National environment plan sets the priorities
THE TIMES OF INDIA [18th JUNE, 2003]
NEW DELHI: Tasked with framing a National Environment Action Plan, former Union environment ministry secretary T K A Nair and the experts on his team on Tuesday gave the ministry a report which says there is a need to develop strong lobbies representing the victims of pollution.
The 57-page report outlines the need for changes in attitudes and regulatory structures, opens the door to the private sector, identifies new thrust areas and sets targets and timetables to control pollution in specific areas.
It describes the system, and the problems with it: ``Quite often, those responsible for managing natural resources and protecting the environment are institutionally separated from those responsible for managing the developmental processes of the economy.''
This is not all. ``Lack of awareness of the political masters about the causes of pollution and their serious impacts on environment, pervasive influence of industrial lobbies, general apathy of the public and lack of resources and professional expertise have contributed to the low level of compliance of environment protection laws,'' says the report.
Trying to tighten the nuts and bolts in a system gone haywire, it suggests, among many other things:
Setting up environment protection authorities to do the nitty-gritty of implementation and leave the environment ministry free to focus on policy. Defining, for instance, acceptable changes in environmental quality owing to different developmental activities.
Collaborating with IITs and other centres to train people in environment planning and engineering.
Introducing environment education as a compulsory part of higher technical education, including medical education.
Ideally, setting up environment cells in different ministries and taking into account environment considerations from the start in any project.
Upgrading Central and state pollution control boards, reviewing their structures, giving them the funds and the experts, to enforce rules. An all-India service of engineers and scientists to man the boards may be needed but may not be feasible now a staffing pattern review, however, should be done without delay.
Urgently reviewing the functioning of regional offices of the ministry and Central Pollution Control Board. These don't have much work now.
Setting up state-level appellate authorities, headed by retired high court judges, outside the domain of state governments.
Letting the private sector set up common effluent treatment plants, incinerators and disposal sites to serve the industry and local bodies on a chargeable basis.
The regulatory authorities, says the report, need to give priority to seven sectors: Use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers; indoor pollution; poultry; Railways; dry cleaners; gasoline and underground storage tanks; used oils. The Nair committee says the Railways need to switch to the closed system of toilets in coaches, decided 10 years ago but never implemented.
In addition, the committee has set time-bound plans for 10 areas, setting tasks and dates ^ and hoping the money and manpower will be made available.
On the list are hazardous substances, biomedical waste, municipal solid waste, groundwater contamination, enforcing environment clearance conditions, making use of flyash, reclaiming mined areas, controlling critically polluted areas and metros, checking pollution in small-scale industries, distilleries, brick kilns and stone crushers.
Some of the suggestions on metros may not be palatable to politicians looking ahead to elections. These include strict implementation of master plans, ban on conversion of residential areas into commercial areas, removing encroachments on roads, even a ban on loudspeakers.
Earthquake of slight intensity felt in Delhi
THE HINDUSTAN TIMES [18th JUNE, 2003]
An earthquake of slight intensity was felt in Delhi at 0116 hrs on Wednesday.
There have been no reports of any damage.
The earthquake measuring 3.1 on the Richter scale was epicentred at Delhi-Faridabad border - 28.45 degrees north (latitude) and 77.23 degrees east (longitude), an India Meteorological Department release said.
Vajpayee concerned about river pollution
THE HINDUSTAN TIMES [18th JUNE, 2003]
Expressing serious concern over the growing pollution of the country's rivers, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee Monday called on state governments to evolve news strategies to "check the deteriorating condition" of the rivers.
"It is ironic that although we consider our rivers holy, we have allowed river pollution to assume alarming proportions" Vajpayee said while chairing the 11th meeting of the National River Conservation Authority here.
Vajpayee noted that "disposal of untreated sewage from large and medium towns" was a major reason for the pollution of rivers and emphasised the need to involve religious personalities and institutions in the anti-pollution drive as they could play a positive role in these programmes.
Environment and Forests Minister T.R. Baalu, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission K.C. Pant and state chief ministers attended the meeting.
Vajpayee stressed the "need to implement the river conservation programme with a greater sense of urgency and commitment".
The time had come for the state governments to evolve new strategies for making the programme more sustainable by way of capacity building of the local bodies and enhancement of their revenue, he added.
Past experiences had shown that the success of such programme depended on an integrated approach covering all aspects of river pollution as well as urban sanitation and waste management, Vajpayee said.
"We have to formulate river action plans in an integrated and holistic manner so that these programmes become more effective in terms of cost, impact and outreach.
"For this, the various concerned ministries at the central and state levels, as also municipal bodies, have to work together with effective coordination," he added.
Vajpayee said the government's river cleaning programme launched with the Ganga Action Plan had been extended to the national level and now covered 157 towns along 31 polluted stretches of major rivers in 18 states.
The project was estimated to cost over Rs 40 billion and some of the constraints in its implementation had been removed and it was progressing in "full swing", he added.
110 more trees to fall to Metro
NEW DELHI: Barakhamba Road will soon lose 110 trees. With construction work on line number three of the Metro Rail that connects Connaught Place with Dwarka about to begin, the trees will be the first to go. However, 25 of small trees will be transplanted near Hyatt Hotel.
According to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation's (DMRC) managing director E Sridharan, cutting trees on the stretch between Modern School traffic junction and the outer circle is unavoidable. The area has no rock beneath ground surface and comprises only soft soil. This leaves the DMRC with no option but to use the cut and cover method, which is to dig out earth, construct the station and eventually cover the area, Sridharan said.
The trees about to be brought down are in the 245 metre long and 32 metre wide construction area of the Barakhamba station. "We intend to completely re-green and redesign the area. We are engaging horticultural experts for the project," informed Sridharan.
For every tree cut the DMRC claims to be planting 10 trees through the forest department. "We have already planted 26,000 trees and paid the forest department over Rs 1 crore for planting and upkeep," said DMRC's chief PRO Anuj Dayal.