDRF has been deployed National and State Disaster Response Force have already been deployed in the affected districts, Kumar said and added that apart from taking help of big boats meant to ferry sand to evacuate people and animals, the government has made all preparations to airlift the people if needed. Besides, Army has been put on alert to help the people out from the flood affected areas, Chief minister Nitish Kumar added. “We want to assure the people that we are alert… People should not get panicky and should tackle the situation bravely,” Nitish said adding that government is taking every necessary step to provide relief to the people as “victims of disaster have the first right on state’s coffers.”Ganga crosses danger mark in UPLucknow: A swollen Ganga was flowing above the danger mark in Uttar Pradesh while Yamuna too was flowing above red mark in the state. According to Centre Water Commission (CWC), Ganga is flowing above danger mark at Fafamau (Allahabad), Mirzapur, Varanasi, Ghazipur and Ballia while Yamuna is flowing above the red mark at Chillaghat (Banda) and Naini (Allahabad) and Mohna (Jalaun). Similarly, Sharda river is flowing above the danger mark at Palliakalan (Kheri). However, in eastern UP the weather was dry even as light to moderate rains occurred at isolated places. According to the MET office, chief amount of rainfall recorded was – Saharanpur -5 cm, Moradabad ans DEOBAND – 2cm each, Meerut and Thakurdwara – 1cm each. Rain or thunder shower are expected at isolated places over eastern UP.Fifty families affected by land sinking in AizawlAt least 50 families were on Sunday affected due to sinking of land following rain in Hunthar locality here, Disaster Management and Rehabilitation Director C Lalpeksanga said on Sunday. Many displaced families were living with relatives, while temporary accommodations were made for others in government buildings, Lalpeksanga said. Sinking of land occurred after downpour in the city for several days which also severely affected the road linking the lone Lengpui Airport, he said. Experts from the Geological Survey of India (GSI) in Shillong would be arriving in Aizawl on Monday to conduct a detailed study of the area, he said. In another incident, two houses collapsed in a landslide at Kepran n Aizawl district on Friday.

June ends with 11% rain deficit

In its first month, monsoon rainfall deficit in the country stands at 11 per cent below the long period average and the monsoon is now set to advance over Delhi-NCR, Haryana, Punjab and in the hill-states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. This year, the monsoon arrived in Kerala on June 8, a week later than usual and the delay had a domino effect on its subsequent progress, Met officials said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As per the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) extended fortnightly forecast, above normal rainfall is likely over north India during first week of July and over central India and western parts of the country during second week of July. The western coast, too, will receive above normal rainfall till July 10. In its second long-range forecast issued earlier this month, IMD had said that the monsoon will be bountiful in July at 107 per cent of the long-period average and even in the later months due to the La Nina weather phenomenon.Met officials said that the monsoon advanced in three phases since its onset. In the first phase, the it covered much of Kerala and the southern peninsula. In the second phase it covered parts of the western coast, up to Karwar.But, a lull in activity over the Arabian Sea halted the monsoon’s progress for a few days. Even as the Arabian Sea branch saw a lull, the Bay of Bengal branch brought significant rainfall to central India, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.”In the last week of June, monsoon picked up strength over the Arabian Sea and advanced speedily. Now, the conditions are favourable for monsoon’s advance over the remaining states,” said Sunitha Devi, director, weather section, IMD, Pune.According to IMD data, with 1213.8 mm rains, Goa has recorded maximum rainfall in June, followed by Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. The least rainfall has happened in Gujarat, which has recorded a mere 30mm rains. During the last week of June, the southwest monsoon advanced into south Gujarat, west Madhya Pradesh, east Uttar Pradesh and some parts of east Rajasthan.

Add four sanctuaries and extra buffer area to Panna, green ministry panel on Ken-Betwa

Addition of four satellite core areas, 8000 hectares of extra buffer area adjacent to the Panna Tiger Reserve, a possible reduction in the height of the Daudhan dam and an environment management plan of Rs.5073 crore are the chief mitigation plans the union environment ministry has put forth in the case of Ken-Betwa river linking project. An expert panel of the union environment ministry on river valley and hydroelectric projects had taken up Ken-Betwa’s proposal for environment clearance earlier this month and deferred it as issues pertaining to hydrology and wildlife remain unresolved.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Rs.10,000 crore project proposes to link Ken river in Madhya Pradesh to Betwa river in Uttar Pradesh to provide water for irrigation in parched Bundelkhand. Environmentalists have opposed the project on the premise that it will hamper Panna’s tiger population, a tiger reserve where the big cat had vanished in the past decade.According to detailed minutes of the meeting, the committee discussed at length recommendations of an expert committee who had visited Panna Tiger Reserve to assess the river-linking’s potential impact on wildlife and forests.The committee, formed on the directions of National Board for Wildlife, was comprised of government officials and independent wildlife experts. The expert committee, while recommending mitigation measures has played down the project’s impact on wildlife.This committee has recommended that four satellite core areas should be developed consisting of two wildlife sanctuaries each from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh has agreed in principle for inclusion of above Ranipur and Mahavir Swami sanctuaries while Madhya Pradesh is considering inclusion of Nauradehi and Rani Durgawati sanctuaries.The expert committee has also said that the Panna Tiger Reserve is facing acute shortage of water and due to creation of reservoir, its water regime will improve to a great extent. The expert committee though has not made any observation and remarks regarding the submergence of tiger habitat or impact of dam construction on Panna’s forest. It also goes on to say that the “construction of (Daudhan) dam will help Ken Ghariyal sanctuary situated in the downstream because of more ecological flow of water round the year from this dam.”After deliberations on the expert committee’s recommendations, the ministry’s expert committee asked the Wildlife Institute of India to expedite preparation of a landscape management plan. The committee also suggested that National Water Development Agency should consider dropping hydro-power generation component from the project. The project comprises of two powerhouses of 3x30MW and 3x36MW.

MoEF panel wanted Mumbai CRZ-II rules watered down

The Shailesh Nayak committee, that was asked to review Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification – 2011, has recommended a host of dilutions and relaxations in the coastal protection legislation in its report submitted last year. The recommendations, if accepted by the union environment ministry, will unlock a real-estate boom on the city’s coast and may have a far-reaching impact on its coastal ecology.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The six-member committee, which was formed in 2014, has prepared a fresh draft CRZ notification and recommended that the 2011 version be scrapped. It has recommended that in Mumbai, real estate development should be allowed in CRZ-II areas as per the city’s Development Control Rules and the restrictions on Floor Space Index (FSI), imposed as per the 2011 notification, should be done away with.It also says that for slum rehabilitation and redevelopment of cessed and dilapidated buildings, the state government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) can follow the Town and Country Planning Regulations and the FSI and Floor Space Ratio, that was frozen as on January 2011, can be relaxed.The committee’s recommendations will be in line with the demands of the real-estate sector in Mumbai that has been seeking relaxations in CRZ notification for several years now. The recommendations are also in tune with the requests BMC made to the committee and similar proposals have been included in the city’s new Development Plan 2034. The move to relax CRZ norms for development has been severely opposed by city environmentalists over the years, fearing the loss of more open spaces and ecology.According to the committee’s report, the BMC has requested for insertion of a clause in the draft notification which allowed to apply uniform Development Control Rules for entire Mumbai. “With regard to CRZ-II areas, the zone defined as already developed and with infrastructure should become integral part of development/redevelopment as envisaged in the Town and Country Planning Regulations as brought out from time to time. In this regard, the land use zoning and the FSI should be decided as per the current needs and not tied down to 1967 Rules,” the report said.The union environment ministry, which has not accepted the report yet, released it last week only after Kanchi Kohli of Centre for Policy Research – Namati moved the Central Information Commission with a second appeal after her Right to Information request was denied by the ministry. The CIC, in April, had ordered the ministry to release the report within three weeks. “When the government is thinking of taking big decisions to allow real-estate development near the sea, it is important that the citizens of the city get an opportunity to discuss these issues,” Kohli had said.During the review of the notification, the committee met with government representatives from Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Goa and Kerala to discuss their reservations against implementation of CRZ notification. One of the other major recommendations of the committee is for allowing state governments to clear projects that do not require environment clearance.If revamped, the new CRZ notification will supersede the 2011 notification prepared under the United Progressive Alliance when Jairam Ramesh was the environment minister. The 2011 notification was prepared after a committee headed by scientist MS Swaminathan submitted its report in July 2010.

Activists set to move Supreme Court seeking quashing of order to cull animals

Seeking to quash the orders of the Union environment ministry and state governments of Bihar, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh on culling of animals, activists are set to move Supreme Court against it. Just last week, Union cabinet colleagues Maneka Gandhi and Prakash Javadekar were involved in a war of words on the environment ministry’s decision to declare Rhesus Macaque monkeys as vermins in Himachal Pradesh for a year, allowing to kill them for damaging crops and property. The ministry has already allowed culling of nilgai and wild boars in Uttarakhand and Bihar while proposals from Gujarat and Maharashtra are pending.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Now, based on official documents and proposals sent to the Centre by the three states, activists said that no scientific study was done before allowing culling of animals, in contravention of the environment ministry’s own advisory dated December 24, 2014. The ministry’s 2014 advisory, encouraged state governments to seek central assistance in declaring wild animals such as Nilgai and wild boars as vermins. But, it had asked states to also specify the scientific basis for seeking vermin status for animals, in their proposals, which is found to be missing.”While our fundamental opposition is permission to cull animals for which we will move court, it has also come to light that state proposals were inadequate and lacking in data on crop damage, population studies and specific areas where the problem is acute. In the Uttarakhand proposal, senior officials have admitted themselves that no study or survey has been done,” said Gauri Maulekhi, an animal rights activist. State proposals and related documents reviewed by dna confirmed Maulekhi’s claims.With the exception of Himachal Pradesh, who have provided some details on compensation paid to farmers, Uttarakhand and Bihar’s proposals find no mention of crop damage and monetary losses incurred. In fact, the Bihar wildlife board helmed by chief minister Nitish Kumar cleared the proposal to kill nilgai’s and boars without any deliberation during the meeting, minutes show.Maulekhi added that monoculture, encroachment of forest land, unregulated tourism, reduction of buffer zones and consequent fragmentation, mining and blasting are some of the key reasons for the rise in human-animal conflict, and these issues will be raised in court. “When the herbivores and smaller mammals don’t have water to drink and adequate vegetation to feed on, they are bound to stray into human habitations,” Maulekhi said.

MoEF declares monkeys as vermin in Himachal, Maneka Gandhi slams decision

The Union ministry of environment and forest came under fire on Thursday over its decision to declare Rhesus Macaque monkeys as ‘vermin’ in ten districts of Himachal Pradesh, as it has caused loss to property and croplands. This will allow the state to kill them without special permissions. Leading the charge against minister for environment and forests Prakash Javadekar was his cabinet colleague Maneka Gandhi, who is also an animal rights activist.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>However, Himachal Pradesh will not be able to implement the order immediately as a matter on this issue is pending in the high court, said officials from the state’s forest department. The high court has stayed killing of monkeys.The ministry’s decision has drawn intense criticism from environmentalists for granting similar permissions in Bihar, Uttarakhand to kill nilgai and wild boar. Maneka came down heavily on Javadekar for permitting culling of animals and termed it “lust for killing”. She said the environment ministry waswriting to every state government, allowing them to provide a list of animals that can be killed so that the Centre can give permission.”This is happening for the first time. I don’t understand this lust for killing of animals,” she said.Maneka said that the ministry is giving permissions to kill animals such as monkeys in Himachal Pradesh and peacocks in Goa while wild boars are being killed in Chandrapur. Maneka also added that the environment ministry’s wildlife department is not in favour of killing animals.The ministry has also taken this decision at a time when they have sent a proposal to the agriculture ministry for insuring farmers against damages caused by elephant raids. In 2014-15, state and central agencies paid Rs34.5 crore compensation to farmers for crop damages caused by elephants.In response to the criticism against its decision, the environment and forest ministry issued a statement to defend the move and claimed that they have given permission for “scientific management” of the animals for a limited period of time in specific areas in Uttarakhand, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh. It said that blue bulls and wild boars were declared vermins after the ministry received complaints from members of Parliament, state governments and farmers on the crop damage they caused in certain parts of the country.”Nothing has been done beyond the procedure prescribed by law. As per the provision of law, if there are complaints about the wildlife conflict, thenthe state government has to submit the proposal. Till date, five states have submitted the proposal. Proposals of Maharashtra and Gujarat are still being examined,” said SK Khanduri, inspector general of wildlife, ministry of environment, forests and climate change.Officials of the Himachal Pradesh forest department told dna that it had sent a proposal to declare Rhesus Macaque as vermin in February this year. According to estimates, monkeys have caused damage to the tune of nearly Rs160 crore in the year 2013-14. Hamirpur, Kangra and Mandi are the districts most affected, forest officials said.—With agency inputs

Monsoon arrives in country a week after normal onset

The long-awaited Southwest monsoon, that feeds much of India’s farms and is a big driver of the economy, has officially arrived in Kerala and parts of Tamil Nadu, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Wednesday.Arriving eight days after the usual onset date of June 1, this year’s onset is the most delayed one since 2003, Met officials told dna. IMD officially announced monsoon’s arrival on Wednesday as prevailing weather has fulfilled the three conditions of rainfall across 14 stations of Kerala and coastal Karnataka, strong westerlies and outgoing longwave radiation.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The south westerly flow over southern Arabian Sea both deepened and strengthened. As a result, the cloudiness and rainfall has increased over Kerala, Karnataka and Lakshadweep. Among the 14 stations, more than 60 per cent have received widespread rainfall on June 7 and 8,” said Sunitha Devi, director, weather section, IMD Pune. Along with much of Kerala’s coast, the monsoon has also advanced over parts of Tamil Nadu and south interior Karnataka. It is expected to make a speedy progress to remaining parts of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, coastal Karnataka and some parts of south Andhra Pradesh.It is likely to arrive in Maharashtra in another 4-5 days while it will advance over Northern plains, including Delhi-NCR at the end of June or early July. The monsoon’s arrival has been long-awaited as the IMD has forecasted an above-normal and extended monsoon for this year, for the months of June-September. This comes on the back of successive below-par monsoon years. In 2015, the country also experienced one of the strongest El Niño’s in two decades that led to a monsoon deficit of 14.3 per cent and subsequently, a severe drought that affected 25 per cent of the country’s population.This year, IMD has also said that La Niña, a weather phenomenon marked by colder than Pacific waters, will result in an extended monsoon and the latter half, from August to September will see heavier rainfall. While the IMD, the country’s official weather forecasting department, announced monsoon’s onset on Wednesday, private weather forecaster Skymet Weather Services differed.It’s Chief Executive Officer Jatin Singh said on its website that the monsoon had arrived between May 28 and May 30. “The onset of monsoon, just like its other aspects, is a complex phenomenon involving extensive research. Generally, monsoon is declared after May 25. In fact, monsoon can be declared any time post May 10 and looking at its further progress can be withdrawn as well.”

Modi in US: India-United States announce joint clean energy finance, pledge to ratify Paris deal

India and the United States have agreed to ratify the historic Paris Agreement that was achieved last December and have said in a joint statement that recognising the urgency of climate change, they “share the goal of enabling entry into force of the Paris Agreement as early as possible.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a visit of the US and met with President Barack Obama to discuss key bilateral issues such as clean energy, defence partnerships and security.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>During its briefing on the Obama and Modi meet, the US side had said that India agreed to ratify the Paris deal in 2016, but sources from the Indian contingent said it is not correct. “We agreed to join as soon as possible and that is what is reflected in the joint statement as well.”The two countries released a joint statement on clean energy partnerships that included announcement of a $20 million US-India Clean Energy Finance initiative, steps to scale down Hydrofluorocarbon used in air-conditioning and refrigerators, and beginning of work on six nuclear reactors in Andhra Pradesh to be built by Westinghouse. The two countries also signed an MoU to enhance cooperation on energy security, clean energy and climate change, and an MoU on Cooperation in gas hydrates. Another MoU was signed to enhance cooperation on wildlife conservation and for combating wildlife trafficking.In April this year, India, the world’s third largest polluter, took the first step of signing the Paris climate deal along with 174 countries while China and United States, the world’s top two polluters have not signed the deal yet. Signing the deal is only the first step as countries have to go back to the their respective parliaments to approve it, and only they can they ratify it with the United Nations. Nearly 175 countries came ahead to sign the deal in April to put pressure on China and United States for adopting the deal as soon as possible. Republican presidential candidate frontrunner Donald Trump has already announced that he will re-negotiate terms of the Paris climate deal if he comes to power.The joint statement said that the US India Clean Energy Finance initiative is expected to mobilise up to $400 million to provide clean and renewable electricity to up to 1 million households by 2020. The United States added that it “intends to pursue membership of the International Solar Alliance”, a brainchild of PM Modi. The United States and India will jointly launch the third Initiative of the ISA which will focus on off-grid solar for energy access at the founding Conference of ISA in September, 2016 in India.

It’s raining in Kerala, but IMD says not monsoon yet

The Southwest monsoon’s onset has seen the maximum delay over the last five years, as the Met department said on Tuesday that it is ‘very likely’ to arrive by June 9. On May 15, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) had said in its forecast that the monsoon is likely to arrive by June 7, with an error margin of ± 4 days. Even as Kerala has received widespread rainfall over the past two days, the IMD is yet to officially announce the monsoon’s arrival as it weather conditions have not qualified the requisite benchmarks.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As per IMD, there are certain criteria that need to prevail for officially announcing onset of monsoon. Cross equatorial flow of westerly winds, outgoing longwave radiation over Arabian Sea and depth of westerlies, determine the monsoon’s arrival and as per Met officials, the outgoing longwave radiation criteria has not been met. “The onset is very likely to happen by June 9, which means it can either arrive on Wednesday or on June 9th, Thursday,” said BP Yadav, director, National Weather Forecasting Centre.According to IMD data, Kerala, coastal Karnataka and Goa have received heavy rainfall over the past few days. Since March, Kerala has received 313 mm rainfall, with Pathanamthitta receiving 611.6mm rainfall, the maximum in the state. Private weather forecaster Skymet has differed with the Met department and said that monsoon has already arrived over Kerala. It said that heavy to very heavy showers will continue over Kerala, coastal Karnataka for next 3-4 days.”The rains can be attributed to two cyclonic circulations marked on the either side of Peninsular India. Further, the system is likely to get more marked,”said Skymet weather services.The private forecaster said that looking at the rainfall of 14 pre-decided stations, whose rainfall dictates the onset of monsoon over India, the criteria for monsoon’s arrival is met.Rainfall in Kerala (March to May)Thrissur 300.8mm, Trivandrum – 500mmKollam- 503.8mmErnakulam – 369.6mmKottayam – 446.2mmPathanamthitta – 611.6 mm

Ken-Betwa green clearance deferred, MoEF panel seeks more studies

The environment and forest ministry’s expert panel on river valley and hydroelectric projects has deferred environment clearance (EC) for the ambitious Rs.10,000 crore Ken-Betwa river linking project in its last meeting on June 2, and has sought more clarity on its wildlife and hydrological impact, sources privy to developments said. The controversy hit project intends to divert water from Ken river in Madhya Pradesh to Betwa river in Uttar Pradesh for irrigation and it will submerge 5,258 hectares of forest land including 4,141 ha of Panna Tiger Reserve.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the meeting this Thursday, the project’s authority, National Water Development Agency (NWDA), explained the findings of an expert committee that had visited Panna Tiger Reserve, and measures they suggested to mitigate impact on wildlife. But, according to sources from NWDA, the meeting could not come to a conclusion as the members of the expert appraisal committee (EAC) on river valley and hydroelectric projects had several doubts regarding the project’s hydrological feasibility, its impact on hydrology and wildlife too. The EAC also deferred the clearance as the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) is yet to give its final recommendations on reducing impact on wildlife.Earlier in February, the EAC had said that it will look at the project’s green clearance only after NBWL takes a call on its wildlife clearance. In order to study impact on wildlife, NBWL appointed an expert committee to inspect the Panna Tiger Reserve and submit a report to it. But on May 10, even before the expert committee could submit the report, it agreed to give in-principle wildlife clearance for the project after it “considered the importance of the project for meeting the irrigation need of Bundelkhand region” and after experts explained the project’s impact on wildlife from experts. Even while giving in-principle approval for the project, NBWL had said that wildlife and hydrology experts need to deliberate on it further before final recommendations can be issued.Sources privy to developments in the EAC said many serious issues related to the project are yet to resolved. “Wildlife is one component, aspect of the clearance process. Things have to be considered in totality and for that certain studies and we need to also study parallels all over the world where this has happened. These studies will require some time, so we are not in haste to decide on an issue which is environmentally so sensitive. In such big projects, loss of two, three months or even a year is inconsequential because it is a sensitive issue,” said another source in the know of developments.The inspection committee that comprised of HS Singh, wildlife expert Raman Sukumar and a member each from National Tiger Conservation Authority, Wildlife Institute of India, Madhya Pradesh government and NWDA found that the project dam is likely to affect crucial habitats of tigers, sloth bears and leopards. Thus, reducing the height of the Daudhan dam and compensating submergence of forest by adding more forest are two crucial recommendations made by the expert committee.According to members of the committee, its report has said that Panna Tiger Reserve has a unique geomorphological features such as gorges, rock caves and crevices that will be threatened due to the submergence. “Tigers, leopards, bears and jungle cats use gorges, rock crevices and caves as shelter and to give birth to litter. The water of Ken river flows close to these structures and thus these shelters remain cool in summer. Besides, the 221-km canal linking the two rivers will divide non-forest areas where foxes, jackals and leopards are found,” HS Singh told dna.Project likely to affect crucial habitats
The inspection committee that comprised of HS Singh, wildlife expert Raman Sukumar and a member each from National Tiger Conservation Authority, Wildlife Institute of India, Madhya Pradesh government and NWDA found that the project dam is likely to affect crucial habitats of tigers, sloth bears and leopards. Thus, reducing the height of the Daudhan dam and compensating submergence of forest by adding more forest are two crucial recommendations made by the expert committee. According to members of the committee, its report has said that Panna Tiger Reserve has a unique geomorphological features such as gorges, rock caves and crevices that will be threatened due to the submergence. “Tigers, leopards, bears and jungle cats use gorges, rock crevices and caves as shelter and to give birth to litter. The water of Ken river flows close to these structures and thus these shelters remain cool in summer. Besides, the 221-km canal linking the two rivers will divide non-forest areas where foxes, jackals and leopards are found,” HS Singh told dna.

Here’s it, first proof on presence of Eurasian Otters in India

For the first time in history of India’s wildlife conservation, the near threatened Eurasian Otters have been discovered and captured on camera in Satpura Tiger Reserve and in the Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor, confirming presence of these elusive creatures in the country. The photo evidence was obtained between November, last year and February when Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) and the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department (MPFD) undertook a joint camera trapping study across 58 sq.kms in Satpura Hill Range and Kanha-Pench corridor.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Otters are elusive creatures that are one of apex species in the wetlands and river ecosystems, feeding largely on fishes. In India, three species – the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata), Asian small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea) and the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) – are found. The Eurasian Otter is spread across Europe, Africa and Asia and the IUCN has listed it as near threatened on its red list. According to experts, the species has either gone extinct from several regions or it has been reduced to small isolated populations. Except for Europe, there is lack of data on population status and distribution of this species from the rest of the world.”After we obtained the evidence through camera trapping, we followed up with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and confirmed that the photographs were indeed first proof of the presence of Eurasian Otters from India. The otters were found in highland streams in the Satpura reserve,” said Milind Pariwakam, wildlife biologist, central Indian landscape programme, WCT. Camera trapping involves installation of cameras equipped with motion sensor or infrared sensor to capture animal photographs inside deep forests. Wildlife researchers commonly use the technology to establish presence of animals and collect evidence.According to Madhya Pradesh forest department, the presence of Eurasian Otters is also a heartening confirmation of the thriving rivers and streams found in Satpura ranges and in the Kanha-Pench corridor. “This is an exciting discovery that was made as part of the study on tigers in these forests. It is an indication of a healthy ecosystem and biodiversity,” said Ramesh Pratap Singh, former field director, Satpura Tiger Reserve and additional principal chief conservator of forest, wildlife protection.Apart from the Eurasian Otter, the smooth-coated otter is the most abundant and widely distributed in India while the Asian small-clawed is patchily distributed and is found in Himalayan foothills in northern India, parts of Eastern Ghats and in southern Western Ghats.To illustrate the magnitude of the discovery, WCT said in a statement, “These new photo-records extends their geographical range to central India. The discovery of the Eurasian Otter in the Satpura Tiger Reserve proves the value of large inviolate protected areas in conserving bio-diversity. The presence of the rare species in the Kanha Pench corridor also proves the value of connected landscapes for highly endangered species such as gaur, wild dogs, leopards and now the Eurasian Otter.”Satpura Tiger Reserve, established in 1999 and located in Hoshangabad district, Madhya Pradesh, is spread across 2133 sq.kms and includes Pachmarhi wildlife sanctuary, Satpura national park and Bori wildlife sanctuary. The reserve is home to nearly 30 tigers, leopards, jackal, otters, sambar, chital, gaur, Indian Giant squirrel, Indian flying squirrel and 31 species of reptiles. The vegetation is of moist deciduous forest type, teak, mixed forest and sal.

Setback for Art of Living, NGT orders to pay balance Rs4.75 crore compensation

In a setback for the Art of Living Foundation, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday ordered them to fork out Rs4.75 crore in a week, the balance of the Rs 5 crore environment compensation they had imposed on the non-governmental organisation for “drastically tampering with the (Yamuna) floodplains”. The Tribunal had passed an order on March 9 in which it said that the preparations for the NGO’s mega-event, to celebrate its 35th anniversary had “drastically tampered with the flood plains, destroying natural flow of river and natural vegetation on the river bed.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While reading out the order on Tuesday, justice Swatanter Kumar said that the Tribunal was dismissing the NGO’s plea to pay the balance compensation as a bank guarantee. While rejecting the plea, the Kumar also imposed a cost of Rs.5000 on the NGO. He slammed the NGO’s plea and said that it “lacked bona fide”. He went on to add, “The order of the court was used to hold the event and then you went back on its commitment. The organizers engaged in multiplicity of litigations to not pay the compensation and thus their conduct is questionable.”The Tribunal said that the NGO should use the union culture ministry’s grant to pay the balance compensation. The union culture ministry has granted the NGO Rs2.5 crore for their World Culture Festival and Rs.1.68 crore has already been disbursed, counsel for Art of Living revealed to the NGT bench on March 11.After the Tribunal imposed an environment compensation of Rs5 crore on the NGO its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had said that he would rather go to jail than pay the fine. Later, on the day of the event, on March 11, the NGO approached the Tribunal and pleaded for more time to pay the compensation. The NGT, though, asked the NGO to pay up Rs.25 lakh and granted three weeks of time to pay the balance amount. But, the NGO instead pleaded to the NGT that it should be allowed to pay the balance as a bank guarantee.Meanwhile, on the issue of reconstituting the expert body that will inspect the Yamuna floodplains to fix a final compensation, the Art of Living Foundation had moved a plea to appoint new members alleging bias. But, the Tribunal did not entertain the NGO’s plea on Tuesday and said that two more members can be added to the committee on the condition that the NGO withdraw their application. But, the NGO did not accept the condition and has decided to challenge the inspection and constitution of the committee.The expert committee, headed by secretary, union water secretary, will now have to go ahead with its inspection of the floodplains and has to submit its report in a sealed cover to the Tribunal before July 4.

Identify two most polluted cities in each state, study emissions from diesel, petrol: NGT to states

While putting off extension of diesel vehicle ban to other cities in the country, the National Green Tribunal, on Tuesday, asked all states to identify two most polluted cities in their states within three weeks. Additionally, it has asked states to file a detailed affidavit on vehicular pollution in these two cities, the different sources of pollution, data on petrol and diesel emissions, ambient air quality and impact of mining and industries on air quality. “We need complete data and through their secretaries, the states should file affidavits within three weeks,” said Swatanter Kumar, chairperson, NGT.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier on Monday, the NGT bench had asked all states to submit data on cities worst affected by pollution. But most states asked the bench for more time to submit the data. Only Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand and Bihar was ready with data on pollution.After the Supreme Court banned registration of new diesel vehicles and the southern bench of NGT banned diesel vehicles in Kerala, a petition was moved to extend the ban across other major cities. Meanwhile, the union ministry of heavy industries had opposed the plea for extending the ban to other cities. Arguing against the plea for the ministry of heavy industries, additional solicitor general Pinky Anand, said, “A lot of investment is coming in the sector which will provide a lot of employment opportunity. A ban will also affect Make In India.”Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, too, opposed the extension of the ban. Appearing for SIAM, senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that instead of using a “sledgehammer” approach, any decision should be taken after source apportionment studies are carried out. “We need source apportionment studies that provide data on emissions fuel wise and also as per vehicles,” said Singhvi.

Clean Ganga mission: Behind schedule, Ganga ministry invites bids for surface cleaning

Even as it is fallen behind schedule to award contracts for setting up sewage treatment plants that will treat raw sewage flowing into river Ganga, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has invited bids from across the globe to award projects for cleaning up solid waste from the river’s surface. NMCG is the implementing agency of National Ganga River Basin Authority, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. NMCG has finally opened the bids for river surface cleaning works after long drawn consultations and industry conferences.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As part of this leg of Ganga cleaning, contractors will have to use machinery as well as manpower to collect floating solid waste such as flowers, coconuts, plastic bottles, food packets, dead bodies of humans and animals, wood, water hyacinth that dot the country’s national river. The river surface cleaning works will be divided across the five Ganga basin states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.In fact, last year, NMCG had run river surface cleaning pilots across Varanasi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Patna, Sahibganj, Mathura, Ganga Sagar and Haridwar, wherein trash skimmer boats were used.”We want to begin the river surface cleaning by June end and thus we are speeding up the tendering process to bring the project back on schedule. A lot of time was lost in the planning stages,” said RajatBhargava, mission director, National Mission for Clean Ganga. Bhargava added, “Although river surface cleaning is supplementary to the main work on treating polluted water we want trash skimmers to collect 6-10 tonnes of waste per day. Around 15 companies have show interest in the pre-bid meeting.”As per NMCG’s bid document, the project will be awarded for three years and the contractors will have to coordinate with local municipalities and even state governments to dispose off the solid waste collected from the river surface.Even though sewage is the biggest contributor to pollution in Ganga, it also receives a vast amount of solid waste. Cremation on the banks of the river is an age-old practice and under the river surface cleaning works, contractors will have to take care of human and animal dead bodies too. While cleaning, if human bodies are found, the contractor will have inform the local police and follow comply with procedures.

MoEF panel asks Jharkhand to examine alleged violations at India’s oldest uranium mine in Jaduguda

An expert forest panel of the union environment ministry has sought a detailed report on alleged violation of forest conservation Act and mining lease at India’s oldest uranium mine in Jaduguda, East Singhbhum in Jharkhand, operating since 1967, ministry documents show. It has also deferred the Uranium Corporation of India Limited’s (UCIL) application for renewal of forest clearance that is required to operate the mine on 135 hectares of forest land, with 100 hectares of underground mining and the rest overground. The forest land, though not part of any protected wildlife area is a part of the Singhbum elephant reserve.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The UCIL is a public-sector enterprise under the Department of Atomic Energy and is responsible for mining uranium ore that is processed and fed to the country’s nuclear power plants.The regional chief conservator of forest, Jamshedpur, had submitted on record that in 2014, UCIL operated the mines even after the expiry of mining lease in violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, and had directed UCIL to stop all work on forest land. Accordingly, the divisional forest officer, Jamshedpur directed UCIL to stop mining on forest land. The panel noted that mining lease was granted for a period of twenty years between 1997 and 2007 but later, it could not get the lease renewed. UCIL though has claimed that Deparment of Mines and Geology, Jharkhand, has granted mining lease renewal up to 2027. Senior UCIL officials could not be reached for a comment.The expert panel while deferring recommendation for forest clearance has asked the state government to submit a report on violation of lease within two weeks along with present status of forest land in the proposed area.The panel has also asked the state authorities to clarify on the discrepancy in the dates of lease renewal and specify the period of which the mine was operating without a valid lease in violation of Forest Conservation Act, 1980.In addition to this, the state government has to also examine and submit a detailed report on under what authority UCIL was allowed to carry out the mining operations without approval of the ministry, collection of penal compensatory afforestation and additional net present value.As per UCIL’s website it is currently operating six underground mines in Bagjata, Jaduguda, Bhatin, Narwapahar, Turamdih and Mohuldih and one open pit mine Banduhurang in Jharkhand. Ore from these mines is processed in two plants at Jaduguda and Turamdih. The company is constructing a new underground mine and process plant at Tummalapalle in Andhra Pradesh and as part of its expansion is setting up new mines and in Karnataka, Telanagana nd Meghalaya.Submit report in 2 weeksThe expert panel while deferring recommendation for forest clearance has asked the state government to submit a report on violation of lease within two weeks along with present status of forest land in the proposed area. The panel has also asked the state authorities to clarify on the discrepancy in the dates of lease renewal and specify the period of which the mine was operating without a valid lease in violation of Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

Rain water harvesting, use of renewables to soon become mandatory for building projects

Soon, it will be mandatory for new constructions ranging from 5,000 sqmt to 1,50,000sqmt in large townships to have rainwater harvesting systems, minimum green cover and proper facilities for solid waste management. A new draft notification of the union environment and forest ministry has made these changes in the Environment Impact Notification, 2006, as ‘buildings have a significant carbon footprint over its life’. The existing rules covers only those buildings and constructions above 20,000 sqmt of built up area, while majority of the projects are of smaller size, this it is important to integrate environmental concerns, the notification said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For projects in the 5,000 to 20,000 sqmt area range, rainwater harvesting, solid waste management, LED or solar lights in common area and a minimum of one tree for every 80 sqmt of land shall be planted, the notification said.A preference has to be given to native species. For 20,000 to 50,000 sqmt category of building projects, solid waste management facilities in the form of waste composting pits have to be provided. To meet energy requirements, at least 1% per cent of connected load has to be generated from renewable energy sources such as photovoltaic cells or wind mills.As per the draft notification, environmental conditions applicable for construction projects will be integrated with the building permission that is granted by local authorities. State governments and large municipal corporations in cities such as Mumbai will have to adopt the environmental conditions in their building bye-laws or relevant laws, making them integral to the clearance process for building projects. Once they are adopted in the state or city bye-laws, the union environment ministry will examine them and a separate environment clearance will not be required individual buildings.Currently, only projects above 1.5 lakh sqmt need environmental clearance from the Centre while the rest seek green clearance from expert appraisal committee’s at state-level. The ministry, though, has not consulted urban municipal bodies before bringing out the draft notification and has given them two months to respond. “We had meetings with the urban development ministry and a few municipal bodies, but there were no formal consultations.Besides, municipal corporations will have to submit the modified bye-laws to us for examination,” said Manoj Kumar Singh, joint secretary, union environment and forest ministry.

Prakash Javadekar, Radha Mohan Singh face protests at national Gaushala conference

Environment minister Prakash Javadekar and agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh faced protests and their speeches were interrupted with slogans during the national conference on ‘Gaushalas ‘held at Vigyan Bhavan on Monday. Participants from various cow shelters were agitated that the Centre was not doing enough to protect cows against alleged smuggling across the country’s border nor it was doing much for conserving the Indian breed of cows.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The national conference was held at Vigyan Bhavan, where over 1,500 registered cow shelters, bureaucrats and scientists participated. The conference saw the ministers speak on increasing milk productivity and improving provision of fodder.During his speech, Radha Mohan Singh said that the Centre was providing allowance to cow shelters in Rajasthan. Reacting to this statement, participants from different cow shelters stood up and countered the minister’s claims. They said that funds were not received for conservation of cows. The minister was hard pressed to placate the protesting participants and assured to look into the matter.Further, participants also alleged that cows were smuggled across the country’s border and exhorted both union ministers to take action against it. Prakash Javadekar had to intervene to ease the participants. He said that the conference was organised to look into all these issues and the suggestions of every gaushala would be considered.To add to the embarrassment faced by the ministers, a few participants had a few grouses against the ‘event bag’ that was provided to them. They complained that instead of featuring the picture of a local breed, the ‘event bag’ had a jersey cow printed on it.Speaking to dna, some of the participants said that the Centre should first be serious about protection of cows before making claims on enabling and strengthening cow shelters. “There is enough politics on this issue, but we need to see more action on the ground. Protecting cows and conserving them after their milk production falls is crucial. While we talk of cows, we also need bulls for mating and to improve the pedigree of Indian cow breeds,” said Prithvi Pal of the Maharishi Dayanand Gau Sanvardhan Kendra, Delhi.The national conference, organised in the middle of the one of the worst droughts in the country, had drawn criticism from the animal welfare board. RM Kharb, the board’s chairman had earlier written to the ministry and he had suggested that considering the difficulties faced by cow shelters during the drought situation, the seminar should be pushed ahead.

Your wait for rain may stretch an extra week

The onset of southwest monsoon over Kerala is likely to be delayed almost by a week and it will arrive in the state only on June 7, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Sunday. However, it will not have any bearing on the rainfall over the entire season, officials said.The normal date of monsoon onset over Kerala is June 1. The IMD has used the statistical model, which has a model error margin of ± 4 days, for the forecast. Usually, the monsoon covers the southern peninsula and eastern coastal states by June 7-8 and arrives in Mumbai on June 10, progressing to cover the entire country by the first week of July.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The IMD used six markers, comprising data on minimum temperatures over northwest India, pre-monsoon rainfall peak over the south peninsula and outgoing long-wave radiation over South China Sea, for the forecast.Conditions are becoming favourable for the onset of southwest monsoon over Nicobar Islands, south Andaman Sea and parts of south Bay of Bengal around May 17 and advancement over the entire Andaman Sea close to its normal date, the IMD said. Met department officials explained why the delayed monsoon will not have any bearing on the rainfall over the entire season.”There are several changes in the weather patterns during the transition from summer to monsoon. There are changes in temperatures, and, most crucially, wind patterns, which are the key to the strengthening of monsoon. A delayed onset has no correlation with monsoon’s performance. Last year, monsoon arrived on May 30 but it was deficient in the long run,” said BP Yadav, head, National Weather Forecasting Centre, IMD.”In the coming days, heat is not likely to increase and there is a possibility of dust storms and thunderstorms in north India, especially Delhi-NCR,” he said.Earlier in April, the IMD had forecast that the country would receive above-normal rainfall, quantitatively 106% of the long-period average with an error margin of ± 5.The country has witnessed two consecutive below-par monsoon seasons and currently over 25% of India’s population is reeling under drought. A positive forecast for the upcoming monsoon has increased the hope of an upswing in the economy.Last year, the El Niño weather phenomenon – marked by warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures in Pacific Ocean – that causes droughts in South Asia was quite strong, leading to a 14.3% monsoon deficit in 2015.The weather phenomenon has also led to warmer-than- usual temperatures, and, as per IMD, January to April were the hottest on record. But El Niño is gradually on the decline and its opposite phenomenon, called La Nina, is likely to gain strength, inducing heavy rainfall in south Asia and North America, hurricanes and a drop in sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific.The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USA, and Bureau of Meteorology, Australia, have both said La Nina is likely to follow El Nino.Monsoon onset forecasts and actual onsetYEAR FORECAST ONSET DATE ACTUAL ONSET DATE 2011 May 31 May 29 2012 June 1 June 5 2013 June 1 June 3 2014 June 5 June 6 2015 May 30 June 5

Study environmental impact of tobacco cultivation: House panel

The parliamentary panel on environment and forests has asked the Centre and environment ministry to study the environmental impacts of tobacco cultivation and curing, which is the process of drying tobacco leaves. The environment ministry informed the house panel that it has never studied environmental impacts of tobacco cultivation before. The house panel made these recommendations while reviewing ‘effects of tobacco curing on environment and health’.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>During the review, experts informed the House panel that forests near tobacco cultivation areas are facing decline and loss of biodiversity. In several parts of the country, firewood is used to dry the green leaves. Around 6-8kg of fuel wood and 12kg of dried wood is required to cure 1kg of tobacco, which leads to depletion of forest cover. It was also pointed to the panel that as per latest state of forest report, 2014, the highest number of incidences of burning forests happens in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the topmost tobacco growing states in the country. For improving tendu flowers and fruit flushing, the whole tendu tree is burnt and huge amount of carbon dioxide is released, experts added.While the burning of firewood leads to immense air pollution, toxic pesticides and fungicides are also used to grow tobacco. During the review, Central Pollution Control Board, informed the panel that tobacco cultivation results into felling of trees, soil degradation and land pollution due to the use of pesticides.The house panel noted that tobacco cultivation and curing is not only destroying forests but also contributing to greenhouse effect. It said that solar energy, bio gas and electricity use should be promoted to dry tobacco leaves and asked environment ministry to regulate area under tobacco cultivation to make it fuel efficient.India is the third-largest producer of tobacco in the world, producing around 800 million kg of tobacco every year and accounts for more than 12% of the world’s raw tobacco production. The major tobacco producing states of India are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bihar and Tamil Nadu, with Karnataka responsible for 80% of India’s tobacco production. Currently, Indian tobacco is exported to more than 80 countries. In the year 2010-11, the total area under tobacco production in the country was 2,58,229 hectare which has been reduced to 1,94,671 hectare in the year 2014-15.

GPS to track elephant movements in central-eastern landscape

In a bid to study the migration pattern of elephants and to reduce human-elephant conflict in the central-eastern landscape of the country, the Union environment and forest ministry is mulling GPS tracking of pachyderms in the region, ministry officials said. The idea was discussed in a meeting, called by the ministry on Thursday to formulate a regional management plan for tackling human-elephant conflict. Chief wildlife wardens from West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and independent experts participated in the meeting.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Between 2005-06, elephant movement was tracked in north Bengal by Indian Institute of Science. Before that between 2001-2004, the World Wildlife Fund used a VHF radio-collar for tracking elephants in Kerala. “Unlike big cats, elephants are not territorial and migrate long distances. Only 20-23% of their migration happens through protected areas such as national parks and sanctuaries while they traverse outside these areas rest of time, bringing them in close contact with human habitations,” said a senior ministry official.According to ministry officials, the central-eastern landscape sees the maximum conflict despite having a low concentration of elephant population. As per official data, the central-eastern landscape accounts for just above 10 per cent of the elephant population but almost 70 per cent of human deaths due to elephant attacks are recorded from this region. In south Bengal alone, where an estimated 120 elephants are found, around 70 deaths were recorded last year. Odisha, West Bengal and Assam records high casualties due to conflict each year, official data shows. While West Bengal saw 89 human deaths last year, Odisha recorded 64 deaths.Independent expert Raman Sukumar, who participated in Thursday’s meeting said that the conflict in central-eastern landscape has been neglected and both short term and long term projects were required to reduce it. “We need detailed mapping of landscapes and habitats where elephants move along with the disturbances. Using GPS tracking will reveal their movement across seasons and indicate reasons behind their movement near human habitations,” said Sukumar, professor, Centre for Ecological SciencesHe added, “We also have historical data on dispersal of elephants and that should be put to use for reducing conflict and identifying elephant corridors.”

10,000 men engaged in dousing Uttarakhand fires, as Himachal records 519 cases since April 20

Even as nearly 10,000 people and three IAF helicopters engaged in operations to douse forest fires in Uttarakhand, the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh disclosed on Monday that it had recorded more than 500 cases of forest blaze since April 20.A four-member central team of experts was constituted on Monday to monitor the incidents. The team, comprising officials from environment ministry, National Institute of Disaster Management, Centre for Fire Explosives, and Fire Services, Delhi, has been asked to submit its report to the ministry of home affairs within one week.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier in the day, Union home minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Uttarakhand Governor K K Paul to take stock of forest fires and assured to continue assistance to the hill state for dousing the blaze.While the large manpower engaged was able to control fire in some parts of the state, officials indicated that the scale of operations will not be decreased. “Indian Air Force operations continued on Monday in Nainital and Pauri. We have lodged a total of 46 cases till now under the Indian Forest Act, and three persons have been arrested in Nainital,” said DP Gupta, chief conservator of forests.According to sources in the Indian Air Force, three helicopters, 1 ALH and 2 MI-17 with Bambi bucket were deployed and 30,000 litres of water was dropped to douse fires.Meanwhile, even Himachal Pradesh has recorded hundreds of forest fires since April 20, with the state experiencing one of the hottest summers on record. In places such as Anandpur Sahib and Bilaspur, temperatures have breached the 40 degree Celsius mark.”Till 5pm today, we have recorded 519 forest fires across 4,000 hectares but most of them have been extinguished. Like Uttarakhand, the chir pine is abundant in Himachal Pradesh spread across 1,215 square km and they are prone to forest fires. Around 700 personnel have been engaged to put out the fires,” said SP Vasudeva, principal chief conservator of forests, head of forestry force, Himachal Pradesh. Vasudeva added, “We had seen a high number of forest fires even in 2012-13 and this cycle is repeated every 3-4 years. This year, the summer, has been unusually harsh compounding the issue.”—(With inputs from Manan Kumar)

Ken-Betwa: Expert committee may ask for reduction in height of Daudhan dam

A committee constituted by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) to study the impact of Ken-Betwa river linking project on wildlife in Panna Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, has found that there are two breeding tigresses in the area worst affected by the project and that the project’s dam is likely to submerge habitat of vultures, sources said. Following the site visit, the committee is mulling over proposing reduction in the height of the 77m tall and 2031m wide Daudhan dam to be built for diverting Ken River or suggest a change in its existing alignment, a highly-placed sources said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>“The dam is likely to submerge a part of the critical tiger habitat and also the rock escarpments or cleavages that are nesting sites of Long-billed vultures and even sloth bears,” said a source about the committee’s concerns.Camera trap images of the forest range in Panna that will be affected showed that it is home to two breeding tigresses that moves with its cubs and even adult male tigers move in the same area.The committee members, who are still drafting a report on their inspection, are moving on the issue cautiously to arrive at a ‘win-win’ situation as the project is critical for both wildlife conservation and irrigation, sources said. The inspection report is likely to be submitted in the coming days.The Rs9393 crore project proposed to divert water from Ken River located inside Panna tiger reserve to the Betwa river in the parched region of Bundelkhand. To do this, the National Water Development Agency will build a dam in Daudhan inside the core of Panna tiger reserve and divert the water through a 221-km long link canal to Betwa river. The Daudhan dam though will result in direct loss of 58.03 sq km, or 10 per cent of critical tiger habitat of Panna Tiger Reserve due to submergence and 50 per cent loss of existing unique habitat of highly endangered Vulture species, wildlife officials have said in past NBWL meetings.The NBWL’s wildlife clearance is of paramount importance for the mega-project as its environment clearance is dependent on it and the expert appraisal committee on river valley and hydroelectric projects made this clear in their past meetings. The project was turned down during the tenure of former environment minister Jairam Ramesh to protect Panna’s tigers but has been revived under the Narendra Modi-led government. Wildlife conservationists have warned against the project as Panna Tiger Reserve has already witnessed tigers vanish in the past due to poaching and natural causes. It is the only tiger reserve in the country and even globally to have successfully reintroduced tigers in a protected are. As on today, there are more than 30 tigers in Panna.

Farmers may soon get insurance cover for crop damage caused by elephants

Farmers may soon get insurance cover for crop damages caused by elephant raids and migration under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. The Union environment ministry is in talks with the agriculture ministry on the issue, and is expected to soon move an official proposal on the issue. Union environment, forest and climate change minister Prakash Javadekar has agreed to the proposal in-principle, senior officials from the ministry said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>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.According to the last official estimation study, there are more than 30,000 elephants in the country across 16 states with high concentration in north-eastern states and southern states. Elephants cover large distances in herds and they raid croplands for food or cross through them during migrations, causing major crop damages and financial losses to farmers.Obstruction of the natural migratory path of elephants, fragmentation of elephant corridors due to human interference and lack of legal protection for elephant corridors are some of the chief causes of elephants raiding crops or entering habitation, ministry officials said.”Crop raiding by elephants happens frequently in north-eastern states, eastern states and southern states. From forested areas, elephants are known to migrate long distances through human habitations and croplands. This often happens at night and thus curbing crop damage is extremely difficult,” said a senior official from environment ministry.As per official data, in 2014-15 alone, Rs 34.5 crore worth compensation was paid for crop damages due to elephants by Centre and State agencies. In 2013-14 and 2012-13 the compensation paid was Rs30 crore and Rs34 crore respectively. Apart from the crop damages, human-elephant conflict also claims nearly 400 people and more than 100 elephants each year.The central-eastern landscape sees some of the worst cases of crop damages and human-elephant conflict across Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal. According to environment ministry data, Odisha sees average crop damage of 14,097 acres, Chhattisgarh has sees 12,230 acres of average crop damage per year while in West Bengal it is 2500-3000 acres of average crop damage per year.

MoEF preparing guidelines to protect tiger corridors

Facing criticism from conservationists for clearing several projects in vulnerable tiger corridors, the union environment, forest and climate change ministry (MoEF&CC) is working on new guidelines to enhance tiger corridor landscape by getting project proponents to procure land in and along tiger corridors. This can happen as part of compensatory afforestation, ministry officials have said.India is home to an estimated 2,226 tigers and corridors act as a crucial link between protected areas such as tiger reserves or national parks, helping to disperse source populations aiding genetic exchange. Environment minister Prakash Javadekar told dna that his ministry is still preparing separate guidelines to conserve tiger corridors. “We need more forest land in corridors but we cannot do it by law. So we are incentivising, we are preparing guidelines. For compensatory afforestation, if while using 1000 hectares, 800 hectares is provided, but in tiger corridors it will be good enough. It will enhance tiger corridors.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Unlike the protected area network of tiger reserves, national park and wildlife sanctuaries, tiger corridors are not protected legally. But, the ministry often seeks the view of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) before clearing projects in crucial tiger corridors. The ecological importance of tiger corridors to aid movement of the big cat from one tiger reserve to another has to be taken into account before clearing projects. MoEFCC secretary Ashok Lavasa said that most crucial corridors have to be first identified. “Project proponents will have to procure land in the corridor to the aid its conservation,” said Lavasa.The NTCA and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) though have already identified the major tiger corridors of the country in a major report called – Connecting Tiger Populations for Long-Term Conservation. The report has categorized corridors under broad landscapes such as Shivalik Hills and Gangetic plain landscape, Central Indian landscape, Western Ghats landscape complex and North East Hills. The Kanha-Pench corridor, Rajaji-Corbett corridor and Nagarhole-Bandipur-Mudumalai-Wayanad corridor are some of the most crucial tiger corridors in the country.In recent past, the Centre has faced maximum flak for allowing multiple infrastructure projects through Kanha-Pench tiger corridor spread across Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The National Highways Authority of India is widening National Highway-7 through this corridor while the Gondia-Jabalpur railway doubling will also cut through it. In another instance, Durgapur open cast mine located near the Tadoba-Indravati tiger corridor was cleared last August.YV Jhala, who co-authored the 2014 tiger census report said on the proposed guidelines, “Government land is not sufficient in tiger corridors and if project proponents are asked to buy land at pinch points where the corridor has shrunk, it will be good. But, whenever a project is cleared in corridors, the mitigation measures recommended need to be implemented with a sound checking mechanism.”Other conservationists said that corridors need to be accorded equal importance as protected areas. “Very few viable tiger corridors are remaining in the country. These corridors are as important as protected areas and development projects should not be allowed to ravage them,” said Anish Andheria, President, Wildlife Conservation Trust, a non-profit organisation working in 110 national parks and sanctuaries of India across 19 states.

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