Ground water neglected
NEW DELHI: On paper, 2003 is the ‘‘fresh water year’’ and the environment day being observed on Thursday, June 5, will see a lot of emphasis on groundwater. But in reality, there’s no concrete plan to stop the exploitation of the aquifers here as they are sucked dry.
The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has issued a long list of dos and don’ts which are followed more in breach than in practice. These include banning fresh drilling for digging tubewells in south and southwest Delhi, the driest parts of the city.
But that hasn’t stopped drilling. Residents of these places complain they have to shell out money to officers of both the police and civic agencies to bore tubewells.
CGWB chairman S S Chauhan said recently: ‘‘The board is a scientific body. We spread awareness, give scientific inputs and frame the required rules. But we can’t ensure their implementation.’’
Delhi Jal Board chief P K Tripathi said: ‘‘Apart from harvesting, the only way to save groundwater is to impose a levy on its use." The DJB has prepared a bill incorporating stringent rules for groundwater which is yet to be passed by the Delhi assembly.
Dirty river, foul air continue to plague city
NEW DELHI: Delhi is woefully short of targets when it comes to protecting the environment in and around the city.
Yamuna flows as dirty as ever, and the greenery isn’t exactly impressive. These facts came to light as Delhi state environment minister Deep Chand Bandhu took stock on the eve of the World Environment Day.
The symbolic Clean Yamuna campaign came to an end on Thursday, but the river still has high levels of pollution. ‘‘The biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) levels have been hovering between 15 and 30 micrograms per litre, while the normal BOD level should be 3 mg per litre,’’ said Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) additional director R C Trivedi. High BOD levels in the water affect plants, fishes and other aquatic life.
Another indicator of a highly polluted river is the high level of coliform bacteria which thrives on human waste. The coliform count varies between 1 lakh and 10 lakh, while the normal count should be at 5,000.
Higher levels of coliform means higher risk of water-borne diseases. ‘‘The pathogens in the river water kill the organic life in it,’’ Kapil Narula, Tata Energy Research Institute’s area convenor, who has studied the pollution of the Yamuna, said.
When Bandhu was asked about the current levels of pollution in the river, all he said was: ‘‘We have done a lot of work, and the situation has improved.’’ Experts say pollution levels have been stagnant for the past 10 years.
The forest cover, Bandhu claimed, has increased to 111 sq km in Delhi. ‘‘But that too accounts for just 10.2 per cent of the total area. Ideally, the city should have 33 per cent green cover,’’ a forest department official said.
Even air pollution, which should decreased due to the introduction of CNG, has not shown a significant decline. CPCB’s figures show that RSPM levels are still three times higher than normal and carbon monoxide levels are twice the permissible level.
'War against Pollution': Faltering steps forward
BANGALORE: The government agencies started the ‘War against Pollution’ in April 2002. They set themselves deadlines to rid the city of pollutants to stem environmental destruction. The Times of India checks out the pledges, and if they yielded action, and on time.
Plastic: It was proposed to charge Re 1 on all plastic carrybags, apart from banning plastic measuring less than 20 microns.
Deadline: one month.
Consumers continue to buy sub-standard plastic and get carrybags for free, although the Board has made some effort to create awareness against plastic. "The problem is not with manufacturers but with traders and consumers, who get sub-standard plastic from outside the state. That is tough to tackle,’’ Board member secretary Ramaiah says.
Hospital waste disposal: The Pollution Control Board had promised to streamline the disposal of 24 metric tonnes of hospital waste from the city within three months. Two private players have set up incineration plants on the city’s outskirts, and are also in charge of collecting, segregating and disposing waste from hospitals. Although the Board did not meet its deadline, management and disposal of hospital waste has been streamlined.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas in vehicles: The city made a significant headway in introducing LPG kits in vehicles, mostly three-wheelers.
Although over 20,000 of the 68,000 autorickshaws are plying on LPG mode, only around 50 vehicles are fitted with authorised petrol LPG conversion kits. The transport department campaign to stop vehicle-owners from fitting domestic LPG kits for the last two years is yet to yield result.
Lakes: The city with the largest number of lakes finally got a separate governing body — Lake Development Authority — in July last year. While LDA CEO A.K. Varma says restoration of all the 128 lakes is required, work on a mere five has begun. Ironically, restoration of larger water bodies like Hebbal and Madiwala, which cost crores of rupees last year, need a rework as sewage diversion has not been taken care of.
Anti-pollution drive till June 7
The transport department launched an anti-pollution drive in Bangalore on Wednesday, to be observed between June 4 and 7.
As part of this initiative, 25 ‘Parisara Vahini’ squads have been deployed in the city. Each squad consists of a Maruti Omni equipped with the latest gas analysers and smoke meters that can be used for both petrol and diesel vehicles.
These vehicles have been deployed at strategic locations all over the city and have been empowered to check all government and private vehicles. All vehicles, including those with valid Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificates, will be checked.
First-time offenders will be warned but vehicles without PUC certificates will be temporarily seized till the owner rectifies the fault. At present, five ‘Parisara Vahini’ vehicles have been acquired by the Karnataka government for the exclusive use of the RTOs. The remaining vehicles have been taken on loan from different government organisations, with the BMTC providing 10 vehicles.
Inaugurating the drive, transport minister Ramanath Rai said: "People must get their vehicles checked for emission, and not ignore proper maintenance.’’ As part of this initiative, several programmes are being launched to educate the public about the harmful effects of air pollution.
One of the problems highlighted is the excessive use of engine oil in two-stroke vehicles. The programmes will be conducted in various schools, offices and clubs in the city. The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has deployed mobile laboratories to monitor pollution levels at major intersections around the city to collect data on the pollution level.
Greens glum as World Environment Day heads for 30th anniversary
THE HINDUSTAN TIMES [5th JUNE, 2003]
Paris: Ecologists sounded a note of dismay on Wednesday on the eve of the 30th United Nations World Environment Day, an annual event aimed at boosting awareness about the planet's deteriorating health.
Diminishing biodiversity, global warming, depleted fishstocks, shrinking supplies of unsullied freshwater, the plundering of virgin tropical forests -- all head a long list of problems that campaigners said should be urgently tackled.
"International efforts to save biodiversity fall woefully short of what is needed," Sebastien Moncorps, director of the French committee of the Geneva-based World Conservation Union (IUCN), told AFP.
In its latest update on species numbers, the IUCN said the world was faced with a "major extinction crisis", mainly due to the disappearance of endangered species' habitat.
One mammal species in four and every reptile and amphibian species in three are threatened with being wiped out. In all, 5,500 animal species and 34,000 species of flora are considered at risk.
As for global warming, environmentalists complained the world was now losing its will to deal with what climate scientists say is the biggest man-made threat to human life.
"There now seems to be a widening gap between political declaration and the work on the ground," commented Kaj Barlund, director of the environment and human settlements division at the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
"If this gap cannot be narrowed swiftly, there is little hope of seeing the Kyoto (Protocol) targets met. In that case, climate change will accelerate rather than slow down."
Proof of this, said Greenpeace, was the fact that all controversial environment issues were either absent or diluted to nothingness at the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Evian this week.
Two years ago, the European Union led a drive to save the Kyoto Protocol -- a United Nations pact which commits industrialised signatories to cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, that invisible pollution from burning oil, gas and coal which traps solar energy and has the potential to alter the world's climate system.
The EU's salvage operation was triggered by US President George W. Bush's decision to abandon Kyoto on the grounds that it was too costly for the United States' oil-dependent economy and unfair because it did not require fast-growing emerging nations to make any cuts.
Since then, Kyoto has entered a state of limbo. It still requires ratification by Russia to push it over a threshold so that it becomes an international treaty.
But Russia is dragging its feet over this, apparently upset that the financial windfall that it was expecting under Kyoto's carbon-trading market will be much smaller than expected because of the US pullout.
Worse, according to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), greenhouse gas pollution by developing countries, after stabilising during the 1990s, is likely to grow by 17 percent from 2000 to 2010.
World Environment Day on Thursday changes venue and theme each year.
This year's host city is Beirut and the issue is the looming crisis over freshwater, particularly aquifers -- the underground reservoirs that are fast being run down by over-exploitation.
These vital supplies are under increasing stress and strain, Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), warned.
"Some two billion people and as much as 40 percent of agriculture is at least partly reliant on some of these hidden stores," he said, ushering in a UNEP report on the state of the planet's "natural underground reservoirs".