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Minamata Convention on Mercury to remain open for signature till 9 October 2014

Written By Gopal Krishna on Thursday, September 25, 2014 | 3:03 AM

As per Article 1 of UN's Minamata Convention on Mercury which is aimed at protecting human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury is open for signature till 9 October 2014. 

{{{image_alt}}}It was agreed at the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in Geneva, Switzerland on 19 January 2013.

The major highlights of the Minamata Convention on Mercury include:

  • a ban on new mercury mines, 
  • the phase-out of existing ones, 
  • control measures on air emissions, 
  • and the international regulation of the informal sector for artisanal and small-scale GOLD mining.

The Convention draws attention to a global and ubiquitous heavy metal that, while naturally occurring, has broad uses in everyday objects and is released to the atmosphere, soil and water from a variety of sources. 

The control of the anthropogenic releases of mercury throughout its lifecycle is a key factor that led to the framing of the convention.

Mercury and mercury compounds are toxic to humans and other organisms. Large-scale public health crises  has been witnessed due to mercury poisoning, such as Minamata disease and Niigata Minamata disease. 

The Convention will enter into force 90 days after it has been ratified by 50 nations.

The Parties agreed in Article 8 to control and “where feasible” reduce emissions of mercury and mercury compounds, (i.e. “total mercury”) to the atmosphere through measures to control emissions from point source categories such as coal-fired power stations and non-ferrous metal smelters (e.g. aluminium smelters).

In search of a fine balance:Namrata Acharya

Written By Krishna on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 | 11:56 PM

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In search of a fine balance

As the Centre overhauls labour laws, it's vital to ensure businesses and workers do not take each other for granted
In the glass bangle factories of Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh, there are no lunch breaks; furnaces keep burning. The factories are filthy, the condition of workers miserable, and accidents are common. These findings, among others, are mentioned in Welfare of Glass and Bangle Workers of Firozabad, a report by a Parliamentary standing committee on labour, presented to the Lok Sabha on August 30, 2012.

Instances of violent agitations at automobile plants, lockouts at pharmaceutical units and a case of a jute mill chief executive beaten to death in West Bengal are some other pieces of news related to labour unrest in the recent past.

The fractured worker-management relationship can be assessed from a 2011 report on industrial disputes, closures, retrenchments and lay-offs, released by the government in March 2014. The report said in 2011, India recorded 370 industrial disputes (strikes and lockouts), leading to loss of wages amounting to Rs 48 crore and production loss worth Rs 422 crore.

As the National Democratic Alliance government plans to overhaul age-old labour laws, the need of the hour is a balancing act between labour rights and corporate welfare.

Legislation
Recently, the Union Cabinet approved proposals to amend three labour laws - the Factories Act, 1948; the Apprentices Act, 1961; and the Labour Laws (exemption from furnishing returns and maintaining registers by certain establishments) Act, 1988. Allowing women to work in night shifts, increased penalties for violation of law, relaxation of norms for apprenticeships and easing the procedure for filing returns in small industries are some of the other proposed changes.

However, in a maze of about 100 existing labour laws, the proposed amendments are of little significance.

Currently, the two most contentious Acts related to labour are the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947; and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970. The disputes Act stipulates if the number of workers in a unit is at least 100, the government's prior approval is necessary for retrenchment. During an economic slowdown, employing workers on regular payroll turns out to be a major financial constraint. Also, securing the government's permission for retrenchment is difficult.

In 2011, 89 industrial units were shut, against 42 in 2010. And, financial stringency accounted for the highest number of closures at 40 per cent. Indiscipline accounted for most of the 370 industrial disputes in 2011 (30 per cent). "The present labour laws are more anti-labour than reform-oriented. Today, employers cannot take any disciplinary action against workers. As a result of the provisions of the Act, of the labour force of 490 million in India, only 29 million (including 18 million in the government sector), are regular employees. For protecting the rights of just six per cent of the workforce, the law is doing bigger harm," says N G Khaitan, partner in law firm Khaitan and Co.

The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, has led to many disputes related to discrepancy over wages between contract and regular labourers. In 2011, wages and allowances accounted for 24.9 per cent of industrial disputes and involved the highest number of workers. In 2008, a consultative committee of the labour ministry said low wages, long hours, and lack of amenities were some issues the Act didn't address.

According to a survey by the Indian Staffing Federation, about half the contract workers in reputed firms received an average salary of Rs 5,000-10,000 a month, lower than the average salary of regular workers. Moreover, the contract workers weren't covered under any social security scheme.

State amendments
As most labour laws are in the Concurrent List, states are free to amend these.

In a landmark move, the Rajasthan government recently amended four key labour laws-the Industrial Disputes Act, the Factories Act, the Contract Labour Act and the Apprentices Act.

One of the key amendments in the Industrial Act was stating only units with at least 300 workers would need government approval for retrenchment. The state also increased the percentage of workers needed for registration as a representative union from 15 per cent to 30 per cent.

It is expected the Central government will emulate its Rajasthan counterpart on changes in labour laws.

"About 60 per cent of factories in India employ 1-30 workers. So, with the amended law in Rajasthan, a large number of workers can be employed as regular workers," says Khaitan.

States such as West Bengal are, however, sticking to old laws. For instance, even when the Centre amended the Industrial Disputes Act to ensure only units with at least 100 workers needed government approval for retrenchment, the West Bengal government retained the number at 50.


In 2011, the state accounted for the highest number of industrial disputes-153 out of 370. Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat followed.

Industrialised states have taken various steps to introduce changes in contentious labour laws, but these have been sector-specific.

For example, in 2004, the Gujarat government amended the Industrial Disputes Act, exempting special economic zones from government permission to lay off employees. Similarly, Andhra Pradesh and Goa have amended the Contract Labour Act, prohibiting contract labour in core activities.

Opposing views
The proposal to overhaul labour laws has seen its share criticism. Unsurprisingly, the biggest opposition comes from labour unions. But what surprises many is the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, or BMS, (the trade union arm of the Bharatiya Janata Party), too, is livid with the reforms. "We strongly oppose the Rajasthan government's proposal to amend labour laws," says BMS president Baij Nath Rai.

Gopal Krishna, an activist of the Toxic Watch Alliance, says the proposed amendments in the Factories Act do away with the first schedule, which lists of hazardous substances used in various processes. While the Bill says the intention is to widen the scope of hazardous substances, there is ambiguity on this matter.

"Factories employing up to 19 workers will not have legally binding responsibility for the safety of their workers inside the factory. The amendment also undermines the legal protection on work hours, a weekly off and other rights to decent working conditions," says Krishna.

An equitable overhaul in labour laws, it seems, is easier said than done.

A SNAPSHOT OF INDIA'S MYRIAD LABOUR LAWS
There are 44 central laws governing labour relation, enforced by the Centre, states or both. In addition, there are another 100 state-specific labour laws enacted and enforced by states

If wishes were horses: Some key industry demands
  • Shift labour to the State List, from Concurrent List of the Constitution
  • Have a uniform definition of terms such as 'industry' and 'worker' across statutes
  • For better interpretation and understanding, industry should be termed 'enterprise' and workman should be termed 'employee'
  • Have a single labour authority to deal with all aspects of labour, self-certification, and a single consolidated return
  • Reduce dispute settlement mechanisms between labour and employers from four levels to one or two
  • Consolidate laws under four broad heads - terms and conditions of employment, wages, welfare, and social security
  • Exempt small enterprises from Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946
  • Supervisors, managers and people holding administrative positions, irrespective of the salary limits, should be taken out of the purview of the definition of 'workman'
  • No notice by employer before stipulating any change in the service conditions
  • A 14-day notice of strike should be compulsory
  • Recognise go-slow and work-to-rule as 'strike'
  • Mandatory payments to contract workers through cheque/bank accounts
  • Make Factories Act applicable to manufacturing units employing 20 workers, if working with the aid of power, or 40 workers if working without power
  • Exempt establishments employing less than 10 people from the Shops and Establishments Act
  • Only trade unions having membership of at least 25% of the total work force should be registered

How some states make life easy for businesses

Tamil Nadu
  • Combined annual return for Factories Act, Contract Labour and Regulation Act, Maternity Benefit Act, Payment of Wages Act and Minimum Wages Act
  • Self-certification under Shops and Establishments Act, Minimum Wages Act, Payment of Wages Act, and Maternity Benefit Act for IT establishments
  • Software establishments exempted from the provisions of opening and closing hours and holidays under the Shops and Establishment's Act

Karnataka
  • Combined annual return for Factories Act, Contract Labour and Regulation Act Maternity Benefit Act, Payment of Wages Act, Minimum Wages Act, and Payment of Bonus Act
  • Exemption of establishments in the software industry from the Standing Orders Act

Andhra Pradesh
  • Self-certification under Factories Act, except hazardous industries
  • Definition of core activity under Contract Labour Act, payment of salaries to contract workers through bank accounts or cheques
  • Exemption from provisions related to daily and weekly hours, opening and closing hours, engagement of women, holiday wages for software establishments

Maharashtra
  • Self-certification under Factories Act, and Shops and Establishment's Act

Gujarat
  • Combined annual returns under Factories Act, Contract Labour Act, Payment of Wages Act, Minimum Wages Act, Payment of Bonus Act, Payment of Gratuity Act, Equal Remuneration Act, and Industrial Employment Standing Orders Act

Uttarakhand
  • All contractors to submit registers on a fixed day before the authorities for inspection, avoiding inspection of principal employer's establishment

Rajasthan
  • Self-certification under Contract Labour Act, Payment of Wages Act, Factories Act, Minimum Wages Act, Maternity Benefit Act, Payment of Bonus Act, Payment of Gratuity Act, Equal Remuneration Act, and Industrial Employment Standing Orders Act. One return filed for all these Acts
http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/in-search-of-a-fine-balance-114082400801_1.html

Advertisement of of Inland Waterways Authority of India for Ganga Waterway project

Written By Gopal Krishna on Monday, September 22, 2014 | 1:33 AM


































The advertisement of Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) reveals that Ministry of Shipping, Government of India has applied for World Bank funding to make payments for consultancy for preparing Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), Environment Management Plan (EMP), Resettlement Action Plan for Capacity Augmentation of Navigational Infrastructure of National Waterway -1 between Haldia to Allahabad (Jal Marg Vikas).

This Ad reveals that government has not abandoned the Ganga Waterway project as was reported by Dainik Bhaskar citing Narendra Modi. (Modi was quoted as saying, " Mujhe Ganga se kuch nahi lena hai, Mujhe Ganga ko dena hai" (I don't need to take anything from Ganga, I have to give to Ganga).    

Reacting to the proposal of Ganga Waterway,  Ramaswamy R. Iyer, former Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources said, "I feel that we should say that navigation should not be given over-riding priority on the Ganga to the detriment of all the other functions that the Ganga performs. If the proposed barrages are built, the Ganga will become solely a navigational channel and will cease to be a river. This ought to be unacceptable to the Ministry of Water Resources if they have any concern for the national and holy river, responsibility for which has just been transferred to them from Ministry of Environment and Forests with a new mandate for 'rejuvenation'." 

The proposal is not a rejuvenation plan for the river, it is a plan for the exploitation of the river.  Its main  purpose is river bed mining from Haldia to Allahabad to extract minor minerals like sand, gravel etc to meet the unsatiable demand of the construction industry. Prof. G D Agrawal who went on a fast unto death to save the river is the opinion that the project is misleading people in the Ganga basin about its main purpose-which dredging of the river course to extract sand and other minor minerals. This project endangers the existence of the river and its basin. Ganga Bachao Samiti (GBS) has initiated efforts to raise public awareness about the far reaching consequences of this project of Ministry of Shipping.   

Letter to Shri Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister of Environment, Forests & Climate Change on objectionable Hazardous Waste TSDF facility in Bohjpur, Bihar

Written By Gopal Krishna on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 | 5:05 AM

To

Shri Prakash Javadekar
Union Minister
Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change
Government of India
New Delhi
Date: September 16, 2014

Subject- Objectionable approval to rejected Integrated Common Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage, Disposal and Recycling Facility by M/s Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd at Koilwar-Babura Road Bhojpur, Bihar

Sir,
With reference to my letter to Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), Infrastructure and Miscellaneous Projects and CRZ dated September 7, 2014 regarding an advertisement by Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) in The Times of India Patna edition dated September 6, 2014 for the proposed public hearing on the Environment Impact Assessment of the proposal for Integrated Common Hazardous Waste treatment, storage, disposal and recycling facility by M/s Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd at Koilwar-Babura Road Bhojpur, Bihar, I wish to draw your attention towards the manifest inconsistency of EAC.
I wish to submit that the approval for TOR for EIA and public hearing for the project in question is contrary to EAC’s own recommendations besides all existing environmental norms in the rule book including Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Trans-boundary movement)) Rules, 2008 and Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998. The proposed facility is in an ecologically sensitive zone. The hazardous waste-cum-biomedical waste facility admittedly gives birth to risks of all cancers and specifically of stomach, colorectal, liver and lung cancer that increases with closer proximity to incinerators. The notice for public hearing is attached.
I submit that the attached Minutes of the 118th Meeting of the EAC held on 8th-9th November, 2012 reveals that the EAC concluded that M/s Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd the project “Proponent has not justified selection of the site and also there is a habitation at about 200 m from the site which is not advisable for this type of Hazardous waste handling and incineration activity.”
I submit that the proposed Integrated Common Hazardous Waste treatment, storage, disposal and recycling facility is being sited exactly adjacent to Sone river in the vicinity of residential areas of the village in the proximity of Koilwar-Babura Road, Bhojpur in area of 57.24 acres of agricultural land.
I submit that the manner in which EAC at its 125th Meeting held on 10th -12th June, 2013 has gone against its own wisdom to assign Terms of Reference of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for public hearing is quite enigmatic. It is evident from the recommendations for Sampling Locations specified for hazardous waste treatment, storage, disposal facility (TSDF) that the ground water samples should be collected at least up to a distance of 5 KM from the TSDF location. This in effect is an admission that at least 5 KM zone of the proposed facility is an ecologically sensitive and vulnerable zone.  According to US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA), toxic emissions like Dioxins travel long distances in the atmosphere and is found on plants, in water, soil, grazing animals and humans.
I submit that the grounds on which EAC reached its inference at its 118th Meeting remains quite valid and scientific based on deep understanding of far reaching implications of incinerator facilities. It is quite manifest that the project proponent has misled the EAC regarding facts about the location of the proposed hazardous waste facility to ensure that EAC reverses its considered verdict about the inappropriateness of the site in question. The Terms of Reference no. (viii) provided to the project proponent states “Examine the details
of monitoring of Dioxin and Furan”. This reveals that the proposed facility will emit dioxins and other harmful pollutants. Dioxin is the common name for 75 toxic chemicals that are unwanted by-products of manufacturing and combustion processes when chlorine and carbon-containing materials are combined. It must be noted Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) does not have the required infrastructure to deal with such toxic chemical emissions which has been so lethal that it was used as a chemical weapon by USA against Vietnam under the Brand name Agent Orange whose after effects continues to trouble both the war veterans of USA and Vietnam.
I submit that Garbage and medical incinerators have been identified as the largest sources of dioxins in the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)’s reassessment reports on dioxin in 1994/2004. Dioxin
particles are stored in fatty tissue and will accumulate to create “buildup” when low-level exposure is continual. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that dioxin is a human carcinogen. Non-Hodgkin_ s lymphoma and cancers of the liver, lung, stomach, soft and connective tissue have been associated with dioxin.
Even at very low exposure, at levels of parts per trillion, dioxin causes immune system damage, hormone disruption, and reproductive and development effects. Some newer emission control devices have been
effective in decreasing recorded dioxin air emissions from incinerators, but there is no safe level additional exposure to dioxins. This is because the average daily dioxin intake for is already 200 times higher than what the US EPA defines as a safe dose for adults. Those most at risk of receiving the highest concentrations
are babies. Studies also show elevated levels of dioxin in the blood of people living near municipal solid waste incinerators when compared to the general population. Residents in Indian cities are rightly alarmed at the prospect of these incinerator plants coming up in their city.
I submit that in February 2014 the 27th report of the Parliamentary Committee on Urban Development has recommended that incinerator plants should be stopped in all residential areas across the country in its
report to the Parliament. Incinerators cause serious environmental and health problems to the people living not only near them but even to those who live several kilometers away from the source like the proposed facility.
I submit that the advertisement of the Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) reveals that the proposed hazardous waste facility will also incinerate bio-medical waste which is governed under Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998 which provides that “Bio-medical waste shall be treated and disposed of in accordance with Schedule I, and in compliance with the standards prescribed in Schedule V.” Schedule I provides Categories of Bio-Medical Waste. Schedule V provides Standards for Treatment and Disposal of Bio-Medical Wastes. It is noteworthy that the Schedule –II of the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 lays down the compliance criteria stating “Bio-medical wastes and industrial wastes shall not be mixed with municipal solid wastes and such wastes shall follow the rules separately specified for the purpose.” The proposal is in contravention of this criteria.
I submit that the 15 July, 2013 judgment of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court is quite germane in this regard. The Hon’ble High Court judgment refers to ‘The summary of “Epidemiological Studies on Adverse
Health Effects Associated with Incineration” would show that medical waste incinerators are a leading source of dioxins and mercury in the environment and there is link between incinerator emissions and adverse health impacts on incinerator workers and residents living around the incinerators.’ (Source:http://www.delhicourts.nic.in/Jan13/P.K.%20Nayyar%20vs.%20UOI.pdf)
Hon’ble Court’s judgment reads: “Both older and more modern incinerators can contribute to the contamination of local soil and vegetation with dioxins and heavy metals. In several European countries, cow‟s milk from farms located in the vicinity of incinerators has been found to contain elevated levels of dioxin, in some cases above regulatory limits. Increased levels of dioxins have been found in the tissues of residents near to incinerators in the UK, Spain and Japan. At an incinerator in Finland, mercury was increased in hair of residents living in the vicinity. Children living near a modern incinerator in Spain were found to have elevated levels of urinary thioethers, a biomarker of toxic exposure. “ It notes that
“After 2 years of operation of incinerator, dioxins levels were found increased by about 25% in both groups living between 0.5 to 1.5 and 3.5 to 4.0 km away (201 people) of people. In the repeat analysis, the increase was in the range of 10-15%”.
The judgment records that “Mothers living close to incinerators and crematoria from 1956 to 1993” showed “increased risk of lethal congenital abnormalities, in particular, spinal bifida and heart defects, near incinerators: increased risk of stillbirths and anacephalus near crematoria”.
I submit that with regard to “Residents from 7 to 64 years old living within 5 km of an incinerator and the incinerator workers” the judgment observes, “Levels of mercury in hair increased with closer proximity to the incinerator during a 10 year period”.
I submit that the judgment of the Hon’ble High Court found that “Residents living within 10 km of an incinerator, refinery, and waste disposal site” showed “Significant increase in laryngeal cancer in men
living with closer proximity to the incinerator and other pollution sources”. It observed that the “Residents living around an incinerator and other pollution sources” showed “Significant increase in lung cancer related specifically to theincinerator”. The “People living within 7.5 km of 72 incinerators” displayed “Risks of all cancers and specifically of stomach, colorectal, liver and lung cancer increased with closer proximity to incinerators”.
In view of the above mentioned facts, the public hearing for the project is scheduled for 16.10.2014 at 11 AM at Ambika Sharan Singh High School, Jamalpur, Post- Naya Mohammadpur, District- Bhojpur must
be cancelled failing which there will be bitter massive resistance from the villagers due to imminent public health crisis.
In view of these facts, I seek your urgent intervention to address the issue of environmental and public health rights of the present and future generations of residents of villages on the Babura-Koilwar road in Bhojpur, Bihar.
I will be happy to meet you to brief you and share relevant documents in this regard.

Thanking You
Yours faithfully
(Gopal Krishna)
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 09818089660, 08227816731

Cc
Shri Jitan Ram Manjhi, Chief Minister, Government of Bihar, Patna
Shri Raj Kumar Singh, Member of Parliament, Arrah 
Shri Ashok Lavasa, Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change
Shri Anjani Kumar Singh, Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar
 

Public hearing on Koilwar-Babura Road, Bhojpur against Common Hazardous Waste treatment, storage, disposal and recycling facility on the bank of river

October 16, 2014 is the date fixed for a public hearing at 11 AM at Ambika Sharan Singh High School, Jamalpur, Post- Naya Mohammadpur, District Bhojpur as per an advertisement by Bihar State Pollution Control Board.

Adjacent to Sone river in the vicinity of residential areas of the village in the proximity of the main road an Integrated Common Hazardous Waste treatment, storage, disposal and recycling facility proposed at Mahui Mauza, Koilwar-Babura Road Bhojpur, Bihar has been proposed by M/s Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd, Hyderabad in area of 57.24 acres. It was rejected by Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of Union Ministry of Environment & Forests for Building/Construction Projects/Township and Area Development Projects, Coastal Regulation Zone, Infrastructure Development and Miscellaneous projects in Nov. 2012.

But in June 2013 it somehow got approved by EAC for TOR of the EIA for public hearing. The public hearing is scheduled for 16.10.2014 as per an advertisement by Bihar State Pollution Control Board in The Times of India Patna edition dated September 6, 2014.
It is deeply disturbing that this violates the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC)’s own recommendations besides all existing environmental norms in the rule book including Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Trans-boundary movement)) Rules, 2008 and Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998. The proposed facility is in an ecologically sensitive zone. The hazardous waste-cum-biomedical waste facility admittedly gives birth to risks of all cancers and specifically of stomach, colorectal, liver and lung cancer that increases with closer proximity to incinerators.

Jindal waste incinerator case listed for final hearing in NGT on 13 & 14 October 2014

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, August 22, 2014 | 4:17 AM


One of the main reasons for anxiety among residents and environmental groups is high dioxin levels around the plant. When CPCB monitored air quality there last October, dioxin level in stack 1 was 1.06ng TEQ/Nm3 (toxicity equivalent) and that in stack 2 was 0.93ng TEQ/Nm3 though safe level is 0.1ng TEQ/Nm3 only.



Hazardous waste to energy incinerator plant taking its toll on residents and birds of Okhla

New Delhi: After 15 hearings in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and 
28 hearings in Delhi High Court, the matter of Dioxins emitting municipal waste incinerator of Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Co Pvt Ltd (TOWMCL) of M/s Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited (JUIL), a company of M/s Jindal Saw Group Limited owned by Prithviraj Jindal is listed for final disposal on 13th October, 2014 and 14th October, 2014. Environmental groups and residents have been demanding its stoppage and closure since March 2005. Admittedly, this plant has violated all the rules in the rule book with impunity. It is a classic case of environmental lawlessness in the heart of the national capital. The plant is operating without environmental clearance for its unapproved Chinese technology. The construction of the plant happened admittedly because of a fake public hearing.        

On August 6, 2014, NGT heard the matter. CPCB submitted that it would file the report during the course of the day. It stated that the test in regard to Dioxineand Furan could not be conducted by the laboratory of the Board in as much as the laboratory was shut down for renovation etc.

NGT directed the CPCB to take the sample and get the same analyzed either from its own lab or any of its recognized laboratory and place the analysis Report before the Tribunal before the next date of hearing. Learned Counsel appearing for MoEF submits that he would take instruction s from the Ministry both in regard to the prescription of standard for PM as well as what is the fate of the Appeal preferred by the Project Proponent against the direction of the Board dated 3 rd July, 2014. 

The pleadings in NGT are complete, even written submission on behalf of the Applicant have been filed.

It is noteworthy that there is a case pending in the National Human Rights Commission in this regard. The compliant pointed out that some 100 doctors wrote letters to the Prime Minister forewarning him of public health crisis in the Okhla residential areas and seeking protection from the war chemicals and other hazardous chemicals being emitted from the municipal waste incinerator plant located amidst Sukhdev Vihar, Hazi colony and other colonies. Prior to this Delhi High Court and Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development has ruled against such hazardous incinerator/combustion technologies.  Such plants pose a grave threat to health and environment of the residential areas of Narela-Bawana and Ghazipur as well. This issue has been highlighted in an episode of Satyamewa Jayate.

Earlier, the Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Urban Development which has recommended that "Incinerator plants should be stopped in all residential areas in all metropolitan & Big cities across the country" in its latest report to the Parliament.

The report reads: "The Committee note that the Municipal Solid Waste is delivered by NDMC and MCD at the Okhla Power Plant site. Although it is claimed that "only non Hazardous Municipal Solid Waste will be treated at the facility", the fact is that Delhi's mixed municipal solid waste has characteristics of hazardous waste. MCD, Delhi government and Central Government have shown sheer callousness towards hazardous emissions from municipal incinerators that cause serious environmental and health problems to the people living not only near them but thousands of kilometers away from the source. The Committee feel anguished and dissatisfied with the reply of the Ministry that the soot in the atmosphere is reported to be within norms as it is monitored by Delhi Pollution Control Board. Therefore, the Committee recommend that these kinds of Waste Incinerator Plants should be stopped in all residential areas in all metropolitan & Big cities across the country."  It endorses the position of environmental groups and residents of Okhla.

The report states, "The Committee find that there are three major Sanitary Land Fill (SLF) sites in Delhi (Ghazipur, Okhla and Bhalaswa- Jahangirpuri,) which have turned into huge mountains of garbage and far exceeded their life span." 

The fact is Okhla is not and has not been a landfill. There is some deep mischief at work in declaring it as landfill in papers.

The report states, "During the hearing held on 15th May, 2007 in the matter relating to the stay on Govt. subsidies for projects on recovery of energy from municipal solid waste, Hon'ble Supreme Court has permitted the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to go ahead with setting up of 5 waste-to-energy projects to study the viability of such projects. Hon'ble Supreme Court also directed that no projects for waste-to-energy be taken up till 5 pilot projects are completed. As per the aforesaid direction, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy formulated "Programme on Energy Recovery from Municipal Solid Waste for Setting-up of 5 Pilot Projects". The programme provides central financial assistance @ 2.00 crore per megawatt limited to Rs. 10.00 crore per project for 5 pilot set up by State Nodal Agencies, Urban Local Bodies/ Municipal Corporations or entrepreneurs. So far 5 projects have been approved in the cities Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Pune..."

It mentions one of these five projects as M/s Timarpur Okhla Waste Management Pvt. Ltd., (TOWMCL), Jindal ITF Centre, 28 Shivaji Marg, New Delhi (Promoted by Jindal Urban Infrastructure Ltd. The location is mentioned as Old NDMC Compost plant, New Okhla tank, New Delhi.

The reference to this Okhla based plant as one of the 5 projects is deceptively worded to give the impression that it is one of those 5 projects which was approved by the Supreme Court. The RTI reply has already revealed that it was not one of those 5 projects.

More than 80 doctors from Holy Family Hospital in Okhla and some other hospitals across the city have written open letters to the Prime Minister's Office raising concerns about emissions from the Okhla waste-to-energy plant. In their letters, written on individual letterheads, doctors have said polluting emissions from the plant could lead to allergies, asthma, cancers and reproductive anomalies.  Many of these doctors also live close to the waste-to-energy plant. Central Pollution Control Board checks at the plant site have revealed dioxin emissions to be way higher than the permissible limit. Residents are extremely concerned about fly ash from the plant falling on their homes and vehicles. Delhi Pollution Control Committee issued a show cause notice to the plant in January for not meeting the air quality standard.  

"An unusually large number of patients are coming in with respiratory ailments like asthma and bronchitis which can be attributable to the high levels of pollution in Okhla caused by the plant. The Holy Family Hospital has announced plans to launch a medical college. We would like it to function in an unpolluted environment," said Fr P A George, director of the hospital.

Neonatologist with Fortis La Femme Ashu Sawhney, who lives just behind the plant, said, "Based on my experience as a pediatrician as well as various studies, I can say such pollutants cannot just cause respiratory illnesses but also learning and behavioural problems. My daughter developed asthma last year".

Another pediatrician from AIIMS Shivani Randev said, "Most children from the area are suffering from respiratory illnesses. These pollutants can cause foetal anomalies, infertility, cancer and other health issues. This is a humble request from residents, especially doctors, from the area to please help us and shut down the plant."

The social cost of this technology as a large number of ragpickers stand to lose their jobs if waste-to-energy plants are widely adopted for waste management. Though they are common in the West, there is a raging debate even there about the suitability of waste-to-energy plants. In Delhi, the issue is even more relevant because there is no waste segregation at source which is why chances of non-biodegradable waste like plastics ending up in the incinerator is high.  

This controversial killer plant is located in the vicinity of ecologically sensitive Okhla bird sanctuary and densely residential colonies in violation of all existing norms. 

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 09818089660, 08227816731, E-mail:gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com, Web: www.toxicswatch.org, Twitter: @krishna1715

How to deal with Ganga

Written By Gopal Krishna on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 | 1:55 AM


First of all there has been a structural flaw in the conceptual design of initiatives for saving Ganga which is 2,525 kilometres long  across northern and eastern India and neighboring countries from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. 

Once again Supreme Court has pulled up central government for not showing urgency' in saving Ganga. It has asked for status report and road map for cleaning Ganga by September 3, 2014. Like other pillars of our democracy, the court has been involved with the Ganga issue for several years. This involvement has not altered the current state of Ganga in anyway. From now onwards, the court should hear the matter on the bank of Ganga in the polluted and dammed stretch- not in the court premises- to witness the plight of the river and decipher the true meanings of the affidavits filed by central government, state governments and other agencies.      

On June 6, 2014, four ministries - water resources, transport, environment and tourism met to discuss the road map for the river Ganga. This inter-ministerial group (IMG) on the river Ganga has been given the task of preparing a blueprint for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dream project to create an aviral and nirmal (clean and continuous) Ganga within 30 days. The IMG is headed by Nitin Gadkari with Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Tourism Minister Shripad Naik, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Minister Uma Bharti as its members along with senior ministry officials. An inter-ministerial committee of secretaries under the chairmanship of Alok Rawat, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources has been constituted for the same. "A Cabinet note on the subject will be prepared thereafter," said Gadkari, Union Minister for Road, Transport and Shipping Ministry.

The IMG has proposed to construct 11 terminals on the banks of the Varanasi-Hoogly stretch on the river Ganga for freight movement along with barrages at every 100 kilometers. Gadkari said, "It is proposed to conduct dredging to provide a width of 45 meters and for a three meters draft (depth) to enable transport of passengers and goods between Varanasi and Hoogly on the river Ganga in the first stage of its development." Such proposal without a proper cumulative environment impact assessment gives birth to serious doubts.

During his election campaign, Modi claimed that he is contesting from the Varanasi seat because he has been called to "serve Ma Ganga." After the electoral victory a separate ministry for the river Ganga has been carved out.

Prior to these proposed initiatives by the Modi Government, a 110 page report of B K Chaturvedi headed Inter-Ministerial Group on River Ganga set by Manmohan Singh government dated March 2013 underlined the need to address three problem areas for a comprehensive solution to Ganga pollution. These were: “(i) The inadequate flow of water in the river, needed to dilute and assimilate waste; (ii) The growing quantum of sewage discharged from cities along the river; (iii) The lack of enforcement against point source pollution from industries discharging waste into the river.” The report recorded its assumption stating, “Rivers have a self-cleansing ability, which allows for assimilation and treatment of biological waste. But in the current context, where withdrawal from the river is much higher than the discharge of waste, pollution is inevitable.”
To deal with this situation, the Inter-Ministerial Group recommended mandatory ecological flow in all stretches of the river which was 50 % for the lean season flow and 20-30% for all other seasons contrary to even the pre-existing wisdom that environmental flow of the river should be at least 75 % in winters and 50 % in summers.

Besides that it recommended that for urbanized stretches mandatory ecological flow be based on quantum of wastewater released in the river and calculated using a factor 10 for dilution and suggested business as usual for power generation by 69 large hydro projects unmindful of the fact that it contributed to depletion in flow of Ganga and thereby deteriorating water quality. This was suggested as part of the UPA Government’s National Mission for Clean Ganga. It is evident that both the diagnosis of the problem and the remedial action that was suggested failed to address the root causes that threaten the existence of Ganga itself. The complicity of several organizations with the report and its recommendations revealed how environmentalism with regard to protection of Ganga was hijacked by the government.

In the meanwhile, a 2012 parliamentary committee report revealed that so far Rs 39, 225.95 crore has been spent  on cleaning of the river under various schemes or projects. As of now it can only be hoped that the initiative of the Modi government will chart a new course.  
         
The Ganga Action Plan, which used function under the Ministry of Environment and Forests has been placed under the supervision of Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, who is also in-charge of the Ganga Mission. She convened a the first National Dialogue on Ganga on July 7 2014 organised by National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) as part of Ganga Manthan, a national level consultation to facilitate interaction with various stakeholders including policy makers and implementers, academicians, environmentalists, saints and spiritual leaders from all faiths and NGOs on how to save the river.

Each Ministry within the IMG of the new government has been given specific mandate. Tourism Ministry has been asked to explore and expedite a tourism plan covering the stretch of the river starting from Gangotri, and running through Rishikesh, Hardwar and Varanasi. Power Ministry has been entrusted with the responsibility of looking after ways to harness hydro-electricity. Environment Ministry has been assigned with the task of cleaning the river, and the plan to set up a national waterway has been placed under the stewardship of the Ministry of Surface Transport and Shipping. Gadkari has been asked to prepare a feasibility study on the proposed river-route for development in a time-bound manner.

These deliberations need to be looked at in a context. Citing a World Bank document of 2009, the three volume and 909-page report titled 'United Nations World Water Development Report 4: Managing Water under Uncertainty and Risk published by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) states: "The National Ganga River Basin Authority in India, with the financial support of the World Bank, launched a programme in 2009 to clean the Ganges, to ensure that 'no untreated municipal sewage or industrial effluents would be discharged into the river by 2020'. Previous action plans did not improve the health of the river, in which almost 95 percent of the pollution is caused by sewers and open drains. This time the governmental approach has moved from a town centric approach to a broader river basin approach..."

But the UNESCO report's treatment of Ganga Basin, the largest river basin of the country which has catchment in 11 States leaves a lot to be desired. The report fails to enlist any achievement of the Ganga River Basin Authority that was set up in February 2009. It does not scrutinise whether or not the promised 'broader river basin approach' has indeed been adopted. It does not dwell on the split personality of the World Bank either.  

The Bank has been undertaking contradictory projects in the Ganga basin without any sense of accountability. It depletes water quality of Ganga by supporting dams upstream and it provides loans for improvement of water quality in its downstream. The second volume of Environmental and Social Management Framework for Bank assisted National Ganga River Basin Project document says, "The Ganga basin (which also extends into parts of Nepal, China and Bangladesh) accounts for about 26 percent of India's landmass, 30 percent of its water resources, and more than 40 percent of its population."

If the Bank knew that Ganga basin is an international river basin but it chose to refer to it as 'national' accepting its faulty description by the government. The UNESCO's report like the Bank failed to comprehend that Ganga like Mekong are trans-boundary rivers of the Himalayan watershed. 

In such a backdrop when Jim Yong Kim, World Bank President met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 23, 2014 in New Delhi and promised to help in cleaning up the river Ganga saying, "If Prime Minister Modi wants this to be a top thing to work on together, then that's what we will do. It is hard. We happen to have one of the best water specialist in the world. We will bring our A+ team here and will do everything we can to help," it did not inspire confidence. 

While the commercial benefits of damming rivers has been talked about a lot, the in-stream and off stream monetary and non-monetary benefits and advantages of flowing rivers has not been assessed so far. Does basin approach mean undertaking that assessment?

The declaration of Ganga River Basin Authority in the aftermath of the acknowledgment by the Prime Minister's Office during UPA’s regime said, "there is a need to replace the current piecemeal efforts taken up in a fragmented manner in select cities with an integrated approach that sees the river as an ecological entity and addresses issues of quantity in terms of water flows along with issues of quality" merits attention of the Modi government as well.  

One can refer to initiatives under Ganga River Basin Authority as the Third Phase of Ganga Action Plan (GAP-III) which promised a river basin approach which could have affected the quality and quantity of surface water, ground water and the survival of natural flow of the rivers in the basin. The GAP-I, which was to be completed by March 1990 was extended till March, 2000 when it was declared complete but Phase I of the Plan is not yet fully complete. GAP-II which was to be completed in 2001 was extended till December 2008. This too remains incomplete. Not surprisingly GAP-III also failed because it applied only to 79% of Ganga basin, which is in India. It did not include 13 % of Ganga basin that is in Nepal, 4 % in Bangaldesh and 4 % in Tibet. It did not factor in its relationship with the river systems and with the composite Ganga-Brahmputra-Meghna basin and its consequences. 

The fourth phase for the protection has been initiated by the Modi Government. The fact remains unless measures for protection of Ganga is in not situated in the policies of Industry, Power, Agriculture, Urban Development, Health and Environment by the central government, the governments of eleven states (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttranchal, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal), the neighboring countries, industry bodies like CII, FICCI, ASSOCHEM and PHCCI and religious organizations, this phase too will meet the fate of earlier initiatives. 

IMG will have to examine and deploy the relevance of Ganga River basin approach because the river channels have been amputated from the flood plains besides the amputation of the river channel itself.
Given the poor track record of the National River Conservation Directorate in the past and the new regime under Gadkari and Uma Bharti, it would be naïve to believe that the threats to Ganga’s existence will be identified and mitigated.

But if the Ganga basin approach is indeed adopted then as per Comptroller Auditor General's audit reports there is a need to strengthen the environmental clearance process emanating which is being weakened with each passing day. The blind enthusiasm about mega projects like Ganga Expressway and 'interlinking of rivers' scheme must factor in the fact that Ganga, an inter-generational heritage of our civilization is more important than development and the ecological entity of the river basin is non-negotiable.

Whether or not the Ganga basin approach gets the support of concerned states remains to be seen but what can be done even under current scheme of things is to review and reverse the policies like the government’s current hydro power policy because they were formulated when river basin approach was not adopted. Consequently, fragmented river valley project specific clearances are given without any considered sensitivity towards the environmental health of the river ecosystem. An environmental audit of all the industrial activities in the Ganga basin is a must because auditing and accounting are inextricably interlinked, the important pre-requisite for effective environmental auditing is sound environmental accounting.

Data on environmental costs and liabilities can be used for better decision making relating to usage of alternative raw materials, consumption of utilities like water and power, choice of processing technology based on environmental cost of treating discharge into water, adverse environmental aspect and impact on flora fauna and human beings and treatment of byproducts.

In the face of limitations encountered by National Water Quality Assessment Authority, one of the immediate needs of the basin is to take urgent steps to restore the water quality by seeking Zero tolerance towards hazardous chemicals, waste water and depletion in the natural flow due to uncalled for hydro projects adversely affects the water quality.

Here is a litmus test for the new Government vis-à-vis protection of Ganga. Pursuant to the Cabinet note on Ganga, to begin with by issuing an enforceable order banning discharge of industrial effluents and domestic sewage into Ganga, its tributaries and the ground water aquifers of the Ganga basin, it can demonstrate its political will and its commitment for saving the holy river.

Gopal Krishna     
Ganga Bachao Samiti
(Ganga Protection Committee)

P.S: The Ganga basin outspreads in India, Tibet, Nepal and Bangladesh over an area of 10,86,000 Sq.km. 
In India, it covers states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Union Territory of Delhi draining an area of 8,61,452 Sq.km which is nearly 26% of the total geographical area of the country.  

The basin is bounded by the Himalayas on the north, by the Aravalli on the west, by the Vindhyas and Chhotanagpur plateau on the south and by the Brahmaputra Ridge on the east. 
The Ganga originates as Bhagirathi from the Gangotri glacier in the Himalayas at an elevation of about 7,010 m in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand.

At its source, the river is called as the Bhagirathi.

It descends down the valley upto Devprayag where after joining another hill stream Alaknanda, it is called Ganga.

The total length of river Ganga (measured along the Bhagirathi and the Hooghly) up to its outfall into Bay of Bengal is 2,525 km.

 The principal tributaries joining the river from right are the Yamuna and the Son. The Ramganga, the Ghaghra, the Gandak, the Kosi and the Mahananda join the river from left. The Chambal and the Betwa are the two other important sub- tributaries.

The major part of basin in Indian territory is covered with agricultural land accounting to 65.57% of the total area and 3.47% of the basin is covered by water bodies.

The basin spreads over 239 parliamentary constituencies comprising 80 of Uttar Pradesh, 40 of Bihar, 40 of West Bengal, 25 of Madhya Pradesh, 16 of Rajasthan, 12 of Jharkhand, 8 of Haryana, 5 of Uttarakhand, 4 of Chhattisgarh, 2 of Himachal Pradesh and 7 of Union Territory of Delhi. But these MPs have failed to demonstrate required political will to set matters right in Ganga basin without pandering to the interests of polluters, mutilators and dam builders who sponsor their elections.     

 
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