• Time running out for ‘clean rivers’ project

  • First trial run of train on biodiesel

  • Time running out for ‘clean rivers’ project

    By R.K. Radhakrishnan
    The Hindu, 3 January 2003

    CHENNAI Jan. 2. Deadlines for projects under the National River Conservation Plan are fast approaching, but State Government agencies and local bodies have made little progress in implementing them.

    Some schemes, aimed at making waterways cleaner and limiting pollution levels in Chennai and 12 other cities, have not even taken off, though the Centre has committed funds.

    Three groups of projects are being implemented, including the Rs. 1,700-crore Chennai Waterways project, the Rs. 36.28-crore work in rivers in Tiruchi, Erode, Bhavani, Kumarapalayam and Pallipalayam, and the Rs. 575.3-crore, clean-up project in Karur, Kumbakonam, Mayiladuturai, Thanjavur, Madurai, Tirunelveli and Srirangam. If the deadlines are not met — the Chennai project deadline ends in nine months and for the five towns project in December 2005 — , the funds will no longer be available.

    The Chennai project, approved in September 2000, envisages a cleaner Cooum, Adyar, Buckingham Canal, Captain Cotton Canal and Otteri Nullah in three years. The Centre foots the project expenditure to the extent of Rs. 491.52 crores under the NRCP alone. The then DMK regime gave the go-ahead for the schemes, though the Centre released the financial aid directly to user-organisations.

    The NRCP component was directly released to Metrowater, along with finance for additional sewerage works (Rs.228.63 crores); the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board was to look into resettlement and rehabilitation of slum dwellers at a cost of Rs.613.5 crores; the PWD was in charge of removal of sand bars in the Cooum and the Adyar, for which Rs.236.9 crores was provided, while the Chennai Corporation was entrusted with taking up macro drainage works, for which Rs.109.25 crores was provided.

    According to statistics, till November 2002, of the Rs. 104 crores released, Rs. 102 crores was spent by Metrowater. In February, though the total amount stood at Rs.83.84 crores, the city water managers could use up only Rs. 65.14 crores. Also, tenders for four sewage treatment plants — core works — were cancelled after a wait for more than a year. In all, less than a third of the earmarked funds was utilised. Union Environment Ministry officials point out that it would be impossible to complete sewage stations in the remaining period. The gestation period for a sewage plant is one-and-a-half to two years, and, if there is a delay in laying conveyor pipes, the project could take even three years to complete. The Central Pollution Control Board made it clear that it would take a serious view of the issue. But as it has limited powers to initiate direct penal action, the only course open is to seek a court direction asking the local bodies to initiate steps to comply with the CPCB norms.

    The CPCB insisted that erring local bodies be treated on a par with polluting industries, an idea that has reportedly not gone down well with State Pollution Control Boards.

    "It takes some time. But we have prosecuted many local governments and agencies. One instance is the Ganga Action plan. Local bodies often cite lack of resources for permanently postponing anything. We approached the Supreme Court, which said local bodies cannot offer excuses,’’ the CPCB chairman, Dilip Biswas, told The Hindu.

    "But the board would rather use persuasive methods than resort to prosecution,’’ he said.


    First trial run of train on biodiesel

    By Vinay Kumar
    The Hindu, 3 January 2003

    NEW DELHI JAN. 2. The Railways is experimenting with the new eco-friendly "biodiesel" fuel to run passenger trains. The first successful trial run of a superfast passenger train was conducted on December 31, 2002 when Delhi-Amritsar Shatabdi Express used five per cent of "biodiesel" as fuel.

    Trial runs using "biodiesel" are being conducted by the Railways and the first full-fledged run would be formally inaugurated by the Railway Minister, Nitish Kumar, soon, the Railway Board Member (Mechanical), S. Dhasarathy, told The Hindu here today.

    If "biodiesel" is used, as per plans, to the extent of 10 per cent mixture with the conventional diesel, the Railways would be able to not only save on its rising fuel bill but also control the pollution level. Sulphur and lead emissions came down significantly when biodiesel was used. The Railways’ annual fuel bill of Rs. 3,400 crores for using diesel could be reduced by nearly Rs. 300 crores to 400 crores per annum by using biodiesel. Ultimately, the percentage of biodiesel would go up to 15 per cent as per the accepted global norms.

    The new green fuel is extracted from the seeds of the ‘Jatropha’ plant and Indian Oil is now engaged in laboratory tests of biodiesel, a trend catching up fast even in developed countries. The alternative fuel is not only eco-friendly but also provides a renewable source as it is extracted from a plant. Its use would help bring down the emission levels and redeploy the surplus manpower and contribute to environment protection. The plant can easily be grown on either side of railway tracks as it adopts itself well to arid, semi-arid conditions and demands low fertility and moisture.

    The other advantages are the fuel’s contribution to national energy pool and the potential of creation of jobs in rural sector. On the global scale, the U.S. and the European Union have taken a number of recent initiatives to promote biodiesel as the clean, green fuel as it has high cetane and lubricity and readily mixes with diesel without any engine modification. It also scores in terms of availability and price. France, Germany and Italy have shown the way in increasing use of biodiesel.