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Stop Polavaram work: CM

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BHUBANESWAR: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has sought the Centre’s intervention to halt work on the Polavaram multi-purpose project on river Godavari in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, official sources said.

Naveen, who is currently visiting New Delhi, told Union minister of water resources Harish Rawat on Friday that the project work is continuing despite the matter being sub-judice and the Union ministry of environment and forests issuing ‘stop work’ order.

Referring to various media reports on finalisation of tenders by the Andhra Pradesh government for civil works of Polavaram project, Naveen said there are a number of critical issues pertaining to the project, including reservoir operation schedule, placement of embankments, submersion of forest land, displacement of tribal population and incorrect backwater computation, that are pending, an official release informed. He suggested the Union government not to allow execution of the project till these conflicting issues were resolved through mutual consultations, it added.

Rawat said he has called a meeting of the irrigation secretaries of Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh to discuss the issue. “Odisha has raised certain objections. This is not a new project. Andhra Pradesh has already invested. There are some technical issues. We will try to resolve them,” Rawat told mediapersons after the meeting.

The Odisha government has been opposing the project on the ground that it would submerge over 2,100 hectare of land having more than 13 tribal villages in Padia block of Maoist-affected Malkangiri district. It has also objected to Andhra not taking it into confidence while finalizing the project and even redesigning it for holding 50 lakh cusec of floodwater as against the initial capacity of 35 lakh cusec. It moved the Supreme Court in October, 2007, demanding, among others, stopping construction and canceling the environment clearance granted to the project.

Naveen further requested Rawat to expeditiously release Rs 563.15 crore due to the State under various schemes, including the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (Rs 445 crore), Command Area Development and Water Management Programme and Repair, Renovation and Restoration Scheme, before March 31-end.

Stating that a number of factors, including law and order problems in Maoist-affected areas and delay in forest and environment clearances, had adversely hit execution of 11 major and medium irrigation projects in Odisha, the CM urged Rawat to extend the time limit for completion of these projects. Rawat said the state government should submit a detailed proposal for seeking extension of time for 11 ongoing major and medium projects, specifying the reasons for delay in their execution in the KBK area and in extremism-affected areas, to enable the Union ministry to recommend extension in relaxation of the latest guidelines.

Reacting to Naveen’s request for approval of the balance 440 projects under Repair, Renovation and Restoration of Water Bodies Scheme, sanctioned in April, 2010, the central minister said the proposal will be sanctioned after the approval of the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) on continuation of the Scheme during the 12th Five Year Plan.

Rawat said his ministry was pursuing with the ministry of finance to release funds for Kanupur and Anandapur barrage projects and also assured that he would recommend release of funds for three other projects, Upper Indravati, Telengiri and Subarnarekha. For Ret project, the Union ministry has sought the investment clearance from the Planning Commission, he said. He also assured Naveen that the Central Water Commission would be asked to expedite the proposal to release Rs 6.07 crore under the Flood Management Programme.

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

Centre to call Odisha-Andhra Pradesh meet on Polavaram project

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The Centre has assured the Odisha government that it will convene a meeting of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh officials to resolve the pending issues between the two states over the controversial Polavaram project.

The assurance was given by Union water resources minister Harish Rawat to chief minister Naveen Patnaik who met him in New Delhi on Thursday.

The Union ministry will convene a meeting of the secretaries of the two states under the chairmanship of secretary, water resources, at the earliest to resolve the issues, Rawat said.

Patnaik referred to various news reports on the finalisaton of tenders for Polavaram works by Andhra Pradesh government.

Work is continuing despite the fact that the matter is subjudice and the ministry of environment and forests issued ‘stop work’ order for the project, he said.

Naveen demanded that the Centre should not allow execution of the project untill the conflicting issues are resolved through mutual consultation. A number of critical issues related to the project, including reservoir operation schedule, placement of embankments, submersion of forest land, displacement of tribal population and incorrect back water computation are pending to be resolved, he said.

Naveen also informed Rawat that a substantial amount of Central assistance for 2012-13 under different programmes, including the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), Command Area Development and Water Management Programme and Repair, Renovation and Restoration Scheme has not been released.

These proposals are pending despite recommendation by the regional office of the Central Water Commission (CWC). He requested that the 440 projects under repair, renovation and restoration of water bodies scheme sanctioned in April 2010 be approved.

The chief minister said a number of reasons, including law and order problems in Maoist-affected areas and delay in forest and environment clearances have adversely affected the execution of 11 major and medium irrigation projects. He requested that the time limit for completion of these projects be extended.

The Union minister said his ministry is pursuing with the ministry of finance to release funds for Kanupur and Anandapur barrage projects. Rawat also assured Patnaik that he will recommend release of funds for Upper Indravati, Telengiri and Subarnarekha projects.

For Ret project, the Union ministry has sought investment clearance from the Planning Commission, he said.

Referring to the delay in completion of projects in Maoist-affected areas, Rawat said the Union finance ministry has recently issued restrictive guidelines for extension of projects under the AIBP.

He said the state should submit a detailed proposal seeking extension of time for 11 ongoing major and medium projects, specifying the reasons for delay, to enable the Union ministry to recommend extension in relaxation of the recent guidelines.

Courtesy: The Indian Express

What irrigation scam?

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The Maharashtra government said that there was neither corruption nor malfunctioning in the water resources department.The statement was made in an affidavit filed in the Bombay high court by Prahlad Sonawane, chief engineer (Konkan region), water resources department.

He was responding to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by activist Pravin Wategaonkar, questioning the validity of Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed to probe the irrigation scam after the CAG’s corruption charges.

“I deny the contentions of the petitioner on corruption and malfunctioning in the water resources department as they are devoid of merit, baseless and unfounded,” says the affidavit.

Emphasising that the SIT is necessary, the affidavit states that the statements in the CAG report are not final.

The SIT, which was constituted as per a government resolution of December 31, 2012, is expected to submit its report in six months, adds the affidavit. It states that a departmental inquiry has been initiated against 14 officers.

In addition, the government has come out with a white paper on the progress of the irrigation sector and future planning. Last month, in a related PIL, the government had filed an affidavit stating that an independent investigation by the CBI or the judicial commission into the alleged scam will have a “demoralising effect on the employees of the irrigation department”.The affidavit was filed by Haribhau Dhangare, chief engineer (water resources) and joint secretary, water resources department.

It was in response to a PIL by Uttamrao Ghatule seeking that the probe be handed over to an independent agency as senior officers and ministers may be involved.

Courtesy: DNA

Water crisis looming large before us: Hamid Ansari

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At a time when water inequity across Indian cities is on the rise, only a judicious combination of water supply and waste water management can help confront the water crisis that is looming large before us, Vice President Hamid Ansari said Monday.

Speaking at the second “Anil Agarwal Dialogue: Excreta Does Matter” organized by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Ansari expressed concern over India’s scarce water resources as well as the stark inequity in access to water.

“We must work towards conserving water to minimize the generation of waste water. We must make people understand how water and waste water are interconnected. Only with a judicious combination of water supply and waste water management can we hope to confront the water crisis that is looming large before us,” the Vice President said.

Ansari was not off the mark. Indian cities produce nearly 40,000 million litres of sewage per day, enough to irrigate nine million hectares. However, barely 20 % of this is treated, reflecting the enormous waste of a critical resource.

To address this complex issue on how cities will get affordable water and waste systems that can supply to all and take back and treat the sewage of all, some 150 experts, policy makers and voluntary organization have gathered in the Capital for the second edition of “Anil Agarwal Dialogues” to brainstorm and come up with sustainable solution to the twin challenges facing us.

Sunita Narain, director general, CSE said, “Cities plan for water, but forget about their waste. More water equals more waste, as almost 80 per cent of the water cities consume come back as wastewater. Cities have no clue how they will convey waste of all, treat it, clean rivers. 78% of our sewage is officially untreated – and it is an optimistic figure, as we think it could be as much as 85 % and disposed off in our water bodies as well as in our groundwater.”

Courtesy: hindustantimes

Now, any citizen can move National Green Tribunal to report violations

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NEW DELHI: Violations of green norms and clearances can be appealed against by any citizen and not just someone directly or indirectly affected by a project, the National Green Tribunal has held, widening the scope of green litigation in the country.

The tribunal has also put in mandatory obligations on the government and project developers to disclose details of clearances. Both have avoided doing so in many cases till now.

The order came in the case of the 780 mw Naymjang Chhu Hydroelectric Project in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh. In this particular case, the project developer had put out a small notice-sized advertisement in a local newspaper instead of publishing the entire clearance details.

In its order, the tribunal said, “Law gives a right to ‘any person’ who is ‘aggrieved’ by an order to prefer an appeal. The term ‘any person’ has to be widely construed. It is to include all legal entities so as to enable them to prefer an appeal, even if such an entity does not have any direct or indirect interest in a given project. The expression ‘aggrieved’, again, has to be construed liberally.”

The order takes significance because with the setting up of the tribunal, it had become the address of first recourse for all those wanting to go to court on green matters.

The NGT further said, “The grievance of a person against the environmental clearance (given by the environment ministry) may be general and not necessarily person specific.”

Also laying down the line for public disclosure of details of clearance given to projects, the NGT said, “The project proponent is legally obliged under this provision to make public the environmental clearance granted for the project with the environmental conditions and safeguards at their cost by promptly advertising it in at least two newspapers of the district or in the state where the project is located.”

Warning that mere notice of securing a clearance by the project developer was not enough, it noted, “The conditions for granting of environmental clearance with definite safeguards have to be published in the newspaper so that any person can make up his mind whether he needs to question the correctness or legality of such order.”

Ritwick Dutta, the lawyer on behalf of the petitioners, Save Mon Region Federation, had pleaded that the environment ministry too had failed in timely and complete disclosure of information on the clearance which impeded the filing of objections against the government’s decisions in the given time.

Responding to the plea, the NGT also laid down strict guidelines on disclosure by the government. “The MoEF must make every effort to put the environmental clearance orders on the website immediately upon passing of such order but in any case not later than one week from the date of passing of such order.”

Also taking on the environment ministry’s often made excuse of lack of technical ability to put out data, the NGT said, “The website of MoEF should always be functional and accessible to the public at large, who should be in a position to download the environmental clearance order without restrictions, inconvenience and any patent or latent defect. Needless to mention that the website should be regularly updated.”

Courtesy: TIMES OF INDIA

Government to begin allotting 17 coal mines to public sector firms next month

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New Delhi: The government on Tuesday said it will begin allocating 17 coal blocks to the public sector firms by the end of next month.

When asked when will the Coal Ministry begin allotting mines to government firms, coal secretary S K Srivastava said, “It should be by middle of April or end of April.”

The government had last year put on offer 14 coal blocks for power sector and three for mining firms.

He also told reporters on the sidelines of a function here that the government was addressing a few issues with regard to coal blocks auction and the government was will willing to allot mines through through competitive bidding route as soon as possible.

“We are addressing one or two issues… Definitely we want to come out with it (coal block allocation through auction route) as quickly as possible,” the coal secretary said.

Replying to a question of the recent announcements made by Finance Minister P Chidambaram with regard to increase in basic custom and countervailing duty (CVD) and on steam coal and reduction in the basic customs duty and CVD on bituminous coal, Mr Srivastava said that it would not have a major impact on the power tariff.

“They have just set it in a proper shape by having single import duty rather than having differential import duty and I don’t think it is going to have a very major impact in power tariff specially if you see it in the context of proposed price pooling mechanism will will come into place next year,” he said.

The Finance Minister in his Budget speech last Thursday announced a hike in the basic customs duty on steam coal from present nil to two per cent and countervailing duty (CVD) from one per cent to two per cent.

He had also announced reduction in the basic customs duty on bituminous coal from five per cent to two per cent and CVD from six per cent to two per cent.

Initiating the process of allocation of coal mines, the government had in December invited proposals from PSUs (public sector undertaking) for allotting 17 blocks to them, mostly for captive power plants.

The development came in the wake of the government’s repeated announcements to make policy for mines allotment transparent, following CAG terming potential losses of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore to the exchequer on account of blocks allotment to 57 private firms without auction.

Courtesy: NDTVProfit

Illegal mining: HC orders Goa to file FIR

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PANAJI: The high court of Bombay at Goa recently directed the state government and the police to file an FIR against those responsible for illegal mining, including the lessees, within six weeks.

The order came on a criminal petition filed by RTI activist Kashinath Shetye on the basis of the Shah commission inquiry report that pegged the loss arising from illegal mining in Goa at Rs 35,000 crore.

Shetye had approached the court after the police refused to register an FIR. In his complaint, Shetye alleged that criminal prosecution was required to be launched against the 151 people named in the complaint and others as mentioned in the commission’s report. Those named in the complaint include former ministers, bureaucrats and corporates.

“We dispose of this petition with direction to respondents to file FIR in respect of the offences alleged to have been committed by the persons responsible for illegal mining in the state of Goa, including the lessees of the mines and all those who permitted such illegal mining of iron ore and manganese ore, in contravention of the relevant statutory provisions,” said a division bench of chief justice Mohit S Shah and justice R P Sondurbaldota.

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

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