• Think before you sip that poison

  • Disaster management plans on the anvil

  • Mudumalai sanctuary to be closed

  • Meet to discuss water sector reforms

  • Think before you sip that poison

    By Lalit K. Jha
    THE HINDU [FEBRUARY 5, 2003]

    NEW DELHI FEB. 4. Think twice before you ask for your favourite brand of bottled water next time. For chances are that you may end up consuming dangerous pesticides that will affect your body’s immune system, causing cancer and disorders of the nervous system in the long run.

    According to a shocking new study, tests carried out by the Pollution Monitoring Laboratory of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) here have revealed that samples of almost all water bottles available in Delhi — except one imported from France — contained a deadly cocktail of pesticide residues. Samples of as many as 17 brands of packaged drinking water sold in and around Delhi were tested by CSE. The findings are appalling.

    Using the European Economic Commission norms for maximum permissible limits for pesticides in bottled water, CSE found that samples from the Capital showed that on an average they contained 36.4 times more pesticides than the stipulated levels. "CSE opted for these norms because the standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards are vague and undefined,’’ says the CSE Director, Sunita Narain.

    Revealing details of the findings, Ms. Narain added that samples of Bisleri, the bestselling brand, were found to contain pesticide concentration levels 79 times higher than the stipulated limit. Kinley had concentration levels 14.6 times higher. Aquaplus — mostly found at railway stations — topped the list by 104 times. The Hello brand from Noida was found to contain the dangerous lindane 45 times above the norm. A major campaign is going on in Britain against lindane which is said to cause breast cancer.

    Shockingly, DDT — a banned pesticide — was found in 70 per cent of the samples. Similarly samples of No. 1 McDowell were found to contain 370 times the permissible limit for individual pesticide and Bisleri and Kinley 109 times each. About the sources for the bottled water, Ms. Narain said that in Delhi most depend on borewells located in dirty industrial or agricultural areas. "We found a dramatic correlation between the two.’’


    Disaster management plans on the anvil

    THE HINDU [FEBRUARY 5, 2003]

    DEHRA DUN FEB. 4. Long-term and large-scale arrangements are on the cards in Uttaranchal to mitigate and manage natural disasters in the hill state, according to Uttaranchal Chief Secretary, Madhukar Gupta.

    The Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre (DMMC) would be the central point for disaster management in the state, the chief secretary told reporters after today’s cabinet meeting.

    A Crisis management group would be formed under the presidentship of the chief secretary, he said.

    He said a disaster control room would be set up in each district and that satellite phones would be made available at the centre.

    The DMMC would also serve as a training centre and enhance public awareness about disasters. During a disaster, the DMMC would turn into an emergency operation centre and the Relief and Disaster Management Commissioner would be stationed there, he said.

    The chief secretary said the cabinet had decided to set up an Uttaranchal Bio-diversity Conservation Authority. "The creation of such an authority would help in mobilising resources."

    The Chief Minister would be the chief patron of this authority while the Forest Minister its patron. The chief secretary would be the chairman of this body, he added. A "Forest Fund" would also be created to facilitate the maintenance of old "Dak Bungalows" under the forest department. A proposal was also being prepared to use these bungalows for tourism purposes, said the chief secretary. He said it was decided to frame rules for many departments including irrigation, recruitment through public service commission, health department and social welfare department.

    Another decision taken was that the government employees in Haridwar would be given the "hill allowance" given to employees in other districts of the state. UNI


    Mudumalai sanctuary to be closed

    THE HINDU [FEBRUARY 5, 2003]

    Udhagamandalam Feb. 4 . The Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary near here will be closed from February 16 till April 15.

    Speaking to mediapersons here today, the Nilgiris wildlife warden, Ashok Upretti, said the proposal citing the dry conditions prevailing there had been sent to the Government.

    During the period, fire protection and anti-poaching works would be taken up, for which 60 persons had been employed.

    However, there was no drinking water problem.

    Though the natural sources were drying up, there was sufficient water in the checkdams — Ombetta, Hame Hut and Nardi.

    Under the Hill Area Development Programme, fire lines were drawn up for about 100 km at a cost of Rs. 3 lakhs.


    Meet to discuss water sector reforms

    Gargi Parsai
    THE HINDU [FEBRUARY 5, 2003]

    New Delhi Feb. 4. The Ministry of Water Resources has planned out a heavy curriculum for "adoption" by State Governments in a single day at the 12th National Conference of Water Resources and Irrigation Ministers to be held here tomorrow. The conference will be preceded by a function where the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, will launch the Freshwater Year, 2003, as set out by the United Nations. He will also release a vision document on the water sector.

    At the centre of the conference is the issue of linking reforms in water rates with Central schemes in water resources sector. States’ views would be sought on the proposal to progressively rationalise the water rates and collection of water charges by linking them with the minimum support price (MSP) of agricultural commodities.

    According to the Ministry, the heavy subsidies in electricity/free electricity for agriculture had resulted in wasteful use of energy and water. It has proposed that the tariff structure on both irrigation and energy be reviewed and revised every five years. States will be advised to make Water User Associations responsible to collect water charges and meet the operation and maintenance (O&M) costs of the system.

    The idea is to ensure that the States generate enough income from water users to cover their cost of maintenance and operation of irrigation and water supply systems.

    States’ consent would also be sought on controversial issues such as the formation of River Basin Organisations (RBOs), implementation of important river link canal schemes and on bringing water-related activities including surface and groundwater under one Department in the States. All these form part of the Action Plan worked out by the Ministry for implementation of the National Water Policy.

    States would also be advised to enact a separate law to enforce Participatory Irrigation Management as without that, the Ministry feels, there is no explicit provision for farmers participation in the management of irrigation.

    The vision document envisages development of a National Water Code defining water rights and developing laws, conventions and agreements on water pollution, formation of a standing mechanism for settling water disputes among other things.

    After a gap of 33 years, the Ministry has proposed setting up of the Third Irrigation Commission for effective guidance on effective management of irrigation and water resources.