Panel for ban on mining in 37 % of Western Ghats #goodnews


PRISCILLA JEBARAJ, The Hindu

Identifying 37 per cent — or about 60,000 square km — of the Western Ghats as ecologically sensitive, a high-level panel has recommended that “destructive” activities such as mining, thermal power, major construction, and some hydel power projects should not be allowed there.

However, the panel was silent about any restrictions in the remaining 96,000 square km area, thus creating the perception that it had diluted earlier recommendations that the entire Ghats should be declared as an eco-sensitive area.

The panel, headed by space scientist and Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan, which submitted its report to Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan on Wednesday, was initially set up to review the more stringent recommendations of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil.

The Gadgil report had wanted the entire area of the Ghats to be graded into three levels of eco-sensitive zones, each of which would have different restrictions. It had faced uproar from State governments and industries which were alarmed by the curbs on development in almost 70 per cent of the biodiverse range of mountains spanning six States.

The new high-level panel has taken a different approach. Taking advantage of Dr. Kasturirangan’s connections with ISRO, it has used satellite data to produce a far more detailed database, with a resolution of 24 square metres as opposed to the 9 square km used by the Gadgil report. It then used remote sensing technology to distinguish between “natural landscapes” and “cultural landscapes” which include human settlements, fields and plantations.

It recommends “a prohibitory regime on those activities with maximum interventionist and destructive impact on the environment” on about 90 per cent of the area of “natural landscapes”. The four major restrictions in this area would be a total ban on fresh mining and a five-year phase-out of current mining, a ban on thermal power, all “red” category industries, all townships and any construction above 20,000 square metres. Hydel power projects will be allowed subject to certain conditions, in stark contrast to the Gadgil recommendations, and a small window of hope has been provided for the future of the controversial Athirapally hydel power project in Kerala. Also, the land-use change restrictions recommended by the WGEEP have been discarded.

Explaining that restraints cannot be imposed on areas where people already live and work, the report argues: “It is not wilderness area, but the habitat of its people, who share the landscape with biological diversity. It is not possible to plan for Western Ghats, only as a fenced-in zone, with no human influence.” Instead, the report called for incentivising green growth in the “cultural landscape” areas.

After submitting the report, Dr. Kasturirangan said the next step must be to focus on the biodiversity that is still left. “It is imperative that we protect, manage and regenerate the lands now remaining in the Western Ghats as biologically rich, diverse, natural landscapes. We have reached a threshold from which we cannot slip further,” he said.

WGEEP panel member and TERI executive director Ligia Noronha feels this is not the right approach. “The Western Ghats are not just about what is left. We should be protecting the whole of the Ghats. That is why we wanted a gradation of zones, a more nuanced approach to eco-sensitive zones. [The Kasturirangan panel] seems to have gone back to the mindset of carving out certain protected areas, rather than keeping the whole ecosystem in mind,” she says.

However, Kasturirangan panel member Sunita Narain, who also heads the Centre for Science and Environment, said that their report was actually “implementable..Senior Environment Ministry officials quietly agreed, expressing the hope that the “more sensible” recommendations would attract less opposition from the States.

Ms. Narain also pointed out that the Kasturirangan panel had left the ball firmly in the Central government’s court.

“We want to ensure effective protection right now, not in ten years’ time,” she said.

 

When battered people took on the pesticide industry #Endolsulphan


Author(s): Sunita Narain, Down to Earth
Date: Aug 15, 2012

English: Sunita Narain director, Centre for Sc...

English: Sunita Narain director, Centre for Science and Environment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, I want to tell you a true story of extraordinary courage. The past week, I was in Kasaragod, a district in Kerala, splendid in beauty and with abundant natural resources, but destroyed by the toxic chemical, endosulfan. The pesticide was aerially sprayed over cashew plantations, for some 20 years, in complete disregard of the fact that there is no demarcation between plantations and human habitation in this area. It is also a high rainfall region and so, the sprayed pesticide leached into the ground and flowed downstream. The poison contaminated water, food and ultimately harmed human beings.

This story is known. But the personal battles that make up the story of this poisoned land and its diseased people are not known. More importantly, it is not asked where this story ends?

Leelakumari Amma is the original heroine of this plot. In early 1990s, she came to Kasaragod, ironically, as an agriculture scientist, whose job was to push farmers to use pesticides. Her brother died mysteriously while she was building her house. But she did not connect the dots and moved in, only to realise that the pesticide spray was poisoning her land and water. Fish she put in her well died. She could not open the windows of her house for days when the helicopter sprayed poison. It seemed a thick cloud was hanging over her house. She could not breathe and worried about her children. Then she noticed that many people living close to her seemed diseased— children were born with deformities and severe neurological problems afflicted people.

Leelakumari Amma petitioned for help. But received threats from the Plantation Corporation of Kerala (PCK)—the public sector company, which owned the cashew lands. In 1998, she filed a case in the local court. The threats became more venomous. But she did not give up. In 2000, the court ordered an interim ban on spraying. Some months later, the vehicle she was travelling in was hit by a truck. Leelakumari Amma lost a leg. She told me that this was an accident. Maybe, but then maybe not.

About this time, Mohana Kumar, a doctor practicing in a neighbouring village, wrote to the medical fraternity about the incidences of abnormality and deformities, but got nowhere. Shree Padre, a freelance journalist of the area, also decided to write explaining the plight of people. His email reached Anil Agarwal, director of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), who decided in mid-2000, to send a team to investigate and collect water, soil and blood samples. The results showed high levels of endosulfan—proving what was only suspected till then. The question, still, was what this meant for human health?

The pesticide industry hit back. It first hired a laboratory to ‘clean up’ the results. When this failed, it decided to hurt the storytellers. Mohana Kumar was served legal notices—so many he cannot even count. But hope was not dead. In 2001, the National Human Rights Commission intervened and asked the Indian Council of Medical Research for a detailed report. Scientists from the Ahmedabad-based National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) analysed blood samples for pesticides and concluded there was significantly higher incidence of abnormalities and diseases in populations exposed to endosulfan as compared to the control population. Endosulfan’s effect on humans was established.

This study was even more inconvenient to industry. The investigators were attacked and vilified. A case was filed against the key scientist, Aruna Dewan, the day she retired from government service. The Centre set up committee after committee, headed by ‘eminent’ scientists to debunk the CSE and NIOH reports. This was fought back, at considerable personal cost. Thanal, a Kerala-based NGO, plays a critical role in research and campaign against pesticide industry smear and smut. This battle has not been easy. Over the past 10 years, industry has made it a habit to attack all research and threaten all scientists.

As a result, it has taken over 15 years for the truth to be known. Currently, the Kerala government’s ban on endosulfan prevails. Last year, the Supreme Court banned manufacture and use of the pesticide in the country. The state has accepted the need to provide compensation to ‘endosulfan victims’. A part of the compensation money will be paid by the PCK. Liability has been established.

Much more remains to be done—from rehabilitating the living to providing specialised health care to the very ill. Also cleansing traces of endosulfan in Kasaragod’s soil, and taking the district towards organic farming. The stigma of pesticide contamination has to be wiped clean.

This will happen. I am sure. In the Buds school—seven special schools for endosulfan victims opened by the district administration—I saw signs of hope. Some 27 children from Padre and Perle village are enrolled there. I saw their teacher hold their hands, teach them how to smile, as they counted and drew flowers. Their laughter filled the room. The physiotherapist told me he was working hard to make sure these special needs children could walk. A few steps today, maybe more tomorrow.

Pesticides And ToxinsEditor’s PageAnil AgarwalCashew NutCompensationCourt,CSEEndosulfanGenetic DisordersHealth EffectsKasaragod (D)keralaLand pollutionPadre VillagePesticide IndustryPesticide ResiduesPesticide UsePesticides And ToxinsSunita NarainWater Pollution

PepsiCo, KFC, McDonald’s, Nestle’s Maggi get junk rating for misleading consumers


NEW DELHI, ET Bureau : Food items such as potato chips, burgers and noodles almost wipe out one’s daily permissible limits of bad fat, salt and sugar in just one serving, says a study that seeks stronger regulations and labeling rules for food products.
The Centre for Science & Environment (CSE), which tested 16 popular brands including Nestle’s Maggi noodles, McDonald’s, KFC, Haldiram’s aloo bhujia and PepsiCo‘s Lay’s potato chips, on Friday accused most of these companies of misleading the public through wrong claims and insufficient labeling.

PepsiCo, Nestle, McDonald’s and KFC denied the allegation and said their products were free of trans fats, the worst kind of fats. “Most junk foods contain very high levels of trans fats, salt and sugar, leading to diseases such as obesity and diabetes,” said CSE Director Sunita Narain.

“We need stronger regulations that will reduce fats, sugar and salt in junk foods, and force companies to provide information to the public mandatorily,” she said, opening a new front against multinational and Indian packaged foods companies almost a decade after the pesticides-in-cola controversy.

The CSE’s findings of pesticides in Coca-Cola and PepsiCo drinks in 2003, and again in 2006, had led to a drastic fall in sales growth of the two cola majors between 2004 and 2007.

According to the new CSE study, munching a 65-75 gm pack of Lay’s American style cream and onion chips will exceed one’s daily trans fat quota, while a two-piece KFC chicken meal will exceed both trans fats and total fat quota. Trans fats clog arteries and make them narrower. Combined with large amounts of salt, they increase blood pressure in the body.

The World Health Organisation recommends an adult male should ideally consume not more than 2.6 gram of trans fats per day. An adult female’s limit is 2.1 gram and that of a child of 10-12 years is 2.3 gram. A child who eats one McDonald’s Happy Meal finishes 90% of all his/her daily requirement of trans fats, the CSE study said, adding the company makes no mention of this dosage of trans fats.

Rajesh Maini, corporate communications GM of McDonald’s India (North & East), said the CSE study results are “most unusual” because the restaurant chain uses refined, bleached and deodorised palm oil in which trans fats are so low that they are virtually undetectable.

“We will certainly be examining them closely to see how these unexpected results have been arrived at, what testing methods were used, and comparing them with our own in-house testing,” he added. Spokesmen of PepsiCo and Yum! Restaurants India, which runs KFC and Pizza Hut chains, flatly denied the CSE report.

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