Saturday, January 30, 2010

Seminar on wetlands

KOZHIKODE: The National Green Corps, affiliated to the Ministry of Forests and Environment, will hold a seminar on the conservation of wetlands and mangroves of Kottuli on February 2. The seminar at the Sarovaram Bio Park will discuss the threat to the fragile wetland system from forces trying to destroy them for urban development. M.A. Johnson, district coordinator, National Cadet Corps, and Thyatt Balan, social worker, announced this at a press conference here on Thursday.

Dr. A. Achyuthan, environmentalist, and Dr. K.V. Mohammed Kunhi, scientist, Forest Research Institute at Peechi, would be the main speakers. Dr. Madhavan Komath, scientist at the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM) would speak on “wetlands and their relevance to biodiversity conservation”.

Source: The Hindu, Dated:30.01.2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

What's New in ENVIS website

Three new web pages on topics of current interest were added to the ENVIS website. The pages contain descriptions and links to news items. Latest news will be displayed to the concerned web pages automatically using RSS feed.

New web pages

Fast planned against Bt brinjal

Express News Service
First Published : 29 Jan 2010 06:25:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 29 Jan 2010 10:22:42 AM IST

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: On Sunday, at the Martyrs Square in the city, environmentalists, farmers, political and cultural leaders in the State will go on a fast to stop the Ministry of Environment and Forests from giving permission for commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal. The fast will be inaugurated by Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran at 10.30 a.m.

 Literary and cultural personalities, including O.N.V. Kurup, Sugathakumari, Vishnu Narayanan Namboothiri and D. Vinayachandran,  among others, will join the fast. Songs of national integration will be performed by the members of MBS Choir Music at 5 p.m., followed by a candle-light oath-taking ceremony.

 Citizens, who are concerned about the environment and biodiversity,  are expected to join in the programme organised by the Kerala Agriculture Environment Collective.

 India’s regulatory body for genetic engineering, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), had approved Bt brinjal for commercial cultivation and the Central Government is now holding national consultations before the final clearance. January 30, the day that took the life of Mahatma Gandhi, is also the last day of the official national consultations on Bt brinjal being held in seven states across the country. All the consultations till now have seen  stiff resistance at several locations.

 Those citizens, who cannot take a fast, can show their solidarity with the cause by lighting a candle. The All-India Kissan Sabha, AIYF, Gandhi Smaraka Nidhi, Kerala Shastra Sahitya Parishad, Kerala Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation, Jaiva Karshaka Samithi, AIPSO, Progressive Forum, PUCL, KSSF, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Solidarity Students Movement, Thanal, Abhaya, SEWA, SAKHI, OEOL, Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society, Kerala Sthree Vedi, Zero Waste Centre and Chilla are among the other organisations that are joining the fast.

 The one-day fast call made by the environmental and farming organisations across the country to stop Bt brinjal and to protect the food sovereignty of the country is being widely taken up by organisations and individuals across the State. In Kerala, one-day fasts are being organised on Sunday in at least 10 districts.

 A badge that can be used during the fast can be downloaded from Details about the fast can be had from phone number  9995358205.

Environment is a big business

It had all begun with the debate on implementation of the Silent Valley Hydro-electric Project in Kerala, way back in the early 1980s. Suddenly, from nowhere it appeared, an army of "environmentalists" appeared on the scene and were able to get this project on the Kuntipujha river scuttled on the issue, it appeared later of saving the "lion-tailed macaques" whose natural habitat was the hilly areas through which the river flows. The macaques, actually a species of "medium-sized monkey with a long face and cheek-pouches for holding food" having a tail resembling those of lions was saved from extinction, it was argued and because the hydel plant was shelved. In the early 2000s, a great environmental journalist, who had never crossed the portals of a science college had peremptorily declared that the construction of the Tehri Hydel Project, now in Uttarakhand State, was a "folly" for which the future generations would curse the builders, or words to that effect.

Then we have another environmentalist who went on fast (actually the Hindi word "Upavas" was more appropriate) a large number of times in order to prevent the construction of this 2500-Megawatt (MW) power plant without success, and apparently is convinced that the future generations of Uttarakhandis and the Uttar Pradeshis would have a pay for this "folly" of their forefathers.

One hopes that people of India have not forgotten the dire prediction made by a Nepali-speaking politician of Sikkim, who was living in Delhi, fixing a firm date on which the world would come to an end, some years ago.
There are more such examples of "voodoo" science made public by well known, and world famous "environmentalists" who had fixed a firm date of Anno Domini 2035 for the disappearance of snow from the Himalayan glaciers which inter alia has fetched him a Nobel Prize too in his capacity as the Chairman of the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC). He and his alleged source are now busy denying these predictions made by him without much success. We now know painfully, that environment is a big business and people, who like the journalist mentioned earlier, speak before scientists and technologist with the authority of peers by simply spending three years in colleges, not offering science subjects, of course.

Yet, it is those people who make dire forecasts that the four and a half billion year old earth would collapse within the next 15 years and people believe in them just as many did believe in the forecast by the Sikkimese politician a few years ago. But then, there are people in this world who make authoritative proclamations about the collapse of humanity because of various reasons. One among them was Prof. Thomas Malthus, an economist of England (1766-1834) who had predicted the collapse of humanity because in future, he had prophesied, the population of the world would overtake the availability of resources to feed them. 

Nearer last century, two American economists, the well known Paddock Brothers, had ruled out the possibility of Indians surviving the shortage of foodgrains and would more or less disappear from the earth because of hunger by the year 1975. In actual fact, by 1975, India had so much foodgrains in stock thanks to the green revolution, that she had stopped importing the PL (Public Law) 480 wheat from the United States, thanks to the Green Revolution  in wheat in India and in rice at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.
The lesson for all of us is that they should beware of institutions and individuals who write the obituary of the earth and her inhabitants from time to time in order to gain publicity and much more.

The moot question that should be asked now is whether the Nobel Committee of Sweden would withdraw the Nobel Prize awarded to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and people in general in India should beware of the dire forecasts made from time to time by those, particularly journalists, who do not have the requisite qualifications to write on such topics?

By the way, can anyone provide today information about the number of Lion Tailed Macaques still surviving in the Kerala forests on the hills?

Arabinda Ghose, NPA

Central Chronicle
Editorial Posted On Thursday, January 28, 2010

Award for Malayali scientists on cards

THRISSUR: Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan said the State Government would constitute a Rs 1-lakh `Kerala Shastra Puraskaram’ this year for top Malayali scientists working across the globe. Inaugurating the 22nd Kerala Science Congress at the Kerala Forest Research Institute at Peechi on Thursday, he said the proposed award was aimed at recognising the works of top scientists hailing from Kerala. The `shastra poshini’ project would be extended to the higher secondary schools and the government would consider inclusion of the special theme of the 22nd Science Congress (Intellectual Property Rights and Development) in the higher education curriculum. Some of the major challenges being faced by the people of the state were low agricultural production, low industrial productivity and worsening drinking water shortage. He asked the scientists whether they had any solution for such problems.

Serious studies should be carried out to resolve these problems under the leadership of the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE). There is a need to retain scientists hailing from Kerala in the state; they need to be provided a congenial atmosphere and better remuneration for carrying out research works. The State Government had already issued orders for raising the salaries of scientists working in institutions under the KSCSTE, as per the recommendations of the 6th Central Pay Commission. Necessary steps had been taken for promotion for deserving scientists. The Chief Minister presented the Dr S Vasudeva Award-2009 for the best research project to selection-grade chemistry lecturer of Bishop Moor College, Mavalikkara, Dr Lalit Pothan.
KSCSTE executive vice-president Dr. E P Yesodharan chaired the inaugural meet. Joint director Dr V Ajit Prabhu delivered a lecture on the Science Congress. Dr R V G Menon, chairman of the 22nd Science Congress Committee, welcomed the gathering and KFRI director Dr K V Sankaran proposed a vote of thanks.

Source: Indian Express, Dated: 29.01.2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

States against hasty decision on Bt brinjal

Nagpur: Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has said that several State Chief Ministers have asked him not to take hasty decision on the commercial cultivation of BT brinjal.
Talking to reporters here on the sidelines of a National Consultation Meet on Bt brinjal, Ramesh said: "Chief ministers of states such as Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Kerala, Karnataka and Orissa have written to me that there is a need to conduct more experiments on Bt brinjal." "There is a need of conducting more experiments on BT brinjal, especially regarding human safety part. They don't opine that to introduce (commercially release) Bt brinjal is that important," he added.

He further said it is the duty of scientists to dispel doubts regarding the GM crop. "I believe that it is the duty of scientists to clear doubts of people and there reservations regarding Bt brinjal. Such important decisions (whether to commercialise BT brinjal) should be taken in a democratic way and in a transparent manner," said Ramesh.

 The Indian Expres: Thursday , Jan 28, 2010 at 1127 hrs

BASIC Countries call for fast-tracking climate negotiation under UNFCCC, agree to enhance cooperation

The Ministers of the four BASIC Group countries - China, Brazil, South Africa and India - met in New Delhi today and called for an early resumption of the climate negotiations through the two negotiating groups - (AWG-LCA and the AWG-KP). They called for the early flow of the pledged $10bn by developed countries in 2010. The Ministers agreed to work closely on climate change negotiations and climate change science amongst themselves and with the G-77. Read Joint Statement

Copenhagen Accord not legally binding: UNFCC

NEW DELHI: Seeking to put at rest doubts over the status of the Copenhagen Accord agreed upon at the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) in the Danish capital last year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has issued a clarification saying that the agreement was not a legally binding document but merely a political one. In a notification addressed to the Parties, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, said that since the COP neither adopted nor endorsed the Accord, but merely took note of it, its provisions do not have any legal standing with the UNFCCC process even if some Parties decide to associate themselves with it. Secondly, since the Accord is a political agreement, rather than a treaty instrument subject to signature, a note verbale to the secretariat from an appropriate authority in the government concerned was sufficient to communicate the intention of a party to associate itself with the accord.

Source: The Hindu, Dated: 28.01.2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Students told to spread awareness of ecology

Thiruvananthapuram: Eva Willmann de Donlea, environmental-finance consultant from Australia, has exhorted the student community in Kerala to take the initiative to spread awareness of environment protection and develop it into a movement. She was inaugurating a Bhoomi Mitra Club set up by the National Service Scheme of Santhigiri Siddha Medical College at Pothencode, near here. The college is one among the 78 educational institutions selected by the Department of Environment, Government of Kerala, to start the clubs under plans to spread environment awareness among youth.

Ms. Donlea, chairperson of the Climate Council International Corporation and Director of Beyond 2012 Pt. Ltd., based in New South Wales, Australia, outlined the role of finance in effectively activating counter measures against climate change. She also exhorted the students to become a new hub of change in the environment protection campaign. The Santhigiri Research Foundation (SRF) co-sponsored the programme. G. Janardhana Menon, Assistant General Manager, SRF, and P. Hariharan, NSS Programme Officer, were among those present at the function.

Source: The Hindu, Dated: 26.01.2010

Fasting for a dying river

KANNUR: A group of environmental and social activists has brought to public attention a river that is left to die, in an attempt to revive its lost glory. The Kakkad river, a tributary of the Valapattanam river, is facing threat from large-scale dumping of waste, especially waste from slaughter houses. It is now just a shadow of what it was decades ago, according to activists here. Increasing encroachments have also accelerated the near demise of the river, they say. Though environmental organisations in the district have taken up the cause of reviving and protecting the river, it continues to be treated as a garbage dump. The environmental and social activists from various organisations here came together on Republic Day to once again draw public attention to the condition of the Kakkad river which is now mostly stagnant. They staged a fast on the river bank to highlight their demands that included steps to restore the natural flow of the river.
“The Kakkad river was once a rich river but now it is almost dead as it has been used for dumping waste over the years,” said K.V. Unnikrishnan Namboodiri of the Greensga, an environmental organisation striving to draw attention to the condition of the river. The river was now stagnant because of mindless waste-dumping, he said. The natural flow could be restored if the river was cleaned up, the activists said, urging the authorities to urgently take steps to clear it of accumulated waste. Action against encroachments should also be taken, they demanded. The campaign was organised by the Kakkad Puzha Samrakshana Samiti, Paristhithi Samoohya Aikyadhardya Samiti, Humanist Movement, Kerala Pattika Jathi-Pattika Varga Aikya Vedi, Nattarivu and Greensga. Among those who participated in the day-long campaign were C.K. Assainar, Pallipram Prasannan, Prabhakaran Narath, K. Kunhumuhammad and Ramachandran Kattakkulam.

Source: The Hindu, Dated:27.01.2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pachauri rules out resignation, says IPCC expressed regret

NEW DELHI: Chairman of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) R.K. Pachauri on Saturday ruled out his resignation in the wake of the controversy over the inclusion of unsubstantiated data in the Fourth Assessment Report, which said the Himalayan glaciers would vanish by 2035, an error for which the IPCC had to express regret. He said he was elected by all countries in the world and had a task to complete. “My job is to complete the Fifth Assessment Report. It is an unfortunate error, but this one error, which is regrettable, will in no way detract us from finishing our job,” he said at a press conference here. Admitting there were more mistakes in the section, Mr. Pachauri said the IPCC had expressed regret. “In the future, the performance of every lead author will be under scrutiny. We will exercise a higher level of surveillance to ensure that such human errors do not creep into the fifth report,” he said. Mr. Pachauri said no action could be taken against the lead authors as they were not IPCC employees. “The Nobel Prize-winning IPCC’s credibility was established over the last 21 years and got strengthened as we accepted the mistake,” Mr. Pachauri said, asserting that its image would not be shaken by the incident. He also ruled out a review of the remaining chapters of the Fourth Assessment report. “Our procedures are robust and solid. We only have to adhere to implementing the procedure. In this case, it was a failure on the part of the authors. We will be particular in avoiding slip-ups in the next report.”

‘Experts needed’
Mr. Pachauri admitted that not much research was done on the Himalayan glaciers. “There should be a dedicated programme to monitor and measure these glaciers. The entire field of glacier dynamics need experts and India is short of such experts.” Taking on climate sceptics, Mr. Pachauri said they were out to demolish the entire science of climate change. “There are 1200 lobbyists in Washington DC paid by 770 companies to stop anything related to climate change policies proposed by the United States. An enormous amount of resources is in the sceptics’ hands because climate change is a threat to convenient profit,” he alleged. The poorest regions of the world were the victims of climate change and those giving money to the sceptics were not concerned about these areas, he said. On V.K. Raina’s report on the health of the Himalayan glaciers that challenged the IPCC claim, Mr. Pachauri said that if some Indian glaciologist found something, he could have informed him. “I would have investigated it. The report made by Raina is broad and raises more questions on glacier melting and global warming. But it is not peer reviewed and there is hardly any citation in the report,” he said.

Source: The Hindu, Dated: 24.01.2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Seminar on wetlands conservation

ALAPPUZHA: Agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan will lead a seminar on Wetlands Conservation and Climate Changes here on January 24. The seminar, to be organized by the Kuttanad Vikasana Samithi prior to the World Wetlands Day (February 2), will be held at Hotel Royale Park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is open to scientists, researchers, environmental activists and farmers.

Registration begins :
Registration is open on a first come first served basis for 50 persons. Those who are interested have to contact KVS executive director Thomas Peelianickal over mobile number 94473 01086 before January 22 or by emailing him at, according to a press release.

Source: The Hindu, dated: 20.01.2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Children’s meet to focus on eco-friendly farming

Thiruvananthapuram: As many as 248 students from schools across the State will participate in the first Children’s Agricultural Science Congress to be held here on Friday and Saturday under the auspices of the Indian Agriculture Association, Centre for Innovation in Science and Social Action (CISSA) and Agri Friends Forum. Organising committee chairman C.K. Peethamabaran and secretary S.K. Suresh told a press conference here on Monday that the students from Upper Primary, High School and Higher Secondary Schools would present research papers on agriculture and traditional knowledge in the farm sector. They would also highlight agricultural projects in schools and innovative experiments in farming. An agricultural exhibition and photography exhibition are part of the event.

Focal theme
The focal theme of the congress would be eco-friendly agriculture. The sub-themes identified for discussion are paddy farming, biodiversity of food crops and food security, organic farming and its potential, natural resource management, treatment of biodegradable waste, collection of traditional knowledge on agriculture, climate change, local varieties of fruits, dissemination of information on agriculture and homestead farming. Mr. Peethambaran said the objective of the two-day event was to create a society with a better understanding of, and love for, agriculture and a healthy respect for farmers. This, he said, was essential in the drive to achieve food security. The event would focus on generating interest among children in farming and agricultural research, publicising farming initiatives by children and schools and creating awareness of agricultural biodiversity and traditional knowledge. It would strive towards creating a school-level model for agricultural extension activities. The competitive events include presentation of research papers, school-level farming projects, poster exhibition and photo exhibition. Lectures by agricultural experts and an interaction with winners of agricultural awards are being organised. Agricultural researchers and students would participate in an agro clinic to be held as part of the event. A video presentation of agriculture and agricultural lessons for children are the other programmes.

Mr. Peethambaran said special awards would be given to the top two winners in each category, the best presentation of research paper and the schools winning the first and second positions. The ceremonial proclamation of the congress was held at Avanamkuzhy, Balaramapuram, where on a 30-cent plot Jibin Raj, a class 9 student of the Mutharamman Kovil High School, has successfully demonstrated integrated farming by cultivating amaranthus and banana and rearing a cow. The congress would be held at the auditorium of the public library. Mr. Peethambaran said a survey carried out by students had revealed scattered attempts at the school-level to popularise farming among children. Several schools had taken the initiative for horticulture and paddy farming and students had published papers and articles. The congress would provide a platform to share the experience gained from these initiatives, he added.

Source: The Hindu, Dated:19.01.2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

National Wetland Conservation Programme, Revised Guidelines

Wetlands, natural and manmade, freshwater or brackish, provide numerous ecological services. The density of birds, in particular, is an accurate indication of the ecological health of a particular wetland. However, unsustainable use of wetlands without reckoning of their assimilative capacity constitutes major threat to the conservation and management of these vital biodiversity rich areas. Thus, restricting the prospects of future generation to utilize the benefits of the ecosystem services provided by these wetlands.

See MoEF's National Wetland Conservation Programme, Revised Guidelines

Functioning of waste treatment plant affected

KOCHI: The functioning of the Brahmapuram solid waste treatment plant of the Kochi Corporation has been affected due to the sinking of the floor where the machinery was installed. With its floor sinking, the garbage processing capacity of the plant has been reduced considerably. It now functions only at intervals and the plant is not operated during night hours. “Presently, we are not in a position to operate the plant round the clock,” said Mercy Williams, Kochi Mayor. The civic body and the Andhra Pradesh Technology Development Corporation, which installed the plant, had crossed swords regarding the quality of work at the plant. Many areas of the floor of the plant had developed cracks. Some areas sank shortly after the commissioning of the plant. The corporation is planning to seek the assistance of agencies like KITCO for carrying out the rectification works. The officials of the agency, along with the corporation officials, had inspected the plant site last week. The civic authority is hopeful that the agency would support the corporation in implementing the rectification works, Ms. Williams said.

Meanwhile, the civic body has asked its engineering wing to consider the option of carrying out the levelling of the floor and strengthening it after dismantling the machinery. The machinery will be re-installed after completing the floor rectification works. The step is being considered, as the KITCO is yet to convey its decision regarding the repair works. The option of implementing the works using its own team of engineers is also being considered by the civic body. The corporation has not yet made up its mind regarding the selection of agency for running the plant. The civic administrators are of the view that the task of running the plant should be assigned to an external agency which has prior experience in managing such units, she said. A decision on the selling of organic manure produced at the plant to the public sector company FACT will soon be taken. The proposal will be sent for obtaining legal opinion on Monday. The FACT had earlier agreed to purchase the manure for meeting its commitment to market organic manure. Private agencies have also come forward for purchasing the manure, said Ms. Williams.

Source: The Hindu, Dated: 18.01.2010

Hunting of wetland birds on the rise

KOCHI: Hunting of wetland birds, including migratory species, is rampant in many parts of the State. The ‘kole’ wetlands in Thrissur and Vembanad Lake, extending up to Kottayam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam districts, are known to be a favourite hunting spot of poachers. The birds often killed are egrets, herons and spoonbills. Four painted storks, a near-threatened species, were recently found killed in the area between Mannar and Haripad, said B. Sreekumar, president of the Kottayam Nature Society. Bird hunting has been reported from areas around Haripad, Vechoor, Kallara and Perumthuruthu. Until recently, Vechoor was one of the centres of organised poaching. Some poachers have shifted out of the area following increased public vigil, Dr. Sreekumar said. In Alappuzha district, which has large tracts of wetlands, including paddy fields, 540 persons hold licensed guns. Of this, 178 own long-barrelled guns. Besides, there are a large number of people who own air guns for which licence is not required. It is mostly air guns and the long-barrelled ones that are used for hunting, the officials said.

Wildlife Act offence
Hunting of birds is an offence under the Indian Wildlife Act. It entails imprisonment up to seven years. The Act has accorded protection to 474 species, including nearly 100 wetland varieties found in Kerala. Birds such as eagle, Great Indian hornbill, vultures, osprey, peafowl and hill mainah are included in Schedule 1 of the Act along with tigers and elephants. Yet, most incidents go unreported and the law enforcement agencies, including the police, rarely act against such offences, said conservationists. The Forest Department has registered only a few cases of hunting of birds during the last five years. The samples collected in wildlife cases from the State are sent to the wildlife forensic unit of Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) for DNA analysis. “The Forest Department has sent four samples of birds killed since 2005,” said P.O. Nameer, Head of the wildlife division of KAU. Officials of the State Crime Records Bureau (SCRB) of Kerala Police confirmed that no cases for hunting of birds were reported from the State. “If any case is registered, the Bureau would get the information. The police have not registered any case of poaching of birds,” V.K. Girijanathan Nair, Superintendent of Police, SCRB said. The Social Forestry wing of the Forest Department, Alappuzha, held a seminar on the issue on January 15 at its office. The attempt is to create awareness on the conservation and the legal aspects of the issue, said Raju Francis, assistant conservator of forests.

Source: The Hindu, Dated: 18.01.2010

No clearance to 88 polluting industrial clusters: Jairam

MUMBAI: Union Minister of State for Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh on Sunday said a nation-wide Comprehensive Environmental Assessment found that 88 industrial clusters were critically polluted. Out of these 88 clusters, 8 are in Maharashtra including Tarapur and Chembur. The environment Ministry will not give clearance to any industry in these 88 clusters unless Action Plan is prepared and implemented to improve the environment in these areas, said Mr. Ramesh, while dedicating HPCL’s EURO-4 Petrol Production Facilities to the Nation here. Speaking on this occasion Environment Minister said that “we have to be tough in matters related to environment.” Drastic and tough measures are to be taken to save the environment. Elaborating further, he said environment and public health are inter-dependent. In a place like Bhatinda where there is a critically polluted industrial cluster, the number of Cancer patients is very high. Where the environment is polluted beyond a certain level, it has caused health hazards for the inhabitants of the area. Although, in India, transport emission forms 7 to 8 per cent of the Green House Gases (GHS), but keeping in view the rapid growth in transport sector, there is urgent need to provide clean fuel at affordable price, the Minister added.

Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Murali Deora in his address said EURO-4 petrol would be introduced in 13 mega cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore etc. by April 2010 where as EURO-3 petrol would be available in rest of country by October 2010. In order to meet the objective of a greener environment as envisaged in auto Fuel Policy, HPCL’s Mumbai Refinery undertook, “Green Fuel and Emission Control Project”. The total cost of the project is Rs. 1731 crore for upgradation of petrol quality to meet Euro-4 specifications, Mr. Deora added.

“Petroleum products will continue to occupy a dominant position in meeting the energy requirements of our country before we switch to alternative sources of energy,” said Mr. Deora. It is, therefore, important that appropriate regulations be put in place for ensuring that India meets globally accepted environment norms. At the same time, it is incumbent upon the oil industry to keep upgrading their technology and processes so as to provide the nation the cleanest possible sources of energy.

Source: The Hindu, Dated: 18.01.2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

SPACE team from New Delhi captures footage of Baily’s Beads

VARKALA: The joy of a 37-member contingent of the New Delhi-based Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) knew no bounds when it captured Baily’s Beads on camera for the first time during the solar eclipse. The decision to fly down to Varkala, northern edge of the eclipse zone, was a rewarding one for the team. “We were able to record the sparkling beads of sunlight shining through the lunar valley,” a jubilant Vikarant Narang, Scientific Officer at SPACE, who headed the team, said. “The stunning bead-like light formations are crucial observations which can only be made during eclipses that can help define the solar diameter accurately,” he said. “This is an ongoing observation which will contribute to an ongoing international project called IOTA (International Occultation Timing Association).” Vaibhav Sawant, a final year physics student at Fergusson College, Pune, who was in the team, was lucky to capture the rare phenomenon on his camera. “It was my first eclipse. I clicked six to seven shots a second and was lucky to capture it,” he said.

The team captured Baily’s Beads by setting up a high focal length automated Meade telescope with eight high definition cameras mounted on it. “The field of view was trained on a small section of the Sun where the Moon’s southern edge grazed across the Moon to create Baily’s Beads,” Mr. Narang said. The team managed to get three high resolution videos and the images were webcast and over 7,000 viewers watched it on the site. A 10-member contingent of students from various schools led by Tanmay Paranjpaye, Science Officer, SPACE, supported them by carrying out several real-time experiments at a helipad at the beach resort. “It was a rare opportunity for us. Everyone is eagerly waiting at school and back home to hear from us,” Praful Sharma of Ahlcon School said. Tushar, a second year student of IP University, Delhi, handled the Radiojove developed to monitor the Sun at 20 Megahertz. Mr. Paranjpaye said it was found that ambient light went down drastically during the eclipse and wind speed dipped from 5.1 m/second to 0.1m/sec during annularity. The public were treated to vistas of the eclipse over the Arabian Sea. The volunteers led by coordinator Shikha Chanana explained the stages as well as provided solar goggles to those who arrived. Foreign tourists were among the 1,000-odd people who gathered at the helipad to view the event. “It was a beautiful experience and we will never forget it. We felt the change in temperature, light decreasing and the sky turning grey brown,” an excited Simone and Morena, from Italy, said. Astrophotographer and president of the Eclipse Chasers Athenaenum Ajay Talwar captured the solar eclipse from a resort near the helipad. A five-member team led by veteran eclipse chaser Daniel Fischer was also at Varkala.

Source: The Hindu, Dated:16.01.2010

Ban on new units in highly polluted areas

NEW DELHI: The Centre has imposed temporary restrictions on new development projects in industrial clusters that score more than 70 points on the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The restrictions on projects from critically polluted industrial clusters will be applicable for eight months during which time the Central Pollution Control Board along with the respective State Pollution Control Boards will finalise a time-bound action plan for improving the environmental quality of these areas.

The situation will be reviewed subsequently and further instructions issued accordingly. According to a notification by the Ministry, projects from industrial clusters with CEPI score above 70 received for grant of environmental clearance will be returned to the project proponents. The most affected industrial areas, as a result of this notification, would be Ankleswar, Vapi, Ghaziabad, Chandrapur, Korba, Bhiwadi, Angul Talcher, Vellore, Singrauli, Ludhiana, Najafgarh drain and surrounding areas in Delhi, Noida, Dhanbabd, Kanpur, Cuddalore, Agra, Haldia, Ahmedabad, Navi Mumbai, Mangalore, Coimbatore, Visakhapatnam, and Patancheru-Bollaram.

Source: The Hindu, Dated: 16.01.2010

Rationalists have their day in the sun

Bangalore: It may not have been the dramatic “ring of fire” that other parts of India witnessed, but in Karnataka the sun turned into a slim crescent for several minutes, visibly dimming the daylight on Friday during the millennium’s longest solar eclipse. While the superstitious stayed put at home, easing Bangalore’s notorious weekday traffic, scientists and rationalists strived to make the most of the rare four-hour spectacle, studying changes in animal behaviour and the atmosphere while helping the public view the eclipse safely. Several businesses shut shop, restaurants that could have made brisk lunchtime business downed shutters and several government departments — needless to say the Vidhana Soudha too — were virtually deserted on Friday. At home, there were those who went through the routine rituals of fasting, bathing and praying, stepping out only after the eclipse for a temple visit where they “purified” themselves of the “evil” effects of the celestial phenomenon.

Child freed- Superstition touched a particular low in Mandya district where a child with disability was buried neck deep in the ground during the eclipse as his parents believed that this would cure him. However as the word went around the village — Sunka Tonnur, about 15 km from Pandavapura — elders intervened to free the child. In Gulbarga district, where a large number of children were similarly “treated” last year, the administration and the police were successful in preventing the practice this time. Several schools across the State, both private and government, chose to remain closed, citing children’s “safety” as the reason. This led Bangalore Science Forum president A.H. Rama Rao to point out: “Closing schools will only propagate fear about the phenomenon and do nothing to develop a scientific temper.” The public — adults and children alike — thronged forums that scientific institutes and rationalist groups arranged for safe eclipse viewing, to discuss the phenomenon and to dispel myths.
One such event was organised on the Malleswaram grounds by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in association with Bharat Gyana Vignana Samiti and Bangalore Astronomical Society.

Among the many who visited the grounds was 11-year-old Vipin Nagarabhavi who sat with a small book, looking at the sky through solar goggles and drawing images of the eclipse as it progressed. “I did not want my son to remain in the house and miss this rare event,” said his mother, Vishalamathi N.K. Here, and at other forums, snacks were distributed during the eclipse. “We wanted to show that there is no special radiation during the eclipse that should prevent you eating or stepping out of home,” said Satish K.G., an IT professional who volunteers with the Breakthrough Science Society. Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium director C.S. Shukre was pleasantly surprised at the crowds that thronged the premises with solar goggles and peered though the telescopes that had been arranged here. “We had at least 10,000 people come in over the course of the day,” he said. “It is good to see that our arrangements did not go in vain.” However, despite the campaigns to educate the public about safe eclipse viewing, several people chose to use old x-ray film to view the phenomenon, assuming it was safe. The next annular eclipse of this duration on earth will take place next only in 3043.

Source: The Hindu, Dated: 16.01.2010

Ten rockets fired to study solar eclipse

The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram launches a Rohini sounding rocket from Thumba on Friday with equipment to investigate the effects of the annular solar eclipse on the atmosphere.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) launched a total of 10 Rohini series indigenous sounding rockets from the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station here and the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota to investigate the effects of the longest annular solar eclipse of this millennium, which occurred on Friday, on the earth’s atmosphere. On Thursday, the VSSC launched two sounding rockets each of the type RH 300 Mk II and RH 200, and on Friday, three sounding rockets of the type RH 300 Mk II and two sounding rockets of RH 200 from Thumba. The RH 300 Mk II rockets can shoot to a peak altitude of 116 km above the earth and the RH 200 to a peak altitude of 70 km. The VSSC also launched a larger Rohini rocket of the RH 560 Mk II series from Sriharikota on Friday. These rockets are capable of reaching a peak altitude of 548 km.

The eclipse assumed annular condition at 1.14 p.m. over Thumba. The maximum obscuration of 91 per cent of the sun occurred at 11.15 p.m. The annular phase of the eclipse lasted about 11 minutes and eight seconds over Thumba. The firing of the sounding rockets was scheduled so as to collect relevant data on atmospheric structure and dynamics at different altitudes from the earth before, during and after the eclipse.“Many scientifically interesting phenomena occur in the diurnal equatorial atmosphere [during an eclipse]. Equatorial electrojet, equatorial ionisation anomaly, and equatorial temperature and wind anomaly are examples of such phenomena. “When a solar eclipse occurs, there will be a sudden cut-off of solar radiation. This cut-off will affect the atmospheric structure and dynamics and there will be a large reduction in ionization and temperature. “Today’s eclipse offered a unique opportunity to scientists to investigate the effects of fast varying solar flux on the photochemistry and electrodynamics of the different atmospheric regions, especially the equatorial mesopause and ionosphere-thermosphere regions,” the VSSC said. The results of the experiments would be correlated with ground-based eclipse observations. The interpretation of the eclipse data together with the space data is expected to give new insights into earlier eclipse observations as well, the VSSC said.

Source: The Hindu, Dated:16.01.2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Environmental index: State in 'more sustainable' class

An Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) that maps the ability of States to remain ecologically sustainable while pursuing development has ranked Kerala in "more sustainable" category.

ESI is a powerful tool that can be used to identify priorities; a state might be facing several environmental changes such as water pollution, air pollution and loss of forest and biodiversity. Using ESI it can be determined which of these issues needs the most urgent attention. It can be effectively used to formulate targeted policies and to allocate funds more rationally, within states and within sectors.

State of Kerala
2009 Rating: 61-80 

ESI Score : 61.53
| GDP / Capita (Rs.‘000) : 41,182

State & Society's Response: 0.30
Impact on Human Health: -0.62
State/Quality of Environement :0.48
Driving Force: 0.54
Pressure on Ecosystem: -0.08

Find more details at

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kerala seeks Athirapally power project's clearance

Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 13 (PTI) Kerala government today decided to seek clearance from the Centre for the proposed Athirapally power project across the Chalakudy river in Thrissur district. The decision comes in the wake of Centre issuing a show cause notice to the state for not revoking the clearance given to the project earlier, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

The Centre in a showcause notice on January 4 last had asked the state why the clearance given in 2007 should not be revoked citing environment reasons. The 163-MW power project had triggered protests from various environment groups which held that it would destroy the unique biodiversity of the region. State Electricity Minister A K Balan had met Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh last week to discuss about the project.

Source: PTI 13 Jan 2010, 16:45 HRS IST

River water pollution test-Second Stage

Source: Mathrubhumi, Dated: 13.01.2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

‘Utilise solar energy for society’

KOCHI: The scientific community should take up the challenge of coming up with photovoltaic materials that could effectively utilise the solar energy for the welfare of the society, Zhores I. Alferov, Nobel Prize winner in Physics (2000), has said. He was delivering the inaugural address at the conference on materials for the millennium organised by the Department of Applied Chemistry at Cusat here on Monday.

Source: The Hindu, Dated: 12.01.2010

Judiciary must help to protect environment

Kochi: Former Supreme Court judge V.R. Krishna Iyer has stressed the need for educating the judges and the Bar about the new developments in the field of law such as the Biological Diversity Act. Inaugurating a seminar on ‘Biodiversity Conservation and Development - the Challenges and Possible Solutions’ organised by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, Indian Law Institute, Kerala branch and Lawyers Environmental Awareness Forum (LEAF), Mr. Iyer said that preservation of ecology was very important.

Delivering the key-note address, Chief Justice S.R. Bannurmath said the judiciary had played a dynamic role in the preservation of the ecology. It was duty of the judiciary to act as the “guardian angel” to preserve the rich biodiversity of the country. V.S. Vijayan, Chairman, Kerala State Biodiversity Board, said the genetically modified (GM) crops or food would not solve hunger and malnutrition. Justice Kurian Joseph, Executive Chairman of the Kerala State Legal Services Authority presided. P. Mohanadas, member secretary, KELSA, welcomed the gathering. Ligu Abraham, President, LEAF, proposed a vote of thanks.
Source: The Hindu, Dated:12.01.2010

Friday, January 8, 2010

Climate change action should transcend divides: Minister

Thrissur: Forest Minister Benoy Viswam has said that action against climate change should rise above political divides. He was addressing a seminar on ‘Climate change: science, politics and resistance’, organised by Costford, here on Thursday. “Debates on climate change will point the finger at the U.S., which is the biggest polluter in the world. The anti-U.S. stand in such discussions should not give the impression that climate change is a concern of the Left alone. Political parties should rise above ideologies to tackle the issue,” he said.He said that developing countries need not bear the brunt of the excesses perpetrated by the developed countries. “The global legal doctrine maintains that the polluter must pay.” The Minister said that the State government took an important step in the campaign against climate change by planting 1.5 crore saplings under a social forestry project.

“Many panchayats have not taken the scheme seriously. The saplings have not been tended well. In contrast, 80 per cent of the saplings planted by school students under the ‘Ente Maram’ scheme are growing well. The interest taken by the students should be appreciated. The government takes pride in the fact that since June 5, 2007, a sapling each has been planted by 25 lakhs students across the State. Long before Maldives sent warnings on climate change at its underwater meeting and Nepal told the world about the impact of the phenomenon on the Himalayas and 193 countries geared up to meet in Copenhagen, the Kerala government had launched an afforestation programme with the motto: climate change: planting trees is the answer,” the Minister added. He observed that trees should be seen in a new light in the background of climate change. He called for initiatives in the State to promote energy efficient building material and new habitat technologies.

Source: The Hindu, Dated: 8.01.2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

National Seminar on Role of Women in Combating Climate Change

A national seminar was organized by Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) in association with Department of Science and Technology, Govt of India at Sasthra Bhavan on 'Role of women in combating climate change' during 7th and 8th January 2010. The Seminar was inaugurated by Smt. P.K. Sreemathy Teacher, Hon'ble Minister for Health, Family and Social Welfare, Govt. of Kerala. Dr. E.P. Yesodharan presided over the function and Dr. J. Letha, Principal, College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram offered felicitation. Prof. J. Srinivasan, Professor, I.I.Sc. Bangalore delivered the special address on climate change. Eminent personalities will present papers in the technical sessions. The seminar will be concluded on 8th evening with a Panel discussion on the selected topic.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Call to fight for climate justice

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As many as 97 mango saplings were planted on Tuesday on the Karyavattom campus of the University of Kerala which is hosting the ongoing 97th Indian Science Congress. Education Minister M.A. Baby inaugurated the drive by planting and watering the first sapling along with scientist M.G.K. Menon. In his inaugural address, Mr. Baby said the best way to protect the environment was to ensure that it was not destroyed or altered in the first place. Even though the Copenhagen summit did not work out to India’s satisfaction, the University of Kerala was doing its bit to conserve the environment, he said. There was a need now to fight a war of ideas, to win over Western countries on issues relating to global warming and to counter nations and leaders trying to subvert the Kyoto protocol, Mr. Baby said.
Value system
Addressing those who had gathered on the plot of land identified for planting the first saplings, Dr. Menon said sustainable development was much more than planting trees or even trying to protect the environment. The concept had to do with something deep inside each person. Sustainability had to be understood as the sustainability of the earth’s systems in the face of a burgeoning human population. “This is the age when industries clear vast swathes of land in the name of development so that they can make quick money out of the venture. Such tendencies need to be checked. We can’t destroy our inheritance—physical, culture or linguistic.” Education was the key to the preservation of a value system, Dr. Menon added.
Green lung
A total of 10,000 saplings would be planted as part of this campus beautification drive. These include saplings of mahogany, jackfruit, gooseberry, Sappotta and guava. Hundreds of acacia trees that stood in acres of land on the campus had been cleared prior to the science congress to facilitate the construction of various temporary and semi-permanent structures, including the main venue. In his address, Kerala University Vice-Chancellor A. Jayakrishnan said he hoped that in another 20 years the university campus would become the green lung of the city. Pro Vice-Chancellor J. Prabhash was among those who planted the first few saplings.
Source: The Hindu, Dated: 6.01.2010

Weather forecast to feature monsoon phases

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The India Meteorological Department is set to introduce an additional feature to its forecasts during monsoon. Shailesh Nayak, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, said here on Tuesday that from this year, farmers would also get forecasts of active and break phases of monsoon 10-15 days in advance. Till now, the Department has been issuing forecasts for five days and an outlook for the next two days. From this year’s monsoon, it will issue forecasts for one week and an outlook for the next. Notes on the possibilities of changes in the monsoon activity — from the active phase to the break phase or from the break phase to the active phase would be part of these advisories.
Scientists of the Meteorological Department have been working on forecasts on the active and break phases for the past three years. The forecasts would primarily be based on Madden Julian Oscillation. This phenomenon is an equatorial travelling pattern of anomalous rainfall that is planetary in scale. It is characterised by an eastward progression of large regions of both enhanced and suppressed tropical rainfall, observed mainly over the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The anomalous rainfall is usually first evident over the western Indian Ocean and remains evident as it spreads over the very warm ocean waters of the western and central tropical Pacific. Speaking at a plenary session of the 97th Indian Science Congress, Dr. Nayak said studies indicated that the level of the Indian Ocean had risen by 9 mm between 2004 and 2009. This was not unusual as a rise of 3 mm a year was observed in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans between 1993 and 2003.
Source: The Hindu, dated: 6.01.2010.

Experts warn of ‘climate refugees’

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Rise in temperature by 1 to 2 degrees Celsius will result in Kerala witnessing large-scale influx of ‘climate refugees’ from the coastal areas to the hinterlands, say experts. According to the ‘Thiruvananthapuram Declaration’ adopted by the Policy Makers’ Consultation on ‘Effective Community Management of Agro-biodiversity in an Era of Climate Change,’ organised under the aegis of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) here on Tuesday, any significant rise in temperature will present ‘mega threats’ to Kerala’s food and water security systems and, if the increase in temperature is by 2 degrees Celsius, there will be a one to two metre rise in mean seal level during the current century posing serious threat to the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities.
The declaration pointed out that besides posing serious threats to the coastal ecosystems and mineral wealth, an increase in temperature will affect production and productivity of plantation crops such as coffee, tea, spices and rubber and annual crops such as rice. Change in precipitation will cause drought, flood and soil erosion and result in decrease in soil fertility. It will also affect adversely Kerala’s forest biodiversity and medicinal plant wealth, disrupt ecosystem services and trigger a spurt in vector-borne diseases in plants, animals and humans. The day-long consultation, attended by experts from different parts of India and various major institutions in the State, felt that the State must go in for both anticipatory research using advanced technologies and participatory research involving local communities, including tribal communities. Even as it painted a gloomy picture, the declaration noted that Kerala had what was needed to become a world leader in managing the consequences of rise in sea level as it had experience in cultivating rice in below sea level conditions in the Kuttanad area, a biodiversity paradise in flora and fauna. Inaugurating the consultation chaired by MSSRF chairman M.S. Swaminathan, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan hoped that the deliberations would help the State find answers to the major challenges arising from climate change.
Source: The Hindu, Dated: 6.01.2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Greater Cochin area ‘critically polluted’

KOCHI: The Greater Cochin industrial cluster area is critically polluted, according to the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) of the Central Pollution Control Board. The area has been ranked as the 24th polluted industrial cluster with an aggregate CEPI score of 75.08 out of 100. The area was also among the “existing critically polluted areas.” The indexing was carried out in association with the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, and State Pollution Control Boards. The “health dimensions of environment including air, water and land” were considered for indexing. The board selected 88 industrial areas or clusters in consultation with the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The Greater Cochin area was the only industrial cluster considered from the State.The report stated that areas with scores of 70 and above should be considered as critically polluted ones.
Those with the score between 60 and 70 should be considered as severely polluted areas and shall be kept under surveillance and pollution control measures efficiently implemented. In the case of the critically polluted clusters, the report suggested detailed investigations for assessing the environmental damage and formulation of remedial action plans. The water quality of the Cochin area got a CEPI score of 64 and air quality 57. The land component was given a score of 54. “A sub-index score of more than 60 shows a critical level of pollution in the respective environmental component, whereas a score between 50 and 60 shows a severe level of pollution,” the report said. According to the report that was released recently, 43 industrial areas/clusters were critically polluted, with respect to one or more environmental components.
For the Cochin area, ambient air quality parameters like suspended particulate matter, respirable particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide were considered, said M.S. Maithily, chief environmental engineer of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board Ernakulam region. Regarding the water quality, factors like pH, turbidity, presence of nitrates and sulphates and coliform bacteria were taken into account. The factors like population and the number of industrial units with effluent treatment plants were also considered while preparing the index, Ms. Maithily said. Ankleshwar in Gujarat topped the pollution list with a CEPI score of 88.5 followed by Vapi (88.09), Ghaziabad (87.37), Chandrapur (83.88), Korba (83), Bhiwadi Rajasthan (82.91) and Angul Talcher (82.09). The two clusters in Assam—Burnihat and Digboi—with scores of 46.26 and 44.55 were the least polluted clusters in the country.
Source: The Hindu, Dated: 1.1.2010

The Dutch disappointed with climate deal: MP

NEW DELHI: People in The Netherlands are disappointed with the outcome of the climate deal at Copenhagen, Anja Timmer, Member of the Dutch Parliament, said here on Monday. Ms. Timmer told The Hindu that there was a general sense of disappointment over the deal as hopes were raised with the arrival of the world leaders. “Expectations were too high but we should carry these hopes for the next meeting on climate change at Mexico at the end of the year,” she said. Ms. Timmer heads a seven-member delegation of MPs to India during which they will discuss outsourcing and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives with the Indian business houses.
Source: The Hindu, dated: 5.01.2010

‘Earth, Moon & Mars will form a single entity’

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, said here on Monday that the Earth, which was rapidly exhausting its resources, would not remain an independent entity in the future, but form a “single economic entity” with the Moon and Mars. He said this after inaugurating the Children’s Science Congress organised as part of the 97th Indian Science Congress on the Kerala University campus at Kariavattom. “The future generations will look at the Earth, the Moon and the Mars as a single economic and strategic entity. This will be possible by developing scientific knowledge in a very unique solution to the crisis of water, energy and infrastructure faced by humanity in different parts of the world.” Dr. Kalam said that by detecting water on the moon for the first time through the Chandrayaan mission, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had found the answer to an issue that was evading the collective scientific wisdom of all the space-faring nations for the last five decades.
He urged the delegates to the Children’s Science Congress to follow the example and use science to prove other impossible things possible. “There are many impossible things which have been proved to be possible by great human scientific minds. You must dream to be like them. But dream alone is not sufficient. You must also acquire knowledge, work hard and have perseverance,” he said. Dr. Kalam said the purpose of conducting an annual science congress was to nurture talent which could find scientific solutions to the problems faced by mankind. To inspire the young minds, Mr. Kalam narrated the story of eminent scientists who made a difference to people’s lives through their singular dedication. As many as 3,500 students from different parts of the country are participating in the three-day Children’s Science Congress. Dr. Kalam also interacted with the student-delegates of the Children’s Science Congress after the inaugural function. Answering students’ queries, he said the future scientists could contribute to the development of the country by improving the environment, taking literacy to the corners of the country and enquiring about the welfare of the aged. To a question on what motivated him to continue working enthusiastically at his age, Dr. Kalam said it was his hope to see India as a developed nation. “I want to see India as an economically and socially developed nation by 2010. It is this hope that keeps me going,” he said. Dr. Kalam said the stature of scientists could be upgraded in society by forming a science cadre, which could also attract more youngsters to the field of science.
Copenhagen summit
He said one of the reasons why the Copenhagen summit failed was because the talks on climate were not combined with discussions on the power policy of nations. Asked how he wanted to be remembered, Dr. Kalam said he wanted to be known as a teacher. Asked who the proverbial ‘woman behind his success’ was, he said it was his mother. The former ISRO chairman, G. Madhavan Nair, presided over the inaugural function. Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) director P.S. Veeraraghavan and University of Kerala Vice-Chancellor A. Jayakrishnan also spoke at the function. Dr. Kalam led the ‘Oath for youth’ at the end of the programme. ISCA young scientist awards were also presented at the function.
Source: The Hindu, Dated: 5.01.2010

Dhaka, New Delhi begin river water-sharing talks

DHAKA: Bangladesh and India on Monday began Secretary-level talks here on river water-sharing to lay the groundwork for the coming summit talks between their Prime Ministers. Bangladesh Water Resources Secretary Sheikh M. Wahiduzzaman, who leads the home side, said the sharing of the waters of the Teesta and Feni and the construction of embankments were on the agenda of the two-day discussion. The Indian team is led by Water Resources Secretary U.N. Panjiar. Even if the talks fail to arrive at a full-fledged agreement, Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Sheikh Hasina could make decisions on signing a short-term Teesta deal, officials said.
Officials of the Ministries concerned said a full-fledged agreement on Teesta water sharing depended largely on the highest political levels. Dhaka is asking New Delhi to hold a ministerial-level meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC), but it is learnt that India has expressed its inability to hold such meeting in the last six years. The talks will also include the sharing of water of six other common rivers — the Dharla, Monu, Muhuri, Dudhkumar, Khowai and Gomti. The dredging of the Isamoti may also come up for discussion. Newly-appointed Indian High Commissioner Rajeet Mitter told journalists that Ms. Hasina’s visit to India, scheduled for January 10, would usher in new areas of cooperation.
Source: The Hindu, Dated: 5.01.2010

Monday, January 4, 2010

Housing schemes: survey in CRZ areas soon

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The city Corporation will soon launch a survey in the coastal wards to identify families and potential beneficiaries of government-sponsored mass housing schemes currently living within the area falling under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ).
The Corporation has taken up the survey following an order issued by the Department of Local Self-Government directing local self-government institutions (LSGIs) to prepare a detailed report on the rehabilitation of residents in the CRZ area. The CRZ zoning regulations, as well as the lack of valid land ownership records among beneficiaries, had emerged as a major hurdle to the implementation of a mass housing project taken up by the Corporation under the Basic Services for the Urban Poor (BSUP) project in the coastal wards of the city. The majority of applicants who applied for housing financial assistance under the scheme could not make it to the list, as the eligibility criteria excluded those who did not possess land of their own. The Local Self-Government Department is now planning to take up the issue of CRZ regulations by identifying coastal communities whose traditional dwelling habitat falls in the CRZ area. A senior official told The Hindu that the Department hopes to bank on a particular clause in the CRZ notification that provides scope to upgrade houses of traditional dwellers within the CRZ area.
Coastal dwellers
“In Kerala, fishing communities fall under this category of traditional coastal dwellers. “So if we identify such families, we can use this provision to include them in housing schemes like EMS and BSUP after taking up the matter with the CRZ management authorities concerned,” the official said. The coastal BSUP project is aimed at providing financial assistance of up to Rs 1.15 lakh to 5,500 families from 14 coastal wards in the city. Although the Corporation received 4,500 applications under the scheme, only 750 applications could be successfully processed so far.
Meanwhile, the Local Self-Government Department has decided to address the issue of lack of valid land documents by extending the project to applicants who avail themselves of possession certificates from revenue authorities. Following a request made by the city Corporation, the department has decided to give concession in the building permit rules to project beneficiaries who submit possession certificates. Under the existing building rules, building permit can only be given to a land owner who possesses either a title deed or a valid land document. “Applicants can now get financial assistance under the scheme by submitting the possession certificate along with the building plan at the Corporation by March 2010,” said Corporation Welfare standing committee S.A. Sundar
Source: The Hindu, Dated:29.12.2001

Boost to renewable energy in China

BEIJING: China’s top legislature has adopted an amendment to the renewable energy law mandating electricity grid companies to buy all the power produced by renewable energy generators.The amendment says the State Council energy department and the state power regulatory agency should supervise the purchases. The amendment, approved by lawmakers after it was heard the second time at a five-day meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, aims to support the country’s fledgling renewable energy sector.
It says the State Council energy department, in conjunction with the state power regulatory agency and the State Council finance departments, should “determine the proportion of renewable energy power generation to the overall generating capacity for a certain period”. Enterprises refusing to buy power produced by renewable energy generators will have to pay a fine equivalent to double the amount the economic loss sustained by the renewable energy company, it says. Renewable energy includes non-fossil ones such as wind and solar power, hydropower, biomass, geothermal and ocean energy. Still, two-thirds of China’s energy supply is fuelled by coal, and the country has become one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters. The law, which took effect in January 2006, was aimed at “optimising the country’s energy structure and safeguarding energy security”. It covered subsidies, pricing management and supervision measures.
“The legislation on improving the consumption of clean energy contributes to the global fight on climate change,” said Wang Zhongying, director of the renewable energy development centre of the Energy Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission.A national plan on renewable energy development issued in 2007 set a target to increase renewable resources to supply 15 per cent of its total energy consumption by 2020, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable economic growth. Statistics show renewable resources supplied 9 per cent of China’s total energy consumption last year, an equivalent of reducing 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.Last month, the State Council announced that China was going to reduce the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP in 2020 by 40 to 45 per cent compared with the level of 2005. The law requires the government to set up a special fund to renewable energy research, finance rural clean energy projects, build independent power systems in remote areas and islands and build information networks to exploit renewable energy.
The fund will be managed by finance, energy and pricing sectors of the State Council.Official statistics show that in 2008, China used more hydro and solar power than any other country and its use of wind power ranked fourth. However, industry experts estimated that one third of the country’s wind-generated electricity could not be well transmitted to the grid.Therefore, the amendment requires grid companies to “improve transmitting technologies and enhance grid capability to absorb more power produced by renewable energy generators.” — Xinhua — Xinhua
Source: The Hindu, Dated: 28.12.2009

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cusat plans centre for climate change study

KOCHI: The Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) has sought the support of the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development for setting up a centre for modelling of regional climate change.
The objective of the centre is to conduct research programmes on the impact of climate change with special reference to the Kochi region. University officials said that the centre will initiate a study on the possible vulnerabilities of Kochi to climate change impacts.
It will update the findings besides suggesting new measures to tackle the challenge of global warming.
The project has also found placement in the university budget for the financial year 2009-10.
In its preliminary report, scientists at the Cochin University had categorised the possible impact of global warming in Kochi as precipitation changes, sea level rise, temperature changes, local ecological change and implications of climate changes in other regions.
Kochi’s most significant vulnerabilities to climate change impacts in the long run, as assessed by the agencies, were a combination of increased variability and intensity of rainfall and sea level rise on the city’s water systems especially on drainage, waste disposal and water logging.
The possible sea level rise may threaten the land use near the shoreline of Kochi and the climatic changes were likely to threaten possible coastal land use and patterns of livelihood.
Source: The Hindu, Dated 1.1.2010

Quake shakes northeast

Shillong: An earthquake of 5.5 magnitude shook parts of the northeast on Thursday, the second in two days, officials here said.
The quake, which occurred at 3.28 p.m. has its epicentre somewhere in Bhutan, about 183 km North West from here and occurred at a depth of 7 km below the earth’s surface, officials at the Central Seismological Observatory here said.
There were no reports of injuries to people or damage to property. This was the second quake in two days and 34th this year in the region, which falls in the highly seismic zone. — PTI
Source: the Hindu, Dated: 1.1.2010

Awareness programme on coastal regulation zone

KOCHI: Over 150 representatives and officials from various panchayats in Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Kottayam participated in a one-day awareness training programme on coastal regulation zone (CRZ) conducted by the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) here on Wednesday. District Collector M. Beena inaugurated the programme at the Ernakulam Town Hall in the morning. Urging the stakeholders to evolve a consensus on various aspects related to CRZ, she said that panchayat officials were facing difficulties while handling cases related to the coastal regulation zone. Dr. Beena suggested that training programmes led by experts will help in resolving such problems.
The Collector also called for steps to ensure the protection of the environment while implementing the various provisions of CRZ. In his presidential address, N. R. Menon, member of the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority, said that the CRZ Act has opened up various opportunities for the tourism and fisheries sectors. He said the proper utilisation of the coastal regulation zone provisions will help in ensuring the development of these sectors. Stating that the ecological condition of the coastal region should be preserved, Dr. Menon said that efforts should be made to understand the problems faced in the regional level while implementing the CRZ provisions. He said coastal zone environment protection was vital for the overall stability of the region. M. Baba, Director of CESS, who welcomed the gathering, said the CRZ Act will help the coastal population, as it includes provisions that ensure the livelihood of the people living along the coastal region.

Source : The Hindu, Dated: 31.12.2009