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US JV to study water transport on Ganga

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a bid to push passenger transport on National Waterway-I between Allahabad and Haldia, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has inked a contract with the US-based joint venture, Thompson Design Group and Infrastructure Architecture Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to identify suitable locations for construction of 18 ferry terminals across six cities.The contract also entails preparation of detailed project reports for these 18 terminals that would be built across Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Munger, Kolkata and Haldia.The contract, worth Rs 5 crore, was awarded to the US-based joint venture (JV) following a global tendering process and it was inked on December 21. The US firms will have to deliver detailed project reports, and technical and financial feasibility reports by mid-2018, sources from IWAI said.According to an IWAI release, the US-based JV has earlier worked on similar transport solutions for Governors Island, off New York harbour, and Navy Pier in Chicago.As part of the detailed project report and feasibility reports, the JV has to map the traffic potential across these cities for both passenger and commercial vessels.The Union Ministry of Shipping wants to revive and expand inland waterways, touting it as a cheaper mode of commercial transport and one with untapped potential for passenger transport, too.The revival of National Waterway (NW)-1 on Ganga is being implemented by the IWAI as part of the Jal Vikas Marg Project with World Bank assistance, both technical and financial, pegged at Rs 5369 crore. While the NW-I witnesses limited commercial traffic at present, environmental concerns have been raised by local communities of fishermen and environment groups regarding the expansion of traffic.The chief concerns are centred around the shrinking flow of River Ganga, potential dredging to be maintained for minimum navigable depth and the threat that increased ship movement will pose to gharials, mugger crocodiles, turtles and India’s national aquatic animal — Gangetic Dolphins.Routes on the NW-I will pass through the Varanasi Turtle Sanctuary, besides critical stretches for dolphins in Fatehpur, Malda and Sagar.

The toxic waters of religion

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even as numerous steps are being taken towards cleaning the Ganga, Yamuna, and other rivers, researchers continue to suggest that various religious practices are responsible for polluting the holy waters on a much larger scale than toxic industrial waste.While yagnas (fire rituals), days of fasting, and walking barefoot to the shrine make up most Hindu activities, taking a ‘dip’ in ‘holy water’ to wash away the sins of mortals is a ritual often followed during various festivals. Even the immersion of deities after keeping them for days at home is another ritual causing damage to rivers.Every time a pilgrim takes a ‘holy’ dip in those river, they swallow copious amounts of toxic material flushed from power plants or the waste thrown in the river.In the latest trend, Chath puja in Delhi was observed by taking a dip in the pond at India Gate or at the already polluted Yamuna where huge idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Kali are also immersed every year. During the month of September, devotees flock to the beaches of Mumbai with thousands of Ganesh idols for immersion, days after which the idols often wash up on shore.Also, cremated remains are floated in the river, believing the dead will not attain salvation if the last remains are not immersed. This practice is adding to the woes of the rising problem of water pollution. According to a Rishikesh based NGO, Ganga Action Parivar, “When the river in Har Ki Pauri, Haridwar is cleaned for two months we collect a large quantity of wastes like matki, plastic bags, garlands, coins, etc. Not only this, Hindu’s mostly cremate ashes here. But these don’t harm the river as much as the idols made of cement, plastic, and other non-eco friendly things does which are dumped in the river. It resists the flow of water and makes it stagnant. The only way to prevent this is to use eco-friendly idols.”Poor Hindu pilgrims stand at their makeshift campsite. Devotees believe that taking a holy dip in the Ganges washes away their sins and paves the path to salvation. —Getty Images There are some religions which follow the practice of floating the dead bodies in the river which are then eaten by crocodiles. But with the increasing pollution even the habitat of crocodiles has been disturbed hugely. As a result, bodies now get stuck in the river plants or float to the banks adding to the degradation.“The bodies that are floated in the water to make sure it gains eternity, actually get stuck on the banks and infect the river and creates an imbalance to the ecosystem of the river,” said Vineet of Ganga Action Parivar.The Ganga was known to have self-cleansing effect but with the continuous abuse the losing its charm. According to Rakesh, a taxi driver from Uttar Pradesh residing in Mumbai, there is nothing wrong with the Ganga. “It is always needed and is done for good. Ganga can never be dirty, it is holy. Ganga water is used to cure all types of diseases and wash away sins,” he said.Water pollution experts estimate that around 32k human corpses are cremated each year in the Ganges river, Varanasi — GETTY IMAGESExpressing dismay over the deteriorating condition of Ganga, Saurav Tiwari a student of Benaras Hindu University said, “The Ganga river is not in a good shape. Along with industries, various religious practices have also joined hands in slowly poisoning the river.”Not only Ganga but the Yamuna in Delhi and the Mula Mutha in Pune get religiously polluted in the months of September and October.India’s chief sources of water are becoming increasingly unsafe for drinking and for aquatic life. The idea of implementing artificial ponds for devotees to take a dip and other alternatives have never seen the light of the day.

River loses out to pollution

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>What begins as a story of the blessing of Lord Shiva, Godavari originates from Bramhagiri mountain in Trimbaksehwar and flows through Nashik, making it a holy place of pilgrimage and the seat of Simhastha Kumbhmela. However, the modern day Godavari is much less than a river. With population around it increasing day by day, the river has not only lost its charm but is losing its life as well.It was in 2012 that once again the river was completely covered with hyacinths, disturbing its eco system. A few people stood up to raise a movement for the cause of Godavari. Godavari Gatarikaran Virodhi Manch was formed and activists approached authorities demanding that untreated sewage released in the river be stopped. With no heed paid, a public interest litigation (PIL) to save Godavari was filed by Rajesh Pandit, Nishikant Pagare and a few others in the Bombay High Court.”A criminal case about mischief with navigable river was filed under IPC section 431 against the then municipal commissioner for intentionally polluting the river upstream of Ramkund”, states Rajesh Pandit. In the hearings that proceeded, the High Court observed that the state and the citizens both were responsible. While the state has failed to protect the river, the citizens have failed to perform their fundamental duties.As part of the proceedings the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board reported that ‘the water of Godavari in Nashik is unfit for human consumption and dangerous to health’. The High Court then asked NMC to put up boards on the banks of the river stating so and give police protection to the river. “This had happened for the first time in the history of Indian rivers that any river was asked to give police protection. However, barring the kumbhmela, the compliance of this order is not met’, Pandit observes.As part of the awareness drive, students took oath for not polluting the river. Presentations on pollution free Godavari were made at different platforms. The National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI) who was asked to conduct a survey by the court also gave a thought of Green Kumbh for 2014-15. Taking the developments seriously, the court appointed a committee for Godavari, headed by the divisional commissioner, to oversee the implementation of it’s orders.The divisional commissioner formed a committee for Green Kumbh, including all departments of the government and NGOS. The CM then announced that the Kumbhmela would be dedicated to nature. With a charged force, the huge task of cleaning the Godavari was taken up on June 5, 2014. Thousands, participated in the massive drive where even senior authorities were seen cleaning the dirt and slush. Lakhs of cloth bags were distributed to create awareness of no plastic use. “The movement was also strengthened by water man of India Rajendra Singh who helped in changing the perspective of the fight to a movement”, states Pandit.Another activist Devang Jani filed a case in the High Court demanding that the concretisation done to the Godavari in Nashik during the Kumbhmela in 2002 be removed. “It was for the first time in the history of the river that in May 2016, the Ramkund went dry due to concretisation of the river bed,” he said. With all the awareness and the legal fight that has been going on there have been some gains. These may not be sufficient measures but the fact that a movement is raised in itself is a step in the right direction.

Malkangiri encounter: Serious blow to Maoist leadership in Andhra-Odisha border zone

The cut-off area in Odisha’s Malkangiri district is a water-locked area, formed from the waters of two hydroelectric projects that came up in the 1940s and the 60s. But for roughly 20,000 villagers in 151 villages, basic facilities like electricity, healthcare and education remained a dream. Only recently, a few villages have been electrified. A 918-metre long bridge over the River Gurupriya is also under construction, and is expected to be open by next winter.

It is a fierce encounter here on Monday morning that marked the end of the Maoist leadership in the strategically important AOB (Andhra-Odisha Border) zone. In a joint operation by Andhra and Odisha Police, 24 Maoists, including the zone’s top leaders have been killed. So far, those who have been identified are: Appa Rao alias Chalapathi, the East Division Secretary of the CPI (Maoist); his wife and Maoist leader, Aruna; Gajarala Ashok alias Uday, the military head of the AOB zone; Munna, the son of top CPI (Maoist) leader and its central committee member, Ramakrishna alias RK. It is believed that RK managed to escape.

Representational Image. Getty ImagesRepresentational Image. Getty Images

Representational Image. Getty Images

From the late 2000s, the Maoists invested a lot in the AOB zone. It is from here that they hoped to revive their movement in Andhra Pradesh. The cut-off area in Malkangiri was also used as a safe sanctuary for senior Maoist leaders. In June 2008, in an audacious attack, Maoist guerrillas killed 38 personnel of the elite anti-Maoist force, Greyhounds. Within a month, they killed another 17 security personnel. As a result, the security forces were forced to stop operations in this area for several months.

In the absence of any police presence, the Maoists turned the cut-off area into one of their strongholds. Some senior commanders were put in charge, and from here, the Maoists began to reestablish their network in the neighbouring Visakha Agency area. Around the same time, in February 2011, the Maoists kidnapped the then Malkangiri Collector, Vineel Krishna, from the cut-off area. But Krishna was very popular among the tribals here; it is because of his efforts that the process of electrification of the villages in cut-off area took off. The tribals protested and the Maoists had to release Krishna; they got nothing out of it.

In the meantime, their high-handedness cost the Maoists dearly in the neighbouring Visakhapatnam. In February 2013, protests broke out in GK Veedhi after Maoists opened fire and beat to death three tribals. In October 2014, in retaliation to a similar act, the tribals in Korukonda block lynched three Maoist guerrillas.

Earlier, in 2012, Odisha’s top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda fell out with the leadership and was expelled from the party. In a letter to the Maoist supreme commander Ganapathi, Panda accused the Telugu leadership of AOB of “superiority” and accused it of trying to keep Odisha committee as subordinates. Panda was responsible for ensuring the supplies of explosives. After his expulsion and subsequent arrest, that channel dried up.

In the last two years, the Maoists faced several losses in the AOB zone. The AOB military strategist, Ponoju Parmeshwar alias Nandu surrendered to the police and so did another senior leader, Sarita, who was the first woman commander of a company of the PLGA, CPI (Maoist)’s armed wing. In April this year, another senior leader Kudumula Venkata Rao alias Ravi died due to heart failure. In May, senior Maoist leader VR Gopal alias Azad and two other guerrillas were killed in an encounter with the security forces. From his laptop, the police recovered a selfie of his sister Aruna and her husband Chalapathi (both killed in the encounter on 24 October).

The Odisha Police also got its act together, and under the current Malkangiri police chief, Mitrabhanu Mahapatra, hundreds of Maoists and their sympathisers have surrendered in the last few months.

The CC member, RK, surfaced in the cut-off area on 1 October after a gap of two years. Believed to be suffering from severe spondylitis, the party had shifted him to Chhattisgarh. The police believes that he may have been injured in Monday’s encounter.

Pursued by security forces and not so welcome any longer in many of their erstwhile bastions, the Maoists have been pushed back. The encounter in the cut-off area is a serious blow, which the Maoists will find very hard to absorb.

Telangana cabinet to discuss Krishna River water sharing issue tomorrow

Thu, 20 Oct 2016-10:31am , Hyderabad , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A meeting of the Telangana Cabinet would be held tomorrow to discuss the construction of Secretariat and sharing of Krishna River water.Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has decided to hold the Cabinet meeting in the Secretariat tomorrow, a release from his office said on Thursday.The Cabinet meeting is likely to discuss construction of new secretariat and the decision of the Brijesh Kumar Tribunal on sharing of Krishna waters (with neighbouring states).The state government is reportedly contemplating building a new secretariat. The present one reportedly has ‘Vastu’ defects.

Dammed or Damned? Before reviewing Indus River Treaty, India needs to learn from the past

Based on reports in the media, the Indus River Treaty between India and Pakistan is under scrutiny by the Indian government. While there may be a geo‐strategic case for scrutiny of the treaty, there are serious geographical, geological and ecological issues that a relook of the treaty raises.

If a relook at the Treaty involves new dams, as suggested by some commentators, planning should take note of lessons from earlier dam construction in the Himalayas. The key issue is that the Himalayas are a ‘hot spot’ for environmental hazards – particularly great earthquakes, landslides and floods.

It is also home to very high biodiversity, both on land and in the rivers and lakes. Building large dams to gain a geostrategic advantage over Pakistan may not be the best approach for the rivers governed by the Treaty or for the people living near those rivers. If criteria other than geo-strategy are taken into account then these rivers may not be easy candidates for big dams.

Although the whole Himalayan range is earthquake‐prone, some areas have experienced earthquakes with magnitudes greater than eight on the Richter scale, referred to as great earthquakes, while others experience much lower levels of seismicity.

Before reveiwing the Indus River Treaty, India should take notes from earlier dam construction in the Himalayas. ReutersBefore reveiwing the Indus River Treaty, India should take notes from earlier dam construction in the Himalayas. Reuters

Before reviewing the Indus River Treaty, India should take notes from earlier dam construction in the Himalayas. Reuters

It is one of the ironies of the Himalaya that those areas that experience low seismicity are also places where river flows are relatively small. So rivers that flow from the Indian territory into Pakistan may be eligible for only small dams, which may be safe but the reservoirs would be small and thereby not achieve the purposes imagined by those re‐examining the Treaty.

In locations prone to great earthquakes, the design of dams will have to be stringent and therefore the construction will be very costly. For example, in 1997, geologist KS Valdiya commented unfavourably on the location and design of the Tehri Dam – one of the world’s tallest dams situated on the Bhagirathi River in the earthquake‐prone state of Uttarakhand.

Landslides are also a major hazard in the Himalayas. Dangerous landslides can be caused by filling of reservoirs where adjacent hill slopes are destabilised. An extremely well documented case occurred in 1963 in Italy when about 30 million cubic metres of water was displaced from the Vaiont Reservoir by a landslide, sending a wall of water over the wall and killing 2000 people downstream.

Landslides from other causes can create waves that destabilise dams and overtop dam walls and spillways, like dropping a brick into a bath. Landslides also add sediment to reservoirs and shorten their useful lives. The Himalaya is home to great landslides, proof that the phenomenon of giant waves in reservoirs is not a figment of scientists’ fevered imaginations. In fact the Himalaya is not just a ‘hot spot’ of environmental hazards, is one the world’s ‘great hot spots’.

And of course there are great floods. The most recent was the 2013 Kedarnath/Mandakini flood in Uttarakhand. This was not just ‘great’ but also a ‘perfect storm’. The monsoon reached into the high mountains earlier than usual, and when it met cold and dry air from the Arctic it generated one of the most severe rainfall events in living memory.

The analysis of this event by the renowned Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) has made clear what happened. Floods of the magnitude of the 2013 event recur in the Alaknanda river on average every 40 years. Before the 2013 event, the largest flood was in 1970, which was one of the factors that spurred the ‘Chipko Andolan’.

We know the average frequency of extreme floods from studying flood sediments from which it has been possible to reconstruct a flood history for the past 1500 years. However, the future may be bleaker than the past. The confluence of climatic phenomena that caused the 2013 flood will recur and possibly with greater frequency. As the Arctic warms, it will send out bursts of cold air more often.

It is particularly sobering to have found that most if not all of the large floods in the Alaknanda River over the past 1500 years have occurred when the Arctic was sending out such bursts into the Himalayas. Large floods can topple dams if the design is not sufficiently stringent. Floods also carry large amounts of sediment that reduce the lifespan of reservoirs.

Even more dangerous for people and dams are floods that are generated by the bursting of lakes made by landslides and glaciers.  These are common in the Himalayas, another reason to see these mountains as a ‘great hot spot of hazards’.

Most of the Alaknanda floods were probably the result of landslide lake bursts, but glacial lake bursts also pose an increasing threat as glaciers are reduced by rising air temperatures that create lakes which eventually burst leading to a flood.

India clearly needs electricity for the good of its people. Hydroelectricity is more greenhouse gas friendly than thermal power stations, although not to the extent claimed by its proponents. Given the problems, actual and potential, of large dams it would be best to build small run‐of‐river dams for the generation of electricity; so‐called “hydels”.

Many are already built and a lot more are planned. However, once again the 2013 flood in Uttarakhand has lessons for the future. Many of the hydel dams were damaged and some destroyed. The hydels in the Himalayas are built too close together to provide for the aquatic ecosystem’s needs.

More dams in the Himalayas should be planned while honouring the safety of people and the ecology of the area. Learning from historical disasters, landslides, floods and earthquakes, the government should also adopt a ‘disaster risk reduction’ approach. A new Indus River Treaty can have long term impacts on the Himalayan mountain range. The impacts will be positive only if it is well planned in advance.

Dr Robert J Wasson is a Senior Research Fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

Shivani Ratra is a Research Associate at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

Yamuna bank turns into a dump post Durga idol immersions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after the capital celebrated the final day of the Durga Puja, when more than a hundred idols of the goddess were immersed at seven ghats of the already polluted river Yamuna, the place was strewn heavily with used bamboo sticks, polythene, pieces of cloth, rotting flowed and other puja material.At Kudsia Ghat, one of the busiest, during the immersion, a strong stench of sewage emanated from the water.The three municipal corporations said, they have deployed around 150 sanitation workers to clean the ghats of the waste material.”The Delhi government’s Irrigation and Flood Control Department collects the bamboos and other material out of the river at the banks, which the corporation workers then fill into trucks and take it to landfill sites for disposal.We have three trucks stationed at the ghats for the work. The cleaning up work will take a day,” said, a corporation spokesperson.Only last year, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned immersion of non-biodegradable idols using plastic, Plaster of Paris (POP) and harmful colours in the river.While the government’s, Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) claimed to monitor Durga Puja committees for making only clay idols using natural colours only, are immersed in the massively polluted water body, environmental activists believe it’s not enough.The DPCC will come out with its report on water quality before and after the immersion in three days. The committee checks the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) levels in the water to study contamination.The DPCC put up signages for water level and enclosures at the ghats to designate the spots for immersion, Kudsia Ghat, Geeta Ghat, Kalindi Kunj, Shyam Ghat, Hathi Ghat, Mayur Vihar extension Ghat and Geeta Colony Ghat.”The enclosures are not that well-monitored to see if all the material being immersed is non-biodegradable. Also, there is no patrolling at the ghats to keep a tab on the activities. Nobody is thinking about the river, which is already overloaded with pollutants and industrial waste. Idol immersions in the river lead to further compromising on its condition,” said Environmentalist Manoj Mishra.Meanwhile, a Delhi Environment department official, said, “As per the NGT guidelines, we ensured that Durga Puja Committees only make use of biodegradable material for making idols. Also, we did not allow people to immerse from non-designated spots. Necessary steps were taken to not allow the river to be polluted further.”

Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah calls all-party meet on Mahadayi river row

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ahead of his meeting with his Maharashtra and Goa counterparts over Mahadayi water dispute, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has called an all party meet on October 19 to discuss state’s strategy on the issue. “I have called an all party meeting on 19th (October), I have also called MLAs and MPs from the region for that meeting …” Siddaramaiah said.Chief Ministers of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa are scheduled to meet in Mumbai on October 21 to discuss the Mahadayi river dispute. This meeting is being held after the Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal on September 1 asked the concerned states to resolve the water dispute amicably by holding discussions. Ahead of the all party meeting, Dharwad district in-charge Minister Vinay Kulkarni today chaired a meeting of farmers and leaders involved in Mahadayi agitation.Karnataka government, which has locked horns with the neighbouring Goa on the larger issue of sharing Mahadayi River water between both the states, had petitioned the tribunal seeking the release of 7.56 tmcft of water for the Kalasa-Banduri Nala project. The tribunal’s July 27 interim order after hearing arguments from Karnataka and Goa had rejected the states’ plea citing various grounds, including ecological damage that the project may cause.Challenging this, the state government has filed a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court.Following the interim order, tension had gripped most parts of northern Karnataka as protests turned violent on July 28 during which government offices were attacked and public property was damaged. Also, a state-wide bandh was observed on July 30.The Kalasa-Banduri Nala (diversion) project, which will utilise 7.56 tmcft of water from the inter-state Mahadayi river, is being undertaken by Karnataka to improve drinking water supply to the twin cities of Hubballi-Dharwad and the districts of Belagavi and Gadag. It involves building barrages across Kalasa and Banduri, tributaries of Mahadayi River, to divert 7.56 tmc to Malaprabha river which fulfils the drinking water needs of the twin cities.Karnataka has for long been advocating an out of court settlement. Siddaramaiah had led an all party delegation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention.Earlier, Goa government had rejected Karnataka’s attempt for the out of court settlement stating that the people of the state felt it was more prudent to settle the dispute through the Tribunal.

Brahmaputra dam will not affect flow of water to India: China

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Justifying its move to blockade a tributary of the Brahmaputra to construct a dam, China on Saturday sought to allay apprehensions that it would effect the river flow into India saying that there will be no adverse impact on downstream areas.Terming the Lalho dam project on the Xiabuqu river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra which is locally called as Yarlung Zangbo, as an important livelihood project to address food security and flood safety in Tibet, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the tributary river is located completely within the Chinese side. “The reservoir capacity of the project is less than 0.02% of the average annual runoff of the Yarlung Zangbo- Brahmaputra. It cannot have an adverse impact on the downstream,” Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a written reply to a question on India’s concerns over the dam.Brahmaputra flows from Tibet into Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and later into Bangladesh. On October 1, China announced the blockade of Xiabuqu river in Tibet as part of the construction of its “most expensive” dam project. The Lalho project on Xiabuqu River a tributary in Xigaze in Tibet involves an investment of US $740 million.Referring to the Expert Level Mechanism (ELM) on trans-border rivers between India and China, the Chinese foreign ministry said both the countries have been carrying out good cooperation on trans-border rivers for a long time. “Proceeding from the larger picture of China-India friendship and from the humanitarian angle, the Chinese side has overcome all kinds of difficulties, and has provided services to the Indian side such as flood season hydrological data and emergency management, and has played a positive role in areas such as flood and disaster control along the banks of the relevant rivers,” the ministry said.”China is willing to continue relevant cooperation with the Indian side through the existing expert level mechanism on trans-border rivers,” it said. Stating that Brahmaputra is rich in water and a major hydrological resource for Tibet, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said “the development and utilisation of the Chinese side at present is just 1%”.”The water quality that crosses the border is good and is basically at its natural state,” it said. Brahmaputra flows through economically less developed ethnic minority regions of China, it said. “Legitimate use of the water and hydrological resources is an important component of the rights of the people of this region to live and develop,” it said.”The Chinese side has always held a responsible attitude towards exploitation of water resources of the Yarlung Zangbo, and carries out a policy of actual development and protection at the same time. Scientific planning, adequate justification, prudent decisions and orderly exploitation are in line with international practice,” it said.

Baramulla attack ground report: Sky over army camp during the battle lit up like it was Diwali

The file clips that television channels kept showing during Sunday night’s attack on armed forces camps in Baramulla did not begin to do justice to what was actually happening. Those who saw it at ground zero say that it was like Diwali.

The divisional headquarters is right across the river from the Rashtriya Rifles and Border Security Force camps that were attacked. Apparently, army men opened up with whatever they had, firing from all directions. Some of those who heard the gunfire from up close say they must have heard the sound of no less than 3,000 bullets, and perhaps a dozen much louder blasts — no doubt from mortar shells.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Firing began when the armed men were apparently spotted lurking in the dark on the river bank. Later, covering fire for the attackers also came from an adjacent house.

The army held back from trying to surround the attackers from behind during the two-hour encounter. One reason was to avoid collateral damage: residential houses have come up over the past few years almost right up to the perimeter of those camps, which are near the eastern end of Baramulla. The Old Town is down the river to the west. Over the past couple of decades, the city has spread in this direction and to new colonies south of the river such as Sangri.

The attackers apparently descended from the hills to the south of Baramulla Old Town. From that vantage, they could have either gone towards the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) camp at the stadium beside the highway from Baramulla to Handwara, or towards this RR camp at the eastern end of the city.

There has been speculation, probably unfounded, that the attackers crossed the river — possibly from the Khawaja Bagh locality, which is spread along the bank of the Jhelum a little upriver from the camps that were attacked.

The relatively upper crust southern portion of Khawaja Bagh, uphill from the national highway, contains huge mansions. Relatively more congested parts of Khawaja Bagh are spread along the river, below the highway. Some residents of the city speculate that militants might lurk in that area.

It is true that they could theoretically have crossed the river from there to the camps that were attacked. But that is a very unsettling thought. For, they could surely have attacked the Divisional Headquarters on the same side of the river even more easily. And the office of the Senior Superintendent of Police and the residence of the Deputy Commissioner are also a little further downriver along that bank of the Jhelum.

The reason Khawaja Bagh is in focus is that militants had attacked an army convoy on the national highway right at Khawaja Bagh exactly a month before the lethal attack on the Uri Brigade base. Some city residents are convinced that those militants had come out of some of the bungalows in Khawaja Bagh. They must have conducted recce operations from there over the previous few nights.

Army convoys used to move at night during those first few weeks of this year’s unrest in Kashmir, in order to steer clear of stone-pelting mobs. The army has been under strict instructions not to shoot in response.

On one occasion, a convoy commander (Major) ran up and down his long convoy to prevent his angry troops from firing back while they were being pelted further along that highway on the outskirts of Srinagar. On at least two occasions, convoys remained on the highway between Anantnag and Srinagar for several hours at night, facing angry demonstrations without firing back. Several CRPF convoys have reversed or turned away at high speed to avoid stone-pelters on arterial highways.

The August attack on the convoy at Baramulla had resulted in a 15-minute shoot-out on the highway in the dark. Several army personnel were casualties. The attackers got away, although a Quick Response Team jumped out of a vehicle just ahead of the vehicles that were directly under attack, and put up a brave fight.

The next day, the Corps Commander, Lt-Gen Satish Dua, ordered that convoys should move during the day and should shoot at the legs of any stone-pelters who tried to stop them.
As anger rises in the army’s ranks following the Uri attack, the brass are going to find it increasingly difficult to impose restraint.

Why China’s move to block Brahmaputra tributary is actually linked to Balochistan

In the wake of India’s newly re-imagined policy towards Pakistan — conducting precision strikes across the Line of Control (LoC), reviewing the ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status tag, and organising high-level meets to discuss withdrawal from the Indus Waters Treaty — China has played its latest card by blocking a tributary of Brahmaputra to facilitate work on of its expensive hydropower projects in Tibet.  Power has a lot to do with perception politics and perhaps China intends for this to just be a warning to India, the timing of such a move from China implies that it’s trying to corner India and showing its support for Pakistan.

On Friday, 30 September, Xinhua reported that Tibet blocked a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo River as part of its most expensive hydro project. The 4.95-billion-yuan project ($740 million) can store up to 295 million cubic meters of water.

This is not too far-fetched a theory, considering that China is known to displays of aggression across the border when it is unhappy. An earlier Firstpost editorial also points out that such aggression is a part of the Chinese “blow-hot, blow cold” routine. In June this year, the Chinese termed it a “temporary transgression” when about 250 China’s Peoples Liberation Army soldiers entered Arunachal Pradesh’s east district of Kameng. These incursions are not new and in fact the trend has been rising over the last few years. According to the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, in 2010, there were 228 incursions, 213 in 2011, 426 in 2012.

So how is blocking a tributary of the river in its own legal territory one such show of aggression?

Image Courtesy: World Bank's Water InitiativeImage Courtesy: World Bank's Water Initiative

Image Courtesy: World Bank’s Water Initiative

The Brahamaputra originates in China (Yarlung Tsangpo) and flows through India and Bangladesh; a part of the river’s basin is also in Bhutan. The river basin covers close to 5,80,000 square kilometres through the four countries. The basin, most certainly poses a security concern for India, since both countries have fought over territories in which the river flows. Dam building activities, water diversion plans — with no bilateral or multilateral treaty on these waters — all actors in the issue have their own set of concerns.

In the Centre for Naval Analyses 2016 report titled Water Resource Competition in the Brahmaputra River Basin: China, India, and Bangladesh, authors Nilanthi Samaranayake, Satu Limaye, and Joel Wuthnow explain that China’s concerns stem from a fear Indian government’s “actual control” over Arunachal Pradesh (a state it has considered part of China and referred to as ‘Southern Tibet’) can be strengthened through dam-building activities. China’s interests can be inferred as political. However, India’s concerns with any activity upstream (ie in China) is both political and physical. While there is worry over Beijing’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh, probable water diversion or dam building activities in the upper riparian areas of the river could have large scale implications on the physical level

In 2013, India complained to China about its expensive hydropower projects announced in the Brahmaputra region citing ‘irreparable damage’ to the Indian basin and also the impact it would have on the physical land and surrounding regions. China didn’t budge, only assured that it wouldn’t have a negative impact.

In the ongoing scuffle between India and Pakistan — when both sides are unencumbered in their ways to smear the other as the enemy, China is at an advantage to pick a side. China has in the recent past also unequivocally expressed its support to Pakistan — “In case of any (foreign) aggression, our country will extend its full support to Pakistan,” consul-general of China in Lahore, Yu Boren is quoted as saying in a report published in Dawn. While it may look like China is just being a kind neighbour to Pakistan and supporting it in standing up to a bully like India, but if you look closer there is much more at play here — the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, for instance. H Jacob writes in a paper for the European Council on Foreign Relations, China, India, Pakistan and a Stable Regional Order, that China is “steadily increasing its influence in the region with its innovative ‘New Silk Road’ strategy, and by offering economic and development assistance to Pakistan.”

When the Prime Minister Narendra Modi raked up the Balochistan cause in his Independence Day speech, he also loosened the screws on any plans for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. China is looking to gain something — by using Gwadar as another naval base (despite Pakistan and China assuring that it will be used only for economic reasons), China will have fresh access to the Indian Ocean (making it a two ocean power) and if the controversy surrounding South China Sea is anything to go by, India is right in being wary of China’s agenda. And China involves itself in the international arguments to further its own cause. So China’s reaction of closing the taps on the Brahmaputra shouldn’t be construed as its big-brotherly act towards Pakistan, considering that India threatened to abrogate the Indus Waters Treaty.

China is uniquely aware of Brahmaputra’s importance to lower riparian States like India and Bangladesh and as Brahma Chellaney writes in Coming Water Wars (in The Magazine of International Economic Policy):

“Upstream dams, barrages, canals, and irrigation systems can help fashion water into a political weapon that can be wielded overtly in a war, or subtly in peacetime to signal dissatisfaction with a co-riparian state.”

China is applying subtle pressure to let India know that the India-Pakistan equation is subject to the complex geopolitics of the South Asian region. The two nations should perhaps engage in cooperation and dialogue, like they did in the early 2000s after a major flood hit the North East of India. Sure, talking about a river that flows through contested territory is not easy, but better than escalation that neither country should attempt.

Cauvery row: Karnataka relents, to release water to Tamil Nadu and for irrigation

Bengaluru: Ending the impasse, Karnataka on Monday decided to release Cauvery river water for irrigation to help its farmers save their standing crop — with some of the water intended to flow to Tamil Nadu as a result.

“The joint session of the state legislature unanimously passed a resolution to release Cauvery water for irrigation purpose, modifying its 23 September resolution to preserve the water for only drinking purpose,” said state Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister T.B. Jayachandra.

The decision to release the water for irrigation was in view of the increased inflows into the four reservoirs of the river basin during the last 10 days, rising their collective storage level to 34.13 tmc (thousand million cubic) feet on 2 October from 27.6 tmc ft on 22 September.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Tabling the new resolution in the state assembly, Jayachandra said water can be released for irrigation to protect the interest of the farmers.

According to technical experts, when water is released from the reservoirs of the river basin, a substantial quantity of it will also flow to Biligundlu at the border point between the two states where the flow into Tamil Nadu is measured.

“The flow of the river water from the reservoirs to Biligundlu will be about 5,000-6,000 cusecs per day due to additional supply from downstream, ground resources and gravity, measuring up to the amount the apex court ordered on 30 September to release daily from 1-6 October,” said an expert.

Admitting that the increasing inflows into Kabini, KRS, Harani and Hemavathy reservoirs across the river basin over the last 10 days was a great relief, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah told the lawmakers that the state was now in a position to release some water for irrigation and drinking purpose in the region.

“As 27 tmc ft of water is required to meet the drinking needs of the people in Bengaluru, Mandya and Mysuru in the region till the onset of the next monsoon in June 2017, we are in a position to release the remaining (7 tmc) feet for irrigation of our farmers to save their standing crops,” said Siddaramaiah.

The opposition parties, including the BJP and the JD-S supported the resolution after agreeing to spare the additional water for irrigation purpose.

This comes in the wake of the Supreme Court rapping the Karnataka government for not following its orders on release of water.

“Have you released some water? There can be a part compliance of our order. We can understand your difficulty,” it said on Monday when senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Tamil Nadu, said Karnataka has not released any water as directed by the apex court.

Pak asks World Bank to settle dispute over Kishanganga hydroelectricity project

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amidst escalating tension, Pakistan has demanded that the World Bank set up a Court of Arbitration to hear its objections over the Kishanganga hydroelectricity project by India, which has asked the international lender to appoint a neutral expert to settle the dispute. According to sources, Pakistan has raised objections over the design of the hydel project in Jammu and Kashmir, saying it is not in line with the criteria laid down under the Indus Water Treaty between the two countries.India has, however, asserted the project design is “well within parameters” of the treaty and urged the World Bank to appoint a neutral expert as the issue is a “technical matter” as suggested in the treaty.”Pakistan has requested the World Bank to set up a Court of Arbitration… India demands that the matter be looked into by a neutral expert as it is a technical matter. The treaty says the same,” one of the sources said, adding a technical expert like an engineer can understand the issue better than a legal expert.The sources said that both India and Pakistan presented their respective facts relating to the project separately to the World Bank on September 27 in Washington.”They (Pakistan) have objected to the design of the project. Under the treaty, there are design criteria which say the design of the project should be like this.”We firmly believe that our design is well within the parameters laid down in the treaty. But they think otherwise.They believe India’s design of the project will affect flow of the river to Pakistan,” the source said.Pakistan, a lower riparian state, had flagged the issue relating to the project, which will divert water from the Kishanganga River to the power plant in the Jhelum river basin, in the past too and approached the International Court of Arbitration in 2010.It had claimed that the project will affect the flow of Kishanganga, known as Neelum in the neighbouring country, “adversely”.Pakistan had also claimed that power generation capacity of its Neelum-Jhelum hydropower plant, located downstream of Kishanganga, will also be affected by the Indian hydel project, work on which had begun in 2007.The matter though was settled in India’s favour in 2013.Notwithstanding the fresh objections raised by Islamabad and beginning of the dispute resolution process, India can continue its work on the hydel project, estimated to generate 360 MW electricity, the sources said.”Unlike the popular perception, nowhere in the treaty it is written that the work has to be stopped when the dispute resolution process is going on. The work can go on,” the source said.The sources though claimed that the Washington meeting has nothing do with the recent aggression along the Line of Control and that it was scheduled well before the Uri terror attack and Indian Army’s surgical strikes on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Water to flow, but only after India taking fair share

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While ruling out the option of abrogating the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Monday decided to put up an elaborate plan to exploit the three western rivers — Indus, Chenab and Jhelum — as per the provisions of the treaty, before their waters are allowed to enter Pakistan.Even as the meeting — attended by the principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Nripendra Misra, national security advisor Ajit Doval, foreign secretary S Jaishankar and water secretary Shashi Shekhar — started, the Prime Minister set the tone. Sources, who were present at the meeting, quoted Prime Minister Modi as saying: “Blood and water can’t flow at the same time.” This implies that while adhering to its international obligations, India will use water as a tool and leverage it against Pakistan so its leaders are made to address New Delhi’s concerns.India will also review the construction on the Tulbul/Wullar Barrage navigation project which was suspended in 1987, but later revived on a smaller scale in 2007. The project, which is a “navigation lock-cum-control structure” at the mouth of the Wullar lake, envisages a regulated water release from the natural storage in the lake. This is to maintain a minimum draught of 4.5 feet in the river up to Baramulla, during the lean winter months.This is one of the eight contentious issues identified by both sides as part of the Comprehensive Dialogue process. Pakistan apprehends that the barrage will damage its own triple-canal project linking the Jhelum and Chenab with the Upper Bari Doab Canal and will allow the Indian Army to make crossing the river either easy or difficult, at will, by the controlled release of water. Furthermore, it will give a lever to India to control the flow of water into the Jhelum. This will allow India to create potential drought and flood situations at will which can affect Pakistan’s agriculture.Sources say the government’s plan is to exploit an option that it hasn’t used for 30 years — which is to increase the agricultural usage of water in Jammu and Kashmir. Out of the 6,00,000 hectares of cultivated land in Jammu and Kashmir, only 1,50,000 hectares is under irrigation. It was also decided to allow 0.5 million acre feet (MAF) water to flow to Pakistan during the lean season.Sources added that the Prime Minister wanted the construction of three dams — Bursur, Sawlakot and Rattle — on the river Chenab to be speeded up. The review was undertaken as India is now weighing up its options to punish Pakistan for its abetment to terrorist activities. External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup had said last week that there were differences between India and Pakistan on implementing the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir’s deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh said last week that his state will fully support whatever decision is taken by the Union government on the 1960 agreement. “The treaty has caused huge loss to Jammu and Kashmir, as the people of the state cannot fully utilise the waters of various rivers, particularly the Chenab in Jammu, for agricultural and other activities,” Singh had said.Officials were sceptical about the total abrogation of the treaty, fearing that it would rake up Chinese aggression, from where the river Indus originates. India’s eastern neighbour also holds the controls of the river Brahmaputra, which sustains large parts of India and Bangladesh.But India’s stand is in line with its treaty. India has shown generosity in the last five decades which the PM of India clearly highlighted “Blood and water cannot flow together”.

Govt releases Rs 315 cr for building toilets along Ganga

Fri, 23 Sep 2016-03:28pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Union Water Resources Ministry has released Rs 315 crore for construction of toilets along Ganga river.The Ministry released the money to Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation for building toilets as per an action plan under Swachh Bharat campaign (Gramin) during 2016-17. The Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Ministry had released Rs 263 crore for the purpose during the previous fiscal, an official statement said.”So far, 14,500 toilets have been constructed under this scheme,” the statement reads.

Flood situation remains grim in MP, Bihar, UP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The flood situation in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh remained grim on Monday morning. In Bihar, waters from various rivers were reported to be spreading to new areas in Bhojpur, Buxar, Munger, Bhagalpur and Khagaria districts. Low lying areas of Patna, riverine areas of Patna, Vaishali and Saran districts are also reportedly under water. Flood-affected people have taken shelter in schools in Patna. The movement of trains has been stopped between Chapra and Balia because of submerged railway tracks at many places. The surging water of the Rivers Sone and Punpun have spread to the low lying areas of Jahanabad and Arwal districts. Patna. The movement of trains has been stopped between Chapra and Balia because of submerged railway tracks at many places. The surging water of the Rivers Sone and Punpun have spread to the low lying areas of Jahanabad and Arwal districts. In Uttar Pradesh, the flood situation in the eastern parts is grim. The River Ganga is rising in many places, including in Allahabad and Varanasi. The army has been kept on standby to possible rescue and rehabilitation efforts in Allahabad. Both the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers are rising continuously in the district and people have been told to vacate their homes and move to safer places.Over 100 villages are facing a critical flood situation in the district. So far, about 10,000 people have taken shelter in relief camps. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is also engaged in Ballai and Banda districts after receiving information on rising water levels. Besides Allahabad, the waters of the River Ganga are reportedly rising in Varanasi, Ballia and Mirzapur districts, while the waters of the Yamuna are rising trend in Banda, Mathura and Allahabad.After the release of water from the dam, the Betwa River is also on spate in Hamirpur district. Water levels are rising between two to three centimetres per hour. In Rajasthan, incessant rains in the south eastern districts have affected normal life. Several over bridges have been submerged in water, bringing road traffic on these routes to a grinding halt. A maximum of 26 centimetres of rainfall has been recorded at the Jakham Dam in the state’s Pratapgarh district.Places like Nimbaheda, Badi Sadri and Bhadesar have received 22 centimeters of rainfall in the last 24 hours. The districts of Chittorgarh, Baran, Dungarpur, Banswara and Jhalawar have also experienced good rainfall.An alert has been sounded in nearby areas of Chambal river in Karauli following an increase in water levels. In Madhya Pradesh, torrential rains have lashed western parts even as relief works have gained momentum in Bundelkhand and Vindhya regions.Normal life has been affected in Guna, Rajgarh, Shivpuri, Mandsour, Ujjain and other parts of western Madhya Pradesh. Major rivers, including Retam, Chambal, Shivna, Kshipra and Sindh are in spate.

‘Farakka Dam’ responsible for spate in river Ganga: Nitish

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid apprehensions of flood waters entering into Patna town, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday said silt deposited in Ganga after the construction of Farraka Dam was responsible for spate in the river and asked the Centre to remove the dam or come out with a ‘Silt Management Policy’.”The current flood situation has been caused by siltation of river Ganga. This situation is the result of silt getting deposited in Ganga after construction of Farakka dam. The only way to remove silt from the river is to remove the dam,” Kumar told reporters after the review meeting on flood situation here. If the central government has any other option (other than removing the dam), then it should start working on it, he added.In his Independence day address too, Kumar had raised the issue saying that the depth of river Ganga had reduced following the silt deposition in the river due to construction of dam at Farakka. Stressing that Ganga has become shallow due to siltation, Kumar said “I have consistently been raising this issue for the past 10 years. I had raised the issue when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister and now I am raising it before the Narendra Modi government.”Due to siltation in the river, the depth of Ganga river has reduced and water spreads to the adjoining areas in the event of rise in the water level, he said. “I appeal to the Government of India to prepare a policy on silt management. The central government should consider it after taking stock of the situation…It should come out with the mechanism or wayout to prevent silt getting deposited in the river Ganga, otherwise it could prove to be a terrible situation in years to come,” Kumar said.

Delhi Assembly lecture series: Basic reason for water crisis in India is inequality, says P Sainath

New Delhi: Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning journalist and author of one of the most authentic books on drought, Everybody Loves a Good Drought, P Sainath said on Monday that the fundamental reason for water and farm crisis in India is inequality, which has accelerated due to the country’s policies in the last 25 to 30 years.

“The solution to this fast growing problem lies in our Constitution, where in the Preamble it talks about the equality and justice of the social, economic and political,” he said.

Speaking on ‘water and farm crisis in India’ as the first speaker in the Delhi Assembly’s lecture series, Sainath said that due to lack of priority on water supply and usage, the crisis has escalated. “During drought, the money meant for the poor farmers don’t reach them; instead it’s siphoned off to others,” he said.

Explaining the meaning of drought, Sainath said, “People think drought is due to meteorological factors, but in fact there’s a hydrological factor to it. I call drought a ‘mega water crisis’, which is caused due to over use of ground water. Even if you get three consecutive monsoons, there may be a relief, but it’s no solution to drought. In the last 20 years, India stands naked in water and farm crisis,” he pointed out.


There’s a hydrological factor to drought as well, said P Sainath. Picture: Twitter/@PSainath_org

Alarming data

Citing NSSO and other data and survey reports on inequality of wealth distribution and water crisis, Sainath said that surveys and data analyses show that the basic problem in India is inequality, and this has given rise to water and farm crises. “Nowhere in the world, growth in inequality between 2000 and 2015, is as high as in India. It’s the highest in India.”

The income of a farming family (from all sources) is on an average Rs 6,426 per month, i.e. Rs 1,300 per capita income (NSSO 2013) and the income of main breadwinner (75 percent of rural family) is Rs 5,000 or less per month. In Maharashtra’s three districts, including Mumbai, 53 percent of drinking water caters to 34 percent of the total population, while the top 0.2 percent of Indians hold 41 percent of the total wealth.

What are the factors leading to this crisis?

According to Sainath, it’s due to the large-scale concretisation of all pilgrim towns, deforestation, construction of hotels and resorts in the ecologically-sensitive belts, housing complexes coming up with large number of swimming pools, diversion to cash crop, misuse and abuse of water.

“In Godavari, the ancient historical bathing ghat Ramkunda has been concretised for pilgrims and the water can’t drain into the ground. As a result, Ramkunda has become dry. The most bizarre practice that the government has adopted is pouring 60 to 90 tankers of water per day in the river in a bid to recharge it. Similarly, the source of River Krishna has also dried up,” said Sainath.

Why is the crisis growing?

Enumerating multiple factors that has the escalated water and farm crisis, Sainath remarked, “Crisis happens due to multiple factors and when the interest of common man comes last.”

First, due to policy and administrative handling, the crisis is getting worsened. Second, due to large-scale transfer of land and water from the poor to the rich in the last 20 years. Third, extending undue favours to corporate and industrial sector. Fourth, no prioritisation of water supply vis-à-vis needs. Fifth is due to commercialisation of water.

“In drought-prone Marathwada, a poor woman has to pay between 45 paise to Re 1 per litre of water, whereas beer manufacturing companies get three million litres of water per day at 4 paise per litre. When the crisis aggravated, the court ordered a cut in water supply and not in price. It’s due to commercialisation of water,” he said.

“There is a single residential complex in Mumbai in its planning stage, which has 210 swimming pools in it. Similarly, in Pune, there is a proposal for a complex with 400 swimming pools. Isn’t it a state that has been suffering from severe drought? How can you have so many swimming pools, where water scarcity is so severe?” he said.

A silver lining

Citing the example of collective farming (Sangh Krishi) by women in Kerala, Sainath said, “These landless women farmers took land on lease for farming by forming collectives. Today, there are 47,000 collectives. They have adopted natural and organic style of farming. Second, their first priority is to satisfy the demand of the group based on the principle of food justice and after distribution of produce, whatever is left is sent to market. This is a very good example of good practices in farming.”

Maharashtra: Tankers used to fill up dry Ramkund in Nashik

After a long debate on the matter of a dry Ramkund, the corporation has released water into the holy pond in river Godavari.The drought spell has affected Godavari too with the river running dry for the first time in ages. There has been a lot of debate on this issue with the main contention of the river bed being lined with concerte flooring which has closed the source of the natural springs in the river.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The water in river Godavari comes through the Gangapur dam which has only 4% water of its total capacity left now. The dam also provides drinking water to Nashik city which is already under the pressure of water cuts. With the monsoon not in sight yet, the water situation is still dear. Therefore, water was not being released from Gangapur dam into the river and that made Ramkund go dry.Purohit Sangh, the group of priests who conduct religious rituals for people on the banks of river Godavari, has been consistently demanding that water be released into Ramkund. On the other hand, environmentalist have been against release of filtered water reserved for drinking purposes into the river. Instead, they have suggested using water from the logged area or rejuvenating of old wells by the side of the river. The Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) had even thought of digging a bore well, a move opposed by the river activists.After a lot of debate, it was on Thursday night that the direct pipeline from the overhead tank of the NMC that supplies water to the Panchavati area was opened and water was released from Dhanushkund into Ramkund. Then, on Saturday afternoon, the lost water was refilled by tankers.”One can understand that there has to be water in Ramkund for religious purposes, but using drinking water that is reserved for public in a situation of acute water scarcity is not understood,” objects Devang Jani, who has filed a PIL in the court demanding removal of the concrete on the river bed.Jani adds that instead of using filtered water, the wells by the river, one old well near Laxamankund and three other near Datta mandir by the Gandhi talav which has been closed years ago, should have been rejuvenated and water from these wells poured into Ramkund. Jani’s insistence, however, remains on removal of the concrete so that the natural springs in the river bed could be opened and work as natural source of water for the river.The priests, who have been at the receiving end of unhappiness of the devouts coming to Godavari to perform rituals, now express satisfaction. “With water in Ramkund, it is a better sight. The Simhastha Kumbhmela in Nashik is still going on. Many people still come to take the holy bath. There are many who come to perform the last rituals after the death of their kin. These people would go back unhappy with the Ramkund being dry. Now, the situation is better,” states Satish Shukla, president of Ganga Godavari Purohit Sangh. According to Shukla, there are important days like the ongoing Ganga Dashehara festival conducted for the river, Nirjala ekadashi on June 16, and many more such important days when people take bath in the river.The executive engineer of NMC stated that the step to fill up Ramkund was necessary. “Initially, about 5 lakh litres of water has been released and now the refill of the losses due to use and evaporation will be done on daily basis with the help of tankers. These tankers fetch water from Indrakund which has a natural source of water,” he said.

This shikarawala gave his life to save Kashmir’s guests

Ghulam Mohammad Guroo lived and died to uphold the rich ethos of atithi devo bhava!The 55-year-old braveheart shikarawala (boatman) made Kashmir proud by giving his own life to save a group of tourists from drowning in the gushing waters of Jhelum. Three days have passed, but Guroo’s body is still untraceable in the river.Tragedy struck on Thursday when Guroo was rowing a shikara to take a group of tourists on a cruise to the old Srinagar city. After returning from Hazrat Shah-e-Hamdan shrine, the boat suddenly lost the balance and capsized near old Fathe Kadal. Guroo, his co-shikarawala and the motor boat driver jumped into the river and rescued all the three tourists.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Later he tried to relax on the banks when one of the haversacks was swept away by the current. He again jumped into the river to retrieve the bag. However, the gushing waters swept him away and since then he is missing,” said Mohammad Sultan, one of the rescuers who was driving the motor boat.Guroo’s shikara (small boat) was part of a cruise team that was hired by a group of 10 tourists from Zero Bridge for old city tour. Guroo’s shikara was carrying three tourists including a woman while seven others were on board the motor boat.”After we rescued them, tourists left this place. Since then we have not seen them. I was summoned by the tourist police yesterday. They were asking me who these tourists were. I said we did not know,” said Sultan.Guroo was an avid swimmer in his youth was known for crossing the rivers and lakes with ease. Luck however had other things in store for him when he jumped into the river but could not swim to safety.A pall of gloom has descended on the family of Guroo which has been camping on the banks of Jhelum for the last three days. “How can we go home without his body? He left for earning livelihood and did not return. We got the news at 5.30 pm that he has drowned,” said Mohammad Ramzan Guroo, the elder brother of Guroo.Massive efforts are on to fish out the body from Jhelum. “Police boats are working overtime to fish out the body. But it continues to remain untraceable. Now the boats have expanded their area of operation to locate the body,” said Noor Mohammad, Jhelum Houseboat Owners Association.Superintendent of Police, North City, Sajad Khaliq said the body of Guroo has yet not been traced from the river. “The body is still not traceable. The tourists were on the downtown tour (when tragedy struck),” he said.

Guwahati becomes first city in India to have City Animal, declares River Dolphin as mascot

The Assam state capital on Monday become the first city in the country to have its own City Animal with the Kamrup Metropolitan district administration declaring the Gangetic River Dolphin as the mascot.In a press conference, Kamrup Metropolitan Deputy Commissioner M Angamuthu said that the animal, locally known as ‘Sihu’, would be the ‘City Animal’ of Guwahati.The district administration had organised online and off-line voting among three protected creatures, which are on the verge of extinction, to decide the mascot.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Along with Gangetic River Dolphin, the other two animals were Black Softshell Turtle (Bor Kaso) and Greater Adjutant Stork (Hargila).While less than 2,000 Gangetic River Dolphins remain in the Brahmaputra along Guwahati, a recent survey said only a small population of Black Softshell Turtle were found in the river and its tributaries.The number of Greater Adjutant Stork is less than 1,200 in and around the state capital.The three-month long voting process attracted 60,003 participants to decide the City Animal and Gangetic River Dolphin received 24,247 votes.While Greater Adjutant Stork got 18,454 votes, Black Softshell Turtle was the choice of 17,302 people.In the off-line voting, 76 schools and colleges across Guwahati participated.Along with the Kamrup Metropolitan district administration, other organisations such as Assam Forest Department, Assam State Biodiversity Board and an NGO Help Earth worked closely to decide the City Animal, he said.

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.

Parched Agra observes ‘Water Tragedy Day’ as water crisis continues

Agra: Twenty-three years after Agra was struck by a ‘water tragedy’ that claimed 21 lives, nothing seems to have changed. Even in summer of 2016, the Taj city is parched as residents are suffering due to lack of safe drinking water.

City residents recall how on 21 May 1993, contaminated water claimed the lives of 21 people in this city. Many more were critically ill for months. Compensation was announced and promises made by the then Uttar Pradesh governor Motilal Vora about providing clean water, a barrage on the Yamuna river and much more. But all those promises are yet to be fulfilled.

Each year on 21 May, Agra residents, especially in the Khateek Para, Mandi Sayeed Khan and Nala Budha localities, come out in large numbers to observe the ‘Water Tragedy Day’ as happened on Saturday, when they protested against shortage of water and flagged their demands one more time.

But it seems that their demands fall on deaf ears.

Representational Image. ReutersRepresentational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

In January, Divisional Commissioner Pradip Bhatnagar had announced the setting up of rubber check dams to store Yamuna water for the lean months. In 2015, Uttar Pradesh Irrigation Minister Shiv Pal Singh Yadav had promised early start of work on the Yamuna barrage. But that has also not materialised.

Senior Congress leader Tajendra Rajora said “nothing has changed in the last 23 years and promises have not been kept”.

“The state government seems to be baffled. Sometimes it plans to release water into Yamuna from Ganga, at other times it wants water to be channelised to Agra from Chambal,” said Surendra Sharma of Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

For the last three days, half of Agra city is reeling under a severe water crisis.

“Since April 1 there have been major disruptions in the supply of municipal water. The pipelines have burst, leading to suspension of water supply from Yamuna. People are tired in this heat when the temperature is around 45 degrees Celsius,” said Ranjan Sharma of River Connect Campaign.

Across the localities and slums, residents have been protesting for the past one week, demanding safe drinking water that is being supplied by the Agra Water Works.

But against a peak demand of over 500 MLD, the Agra Water Works cannot even supply half of that volume, point out locals.

Agra Water Works general manager Manju Rani Gupta said: “Maintenance and repair work of the damaged pipelines is continuing. We hope to resume normal water supply by Sunday morning.”

Over the years, demand for water has increased drastically in Agra. But no arrangement was made to augment the water supply.

“Unless they desilt and dredge the river from Delhi to Agra, the underground aquifers would not be charged and the water table will not rise,” said a local environmentalist.

The ponds are encroached upon and the canal systems have been choked. “Which means there’s no place to store the rain water,” social activist Shravan Kumar Singh said.

“The water tanks need urgent cleaning and repair. To augment water availability, it is necessary to release more raw water from river Ganga and its canals. Only additional release can flush out the pollutants which are affecting the aquatic life,” said Dr. Debashish Bhattacharya of the River Connect Campaign.

Agra is crying out for help. It now remains to be seen how the government tackles the situation.

West Bengal boat tragedy: Death toll rises to 18

Eighteen bodies, including those of four children, have so far been fished out from Bhagirathi river in which an overcrowded boat bank on Saturday night. Nadia district magistrate Vijay Bharti told PTI that 17 bodies have been identified.”The 17 bodies identified are those of people from Shantipur while one is likely to be from Burdwan…. We are still trying to identify it,” Bharti said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The boat was ferrying around 55 people, much above its capacity, and overturned in the river on Saturday night when it was on its way back to Shantipur in Nadia district carrying passengers from a fair at Kalna in Burdwan district on the opposite bank. The accident had sparked violent protest in Nadia district yesterday during which several boats were torched and police fired tear gas shells and rubber bullets to quell the mob. Burdwan district magistrate Saumitra Mohan said the bodies were found within 1 km to 1.5 km radius of the spot where the boat had capsized on Saturday night. The search operation was still on, Burdwan SP Gaurab Sharma said. “We are still not sure if there are some more bodies in the river or not … Search operation will go on and we are also trying to pull out the boat.” Families of the deceased in the mishap would get a compensation of Rs two lakh each, Bharti said.On the alleged delay in rescue operations, Mohan had said the river current, depth of the river and the muddy water had made the job of the divers “very difficult”. The Burdwan DM had said “overloading” was one of the suspected causes which led to the incident.

West Bengal: 15 bodies fished out after overcrowded boat capsize in Burdwan

Bodies of 15 persons, including a child, have so far been fished out from river Bhagirathi where an overcrowded boat sank on Saturday night.Burdwan district magistrate Saumitra Mohan told PTI that the bodies of seven men, four women and a girl child were recovered during search operations since last night.The bodies were found within 1-1.5 km radius of the spot where the overcrowded boat had capsized, he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Photographs of the bodies have been sent to Kalna and Shantipur police stations to enable their relatives to identify them.The accident had sparked violent protest in Nadia district yesterday during which several boats were torched and police fired tear gas and lobbed rubber bullets to quell the mob.The boat ferrying at least 55 people, much above its capacity, overturned in the river on Saturday night as the people were pn their way back to Shantipur in Nadia district on the opposite bank from a fair at Kalna in Burdwan district.Nadia District Magistrate Vijay Bharti had said last night that the body of a 35-year-old woman was recovered from the river bed near Shantipur.The Burdwan District Magistrate said search operation was still on to “find out if ther are any more victims”.On the alleged delay in rescue operations, Mohan had said the river current, depth of the river and the muddy water had made the job of the divers “very difficult”.The Burdwan DM had said “overloading” was one of the suspected causes which led to the incident.

Head constable posted at Uma Bharti’s residence attempts suicide

A Delhi Police Head constable deployed at Union Minister Uma Bharti’s residence in New Delhi allegedly attempted suicide by shooting himself with his service gun on Sunday night.The incident took place around 10.30 PM, following which police teams were rushed to the residence of Uma Bharti, the Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation in New Delhi’s Ashoka Road.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The official, identified as Head Constable Brijpal of Delhi Police’s security unit, was still breathing while being rushed to the nearest hospital, a senior police official said adding that the reason why he took the extreme step could not be ascertained yet. The head constable allegedly shot himself with his official gun which has been recovered from the spot.”His condition is critical,” DCP (New Delhi) Jatin Narwal said.Prima facie the official shot himself sitting inside his personal car parked inside the premises of Bharti’s bungalow.

Ganges drying up as summer intensifies across nation

The River Ganges is drying up in Allahabad as temperatures continue to rise across the country. Locals expressed their concern over the falling water-level of the river amid worsening heat wave conditions.”Today, the condition is such that there is no water in the river. People can easily walk and cross the river from one end to another. The water level has become so less that it is a matter of concern for all of us. We are extremely worried as Prayag is losing is importance. On seeing such a condition, people too are worried,” said a local, Mohan Lal.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The nation is reeling under severe summers with temperature touching almost 45 degree Celsius in many parts of the country. At least 150 deaths have been recorded in Telangana and Odisha in the recent days.Meanwhile, school children in Moradabad took out a rally to create awareness about water conservation. They held banners and raised slogans urging people to stop wastage of water.”I think this is the most important issue because water is life. And, we want to save water and we want to generate awareness about it among people,” said a participating student, Rashmi.India’s hottest months are May and June, but many states have already registered temperatures above normal level.Winter this year was also lighter than before with comparatively higher temperatures. The Ministry of Earth Sciences attributes the overall hotter climate to the El Nino effect. El Nino is a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific. It can lead to scorching weather across Asia and east Africa, but cause heavy rains and floods in South America.

PM Modi arrives in Brussels to attend India-EU summit

Brussels: Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Brussels on Wednesday for a hectic day-long visit during which he will attend the India-EU Summit and hold bilateral talks with his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel.

Though terror is expected to figure prominently both at the Summit and also in the bilateral talks in the wake of the Brussels suicide attacks last week, Modi will strive to advance India’s partnership with EU in priority areas such as ‘Make in India’ and ‘Smart Cities’.

“A red carpet at dawn. PM @narendramodi receives a warm welcome as he arrives in Brussels,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted soon after the Prime Minister’s arrival in the Belgian capital.

Modi’s visit comes days after the 22 March terror attack here in which at least 32 people were killed, including an Indian, Raghavendran Ganeshan, who was an Infosys employee from Bengaluru.

The 13th India-EU Summit is being held after a gap of four years. The last Summit was held in New Delhi in 2012 and negotiations remained deadlocked over several key issues.

PM Narendra Modi. AFP

PM Narendra Modi. AFP

Besides firming up India-EU counter-terror partnership, the Summit in Brussels is expected to evince interest in other projects like cleaning of Ganga on the lines of River Rhine and Danube.

EU is India’s biggest trading partner as a bloc with trade amounting to USD 126 billion and it is also India’s largest export destination with exports worth USD 65 billion. It is the largest source of FDI in India at USD 69 billion.

Soon after his arrival, Modi has a series of meetings lined up including one with indologists along with a meeting with members of the European Parliament and the Belgian Parliament.

On the eve of the Prime Minister’s visit, the EU said in a statement that “the Summit in Brussels will be an opportunity to re-launch relations and make concrete progress on areas of mutual interest, including trade and investment, energy, climate, water and migration.”

“India-EU Summit and strong economic & investment ties with Belgium will be on the agenda during my Brussels visit,” Modi had said before embarking on his visit.

He had hailed the “resilience and spirit” of its people in the wake of the horrific Brussels bombings and said India stands “shoulder-to-shoulder” with them.

From Brussels, Modi will leave for Washington to attend the Nuclear Security Summit on 31 March and 1 April and from there, he will travel to Saudi Arabia on a two-day visit with a focus on boosting energy and security cooperation.


Govt to plant 4 crore trees along Ganga river: Uma Bharti

Government on Tuesday unveiled its plan to plant over four crore trees in next five years as Union Water Resource Minister Uma Bharati stressed on planting of Himalayan species vegetation that will produce Brahmadrav, which she said, ensures clean river water.Releasing the detailed project report (DPR), Bharati said Brahmadrav is “not a myth or faith but fact” as she insisted on planting of “suitable” vegetation to ensure ecological flow (e-flow) of the river is adequate.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We should keep in mind which species to be planted along the river. Ganga has an exclusive property called Brahmadrav, which ensures its water remains clean. Brahmadrav is not some myth or issue of faith alone. Brahmadrav is fact. It is an exclusive property of Ganga. This Brahmadrav is made due to Himalayan native species of trees. So, we should plant species accordingly,” Bharati said.The Minister noted Ganga cannot be cleaned by only installing effluent treatment plants and sewage treatment plants alone and stressed forestation will play a bigger part in ensuring unfettered waterflow in the river.’Took 40 years to clean Rhine, 27 years to clean Thames’Suggesting that no river like Ganga can be cleaned over a short span of time, the Minister cited examples of Rhine and Thames rivers, which she said took 40 years and 27 years respectively to be cleaned. In the same breath, the Minister though said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a special person who can complete a work in short span of time.”It took 40 years to clean Rhine, Thames was cleaned in 27 years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is such a special person who can complete every work in a very short period of time. Hence, he empowered us and gave Rs 20,000 crore to spend on cleaning the river by 2018,” she said.Bharati said Ganga water can only be considered as clean if its aquatic life is in proper shape. She said those who pollute the river by letting industrial waste and sewage in Ganga are “committing sins” by devoting the river water to their deceased ancestors (as part of rituals).The DPR release ceremony was also attended by Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar who said the Modi government’s commitment to environment protection is “complete and final” as he too batted for forestry intervention to clean Ganga.No forestation carried out by UPA: Prakash Javadekar”To ensure there is no dearth of water in Ganga, it is required that its catchment area has jungle as it was there 200 years ago. This will ensure adequate water flow as trees and plants hold water, recharge, save from soil erosion, up ground water table,” Javadekar said. Without naming the previous UPA government, he said that no forestation was carried out in the country over the past 10-12 years. He said the second leg of the budget session of Parliament will see passage of Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill 2015, which will pave way for expeditious utilisation of funds realised for forest land diverted to non-forest purposes in a transparent manner.”CAF bill expected to be cleared in the second leg of budget session. This should ensure availability of Rs 40,000 crore funds for forestation across the country. There was no forestation carried out over the past 10-12 years. Money meant for forestation kept lying in banks, but it was not used. We will use it on the ground,” he said.Javadekar said there was a drop in pollution in Ganga and claimed the government has “near-succeeded” in stopping flow of “black liquor and spent discharge” into the river. He further added his ministry has drafted a policy to ensure sustainable sand mining across rivers.Water Resource Secretary Shashi Shekhar said the government will plant native species all along the river’s stretch and the work is expected to get underway from monsoon this year.The government has earmarked Rs 2293.73 crore for carrying out forestry intervention. Of this, Rs 951 crore will be spent during 2016-17. Nearly 90 per cent of the fund will be spent on the intervention.A day-long workshop was also organised to mark the release of DPR in which Senior officials from Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, environmentalists, scientists, representatives of Eco Task Force, ITBP, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan and Civil Society organizations were present.According to the Water Resource Ministry, the DPR has been prepared by Forest Research Institute (FRI) after consultations with various stakeholders and incorporating science-based methodology over a period of one year. This included use of remote sensing and GIS technologies for spatial analysis and modeling of pre-delineated Ganga riverscape covering 83,946 sq km out of a much larger Ganga River basin within the country, it said.The FRI designed four sets of field data formats to obtain the site-based information on proposed forestry plantations in natural, agriculture and urban landscapes along the river course and other conservation interventions. More than 8,000 data sheets were obtained from five states along the river course.Altogether, 40 different plantation and treatment models have been selected for implementation by Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal. The project will be implemented over a period of five years by the State Forest Departments of these five states in Phase-I (2016-2021).

Neeri scientist in a spot after declaring World Culture Festival did no harm to Yamuna

New Delhi: National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri) has distanced itself from the comments made by one of its senior scientific officers, Rakesh Kumar, who gave a clean chit to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) Foundation for organising a three-day World Culture Festival (WCF) on Yamuna floodplains in Delhi recently.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFPSri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFP

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. AFP

The comments made by chief scientist and head of Neeri’s Zonal Lab Mumbai, Rakesh Kumar in the media mentioning that no damage had been caused to Yamuna floodplains due to the festival conducted by AOL Foundation have raked up controversy. The environmental activists working for the cause of river Yamuna have questioned Neeri on the grounds that led Kumar to conclude that no damage was caused to the Yamuna river floodplain.

Recently, an article in Firstpost (20 March) titled ‘World culture festival didn’t damage Yamuna floodplain, says Neeri expert giving Art of Living clean chit’, quoted Mumbai-based Kumar saying, “No real damage appears to have been done to the river or the floodplains.”

Meanwhile, Neeri has sought explanation from Kumar for making a public statement, which is against the norms of the organization.

Neeri is an environmental research institute of national importance and is a part of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which has been created and funded by government of India, and is headquartered in Nagpur.

Tapas Nandy, acting director of Neeri told Firstpost, “Neeri has nothing to do with this case or any study if being undertaken by Rakesh Kumar during the WCF or with his statements appeared in the media. This organisation didn’t conduct any survey or study on Yamuna floodplains during the festival.”

“No official permission was taken by Kumar. Neither any of my colleagues nor I had any information about his visit to WCF. I came to know about it from an outsider after the article got published and the next day I shot an explanation mail to him. But till now, I haven’t received any response from Kumar. We’ve given him a working day to respond, but now we’ll take necessary step. His statement in the media on whether any damage had been caused to Yamuna floodplains due to the festival came to me as a surprise,” said Nandy.

Rakesh Kumar’s comments on WCF

• I didn’t see any damage to the river due to the pontoon bridge,” he said. In any case, pontoon bridges are very common in the north. On the issue of the use of the army, the AOL has already said the Delhi government requisitioned the forces to ensure safety of the participants.

• I visited the venue on the second day in a police vehicle and even though it was an SUV, the tyres sank in the mud due to the rain. There was no compaction of the kind that could have a lasting effect. They would have perhaps laid some rubble where vehicular movement was anticipated but even at those places, the ground was very muddy beyond a point.

• The seven-acre dais rested on itself; it had no foundation in the river or the riverbed, a fact that led to concern among some sections of the media that the stage would cave under the weight of thousands of performing artistes and attendees. It was built over-ground, of scaffolding material, with a shuttering plate beneath scaffolding and wooden boards on top. The stage held for the three days of the festival… no digging was undertaken.

• No real damage appears to have been done to the river of the floodplains.

Environmentalists raise red flag; write to Neeri

Even as environmentalists have slammed Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s WCF terming it an ecological disaster, the one-day flying visit of Kumar, an environmental scientist, has raised doubts on his intention to do so, without any prior permission from his own organisation. Especially, when the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that has slapped an initial fine of Rs 5 crore on AOL Foundation and constituted a probe panel of experts to do a post-event review of the festival site.

Paritosh Tyagi, former chief, Central Board of Pollution Control remarked, “There’s no doubt that damage has been caused to floodplain due to use of manual work and machines to flatten the plain and compaction for making roads, platforms etc. It’ll reduce the recharging capacity of groundwater, which is of immense importance. Opening Yamuna floodplain to such events is damaging and wrongly conceived. It’s not possible to review the impact by making a single day visit to the venue.”

Meanwhile, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, a consortium working for restoration of river Yamuna has written to Neeri questioning the authenticity of Kumar’s statement.

Manoj Mishra, convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan said, “We’ve written to Neeri to know about its involvement and whether it had conducted any study during the festival by deputing Rakesh Kumar. Unless this fact is confirmed, it would be incorrect to bring in Neeri as an institution into the matter. Neeri has expertise in environmental engineering, and it is not an institution with any in-depth scientific capacity to study rivers as ecological entities including the importance of ecological sensitivities involved with river flood plains. It’s most unlikely that the person in question has any expertise or mandate to assess ecological damages that have resulted from the event in question. Moreover ecological damages in such matters occur as much during the process of carrying out any construction activity as much from the construction itself or the high footfall during the event.”

Letter to NEERI Director

The said article giving clean-chit to AOL has prominently been displayed on the home page of the websites of The Art of Living and its branches.

Anand Arya, an environmental expert remarked, “A walk through when the function is on is hardly a scientific way of making any kind of assessment. He himself says he was there for a limited period. It’s irresponsible of any individual to rope in the name of an institution (Neeri) when there is no assignment given to that institution and also to the person. The Neeri scientist has blindly supported the AOL’s event, asserting it has not damaged the river or the floodplains in any tangible way, let alone in the long term. Are these statements based on some proper study or research?”

A few unanswered questions

• In what capacity Kumar visited AOL’s WCF in Delhi on 12 March?
• If he wasn’t representing Neeri, why did he conduct the study, on whose behalf and to prove what?
• If he wasn’t representing Neeri, how did he visit the venue in a police vehicle — SUV (by his own admission)?
• “Compaction is done to keep it stable. It is not critical to the environment unless it’s done for, say, water tanks… I did not see any construction-related compaction” – As the festival was in full swing, with lakhs of visitors around, how could Kumar conduct such a detailed and in-depth study on compaction and its effect?
• There were no semi-permanent structures anywhere. Everything built was temporary and that could be easily dismantled.
• “I didn’t see any damage to the river due to the pontoon bridge.” In the midst of the festival, when the entire area was under decoration and the pontoon bridge was in place on the river, how could Kumar conclude that there was no damage to the river? What technical examination did he conduct?
• How could Kumar say with such conviction that no digging was done? Did he visit the venue prior to the event? Evidences have already been presented before the NGT that iron poles and mechanical structures were erected by digging the ground.

The calls made and the SMSes and email sent by Firstpost to Kumar have not been responded to.

Chinese Army personnel spotted near LoC in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, say sources

Srinagar: After frequent incursions in Ladakh area, Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops have been spotted at forward posts along the Line of Control (LoC) on the Pakistani side of Kashmir, ringing alarm bells in the security grid.

Representational image. Firstpost

Representational image. Firstpost

The Army has spotted presence of senior PLA officials at the forward posts opposite Nowgam sector in North Kashmir after which some intercepts of Pakistani army officers suggested that the Chinese troops have come to create some infrastructure along the LoC, sources in the know of developments said on Sunday.

Army has officially maintained complete silence on the issue but have been constantly updating various intelligence agencies about the presence of PLA troops along the Line of Control, the sources said.

The PLA troops were first spotted in the later part of the last year and ever since their presence was witnessed opposite Tangdhar sector as well. In this area, Chinese government-owned China Gezhouba Group Company Limited has been building a Jhelum-Neelum 970 MW Hydel power project.

The hydel project is being built in response to India’s Kishanganga power project being built in Bandipore of North Kashmir. The Indian project is designed to divert water from the Kishanganga River to a power plant in the Jhelum River basin and will have an installed capacity of 330 MW. Construction on the project began in 2007 and is expected to be complete this year.

The intercepts also suggested that Chinese PLA would be digging some tunnels in Leepa Valley, located in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), to build an all-weather road which will serve as an alternate route to reach Karakoram Highway.

The visit by PLA officials is seen by experts as part of Beijing’s 46 billion dollar China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC) under which Gwadar port in Karachi is linked to Chinese Xinjiang province through Karakoram highway, an area under illegal occupation of China.

As the CPEC project was given final shape, India had last year registered its protest against the presence of Chinese troops in Gilgit and Baltistan, an area in PoK, saying that it was unacceptable to India.

In the meantime, some of the experts in the nation’s security grid have been giving serious thoughts to the presence of PLA in close proximity with Pakistani army officials. Chinese officials have maintained that CPEC was an economical package to link Asia with Eurasia.

Srikanth Kondapalli, Professor in Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who has been part of think-tank on Indian policy towards China, feels that the over growing presence of Chinese PLA was a cause of worry for India.

“What we know is that China is going to raise three divisions of its PLA under a local name in PoK that will guard the Chinese interests in occupied Kashmir. One needs to understand the game plan of Beijing,” he said.

Reports emerging from PoK were suggesting that PLA under a local name will establish a security wing in the PoK so that India does not protest. The new three divisions, around 30,000 men, will be deployed in and around the installations built by the Chinese firms, the sources said, adding this way Beijing can also justify its presence along the LoC in northern part of Kashmir.


Chinese Army spotted along LoC in Pak-occupied Kashmir

After frequent incursions in Ladakh area, Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops have been spotted at forward posts along the Line of Control (LoC) on the Pakistani side of Kashmir, ringing alarm bells in the security grid.The Army has spotted presence of senior PLA officials at the forward posts opposite Nowgam sector in North Kashmir after which some intercepts of Pakistani army officers suggested that the Chinese troops have come to create some infrastructure along the LoC, sources in the know of developments said on Sunday.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Army has officially maintained complete silence on the issue but have been constantly updating various intelligence agencies about the presence of PLA troops along the Line of Control, the sources said.The PLA troops were first spotted in the later part of the last year and ever since their presence was witnessed opposite Tangdhar sector as well. In this area, Chinese government-owned China Gezhouba Group Company Limited has been building a Jhelum-Neelum 970 MW Hydel power project.The hydel project is being built in response to India’s Kishanganga power project being built in Bandipore of North Kashmir. The Indian project is designed to divert water from the Kishanganga River to a power plant in the Jhelum River basin and will have an installed capacity of 330 MW.Construction on the project began in 2007 and is expected to be complete this year.The intercepts also suggested that Chinese PLA would be digging some tunnels in Leepa Valley, located in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), to build an all-weather road which will serve as an alternate route to reach Karakoram Highway.The visit by PLA officials is seen by experts as part of Beijing’s 46 billion dollar China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC) under which Gwadar port in Karachi is linked to Chinese Xinjiang province through Karakoram highway, an area under illegal occupation of China.As the CPEC project was given final shape, India had lastyear registered its protest against the presence of Chinese troops in Gilgit and Baltistan, an area in PoK, saying that it was unacceptable to India.In the meantime, some of the experts in the nation’s security grid have been giving serious thoughts to the presence of PLA in close proximity with Pakistani army officials. Chinese officials have maintained that CPEC was an economical package to link Asia with Eurasia.Srikanth Kondapalli, Professor in Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who has been part of think-tank on Indian policy towards China, feels that the over growing presence of Chinese PLA was a cause of worry for India.”What we know is that China is going to raise three divisions of its PLA under a local name in PoK that will guard the Chinese interests in occupied Kashmir. One needs to understand the game plan of Beijing,” he said.Reports emerging from PoK were suggesting that PLA under a local name will establish a security wing in the PoK so that India does not protest. The new three divisions, around 30,000 men, will be deployed in and around the installations built by the Chinese firms, the sources said, adding this way Beijing can also justify its presence along the LoC in northern part of Kashmir.

Chinese Army spotted along LoC in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir

Srinagar: After frequent incursions in Ladakh area, Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops have been spotted at forward posts along the Line of Control (LoC) on the Pakistani side of Kashmir, ringing alarm bells in the security grid.

Representational image. Firstpost

Representational image. Firstpost

The Army has spotted presence of senior PLA officials at the forward posts opposite Nowgam sector in North Kashmir after which some intercepts of Pakistani army officers suggested that the Chinese troops have come to create some infrastructure along the LoC, sources in the know of developments said on Sunday.

Army has officially maintained complete silence on the issue but have been constantly updating various intelligence agencies about the presence of PLA troops along the Line of Control, the sources said.

The PLA troops were first spotted in the later part of the last year and ever since their presence was witnessed opposite Tangdhar sector as well. In this area, Chinese government-owned China Gezhouba Group Company Limited has been building a Jhelum-Neelum 970 MW Hydel power project.

The hydel project is being built in response to India’s Kishanganga power project being built in Bandipore of North Kashmir. The Indian project is designed to divert water from the Kishanganga River to a power plant in the Jhelum River basin and will have an installed capacity of 330 MW. Construction on the project began in 2007 and is expected to be complete this year.

The intercepts also suggested that Chinese PLA would be digging some tunnels in Leepa Valley, located in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), to build an all-weather road which will serve as an alternate route to reach Karakoram Highway.

The visit by PLA officials is seen by experts as part of Beijing’s 46 billion dollar China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC) under which Gwadar port in Karachi is linked to Chinese Xinjiang province through Karakoram highway, an area under illegal occupation of China.

As the CPEC project was given final shape, India had last year registered its protest against the presence of Chinese troops in Gilgit and Baltistan, an area in PoK, saying that it was unacceptable to India.

In the meantime, some of the experts in the nation’s security grid have been giving serious thoughts to the presence of PLA in close proximity with Pakistani army officials. Chinese officials have maintained that CPEC was an economical package to link Asia with Eurasia.

Srikanth Kondapalli, Professor in Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who has been part of think-tank on Indian policy towards China, feels that the over growing presence of Chinese PLA was a cause of worry for India.

“What we know is that China is going to raise three divisions of its PLA under a local name in PoK that will guard the Chinese interests in occupied Kashmir. One needs to understand the game plan of Beijing,” he said.

Reports emerging from PoK were suggesting that PLA under a local name will establish a security wing in the PoK so that India does not protest. The new three divisions, around 30,000 men, will be deployed in and around the installations built by the Chinese firms, the sources said, adding this way Beijing can also justify its presence along the LoC in northern part of Kashmir.


World Culture Festival: Sri Sri should be thanked for drawing national attention on river Yamuna’s sorry state

It is only during the later part of rainy season when huge amounts of water is released from UP that one is reminded of river Yamuna that flows past Delhi. The only other time its existence is discussed is when Poorvanchali social cultural organisations, with some support from Delhi government, does some cosmetic cleaning. They put up tents and such other facilities for Chatt Puja.

For the rest of the year, Yamuna in Delhi is a big chocking drain. No one cares about the pollution. There have been no visible exercise to clean the river, either by the self-proclaimed environmentalists or by the government.

Waste being dumped in the Yamuna river. File photo. AFPWaste being dumped in the Yamuna river. File photo. AFP

Waste being dumped in the Yamuna river. File photo. AFP

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar should be thanked for inviting the nation’s attention to river Yamuna and its pollution, discussions on which have rarely come up.
The spiritual guru should also be complimented for making Arvind Kejriwal forget his differences with Narendra Modi government at the centre, or vice-versa, and for making them work in close coordination. That’s a welcome development, even if the truce is temporary. At least a new beginning has been made.

The spiritual guru’s decision to hold a three-day long ‘World Culture Festival’ between 11-13 March and make the venue on the Yamuna river bank (officially part of Mayur Vihar Phase-I) seem fit for staging the Olympic Games hasn’t gone down well with environmentalists, media, ordinary denizens or the National Green Tribunal.

Sri Sri is an international celebrity. After all, it’s not within the competence of an ordinary mortal to organise an event of this scale — a dais spread over acres, a makeshift stadium bigger than the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, six pontoon bridges over Yamuna (for which he got help from the army) so that VVIPs including the Prime Minister may reach the venue, half a dozen clearances from various government agencies. His arrangements include provision for an estimated 35 lakh people who will be at the festival and participants from 155 countries.

An event of this scale organised by someone who is perceived to be close to Modi and the ruling BJP would obviously make big news.

Critics are well within their rights to criticise the use of army for building one pontoon bridge and erecting temporary structures beyond the permitted area.

But the obsessive focus on the environmental aspect, degradation of Yamuna ecology and its bio-diversity is a bit rich.

It is not as if Sri Sri’s event has destroyed the pristine precincts of Yamuna. It’s not as if hordes of tourists frequent the river banks for its flora and fauna. Truth is, these are among the most polluted sites of the country and until the Art of Living foundation decided to organise the event, no one gave even the slightest attention to it.

Consider the current state of Yamuna — the air conditioning systems of Delhi Metro coaches which cross the Yamuna every day and those that are parked at the banks suffer severe damage due to toxic gases produced by a heavily polluted Yamuna.

My colleague Tarique Anwar in Firstpost, quoting Delhi Metro officials and experts, reported how not just rail coaches but the AC units in residential and commercial complexes around Yamuna too are badly affected, so are the respiratory system of those living in close vicinity of the river. “There is no oxygen in the Yamuna, just sewage. Toxic fumes, including ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, emanating from the polluted water corrodes metals,” DD Basu, senior scientist, Central Pollution Control Board was quoted as saying in the report.

“The toxic gases damage the coating on the condenser joints of the AC system, which in turn causes leakage of coolant gas,” said DMRC director (operations) Rajkumar.
“Condenser systems of 350 coaches on lines 3 (Dwarka-Noida City Centre) and 4 (Yamuna Bank-Vaishali) and of 100 out of 200 coaches on line 1 (Dilshad Garden-Rithala) have been replaced”, Rajkumar was quoted, as saying.

Yamuna has six bridges over it connecting east Delhi and Noida to central Delhi, two rail bridges and one metro bridge. The number is only going to increase. Each such construction obviously has its own side effect.

From Wazirabad in north-east where Yamuna enters Delhi to Okhla in south where Delhi’s boundary ends, 15 main drains enter Yamuna, all to pollute it even further.
Drive down any of these bridges and the extent of unauthorised constructions — both semi-pucca and pucca — would be visible to anyone. No environmentalist has ever raised their voice so far.

The entire Commonwealth Games village was built over the river bed. No hue and cry was made about it; at least no one remembers whether it made non-stop live TV coverage or newspaper banner headlines.

Taking on Ravi Shankar and the proposed World Cultural Festival is the easiest route to big publicity. Taking on a Suresh Kalmadhi or a MS Gill (for constructing Commonwealth games villages) obviously didn’t make much political sense. Akshardham Temple, too, is built on the river bed, a destination which has helped Delhi enhance its pride.
Beyond the obvious attempts at political point-scoring, if there are any environmental concerns to be raised, it should be addressed by competent authorities after the event is over. If it is found that Sri Sri’s event did everlasting damage, he and his foundation should face corrective and penal action.

The environmentalists should also list out what of flora and fauna, marine life is being destroyed by the event. It’s not clear whether the festival will cause any permanent damage to the soil. Proof of that or even a substantive argument is missing so far.

Sri Sri’s Yamuna event cleared, but Art of Living to pay Rs 5 crore as fine

In a reprieve to the Art of Living Foundation’s mega event, to be held on River Yamuna’s floodplains, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday allowed the show to go ahead while asking the NGO to fork out an initial fine of Rs 5 crore for “drastically tampering with the flood plains, destroying natural flow of river and natural vegetation on the river bed.”The NGT’s four-member principal bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar passed the order in the case of Delhi-based NGO Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, who had sought cancellation of the Art of Living event for irreversibly damaging the Yamuna’s ecology, including its fragile floodplains. A detailed judgment will follow later.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The reprieve comes even after it was proved sufficiently before the Tribunal that preparations for the mega-event disturbed the “aquatic life of the river and destroyed water bodies and wetlands on floodplains which were in existence.” The NGT ruling said it was unable to grant prohibitory orders on the event and removal of its construction because the applicant delayed approaching the Tribunal and for reason of “fait accompli”. The Art of Living Foundation said that, “The festival will go as per planned and since we have not violated any rules we will appeal against the NGT order.”The NGO has been asked to pay the “environmental compensation” to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) before their event scheduled from March 11 to March 13 event. “This amount (Rs 5 crore) would be adjusted towards the final compensation determined to be paid by the Foundation for restoration work,” the NGT order said. The Art of Living Foundation was also pulled up for providing information that was, “incomplete, vague and uncertain” without any “specific data or comprehensive plan for a huge construction.”In its 10-page ‘operative order’, the bench also came down heavily on union environment ministry for failing to perform its duties. The bench said during its hearing that since the event activity was happening on an area of more than 50 hectares it was like any other project and required clearance of environment ministry.Along with the Art of Living Foundation, the NGT also slapped a fine on the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and DDA of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5 lakh respectively. The bench said that DPCC did not carry out is due diligence while DDA came in for harsher criticism as its crucial permission was not in “consonance with the orders of the NGT and in fact in excess of the powers vested in DDA, which runs contrary to the spirit of the judgement of the Tribunal.”It pulled up the DDA for approving the event on the grounds of “recreational activity. Cultural activity could be recreational but the entire construction of ramps, roads, accumulation of debris, alteration of the natural topography and removal of natural vegetation from the floodplains, cannot be said to be recreational. It has also asked DDA to not pass any such orders in the future.While announcing the order, the bench detailed the preparations undertaken by Art of Living that damaged the Yamuna floodplains. “They have constructed ramps, roads, compaction of earth, pontoon bridges and other semi-permanent or temporary structures etc. even without the permission of the concerned authorities including Ministry of Water Resources,” the bench said.It added, “It has not obtained any permission as yet from the Police Department, Fire Department and from the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. All these authorities have failed to exercise due diligence in fulfillment of their public duties.” For restoration of the damaged site, the NGT has asked an expert committee to suggest steps within four weeks from Wednesday. The committee will tell the NGT an approximate cost that Art of Living needs to pay for restoration.More importantly, the bench also ordered that the entire area should be developed as a biodiversity park and the cost should be paid by the Art of Living and DDA.PM to attendThe NGO’s World Culture Festival is being organised on a grand scale with a 40-feet tall, 1,000 feet long stage as the showpiece of its event. The stage will see thousands of musicians and dancers performing at the same time with dignitaries such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seated on the same stage. People from 155 countries are expected to attend the event and the NGO is using more than 1,000 acres for the event while permission was granted only for 24.44 hectares.According to the NGO, 650 bio toilets, 1200 dustbins will be installed at the venue and a total of Rs.26 crore has been spent on levelling the venue, building pontoon bridges, erection of the grand stage and creation of traffic space. While the NGO’s ads say that 3.5 million people will attend the event, their counsel said that at any given time a maximum of 3 lakh people will be present at the venue.

NGT clears Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s event, slaps Rs 5 crore fine on Art of Living

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has received permission to hold his organisation Art of Living’s event ‘World Culture Festival’ at the banks of River Yamuna from the National Green Tribunal (NGT). But the NGT has imposed Rs 5 crore fine on Art Of Living.The green body has also imposed Rs 1 lakh fine on Delhi Pollution Control Committee. It also said to the DDA to never ever issue such order in future. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It also said that it cannot take into accountthe pollution body’s word that their approval was not needed for the event. It even said that it was not concerned about the cultural event but was looking at ecology.The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had on Tuesday came down heavily on the Union environment ministry, Union water resources ministry, Delhi Development Authority, Uttar Pradesh government and the Art of Living Foundation and asked if they have taken into consideration “the impact of the (Art of Living) event on the river Yamuna’s environment, its floodplains, and its biodiversity, as it is not just for a few hours.”It asked the environment ministry and the water resources ministry if “it was not their responsibility to protect the fragile ecosystem of river Yamuna.” NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar posed a series of uncomfortable questions to the NGO’s counsel, and said the details provided in its application to the DDA were ambiguous and incomplete. “You did not disclose the scale of the preparations,” Kumar said. While the AOL ads said that 3.5 million people will attend the event, its counsel told the court that at any given point of time three lakh people will be present at the venue.

NGT poses Sri Sri’s NGO tough questions over Yamuna event

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday came down heavily on the Union environment ministry, Union water resources ministry, Delhi Development Authority, Uttar Pradesh government and the Art of Living Foundation and asked if they have taken into consideration “the impact of the (Art of Living) event on the river Yamuna’s environment, its floodplains, and its biodiversity, as it is not just for a few hours.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It asked the environment ministry and the water resources ministry if “it was not their responsibility to protect the fragile ecosystem of river Yamuna.” NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar posed a series of uncomfortable questions to the NGO’s counsel, and said the details provided in its application to the DDA were ambiguous and incomplete. “You did not disclose the scale of the preparations,” Kumar said. While the AOL ads said that 3.5 million people will attend the event, its counsel told the court that at any given point of time three lakh people will be present at the venue.The NGO also came under fire for using iron scaffolding to erect 30-ft-tall dais as the DDA had permitted the NGO to use only eco-friendly material. When the NGO’s counsel argued that the scaffolding was not dug into the ground, he countered: “It doesn’t stand to reason that a 30-ft-tall structure can stand without holding on the ground. How is this eco-friendly?”The four-member bench was hearing the final arguments in an on-going matter against global NGO Art of Living Foundation. Delhi-based NGO Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan has alleged that Art of Living’s three-day mega event on Yamuna’s floodplains will permanently damage its fragile ecology. Besides, a four-member expert body of the NGT has already recommended that a fine of Rs 120 crore should be slapped against Art of Living Foundation for causing severe and extensive damage to the floodplains.The NGO has erected a stage spanning more than two acres, built pontoon bridges on the river with the help of the Army and visitors will be allowed to park on the river’s floodplains. The tribunal is likely to announce its verdict on Wednesday.

#SriSriFight: Indian Army for godman’s World Culture Festival ‘shameful, rotten’; Delhi cops brace for ‘utter chaos’

New Delhi: Military veterans are slamming the use of Indian Army soldiers for building bridges over the river Yamuna to please a godman as “illegal”, “shameful” and a “rot in governance.” CNN IBN reports of a terror threat at the venue and The Indian Express says Delhi Police has warned of “pandemonium.” The Indian Army on its toes for a godman? Really?!

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s said that Army soldiers’ deployment for construction of pontoon bridges over Yamuna river for the controversial three-day ‘World Culture Festival’ being organised by Goodman Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation is to ensure safety but Delhi’s cops have drilled a hole into that argument. The Indian Express reports that Delhi Police has written to the Urban Development Ministry warning of “utter chaos and pandemonium.”

Parrikar said the decision to employ soldiers for the construction of the bridges was taken to ensure there is no law and order situation and security threat to lakhs of people expected to attend the three-day event starting from Friday.

 Former military officials reject the explanations given by the minister arguing that that defence forces are meant for protecting country from external security threats.

Sri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: FacebookSri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: Facebook

Sri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: Facebook

“Sending 120 soldiers of the Army to Yamuna floodplains to build bridges for a private cultural extravaganza is absolutely wrong and illegal. The provision of the Army in aid of civil authority is governed by Section 130 of the CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code). This legal clause states that decision to requisition armed forces should be taken by the ‘executive magistrate of the highest rank’, which is the district magistrate, not even the chief minister. And he or she can do it under emergency circumstances such as riots and natural calamities when his or her police force cannot do a particular job,” former IAS officer MG Devasahayam, who has served a stint in the Army, told Firstpost.

It is alarming, he said, that the government is going out of its way to help a controversial programme, which organisers claim will be attended by 3.5 million people, which may cause permanent environmental damage. 

“The event has come under scanner of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which looks after environmental issues. Even the President, the supreme commander of the defence forces, who was to preside over the valedictory function, has refused to attend it. In such a situation, facilitation of such programme is a sign of rotten governance that is going on in the country,” he added.

The president had earlier agreed to attend the opening ceremony on 11 March but later opted out. Prime Minister Narendra Modi may also not take part in the event on the pretext of “security threat”.

Asked when the Army has been used during Kumbh Mela and even the Commonwealth Games, then why such a hue and cry this time, Major General (retired) Satbir Singh said the defence forces have got a clear cut task to defend the country from external and internal security threats. They are also called to aid the civil authorities in case of natural disasters.

“Our soldiers are not meant for such shit. It is a compromise with the dignity of the country’s defence forces. It is a shame that the government is giving undeserved public resources to an individual in return of his political support,” he added. 

Colonel (retired) Pushpendra Singh also strongly condemned the decision and said that the “Army should not be deployed for any such function. It is meant to secure borders”.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) defended its permission to the event before an NGT bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar. “Heavens will not fall if the function is organised at the venue. We can see what needs to be done to restore the area, but today we are at the threshold of the ceremony,” the DDA is reported to have told the NGT.

As he faced criticism for destroying Yamuna, Art of Living chief Sri Sri Ravi Shankar sought to placate the fears. “I want Yamuna to be clean. We have not cut any tree, some trees have been trimmed only,” he said, adding that his foundation will leave the spot as “a beautiful bio-diversity park”.

On Monday, as pictures of soldiers working on the Yamuna bridge for the event began to circulate, President and Supreme Commander of the Army, Pranab Mukherjee, said he will not attend the World Culture Festival.

An online campaign entitled ‘Don’t destroy the #Yamuna Floodplains – Shift the Art of Living Festival’ on has so far got 19,545 signatures. The signed petition, which says, “Sri Sri, please stop killing my already dead Yamuna, I beg! Destroying the floodplains is not ‘cultural’, not ‘spiritual’”, will be sent to the president, the prime minister, the chief justice of India, the chairman of the NGT, the chief minister of Delhi and the Art of Living Foundation.

In its journey of 1376 km from Yamunotri to Allahabad, 22 km of river Yamuna flows through Delhi. Ironically, this journey of 22 km through the most powerful city of the nation is primarily responsible for choking the river. What enters the city as a revered river unfortunately exits as a drain, a dead water body. Amidst this chaotic ecosystem, floodplains come forth as the only hope for survival of the river.

“As the integral part of the aquatic system of any river, floodplains are the natural space for the river to dissipate its energy. A river with vulnerable and damaged floodplains is one step closer to death, to say the least, it adds,” reads the petition.

Unfortunately, the floodplains of Yamuna in Delhi have already been injured with mega constructions. Akshardham temple, Delhi Transport Corporation’s Depot, Common Wealth Games Village, main office of the Delhi Metro, to name a few, are technically on the floodplains of the Yamuna.

These constructions, however, stand proud and tall despite the NGT orders that restrain any construction, be it temporary or permanent, on the floodplain of the river Yamuna in Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. It is Zone O, which means its ecologically sensitive zone and therefore no construction should be allowed in this area.

While the river struggles to flow, preparations are in full swing to organise the mega event on the floodplains. The event venue is spread over 1,000 acres of floodplain. The area is within 10 km of the Okhla Birds Sanctuary.

Around 15,000 people take part in walk demanding clean-up of rivers in Mumbai

Around 15,000 Mumbaikars braved the heat and humidity on Sunday morning to walk for 5km alongside the four rivers of Mumbai, in what could easily be termed as the beginning of one of the biggest citizen movements demanding the rejuvenation of these water bodies.Led by the ‘Waterman of India’ Rajendra Singh, the initiative was started by River March, a community of a few like-minded people who planned this ‘Dandi March’ to highlight the sorry state of rivers such as Dahisar, Poisar and Oshiwara, as well as the Mithi river. In fact, on Sunday, around 7,000 people reportedly walked along Dahisar river, 3,000 people walked along the Oshiwara one, around 2,000 people walked along the Mithi river, while 3,000 people walked along the one at Poisar.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Singh, the winner of the 2015 Stockholm Water Prize, said that he was delighted with the way Mumbaikars, and especially schoolchildren and women, participated in the walk, thus sending a strong message to the state government as well as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation that they want the rivers to be cleaned up.”I would urge all those who walked along the four rivers to write a letter to the chief minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, as well as prime minister Narendra Modi informing them about how you walked along the river and saw the condition and how you now seek the revival of these small rivers of Mumbai. It is not a very difficult task and hence it should be taken up at the earliest on a priority basis,” Singh said, adding that if people across the country want their rivers to be in a clean condition, they will have to come out in large numbers.Even as Singh walked along the 5km stretch of the Dahisar river, he said that the entire 14km stretch along the river is in its worst state once it emerges out of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. “I have walked along the entire stretch too and there are four or five easily identifiable problem areas that are causing the degradation of this river, including a dhobi ghat and tabela and areas with slums and buildings from where waste water is emptied directly into this river,” he said.Avinash Kubal, the deputy director of Maharashtra Nature Park (MNP), which was one of the partners for the River March, said that the entire focus at present is on Dahisar river as important data and a survey of the issues of the other three rivers is being awaited. “We have several suggestions ready and will be discussing it with the right authorities. The main aim of this walk was also to let people see for themselves how they are playing an active or passive role in the pollution of this river, which affects their health too in the long term. We are sure that all those who took part in the walk will neither throw nor allow anyone else to throw any garbage in any water body.”

Where’s the ‘art’ in living like this? Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji, please note how your event is killing the Yamuna

New Delhi: The World Culture Festival of the Art of Living (AOL) Foundation headed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar threatens to leave the ecologically sensitive and fragile Yamuna floodplains with irreparable damage. Environment activists are shocked over the brazen disregard for the health of the dying river, which holds a significant place in the Hindu mythology, from the organisers. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has already recommended a fine of Rs 120 crore on them for violation of ecological norms but it has hardly deterred preparations. The three-day international event, which is expected to attract 35 lakh visitors from across the globe, begins from 11 March.

Why NGT finds it alarming

This is what the report of a four-member committee of the NGT led by Shashi Shekhar, secretary, ministry of water resources, has found:

· The entire area of the flood plain between river Yamuna and DND Flyover levelled.
· Small water bodies that existed earlier have been filled up and all natural vegetation has been removed. Most of the trees have been removed or lopped.
· Construction debris dumped on some of the roads constructed along the river margin for the festival.
· Two ramps have been constructed joining the DND flyover with flood plains for providing access to VIPs up to the stage constructed on flood plains.
· One pontoon bridge has been constructed on river Yamuna and another under construction. Few more are proposed on the Yamuna and Barapullah drain (a total of five).
· Parking sites and 650 portable toilets on both eastern and western sides of the river. Thousands of vehicles are expected to be parked.
· An enormous stage (about 1,200 feet long x 200 feet wide x 40 feet high) is being erected with steel pipes, wooden planks and fibre glass domes, where thousands of artistes are expected to perform. The site littered with construction material.
· The western side of the river — 50 to 60 hectares floodplain completely destroyed; natural vegetation comprising reeds, shrubs, trees, etc has been completely removed. Large numbers of birds and other natural life on the floodplain have vanished.

What it sees as the potential long-term damage:

· The site is a meeting point of Barapullah drain and river Yamuna. It’ll get blocked.
· The floodplains where the Yamuna water gets recharged will get damaged.
· The natural life in this bio-diversity region will either move out or perish.
· The birds will leave the place.
· Have cascading effect on nearby Okhla Bird Sanctuary.

Destruction on the banks of the YamunaDestruction on the banks of the Yamuna

“The Yamuna floodplain is a highly sensitive ecological zone. To organise its culture festival, the AOL Foundation has illegally cleared the entire stretch of wetland and marshy area. It’s total devastation and we fail to understand how the person (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), an apostle of non-violence and spiritualism can allow it,” Manoj Kumar Misra, convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, an NGO working for the restoration of river Yamuna, told Firstpost.

Besides Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, there are several groups who have joined hands and mobilising citizens and activists to oppose the event.

Swechha India, a New Delhi-based organisation working in the field of environmental protection, has launched an online signature campaign ‘Sign the petition: Say NO to World Culture Festival’. Using the platform of, it has petitioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief Justice of India, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar urging them to shift the venue and save Yamuna floodplains from being destroyed.

Vimelendu Jha, executive director, Swechha India met Ravi Shankar on Tuesday to personally convince him to call-off the event, but to no effect.

“I had an hour-long meeting with Ravi Shankarji but failed to convince him of the devastating effect the event would have later. They were dismissive and gave strange logic in favour of organising the festival on floodplains. We’ve been working on these floodplains for the past 15 years, but this event will negate all our efforts. We’ve launched an online campaign and fight it till the end,” Jha said.

The Delhi government’s minister for water resources Kapil Mishra, who once took part in saving the Yamuna, has now lent his support to the controversial festival stating it to be a good idea and it would connect lakhs of people with the River Yamuna. Environmentalists have criticised minister’s statement, calling it ‘vote-bank politics’.

“It’s so unfortunate that Kapil Mishra, who took part in the Yamuna Satyagraha a year ago to make Yamuna clean, is now supporting this anti-environment event. It’s all due to vote-bank politics. The Delhi Development Authority, which is supposed to implement the judgment of NGT has given permission to organisers although it doesn’t have the authority to do so,” remarked Misra, a forestry and wildlife expert.

In March 2015, around 1,000 people comprising religious leaders, devotees, farmers and activists had marched from Vrindavan to Delhi to protest against pollution of the Yamuna and launched ‘Yamuna Muktikaran Abhiyan’ (save Yamuna campaign) and the march had ended in Delhi on 22 March on World Water Day. “Now a spiritual guru is organising an event that would completely destroy floodplains of Yamuna. It has violated the court’s order delivered in the past, when a similar event was organised. Declaring it a sensitive zone, the court had ordered a ban on such large-scale events. Our Yamuna, one of the most worshipped rivers in India, exits as a drain in Delhi. It’s Delhi’s lifeline and even a little misstep might turn into a big disaster in the future,” said Jha.

AOL Foundation refutes allegations

“It’s incorrect to say that we’re damaging the floodplains. AOL Foundation, which is equally concerned, has been involved in river and environment conservation projects. In 2010, we organised ‘Meri Delhi, Meri Yamuna’ campaign for the protection of Yamuna, which was followed by the ‘Clean Delhi’ drive. The government has spent crores (of rupees), but the river has turned into a dirty nullah. The vegetables growing on floodplains are poisonous.

“To the best of our knowledge we have taken permission from authorities concerned. This process has been going on for the past seven to eight months, but the NGOs have raised objections only now when hardly 10 days are left for this international festival. Instead of damaging the river and its floodplains, we’ll revive it, green it up,” Rashmi Paliwal, apex member of AOL Foundation told Firstpost.

But, activists are not ready to budge and waiting for the next hearing of NGT.

Read the report by the NGT-appointed Shashi Shekhar Committee below:

Report of Committee Named by NGT – Shashi Shekhar Committee

Bohra community delegation meets PM Modi

A 10-member delegation from the Dawoodi Bohra community led by their religious head Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Sunday. During the meeting, the Prime Minister appreciated the social reform efforts of the community and urged it to work towards construction of toilets in the villages along the banks of the River Ganga, an official statement said. The Prime Minister said the Union government fully support these initiatives, it said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi also appreciated the progress made by the community, in the development of the Bhendi Bazaar area of Mumbai as a smart city. Dawoodi Bohras are a sect within the Ismailism branch of Shia Islam. Bohras mainly reside in the western cities of India and also in Pakistan, Yemen and East Africa.

Dawoodi Bohra community leaders call on PM Narendra Modi

The religious head of the Dawoodi Bohra Community, his holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin who was accompanied by a nine-member delegation, called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Sunday.The Prime Minister appreciated the social reform efforts of the Dawoodi Bohra community, and said the Union Government fully supported these initiatives.He also appreciated the progress made by the Dawoodi Bohra community, in the development of the Bhendi Bazaar area of Mumbai as a smart city.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Prime Minister urged the Dawoodi Bohra community to work towards development of toilets in the villages along the banks of the River Ganga.

NGT expert body recommends Rs 120 crore penalty on Art of Living

An expert committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal has recommended that the Art of Living (AOL) Foundation should pay Rs 100-120 crore as restoration cost for “extensive and severe damage” to the floodplains of Yamuna river, the venue for AOL’s forthcoming mega event to celebrate its 35th anniversary.From March 11 to 13, the AOL is organising a World Culture Festival on the Yamuna floodplains, opposite Mayur Vihar Phase-I metro station, and according to the expert committee, a total area of not less than 60 hectares has been damaged, in violation of past NGT orders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to inaugurate the three-day event while President Pranab Mukherjee will chair the valedictory function.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The NGT appointed a four-member expert committee after Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, a non-profit organisation, approached thetribunal for stopping work on the event on grounds of grave environmental damage. As part of the event’s construction, the NGO is attempting to build the world’s largest temporary stage that will be 1,200 feet in length, 200 feet wide and 40 feet high.The NGT’s four-member expert committee that visited the site comprised Shashi Shekhar, secretary water resources ministry, CR Babu of Union environment ministry, Prof AK Gosain from IIT-Delhi and Prof Brij Gopal from Jaipur. The expert committee report, reviewed by dna, said that the floodplain between the river and DND flyover has been levelled flat while small water bodies that existed earlier have been filled up and all the natural vegetation has been removed and the site has been compacted.The organisers have joined the DND flyway with the floodplain close the stage for providing access to the VIPs by filling up the area with debris and earth, the committee observed. “Natural vegetation consisting of reeds, and trees has been completely removed, and the large number of birds and other natural life that was supported by the floodplain has vanished,” the report said.In it recommendations to the NGT, the expert committee said that major restoration work has to be carried out to compensate for the damage to Yamuna floodplains. “The organisers should be responsible for funding the restoration as penalty. The committee in its rough estimation feels that the local cost of restoration on the floodplain on western side of river alone will cost Rs 100-120 crore, given the huge quantity of debris is to be removed and site de-compacted. Art of Living should pay the amount before the event. The entire ecological restoration should be completed within one year from the date of event’s completion,” the committee has said.The NGT chairperson bench headed by justice Swatanter Kumar will now decide if the event will proceed.Meanwhile, the Art of Living has said that it adopted an eco-friendly approach in dealing with the preparations for the mega event.”We have not read the report and we shall contest it in the court. This is a one-sided report and we have full faith in the judiciary. We have not polluted the river. All Kumbh Melas happen by the river. Besides, we have been eco-friendly in our preparations. We have not used even one cement bag,” said Gautam Vig, director, Art of Living.The expert committee has also put the Delhi Development Authority in the dock for permitting the event in “gross violation of an NGT order dated January 13, 2015 banning any activity on Yamuna floodplains. “Strong message should be given through a suitable order to DDA and all concerned authorities for any violations. Organizers must restrict the area for their function to the bare minimum and submit a revised plan through an affidavit to the court with a day or two along with a site map stating all the details.The event programmes will be spread across 1,000 acres and more than 20,000 international guests are expected to attend it. The festival will see diplomats, foreign dignitaries, cabinet ministers, corporate heads, entrepreneurs, state environment ministers and even environmentalists speaking at the mega event.

After ten months, Centre to resume appraisal of projects under Namami Gange

Nearly 10 months after project clearance under the flagship Namami Gange river cleaning programme came to a halt, an empowered steering committee (ESC), headed by the water ministry, will resume appraisal of projects from Friday. According to senior water ministry sources, six projects with a total of worth of more than Rs 500 crore will be taken up in this week’s ESC meeting.The ESC of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) is comprised of secretaries of the union water ministry, environment ministry, power ministry, urban development ministry and chief secretaries of the five Ganga basin states. It it the apex body that clears projects related to cleaning of river Ganga and it last met on May 14, 2015.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Friday’s meeting will see the ESC take up projects regarding sewage treatment plants, sanitation, sewerage networks and wildlife conservation along the Ganga. According to sources in the water ministry, three projects of sewage treatment plants and of rehabilitation of old ones for Yamuna river, funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency, a project on providing comprehensive sanitation solution to 78 villages in Sahebganj, Jharkhand and one project related to Allahabad’s sewerage network are some of the items listed on the agenda.The ESC will also look at a proposal to carry out a feasibility report for river front development in Kedarnath. The Water and Power Consultancy Services (WAPCOS), a government agency is likely to be roped in for the report. Besides projects on sewage treatment on river front development, the ESC is also going to take up a crucial project of wildlife and biodiversity conservation to be carried out by Wildlife Institute of India (WII).Pegged at approximately Rs 8 crore, the WII will look at management of wildlife that is found along the Ganga. The Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand, located along the Ramganga River and conservation of Indo-Gangetic dolphins will be a key part of the project said a water ministry officials.The ESC meetings had come to a halt after May 2015 as the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River development and Ganga rejuvenation went for a course correction in their plans to clean river Ganga. After carrying out assessment of existing sewage treatment infrastructure in 2015, the Centre found that most were working at sub-optimal levels and thus, a hybrid annuity based public-private partnership model was mooted and approved by the Cabinet.The Namami Gange project was cleared last year and it is being implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga. The flagship Ganga cleaning project has a budget of Rs 20,000 for a five-year period.

At least 37 killed as bus plunges into river in Gujarat, PM Modi expreses grief

At least 37 people were killed and 24 injured, four of them seriously, when a state transport bus in which they were travelling plunged from a bridge into Purna river in Navsari district of South Gujarat on Friday, police said.”Thirty seven people have died in the incident, while 24 others are injured when a bus fell from a 20 feet high bridge on Purna river,” Navsari Superintendent of Police MS Bharada said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Though police are investigating the cause of the mishap, some survivors and eye-witnesses said the bus driver lost control of the vehicle when it was passing the bridge and it hurtled down into the river after breaking iron railings. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday condoled the death of the Navsari bus accident victims, which claimed 39 lives. “Bus accident in Gujarat’s Navsari is tragic & deeply upsetting. Condolences to families of the deceased. May the injured recover quickly,” he wrote in a tweet.The SP said the condition of four out of the 24 injured passengers was serious. “The injured have been shifted to four hospitals in Navsari. We are also checking the possibility of shifting those who are seriously injured to hospitals in Surat if needed,” the officer said.The Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC) bus was headed towards Ukai when the accident took place near the village, situated around 12 kms away from the district headquarters. “We do not know the exact number of people travelling in the bus, but it is said that it was full (to capacity),” Bharada said.He said the agencies like police, fire brigade, 108 ambulance services were engaged in rescue operation at the spot. Expressing grief over the incident, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel twitted, “Deeply pained to learn about the unfortunate bus accident on Purna River Bridge in Navsari. My prayers are with victims & families”. “I have directed Navsari collector & concerned officials to expedite rescue & relief ops and provide required help to victims & their kin,” she twitted.

Attack on Tanzanian girl is a mix of racism, road rage and clash of urban versus rural cultures

The alleged attack on the Tanzanian student on Sunday night in Hessarghatta, on the outskirts of Bangalore, seems to be a combination of racism, road rage, and a clash of urban and rural cultures.

The fact that the police did not immediately register a complaint is not unusual. Similar incidents have happened in the past, and most go under the radar. This time a person died and two cars were burnt up. The local police goofed up in thinking this too would blow over. However, the story took on international ramifications with the Tanzanian embassy asking for an explanation and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asking Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah for a report.

The timing of this unfortunate incident cannot be worse. Siddaramaiah has invested enormous time and money in showcasing Karnataka at the Global Investor’s Meet. The last thing he needed was racism to raise its ugly face in Bangalore.

There are varying versions of what actually happened. Some reports say that the girl was stripped, but her friend told a local paper that was not completely true.

The incident occurred on Sunday after a drunken Sudanese national, identified as the 20-year-old Mohammed Ahad Ismai, drove a speeding car into a couple, killing the woman and injuring the man. This infuriated the locals who assaulted the driver. Fortunately for him, police rushed to the spot and rescued him. The second car arrived a few minutes later with the Tanzanian woman and her friends. Although there was no connection between the occupants of the first and second cars, the crowd, seeing that they too were Africans, chased and assaulted them. When her male friends fled the scene, the unfortunate woman was left behind to face the full fury of the mob. According to some versions, police constables, who had rushed to the spot after the accident, apparently did not intervene. This has since been denied by the police.

The charred remains of the car burnt by mob in Bengaluru. Image courtesy: TwitterThe charred remains of the car burnt by mob in Bengaluru. Image courtesy: Twitter

The charred remains of the car burnt by mob in Bengaluru. Image courtesy: Twitter

Was the attack racist? It undoubtedly was. While the attack on the first car can be dismissed as road rage, the attack on the second car was not. The second car was attacked because the occupants were Africans and the crowd, in its fury, saw no difference between them and Sudanese driver who was responsible for the fatal accident. For locals, all Africans seem to be “Nigerians”. From that point of view, this attack is similar to the ugly confrontation in a New Delhi locality last year, when an AAP minister led a mob that accused “Nigerian” nationals of selling drugs and prostitution.

In fact, locals told TV channels that Nigerians studying in colleges in the area were all drug addicts and drunks. One of them demanded that the colleges stop admitting them.

It’s not a view shared by everybody. Local traders talking to Bangalore Mirror, said that the African students who lived there were polite and well behaved. They spend most of their time inside their homes or in their classes. A waiter in a nearby restaurant told the newspaper, “I cannot speak English and they cannot speak Kannada, but they are still very cheerful and we manage to communicate. I see them in the area regularly, and they are just like anyone else. They have never displayed rude or arrogant behaviour, or caused a public nuisance.”

However, other eyewitnesses say the students in the second car were also drunk. The attack happened because that car stopped and one of the students belligerently approached the crowd that was beating up the Sudanese national. How true this is remains to be seen. Hopefully, a detailed police enquiry will uncover the truth.

Meanwhile, reports have alleged that the police did little to help the victim and, to make matters worse, did not register the complaint on Sunday. City Police Commissioner NS Megharik denied this and said the complaint had not been registered because the victim was not available for two days. Since then, a case of riot and arson has been registered, four persons have been arrested, and a manhunt has been launched for the remaining offenders.

In a small place like Hessarghatta, where everyone knows everyone, it should not be a problem for the police to quickly wrap up this case. Hessarghatta used to be a sleepy hamlet on the outskirts of North Bangalore. It has always been famous for its government-run horticulture, dairy, and poultry farms. In fact, Danish dairy stock reared first in Hessarghatta is responsible for Karnataka’s own milk revolution; the improved varieties of fruits and vegetables developed on the horticulture farm are grown all over India. In 1990, Protima Gauri (Bedi) established the internationally-renowned Nrityagram (Dance Village). This was followed by the nature-inspired Taj Kuteeram hotel. The man-made 1,100-acre Hessarghatta Lake (in reality, a reservoir on the River Arkavathy) began to offer some adventure activities. Yet, Hessarghatta continued to be a sleepy town.

With the arrival of the IT industry in the late 90s, things went crazy. Uncontrolled expansion of the city began to gobble up the villages on the outskirts and Hessarghatta was no exception. While a few landowners got rich, the majority of the population in these villages watched with dismay as the growing city ate into their homes and lifestyles. Hessarghatta Lake was suddenly an ideal spot for drunken louts from the city who marked their passage with empty beer bottles and plastic bags. The pristine landscape was destroyed by garbage and speeding traffic. And the locals don’t like it.

The resentment manifests itself in several ways. All around Bangalore, villagers have violently protested the use of their neighbourhoods as dumping grounds for the city’s garbage.

As a result, city garbage cannot be cleared out and Bangalore is getting buried in the stench of its own refuse. On the roads, in the outskirts, it creates frequent clashes between drunken or speeding motorists and villagers, a phenomenon largely ignored by local police.

Above and beyond its racist and diplomatic ramifications, Sunday night’s incident should bring focus on how unplanned city growth can fuel social distress. And how this needs to be managed.

Intolerance issue false propaganda: Uma Bharti

Union Minister Uma Bharti on Tuesday termed the issue of intolerance as a “false propaganda” against the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre and called upon BJP workers to rebut the wrong perception.”The opponents criticised governance of Narendra Modi while he was Chief Minister in Gujarat. However, the Muslims are happy in Gujarat…The workers of the BJP should respond to such false propaganda and counter them who are telling that there is intolerance in India,” the Union Minister of Water Resource, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation said at a BJP workers’ meeting.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bharati also said if water and mineral resources are handled properly, Odisha could be the number one state in the country. “I will call on Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday evening and present a road map for development of Odisha through proper management of water resources,” she said.Bharati said she would visit the Hirakud Dam on Wednesday and discuss with the Odisha Chief Minister about the pollution of river Mahanadi.Speaking highly of the BJP workers of Odisha, she said, “They have continued their struggle despite being in opposition.”Senior party leader Suresh Pujari, former Sambalpur MLA Jayanarayana Mishra, Kuchinda MLA Rabi Naik, Brajarajnagar MLA Radharani Panda were present at the meeting.

1,600 villages along Ganga to be made filth free, says Union Minister Uma Bharti

The Centre will implement a four-pronged programme in which as many as 1,600 villages along the Ganga stretch will be made filth free by October, Union Minister Uma Bharti said today.The government will implement the package in 1,600 village panchayat headquarters along the river banks within the next six months and complete the first phase of Ganga cleaning by October this year, she said.The second phase will be attained in four years after that in which 6,000 villages will be taken up for the programme, the Water Resources Minister said. Bharti was speaking on the sidelines of ‘Swachh Ganga- Gramin Sahbhagita’, a national-level consultation programme organised for heads of villages located along the river banks.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The event, considered to be the first attempt to rope in villagers in the ‘Clean Ganga’ mission, saw participation of around 1,200 panchayat heads. “There is a need to take care of four things for cleaning villages along the Ganga. Those are…where will sewage water go? How to divert drains flowing into the river? “How to convert waste generating from the villages into fertilizers, and how to generate employment by cultivating medicinal plants along the river?” she said.The Water Resources Ministry also inked MoUs with HRD, Shipping, Rural Development, Sports, Tourism, Ayush and Youth Affairs and Sports Ministries for carrying out various activities under the ‘Namami Gange’ programme. As per the MoUs, all institutes affiliated to HRD along the river stretch will join the mission and old water bodies located along the Ganga and the Yamuna will be restored.Government is also planning to initiate organic farming along Ganga banks to generate jobs for local youth.Bharti said several celebrities and renowned personalities, including spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and film actor Amitabh Bachchan, have expressed desire to be part of the mission. Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Smriti Irani, Birender Singh, Sarbananda Sonowal, Mahesh Sharma and Sanwar Lal Jat also attended the event. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, eco-activist Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal and ayurveda exponent Acharya Balkrishna also attended the event, along with around 1,200 panchayat heads.

Your actions are contrary to your slogans, NGT raps Centre and UP on Ganga pollution

Observing that pollution along river Ganga in Varanasi has not reduced, the Centre and Uttar Pradesh government were rapped by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday. During the hearing of a petition filed by Anil Kumar Singhal, the principal bench headed by justice Swatanter Kumar was handed over photographs of decomposed bodies and animal carcasses floating in Ganga River. After going through the photographs, the bench said,<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”It is really unfortunate that such things are going on. Why don’t you do something about this? Your slogans are very contrary to your actions.”The petitioner’s lawyer Gaurav Kumar Bansal stressed that authorities were not taking any strict action to stop people from dumping bodies in the Ganga after final rites of cremation and animal carcasses too are dumped openly. “We have sought intervention from the Tribunal as the dumping results in pollution and can also diseases,” said Bansal while speaking to dna.Varanasi, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, is thronged by devotees from across the world and nearly 100 cremations happen on the ghats of Varanasi on the banks of Ganga. A majority of these cremations are carried out at Manikarnika and Harishchandra Ghat.The NGT has been regularly hearing matters on pollution in the holy river and on more than one occasion, it has asked the Centre to substantiate their claims of cleaning the river. While earlier in October, it had asked to “name one place where the condition of the river has improved despite spending crores”, on Monday it directed the Centre and UP government to explain who is responsible for increasing pollution in River Ganga.Cleaning the holy Ganga was one of Prime Minister Modi’s foremost promises during the 2014 general elections. Under the National Democratic Alliance government, the responsibility to clean Ganga has been handed over to the water resources ministry under Uma Bharti and the ambitious Namami Gange program was launched to push the river’s cleaning.The petitioner has approached the NGT on the issue of pollution in Ganga river’s tributaries’ in Uttarakhand. “The quality of the river needs to improve in the upper reaches before it flows down to other states and hence we are talking of pollution in the tributaries of Ganga,” Bansal added.

Contractors seek 300% more, BMC scraps Rs 150-crore desilting tenders

With contractors quoting exorbitantly high rates for cleaning up the city’s drains, the Brihanmumbai municipal corporation (BMC) has once again scrapped its tenders worth Rs150 crore for de-silting operations. BMC chief Ajoy Mehta took the decision to scrap the tenders and call for fresh ones after contractors demanded close to 300% more than the BMC’s estimated rates for de-silting work.Following the Rs150-crore de-sitting scam, the BMC had scrapped existing de-silting contracts and floated new ones. However, according to officials, contractors tired to jeopardize the tenders by bidding high rates. In fresh tenders floated by the BMC, contractors have demanded close to a whopping Rs6,000 per tonne for removing silt from the city’s drains against the BMC’s estimate of Rs1,600 per tonne.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>dna had last week reported that the BMC received a tepid response for its de-silting tenders. Around eight contractors bid for only 23 of the 51 de-silting contracts that were floated, while 18 tenders had no takers. Officials said of the 23 tenders, four have received single bidders while the remaining contractors have bid unusually high rates. All 24 contractors booked in the scam were barred from bidding in the new tenders.While the cost of tenders is pegged at Rs140 crore just like last year, the amount of silt the contractors will have to remove has been cut by around 60%. Despite the already high estimate, contractors have bid over 300% above the BMC estimate.”It wasn’t possible to award the contracts at such high rates. So we have scraped the tenders. We are only going ahead with the Mithi River contracts since the bids were reasonable. We will re-float the tender. Tender conditions will be modified so that anyone will be able to participate,” LS Vhatkar, chief engineer, Storm Water Drains (SWD) told dna.Opposition parties have alleged that contractors have formed a cartel to dupe the BMC. “These contractors have created a monopoly and now want to loot the BMC. The BMC must relax the tender conditions so that new contractors get a chance. De-silting is not a technical job, so anyone can do it. We will protest if the BMC gives them contracts at such high rates,” said Congress legislator Aslam Shaikh.Shaikh has written to BMC chief Ajoy Mehta in this regard. “If the tender conditions are relaxed, close to 200 new contractors will be eligible. The rates will come down only then. The existing contractors have created a cartel and want to ensure that the BMC’s tenders fail.”Following the scam, the existing contracts were scrapped and the BMC floated fresh tenders for cleaning the Mithi River and minor and major drains all over the city. Officials said contractors had bid high rates even for minor drains which were not under the scanner.The high biddersKamal Enterprise (339% above)Armstrong (255% above)Riddhi Enterprises & Anas Infra (249% above)HV Construction (181% above)Magnum Construction (86% above)NA Construction (39% above)SNB Infrastructure (14% above)

Industries to get approval under Right to Services Act

Months after the world bank report brought to fore Maharashtra’s dismal record in ease of doing business, the Industries department has come up with a proposal to bring the single window approval platform under the “right to services Act”.The new policy will allow industries to apply for various permissions under the Right to Service Act and respective agencies will have to approve or reject the applications within a month.”If the project is not cleared within a month, it would automatically come to the Maharashtra industry, trade and investment facilitation cell (Maitri) which will now have the power to approve the project directly,” a top official from Industries department told dna.Maitri also has to follow a deadline of two months to reject or approve the project, said the official.A proposal in this regard was put by the Industries Department for chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ approval on Wednesday.The Right to services Act was launched by the state last year, bringing several citizens services under its ambit. For the first time, services for businesses and industries are also being brought under the Act.The world bank has ranked Maharashtra eighth in India in the “ease of doing business” index.The official said, “The new policy aims to improve the state’s ranking in ease of doing business index which will ultimately boost our Make in Maharashtra scheme. Besides, it would make the approvals more transparent, boosting investors’ confidence.”The Fadnavis government has taken a number of reforms to reduce the red-tape, including amendments to the Factories Act, reduction in the number of approvals from 76 to 37 and relaxation in River Regulatory Zone Regulations.The Maitri was launched in February 2014 to cater to investors and promote investments in the state and facilitate business partnerships. It also functions as a clearing house for all investment-related information, i.e. various clearances, incentives and subsidies, and grievances.Investing more than Rs 100 crore enjoys ‘one-window clearance’ under the Maitri scheme, a set-up of an empowered group of secretaries of various key departments to give all the approvals required for new industries within 30 days.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>