#India – Politics of ecology , Bhagirathi river in Uttarakhand


Frontline

 

The Centre’s notification of a 100-km stretch along the  as an eco-sensitive zone evokes a strong reaction from the Congress government in the State as well as from the BJP, besides sparking protest demonstrations. By PURNIMA S. TRIPATHI

THE Congress government in Uttarakhand is caught in a political cleft stick over the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) along the river Bhagirathi. The Centre declared the 100-kilometre stretch along the river, from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi, an ESZ last year and the final gazette notification was published recently. The Uttarakhand government is doomed if it supports the notification and doomed if it does not, because the local people, with the support of the main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have risen in revolt against the decision. Dharnas and demonstrations are being held in Uttarkashi, and the State Congress is worried that if it does not speak out against the decision of the Congress-led government at the Centre, it will have to face the people’s ire. Hence, the government has been forced to take the politically untenable position of demanding that the notification issued by the Centre be rescinded.

Following protests by environmentalists, including an indefinite fast by Professor G.D. Agrawal, on the pitiable condition of the Ganga as a result of widespread damming and tunnelling for various hydropower projects (which was extensively covered by Frontline), the Centre decided to constitute the National Ganga River Basin Authority and declared the 100-km from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi an ESZ, in what was then a landmark decision considering the massive damage that was being inflicted on the fragile ecology of the area .

The decision meant that certain strict do’s and don’ts had to be followed. For example, activities that are strictly prohibited include hydro-electricity projects other than micro and mini ones (100kV to 2 MW), extraction of river water for industrial projects, commercial mining of minerals and stone quarrying, commercial felling of trees, commercial use of firewood, setting up polluting industries and discharging untreated sewage and industrial effluents into the river. Plastic carry bags and hazardous waste processing units are also banned inside the zone.

Activities that are to be regulated with checks and balances include defence installations and other infrastructure relating to national security, pine plantations, introduction of exotic species, establishment of hotels and resorts, erection of electric cables, tree felling, water extraction for sale, and signboards and hoardings. The guidelines apply to an area of 4,179.59 sq km, including the 100-km watershed stretch from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi, covering 88 villages. All development activities in the area will be according to the zonal master plan, to be prepared by the State within two years, and compliance to this master plan will be ensured by a monitoring committee which will have a person of known integrity and administrative capability as its head and 10 other members, including a representative of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, besides representatives from non-governmental organisations, the town planning department, the Pollution Control Board and Forest and Irrigation Department and environment and ecology experts.

The draft notification was placed in the public domain in July 2011, but the final gazette notification was published only now. The State government has protested against the notification, saying that its objections to certain provisions in the draft have been overlooked by the Centre. Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna met the Prime Minister on May 6, along with the Member of Parliament from Haridwar and Union Minister Harish Rawat, the MPs Satpal Maharaj and Pradeep Tamta, Uttarakhand Tourism Minister Amrita Rawat, the MLA from Gangotri Vijaypal Singh Sajwan, and Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar. Bahuguna also met the Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Jayanthi Natarajan, and requested her to take positive action.

The Chief Minister, who presented a strongly worded, three-page letter to the Prime Minister, told him that despite his having written to the Minister of State for Environment and Forests in December last year, the Centre had gone ahead and issued the notification without following due procedure and without consulting the State government. He pointed out that while in the draft only an area of 40 sq km was to have been affected by the notification, the final notification increased this to 4,179.59 sq km, which was unfortunate. Besides, he said, the draft had put a ban on hydropower projects of 25 MW and above, but the final notification banned all hydel projects, which would rob the State of significant sources of revenue in the future. “… projects with a capacity of 1,743 MW, which are in various stages of development, cannot be executed anymore, apart from the already incurred expenditure of Rs.1,061 crore going waste…. Such a sensitive decision has been taken by the MoEF without consultations at the field level,” he wrote.

 

 

The Chief Minister also pointed out that the strict guidelines for tourism-related activities, the restriction on the number of pilgrims to char dham yatra, and the ban on the construction of roads would anger the local people and pilgrims and compromise national security in the strategically located border State. He told the Prime Minister that the State already had a plethora of regulatory mechanisms to deal with the issues, so there was no need for additional administrative hurdles in the way of development. He also said that besides causing unrest among the people, the final notification had legal loopholes as statutory provisions had not been followed while enhancing the area affected by 100 times. “Keeping the huge public resentment and also the legal lacunae, I request you to kindly rescind the notification of the eco-sensitive zone in its present form with immediate effect,” he wrote in the letter to the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister reportedly told the delegation that an inter-ministerial committee would go into the points raised by it. But a senior State government official told Frontlinethat it was highly unlikely that the Centre would heed the State’s demand to rescind the notification. “May be minor adjustments could be made as a face-saving device, but cancellation, as demanded by the Chief Minister, is ruled out,” said the official, admitting that the fears raised were mostly hypothetical in nature. A senior MoEF official also ruled out the possibility of rescinding the notification, saying that at best some “corrections” could be carried out.

Political compulsions

Environmental activists, including members of Ganga Ahavaan, an NGO, who have been at the forefront of demanding such a measure to save the Ganga from unscrupulous building and mining, including mining by the sand mafia, say the Chief Minister has been politically compelled to act since the BJP had made it an issue. “They are afraid that they will have to face the people’s anger if they don’t protest,” says Hemant Dhyani, a Ganga Ahavaan activist from Uttarkashi. Significantly, the contractors’ and builders’ lobby, which has also been demanding the cancellation of the notification, is alleged to have masterminded a number of attacks on Ganga Ahavaan activists.

 

 

According to Nitin Pandey, an environmental activist from Dehradun, the claims of those opposed to the notification are nothing but a pile of falsehoods and lies. “The truth is that if anyone is harmed by this 41-page document, then it is the construction lobby, the mining mafia, the timber mafia and the rich people who want to build big hotels in the area. There is absolutely nothing in the notification which harms the common man in any way. On the contrary, the notification strengthens the hands of the common citizen, much to the chagrin of the moneyed exploiters of Uttarakhand, whose exploitation of Uttarakhand’s natural resources will now be curtailed,” he writes in his blog. According to him, there has been a sustained, motivated and totally baseless campaign against the notification, carried out with the intent of scaring the common people and leading them to believe that their lives will be ruined by this notification. “On the contrary, the truth is that the lives of the residents of all the villages and towns in the area will be made more secure, safe and immune from exploitation by moneyed people. It contains nothing other than common sense issues which our State government should have implemented on its own, without waiting for the notification. Why our leaders give out factually incorrect statements is anyone’s guess,” he writes.

Mallika Bhanot and Gita Khillani of Ganga Ahavaan agree. “The objection [to ESZ] is totally baseless, politically motivated and instigated by the contractors’ lobby. We are trying to make people see better sense but we are facing a lot of hostility in this. We are trying to convince the people that development should be in sync with the particular flavour of the area, and the ESZ, in that sense, was for their larger good,” they say.

The BJP, meanwhile, has declared, predictably, that it will continue its agitation on the issue. In fact, former BJP Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank also wrote to the Prime Minister, when the draft notification was issued, raising serious objections. He had told this correspondent then that being a border State which had over 60 per cent of its area under forest cover, it needed a different set of guidelines for development. “We need to keep our peculiar characteristics in mind because we too have to undertake development projects and provide employment to people. The guidelines for us should be different from other States which are in the plains,” he had said. Nishank, in fact, has been advocating that the Himalyan States should be formed as a separate group, with separate guidelines for developmental activities. The Assembly elections saw the exit of the BJP and the arrival of a Congress government, which too is hamstrung by the same political compulsions and hence finds itself speaking in the same language as the erstwhile BJP government.

The discomfiture of the Chief Minister was evident in the fact that he avoided giving an interview to Frontline on the issue. His office said his letter to the Prime Minister, being self-explanatory, should suffice.

Politics indeed makes strange bedfellows, in this case, the two sworn enemies, the BJP and the Congress. Politics has also forced the Congress-led State government to confront a Congress-led Centre.

 

Dr Yamini Thankachi’s complaint against Kerala Ex-Minister, K B Ganesh Kumar of Domestic Violence #Vaw


From,                                                                                     01-04-2013

Dr Yamini Thankachi

TN H4, Tagore Nagar,

J Lane, Vazhuthacaud

Trivandrum-695014

 

To,

The Hon’ble Chief Minister

Government of Kerala.

 

Subject: My personal disposal before you on 7th March 2013 (subsequent to my telephonic complaint on 23-02-2013) regarding criminal assault and mental torture inflicted by my husband, Mr K B Ganesh Kumar, Minister for Forest, Sports and Cinema and the petition on the same dated 7th march 2013.

 

Respected Sir,

 

I humbly request you Sir, to look into my following predicament and take immediate action against Mr. K.B Ganesh Kumar, Minister for Forest, Sports and Cinema.

 

I am married to Mr. K.B Ganesh Kumar (GK) for the past 19 years and in the wedlock, we have two children, aged 15 and 5 years.  Our marital life has been under rock even from early days of our marriage. We had almost parted our ways in the year 2001. But considering my child’s future and his apologetic gestures I decided to resume our conjugal relationship. But now it has come to a point that I can no more bear mental and physical cruelty inflicted on me by my husband.

 

Being a cine artist, he has lured many women earlier and now he is constantly engaged in having promiscuous relationships by exploiting his position as a Minister of ruling party.

 

He is not taking care nor is he concerned about the family welfare. In spite of having the means and being well placed he never took proper or adequate care of the family and that amounts to cruelty.

 

As a wife I have been silently suffering all this economic, emotional and physical harm done to me but the most recent incident (which I have already narrated to you over phone and also in person) that happened on 22-02-2013 had been so shocking and painful for me to bear even now. On 21-02-2013, as our eldest son was not in the house, my husband asked me to help him to install an application in his phone (my son used to help him with this otherwise).While flipping through the phone, I accidentally saw the following messages.

 

  1. Kannu mudiyalum nee thane, kannu thurannalum nee thane, ninte mathram
  2. Rajine rajinte vazhi enniku ente vazhi- (about some person she had had an affair with)
  3. Annanode ( She called GK annan) ente relationship transparent aavanam athu kondu njan ellam thurannu paryunnu. Rajumaayi oru bhandhavum ennikku illa because ini only u r there in my mind because I love you very much. Umma.

My hands literally trembled when I saw this. When I confronted him about the messages, I got an evasive reply from him. And I left the situation like that.

But on 22-02-2013, a person came home in the evening furiously, and started shouting at my husband. He confronted my husband with instances of his wife being taken around by my husband discreetly. He told GK how he had one day driven the white Swift that he owned- 6777 to the flat at 4.30pm after calling her. How she had waited till the kids were back and told them to study while she went for her pleasure trip with GK. How the Minister himself drove the car to his official building “Ajantha” opposite to Raj Bhavan. How he went and parked the car way behind the building and how daringly in an official building with a security guard and a policeman on duty, the Minister went inside with this woman and then left her back at the flat in the same car at 6.30pm. He also said that if GK wanted details about what he did to his wife inside the bedroom, he can tell him that too. Then GK knew he was trapped, he right away fell at this man’s feet and repeatedly said ‘maap, maap, maap, ennodu kshamikanam, thettu patti poyi” (Sorry, Sorry, pardon me, I made a mistake).  I stood there shell shocked. After few seconds, I left the scene unaware of what happened subsequently.

 

I went back to the office room, weeping uncontrollably thinking of my ill fate. After few minutes my husband came to the room and locked it from inside. In broken words, still weeping, I sought an explanation from him for what I heard just then. To my utter surprise, without making any attempt to console me or feeling guilty of his infidelity, he just started hitting and beating me continuously. He manhandled me by pushing my head towards the wall. He punched, kicked and beat me. He tried to strangulate me further and gasping for breath I tried to push him away and I cried aloud for help. As he anticipated that people would come by hearing me, he finally opened the door and left. Both my children were shocked spectators of this event. He acted as if nothing has happened and left to Ernakulam soon for shooting.

 

My husband had physically abused me many a times even in front of his family members and I have stood there and prayed that he should kill me so that my ordeal ends that day. But this time I have decided to react to his misdeeds and immediately informed his family members as well you Sir.

 

Soon my right thumb had swollen due to hematoma, my left fourth toe was swollen, my back was aching, neck paining, there was contusion in the forehead left side, and bruises all over the body.  I went to SK hospital where the duty doctor examined and tied a bandage and prescribed medicines. By night, the swelling became more acute and there was hematoma, so I went again to the doctor and had it examined. I took medication and my right hand is still bandaged for immobilization.

 

I am aware that he has a very strong criminal mind and he will not stop at anything. Since the matter is in public now, he is quite agitated and I fear for my life and safety of my children. I may be given enough security and personal protection.

 

This violence at home has to be condemned and criminal action has to be initiated against him. He has gone to the extent of attempting to murder me. How can he be a Minister of State, a role model for the state and yet behave this way to his wife and children? Can the Government turn a blind eye to the misdeeds and criminal activity done by a Minister? I hope not.

Hence, In the interest of justice, I besiege you Sir, for initiating quick criminal action against Mr. K.B Ganesh Kumar and ensure security and personal protection for me and my family. I have been subjected to physical and mental torture from my husband for all these years and it still continues.

Since I was advised by you Sir and mediators directed by you Mr Shibu Baby John, Minister of Labour & Rehabilitation, Mr T Balakrishnan, M D INKEL, Mr R. Jayaprakash, Secretary General LIC Development Officers union, that I should not rush with any litigation and was promised that measures will be taken to see to that justice will be given and security would be given to me, I had not given any written complaint so far.

 

 

Anticipating a quick action,

Yours Sincerely,

 

 

(Dr Yamini Thankachi)

Almost 42,000 hectares of forest land diverted in Odisha


,Jayajit Dash  |  Bhubaneswar  March 26, 2013 BS

Land diversion for mining, irrigation, power, roads, railways, industries & defence

Forest land to the tune of 41,891.25 hectares (or 1,03,515.53 acres) has been diverted in Odisha till March 6, 2013 since the enactment of Forest Conservation Act-1980 by the Centre.
The forest land diversion has been effected for various sectors like mining, irrigation, power, roads, railways, industries and defence.Almost all standalone mine lesses and industrial players with end-use projects like National Aluminium Company (Nalco) have benefited from forest land diversion in the state.

Forest land diversion has been carried out in the state in accordance with Section 2 of Forest Conservation Act, forest minister Bijayshree Routray said in a written reply in the state assembly.

On compliance to Forest Rights Act and the August 2009 notification of the Union ministry of environment & forest, he said, “The proposals submitted to the MoEF are processed in accordance with the guidelines dated August 3, 2009 issued by the ministry in the matter of compliance of Scheduled Tribes & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act-2006.
Certificate on five terms complying to the provisions of the above circular of MoEF is submitted by the collectors of the concerned districts who head the district level committee for settlement of Forest Rights and are annexed to the forest diversion proposal while recommending the diversion proposal to the ministry. The certificates along with the resolution of the gram sabha duly signed by the members present and its English version are sent to MoEF for consideration.”

The state government is sitting over 431 proposals of forest land diversion across sectors like irrigation, industry, mining, energy, railway, roads & bridges and human habitations.

Mining sector tops the list with 205 proposals pending for diversion of forest land.

Other sectors with forest land diversion proposals in the pipeline are irrigation (27), industry (29), energy (44), railway (21), roads & bridges (37), human habitations (2) and miscellaneous (66).

It may be noted that mining activity alone has resulted in diversion of 8,194.86 hectares (or 20,249.94 acres) of forest land in Keonjhar district.

 

Kalu dam: State looks to MoEF again


Date: 10 October 2012 – Kalu dam: State looks to MoEF again

The state government has applied to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) once again, seeking the go -ahead for the construction of a dam on the River Kalu in Thane District. The Ministry had earlier rejected the proposal sent by the state, which had already begun construction of the dam without the necessary sanctions.

The government on Tuesday informed the Bombay high court that it had applied for the sanction once more on the grounds that the dam water is meant for drinking purposes, and thus the permission to build it should be granted. The plea also states that the dam, if constructed, would improve the situation of drinking water availability in areas such as Mira-Bhayandar and Navi Mumbai.

However, the MoEF, based on a report submitted by its Forest Advisory Committee, has stated that the government should not be allowed to build the dam. This was communicated to the state government as per a letter dated July 27.

The report states that the project area fell under the ecologically sensitive zone of the Western Ghats, and also involved rehabilitation of the villages, a rehabilitation plan, an environment impact assessment report, a technical report on wildlife status and management, a gram sabha resolution for the forest dwellers who have been granted rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act.

The government failed to furnish all the above documents, and in the MoEF recommended that the case be closed.

The decision was given during the hearing of a petition filed by Shramik Mukhti Sanghatana, an NGO, that has alleged that the dam over the river was being built without required permission from the forest department.

On June 5, DNA had first reported how the dam, if built, would submerge an area of 2,100 hectares, including around 1,000 hectares of dense forest, and displace four villages.

Subsequently, in an affidavit filed by the state government, it had admitted that work on Kalu dam in Murbad began in October 2010 without required permission from the Centre and the MoEF.

According to the state, as per a resolution passed on July 9, 2009, it was granted an approval for building the dam. However, the Sanghatana argued that it was only after they moved the court that the state had sought the necessary permissions.

The Kalu dam, after being built, will be able to store a total capacity of 407.99MCM of water.

A total of 2258.87 hectares of land is going to be submerged under water. A total of 787 families likely to be affected by the project, and each family is being provided with Rs7 lakh as compensation.

A total area of 999.32 hectares is being reserved in Beed district to relocate the forest land which will be used for the project.

Green tribunal asks environment ministry to make info on projects public


PTI | May 27, 2012, 11.23AM IST

NEW DELHI: Stressing on greater transparency, the National Green Tribunal has asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to bring in public domain the relevant information regarding ventures in eco- fragile zones.”We also feel there is need to have more transparency in the EIA process and as such, whatever relevant information regarding the projects are used during the time of appraisal of the project from environmental angle by the Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) and MoEF should also be made available in public domain including the executive summary of specific studies.

“Therefore, we direct the MoEF to make available relevant information other than EIA reportand report of the public hearing considered during the appraisal of the project through its website,” a bench headed by Tribunal’s Acting Chairperson A S Naidu said.

The bench, also comprising G K Pandey as an expert member, passed the directions while suspending the environmental clearance (EC) granted to the proposed 3,600 MW coal-based thermal power plant developed by IL&FS Tamil Nadu Power Company Ltd, at Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu.

The tribunal also directed MoEF to upload “from time to time the compliance status of various stipulated conditions during the grant of EC to projects so as to bring compliance status in public domain in case of all the projects granted EC under EIA Notification, 2006”.

It said the concerned project proponent must also upload the compliance status of EC conditions, including the executive summary of the specific studies done in respect of the project and update the same periodically.

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